Thoughts After My Very First Barre Class

My bum is sore.

I’ve tried to go to various gyms on and off over the past few years, and I always tend to stick to the elliptical and zone out while I just get through it. I’ve been looking into getting a membership to a class based program, but time constraints due to work and school prevented that, and it’s so expensive.

However, I finally got funded by the university, and hopefully this means that some of the money that used to go to tuition can be rerouted to paying for barre class.

The studio I want to go to offers a complimentary class if you sit through a brief “orientation” which is basically the same stuff that’s on the website. So I did that, and then attended the barre class immediately following.

It was intense. But not how I was expecting. It involved a lot of small movements, mostly on a yoga mat. It’s like if hot yoga and pilates had a baby. In a 98.6 degree room. Good gravy that studio was hot. I don’t understand why people try to put yoga in a hot room. My people invented yoga, and let me tell you, the OG yogis did it on a beach at dawn wearing linen skirts.

The small movements left me shaking. It was surprising, because it looked super easy, but was a pretty tough work out, especially since it was my first time. I’m fairly flexible, but a lot of the stretches were new to me and I wasn’t able to do them all the way. I was also the heaviest person in the room. I felt awkward in front of the mirrors, especially since the ladies on either side of me looked like they’d be blown away if the instructor turned the fans on. So I avoided looking in the mirror.

Something else that was difficult was doing anything that relied on resting any weight on my right wrist or ankle, which I hurt nearly ten years ago in an old soccer related injury. I tried my best to work around it, but I can definitely feel both two hours later.

Overall I enjoyed it, and if my budget allows, I’d like to continue going.

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Feeling Like an Accident and Other Problems with Inferiority

Being in grad school is really weird.

For one, many of the people I graduated high school and undergrad with are moving on with their lives, getting Real Adult Jobs and starting families, while I’m still in school, running on an academic schedule, and trying to find a job that lets me go sit in the stats lab for hours at a time trying to get a handle on the math class I didn’t actually want to take.

But mostly, it’s because my entire academic career so far has felt like an accident. Like I ended up in this amazing PhD program because someone put my name in the wrong pile and now I’m just muddling along trying to trick people into thinking that I actually am smart. It might be because my cohort is very talented, and of them, I am the only one not funded by the university. I’m isolated from them except for when we’re in class, and I miss out on the collaboration and discussion they have that comes from sitting in the same office all day. So when we do get to class, they’re all on the same page, and I’m a chapter behind. When we discuss things in class I approach it from one angle and that angle is wrong because everyone else has decided on it before they even got to class.

Part of it might be because I took different classes from them last semester. I did my master’s degree at this same university so some of the core classes at the PhD level, I had already finished, and needed to substitute different ones. So they had an entire extra semester to get to know each other. They got an extra five months to discuss ideas and study together, while I was working off campus, a full twenty-five miles away. So even if they tell me about an impromptu study session now (they don’t), I can’t make it because by the time I get there, they’ve moved on. They can spend their entire day on campus focusing on school, while I need to have a job and schedule my day around commuting.

I spend most of my time on campus wandering around looking for a place to study. I don’t have access to the office, so I need to find an abandoned corner somewhere in the library to get my work done, which has left me feeling like I’m not actually part of the program, like I don’t actually belong there. And that’s a terrible feeling, the last time I felt this way I was kicked out of law school and just lost for six months.

I am tired. I’m tired of feeling like I don’t belong, like I have to smile and go along with things because everyone else came to a decision without me, and I’m tired of pretending I’m having fun.

But it’s not going to stop me, because I’m pretty damn smart, so fuck that shit, I have work to do.

 

Lychee Berry Chia Jam (It’s Vegan!)

Recently, I decided to go vegan. Not for any moral or ethical reason, but that’s a nice bonus. I can’t really process meat well, dairy makes my skin break out, so really all I’m giving up is eggs, which I’m not too fond of anyways, so…no big life changes here. But I did start a new Instagram, because I figure I’m more likely to make healthy dishes if I can take pretty pictures for the internet, and I didn’t want to spam everyone on my personal Instagram a million times a day with pictures of food. The new, vegan food based Instagram is here. I’ll post recipes on this blog every so often, but a lot of things are really simple (because it’s summer in Texas and I don’t want to be in a hot kitchen) so they don’t need recipes.

Also, I’m not a real big fan of jams or jellies in general, because I feel they’re way too sweet, so being able to control the sweetness for this one was a big help, and I like it a lot.

berries.jpg
Look at all those fresh berries. I used strawberries, blackberries, and raspberries, but really you can use any fruit you like, the recipe is really flexible. 

Lychee Berry Chia Jam

350g strawberries, quartered.

100 g blackberries, cut in half

150g raspberries

1/4 cup lychee juice/nectar 

4 tbsp chia seeds, divided

3 tbsp light agave nectar

First things first I took 3 tablespoons of chia seeds and put them in the lychee juice to soak. Save the remaining tablespoon for the end, you may or may not need it.

Next, chop up your berries. You’ll be smashing them later, but chop them roughly how big you want them to end up. I found that chopping the strawberries and the blackberries at least was best, the raspberries smashed easily without being chopped. Put your berries in a medium saucepan and heat them, on low to medium heat. They’ll release their juice and cook down. After they get soft, turn the heat as low as you can, take a potato masher or fork, and mash them to however chunky you want them.

Your chia seeds should have absorbed all of the juice by now, so add that to the saucepan and mix well. The chia thickens the jam so you don’t have to use pectin.

Add the agave nectar, and taste (blow on the spoon, this is hot), adding more if you prefer your jam sweet.

Turn off the heat, and if you feel you have too much liquid, add the remaining chia seeds, and stir so they absorb it.

Let the jam come to room temperature before you put it in a jar, it’ll set some more, and then put it in the fridge.

One serving is about two tablespoons, and this recipe makes sixteen servings. Each two tablespoon serving has 44 calories, 0.9g fat, 8.4g carbs, and 1.1g protein.

jam
This is my jam. 

I like having it on crackers, and it’s especially good with chocolate hazelnut butter.

As always, you can find me on Twitter or Instagram, by email, thisisnotaquickstory@gmail.com, or now at my new vegan food based instagram, PickyEatersInternational.

 

 

Adulting 101: How To Get Into Grad School

I feel like this is the only actual “Adulting 101” topic I’m actually qualified to write about. I’ve gotten into grad school three times so I guess that makes me an expert. But, turns out, the process is different based on what sort of program you’re aiming for. So this is mostly for social sciences or humanities, but in general, it applies to STEM programs as well.

I’m posting this now because the grad school process starts before your last year in undergrad. A lot of the time, you should be prepping your second to last year. The first thing you have to do is research schools and programs, and most importantly, find out their application deadlines. And, application deadlines can vary within a university. While the general university deadline can be sometime in July, the program you’re aiming for can cut off applications in February. So make a note of when everything needs to be completed.

Once you have your deadlines settled, take all the tests you need to take. At the very least, this is the GRE. Some schools, especially if you’re an international student, require english proficiency tests as well. Depending on the program, you might have to do the GMAT as well. It takes about three months to study for the tests, so plan accordingly, and make a note of what your school requires, and what they admit. My university and program officially requires a 300 on the GRE, but almost everyone admitted was closer to 320 and higher. You can find that out by looking at the incoming student profiles somewhere on your university website. Unfortunately, grad schools don’t have a convenient site like LSAC to figure out where you stand like law schools do.

Another reason you should be starting this process early is because most grad programs require at least three letters of recommendation. Figuring out which professors to ask is the tricky part. Ideally, you should have multiple classes with that professor, and have gotten decent grades in them. Depending on the program, pick professors who have read your work, or required a lot of writing. Ideally you should ask in person first, but if you absolutely must, send a polite and professional email. This also depends on the relationship you have with your professor. If it’s someone you’re one of 300 students in a general education class to, go see them in their office at least a few times so they become familiar with who you are beyond your grade. But really, you shouldn’t be asking those professors for recommendations. The perfect professors to ask are the ones whose research interests are similar to your own, whose smaller, upper level classes you’ve taken. They get to know you and are genuinely interested in your success, so they’ll be willing to write a glowing recommendation. Either way, when they say yes, they would be happy to write a letter for you, send them an email that includes your grades in whatever classes you took with them, both your program and overall GPAs (so they can see you’re brilliant within the program even if you suck at math), your academic interests, and your GRE score, broken down into written, verbal, and quantitative.

Give professors plenty of time to write your letters. A month at least. If it comes to two weeks before the deadline and you have no idea if they’ve sent in the letter, sent a brief but polite reminder, implying that you’re sure they’ve already done it but the website isn’t showing that they’ve sent in their letter. And once they do, send a thank you.

When I was applying into my master’s program, I first applied as a non-degree seeking student, to get a few good grades to offset my tragic undergrad GPA and that nasty semester in law school. I had luckily maintained relationships with my undergraduate professors, so they were more than willing to send in recommendation letters. Once I did a semester there, I asked some of the professors in the master’s program to write me recommendations to be in the program as a degree seeking student. Somehow I managed to get half the admissions committee to write me letters, so I got in before I completed my application. And when I was applying into the PhD program at the same university, I asked my thesis chair, one of the professors I had asked before, and a professor who had taught three of the classes I took. And just like that, I scooped up the other half of the admissions committee.

What I do want to mention is that letters from tenured professors carry more weight than non-tenured professors, as does the level of research the professor as done. If they’ve edited a journal or two and hold an endowed chair, then their letter is worth its weight in gold. That’s not saying that letters from non-tenured or clinical professors are worthless, they are fantastic in their own right, especially if it’s a really small department and everyone knows and respects each other. But you really have to research your writers.

That’s all I’ve got for now, happy summer, I hope you’re all enjoying it. I’ve been working on my thesis, so once I’m done on that front, I’ll be posting much more regularly. In the meantime, you can find me on Twitter or Instagram, and by email, thisisnotaquickstory@gmail.com.

Something exciting.

So as some of you (two of you) knew already, towards the end of last fall semester and beginning of this spring semester I was putting together my application packet for the criminology PhD program at the university I go to. And this morning I got my admission decision.

I’m in! I’m starting in the PhD program this fall, upon completion of my master’s thesis over summer. I’m so excited, and a little scared. But mostly excited.

“Ballerinas don’t eat Popsicles,” and other ways people have told me I’m fat.

When I was four, I wanted to be a ballerina. I was freaking obsessed. I would twirl around everywhere, and even demanded a ballerina costume for Halloween. I would tell anyone who would listen how I was going to be a ballerina when I grew up.

Until someone reasonably important to me said I couldn’t. Because I liked to eat Popsicles. And ballerinas were thin, which I wasn’t, even at four, and obviously that meant they didn’t eat Popsicles. And since I liked to eat Popsicles, I couldn’t be a ballerina.

I’ve been heavier than I should be since I was a toddler. Around three is when my weight started “exploding,” apparently.

In elementary school, it didn’t seem like a very big deal. I was running and playing with all the other kids, and no one said anything about my size. Intermediate school was the first time I actually felt different, and it wasn’t because we had just moved to a new school district, of which I was the entirety of the Indian student population. I sat next to this kid in my advanced language arts class in the fourth grade, and we had those planners where you wrote down you height and weight and eye color. Even then, I knew to lie, so instead of putting my actual weight, I decided on a “safe” number, which was two digits instead of the three I hit in the third grade. I settled on 99. This kid who sat next to me glanced at my planner, saw my weight, and laughed, going “Really?!” in that derisive way only ten year old boys can do. It stung. Clearly still does, it’s been fourteen years and I’m still thinking about it.

Middle school I definitely felt different. All the rest of the girls were thinner than me, could fit into cute dresses for the eighth grade dance, and I had to get something from the women’s section at Dillards. It was black and shapeless and had these awful frills on the shoulder.

And of course high school was rough. We started learning about BMI’s in health class and every time the teacher mentioned overweight, I caught that barely concealed glance. From not just the teacher, the class in general. Whoever was stuck sitting next to me would shift uncomfortably. Like fat was contagious. And the dances sucked. My mom made my dress for freshman homecoming, because no matter where we looked, we couldn’t find one that fit me and that looked cute enough for a very picky fourteen year old. The dress was pretty, but it didn’t matter, I didn’t have a date. I spent that dance and every other one until prom sitting in a corner fiddling with my bag until the lights came up and it was time to leave.

But high school came with a diagnosis, of Poly-Cystic Ovarian Syndrome, of which weight gain and difficulty losing weight was a symptom. That didn’t make it any easier, and literally the only way to control PCOS is to lose weight, but the PCOS makes it hard to lose weight. There’s no winning there.

University was different. I was away from home and could actually control exactly what I ate. Which turned out to be a blessing and a curse. Because while I loved eating fruits and vegetables and could buy and eat all of the fruits and vegetables that I could possibly want, I could also restrict as many calories as I wanted. This spiraled to a nasty point my third and last year at school, where I was limiting myself to less than 500 calories a day, and dropping five pounds every two weeks, and hating myself every single day, but really, no one could tell, because hey, I was still fat.

I had a series of strange conversations that I don’t want to revisit from various people in my life, who all felt the urge to remind me that I was fat, and also, apparently I would never date anyone/be in a relationship unless I lost a significant amount of weight. And while so far that’s held true, that’s not really something I needed to hear at any point, in that sort of accusing tone like I was being fat on purpose.

And I’m still the fat girl at the gym, getting weird looks from the stick thin girls on the elliptical. As if a prerequisite of going to the gym is to be small starting out. It’s heartbreaking and I hate going but I know I need to because the only thing that runs in my family is heart disease and diabetes and like hell I’m going down that path. I’m better about eating now, but I still have days where I have to essentially force myself to eat something, even though I feel horrible and my brain is trying to convince me I don’t deserve to have breakfast. Going to the gym is a terrible, horrible exercise in hating everything, but luckily I have Desiree to send whiny texts to before and after I work out, about that weird middle aged dude who wears too much cologne and collared shirts while working out or the crazy cat lady who tries dancing on the stairstepper.

Adulting is hard.

How to work from home and not hate yourself.

When I’m not chasing a toddler and teeny baby around and basically getting paid to play all day, I mostly work from home, since both my classes and thesis work are online and I work on blog posts from my kitchen. And I tend to get off track a lot, so I find myself two days before a deadline, panicking and hating myself for putting it off for so long. So I decided to make a list (because apparently I love making lists, no joke) of ways to work from home and not end up hating every decision you’ve ever made so far.

Have a set schedule.

Make sure this includes the end of the work day. It’s tempting to just work all the time or into the night, especially if there’s a deadline to meet. I found that sticking to a routine is helpful, which includes dragging myself out of bed at around the same time every day. For me, since I’m not much of a morning person, this is around 9:00am, and I’m at my desk by 10:00am. Now, since I nanny during the day, I’m not working straight through until the evening. I have to leave my house by 11:30am, so I work for a solid hour and a half, and then when I come back around 1:30pm, I have a solid chunk of three to four hours until I have to leave again. This seems weird and difficult in print, but it works for me because my attention span is mostly non-existent, so I get to pause and change what I’m up to every so often. This way, I can bang out a blog post in the morning, then do schoolwork and shoot pictures for the next blog post in the afternoon. I end my workday when I get done with nannying in the evenings, usually around 6:30 or 7:00. I go straight from the family’s house to the gym, and by the time I get home I’m exhausted enough to start winding down for the day.

Get dressed for the day.

This sounds silly, but when you stay in your pajamas all day, you work like you’re in your pajamas all day. At the absolute least, change from pajama pants to sweatpants. You don’t need to get all made up and business casual, but the physical act of changing from things you sleep in to things you work in helps change your mindset to “I’m at work now.”

Treat it like you’re not home.

For me, this means holing up in my study and not coming out unless it’s a set break. It’s like I’m working anywhere else, I can’t just get up and wander. I also don’t let myself keep other crafts and fun things on my desk unless I’m “officially” not working, because I get distracted so easily.

The most important thing about this is don’t let anyone use your time. Don’t let anyone say “but you’re home all day anyways!” and expect you to make appointments and run errands for them. That is a waste of your time. You are working. You are not a personal assistant, you are not someone’s errand boy/girl, you are not just sitting on your ass watching Netflix and eating cookies. You’re trying to get shit done and that can’t happen if you’re running all over town for someone else.

Make a to-do list.

This varies from person to person, but I like having a physical piece of paper with everything I need to get done sitting right on my desk. I make it as detailed as possible, with titles of blog posts I’m going to write and subject matter of emails I have to send. It helps me plan out my day, and keeps me on track in the limited amount of hours I have on my desk. Crossing things out also helps keep me from feeling like I’m stagnating at home, because I am very clearly getting shit done.

Hopefully this list helps, I know people work differently and somethings that work for me may not work for someone else. As always, you can find me on Twitter and Instagram, and by email at thisisnotaquickstory@gmail.com.

 

Go Through My Stuff: Adults Carry Too Much

Guys, I’m one step closer to being an actual adult. I recently started an internship at police headquarters, where I’m functioning as a research assistant. Which is cool. Which also means I can’t drag a backpack full of everything I own with me everywhere. So I sat down and figured out what things I actually need on a day to day basis, and realized, Why do I have all this stuff and why do I need it so much?!

Bag overview

Surprisingly, it all fits into my bag, and it’s not too heavy either. Maybe I’m a reasonably competent adult after all.

Here’s the goods:

Updated what's in my bag

You guys remember my penchant for organizing things into rectangles, right? Well, look what I did. I didn’t number things this time though,so you’ll have to figure that out on your own.

In the top left is my planner. I’ve had one since elementary school. I need to write things down to remember them. I can use apps like Wunderlist and Tiny Calendar to plan out things in advance, but I do better when I can physically writing things down.

Underneath my wallet is a little clear pouch I keep things like bandaids and medications. I also keep lens cleaning wipes in there, to clear off my glasses and phone. Next to that are my glasses, as well as sunglasses.

In the top right, I’ve got my compact mirror from the dollar bin at Forever 21, as well as the lip stain I wear all the time. I like really dark reds lately. And then there’s my phone and keys.

That little pouch with the hedgehogs on it was a gift from my friend Anna, who is well aware of the fact that I love hedgehogs. I use it for pencils and the like, since I’m constantly writing things down.

That little round pot is my favorite lip balm ever. I know I’ve mentioned it a million times, but it’s Love & Toast’s Gin and Lime lip balm, made with olive oil. Then headphones, sweets because I’m a little old lady, and some purple mints that are surprisingly good.

The notebook is the most important thing I carry. I write down basically everything, including ideas for blog posts, to do lists that’ll take a few weeks, and things for my master’s thesis.

And finally, I’ve got hand sanitizer, an eye roller, and a hand cream. You can read more about those in my winter skin care post.

What I forgot to throw into this picture because it was actually sitting in my backpack at the time is my Anker powercore, which is a handy little (very heavy) backup battery charger for my phone/iPad/whatever I have that needs a charge.

How do you guys like this Monday-Wednesday-Friday schedule I’m trying to stick to? I’m tentatively having a proper schedule, I’m thinking food and recipes on Mondays, beauty products and clothes on Wednesdays, and lists of things on Fridays. We’ll see how that works out, it’ll probably involve me planning ahead and prescheduling posts instead of hurriedly writing at 11pm on a Friday just to stick to my own schedule. Oh adulthood, you really crept up on me.

As always, you can find me on Twitter, Instagram, and by email, thisisnotaquickstory@gmail.com.

Have a great weekend!

Vegan Butternut Squash Soup

Growing up, every fall my mom would make butternut squash soup, because it was an easy thing to make on a weekend, and it could be frozen and reheated throughout the week. It was a fall staple, cold weather meant butternut squash soup.

butternut squash soup

But now I live in Texas and the weather is never really cold. But since I really wanted butternut squash soup, I had to turn down the AC and pretend I lived somewhere with more than one and a half seasons. This is a super easy recipe, and I used my slow cooker for it, but it could also be done on the stove.

You need:

1 medium butternut squash

2 cups veggie stock

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon dried/ground sage

1 medium white onion, roughly diced

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

2 teaspoons paprika

1/2 cup coconut milk

butternut squash ingredients

Note: You can substitute chicken or other stock for veggie stock and heavy cream for coconut milk if you don’t want to make it vegan.

The hard part of this recipe is cubing the butternut squash. But, you can make it a lot easier by cutting it into quarters, and once you’ve removed the seeds and guts, roast it at 400F for about 20 minutes. Let it cool and chop it up. It should be soft, but not cooked through.

Here’s the easy part:

All you have to do is throw everything except the coconut milk into the slow cooker for about five or six hours, on high. Then when the squash mushes easily and the onions are somewhat clear, grab a stick blender and blend everything up, and then add the coconut milk, blending until it’s all nice and creamy. I garnished mine with black pepper and scallions, but you can use whatever suits you.

Also for anyone concerned and keeping track, here’s the basic nutritional info, based on one serving being 1 cup of soup.

  • Calories: 103
  • Fat: 3.8g
  • Cholesterol: 0mg
  • Sodium: 8mg (varies based on how much salt you add)
  • Potassium: 557.6mg
  • Carbs: 18.7g
  • Fiber: 3.2g
  • Sugar: 4g
  • Protein: 1.7g
  • Vitamin A: 297%