Category Archives: College

Running, running, running


Remember this post? The one where I told you I was running a half marathon in March? Well, guess what? It’s March. Our run is 12 short days from now and in the past week I’ve ranged all over the spectrum from terrified to excited to terrified to slightly less terrified to resigned. The run is in 12 days and at this point, the only thing I can do about it is run. Today, tomorrow, the next day, and every day until I take a few days off right before the race itself.

And I have been running. In 2011, I took about a month and trained for a 10K. It was a lot of fun and I ran it in under an hour which I was really pleased about. And as soon as it ended, I stopped running. Not completely, I guess, but I stopped running consistently because I was tired of treadmills, I accomplished my goal and I had just met a really fun boy. But if you’ve followed my various attempts at blogging (visit here or here for past iterations of this blog, don’t be fooled by the top post being the same, they are two different blogs!) you’ve read my words “I want to run a half marathon” on and off since summer of 2010. As terrified of the prospect as I am, I’m excited that I’m finally accomplishing something I’ve thought about for so long. Ultimately, I know that just finishing will be a huge success and I don’t care AT ALL about the time that I finish with (just as long as I don’t get picked up by the sag wagon along the way).

I ran 7.5 miles yesterday. It hurt. 13 miles is going to REALLY hurt. But we’ve been training on the trails near our house, and our run yesterday had 1000 feet of vertical gain. Our race is along the Colorado River with a slight downhill trajectory the whole way. That will be nice. I’m pretty sure I won’t be able to walk at all for the rest of the weekend. But I’m excited. It’s a strange mix of emotions. I’ll keep you updated.

Here's the summary of my run yesterday. Like I said, I'm not gunning for time...

Here’s the summary of my run yesterday. Like I said, I’m not gunning for time…

Also, wanna see something pretty? This was my prize after running 5.5 miles on the treadmill last Sunday. My grand plan was to run while watching the Oscars to distract myself from the pain and mind numbing boredom of running on a treadmill (we randomly got 3 inches of snow the night before) and I wanted to run 7 miles. Around mile 5 I started having some annoying pain in my right foot. If you know me, you know the right side of my body is a disaster, so this wasn’t really a huge cause for concern. But it got more and more annoying. Finally, at 5.5 miles, I stopped and pulled off my shoe. What a nice surprise! Not.

Nasty little blood blister. I guess I need to invest in some fancier socks.

Nasty little blood blister. I guess I need to invest in some fancier socks. Sorry for the gross picture of my foot…

But it’s starting to clear up and I’ve been wearing my trail running shoes on every run since then, so hopefully by race day I’ll be healed and happy!

In other news, I had my first advising appointment for Montana State University today. My adviser called to talk about my class schedule this summer and start sketching out what my 4 semester science extravaganza will look like. Yet another thing to be terrified of. Seriously, in all 4 years of college I (grudgingly) took 3 science classes (5 if you count those I did during study abroad programs – I don’t count them). And now I’m going to be taking 3/semester. My schedule is looking very packed full of lecture and lab hours, with little time to do anything other than eat, sleep, study, and play with my parents and my dog. That’s ok, there’s not much else to do in Bozeman, MT. Oh wait…

Take a look at my schedule this summer…yes, that’s right, two labs…

Ah, science classes. Whitman wouldn't recognize me!

Ah, science classes. Whitman wouldn’t recognize me!

For those of you who don’t speak Registration lingo, those classes are Intro Chemistry and Intro Physics. Two semesters of classes crammed into 2.5 months. Sounds lovely, no? Here’s the funny thing: most of the PA schools I’m looking at don’t require Physics, but because some PA schools out there do, I’m hedging my bets and taking it anyway. This is one of the most frustrating aspects to PA school: they don’t all have the same requirements. Not even close. Some schools require 16 hours of biology and 4000 hours of paid experience (ahem, University of Washington, ahem), some require 9 specific science classes with 1000 hours of paid experience, but your experience MUST BE FINISHED by the time you apply in October (to start school in June), some require the GRE, some don’t. Is your head spinning yet? Mine has been for the last 9 months. So my strategy is to take as many required classes that seem to be consistent from school to school, then add in the ones that are specific to the places I’d really like to go, and try to squeeze more in during a second summer semester at MSU. We’ll see how it goes!




First, can I just say that I love my engagement ring? I never thought I’d be that person, and really never thought I’d be excited about wearing a diamond, but this ring is beautiful, it’s Kyle’s great grandmother’s ring, and it’s so unique! I also love being engaged. In all reality, it’s not really that different, but it’s fun to think about the future with some degree of certainty (at least in one category)!

So pretty!

So pretty!

Ok, onto the real post 🙂 When I was a senior in college, I spent the fall semester traveling around the western US with 20 other Whitman students on a program called Semester In the West. I’ve previously written about this here. In addition to being incredibly instructive about life outside our small college bubble, it was also a great opportunity to learn how to cook! We were separated into 5 cook crews and took turns cooking dinner, lunch and breakfast every 5 days. Our food manager, (and my dear friend) Season, made a big effort to buy food from farmer’s markets, local butchers, and farmers whenever possible, so we were cooking with fresh, happy (our word for free range, grass fed, etc meat) food almost all the time. We made meals that could be easily produced in large numbers because, in addition to the 21 students and 3 staff, we often had visitors, instructors and family eating with us. Cooking and eating was very communal, and one of my favorite instances of this was making tamales. Because they’re so time consuming, we only made them on Thanksgiving, the day we had set aside entirely for cooking, but it was such a fun, family-style process that I remember it as one of the highlights of the time we spent cooking on SITW.

When I moved to Lee Vining, the tradition of making tamales continued. I had several friends (one who was vegetarian and one who was gluten and lactose intolerant, so tamales were the perfect solution!) who loved making them too. We’d set aside entire afternoons or evenings to making tamales, usually with beans, chiles, carrots and onions. Then we’d throw them in the freeze and have lunch for weeks!

This weekend I decided to embark on the tamales making adventure alone. I mentioned last week how I’m pretty busy these days and don’t have a lot of time to cook. Tamales seemed like the perfect solution to have delicious food on-the-go. So I went to the butcher and the local Mexican grocery and headed back to the house. I used this recipe which, overall, was pretty great. Also, I found these at the grocery store.

dried fish


Yes, I bought them – mostly because I forgot to bring my phone in and really wanted a picture, but also because I thought they’d be a fun treat for the dogs. Jewell was pretty grossed out at first, but when she Bailey devouring them she quickly hopped on board.

I started with 3 1/2 lbs of pork shoulder. Mine was tied with string, so I cut that before I threw it in a 5 qt sauce pan with 10 cups of water, a quartered onion and 5 cloves of minced garlic.

raw pork


After simmering on the stove for 2 1/2 hours, I pulled the pork out, strained the onions and garlic out, and set the broth outside to cool (it didn’t get above 15 degrees on Saturday). I pulled the pork apart with two forks and discarded the fat.

pulled pork


I made this chile sauce recipe with dried chiles from our garden last summer. Then, I added the pork to it and put this, covered, on the stove to simmer for 10 minutes. I was actually a little disappointed with the way the pork turned out. It didn’t have quite enough flavor for me. If I were to do this again, I’d add more garlic and more chiles (and I’m not one of those people that loves spicy foods, this just needed an extra kick).

I made up for that by sauteing carrots, onions and jalepeno slivers on the stove top for a few minutes to add to the mix. Before I started making the dough, I took a handfull (about 50) corn husks and soaked them in warm water.

Once the broth was cool, I was able to skim the fat off the top (there was A TON so I would definitely recommend that you do this!) Mix 6 cups of masa (corn flour), a couple teaspoons of salt and baking powder together and in a large bowl alternately add a little broth and a little masa mix, stirring as you go. Your final mixture should be a smooth paste.

assembly line

Finally, I set up my assembly line. The corn husks are unpictured, but everything else is in order. The masa mixture is at the top, then pork, then slivered carrots and jalepenos, then the steamer. Here’s one mid-contsruction.


Sorry the picture is a little blurry, but you get the idea. You want the dough wide enough to meet at it’s edges when you roll the corn husk over itself, and short enough that you can fold the bottom of the husk up before it goes in the steamer. You can see why this is a great family activity – either make an assembly line or let everyone add what they want and give them different colored yarn to tie the ends. Since I was only making one kind – with everything on it – I just folded the ends. Pile them in the steamer and steam for 40 minutes, adding water occasionally. This batch made three steamer-fulls, and ended up being about 50 tamales. I anticipate that I’ll eat 2 and Kyle will eat 3-4 for a meal. Should last a couple weeks for dinner during class! What do you think? Ever made tamales? Anyone have unique ingredient ideas?



A weekend in the desert


Sorry for the quietness on my end. This month has turned out to be busier than September and I’m glad it’s almost over! I’ve had a lot of fun though, and I have about 5 blog posts swirling around in my head waiting to be written. Here’s the first.

My senior year of college, I participated in a program called Semester In the West. From the website: “Whitman College Semester in the West is an interdisciplinary field program focusing on public lands conservation and rural life in the interior American West.  Our objective is to know the West in its many dimensions, including its diverse ecosystems, its social and political communities, and the many ways these ecosystems and communities find expression in regional environmental writing and public policy.”

While that description sounds a little vague, what SITW really was for me was an opportunity to explore the unexplored places in the American West through a lens of ecology, politics, and literature. We traveled through eight states and part of northern Mexico over the course of 3.5 months speaking with locals about various environmental, political and humanitarian issues that were affecting their homes. In addition to the wonderful opportunity to connect with grassroots issues and causes, it was also a time of deep reflection on home, creation of everlasting friendships, and the discovery of a region (that contained my home) as something more beautiful, more mysterious, more contentious and more community-based than I could ever imagine. Throughout our time on the road, we were tasked with putting the puzzle pieces together into coherent (and sometimes not-so-coherent) writings about our experiences, the issues we were seeing, and the solutions we agreed and disagreed with.  The program accepts 21 students for a semester every other year and has been going since 2002. So that’s the background.

Two weekends ago we had a reunion of all participants in Bluff, UT, a place that many of us connected to during the semester. It’s hard to explain why Bluff is so special. Our campsite is at the foot of Comb Ridge, a 120-mile long monocline that gradually rises from the east side to an 800-foot drop off at the west end that overlooks badlands unlike any other landscape I’d ever seen. It’s spectacular, it’s the first place where the sandstone seems to have topography, the sunrises and sunsets have two completely different backdrops, and it’s the first place the desert starts to feel like home. This is the comb looking north. You can see the beginnings of the slope that heads east for about a mile before you reach the ground near Bluff, UT.

 So there we met, nearly 100 “Westies” new and old, to reminisce, catch up with old friends, meet new ones and glory in the beautiful fall weather of southeastern UT. I have so many reasons to be grateful for this program. It set me on the course of the next three years with homes, jobs and explorations, it taught me the value of compromise, of listening to people who you have nothing in common with, of finding common ground. I’ve returned to many of our campsites since the program ended, but this one is always the most special. Here are some more photos from our time there.

Some dear friends, myself and Kyle on our way up.


Kyle and I hanging out in camp.

I love this picture. This is everyone from my year of SITW (2008) that was able to attend the reunion.

Overall, this weekend was extraordinarily therapeutic. Not only was it wonderful to relax in the desert for a few days during my busy season at work, but the love and kinship that I feel for and with these people is like a warm blanket on a cold winter night. I felt so comfortable, so at home, and surrounded by family. Thanks to all who made the huge effort to get to Bluff, UT and here’s to the next 10 years!


Ode to a great professor


Seven years ago I arrived on the campus at Whitman College, a naive and eager 18 year old looking forward to her upcoming college years. I was on the volleyball team, so I came to school about three weeks early to start practices and games in preparation for the season. After three weeks of three-a-day practices with little but eating and sleeping in between, the team had become close and we came to know the die-hard sports fans on campus too. One in particular stands out to me. I first met him as the red-headed, red-faced man who stood up and cheered after each successful Whitman point, stood up and shouted at the ref at any potentially close calls, waited around after games to congratulate us on our good plays, and was our greatest supporter. When I’d see him around campus, he’d yell across the quad about upcoming games, whether or not I was training hard enough, and some pointers from the last game. He even started the “BOOM” chant that became my signature after every kill I got in a game. Needless to say, he was my biggest fan.

While Hutch would never actually do this, this is the kind of spirit he possessed at our games. Raw, uncompromising support for the home team.

After two years of this kind of unflinching encouragement, I decided it was time to buck up and pay him back. I registered for my first science class at Whitman College: Conservation Biology. You see, in addition to being a rabid sports fan (he acted this way at basketball and baseball games too), Hutch was also a professor of biology at Whitman. Somewhere in high school I had developed a great fear of science classes and, second semester sophomore it was time to start crossing the science requirements off my list. What better way to do it than to take a class from a professor I already knew well enough to not be shy about visit during his office hours?

This was my general opinion about science classes before taking Hutch’s conservation biology class.

Hutch was an amazing professor. For the first time science was fun, both because the material was interesting, but also because it was taught in an engaging way with field trips scattered throughout the semester to get some good ol’ hands on learning in too. We finished the semester with a group project addressing the ecosystem changes in Yellowstone National Park as a result of the reintroduction of wolves – a real conservation biology issue that took place on my home turf (I grew up 60 miles from YNP)! Now, I won’t say I was sold on science classes, but I was appreciative that Hutch took the time and energy to make a non-major class interesting for the non-science kids that took it. He was wonderful.

I only played one more season of volleyball at Whitman, but that didn’t mean that Hutch and I stopped seeing each other. When I was in the middle of trying to figure out how to make my own major, I went to Hutch for advice. He still yelled at me from across the quad, and when I ran into him at basketball games I’d go sit next to him and be embarrassed as he shouted at the refs that were only a few feet away. Hutch was a fan of students, he wanted us to succeed in whatever we were trying, and he was the most approachable college faculty I ever encountered.

This is Hutch presenting awards to the best performing male and female athlete of each grade at the annual awards banquet.

I’m a little embarrassed to admit that, as close as I was to him, I let our friendship drift in the years after college. I haven’t been back to Walla Walla much and have hardly kept in touch with my advisor and the professors I typically use as references. I guess I’ve always thought that they moved on as we did, once we graduate they have a new set of students to look after. This week, Hutch proved me wrong.

I’ve mentioned that I’m changing my professional path in a pretty major way. This month, I’m putting together my application to a post-baccalaureate pre-medical certificate program at Montana State University. This programs takes non-science professionals through a 15 month program to complete all the pre-requisite requirements for school in the medical and health sciences fields. While a science background is strictly forbidden in this program, they request that you provide letters of recommendation from professors (particularly in the sciences if you have them) to judge the kind of student you are and your ability to be successful in this program. After over three years of radio silence on my end, I cold-called Hutch yesterday to ask him for a recommendation. He was thrilled, both to hear from me and to hear of my plans. He immediately agreed and sent me the information form he needed me to fill out.

Hutch, I appreciate you. I may have let the last three years pass by, but from now on I’m going to remind you of that. Thanks for being great.