Sunday, February 11, 2018

#11 - Watch 3 Academy Award-Winning Films I've never Seen

Well, this didn't go as planned. Apparently I am not a fan of movies from the 70's. I mean, I guess it's not that when the industry was run entirely by men, this kind of stuff was not only okay but considered the best. I'm just glad the 70's got a few movies right. Just not these ones, in my opinion.

1 - The French Connection (1971)
I've been bored by Academy Award winners in the past, but I've never actively disliked one. I did not like this movie. From two scenes in I was actively rooting for Gene Hackman's character to die. I don't even know any of the characters' names. Well, there was definitely some stereotypical New York Italian guy named Sonny, obviously, but no one important. None of the characters were interesting. They were all flat. No one was likable. I mean, part way through, they say something to Gene Hackman about how the last time he screwed up a cop got killed. And then never say what happened. But just let home dude continue running wild, getting people killed. And why did he stand out in the cold so long that one day? And then at the end there are really basic, unsatisfying one liners that pop up and say what happened to each character I didn't care about. Obviously the cops turned out fine while everyone else had some actual punishment. I still don't get it. Were they the good guys? Like, I'm not even asking that from 2018 and considering policing in our country where he was clearly a bad guy. I legit do not know if Gene Hackman was supposed to be a good guy in 1971. So... I hope the next two films I watch this year are better. Geesh.

2 - Rocky (1976)
I didn't get this one either. Like, sure, underdog story and the boxing scenes were shot well. Maybe it was the "love" story that threw me off: the one that started with Rocky stalking Adrienne, gaslighting her into coming into his apartment, and then forcing a kiss that winds up with them on the floor, which I supposed was supposed to be romantic, but was actually pretty scary. But, like so many old movie love stories, sexual assault makes a girl fall in love with a guy because aggression is so attractive. It's made me think a lot about how guys are taught scary and creepy behavior in all kinds of ways. Anyways, I didn't dislike the movie overall, I just don't think it holds up compared to so many other Academy Award winners.

3 - Annie Hall (1977)
Nope. Hated it. An early manic pixie dream girl film clearly written by a self-obsessed dude. Like, in real life, all of those beautiful women would not be falling all over a mediocre comedian. Dream on. Sure, once Woody Allen had money, he could pull beautiful women, but in this film, it just says he is a comedian who was on Johnny Carson a few times. But he's so obnoxious, so needy, so particular, that no quality woman would ever put up with that shit. I do not at all understand why this film won best picture. And it won over Star Wars? And Close Encounters of the Third Kind? Just gross and I plan to never watch another Woody Allen film in my life.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

#2 - Try Crossfit

First item of the 2018! I have a lot of items on the list this year about being more active. Last year, I was tired, physically, mentally, emotionally, financially. After a year of being kind and forgiving to myself, I finally have the energy to take care of myself in more active ways. I even got myself a cheaper version of a Fit Bit to track my weekly activity and sleep. It's actually gotten me to walk more, so it's already worth the $30 I paid for it. (Thanks, Amazon Deals!)

During the week, I've been doing an okay job about running a couple days a week and will pick back up with yoga once I remember to block my class off in my calendar to avoid getting stuck in meetings at that time. But I've been awful about working out on the weekends. There's a Crossfit box (Primary Crossfit) just around the corner from my apartment and figured this might be a solution as it's an indoor workout for this miserable weather and a super convenient location. However, I don't generally like group fitness classes, so I was also skeptical I would like it. But, Primary Crossfit offers a first class for free and has beginner classes, so no risk and I wouldn't need to jump right in.

I went on a Monday night of a three-day weekend where I had been pretty sedentary. It was really dark inside when I got there and I realized there was a yoga class going on in the back. The instructor greeted me quietly. I felt bad walking in on the end of their practice, but it's just one big space, and it was single digits outside, so that's really all we could do.

There were only three of us in the class, me and two dudes. The instructor was really good at checking in on me, asking if I was familiar with what the different activities were.

We started with a rowing warm up, and he seemed impressed I actually knew how to use an erg properly, something most people have never been taught. It's a super great cardio workout, especially if you're low on time, so I highly recommend learning it if you haven't before!

We then went into the strength activity of the day, which was front squats to a one-rep max. I was a little surprised that I was going to one-rep max an exercise I'd never done before on my first day in Crossfit, but I suppose it wasn't the most risky lift, and whenever I took a turn, he watched and gave me feedback about my form. It was kinda fun to experiment and see how much I could lift.

Then we went into the WOD (workout of the day). It was 3 minutes each of rowing, box step overs with hand weights, and thrusters (front squat into an overhead lift) with 1 minute of rest between each. I was like, okay, totally manageable, I just need to pace myself so I can make it through the second set. During the first set, I was like, okay, this is kinda fun. It was challenging and repetitive but as soon as I was super bored, the 3 minutes was up and it was time to do something else completely different. I had to take a few breaks during the thrusters with the weight I'd selected, but my heart rate was up and I was ready for round 2. Except then there wasn't a second set. There was only one set. I totally had some juice left in the tank. Oops. I still had a great workout though.

After the class, the instructor chatted with us as we layered up in boots and coats. He explained how workouts are timed throughout the day and stats are posted with rankings of who had done the best. They also keep track of everyone's bests: lifts, times, etc., so you can compete against yourself. Then there are also community-building events, like days when boxes everywhere are doing the same workout, so you get to compete on behalf of your community. There is definitely a supportive, social aspect that is very appealing, much like why I loved Mosaic yoga classes
so much even though there are obvious differences in purpose and activity.

So, overall, I liked it. I get the appeal. I get why people are religious about it. I would go back... if it weren't for the cost. I just can't justify paying much to workout because I've always gotten a gym membership for free. So, I'm going to stay on their e-mail list and anytime there's a deal, I'm going to snap it up!

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

#37 - Run 150 Miles (Fail)

So thankful for the lake shore path.
New path near my parents' house in Michigan

I didn't quite make it this year. Today, December 27, I'm just over 106. I've always been a runner but in a weirdly inconsistent manner. I'll go months running multiple days a week and then months with no running at all. I've learned a few things about my habits. 1) If there's a treadmill regularly in my line of sight, I'll run. 2) I'd rather surf, play beach volleyball, hike, wakeboard, and all other kinds of California-y things. So I never felt guilty about not running there because I convinced myself I wouldn't be able to do those other super fun things once I left and I'd be able to run anywhere. I do think I missed out on some beautiful Cali runs though. 3) I'll show up to run if I know there will be cute boys working out nearby. I mean, it's true. 4) When I'm in a healthy working environment surrounded by people who strive to care for themselves, I do a better job taking care of myself too.

While I'm lacking #1, #2, and #3 from above, I'm now working in Campus Recreation at DePaul, which is housed in the Ray Meyer Recreation Center, a lovely campus recreation facility. Even better, my coworkers not only value health and, more specifically, physical activity, they are ALL regularly active. It's hard to rationalize my lack of activity when literally everyone I work with finds the time and energy. I'm so thrilled to be a member of a team that values self care.

Spaced throughout this post are pictures from runs I've been on throughout the year. Yes, I do stop and take pictures during my runs, even during races. I'll spare you the treadmill ones from the end of the year.

#61 - Learn All of the Techniques in Ruhlman's 20 (Fail)

Apparently dissertation gifts are a thing... and they are
I'm sure I've bragged to you, but K Rob, who was my roommate for four years in San Diego, is a ridiculously fantastic cook. I was really lucky that he shared his cooking/baking/etc. with me so often. He also inspired me to step up my own game in the kitchen. 

For graduation, K Rob gave me a couple gifts, and lately, I have really been digging on Ruhlman's 20, a "cookbook" that is more of a guide to being a better person in the kitchen. Ruhlman discusses 20 essential chef techniques, giving a thorough explanation of each and why it is important. Then, he provides several recipes for each technique for practice. It's a really great cookbook that is really much more than a cookbook.

I thought I'd make it all the way through, but busy schedules, Polish cooking, and excuses got in the way. While my plan was to go chronologically by recipe, that also didn't work out. Sometimes ingredients were out of season. Often, I didn't have the proper kitchen equipment. Sometimes I wanted to experiment with something simpler or easier to transport (to be explained later). 

Ruhlman starts with very rudimentary and extremely important techniques. For example, the first technique is "THINK," where you literally learn to think about what you're about to do and to best prepare so things go smoothly with any attempt. I haven't taken pictures of all of the cooking I've done. I'd like to blame that on doing proper thinking and being mindful in my kitchen, but it's probably just as much that I have the worst short-term memory of all time and forgot. Here are my Ruhlman-inspired adventures:


I don't have any pictures for this one, but I now practice it anytime I cook anything. I read through the recipe thoroughly and note any steps that take a lot of prep or a lot of time. I then pull out all ingredients, pots, pans, bowls, utensils, appliances. Do I forget things? Yes. All the time. But the point in doing this is that when I forget one thing, I have time to grab it. I'm not also trying to keep something from overcooking and grab three things and figure out where I left the oven mitt. I've even gotten to the point where I pull out ramekins and pre-measure herbs, spices, and chopped/diced/etc. ingredients. Everything is prepped and ready to throw in at the right time. It also makes it much easier to clean up as I go. When something needs to bake for 8 minutes on each side, I take all the empty ramekins and have 8 minutes to clean them knowing the next step is all ready to go. Game changing approach to cooking.

SALT: Raw Zucchini Salad

When I was younger, I was anti-salt. I didn't salt anything and was proud of myself for it. Boy, I was an idiot. Salt = flavor. While the U.S. certainly uses too much salt, particularly as a preservative to make foods last longer, when you cook from scratch, you get to choose exactly how much salt to ingest and can add flavor without overdoing the sodium.

I learned a bit more about the importance of seasoning food while living with K Rob. However, Ruhlman really breaks down not only the importance of salt in seasoning food but how salt can affect different types of foods differently: vegetables, meats, fish, etc. I can't want to experiment more with how to draw water out or how to pull flavors in using salt. So fascinating.

Back when I was trying to work my way through the recipes in the book chronologically, my timing was fantastic as the first recipe was a raw zucchini salad and it was early fall. It turned out fantastic. I was amazed and how the salt made the zucchini into a fresh, almost pasta-like salad. I've already made it several times. Angelia Mioglionico tried it too, and she at least said she liked it.

The other salt recipe I tried was lemon confit, which is basically lemons, cut in half, covered in salt and sugar, and placed in a dark cupboard for three months. Then, once preserved, they get cut into smaller pieces and used to amp of the flavor of, well, anything. I can't quite figure out what to use them in though, so they're just chilling in my cabinet.


I had not considered all of the ways water is used in cooking and how unique it is compared to other liquids in the kitchen. My first attempt at a recipe intentionally using water as a technique was a meatloaf cooked in a water bath. Dang, this meatloaf and the from-scratch chipotle ketchup certainly required a lot of labor, but the water bath really kept the loaf moist (there's that word, Holly). It was a successful first dish for my Sunday night dinners with the Zanns (though I took no pictures).

4. ONION: Maybe next year

ACID: Apple Cider Vinegar Tarts

This was a technique that was totally new to me. I mean, I'd obviously used acid in my food before but I'd never thought of it as "adding acid." So interesting. After some practice, I am excited to balance out heavier recipes with adding the appropriate acid.

My first experiment with acid was an apple cider vinegar tart, which became mini tarts. I thought the concept was interesting, and they were perfect for bringing to Sunday night dinners with the Zanns because I could prep them whenever as long as I gave them enough time to set. Apparently I can use the same recipe and switch out apple cider vinegar for lemon juice, which I'm psyched about because I love lemon tarts. The only issue was that I didn't have a tart pan, so making the tart dough would have required buying a tart pan, and after all the spending I'd done that week for a chili cookoff  at work (enamel pot, immersion blender, dried chilies, whole spaces, a space grinder, and then the rest of the chili ingredients), I couldn't justify a tart pan for one tart. But now that the recipe went so well, I will definitely look into a tart pan. Delightful.

ACID: Pulled Pork
I also tried out a pulled pork recipe. And... damn, this sucker is good. I first made it for dinner with Zann and Holly and then again for my housewarming party just a week later. We ate it as mini sandwiches with BBQ and homemade coleslaw. However, after my housewarming party I used it to make pulled pork nachos. Hell yes.

6. EGG

My first egg experiment was aioli (a.k.a. mayonaisse with garlic). As I blended the 5 ingredients, slowly pouring in the oil as directed, I marveled at how easy it was. And then it turned from an aioli texture to a liquid. I tried to follow the directions for broken mayo. Nope. So I washed everything and started over, and this time I was successful. And it was delicious. I doubt I'll ever buy any version of mayo again. It took about 5 minutes start to finish, was way tastier than anything that comes in a bottle, is easy to flavor, and has no preservatives or extra chemicals.


I have several techniques in here to try. The easiest was to make compound butter. I didn't even have the right ingredients. I subbed green onions for chives because the grocery store by me is a little weird. I used the butter on the steak and baked potato. DAMN. ESCALATED MY GAME, SON. Seriously, "learn" how to make compound butter. It's so easy and it makes everything taste SO MUCH GOOD.


I learned so much in this chapter. Technically, pancakes fall under batter (the following chapter), but after reading the dough chapter, I made pancakes. The first one was super cakey. So cakey it was thick and not cooking all the way through. I knew why and how to fix it. I mean. Gluten and fats, man. Mind blown.

I then decided to make the Snickerdoodle recipe as a thank you to my lovely coworkers who were super supportive at my first big event in my "new" job.

9. BATTER: Maybe next year

10. SUGAR: Maybe next year

11. SAUCE: Maybe next year

Impatience got the better of me with this one. I made a rustic pan sauce for a roast chicken, but I was also hungry and impatient at how long it was taking to reduce. So I reduced the wine, prematurely poured in the water, and didn't reduce it enough. So it was a pretty watery sauce. Despite the time it takes to reduce, this was pretty simple, and I'll definitely try my hand at more sauces.


Definitely didn't take a picture of the lemon pepper vinaigrette I made for a salad for another lovely dinner at the Zann's. It was tangy, light, and outrageously easy. I will certainly be making this again. It's silly to say, but salads are so much more fun when I can change up tasty dressings so often and so easily. I will never again buy a bottled vinaigrette. Making them yourself is easier, cheaper, tastier, healthier, and less of a commitment.

13. SOUP

SOUP: Red Pepper Soup
In the book, there was this outrageously simple soup recipe that Ruhlman claimed came from the French Laundry: red pepper soup. So, I gave it a try with the Zann clan. It was good, and I'll make it again, but there have to be better options if one were actually dining at the French Laundry. It did make me want to try it again, this time without straining it as the texture might have been nice, and it also made me want to try other versions with vegetables, like squash.

14. SAUTE: Maybe next year


I've always been a bit of a roaster. Neither roasting nor pan roasting was new to me. But it was awesome to learn some techniques and how to use butter well with these two recipes, made for me, by me, just because I wanted to try them. It's really fun to eat well on the regular, especially when I can't really afford to eat out at the moment.

Roast Pork Loan
Brown Butter Roast Cauliflower
I did two roasts for one meal for this one: roast cauliflower with brown butter and roast pork loin. The roast cauliflower was so easy and incredibly good. I can't wait to let this be my special contribution to dinners. The brown butter complimented the vegetable so well and left it with a rich, warm flavor. Incredible. The pork loin was more of a typical marinade, sear, roast, and baste. Still incredibly easy and really tasty. It was a fantastic winter meal that I'll certainly have again.

I did another roast a few weeks later at a Zann dinner. This was just a simple roast whole chicken, something I've made several times before. I think I actually like my usual recipe a bit better. I also made a pan sauce, which I was too impatient to finish properly (described above).

16. BRAISE: Maybe next year

17. POACH: Maybe next year

18. GRILL: Maybe next year

19. FRY: Maybe next year

20. CHILL: Maybe next year

#36 - Read 40 Books (Fail)

My word for the first half of 2017 was "recovery."

2016 tore me down pretty good. I finished and defended my dissertation. I did a national search for a full-time job. All while working 4 part-time jobs and still not making ends meet. I moved coast-to-coast, from San Diego to Boston. During my first month in Boston a guy tried to break in twice in one night when I was home alone at my temporary apartment. I "moved" 5 times in 6 months while living in Boston because I couldn't find a place to live that I could afford. I never felt safe. I could never make ends meet. I was bored and frustrated at work. Even my volleyball teammates had zero chill.

I finally had some luck in that a position opened at DePaul and they decided to hire me.

January was still a bit rough with car and financial troubles, but relief was in sight. So once I found an apartment, I gave myself permission to take care of myself and recover. I worked 2 side jobs, but I didn't pressure myself to be productive in addition to that and when I was tired on the weekends, I rested.

Finally, in July, I was feeling more like myself. I said goodbye to the scarcity lens of 2016 and changed my word to "abundance." Yes, I had 3 jobs, but I got them because I'd done such good work for so long that good people wanted to work with me. I'm surrounded and gushing with appreciation for my coworkers and superiors. My jobs allowed some financial relief. I have some of my oldest friends here, and they like to do the things I like to do, even things I didn't even know I liked to do. Goodness is flowing.

What wasn't flowing in 2017 was extra time. So this was all a flowery excuse for not reading more. Plus, I am halfway through War and Peace, so that could have been at least 26 more books on its own, right? Still, I read some great books this year, so my brain is finally ready for additional challenges!

Thank you to everyone who gifted or suggested a book to me this year!

*1 - Catching in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
1/1/17 (for the umpteenth time)

2 - A Feast for Crows by George R. R. Martin
1/29/17 (for the 2nd time), loaned to me by Kevin Robitaille

3 - You'll Grow Out of It by Jessie Klein
2/9/17, gifted to me by Kevin Robitaille

4 - Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham
2/19/17, gifted to me by Kevin Robitaille

**5 - Best American Short Stories 2008 edited by Salman Rushdie

6 - The Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell
3/21/17, gifted to me by Jerry Krone

*7 - Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut
3/27/17 (for the umpteenth time)

8 - Fight Club by Chuck Palaniuk
4/9/17, gifted to me by Kevin Robitaille

9 - Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell
4/16/17, gifted to me by Jerry Krone

10 - Shopgirl by Steve Martin

11 - The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Mari Kontiki
7/23/17, gifted to me by Jerry Krone

12 - Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
7/24/17, for the Michigania East Book Club, which included Lynn Halpern, Janet Halpern, Linda Dreeban, Kathy Krone, Jerry Krone, Linda Imboden, Julie Kreiss, Mike Holczer, Joel Kreiss, and so many others that I cannot remember at the moment.

13 - 1984 by George Orwell

14 - Between the World and Me by Ta-nehisi Coates

Friday, November 17, 2017

#87 - Visit 3 New Museums

Yet another list item that just fell right into my lap. The first two museums were field trips for a course I was team teaching this quarter and the last was during my visit to Austin.

1. I served as a staff professional for the Explore Chicago program at DePaul, a first-year experience course that has components of an academic course with a theme, opportunities to learn more about Chicago, and about 10 hours of material focused on supporting students in their transition to college. Our first field trip as a class was to the Chicago History Museum, a museum I had been planning to visit, had even bought a Groupon for, years back.

We only had about an hour there, and I hope to return. The museum was fascinating, which makes sense, as Chicago is a fascinating city. The visit reminded me to get outside of my Chicago bubble and experience what this city really has to offer. It also reconnected me with my intention to learn more about this great city and all of its bizarre origins and history.

Effing weird ass tickets from the World's Fair

2. Later in the quarter we took a trip to the Jane Addams Hull House. I find this piece of Chicago history to be fascinating as it is at the intersection of true service to a community in need and the White savior complex. Jane Addams built a settlement to serve one of the poorest, most under-served areas of Chicago. She took the time to integrate herself into the community and earn its trust. But she also maintained her White, upperclass lifestyle and appearance, insisting that to change herself to better fit the community she served would be at best pandering and at worst pathetic and insulting.

Only two buildings of the original settlement remain, as the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) purchased the entire property. They had planned to tear down the entire settlement, but protesters eventually convinced them to keep the original house and dining hall, which now stand as a museum. The change in the area is another fascination I have with urban areas, particularly Chicago: urban redevelopment and/or gentrification. As a higher education professional, I generally assume real estate used in the service of education is a positive thing. I often forget that universities, like any other organization, search for the cheapest, easiest real estate, and so frequently target low-income communities who do not have the funds nor political power to fight back. They are forced out of their homes and must relocate. As someone who has relocated and is also White, perceived as upper middle class, very well educated, heterosexual, and currently able bodied, relocating has been incredibly stressful for me at times. Those with less privilege in any of those identities not only struggle more with the expense of relocating and also must worry about whether or not they will be welcomed into a new neighborhood or even by a landlord.

3. While in Austin for my birthday trip with UMCSD friends, I was generally just going with the flow with a stated preference for being outside. The last day, we ended up in the Umlauf Sculpture Garden and Museum. It wasn't until I left Austin that I realized, oh, that was a museum, that counts. It was definitely my style of garden, winding paths around wildly, unkempt greenery and unusual sculptures.

It was also family day, so there were approximately a million children as well as some interactive activities. My favorite was the option to become a musically inspired sculpture, though I did enjoy the snapshot I took of a balloon artist explaining balloon artistry to a very attentive child. My second favorite was when Da Jung insisted we take a path up some stairs to another area, which was a beautiful path... to nowhere. My third favorite was a sculpture of a tiny horse.
Saddest statue

Actually, my first favorite was spending time with my lovely friends.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

#47 - Kayak on a River

Selfie lessons on the river
While it's certainly gratifying to complete a big list item, one that requires a lot of planning, commitment, and work... It's also really lovely when something off my list happens naturally.

Lately I've been feeling that I'm at a place in my life where though I have financial, mental, emotional worries, I feel as if I'm thriving socially. Not only do have intelligent, kind, fun-loving, ambitious, beautiful people in my life whom I can call friends, but because of them, I constantly get to do things I want to do. I have regular plans with the Zanns twice a week. Masters is always organizing some fun, new experience with other fantastic people. I get to have long conversations over wine and weird liquors with my parents. And sometimes I have the good fortune of being able to connect with friends who live hundreds of miles away and they take all the work out of planning my birthday trip by planning a trip they want to go on and choose things to do that happen to be on this list.

Beautiful backdrop for a paddle

2009 - Las Vegas, NV
2010 - Louisville, KY
2011 - Kalamazoo, MI
2012 - Hollywood, CA
2013 - San Juan, PR
2015 - Kona, HI
2016 - Portland, ME
2017 - Austin, TX

This year as I contemplated where to go, some friends of mine from San Diego started planning a trip to Austin... in November. Perfect. 

I met Da Jung, Karl, and Jon through the University of Michigan Club of San Diego (UMCSD). I'm so thankful for the people, including Karl, who put so much work into that club, and I hope they know how important their work is. Through UMCSD I was able to make friends outside of school while working on my PhD. We played kickball, went on hikes, went to happy hours, and eventually planned things on our own with each other because we were actually friends. When things were tough academically, I had a group of friends who were supportive, kind, and fun. As moving makes friendship very inconvenient and a lot of work, I'm thankful that I've stayed in regular contact with several of my UMCSD friends, including these three.

Since I left San Diego, Da Jung moved to Austin, so here we are in Austin, just over a year since I've last seen any of them, and it's so nice to be reassured that I have lasting authentic relationships from San Diego. It's also nice that they did a lot of research on what to do and like to do things that I like to do. One of those things just so happened to be kayaking.

I like turtles.
What a deal at $10/hour at the boathouse. Jon, Da Jung, and I took a paddle down Lady Bird Lake, a part of the Colorado River. The weather was perfect, the views were lovely, and there were so many turtles.

While this wasn't quite the river kayaking I imagined, I'm counting it as it's much different than the sea kayaking I've done previously. I much preferred river kayaking as I didn't get seasick. I definitely need to look into some paddle sports on the Chicago River and Lake Michigan.

Thanks, friends, for a lovely weekend.