Saturday, October 16, 2010

Returning Soon - The Life of Jenny

Just a little post to acknowledge the long pause on blogging, and say not to worry. You haven't missed much as I'm mostly writing my thesis these fact, doing pretty much nothing else but writing for quite a few weeks now!

The scene. This is my whole world at the moment. Pretty wild, huh?

At least things are starting to round the corner, and I should be done with my Master's by Thanksgiving. And really, since this is the first and only book I see myself writing in my lifetime, the process and experience have been pretty interesting most of the time. But it's been such a crazy year all around that it seems nice to be coming up to the holidays and almost be done with 2010.

So, here goes the last stretch of my degree, and I look forward to taking a deep breath and getting back to lots of fun stuff soon. Despite my spending most of this fall indoors, it's been the most picturesque one I've seen yet here in Pullman. I definitely hope to get outside again soon. And to end, this is one of the funnier things I had to take a picture of lately. This is what happens when your boyfriend goes home to visit his family and the farm for a weekend during harvest season, and knows your stuck indoors: he brings the whole season home to you!

Hopefully writing again soon!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Hoppy Easter Everyone!

It was a great, relaxing weekend here on the Palouse! After an action-packed two weeks since Spring Break, I finally had time for a whole weekend at home doing what I always wish I could get done. Being the sad-grad that I am, the things were actually just random errands, some apartment chores, going to the gym, finishing all my grading for the week EARLY, a little cooking/baking, reading (a non-science book), general hanging out, and of course updating the blog =). Since my big announcement of last blog that I'll be staying in Pullman until December, though, I'm hoping more weekends will fit my non-research activities. Especially hitting that gym, since Bryan and I decided to enter a tandem biathlon in late May. That's right, I'm gonna run - competitively!!

As for tonight, although the weekend was wonderfully calm, it's still back to the mid-week action for me, so just a quick entry to share some cute pictures from the holiday. I hope everyone else had a fun day and lots of chocolate/rabbits/eggs/peeps/etc. wherever you were!

The cute-but-creepy Easter surprise I made for my bug-scientist boyfriend =) I was pretty proud when I found foil-covered chocolate bugs and candy rocks, and this is probably the most crafty thing I'll ever think up for him

He just couldn't resist! Or is he trying to be cute for the camera?

The funniest thing all day? After ~1 hour in my kitchen putting together his perfect, layered pudding/wafer/banana desert, topped ever-so-elegantly with graham cracker bunnies, he just happened to drop the bowl's lid right into the middle about immediately after this photo...

Once we made it to our rabbit-themed gathering of grad student friends, how to entertain a roomful of ecologists? How about a weirdly serious animated film about warring bunny tribes (a.k.a. Watership Down)? I recommend it if you're ever in the mood for the most unlikely combination of cartoons and the reality of death.

In the end, a pretty adorable Easter "family" of some very good friends =)

Happy Spring Everyone!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Spring Break Sunshine

Back from the Phoenix trip and missing Spring Break already, I can't believe my time off went by so fast! It was a great trip though and just what I needed to rest up for the last end-of-semester and finals period of my life (whoo hoo!). It was most definitely sunny and warm in AZ, so nice in fact that I even dared to bare my whiter-than-ever legs in shorts just about every day. I won't show you a picture of how much sun the back of my neck accidentally soaked up on the second day while hiking...forgot to sunscreen just one little part of me for a few hours, but BOY did that turn out to be silly. At least though it gave my dad the joke that he was hanging out with his redneck daughter the rest of the week. And oh well, it could have gone way worse considering I was jumping from northern winter into springtime desert with my complexion!

Most of the trip was spent just relaxing and hanging out with family, a pretty nice combination and change from the usual. I finally got to meet my new baby step-niece, Aubrey, and catch up with her older sisters Paige and Grace when they taught me how to play their favorite Wii dancing game. I gotta say, I was never interested in this Wii business before, but you try jumping around for a few music videos with two active, elementary-school-aged girls and you'll know it's not a bad workout!

Me (in shorts, woa!) with the girls (awwww)

Probably my favorite parts of the trip were just getting out into some perfect spring weather. We did one bigger hike up South Mountain on St. Pat's day, and with all the rain AZ's gotten this El Nino year it was appropriate for the holiday being the greenest I've ever seen the desert!

A beautiful day for a beautiful walk!

The poppies were out just in time

And we of course did some geocaching. Take a look at some of the ridiculous places people manage to hide these things?!

Can you see the hidden container?

Here it was. I know my dad loves this hobby, but I haven't decided for myself yet if I think it's fun, or just plain cruel...

The deadliest one of the week; you had to cross about a 1/8 mile cholla cactus mine-field to get to it. Those little yellowy bumps on the ground are all baby cacti...eek!

And finally, a cool spot one walk took us to. This is a brand new park in Chandler built on top of an old landfill!

The only big surprise of the trip was a day of real-live rain. I guess it wasn't quite the same as northern spring snow/slush, but as you can see from the surface of the pool, still pretty dramatic:

Since then it was back to Pullman, and of course back to school. Only a month now until summer break, so getting excited to be done with my last class ever and take one "job" off my daily list! Still a few class projects to finish up, but also some exciting news just came of one big meeting this week with my Thesis Advisory Committee: I'll be staying in Pullman until December! My work is going really well, so this change isn't at all a bad thing, it's more that they actually find my project worthwhile enough to pay a little bit more for. From my end I can now have a slightly calmer time writing up my thesis and a few good manuscripts, so a little bit of a paradigm shift, but all around a positive decision. I guess I get to enjoy a long happy summer on the Palouse, and keep my little apartment that I love for longer.

And then what, you ask? Time to start finding a job...

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


PHEW, what a past month! Yes, I got a bit side-tracked from posting here, but not to worry as mostly all I was up to for February was slaving away in lab! Things are going ok there, and we've now set that I'll be walking at graduation on May 8th and turning in my thesis/defending in August, but boy is a Master's Degree a looottttt to do! In addition to my own data and plants to take care of, we've also been hosting a visiting scientist named Flo from one of the leading labs in my field (so in a totally dorky way, you might say an associate of a celebrity among C4 plant physiologists...). Between collaborating with him at work and the fact that he's staying in Bryan's place while here, I think a shocking amount of my time went into talking plants. Luckily though, he's a pretty cool dude, so working with good people like Flo makes being so absorbed in work actually more fun than it sounds.

Of course I didn't spend ALL my time working. Actually, one of the more fun things about the month was simply an exciting series of boxes delivered from home that really helped brighten up Valentine's Day and the end of winter! And, even for February, there's always something good outdoors for Bryan and I to get into. So of the more interesting events, I'll summarize in photos:

A big box of So. Cal. sunshine, courtesy of one farmer Papa

Nothing makes a snowy week seem a little nicer than something blooming on your windowsill in spite of it. The bulb this started as came along with several other Valentine's Day surprises from my mom

Can you believe my stepmom made this? It was actually my birthday present, but since it came this past month it's been so bright and happy to wake up to. Sure gives me a lot to live up to with my own sewing projects!

Trip of the month: Camping over Memorial Day/Valentine's weekend at the Wenaha River, northeastern OR. I think this pretty much instantly became my favorite spot within 2 hours of Pullman (it's just due South, but look how beautiful and different from the Palouse!)

Me looking pretty fancy for our ultra-classy Valentine's Day camping weekend

That's a little better =)

On the trail that lead us to this part of Oregon. A VERY cool walk, although we only were only able to make it along a few miles due to rain. Hope to get back again this spring or summer


Well, at least traces of wildlife. We were hoping to see some mountain goats. That didn't pan out, but weird thing, by the tracks we found we were pretty sure THIS goat was following US!

And finally, looking good in some blue mud we found in all the bizarre rocks on the trail

Back in Pullman, I finally got a good shot of the giant cows on campus while out for a recent bike ride. For reference, the shed at left is designed to cover the heads of normal-sized cows

And final little adventure of late, Bryan and I got a pet crawdad! We took a randomly warm day toward the end of the month to do homework at the Snake River, and for whatever reason decided to try and catch something...

It only took 4 hours, but here's what I caught! I guess I would have liked to catch a few more for dinner, but when you only catch one thing all day...

You bring it home and have a pet! Bryan named him Sir Agustus, but I like just Gus. We've since added two fish to his tank, Zip and Ploppy(!)

So there you have it, February 2010. Next thing I'll have to report is my spring break, which I'm happily just beginning at my Dad's house in Phoenix, AZ. All we have planned is hanging out, a little hiking, and visiting with the family, and that is just fine for me! So I'll get back to soaking up some sun, hope you all have a fun start to your springs wherever you may be, and I'll be back to share soon!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Ohhhh January

A pretty mellow week to report here. Just been settling back into the teaching/classes schedule at work and otherwise enjoying my happy little apartment at home. It was actually pretty amazing weather for Pullman earlier last week (up in the 40's!), but by the time I had any free daylight hours this weekend it had gone back to a little bit snowy and a lot bit foggy. I've always wondered if the weather gods have an inside scoop on my schedule so they can plan these sorts of things...

The view from my balcony. I began to feel like I live in a cloud!

But I guess I still made decent use of indoor time with some typically nerdy, Jenny-type projects. I worked on my next sewing attempts, still sticking with Lindsey's vintage apron pattern set I used for the Christmas apron, but trying two more with some cool veggie fabric I found. I figure I might as well make useful things as I'm learning, and this ties together me learning to sew with me learning to cook. Plus it won't hurt to look good in the kitchen, right? I guess that will depend on how they turn out, but I'm optimistic so far.

Aprons in their early phases.

I'll keep you posted as I go

So that, the gym, and a movie was the majority of my relaxation time all weekend (I rented Lars and the Real Girl, it's pretty great if you like the category of happy-funny-odd). I did take a few breaks though to stretch my legs with Bryan, and we did get into something new; we geocached, and right in our own neighborhood! He owns a GPS and has been reading up on the hobby lately, and just between our apartments and a nearby trail we've already found 3! Ok, ok, I know it's not quite the staggering record that SOMEBODY has (Dad =) ), but it's a start and gave us an excuse to get out even in all the slush. Since I helped, Bryan signed me up as his fellow geocacher - we're the "lost botanists," cache count 3. At this moment I'll just say that I feel pretty darned high-tech, writing in my blog and uploading digital photos from a GPS- and internet-based treasure hunt I went on today.

Out caching around.

Bryan joked I'm more of the "lost" part of "lost botanists"

It's true (although at least I'm not the crazy-looking one!)

And finally, speaking of high-tech, an addition to point out on the website tonight. To the right you'll see a new feature of "other good blogs I recommend." I talked to Lisa Bushman today (happy birthday Lis!) and found out she's started a blog to keep in touch with her family too! See, it must be a good idea. Just click on the link below the recommendations title to see what she and Mikel are up to in Michigan. I'll bet they'll be very honored as the 1st amazing blog I'm stamping with my approval. Is this the wave of the future? I think so...

Monday, January 18, 2010

Benefit, Bangs, and Badminton

Hello my friends! Not a ton to report tonight, but pretty cool that the three things I've done lately all started with a B, eh?

The first and main thing, Benefit, is really short for the "1st Annual Brian Connolly Benefit Night." What in the world is that, you wonder? Don't worry, most of the people that came wondered too! In fact, they may have gone home still wondering because it was sort of odd. For you then, some backstory...

About a year ago, my good friend and fellow grad Brian Connolly had a little accident after leaving a get-together at my house in celebration of the new Spring semester; he tripped and broke his neck. Don't grow overly worried at this point, he survived and is now completely healed and fine. However, it's important for the story to note that this friend is about as good-natured and innocent, yet so-clumsy-it-makes-him-endearing as a guy can get. (He was apparently banned from his undergrad gym for having too many accidents falling off equipment, etc.) So this is all to say the neck-breaking was not actually due to alcohol as you may have just assumed, he really just tripped! However, even for those of us who know him and were there, this obviously sounds like a thin cover-up for a drunken-revelry situation. Thus, for the whole last year he's had to be a pretty good sport as everyone teases him for being the craziest partier in Pullman.

As the year started again, it of course became obvious that Brian Connolly's monumental event needed some commemoration. And of course, the only thing fitting would be a WILD party (as far as grad students get wild). His friends tossed around names and "1st Annual Brian Connolly Benefit" stuck, so plans were made and people got excited. However, it just so happened that last week also witnessed the massive disaster in Haiti, and as I talked with the boys throwing the party about their plans for Saturday I started to feel terrible that this was what we were doing as a whole country was going without water.

The happy solution was that everyone agreed we could turn the night into a real benefit for Haiti! Actually, the guys all came up with some pretty funny party games involving neck braces and donations. So we had the benefit, and believe it or not made $276 for the Red Cross! It's not a ton, but for a bunch of students my goal was only $100, so this result is enough to make me really proud and I hope it helps in some small way. I stayed sober for the party in order to keep track of a fanny pack I was filling with the raised funds, but that turned out to be maybe the most fun job - overseeing the weirdness that was a broken-neck-themed party and actually remembering it all. In total, here were some of the best pictures I thought would give you a taste of the evening:

The star of the evening, Brian Connolly

JUST KIDDING! These next two show the real Brian Connolly, ecstatic to finally be laughing at his friends wearing the braces

Shannon wasn't quite so excited when Travis bought her 5 minutes of rehab

I won't come straight out and say we planned it, but it did turn out that several rounds of medically-themed drinking games are a good way to loosen people up to donating

Filling up the fanny pack!

One of the housemates was even nice enough to rally his band for some live bluegrass music

And so of course we had to dance...

Yeah, we're terrible dancers, and yeah, the neck braces made it even worse. But hey, sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do for charity! Beyond the benefit party, the only other things I did over the weekend were pretty minor. You may already have noticed that I finally worked in a haircut I've been meaning to get since Thanksgiving (yikes!). I'm happy I did that, and am now back to having bangs. This was maybe a more clear picture from Saturday to give an idea of how it came out:

And finally, I just got home from an evening off with Bryan thanks to the holiday of a certain fellow King (Martin Luther Jr). We played badminton until my right forearm went dead (good thing I'm almost done, phew) and dinner at Thai Ginger, one of our favorite restaurants in town. Now I think I'll savor the last free hours catching up on some reading and relaxing in my PJ's, and with that end a nice casual day. And hey, "books" starts with a B, so that seems like a pretty perfect thing to do =)

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

My New Year's Resolution: Say "No" to Dieting

Well, the first week back from break was at least a tad more interesting than expected! That is, if you find one day off and a few cooking projects around the house as interesting as I do? I guess I'd say the fun technically started last Friday night with some babysitting, something I haven't done in a while. As a thanks to my office-mate Jeff for watching my research plants and pet fish over break, I took charge of his two toddlers long enough for him to take his wife to dinner. We had a great time, such sweet little guys! And man, his 4-year-old is very honestly the smartest I've ever met - unprompted, he explained the common industries around the world using an atlas, and then the health benefits of calcium as we had cookies and milk!

The next day was an outing to the "Big City" around here, Spokane. Bryan and I decided to drive up sort of last minute, but for several reasons. For one, we both had Christmas gift cards to stores that aren't here in little old Pullman. Secondly, it gave us a reason to meet my friends Jill and new husband Eric for lunch and hear about their recent Costa Rica honeymoon. It feels nice to hang out with people NOT in the biology department sometimes (Pullman can get a little claustrophobic otherwise...). And thirdly, we made it up in time to see one of Bryan's younger cousins compete in a regional youth gymnastics meet. When I say younger, I mean so young that it was insane what these kids can do! There were 10ish-year-olds flipping, springing, and generally being super athletic everywhere. Here's the cousin; turns out I'm not a very good photographer of action shots, but this move is still impressive.

A pretty amazing sport when watching children do it actually inspires you to get out there and get in shape yourself!

That motivation being said, here's what I actually did with my scraps of free time after work this week: food, food, and more delicious food.

I've found another thing to like about a cold winter. It makes you absolutely LOVE something a simple as a grapefruit. While in Riverside, the grandparents had given Bryan and myself permission to raid their citrus and avocado trees, and we actually had 100% success hauling quite a bit of tasty loot back to Pullman in our suitcases. Every day I've seen it all piled up on my kitchen counter since makes me happy. Not only are they bright, colorful, and twice as big as anything you can buy in a store here, but super luxurious to be so fresh when the world is all cold and gray outside. And every time I eat one of the tangerines or grapefruits it tastes just like it always did my entire childhood, except ten times better because now it's a special thing that came from so far and I won't be eating every day for 4 months straight.

One little project I tried Sunday with decent success was to preserve some of the big, beautiful Meyer's lemons. This variety is definitely not sold here, and I read they're the perfect type for canning. This way I can think up things to enjoy them in for the next month or two. I went with candied lemon first; all I had to do was boil 4 sliced lemons in sugar water, and look at all the candy and syrup I got out of it!

I'm thinking the next thing would be to make some kind of sweet bread with chopped candied lemon bits inside and that syrup glazed over it. I'd also like to try canning salted lemons. I'll let you know what the heck that tastes like if I get to it. Being the botanist that I am, I also couldn't help but keep a bunch of seeds to see if I can get any to grow.

I'll keep you posted if this turns into a little farming project of its own.

Speaking of citrus, I saw the sweetest thing today involving an orange. My other office-mate, Berkley, just got married in late December, and in the lunch his new wife had packed for him this morning was an orange with "I Love You" carved onto the side. Aren't they adorable? It made me very happy for them =)

Another good use of the awesome Cali produce took place just this evening because the first smuggled avocado was ripe; it went into an avocado/bacon/lettuce/onion sandwich. YUM! And just in case that first glorious 5000 calories didn't make you drool, I'll admit I also tried an unthinkable thing I heard about recently: "baconaise." That's right, a little of the hot fat from the fried bacon stirred in with the mayo before spreading it on the bread. Although I think I heard my arteries cry a little, the rest of me thought it was one delicious dinner to end a long day in a long work week.

I know, I know, at this point you're thinking I'm already way too into this blogging thing because I'm now taking pictures of my dinner plate. Probably at least half true, but I felt like sharing because as a not-so-big fan of sandwiches in general, I was so impressed with this creation that it made me kinda proud!

And finally, I also relaxed tonight by finding a good use for that extra Christmas candy that would otherwise have gone into hiding in the cupboard for the next month; I just chopped it up and baked it into cookies. The candies I had left were a sort of imitation Andes Mints, but a sharp knife easily turned them into chunks that spruced up a regular chocolate chip cookie recipe.

I sampled part of one right after baking last night and really liked what I tasted, although I was still digesting the wonder that was my sandwich so I haven't gotten to test these very thoroughly yet.

So, there you have it, a delicious start to my semester, and a firm commitment to an abnormal New Year's resolution! Hope all are well, and good luck keeping your resolutions, whatever they may be. Hmm, I'm hungry...