Monthly Archives: August 2010

A Spontaneous Adventure

As I am sitting here in the Charlotte airport, digesting my crappy airport Chinese food and taking advantage of the free wi-fi, I thought I would share my weekend adventure.  For most of August I have been sitting in Minneapolis feeling sorry for myself, trying to distract myself with painting projects and starting this blog, missing Scott and my family.  So I decided to do something about it.  I picked up and flew to Florida on Friday.  My brother and his family were spending the week in Orlando, visiting my sister-in-law’s family and I invited myself, and Scott, over to the party.  Luckily, Amber’s aunt and uncle welcomed us with open arms.  Amber’s uncle was able to score us FREE tickets to Universal Studios and so the seven of us made a day of it on Saturday.

I had no idea that having fun was so exhausting.  It was literally one roller coaster ride after another (for the record, my favorite was The Mummy).

Scott spent most of the day sitting out the roller coaster rides, so he got stuck babysitting Kailey.  (Although I should give him credit for going on a couple of the rides).What I was most excited about was the new Wizarding World of Harry Potter.  I mean, I have read all seven of the Harry Potter books more times than I can count.  I absolutely love them, so I was pretty stoked to physically immerse myself into that fantastical world.  And it was pretty cool – just in a theme park sort of way, rather than in an awe-inspiring sort of way.  We explored Hogsmeade.

Honeydukes

We went to Three Broomsticks and drank Butterbeer…though I must say it was way too sweet for my and my blood sugar’s tastes.

Three Broomsticks

Frozen Butterbeer

And we went on The Forbidden Journey.  Actually, this was the first thing that we did when we got the the Wizarding World.  The estimated wait time was only 30 minutes, and compared to the 6-8 hour wait that others had experienced earlier this month, we jumped in line.  Universal clearly spent an enormous amount of time making sure that one’s wait in line for this ride would be as exciting as the ride itself.  Moving portraits, Dumbledore’s office, cabinet’s full of magical instruments, the line wound through one castle room to another.  The only problem was – the line was only 30 minutes long!  We were racing through the castle without even a backwards glance, so I felt a little cheated of the experience.  As for the ride itself … well, it left me, and many others in my party, a little queasy.  Now, as I’ve said, I LOVE roller coasters, but I’m not sure that riding a broomstick is for me.

I think part of the disappointment in the illusion was the hordes of tourists (myself included) wearing their shorts and tank tops trying to beat the scorching heat.  And hot it was.  Much of the afternoon was spent enjoying one frozen drink after another with no regards to calories or high fructose corn syrup consumption.

By the end of the day we were tired, but still had smiles on our faces (well most of us).

All in all a fantastic day and a welcome break from Minneapolis.  Of course the main point of trip was to steal cuddles with Kailey …

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I scream, you scream, we all scream for … popsicles?

This summer I have been obsessed with popsicles*, well actually for a number of years now, but this is the first summer that I’ve attempted to make them myself.  Back in Durham, one of my favorite places for a before-dinner treat is Locopops.  It is celebrating its 5-year anniversary – I, and others, had doubts that a store that only sold $1 popsicles was going to turn a profit.  But turn a profit it did. Now with several locations and a few popsicle carts all around the Triangle area, it has become a Durham institution.

Dad and I enjoying a cool treat on a hot Southern day.

Now this is my first summer in a number of years without having Locopops walking distance from my house and I’ve decided to take matters into my own hands, or freezer as the case may be.  So earlier this summer I took a stroll to Kitchen Window and bought myself two sets of popsicle molds and then just over this past weekend, a third (you can also order them from Amazon).  It was amazingly easy.  The first batch consisted of too ripe strawberries, lemon and homemade rhubarb simple syrup (leftover from a crazy cocktail concoction Scott and I were attempting).  A whirl in the blender, into the molds and straight to the freezer.  Three hours later – popsicle success!  I may have eaten two or three in one sitting – I am not ashamed to admit it.  The second batch, blackberries and cream, led to the invest of a second piece of equipment – a kitchen strainer.  I highly recommend a strainer, especially if using any kind of berry, if you don’t want to have teeny tiny seeds stuck in your teeth.

Lemon-Lime

Creamy Coffee

Raspberry-Mint-Lime

Blueberry-Pear-Cinnamon

I’ve gone a little crazy in my popsicle making (and eating).  Creamy coffee, blueberry pear cinnamon, mango pineapple, creamy lemon lime and my hands down all time favorite, raspberry mint lime – which also makes a great base for mojitos.  I admit I have tried to re-create a flavor or two from Locopops.  I don’t have a strict recipe, which is a departure from my usual mode of kitchen creations.  It’s mostly fruit, some simple syrup (so it won’t freeze as hard as an ice cube) and either milk or water.  I don’t think there is a wrong way to do it.  The only problem is that you have to wait a few hours before you can enjoy!  Although, this months Cooking Light issue pointed me in the direction of this neat gadget.

All I can say is: Yum!

*Technically, I am not supposed to call them popsicles because they are trademarked, so please think of them as ice pops instead.  For a little history and some fun facts visit this site.

Procrastination…

Let’s see.  It’s been a productive weekend.  I’ve caught up with an old friend, repainted the kitchen, cleaned the entire apartment and even weeded out my closet, which then led me to do some ironing and even managed to watch some episodes of Top Chef.  And while I am happy to have done those things, as they have been on my to-do list for months now – they are not actually the task that I need to do.  I have a manuscript that needs to be revised.  I should be more than happy to work on it – it’s made it through the peer-review process at a more than respectable journal and there are just a couple of minor things that need to be addressed before it gets published.  But I just can’t sit down to work on it.  But it needs to get done SOON.  There are a couple of reasons why I think I am procrastinating:  1) this is the last chapter from my dissertation and I have spent the last six months trying to move on to other compelling biological phenomena and 2) it just feels like busy work.  Move this paragraph into the discussion and adjust this figure, clarify the logic for experiment X….Okay, okay, I really should just get to it.

But first, let me share the results of my painting project.  I had originally painted the kitchen a very deep, intense raspberry color – which I really liked, but it didn’t really jibe with the other colors of the apartment.  So I toned it down.  I prefer to call it “rhubarb” although it might also be considered by some to be “pepto bismol pink.”

Looking towards the bedroom

Looking into the living room

I think that I like it better.  It’s still under consideration.  The colors remind me of a bright and cheery springtime.  I am hoping that they will help me through the doom and gloom of the upcoming Minnesota winter.  But maybe it’s too girly?  But then, I am a girl….

Moving on a technical note.  I’ve done a lot of painting in my day – and I mean a lot.  I think I might have an addiction to color.  But I suppose there are worse things.  Anyhow, painting is about a thousand times more bearable if you have good quality paint.  Let me not recommend paint from Home Depot (at least the Minneapolis location) – it’s thick and globby and you need to use way more than you should.  However, Royal paint from Ace Hardware – excellent.  It goes on evenly and smoothly and you always have some leftover should you need a touch up here or there.

As mentioned before – I also cleaned out my closet.  It’s something I try to do about every six months or so.  I find it a good exercise to be perfectly honest with myself.  Do I really like this?  Or worst yet – does it really still fit me?  Most things I decide to purge I feel like it’s their time to go and I accept it.  But some…usually the clothes that no longer fit…I just can’t bring myself to part with.  But I do it anyway.  The pile(s) will hang around for a fair amount of time – a trial separation if you will – to see if there is anything that I truly cannot live without.  I hardly ever rescue anything and then the pile is finally donated to charity.  This most recent cleaning led to a 20% reduction of dresses and a 30% reduction of skirts.  Yet, as you can see below – I still have a sizable wardrobe (and yes, it is color-coded).

So why do I feel the need to go shopping?  Most likely because I am still procrastinating on the manuscript revisions – which now that I’ve spent the last 30 minutes writing this post, I really am going to work on now.

Or maybe I should go to the grocery store…

The personal statement…

When applying to graduate schools (or any other school for that matter) an integral component of your application is the personal statement.  This came up in conversation yesterday with an undergraduate student who is getting ready to apply to graduate school in the fall.  Naturally the conversation led to what others had written about.  Some were focused on their previous research, others were self-proclaimed boring and others reeked of naivety.  In my own, I likened a life in science to a roller coaster ride.  Something like “Science, like a roller coaster, has its ups and downs….but it can be the ride of your life.”  Brilliant, I know, but what can I say – I was all of 22 years old.  I was trying to put all of my scientific failures into perspective – that although failing magnificently*, at least I was having fun.  While I was interviewing for grad school, my would-be adviser called me out on my metaphor.  While appreciating the sentiment that I was going for, she thought the fatal flaw was that on a roller coaster you end exactly where you started, but at least with science, hopefully, you’ll have made some forward progress.  At the time, I conceded the point, and for most of my dissertation work, it was true – a wild ride, but I think I made some pretty significant progress.  It was only fitting for my adviser to send me off at my final dissertation seminar with reference to that stupid personal statement that I had written those many years ago.

Thinking back on that essay, at the grand old age of nearly 30, PhD in hand, embarking on the next phase of my career, I’m not so sure how well the metaphor holds up.  It’s true that there are still ups and downs – but I am lacking the thrill of the ride.  The anticipation of the next experiment doesn’t excite me.  I am pretty sure that having my eyes yanked open to look at the road ahead has been snuffing out my scientific enthusiasm and it’s making me undeniably depressed.  Even for projects that do get my blood pumping – I am spinning my wheels trying to learn how to be a bioinformaticist and I ultimately feel like I haven’t made any forward progress and I am back where I started out.  So, the metaphor has completely fallen apart, and I am not sure now what I would say to my younger self.

Perhaps the better question to pose is: What would my younger, more idealistic self say to me now?

*Note to any budding scientists – trying to extract DNA from the marine polychaete worm, Nereis vexillosa, is no easy feat.  However, it did provide a great excuse to play with worm guts in combination with liquid nitrogen and a motar and pestle.  Thank you to my hippie college alma mater, The Evergreen State College for a wonderful experience that failed utterly.

The perks of academia

I admit to be in the middle of a lovers quarrel with academia – but that’s a topic for a later post.  Right now I just want to highlight one of the benefits of being an educated, free-thinking, independent and self-motivated person and working with a like-minded advisor – days spent working in the comfort of one’s own home (or coffeshop, library, etc).  It’s not a bad set-up, as you can see.

Unlimited coffee at hand (brewed with beans from Batdorf and Bronson, my absolute favorite from back home), the new Arcade Fire album in the background and working in my bathrobe without shame!  What could be better for a random Thursday?  And yes, I actually get a significant amount of work done on days like today (despite the fact that I am currently blogging and not working).  I even have moral support.

 

Puck, of "Puck and Kudzu"

That’s all I got for now.  Rocking out, drinking coffee and analyzing boatloads of data.  Just about all I could ask for to get out of a mid-week slump.