Sunday, June 13, 2010

paring down

The past six months has been an intense time for me. I was finishing up the last pieces of my research for my dissertation, working on a journal paper, writing my dissertation (well, it's almost done) and spending too much time inefficiently looking for jobs. My activities were pared down to doing these four things at least 12 hours a day and maybe one or two small adventures a week like rock climbing and tango. Then things heated up even more in the last month as I was getting incredible amounts of new data and learning more than I ever have in the same time period. Back in December, when I was just starting all this, I felt a dread in me. I didn't know if I wanted to do all this or if I could or if I would be completely unhappy and if so, how the hell would I be able to work a job as a post-doc or in a solar company? And it turns out that I... have been doing just fine. I've been really really surprised by this. I work crazy hours, I'm exhausted, I'm on a continuous roller coaster of feeling stupid one minute and very clever the next. I have had to ask for so much help which I usually shy away from doing and it has been stunning how willing people are to help out and how much I have learned from other people. I haven't been unhappy. I'm not always happy either. I guess I'm feeling focused and okay with being so focused. The little amounts of time that is usually distributed between lots of activities is now mostly focused on one big chunk. I'm making a plan to keep this focus for a while, even after I defend.

In the past month, there has also been another big change in that our lease ended for the house I've lived in with wonderful roommates for the past 4 years. I was incredibly sad about moving out as it was such a clear delineation defining the end of a period of my life and foreshadowing the changes that will also come in a couple of months. It was a great time to start paring down the things I carry around with me too. I gave away a lot of things and it felt great. I moved into a sublet for the summer and haven't unpacked much from my boxes. I've been trying to live very simply, only unpacking a small subset of clothes and still putting many things in the "give away" box. This simple idea has also carried through to cooking. I don't have much time for the elaborate desserts that I dream about making. But I've always been interested in seeing if I could eat just very simple foods, mostly produce and things not from packages. This week has been so interesting. I've cooked without salt or pepper, onions or garlic all week and find that the food tastes just as good. This morning I made a tofu scramble that tasted so fresh. Another pleasant surprise. Here are some things I've made. These are all single servings.

Pepper, corn and pine nuts
- 1/3 cup pinenuts
- 1 cup sweet corn kernels
- 1 bell pepper diced
- 1 T oil

Toast pinenuts until fragrant and light brown. Heat oil over med-high. Add pepper and corn. Sautee until peppers started to get a little browned. Stir in pinenuts.

Simple Tofu Scramble
- 1/2 block firm tofu squished between my fingers
- 1 carrot grated
- 2 big fistfuls of spinach
- 1 tomato diced
- 1 T oil

Heat oil over med. Throw in carrots and tomato. Cook 3 minutes. Add in spinach and tofu. Cooked until tofu loses the beany flavor (5-10 mins?). Eat.

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