Vacation, had to get away

This is it, I've survived my first "year" (that is, two semesters) of graduate school! The last week was awfully rough, with two take-home exams pretty much kicking my butt.

Friday night, after finishing my last final, I braved severe weather to go out for a drink with friends, and thus began this nice but tiring week of vacation. On Saturday, after shopping (I got a new swimsuit for the outdoor pool), I made some cookies, and spent the rest of the evening peddling them off to whatever friends were left in town.

(46) These are very crunchy coconut cookies with nutmeg added, which I think pair nicely. The recipe claims that the flavor palette is Jamaican. I wouldn't know this because I'm not familiar with Jamaican flavors, but I think that coconut and nutmeg pair together nicely. As I've said, these are very crunchy - in fact, the recipe doesn't have eggs, butter, or oil in it. There's just sugar, coconut, some baking soda, nutmeg, and probably a couple dry ingredients I've forgotten, plus enough water to make it into an actual dough. I think I added too much dough when I made these because when I rolled them out and tried to cut them into circles, they were way too sticky to work with. Instead, I ended up grabbing dough and forming them into disks by hand.

But that was Saturday. On Sunday I took a very long drive (6.5 hours!) and ended up at my dad's house to spend the week. It's a relief to be close to water again, and a little taxing to deal with my entire family at once, but it's still great to be here. Today I went bike riding through town with my brother and we spent some time scrubbing my grandpa's sailboat and catching sun. Tomorrow I think I might go to the beach and jump in Lake Huron. If I do, however, it'll only be for a quick dip, because the water is still something like 42˚F. We'll see. I kind of want to do it, just for bragging rights.

The schedule for next weekend should be interesting - I plan to be in Ann Arbor for all of Saturday, so I may make my cookies early, or I may make them late. I will definitely be making them at some point for the weekend, but I'm just not sure when.

All that said, I think I'm going to go back to enjoying my time off, before research kicks in for the weekend.


exam panic time!

As predicted, now I am super stressed out about exams, seeing as take-home tests are kind of like death. Especially in the way that they're both things I don't really want to try right now.

So in the spirit of procrastination, I not only made cookies, but finished my wall decorating project I mentioned last week. I've been kind of bothered by some of my empty walls and how expensive it is to find things that aren't frameless posters to fill the space.

Then one day as I was surfing around the internet I stumbled on the suggestion to glue scrapbook paper to styrofoam sheets and put that on the wall. I decided that this was a good idea, and raided Michael's. The result is shown on the right. I like the way this looks because the paper is about 1" away from the wall (meaning, there's some dimension to it). Also, I was able to put these up using sticky tack and a level program I downloaded for my ipod. Accelerometers FTW.

As for my baking adventures, yesterday I made lemon-pistachio cookies (45). These are nice fluffy cookies, made fluffier by the egg white I had to beat until it formed peaks (thanks to my friends for the blender <3). Aside from the egg white, there's chopped pistachios, a little bit of lemon juice, a LOT of brown sugar, and about a tablespoon of flour involved. Since there's so little flour (and no butter), these are kind of crunchy and really airy, as you can probably tell from the picture.

I made these cookies because I wanted to use up my pistachios (they're not exactly my favorite nut, I think they're too salty), and I wasn't sure if they would turn out well, but I think these are really tasty. The brown sugar balances out the salty taste of the nuts, and the lemon juice adds in a slight bit of sourness just where it's needed. What's more, once you get past chopping 1C of pistachios, the recipe is very easy.

Alright, that has to be it for now. I have an Electricity and Magnetism final to plod through, followed by Quantum Mechanics. This is going to be a very long week.


wrapping up, winding down

This is the end of the semester, which means I'm going a little crazy in this last push before, well, continuing to work (but at least not in terms of coursework). Classes ended today, so from here I have a review session to run, two exams to proctor, and two take-home finals to write by next week Friday. It's very tempting to take a few evenings off, but I know I need to start plodding through these exams.

In the meanwhile, I've got some extra distraction that is entirely my fault: I splurged last weekend and bought myself a Wii Fit. On Sunday, I decided it should be called Wii Hurt, but my muscles are better now. The game is interesting - a little mean to slightly overweight girls like me, but it focuses on having the right weight distribution and balance while doing exercises as a means of having a healthier body. This means things like yoga poses, push-ups, pretend hula-hooping and snowboarding... there's lots of interesting things. I'm REALLY bad at the snowboarding. The board works via four sensors, one on each corner, that make it possible to measure center of balance and suchlike.

Before playing my exercise game, however, I made cookies on Saturday. These are called Lime Meltaways (44), and that's exactly what they do. These cookies fall apart once you bite into them. In these cookies there's the zest of two limes and about two tablespoons of lime juice, and the zest really makes the lime flavor come out nicely. The cookies are kind of sour on their own, fortunately they're covered in confectioner's sugar, which makes them just sweet enough.

This kind of cookie is what's called an icebox cookie. In general, what this means is that the dough, once prepared, is formed into rolls and refrigerated, then sliced to make fairly uniform cookies (that don't rise, since there's no baking soda or baking powder in them). It's a useful technique, but it definitely reminds me that I need a knife sharpener.

As usual, I've got a couple other projects in the works, when I finish them I expect I'll post because I'm kind of proud of my work so far. Until then, it's exam panic time!


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