Vegetable Soup for the Soul

Y’all, I feel a little silly sharing this recipe. I mean, it’s just vegetable soup, nothing fancy, right? But I love this soup. It is absolute comfort food to me. This makes an enormous batch, which I always freeze half of. When I feel a cold coming on, I pull out a quart of this soup. When a friend has the flu or just got out of surgery, I pull out a quart, bake or pick up a fresh loaf of bread and take it to them. The secret is allowing this to simmer for a long time so that the flavors become more than just some vegetables in broth. Anyways, with a raging flu season going on out there, I hope you enjoy it, despite the less than ideal picture.

Vegetable Soup

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Weekly Update: January 14

How was everybody’s weekends? Mine was nice and low key: I walked around town to run errands, took Falcor to Disneyland, aka the dog park, and watched some movies. I so rarely have weekends without plans that I so enjoyed just kicking back.

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Whole Wheat Sourdough Sandwich Bread

I know that going from cornbread to sourdough sounds like going from the baby pool to the deep end of the pool, but once you get past the starter, sourdough can be a fairly hands off. I bake a loaf of this bread once a week and eat it almost every morning with almond butter and homemade jam or fried eggs. Compared to your standard grocery store whole wheat bread it’s a little denser and more tangy, but very filling. I know it contains all purpose flour, which isn’t quite as great for you as 100% whole wheat, but maintaining a whole wheat starter is next to impossible.

Sourdough Starter

  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/8 tsp instant yeast
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 pint glass mason jar

2 to 3 days before you want to bake your first loaf, mix the above ingredients in a bowl with a wooden spoon. Transfer to the mason jar, cover loosely and set in an out of the way place in your kitchen at room temperature. Stir every 8 to 12 hours, until the mixture is bubbly and smells slightly sour. This takes as from 1 to 3 days, usually. Congratulations, you just made sourdough starter! Store in the refrigerator until you’re ready to bake.

Whole Wheat Sourdough Bread

  • 1 batch sourdough starter
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 tsp instant yeast
  • 2 tsp salt
  1. Transfer the sourdough starter to a large bowl. Add the all purpose flour and water. Cover and leave at room temperature for 6 to 10 hours, until bubbles start to form on the surface. Now you’ve fed your starter.
  2. Transfer half the mixture to a pint glass jar and put in the refrigerator for next time.
  3. With the remaining liquid, mix in remaining ingredients until dough forms a smooth ball. A Cuisinart with a dough blade or Kitchenaid Mixer with a dough hook are great tools for doing this.
  4. Cover and allow to rise for 1 hour.
  5. Transfer to a lightly greased bread pan, cover and allow to rise for another hour.
  6. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  7. Bake bread for 45 minutes.
  8. Allow to cool before slicing.

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DIY Shoe Repair

Last spring during our big rainy season, in the space of one week I had two pairs of boots fall apart on me. My rain boots started to split around the seams and the sole started to come off one of my Clark’s motorcycle boots. I did some Googling and decided to give Shoe Goo a try.

Reattaching a leather boot to its sole? Fabulous! Just work carefully, use a thin stick of some kind to get the glue between the two and keep the goo off the leather.

Repairing shredded rubber boots? Not so much. I sanded the surface lightly, applied a thick coat of goo, let it cure for 48 hours, then took them out in the rain. After walking a mile, the following happened:

Busted Boots

Not so waterproof. Moral of this story is don’t try and repair shredded rubber. Or, better yet, don’t leave your rain boots sitting outside for a month in direct sunlight which is killer on rubber.

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Bath & Body Works Red Perfume

Hey folks! The lovely Zhenya from Being Zhenya, helped me review one of the products from my Vox Box. Unfortunately I’m allergic to perfumes, so she reviewed the Bath & Body Works Red perfume. Without further ado, here’s Zhenya’s review!

Mary from Budget Grad Student has recently asked me to review one of the products she received in her Influenster Cosmo Vox Box. Which I agreed to do! Unfortunately with all the holidays and somewhat hectic work schedule, I am only able to do it now. I actually think it’s better this way, because I’ve been using this fragrance for almost 2 weeks now.

Of course every girl loves perfume, but not all perfume is good. And even though “Bath & Body Works travels the world to find the latest trends and most beautiful scents. They never rest in their commitment to bring the world’s newest freshest fragrances for body, hand and home” I was a tad bit disappointed in the scent.

The sample came in a cute little 0.25 oz/7 ml bottle, which made it super portable and easy to carry around, which I did! Took it to work almost every day!

To me the scent was very sweet and floral, turns out my nose wasn’t all that wrong! Here is the Overview you can find on the website:

Our most luxurious longest lasting fragrance blends opulent notes of fiery red pomegranate and delicate peche de vigne, a rare and fleeting French peach. Soft petals of red osmanthus give way to notes of addictive velvety marshmallow and a surprising finale of rich vanilla rum that leaves an unforgettable impression.

  • Top Notes: Fiery Pomegranate, Rare French Peach, Luminous Apple
  • Mid Notes: Red Peony, Night Marigold, Red Osmanthus
  • Dry Notes: Rich Vanilla Rum, Velvety Marshmallow, Oak Wood

Marshmallow! That explains it! Mary, you would’ve totally had a headache!

Now long lasting factor was something that I was looking forward to! Not a lot of fragrances last on me, but after trying this one, I have to say one thing:

I had fragrances from CVS pharmacy, that lasted longer!

And even though the scent decided to stay on me for only two hours or so, it did make it way into my head, and gave me a headache as well!

Then I discovered that the perfume itself cost $44.50 (of course it comes in a 2.5 oz bottle!), add a few more dollars and you can afford a really nice Lancome or Estee Lauder fragrance.

All in all it wasn’t very long lasting and too much Vistoria Secretish to me, I’d definitely think twice, even thrice before purchasing this scent! There is so much more one can do with 45 bucks!

Thanks Zhenya!


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The Great TA Caper

So in the world of American graduate education, you can pay for your education in one of three ways (that I know of): receive a fellowship, work as a research assistant (RA), or becoming a teaching assistant (TA). In the sciences, like my program, the most common method is working in a lab, hopefully doing your own research, in exchange for tuition, fees and a living stipend. However, my program also strongly encourages us to spend at least one academic term as a teaching assistant for the experience.

My first year I took a required grad level class that really challenged me, but also began to change the way I thought about my field of study. I didn’t understand everything but I impressed the instructor, who’s a huge name in the field, with my willingness to debate every.single.topic. When I found out that the TA-ship for his course was open this year, I decided this would be a great opportunity to get that teaching experience in and revisit materials that can only help my own research. Unfortunately TA positions pay less than RA positions, but I could handle a little squeeze for a few weeks.

A few days before the winter break, we got together to go over the course materials and my duties. I’ll be running a discussion section, having offers, doing all the grading and giving a lecture or two. Then as he walked me to the human resources office to fill out the financial paperwork, he casually mentioned that this position would only be 50% funded this year.

Cue record scratching noise.

What? Only 50%? I mumbled “oh,” but inside I was FREAKING OUT. Fifty percent positions do pay all your tuition and fees, but only half the living stipend and there’s no way I can afford to live on $800 a month. I figured I had four options: find a part time job for my evenings and weekends (as if I don’t already work 50 hours a week), take out a student loan (more debt=bad), complain to the administration (and alienate a big wig? yeah right!) or find another 50% position on campus that won’t mind that I’m basically working 100% elsewhere (the unicorn of jobs). Fortunately my boss is almost always in his office so I ran right over. His immediate reaction was anger, which I had never seen before. He came up with the same list I did, in the same order and dismissed them all for the same reasons. Then he said he needed five minutes to make some phone calls.

Apparently unicorns do exist, y’all. He magically found money to cover the rest of my salary by shuffling some grants. AND he’s not going to expect any additional work hours out of me, since he doesn’t want the students or me to suffer. Yes, my boss is still furious with the professor for leaving me only 50% funded two weeks before the new term started, but the professor is a bigwig and neither of us can risk offending him.

Here’s hoping that this is the most dramatic part of being a TA.

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Lemony Roasted Potatoes

This might sound weird, but I’m not the biggest fan of potatoes. I do like french fries and potato salad, but those rely on a ton of fat to add flavor to a fairly bland star ingredient. However, they’re cheap and on their own, not all that bad for you. However, a while ago a found a recipe that was deceptively simple: potatoes roasted in lemon juice. No garlic, no onions, no herbs; none of those things that I rely on to add lots of cheap flavor. But oh my goodness, they’re so delicious. I had to restrain myself from eating the entire pan in one go.

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