Search This Blog

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Fall Semester @ Penn

So, I have now completed my first semester and have just one more to go.  It feels like I just started and yet I applied for graduation today.  Bizarre.  So, I thought I’d give a quick recap of the semester on the blog.  
In some ways the semester was harder than I thought and in some ways it was easier.  What it comes down to is that I thought that if I worked hard I would have plenty of time to always be on top of my schoolwork and that wasn’t true.  I found that I had so much work piled on me that it took extraordinary efforts to complete it all.  On the other hand, I expected to not be “smart” enough.  Now, it’s not that I turned out to be a genius, only I found that making the grade was less about intelligence and more about how hard you work.  After the semester ended I did a tally of how many pages of essay I wrote (double spaced, 12 pt. font) and it came to 91 pages.  Half of those pages were written in the last week of the semester and about half of them were from just one class out of my five.
The best part about the program so far is the cohort.  I have to say that I like every single person in the program.  It has been a while since I’ve been somewhere long enough to make friends and I’ve really missed having some!  The thing about enduring a grueling semester is that it makes for some definite bonding.  Plus, by virtue of our application to this program in the first place, we all have some common interests.
Most of my classmates and I attending a brunch at the director's house.

The campus itself is ok, but I wouldn’t rave about it.  Facilities at BYU were nicer.  It could be that BYU just has an exceptionally  nice campus, but that is my assessment.  There are several gorgeous old buildings as you would expect from an ivy league campus, but it’s a lot smaller and there’s less wide open space.  The education building is very small.  It’s nice, but it isn’t big enough, so I had one class in particular that was ridiculously overcrowded.  I don’t really take issue with any of that, but what I do take issue with is that the campus gym is free for undergrads but not grads.  What is up with that???  I pay the same price for tuition (which is a ridiculously large amount) and you can’t even let me go to the gym for free???  Yeah, I take issue with that, especially since it happens to be right across the street from my building and I can watch people working out through the window while I am in class (not in a creepy way, in a longing way).  Sometimes I really wonder where my tuition money goes.  It is at least 5 times higher than even the non-LDS tution for BYU and yet I can’t figure out what added benefit I am getting other than being able to put the Penn name on my resume, which has ceased to seem like that large of a benefit since most of the time when I say where I go to school people say, “oh, Penn State?”  
Anyway, there’s always more to say, but I guess I’ll leave my school assessment at that.    As for next semester, I feel rather optimistic.  It should be easier for several reasons.  First off, I already know that two of my five classes will require little work.  Second, I already know what to expect and what I need to do to make the grade! 


Yesterday was a very tiring day.  Let me tell you about it.

We woke up, had a small breakfast and went to go help our neighbors move.  So jealous of their new place which is only a couple of blocks away!

Came home and made some very frustrating phone calls to organize the removal of some things that someone else we helped move in the past failed to remove from the storage unit which is on the Church's dollar, so that the church would not get charged an extra month.  Fit as much stuff in our car as possible and took it to the recipient's house.  They weren't home like they said they would be so we started leaving it at their doorstep, hoping for the best.  Half way through unpacking we had to move the car far away to make way for a tram car coming through.  Went back to the storage unit and carried everything else to the corner.

Went back home and barely had time to eat a bit before going to yoga class with Tom.  Yoga class was great but sure kicked our trash.

Went back home and barely had time to eat before rushing out to pick up Tom's friends from the airport.  They had left their car on our street during their trip and it failed to start.  Ran over to the (almost moved) neighbors to get some help on jump starting the car.  It was a headache, but Mom saved the day (over the phone) and we eventually got it started.

Drove both cars to go pick them up so they could drive home right from the airport.  On the way there got a phone call from someone who felt it was their right to chew me out for somehow not getting the one of the items that couldn't fit in our car over to the recipients house, even though it wasn't our responsibility in the first place and there was absolutely no way to get it there and the recipient already knew and was ok with it.  On the way back home we realized Tom left his phone in their car.  That = no move calls about moves for the next couple of days while we wait for his phone to come in through the mail!

Picked up a $5 Little Caesar's pizza on the way home, watched "Midnight in Paris" over youtube while we ate and fell asleep half way through before it was even 10pm.

The End

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Christmas Break

Ok, it's finally time to update the blog!!!  Hopefully you will be seeing several posts over the next few days.  That's the hope.  I will try to go in chronological order, except for this one.

So, for some reason I have a very hard time relaxing without feeling guilty.  There is ALWAYS something I feel like I should be doing.  Some day I hope to figure out how to just let go, but that day is not today.  As follows then, despite my three week "break" I have been very busy!!!  The bulk of this business comes from the idea I had that in order to be able to eat good food, cheaply and quickly during the upcoming semester I could make a whole bunch over the break and then freeze it.

I started by collecting a good variety of recipes off of pinterest that I felt would be decently cheap, had potential to freeze ok and that, of course, looked yummy.  Then I created an excel spreadsheet for the ingredients.  Next I drove way out to Walmart in King of Prussia (this is kind of far) and started cooking away!  I hoped that it would only take me maybe 3 days of cooking all day or something, because I've read other posts online of people who've done so.  But, it probably took me a week.  I've lost track.  Part of this is because I have a tiny, tiny kitchen.  Part of it is because I am a very inexperienced cook (although a bit less experienced now!).  And, part of it is because, well, I'm lazy.

But, I finished!!!  Well, actually, I'm not 100% finished.  I still need to freeze a bunch of bread dough and freeze some more yogurt cubes for my smoothie packs, but I finished the last meal today, so I'm writing a blog post!

Just FYI, this next part will probably be pretty boring, but I left in a lot of info in case I decide to make these meals again and for anyone else who would like to make them.

Here are the recipes that I made:

Chocolate & Peanut Butter Banana Bites:

These were surprisingly good and SO easy.  Tom and I became addicted and ate the first batch so I had to make another because they're supposed to be for school!  We skipped the coconut, because I don't like it.

Coconut Curry Chicken:

This one turned out a bit too salty.  Tom liked it but I didn't.  There's another curry recipe I made another time that I should have made instead.

Crab Cream Cheese Wontons:

These didn't turn out so well either.  First off, I couldn't find wonton wrappers, so I used egg roll ones.  Bad idea.  Second, the recipe asked for way too much green onion!  Made them taste bitter!   I substituted crab for lobster which was probably fine and finally, I left out the siracha, because I couldn't find it, which was probably fine.

Lemon Ricotta Pancakes:

Had no idea pancakes could be frozen.  Great make in advance breakfast.  I think these turned out rather well.  I just wish I'd doubled the batch.

Smoothie Packs:

Tried one of these babies out today at it was pretty good.  Just bought a big back of mixed frozen fruit (strawberries, pineapple, mango, etc.), added frozen vanilla yogurt that I froze in the ice cube tray and some bananas left over from the banana bites.  

Creamy Cheesy Chicken Lasagna:

Haven't tried this yet, but tried the sauce that is one of the components and that was pretty good.  Tasted like Alfredo sauce.  I have high hopes here.

Cafe Rio's Pork Barbacoa / Costa Vida's Sweet Pork:

If you've ever been to either of those restaurants (they're the same - Costa Vida was created by some employees who stole the recipes from Cafe Rio) then you're probably familiar with this.  You can use it for tacos, enchiladas, quesadillas, salad, burritos, etc.  I usually go with tacos because it's just easy.  We couldn't help but try some of this before freezing it and IT WAS SO GOOD.  It has taken all of my self control to leave the rest in there til school starts.  We tried it in taco form with just lightly fried tortillas and some romaine lettuce.  Again, so good.  Also, despite taking a while to cook it's quite easy.  There is just a lot of waiting.  Oh, and I just grabbed the cheapest pork I could find.  I can't even remember what kind.

Mongolian Beef:

Haven't tried this yet but it looked and smelled quit good.  I froze the uncooked meat and sauce separately because in the recipe you cover the meat in corn starch then brown it and then cook it with the sauce.  Just seemed like those steps would be better to do day of.  Should have made double batch for this as well.

Creamy Cajun Chicken Pasta:

Definitely should have double or even quadrupled this one.  Didn't make much.  Looked good, but didn't try it because there was so little of it!

Baked Spaghetti:

The recipe had a few kinks.  First off, it was supposed to be done it a 6 x 10 dish, which I thought was an odd size.  Plus, all I have is an 11 x 16, so ya know, I did it in that and improvised!  There seemed to be enough noodles for that size, but I would have increased the meat / sauce mixture and the vegetable / cream cheese mixture.  The recipe instructs to cook the chopped onion in the microwave with some butter for 4 minutes.  This is WAY too long.  Burned it the first time then did it for half the time the second time around and that was perfect.  Also, you're supposed to spread the cream cheese mixture over the top which was difficult to do.  I microwave it to make it a bit more runny, which helped, but it was still problematic.  Didn't try it, it looked good.  Oh, and this is the last dish I made!

Cafe Rio / Costa Azul Ranch Dressing:

This goes with the sweet pork if I decide to make a salad or burrito with it.  Heck I might use it on tacos too.  Pretty easy and tastes pretty good.  Who knew you could freeze ranch dressing?  I looked it up.

Sour Cream Chicken Enchiladas:

So good.  So good.  I top it with more green enchilada sauce after I heat it up.  They weren't too difficult either.  This will be a recipe I make often for years to come.  I even snuck one after freezing and they're still good sure enough.

Broccoli Cheese Soup:

Recipe made a TON, which is good because it tastes pretty scrumptious.  

Sugar Cookies:

Just made the dough, rolled it into a log and froze it.  Hopefully they're good!

Chocolaty Chocolate Cookies:

Don't these look heavenly?  Yeah, I really wanted to make them, but I didn't.  Turns out chocolate powder is quite expensive.  Plus, my store doesn't have hazelnuts.  But what I did do is buy a box mix for double chocolate cookies, made it and froze the dough.

And Thats It!

Doesn't seem like as much now that I've documented it all, but it sure seemed like it!  I never want to wash another dish again!  Can't wait to actually start eating this food!  Makes me actually excited for break to end.