Let’s be real for a minute…

I feel like I’ve been in school for a while now, considering I’m working on my masters degree. I’ve taken a lot of different classes, and been taught by a lot of different teachers and professors. So I like to think that I can talk about different types of courses and professors with some authority. At least in reference to my own experiences.

So let me say that in my opinion, there are so many teachers and professors who act like their class is the only one that you’re taking, and that of course you should be able to finish all of the reading, lectures, and assignments each week. However, I think part of this comes with the requirements for how much material needs to be covered in a course. My university actually has a policy that’s in every syllabus that says how many hours per week you should be spending on each class. It works out to something like 3 hours per credit in the course (most of them are worth 3 credits). And that’s for a standard semester length course. But my university does this weird thing where not all of the courses last a whole semester. Some of them last 10 weeks or even 5 weeks. So that hours per week count increases in a shorter course.

I’ll come right out and say that this is unrealistic for most grad students. Undergrad is a little bit different, in my experience, because a lot of people don’t work while in undergrad, or don’t work very many hours a week. I’m sure there are people who do work a lot during undergrad, and those people probably have a similar experience to a lot of grad students. But my point is that if you’re not working/not working a lot during undergrad, the workload is way more manageable. Your job is to be a student, so getting that work done is easier.

But now that I’m in grad school, being a student isn’t my only job. I also have to go to work. Thankfully, I only work 30 hours a week and not full time. But I know plenty of people who are in grad school while working full time, or working two jobs (because the library field is difficult like that sometimes, and there aren’t always full time jobs available for people who don’t have a masters). Not to mention, most people in grad school are adults who have other adult things to do with their time, like managing their finances and cooking and cleaning and taking care of their significant other/family/pets/etc. Things that most undergrad students don’t really have to deal with.

So it can be hard to fit those “required” hours of grad school homework and study in. Sometimes you don’t get through all the reading (especially not if you’re a moderately slow reader like I am). Sometimes you’re finishing your assignment the at the last minute on the day its due, not because you procrastinated and played video games all day, but because you really didn’t have any other time to do it.

I really wish that more teachers and professors appreciated that just because we are students doesn’t mean that’s the only thing we are. Some do, and I’ll be the first to thank a professor for being down to earth and realistic about their students’ situations. But many seem to believe that wanting to be in grad school is synonymous with making it your first or only priority. And that’s just not the case. At least in my experience, it’s hard to be an adult and line up your priorities in order from most to least importance. They’re all important, and they all have deadlines, and they all require your attention. It becomes a matter of learning how to juggle them all.

Alyss

That beginning of the semester panic…

So, my spring semester started yesterday, and I’m more than a little disappointed by the end of my vacation from school. It never seems long enough, even though in college the breaks between semesters are way longer than they ever were in grade school.

But my main concern is my work load for the semester. I’m only taking two classes, which is pretty standard for grad school, but the amount of work that we’re expected to do for each class is always slightly baffling. There are always several lengthy articles or book chapters to read, forum discussions to have, and weekly assignments to complete. All while going to work every day and trying to keep up with all of the adult life tasks that pop up on a daily basis.

I know I shouldn’t complain. I’m very glad to be able to go to grad school and study a subject that I really enjoy. However, I still always have this moment (or week) of panic when I see just how much work I’ve signed up for. And I’m never quite sure how I’ll manage to do it all. But I still somehow find a way.

Does anyone else have this problem? How do you cope with the work load, the panic, and the stress?

Alyss

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

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This is one of those books I’ve been meaning to read for awhile now, and I finally got around to it. I had even started reading it once before, but ended up putting it down. I’m not sure why though, because this is a really engrossing book right from the start. The world in the novel is so alien, even though it takes place in what used to be the United States that we know. It reminds me of a lot of contemporary dystopian novels that take place in the U.S. of the future that still looks similar and yet is inhabited by a very difference society.

The Handmaid’s Tale, however, was first published in 1985, so it’s not exactly contemporary. This novel also has something that many contemporary dystopian novels don’t. That’s a strong religious theme.

For anyone who doesn’t know, this story follows a young woman who serves as a handmaid to a prominent man in society and his wife. In this role, she is basically forced to have sex with the man, called “the Commander,” in the hope that she will bear a child for him and his wife to raise.

The whole story takes place in a society that has been completely overhauled. Old school Christian ideals and beliefs that have been twisted by problems in modern society have taken over. Women are no longer able to work or control any money. They are required to remain in the home in order to serve their husbands and families or the families of others. And because birth rates have dropped, many fertile women are arrested and required to become handmaids.

The universe of the story is one that is difficult to read about, but Atwood does such a great job of pulling the reader in and making you feel for the narrator. You also get a really good sense of where the narrator has come from and how she ended up where she is now, because Atwood intersperses current events with flashbacks from before society changed as well as from the narrator’s time at the “Red Center” where she was taught about the new society and learned how to be a handmaid.

But the story is very much centered on the narrator, since it’s from her point of view, so a lot of other details are left out. This is mostly because she doesn’t really know everything that’s going on. She knows what the public knew before society changed, what she’s been told at the Red Center, and what little she is able to find out from her fellow handmaids.

I mention this because you spend the entire novel with the narrator and her narrow view of the world, until the very end of the book. I won’t spoil the ending, except to say that the main plot ends vaguely, but it’s followed by a historical note that goes into a lot more detail about the society in general.

The note is from the perspective of a historian in a distant future, talking about the main novel as a transcript of a recorded account. He believes that it’s a real account, but they’re trying to determine more details surrounding it, including who some of the people might have been. So in order to do all of this, the historian describes a lot of the background behind the creation of this society.

However, I’m not sure I appreciate the sudden enlightenment after spending the entire novel with very few contextual details. It almost seems like Atwood is going against what seems like the choice of obfuscation (which is supported by the fact that the novel is ended vaguely) to suddenly share a lot more information directly following the main section of the novel. And I’m just not sure if I wanted that information. At most, I would have liked a less vague ending, but the end note doesn’t even provide that clarity. So I’m just not sure what it does for the overall story, except to explain some details that the narrator couldn’t have known. But the story should be about the narrator’s journey, right? I think the narrator tells her story well, so adding an end note feels almost unnecessary (especially if it doesn’t answer any questions about her or what happened to her). If anything, it raises more questions about the future society than it answers about the society in question.

That being said, I did really like this book. It’s one of those sci-fi classics that’s definitely worth reading.

If you’ve already read this book, what did you think? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

Happy reading!

Alyss

(photo courtesy of Goodreads)

Whole 30 week 1 update

I talked a little bit about my initial problems in this post, but I figured I could talk a little bit more about how the week went in general.

In certain ways, I thought it went well, but in others not so much. The easiest part was breakfast and lunch, once I got my meal plan sorted out. It was easy because I pretty much decided what I was going to eat, and then I ate that every day. If anyone is interested, my breakfast every day was a fruit smoothie and a Lara bar (just FYI, not all of these are compliant, so make sure to check the ingredients). Then for lunch, I had a salad with chicken and green grapes, and some guacamole and rice crackers/nut crackers (these crackers are not compliant, but I decided to compromise on these). All of this was relatively easy, once I got the hang of it.

The difficult part came in planning and making dinner for myself. The planning part isn’t too hard, because it’s easy enough to pick some recipes to and buy the ingredients. The hard part for me comes in actually making those recipes when the time comes. Because I work until 8 pm three days a week, coming home late and having to make something for dinner is really hard. Most of these nights, I would rather just do something easy or pick up some takeout than cook something. And it’s been really hard to get out of that habit and actually cook. Because that’s really the only option when you have to stick to such a strict diet.

Also, I mentioned in my previous post about Whole 30 that I had a work party this weekend. This meant that I pretty much fell off the wagon, because I had to bake for the party, and then there was a bunch of good food to eat there. I’m trying to get back on today, but I think it’s still going to be hard. But then, who said that changing your diet wouldn’t be hard?

More updates to come soon!

Alyss

All the Harry Potter themed baking!

Yesterday, I went to a work party, so of course, I had to bake a little something. By a little something, I mean pudding pie and cookies. And because we had decided that our party was Harry Potter themed (we’re librarians, we do nerdy things like this), I decided to make butterbeer pie and butterbeer cookies.

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The cookies I had made before, and I used this recipe. I had made these before, and they turned out great like always. They have pudding mix in them, which always makes for really soft, chewy cookies. But overall, they might just be the best cookies ever. Everyone I’ve made them for has loved them. I like that this recipe also has tips at the end of the post to alter the recipe. One of these is a tip for not chilling the dough before baking, which is something I always do (because who has the time to chill dough?).

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The second thing I made was butterbeer pie, using this recipe. This was something I had never made before, but I was pretty pleased with how it came out. It’s essentially pudding pie with whipped cream mixed in, so the filling is really light and fluffy. When I was mixing it, I was worried that it wouldn’t hold it’s shape, since it was so light. But I chilled it for probably a bit longer than it says to in the recipe, and it worked better than I expected. It was still a little hard to cut, but it at least didn’t melt all over the place the way I expected.

I should also note that I decided to use graham cracker crust instead of regular pie crust, because I like pudding pie with graham cracker crust better. Since the pie really ends up being just a mound of filling and crust on your plate, graham cracker crust mixes in a little bit better, in my opinion.

One last thing I’ll mention is that I wasn’t blown away by the whipped cream. The recipe includes instructions for making marshmallow whipped cream to top the pie with. It’s essentially just whipped cream with marshmallow fluff mixed in. But I had trouble getting the fluff to mix into the cream. The way it says to do it is to whip the cream first, and then fold the marshmallow fluff in, but marshmallow fluff is kind of hard to mix into something that’s cold. And I didn’t want to over mix, and take all the air out of the whipped cream, but it seemed like it was more chunks of fluff in the whipped cream, rather than a smooth marshmallow whipped cream. Not that it wasn’t still tasty, but I don’t know how marshmallowy is was.

If you try these recipes, I’d love to know how they turned out. Or if you know of any other good Harry Potter themed recipes.

Happy baking!

Alyss

(photos courtesy of recipe links)

Wearing the same outfit every day?

I don’t know if I would say that I’ve ever had a particularly varied wardrobe. I’ve gone through several phases of style throughout my life, but during those phases, I feel like I’ve mostly worn whatever style of clothing I favored at the time.

Right now, I’m really favoring sweaters and leggings, which I’ve talked about in a previous post. It feels like a really comfortable uniform for my life at the moment. And who wants to be uncomfortable all day? Not me.

Another thing I’ve noticed about my wardrobe recently is that it’s gotten very monochromatic. I’ve always been a fan of the color black, at least since my goth/alternative phase in middle and high school. But even beyond the goth associations, I just feel like it’s the easiest and most flattering color to wear. I never feel uncomfortable when I’m wearing black. It also goes with pretty much every other color. I have a few items of clothing that have color, but mostly I wear a lot of black (also a fair amount of gray). This is really helpful when I’m deciding what to wear, because almost everything goes together. I rarely have to worry about my colors clashing anymore, since I have so few to begin with. It makes it so much easier to pick out clothes in the morning.

There are so many more important things to worry about in the day than what to wear. Don’t you think?

Alyss

Cauliflower fried rice

Despite my trouble with beginning Whole 30, I have already found a really great recipe for cauliflower fried rice that follows the diet completely.

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Here’s the link to the recipe if you’re interested. 

I’d seen a few recipes on Pinterest for cauliflower rice, and I’ve been intrigued to try it. So, I was really glad to finally get the opportunity. It was definitely worth it, and I will be making this again soon.

If you’re worried about the similarity in taste to real fried rice, you shouldn’t worry too much. It’s not exactly the same, but the addition of the egg and usual fried rice vegetables makes the  experience really similar. The biggest difference is probably the coconut aminos, which are used in place of soy sauce. These are supposed to be a really similar soy-free option, and although it is similar, it’s a lot less salty than real soy sauce. Not that this is a bad thing for your sodium intake, but it does change the taste a bit.

Overall though, this recipe is definitely worth trying, and a really great alternative to regular fried rice.

Happy cooking!

Alyss

(photo courtesy of recipe link)

Well, it’s already not going great…

So, the other day, I posted about Whole 30, and how I was going to start trying to follow it in order to get healthier and feel better. I’ve been doing it for all of two days, and it’s not going very well. Here are the reasons why I think this is:

–I forgot that my work holiday party is this Saturday, and there’s no way that I’m going to stick to anything at this party.

–I’m hungry all the time. This is causing me the most trouble, for multiple reasons.

First of all, I’m not really a breakfast person. I had been eating a little bit of oatmeal or a granola bar, but because grains are off limits, I can’t do either of those. I did find some fruit and nut bars that I can eat, but they’re small and don’t really tide me over until lunch. And there’s no way I’m going to be able to eat meat and eggs for breakfast (as the sample meal plan suggests). The best option I’ve considered is making a fruit smoothie for breakfast, which is technically allowed as far as ingredients go, but there’s also a rule against drinking fruit (this confuses me a little bit).

Second of all, I’ve been used to eating a certain portion size based on the number of calories the food contained. However, when you’re suddenly eating a lot more vegetables and a lot fewer carbs, that portion to calories ratio is very different. So I’ve been eating a less, without thinking about it, and I really feel it in my hunger level. I’ve been wanting to snack constantly, which is also discouraged.

–I want to eat all the things! This is mostly an issue of self control than anything else, and I’ll admit I was most worried about this before starting. And it’s just as bad I thought it would be. I think the things I’ve missed the most are grain-type things.

–My husband isn’t doing Whole 30 with me. Which is fine. I wouldn’t want to force him into it, and he’s still kind enough to try out some of the recipes. But he’s still eating whatever he wants, and it makes it really hard to be strict with myself and not eat what he’s eating or go out with him.

So, with all of those problems in mind, I don’t think I want to stop doing this. But I may have to adapt things slightly. Obviously, I’m going to stick with the smoothie-breakfast thing, because I need an option that works for me. I’m also considering adding certain grains back in, like rice and corn, just so that I can have a slightly more flexible diet.

I really want to continue in the spirit of Whole 30, even if I don’t follow it strictly, because I still want to feel better and get healthier. I’m just starting to realize that I might not need to be quite so strict in order to reap the benefits. Of course, I’m still going to pay attention to how my diet is affecting me, and  I can always get stricter in the future if I feel like I need to.

More updates to come, as well as a recipe that I’ve found.

Alyss

That song is about what??

I was listening to the radio for the first time in a while, and was listening to the oldies station, because I like most old music way more than I like most current music. I heard one of those old songs that I’ve probably heard a hundred times, but have never really listened to until now. It’s called Escape by Rupert Holmes, but if you’re like me, you probably know it by the lyric about “drinking pina coladas and getting caught in the rain.”

I actually listened to all of the lyrics this time, and was really entertained to find out that the song tells a whole story. Those songs are my favorite, because not only do you hopefully get a good song, but you also get the story as well.

For those who don’t know, the story in this song is from the perspective of a guy who’s kind of unhappy in his relationship, so he decides to reply to a personal ad in the newspaper. He meets with this woman, and she ends up being his girlfriend. He’s really surprised to find that his girlfriend likes doing all of the things in the chorus of the song, and you’re led to believe that he’s gotten a new lease on his relationship and just needed to spice things up.

But because the song is from the man’s perspective, you don’t really get to see how the girl friend feels about this whole situation. In the song, when she sees that he’s her date, she says, “Oh, it’s you.” What is that supposed to mean? Is she excited that it’s him or not? Maybe he’s excited that his girlfriend is the great-sounding woman from the personal ad, but I really want to know how she feels about it.

I also feel like this song has some interesting things to say about relationship dynamics. If you really think about it, this relationship can’t be very functional if both people separately decide to look elsewhere. They haven’t talked to each other about their unhappiness, and yet this quirky situation is supposed to spice up their relationship enough to fix everything (questions about the feelings of both parties aside)? This doesn’t sound like a very healthy relationship to me.

And now that you’ve listened to me overthink a pop song, I want to know if anyone else does this? I really kind of like listening to and overthinking the lyric behind songs, because I feel like I’m always surprised by what they’re really about.

Alyss

I’m doing a thing…

So, my family has all sorts of health issues, particularly related to digestion. One of my uncles has Crohn’s disease, one of my aunts has issues with her liver, my grandma has a bunch of food allergies and follows a really strict diet. And almost everyone else, myself included, has general issues with digestion and eating food.

It’s been bothering me in recent years as I’ve gotten a little bit older, and I’ve decided that I really need to work on my diet. Obviously, eating healthy is always the goal, but I’m hoping that if I make a lot of changes I’ll feel better in general.

The thing is though, I’m not the kind of person who’s into fad diets and juice cleanses and that kind of thing. I don’t want to be unrealistic and I want to make some lasting changes in order to be more healthy. So I looked into some options, and found one that I liked the look of.

It’s called Whole 30, and it’s a plan that details a complete diet change that takes place over 30 days. And the idea is that if you change you diet, and cut out certain foods (like grains, dairy, beans and legumes, and added sugar) that might be affecting you, then you can change your relationship with food. After the 30 days are over, you reintroduce those foods to see if they are acceptable foods for you or not. This part of the plan is something that really interested me, because I’m really hoping to get a better idea of what foods I should and shouldn’t be eating.

The whole thing seems a little bit extreme at first, but I like the idea that it’s not something you’re meant to do forever. But hopefully, after challenging yourself for a month, you can make some dietary changes. I really think this is something I need, and I’m hoping it works out.

I’m planning on starting today as this is posted, and I’m going to post updates on this as I go through it. I don’t know if it will be every day, but maybe every couple of days (every week at least). I’ll hopefully post some recipes that I try as well. Please let me know if this is something you’re interested in hearing about.

Wish me luck!

Alyss