Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Road trip: Washington to California (and back up)

It's wedding season! Are you excited? I just finished planning our trip to California for my sister's wedding, here's the plan, represented in pictures! Also I have to mention that future-hubbs is being a good sport about camping, I think because I want it so badly. (Also $200 per night at the lodge versus $15 for a camping site helped...)

Mostly it'll be fun to see all of the family and hang out with my sister and her fiance in a giant party.

Here's the trip, on the way down:

PORTLAND, OREGON.

DIAMOND LAKE, OREGON.

CRATER LAKE, OREGON.

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA.

WEDDING!

On the way back up...

REDWOOD NATIONAL PARK.

a bit of the OREGON COAST.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Rantings

Alright folks, it's been a rough couple of weeks. I'm planning a wedding (and another quarter of a wedding?), moving to New Haven, and trying to get research done. And on the side I've been dealing with work and other stressors.

I feel inspired to write about this because it's been driving me crazy, and because I've been reading some articles about workplace dynamics and creating success. In my industry, hard work, intelligence, creativity, and enthusiasm make a career. But I've also come to realize that sexism and racism are real for me, where I am today. When I say sexism I don't mean harassment, obvious discrimination, or a behavior that an outside observer can point to and say "yes, that's sexism". And don't get me wrong, those things still go on in, explicitly or implicitly, in my workplace and others. But what I face are underlying issues that some don't take seriously. I've noticed that some of my (male) colleagues interrupt me when I'm speaking at a meeting more than equivalent male colleagues. It's also fairly common for me to say something during our weekly research meeting, and then to have a male colleague repeat essentially the same statement, as if he never heard me in the first place. This has happened so many times that one time another colleague said "Yes, that's exactly what Carolyn just said." I'm lucky to have a boss that actively tries to be fair to all groups of his employees - and so the issues I face arise only from peers. My boss has actually tried to address these issues head-on in the past, with meetings and blunt honesty that it's not okay. But I honestly feel that those who have done this to me (and others) are not conscious of it. The discrimination is so implicit that I bet they would deny it if I brought it up. What do you think? Should I confront them? My usual response is to mentally catalogue the behavior, and tell myself that it doesn't matter what they do, it won't affect my career. I am unstoppable. But I'm also human, and I can't put up with this without a peep forever.

Since I'm on my soap box, I'm also tired of other mumbling that discredits my hard work. To my face (and off to the side) I've heard some colleagues state that others like me (female, of a minority race, etc.) received fellowships and awards "because of __" several reasons that have nothing to do with my scientific merit. I understand that this is a complicated issue. I don't think affirmative action is perfect or fair, but I also think that there are implicit barriers to higher education and jobs for certain groups of people. I don't have all the answers and I hope that someday we can find a better solution to the discrimination. But for me personally, I don't believe I was accepted to my university (undergrad or graduate) because of a "minority" status. The people that tell me so, or feel so, are (without meaning to or not) discrediting my hard work and merit. I have earned my place here, and do not appreciate that people do not see that I earned what I have more than the others that applied, period.

What do you think? Am I being overly sensitive and should I just "put up with it"?

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Pantry Challenge: Day 2

I admit these are going to be the easiest couple of days, but I thought I'd share what we've done to "use up" some of the food in the fridge/pantry. We also used up the daikon radish by incorporating it into the kimchi (noms).

Introducing, kimchi soup:


Updated pantry list, as of 4/2/2014:

In the freezer:
1 lb blueberries
1 mango
4 bananas (sliced) for smoothies
1 lb potatoes, sliced
1/2 loaf whole wheat bread
3 cubes pesto
2 servings crab dumplings
8 pork dim sum dumplings
2 frozen whole chickens ("happy" chickens that were raised sustainably, I know "hippie yuppie bark")
10 chicken sausages
3 lbs bacon (sliced) 2.5 lbs bacon (sliced)
5 lbs peas (I LOVE peas)
5 lbs corn (that was a recent impulse buy)
2 lbs mozzarella, shredded in baggies
2 frozen hamburger buns (we couldn't eat them all)
1 lb frozen butter
4, 8oz packages cream cheese, for cooking

In the pantry:
1 can refried beans
2 cans garbanzo beans
3 boxes whole wheat pasta
4 lbs flour
1 lb sugar 
2 lbs chocolate chips
8 lbs of potatoes
4 onions
2 cups dried cherries
10 lbs rice 9.6 lbs rice
3 jars pasta sauce
10 lbs oats (I make my own granola)
1 lb honey
2 lbs corn meal
1/2 lb quinoa
1/2 lb pink lentils
1 bunch grapes eliminated!
4 anjou pears 1 anjou pear

In the refrigerator:
12 eggs
2 lbs pecans
1 lb carrots
1 lb bok choy eliminated!
3.5 mason jars of homemade kimchi 3.5 mason jars of homemade kimchi
1 daikon radish eliminated!
milk
1 jar pickles
1 package tofu eliminated!

I hope you're enjoying April, the sunshine was marvelous today!

Monday, March 31, 2014

Pantry Challenge

You know how you squirrel away food that's on sale, that you use frequently, or that you stuffed in the back of the cupboard and forgot about? Yeah, that stuff. Inspired by my blogger friend Erica over at PNW Edible, I decided it was a good time to clear out everything in the "larder". Before the bounty of the garden comes in (hey, a girl can dream) let's get rid of the stuff that's already in our pantry. This is what I'm going to do: for the month of April, only cook with food that we already have in the pantry, freezer, or garden. We will supplement with milk from the grocery store and possibly eggs. Things are going to get creative in the kitchen, we'll feel super practical that we can survive if something terrible ever happens, and we'll make sure that no food is going to go to waste because it expired and we forgot about it. I also feel like we'll be eating as I would if I had my own farm (again, dreaming here), with the "hunger gap" and looking forward to fresh peas and radishes and leaves from the garden. I'm also moving in the fall, and don't want to take this all with me. Ready? I'm not, it sounds really crazy to me. But that's what life's all about! And it's only for one month. Let's jump in...

First I'll start by taking stock of what we have (this feels awfully personal):

In the freezer:
1 lb blueberries
1 mango
4 bananas (sliced) for smoothies
1 lb potatoes, sliced
1/2 loaf whole wheat bread
3 cubes pesto
2 servings crab dumplings
8 pork dim sum dumplings
2 frozen whole chickens ("happy" chickens that were raised sustainably, I know "hippie yuppie bark")
10 chicken sausages
3 lbs bacon (sliced)
5 lbs peas (I LOVE peas)
5 lbs corn (that was a recent impulse buy)
2 lbs mozzarella, shredded in baggies
2 frozen hamburger buns (we couldn't eat them all)
1 lb frozen butter
4, 8oz packages cream cheese, for cooking

In the pantry:
1 can refried beans
2 cans garbanzo beans
3 boxes whole wheat pasta
4 lbs flour
1 lb sugar 
2 lbs chocolate chips
8 lbs of potatoes
4 onions
2 cups dried cherries
10 lbs rice
3 jars pasta sauce
10 lbs oats (I make my own granola)
1 lb honey
2 lbs corn meal
1/2 lb quinoa
1/2 lb pink lentils
4 anjou pears
And dried condiments, spices, etc. 

In the refrigerator:
12 eggs
2 lbs pecans
1 lb carrots
1 lb bok choy
3 mason jars of homemade kimchi
1 daikon radish
milk
1 jar pickles

Growing in the garden:
Lots of radishes (watermelon and french breakfast) - too small to harvest
8 pea plants - too small to harvest
10 kale plants (green leafy jack and red russian kale) - too small to harvest
3 tomato plants (under grow lights)
1 lettuce bumper crop
3 brussels sprouts plants that are going to seed, but we'll eat their leaves, don't worry. (Have you ever tried the flowers of brassicas? They're delicious.)
3 different blueberry bushes
Oregano, rosemary, thyme, sage, mint, lemon balm, chocolate mint, common mint, parsley

First recipe on the block: kimchi soup! I'll try to update as we go along. 
Are you doing any pantry-clearing this spring? 

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Tribute to 2013

I'm a little behind on reflecting on 2013, but I figured it's better late than never. Things of particular importance or excitement this year (in no particular order):

I don't know about you, but I also like to look back at my previous year's spending habits to identify where the money went and which areas might need reevaluation. I'm a huge fan of Mr. Money Mustache, a guy who writes about personal finance and "badassity", where you can hone your skills by doing things yourself or helping others. He features case studies and helps people sort through ways to invest better, live simpler, and be more happy. Here's our spending showcase for 2013, all are estimates on average for two adults (I used mint.com to categorize these):

  • $407 per month on food/dining out
  • $175 per month on travel (obviously composed of less-than monthly trips)
  • $28 per month on clothing (we're both terrible at shopping and only replace clothes when necessary)
  • $135 per month for utilities/internet
  • $230 per month for insurance/doctor's visits/health in general
  • $150 per month for gifts/charitable giving
  • $230 per month for tuition (robbery!!!! we're grad students!!!!!)
  • $19 per month for gas (we prefer not to drive if we can get there any other way)
  • $100 per month for car insurance (we should probably call around and find the best rate)
  • $x for rent. I'm a little embarrassed about this category (very high) and hope to move soon.
  • $9 per month for coffee shops (not coffee made at home)
There are obviously some things that we can scale back on, but we're both saving (a little), so I'm pretty happy with our spending outcome. Except for that rent category #firstworldproblems. What about you? Have you looked back at your spending to figure out where it all went? Does it align with your priorities?

Here's to hoping for a wonderful 2014.

Bavarian Birthday

The in-laws gifted us with a two-night stay in Leavenworth, Washington, the Bavarian city located just a few hours east of Seattle. We decided to take the trip for future-hubb's birthday a couple of weeks ago. Here are the highlights and snapshots from the trip. If you haven't been, it's a pretty spectacular place. It's sort of like going to Germany, without having to sit on a plane for 10 + hours.

The drive began with a light rain, and continually got more interesting as we drove through the pass. There are two primary routes - over Stevens Pass on "the 2" (apparently the "the __" is a California thing, but I like the simple phrasing) or through Snoqualmie Pass on "the 90". Luckily we chose the latter, as it's much milder drive on a fair-weather day. And the only open route on a less-than-stellar weather day. The 2 was closed about two hours after we left, so thank goodness for our planning. After driving through the snow up to the pass, traffic on the 90 was reduced to going about 20 miles/hour in heavy snow. It took us nearly 5 hours to get there, leaving around lunchtime.
 But as we were driving we saw some pretty sights. Can you see the icicles along the cliff below?
 When we finally made it to Leavenworth, the sun was just beginning to set. (I say that, although I'm not actually sure because the sky was grey, of course). Our hotel was a very welcome sight after the snowy drive. I have to thank Future-Hubbs for driving through that, because I'm not very experienced at driving in those conditions.
 Although Trader Joes did help us to snack in the car ride, we were hungry and went in search of authentic Bavarian food. We decided on Andreas Keller, a cute little restaurant that was only a few minutes away from our hotel on foot. Actually, everything is practically a few minutes away on foot in Leavenworth, it was so easy to get around there, I really enjoyed this part of the mini-vacation. There was no parking or public transit or driving on freeways, once we were there at least. The poor car sat in the same place the whole time, and built up about a foot of snow before we left. About the food - we shared a Schnitzel plate, complete with homemade german pasta with cheese sauce (um, yes) and a giant pretzel. I mean, GIANT. It was so much bread, and delicious covered with good quality mustard.
He looks intimidated by the size of that pretzel.
 At night the town was lit up with lights and traditional music. It's possible that I skipped on most of the sidewalks to the music (in lieu of dancing). Here's the view out of our fireplace-room.


We greeted the morning with mimosas and waffles, and set off to do some shopping and exploring. It turns out we're terrible consumers - we didn't want to buy anything (do we need this? no.) But we did eat lots of good Bavarian food.

 And we found a bear sitting on a bench. Since birthday boy's nickname is "boo bear", you can thank my sister for that one, we knew we had to capture their moment becoming friends.
 After we were done "shopping" for the day, we went on a snow-walk through the Waterfront Park and around Blackbird Island. It was good to exert ourselves a little after so much food, and then it leaves us hungry for more food at dinner time right?

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Chemistry Update - March 2014

Don't worry, I won't actually be featuring any real chemistry here, I just thought I'd share a few exciting photos relating to chemistry that have happened recently. The first is that I was recently trained on the XRD (powder x-ray diffraction) instrument, and went with a colleague to run TEM. XRD sample prep is pretty boring, but TEM sure is adorable. If you look carefully at the picture below, you'll see tiny copper circles, "grids" as we call them. We place a tiny drop of our sample onto them and look with the fancy microscope for nanometer-sized things. Pretty cool right?
 My university is also in the middle of hosting perspective graduate students. I like to say that this is the time to relax as we wine-and-dine the students into attending, but it certainly has a few pluses for current graduate students. The Inorganic Division usually puts a big dinner together, and current graduate students cook a seasonal or regional meal for all of the division. I usually cook a fair amount of dishes for this, but this year I decided that I'm too busy and tired, so offered just to do something small. A friend and I did volunteer to do the periodic table of cupcakes though, we couldn't help ourselves. Although note to self : putting buttercream in ziplocs and then attempting to frost with the corner cut off does NOT work if the frosting is still cold. We just poked holes in the bag and had to frost with a butter knife (!?!?!), no fun or style involved. But, taste is key.


We also woke up at the #*$&crack of dawn (before dawn, actually) to meet the perspectives on a snowshoeing adventure. Lucky for us, one of the assistant professors organized everything and had our equipment ready to go. It turns out you just strap them over your shoes. Here are a few shots from us wandering around a lake, just 45 minutes outside Seattle.


Been up to anything interesting recently?

Friday, January 31, 2014

Accessories!

I'm sorry that I don't have more "growing" on this growinginseattle blog, but well, it is winter in the Pacific Northwest. There are kale, cabbage, radish, and broccoli starts growing under the lights now, but it'll take more time for them to be ready to do anything other than consume electricity and require regular watering. Here they are, just to prove that this is actually a blog about growing vegetables:

Now for the fun stuff. Way back in 2013 I had the opportunity to work with my sister on crafting a birdcage veil for my wedding. I used a tutorial from a blog I read called 17Apart, and improvised from there. I used many of these materials also for the sash I'm going to wear, shown below.

I bought:
(for the veil)
 - 1 yard of millinery netting
 - silk flowers (used for both)
 - 1/2 yard of tulle
 - 1 hair comb
 - 1/8 yard lace (to wrap the hair comb)
 - some glittery leaves (used in both)

(for the sash)
 - 3 yards of good quality ribbon
 - more silk flowers

     First I'll describe how I did the veil. I cut out the section of millinery netting that I was going to use, about a 36" by 9" rectangle, then trimmed the edges to make a house-shape. With a needle and thread I gathered the netting, and without tying off, set it aside. I prepared the comb by wrapping the lace ribbon around the end (so that I have something to sew the veil onto). Then I gathered the netting and attached it to the comb. (Full disclosure: I'd done this before with a smaller piece, 18" by 9", and it was too tiny of a veil. I ended up scratching it and buying more netting (an extra $2, gasp!) so that I could be happy with it.
   
     Then I prepared the tulle flower. I made a pattern for the flower shape using cardboard. This took a few tries... Then I layered ~30 layers of tulle on top of one another, and attached the cardboard shape to the top using pins. This was probably the most dangerous way of pinning it, but it kept the pins away from snagging the tulle, but I don't recommend it! I cut around the edges and was left with many layers of thin tulle flowers. A procedure like this leaves little tiny pieces of tulle everywhere - so grab your trash can and a shot of patience.


      To give the flower some volume, I staggered the leaves, with about 5 layers going one direction, then 5 more on top with a slight offset, nature isn't perfect after all. If you like nerdy analogies, we're going for more of a body-centered cubic, rather than a rock salt-type structure. Yeah, I just went there. Finally I secured the flower by threading a few times through the center. To finish the flower, I hot glued a rhinestone through the center (that I procured from a set of rings that I scavenged from a bridal shower).

I attached the flower onto the comb, and sewed on a silk flower, that looks prettier than anything I could have made. Gold sparkly leaves were the finishing touch. Future-hubbs was kind enough to model, we'll save me for the actual wedding.

     Alright, ready for the sash tutorial? It was pretty easy, basically I just got all my materials together and decided on a flower order. Thank you, wonderful sibling, for going shopping with me and being patient as we compared 100 different colors of flowers, and finding the higher-quality silk flowers. Here were my materials:
OoOo sparkly leaves. I love these so much.
I picked three approximately-the-same-size flowers, and moved them around until I liked the order. I ended up putting the fluffy yellow one in the center, because it felt more balance that way. Because I'm picky, I ended up trimming the fluffy yellow flower, to get it to be just the right size. Maybe I can't hide all my crazy.

Then I sewed each one onto approximately the center of the sash. I finished with some spectacularly-placed sparkly gold leaves to give it that extra pizzaz. To make sure that nothing would fall off, I went through one final time and sewed in a rectangle around every piece, including through the flower petals to make sure they wouldn't droop or bounce if I'm dancing (which I hope to be doing quite a lot of). Here's the final result:


Have you been doing any gardening or other projects recently?

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Wedding crafts: cupcake towers

Our weekends are spectacularly busy recently: they mostly consist of attempting to reign in the chaos that is our apartment, grocery shopping, food prep, working on campus, or doing something wedding-craft related. I let myself watch Downton Abbey on Sunday nights. We should probably take a break soon. Thankfully, my future in-laws gave us a sweet weekend getaway in Leavenworth... we might need to use that soon before we explode from all this productivity. Is anyone else feeling the urge to spring clean and ending up exhausted because of it?

On a side note, I scrubbed the heck out of the bathtub today. Borax + homemade all purpose citrus cleaner = beautifully shiny tub. And an arm workout. I think the scrubbing may not have been all that necessary, but it seemed like it at the time.

Ok! On to wedding crafts. We decided to have cupcakes as a dessert at our wedding instead of a traditional tiered cake, mostly because well, we're not really that traditional, and because they're so easy to serve and adorable. I really like the frosting/cake ratio, and prefer cupcakes in general. I tried to argue that cutting into an adorable cupcake would be spectacular, but future-hubbs and Seattle bridesmaid all thought I was crazy. So we're also going to have a small cake to cut into. Right, about crafts. Because we're featuring cupcakes, we wanted something to serve them on, like a cupcake tree. Naturally I wanted to build my own and scoured the internet for DIY guides. I found a few - but none that really suited my taste. I'd absolutely love to build one out of wood, but I have to face the likelihood that I'd cut off a finger. I need these digits for chemistry or typing or something. I found a few websites I liked, but mostly I was unimpressed. I had finally decided to just buy a cardboard cupcake tower online, and spray paint/paper it to make it pretty. Even if I'd like to, spending the time to DIY everything for the wedding would just be too much. But then the inevitable happened. Seattle bridesmaid and I made cupcakes and then went to the cake store to look for some accessories for something unrelated - and I thought to ask about cupcake stands, and the wonderful lady there helped me to figure out how to make the stand AND how to decorate it. WIN! (It's called Home Cake Decorating Store, a local business, and I could spend hours in there. I love this lady so much). Here's how it went:

First, I decided on a size. Our cupcakes are going to be medium-sized, taking up a surface area of approximately 6 inches^2. For ~120 guests, we'd like about 150 cupcakes. Math, math, math... what we worked out is that we'll make two normal-sized stands and then just refill. The knowledgeable cake lady adamantly suggested this, to avoid giant towers. The tiers are 18", 14", 12". After about 100 possibilities that I floated through in my head, we decided on double-ply normal cardboard circles covered with polyfoil (have you heard about this? I hadn't! I love this stuff), and here's what came out, including supplies and approximate cost/time:

     - four 12" cardboard cake circles ($0.49 x 4)
     - four 14" cardboard cake circles ($0.99 x 4)
     - four 18" cake circles ($1.39 x 4)
     - three yards of gold polyfoil ($1.39 x 3)
   -- total cost = $16

         Halve that for one cake tree. Approximate time: 1.5 hrs, but really you could do it in 30 minutes if you aren't as set on doing stupid things like using a glue gun and coating the bottom side.


Now comes the fun part. I took my hand-dandy glue gun (thanks sibling for the wonderful Christmas present! you know me so well! Actually I think I suggested it... but it's still an awesome gift and glue gun.) and glued one circle to another circle. I wasn't consistent on brown side to brown side, but I should have been. The tricksy part (thank you Cake Lady), is to alternate the ridges of the cardboard corrugation, insuring that each layer will be sturdy and never bend.
See the alternating corrugation of the cardboard? Oh yeah, that's science right there. Or being practical, something like that.
I also cut out approximate circles with the polyfoil, with the intention that the bottoms won't be covered (and indeed they don't need to be). Then to secure the glue I covered them with something heavy- the heaviest thing I could find was a kettle... it looks pretty sad in retrospect.

Ok, now the cake circles are double-secure, and the foil is precut. How to attach the foil to the boards? The Cake Lady recommended just taping the edges in of the foil, which is definitely an easy and sturdy option. But hey, my glue gun was out and hot. And the good tape was upstairs in who knows what box of wedding-related stuff, so hot glue was a more appealing option. But I imagined that putting glue on the "good side" would look sloppy, as it likely would be bumpy and show where the glue was. And maybe melt the plastic on the polyfoil? For those reasons, I decided to glue the edges onto the bottom side of the circles. I folded the foil over, glued a bit, and tried not to burn myself while pressing it down. Then I did the edge completely opposite, to secure the circle in the foil and pull it tight. Crumpling around the edges while adding hot glue completed the seal, and boy is it stuck-in-place. It is not moving, come what may. I burned a few fingers this way, until I wizened up and used something flat to smooth the foil over the glue - life lesson learned.

I was worried about having enough foil (did I do that math right?!) so I skimped on each circle. Fortunately, this left me with extra bits and pieces, which I gladly used on the medium and small circles. If the bottoms of any tiers are to be accidentally observed, those would be the ones. So I covered them with bits and pieces of foil. This was rather silly and I don't recommend it. But it's in place now and it looks pretty good for the bottom, right?
Not so bad right? Now for the big reveal:
Medium board
Large board
The stack.
Now for the supports. We went shopping today for those (the day after I made these), and there are few extra details I'm adding, but maybe I'll wait for the wedding for the big reveal. As a test, I tried my glittered mason jar candles (another wedding craft that I should blog about).


 That's all there was to it!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Baking

Alright folks, I'm very much behind on blog posts. Looking back through the pictures is a wonderful stroll through memory lane, and I thought I'd share these special moments.

First of all, future-hubbs decided to take up bread-making as a hobby. UH - WIN. His first attempt at croissants was definitely a huge success, and was a hit at the brunch party we took them to. I was amused that he felt like he had to "baby" the dough so much with cycles of chilling, rolling, and turning. I didn't mind him babying them. He could baby bread all day if it turns out this delicious.


Don't you just love that wonderful Maillard color? I could actually eat these all day. It's best for both of us if that doesn't happen. The next sweet treat that happened over this holiday season were sea salt caramels. My mom loves caramels, and I always wanted to make them. I also like having some kind of baked good to come with me over holidays. What's Christmas with Carolyn without some cookies or treats? Hrm, I really am very grandmother-ly. In a fashionable way of course. Making the caramels was fairly simple, but rolling them up in parchment paper was a giant pain in the tushie.



And of course, Christmas cookies. I've perfected my chocolate chip cookie recipe, fairly close to the most popular recipe on allrecipes. 1/2 white sugar, 1/2 brown sugar. Cream butter and sugar together first, chill before placing on cookie sheets, the usual baking tips.


Last and my favorite, orange cinnamon rolls for Christmas morning. This was a pretty spectacular team effort - my sister and I made the dough and zested the oranges. I think future-hubbs made the glaze. We filled together, and future-hubbs cut them into beautiful chunks. They were half white flour and half whole wheat. Oh boy, was it worth it. I'm pretty sure I ate four of them that day.


Anything fun going on in your kitchen?