31 January 2013

Passions or stability?

A couple days ago my good friend posted a blog post about following your dreams. It is a thought-provoking post. I think many of us are torn in the desire to "pursue our passion" (perhaps not-lucrative ones) and the desire to lead a stable life, with a steady income. I feel like society sends us a lot of mixed messages. Like "Pursue your passion!!!", but at the same time, societal norms dictate that the American Dream includes a mortgage (and recently it seems that it demands a mortgage on a house that is really too big). With so many mixed messages being sent it's hard to know what to think.

I have found it a challenge to reconcile my passions and the desire to live a lifestyle where I can afford the things I need, and live within my means, all while not living in a box under a bridge. At the same time I also struggle with the idea of finding a "passion" that I can pursue as a career, that I'm both passionate enough about to do 40 hours a week, and yet not so passionate about that I'd hate spending 40 hours a week doing it. I'll admit that I also never really imagined myself as having a career. I'm not sure what I imagined, because I've known for sometime that I will most likely need to work the majority of my adult life, but I've just never envisioned a career. That's kind of a big scary word. Career. It sounds so final, and so irreversible. Even though I know that's not true. I remember hearing a statistic once when I was a freshman in college that for people my age they were likely to have approximately 8-10 major career changes in their life. That news stunned me. I had never imagined changing careers every 4 of 5 years. I still have a hard time imagining that. I mean, after you look at the nearly 20 years I've put in to educating myself for this one career, I really hope it sticks. But at the same time it seems a little ludicrous to ask a bunch of twenty year olds to know themselves enough for them to pick a career they're going to be happy in for 35 or 40 years. Things change. When I was 18, I wanted to be a high school band director. Then I wanted to be a museum curator (actually I still think that'd be cool). And then I moved on to other things... Even in the one year that I've been in library school (which has a fairly obvious career destination--librarian) I've changed what I want to be several times (did you know that there are about a million different kinds of librarians?). I'm still not sure what I'll end up as when I rejoin the world of gainfully-employed people.

I think pursuing your passion perhaps has more to do with creating a lifestyle that allows you to have all your priorities in balance and that gives you opportunities to be your best self, than about choosing between a single passion and some kind of stability.

I've been thinking a lot about lifestyles lately as I'm getting to a point where I think that the light I see ahead is actually the end of the tunnel, not just an oncoming train. Before I started grad school I worked professionally for a year, and the lifestyle I led then would never have been sustainable in the long term.  And so I'm trying now to develop a lifestyle that is sustainable--and it's hard. But I think that when you hit the right balance of work/life/hobbies/etc, then you can find fulfillment and both be following your passion and leading a life with the stability you want.

29 January 2013

The New York Times

This semester one of my roommates has a class that requires that she read the New York Times everyday. So she dutifully took out a subscription last week. I'm not sure how much enjoyment she has derived from it, but I definitely am benefiting. this morning I sat down and at breakfast over my morning paper. It was delightful. I already feel more informed about world affairs and I've only read the paper two days out of the last four. It made me feel good that when one of my patrons mentioned how the fire in Brazil a few days ago reminded him about another fire some years back that I actually knew what he was talking about.

It feels good to be even a little bit more informed. I recommend reading a paper for everyone--in print or online, whichever you prefer.

28 January 2013

To multi-task or not to multi-task?

I read  this article last week for one of my classes. It is an interesting article about multi-tasking. I can't say that it revealed anything I didn't already know (i.e. that people are bad at multi-tasking), but the author did express some interesting "side-effects" of his experiment to stop multi-tasking--things like having less stress.It sounds like an interesting experiment. I may have to try it someday. I thought it was a good read. I particularly liked one part at the end where he says that "giving yourself less time to do things could make you more productive." I know that for myself I am most definitely more productive when I am busier. It seems a little counter-intuitive, but I find that if I just have loads and loads of time to get something done in then I have no motivation to do anything.

I've been trying to be more aware of when I try to multi-task and to not do it so much, but I know that I still have a long ways to go.

25 January 2013

When does a pizza stop being a pizza?

yep, that's lettuce on there.
As you are well aware, I love pizza. As I was eating my pizza today I wondered at what point something stops being pizza and it becomes something else. I don't know. I think that as long as it is on a crust I will consider it pizza, though I admit that the one I had today was pretty far removed from traditional pepperoni pizza.

Today I decided that an excellent pizza topping would be sweet potatoes. Because, really, sweet potatoes are delicious and why wouldn't they be delicious on a crust? So I chopped up a couple small ones and roasted them on the stove till they were nice and soft and then threw them on a crust with some cheese. So good. Granted, my crust had been in the freezer a little too long so it ended up being a very thin crust pizza, but that's ok too. I also thought that it would be nice to have something with the sweet potatoes, but I didn't have a lot of other things, so I threw on some romaine lettuce. I figure, people cooks lots of other kinds of leafy greens, why not lettuce? But, I was a little bit wary, so I only put it on part of the pizza.

It turned out pretty good. The lettuce gives it just a little different texture, but it doesn't really change the flavor a lot. I think next time I'll put lettuce on the whole thing. And the sweet potatoes were just as delicious as I figured they would be. They are such a versatile root. I am grateful for them.

24 January 2013

I may be a bit crazy.

Today I spent part of my afternoon volunteering at the library in Charlestown. It's a bit of a hike from my house, but it was nice to do a little service. I helped them set up for a children's event they were having this evening, that involved children getting to pick out two free books of their very own. It sounded pretty cool. I was expecting to be there for a couple hours and had planned my day accordingly, but there were several volunteers so it went quickly. Long story short, I ended up with the better part of 3 extra hours before I had to be at work.

I'm a little bit crazy. Before I left Charlestown I had decided that I was thirsty, but the library there doesn't have a drinking fountain, so I decided I'd walk over to the O'Connell branch of the Cambridge library and use their drinking fountain. It wasn't exactly on my way, but I didn't have any set plans. (Yes, I am aware that there were probably many other drinking fountains on my way--like at the mall I passed--but somehow that didn't occur to me at the time.) So I set off walking. In case any one is wondering, today the high was something like 20 F. And it definitely hadn't hit that high when I was out. And it is windy out--which means that the wind chill factor couldn't have been much above 0 F. Part of my walk took me across a nice long overpass. Yeah. Overpasses are especially windy. And therefore especially cold.

By the time I got to the library I thought my ears would fall off. Turns out that branch doesn't have a drinking fountain either. Luckily one of the librarians took pity on me and got me a cup so I could get water from the sink. yay. Then I traipsed back out in wind (after the other librarian questioned me on the warmth of my pea-coat--which by the way is plenty warm when it's not windy). This time I caught the bus figuring I'd just head down to work and find a book to read there till my shift.

But half way there I realized that this was the perfect opportunity to visit the quilting (/yarn) store I've been meaning to visit since I finished my first crochet project "in the round" (a story for another day). So, like the masochist I am I got off the bus a few stops early and walked to the quilt store a few blocks away. I did find some nice yarn. The ladies at the store were more than helpful and they both thought the hat pattern that I picked was a great one. Eventually I made it to the library. When I walked in, there just happened to be an express copy of the book I put on hold yesterday just waiting for me to check it out. yay. Now I don't have to wait the three or four days for the hold to come in. hehehe.  

Despite the cold, I do think it was a good adventure. Though somehow walking around in the cold and wind really takes it out of you. I think I'll sleep well tonight.

22 January 2013

My Ideal Bookshelf

I feel like this year has started out pretty strong in terms of the books that I've read. I've been quite pleased with most of what I've read.

My Ideal Bookshelf was fascinating. It is a compilation of short (500 ish words) essays written by a variety of important/famous people (granted I'd only heard of a handful of them, but apparently they're famous). Each essay is about that person's "ideal bookshelf." They were asked to pick out the 10 or so books that would be on their perfect shelf. It's an interesting exercise if you think about it because your "ideal bookshelf" actually probably changes from year to year or month to month or day to day. The perfect bookshelf you might have made as a 12 year old is probably quite different from the one you make at 25 or 40 or 87. And they weren't all necessarily a person's favorite books, or even ones they'd read. The essay accompanied a painting of the bookshelf and made for a lovely spread.

It was interesting to see which books cropped up a number of times or who picked a book written by someone else included in this collection.

I'd probably classify the book as a coffee-table type book. It has lovely illustrations and there isn't any particular reason to read it cover to cover straight through. It would be very easy to pick up and read at random. 

I pulled a few interesting quotes from it:

"If a non-fiction book experienced a massive spike in popularity then the idea behind it becomes mainstream and then the book itself disappears." --Chuck Klosterman, pg. 110

"A room is not a room with out books." --Mina Nair, pg. 137

"It's important to leave enough space for other books, ones that don't always line up like iron filings. Let the shelf build itself." --Jonathan Zittrain, pg. 202

"Fashion is a way to inform others about who you are, or who you want to be, without ever opening your mouth." --Robert Verdi, pg. 186

And if my recommendation isn't good enough, there's an article from Fine Books and Collections. It does have a tiny mount of sales-pitching, but the middle part is a good description of the book.

21 January 2013

Almond Cranberry Cookies

Happy MLK day! As a total aside to what this post is really about (cookies) I just wanted to wish you a happy holiday. I took an hour today and went in to Cambridge and participated in a service project at City Hall. They had a variety of activities going on (blanket/scarf making, emergency room kits for children, valentine's day cards for shut-ins, etc.) I met up with some other people in the ward and we made a good stack of valentine's day cards for elderly people in the community. It was a lot of fun. There is something exciting not only about serving, but especially about serving in your own community. It's a lot of fun, and I feel good for having served today.

Now, on to the cookies.

One day last week I was trying to come up with a dessert to take to a dinner. I wanted something fairly light and relatively healthy. Recently Janssen had posted this about her favorite healthy cookie and so while I was at the store I picked up some almond meal and decided to give these a shot. For whatever reason I really struggled to make these right and to follow the directions. First I miss read how much vanilla to put in, so I put in three times as much as I should have, luckily there weren't too many ingredients in there already and so I could dump out some of the vanilla. But then I had to add more water, since some of that dumped out too. And then I miss measured about three other ingredients, necessitating that I increase the whole recipe by about 50%. All told, I really am not sure how much of any ingredient ended up in my cookie dough. But, it turned out ok. The cookies were really quite delicious. They were sweet, but not overly so, and they tasted good, while also feeling healthy. I definitely will have to make these again. And next time I think I will make each cookie a little bigger, because I made them a little too small this time.

18 January 2013


Last weekend I took a load of clothes down to Goodwill and decided that I needed a new vase. Now, we have about half a dozen vases at our house so there really is no reason for me to need one, other than the fact that the bouquets I always buy are always too small for the large vases we have. So, while I was at Goodwill I looked around for a smaller vase. I found one I quite liked--except it was $4! Can you imagine? $4 at Goodwill?? I was astounded. But it was the only one I really liked and so I still paid it. sheesh. Well anyways, today I picked up some more flowers and they do look so nice in the smaller vase. I just love having flowers in my home.

17 January 2013

An epidemic of mumbling

While I was home over Christmas I found this article that was cut out of the newspaper and floating around the kitchen counter. I stopped to read it one day, because it sounded interesting. It's about how to teach teens (and people in general) to speak clearly so that they can be understood and so that they don't mumble. I feel like this is a huge problem that is plaguing our society. In the old days people learned to speak in school and now days they don't. But being able to speak well is still a very important part in our society. How many times do you speak to people in the course of one day? And if you're like me how many times do you have to repeat yourself to make yourself understood? (albeit, part of that problem is probably a lack of listening too, but that's a problem for another day). Card suggests that if we simply slowed down we would speak more clearly. It isn't a race. And yet, how many of us feel the need to race through things that we are saying at the cost of clarity? Read the article, it's really very interesting.

16 January 2013

First day of school

That time is once again upon us. Today is my first day of classes for the semester. I woke up this morning and there was a little bit of light in my room and I remember thinking that it couldn't possibly already be late enough to be light out and that if it was then I was late for work. Luckily that's why I have a clock, so that when I wake up at 4:30 in the morning and I can be comforted in the fact that it is indeed not time to get up. The light coming in my window was just light pollution from the fact that it was snowing. When I got up at a more humane hour I was pleasantly surprised to find it snowing outside and the world nicely blanketed in white. The morning commute wasn't too bad, though I'm glad I left myself a little extra time to get to work, I needed it. With the new semester comes a slight variation in my work schedule, since my class today is a night one. Hopefully classes this semester will be good.

15 January 2013

Dinner for one (or two)

Back in November my ward hosted a Service Auction. Several of the committees in the ward banded together and put together a lovely dinner and silent auction. And many people in the ward (and the two other invited wards) contributed service items for the auction, myself included. I volunteered to cook dinner for someone--the catch was that it had to be on a weekend, since I work weeknights. At length, today I finally prepared this dinner for one of my good friends who won my service item. And since we're pretty good friends her dinner for one really turned into dinner for two, since she came over to the house and enjoyed a pleasant evening with me.

I spent quite a while trying to work out the menu and waffling back and forth on what to serve. They all happened to be new recipes (yeah, I know you're not supposed to use guests--and paying ones at that--as guinea pigs, but what can I say?). I got a couple marvelous vegetarian cookbooks over Christmas and I was just dying to try out some new recipes. More on those later.

So I got this far in writing this post last Friday. My plan had been to take a couple pictures and then post it that night. But you know how good I am at taking pictures. Despite the lack of photo-documentation my dinner was a success. I ended up making a frittata from my Vegetarian Kids' Cookbook, and an apple dessert pizza. They were both pretty delicious. In fact, I'm looking forward to making the frittata again this week. It featured potatoes, peas, and broccoli--three of my favorite vegetables. mmmm, broccoli.

14 January 2013

The Center for Adult Education

Back in the fall I decided that I wanted to take some kind of dance class for fun. I'd heard of the Cambridge Center for Adult Education and knew that they offered all kinds of classes. After looking through their catalog I decided that I wanted to take a tap dancing class. It just sounded like it'd be a nice change of pace from my regular school work. While the classes are quite reasonably priced I wasn't sure if I could make it work in my budget. And then one day before I made a decision about the class it got made for me. I had to get some of the fluids in my car flushed and it cost more than I anticipated, thus eating up any funds for the class. So I set aside that plan for another semester.

Jump forward to December. I decided that the tap class would be perfect for winter because it is an added source of exercise (which I find more difficult to get enough of in the cold weather). This time I jumped on it, and registered for the class and brought my tap shoes back with me from my parent's house. It was a good thing I didn't wait to long to register. A few days later the battery in my car died. If I hadn't already paid for the class I probably wouldn't have gotten to take it this semester either.

So, today it began. It was a lot of fun. There are about a dozen other people in my class, and it was just a lot of fun to spend an hour today tap dancing. Hopefully it will continue so.

10 January 2013

Eggnog Pudding

After I returned from Christmas, naturally one of the first things I did was hit up a grocery store. I noticed that they were still selling eggnog and I figured that since it was still for sale that that meant that I should buy some. One day as I was pouring myself a nice glass of eggnog I noticed that there was a recipe on the side for "eggnog pudding." And you know how I like a nice creamy, gelatinous dessert. Essentially, you just take a vanilla pudding mix and replace the milk with eggnog. I promptly went out and bought a pudding mix--about a week later.  And when I made my eggnog pudding it turned out delicious. So delicious in fact that I forgot to take a picture of it (sounds like me doesn't it?). So you'll just have to imagine what eggnog pudding looks like. I'm sure you're up to the task.

09 January 2013

Sense and Sensibility

With all my free time before classes start I've been re-watching excellent movies. So today I started watching the 2008 BBC version of Sense and Sensibility. I'd forgotten that it stars Dan Stevens. It was a pleasant surprise. The first time I watched this adaptation I remember being impressed with how well Stevens portrayed the mild awkwardness of Edward Ferrars without it being overly awkward. And I was so used to Hugh Grant's very awkward portrayal of him that this was like a breath of fresh air. And now that I've become so familiar with Dan Stevens as Matthew Crawley I was very excited to see him walk on screen today. If you haven't seen this adaptation of Jane Austen's novel, I really recommend it. It's fabulously done. Granted I'd expect no less from the BBC.

08 January 2013

On haircuts or the absence of them

Near the beginning of October I got a haircut. It wasn't anything big, just a trim to more or less maintain the short hair I got in the summer (because let's face it, short hair is cooler in the summer, and always uses less shampoo...) I figured I'd go back for another trim either at the end of December, or early January. At the time I got my hair cut in October, my stylist (it makes me feel cool to say that I have a stylist) commented on how well my hair had grown out and that it had more or less just grown into a new style. I thought that was kind of cool.

So somewhere around mid-December, several people (like 3 or 4 maybe) commented on my new haircut; they all liked it. The first time it happened it was weird, but when several people said the same thing I was a little confused. Then I went home for Christmas and everyone there liked my haircut (which didn't surprise me since I hadn't been home in a year, and then I had long hair). And then I came back, and I've gotten 3 or 4 more comments on my recent haircut. Apparently, my hair grew out nicely into a very attractive new hairstyle. In December I was getting a little tired of my hair and was just trying to put off getting it cut so there would be a little more to trim off. But now I'm not sure what I'd even tell my stylist to do. I kind of like the new style (though admittedly I can't really tell how it's different than what it was before). I still don't quite know what to say though when people ask if I just got my haircut. Oh well, one of these days I will get it cut and then it won't be a problem anymore.

Also, for another mildly amusing anecdote. While I was home I had two women from my church compliment me on my haircut. The first told me what a "grown up" cut it was (which is flattering considering my grad-school status). About an hour later a second woman complimented me on how my new haircut made me look "twenty years younger" (do I look like an elementary schooler now? or did I look middle-aged before?) I find the totally different reactions to be quite amusing.

07 January 2013

Textbook Trade-in

Perhaps this information is coming a little late for all you fellow textbook-owners out there, but I have to share my love of Amazon textbook trade-in with you (and no, Amazon is not paying me to talk them up).

How it works is that you start with a textbook that you never want to see again. You go to the textbook trade-in portion of Amazon (books--textbooks--sell your books). Type in the ISBN of your book. Select the right one from any options that come up (usually, there won't be options since ISBNs are unique--it'll just take you straight to the book). Then you can select to trade-in your book for whatever price they list (I've found it's usually a pretty decent deal). Then it takes you through a "check out" type experience, where you select the address you're shipping from and what carrier you want to ship with, etc. Then ultimately, it gives you the shipping label (at no cost to you). You print it out, slap it on the box with your books and drop it in the mail. After Amazon receives your books they will credit your account with however much money in Amazon gift cards.

So, to sum up. Amazon will take your unwanted textbooks off your hands, at no cost to you, with comparatively little inconvenience, and they will give you Amazon money in exchange.

Oh wait, it gets better. Since Amazon sells books to people everywhere if you can't sell your book back to your local bookstore because a new edition came out (or some other equally stupid reason), Amazon may still take it.

What spurred all this was that last night I finally got around to taking care of my textbooks from last semester. I managed to sell both of them back, one for a pretty fair price (I bought it for $60 and sold it back for $40) and the other one I made a profit on--I bought it for $20, and sold it for $22. Ok, so maybe $2 profit isn't much, but in the world of textbooks that's huge. When was the last time you sold a textbook at profit?

04 January 2013

First loaf of bread for the year!

Well, I've made my first loaf of bread for the year. And now I finally get to keep bread in my new bread tin (one of the legacies from my grandmother). I made this recipe for English muffin bread. It's pretty good, though I can't say that it is particularly English muffin like. Granted, I haven't had an English muffin in quite some time, so maybe I just don't remember what they are like, but this feels like normal bread to me. But it is yummy, and so easy to make. I love things that are easy.

03 January 2013

Film Noir

Because the library was closed for New Years, I had the rare opportunity this week to be home in the evening on a weeknight. So I headed over to a friend's house and we made french toast for dinner and watched a movie. We decided to watch Flawless, which (sadly) I'd never heard of. It is a crime thriller/suspense movie about a diamond heist in the 60s set in London. In many ways it felt like a nice film noir movie to me. It's pretty fabulous. 

02 January 2013

Pretzel Bites

 A few weeks ago (before I left for Christmas), I happened across a recipe for "Pretzel Bites."  They looked pretty delicious and incredibly easy. I admit that while this recipe is a gluten-free recipe, I actually just bought regular gluten-laden pretzels so mine would have not been nearly as enjoyable for any of my gluten-free friends. Nevertheless, they are fantastic. I mean who doesn't love chocolate covered pretzels? I made these for a small movie night I had back in December and they went over so well that I connived my mother into buying the ingredients while I was home so I could make some more. My youngest brother (who is 10 years old and a rather picky eater) was a bit skeptical of them at first, but was sold after eating a couple and he really enjoyed helping me make them too. They are an excellent treat for kids to help with.

01 January 2013

New Years!

Happy New Years!