Thursday, April 18, 2013

Southern Sojourn

It's been a rough week in the news.  All I can do is focus on not taking my loved ones for granted.

It's weird to fly north to visit the South, but I did.  First to Kentucky to visit my college roommate Summer in Lexington. I had no idea what to expect when I arrived, but Lexington is a great town.  The first night out we parked across from the house where Thomas Hunt Morgan - famous fruit fly geneticist - was born.  It was meant to be.

Kentucky is known for bourbon and thoroughbred horses, so Summer and I set out to experience both.  We started with a tour of the Four Roses distillery.

All of the bourbon Four Roses makes comes from these four story vats.  The water in the bourbon comes from a local stream that also cools everything.

In the summertime, there isn't enough water and what is there doesn't stay cool, so they shut down.  The whole place smells like yeast and bourbon so we were ready for the samples at the end.  We couldn't stay for long, though, because it was time to see the horses!

The famous horse races generally involve two to four year olds and those that do well spend the rest of their lives being flown all over the world for breeding.  (Evidently thoroughbreds must be conceived the old-fashion way.)  When they are done breeding, the lucky ones end up at the Old Friends Farm outside of Lexington.

We went on a tour and I took about 200 photos of horses and learned all sorts of new fun facts.  For example, did you know that the reason the best horses come from Kentucky is the calcium carbonate in the water that makes their bones strong but light.  So they say anyway. Also, horses are identified by mouth tattoos.

The farm's owner is a former movie critic who took this on as his second career and keeps as his pet this miniature horse who likes to sit on the couch and watch horses race on TV.  His name is Little Silver Charm and you can be his friend on Facebook.

After two days with Summer, I drove through the Cumberland Mountains while listening to bluegrass on the radio and enjoying the gorgeous day. I soon arrived in Knoxville for the AAPA meeting and a chance to catch up with some of my favorite people!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

ONE x 31

I've done 28 goals by the time I turned 28, 29 by 29 and 30 by 30, but by 31, I have only one goal.

Two incredibly important women in my life recommended Gretchen Rubin's The Happiness Project and Happier at Home and it inspired me to take my good life and make it great.  Each month, I'll be identifying an area of my life that can be tweaked and work on setting new habits.

April is my month to SLEEP!  I hate sleeping.  If I could just not do it, I wouldn't.  So I skimp on sleep and when I do, I'm not as sharp, focused, or disciplined as I want to be.  So I'm going to sleep 8 hours a night and increase my work-out schedule to help me feel tired enough to go to bed on time.  We'll see how this goes.  I think it may turn out to be harder than I anticipate.

Monday, April 15, 2013

30 x 30 Wrap-Up

Work Things
1. Find a Time Management System that Works
This is a constant struggle but the Pomodoro Technique, paired with a weekly priorities list, and a dry erase board listing the current status (urgent, backburner, waiting on a collaborator) and next step for each project are currently working for me pretty well.  I still constantly underestimate how much time everything will take me, but I'm getting better.

2. Five Publications 

I have only had two papers actually come out, one on paraoxonase in the Journal of Lipids  my dissertation work in Human Genetics but I have three more in press which will be out sometime in the next few months (hopefully) depending on the publishers' timelines.

3. Three Grant Applications

I've applied for more three applications and most importantly had one funded by Wenner-Gren.  I'll be ramping that research project up soon and I can't wait!  

4. Keep up with New Statistical Applications

This is a sisyphean task as there are always new methods coming out.  I did attend a great course taught at Cold Spring Harbor Lab in August which gave me all sorts of new references to work from.

5. Improve my R and Linux Programming

A friend of mine started an R programming group in San Antonio which has been great for learning new applications and meeting other nerds.

Fun Things

6. Go on a picnic
Not yet.  This whole fun things sectionis going to be ugly.  Evidently, I need to have more fun.

7. Go camping


8. Go to a local festival

Turns out I don't like crowds.

9. Go to the beach
Yes!  In Malibu and Venice.

10. Go to a professional sporting event
Uh-uh. But I'm hoping for a San Antonio Silver Stars game this summer.

11. Participate in alumni association events

I cheered on the Jayhawks at a March Madness watch party.  Turns out the motivation I needed to finally get out of the house was getting rid of cable.

12. Use the library

I haven't actually checked out any books yet, but I've started looking forward to my commute thanks to their audiobooks.

13. Visit the zoo and botanical garden

14. Watch classic movies

This one I've done a lot and, in agreement with every list ever, Casablanca was my favorite.

Crafty Things
15. Crochet a throw

Decided to be a bit less ambitious and crochet a pillow instead.  I'm really starting to get why people enjoy crocheting, though and may try a throw eventually.

16. Sew 6 garments for myself 

I did make two new items from scratch - my Easter dress and a mod pink pencil skirt I haven't posted yet - but I am even more excited to be upcycling new outfits from old clothes - teal pants and black cardigan with crepe ruffle, navy skirt and grey striped button down, and summer t-shirt dress (I'll be posting soon).  It's better for the environment AND my wallet.

17. Knit a sweater (Vignette Cardigan)

I knit one and I've cast on three others, because starting is the most fun part of a project!  

18. Knit a pair of socks

This was my first pair of socks with sock yarn and they are so decadent.  There is something really luxurious about hand knit socks.

19. Own no yarn that moved from PA

I'm counting those three cast-ons as using the yarn, so this is pretty much true.  All of my yarn now fits in the four wire baskets I have allocated for it, and I'm determined to keep it that way!

20. Put all photos in scrapbooks

Done, done, done!   

21. Learn to take better photographs

I really regret that I didn't put more time into this and I think I'll carry it over into the new year.  I do wish I took better photos, but I know it will take work.

22. Learn to draw

I started working on this and then realized that it really isn't that important to me right now.  

Yummy Things

23. Bake through Bread Baker’s Apprentice

I've learned to vary hydration levels (stiff dough for bagels and wet, sticky dough for focaccia), make lean pain de campagne and extremely rich casatiello, and leavened bread with direct fermentation (cranberry-walnut bread), instant yeast (stollen), and sourdough (pumpernickel).  My favorite development, though, is the sourdough pizza dough that has replaced my normal Friday dough.

24. Make brunch once a month
I love breakfast food.  This year we had apple-sour cream pancakes, Dutch baby, Southwestern omelet with extra crispy hash browns, waffles, spicy chicken biscuit sandwiches, peach and sausage kolaches, Moroccan merguez ragout with poached eggs, and migas.  

25. Try out six new canning recipes
Before summer rolls around, I'm using up my last stores of ginger pear butter, tomato jam, serrano jelly, ice-brined garlic dill pickles, peach butter, and - my favorite and already gone - chocolate balsamic strawberry jam.

26. Cook with a new ingredient each month

I tried out kala jeera, forbidden rice, pork belly, cocoa nibs, crab, caperberries, chia, and harissa, but I spotted three new fruits I'd never seen at the store today.

Strong Things
27. Run a half-marathon
I did it! I'm I ready to train for next year.

28. Compete in a 1 mile swim race
I missed the actual race (I was at my statistics course), but I've been swimming a mile most Sunday mornings.  

29. Complete two triathlons 

This year I completed the Spa Girl triathlon and Wurst Tri Ever.  Both had particularly fun swimming elements.  The Spa Girl was held at a resort and we swam the quarter-mile in the lazy river and the Wurst Tri Ever we road a water slide that dropped us into a spring-fed pond.

Last Thing
30. Purge things we don’t need from each room of the house

This has been so satisfying!  It is an ongoing project, and I think I may double back and purge more.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

On bonny Easter day

Meeting the Easter Bunny
by Rowena Bennett

On Easter morn at early dawn
Before the cocks were crowing
I met a bob-tail bunnykin 
And asked where he was going.

"Tis in the house and out the house
a tispy, tipsy-toeing, 
Tis round the house and 'bout the house
a-lighlty I am going." 

"But what is that of every hue 
You carry in your basket?"
"Tis eggs of gold and eggs of blue;
I wonder that you ask it. 

"Tis chocolate eggs and bonbon eggs
And eggs of red and gray, 
For every child in every house 
On bonny Easter day." 

He perked his ears and winked his eye 
And twitched his little nose; 
He shook his tail -- what tail he had -- 
And stood up on his toes. 

"I must be gone before the sun; 
The east is growing gray; 
Tis almost time for bells to chime." -- 
So he hippety-hopped away.

When I was growing up, my mom would read my that poem to me every Easter eve and in the morning I put on my Easter dress (and frequently tights, which I hated) and got to hunt for eggs!  No eggs this year except for the ones that came out of these chickens, but I wanted a springy, new dress for Easter brunch at Veronica's. I bought this very loud fabric about a year ago to make a dress using a different pattern, but I like the waist shaping on Simplicity 2145.  The fabric is flowy and light - perfect for summer in South Texas. I may still add the additional sash at the waist and/or a cap sleeve.

My contribution to the brunch was casatiello, a traditional Easter bread from Naples, which is basically a sandwich in and of itself.  The dough is enriched with eggs, butter, and milk (tripple-threat!) and studded with  gruyere and crisped up salami.  It is wonderful toasted  and so rich you don't need any butter.  For dinner, I cooked some sunny-side-up eggs and we finished off the loaf.  This bread is so good, I definitely won't be waiting for the next bonny Easter day to make it again.
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