Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 Reflections & Gingerbread Cookies

On new year's eve, I like to take some time to reflect on everything that's happened that year. This year I'm starting early because of all of the big changes that have gone on in my life in 2015. Personally, it's felt like my life has been slammed into fast forward ever since I was offered my job at Carnegie Mellon early in 2014. You'll note that this was around the same time that the blog posts started to be less regular... So here are the highlights of 2015.

1. Marriage. On 05/31/2015, I got married! The wedding was fun: we got married in the MIT chapel, and then headed up to spend the weekend celebrating by Squam Lake in New Hampshire. I had obsessed over every detail to make sure that everyone had fun and I think it paid off. In hindsight, despite a rainy wedding day, my wedding photos are my only complaint-- the ones from the chapel and by the Charles river are still MIA and the ones taken at the rain location for our big ceremony are lack luster. (Oh, and if you were there... thank you notes are on my "To Do" list for tomorrow. I was hoping to have all the photos before I sent thank yous, but since half of them still haven't showed up...)

2. Move. Three days later, on 06/02/2015, two moving trucks showed up early in the morning in Providence RI and Somerville MA to pick up our and belongings to take to our new home in Pittsburgh PA. Because of the conflicting geographies of Brown & MIT, my husband and I had never lived together before our wedding, so we did the moving in together thing old school: after marriage! There has been a lot to get used to: living in a house instead of an apartment (3 floors to lose things on!), living with each other (whose sofa should we use? whose pots and pans? when do we go to bed?), and simply Pittsburgh. My husband has never lived outside of New England and we had both been in the Boston area since we graduated from college so it was a big change for us.

3. Thirty. On 07/29/2015 I turned 30! Given all these big life changes going on, it felt "right" that I should be starting a new chapter of my life chronologically. On my 30th birthday, I watched the sun rise over the ocean at Revere Beach with my best friend and the loaded up the last of my office/ books/ lab supplies that I left at MIT in my car to drive west. All in all, I spent 8 years in Cambridge at MIT and I will say that it was a fantastic place to spend my 20s. I was given so many opportunities and was challenged constantly over that time. Without these years, I would not have become the person/ scientist/ athlete I am today. For the first week I was 30, I was excited about it. Stable adult life, with a house, husband, and paycheck, yay! But after a week, I grew to resent what stability responsibility cost.

4. Professor. My official start date at CMU was 08/01/2015. I had been going back and forth for a nearly a year, but this was when the reality hit. I hired two postdocs and taught sophomore organic chemistry this fall. I have to sign emails Professor Sydlik. The grant writing is ok, but I have to show up to lecture 4 times a week at a specific time and prepare problem sets and exams!  Fortunately, I have excellent colleagues and mentors who were able to remind me that being a professor is about as good as it gets: you have the perks of stability and such but still about 90% of the freedom you had as a student (and perhaps even more freedom in some aspects).

5. More bikes. To complete the most eventful 10 weeks of my life, I got my Cat 1 road cycling upgrade on 08/08/2015! I had been doing well early in the season, but after moving to Pittsburgh, I suddenly got a lot faster. Over the course of a few weeks, I won the PA Elite TT title, two more local RRs, and then shocked myself at the Tour of the Catskills. After a disappointing TT, I launched a vicious attack on stage 2 but then got a flat that relegated me to 4th. On stage 3, it all came together and I beat some pros who came down to race to win the Devil's Kitchen RR. That stage race is my favorite and I am sad to see it go. I also traveled to Ireland to compete in a stage race, found that I absolutely loved it, and made some history winning Pittsburgh's Dirty Dozen bike race. After 3 years of local racing and moving up the categories, I am excited to train hard (with the help of Finish Fast Cycling) and try my legs at some big races in 2016.

Well, that's the highlights of 2015. New Year's Resolutions to come tomorrow (and you already have my recipe for vegetarian pork and sauerkraut). For now though, I'll leave you with an awesome gingerbread cookie recipe that I developed to take to New Year's parties with me. These are gingersnaps that don't really snap... instead, they have a crispy exterior and chewy interior that is downright amazing. And it's all accomplished in a recipe that doesn't even have any oil!

Gingerbread Cookies

2.5c (whole wheat) flour
2.5c dark brown sugar
5t baking powder
1T ginger
1T cinnamon
1t cloves
1t nutmeg
1c molasses
1/2c almond milk

1. Mix dry ingredients, the add the wet.
2. Preheat oven to 350F.
3. Refrigerate dough for 15 minutes. (This just makes it easier to shape into balls for a nice even circle.)
4. Shape chilled dough into balls.
5. Bake 13 minutes, then remove from oven. Let cool at least 5 minutes before removing from the cookie sheet.


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