Summer Orzo Salad

I am currently writing this post at my old desk at my parent’s house. It’s definitely going down memory lane for me. I’m home not only for a little vacation from being a grad student, but also to see my brother for his birthday. Yesterday we had the whole family over and had a great meal. My Dad BBQ’d beef (what exactly, do not ask me, but it was delicious). My contribution was a little bit different from what we normally eat in that I wanted to make a cold pasta salad. It made sense to me to make something light and refreshing and also cold. Not hot winter food (if you get what I mean).

Cold Orzo Salad

Cold Orzo Salad

Ingredients: Orzo, chicken broth, grape tomatoes, fresh basil, can of chickpeas, lemons, salt & pepper, olive oil, red wine vinegar, chickpeas, red onion, and honey

To make pasta: I started by bringing 4 cups of chicken broth to a boil and allowed the orzo to cook until al dante in the chicken broth. You don’t have to use chicken broth for this, but it sure gives the orzo some tastiness.

I then cut up a cup of (each) red and yellow tomatoes, a bit (1/3) of red onion and some springs of basil. Add as much of basil as you like. I’m not a huge fan, but some people love its aromaticity.

I allowed the orzo to cool a bit prior to me adding all of the veggies (so that the other ingredients didn’t cook). This step gave me time to wash and cut everything I wanted to put in this dish.

I combined all of the vegetable ingredients and let the dish come down to room temperature.

For the dressing: 1 cup of olive oil, 1/4 red wine vinegar, 1-3 tbsp of honey, 3 lemons squeezed and salt and pepper to taste. I combine these ingredients well into a light dressing and put about half of it onto the orzo mix. Now, this is where you have to let your tastebuds guide you. I like more sweet so I added more honey. Some however, like sour so more red wine vinegar and lemon. Keep tasting the dressing until you deem it worthy to put over your mixture.

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Dressing for orzo salad

Now lightly place the well-combined dressing on the orzo salad. Don’t drench, but lightly drizzle. Mix well and place in the fridge to let it get cold. Before serving, mix well and place more dressing if the salad needs it.

All combined!

All combined!

I hope you all enjoy!

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Geometric Cutout Nails

Following the current theme of simple nail designs, here is one in which is simple yet can be a little complicated. As discussed in detail in my post about inverse nail designs, I used tape in this design as well. Please review that post for explicit instructions as to how to handle tape prior to placing  it on the bed.

Geometric cutout nails

Geometric cutout nails

Onto this nail design of turquoise and light purple. These are two of my favorite colors and I think that they go together oh so well. First I prepped the tape segments by cutting random sizes of triangles. Then I painted a thick layer of turquoise.

Once the turquoise was completely dried, I laid the triangular pieces of tape down on top at random angles. A key here is to let a portion of the tape fall off the nail so that you can easily grab them with a pair of tweezers. I painted two nails at a time with a rather thick coat of light purple so I did not see any turquoise through except for the cutout areas. Quickly, I lifted up the triangular pieces of tape then moved on to the next two nails.

Again, these were really simple. The only thing that they cost is time because the coats of polish are rather thick. To combat this issue, I used Julep’s quick drying drops. They work really well and aid in the nail polish drying process. The final thing was I topped with a light top coat of shimmer clear polish to seal the colors and give some shine.

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I hope you enjoy and let me know how these nails go!

Beautiful Creatures

I just recently finished the fourth and final novel of the Beautiful Creatures Quartet by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl. The first novel, Beautiful Creatures was a magical story between high school lovers Lena Duchannes and Ethan Wate. Ethan is a regular high schooler who recently lost his mother in an accident. Lena is brand new to Gatlin (the small Southern town that Ethan has lived all of his life) and comes from an affluent and “weird” family. Needless to say, “weird” translates to magical. I began reading this series when the film was announced to be released a little over a year ago. The advertisements looked amazing, storyline looked right up my alley, and the film had an all star cast (Jeremy Irons and Emma Thompson, need I say more?). This post will be a little more different, in that I am going to first review the novel series and then compare the first book in a little more depth to the film.

First off, this series was a joy to read. I liken it to the Harry Potter series, not only in that it has a magical element to it, but also grows a bit darker as the series progresses. The first novel is fairly juvenile, in that it concerns the story of a love that develops between Lena and Ethan. That got a bit tedious, but what really lived up the plot was the periphery characters: Uncle Macon, Amma, and basically of all of Lena’s interesting relatives. Beautiful Creatures is about Ethan and Lena’s love story and Lena’s “claiming.” Every relative in Lena’s family must be claimed on their 16th birthday, either to the light or the dark. The first novel ends at a cliffhanger right where the second novel begins. Overall, I enjoyed the continuity of the books throughout the series, in that they began right where the last one ended (unlike that of the Harry Potter series).

As the series progressed, the authors expanded the cast to darker family members of Lena’s and really explored a variety of concepts ranging from love, death, good vs. evil, and the strength of family. I especially love John and Liv. The two characters are outsiders to the central cast of the first novel, but quickly become integral pieces to the series. **Spoiler alert** The novels also try to tackle grief and death to a great extent. Macon dies in the first novel, Sarafine and Ethan die in the third, Abraham and Hunter die in the fourth. Clearly, there’s a lot of death, but also a lot of redemption and rising from the dead.

Now, onto some of my negatives from the novels. Overall, the authors did not go to great depths in developing their characters. Plot sequences were well developed, but please do not think you will be any of the greats like Tolstoy or Dickens. The writing is almost juvenile, but then again this is a young adult series so you have to hook them into reading and not make it too challenging. Other than the writing style, the only other aspect that I wasn’t a fan of was the last novel and how the series ended. Again, **Spoiler Alert** the fourth novel is all about Ethan’s death and returning him to the world of the living. Honestly, it was really boring. The plot wasn’t well-developed and the story really felt forced, like the authors were begrudgingly having to finish the series. Don’t get me wrong, some of the plot was really interesting in that the leading evil character was Angelus and Ethan’s journeys through purgatory were novel, but again, the novel was overall boring and I blasted through it, finishing in a record 4 days. Obviously, Ethan and Lena end up together (big shocker) and they continue their life in Gatlin.

Onto comparing the first novel to the film. Unlike the novel, the film lost its steam at about the first half. The first half of the film was exceptional; great plot, great special effects, amazing cast, and aligned fabulously with the novel. However, the last half dragged and the ending and pivotal parts of the plot that made the book great was lost in the film. At the end, Uncle MAcon trades his life for Lena’s. All of a sudden in the film, Macon dies and that’s how the novel ends. It’s really sad to have read the book and know that Macon will die for Lena, and then to see the film just lose it’s gas is really unfortunate.

Overall, the young adult series is worth a read for those that enjoy magical worlds and a few easy young adult novels. I would also check out the film once you read the first novel. The actors that portray the main characters are great to put faces to the characters in the novel. If you have read the books and share or do not share my opinion of the novels please let me know. I enjoy reading other’s thoughts and opinions, even if they differ from my own.

Inverse Nails

I love simple nail designs. Not only are they simple, time efficient, but also versatile with respect to the potential color palette one can use.

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For this design, I was in the mood for something different using warm colors. I chose a yellow and an orange red. For this design, you also need a dotting tool (or a toothpick if you don’t have dotting tools) and scotch tape.

The first step is to cut large sections of scotch tape. Now, this may sound weird, but you will need to place these sections either on the back of your hand or somewhere else on your body for about 5 minutes. This is to remove the adherent from the tape just enough so that it wont stick to the nail polish already on the nail bed, but retain a bit of its stick. Trust me, it sounds odd, but works! While the tape is sticking, lay down one or two coats of your lighter nail shade of the two. Let this dry completely. Meanwhile, you can cut the tape into sections long enough for your nails.

Place the tape sections on the nail covering either the bottom or top half of your nail. This will be the section that will retain the lighter nail color shade. As you can see if my pictures, I alternated the darker shade on some of my nails. You can do this, or keep all the colors uniform.

Next, you want to paint about 2-3 nails at a time with a thick coat of the darker shade. Right after the nails are painted remove the tape (with tweezers or your fingers). Repeat this step until all of your nails are painted. Let this coat dry. Next you want to take a dotting tool and place a large dot in the middle of the nail along the median of two nail colors. You can choose a dark black or anything you want for this central dot. Then, on the opposite nail color, place three dots making a half circle on the inverse color.

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Hope you enjoy this and let me know if you have any questions!

Ethics in Research Part I

Ethics is such a challenging topic to not only write about and discuss, but also to just think about. This is especially the case in research and academia for much is based off of results: tenure, publications, dissertations, grants, and so much more. On the flip side, it is because so much rides on productivity and results that cause people to travel down a path that is ethically incorrect. It’s a discouraging day to learn when someone has sacrificed their ethical values in order to get published or progress into their graduate studies.

I have dedicated this first blog post to the discussion of data manipulation, which falls under the umbrella term of Ethics in Research. What comes to mind when you ponder data manipulation? Is it changing one number from 0.4 to 0.5 thus allowing it round up? OR could it mean deleting a data point that is a far outlier, but statistically cannot be discounted from your data set? These are questions that plague graduate students on a daily basis, and it’s really really quite unfortunate that they do. Graduate students already have enough stress in completing a rigorous 5+ year degree, that to infringe on their moral compass in order to get ahead slightly is almost a daily test they must face.

Data manipulation includes all of the scenarios above and encompasses many others beyond them. For those that either have never been in the science industry or it’s been a long time since you have, you may not realize how times have changed with respect to the speed by which data can be generated. For instance, in my lab, we can generate 9 hours worth of data, taking a data point every 0.016 minutes for an entire 9 hour study. And that’s only for one analyte, multiply it by 15 and that’s the total for a mixture that I work with on a daily basis. Seeing this vast quantity of data, it would be simple to just “overlook” a data point. Or see that the relative standard deviation is so close to 5%, if we could just delete one time point, we’d have our optimal value. **Note, these are things I don’t do, but could do. This is an example of the pressures on grad students to have the best data.**

As the years have progressed, science has more and more heavily relied on instrumentation in order to ascertain theories and proof of concepts. The more sophisticated the instrumentation, generally, the more parameters to change. Along those lines, the more parameters to change alternatively leads to more data generated ( as a per parameter basis). Obviously, this is almost like falling down the rabbit hole of science. More data equals more instances to ethically infringe upon, and right there lies the problem.

Not only are there more opportunities to manipulate data as the amount of data increases, but one also has to consider sources of stress. Stresses lie at the student, faculty, and institutional levels. In my opinion (and yes I come from a warped because I am a graduate student), graduate students have the highest levels of stress placed on them. They face stresses from themselves to push themselves as far as they can (to finish as fast as possible and to graduate as fast as possible), from their mentor to produce data, and the institution to graduate on time and in good standing. But graduate students are the ones that are also in the lab acquiring the data, so they are the ones that can manipulate the data. Unfortunately, many times, through the varying pressures that are placed on graduate students, they feel the need to force their results to show the hypothesis they expect. Many time, mentors will pressure students to make the data fit hypotheses, which is completely negating the entire process of research.

From my point of view, graduate school is a training ground for future researchers. It’s also a training ground for establishing one’s moral compass and values. When is it right to put one’s foot down and say “this is NOT what the data is representing.” It’s almost as if a doctorate degree is earned upon making one’s mark in his/her area of specialty all the while challenging hypotheses and developing a thick skin towards the pressure to produce what is desired and not what is seen in a research lab. It’s a development of one’s ethical values as a researcher and how far one will go to prove or disprove a point.

Fan Brush Nail Art

When I began broadening my scope of nail art, the first thing I purchased was a brush set. As I watched youtube videos of ladies doing all of these amazing designs on nails, I really had no other option other than purchasing a whole brush set. You can’t do fine lines details without a striper brush, or to make perfect fading circles one can use a square brush. My brush set came from Amazon and was no more than $15 (with a case) and it’s been my life savor. I love it soooooo much. The first thing I did once getting my set was to watch youtube tutorials on all of the brushes, what shapes each one is most suitable in making, and how to clean and properly use the brushes regardless of their designated shape.

One of the brushes that most intrigued me was the fan brush. As I said, it’s an awkward shape, and is only useful when the tips of the brush is used. I have used it once before this post, and honestly, failed miserably, so I decided to try again and succeeded! This design is super easy and the only special item one needs to purchase is the fan brush itself because I cannot think of any other item which could be used in place of the brush.

As my base I painted my nails a skin color taupe. This is to provide a sheer color for the base, but something to allow the top colors to pop out with. Another option would be white, but I tend to dislike putting white on my nails unless I need a complete translucent color to be opaque. Then I used a baby pink, hot pink, and a sort of coppery color as my layers. Any color scheme could work for this nail art, so you definitely do not have to copy my scheme. You could even use the same family of pigments, just use a light, medium, and dark.

To begin, make sure your fan brush is a little wet (dip in water) and make sure the bristles are fully separated. Dip into the nail polish pigment, and wipe on a scratch piece of paper any excess color so that the fan brush isn’t too globby (you will know what this looks like, trust me). Choose one direction to use the brush, and add to your nail. Be quick at this stage, nail polish tends to dry quickly both on your brush and on the plate that you are using for your color. I used baby pink first, since it was the least opaque, and placed this closest to the cuticle.

Once the baby pink was used, I dipped the brush into a small container of nail polish remover and cleaned the brush. I wiped the brush clean and moved onto the next nail color, hot pink in my case. I repeated those steps, and finished with a top coat.

Fan brush nails.

Fan brush nails.

Fan brush nails.

Fan brush nails.

Again, this is really simple and if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask!

 

B&B Completed!

Finished the last part of the Beauty and the Beast Quartet!

It was the hardest one out of all of them mainly because of all of the colors that went into each of the components.

But, so worth it! I will be purchasing some frames in the next week so I will post all of them in their frames.  If anyone has suggestions on frames, I am all ears.

Thanks for reading, all!

Beauty and the Beast

Beauty and the Beast