Thursday, April 29, 2010


This picture is actually from a few weeks ago, at Ruti’s birthday celebration, but I was sharing the photos with her today and was so enamored of the cake all over again that I had to share it…

It is also one of the few non-blurry pictures I took at her party. Still working on the indoor action shots…

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Oh academe…

As a graduate student, it’s sometimes hard to keep perspective. And by sometimes I mean often, really often. Graduate school is like the end all be all of delayed gratification, particularly if you combine graduate programs into a seemingly unending stint of education. As we slog through coursework, learn to teach, jump through administrative hurdles, we also try to imagine the lives we are hoping to lead. Too frequently these images are dominated by uncertain and overly competitive funding mechanisms, scary tenure clocks, and tragic job markets. Every once in a while, however, we get a glimpse of why people choose this life anyway. In chatting with my LSO stand partner (a tenured faculty member) before the concert, she revealed that she and her family have invitations to a variety of far off and exotic places as a result of their academic affiliations. They have relatively relaxing summers filled with productive time, and opportunities to travel all over the globe. This is the good stuff!

My summer is shaping up to be pretty exciting as well: a teaching assistant position for a week in New York City, the possibility of visiting Vienna for the International AIDS Conference, and a relatively commitment-free time to enjoy Ann Arbor and get a LOT of work done. Given how rough things have been around here lately, it’s nice to get a glimpse of the good stuff…

Thursday, April 22, 2010

More signs of spring…

Last time I was at the farmers’ market (a little over a week ago) I nearly left a bit disappointed. While I love kale and chard, I’m tired of only seeing greens and frozen meats, along with the occasional potato and some sprouts. As I was walking back down the main aisle, however, I spied something that seemed miraculous that early in the spring: asparagus! The woman at the stand said that it was two weeks earlier than they’ve ever harvested asparagus, and pointed out that there wasn’t very much. But there was some, and there is almost nothing better than blanched asparagus, salt, pepper, a little Italian seasoning, a little parmesan, and pasta...

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Life Sciences Orchestra Spring Concert

I’ve posted about the orchestra before – that it’s a nice mix of students, staff, and faculty, that it’s a wonderful break from the daily work of being a medical/graduate student, that it’s a daring group that enjoys challenging music, and that it’s a great opportunity to see attending physicians and full professors in a context where you can easily call them by their first names.  For me, it’s also been a place to connect with old friends and meet new ones.  My stand partners have become friends and mentors, and there has been a surprising overlap between cellists in my section and knitters I like to chat with about my other nerdy hobby.  In the past few years (and let this be a lesson to all of you – staying at one university for longer than the duration of two degrees is a dangerous choice), I’ve also reconnected with friends from undergrad who either also stayed here for graduate school, or who left, got jobs across the country, and then came back, wooed by our amazing graduate programs and stellar Life Sciences Orchestra. 

All this is to say that we are having a concert on Sunday, and it should be great.  Here are the details:

University of Michigan Life Sciences Orchestra
Hill Auditorium
Admission free

Voyage, for strings - Corigliano
Piano Concerto No. 5 "Emperor" Mov. 1 - Beethoven
Symphony No. 5 - Tchaikovsky

Friday, April 16, 2010

Dork Barrel Spending*

Thanks everyone!

*Comic from, one of my favorite sites to peruse while procrastinating, written by a PhD in electrical engineering…

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Last of the CSA

Last summer I purchased a share in the the Locavorious CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). Most CSA shares are purchased in the winter, and produce from the farm is distributed throughout the summer and early fall. This one was different, and for that reason was particularly intriguing to me: the share was purchased in the summer, their staff then purchased and froze produce all summer, and it was distributed through the winter. It seemed like a lot of money up front (I think my share was $200), but I wanted to try it. I’d been working toward eating more local food for a few months, and it seemed like the next logical step. After all, if you plan to eat locally in Michigan, you’d better figure out how to save summer food for the winter. It proved to be a fabulous plan, and I enjoyed delicious produce all winter. Now that it’s March, I’ve finally used the last of my frozen produce, just in time for the farmers’ market to start getting good again. I’ll definitely be subscribing next year!

My final creation was soup for one of the last really cold and miserable days (fingers crossed!) we’re having this spring. I used the whole share of kale, which in retrospect may have been a little much, but it’s delicious. The recipe, heavily adapted from a friend's cookbook photocopy...

5c water or stock

6c squash, peeled and cubed (I used much less, and it was frozen puree from my CSA, which was a little stringy, but mostly fine)

5 tablespoons butter/oil

1c diced onion (or however much you want...)

2 cups chopped broccoli (or other vegetable, like carrot)

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon leaf thyme

1 teaspoon basil (Fresh is amazing!)

1 1/2 cups slide mushrooms (or a few rehydrated dry ones)

1 cup chopped kale or spinach (or however much you have, but beware that 2 1/2 cups of kale will result in "Kale with broth" rather than soup...)

1 tsp salt

pepper to taste

Boil the water or stock and add the squash. If you use puree, you obviously need to boil it for less time. If you aren't using puree, after it's soft you'll blend or food process most of it to make it soupy. Heat the butter or oil and saute the onions and broccoli (or carrots, or whatever other vegetables are looking iffy/unused in the fridge/freezer) with garlic, thyme, and basil (if it's not fresh. When the onions begin to brown, add the mushrooms and cook a few minutes more. Add the sauteed vegetables to the pureed squash/broth mixture, along with the kale/spinach, and simmer uncovered. I simmered until the block of kale thawed, which seemed to be a good metric. I chopped the basil and sprinkled it over my serving (and then added the rest to the pot. Enjoy!

I also made soda bread rolls (only a little late for St. Patrick’s Day), which were amazing…

After a little disaster with some beer basil bread last year (aka the beer basil doorstop), I was hesitant, but this was easy and delicious. Yay!

Soda bread (biscuits) - adapted from Bon Appetite

3 1/2c all purpose flour

1 tablespoon caraway (optional)

1 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 1/2c buttermilk (or 1 1/2 tablespoons of lemon juice plus milk to make 1 1/2 cups - mix and let stand for about 5 minutes before you use it)

Preheat oven to 425F. Lightly flour baking sheet. Mix flour, caraway seeds, baking soda, and salt in large bowl. Add enough buttermilk to form moist clumps that can be gathered into a ball. Turns out that trying to form a ball may be most of the kneading you really need to do. Once I "turned it out" onto a floured surface, I only kneaded once or twice. Split the dough into 10-12 rolls (or put it into a giant ball, but this seems risky to me - see doorstop note above) and cut a 3/4 inch deep X into the top of each one. Bake until golden on top and toothpick comes out clean, about 30 minutes (in my oven - the recipe said 35 min).

Sunday, April 11, 2010

1200 miles

I bought my bike in July 2007, just as I was starting at the School of Public Health. I had lofty goals of riding my bike to school (~25 minutes each way) every day until at least early November, and pulling it back out as soon as the weather thawed in spring. That didn’t quite turn into a reality, but I have ridden a lot over the past few years. Riding the bus (and the concurrent reading or chatting it allowed) usurped some of the bike time, and I proved to be much less tough when it comes to riding in cold weather than I thought, but I hit 1200 miles last week anyway! (Apologies that the picture was not taken right on the mileage marker... I didn't have my camera on the bike with me.)

Highlights of biking around Ann Arbor and Michigan have included:

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Desert Butterflies

Alicia and I were in Phoenix last week and had a truly wonderful time. Here is a brief summary of the things we did:

Tuesday: Spend all night on a plane. This was not the plan, but our flight was really delayed. We got to fly first class though! (We opted not to take photos so as not to reveal ourselves as “economy” travelers…)

Wednesday*: Desert Botanical Garden, Haji Baba (Middle Eastern Lunch Spot), Tempe Yarn and Fiber, South Mountain Park

Thursday*: Heard Museum, Fry Bread House (Native Lunch Spot), Chicano Museum

Friday*: Grand Canyon, Oak Creek Brewery (Sedona Dinner Spot), Sedona/Oak Creek Canyon

Saturday*: Cactus Bikes, mountain biking in the desert around South Mountain, driving through the Superstition Mountains, Canyon Lake and Tortilla Flats with Jack

Sunday*: brunch (yum!), Tucson (and Bookman’s, which I now love)

Monday: fly home… This was not the plan, but after Delta canceled our flight on Sunday night it was our only option. I left at 6:00am and flew through Salt Lake City, arriving in Detroit just before 3:30pm. Alicia left at 9:30am on a direct flight, and arrived in Detroit just before 4:30pm. It all worked out, but cost us both a working day. Boo…

*During all of this we were hosted by the incomparable Uncle Jack and Aunt Linda. They welcomed us into their lovely home and were the most gracious hosts we could have hoped for. We had a great time sharing dinners with them and availing ourselves of their tour-guiding capabilities. Also, Linda works seasonally at See’s Chocolates, which is another benefit to staying with them…

Thanks again Jack and Linda!

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Dr. Mom

Mom’s dissertation is now available online!*

(You can look at a preview there, but if you want to read at the whole beautiful document, leave a comment and arrangements can be made…)

Congratulations mom!!!! So proud to have a doctor in the family…

*Just realized that you need a UM login to see the abstract. If you are at an institution with access to ProQuest you can search Mary Ann Lyon and find her on your own.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Passover and cookies

Apologies for the slight delay in posting, but I’ve been… on vacation! More about that later. For now, cookies!!! A friend hosted a number of us for the first seder of Passover (last Monday). It was lovely, as always, and her matzo ball soup was incredible. Apparently matzo ball lovers fall into two camps: dense or fluffy. I have never met a matzo ball I didn’t like, but our host’s (of the dense variety) are amazing. I volunteered to make dessert. This is can be a rather risky undertaking, as Passover requires that you not use flour – or rather that if your recipe calls for flour that you use matzo (cake) meal. I was initially inspired by another Smitten Kitchen recipe, this one for hazelnut chocolate thumbprint cookies. After I had decided to make them, I saw that my page-a-day calendar featured chocolate macaroons as their recipe for the weekend (likely recognizing the need for flourless desserts…). I realized that with only a few more ingredients, I could make both! The results were delicious, though the group was split on which were better.

The chocolate centers on the thumbprint cookies didn't come out as beautifully as those that inspired me (perhaps because I didn't have quite enough chocolate chips so they look a bit more like nipples than I'd really intended), and they didn't melt quite the same way, but they were delicious. Sort of crumbly like shortbread and very hazelnutty...

I think I overcooked the macaroons a bit, but anything with that much chocolate is delicious, and the bulk food store provides an excellent source of quite good chocolate chips for this sort of thing. They were a little tougher than I would have liked, but were so chocolate-y and coconutty that it didn't matter.