Tuesday, July 24, 2012

What I do

When I applied for my current job, I didn't really know exactly what I'd be doing.  I just saw words like "wetlands", "sea-level rise", and "coasts" and got pretty excited that I could be paid to do something that related to those words.  Even now, two years later, I'm stumped about what to put on my business cards in terms of my title (I just passed my professional engineering exam, so I'm getting updated cards with P.E after my name! And I can officially call myself an engineer now!)

I've checked out what my coworkers put on their cards and I've seen Hydrologist, Wetlands Engineer, Coastal Engineer, and Fluvial Geomorphologist (how awesome is that title?!)  But how do I self-identify?  I'm not totally sure.  

Last week I split my time between modeling how habitats could change in the California delta with sea-level rise, managing projects and our new intern, and setting up a 2-D hydrodynamic model to verify flood levels in a wetland we're designing.  Lot's of modeling last week.

A marsh salt pan in the distance with pretty marsh flowers in front

But a few months ago, I was working on a bridge scour analysis (if you open up a site to the tides, more water will be moving through the system and this additional water can "scour" or dig-out channels making them deeper or wider, which can cause downstream bridges to fail), a monitoring report (we survey a site's topography, measure the tides, and then produce a report about any changes we see from year to year), and a construction cost estimate for a project we designed.  I really get to do a little bit of everything.    

Oh, how I love pretty marsh channels- look at that water!

So for now, I'll probably stick with Hydrologist- it's descriptive and my actual position in the company.  But next time I need new business cards? Who knows!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Summer Lemonade

Yesterday, I had planned to run from my house through Balboa park on a route I had seen recommended on Map My Run.  I knew the pride parade was happening, but from the website it looked like I could still run my planned route.  I also wanted to see some of the parade if I could too.  I walked the two or three blocks from my house to the parade route and it was already underway.  It brought me back to my Mardi Gras days from when I was living in New Orleans

Mardi Gras, 2009

Mardi Gras, 2009

I was really impressed to see how many people were out yesterday!

I was also impressed with the footwear some of the paraders had on!

I really enjoyed this float advertising one of the local bars.

But these giant, blow-up couples were my favorite. (They had two men too).

After I left the parade, I made my way into the park.  At the end of my route before I turned back around to make my way home, I saw an iced lemonade stand.  It was really hot, and seeing as this was my second run in many, many months (and I am very out of shape), I really wished that I had some money on me.  I decided that to reward myself for my efforts, I would have to find a healthier alternative that I could make for myself.  And today I did!

Very Berry Lemonade

2 cups Trader Joe's Very Cherry Berry Blend (or another type of frozen berries)
1 large (makes 2 qts) pack Crystal Light Lemonade
2 qts (8 cups) water 

Pour the Crystal Light into the blender and add 8 cups of water.  Blend a couple of times to mix.  

My blender just barely holds 8 cups, so to make room for the berries, I poured some of the lemonade into an ice cube tray to make lemonade cubes.  These will be so good later!

Then I added the berries to the blender and blended until I got to a consistency I liked. 

This is such a delicious summer treat- I'm already on my second glass!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Fluids for breakfast

A few years ago I had a blog called "A Fan of Fluids" where I wrote about my adventures teaching high school math and physics in Louisiana.  The title didn't really go with what I wrote about other than it was about me, and I'm a fan of fluids (remember, hydrologist here?)  When I decided to start blogging again, I decided the name had some connotations I didn't really want. :)

Regardless, I am a fan of fluids and my breakfast today is all in my favorite form. (Do you want me to calculate the velocity of my smoothie as it descends into my stomach? I'll do it...)

I started off this beautiful Saturday morning with some tea.  I used to have an electric tea kettle, but it started to get pretty funky and I think this red one is just so cute (and there's something so romantic and old fashioned about heating water on the stove).  Also, it totally whistles when it's done!  It makes me SO happy!

It matches my dish towels!

I love tea- at work I drink tea all day long.  Today, I'm drinking an orange, passion fruit, and jasmine flavored green tea that I like. (And I always compost my tea bag when I'm done!)

I've got my big ol' mug that I just adore- it's like two cups in one!  When I was teaching, I used to make my tea, throw it in this mug, and drive (forever) to get to school with it as my only company.

What else did I have for breakfast this morning?  Well I've been experimenting with trying to get 7 servings of fruits and vegetables into my diet everyday.  So when I read about putting leafy greens in a smoothie, I thought, I've got to try that! (after initially thinking, eww, gross).  But good news- it's not gross at all.  Quite delicious in fact.

I start out with a banana that may or may not be past its prime- the gross, old-banana texture will go away when it's all blended up!

Then I add some greens.  Today was laciento kale, but earlier in the week I used spinach.

I added a heaping half cup of Trader Joe's frozen cherry berry mix and a couple of tablespoons of non-fat greek yogurt for protein.

To make it blend nicely, I filled the blender to about 3/4 cup with almond milk.  Earlier in the week, I added ice to make it cooler, but since the kale, berries, greek yogurt, and almond milk all came out of the refrigerator or freezer, it's pretty cold without it.

When you first start blending it, the banana, kale, and almond milk mix first and it's green on the bottom!  Then as the berries come into play, it turns purple.  So fun.

It makes a big cupful, so now I've got my big mug of tea and my big MIT cup of smoothie.  Go Tech!


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Compost Love

I don't know what it is, but I love the idea of composting.  For my last birthday, I asked for a composter- something I don't think most 27-year-olds wish for.  I was inspired by our good family friends who have a fantastic garden with an intense composting system (complete with peeing on the compost to add nitrogen- I'm not sure I'm that committed yet).  I love my plants and if I can help them grow AND put my kitchen waste to good use, why not?

My composter is pretty simple.  I have a small kitchen bucket (literally a sand bucket, I think) that I dump my food waste into.

I use compostable bags (I'd like to use them for everything, but they're a little pricey).

Then when the kitchen container fills up (or starts to get funky) I dump it in the composter.

I then sprinkle bokashi all over it to speed up the decomposition. The container comes with an inside vent-lid thingy that fortunately has a little nob handle so you don't have to touch all the mold and crazy things growing inside.

Check out all that mold- eww!
I push the vent-lid thingy down as far as I can (like a little trash compactor) and then I put the outside lid on.

It also has a nozzle at the bottom that allows me to get out any of that nutritious liquid that pool in the bottom.

And when it fills all the way up, I dump it out in the city-collected compost containers (or the trash if compost isn't available).  (Also, if I had a full dirt garden, I could bury it to let it finish decomposing and it would be less stinky and well on it's way to becoming dirt). When I was living in San Francisco, I kept the container inside and neither my roommate nor I ever noticed it smelling.  Now that I have some (very limited) outdoor space, I keep it outside to give myself more room in the kitchen.

When I first started the composter, it took a few months before anything started happening.  But eventually, I got the plant food I was hoping for!  Now again, I understand I'm probably a super-weirdo for this, but when I was packing up everything for the move down south, I poured my "plant juice" into a couple of empty liquor bottles so that I could bring it with me.  It just seemed like too much of a waste to not take it along! (You will be relieved to know I didn't bring the rest of the compost with me- that ended up in the green street container).

I do have to warn you about using the plant juice.  It smells horrendous and if you want to use it on indoor plants, it's going to make your house smell... like poop water.  It's also important to dilute it when watering your plants with it (1:100).  (Maybe they, too, will die of the stench if it's not watered down?)

The next item on my garden wish list is a worm bin, but I don't think I'm ready for it yet.  I don't want to make my current composter irrelevant, and I'm not sure I generate enough kitchen waste to support two compost apparatuses.  But maybe one day.  A girl can dream, right?

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Big Goals

I was an athlete growing up and spent countless hours in the pool as a swimmer, synchronized swimmer, and water polo player.  Because I was so active, it was really easy to fall into bad eating habits and still look in shape and healthy.

But when I finally quit synchro and then headed off to college two years later, I gained weight and struggled to create new eating habits (still struggling).  I love fruit snacks and queso dip.  Until the last few years, vegetables were a thing to be avoided like the plague.  And if it's a carb like pasta or sourdough bread, I can eat it in obscene quantities.

In terms of dieting, I've "tried" everything.  In college, I decided that if I limited my sweets and treats to Sundays only, I'd have to lose weight.  Monday through Saturday I bought every bad thing I would normally eat and put it under my bed.  I remember a cadbury egg, a box of girl scout samoa cookies (mmm), and some other stuff.  When Sunday rolled around, I ate the entire box of girl scout cookies, and threw up two hours later.  That was the end of that diet.

Every time I've tried something crazy, something in the back of mind tells me that it's got to be simpler than this.  I've always had the feeling that if I could just focus on eating things that were good for my body, I'd get to where I want to be.  Slowly over the years, my eating habits have gotten better.  Now I love bell peppers (especially heirloom bell peppers from my local farmers' market- so pretty!)

I think squash is pretty fantastic.  I can even tolerate mushrooms.  And I've gotten better at trying new things because I really like cooking.  But I still like fruit snacks and when donuts show up at work, I have a hard time resisting.  Now I know an occasional donut is okay, but with all the other occasional things I eat, it's really not.

So I ask myself this: why is this time going to be different?  Well, I think there are a few reasons.  I'm in a new place where the weather is great so the people are active.  I don't have a lot of friends here, so at least for a little while I won't have too many eating and drinking out opportunities.  Also, my dad recently had a health scare which I think was a major wake-up call for our family- we've just got to eat better to make sure we can live long, happy, adventurous lives!

My dad, sister (not pictured), and I went sky diving last year.
Lastly, I'm writing a blog about this, and while I'm pretty sure no one reads it (yet?), it makes me feel accountable.  I also think blogging will be a good way to keep track of how I'm feeling and the progress I'm making.   

So I start with a simple goal: for one week, starting today, I will make sure I get four servings of vegetables and three servings of fruit every day.  My sister once said, "I've gone to the gym every day since I joined yesterday," and I'll follow her lead and tell you I've achieved my goal every day since I made this goal today. :)  Here we go- who's with me?

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Welcome to my garden!

When I was in undergrad, my friends made fun of me for my crazy love for the couple of plants I had in my dorm room.  I did love those plants- in the freezing winters of Boston, I always had a little bit of life in my cold, brick room.

Flash forward to last year when I was living in San Francisco.  I started out in a room next to the fire escape and saw huge gardening opportunities ;)  My plants could even look out at Russian Hill and the bay.

People told me I would never grow a tomato (or a pepper) in the SF fog.  I always love a challenge

Then I moved to the other room in our apartment and got my very own greenhouse-nook!  Obviously, the tomatoes came with me.

Now that I'm in Socal, I have my plants outside.  I really wanted to find an apartment with a little yard where I could garden, but I didn't have any luck with that.  So instead, my garden sits in the middle of our parking area in pots.

I've got my herbs (oregano, mint, and thyme in front, with basil and lavendar in the back),

 my tomatoes (they came in the uhaul from SF with me),

some flowers (bougainvillea),


pumpkins, melons, and zucchini,

my cacti collection,

and the baby plants (edamame, mint, and some peppers).

I grew a lot of these from seeds after the Great Aphid Attack of 2011.  I'll have to write about that and my hatred for those gross little bugs another time.  But the GAA2011 taught me to check any plants I buy really carefully to make sure I'm not bringing something home with me that I don't want.  And starting plants from seeds is an easy way to avoid the problem.

Right now in my kitchen, I've started some corn, black-eyed susans, sunflower, and pepper seeds.  I saw one of the black-eyed susans pop up this week, so I'm excited to see what else will start sending up shoots in the next few days.

Maybe now would be a good time to introduce you to my roommate, Fiona.

She's showing a real interest in gardening these days.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Fresh starts

Today I started a blog. I also joined a running club. And I made my mom's corn salad, which is oh so good.

I've been reading this blog, Daily Garnish, and I got kind of inspired to start my own.  In fact, I've become sort of addicted to reading food/health/exercise blogs.  It's what I do while I eat lunch at work. (And when I eat the bag of chips I shouldn't have bought from the downstairs cafe but did an hour or so after I ate my lunch).  So here I am, blogging.

As for joining the running club, that was also probably the result of reading the blog above.  I've always sort of wanted to be the type of person who runs (and enjoys it).  My good friend Trica is a runner- apparently, if you run enough, you start to like it.  This is crazy to me, but I thought I'd give it a try.  I'm also joining the club because it's a social running club and I have no friends.  Wait, I should explain that: I have lots of great, awesome friends (like Tricia), but none of them live within about 400 miles of me.  So, I have no friends here. Yet.  Thus the club.  Apparently they drink after they run, which sounds like my kind of running.  But that probably eliminates all the calorie-burning-ness of the run.  Dang it.

And the last thing (of the mention-worthy things) that I did today, was make this fantastic corn salad.  Except I forgot to add the tomatoes (doh) and I left out the cilantro and used lemon juice instead of lime.  These are the things that happen when you don't take out all of the ingredients beforehand (or so my mother tells me).  Eh, cilantro.

(Also, although I associate this recipe with my mom, it's apparently Paula Deen's recipe)


  • 2 cups cooked corn, fresh or frozen
  • 1 avocado, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 cup finely diced red onion


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated lime zest
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper


(I like fresh corn, so I used two cobs of it.  I brought a big pot of water to boil, added the corn, then let it cook covered for 3-4 minutes.)

Combine the corn, avocado, tomatoes and onion in a large glass bowl. Mix together the dressing ingredients in another bowl, pour over the salad, and gently toss to mix.
It would be (and will be tomorrow) so much pretty with the tomatoes in there.  Just imagine a splash of red. ;)

Delicious- and quick to make!