Wednesday, June 24, 2009


Here's what I've been up to:

1 - Work. Soon our lab will be getting ready to dispose of a large number of samples from patients who didn't want them kept after the study was over. It will be time-consuming because the samples are kept in various freezers and refrigerators that can't be opened for more than a couple minutes at a time. So right now we're trying to quickly wrap up the project we're working on before starting on the samples. But until we get the list of patients to get rid of, we can't really start anything new. The timing couldn't be worse for me because I was hoping to have July 31st as my last day, but that turns out to be the deadline to get rid of the samples and we'll probably be working on it right up until the end. So I'll probably have to go in for an extra couple of weeks in August to wrap up my things. But it won't be the end because I'll probably start coming in for a couple hours a week once school starts.

2 - School. I just registered for classes for the fall! I am so excited to start :) I'm taking Intro to Food Science, Food Chemistry and Functional Foods, Nutrition Education and Counseling, Food: Safety, Risks and Technology, Food Service Operations Management, and Food Service Operations Management Lab. It will be interesting to see how it goes after not being in school for a couple years, but I think it'll be ok since I am taking these classes because I want to know this stuff. I'm also glad I get to take a mix of hard science and social science courses. The two I'm looking forward to the most are Food Chemistry and Functional Foods and Nutrition Education and Counseling. One gives me the theoretical basis of nutrition and the other gives me the practical application.

3 - Volunteering. I'm volunteering at two places right now. One is through an Elder's program in my neighborhood. I was set up with a woman who lives near me. She is 86 and can no longer drive, so I help her with groceries and other errands from time to time. She's the kind of person that doesn't like asking for help, but has no other option since driving is out of the question. In most other aspects she is self-sufficient. The other place where I'm volunteering is a nursing home in Saint Paul. I work in the late-stage Alzheimer's unit, helping out with lunch on saturdays. It's interesting because I've never really been around people with Alzheimer's but it's also challenging because of the communication.

4 - Upcoming trips. I'm going to Las Vegas around July 4th for the World Series of Poker. Brian is playing in it, so I'm going there to watch him. There's also a chance I might end up spending some time lounging by the pool... hehe. I'm looking forward to the back-to-back family cabin trips in August. I'm going to DuNord with Brian's family the first week and Bay Lake with my family the second week.

Friday, May 29, 2009


Sorry about the lack of updates! I've been pretty busy the last two weeks. On Tuesday I got back from a weekend trip to Door County. We drove there on Saturday and camped three nights in Egg Harbor. For the most part, the weather was great. We visited Newport State Park and Peninsula State Park as well as a winery and brewery. We also played mini golf and ate at a great restaurant called Fred and Fuzzy's that was right on the waterfront in Sister Bay. The food was really good and because the restaurant was away from the main road, it was very cozy and almost felt like you were at somebody's lakehouse or something. The tables were set up on the lawn and there were kids playing in the lake in front of us. I definitely recommend it to anyone who might visit Door County.

On Wednesday I had a meeting with my grad school adviser and it looks like I'm going to start the master's in the spring after taking one semester of classes in the fall as an undergraduate. This way I can take more credits and won't have to pay graduate tuition for undergraduate-level classes. I'm very excited about all of it because the classes look really interesting and my adviser seems really great.

I made an apocalypse-esque meal today. I have a large supply of dried beans in my cupboard - not because I'm expecting the end of the world, but because I buy them and forget to use them - so today I cooked a brown rice blend in vegetable stock and mixed it with some lentils. Then I added a little salt and pepper and voila! It was surprisingly flavorful because of the veggie stock and the different types of rice - especially the wild rice. I had an egyptian dish called Koshary at the festival of nations that was also made with rice and lentils. In addition, it had chickpeas, onions and a chili tomato sauce on top. It was really good and I think I'm going to try it with my leftovers.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

go go gadget grad school

Yesterday I got an email from the professor I wanted as my grad school adviser asking if I was still interested in joining her research group! I had pretty much given up hope - partly because it had been more than a month without hearing anything and partly to protect myself against rejection - but now I can really get excited! I'm going to meet with her soon to talk about everything before making a final decision, but most likely I will be starting the master's program in the fall.

The professor's name is Joanne Slavin and she studies the effects of dietary fiber and oligosaccharides (which are indigestible sugars that get fermented by intestinal bacteria) on cholesterol, heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. I think this is interesting because of the prevalence of these diseases right now and also because of the importance of intestinal bacteria. Whole grains and other whole foods (vegetables, fruits and legumes) promote growth of certain types of beneficial bacteria (like bifidobacteria) while the absence of these foods allows other, less beneficial and sometimes harmful, bacteria (like E. Coli and bacteroides) to grow. A few of these other types of bacteria are thought to reverse the actions of antioxidants by converting substances into carcinogens in the gut. And the best part of using whole foods to prevent diseases is that it's a lot cheaper (and easier on the body) than trying to reverse these diseases once they start.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

it's a small world after all

Ok, I guess I didn't write a lot this weekend like I thought I would. I've had a pretty uneventful past week.

I'm not sure I'm cut out for the 9-5 life. I feel like so much of my time is spent at work and then when I get home, I'm too tired to do much. It's the worst in winter when it gets dark before I even leave work. I have the weekends to do what I want, but I don't like running errands or driving around then because of traffic and how many people are in the stores. Maybe it's just a matter of finding the right job, because mine is far from ideal, but I'm not thrilled about the prospect of having to wake up and go to work day after day after day and having such limited time off. There's too much to enjoy in life! Americans work way too much!

I can't wait for the day when I can work for myself. I'm not sure what I'll do exactly, and I certainly don't have much to offer right now, but it is my ultimate goal to be my own boss. I'm optimistic. What I have to do right now, though, is find something that will be of value to other people. Hopefully I will find that while I'm in school!

I looked at these pictures today, and my heart started pounding. I am so small!!!!!!!!

Friday, April 24, 2009


I woke up at 5:30am to one of my hermit crabs making an annoying scratching noise and couldn't fall back asleep, so I thought I'd write a blog entry. I've had three crabs since July. Recently I gave them some new substrate (soil plus calcium sand) and they don't seem to like it much. With the old substrate, they'd spend most of their time buried underneath, but now they climb onto things instead. They wouldn't even walk over the substrate at first. I thought I'd give it a little time in case they were just throwing a hissy fit in response to the change, but it's been long enough now and they still won't dig much, so there must be something about the substrate they don't like. I bought some of the stuff I used before, "Ecoearth", made from coconut fiber, that I'll use to replace what they have now. I mix it with calcium sand, which is edible and beneficial because the crabs need the calcium for exoskeleton growth.

The crab making the scratching noise was climbing upside-down across the wire-mesh cover of the tank. Just climbing across makes enough noise, but he also seemed to be scraping his claws against the wire... maybe he was trying to break through? This was the same crab who, since the beginning, had always been very active and curious, and almost escaped a couple times. I had to get a new cover because of him. Now I have a coconut-fiber climbing wall attached to the side, so it's easy to climb to the top, but this crab was able to reach the top before I added that, when he only had the silicone in the corners to grab onto.

Yesterday I spent 1.5 hours walking the four miles home from work. It was such a nice day that I decided to start walking home, and then just kept going. By the end, my legs were getting very tired but it was too late to catch a bus at that point. I find it's easier to exercise when I have a destination, rather than making a special trip. When it gets consistently nice out, I'm going to start taking my bike with me on the bus to the way to work and then bike home. Another thing I do is take the stairs at work. I'm on the eighth floor, and coming up from the 1st or 2nd floor is surprisingly difficult, but I've been doing it for a couple months now and it's slowly getting easier.

This week, I started taking fundamentals of management as a summer class. I need it as a prerequisite for one of the nutrition courses, so I thought I'd take it now to get a head start. So far it seems pretty general and common-sensical, but as someone who doesn't have any management experience, I think I will learn a lot from it. I'm not really looking forward to the exams though. I think exams are harder with general courses, especially in the non-sciences, because less detail is given, the information is less concrete, and there is more of it. Because there is less detail, it requires more memorization because you don't have the whole concept to use as context. But all in all, I think it will be good for me to learn a bit about how businesses work and what makes a good manager.

Ok, I have to get ready for work. Check back, because I'm planning to write a lot this weekend!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

MJD school update

Here's an update on what is happening with school for the fall. I received an email saying I was "deemed admissible" to the master's program in nutrition at the U, but that my application needs to be circulated to the faculty members to see if anyone has a research assistant position for me, or is willing to advise me without an immediate lab project. Only fifteen MS and PhD students, out of about 50 applicants, get accepted each year, but I'm sure some of those do not meet the requirements for the program and some end up going to other schools. So my chances are a little better than 15 out of 50. Another factor that might affect my getting in is how many people turned in applications before I did. They are looked at on a rolling basis, so if all the research assistant positions were filled before I turned in my application, then it wouldn't matter if I qualified for the program.

I'm not sure what I'll do if I get accepted with an adviser who isn't one of my top choices. I'll have to do some reading about the professor... maybe I'll realize he/she is a good match for me, but if not I suppose I'll apply again next year. I can't wait forever, though, and I'd hate to decline acceptance and then not get in next year, or have the same thing happen again.

I don't absolutely need to get into the program this year because I can get started on my dietetics certification without being a masters student. Being a certified dietician is much more important, in terms of job prospects, than having a masters. Having a masters without being a certified dietician is pretty much useless, as far as I can tell. If I get into the MS program, I will intermix the dietetics certification courses with the masters ones. If I don't get in, I have already been accepted in the undergraduate program, so I can start taking classes through that, and the upside is that I won't have to pay graduate credit!

So it looks like things are going to work out, even though I don't know which direction I will be going. The only snag will be getting into the classes I want. Registration has already started for returning students, so I'm worried some of the classes will close by the time I get to register. I don't know if spots are saved for new students registering late, or if I'll have finagle my way in.

Yesterday I went to the driving range and putting green at the U of M. I've never actually golfed before, even though I've done plenty of mini-golfing and went to the driving range once in high school. Driving was a bit frustrating when I kept swinging and couldn't hit the ball, but I think I made a little bit of progress. It was surprisingly hard, and I think getting anywhere at all will take a lot of practice to learn the technique and to build the muscles in my hands and arms. I want to keep learning, though, because I like doing the putting and it seems like it would be fun once I got past the difficult part.

This week is full of sports... I joined a kickball team and our first game is this evening. Then tomorrow I'm probably going to the twins game. It's so nice to finally be able to get out and enjoy the outdoors!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

beggars and soup

I often get stopped by people asking for money when I'm out shopping. Last week, I made a quick trip to rainbow and on my way out of the store, a guy asked me if I could spare three dollars. I told him I'd buy him some food from the store, because I'd heard that was a good way to make sure the money isn't spent on alcohol or drugs. He didn't seem too crazy about that idea, and told me he wanted the money for mcdonalds. I was still reluctant but before I could say anything else, a woman who had overheard us came up and told him she'd give him the money. But it turned out all she had were a few coins, so he turned to me again. This time, I just gave him the money because I didn't want to seem stingy or condescending. As I drove out of the parking lot, I saw him walking toward mcdonalds and was glad he was telling the truth, but then he walked past the door and to somebody's car window to ask them for money. I don't know whether or not he ended up going to mcdonalds.

I'm not sure I did the right thing because he was so quick to turn down my offer to buy him food at the grocery store. That made me think he might not have been so interested in using the money for food. I would hate to refuse him if he truly did need it for food, but there's no way of knowing. I want to be able to help, but not if my money is just going towards drugs or alcohol. That encounter made me wonder if a lot of other people, like that woman, are willing to give money without asking questions, and then does it even matter what I do personally?

I don't always give money when asked. It depends on the situation. I give it when I feel bad or sometimes when they are particularly persistent, just to make them quit asking. I should probably stop doing that because it's just reinforcing the behavior. I've only tried to buy food for people twice, and it didn't work either time. I guess if I really wanted to help, I could refuse to give cash unless I know what it's going towards and instead make donations to or volunteer at a shelter or something. Anybody have any ideas for how to deal with people asking for money?

I got some noodles, seaweed, and spices from the asian market near my house, and I'm going to try to make some ramen-like soup tonight. I'm not exactly sure how to season it, but I'll start with my "asian spice blend" and maybe throw in some soy sauce, ginger, or some veggie broth. A hot noodle soup sounds so satisfying right now. Also on my list of things to make is seven-bean soup. The bag of pre-mixed beans was so colorful and pretty at rainbow I couldn't resist buying it. I hope it's as beautiful after it's cooked and I suppose I should try to make it taste good too.

Speaking of making things, I was digging through my fabric and got some ideas for bags to make. I started one over the weekend and should be able to finish it sometime this week. I like making purses/bags because they are fast and pretty easy. Getting the fabric and doing the designing is what I like, and the sewing is just a necessary step in order to get the finished product. With practice, though, it will get easier and hopefully I won't mind so much.

Ok, soup time!