Monthly Archives: May 2012

Summer Fun List: Progress Report

So I am just three days in to my summer break, and have already accomplished (or on my way to accomplishing) several things on my fun list for the summer.

Visit Baltimore Farmer’s Market at least once a month: May visit, complete. Purple potatoes, the reddest strawberries I have ever seen, the best fresh spinach I’ve ever had…yum. Not to mention eggs, asparagus, shiitake mushrooms, and chicken thighs. And none of it, nor the delicious meals that came from it, was documented. Oops. I’ll do better next time, I promise.

Plant potted herbs and flowers for our porch: COMPLETE. Basil and parsley plants are now cohabitating with the rosemary and thyme that survived the winter.

And some nasturtiums will hopefully make their debut in a week or two, assuming that I planted the seeds correctly.

Do yoga at least 25 times: 1 down, 24 to go. Hey, you have to start somewhere.

Have a girls’ night with my friends: Complete-ish. My lovely friend Allison hosted a girls’ night with all the essentials: wine, cheese, cookies, and lots of talk about cats and food. It was a very fun and much-needed time with some wonderful women, so I’d say it definitely counts towards this list. When I wrote this list I was thinking that I’d like to host an evening myself this summer, so that’s still a goal. But if it doesn’t happen for some reason, I’m happy I got to have at least one fabulous night with friends.

Figure out how to brush Bailey without him hating it: Complete? As a result of the ladies’ night cat conversations, I bought a new brush that another long-haired cat mother recommended. Brushing today was certainly an improvement over what usually happens. But it’s hard to say whether it was the new brush or that he was simultaneously self-soothing by rubbing his face all over the shopping bag. (Have I mentioned that my cat has a plastic bag fetish?)

I think that’s about it so far. For three days, not too bad.

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Summer Fun List

Last night I closed my second year of graduate school by taking the most painful statistics exam of my life. But it’s done. At this point all I can do is hope that I didn’t do so badly that I’ll have to retake the class. And it will be a while before grades are posted, so until then, I might as well get started on my summer.

Summer, for graduate students, is typically the time when you do all the things you were supposed to be doing during the school year but couldn’t because your classes sucked up too much of your time. Last summer I collected a bunch of data, but didn’t do much else, seeing as there was this wedding thing that occupied a lot of my time. But this summer is wide open, and I have lofty goals to read lots of stuff I’ve wanted to read, and finish lots of data coding and analyses, and make some substantial progress on a lit review.

But I also want to have some fun. So before I get started on my school to-do list, here is my list of fun things to check off this summer:

Foodie Stuff:

  • Visit Baltimore Farmer’s Market at least once a month
  • Make homemade ravioli
  • Bake a cake recipe I’ve wanted to try
  • Make something with watermelon (I’m just starting to like watermelon, so why not?)
  • Eat dinner at Charleston
  • Cook a Thai recipe
  • Go on a bakery adventure with my sister
  • Cook lamb… when Nick isn’t around

Fun Things:

  • Visit Falling Waters
  • Visit National Gallery or another art museum
  • Visit a winery
  • Go on a road trip
  • Plant potted herbs and flowers for our porch
  • Go to the beach
  • Go to the County or State Fair
  • See a movie in the theater
  • Play miniature golf

Things That Are Good For Me:

  • Do yoga at least 25 times. (I figure there are about 14 weeks in the summer, so that’s less than twice a week on average. That’s doable.)
  • Spend a week without television/movies
  • Go on at least four bike rides
  • Finish at least one painting
  • Read at least two books that have nothing to do with school

Things I’ve Been Meaning to Do Forever:

  • Organize photographs on old hard drive
  • Print and frame some wedding photos
  • Have a girls’ night with my friends
  • Spend time with my cousins and their families
  • Figure out how to brush Bailey without him hating it*

*Is this fun? Probably not. But reducing the amount of shedding and the horrible mats that he gets in his fur would make me happier, allowing me to have more fun.

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Things I Inherited From My Mother

This is how awesome my mom is: when I requested that we have a belated Mother’s Day celebration, say, on a day that doesn’t fall right before a huge final paper is due, she was completely understanding.  Not everyone has a mom who is that cool. But I suspect that my mom knows I will be much more pleasant to be around once I am no longer keeping a running mental list of what I still need to study for a stats exam.

So, sometime in the near future, I’ll be making a wonderful meal for the wonderful woman who brought me into the world.  Maybe I’ll even tell you about it.  The meal, that is, not my birth.  I’ll let Mom tell you about that.  Although I suppose the words “15 hours of labor and no drugs” also are indicative of how awesome my mom is.

But, she’s given me more than life.  Such as….

1. An appreciation of little kids- the funny things they say, the amazing things they do. And she gets bonus points here because as much as my mom loves kids, she puts no pressure on me to give her grandchildren (as in ones without paws and fluffy tails).

2. Speaking of paws and tails, I also share my mom’s love of animals.  Well, most animals.  But we’ll get to that later. Beyond the typical kitties and puppies, Mom likes pigs a lot. There was one time at Busch Gardens where she mistakenly thought “Petting Zoo” meant “Grab-a-Potbelly-Piglet-and-Hug-It-for-15-Seconds-Before-It-Starts-Squealing Zoo”.

3. Creativity- particularly writing and painting.

4. A tendency to mix up sayings and words. One of my favorites of Mom’s is “That was the camel who broke his back.”

5. Big brown eyes.

6. An enjoyment of little things that look like the big things.

7. A love of being outdoors and working with my hands.  I don’t always have a ton of motivation for gardening/yardwork, and living in an apartment, there’s not much need for it anyway.  But when I’m tending to potted flowers and herbs, I definitely feel a connection to my mom, as well as to my maternal grandfather.

8. A lack of jumping ability.

9. An inability to resist bakeries.

10. Some sort of collective subconscious. Apparently from a very young age I would freak out my mom by saying out loud what she was just thinking. And it’s the only way to explain that we independently purchased the same hat on the same day for the family beach trip. (Emily insisted on getting the same one so she didn’t feel left out.)

And Some Things I Did Not Inherit From My Mom:

1. Gorgeous auburn hair.

2. A natural inclination to help strangers, particularly in healthcare emergencies.  Yes, some of this might be the fact that my mom has a nursing degree and I do not.  But there’s a reason I don’t have a nursing degree.  Regardless, my mom’s ability to put herself in situations where someone needs help and stay calm while offering whatever they need, whether it be first aid or just holding someone’s hand until an ambulance arrives, is something I really admire.

3. An inexplicable connection with parrots.  My mom loves to talk to them.  And they seem to love her.  But I’m pretty sure Mom is responsible for why I do not trust parrots.  Once at a pet store when I was about three, Mom encouraged me to stick my finger out, insisting that the bird would use it as a perch. Apparently my finger made a better chew toy.

Beyond all the things she passed on to me, I am so thankful to have a mom who allowed me to have my own voice and offered an ear to hear it, who always has hugs to give but respected when I didn’t want one, and who, together with my dad, created a home and a family I am proud to be a part of.

Love you, Mamanance, and I promise your belated Mother’s Day will be well worth the wait!

This is not posed. This is the power of genes:

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Summer Salad with Lentils, Farro, and Israeli Couscous

I’ve taken a lot of psychology courses over the years.  Sensation and Perception was never one of my favorites, but I do remember that smell is the sense that is most strongly linked with memories.  Or maybe I learned that in fourth grade science.  Perhaps if I sniffed something that smells like Lecture Hall 3, I’d remember something more substantial from that class….

I know, that’s kind of an odd opening for a food entry. But I have my reasons.

Last weekend, I decided to make a batch (yes, a batch) of lentil and couscous salad.  When I plated it and lifted the first forkful, I suddenly felt optimistic, energized, and light.  Suddenly, it felt like summer.  Sure, with fresh basil and tomatoes, this salad has summery flavors and smells.  But really, this salad transported me back to the summer of 2010, when I made it for the first, and many more, times.

That was an exciting summer.  I was leaving the job I’d had for three years and getting ready to go back to school. Nick and I were recently engaged and planning our wedding. As I ate that salad last weekend, I relived the anticipation of classes and excitement of the first meetings with my advisor, looking through stacks of bridal magazines, and eating lunch in what was quite possibly the nicest office I will ever get to call mine.

If there’s going to be a food that I’ve eaten so much that it defines a period of my life, I’m glad it’s a salad. I don’t think I’d be writing this if it was going to be, “I had KFC for lunch the other day and it took me back to that summer during college when I was dating that carpenter with the jeep….”*

This salad is loosely based on a recipe from Epicurious for Mediterranean Couscous and Lentil Salad.  Basically, they both have lentils and couscous, and the same dressing. But I like to serve the lentil-couscous mixture over baby spinach or lettuce, and top it with cherry tomatoes and sliced basil, rather than tossing everything together.  I don’t use feta.  I’m sure it wouldn’t hurt, but it’s definitely not necessary.  You can keep the lentil salad in the fridge for a couple days and assemble the rest (i.e., greens, tomatoes, basil) just before eating, or when packing your lunch in the morning. By itself, the lentil and couscous mixture is a bit overdressed, but once you add in the lettuce and tomatoes, it all works out quite nicely.

I’m a fan of using Israeli couscous (I believe sometimes called “pearl couscous”).  It’s bigger and chewier, and I like that the shape and size are almost identical to the lentils.  This time I used a combination of farro and couscous.  I could claim it was to boost the nutritional value a bit (and I’m sure it does), but really, I just didn’t have much couscous in my pantry. You could use just farro, but I recommend a combination, or skip the farro and just use couscous.  Why?  Well, if you really want to know my rationale, it’s purely an aesthetic thing.  Since the couscous is a brighter white, it provides more contrast against the dark lentils. You can thank my high school art teacher for that.

One more thing. I use packaged steamed lentils from Trader Joe’s. Because as you might recall, I don’t have the best luck with cooking dried legumes.  But feel free to cook your own, and then bask in the satisfaction that you took this recipe one step further than me.

*Okay, if I ever actually ate KFC, it probably would trigger such flashbacks.  Except it would take me back to those three years during college.  Hey, we all make bad decisions during college, right? Oh, and for the record, I have no problem with carpenters.  Just with ones who take me to KFC for dinner.

Summer Salad with Lentils, Farro, and Israeli Couscous

1 cup of cooked lentils (preferably the fancy French lentilles du Puy)

1 cup uncooked Israeli couscous, or 1/2 cup couscous and 1/2 cup farro

3 tbsp red wine vinegar

4 tbsp olive oil

1 large garlic clove, pressed or mashed

Cook couscous and/or farro according to package directions. Transfer to bowl, stir in 1 tbsp olive oil and let cool completely.

Stir one tbsp red wine vinegar in with the lentils.

Whisk together remaining 2 tbsp red wine vinegar, 3 tbsp olive oil, and garlic.

In a large bowl, mix together lentils, couscous/farro mixture, and dressing. Season with salt and pepper.  Cover and chill, preferably for three hours, but if you didn’t think about making this ahead of time and you’re really hungry for lunch, I won’t judge you for chilling it for only thirty minutes.  Or not at all.

You can keep this covered in the fridge for a couple days. To serve, place a couple handfuls of the greens of your choice in a bowl and spoon lentil mixture on top (I’ve found it makes about three servings, but it really depends on your preferred greens-to-lentils and grains-ratio).  Top with halved cherry tomatoes and some sliced fresh basil.

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Gone Fishin’

And by ” fishin” I mean ” writing, reading, studying, and preparing presentations.”

The other week I had my freak-out moment where I informed all my friends and family that they would probably not hear from me until mid-May after finals are over.  It actually has not been quite that bad (although that might just mean I have not been pacing myself correctly and will be banging my head against the wall a week from today).

But while I’ve allowed myself some breaks for date nights and The Voice, time for blogging is limited. Besides, since my life right now is all Structural Equation Modeling and Research Design, I’m guessing you wouldn’t be very interested in anything I have to say right now anyway. I mean, clearly Matilda is enthralled…

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