Friday, April 29, 2016


sometimes you try a recipe and it turns out to be a total dud.  and then you gotta do all these dishes and what do you have in return?  a dud recipe.  oh well...

so then you consult a friend who knows what's what, and she gives you a different recipe and that one turns out great!  possibly because it's not a traditional recipe, but...hey at least it's edible!  then you go back to pretending to do homework and trying to survive the week.

and then suddenly it's friday and you did it! you survived!  good work everyone.  now back to work.  are you kidding? you know there's no such thing as "weekend" in academia!  geeze... n00bs.

but since I do what I want(!) and what I want to do is take a brief #amwriting morning, I'll conclude this disorganized post with one of my writing playlists just in case you have your own denouement to effect. 

(yes, Effect, not Affect, because I mean in the sense of bringing about, to achieve. don't need none of your sass!)

Thursday, April 28, 2016

pinterest roundup: home things

okay so most of my home-style pins are plants.  guess you can see where my priorities really lie.  if you don't follow me on pinterest here you go!  sometimes I like to look at this board and imagine the day when I can have a place all to myself (or mostly to myself) which is only marginally run-down and which I can style as I see fit... hopefully a day not too far off in the future!  what houseplants are you pinning these days?

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

eat breakfast; student's budget edition

greetings students!

this post is about breakfast ideas. which means it'll only be applicable to all four of you who still eat breakfast.

just kidding.  eat breakfast, kids!  I never used to either, but once you're getting up at six every day, it turns out you really need it!  it's a long time till lunch, man.  so now I never miss it.  here's what I generally keep in the house that relates to breakfast:

  • old-fashioned oats, giant tub.  say this is $4-5 at my stop-n-shop.  there are 30 servings in it, so that's about 15 cents each.
  • a bunch of bananas.  cheap, seriously.
  • frozen strawberries.  about $2 from trader joe's.
  • a jar of peanut butter.  obviously this applies to like...all meals of the day.
  • brown sugar or normal baking white sugar, though you can definitely go for honey or maple syrup or something healthier like that.
  • a dozen eggs, and I go for the free-range ones.
  • a loaf of bread because toast (and also applies to other meals).  keep your bread in the fridge so it doesn't mold before you can get through it.

it looks like a lot, but I can actually tell you that my weekly grocery run is generally just bread, bananas, an avocado, and cheese.  I eat simple, guys.

option 1: when I have the time, I like to make eggs.  usually this means fried or over-easy, with toast and - when I have a ripe one - some avocado slices.  I lean toward this when I have something early and I'll be coming home around breakfast time, or if it's the weekend.  I also make this for lunch a lot, I won't lie.

option 2: nine out of ten mornings, I'm making oatmeal.  it's quick, simple, and easy to shake up.  mix in peanut butter, or brown sugar, or frozen strawberries.  very important - add a little salt!  people think oatmeal is weird or boring, but most of the time it's that they aren't putting any salt in??

option 3: in a major rush, or when I'm leaving the house before 7:30 and I'm not that hungry, but I know I need to eat something (aka teaching mornings), I have a banana with peanut butter.  if you're not violently opposed to the microwave, zapping a spoonful of peanut butter in a ramekin for thirty seconds makes it all melty and perfect for dipping.  just saying.  if you're not a fan of bananas, you can keep apples in the house for this purpose instead.

and of course, this are accompanied by the base of my personal food  but coffee is probably a whole post in itself!  now, I'm going to drink the rest of mine and get this day started.  have a good tuesday everybody!

Saturday, April 23, 2016

jones beach

hey kids.

I just wanted to share a few pictures I took yesterday afternoon at jones beach.  it's right down the road from robert moses, which is the beach I've been to up here, but because the concessions have all closed, jones beach is much emptier.

it's still really early in the season, so it was pretty much deserted yesterday.  I went down with a friend to pick up any garbage in honor of earth day.

these rocky pictures are from the jetty at the end of the beach.  I just really liked the green mossy/algaeish bits and the way the water was foaming around them.

our weather has been creeping toward summer, but the sky was gray, which just made the colors in the water all the more eerie and lovely.

this is one of my favorite times of year, especially in a house or apartment without air conditioning.  for some reason I love the muggy mild-warmth and the sensation of the outdoors coming in.  that's it, I think - in the summer, your house is cooler than the outdoors, and in the winter it's warmer.  this phase is my favorite, when it's all homogeneous.

from here to the end of the semester is likely to stay pretty swamped. I'm officially teaching for kaplan test prep now, and it's probable I'll pick up another class or too with them pretty soon.  meanwhile, I'm still TAing for calculus iv on campus, and doing some homework for my own classes.  so this blog may stay a bit quieter, but I do have some ideas in the works, and of course these kinds of short, life-type posts are quite manageable.

have an excellent weekend, everyone!

Thursday, April 21, 2016

happy thursday

greetings from my home-away-from-home starbucks.

it's been a long week, and there's still another long week to go, but that's okay.  I can't believe it's thursday already, and I haven't been here quite as often as I usually am, but it's noisy, so it's making up the difference.

there's an extremely pragmatic russian at the next table, who is telling his lady friend that if one is eating a hot breakfast sandwich, and it gets cold, one can just stop eating it because there are lots of good sandwich places all over the island.

they're training a new barista here. anyone remember adventures in odyssey? because this kid looks just like eugene meltsner.

two of my new students have actually seen veggie tales, so let's all give a big welcome back! to my "this has been ______ with Lydia" verbal meme.

my county is too poor to afford those little "I voted!" stickers.  I just don't know how to feel about this.  I mean, the privilege of exercising my right to vote is just so...flat without a small adhesive pat on the back.

it may not sound like it, but driving an hour in the early morning light on weekends to go teach is a very pleasant experience.  in case you wondered, my little car gets fantastic gas mileage on the parkway. I'm very happy with the statistics my little mpg app is calculating.

I have another hour or so here, and today is my short time off before I have to grade 266 exams, so I'm going to go get some writing done.  I hope you all are having an excellent thursday!


Sunday, April 17, 2016

record feature: love will turn you around

mixed feelings about this post...  I'm not sure if it's weird?  this is a throwback, sure, kenny rogers from the early 80s... but this was one of the first records I ever picked up after I got my turntable, at a goodwill like thirty minutes south with very slim pickin's. 

so maybe it's a not-so-distant-nostalgia that makes me love this album?  it just grew on me.  there are couple songs that I really do enjoy, and during a low spell, I put this on several times a day right after I got it.  it's good clean country with catchy tunes and wholesome if dorky lyrics (I said early 80s, what were you expecting?).  the record is in great shape as well!  one of the better-preserved ones in my modest collection.

I know this won't be everyone's cup of tea, but if you do want to check out the album, I'm embedding it below.  some of the songs that I enjoy most are the title track, "take this heart," "if you can lie a little bit," and "the fool in me."

Friday, April 15, 2016

good stuff #8

1. this four-by-four rubik's "revenge," because it was a gift and it essentially boils down to a fancy three-by-three after some extra steps and some real funky parities...

2. this color gray, because I really lucked out in my ipsy bag this month.

3. this avocado seed, because out of all the ones I've ever tried to sprout, it finally grew roots.

4. these favorite people, because dancing is a real highlight of my week.

more good stuff:
 - avocado recipes ugh
 - favorite post ever
 - lambs
 - and the fact that the weather is going to be incredible this weekend!

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

april playlists

greetings, everyone.

I thought I'd give you this month's playlist...before the end of the that you could listen to it...this. month.  rather than leaving it till the end/next good stuff, etc.  so here you go!

and for fun, here is the playlist from about this time last year... it's kind of weird to see what's changed in the music I listen to.  for on thing, my current playlists are way longer, which makes sense because my sheer volume of music has gone up...  I had already been into the glitch mob and hurts for a long time, but I had just gotten into woodkid, whom I love with an undying love.  but yes...I would definitely say my playlist-making skills have leveled up since then.  or at least, the music I like now, I like better than I liked the music I liked then.  did you follow that?  haha.

peace out, kiddos.


Monday, April 11, 2016

how. to. study.

greetings, students.

give me a second to really sound like a huge jerkwad, okay?  okay.  I didn't study in high school.  I didn't study in college.  I'm a very visual learner with attention struggles, so I didn't often listen in class (and if I did, it was because I was knitting while looking at the slides).  I learned by teaching myself the material while doing the homework outside of the classroom.  somehow it all stuck in there and would come out on during exams with minimal cramming the day before.

(incidentally - here's how I memorize things like theorems, or maybe history facts or what have you - find a chalk board.  write the things on it with your non-dominant hand.  it slows you down so you have to really think about and focus on and stare at the words you're writing.  do this several times until you can do it completely from memory.)

thennnn I got to grad school.  I hit the brick wall at the time that it really counted, and that sucked, let me tell you.  so much material.  such challenging homework assignments that you actually really need to study just to do them in the first place!  finally, I really needed to listen and be taught in class - and as I was warned, the teaching in grad school is in generally the most infuriatingly horrible teaching you'll ever see.  (mini-rant: I don't pay anything but fees to go here because ph.d. program, but those who are master's students and paying through the nose?  they're just paying for a piece of paper?  because seriously.  except in the rarest of cases, we're teaching ourselves everything.)

all that to say, I had to learn.  and studying is different for everyone!  but if you're like me, a visual and kinetic learner who absorbs by doing, you might find my methods helpful.  some of this is ongoing, and some of it is geared toward midterms and finals, so hopefully something works for you...

  1. if at all rational, take notes in class.  if your prof puts the slides up online and doesn't write anything on the board while lecturing, a) I'm so sorry, I hate that too, but b) you may or may not opt out of this step.
  2. when you get home, once or twice a week at your discretion, or before doing the homework, copy your notes.  at this point, I like to color-code them.  since I'm in the math world, my version of color-coding is writing the words part in one color, the mathy symbols in another to help them stand out of the paragraphs, and the examples in another.  I personally do this on printer paper and then store it all in a binder.
  3. when you do your homework, if the prof/teacher posts solutions online, download them (and print them if you want to put them in your binder) so you can get to them easily later.  

okay, so far so good, you're doing your homework, you're collecting information in a central location as you go along.  when you do get your graded homework back, put it in your binder as well!  I say this because sometimes there's more than one way to do a problem or answer a question, and if you just look at the posted solutions, you'll miss out on the way you did it in the first place that was counted correct.

now - sweet sister francis! - it's exam time.  here's my process:

  1. re-copy your recopied notes into a composition notebook, a different one for each class.  you can change up your color coding at this point, anything to keep you interested and engaged.  alternatively, if you mostly have this stuff down, or it's easier material, you can skip this step and work from your previously-copied notes.  go on to the next step.
  2. these are the most critical steps for me.  
    1. first, read through your notes, highlighting the important stuff.  
    2. next, read through your notes again, this time using a different color pen to hold a "conversation" with your past self who was taking the notes in the first place, around and between the lines.  I recommend a light-ish color so it doesn't obstruct your original notes much.  in these pictures you can see I used a red pen.
  3. go through one more time and use little sticky tabs (color-coded, haha) to keep track of the most important pages.  I use one color for major memorization like theorems, another color for important facts, another for example problems maybe, and another for stuff that I know I don't have down yet.

finally!!!  if all of that is not enough, or if you have something like a cheat sheet you get to compile for your exam (yesssss), I do this as well:

  1. go through the notes/textbooks/slides one more time, making index-card flash cards of important facts, theorems, compiled lists of properties, basic quality information about different subjects, etc.
  2. use those flash cards as priority aids when you write down the cheat sheet for the exam.  (protip: use .5-size lead mechanical pencils for this step, haha.)
  3. take the flash cards that you know you're weakest on to the exam with you, so that when you get there eight minutes early and you're sitting around sweating, you can flip through them one last time before you start.

okay!  geeze, what a marathon post.  geeze, what a marathon life, studying.  on the other side, I passed all my classes last semester, two out of three with A's!  and!  I know this studying method worked for me, because when I got back to school and started studying for our big scary qualifying exam, I found that all that material was still in my brain (which has never happened to me before, a short-term crammer).  and I also passed that qual, for the record!  learn from my mistakes, my young padawans.  develop good habits in high school, or at least in college.  I hope something out of this list might be helpful for you this semester!


Saturday, April 9, 2016


a most excellent friend and I tend to roll our eyes or flop around or throw our hands in the air and sigh, "leben!"  I'm not sure where exactly it started, but it just means "life!" and is our general term of exasperation.

I say leben! today because...well, it's friday, though I think this post will go up this weekend sometime.  it's been a long week, with an exam and homework to "do" and meetings and training. tomorrow I'll be getting up at 0530 and driving an hour to the southern part of the island.  I got invited to a church on sunday, and that afternoon I'll have a teaching observation.  if everything goes according to plan, I'll be teaching by next weekend, and I haven't yet done my students' current homework assignment, and it looks to be a whole mess of arithmetic that I shouldn't have to do at my age.  but alas.

I gave up chocolate (temporarily let's be realistic) what feels like ages ago...seriously, I have no clue.  has it been a week?  feels like forever, haha.  because sugar intake, food money, blah blah blah also I'm stubborn and don't like cravings.

there have been two quarter-sized-plus spiders in my life this past week.  and there are errands to run and laundry to do and emails to answer and ugly grown-up things to deal with, and I'm tired.  so there.  my whining is done.

there are two mathematicians who come into my starbucks on several mornings during the week, and they sit there looking extremely intelligent, staring pensively out the windows, and occasionally pacing back and forth.  I know that one of them is a celebrated dynamicist, but I haven't pinned down the other, and they do all of their work in russian so I just know I'm missing out.  until this afternoon, I didn't know any of this - or that they work at my school.  I saw them this morning at starbucks, and just now I was walking out of my building and passed the young unidentified one going in.  I grinned like aha! all of my postulating proves correct! and he must have seen me laughing because he gave me a look that roughly translates to ????????????????.  and that was that.  (hey jim, if you're reading this, I was right!)

why is it that three things can be going well, and then one bad thing can pollute the whole mind?  here, the readers join the ranks of those who say "well, lydia, just don't let it!  mind over matter!"  and to which I retort, it's not that I'm not swimming, it's that I'm swimming upstream.  but oh well.  soon the weather will warm up and the semester will end, and everything will become summer.  just have to remember that.  enough lamentation for today.  it is still, after all, friday, at the time of this writing, so I hope all of you are having excellent weekends.


Friday, April 8, 2016

easy small-batch oatmeal cookies

cards on the table: I'm not a fan of raisins.  shockingly, these oatmeal cookies do not have any raisins in them.  if you do like raisins, first of all, what? and second of all, why? and third of all, well then throw some in there.  geeze, it's a free country...

these are super easy and pretty quick and I made them up so here we go!  makes twelve nice sized cookies and they're fluffy! now, ingredients:
  • 0.75 c flour (all-purpose)
  • 0.5 tsp baking soda
  • 0.5 tsp cinnamon
  • 0.25 tsp salt
  • 0.5 c butter (1 stick), softened
  • 0.25 c white sugar
  • 0.25 c dark brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1.5 c oats (mine happened to be the abominable instant oats which I bought by mistake save yourselves)

step 1!  stick the soft butter, white sugar, and brown sugar in a mixing bowl.  smash smash smash until creamed together niiiice and smooth.  add the egg and whip everything together (I use a fork because mixers are for sissies).

(kidding. sorry mom.)

step 2!  add the baking soda, cinnamon, salt, and flour in two bits, mixing as you go.  then mix in the oats about half at a time, mixing mixing mixing.  then stick the whole bowl in the fridge for forty-five minutes to an hour (aka time to watch an episode of something on netflix).

step 3!  when you're about ready, preheat the oven to 350F and grease a baking sheet (you only need one because it's a small batch).  make walnut-sized globs of dough with your hands.  slap 'em on the pan and kinda squish 'em with your palm so they aren't globes.  you can see the general 1-inch spacing and shape in the picture above.

step 4!  bake for 10-12 minutes.  the tops will still be soft when you check them!  if the bottom edges look a little browned, you're good.  pull those suckers out and let them cool on the pan to set up.  ta da!

they're very simple, I'll grant you.  if you don't like that kind of thing, then toss in some chocolate chips or maybe diced up green apple or...raisins... but if you're like me, you want to be able to make something very simple with all four ingredients you can afford to keep in the house.  okay, a little bit of an exaggeration, but I'll stop making excuses for my tastes now.  I like 'em.  I hope you do too.


Wednesday, April 6, 2016

girl talk: three reviews

today on giiiirl taaaalk - natural things you put on your skin!

aztec healing clay mask.  what you need to do: mix equal parts clay powder and apple cider vinegar.  I use less than a teaspoon of each because that's really all you need unless you're lady cassandra.  apply it with your hands for easy clean-up, wait till it dries and you can't move your face (this is a fun stage) and then wash it off.  protip: if you have a good shower, it's easiest to just wash it off in the shower.  if, however, your shower is sucky and the drain backs up because you live in a hole without proper venting, you're going to want to wash in the sink (carefully) first, to avoid a lovely greyish ring in the basin.

what you need to know: as these things go, I find this worth the purchase.  be aware that your skin will probably be red immediately afterward, but that goes away.  just don't use it every day - I use it once a week or less, but that's also because I'm lazy.  also, this tub will last you forever.

nelson's pure & clear treatment gel.  what you need to do: wait for it...apply it.  to clean skin, obviously.  

what you need to know: also probably worth the purchase.  not a miracle worker, but comparable to a benzoyle peroxide + hydrocortisone regimen, and natural.  be advised: it is supposed to be "gentle" but can definitely sting.  I blame the tea tree oil, which is listed as an inactive ingredient, but is very  active.

vicco turmeric cream.  what you need to do: put this on yo face while enjoying the sandalwood aroma.  maybe not everybody would like the way this stuff smells but I personally love it.  again, not a miracle worker, but I use it when I don't need a heavy moisturizer, or better yet, I mix it with my moisturizer.  so technically, if you were to use all of the items in this post, they would go in order... clay mask, shower (+ cleanser), treatment gel, turmeric (+ moisturizer).  

in summary: I wish I could say that any one of these is the magical miracle product that the internet claims they are, but in the end, I still found them worth the purchase, and I like something about each of them.  what natural products are you a fan of?  share in the comments!

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

freelensing photography tutorial

greetings, cheeldren.

technique: hold lens off center, tilt sideways.

let me introduce you to one of my very favorite things.  (half of you say "oh, we've already met." well good for you!)  this thing is called "freelensing"!  it's a special technique for taking pictures with a dslr.

technique: tilt sideways to let in some light on the left side.

unfortunately, this won't work with a point-and-shoot or any kind of camera that doesn't have a detachable lens, but if you do have a dslr, read on!  I have a canon rebel t2i, but it's a comparable process with nikons and whatnot.

technique: hold lens off center and tilt heavily to let in light leak.
the technique is theoretically simple: you just detach your lens, turn your camera back on, switch the setting so that the back screen shows the hypothetical shot, and hold the lens up to the camera body with your left hand (operating the shutter button with your right).

technique: tilt vertically (in this case the bottom of the lens is closer to the camera body).
in reality, there's a bit more work to it.  for example, you're going to want to switch your mode to "manual."  normally, I shoot almost exclusively on the "av" mode, which means aperture-priority, and is quick and easy.  when you're freelensing, you kind of are the aperture*, since you're going to wiggle around the lens, letting in more or less light.  in addition, you have to hold the camera really really still.  the best way to do this is switch to manual so you can dictate the shutter speed you want (that is, fast, to avoid blur) and then brighten the shot as needed by letting in more or less light by moving the lens.

the results of freelensing include nifty faux-tilt-shift effects and artsy light leaks (which come out kind of purple/pink).  with practice, you'll figure out how to tilt and move your lens to get the effect that you're aiming for.  in general, whichever side of your lens is tilted closer to the camera body, the opposite side of the picture will be in sharper focus.  you'll also be zooming with your feet - as in, moving your own dang self closer to your subject in order to get it in focus.  this is also where the holding really still part comes in, because your depth of field** is so short.

technique: reversed lens!

and if you want two lenses for the price of one you can actually turn your lens around and use it backwards to get a super-ultra-macro effect.  examples above and below this paragraph...

*aperture = the hole in the camera lens that light comes through.
**depth of field = the zone in front of the camera that is in-focus.  so if you're taking a picture of a field and it all looks in focus, you have a large depth of field.  if you're taking a close-up shot of a tree branch, and behind it everything is blurry, you have a short depth of field.

so yeah, those are my tips for freelensing, which is the technique I use for a ton of the photos on this blog.  to sum up:

  • switch to manual and set a high shutter speed
  • zoom with your feet and hold still
  • if you want the right side in focus, tilt the left side of the lens closer to the camera body, for example
  • reverse the lens for super-ultra-macro
if you give it a shot (GET IT) share it with me in the comments!