Santa Claus Came to Town

When I was very small, my mom started baking bread from scratch instead of buying it at the store. When she first started, she did the whole thing by hand, including the 10+ minutes of kneading required for the correct dough consistency. I think I was five the year my parents brought home a Bosch mixer from the Eastern Idaho State Fair. That Bosch was a key component of our kitchen, and when my dad designed our kitchen in our new house, it had a special cupboard just for the Bosch.

I came home for a weekend last September. During my break, my mom asked me to bake some bread. I pulled out the old Bosch to start mixing.  I looked about like this:

But it definitely sounded more like this:


I was more than a little horrified. In all fairness, it had just turned 17...probably not many appliances survive to late adolescence, especially ones that get used as frequently as that mixer did (4 loaves of bread two or three times a week, plus sundry other baked goods that require mixing.)

I guess I was more appalled that my mom was tolerating a less-than-ideal situation when she bought me a new mixer just a few years ago. So over the deafening noise of the bread kneading, I started researching mixers. I called my brothers and sisters for their input. We all decided that mom was going to get a new mixer for Christmas this year.

It's hard to decide what to get your mom for Christmas in September, because that's a long time to keep the secret. We ordered her new mixer at the end of October. I was giddy on the day it got delivered to my apartment.

I just had to open the box and peek inside!

And then....tragedy struck.  The first week of December, the old mixer kicked the bucket.  My mom wasn't sure how she was going to get through the month without one, especially with Jared's farewell on the horizon.  My dad helped prevent her running straight to the store to buy a new one by playing his role as resident engineer perfectly.  He dismantled the entire mixer, telling her that it might be salvageable.  I called to offer my condolences and promised to bring my mixer home with me to get us through the holidays. 

It looked so small sitting on the counter.  And my mom experienced LOTS of frustration trying to accommodate the smaller bowl.  Apparently, she is used to doubling recipes instead of halving them :)

All the while, her new mixer was sitting upstairs waiting for Christmas morning!

It was so fun watching her open it.  She was pretty surprised.  It made its way downstairs to its new home (I measured the cupboard in the kitchen before we decided what type of mixer to buy, just to make sure it would fit.)  She used it for the first time to make bread yesterday.  It's a bit of a change to switch from a Bosch to a Kitchenaid, but the bread was good, so we're off to a good start!



Yesterday was Jared's mission farewell.  We had lots of family and friends come to show their support.  He did a great job speaking in church, and it was good to see everyone :)

We took some pictures before church and during the open house after church.  Some of them turned out really good.

But all the outtakes are my favorite part!


The Way It Goes

What I should be doing:

1. You suspect that angiotensin II acts in the brain to increase renal nerve activity, and that in heart failure the angiotensin II receptor has increased expression leading to increased sympathetic activity. What experiments could you perform to test this hypothesis using laboratory rats (propose at least 3 experiments)? Briefly describe the experimental strategy and include what control groups you would use. What results would you expect if your hypothesis is correct?

2. Describe the “biosensor” created by Peti-Peterdi et al. (J Clin Invest 112:76-82, 2003). What experiments did they perform to validate the effectiveness of the biosensor? What model did they propose for release of PGE2 from macula densa cells in response to reduced luminal salt content, and what data supported this model? Devise a hypothetical biosensor of your own and describe hypothetical experiments to validate its effectiveness.

3. You just moved into a new area and notice your neighbor’s daughter has detectible expiratory wheezing. You guess that the child must be experiencing some type of an allergic reaction. After all, like you, they live in an older rented apartment close to campus that has not been well maintained; there is a faint, yet detectible tobacco odor and visible dust (dust mites and pet dander present). You rightfully guess the child has chronic, stable asthma. Describe the pathology of the child’s condition including associated mechanisms involved in inflammation of the airway wall, leukocyte accumulation, elaboration of inflammatory mediators and other products. Limit to 1 page. 

What I just did instead:


I am Woman, Hear Me Roar

Today when I threw a load of towels in the dryer, I noticed when I turned it on that it was sounding a little funky.....  Upon further investigation, I found that the little silver accordion-looking pipe was no longer anything.  It was just sitting in a sad, twisted little heap on the ground.  Lint was everywhere.  I called maintenance, but no one answered (this is typical.)  So I called a man friend for a little bit of advice.  And then, like my father and his father before him, I did it myself.


As an apartment of girls, we didn't have any of that boring old gray duct tape.  Please note the aesthetically pleasing use of purple.  Also, I promise I cleaned off the tile before pushing the dryer back.  Don't judge for the mess.

In a vein completely unrelated to my dryer, yesterday my big brother Daniel became one year older and wiser too.  So I baked a cake.  And Suzy spent the entire evening making jokes about 'eating it too.'  We had a small party at his apartment with his roommates and friends.  I don't have any pictures of the assembled cake, but I did take a few of what the layers looked like.  It was marbled.

Before it got baked
While it cooled
Opening presents
Happy birthday!


Has Your Mind Been Blown Lately?

In true biology-nerd form, I'd like to share a video today called "The Inner Life of the Cell." It's an animated representation of what's going on in the cells of your body at this very moment. And if it doesn't blow your mind, you might want to investigate as to whether or not your mind was installed upside-down. Just saying.

To be quite honest, I have loved this video for years, and am a bit surprised at myself for waiting this long to share the awesomeness.

Although there is no way for me to completely explain this movie, I'm going to try a little.  The movie starts out inside a blood vessel.  The red blood cells travel up the middle, and the white blood cells are rolling along the sides.  This movie shows what happens when a white blood cell receives a signal to leave the blood stream (a process known as diapedesis).  Most of the little blobs that float around and stick to each other and everything else are proteins.  The stuff that looks like scaffolding is called 'cytoskeleton' and it basically is scaffolding...  The long, thin, stringy things are called mRNAs and are the directions for how to make new proteins.  And yes, there totally is a little guy that walks along the cytoskeleton delivering stuff to the cell membrane.  He's called 'kinesin.'

How much do you remember about cells from fifth grade?  Organelle pop quiz anyone?  The nucleus was at 1:30.  Did you spot the mitochondria hanging out at 1:56? And there's some golgi body action at 2:14.

Sorry if you don't feel as jazzed about all that as I do.  But seriously, the next time you're feeling sorry for yourself, remember that God gave you a really incredible body.  One three-minute animation doesn't even begin to cover how cool it really is.  And if that doesn't help you feel better about life, call me and we'll talk about kidneys.  Or hearts.  Or nerves.  Or brains.  Because if you woke up this morning and you were alive, there's no reason to not feel like the luckiest person on earth.

In a completely unrelated vein, I was also informed about this cool website called Credit Karma where you can check your credit report and score for *free* as often as you want.  It's the first site like that; most of the time you have to pay, or you're limited in the number of times you can check.  Some people think that the more you check your credit report, the more it hurts your score.  That's not true.  It only hurts your score when other people check your credit report (i.e., when you apply for a new line of credit.)  Credit Karma also gives you a breakdown of why your score is the way it is, where you are potentially losing points, and how you rank compared to the average American, as well as other Americans in your demographic. Go take a look!

PS:  I heard about this site from my personal finance professor, so don't worry, it really is legit.

(I feel very much like Suzanne, blogging about credit reports and all...)


When I Grow Up

Today my mom was giving me advice for my future.  There were a few stray cats wandering around my front yard and she thought they might be a good start to my collection.

Maybe for Christmas she'll get me these window vinyls!


Hypothetical Embarrassing Moment

Once upon a time last September, there was a charming masters student who was sitting in the salon getting her hair cut when she received a text message from her boyfriend asking her to meet him on campus with a CD he needed for a class assignment.  She agreed to meet him at a planter in front of the Joseph F. Smith building, a place they had previously met up on more than one occasion.  When her haircut was complete, she jaunted home to get the CD and headed to campus.  As was her habit, she called her mother during her walk to campus.

A fifteen minute walk later, she arrived in the JFSB quad and spotted her boyfriend sitting on the edge of the planter waiting for her.  His back was to her as she approached.  She walked up and sat down right next to him (like...right next to you do with your boyfriend, you know?)  Not wanting to interrupt her mother, she didn't say anything to him, but began scratching his back in a oh-hey-it's-just-me-your-girlfriend-how-are-you kind of way. After a minute and a half of absent-minded back scratching, she hung up with her mother and reached into her backpack to get the CD he needed.  And then she turned to hand it to him....

....and found herself face-to-face with a complete stranger wearing a very amused look on his face.

At which point she so poisedly blurted, 'I don't know you!'

To which he replied, 'Yup.'

She tried to explain, 'I thought you were someone else!'

To which he replied, 'Yup.'

She sat there for a moment, unsure of what to do.  Would it be rude to just get up and leave?  After about 30 seconds of deliberation, during which she attempted to summon what was left of her dignity, she said, 'It was very nice meeting you.  Have a nice day!' and very quickly walked away.

Only to be greeted by her actual boyfriend, walking across the quad to meet her.

The moral of this story is:  what kind of person lets a complete stranger sit down right next to him and rub his back for a MINUTE AND A HALF without saying anything?  Honestly...


Back to Square One....

Picture from here
Life is tough.  And sometimes in order to make it through, you just have to be tough right back.  Manicures and helmets don't hurt either.

A few thoughts on what it means to be tough:

Being tough doesn't mean that you don't ever get to be sad.  Sometimes sad things happen.  I think being tough means not feeling despair.  Even when you're sad, it's important to have hope that better, happier things are coming.

Being tough means looking around for other people that need helmets and manicures worse than you do, and then showing up, nail polish in hand.

My mom and I were in some store a few years back, and we stumbled across a sign that read "Put on your big-girl panties and deal with it."  We both laughed, but it's become a bit of a mantra to my mom.  Although she is too classy to repeat it to anyone but her daughters, on more than one occasion I have been reminded to 'put on my big-girl panties.'  This morning I was talking to my mom, and she told me that 'put on your big-girl panties' is pretty much the same thing as 'gird up your loins.'  Just modernized.  Being tough means "Gird up your loins; fresh courage take."  Or in other words, "Put on your big-girl panties and deal with it."

Being tough means recognizing when you can't just stay home in your pajamas and wallow because there are too many important things on your to-do list.  And you can't go to campus in your pajamas and wallow there either, because that's tacky.  So you put on those jeans that make your backside look good with that blouse that's kinda fancy, and you top the whole look off with some really great waterproof mascara.  And you give that oral presentation with a smile.  And you teach that review session on heart disease with gusto.  And in between, you pop into the bathroom to make sure that mascara isn't letting you down.

Some days I couldn't be more thankful for good family, good friends, and waterproof mascara.


Good Eating

To start, a statistic I heard over the weekend:  two thirds of Americans believe they are smarter than the average American.  Which means that one sixth of us are kidding ourselves.  Where do you fit?

And now, on to the real deal.

One of my all-time favorite things about going home over breaks is my mom's kitchen.  Or, perhaps more specifically, her amazingly vast stores of ingredients.  Seriously.  She's got everything.  It's a poor-starving-grad-student-bake-a-holic's dream.  So of course, when I go home, I do everything in my power to make a dent in that pantry o' wonders.

Over Thanksgiving I made the following:

Both from the website Our Best Bites.  Plus I did a little bit of experimenting of my own and made a cake.  I didn't take any pictures, but I promise it looked just like this:

It was a white cake with raspberry cream cheese frosting.  Delish.

White Cake that Melissa Sort-of Invented, but Not Exactly, but She Mostly Invented the Frosting
1 white cake mix
1 small box vanilla pudding
4 eggs
1 c. sour cream
1/2 c. water
1/2 c. oil
1 c. white chocolate chips, melted

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and mix well.  Pour the batter into two lined cake rounds and bake at 350* for 30 minutes.  Let cool.

1 8 oz. package cream cheese
1/4 c. butter
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. strawberry or raspberry extract
3/4 c. raspberry jam
3 c. powdered sugar

Cream the butter and the cream cheese until smooth.  Add flavorings and jam.  Add powdered sugar cup by cup until frosting consistency is achieved.  Frost the cake.

And if you're fancy (like me) you can put those frosting rose things all over the cake. Because I totally did.  


Christmas Lights

Last Friday, the boy and I met up with Sandee and Shauntelle and their husbands at The Riverwoods in Provo. That was the night they turned on their Christmas lights, and they were giving out cookies and juice and carriage rides and glow sticks.  Plus Jon Schmidt did a concert, which was pretty fun to watch.  It was a cold night, but we still had a good time!  Shauntelle's husband Brett took lots of pictures of the evening.  The next day she sent me these:

Jon Schmidt on stage

I told you he was cute.


What I'm Up To

Some people (*cough*Annie*cough*) have given me a bit of a bad time lately because my blog has been so....neglected.  They want to know what I'm up to.

Here is what I'm up to:  I spent 15 hours between yesterday and today putting together a review for the students I TA on renal (kidney) and nervous system pathology.  I taught it tonight.  I'm teaching an abbreviated version tomorrow afternoon (just the kidney section.)

And since kidneys and nerves are so cool, and everyone loves pathophysiology as much as I do, enjoy!


(Stagnant) Reading List

Did you forget about this?  Because it probably looks like I have.  I have not forgotten about my reading...I've simply set it aside for a bit during the semester.  Perhaps Thanksgiving and Christmas will be good opportunities to finish what I started.

East of Eden by John Steinbeck
The Survivor's Club by Lisa Gardner
Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
The Beekeeper's Apprentice by Laurie R. King
The Horse and His Boy by C. S. Lewis
Bourne Identity by Robert Ludlum
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran
Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis
My Louisiana Sky by Kimberly Willis Holt
Middlemarch by George Elliot
The Millionaire Next Door by Thomas J. Stanley & William D. Danko
The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
Star Girl by Jerry Spinelli
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
The Help by Kathryn Stockett
The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordin
The Danger by Dick Francis
Laddie, a True Blue Story by Gene Stratton-Porter
Merchant of Death by D. J. MacHale
No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency by Alexander McCall

(Right now I'm at 50%.  10 down, 10 to go!)

"Do One Thing Every Day That Scares You"

I'm not sure why exactly it's good advice to do something everyday that scares you, but I've heard that adage many times.  Yesterday I did something that scares me so much, I probably don't need to do anything else scary for two months.

I donated blood.


I actually really hate to donate blood, but I have a lifetime goal of five gallons (I'm almost to one) and a Day Zero goal of 6 times in one year (the maximum number possible).  Every time I've donated since I made my Day Zero list, I've told myself 'This is it.  I'm starting.  One down, five to go.  Schedule an appointment in two months.' And every time I get too scared and don't schedule appointment number 2.

Yesterday was the worst donation experience I've ever had.  The girl who was my phlebotomist was still in training (ouch!).  I'll spare you the gruesome details.  Because it did get pretty gruesome...

Because yesterday was so bad, I have come to the conclusion that it probably doesn't get much worse than that.  And since I lived through it, I might as well officially start my 6-times goal.

So in two months, when I'm due for another scary experience, remind me that it's time to donate again!

(Free cookies are the best part)


Wishing Update

Morning wish came true :)

Wished again tonight.  I'll keep you posted.....


Fun Dates, etc.

I refuse to begin this post with the customary apology to my mother for the following reasons: a) it might lead to the impression that my mother is some kind of blog-demanding-Nazi, and b) I already apologized to her on the phone today. 

I also refuse to make excuses for not updating. Although if I did, it would look like this: 

List of lame excuses for not blogging:

*I'm boring
*I never take pictures, so even if I weren't boring, my posts would be without pictures
*Suzy's blog is so much better than mine; there's really no way I can compete

Today is 11.11.2011. Isn't that a fun date? But you'd probably already realized/heard/been texted/seen 5 million status updates on facebook. Sorry for being the 5,000,001. Except I had to blog about today, because today at 11:11 a.m., I took a break from studying personal finance with Jared and made a wish (a la my Day Zero Project list). And then I kissed the clock on my cell phone. And then Jared had a coronary because apparently cleaning a hospital for a living makes you some kind of germaphobe....something about how many hands had touched my phone....what a wimp. I will not be telling you what I wished for. I am also fully intending to wish again tonight. After all, how often do you get this kind of potent wishing power?

11.11.11 is not the only fun date that's been happening around here though.... (this is the part where pictures would be really cool....and yet are absent...)

 Fun dates of late:
*Highway to Hale 5K run
*Habitat for Humanity
*Alpine Loop fall leaves viewing
*Vocal Point concert at Snake River High School
*Civil Engineering dinner at The Skyroom
*Numerous study dates

 And tonight.....Ikea date. I'm very exited :) 

*To address those questions you are now asking yourself: Yes, all with one boy. Yes, we're dating. Yes, he is very cute.


Tribute to the Good Old Days

Some people are hard to live with.  Just hard.  I know.  I'm gaining lots of real-life experience as we speak.  And it's making me miss the good old days.

I'm so looking forward to domestic goddess brunch tomorrow.  I love my girlies.


#87: Go to an Event Where I Can Wear a Fancy Dress

On Saturday I got to cross another task off my list....wear a fancy dress.  The day didn't start out very fancy though.  Bright and early (actually, not so bright but definitely early) I woke up and went with Logan Black to volunteer with Habitat for Humanity at one of the houses they're currently renovating in Orem.  Our job involved crawling around under the floor in the house to patch a hole in the foundation.  It was a tight and grimy squeeze.

And after crawling around under there on our stomachs, we were pretty filthy...

After Habitat, we changed the oil in Logan's truck, getting even dirtier.  Like I said, a pretty far cry from a fancy dress...

But that night we went to BYU Homecoming at the Riverwoods.  And it was really fun to get all dressed up :)


Catching Up...Story of my Life

Sorry Mom.  It's been a while....

Life is busy, but really good.  Grad school seems a lot like regular college, except I have way more reading.  Class is really interesting, and I'm loving being a TA.

Last week I had the pleasure of babysitting Oliver for a couple of evenings while Sandee and Matt did work on the new house they just bought.  He's such a good baby and we had a lot of fun.

In other news, recent Western blots have been much more successful than my first attempt.  I am starting a project tomorrow that will involve like 30 Western blots in the next 3 weeks.  Yikes.  I am nervous, but also excited for the chance to be in charge of my own project.  After three weeks are over, I am changing labs until the end of the semester.  At that time, I'll be picking the lab I want to stay in for the remainder of my masters.

Other than reading, taking 25-hour midterms, and preparing oral presentations, I haven't been up to much.  Except I started running again this week (ugh.) so I can run a 10K with Claire at the end of the month.  I have no idea why I agree to these things. But the t-shirt is really cool, so maybe it will be worth it.


When Life Hands You Tomatoes

As soon as I hit 'publish' at the end of this post, I fully intend to turn off the computer, breathe an enormous sigh of relief that I survived the day, and fall straight into bed.  It's just been one of those days, you know?

I spent over eight hours between yesterday and today doing an experiment in my lab called a 'Western blot.'  I know that doesn't mean anything to anyone.  Before your eyes glaze over, I will say this much: the point of a Western blot is to separate different proteins by their sizes.  It's a long and detail-filled process.  It requires a lot of precision and exact timing.  And it was the first one I'd ever done by myself (after having only watched someone else once.)  The blot I did was for someone else's thesis.  She's been having a really hard time getting data to write her thesis, and the tissue I was using for this blot was kinda important.  So no pressure for my first solo, right?

These are what Western blots are supposed to look like after you develop them:

And this is what the film I developed today looked like: of these things is not like the other? Just for kicks, lets get a close-up of that top one especially:

And that, my friends, is what an epic fail looks like. No lanes. No bands. Just large, nebulous blobs of nothing. Definitely no protein of interest.  Remember in my last post when I said my enormous ego would be back to normal after a few failed experiments?  Actually, it only took one.  Consider my bubble burst.

So I did what any self-respecting failure of a scientist would do.  I moped.  And then I cooked.  Because when life hands you tomatoes, make tomato soup.  With basil.  And use this recipe.

I also baked chocolate chips cookies. Baking cookies always makes me feel better.

That, and knowing that pretty much everyone who matters in my life has no idea what a Western blot even is, regardless of how much I try to explain it. So in the grand scheme of things, whether or not I'm good at it probably doesn't even matter :)

{Except it might matter for the next two years while I'm trying to gather data to write a thesis, but other than that....nope.}