Never fully dressed without a smile

This weekend was as busy as ever, with a nice carry-over into the week with my usual 7-10 page problem set to write up for Tuesday afternoon. I'm finding that even taking Saturday to do house things is sometimes not enough (well, it doesn't help that I plop down in front of the television every so often and just sit there for a while). Oh well.

Last Wednesday I decided that it was time to get a library card. So I drove down to the Champaign Public Library, got my card, and picked up a couple CDs and movies. I'm very purposeful about my music choices these days: I'm trying to get all the background music (all classical) from one of my favorite Japanese dramas. It's slow work, because I keep going in without a list of what I need, and try to remember off the top of my head. Ah well, next time I'll make a list.

I also borrowed When Harry Met Sally, which, through a series of events, led me to ask the guys in the first-years' hall what their favorite chick flicks are. I ended up only asking ten guys, and their answers were pretty run-of-the-mill. Three of the guys decided Ten Things I Hate About You is their favorite, and the other movies picked were, well, not my top choices. But the point was not to compare my taste to theirs, but rather just to ask a question they don't usually get asked. And this goes to any guys reading here too: what's your favorite chick flick? I won't judge you for it, I'm just interested in knowing.

(34) On Saturday, I finally got a chance to get my cookie gun (okay, it's a cookie press, but calling it a gun is more entertaining) out and make some cute wreath cookies. These cookies are your basic butter cookie: lots of butter, a little bit of sugar, and real vanilla seeds. I italicize that because vanilla beans are super expensive, but I sprung for them this time, just so I could do it right. If/When I make these again, I'm totally going with the 1tsp extract/bean substitution. There's also cinnamon involved, which looks very nice on the ones that I carefully sprinkled, and a little scary on the ones I rushed on. That's alright, these cookies went over well in the office, and it was fun to get to use a different tool to make pretty cookies ^.^

Alright, it's time for me to dive back in to my work, and then go teach. Fun times.


Valentine's day is a great day for single people to get things done

Yes, I am a complete nerd. I am also thoroughly enjoying being single, as yesterday my friends who are dating were busy with their significant others, while I had the time I'd been trying so hard to find to clean my apartment, wash my clothes, catch up on a couple movies, and bake lovely cookies.

Seeing as everyone is free today (and my problem sets are due Monday and Tuesday, plus some 90+ quizzes to grade by Tuesday afternoon), I'll have to keep this post short.

This semester, even though I'm only taking two classes, I feel like I have less time than ever to do things that aren't Physics. Part of the problem is that my schedule is so spread out, I spend 3+ hours in Loomis where I'm doing homework (or wasting time online). My workout schedule has also taken away from the leisure time I so enjoy, but I'm trying to take that time to catch up on pleasure reading. Yes, I can read while on an exercise machine. It's really not that bad.

Add all that to the nasty sinus irritation I had at the end of last week, and the results are disastrous. This is why I'm in homework death mode.

As of this semester, I've declared Saturday to be a No Physics Day. This confuses some people: I'm a Christian and I'm taking my sabbath (of sorts) on a Saturday? There's a pretty simple answer to that: with my schedule as it is, I can't do Sunday, and it's much more important to take a different day rather than to blow it off since I have homework on Sundays.

So yesterday, in my no-physics time, I finally got a chance to bake the cookies I'd been meaning to make last weekend. These are Pecan Linzer cookies with Raspberry filling (33). I modified the recipe a little, since it called for cherry jam and I couldn't find any that I wanted to use. Instead, I strained and reduced the homemade raspberry jam my Grandma Carol gave to me last Christmas. Seeing as raspberry is my favorite fruit, I do not consider this change to be any kind of sacrifice.

The dough for the cookie part has ground up toasted pecans in it - a little different from typical linzer cookies, which apparently are supposed to have almonds instead. I have no comments in comparison as I haven't tried it the other way. But, adding together the called-for ingredients - mostly usual things, flour, butter, sugar, some cinnamon, &c - resulted in a somewhat dry dough to roll out and cut. From there, the process is pretty simple, especially since I picked up a set of linzer cookie cutters, which are round and fluted, and have something like 6 different shapes that can be put in the center to make the nice window effect. It being Valentine's Day and all, I thought hearts would be appropriate (and cute). Perhaps another time I'll make different shapes.

So there you have it. Every so often I decide to opt for the cuter cookies, even when I don't really have the time to devote to them. That's ok, I know my friends will enjoy them, and that's the most important part.


molasses in.. february

Life continues to be far too busy for sanity - between homework, grading, and doing things with people, I find that I hardly have time to do all the other things that want doing (namely, cleaning my apartment, making fancier cookies, and reading books I want to finish).

Yes, I'm behind on making fancier cookies. I intended to make linzer cookies this week, but a hastily-planned girls' night forced me to reconsider (I'll try to do it next week). Instead, I flipped through my recipe book to find a molasses cookie (32) recipe I thoroughly enjoy.

I had been hoping to wait until the summer to make these, for nostalgic purposes. When I was a kid, my grandma would buy molasses cookies with what I suppose was strawberry jam spread on them to make happy faces. Unfortunately, that bakery closed several years ago, but she continued to play around with making these cookies. The faces were a little funny when she made them, but they were still good and I enjoyed them very much.

You can see in the picture that I didn't put faces on these cookies, but that's okay too. The actual cookie recipe is about the same level of difficulty as basic sugar cookies (the non rolling kind), which means they were very easy to make. The flavor for these cookies comes, well, from the molasses in them, as well as the cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and allspice. Honestly, these are basically softer versions of gingerbread cookies. Maybe it's nostalgia that makes me enjoy these, but I think they're good cookies. Hopefully they'll be well-received by my friends on Monday.

This weekend, a front came through the Midwest, finally raising the temperatures well above freezing. As a result, everyone and their brother has been going out more. I was walking around campus the other night when I saw an example of so many people out being loud and drunk and so on, and I had completely forgotten that colleges are like this. I don't know if this means I am too sheltered as a grad student, I work too hard, or that I'm just turning into an old lady. I would say it's a problem, but I don't think it actually is. The warm weather is nice, though, and I hope I'll get a chance to actually enjoy it (instead of spending all of daylight wasting away in my office).


Warning! Spoiler alert!

Sometimes I like to imagine that school still works where the semester starts out easy and the load gradually picks up. Weeks like this past one (the second week of classes) remind me that in grad school, there is no slowing down ever. Hence I found myself dreadfully overbooked, and completely out of clean socks.

The workout schedule is holding up well, but that doesn't say much yet, again considering that this is only week 2. My goal is to not be a one-month wonder, as my friend Tyler puts it, and to keep this up so I can improve my circulation and just be in better shape by the end of the semester. I've also started running a little bit, as a result of peer pressure and a friend who promised she'd pace me (which means I'm looking into getting a flash MP3 player). Today was an extra (but not serious) exercise time: a bunch of us went to open skate at the UI ice arena. The nice thing about this is that admission for students is free, and skate rentals are a dollar. Now, I'm used to "cheap" skating costing $5, so I'm pretty thrilled. If I can do this a few more times and my ankles hold up ok, I might look into buying my own skates, but we'll see.

Other things... well... I realized yesterday that the reason my apartment has been so cold is the same reason that it's so ugly: vertical blinds over a sliding glass door. I currently have blankets hanging over the blinds to keep the heat in, but I've decided that it's time to take the next decorating step and get curtains. I'm thinking these would be awesome, but of course doing this will mean either taking down the vertical blinds (I need to see if I can because that would be ideal) or doing a rig to cover them, and then finding all the appropriate tools for the project. Man, having a non-undergrad apartment is serious work.

Fortunately, Saturday is my getting-other-things-done day, so I had time for a cooking experiment I've been wanting to do for a while. A few weeks ago I was trawling around the internet when I found a recipe for Crabmeat Brie Soup. Now, I realize that Brie is not the favorite cheese of the masses, but I enjoy its taste, and I've had different kinds of Brie soup or stew at restaurants before that I really liked. This recipe seemed the most accessible (and didn't have cooked carrots in it, which I absolutely require), and while it called for a few interesting ingredients, they were all things I could get at the grocery store. Pictured above is probably the most impressive ingredient, a toe of elephant garlic. Yes, that is garlic. For normal garlic, a piece like that is called a clove, but this is called a toe (and it's larger than one, too). The recipe also calls for cognac, which means that I have half a bottle of brandy sitting in my apartment, and I have to figure out what to do with the rest of it.

So I followed the recipe and finished my soup, and it is soooo delicious, but hardly healthy at all. That's okay, though. I'll just have to not make it often, which will work out because some of the ingredients are expensive and the cooking process is very time-consuming.

This week's cookies, on the other hand, were pretty quick to make, and this is where my spoiler alert comes in. These are called Surprise cookies (31), because there's a special surprise hidden inside the chocolate layers! The base cookie is flavored with unsweetened cocoa and your normal cookie materials: sugar, butter, flour, etc. After baking them for about 8 minutes, I had to take them out of the oven and smoosh half a marshmallow on top of each, then put them back in the oven for a couple minutes.

After cooling the cookies all the way, I made chocolate frosting to cover the marshmallows so you don't know they're there. Of course, I think it's a little suspicious to have frosting glooped on top of these cookies, but we'll see if it's actually a surprise when I share them at school tomorrow. Personally, I find that the frosting is so strong that it's taste kind of overwhelms everything else, including the marshmallow, and I fear that anyone who is not sensitive to texture won't notice the middle layer at all.

But worrying will do me no good. I have quizzes to grade, and wave functions to solve... it's a busy time, I'm a busy girl, and so even now I've got to run off to a friends' to watch the Superbowl and get work done (although, I'm not sure why I'm going to watch, since I don't really care about the game... um. Go Team!?).



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