Tag Archives: oatmeal

When you’re a blonde flying solo abroad

29 Dec


img_1096It’s pretty poor travelogue form to document a trip four-ish months late. But, my blonde moments within a European context cannot go unpublished! Graduate school afforded me the opportunity to give a talk at the 2016 International Union of Food Science and Technology (IUFoST) conference in Dublin, Ireland. I couldn’t resist using all free moments to sight see, the highlights of which pursuit included a musical pub crawl, a bus trip to Malahide Castle, a walk through Christ Church Cathedral and, the ultimate, a tour of the Guinness Storehouse. You can probably do some google research on your own to figure out the gist of each of these activities. And besides, I wouldn’t want to spoil your next visit to Dublin with TMI on some of its finest attractions. So instead, I’ll share with you what should have been an unremarkable (exempting the terrible plumbing) stay at Trinity College’s dormitories. That is, everyone was having a perfectly ordinary time, until I nearly burnt down my dorm and possibly the connecting buildings.

After conferencing in the morning, I had purchased a sandwich from SPAR, that img_1075Dutch,  quasi 7-Eleven-meets-Whole-Foods which has permeated most of Europe. The bread was a bit grainy, and so I decided to toast the sandwich in the kitchenette’s oven upon returning to my dorm lodgings. I’ve never gotten the hang of degrees Celsius, despite being surrounded by international students for nearly the past two years, and must have left that sandwich to really swelter. When I returned to the kitchenette to retrieve said sandwich, having accidentally gotten caught-up in excessive phone checking and thumb twiddling, opening the oven yielded a blinding fog of smoke. It stung my eyes to the point that I could not keep them open. And, of course, the fire alarm started blaring, at a seemingly much louder volume than do fire alarms go off at in the states. Everyone was forced outside, from both my building and the surrounding ones. There was a daycare on the floor below me, and clusters of cowering children and their less anxious teachers also streamed onto the sidewalk. I was ashamed and guilt-ridden, to say the least. Two security guards reported to the crime scene, and I immediately confessed to being the culprit.

I was sure of a fine. I mean, in Ireland it could cost you 150 euros just for littering a measly wad of chewing gum. Much to my surprise and relief, however, both security guards were utterly unbothered and found the situation hilarious. They merely needed to report the incident, no charges would be pressed!  One guard, in his thick brogue, offered me cooking lessons with Gordon Ramsey, and suggested I can the ‘wich and instead grab lunch at a nearby restaurant.

img_1061Oh, there’s so much more I’d like to say, to remember, to ponder about my trip. It’s so freeing to be elsewhere, to temporarily suspend everyday life’s responsibilities and rhythms. Here’s to Ed, the bus tour guide who cautioned us tourists ‘not to wave to the locals; it will only encourage them.’ And to the guitarist and banjo player who led me through Temple Bar and did justice to ‘Danny Boy.’ To all the bald men, especially the ones who call you ‘love,’ to the unflappable security guards, the well-versed tour guides, and to Arthur Guinness for bestowing on Ireland a deep source of national pride. To the fierce elbowing that substituted for ‘excuse me’ when pushing through crowds; and to Nespresso instant coffee, and beautifully tiled cathedral floors, and visually stunning brewery museums. To finding the ‘Dolan’ crest, and getting hopelessly lost on Grafton and Nassau Street, and maybe on Grand Canal Pl, too. Thank you, Dublin, for your beauty and grace, intertwined with that stiff upper lip.

If you’ll recall, I began the year with oatmeal recipes. So why not bookend it with more of the same? My new oatmeal kick is detailed below, and features canned pumpkin and egg whites (protein!!!). 2016, you will be missed.


INGREDIENTS (makes 1 serving):

1/3 cup rolled oats

dash of cinnamon

dash of salt

dash of vanilla

1/4 cup canned pumpkin

3 Tbs. egg whites

1/4 cup low-fat milk

1 Tbs. raisins

1-2 packets Equal or other artificial sweetener

DIRECTIONS: Combine oats with 1/2 to 1 cup water. Microwave for 1.5-2 minutes. Remove from microwave; add cinnamon, salt, vanilla, pumpkin, egg whites, and milk. Microwave for an additional 1.5-2 minutes. Be careful to not let oatmeal mixture bubble over/explode out of the bowl (this has happened to me more times than I care to remember). Finally, incorporate the raisins and Equal or artificial sweetener of your choice, to the sweetness level desired. Enjoy!



Rewind, Restart

2 Jan


Each holiday season, Christmas passes in an innocuous haze of cozy cheer, yet New Year’s increasingly presents an uncomfortable obstacle. The past year must be reckoned with, justified, reflected on. Time flew and staggered. Goals were met and missed. I soared, I sunk. I quit my job in one state and started graduate school in another. I re-adjusted. I settled into new routines. At times I let the past cloud the present, yet now and again I planned a marvelous future.

The passage of time is difficult to wrap our heads around. “For what is imagetime? Who can readily and briefly explain this? Who can even in thought  comprehend it, so as to utter a word about it?” queried St. Augustine in his Confessions. And, “But we measure times as they are passing, by perceiving them; but past, which now are not, or the future, which are not yet, who can measure?” He didn’t solve the riddle, and neither have we. The past is certainly important, yet no longer. How, then, can we best apply past experience to the future, to this new 2016?

Not by living in the past. That won’t do. Instead, here’s at least what I’m continuing on in 2016:

For the Stretching of my Mind: Reading. Because, as Pinterest discovered for me: “A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one.” (George RR Martin) I’m bursting my own buttons over the fact that I read 22 books last year. Loosely following Clifton Fadiman’s lifetime reading list, I worked my way through Machiavelli’s The Prince, Trollope’s The Warden, and have made a considerable dent in St. Augustine’s Confessions. I also read faith-based books, biographies and autobiographies, a collection of poems and one of essays, more fiction, and even a book on economics. I hope to read even more books in 2016, and encourage you to join me in this venture!

For my Physical and Emotional Well Being: Lifting weights. My brother, Ian, completely uprooted a cardio heavy exercise schedule about this time last year. I admittedly am too embarrassed to show out at University of Maryland’s gym, what with all the jacked 2o year old meat heads and frat boys lurking about, but I did come up with an at-home solution, 50 lb adjustable weights. Adhering in part to Ian’s regiment, I have a legs day, a shoulders and abs day, and a back day. I feel stronger, can actually do a decent number of push ups, and noticeably have definition in my upper back and shoulders. It’s nice to know I might just be stronger than the octogenarians on toast and tea diets.

For my Professional Development: Receiving constructive criticism. When I was a sophomore in high school, I had outgrown an easy going, uncritical violin teacher, and reluctantly switched to an intense, nit picky one. My persistent desire to receive positive feedback from Devon, my new teacher, drove me to practice insane amounts. Finally, when he sensed that I was frustrated, he explained:”I’m not getting paid to give you compliments. I’m getting paid to make you a better player.” In retrospect, I appreciate that he picked me apart. The best teachers don’t applaud; they correct. Similarly, those who want to learn will respond objectively to constructive feedback.

2015 wasn’t wholly constructive, mainly because of my own misinformed thought patterns. In 2016, I plan to work on not:

Having expectations. Google “expectations and gratitude,” and you’ll find a whole slew of articles suggesting an inverse relationship between the two. In his collection of essays God in the Dock, C.S. Lewis gives the following scenario: “Imagine a set of people all living in the same building. Half of them think it is a hotel, the other half think it is a prison. Those who think it a hotel might regard it as quite intolerable, and those who thought it was a prison might decide that it was really surprisingly comfortable…The people who try to hold an optimistic view of this world would become pessimists: the people who hold a pretty stern view of it become optimistic.”

imageMaking assumptions about others. Do you ever create a plausible back story for someone you just met? I do, and mine are almost always off-base. I thought a guy from Venezuela I play tennis with, based on his calm demeanor, was a rich kid with a nice life. Turns out he and a group of friends were kidnapped and held ransom by several men with machine guns, until their parents shelled out $1000 each. Or take my friend from Bible study, who I assumed to come from a loving Christian home based on her rigid lifestyle. Nope; she was raised atheist, has little to no contact with her parents, and is completely on her own financially.

Doubting myself. Self-sabotage is senseless. Channeling Pinterest vibes once more, “Make sure your worst enemy is not living between your own two ears.” Oh, and this one’s good too: “You are far too smart to be the only thing standing in your way.”

And now for my food resolutions: DO continue eating oatmeal; DON’T eat the instant variety. Instead, I have already begun eating rolled oats, which are less processed and can be flavored as you please. Thus far, I’ve made peanut butter & jelly, peanut butter & banana, and brown sugar & honey oats.

The base for each recipe is the same: microwave 1/3 cup oats and 2/3 to 1 cup water until cooked (1.5-2 minutes). Next, for:


ADD: image

1/2 Tbs. peanut butter

1 Tbs. jelly (grape or raspberry)




1/2 banana, sliced

1/2 Tbs. peanut butter




1 Tbs. brown sugar (unpacked)

1 Tbs. honey