Tuesday, December 22, 2009

holiday goodies

Home! Just as I remembered it. The house is covered with lovely xmas decorations, my dad is blasting cheesy Christmas music from his computer, my mom is stressing about baking cookies and making hors d'oeuvres, I've had an argument (or two) with my sister, and I seem unable to resist picking a mini-candy out of the bowl in the dining room every time I walk by. I'd better hit the gym tomorrow. My task for tonight is to bake some candy-cane cookies, which are a classic from our childhood. My parents used to have these huge Christmas parties every year, inviting all their friends and their kids, with tons of appetizers and holiday cookies, and group carols sung around the piano (complete with lyric books printed out just for the occasion). I remember one year, our little Jack Russell terrier, D.J., jumped up and ate some candy-cane cookies! But otherwise I just know they were fun to make, twisting together the red and white dough logs to make a swirl. When in doubt, fall back on the old classics. What I'm most excited about is making some holiday cocktails! On my agenda are Winter Sangria and Hot Buttered Rum. I've never made the latter but it sounds like it would be delicious, no? Gotta drink something with a little kick in it to get through all the awkward forced small talk with the parents' neighbors. :-O

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

ooh, life is juicy

It's the last week of work before the holidays! I didn't take any classes this semester, so this week is no different than any other since August, but there's something in the air that feels like finals week, and I know I'll be home in San Diego a week from today. I'm trying to ignore that fact and still get some real research done this week, because I know it will take me a few days to get back in the swing of things when I get back from Cali. It's hard to focus when I know there is laundry that needs washing, presents that need choosing, cookies that need packaging and mailing, an apartment that needs cleaning, xmas cards that need designing and constructing, xmas menus that need planning... Oh the holidays! I bought my very first wreath for the front door, and got some sparkly turquoise wired ribbon to wrap around it. It's harder than you think to wrap that evenly, and my beautiful bow kinds of gets squashed by the screen door. But it still makes me happy to smell that evergreen smell while I fiddle with the keys in the doorknob.

I have to say that xmas shopping is about the most difficult thing ever! I'm browsing hand-picked gift guides galore, and really only coming up with cool things that I want for myself, and nothing that any of my family members would remotely like. Also a lot of things that are way outside my price range. I think it's about time to hit a real-life store instead of just web shops.

What I'm more excited about is the holiday food! I'm sure my mom will be baking all kinds of amazing things, and I'm hoping to make some spiked apple cider for their xmas open house on the 23rd. My parents live in a neighborhood that turns into Christmas Card Lane in December, meaning that every house in a half-mile radius puts a giant lighted cutout or mural in their front yard, each with a different cartoony theme. The 'burby street attracts cars moving along at a crawl to see each display, and the neighbors tend to make hot chocolate and light their driveway "campfires" to sit around and enjoy the holiday spirit. Only in San Diego would it even be warm enough to want to sit around for hours on December evenings.

I want to sing some Christmas carols too (not in public of course). It's no secret that I'm a HUGE FAN of the show Glee, I've seen every episode at least twice, and I've been singing Barbra Streisand around the house for the past week, thanks to Glee's performance of Don't Rain On My Parade on the last episode. The show is hilarious and inventive, but it also makes me wish that we could just burst into song in real life when we felt the need to express some emotion. Wouldn't that be fabulous? When my experiment goes well, I could sing down the hallways, with labmates and other bystanders falling in behind me with some backup dance moves. Jazz hands too, of course. I wish I lived in a musical...

Friday, December 4, 2009

finally, an upswing

Nothing like a little tiny success in the lab to make the whole week seem like a good one. I successfully etched off a 160-nm layer of nitride after firing at 1350C in the furnace by undercutting the oxide layer beneath it! Fabuloso! Walking into the lab and seeing that shiny silicon surface at the bottom of the beaker just made my entire day. It also helped that I got to see Padma Lakshmi (of Top Chef!) give a talk this afternoon about her struggles with endometriosis, which I'd never heard of before, but I couldn't pass up the opportunity to see her in person! She is a great speaker - eloquent and lively, and I only hope I look that good when 7-8 months pregnant. I mean, who can pull off patterned lace tights under a sweater dress while pregnant? Kudos to her. ;)

Anyway, I also made some headway in the modeling part of my thesis work, with a little help from coding-superstar Tony. What would I do without him? I'm getting a little better at manipulating this Python code, which at first glance each time I open up the file still looks like a gibberishy robot language. Bit by bit I'm able to pick out pieces of the code that I need to modify to fit my problem, slowly starting to understand more of how it works and what I can do. I certainly don't feel like an expert, which I should get closer to if I want a PhD for this, but the small successes at least give me the confidence to think I can continue to increase my comprehension. I also got a super tiny boost from my advisor this week (I'll take what I can get) when he suggested that I could write three papers, one for each area of my research, and make those basically the three middle chapters of my thesis. Just the knowledge that he wants me to do this gives me so much motivation to do some publication-worthy work and do it SOON! Oh, brains, work with me now. Let's make this happen.

I've started really thinking about Christmas presents to give to my family. I want to get this stuff done early so I don't have to hit the mall craziness on Dec 23 in San Diego. All my favorite blogs are coming up with amazing gift guides for the holidays, but the end result is just me finding a bunch of lovely things that I want for myself and can't afford, things that I'm pretty sure my weight-lifting protein-powder-drinking doesn't-even-own-a-laundry-hamper little brother would not like to receive on Christmas day. Oh well, I still enjoy looking at these lists! I especially love this one by Creature Comforts or this funny one at DesignSponge. *sigh* Can one earn a PhD in Blog-Reading? Perhaps in Multitasking?

Anyway, we had a fabulous Thanksgiving celebration at Auntie Kumu's house in Connecticut, with many of the cousins and also the next generation, which currently consists of only boys. Someone had the brilliant idea to buy them Nerf guns, and an all-out war of capture the flag ensued one evening, engulfing both the little boys and the big "boys". Yes, pretty much anyone male could be found running around the house, hiding behind the kitchen table, panting and grabbing yellow foam bullets from the cracks of the sofa cushions. We dainty ladies tried to avoid being hit in the cross-fire while we put together a lovely countryside puzzle. Oh, it was quite a sight. After that exhausting weekend, it seems strange that xmas is only a few weeks away! Where did this semester go? Wasn't I going to have a lot more work done by this point in the year? Well, those questions can be answered later. It's Friday and I'm ready to cook a delicious meal with my good-looking crazy-family-tolerating boyfriend. Hooray!