the art of sploosh

I'm not a baker. I'm barely a cook [er?], but I have managed to keep both of us alive with my concoctions these past 4 years. With baking though, I have just enough following-a-recipe-is-boring-and-predictable-and-tedious syndrome to make most of my baking experiences result in the classic "So, baking is a lot like chemistry class... " lecture.

I'm not a baker. Give me flour and a recipe, and the promised "moist and fluffy" will most likely end up dry, dense, and "Did I just break my tooth?" I think flour is my nemesis. It's such an exciting ingredient that I might just get caught up in the moment of "creating" [the things you can make with flour are practically limitless!] and "splooshing" [that's when the flour dust goes all "ploosh" in the air] to remember the specific recipe instructions.

I'm not a baker, but I do have one redeeming factor in my baking equation: Jason, the "if it has flour and at all resembles a bread-like food, I will eat it, no questions asked" variable. He's quite the morale-saver when it comes to my kitchen experiments. As long as we're not talking about some kind of leafy vegetable or mushrooms, he will eat anything that I put in front of him. Mushy beyond recognition? No problem. So hard it needs to be soaked in a soup before you can ingest it? Again, no problem. And he'll eat it all, complete with the sounds of enjoyment [possibly for my benefit?] and requests for seconds that all meal-preparers want to hear.

Anyway, as of late, I've had urges to sploosh things up in the baking arena. Perhaps it was the purchase of some new flour a few weeks ago. Or maybe it was my craving for pizza. Or maybe it was just the fact that I knew Jason has been studying/stressing hard about his candidacy exams coming up and I just wanted to make something I knew he'd really like [I'm pretty sure his love of pizza just stems from the idea that pizza, at its simplest, is just bread and cheese]. Whichever the case, I decided to make a pizza, and not only was the splooshing a success but, for the first time ever, the doughiness was a success. It actually turned out crust-like and not super dense or purely hard and crunchy as my flour products have a tendency to do.

With this smashing success, I had the immediate desire to do it all over again. More yeasty smells. More splooshing. More rolling pin action. With Jason's first day of school being a stupid long day [he leaves in the morning and doesn't get back until 7 or so], I knew that he would completely appreciate coming home to a fresh pizza and... pie.

The last time a pie was baked in my kitchen was when Colleen was here and she was doing the baking and I was doing the pretending-to-be-baking. Best pie ever. Sadly, this time around there was no Colleen in my kitchen. And no fresh fruit [except for grapefruits... as odd as I am, I couldn't quite convince myself that grapefruit pie would be a good plan]. The only fruit available for a filling was the bag of frozen fruit that we use to make smoothies [apple juice, frozen fruit, blender: delicious]. Now, being a very inexperienced pie filling maker and a very experienced just-throw-things together maker, I put some honey, water, and flour in a pot and dumped in as much of the frozen fruit as I could fit, gave it a stir, and waited for something magical to happen.

Lessons learned from this pie filling experiment:

  • Honey is quite sweet. You do not need a cupful of honey to sweeten a pie.
  • If you heat up honey in a pot without stirring it, it will start to burn onto the bottom of your pot. Making a candy-like substance. Tasty, but not really desirable (for your pie or your scrub brush).
  • Frozen fruit totally works. Peaches? Good. Strawberries? Good. Pineapple and honeydew? Goood. 
we may have already started to eat the pie crust by the time i took this picture...

Anyway, on a scale of failure to success, I would give the fruit pie conglomerate a 7.0 with point deductions for the honey overload and the sketchy crust consistency [still haven't quite mastered non-pizza flour products, I suppose] but bonus fractions for the artistic nature of the crustwork [duh] and the fact that I didn't burn myself the entire time.

As for the second go at the pizza making, it was ridiculously delicious. Jason would take a bite and then convulse [in a good way] for 30 seconds. I was quite excited. This time I wanted to season the crust and so, part of the way through the baking, I sprayed some olive oil on it and sprinkled some garlic powder, salt, and pepper on it. It toasted perfectly and tasted like 20 bucks [i.e. it's going to be hard to convince me to buy from pizza chains anymore].

Well, I was going to write about a couple of other things, but I think they'll save until next time since this went on longer than expected.

To yumminess!

i promise i don't have to do this to jason...anymore.


we made a pizza! and other things.

Apparently I never made any posts after my summer course ended. So, the course that I taught this summer ended. I no longer have to wake up at 6:30 every day. Also, I no longer have to have those mutton chops growing all up on my face. It's not that I'm against facial hair. They were just too much work.

Anyway, perhaps I can post some thoughts about the class now that it's over. It was interesting having the responsibility of the entire class resting on me. I've been a TA for 4 years now, but I've never been in charge of a course myself, where I was the one setting the policies and the content and everything else. I think my students enjoyed my teaching as much as anyone can really enjoy being taught math at 8 in the morning for two hours every day for 5 straight weeks. My teaching evaluations were all positive. Of course, in the space at the end where you can leave comments (the rest of the evaluation is just multiple choice, rating me on several factors) only two of them wrote anything. One of them said they didn't like the textbook (it's really not a good book, but the choice of textbook was the one thing I couldn't control), but the other one said I was smart and knew the material (I would hope so after this many years of calculus). I wish more of them had written something, but I almost never do that part either so I can understand.

Since then I've been continuing my studying for candidacy exams (which I'll have to do this semester, ugh), and trying not to think about the fact that fall classes are about to start. Yep, it's that time again. However, talking about classes and studying is boring, so I will stop doing that... now.

Also in the last couple weeks, I've been playing tennis with Sharayah. She had never played, and I'm still very much a beginner, but I'm teaching her what little I know and we're playing every now and then. It's been pretty fun so far. I'm trying to enjoy that brief period of time where I'm still better than her. I know what's going to happen soon, just as it happened with ping pong... She passed me in ping pong so quickly. One day I was winning pretty much every game, the next day she was so much better she not only won pretty much every time, she could decide how much to win by. (Yeah, I ended a sentence with a preposition. What are you going to do about it?)  I'm hoping we're not too close to the day where she decides how many sets I get to win, and how many games in each set. I'm pretty sure it's coming.

Maybe the coolest thing we've done the last couple weeks is make a pizza from scratch. Well, we didn't crush fresh tomatoes for the sauce, but we did everything else. We made dough! It rose! It turned out pretty awesome. We even did stuffed crust! There was cheese in our crust! So cool. And it was delicious pizza. Just the right seasonings in the sauce (that part we did do ourselves), nice crispy crust underneath, soft enough around the edges (and with cheese inside!), great cheese. We will have to make another pizza. You should all be jealous of me and my pizza-making wife.


time is fiction



The thought of "How did I get from there to here?" is something I've always found intriguing. Time, change, progression... Sometimes it's hard to appreciate the process of it all. Getting from Point A to Point B can be ridiculously stressful, frustrating, scary... But it can also be incredibly exciting, fulfilling and, in the end, life-changing...

You just have to get past the "How do I get from here to there?" It's daunting. There's no denying it. The process can be rough. But the end result? Worth it. 

Everything is a process. All you have to do is recognize you can do it, and then go and show the world what's what. Progress may come slowly, but the day will come when you're suddenly asking yourself in amazement, "How did I get from there to here?" You may not be able to break down the process, but that's okay. Because it's all about the little steps.

Dedication. Confidence. Courage. Trust. Day in. Day out.

And the most important part?  Consciously recognizing that the Process is oftentimes more than you can take on by yourself. But, that's okay. There's a Helper, and He's just waiting to be asked.

You can get from here to there. It's a daily process, but it's completely doable. You're going to get to Point B and look back, just as you've done at every other milestone in your life, and think, "How did I get from there to here?" Because you can totally do it. 

I've always wanted to capture one of these processes in daily photos. Unfortunately, the subject matter is either not photograph-able (?) or I just don't have the diligence to follow through with the desire. As an example? Our little saplings that Jason mentioned in a post a while back. We got them for free at Longwood Gardens' Arbor Day celebration. We bought some dirt and a pair of matching pots, and, just like that, we were tree owners. I wanted to take a picture of them every day and watch their progress, but I didn't want to do it if their "progress" just meant "die in a week." So, instead, Jason and I diligently watched them every day while we sat at our desks working/studying. And for the longest time, nothing seemed to be happening. They had their little buds and thin little branch-trunks, and that was it. I found myself too bummed to even think of possibly capturing their non-growth with daily pictures. 

But then, one day, all of a sudden, completely out of the blue, there were leaves. Real, live, beautifully green, truly leaf-shaped leaves. I felt like a complete success [it's all about the little things]. Those two little leaves brought such happiness, enough so that I wasn't even bummed about missing the opportunity of doing the whole "take a picture every.single.day!" Unfortunately, since I didn't start the whole picture thing from the get-go, I chose not to do it at all. But that's okay. Even though I don't get to see the entire process through each step, it doesn't keep me from enjoying each new stage [which, oddly enough, inevitably occurs overnight..?] in all of it's leafy goodness. 

Sometimes Jason and I like to sit and plan out the life of our little trees, what with the coming fall and the turning of their leaves, the [probably sad] shedding of the leaves come winter, the upgrading of pots as time goes by, and [fingers crossed] the planting of successfully grown trees into the backyard of our all-of-our-own-one-day house. This is an example of one of those pleasant "From Here to There" scenarios. We have grand plans for our trees to fulfill.

Mario [left] and Luigi [not left]

Another process of interest at the moment is the transformation of Jason's face, er, facial hair. Luckily, the mutton chops are a thing of the past. Jason finished teaching his calculus course, and the mutton chops were removed post-haste. The scary part? I think Jason actually liked having them... I'm just glad that I have enough wifely sway in his actions that getting him to shave them off wasn't an issue. Whew. It could have been disastrous. I can't help but love his face, so if he'd kept them much longer, I might have ended up loving the Chops just because he was the one who had them. Ishck. Disaster averted.

i love you, mister

Last process of note:  Work. I can't remember if I ever mentioned it, but way back in the beginning of February I had my initial QA review. I had been incredibly nervous about it because I was still pretty sure at that point that, surely, I would screw up and they'd have to fire me and I wouldn't be able to be hired by anyone else and I would be a disappointment to Jason and, even more, myself. Of course, I tend to over think everything, usually to the negative end [still working on that], and nothing could have been further from the actual situation: I received a 99.7 on my first QA review. I had 2 miscellaneous errors [i.e. not knowing to have 2.5L instead of 2-1/2L], but nothing of consequence. 

I was super stoked about the high praise from both the QA manager and head manager for all about... 10 minutes? And then I started the stressing out of, "But now that I did so well from the start, how in the world am I going to improve for my next QA review in 6 months? There's no way I can improve a 99.7, so I'm going to get a worse score 6 months from now, and they'll think that my first score was some kind of fluke, and then they'll fire me and blah blah blah." Ridiculous? Yes. But sometimes I just can't help it... 

Anyways, today marks the 6 month mark. And I received the QA review results today. And you know how you improve on a 99.7? Get a 100. Yep. The QA manager sent a note of congratulations for the perfect review and mentioned that not only did I not make any point-reduction errors but I also had zero revision notations [i.e. things to keep in mind that aren't medical errors but that should be changed for future transcribing]. 

Such an unbelievable relief. Ever since the beginning of August, I've been periodically stressing about the upcoming QA review, but since I had no idea when in August I was going to get the results, I just kept pushing it out of my mind. Whew.

Talk about progress. How in the world did I get from where I was in December to where I am now? I'm a consistently productive, exceptionally accurate medical transcriptionist. I'm totally doing this job in spite of all of my self-doubts and many, many moments of utter frustration. job.owned. </brag session>

As always, this blog is all over the place, but I think I've said everything I've wanted to. One last thing:  While writing this, it reminded me of one of my old xanga posts [blast from the past!]. Read these old writings if you are so inclined. I was just as rambling back then as I am now. Some things just don't change no matter how much time passes...

Sometimes you just have to close your eyes and take the plunge. You can do it. 


the intersection of calculus and big sideburns

Well I started the first week of mutton chops by growing what were essentially just slightly big sideburns (down to the bottom of my ear, but wide at the bottom instead of even with the top), but Sharayah called foul, so since then I've been growing proper mutton chops. Once you get past the itchiness stage they're not so bad. I've at least gotten to the point where I don't think I look bizarre every time I look in the mirror. Still, I'll be glad to shave them this Friday (don't worry, there will be pictures taken before they're gone). It's just too much work to keep them shaped the right way and making sure they're even. Also, they are mutton chops, so... do not want.

Teaching a class has so far been an interesting experience. I'd say it's very easy to teach but very hard to get students to learn. Some of them are self-motivated and I don't have to worry about them. Others, though. They're tough. I can be thoroughly convinced that I've made something clear, and then someone will ask a question that proves... well, that it's definitely still murky to them.

I think the main problem is that many of my students don't have the proper foundations. There are just so many things that you already need to know when you get to calculus that they seem to have never seen before. I can't say whether that's their fault or the fault of their previous teachers. At any rate, the big problem is that many of my students don't have the prerequisites for my course. Maybe they have them on paper, on some transcript, but they don't have them in real life. Somewhere along the line, some previous teacher did them the disservice of passing them in a class where they didn't learn what they were supposed to. I don't think they've been done any favor when they're told they understand all they need to and they really don't. It's also the system as a whole's fault. I understand in high school there's huge pressure on teachers to pass all of their students. I guess you look bad if students fail your class? Still, I think some of my students have been set up for failure by being inadequately prepared and simultaneously being told that they're doing just fine.

End rant.

Still, overall it's been a positive experience. I think it's confirmed to me that I'd like being a professor, though it's also proved to me that I'd very much prefer to teach more difficult classes with students who actually want to learn math. Presumably math majors, although being a TA for discrete math in the spring taught me that apparently math majors also ask what the point is of learning to prove things... Well, if you don't want to prove things, then you don't really like math. That's what math is. Otherwise it's just a bunch of arbitrary rules that someone made up and now we all memorize (that is not the case!). Anyway, if plans work out, I'll be doing original math research and, yes, teaching math. If a student comes along every so often who tells me they used to hate math, but now I've made them like it (this happened to me!), maybe it won't be so bad.

when the rockets came to life