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I am a biology professor at Emory University and live in Atlanta.

These are words that only reluctantly roll off my tongue – I still expect to wake up and find out this isn’t my life. In my defense, it’s been less than a month – I mean, I haven’t even changed my Facebook info or Twitter tagline (not to suggest that these activities make these facts ‘real’). Now, this isn’t my first turn on the relocation merry-go-round. A decade ago, I moved from the Pacific Northwest to North Carolina. Five and half years later, I moved to the Midwest. Now, I’m in the South. Welcome to the life of an academic. To be honest, when I moved away from the Pacific Northwest I had no idea what I was getting into.


This move feels different; it has the weight of being a critical junction in my life. The intentions of it are far different than any of my previous moves. As an adult, the majority of my decisions have been career-driven. Why else would I have moved to the frozen tundra of the Upper Midwest? Mostly because I knew it wasn’t going to be forever. But this move? This move has the potential to be my last. That’s a complicated thought.


In many ways, this department, this institution, this city and corner of the country, all feel like a natural ‘fit’ for me. I don’t think I can clearly articulate all the factors that go into that statement. It feels good and it feels right. When you know, you know. With the exceptions being of course, the many things that I don’t know. Regardless, I am incredibly lucky to be in this situation when so many other academics are not.


Still, it’s more than a little scary to start again in a new place. When I moved to North Carolina I was 23, on the brink of adulthood, single and beginning a journey with people who would end up being major fixtures in my life. When I moved to Minneapolis, I was 29, no longer single, and infiltrating an established lab and community that when I left it still didn’t feel like I completely belonged. Now I’m 33, single again (and wise enough to know that my life is rich with my other relationships) in a new city with barely a pre-existing connection and entering a whole new realm of my life. I’m excited to get started and anxious to find my way.


These thoughts have been swirling in my mind for the last six months, every since I got the phone call offering me THE job of my dreams. And the only wrinkle is that it seems as though I won’t be returning home. Home, of course, being the Pacific Northwest. Every year it seems I wax nostalgic over this special place – there are so many things about it that resonate with me. So, it’s hard to think that even after a decade away, I won’t be settling there.


I strategically planned my move to be able to have a few weeks on the West Coast, buffering my transition from postdoc to professor. Partly to give myself a break so that when I started, I really started ‘fresh.’ But more so to give me much-needed time with the place and the people that have shaped who I’ve become. To remind myself where I came from and dig around my roots before transplanting myself yet again.


I didn’t think I had a childhood home. We moved out of the house I was an infant in, lived briefly with my aunt and uncle before moving to a house when I started kindergarten, and then built another one when I was in high school, temporarily living with my grandfather during the construction. Now my parents live in yet a different house. All in in Olympia, I grant you and always surrounded by family, but I have never held sentimental value in the structures I grew up in.


So it hit me like a ton of bricks when I spent a few days in our cabin in the southern Cascades. I hadn’t been back there since I moved away in 2004 – my trips home have always seemed too short to warrant a 2-hour drive into the mountains. It was like stepping into a time capsule of my youth. I had no idea of the enormity to which I missed this place and how much my family (including most of my extended family) is enveloped in it. My dad had spent many nights and weekends designing the cabin and the entire family pitched in to build the thing from the ground up. The avocado green stove! The country blue couches! The comforter covered in primary-colored hearts from when I was five! I’m pretty sure the décor hasn’t been touched since we first built it 25 years ago. And while, incredibly out of date, it was immensely reassuring to be back. The floodgates opened and the memories stormed in. My aunt burning her eyebrows cooking bacon on the barbecue. Weekend ski trips with the cousins. Jumping off of the 35-foot Jody’s Bridge during on sweltering 95-degree Labor Day weekend. Driving down the forest service roads with Dad towards our next hike. Games of gin rummy on the porch. It was all waiting for me, in this tiny cabin that I had returned to.


One day I climbed up to Sunrise Peak for a 360-degree view including: Mt. Adams, Mt. Rainier and Mt. St. Helen’s. There’s nothing quite like being surrounded by majestic mountains to gain some perspective. On another day I hiked through old growth forest into Packwood Lake to reconnect with my motivation to study biology (who knew that a girl who like play in the woods would end up studying the sex lives of yeast!). It was exactly what I was hoping to find and helped me garner the strength to move forward in this next adventure.

Blackberry-Hazelnut Torte


Can you imagine a dessert any more ‘Pacific Northwest’ than this? I am more than a little late posting this recipe, blackberry season is long past us (I’ve been slightly busy in recent weeks – hello, I’m new faculty!). If you are anything like my family than you have squirreled away some of the deep purple jewels in your freezer. Plus – it uses 8 (8!!!) egg whites, making it an excellent justification to make two quarts of ice cream so not to waste the yolks.
5 ounces hazelnut flour (alternatively, you can toast and finely grind whole nuts)
10.5 ounces (1 1/2 cups) granulated sugar, divided
4.5 ounces (1 cup) all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 ounces (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter
2 tablespoons bourbon
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
8 large egg whites
2 cups wild blackberries
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 10-inch springform pan.
Whisk hazelnut and AP flours, ¾ cup (5.25 ounces) sugar and salt together in a bowl.
In a small saucepan, cook the butter over moderate heat until lightly browned, 3 to 4 minutes. Let cool slightly, then stir in the bourbon and vanilla.
Using a standing electric mixer, beat the egg whites until they form very soft peaks.
Gradually add the remaining 3/4 cup of sugar and continue beating until the whites hold soft peaks. Alternately fold the flour mixture and browned butter into the egg whites in 3 batches. Gently fold in the blackberries.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 50 minutes, or until the cake is golden and just beginning to pull away from the side. Let cool slightly on a rack, then remove the side of the pan and let cool completely. Transfer the cake to a large plate to serve.


At some point, every summer, I make a pilgrimage back to the Pacific Northwest.


I struggle to find the words to describe what this place means to me. There is some sort of fantastic synergy of family and landscape that makes this the most special place in the world to me. It’s enough to make me believe in fairy tales. The way I feel when I am in this place is, for lack of a better word, enchanted. The clouds wrap themselves around me, the sea salt air fills my lungs, the infinite shades of green permeates all that I gaze upon and the siren’s songs of the mountains all lure me in and entrap my heart. It’s a spell that I never want to have broken.

And is it any wonder … this place is stunning.

I may not have the words … but as always, the themes revolve around the following:



The scenery

I’ll be back. I can never stay away for long.


The past couple of weeks have been, well, more than a little crazy. Three deaths, two mangled arms and one hospitalized pregnant sister-in-law. The saying “When in rains it pours” seems apt.

Life is hard. Even harder when your loved ones are in pain, emotional, physical or otherwise. I grew up surrounded by family. Aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, great-grandparents from all sides, nearly all of them lived in Olympia. As cliche as it is, I was surrounded by love. And support. When somebody fell (and somebody was always falling – we are a very accident-prone clan) there were 25 people around to pick you back up. It’s been a lovely thing to watch the next generation come into being as my brother and cousins have started having children.

And I get to watch from the sidelines.

Don’t misunderstand me. This is not about me wanting to have children (that’s for a different post). This is about me living in Minneapolis, over a thousand miles away, literally over a thousand miles, from both my family and my significant other. This is about life through emails, phone calls and Skype. And it’s not the same. I’m not around to help pick my loved ones up when they fall. To kiss their hurts and give them hugs. To help them get through life by simply being part of their life. Dinners at home and weekends on the lake. Dropping by to say hello and staying for a cup of coffee or a glass of wine.

I miss home. I miss my family. I miss the physical proximity of love and support.

This didn’t bother me so much when I was a graduate student. Perhaps because I was so focused on my studies, or because I was in my twenties or because the current baby boom in my family hadn’t really gotten started. But now I am in my thirties (gasp!) feeling as though life (family) is passing me by and I’ve had my nose stuck in a book (or at the lab bench as the case may be).

One of the lovely things that has happened in my life by having Scott in it is that I get to be part of his family too. And I love that. They are no closer, in fact equally far away, in the complete opposite direction but at least now I am sandwiched between two fantastic groups of people. I am leaving tomorrow, heading to the beach, to spend some time with Scott and his family. And desperately looking forward to it. It’s only been a couple of weeks since Scott and I had a weekend together, but with all that’s happened, it feels like years.

Okay. Enough of the pity party. Tomorrow I get to go to the beach and in July Scott and I are going back to the Pacific Northwest and will probably get more family than we can handle … and hopefully a brand new healthy, happy nephew.

A life that might be

I feel like I am leading a dual life.

Perhaps that’s too dramatic (not that I am prone to dramatic statements).

What I mean to say is: I am in a long-distance relationship.

I’ve just returned from a weekend visiting Scott in Florida.  It was a wonderful, simple, quiet weekend.  The only downside was that I had to leave on Monday.


Scott surprised me with purple tulips which continue to make me smile as I think about them.

I sat in on one of Scott’s lectures.


and I marveled (once again) at the view from Scott’s office – I mean, really, this is January in Florida?

We worked at coffeeshops.

And ate dinner.

Followed by drinks and a crossword puzzle at the bar.

which I took especially seriously…

and Scott got tired of me taking photos (but still is cute even when grumpy).


There may have been several games of Agricola. I think we may be getting close to figuring out the proper strategies …


We even managed to catch a movie. We saw Black Swan, which on its own is no laughing matter. However, we went to a giant movie theater and did the whole she-bang: popcorn and sodas. Besides gauging our pocketbooks, we were astounded by the sizing of everything. What sort of logic makes 44 ounces a “medium” drink? I think we only made it through about an eighth of that popcorn. Talk about hilarious!

(The movie, by the way, was good.  Intense, but good.)

And of course time spent around the house and in the kitchen -more on that later. As I said before, it was a simple, quiet weekend. Nothing spectacular, but spent with the one I love, so it was perfect.

And yet bittersweet because these are only glimpses in a life that might be.

A life that I so desperately want to have be more than just the occasional weekend.

Luckily we have the next weekend planned in less than a month.

Back to reality? (Holiday Travels Part II)

The holidays have past.

The vacation is over.


Back to reality.

But before 2011 is in full swing, I want to remember the wonderful times that I had over the past two weeks.

It can be summarized succinctly: Family, Food and Fun.

Cocoa with Kailey.

Game night(s).

Some simple (Sh*t on your neighbor – a family favorite).

And some more complicated (Agricola).

Scott arrived on Christmas day and apart from a quick trip to the grocery store (in order to make grilled turkey with cranberry and goat cheese sandwiches) I don’t think anybody left the house until we had to go back to the airport on December 28.  It was wonderful.

After a quick stop in Minneapolis (to check in on Puck and Kudzu and to discover my car had been towed during a snow emergency) I headed south to Louisiana.

Scott and I spent the day in New Orleans before heading into another family-filled week.

We stayed in a fancy hotel in the French Quarter.

We had dinner at Cochon.  If given the opportunity – go there.  The food was fantastic.

We ventured over to Frenchman Street and saw Walter Wolfman Washington and the Roadmasters at d.b.a. A great show and packed  to boot (I was told it was a special day in New Orleans – a Wednesday).

We ended the evening in the Roosevelt Hotel at the Sazerac Bar – home to the Sazerac cocktail.  (We may have had a drink or two).

Before heading to Baton Rouge the next day we nursed our hangovers with breakfast (lunch) at Slim Goodies and a stroll down Magazine Street.

There was non-stop eating in Baton Rouge.  I don’t think I will need to eat for the entire month of January.

And I got to spend significant time with Scott’s fabulous family.  They welcomed me with open arms and I thoroughly enjoyed myself – I only hope that I represented myself well.

There was cooking.

And eating (did I mention that already?).

And a really, really big bonfire to ring in the New Year.

Another day in New Orleans resulted in …

Eating (beignets at Cafe Du Monde).

And drinking (hurricanes at Pat O’Briens).


I need a vacation from my vacation.