Mizzou Rule #1: Never leave home without an umbrella

Update: My student loan check came through, so I am no longer desperately scraping for pennies to pay for my groceries. Woohoo! Thanks everyone for your thoughts and wishes.

If anyone finds this red hat, let me know!

My first day of work was not too outrageous. On the way in, I decided to walk to the Skinker Forest Park Ave Metrolink, which is a little more than a mile from my apartment, instead of taking the bus there. Somewhere between the Link and the Central West End, I lost my beloved hat. This would prove less than beneficial as the day’s events progressed. As an aside, I absolutely LOVE the Metrolink and am really excited about Saint Louis’s public transportation system, especially since employees of BJC and WashU get free passes.

I was about thirty minutes early to my form signing appointment, so I loitered in front and in the lobby of the bank. Eventually, the stack of papers was set in front of me in a specific order and all the things I’d need to know about being a post doc research scientist at WashU were in place. That is, except most things went over my head. I need a UPass, not a Metropass? I need a WUSTL key with a new password every five minutes? But I can’t get that for 24hrs to 30 days after I start? Oh, no wait, the UPass can take up to 30days, but the WUSTL key can take how long? Why is my email different than my computer log-in ID? Whatever, I’ll figure it out eventually.

It started to rain during the meeting, and the walk back to the medical school was dreary. I got situated at my desk, couldn’t log in to my computer, and started reading. The grumbly stomach started and I realized I hadn’t eaten since 6am (it was now 2pm), so I headed out into the blusteryness for some soup at Pickles Deli. And it was good (try their black bean and steak soup if they have it next time!). The soup was great, and I headed back to the office for some more reading.

Unfortunately, the rain decided to fall harder and in larger drops during early afternoon, and it just so happened that I needed to head home early to get my occupancy permit. I also didn’t have a hat, or a rain coat, or an umbrella. Instead of buying one at the bookstore (read my last post if you are curious why I wouldn’t do such a thing), I braved the weather. Of course, the MetroLink was dry. But the bus stop, not so much. While waiting for the #16 bus, a nice, young Chinese student offered to let me stand beneath his umbrella and we chatted while we waited. Hopefully I will run into him again and can share some chocolate under better weather conditions.

By the time the #16 bus came, I looked like a drowned rat, and I had to change my pants, shoes, and coat before heading out to City Hall to get my permit. But, now that the permit is taken care of, my list of “must-do’s” is dwindling even smaller, and I am feeling a little better about things every day.

I also learned my lesson: Never leave home without an umbrella. Actually, since I am still on the cheap for the next few months, I plan to just carry my rain jacket in my bag wherever I go. Even if its sunny and blue skies. I just don’t trust the weather in this state quite yet…

Running away from my problems

I headed out yesterday for a wee little jog through Forest Park to scope out what everyone has been talking about. And, of course, to clear my head.

Dang, did I pick a good place to live. I am practically right across the street from the park, and although its a long-walkable-way from work, I’m really geeked to head through the park once I get a commuter bike.

Here are some (overexposed) shots during my run:

There were a lot of cool things I didn’t know were there, like a horse stable, a huge pond with lots of fountains by the art museum, and hills. Yes, hills. None of those Agate Street or Lahti Road hills, mind you, but the rolling terrain made me smile. I was supposed to keep my heart rate down, of course, so I think the smiling helped in that general area.

And the run was just what I needed. I have been on serious anxiety mode with the move and the new job, not because I am nervous or anxious, but because I am broke. Seriously, utterly, incredibly broke. The move cost a lot more than I expected, and with Missouri having nearly 10% sales tax, stocking up on things like garbage cans, brooms, and toilet paper really added up fast. Not to mention I had to fill my cupboards or risk starving to death, which I really probably could have lasted a week with all the post-season face-stuffing I’ve been doing, but let’s be honest, a girl’s gotta eat.

Luckily, I sold my mountain bike. Granted, I thought it was seriously unlucky at the time, and oooh how I did not want to part with that bike. I loved that bike. Steel, hardtail, race geometry. It was excellent in every measurable way. But I sold it and I am glad, because that money paid for the UHaul and gas. The sacrifices we make, yeah?

So anyway, back to the run; yesterday was a beautiful day- great temperatures, and instead of staying inside and moping about being broke and scrounging for money and throwing a pity party- I went for a run. Luckily, running is (for the purposes of this blog post) free. I don’t have to pay for a bus fare or drive my car anywhere- I can just put on my shoes and go. Plus, running is a great stress reliever, and by the time I got to an hour, my mind was more clear and I could prioritize my spending so I could use my money wisely.

I know the saying: It’s only money. But it’s only money when you have enough money to get you by. I was really, really worried that I wouldn’t have enough money to pay rent or to make a car payment. I’ve never really worried about these things before, mostly because I’ve lived in relatively cheap (ok, dirt cheap) places with incredibly low cost-of-living expenses. I mean, Montana didn’t even have sales tax!

I guess this is some more of that “growing up” stuff? I’m just glad that I get am starting to train more regularly this week.

Starting the newest chapter

In the last year, I have come to appreciate so many things that I might otherwise take for granted. Sometimes I am embarrassed about the little brat I have been in the past- when I’ve been too demanding of others. Sitting here, alone in my apartment, I am now- for the first time in my life- living completely on my own. I don’t have roommates, and it’s not just a short-lived thing, where my roommates are gone for a few weeks. I’m really, seriously living by myself. Now. At the age of 27.

It’s not that I really want to live by myself. It’s not that I crave that independence, or that I hate living with people, or that I am grumpy and antisocial. No, I have a feeling I will be reaching out to others as soon as the dust settles. But it’s going to be weird to not have someone there to talk to on my way home from work, to cook dinner with, to push me out the door for fun adventure. Oh, woe is me, right? Here I am, sitting by myself in my huge, new kitchen without anything simmering on the stove, in a new city with no friends, and I’m complaining. And that’s not what I want to do. I’m doing this all wrong.

I am happy. I am grateful. I am so ever thankful. I really, truly am.

I’m thankful for the safe drive, albeit stressful, that Baberaham and I had on our way to St Louis from the Upper Peninsula.  And I’m especially thankful for Baberaham for taking the reigns of the UHaul truck and navigating it through white-out conditions, rain, and winds for 800 miles.

The first 100 miles of our drive

I’m especially thankful for Baberaham- his time, his patience, and his help has been amazing in so many more ways than I can describe here. I can honestly say that without him, I wouldn’t be here, starting this new chapter of my life. He has done a phenomenal job of getting me unpacked, helping me settle into my new place, and most importantly, making me laugh.

Kid tested, but moms would not approve

I’m thankful for my new home, for arriving to this new and unknown city and having a roof over my head. I’m thankful that my new apartment is on the second floor, so that the first night I was in this new city, I wasn’t panicked about the flash flood warnings that were going off. I’m thankful for my landlord who is trusting and my neighborhood which seems safe.

Flash flood warnings the first night

I’m thankful for my parents who are worried about me even though I’m 27 years old; parents that would do anything they could to make sure their daughter is safe and happy. I’m thankful for their enthusiasm, their excitement, their concern. I’m thankful for their care packages that had just about anything I would really, truly need to get by, including instant mashed potatoes and soap. It’s the little things, really.

I think the only thing that wasn't in this box was a gallon of milk

I’m thankful for having friends and family that are truly the best this world can offer, who will stand beside me and help me through any hurdle I might have. Generic? Probably. But I am truly blessed. I am absolutely, positively, 100% grateful for the wonderful, thoughtful, and truly selfless people that are in my life.  I have friends that will go for a run with me as my “farewell party”- friends that will house me and feed me and not care that I’m just passing through. This move has been one of the most forthright in underlining the relationships I’ve established and the importance of the people in my life.

Being so far away now doesn’t mean that I don’t have those people in my life anymore. It’s like a rainbow where I can’t see the other side- just because I can’t see it, doesn’t mean it won’t be there. And the amazing thing about rainbows is that they often show up before the rain has stopped, to bring a smile and a sense of peace. I hear too often that it’s hard to find genuine people, which surprises me because I feel like I’ve been surrounded by truly genuine, honest, caring people for the last three and a half years. I have friends that I wouldn’t trade for the world, and loyalties that I will hold for years to come. I have no doubt that the relationships I’ve made in the most recent chapter of my life will continue, and get stronger, throughout the rest of my book.

And I have no doubt that I’ll see a rainbow in the sky every day that I am here in this new place. Does that seem overly optimistic? I don’t think so. I have so much to look forward to, to be thankful for. I am experiencing something in my life that most people don’t have the opportunity to have. I am pursuing my dreams, I’m nervous and scared and afraid but most importantly, I’m excited. And I think I am ready. What will this next chapter bring? I can only imagine, but I know it will be more and more and more of the wonderful and exciting. More of the love and the thanks and the challenges and the triumphs. I am ready.

I know where the other side of this rainbow is...

Winter Adventures – Lookout Mountain

I leave on Tuesday. I know, it has been approaching. This date has been set for several weeks now, but of course, I’ve been putting off packing and I haven’t submitted my dissertation yet. I’m still doing stuff in the lab. I’m not ready, even though I technically am ready.  Everything that’s supposed to say “I’m ready” actually says that I’m ready. But I’m just not.

One reason? I am not ready to leave this beautiful place. Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is unlike anywhere else I’ve ever been. And I’ve been to a lot of different places, like Montana and New Zealand. And the UP is just different. It’s like a hidden secret, really. To be fair, I really shouldn’t be sharing its awesomeness with you for fear that I might get hunted down by the locals for letting the cat out of the bag.

But I just can’t help it. Last night, I went hiking at my favorite place, Lookout Mountain in Eagle Harbor. It was daylight when we started, and pitch black when we got to the top. I might be the only one that likes the shorter days; I like running in the dark, hiking under the full moon, but there’s something so awesome about the transition of between day and night. There’s also something so surreal about a walk in the woods, when you look away from the path and can’t see through the thick trees. There’s something so awesome (and I mean that in the way that inspires awe) about seeing the world from the top, the world that’s alive in the sense that’s not what we generally think of as being alive; the alive that is the trees, the cold, fresh air, the snow crunching under your feet. Not seeing more than a few houselights across the entire horizon.

And although I don’t really need to tell you why this is my favorite place, since I think it’s pretty obvious, I can show you.

On the way up Lookout Mountain

Descending from the top, with the town of Eagle Harbor in the distance

Stream crossing


Gluten-free Thanksgiving Feast

I’m moving to St Louis the day before Thanksgiving.

But I’m still going to do-it-up-right. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday! Plus, Baberaham will be there to help me cook for the first time in my new place. What better way to break in the kitchen than having a holiday meal?

I promised him a pumpkin pie anyway.

Here’s the menu:

  • Spice-rubbed pork tenderloin (turkey? Pshh. I’m thinking the pilgrims and Native Americans shot wild boars for their Thanksgiving feast)
  • Goat-cheese steak fries from glutenfreegirl’s blog
  • Broccoli slaw (also from GFG’s blog)
  • Gluten-free pumpkin pie with homemade whipped cream topping
  • a bottle of vino! Missouri has some vineyards, and I might try to find “Adam’s Choice” from the Adam Puchta Winery

Healthier snacks for a busy gluten-free girl

My mom has a great tradition of stocking up on snacks and handing them off to me when I see her. Since going gluten-free, she now buys just about anything that says “Gluten Free” on the label. Recently, Think Thin bars were on sale at Kroger, and she bought (literally) a box.

I couldn’t be more impressed. Although I’m a (not-so-closet) fan of junk food like Snickers and peanut butter M&Ms, I have tried to cut back a bit on my junk food intake since my season break began. The first week was a little rough, since my dissertation was due, I was traveling a lot, and it was the week of Halloween. But, I have since got into a better habit of cooking more meals, eating oatmeal for breakfast, and having a veggie-full lunch.

One thing that is hard for me, though, is making it through the day without having a snack. So, I took that box of Think Thin bars to school and stuffed them into my desk. Every time I eat one of these bars, I am reminded to think about what I am eating, because how we fuel ourselves is crucial to our health.

Following a strict gluten-free diet, I sometimes find it a little more complicated to plan a perfectly balanced meal than when I wasn’t gluten-free. And, to be honest, sometimes french fries just sound good. But I have noticed that there are times when my diet lacks in the protein department, and then I go on a rampage for a nice, juicy steak. So, I’m excited that Think Thin bars have plenty of protein to make me feel full, and of course, satisfy my sweet tooth. Plus, the protein in these products is from whey, casein, and soy, which is a great mixture for muscle recovery.

My favorite flavor is the creamy peanut butter, but the cookies and cream brings back memories of Oreos (that I oh-so-miss). So next time, instead of reaching for a Snickers, I’m going to reach for a Think Thin bar. Since I have a case of these bad boys, and they taste pretty darn good!

Frugal Gluten Free Girl: Oatmealed Acorn Squash

With my bi-weekly buy-in of community supported agriculture, I got a lot of squash. I love squash, but Baberaham isn’t such a fan. Nonetheless, I’ve found these delicious fruit easy to prepare. As a bonus, if you are to buy squash from a grocery store or farmer’s market, it’s pretty stinkin’ cheap.

Tonight, I scraped together experimented with stuff we had in our cupboards. I came across the following and made it into a meal:

2 small acorn squash
1 c steel-cut oats
1c milk
1c water
1/2c pecans, chopped
sea salt, to taste

I halved the acorn squash, saved the seeds, set the squash on a cookie sheet insides up, and baked them at 375F for 30 minutes, and then an hour at 350F. After dropping the temp on the oven for the squash, I started cooking the oats with 1c water and 1c skim milk to make them a little creamy.

Once the oats and squash were done (I could tell the squash was done by the “fork test”- when the fork goes in easy, its done!), I laid the squash insides-up on a plate and covered the inside with chopped pecans (about 2tbsp for each half). Then, I drizzled about 1/2 tbsp of honey on the pecans.

After adding the pecans and honey, I filled the squash halves to the brim with hot oats. That’s it!

Eating it from the outside in is the best way to get all the flavors. Each bite should contain some squash, oats, and pecans. The slight sweetness of the honey blended with the sea salt makes this dish irresistable (at least, to me!).

For me tonight, this meal was practically free, because I was using up milk that was close to expiring, I was eating squash that has been sitting on our counter for weeks, and I found a bag of steel-cut oats behind the crackers in the cupboard. But! If you were to go to the store and buy all these things, it would work out something like this:

McCann’s Steel-Cut Oats– 1lb box that will last you a while- $3.59
2 acorn squash – $2
honey, 12oz – $2
1c milk – 50cents

I eat big, so this was enough for two meals in my eyes. But, if you want to divvy up the calories, it could feed four. Let me know if you try this dish!

Edit: OH YEAH! I forgot to add… I made pepitas out of the leftover seeds. Traditionally, pepitas are made from pumpkin seeds, but to be honest, acorn squash seeds taste just the same. There are fewer seeds, but why let ’em go to waste? I just peeled away the “gunk”, put them in a bowl, sprinkled them with sea salt, pepper, and 2 tbsp olive oil, and then baked them at 350F for ~5-10 minutes- while I was preparing the oatmealed squash. Once they started to brown and swell a very small amount, I knew they were done. Delish!

What is in a title?

I did it.

Friday, at noon, I stood up in front of a room full of people. Students, professors, collaborators, mentors, big-wigs, and labmates. I told my story, I disseminated what I did and why I did it. And I did so in forty minutes. I pointed at plots and Ven diagrams, showed pretty pictures, and identified to my audience the importance of my work.

Afterward, I stood in front of my committee and discussed my data, the plots, and why I chose the approaches I did. I explained how I interpreted my statistics and why I thought what I did was correct. I argued defended the work I’ve done over the last three years, five months, three weeks, and four days- and was successful. Sure, there were struggles. My ego took a few blows, but my eyes didn’t well up with tears. I held strong and stood behind the data that I took, analyzed, and interpreted. I understood its shortcomings but also emphasized on how the design of the studies and my statistics were sound.

And in the end, I came out triumphant. I successfully defended my dissertation works. After years of struggles and triumphs, I am finally done**!

**Almost. I still have to submit my final version of my dissertation to the graduate school, and get two more signatures. But I am, for all intent and purpose, done with my PhD.

Final Countdown.

It’s the final countdown.

I have one whole work day before my defense.


There have been good things about this week, including a happy advisor, a helpful boyfriend, and FTD’d flowers:

And there have been frustrating things, like doing TUNEL from 10am-8pm (why did I decide to do that this week?), having a terrible rehearsal with said happy advisor, and this:

I’ve had some nightmares (including the one where I leave to head to the bar after my defense, but I’m not actually supposed to ‘leave,’ I’m just supposed to sit in the hallway and wait for my committee to make a decision). I’ve had some stress-relieving runs. I’ve even had some ice cream (that isn’t entirely unbelievable, if you have ever met me):

So, the hay is in the barn, so to speak. At least, that’s how I’d approach this if it were an Ultraman.

Now, let’s just hope that Friday doesn’t end with me doing any of these activities:

This however, is totally acceptable: