Thursday, September 29, 2011

Stick it to the wall.

It has gradually dawned on me that I’m a visual learner, and tonight, that little sunrise of realization made its way onto my wall.  I now introduce to you the Post-it Brick Wall method of outlining a paper.

  • How it works: main points of thesis (orange) each get a column, ensuring that everything relates back to that pesky thesis.
  • green stickies are sub-points within each paragraph to keep rambling at bay.
  • each brick represents a paragraph.

Why it’s preferred to simple Roman numerals outline:
  • post-its are so. much. fun.
  • color makes life more interesting.
  • it can be adjusted far more easily than copy-and-pasting and redoing all the Roman numerals.
  • no stupid tabbing.

  • very little guarantee that all post-its will still be there tomorrow morning.
  • funny looks from your roommate.
  • potential for ink smudges on your hands after sticking them to the wall. (Note: this could also be seen as a pro if you like the “hard worker” look of inky hands.)

I also give myself points for resourcefulness with using the provided bricks as paragraph breaks.  Now if only inspiration would strike before midnight, it’d be really lovely.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

"Describe your perfect date."

"I'd have to say April 25."

OK, not quite.  But as far as describing the perfect day goes, today came pretty close, especially considering how it could have gone down.  Wednesdays are my busiest day.  My first class starts at 8, and my last ends thirteen-and-a-half hours later, with few breaks in between.

But I had a chem test today, which could have gone terribly awry.  Thanks to a couple solid hours of studying (which is kind of new for me), it was a really great test.  I very much appreciate well-made tests.  It was perfectly suited to the time frame we were given. It was entirely fair in that it corresponded to what we learned in class. I doubted myself more than once, but pushed through to find that I actually did know how to figure it out most of the time.  It was hard, but I came out of it thinking that I had actually done a pretty OK job of the thing, and that’s what’s rewarding - knowing that it could have gone awfully but didn’t.

What came in the middle of the day was something of a blur.  Chapel was fine; French included the usual songs and jokes; and my wellness class was laughable as always. 

Then more randomly exciting events transpired: I got my bizarrely high practice requirement for the week fulfilled by 3:00 this afternoon. I finished my reading of this week’s Greek tragedies. Symphony sectionals ended half an hour early, allowing me a full fifteen minutes extra to go back to Chorale rehearsal, and then another extra fifteen to take my sweet time getting to lab. 

And even better was the lab itself: combustion!  It was a lab requiring some patience, but I can be methodical when I want to be.  Despite the fact that I had to miss all-school communion because of lab, it was very satisfying watching paper and acid burn off, leaving nothing but some little white chunks of BaSo4 in a cute little crucible.  (Equally satisfying was our instructor’s unintentionally funny remark that we can “feel free to bring back acid from the hood.”)

And then at its lovely, breezy, mid-sixties conclusion, I discovered quite the little gem: CocoaNova, courtesy of the 'rents.  Soooo delicious. And I even had time to blog about it.

The day wasn’t great because anything unusually fun or exciting happened, but because it was all close enough to normal that it seems plausible for it to all happen again.  After all, there’s not much better than a good day than the prospect that many more days like it are waiting in the wings.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Theoretical Baking

Entertain this thought with me: what if I were able to bake more (and more easily) by supplementing my ingredient stash with dining hall offerings? 

For example, I just found a recipe for a banana cake that uses these ingredients:
2 2/3 c. all-purpose flour minus 2.5 tablespoons
2 2/3 c. sugar
3/4 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. kosher salt
3 large or 4 small very ripe bananas
3 eggs
1/2 c. buttermilk
3/4 c. canola oil
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Of those, I lack buttermilk and bananas.

The rules of the dining hall permit taking one piece of fruit per diner per meal with you when leaving the dining hall, and it’s quite a common practice to bring your own cup and fill it up before you leave.  So what if, theoretically, I got two (well, two large or three small) friends to each take a banana with them when they left, and I brought a lidded cup, filled it with milk, squeezed a sufficient number of lemon slices from the hot tea area into the milk to make homemade buttermilk, and nabbed a banana myself?

Theoretically, then, this banana cake wouldn’t even require a trip to the store, which would, in a very non-theoretical way, be delicious.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Bibliovore, Literally

It’s not often that I recommend a book before I’m finished reading it (and by “not often,” I mean that it’s something I’ve never done).  But here we are, and I have a book for you.

It wasn’t long after starting to read The Odyssey that I decided that if I wanted to retain my ability to finish a book, I should probably read something written more recently than 1000 years ago.  So I made my trek to the Wheaton Public Library with a very specific goal: this book. After searching through many, many books with nearly the same call number, I found it, went through the hassle of sitting down with the little old ladies who run the library, signing things, filling out forms, watching them print out my name on a little label-maker, and getting my library card.

But I’m telling you, it’s worth it.  This book doesn’t only have happy little stories about food and all the people the author grew up with, but it also has recipes.  Lots of them.  For delicious things like banana bread with chocolate and crystallized ginger.  Like little corn cakes with bacon, tomato, and avocado.  Like a bread salad with cherries, arugula, and goat cheese (a little weird, but delicious, I’m sure). Like fresh ginger cake with caramelized pears. Like rum cream pie with a graham cracker crust (though I’d be hard-pressed to find rum in Wheaton).  So excited. 

Get it, read it, eat it.

And do visit the woman’s blog.  It’s a winner.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

One Side of Boredom, Two Scoops of Crazy

Because I hate to think that blog posts would ever be the spawn of a sense of obligation (I mean, I love you all, but...), I’ve put off writing one recently.  Instead, I’m proud to announce that this a post born of boredom!  Indeed, I’ve worked ahead enough - making moms and dads proud since 1992 - that I literally have nothing else to do at the moment.

The other evening, though, boredom was very much at bay as Laura, David, and I went to Alinea (Chicago’s #1 restaurant for fancypants foodies).  Among the bizarre things we ate were these dishes:
  • a peach dish composed entirely of cubes
  •  a delicious banana-ginger something battered and fried on a vanilla bean
  • a loofa’s worth of liquid nitrogen-frozen chocolate mousse
  • little stacks of lamb and French croutons with cute little potatoes melon-balled out to look like hazelnuts
  • a crazy-elaborate stick-looking thing made mostly out of a dehydrated and deep-fried skin from the top of a pan of simmering soymilk
  • a clear glass tube with who-knows-what sloshing around inside
The sheer number of hyphenated words in that list is a testament to the creativity (or maybe insanity) of the chefs at work.  And then the servers were the quirky, smart, attentive people you’re sure could do much more than give you a new napkin every time you go to the bathroom. Despite the glory of all this incredible outrageousness, the cost of the whole evening was equally outrageous, and that was what really got me.  I don’t doubt that the expertise, ingredients, and service that go into the meal warrant charging a lot; the question is whether it’s responsible of anyone to pay that much.  Nevertheless, the meal is done, it was a fantastically tantalizing experience, and I do very much appreciate it.

The next few days hold the usual insanity (though we were graciously given a reprieve from sectionals tomorrow), but I also hope to cram in a few bonus activities:
  • a trip to the Wheaton Public Library (now doesn’t that sound adorably quaint?)
  • baking in the dorm kitchen (choosing between scones, coffee cake, and shortbread - do leave a comment with your vote)
  • a blog post with fewer references to my boredom when really, it’s not actually that bad
And a final anecdote from the day, at no extra charge: I got to sight-read in a vocal masterclass for a girl who definitely forgot to get an accompanist.  Oops. (“We needed an accompanist? Oh, well, can you play it?” “Oh yeah, sure, sure, but I’m gonna need that music right”)