Friday, February 27, 2009

Slogging Away

I AM graduating this semester. There's no reason for me not to. I've applied for graduation, paid my fees, picked up my regalia, turned in my forms. What's left? Oh yeah, my thesis.

I really love talking about my thesis. I've read a lot, learned a lot, and thought a lot. Now it's time to get it all out on PAPER. So I've been alternating reading and writing.

I met up with my adviser last week, and we set up some deadlines. I modified them to give myself a better cushion, but here they are:

March 2: turn in a chapter
March 23: turn in two more chapters + syllabi drafts
April 1: Complete draft due
May 1: final copies turned into the graduate school

Now, my adviser wanted me to turn in a complete draft on on April 15. But the thought of only having two weeks to scrape together my defense, revise and edit, etc. terrified me, so I moved the date up on myself. If I can get a complete rough draft to my adviser on April 1st, I'll be doing well. And also can possibly set up my defense; we'll, of course, have to see about that.

I'm slogging away at it. Right now, I'm shooting to get about 15 pages of writing per chapter, since I figure I'll add a lot more as I revise and edit. I'm also still doing research, so I'll add more in as I go. Then I'll have the syllabi, course assignments, and many appendices, so that should flesh it out to a tidy length.

The end is in sight--I just need to get to work!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Do You Run or Jog?

Although I am certainly not the most dedicated, consistent, or fastest person, I still call myself a runner. Why? Because I do nutty things like run in below freezing weather, get up at 5:30am to run 5 miles, or run 12 miles on a Sunday morning even though I could sleep in. I think that I qualify, even if I'm slow, lazy, or inconsistent--and why is because I love to run. I love it. I might not want to run even as I'm lacing up my shoes, but once I'm in motion, I'm happy. There is joy in running. Thus, I am a runner.

I was telling a friend about a beginners 5k program sponsored by the best running store in Fayetteville. He looked at me and said thoughtfully, "I once jogged a 5k." I replied, "Jogged? What is jogging?" He had clearly meant to say "jog" and not "run". We had a brief exchange until I made it clear that "jogging" meant something different than running. He jogged. I run.

Joggers do it because they have some notion that moving at faster than a walk is an efficient way to burn off the processed food that's making them heavier. There is no joy in jogging; it's too much like boring homework or a distasteful yet required task. It's like people who eat or drink certain things because they are "healthy," yet do not enjoy consuming it. I like to eat things that are tasty as well as healthy because I enjoy the experience and the fact that it's healthy generally means my body will appreciate eating it*.

Joggers do not enjoy the activity, whereas runners get enjoyment. Sure, running is hard. You have to do it more than once a week for it to be an easier. But watching the sun come up as I ran home this morning made me happy. I smiled. And it was a fantastic way to begin my day. Joggers don't get that satisfaction**. Runners do. So--do you run or do you jog?

*If I eat too much sugar--sadly, something that occurs more than it ought--I feel TERRIBLE. I've never felt like that when eating a giant salad or an apple.
**If you don't, find something that will. Like biking. Or playing racquetball. Yoga, Pilates, swimming, jumping up and down on a trampoline, chasing your kids, walking your dog, yard work, gardening, or that silly video that makes you giggle. Moving is good--if you hate to run, then don't do it. Just like if you hate yogurt, don't eat it.

Monday, February 16, 2009

I Did That?

Sunday, I went out for my group run. Our schedule said "15K" which meant probably around 9 miles. Since I'd actually been running consistently throughout the week, I figured I could do it; I'd just be a little tired at the end. When I arrive, the running coach says, "Hey, we're running 12!" I think perhaps he means just the marathon folks, so I don't really say anything, also figuring that I could just walk or something if it's too much.

2 hours, 1200 calories, and 12 miles later, I'm back home stretching and eating a snack. I'm still a little shocked that I ran 12 miles. I mean, I'm training for a 13.1 mile run, and so I was not mentally prepared to run 12 miles. (That's not for another month! According to the training schedule). It surpassed my last week's run by 4 miles. Anyway, I'm happy that my body didn't revolt on me (like it wanted to last week) and seemed to not mind the distance too terribly much, except for being absolutely tired and requiring both a bath and a nap afterward. And an early bedtime tonight too.

Apparently next week is a "light" week (you know, only 6 miles), so it should be fun. And there's supposedly going to be waffles and breakfast burritos and coffee. Maybe by that time I'll have processed that I ran 12 miles and I didn't die. I didn't even feel all that bad*--it was just a lot of work.

Oh, and I met with Thesis Adviser today. I have deadlines! And chapters!

*My knees were achy. I need to do more strength training for the muscles around my knee. Also, I'm a little sore today, but not that bad. Weird how 8 miles was agonizing last week, but 12 was merely hard work.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Accomplishments and Events

They are small accomplishments, but here they are:
  • Almost one page of thesis writing! Okay, so it looks miniscule when I type it out...but if I do one page tomorrow...and maybe two pages the next day, that's four pages before the end of the week*.
  • I got up and ran 4 miles this morning
  • I sketched out a rough, preliminary outline of my thesis. Just to get thing moving.
  • I printed off some documents for the engineering class so I can start working on my syllabi
  • I read a chapter of a book for my thesis.
  • I started a new knitting project that should be finished soon. More details later.
*My goal is gradually increase what I'm doing until I've got it done. Or something like that

And now, for events:
  • I went to the dentist today, and I have groovy teeth. Groovy is good for music or hippies, but bad for teeth apparently. Even though I'm a good brusher and I floss and I don't drink soda, I have some teeny spots that have to be filled next week. Uggh. My first non-cleaning dentist appointment.
  • They later called to tell me the price. It is then that I discovered that my dental insurance sorta sucks.
  • I've thus been weird about my teeth all day. I think I'll go brush them now. And floss.
  • It's raining. My cat is hiding under my chair (she doesn't like bad weather).
  • My new boss started today. I think he's all right. He even poked fun at me about my thesis.
And now I'm heading to bed so that I can run and work on my thesis tomorrow. I really want to graduate this semester, and I'd also like to say I've been productive when six people in one day ask me about how my thesis is going.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Fennel and Pizza

I often buy vegetables that I've never cooked with because I think they're a.) weird, b.) I've heard they're delicious, or c.)they are cheap and look pretty. Fennel fell into the weird category. I've never really heard much of it and, besides fennel seed, have never cooked with it. So when the co-op had fennel bulbs on sale, I snatched one up.

Now that I had this freaky, alien vegetable in my fridge, what was I going to do with it? I had gobs of recipes that involved fennel; however, they wanted more than one bulb. I didn't want to buy more until I knew if I even liked the flavor of fennel. So what on earth could I do with my single fennel bulb? And I'd best decide quick before the thing rotted in my fridge!

That's when one of my favorite cooking blogs came to mind. Aha! I thought. Heidi will know. So I meandered over to 101 Cookbooks and punched fennel into the search engine. Several recipes popped up, but this one caught my eye: pizza with caramelized fennel. Well, one bulb would be more than enough for a pizza, so I followed her directions and caramelized my fennel. It smelled amazing cooking in a splash of olive oil, and when I added some potatoes and minced garlic, the aroma was heavenly.

My pizza crust (yes, homemade) was topped with a coat of citrus/regular olive oil, a sprinkle of salt and pepper, then a layer of sliced tomatoes, fresh spinach. Then I piled on the caramelized fennel slices and thinly sliced potato, put some mozzarella cheese on top, another dash of salt and pepper, and a few rings of purple onions. Popped in the oven, and 15 minutes later, I was munching on a delicious pizza concoction.

For me, pizzas are best with lots of veggies, olive oil instead of sauce, and just enough cheese to hold all the toppings on. This fennelled dish met all my requisites of great pizza, and I anticipate eating more of it tomorrow. It just goes to show what can happen when you let yourself try something new and unusual, and are willing to experiment with flavors and ingredients.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Green Eggs (But No Ham)

"Did you see the green eggs I got?" asked Lance excitedly as he walked in the door.

"Yeah, that's pretty cool!" I smiled. Lance had gone to a supplemental winter market as a couple of farmers had come into Fayetteville to sell their goods, since the ice had thawed and most people now had power. We've been buying our eggs from one of the farmers (David), and they are delicious*. When I was standing in line one week, I heard him tell the customer before me that the dozen she was getting had been taken from his chickens that very morning. It doesn't get much fresher than that, folks.

Lance then proceeded to tell me that he talked to David about the chickens, "But I don't remember the name of the ones that lay the green eggs," he said

After thinking for a moment, I replied, "Araucanas**". Lance looked at me in wonder. "I know a lot about chickens!"

And I do know a lot about chickens. As a kid, we had many chickens***: Buff Orfingtons (my personal favorite--great layers and so pretty!), Barred Rocks, Rhode Island Reds, etc. Some of our chickens were mutt chickens, crosses of several different kinds. We would make the flock come flying with "Here, chick, chick, chick!" which was their call for corn. We raised baby chicks, and occasionally had a broody hen who hatched some of her own. Having chickens is a great way for a kid to learn about nature--I once got to watch a chicken lay an egg! How many people can say that?

Our chicken-rasing ended tragically when I was in high school; a raccoon got into the coop and bit the heads off our flock. We were devastated. Since my parents often have no follow-through, and vowed to not get any more chickens until the coop was sufficiently secured, we never had chickens again. I still miss all those lovely eggs.

I've always liked raising chickens, and I look forward to being a crazy professor with a chicken coop and piles of fresh eggs that I might give/sell to my favorite students and colleagues. Nothing beats good, fresh, farm-raised eggs, and I would encourage you to find a local farmer (or lady with lots of chickens) to buy fresh eggs from. The orange in their yolks and wonderful flavor they add to your cooking will be unparalleled. And if you happen to get green eggs, your delight will be endless.

*I've recently discovered the tastiness of a perfectly boiled egg. It really does make a difference how long you cook them!

**Though, looking at Wikipedia, I've discovered what I thought were Araucanas are actually Ameraucanas, so named because of several similarities, chief of which is blue/green eggs.

***Also geese, ducks, and turkeys. Other non-fowl included a horse, some goats, and for a brief stint, some pigs. The pigs ended up in our freezer.