Reflecting The End Of An Era In My Life

January 30, 2015

In sixth grade, I made another of my random life decisions that has lead to something that is a huge part of my life. Honestly, that's how I make all of my decisions. I randomly decided to join cross country as a fall sport once I was in sixth grade and eligible to participate in after-school competitive sports. I always played sports: from tee-ball to softball, from basketball, now to cross country. I always ran for basketball to stay in shape, so I figured, why not? Joining cross country was the first step in my becoming a three season athlete physically, mentally, and emotionally.

Like all athletes, I had a rough beginning with the sport. I remember two things that stuck out to me: one time, someone asked me, "Nikki, do you do cross country because your parents told you to, or because you felt like it?" Another time, I remember my coach telling us that we were going to run four miles during practice, and I remember thinking "Four miles????!?! What?" However, in 7th and 8th grade I was either second or third place every race. I realized that I liked the feeling of flying through the woods, trekking up the hills, and sailing into that finish line. I lived to grab that popsicle stick at the finish line.

It was only natural for me to run in high school. It was also helpful that a few girls from my private middle school also ran for my high school. There were so many of us, that there was a joke that we just took over the team. The familiarity helped me assimilate into the team, which helped me adapt to high school culture in general. I had been running with the girls all summer at captain's practices three days a week, and we had practices with the coach and the full team a week before school started. That was nice for two reasons: I got to keep up on all the drama of my hometown of the summer, and when school started, I had someone to talk to or eat lunch with if I didn't have any friends to eat with. 

My high school team.

The first few years of high school, I wasn't what you would call an elite athlete. I didn't make varsity until junior year, and that was only for one race. It was a combination of me being not "varsity level", and other girls being naturally better. I say naturally, because though I am not a "natural" of any sorts, nor was I born with the perfect running body, but I am a hard worker. When giving out an award to me, my coach would say, "If I told Nikki to run into a wall, she would." The thing is, I probably would. My college coach said the same thing. Every hill workout, long run, and repeat workout, I would do the brunt of it without complaining. My senior year I saw my times drop and my ranks improve, along with my confidence level.

However, I was still convinced that I wasn't going to run in college. I wasn't top varsity so I didn't think that I would be good enough to be competitive in college. However, before my college orientation, I searched the times of the women's team for their 5Ks and I realized that I could totally be competitive with them. That, the fact that it is a DIII school, and that I met the coach and a future teammate and friend, Claire, at orientation and they were really nice solidified the fact that I was going to be an NCAA athlete in the future.

After my first college race. We had to drive to New Hampshire and got caught in traffic. We showed up the race five minutes before the gun went off, so we weren't stretched or warmed up at all. I also ran with a newly opened scab that I had to have someone haphazardly wrap on the bus. You can see the wrapping, I'm the fourth one from the right. Everyone said that they would have quit if it was their first race, but I would never quit. I would give anything to go back to how things were there.

Joining the SSU cross country team was the best decision I ever made in my collegiate life. It helped me in a similar way socially as it did in high school. Moving in early and taking a ferry from Boston to Spectacle Island to do mile repeats was a bonding experience I could never have with any other group of friends. Now, I can call my team some of the best friends I will ever have and will ever meet.

In my first year of intercollegiate competition, I was either second or third place every race, and had a 22:52 PR for a 5K time. My second year, I was either third or fifth place every race and had 23:34 PR for my 5K. Even though every "tempo Tuesday", hill repeat, ten mile run on Sundays, and 
nerve-wracking race was difficult, terrifying, and testing but was so worthwhile. Even in the moment when I hated it, I lived for it. I loved every minute of it. I loved myself for keeping to it, dedicating and disciplining myself. I kept my body and mind in great shape. Through being a collegiate athlete, I have gained time-management, professional, and team building skills. I've gotten to run in beautiful places such as Mt. Greylock, Colt State Park, Gallows Hill, Salem Willows, Marblehead Neck, Castle Rock, Spectacle Island, Salem-Beverly Bridge, many beauty rail trails around Massachusetts. I've gotten the opportunity to meet a great group of individuals that I can call my team, friends, and support system.

A very cold conference meet this year. I'm in the second row on the right.

If you couldn't already tell by the sappiness of this post, the university due to budget problems has chosen to cut the cross country program from the athletic roster. I've dealt with this many ways these past fews weeks: anger, tears, rant, despair, etc. However, I thought it would only be right to get some feelings out with a blog post. Cross country has been in my life for eight years. Running will never stop for me. My team will always be my team, my coach my coach, my friends my friends, my awards my awards, my miles ran my miles ran. They can take my program from me, but they can't take my feet from me.  They will never take the open road from me. I will always stay running.
Our first race this year. Lady Viking huddle!

I feel like a part of me is gone. Cross country has been ever-present in my life sine sixth grade. Even though I played basketball, softball, and lacrosse, I was always just wishing it could be fall again so I could toe the line with my best friends. There was no off-season. Where do I go from here? A running club is going to be started at the University. There is some interest in that. I'll do that to stay in shape and do the thing I love, but, in all honesty it's not the same. The administration knows it's not the same. I'll take the bone they're throwing at us for now, but I know half of my effort in the running club will be fundraising so that in two more years or so, the administration can see the funds raised and perhaps raise cross country to varsity level again. I won't be here for it, but if I can no longer be benefitted by the perks of being a collegiate athlete, I want another lost freshmen to find their place through such a great sport.

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Spring 2015 Dorm Tour - I Challenge You!

January 26, 2015

Every semester, I come in with the mentality, "new semester, new start." That drives me to rearrange my room. Last year, I rearranged my room where my roommates' bed is the vertical way, and mine was horizontal against the wall. Personally, I think that it makes a lot more room. Small changes like rearranging furniture and new decorations really switches up the vibe in a room. Like most bloggers, especially ones that focus on organization, It's better to focus in an organized space. Organize your room, organize your thoughts. 

I may sound like a basic college girl here, but there's something about candles and wall lights that really relax me. Here's an overview of my room from my top bunk. I don't have a third roommate anywhere, but the extra furniture is here.

Since we have our extra furniture, we would have more room along the wall, but we made do. We lined up the dressers and extra desk to put our TV, printer, and other body sprays and pictures on. I used to like having all of my posters above my bed, but I don't mind them lining the wall. As you can see, we have enough wall lights to make enough light for us to function without turning the actual lights on.

This is my desk with all the usual desk fixings: dry-erase calendar, desk organizer, mirror, makeup, HerCampus sticky notes, sponge (random), and makeup/brush organizer. Why have a vanity and a work desk when you can combine both?

Under a very tricky extension cord setup are my books: The Penguin Handbook, "Women in Clothes", The Associated Press Stylebook, Grace Helbig's "Grace's Guidebook", "It" by Alexa Chung, Sarah Dessen's "Just Listen", Gossip Girl: "Nobody Does it Better", the Associated Press Guide to Grammar and Punctuation, and 1984 by George Orwin.

This is just a basic shot of our microwave and fridge near my closet, but I wanted to highlight my basket. I got it at Marshalls over break to keep all a few things that were just hanging on top of my microwave: paper towels, my infuser bottle, my k-carafe, produce, and room spray. There's also a picture of my friends and I washing our faces, because why not? I'm the one in the middle.

My mess of a closet! I try to keep it an organized mess. My order is: Sweatshirts, active wear, dresses, blazers, cardigans, nice tops, vests, my organizer, and outerwear. I love my organizer! I keep my bags inside and my hats, running accessories, and gloves outside.

This is what I meant by putting the extra furniture to use.

I'm so obsessed with my bed setup, especially my pillows. Resting on the arms of my boho husband pillow are my Urban Outfitters "Never Sleep" pillows, my friend's blue pillow, and my grey throw blanket. I call it my corner.

I love displaying things on my bureau. Besides my Bath and Body Works/ Victorias Secret sprays and lotions, I have many trinkets. I have a cape cod seashell, a candle from London, a picture of Jackie, my Dole Pineapple from Hawaii, and my viking duck from cross country. I also keep my record player and a record of choice on display.

Finally, my wall. From the left, there is a Fleet Foxes poster, the HPV Vaccine campaign logo I designed, the Bethany Mota wall stickie below it, a mind the gap poster, DIY picture boards, a cray-pas picture I did, and of course a Jackie calendar.

Think your room is better than mine? Challenge me! Upload a picture on Instagram or Twitter and tag me (N_Vergak) or a do a blog tour and tag me below!

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"THE BEST EVER" - My Favorite Pasta Dish

January 21, 2015

You may or may not be familiar with the new show on Food Network called "The Best Thing I Ever Ate." Each show is focused on a different category, or food, and famous TV chefs such as Ann Burrell, Guy Fieri, Bobby Flay, and Michael Symon are surveyed about the best food of that category that they've had. Each chef goes into detail about where the dish is made, and how it's made so that it's the best they've ever had. 

Today, I was eating at my favorite restaurant, the Tuscan Kitchen, and I was eating my favorite dish. Are you ever consuming something - food, music, movies - and you think, "Wow, this is my favorite. If somebody asks me what my favorite "whatever" is, this will be my answer." I always get excited when I have that thought, because I feel like I always have a problem picking favorite things.
So, I decided that Tuscans was my new favorite restaurant. It's an artisan Italian eatery where everything, down to the pasta, is made fresh on site. Italian focaccia, limoncello tiramusu, honey glazed salmon, and fresh gnocchi. Can I just go back already? If you're around, there's two locations: Burlington, MA and Salem, NH.

So, I figured why not play pretend that I'm a professional chef or foodie. If I had a spot on the "Best Thing I Ever Ate" panel, this is what I would say about my favorite pasta dish: the Tuscan Kitchen Cappellacci Salad.

"It's like my two favorite things combined - desert and pizza. Cinnamon butternut squash stuffed in a handmade cappellacci. It's the perfect chewy consistency. It's sweet and savory. It's heavenly. 

These little pillows of pasta can be served as a dish itself or on a salad. The salad over spring green includes: Pan Seared Butternut Squash Cappellacci, Caramelized Seasonal Fruit, Spiced Walnuts, Goat Cheese over mixed greens. I like the salad as a healthier option."

If I was a famous foodie, that's what I'd say about the dish, plus the behind-the-scenes shots in the restaurant kitchen (Guy Fieri style). Here's what my family and I ate at the restaurant: 

My mother and I split the cappellacci salad for an appetizer.

I got a roasted rosemary half chicken with butternut squash, and spinach with walnuts and pancetta.

My mother got cod over a risotto and a walnut misto.

My dad went hard, not home. He a pizza with beef meatballs, roasted chicken, ricotta cheese, and onions.

What's the best dish you've ever eaten?

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I'm Inspired By... (12x30 Love Yourself January Challenge)

January 17, 2015

12X30 Challenge January: The Love Yourself Challenge

I think the New Year is a great time to remind yourself to love yourself. Making resolutions can come with a connotation to hate something about yourself so much that you want to change it. I've seen this show negative on others' self-esteem way too many times year-round. Instead of self-depreciating, we should just love ourselves. Love yourself like someone who loves you, well, loves you.

I got this challenge from My So-Called Chaos, and I knew I had to do it! The challenge this month is to do things that promote looking at yourself in a loving light. One step was to use one of the blogging prompts "I'm inspired by.."

I felt a bit of lack of inspiration lately in my writing, so I figured this prompt would be a great way to rev that back up.

Seeing how others live
When I travel, even if its a few towns over, just seeing how others live inspires me. Where is there local grocery store? What is the biggest, closest city? What do people do for work? I put myself in their place, and compare my life and theirs. It puts my own life in perspective.

Don Draper on Mad Men said, "If you need an idea, just stop thinking about it, then after a while, think about it again." The same works for me with dreaming. My best notions and ideas come to me from my dreams.

Hikes, walking, running, sightseeing, kayaking, canoeing, you name it. I'm inspired that God and science put in place such a natural, beautiful cycle that has created wonders for us to feast our eyes on. In nature, no one worries. Something is destroyed so in a few million more years, something even more beautiful can spring up in its place.

Music lyrics
I like to listen to lyrics that are sad and deep. I'm not sure why, but sad music makes me happy. It lifts me up. 

Listening to others' stories
Just listening to someone telling either a story or of a problem they're having inspires me. Like above, it puts my life in perspective. 

My dreams
This time, by dreams, I mean goals. Sometimes I think about where I want my life to go, mostly in the shower, and then I get this little fire burning inside of me. The fire wants me to do this and this and this and that and this just to get my life on track.

That's what inspires me. What inspires you? Here's a list from Angie of ways to truly love yourself this year:

  • Compliment yourself.  
  • Practice your passion.  
  • Pamper yourself. 
  • Stop comparing yourself to others. 
  • Reward yourself for your accomplishments.  
  • Take a little extra time on your appearance.  
  • Start a Self-Love journal. 
  • Take your daily vitamins.
  • Exercise.  
  • Let go of the past and focus on the future.  
  • Give yourself a pep talk and believe in yourself. 
  • Laugh at yourself. 
  • Be less judgmental of others. 
  • Stop being a people pleaser.  

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annies homegrown

Health In A Pinch: "Busy Bee" Survival Guide

January 13, 2015

I don't know about you, but I'm at a constant battle between wanting healthy, fresh, food, but being pressed for time to prepare them. Being home for break, there's so many people to see, places to go, things to do, etc. Not to mention, I'm working a lot to pay for my Greece spring break. Sometimes, I just want to heat up something remotely "carb-y" and have an apple or carrots on the side when it's time for my break.

In times like these, it can be hard to succumb to just picking up an EasyMac or a Celeste Pizza. Though those are delicious, there's also healthier, fast alternatives that are equally as tasty. Here are my top picks:

1. Minute Brown Rice

The brand Minute makes little brown rice cups that are ready in only one minute! Pair this with a low-fat cheese stick and some sliced red peppers to balance it out with vegetables and protein. Brown rice cups over pudding cups, right? Here are the nutrition facts:

As you can see, they are low on fat, sugar, and sodium, however, they have 5g of protein, which is pretty decent. That's definitely more than white rice. 230 calories is almost halfway to 500, fill up the other 270 with your peppers and cheese stick, and maybe some green tea. 500 is a decent-sized meal on the go. Note how small the ingredient list it! Another great thing about these cups is that they're already pretty flavorful, so no need to add condiments or butter.

2. Annie's Homegrown Mac 'n' Cheese

You guys probably saw this coming. Annie's brand is more of an all-natural, non-GMO, grass-fed, earthy-crunchy company. The more natural food the body intakes, the healthier! My favorite product of theirs is their white cheddar mac 'n' cheese cup. Here are the nutrition facts:

I would pair this snack with a nice, crisp apple. An apple and mac 'n' cheese, it brings you back to childhood, huh?

3. GoPicnic Meals

This last one needs no ad-ons, and requires no heat! GoPicnic "ready-to-eat" meals are grown-up, nutritious Lunchables, essentially. They have numerous delicious varieties such as black bean dip and plantain, thee bean dip and tortilla chops, peanut butter and crackers, red pepper hummus and chips, and more. My mouth is actually watering, and my mind is beating myself up internally for not buying these... I may have to make a trip to the store tomorrow. Anyway, if you want to combine a few of these for a full meal and add some green tea on the side to compliment all the super foods in these, you'll be golden.

If you're ever worried about fitting in your veggies, grab a Bolthouse farms drink. Just like all the microwaveable meals, these juices are made to make our lives easier. These drinks were made for those who don't have time to juice their own produce, like those meals are made for those who don't have time to cook their own meals.

That's how I'm "healthy in a pinch" as you would say! It's not as rewarding as savoring your food you slaved over a hot skillet or juicer for, but it'll do the trick. These are all reasonably priced, GMO-free, natural, healthy, and delicious.

I was not paid or sponsored by any of these companies, all opinions are my own.

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January Goals!

January 11, 2015

With all my posts about resolutions and inspiration (more on the way), you'd think it'd be time for a new goals post, right? This goals post is not to be confused with the football goal post, of course. Sorry, had to fit in a bad football joke since the Patriots are going to the AFC championships! Anyone else a Pats fan, here?

I'm glad I started tracking my goals in 2014, it helps me remember to a.) celebrate the small wins, and b.) make clear-cut, measurable goals, not vague ones. This month, I'd like to focus on getting "down to business" because for the second semester I have a looot going on between applying for internships, taking classes, cross country, my research project, and of course this blog. What would you like to focus on?

This is part of the monthly likn-up at

How This works:
  1. Follow your hosts My So-Called Chaos and A Peek at Karen's World to keep up with this link-up.
  2. Write up a post recapping last month's goals and setting goals for next month.
  3.  Make sure to include the button in your post by grabbing the code above.
  4. Link up your goals post with the monthly linky which goes live on the first Thursday of the month.
  5. Visit other links in the party to show support and offer advice for other goal setters.
  6. Have fun and make some new friends!
Here were my December Goals. How did I do? 

December Goals
  • Get 1,700 unique visitors on my blog this month Success! I got 1,799 
  • Fix my iPod screen Success!
  • Keep up with my weekly workout routine Success!
  • Get good grades on my finals and final presentation Success
  • Make the deans list: I don't know yet...
  • Make a lot of money working at WHBM Success!

January Goals
  • Make the deans list
  • Put up a good fight for the thing I can't discuss on here yet.. :P
  • Throw Ashley a fun and successful birthday party
  • Finish "Women in Clothes"
  • Hit 2,000 unique hits this month
  • Follow up on internship applications
So it seemed like December was a great month.. let's hope January is just as good!

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Since When Did "Plus Size" Mean Curvy?

January 07, 2015

In March, I saw Carly Acquillino, Nicole Byer, and Jamie Lee from Girl Code live at my school. Nicole told us about her tales of working at a Lane Bryant, a plus-size women's clothing store. The way she described it sounded like a sad, desperate experience. I realized working at the store, although may not have been the most fun job ever, wasn't what was making her experience miserable. What made Nicole's experience miserable is the negative labels that society puts on the "plus-sized" industry: fashion and modeling. 

Candice Huffman, plus-sized model pictured above, has recently been made the first plus-sized model to adorn a page in the Pirelli Calendar. A plus-sized model legendary Calendar is not only a huge step for plus-sized fashion, but for the body image acceptance movement everywhere. As a body positive proponent, I have mixed feelings about this. I'm excited for this, but it's not a huge breakthrough. Whenever something like this occurs, in any rights or acceptance movement, I always questions why it even matters.

Why do we separate plus sized and regular models? Doesn't it feel foolish that we have to categorize women with more to their curves as separate than women with less? No wonder there's the stigma felt when walking into a plus-sized women's store. I just wonder, since when does plus sized mean curvy? Just like love means love when we're referring to the LGBTQ movement, beauty is beauty. Am I totally out of left field here?

This was beauty back in the 40s. For a time not too long ago, our perceptions have changed so much.

In an extreme effort to exude body confidence, Amani Terrel, parades the body that she loves on Hollywood Boulevard. She states:

"You cannot seek validation from other people, this world is 
very cruel, You must seek validation within yourself and be kind to yourself."

She speaks so much truth here. Those seeking rights and acceptance must reminds themselves to stay strong in a world of unacceptance. In the end, we are our own best friends and our own worst enemies. Some people think that the body positive movement can lead to projecting obesity, however, being a health-conscious individual, I'm obviously not doing that.

I'm not a proponent of gaining weight, I'm a proponent of accepting what you have. Curvy, straight, thin, thick, black, white, whatever you may be. Flaunt what you want and be all about that bass!

1. How do you think the plus-sized movement shapes the landscape of society?
2. How do you think the landscape of society has formed the plus-sized movement?
3. How has it affected you? 
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Instagram Catch Up!

January 02, 2015

Lately, I've been doing blogging in bouts - as my life has been set up. I'll go off and visit friends in other towns, work, hang out with friends in town, go off with my family - then I'll have days when I have short shifts, and a lot of time left for Netflix, blogging, sleeping, exercising, and of course cuddling with Jackie (all of those in no order). On those days I blog, I get to hang out with you guys. However, I can't help but feel a bit guilty when I'm out enjoying the "real world." 

That's why I've decided to do a catch up of my life lately, through the eyes of my instagram. If you really want to know my daily life narrated by references to reddit and tumbles memes, though, add me on snapchat! I really let loose there. It's n_vergak. Without further adue, here's some snapshots of my life of the past few weeks.

I got my tragus pierced! You can still see the blood drying here still, yikes! This picture was taken almost immediately after, so don't freak out. I've wanted this piercing for about a year now! I have my two holes and my cartilage. The friend that I went with has her tragus pierced, but not her cartilage. Now, we complete each other. We both have the same piercings: tragus and cartilage. I went on a whim. I feel like the best decisions, for me at least, are made on a whim!

This picture is from the first week of break for me. The girl on top is my good friend Alex (the one I got my piercing with), and the bottom picture is my friend from school and radio show co-host Dominique. Dominique lives about an hour and a half from the school we go to, and I only live about 45 minutes. She was still at school to take a final, while no one else was at school. I had her come and sleep at my house. We went out to the hookah bar in New Hampshire near my house where these pictures were taken!

This is a still from a video I posted last Saturday. I saw a christmas show of a few of my favorite bands in Worcester, MA. The bands that played were A Loss For Words, State Champs, and Four Year Strong. It had been soooo long song I've been to a good pop punk show and "threw down" in the pit, and I did! I still have the bruise on my leg to prove it. I may love cute and preppy things, but my taste in music is surprising, I know.

Ah, my first sight of home after driving back from school. I saw this tell-all sign that I knew I was back in Lowell right after I got off the highway. The city of Lowell lights up this tree every holiday season. I swear it can be seen in every spot in Lowell.

This is one of my favorite scenes in the woods near my house where I run. After a long, hard cross country season followed by the holiday break, sometimes I forget why I love to run. Then, I see this. #ShitRunnersSee, right? Now, I'm excited for the pre-season training for my next cross country season and training for my half marathon this summer.

I thought I'd end it with my favorite picture from NYE. I spent mine at Nick's friend's place right outside of Boston. I have to say, it was one of my favorite NYE's in a while. I'm so ready to kill it in 2015. I've made great improvements in 2014, but I'm ready to buckle down and get the ball rolling in 2015  - in my life, my blog, my school, my internships and jobs, etc. Time to get productive!

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