37.) CSA Boxes

One of the local farms here in Austin, Johnson’s Backyard Garden, has an excellent CSA box program that’s I’ve been hearing about for a long time. Ever since I watched Food, Inc. I’ve been trying to make adjustments in my food and lifestyle to support local seasonal produce, and finally, being done with school and having both the time and money to commit to it, decided to give the CSA box a try.  

Some friends and I gave it a trial run back in August with a coupon we had for a one-time box, and I was thoroughly impressed. I showed up to the farmer’s market with a bag to retrieve my veggies, and was shocked by how much there was in the box! Additionally, since I was retrieving it at the market, I was able to trade anything out of the box I wanted for anything other items they had on the farmstand. As I was signing my name off the list, one of the farmers showed up with a truckload of canary melons and gave me a giant one as a free thank-you for supporting local farms.  

Needless to say, Johnson’s Backyard Garden has hooked me since, and some friends and I decided to sign up for a subscription for their CSA box. Today we got our first of 10 boxes. Although I’m a girl who has been known to easily eat her own weight in delicious veggies, I’m super glad to be sharing the CSA with two other people – the produce is so fresh that I don’t think I’d be able to even cook it all before some of it started to turn. 

Their website is especially cool, and they upload photos of their weekly boxes here: http://www.jbgorganic.com/guide/

Tonight I made an oven roasted sweet pepper and black bean ragu sauce with quinoa. It’s supposed to be lunch for tomorrow and Friday, but smelled so decadent I had to eat some tonight – dear goodness I’ve never had peppers taste so amazing and fresh!

The other thing about this CSA program is that they sometimes include vegetables that are a little lower profile/more exotic than what you’d find in the grocery store. Today’s box included Japanese salad turnips. Last week’s supposedly included kohlrabi. Kohl-whaaa? This will definitely force me to work outside of my comfort-zone of familiar vegetables, and that is one of the most exciting things. Challenge accepted. 

So the CSA box experience…I’m excited to share more recipes/foodie ideas as we progress through the weeks!🙂


More changes in my life! I sound like a broken record, don’t I? Hm. Ironic, since the “broken record” metaphor usually implies lack of change…

Anywho, my living situation has changed again. I have a new roommate, and I no longer have a cat. This is my first time living with a girl roommate since college. Back in the undergrad days, I lived with one of my best friends for a year in the dorms (sophomore year), and then spent junior and senior year living with three of my best college friends in an apt that is roughly the size of the one I’m now sharing with my roommate. It was cramped quarters sometimes (esp with only ONE bathroom and a “kitchenette” instead of a kitchen) but those years with the girls also gave rise to some of my fondest college memories. I remember many lovely fall evenings spent snuggled around the (puny) TV together, watching Grey’s Anatomy (I would occasionally freak out about school…because I was a weirdo-nerd…and try to “study” while watching). We’d take turns cooking college food….microwave noodle soups or mac and cheese, except the one girl who always cooked the most amazing college meals. We’d deck out in costumes for Halloween or primp for Saturday night’s at Senunas’ or Murray’s, checking ourselves out in the mirrors in the bathroom. We’d play in the snow on snow days, we played with our collection of contraband hamsters that we’d rescued from the SPCA or the science labs, spend weekends going out with friends, doing crafts together, having the rare Cleaning Day, go to the Bloomsburg Fair and stuff ourselves with fair food, talk about boys, talk about our dreams and plans for after college. It was wonderful.

I really love living with a girl again, esp a really cool and chill one. We’ve had girl talks, and watched Bridesmaids together, and drank tea. We tackled an epic Target run to get furniture for the apt, took on Central Market to fill up the fridge, and managed to change the air conditioning filter after several tries.

I also have really enjoyed setting my room up. I changed the room around from how I first thought I’d have it, and I feel like I put a lot of thought into it: I moved the head of my bed so it DOESN’T catch the morning light (for days I might want to sleep in. Like the morning following the Creepy Moustache Party). I placed my rocking chair where it gets the evening/sunset sun, so it will be cozy and warm for reading, and also is close enough to the window for placing my water/tea/(wine?).  I put my desk on the wall far from the door for optimized space, and put my red dresser on the close wall to kind of shelter off my room from the rest of the apt.

I also hung a bunch of lights and have several candleholders and candles, hoping to transform my room into an after-hours meditation station whenever I want.  I’m drinking Tahitian Vanilla tea with almond milk and playing Skinny Love. I’m burning an apple-scented candle.

And missing some people.

People I care about.

Far away and overseas…

34.) and 35.)

34.) Change of Taste – Summer has been a whirlwind of activity (who’s that?? August?? Already?! REALLY!?!?). There was all the traveling and studying and craziness I mentioned in my last post. Then, I went to San Francisco with one of my best friends, flew home to Austin for one day, repacked and was off the next morning for a conference for several days in Florida, flew back to Austin, and started my first job the next day.

So far, the work world has been AMAZING. I wake up and go to work, and for every moment I’m at the facility, my mind is on my therapy. In grad school, I would be doing therapy, but my baseline stress levels were a constant jitter running through my nerves. The pressure of thesis, classes, projects, other rotations, etc., always thrummed constantly inside me. I cannot express how wonderful it is to go to work and to concentrate all of my focus on the task at hand.

In other news, I’ve been noticing different changes about me…almost all are related to a change in taste, too. It’s been a fun adventure to detect these new developments, and I’ve been keeping a little mental list. I don’t know if these are things that have just evolved with age (hi there, official-late-20’s!) or boredom with my customary preferences, or biochemistry of my taste receptors. But they happened pretty rapidly…all within the last 2 months…and it’s fun to acknowledge the growth, as well as surprise people who knew my former tastes so well (“But you HATE spicy food/dry wines/hoppy beers!”)

1.)  Hot sauce – I used to find Pace “medium” salsa to be spicy, and you wouldn’t catch me near a bottle of hot sauce. Now, I have a collection of several hot sauces, and put sriracha sauce on almost every dinner dish I make. I also require a lot more heat to make me grab for my milk glass – and I actually crave fiery food now.  


2.)  Wine – I used to love sweet Italian Lambrusco red wine and syrupy chenin blanc whites, and oh my…an after dinner port?…the sweeter the wine the better. Now I really have developed a taste for dry reds and whites, and actually cannot stand the taste of wine that’s too sweet. I even sent back a wine that I got at a restaurant that was too sweet (another first).


3.)  Coffee – the only coffees I ever drank were like warm, liquid candy bars. Aside from being a sucker for anything that was actually a milkshake disguised as a frappy-mocha-flavor-blast with a shot of espresso, I loaded my regular ol’ cup o’ joe with packets of sugar (or worse, faux sugar). When I first began drinking coffee in college, I would drink it black with 2 packets of Equal, because it tasted sweeter than sugar to me…I think I eventually worked up to 3 packets. Sometime this year, I started really getting off of the sweet coffee deal….I can do coffee with milk, and maybe a little honey or simple syrup, but I really can’t stand my coffee to be too saccharine. I got a hot chocolate from my favorite coffeehouse this June and was WHOA-ed by how overly sweet it was…it used to be a favorite order of mine. Time to find a new favorite.


4.)  Beer – I’ve always loved Yuengling, and that has not (probably will never) change. But 5 years ago my absolute favorite beer was Blue Moon, with a close follow-up being Jack’s Pumpkin Ale. Although I still LOVE pumpkin spice everything (including some beers), I had a Blue Moon last night for the first time in months. It was good…refreshing on a balmy Austin evening for sure, but too sweet.


Ok. So actually looking at the list, it looks like the running theme is Col Can’t Tolerate Sweet as Much as She Used To. Which is likely a very very good thing, considering the amount of sugar I used to take in. I guess that was a bit anticlimactic and uninteresting. Hmm. Moving on….




35.) The Secret ‘O Life – On another note, the Summer Olympics have begun! I love the Olympics. It’s so fun to watch, so inspirational to get my butt back to running and working out on a new level, and also brings people from all countries together. Everyone has a shared topic of conversation, besides the weather, and it’s generally something to cause more unity and less division (unlike the conversational topic of politics, etc).


I think for me the most heartwarming moment was watching US gymnast Gabby when she was competing in her final event: she danced and tumbled with the BIGGEST smile on her face. She didn’t look like she was fighting for the gold medal – she looked like she was playfully enjoying doing the thing she loved the most.


And it reminded me…sometimes these days all things feel like a competition. It’s great, and necessary, to remind ourselves that we are here to enjoy our life. Enjoy our jobs. Enjoy our passage of time.


“The secret of life is enjoying the passage of time.” – James Taylor

32.) and 33.) Finding love in the new and familiar

So much has happened since the last update. I finished my thesis. I graduated with my third (and hopefully last!) degree. I spent a glorious three weeks with my sister and two weeks with my family. I visited a new country. I took the Praxis. I read 3.5 novels on my Kindle. I’ve applied for my license to practice. I spent some time with friends who are leaving and dispersing across the country, some that I likely might not see again. It’s been a lot of change to take in.

I could write pages and pages on all of these things, but it would take so long. I think this entry I will just dedicate to the joy of discovery of love in new, yet familiar, things.

32.)  My first ashtanga yoga class

Ashtanga, to me, is such an interesting and beautiful form of yoga. It’s so much stricter and more regimented than the free-flowy, playful power yoga classes I’m used to, which oxymoronically appeals to my free-flowy, playful character. Ashtanga is more controlled, more perfectionist, seeks to always improve – it is the Type A personality in the yoga world. It’s the master I want to please. It’s the Everest I want to conquer. Yoga to me is also a spiritual practice – my way of connecting with the Divine, and maybe the disciplined order and tradition makes me feel more faithfully connected to my Catholic upbringing – a tendency to pair devotion with ascetics. In my own little mind I built ashtanga up to be so many things that it intimidated the hell out of me and for so long I’ve avoided even trying it (that, and the fact that there aren’t a ton of places that teach the style, except in the middle of the day). This past Wednesday, despite having not practiced yoga regularly in the past 9 months, I finally ballsed it up and went to my first ashtanga class. And yes, it was a bit daunting: there were only 5 pupils participating in the led class, and one woman who set up in the corner on the opposite side of the room to do ashtanga mysore (the same sequence of poses….but done privately with yourself in a public setting, with no one helping you or instructing you). Our mats all faced each other, and I realized quickly that almost all the other class members had been practicing this style for years. The instructor grilled me on my previous yoga skills before consenting to letting me try the class. And the class began. It was amazing. It really was as beautiful as I’d hoped it would be. It was new, but it was also familiar. Ashtanga is touted as being the “original” western yoga, the ancestor of all other yogas you’d find on the menu at your local studio. It is the forefather/mother of vinyasa, hatha, hatha flow, power yoga…all of the styles I’ve practiced over the last 5 years. To me it was like finally being acquainted with the wise old sage from whom the yogas I love descended. I could see features of my younger yogas and was happy to know where they came from, like meeting a boyfriend’s or girlfriend’s parents and realizing they have the same eyes, they inherited that sense of humor. It was very connective to try it, and I’m excited to do more in the coming weeks. (Also, it left me so sore than even today, 2 days after the class, I can barely lift my arms…signs of growth🙂 ).



33.)  Thursday Night Social Ride

Last night, despite the lactic acid attacking my arms, I headed downtown to meet up with Austin’s Thursday Night Social Ride. I’ve known about the group for awhile, but I never managed to make it out…Fridays were always notorious for lab meetings, or getting up early for power yoga, or having to frantically get clinic work caught up on, so I didn’t want to stay out too late on a Thursday. I’m so happy I finally went, and so excited to go to more of them in the future. It was such a great and friendly collection of people, so many interesting bikes and a potent feeling to be riding en flock. We took off from Festival Beach, one of my favorite areas by Town Lake that always reminds me of marathon training with Claire, and rode the streets of Austin as the sunset lit up the sky with glorious streaks of pink and gold, silhouetting the skyline as it said goodnight. It was a new adventure and a first for me, but also with familiar undertones. It reminded me of summers in Pennsylvania, where my sister and I would bike all day long. After dinner, our neighbor, Nick, would join us and we’d ride all evening until the sun went down, riding up this one huge hill (seriously…we lived on a mountain where huge hills abound), and then we’d race as fast as possible the quarter of a mile all the way to the bottom, and do it all over again. Nick always won, but Claire and I still tried. It was fun to have that familiar feeling back, to have that posse sensation and that connection with one hundred other Austinites who like to play like proud children on their two wheelers.



31.) Reading for pleasure

I love to read. I love to read when I travel, I love to read by the beach. I love to read at cafes. On my balcony in the summer with an iced tea. Next to the pool with a mojito or cold beer. Tucked away between the tall shelves at Half Price Books. I tend to be a bit of a night owl, so when I go home to visit my family I’ll stay up after everyone else has retired for the night and just read for hours.

Grad school doesn’t allow much time for pleasure reading – I think really the only pleasure reading I’ve done has been during breaks between semesters, where I will hungrily devour as many books as I can in a 2-to-4-week session.

Currently, I’m not quite finished with all my work for the semester (big presentation next week, two big exams, some clinic things that need to get wrapped up), but I’m mostly over the hump and have a case of senioritis strong enough that it let me indulge last night for several hours.

So I took a hot shower, opened the windows to let in the warm Austin evening breeze, and snuggled up with my Kindle (current book: The Hunger Games) and my Ott-Light. The whole setting kind of reminds me of the reading-by-Coleman-lantern sessions I’d have in our family cabin in Canada, when my lil sis and I would share bunkbeds and stay up late reading and chatting.

The snuggly reading nest

It was glorious…a deep breath in and a long sigh out of relaxation.

(And yes, I shameless still keep stuffed animals around…)

30.) Yummy Nondairy “Cheese”

With a slight increase in downtime lately, I’ve gotten back to playing in the kitchen. I loooove to cook, and I especially love to experiment – it can be hit or miss, but the hits are so unusual and unique and tasty! The misses are at worst still edible.😉

This semester has been filled with time-crunch food, like Lean Cuisines and canned tuna, fried eggs, deli meat sandwiches and chicken salads from local to-go places, etc. It’s not like I’ve been gorging myself on Texas barbecued brisket daily, but I’ve definitely been eating more meat than I have in years. Morally, I haven’t been feeling fabulicious about that.😦

I was a vegetarian for 5 years. I didn’t eat any meat, primarily because of an incident I had while working at a stable one summer in high school. We had a pig that used to keep the horses company in the barn. After he died, we bought the sweetest little baby calf named Wilbur. Wilbur would keep me company while I mucked stalls and he’d frolic clumsily about on his wobbly calf-leg stilts. Then one day I came in and found him, neatly packaged in white butcher paper in the shared employee freezer, with an open invitation to take some with us if we wanted. 

From that moment on, all fleshy food products reminded me of Wilbur, and kind of nauseated me. I found I didn’t do well on a veg-only diet, though….after awhile I got pale and thin and was sick constantly, catching every cold and flu I came within 10 feet of, so after 2 years I started eating some meat and felt better. That hiatus was short though – again in college I went back to vegetarianism (I was working on a neuroscience project using rodents, and felt like I had to give up eating meat to even the playing field a bit karmically…I know this might make absolutely no sense, but I felt awful using animals for research AND eating them). The same symptoms of weakness, exhaustion, and low immunity came back. After three years of being sick all the time I slowly reintroduced occasional meat into my diet. Looking back on it, I probably was not supplementing properly. I never took vitamins (which I take religiously now). I was an inexperienced cook, so I ate whatever vegetarian options the cafeteria had (…which was not much).

Now, though, I’m ready to start playing more with options. I am not going to say I’m going 100% vegetarian or vegan right now, but I would really like to make more of my meals cruelty free. I’d like to experiment more with alternatives to meat and cheese. And actually, it’s the vegan bit that’s been harder for me to latch on to. Since in Austin, I’ve found plenty meat alternatives. Some of my favorite products are the Field Roast sausages which taste so similar to meat (esp in pasta dishes), portobello cap burgers (mmm with guacamole!), and I adore vegetables and tofu of all kinds. However, I cannot seem to get into faux cheeses.

I’ve always adored cheese. Austin’s Central Market and Antonelli’s have both vastly expanded my cheese-world, and I’ve learned so much about aging levels and undeniably delish cheese (especially brie, bleu, sheeps’ milk cheeses, and aged goudas). I know cheese is supposedly bad for your body (namely, your arteries), and I’ve been making efforts to replace some (right now I’m aiming for half) of the cheese in my diet with nondairy cheeses. It’s been a bit of a challenge – I recently tried a shredded brand of cheddar that a lot of vegan recipes call for, and found it kinda…gross. And pungent. The almond mozzarella was the next that I tried, and that was not bad, but not very flavorful – it was good enough that I could eat it sliced like regular cheese. I have found two delish winners so far – Tofutti non-dairy cream cheese and nutritional yeast.

The Tofutti was an impulse buy at Whole Foods. It was on super sale (cheaper than cream cheese) so…why not? And man, is it tasty! I actually think I like the taste almost BETTER than cream cheese! It’s healthier, but also tastes super creamy and a little sweet! I also picked up some bulk nutritional yeast from Central Market. Nutritional yeast initially sounded like such a weird product – at first I imagined it to be some sort of protein powder that big burly guys pumping iron would add to their post-workout shakes. I was super wrong…nutritional yeast is a yellow flaky yeast product that actually reminds me a LOT of the yellow packets of powder that come with boxed mac and cheese (and it kinda tastes like that too…salty and savory).  I’ve been using it to mix into my Italian sauce dishes or beans to make them taste cheesy.

I’m not putting too much pressure on myself to embrace a 100% vegan-vegetarian diet…I’m trying to embrace this lifestyle shift with less “you can’t eat this and that!” and a more playful experimentation attitude. And I’m trying to make one or two big batches of food for the week, and supplement them as needed daily. Last week (while still recovering from a head cold) I made a big pot of tom yum soup with tofu, and braised veggies with tofu.  This weekend I made portabella mushroom and apple-sage veggie sausage pizzas and Italian style millet. Then for this week I made smoky black beans (slow cooked with smoked paprika, onions, garlic, cilantro, and cayenne pepper).  

I’m so excited to see what new recipes and options come out of the kitchen. :-) 


29.) A Student of Life

            As I prepare to move into an exciting, long-awaited new stage in my life, I’ve had one thing on my mind a lot: what will I do with all of the extra free time I’m about to gain?

This contemplation tickles me to pieces!🙂 It’s sooo easy to get carried away with the fantastical daydreams I’ve entertained in my 5 years as a post-college student. The way some people would conjure up eccentric ideas while thinking about what they would do with 5 billion dollars, I would entertain myself by thinking about what I would do if I had evenings and weekends free from schoolwork. One day during a study date at Epoch with a friend, I decided to put off thesis work for an hour by making a list. The initial list I made was long….after I graduated it appeared that suddenly overnight I would turn into a 5-star -meal-cooking, rock-climbing, mountain-biking, kick-boxing, world-travel jetsetting yogini, who in her spare time was also authoring a book, fostering a dog, redecorating her apt, doing research of stuttering, learning to fly planes, and raising public awareness about conflict diamonds. Right. Well, as noble (and tempting) as these ambitious goals seemed, I decided to cut back a little to something more reasonable.

Here is a picture of my list (color-coded, just for fun!)


These are things I either had practiced a lot in my past and have been neglected since I started school (painting, yoga, Spanish, wilderness survival, archery), or things I’ve always wanted to try (guitar, crochet, running a half-marathon).

Becoming a more independent biker goes along with the social riding community aspiration. I love to bike. And I adore my Cannondale….my Dad bought it for my Mom before I was born, so I feel like my relationship with my bike is maybe more special because of the family connection to it. She’s a beaut, too, isn’t she??


But to be honest, I really didn’t know much about how to properly care for her. REI offers free or cheap classes, and last night I decided to take a Basic Bike Care Maintenance class, taught by one of the guys in the bike shop. I’ve never taken a non-formal class before. I was a little unsure of what to expect. Also I was also the only nerd who had a pencil and paper and took notes the whole 90 minutes. The class was so great – he gave us little tricks of the trade regarding changing tires, patching, what kind of gear you absolutely need, what kind of gear you absolutely do NOT need, brake adjustments, hanging your bike up, lubing, cleaning the bike and the drive train, etc.

I was so impressed I think I’ll come back for more…they offer classes free to members for other things (rock-climbing, bouldering, wilderness survival and first aid). It also has inspired me to try some cooking classes – I know Central Market offers excellent classes, and I’d love to learn new techniques or cuisines I’m less familiar with.🙂

There’s always room to grow. Even if I don’t adhere to my Rainbow List completely, the one thing I really want to do with my time is to work on growth.

To never stop learning.

To transition from a student of UT to a student of life.

This is your life, so get busy living, or get busy dying.