29 December 2010

The Day House

Well, to state mildly, that was a rough semester! I managed to survive, but am now quite mentally deranged and somewhat unstable. There were quite a few bumps, snags, and forks along my path, and so far no thoughts of u-turns. A few highlighted moments include:
  • Blew-up a vacuum apparatus in my research lab
  • Attended THE energy conference for the planet, with speakers from Harvard, MIT, Berkley, Rice, Japan and others, including the Nobel Prize winners
  • I attempted to find time to study really hard shit for more than one class within one semester for the first time since I became a mother
  • Zuben turned 4!!!
  • I dropped out of Grad School
  • I decided I do not want to be a chemist at this time, but perhaps later
  • I can no longer move back to Seattle when I graduate college
With so many things constantly going through my head, I decided to add a few more just for... fun?

To attempt to find more about me, away from all things already mentioned, I started to explore Springfield, alone. I grew up here, but I didn't live here for most of my 20's, and so many things are new and different than they once were. I found a cozy spot with Mudhouse awhile ago, and I just ventured somewhat radially from there, to seek and discover the unknown.

Reminiscent of my neighborhoods in Seattle, I went alone to wherever there was live music, of any genre. There is something very intimate and unspoken that occurs when a person plays music well; and when they're still new and slightly unfamiliar with all facets of their chosen instruments, it can still be a very enjoyable experience to see and hear them try their best.

I don't really like to speak with others that I'm not familiar with (stranger-danger), but over a few months, I have become accustomed to a few peoples' presence... Unfortunately, Downtown Springfield is not a busy spot like it could, should, and eventually will be. Most of the places I gravitated to were mostly filled with college kids, like me, possibly attempting to unwind, like me, but also somewhat new to going out and drinking because their barely in their 20s, unlike me. I abruptly discovered a flaw in this picture. That story ends for now.

A few people that I have been benignly chatting with along my bumpy journey have inspired many wonderful thoughts and ideas for how I should be spending my time, and quite a few are leading me cautiously toward a possible lifestyle for me and Zuby when I graduate in 12 months. I've had quite a few lunch meetings with friends and new acquaintances pertaining to me opening a cafe Downtown. The location was an easy decision, and I have also very easily visualized many of the broad and specific details:
  • All local ingredients.
  • Seasonally-driven daily dynamic menu.
  • Soups, quiche, salads, sandwiches, simple.
  • Muffins, and other such things that compliment the flavors found in coffee.
  • Locally roasted coffee beans (can't grow them locally!!!)
  • Locally microbrewed beers
  • Local wines (Missouri is a great place to grow grapes!)
  • Bookshelves everywhere stocked with used books (for sale or trade), with a Reference area for textbooks and such.
  • All mugs and plates made by local crafters.
  • Rotating local art.
  • Light-fixtures made by local artists, and available for purchase.
  • Sturdy wooden tables and chairs made locally from local timber (or bought used).
  • HUGE comfy chairs and couches bought used and reupholstered to my liking.
  • Open Monday-Saturday, with Sundays by reservation only.
  • Food served til 6pm.
  • Coffee & pastries served til 10pm.
  • No smoothies. Go to Mudhouse.
  • No paninis. They produce a certain aroma that I don't find pleasing that lingers within other establishments.
  • No meat. I don't eat it, so I definitely shouldn't cook it. (If the business partner that I have in mind joins me, then she can provide this portion of the menu.)
  • No fake meat. I don't eat it, and you shouldn't either.
  • No tofu. I don't eat it, and you shouldn't either.
  • Indoor and outdoor seating available.
  • Weekly book clubs.
  • Live acoustic, chill jazz, blues, and all other realms of casual local music.
  • Poetry readings and such with regularly scheduled open-mic nights.
I have so many ideas and they just keep coming, until hopefully all the jigsaw pieces fall into place...

The big problem that I need to work through is, who will pay for this? I'm not certain that only one person (other than me) could pay for it all, so I'm seeking silent partners...

Also, if possible, I would like this to operate as a nonprofit. I would like my Board of Directors to be the other nonprofits from the Downtown Springfield area, and they would earmark the profits for helping to revitalize the area as needed.

The Day House will open its doors 369 days from today, and I certainly have a lot to do in the meanwhile...http://www.dnr.mo.gov/shpo/nps-nr/76001110.pdf

18 August 2010

Zuben is ecstatic!!! :-)

I surprised Zuben with fantastic news! I didn't tell him what the surprise was, but just hinted that we needed to go downtown to the Mudhouse, then I'd tell him his surprise. We had to park a block south of the Mudhouse, which was very near to his school.

He guess his surprise!!! He is going to return to his spectacularly wonderful school beginning next week!!! He didn't guess the details of course, but oh goodness, was he so super excited! He could not contain his excitement and it spilled over into his brief playtime while at the mudhouse...

I was giving a friend some tomatoes from our garden, but zuben was too excited to wait at the mudhouse any longer... He was ready to go to school! Haha! :-)BlogBooster-The most productive way for mobile blogging. BlogBooster is a multi-service blog editor for iPhone, Android, WebOs and your desktop

Blog from an iphone???

How fantastic is this new technological age we are in, that I can not only type up the most mundane and trivial things to present to you on your own screen of choice, but I can now do all such things from my phone...?

With this app, I can really become trivial with my packets of info that I share. ;-)
BlogBooster-The most productive way for mobile blogging. BlogBooster is a multi-service blog editor for iPhone, Android, WebOs and your desktop

03 August 2010

My First Chemistry Conference

BCCE - 21st Biennial Conference on Chemical Education University of Northern Texas, Denton
Since I am an undergraduate chemistry student, it is a very good idea for me to attend lectures, symposiums, expos and conferences, as often as time and money will allow. I am in a current state of self-discovery, and I like exploring my options. Some may already know, I had planned on becoming a high school chemistry teacher, but have since made other, more fitting, plans for my college career. This week there was a Chemical Education Conference that I was asked to attend by one of my professors. A faculty member had paid for everything but was unexpectedly unable to attend. Obviously I jumped at the opportunity.
Although it was to be a conference for Chemical Education, I knew that I could get something out of it. Let me tell ya...
The two other faculty members attending the conference needed to be there on Saturday, because one of them were speaking at a symposium Sunday afternoon (I thought it was Monday...), and I was having a BBQ with friends, so I drove to Texas alone.

I had almost forgotten how much I love driving across the country, exhausting myself with my best karaoke performances, and no one to have immediate reactions to my behavior. Solo road-trips would definitely be in my top-five most enjoyable activities, and I hadn't done this since I was 3.5 months pregnant with my son. I had a BLAST!!!

I arrived to the University of North Texas campus with almost the perfect amount of time to get checked-in for the conference (lots of name changing was supposed to have already been completed before I arrived), checked into my dorm room, and showered, to only end up about 5 minutes late for the opening ceremonies (which began at 6:02pm).

The rest of the day & all of the next day and a half were filled with all things Chemistry, and more specifically, Chemical Education...

Since this was my first conference, I was not fully prepared for what I was to experience. The symposiums were over-crowded, there were many lost and wandering visitors (myself included), and the vendor's area was highly over-whelming. I wasn't alone the whole time, but a majority, and I attempted to hide in plain sight by wearing headphones and trying to not make eye-contact, as I looked through the HUGE room of tables filled with displays. The headphones didn't prevent their intrusion into my bubble, and I was trapped and sucked into their spiels and misguided attempts at a sale. I may well have been the only attendee that was not an educator, and just a lowly undergraduate. Conferences are expensive, so the typical student would rarely attend... After they lassoed me in, and I had removed at least one of my earbuds, I had to attempt to make them pause, so I could explain who I really was, and let them try to reconfigure their business tactics to apply to me. Goodness. It was a difficult room to get out of...

The positive side to my conversations with these people came in the form of information to share with my fellow chem majors at MSU. These vendors loaded me up with pamphlets and brochures to spread their message, and I walked away, 3 hours later, with a very over-stuffed goodie bag.

Also, due to the over use of my iPod playing, my iPhone battery died midway through the day,and well, I was a bit more than antsy...

Overall, attending the conference was an eye-opening experience for me that I may not possibly have the ability to fully express on the emotional level, but maybe one day I will be a pro at hanging out at conferences, and there's only one way to do that....

Next conference on the books is this October, in Houston.....

27 July 2010

I got an iPhone!!!

I love my new phone so very much. I'm not sure why I didn't get one sooner. Oh, yeah, too expensive!! I became eligible for an upgrade, and they had an instant rebate that made the phone, and a cute case on clearance (that almost perfectly matches the green color of my netbook) for$150! Hello!

My mom is becoming irritated with how much of my three scholarships I have already spent (ahem, that I won't receive til the fall term begins...) but my netbook is ridiculously s . l . o . w, and with all the emails and social networking I have been doing all day everyday (I'm strangely so very busy), that I NEEDED a smart phone badly. :-)

I'm so HAPPY! :-D

A friend of mine gave me a visual through text about a happy moment he was having, and related it to the Snoopy dance. I do believe I will steal this analogy and apply it to myself.

Snoopy Dance Pictures, Images and Photos

23 July 2010

Summer School is OVER!!!

Final Grade = 93%
(and I tied for the high score on the final!)

This morning I completed my last organic chemistry lab (with enolates) and this afternoon I took my last organic lab exam. It hasn't fully sunk in yet, but it is a bittersweet victory. I will not take another organic chemistry course until I am in grad school, and that may be too distant. I thoroughly enjoyed learning as much as they could throw at me (some stuck), and I hope I have similar feelings for my upcoming sequences.

I'll be taking:
Inorganic Chem this fall, with Adv Inorganic & Synthesis in the spring
Biochemistry I this fall, with Biochem II in the spring

I think the two-semester back-to-back course was one of the reasons I loved organic so much, and hopefully this rings to be somewhat true with the other chemical disciplines...


20 July 2010

directions to . . .

I guess this is a "can't sleep, so i'm just thinking to you" sort of brainstorming session on my blog. ;-)
Growing up, I guess I was always sensitive to animals, and more specifically nature. I went along the path toward becoming a biologist of some sort. I realized at a point somewhere between enjoying being a free and sociable 20something - & - an identity crisis, that I no longer wished to put in the effort to cram all the bio stuff in anymore and that it wasn't what I was wanting to learn about at that moment of my dynamic life.

LONG BREAK to kind of explore options for personal growth (and have a wonderful child)

I am now back in school, with a goal to simply be employed with my future fancy pieces of paper, that hints to others that I will potentially be qualified for specific jobs somewhere. I have always been steered toward the sciences, by myself and many others, and am attempting now to find my little niche that could help me go beyond simply gaining employment as a scientist. I have learned that I cannot be a person that separates home and work. Is it possible to not only gain knowledge while in college (haha, that accidentally rhymed), but simultaneously discover what you want to be when you grow up? [which is funny because most people would tell me that I should already be past that point]

That is the B I G question that plagues me.

Which goes back to the intro:
Growing up, I was particularly sensitive to animals, and would refuse to eat them. Wendy's hamburger @ 5 is my earliest memory. I couldn't please my parents (carnivorous father) with nixing all animals from my diet around age 9, so I ate chickens til I was around 12 or 13. I didn't really like vegetables much either, so I was probably not nutritionally sound, and this could explain a few things...

Anyway, not really until I moved to Seattle in 2004, did I start cooking. All things were a bit pricier than they were in Missouri or South Carolina, so I became very creative. I discover something remarkable! It is
c h e a p e r to buy the simplest ingredients and put them all together yourself, especially when you don't eat animals, and a lot of the produce is locally grown.
I didn't cook every meal, but it was definitely a fantastic beginning.

Then, Mr Zuben came along. I began paying very close attention to what my body and his were telling me while I was pregnant. I wouldn't call anything about it a craving, I would just sort of mentally and gastricly search for that perfect nutritive balance. I drank a gallon of water a day as well, which I still try to do, and this possibly helped(s) me to keep my nutrients flowing through my body as they should. The greatest significance to all of this was my introduction to beans. I got my hands on a cookbook entirely devoted to beans, and it changed my spin on cooking. This was the point where I possibly, finally, could no longer be classified as anemic. All the fantastic new recipes launched me into grains and seeds, as well as all the wonderful spices and herbs.

My exploration now continues, somewhat linearly, now that I grow most of my veggies (for the whole year), and cook according to what I have on-hand. Here's a pic of our spread after one day of harvesting last summer:

Obviously when this is what you stare at everyday, this is what is cooked, to hopefully make it go away. I am definitely a lot more into cooking it all up this year. We worked VERY hard in the garden last year, and gave too much of it away. I love giving things to people that could possibly make them smile, but it bothered me a little by how much we had to give away last year, because it would spoil otherwise. This year, I am cool with handing out a random squash here and there, or frantically try and sell it on one occasion recently (which is neat to think about). I okay with this, because I am using quite a bit of effort to come up with dishes to make and freeze. I lived off muffins this past semester, in the almost literal sense, but this fall will be much more diverse. Somewhat related to this, I'm trying to write a cookbook for a fundraiser for our ACS Student Affiliates group.

So now that my life has been enveloped from so many directions by produce, and therefore, I'm closer to the ground I walk on which also grows my food, I think this is the area of employment for me. I will not be a cook. That is just for personal meditation and healthful reasons. I will apparently be a chemist. When you think of a chemist, what do you think of beyond the stereotypes? Every single thing that you can experience with your senses has something to do with chemistry, and there are many divisions made from these fascinations of nature that have chemists studying them or manipulating them to "improve a way of life."

This is where I am right now, in my thought process. I'm trying to center in on the focal point to prepare myself for employment as a health-conscious chemist.

P.S. In case anyone would like to offer suggestions for my potential career path, I do not wish to work for a pharmaceutical lab or such. I do not want to make people "think" they are improving their way of life by taking a pill. There are many other types of products made by such companies, but I think I'd like to just not choose that path.

17 July 2010

Lovin Summer!

Today, Zuben took me to the Willard Aquatic Center, and we added another punch to our summer flip-card, courtesy of the Greene County Library. We both had so much fun!!! I wish I had a waterproof camera, so I could have taken more pics. Perhaps someone else could join us next time...

AND, my family became official produce vendors today. We are called Shelburn Farm, and if you visit Homegrown Food on Cherry and Pickwick, you can find our Japanese eggplant, white eggplant, spaghetti squash and heirloom summer squash. In addition to that wonderful transaction, a lovely lady came to the house and bought 10 of our yellow summer squash.

We have never had such a plentiful harvest before, and all my mother's hard work has been truly paying off! I am trying to come up with a lot of ways to use it all, but they just keep coming! At the moment I am making vegetable stock to can & store in the pantry, but I only used 2 summer squash, and we have 30 more on the kitchen counter!In addition to the squash, I used onion, garlic, celery, carrots, parsnips, kale, oregano and thyme, all from the garden. :-)

15 July 2010

use those tomatoes!!!

This year, my parents thought it would be nice to have a TON of tomatoes, so they put 121 plants in our garden. Zuben and I also have 6 plants of our own, as part of my experimental area, since I want to know how to grow everything I like to eat. Yesterday I had to bring in about 20 tomatoes, because the plants were too heavy, and 3/6 fell over!!! Lesson learned: Don't put tomatoes in a raised bed, because the roots will be too shallow. I chopped most of them up, so that I can can pints of salsa. Also, rather than can silly stewed tomatoes, I'm trying to use them in dishes that I can make now, then freeze for a day when I can't cook. Here's a super yummy cheesy-veggie lasagna that I made, with all the leftovers heading to the freezer.

Cheesy-Veggie Lasagna

Insanely Easy Tomato Sauce
1lb 12oz tomatoes, skins removed, chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon basil, finely

Put the garlic and salt into a mortar, and grind to a paste with the pestle.
In a medium-sized saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Add garlic paste, stir twice, then add tomatoes, juice and all.
Simmer about 5 minutes, then do what you want to get it to the chunk-level you prefer.(I kept mine chunky)

6 lasagna noodles, cooked
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 zucchini, diced
4 button mushrooms, chopped
1 1/2 cups broccoli florets, bite-sized
10 ounces chard, stems removed and chopped

12 ounces cottage cheese, drained
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
2 eggs
10 ounces shredded cheese (I used Jarlsburg, because I was out of mozzarella)

In a medium-sized sauce pan, heat oil over medium heat. Saute onion until soft and slightly golden. Then add the garlic, continuing to saute for a couple more minutes. Throw in the zucchini, and cook another 3 or 4 minutes, until the zucchini is just slightly softened. Add the mushroom and broccoli, sauteing for 2 more minutes with quite a bit of stirring. Turn off the heat, add the tomato sauce, and set aside.

In a separate saucepan, steam the chopped chard in just a bit of water until wilted, about 4 minutes. Let it cool enough so you can squeeze out all the water. In a mixing bowl, and using your hands, mix the drained cottage cheese, eggs, chard and parmesan until uniform.

In a casserole dish, put a bit of the tomato/veggie mixture to line the bottom. Place three lasagna noodles, sides touching, on top. Next layer the lasagna with half the cottage cheese mixture, then half of the remaining tomato mixture, three more noodles, then the rest of the cottage cheese, the rest of the tomato mix, then top with shredded cheese.

Bake in a pre-heated 350F oven for about 1 hour. When the cheese is golden and the sauce is bubbling, remove it from the oven, and let it sit for at least 15 minutes before serving.

14 July 2010

The Ultimate Fate of the Banana

When my mom visits the grocery store, she will invariably bring home a HUGE bunch of green bananas. Within a couple days, they're at their peak, but they don't always get eaten in time... Sound familiar? This happens frequently here, and I usually make muffins with the stinky, gooey over-ripe bananas, but today I grabbed some blueberries from the fridge, and made this yummy loaf.

Blueberry Banana Oat-loaf with Walnuts

1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup applesauce
2 eggs
2 ripe bananas, mashed
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon wheat gluten
1/2 cup oatmeal
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup fresh blueberries

Preheat oven to 325F
In a medium-sized bowl,combine the sugar and applesauce with a fork, until homogenous.
One at a time, add the eggs, stirring well. Mix in the mashed banana. Stir aggressively for a couple minutes to add a bit of air.
In a separate bowl, combine the flour, gluten, oatmeal, salt, baking soda and baking powder.
Add walnut pieces to flour mixture, then slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, mixing in a folding motion with a rubber spatula. Don't overly mix. Once satisfied that all the powder has mixed into the batter, gently fold in the blueberries.
Pour the batter into an oiled loaf pan. Bake in the preheated oven 60-65 minutes, and until the center is cooked, according to a toothpick test.
After removed from the oven, let sit until room temperature for a softer crust, or let cool about 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack, which allows for a harder crust.

Jumping on this bandwagon...

I'd like to think I will add to this at least weekly, but we shall see. When I took a poetry class this past semester, I often found myself thinking in prose. Will ideas come to me in blog? haha

I guess my reasons for this blog adventure stem from my <3 for many many things that I find beautiful in my world. When I accidentally get a glimpse of the new moon, with its menacing Cheshire cat smile, I must tell the world to "Look at the moon!" If there appears to be a gigantic gargoyle looming in the clouds, waiting for just the right gust of wind to transform it in into a beautiful unicorn, then I'd like to have others look up and share my excitement for the organized chaos of suspended water vapor.

This could be how this blog goes, but I will definitely share my newest favorite recipes, new (and old) fantastic musical treasures, and perhaps a few pics here and there of my beautiful son, Zuben.

Happy blogging to you too, and I might possibly have something more for you to read very soon.