I Scream. You Scream.

5.31.2012

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We all scream for ice cream. Ice cream is certainly one of my many weaknesses. I always have a pint on hand so I can have a bite or two (or three or four) for a little pick-me-up. Though most Texans are born and bred with Blue Bell bias, I'm a Ben & Jerry's kinda girl.

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By the middle of rush week last year, we were all in a panic, that kind of panic that only a pint of ice cream shared by three spoons could fix. So, I brought home Ben & Jerry's New York Super Fudge Chunk and Chocolate Fudge Brownie to stock up our freezer with $5 pints of chocolate therapy.

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As we ate our feelings, conversation struck as to what flavors we had had of this Vermont-churned ice cream and which ones made our favorites list. And thus the brain child was born: 2A's Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream Challenge, otherwise known as the "fast track to the freshman fifteen." We were going to try all 53 flavors by the year's end.

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We went through about two flavors per week, always aiming to switch things up from chocolate to vanilla, from fruity to nutty, and from the simpler to the crazier concoctions. Word of the challenge reached the rumor mill at Hardin and soon we had guests at our freezer asking to participate and put in their two cents. So, we created a rating chart.

Interesting themes came about, as you'll see here:
 
*though it's one of the, if not the most popular flavor, we ixnayed Cherry Garcia, because we all agreed cherries belong in pies not ice cream

The cream of the crop usually had cookie pieces, a peanut butter ingredient, or chocolate. Here are the perfect tens, according to 2A standards:
Chubby Hubby - Fudge Covered Peanut Butter Filled Pretzels in Vanilla Malt Ice Cream Rippled with Fudge & Peanut Butter
Milk and Cookies - Vanilla Ice Cream with a Chocolate Cookie Swirl, Chocolate Chip & Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies
Oatmeal Cookie Chunk - Sweet Cream Cinnamon Ice Cream with Chunks of Oatmeal Cookies & Fudge
What a Cluster - Peanut Butter Ice Cream with Caramel Cluster Pieces, Peanut Butter & Marshmallow Swirls
Half Baked - Chocolate & Vanilla Ice Creams with Fudge Brownies & Gobs of Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough
Chocolate Therapy - Chocolate ice cream with chocolate cookies & swirls of chocolate pudding ice cream
Chocolate Nougat Crunch - Sweet Cream Ice Cream with Fudge Covered Wafer Cookies & a Chocolate Nougat Swirl

Now presenting the 9s. These were close to gold standards, but we didn't finish in one sitting, like the ones above.
Cinnamon Buns - Caramel Ice Cream with Cinnamon Bun Dough & a Cinnamon Streusel Swirl
Dublin Mudslide - Irish Cream Liqueur Ice Cream with Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies and a Coffee Fudge Swirl
Imagine Whirled Peace - Caramel & Sweet Cream Ice Creams Swirled with Fudge Peace Signs & Toffee Cookie Pieces
Mint Chocolate Chunk - Mint Ice Cream with Fudge Chunks
Mint Chocolate Cookie - Peppermint Ice Cream with Chocolate Sandwich Cookies
Peanut Butter Cup - Peanut Butter Ice Cream with Peanut Butter Cups
S'mores - Toasted Marshmallow Ice Cream with a Toasted Marshmallow Swirl & Fudge Covered Almonds
Triple Caramel Chunk - Caramel Ice Cream with a Swirl of Caramel & Fudge Covered Caramel Chunks
Rocky Road-ish - Toasted Marshmallow Ice Cream with a Toasted Marshmallow Swirl & Fudge Covered Almonds

And here were the weakest links. Anything involving cheesecake, rum balls, or custard usually made it to the bottom of the barrel. Several of these were thrown away with only a couple bites skimmed from the top. Boston Cream Pie left such a bad aftertaste that it received a whopping zero.
2s
Creme Brulée - Sweet Custard Ice Cream with a Caramelized Sugar Swirl
Pistachio Pistachio - Pistachio Ice Cream with Lightly Roasted Pistachios
Red Velvet Cake - Red Velvet Cake Batter Ice Cream with Red Velvet Cake Pieces & a Cream Cheese Frosting Swirl

1s
Schweddy Balls - Vanilla Ice Cream with a Hint of Rum & Loaded with Fudge Covered Rum & Malt Balls
Strawberry Cheesecake - Strawberry Cheesecake Ice Cream with Strawberries & a Thick Graham 
Caramel Swirl - Caramel Ice Cream with a Swirl of Caramel & Fudge Covered Caramel Chunks

0
Boston Cream Pie - Boston Cream Pie Ice Cream with Yellow Cake Pieces, Fudge Flakes & Swirls of Pastry Cream

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Towards the end of the year, we went to the 24 hour grocery store after midnight and snagged six of our favorite flavors, one for each girl in our suite. It was definitely a "YOLO" moment that I don't regret. This challenge made for an easy excuse to indulge since not completing it would be giving up, and we were determined to not be quitters. I hope this serves as a helpful guide the next time you peruse the frozen aisle at the grocery store and can't choose from ice cream sandwiches, Dibs, or a pint of classic vanilla. Go with Chubby Hubby or Milk and Cookies, and your taste buds will be pleased with your decision.

Memorial Day & A Memorial Graduate

5.30.2012

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{left: moll and i at the ranch; right: us again enjoying an Italian meal in Houston's Midtown neighborhood} 
I spent my Memorial Day weekend here and there. I babysat my darling nephew Evan on Friday evening and spent the better half of Saturday compiling an album of photos from freshman year which will eventually be composed of pictures throughout college, similar to one I have of high school. After a day's worth of photo labor, I was ready for a good meal. Mollie and I intended to go to one of our favorite spots, Dolce Vita, but our plan was halted by news that it was temporarily closed due to a sudden fire. Fortunately for us, it has two sister restaurants by the same chef, DeMarco and Vinoteca Poscol, so we chose to give the latter a try. The atmosphere wasn't up to DV standards, but the food was equal in excellence. We shared a flatbread topped with arugula and prosciutto and a surprisingly yummy dessert of dates atop a bed of marscapone cheese covered in a red wine reduction (thanks to the waiter's recommendation).

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Sunday was when I enjoyed my stereotypical Memorial Day festivities--grilled burgers,

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chilled watermelon wedges,

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a Mexican trio of salsa, guacamole, and queso (Memorial Day Tejano style),

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and more than one good dessert with my favorite melt-in-your-mouth chocolate chip cookies, blueberry cobbler and Texas sheet cake.

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{orange was the color of choice this weekend since Simon will be headed to Texas in the fall, not far from mollie at SMU}
We were celebrating more than one occasion with Simon's (Mollie's boyfriend) graduation from Memorial taking place last weekend also. Family and friends gathered at her ranch house just west of Houston in Belleville, Texas. It was refreshing to enjoy some fresh air, open spaces, poolside conversation, and views of the starlit sky. 

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Mollie and I spent the night out there, and enjoyed a true country breakfast at the local bakery on our way back to the city. Since then, I've been prepping for my next adventure, which is not quite a hop, skip and a jump away like Belleville. My parents and I are headed northeast to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to greet Carolyn and Art upon their stateside arrival. We can barely wait.

I was wrong.

5.28.2012


I've seen a variation of this video a thousand times. The frenzy at the train station. The blurred lights scattered throughout the anonymous big city. The remorseful boyfriend hastily running back to the innocent coffee shop girl he should've never left to begin with. Switching between shots of the bitter piano player banging his cold fingers on the keys, expressing his anger through sweet noise and the pensive lyric writer sitting on that train, reflecting upon mistakes of his past.

Despite the monotony of the elements in this video, I'm struck by the song. The ending is unclear, whether he walks through the shop as it opens at dawn to reclaim his lost love or whether he lets the glass wall stand between him and his prospect of righting a wrong. I think that's what I like about this song, "I Was Wrong" by Sleeperstar--it doesn't feel the need to tie up all the loose ends. It's our job to write the ending. That's my favorite part. That and the lyrics and the rhythm, and that it was in the background of an epic exchange between Damon and Elena in The Vampire Diaries; the truth comes out. Bottom line: it's a really good song, so go buy it and invent your ideal ending.


Hysteria.

5.24.2012

New York, 1922.
The tempo, the city--it changed sharply. The buildings were higher. The parties were bigger. The morals were looser, and the liquor was cheaper. The restlessness approached. 
Hysteria.

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In the eighth grade, I was assigned my first literary analysis--a daunting task, indeed. My teacher, Mrs. Gebhardt, gave us a list of options taken from the American Literary Canon from which to write our essays on. If you haven't gathered, I have a nerd within me, and during the age span of 13-16, that nerd was as alive and well as ever. I spent great lengths of time and energy researching every novel, ensuring I selected the perfect one for me.

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Many of them seemed beyond my years, like The Color Purple with its intense vulgarity and violence, and I steered clear of anything having to do with mythology after a treacherous experience with Ulysses in the seventh grade. So, in the midst of Huck Finn and Shakespearean plays, I was finally lured into the glitz and glam of the roaring twenties found in F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby. And I'll admit, the fact that it was short and sweet was also very tempting. 

I just skimmed my paper from back in the day and it's, well, not my finest work by any means. My in-class writing on Gatsby junior year (written in a mere 40 minutes) is leaps and bounds better than this rookie piece, but there's nothing like your first love affair with fine literature. To date, it is one of my favorite stories. So, it's an understatement to say that I'm ever so pleased to see Baz Luhrmann (of Moulin Rouge and Romeo & Juliet) bringing the East and West Eggs to the big screen this Christmas. 



Even watching the two-minute trailer is a treat, getting a glimpse of the extravagant parties, exquisite wardrobes and that dazzling DiCaprio playing Mr. Jay Gatsby himself. Though we are all familiar with this tale of deceit, corrupt love, and mostly, tragedy, this film will undoubtedly be one of the most visually stunning of the year. Its cast is pretty killer too with Leonardo DiCaprio, as mentioned, Tobey Maguire as the outsider looking in, in the role of Nick Carraway, and Carey Mulligan lighting up the screen as Daisy Buchanan (a role sought after by Keira Knightly, Natalie Portman, and other established actresses).

I guess as we approach this long weekend, entertainment's on my mind. It's been awhile since I've seen a good flick and I just might fish around for one as I dedicate this weekend to guilt-free laziness. Happy Memorial Day!

Pass the Salad, Please

5.23.2012

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One of the greatest gifts of summer, in my opinion, is the change of pace in food. It's completely acceptable to have watermelon juice running down your white shirt and maybe even a BBQ stain or two from the neighborhood grilling gathering. Your good deed for the day may be supporting the local kids' piggy banks while quenching your own thirst by buying a cup of fresh lemonade from the nearby stand. And nothing beats the heat (or lifts my spirits) quite like a trip to the ice cream shop. But, there's one kind of dish that ranks high in my summer foods list in many regards and that's summer salads. They've got just about everything going for them with good taste, flavor, nutrition value, and color appeal.

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My mom asked me to whip together a quick dinner the other night, so I turned to the salad bowl for this suppertime SOS. I included spinach leaves, walnuts, raspberries and blackberries, feta cheese, and avocado tossed in a light raspberry walnut vinaigrette. It tasted just about as good as it looked, especially with grilled salmon filets resting on top of these greens.

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And tonight, we had what's arguably my favorite salad of all time. After my sister featured this orzo pasta salad on her blog, my mom started making it on the reg, partly because I put it in such high demand. It became an excellent substitute in my brown bag for the ordinary pb&j come the end of high school. It's light, fresh, and includes some of my favorite ingredients with arugula, feta, dried cranberries, and pine nuts. Tonight we added shrimp for our protein fix, but chicken is always an easy go-to to make a meal out of this dish. 

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Simply, get some water boiling. 

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Add a pound of orzo pasta, which can be found at your local supermarket.

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Once it's cooked and drained, spread the orzo on a cookie sheet like so, and drizzle extra virgin olive oil all over the pan. 

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Then, allow it to sit and cool for a couple of hours. 

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Once it's cool, add all of the other ingredients. Specific measurements and the recipe in full can be found here

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So if you're temperature gauge resembles anything to us Texas folk, take heart in the crisp and cool cuisine when the dog days of summer roll around. While every season brings its unique tastes and flavors with it, summer foods always bring the best memories, with many meals shared with good company, on vacation, and for this summer, not in the Hardin dining hall and in the comfort of my home. Bon appétit!


Bread + Bible

5.22.2012

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My to-do lists from summer's past show a striking pattern: most of the items still have a blank check box to the left of them. I've encountered the same problem most New Years Resolutionists do. This year, I've tried to pinpoint why I experience this failure year after year in order to put an end to this bothersome tradition of incompleteness. For one, they're much too long. Secondly, they're far too general. And most of all, they're just not practical. While my efforts were admirable, I strive to achieve a more realistic, condensed, and more than anything completed list this summer. So far, here's what's in store:

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1. Memorize ten Bible verses. If I can memorize over a thousand song lyrics, surely I can manage this. We're already a tenth of the way there with number one being Hebrews 4:16--"Let us approach God's throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need."


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2. Take a trip to the creole city and the birthplace of jazz--New Orleans. It's a shame that I have yet to visit this nearby neighbor of mine, and I plan to change that with a road trip to Louisiana in the month of June.  

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3. Make a bread product from scratch. In high school, there was a boy in my grade whose mother would bake fresh loaves of bread and sell it to kids at school. With the way those loaves smelled and tasted, they became a hotter commodity than copies of last year's physics tests. Now that's saying something. I'm still deciding whether I'll experiment with popover rolls, biscuits, or just a simple loaf.

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4. Keep with my tradition of one television addiction per summer. This item is already well underway with The Vampire Diaries season one complete as of tonight. Perhaps we'll have to make time for two this summer, and with practically my whole family being hooked on Downton Abbey, that is likely next in line.

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5. Learn at least two new ways to use my SLR camera. I've become embarrassingly dependent upon the auto settings. With all the free online guides available, I'm determined to learn a few tricks of the trade before the season's up.

My first week of vacation has been spent crossing off the various necessities like haircuts, doctor's and dentist's appointments, and giving my closet a well-deserved cleanse from all the goods that rarely see the light of day anymore. I intend on updating you all on my progress on this list, making it your job to keep me accountable and not let this summer end with yet another half-way accomplished list.


Resignation to the End

5.18.2012

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{2A back to its lifeless state upon our departure}
I made my best efforts to soak in the final days of freshman year, ignoring the fact that I'd be leaving that room, that city, (most of) those people, and the year behind in a matter of days. While the inevitable sadness ensued, it was unlike a typical mourning experience.

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This certain kind of sadness was a by-product of leaving behind an abundance of happiness; it's for this reason that I find this particular sadness so addicting, just as Gotye speaks of in his hit song that is still number one on iTunes, Somebody That I Used to Know--"you can get addicted to a certain kind of sadness, like resignation to the end, always the end."

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{freshman year was unique in its novelty--from early morning tailgates to late nights, sneak-ins instead of sneak-outs, and Towers to Sixth Street, everything was a breath of fresh air from the high school routine we had performed four years in a row} 
My mind has been running on rewind for the past month or so now, mulling over the best nights, the longest days, the most random experiences, the surprises, the tears, the laughs that turned into tears and so on. As time quickly passes, the memories that used to be so clearly cemented in my mind are fading into vague blurs.

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{the cluttered state of living in hardin isn't the thing i'll miss the most by any means, but it certainly was a part of its rubbish charm. but, fun fact (and something i already miss): this shower had the best water pressure any of the six of us had ever had.}
But, I have faith the memories that stay with me will remain with me for a lifetime.

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{we came to a consensus that the twinkly lights that framed our room from Christmas on gave 2A a little magic}
I switched back and forth from experiencing sheer bliss while reflecting on this year to sudden pangs of anxiety as I watched it all vanish as, one by one, my friends began to file out, the frames on my shelves came down, and the room we filled with twinkly lights, photographs, hummus, laughter and love slowly reverted back to the empty state we entered it as.

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{the photo collage i framed for all three of us as my parting gift on the last night}
While it's hard to let go (and yes, I'm aware of how melodramatic I'm being), it's time to embark on something new. Like any good vacation, we wouldn't want to overstay our welcome.


And trust me, Hardin House was adament about our 9am departure and not a minute later, which is made clear in the video above with their phone call to Mary Elizabeth. And yes, they called Kels and I also.

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{the roomies at Halcyon not-so-patiently awaiting our tray of s'mores}
Merl, Kels and I didn't spare a minute we had left in Hardin, spending our last evening going to dinner in North Austin at Sienna, grabbing an interactive s'mores dessert at Halcyon downtown, and staying up to our usual 3am bedtime one last time.

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We made sure to leave our mark for the future residents, just as those before us had done.

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So, while I'm addicted to looking back, I hope that now that I've finally reached the last page of this book (there were many, many tears at its conclusion might I add), I can close it with the satisfaction of knowing I enjoyed it for all it was worth. I also have an assured state of mind that the best is still yet to come. But, I think it's time to put away the books for now and revel in a little relaxation and rejuvenation. I look forward to the much anticipated sequel, due out this August.


Wait It Out

5.15.2012

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Where do we go from here?

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How do we carry on?

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I can't get beyond the questions.

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Pain on pain on play repeating.

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With the back-up makeshift life in waiting.

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Everybody says "time heals everything."

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But what of the wretched hollow?

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The endless in-between?

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Are we just going to wait it out?

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There's nothing to see here now.

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We're closed to the Earth 'til further notice.

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Fluorescent lighting sets the scene.

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For all we could and should be being,

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In the one life that we've got.


Wait it out.

This isn't the first time Imogen Heap's lyrics have become a theme song to my life. I sit here, done with school, and find myself in limbo from one phase to the next. It's the end of the beginning. As we all pack our bags, the question she poses of where to go is clear: home, where we all came from last August. But, everything else, the friendships we've formed, the home we've created, and the routines we've become accustomed to, are being stripped of us as people leave, the homes return to ordinary living spaces, and the school year wraps up. And that's where we wonder how we carry on, without these people by our sides all day and every day.

So, here comes summer, what used to be the long awaited season with no duties or obligations other than getting a tan line and buying that summer reading book (actually reading it became an option for many). This year it feels like it came all too soon. Though it marks the in-between of one school year to the next, it is far from endless. I'm anxious to see what the next year has in store, but for now I'll soak in my last night here, then head home and wait it out.