Friday, April 29, 2011


Just a bit more detail here about the defense, other than "I passed." Part of my program requires us to defend our dissertation proposal which is essentially the first three chapters of the future dissertation- introduction/rationale, literature review, and methodology. My wonderful chair and advisor told me to consider it more of a working session with my committee of experts rather than conjuring up negative connotations associated with the term "defense." Even still, I lost a lot of sleep prior to the Big D and had many dreams about showing up unprepared.

On the big day, I was up early reading through my notes and printing out handouts for my committee members. I also picked up bagels, fruit, and beverages before hitting campus since it is customary in most programs to bring refreshments (bribes?) to the event. My nerves ended up being calmed a bit to see cream cheese on the face of one of my professors, I must admit...

For the most part, they asked me what I wanted to learn from my study and how I thought my methods would get at the data to do so. It was intense and I was nervous but I got a lot of great advice from seasoned researchers on things I wouldn't have thought about. It was also somewhat challenging to hear diverging or differing ideas and thoughts from some of my members but fortunately I have a great chair so that helps.

When it was over, I called Austin and tried to relax a little. My wonderful officemates ordered in pizza and we had a little party while swapping war stories. I work with nursing grad students but the overlap between nursing and (language) education is not insignificant and it's refreshing to have "different" colleagues. Unfortunately, I had to teach that evening and my mind was just not in it but sometimes that how it goes.

I was so tired when I got home and Austin and I went to a nearby Mexican place that opened in the last year. We were happy to see it bursting at the seams with many clientele speaking Spanish and a really excellent mariachi band playing. We had fantastic food and I had a margarita; perfect.

While there is still much left to do in my grad school career, I am touched by the support I received from my family and friends ahead of this big hurdle. The texts, cards, emails, and phone calls were so lovely.

I'm rested again and we're looking forward to a quiet weekend at home. The weather is great and more patio time is in order tonight; soon it will be too hot...

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Parent Visit Recap

Once again we had a lot of fun and packed tons into a short span of days so I'll try to remember what we did when the 'rents Dan and Maureen were here. Austin picked them up on Wednesday while I was teaching and they headed off to a wine bar we recently discovered with great outdoor seating, nice pours, and a view of the skyline. Everyone was tucked in with a nice flight of red wine and I was offered many tastes before my "Sparkler" flight of bubbly arrived. I could tell by the server's accent that he knew French (just the way he said "cuvée") and we later found out he was from Senagal but educated in France. We had a lot of fun chatting with him.

We headed to the LundeRoy Lodge with the ladies picking up a baguette and some cheese and the menfolk heading to our favorite wine shop where they naturally did some damage. We sat on the patio and relaxed all night, soaking in some great weather.

Thursday I had to teach again so we grabbed Chinese for an early lunch and then Austin took the 'rents to a movie at our favorite cinema; they all had an early dinner while seeing Source Code (general consensus- not bad). I grabbed take out on my way home and we took advantage of more patio time.

Friday my mom and I shopped for an outfit for her to wear to a wedding and I got her hooked on The Limited. Fortunately they often have sales and educators get 15% off all the time so she was happy about that. We also got a few things for my niece's second birthday. We also had some good Mexican for lunch and she tried fish tacos for the first time. Meanwhile, Austin and my dad were hard at work on the projects I posted earlier. I am still beyond thrilled with the under cabinet lighting and love the effect it adds to our kitchen. For their reward, A & D got Rudy's barbecue and enjoyed. My mom and I made tortilla-crusted tilapia and roasted asparagus.

One of my dad's favorite restaurants in the world, Mongolian Grille, was on deck for lunch Saturday and we all enjoyed custom-made stir fry. We had a little detour on campus so I could stop at the library and then we hit up one of Austin's favorite watering holes that features lots of microbrews that he wanted my dad to try. We ended the day, of course, with more lounging on the patio and just munching on leftovers from all of our culinary adventures. I made peach ice cream but it didn't set up very well so it was part of Easter breakfast.

I brought my parents back to the airport on Sunday morning and Austin and I spent the rest of Sunday getting organized for another week. We don't really do Easter and we've both got a busy week on deck so back to the grind it was.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Project Two

Under cabinet lighting! Best $36 ever spent on a home improvement project. Hard to photograph, however.

Project One

Austin and Dan updated the faucets in the master bath.

Sunday, April 17, 2011


Over the weekend I took part in an online cooking club that was organized by my friend, MarocMama, and her friend of The Spiced Life. For the very first event they chose paealla so I was particularly looking forward to it (paella trivia via twitter while cooking?! Fun!). The cooking club website offered a version of the recipe but we were all encouraged to tailor it to our tastes and/or use other recipes as we preferred. I consulted my oracles.

Ultimately, I ended up using a recipe I had on hand from the cooking class we took in Barcelona on our honeymoon and adding a bit more vegetable. I love the aroma of the stock simmering with saffron threads and slowly growing richer in color.

(Btw I do have a "real" paella pan courtesy of Madame Bergfrey but I was trying not to make too much for just us!)

The participants shared their process, questions, and pictures over a Twitter feed while MarocMama kept us going with some cool trivia (did you know paella comes from the Latin root patella- both are round flat objects). As a bonus, I even won some saffron from the sponsor, My Spice Sage! It was wonderfully fun and I can't wait to hear what is on deck for May.

Monday, April 11, 2011


Up north, my favorite season, hands down, is fall but it's always so fleeting and then comes what seems like an endless winter. Here we just don't have a particularly spectacular fall so my favorite season is spring. It also feels fleeting, though, and then comes the hot summer (or what I've called "reverse winter"). Right now is that wonderful time when everything is lush green and blooming and growing vigorously. My rose bushes have exploded into pink and white blossoms. The oleander is full of crimson buds and the grapevines are going crazy on the fence and shed.

You can see a hint of the vines in the picture. Our shed has a flag of Texas on it for some reason and Austin hates it. I find its kitchy-ness endearing and a nice reminder of this chapter of our lives. It's also in our backyard so it's not like our neighbors are going to think we put it there On Purpose, the horror!

So, given the season, we did more yard work over the weekend and are back to mowing weekly. We met some friends at a favorite dive pub Saturday afternoon as our reward for getting the yard projects out of the way.

One thing we didn't get to was painting the bedroom. We have a bit of a dilemma now. We don't have a headboard so we tend to prop our pillows up against the wall to read in bed but we don't really want to do that on a newly painted wall. We looked at some headboards but then thought about also replacing the mattress. We bought a king when we moved into the house and it has turned out to be a real lemon. So do we replace the whole bed? We're also considering going back to a queen since the king is just overkill and limits our space for nightstands (we have to put those books down somewhere). Ah, first world problems...

My parents will be here in a little over a week (yay!)and my dad always wants to do a project with Austin. There is talk of under cabinet lighting in the kitchen and I'm also advocating for replacing the hideously dated fixtures in the master bath. Once that is done, our house will be in pretty good shape.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Stuff Growing in Our Yard

One of the cool things about buying our first home out of state is that we are learning lots about the flora (above thingie) and fauna (fire ants?) in this particular locale. I took this picture after doing some yard work, just sitting on the yard for a moment. We'll eventually tear out the overgrown flowerbed where this thing lives; it's only pretty for a week or so then turns brown and hard and its base is a sprawling mess. Still, I wanted to preserve its beautiful, fleeting moment.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Sleepy Kitty

Stinky finds the most creative ways to contort his body when he sleeps. He also likes to sleep pressed up against something, be it a human, a fence, or the hard edge of the patio. We're so glad this little goober adopted us.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Weekend and Beyond

Our rose bushes are full of buds and the very first blossoms are popping out. I love how the white roses have tinges of pink before they fully bloom. We did some yard work this weekend and are hoping to soon have things in order so we're just doing maintenance work for the rest of the season.

We also painted half of our bedroom Silver Sage but I couldn't get a good photo yet. As usual, it was a lot of work and we renewed our vows to never buy a home with textured walls again. The color, however, is wonderful (thanks to the Godfreys who we stole the paint idea from!) and it needed to be done. Our reward was going to our favorite Thai place and having curry and fried tofu, so good and just one of those hole-in-the-wall gems.

My dissertation proposal defense is officially scheduled for April 28 so the countdown has begun. Good thing there are garden and home improvement projects to distract me when I'm not working.

Saturday, April 2, 2011


It's April and this will be the month that I defend my dissertation proposal. This is essentially the first three chapters: introduction, literature review, and methodology. My committee will help me be sure my research questions and methods are in good shape and passing the defense will mean I am free to conduct the research. Of course there is the whole human subjects approval from the university which involves lots of paperwork and red tape (I go through the same process to interview teachers as someone might go through to test therapy or drugs on people!). It will be a good hurdle to clear but it's also nerve-wracking as I lead up to it. The actual date is still not determined because getting five busy professors and a grad student in the same room for a few hours is not easy.

Chilled Soups

Last weekend, it was unseasonably warm here and I wanted to make something summery for dinner. I decided on this chilled crab bisque and was excited to give it a try.

I like to play with recipes but I usually follow them closely on the first pass and did so with this one. Bummer. It called for more cayenne than I would have liked, I think maybe the idea was to give it some kick to contrast the chilled soup, but it didn't work so well. I'll have to make it again following my intuition. I've always enjoyed chilled soups at restaurants but haven't been able to pull them off well on my own. Any tried and true recipes out there?