Cloudy Day Nails

There was a week recently in DC where everyday it rained. And it was summer; aka sadness!

In saying this, commonly one’s nail designs reflects one’s mood. This week is a great example of that.

I used a deep gray background color and did a simple half moon design on all the nails. I then took OPI shimmer in silver and outlined the demarcating line between gray and blue to yield a bit of shimmer clouds. Similar to the phrase “Silver Lining”.

Hope you like!!20140824_205622 (1)

Advertisements

Braided Nails

One of my most favorite designs is the braided nail. I will be very upfront, it takes a serious amount of time and a little bit of skill to make sure the braided pieces are evenly spaced. You can accomplish this with a nail polish brush that comes with the nail polish or a more rigid polish brush to get more even lines.

I’ve done this design with various color schemes. What you need to make sure of is that your three colors are as opaque as possible. If you have a color that’s translucent or a glitter base, the bottom colors will seep through and alter the glitter color. But, I always try to have a color that is not flat but has glitter or shimmer in it to introduce another dimension to the design.

For this design I used a purple, an orangey-pink, and a golden glitter. For this post I did the braided nails on only one finger and the other four fingers alternated orange and purple. You can do braiding on all nails, but quite honestly, it gets very busy and a challenge to paint and let dry.

So weaving a nail design like this is similar to braiding your hair. One stroke at a time. The major thing here is to let the stroke before dry fully before adding another layer.

20140813_200528

For an added dimension I also took the gold polish and lightly coated a single layer on the other four nails. Anyway, I love this design and could wear it every day with different schemes and never get tired of it. Hope you like it!

20140813_200535

Saran Wrap Nails

These nails are for those of us who want something fairly simple but have the time to wait for them to dry.

I chose a very pastel base for this design, but you can choose any color scheme for this design. However, note that you have to build colors from dark to light. That means as you add colors on top of one another you need to start with deep and opaque colors and fade to lighter colors.

The key to this design is to use plastic saran wrap or even a plastic bag works (or I used recyclable plastic from something I bought and unwrapped).

I first paint a tan and gray background onto my entire nail. Then use plastic wrap to and dabbed baby blue with a silver hue. Once that dried, I dabbed silver on top of the blue.

Anyway, let me know what other colors you use for this. Warm, cool, all pinks, or even a black would be interesting.

20140727_222737 20140727_222728

House of Cards Seasons 1&2

As most of you know, I live in the DC metro area. Being in what is considered the most powerful city in the world, or one of the most, comes with certain privileges, annoyances, and a lifestyle that’s surrounded by politics. But only if you make it. I am a chemistry researcher and being such I do not have a daily interaction with politics, and personally, am glad I don’t. I say this to preface this review primarily because I was hesitant to watch House of Cards for a long while.

There has been an exceptional amount of buzz around the show for some time now, and I thought it was just another West Wing-like show. Oh, was I wrong. I didn’t binge watch the show, even though it’s probably better to watch it in multiple hour segments because of all of the details that are embedded into each show, but watched it over a few week span. Each night I would watch one episode, on weekends some times two or three. I would advise, if you have an addicted personality, you already know going into it that you will binge watch this show.

Returning to the actual premise of this piece, House of Cards is a great piece of drama. At times, you have to remove yourself from reality and allow the show some leeway and fictional allowances for all of the back stabbing, political games, and character flaws that this show portrays. But oh how juicy it is.

There are only two seasons available on Netflix currently and how much plot and character development is held within just those two seasons of 13 episodes could easily fit into an entire series in Primetime. This is both good and bad (mostly good, however). The plot essentially follows Francis Underwood and his political ramblings from being House Whip to Vice President (first season) then onto the issues that plague his Vice Presidency and beyond. You can’t hate but to love Frank. Some may consider his evil, some may consider him politically savvy, and others may just consider him a power hungry politician. Regardless, you can’t deny that he is great at his job. He was great as being a Whip, and he was great at being a Congressman in the White House, exuding his “power” over his fellow Democrats.

For how much I enjoyed Frank as a character, I loved Claire Underwood even more. Robin Wright does a superb job of being the rock that Frank leans on when he needs support. Yet she keeps her independence throughout the entirety of the two seasons. In the episode where she divulges that she was raped by a boyfriend in college was amazing. Yet her character was not only beautiful and politically savvy herself; one can argue she was even more cunning than Frank. A recurring theme throughout the entire two seasons draws an emphasis that Claire is NOT Francis’ wife but rather his partner in the political game in which they live in (she only calls his Francis, providing evidence for this argument).

Now, this show may tell the tale of the Underwoods, but it is the supporting characters that make this series truly magnificent. The first season revolves around a plot to get a junior Congressman,Russo, to run for Governor of Pennsylvania. He is a recovering addict and has a challenging time gaining trust in the Pennsylvania public. The other plot that season one concerns is the evolution of Frank’s relationship with Zoe, a junior reporter for a DC newspaper. Not only is the relationship mutual for work, but it turns sexual. I wasn’t particularly a fan of this turn of events, but it provides a bit of evidence for the argument that Frank craves power, especially in the bedroom. These two characters add substantial plots to an underlying theme of Underwood’s scaling the political ladder, and are just two examples of characters that made this series fabulous.

From the above few paragraphs you may think that I have put House of Cards on a pedestal of TV amazingness. Don’t get me wrong, there are aspects in which I wasn’t a fan of. There are two things (for lack of a better word, because I don’t know quite how to characterize them) that annoy me about the show. One is the level of fictional allowances you have to give to the plot as a whole. Spoiler Alert: Do you really think that an individual can climb the chain of command in the US government to the most powerful seat in the free world in a matter of a few years? The Underwoods were great at rubbing elbows with people who they could feed off of, but to consider that they had a plan for every person they interacted with and how they could benefit in their rise to power is a little too far-fetched. The other “thing” that bugged me about the show was the superfluous sexual encounters. Again, Spoiler Alert: the Underwoods have a three-way with a member of their security detail. And Doug spying on Rachel and her GF getting it on was just stupid. The three-way was unnecessary, and quite frankly, we didn’t need the visual of Rachel and the GF when we could hear their moans through the door. And the reason for this was…for viewers to get their jollies? I don’t know, if anything these situations detracted from the plot line.

Overall, the pros outweigh the cons of this series. I would suggest many people should watch the show and delve into the world of politics. You will become either disenchanted that these are the people the American public votes into office to lead the country or you will take the entire show for what it is. Great Drama. The entire cast and crew deserve every accolade they get for providing viewers with some great drama, some of which may be lacking a component of reality to it. But really, it’s better than some reality shows (ahem, Jersey Shore or Real Housewives) that are based on reality, yet you fully know are not real. Netlfix you have outdone yourself and should be given props. I’m happy I pay for you, and I’m happy that you don’t have the same rules and regulations as Primetime. For that, I am eternally grateful.

Married at First Sight on FYI,

FYI, channel just debuted a few weeks ago and one of the channel’s flagship series is called “Married at First Sight.” It’s  a rather interesting concept in which approximately 50 people go through a thorough vetting of questions and interviews with a panel of specialists. These specialists range anywhere from clinical psychologists to religious personnel to sex therapists. From these thorough searches, the specialists make optimal matches of individuals based off of their respective results. From here, the individuals sign agreements where they meet each other for the first time at the altar and get married.

The show is not over yet and I am still watching. Thus far the couples have moved in with one another, most have met the other’s family members, and it’s really sweet to see them evolve and enjoy one another’s company (even the L-word has started to come up in conversations). There are three couples: two Caucasian (Jamie and Doug and Courtney and Jason) and one African American (Monet and Vaughn). Between all of the couples, I see the most angst in the African American couple mainly because they are the oldest of the trio and the most settled in their ways. I honestly think this has dramatically effects the relationship and sharing time, space, and a life with someone else when they have been so used to being alone. The youngest couple, in my mind, has the most potential. Perhaps this is because they are open minded to being in this type of relationship or if they are really smitten with each other. The last couple is bit on the fence. Doug is such a great guy, very close with his family, good-natured, infatuated with Jamie and overall a keeper. Jamie is extremely pretty, has a good job, but has some issues stemming from past relationships and her childhood.

The network marketed this show as a social experiment, but as I got to thinking: is this really novel? The relationship aspect may be, but the idea of being thrown into a situation where you know no one is similar to starting at a new job, beginning tenure at a new school, or even other shows like Survivor, Big Brother, even Jersey Shore at the beginning. The only unique situation I could think of that is special for this show is intimacy between couples, and even then most shows capitalize on “sparks” seen between characters. Initially, I thought this was a ridiculous idea in which I would never participate. I mean: sharing your space with a stranger, sleeping in the same bed as a stranger, and sharing finances with a stranger. Um, no. But, I’m a rigid person and I am fairly pessimistic about anything and everything. At this point, I’m pretty addicted. I want to see what decisions these characters make. Do they stay together? Do they get divorced?

As I said before, this show is similar to that of many others, just introduces a new concept by marriage and the legality that ensues being married. The more I think about it however, I do think that many of us face these decisions daily. I may not be a full-time employee, but I do know what it’s like to start as a graduate student at a new school and make a decision to join a lab. In grad school, joining a lab is like being adopted into a family. There are those who get along, those who don’t, and everyone works really hard to publish and gain as much knowledge as possible. Similar to the show, you see each other every day, must share a communal space every day, and work together for the benefit of the entire group. All of these characteristics are shared with “Married at First Sight.” This analogy can be applicable to situations beyond grad school, I just use this experience because I’m currently living it. A sports team, a team at work who is spearheading  a project, or a cohort of doctors trying to cure a patient. Aspects such as these come into play every day in life, just in different circumstances and mediums.

So what can you learn from these shows or this one in particular? I would begin here by arguing what one seems like on paper is not a genuine reflection of their character or how they behave in situations. Take last night’s episode of “Married at First Sight.” Doug and Jamie had a stressful weekend where Jamie introduced Doug to where she grew up (a trailer park). It was stressful for both and Doug secretly had a cigarette Sunday night. When Jamie said to him that he smelled like smoke, he fervently denied it and shortly thereafter said that he did in fact have a cigarette. His lie is not a reflection of his devotion to his family or how he usually is a great guy, but how he handled the situation could never have been foreseen unless Jamie and him had a spat. This is one instance that just because you are compatible on paper may perhaps provide for a strong foundation, but it’s the tower (if you will) that’s built upon that foundation that may topple.

Moreover, you can’t test the waters unless you jump right in. And this goes with any situation. You will never know if a position at a firm is a good fit for you unless you take the opportunity and go. Regrets are hard, but would you rather regret not trying something or trying it and taking away some useful knowledge? These are applicable questions to many situations, and something to definitely think about. It’s fairly philosophical when you ponder these types of ideas, and funny that they stem from a social experimental show, but really it’s fairly interesting. The take home message in this diatribe would be: Watch the show and think about how you would handle a situation such as this.

 

A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute

A few days ago I wrote a short post about the 100 greatest novels to read. One of the novels on that list has been alluding me for years. I have tried and tried to find it at used bookstores and online at the library and finally got my hands on a copy. It was worth the wait!

A Town Like Alice is not one of my normal reads, it’s a lovely story that is all about staying positive in the darkest of times and making the most of situations. This is a shout out to my fellow graduate students, we may be in a tunnel where the light at the end is not yet visible, but staying positive and keep on trudging is all that we can do.

To return to the book, Shute portrays a lovely story that takes place in real time after WW II through the eyes of a lawyer. Noel Strachan is the lawyer of a wealthy hermit who lives in a hotel. This man dies and leaves his net worth to his sister and her two children. His sister and nephew both die prior to the gentleman, so the entirety of the estate goes to his niece Jean Paget. When Jean meets with Strachan she is shocked to learn she, a lowly typist, is worth a ton of money. Thus begins the story of A Town Like Alice.

I thoroughly enjoyed the overall plot of the novel in that Shute does not give the reader a sense of whiplash through time. I say this because half of the novel is Jean Paget relaying her struggles in Malaysia when the Japanese conquer the island and force her and 20 other women with children to march thousands of miles all over the island in search of a camp. This book was published in 1956, so I give Shute an immense amount of props for providing such a strong female character in Jean Paget who is smart, tries to make the most of situations, and wants to better not only her life but the lives of others around her.

The other half of the novel concerns Jean travelling to Australia in search of a man that she met while in Maysia, Joe Harman. Harman was almost killed because he stole chickens to feel Jean and her fellow females, and Jean thought that he did die, but later found he survived. In traveling to Australia, she came across this little town where Harman lived and wanted to find a way to better the lives of the people in the town and to find new ways to promote the town so people and workers would move there. I really enjoyed the ways in which Shute gave Jean the business skills to think of all of the ways in which to lure people to the town: a pool, ice cream parlor, a salon where ladies can get their hair and make-up products, etc. I also like Shute’s descriptions of the three places the novel takes place: England, Australia, and Malaysia. The three are so different and Shute makes it evidently clear they are, but they each have their unique qualities that make them special and make people miss them or fall in love with them.

There are only two negatives that come to mind for the novel. One is that the plots and conversations seem to drone on and on. Almost as if Shute was long-winded himself. At times it was necessary for the story to develop, but other times I felt as if Shute could have removed 2000 words and the premise would not have been lost to the author. The other negative aspect of the story was the last climactic part. Honestly, the whole novel was amazing that Shute could have left out the part where the stranger got stranded in the rain and Jean and Joe needed to save him. It really didn’t build up the characters, nor did it add to the plot. If anything it forced the reader to keep going in order to find out what really happens to Jean and Joe. It was unnecessary and I wish Shute left it out.

In the end, if you are in the mood for a lovely read, this is a great novel for the summer. It’s a fairly light topic story, a few deaths in the first 1/3 but that’s what happens when you have 30 women and children trudge through a jungle without any medication and not the proper clothes. On the positive note, the novel does end with positivity in mind and especially love. It’s as if Jean, Joe, and Noel are some of your great friends and you can relate to them in many ways, and almost wish you shared in their adventures.

Tofu Vietnamese Noodles

As I said in my previous post, I was all about eating Asian food this weekend. When I was in Baltimore I stopped in this little family owned Vietnamese restaurant. I ordered the tofu noodle dish and it came out piping hot and such an immense amount. I made three meals out of it! Ever since, I wanted to make a meal similar to it, but with my own version. I hope you enjoy, and this is definitely a graduate student’s dream recipe (easy, cheap, and yummy!).

Ingredients: fettuccine (I used spinach, but any will do), bag of frozen veggies, frozen spinach (1/2 bag), 2 cups of shredded cabbage, soy sauce, Teriyaki sauce, all spice, extra firm tofu.

Instructions:

1. Heat the oven to 350. Cut the tofu in slices 1.5″ long and 0.5″ thick. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray. Lay the tofu on the sheet and drizzle Teriyaki sauce on them. Then sprinkle some all spice. Flip the tofu over and repeat to the other side. Place in oven. At 15 min, flip the tofu onto the other side and cook an additional 15 min or until brown.

2. Cook the fettuccine until it is al dante.

3. In a large pot,  combine all the frozen veggies and cook until de-thawed. Add in the shredded cabbage. Once the cabbage is soft add soy sauce. This step is a bit dependent on the person’s palate. IF you like soy sauce, dump it in to get as much taste as possible. If you’re not a fan use a little.

4. Once fettuccine is all cooked, place it in the pot with the veggies and cook so that all the tastes come together.

DSCN2619

Love spinach fettuccine, really added some taste to the dish.

5. Place a serving on the plate and lay tofu slices on top of the noodles. Careful, everything will be hot!

DSCN2623

Cooked tofu gives it such a pretty presentation.

DSCN2624

For two very different dishes and tastes of Asia, these made quite the pair!

Hope you all enjoy!