Friday, April 29, 2011

- A Rollercoaster

My final error free dissertation has to be on file by 5pm TODAY.  I tried not to wait until the last minute but dissertations really suck.  I spent a lot of time staring at this thing in November.   I missed Thanksgiving with my family for it.  I wasn't exactly ready to go back for more just yet.

But it had to be done.  I fought margins, stupid advice from the thesis editor (isn't she paid to know these things?), and good God if someone doesn't make page numbers easier a grad student might die.  At one point I had two page numbers layered on top of each other in two fonts - why is that even allowed to be possible?  I considered shutting the door to my office so I could cry in the corner...over page numbers.  I lost hours of my life in the last week stressing over a completely inanimate object that will never care for me the way that I have for it.

Then, I thought I was finished.  I read through it like a million times to check for spelling and grammar and  I spent more time with this thing than I ever did my M.S. thesis, which is a total piece of crap based on formatting quality (not content - that was awesome).  Anyways, I send it off to Dr. Truong (side note: he calls me Dr. Laurie in emails and I LOVE it) and he noticed a mathematical error.  At first I was angry because I mean - I defended those numbers.  How come he didn't catch that before?  How come I didn't catch that before?  I fix it and all of the numbers change.  This affects my statistics.  I flip out.  I post this facebook status: Laurie found a mathematical error in her dissertation (awesome) and has to re-run SAS (awesomer) but can't remember her program and is pretty sure she threw away the piece of paper she wrote it on because she thought she would never need it again (awesomest).  In the middle of a glass of wine I have a super genius moment and fix everything in like 2 minutes.  Now my dissertation is mathematically accurate and I am not required to stress anymore.  This is potentially one of the most incorrect thoughts I have ever had...and I've been wrong about a lot of things.  I mean I thought the royal wedding was last weekend and on a Saturday.

I spend even more time agonizing over captions and gridlines and table placement and margins and capital letters and abbreviations and for the love of God, I'm spent.  I think I could recite it from memory at this point which means it's time to convert this baby to a PDF.  And wouldn't you know it, not even converting the file type can go smoothly.  When I do this on my work PC every degree sign on every graph PEACED OUT.  So, I try on my Mac and not only do I not get degree signs, but now it gets separated into 9 documents because 9 is better than 1, right?  NO.  Turns out that in Word for Mac if you use a section break which is necessary to go from portrait to landscape formatting within the same document it will take all those sections and save them as individual PDF's.  But the thesis editor doesn't want 9 PDF files, and there's no way to merge them together.

I decide to download a trial version of Adobe onto my work computer.  Turns out, the "General" doesn't like people trying to install software on his computers, so he shut that idea down pretty quick.  I'm essentially back to square one and end up just emailing my old secretary and begging for her to take care of this for me because she's awesome and nice and I will send her a check for whatever amount she wants to just fix this.  But she has the same problem, so in a fit of desperation I call the thesis editor and she redeems herself by FIXING IT.  All of it.  The moral of the story: Doing things yourself is completely overrated.  I have screamed so much about PDF's I am literally a little bit hoarse.  If you don't know what a PDF is then your quality of life is exponentially better than mine.

At this point I would like to take this opportunity to give you some advice: Make sure that you REALLY REALLY REALLY REALLY REALLY REALLY want a Ph.D. before signing on the line.  Seriously think about what you're willing to sacrifice.  Because this process takes a long time to die.  It will haunt your dreams, rob you of your health (physical and most certainly emotional) and break you into a sad pathetic excuse of a human that constantly feels like an imbecile.  And even after you think it's over and done with, it will find new and creative ways to make your life a living hell.  I still have to make a poster for a conference and compile manuscripts to publish, which means that I get to go through this anywhere from 3-49,851,072,398,415,298,345 more times.  The blow of that realization is softened by the cushy paycheck I receive twice a month...but when I'm crying in a corner that check doesn't hug me and tell me it will be okay.  I have not actually cried in a corner...yet.

But, wine helps.  LOTS and LOTS of wine.  Seriously, I just stock up at the Liquor Barrel 2 for 1 sales.  Even if I have what I would consider "plenty" of wine at home, I buy another box.  Because the only thing scarier than dissertation/manuscript editing is the thought of doing so in the absence of wine...I'm only half joking when I say I might not make it under those circumstances.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

- Dirty Cake Talk

"Well I've never had trouble getting anything stiff before."

Said Friday night in regards to egg whites that apparently saw a little bit of egg yolk and were all "Oh hell no, we won't go" - meaning that buttercream icing I was trying out never went from runny egg whites to stiff frosting...even though I beat them until my arm was sore.

But seriously - THAT'S WHAT SHE SAID.

In other news: My icing may have failed but I'm still pretty awesome at making cakes.
My Easter Feaster version of a rainbow cake.  

Luckily I had enough powdered sugar on hand to whip up a regular buttercream when my first attempt failed.  Also, using an alternative icing brought the sticks of butter used down to only 4 in this version.  So, one could argue this is a "low-fat" rainbow cake.

But it still needs to get the heck out of my house.

Monday, April 25, 2011

- A Week In Numbers

Last week and over the weekend there were lots of things that happened.  I counted some of them.  Or I picked numbers that felt about right.

267 times I got angry at dissertation formatting guidelines, the thesis editor and page numbers.  Seriously Microsoft: make this easier.  And while you're at it, I shouldn't need a Ph.D. to make a table of contents.  Formatting the dissertation is harder than writing it - and my literature review nearly killed me.  People better cite this crap.

40 degrees - as in our average temperature this week.  I'm guessing since it snowed one day and was nearly 50 another. I'm calling this weather non-Spring.  Today it's 60 and beautiful.  Wednesday will have snow showers.

30 eggs bought at the grocery store for my weekend festivities.

23 Ke$ha songs sung.  Out loud.  I should stop admitting stuff like this, but for some reason Ke$ha makes dissertation formatting bearable. 

12 sticks of butter bought.  I used 9.

8 The League episodes watched.  That show rocks my socks off.  And I finally learned how fantasy sports teams work, but I still think they're weird.

5 days I went to work last week.  Good Friday is not a guaranteed holiday when you're all grown up and stuff.  I'll make up for it this summer when every weekend is 3 days.  My summer hours will make you so jealous you can barely stand it.

4 layers in an epic cake I made for Easter Feaster. (Pictures forthcoming).

3 shots: 1 novocaine, 1 tetanus booster 4 years overdue, and Hep A/B because I'd rather kill my liver with alcohol than a completely preventable disease.

2 sore arms after said shots.

1 cavity, now filled.  1 tooth that hurts more than it did before the filling so I'm pretty sure there will be 1 more dentist appointment scheduled this week.

0 eggs dyed or painted - despite plans to do so.  Sometimes it's more important to watch the Other Guys and realize that Will Ferrel really is absolutely nutty.  And hilarious.  Especially when threatening Conan O-brien. Tina Fey is also awesomeAnd maybe Richard Simmons.  

Okay I'm done.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

- Last Call

This morning I woke up to this:
Which is pretty, like really pretty.  I love the way that snow gathers on the branches of trees and bushes...but I'm all been there done that.  So, I said: "You know what Snow?  It's last call at the Minnie Bar.  I don't care where you go, but you can't stay here."  Because I was so excited to see buds forming on those bushes and they look much better nakey.

See:
Since this was taken a few hours after the first  two pictures, I think we can agree that I effectively told Mother Nature what's up.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

- Fin

I have completed every task I ever put on a to-do list by painting all of the things, framing lots of pictures, using every throw pillow I own, and spending another small fortune at Home Goods, Ikea, the Home Depot and Target.  Ya'll I'm done.

You can lose 7.75 min of your life and take a walking house tour with my awesome narration...
Wow do I talk weird.  Also, ending a video is awkward.

Or you can scroll through some before and after pics...

The Living/Dining room:
The Kitchen: the same as before
The Hallway:
The Guest Bedroom:
The Guest Bathroom: the same as it was before
My Bedroom: 
This is an older picture, but since I have an air mattress right now, this is what we're going with.
The Master Bathroom:
 

So that's that.  Don't expect another update on what this place looks like until I buy a new couch and completely re-do the living/dining room...which shouldn't be for at least another 6 months.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

- Juxtaposition

n. An act or instance of placing close together or side by side, especially for comparison or contrast.

Example:
That's right - April 16th and Old Man Winter is still having a blast here in MN.  When Spring finally does happen, in May, it will be glorious!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

- Young at Heart

Today is Aaronus son of Aaroni's birthday.  Poopie's was in January and mine was obviously in February...so my siblings and I have all done our aging for 2011.  Which means my wrinkles can feel free to STOP any time now.

As the oldest I am starting to wonder if it's as obvious to others as is it to me that I don't act my age.  I mean I'm responsible, but I still haven't learned how many shots and/or long island ice teas you should have in one night - I think it's something like your age divided by three and then you minus five but only if you ate dinner and are hydrated.  I shop at Forever 21 more than I ever did when I was 21, and the hemline on my dresses has gotten considerably shorter.  I feel a lot more like Benjamin Button than the Old Maid. 

Aaron is next in line and appears to be a man according to his awesome beard, and yet his indefinate gooberishness says "not so much".  Kid will attack you with his monster big toes and then sing a song about it.  He still quotes LOTR way too much and will usually do the character's voice - I personally like it best when he does Gandalf.

Trevor is 19 and by most definitions all grown up, but even at 25 or 34 - he'll always be the baby and probably contractually obligated to never move out, because I don't think my parents could stand it if he did.  He still drives me crazy with gut wrenches and regularly tackles me to the ground.  He finally has peach fuzz and we're all waiting to see if he has inherited the Steed beard gene.

Currently, we all have jobs.  Real jobs.  Growing up is weird.  Our childhoods seem like they were so long ago when in the grand scheme of things, they weren't.  I recently stumbled upon some old pictures that capture the three of us growing into our gooberish potential, so I will now present a walk down memory lane:
 Back when Aaron and I were still buddies.  This didn't last long.  That little monkey sure was cute though.
We were kind of still friends here.  Camping.  Look at those late 80's clothes.  At this stage we called Aaron "Bubba" .
Trev - looking adorable.  He used to love racing around on that tractor.  If you look closely in the background you can see Aaron and I playing soccer.  I really had no idea what I was doing, but I was bigger than Aaron, so I won a lot.  When he got stronger than me I mysteriously quit playing.
The only picture I have of just Aaron and Trevor together.  This is also photographic proof that Tweety used to be nice.  He wouldn't touch Aaron with a 10 foot pole now.

Here's a bunch of pictures of just Aaron.
Yep, he's nakey in there.  This was probably around the time of the "squeegee incident" that Mom likes to recall, much to Aaron's horror.  This was before he realized how unhappy he was. 
As the middle child his life was so hard.
Look how miserable he is on his birthday.  Even legos couldn't heal his pain.
Poor old Aaronski.  Meanwhile Trevorski and I were best buds.  He was so much younger than me that I could easily persuade him to think I was cool.
Look at that cute face he's making.
Apparently at this stage in my life I didn't wear pants much.
Here he is still loving me.
Even posed with me before prom!
Here he is clearly just humoring me as any hope at keeping the illusion of me being cool has completely disappeared.

Occasionally Mom forced us all together.  It looks miserable.
 Aaron is mad.
 We're all just terrible at faking it.  Thankfully I have abandoned wearing my hair like that as I think we can all agree, it was flippin' horrible.

The End.




Sunday, April 10, 2011

- Moose

I was bested by Ikea again.  I'm sure this will happen to me several more thousands times in my life.  It all started when I returned my mattress.  I could think of absolutely nothing that I needed from Ikea, except for another mattress, so I knew I would go through the showroom to lay on mattresses.  They are switching over their whole line right now and don't have all the new ones in so I decided to wait a bit before deciding.  So, I was done right?  Wrong.  I felt like since I was there, I should meander through the marketplace.  Rookie mistake.   Because in the marketplace you will be confronted with millions of things that you do NOT need, but all of the sudden overwhelmingly desire.  Things like woodland creature cookie cutters.
First glance: Oh those are whimsical.  I keep moving.
But wait - is that a hedgehog?  I backtrack.
OMG a moose!  I mean I live in Minnesota now, I should make moose cookies.  It sounds like a Minnesotan thing, don't-cha know?
If I make cookies I could ice them in chocolate buttercream.  That would be delicious.
*Conscience* Laurie you do not need buttercream iced cookies.  MOVE ALONG.
Two steps forward.
Two steps backward.
I will have moose cookies and they will be the best cookies in the whole wide world and I will eat them and be happy.

And that is why I made sugar cookies and buttercream icing (from scratch) yesterday.  Because I bought a $3.99 set of cookie cutters that included a moose.  

Sidenote: The moose cookie cutter is a large cookie, and it is actually quite difficult to make them and have them survive the process without any breakage.
Yeah, that's right.  Moose kisses.

Worth it - for the buttercream alone.

Friday, April 8, 2011

- Spring-ish

I'm sitting here staring out my window at work on an absolutely gorgeous Friday listening to my Ke$ha station on Pandora (have no fear, I love/hate her as much as I ever have) and it is blatantly apparent that Minneapolis is all Spring-ish. 

The temperature has been steadily rising for the past two weeks.  Our highs are like 60 degrees!  To be quite honest, I'm not even sure how to process that information.  True to my "expect the worst" motto I think I nearly convinced myself that it would always be winter; that I would never know a Minneapolis not covered in snow.  But ya'll it's been at least 2 weeks since it snowed last.  Maybe even 3.  I can't remember but most of what was on the ground has melted and the only thing left are the gigantic piles in parking lots that take a while to melt based on their size.   They're on their way though because temperatures are staying above freezing and my car is actually HOT when I get in it at the end of the work day.  Which means I get to drive with the windows down - one of my all time favorite activities. 

Which begs the question - when will it snow again?

Because I don't trust Minneapolis and it's only April.  I had counted on Spring to come in May.  So basically I just feel like it's too early to get all excited...It's hard not to get carried away though - this weather is kind of dazzling.  And it's way to premature to say something about a season that's still "budding" (WOAH, I should have warned you about the corniness of the approaching pun)...but Spring-ish, I think I love you.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

- Boo-yah!

I went all flexitarian on your ass!

Bet you didn't expect that, especially if you know how much I love bacon, and sausage gravy and biscuits, and burgers, and steak, and OMG seafood.  But don't worry, I am still going to eat those things...just less often, way less often.  Like on special occasions, or when my willpower is extremely low, or when you invite me over for dinner and that's what you made because it's much easier to be a mooch than one of those people.  Plus my J.O.B. is to make magic happen with Hamburger Helper and every now and then I'm going to have to taste what I'm working on.  And yes, I could use a spit cup, but...ew.

I've been toying with the idea of a major change in diet for some time now.  I think watching Food Inc. was totally a catalyst because it made me realize just how much I despise what the meat industry in this country has become.  But it was an idea I kept in the back of my mind, unable to move to the forefront because there were too many other things in life that demanded time and brainpower.  Since I moved to the Minnie it has become blatantly obvious just how much I have fallen into a rut of not feeding myself well.  If I'm going to the grocery store once a month - you do the math and figure out the kinds of things I'm eating.  Let's just say...my pantry actually has ramen in it.

Now that I'm actively working in the food industry my day literally revolves around food.  I make it, I taste it, I read about it, I talk about it, I think about it, I dream about it.  It has become inescapable how much better I need to be about nourishing myself.  When I first realized this, it caused such an extreme desire to improve that I seriously considered becoming a vegan.  But as someone who has merely stuck her toes in the water of vegetarianism, I realized that would be quite drastic.  And seriously, the though of not eating cheese every day makes me want to curl up in a ball and cry.  And eggs!  I love eggs, I mean one of my favorite things about the weekend is breakfast, plus almost every single thing I love to bake has eggs.  But I also have never met a vegetable I don't like.  Or a whole grain, or bean, or soy-based product.  I felt like if these are the things that I really enjoy eating, then it would be pretty easy to try out vegetarianism.  And to keep things less rigid in the beginning while I navigate the logistics, I'm not taking meat completely off the table, it will just play a lesser role, like extra #14 on a movie set.  They don't get their name in the credits.

At the grocery store I went through the produce section with reckless abandon.  Half of my cart was from that section alone, and the rest included beans (dried because I'm also eliminating canned foods for two reasons 1. BPA and 2. Canning sucks - seriously it preserves food and that's great for your nuclear meltdown shelter, but the process of making food shelf stable kills all the positive attributes) some frozen veggies, cheese, a few new spices, and bread and grains.  When my cart has been that full in the past I know to expect about $200 at the check out line.  It was $126.  WINNING.

I stopped at Trader Joe's on the way home and spent another $45.  The end result is that I seriously have WAY more food than I can eat.
Somewhere in there is a pack of lunchmeat; Emma is still a carnivore and she likes her expensive allergy meds wrapped in a piece of turkey.

This week I've been so excited to cook that every night I have made something new - pumpkin gnocchi sauteed in sage butter with mushrooms, polenta with rainbow chard and onions, persian eggs which I almost didn't make because I was unsure about eggplant, but jeez did it blow my mind, a quiche with potatoes and leeks and either fresh green beans or steamed asparagus on the side every night.  My leftovers are getting out of hand and I haven't even gotten to quinoa stuffed peppers, beets, any of my beans, tofu or my spaghetti squash.  Plus, I'd like to bring in some more vegan recipes and I'm still toying with the idea of switching back to soy milk. It's amazing, I cut out something I'm totally familiar with and feel like I have more options than ever.

As an added bonus, this really seems to be increasing my productivity because every day I come home and after cooking and eating it's like I cannot sit still. Instead of laying on the couch watching TV/movies I'm working on house projects or cleaning or doing laundry or ironing, which is so insane even I couldn't believe it was happening.  So yeah, there might be something to this whole veggie thing.