Monthly Archives: February 2011

Academic Anomoly

An anomoly can be described as something unique that goes against the grain, diverges from the established norm, breaks rules and trends. The pattern in academic life goes as thus: gain a degree; then a master’s; embark on a doctoral; followed by a post-doctoral and hopefully gain a tenure in your field in university. Sigh! I guess this normally takes approximately 10 years or less.

I have come across plenty of people who have been successful at this and are still in their early thirties. Well, I am an academic anomoly. Why? Well, I fell into academia later in life than the norm. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do so I partied instead.  My aim was to get a degree. This was achieved in 2006. But here I am in 2011 and I am doing my PhD.

I look on jealously at those postgraduate students in the Reading Room who can devote hours and days on end to their research. They are at liberty to pour over books until the small hours of the morning. Yet, I struggle to keep my eyes open past ten o’clock in the evening. After dinner, playing, pyjamas and mental mind games to convince a 3 year old it is time for bed, my brain is jelly and the last thing I can decipher is the uses of the subjunctive forms in Old Irish.  These students don’t know how lucky they are.

Then there are those who are fortunate enough to have gained funding and scholarships to aid them in their research. Far be it that they have to worry about where the money is going to come from to pay the fees. Oh sure, the part-time job helps to pay for drinks, food and rent. But here I am cowering in worry as to how I am going to come up with the funds to pay for another 2 years on the research register and at the same time pay for 2 adults and 2 children to survive in the capital city. Is it a selfish act and should I join the real world? I guess most would say yes. I should put children first.

On a totally superficial level, I arrive into university everyday and enter a fashion parade. All these young hipsters have so much time (and grant money) to dedicate to their wardrobes and appearances. Everyone trying to out do the other in an effort to appear unique, when really what happens is that they all look alike. I get up in the morning and blindly gather some clothes and throw them on before dressing the kids. As for putting on make-up and doing my hair, forget it. A pony-tail is suffice. So I arrive in a fluster after cycling in and I realise my bra is on inside out or my top is on backwards!

At the end of the week between work, teaching and family commitments I have probably done about three hours productive research. Sometimes I feel like I am spitting in the ocean when I think about the vast amount of work I have to do still. Frequently, I lack confidence in my capability of completing this doctorate. Then there is a glimmer of hope and I see myself in the cape, graduating and sighing in relief. This is what I hold on to and I know deep down that I will achieve what I have set out to do, even in the face of all these adversities.

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apple & butternut squash soup

I threw this together the other night as I was stuck as to what to make for dinner. I had all the ingredients required in the back of the cupboard. There were two apples left over from the previous week and the butternut squash was a random buy. I always tend to pick up random vegetables in the shops which are on offer and I never know what to do with them.  A soup is a great way to use up unwanted veg.

So here are the ingredients:

a glug of olive oil

finely chopped onions

two peeled and chopped cooking apples

one butternut squash, peeled and chopped

one potato, peeled and chopped

1.5 litres chicken stock

salt & pepper

And here’s what I did –

Heat the oil and glaze the onions until they are soft. Throw in the butternut squash and potato. The potato helps thicken the soup. After five minutes or so throw in the apples. The important thing with making a soup is to allow the vegetables to sweat over a low heat for a good while. This allows the flavours to release and intensifies the taste. Then add the stock (homemade or stock cube, doesn’t matter). Bring to the boil and allow to simmer for 20 minutes or until the vegetables are soft. Blend and serve!

To garnish –

Drizzle a spoon of cream into the bowl for that restaurant look!

Scatter on some roasted pumpkin seeds.

Make some homemade cheese croutons.

I served this up with homemade quiche but would go just as well with a nice green salad.

This is a great soup for the family. Children love the sweet taste of the apples, a great way to get vegetables into them. The colour is beautiful and the butternut squash is a good source of vitamin a and the b-complex vitamins. A great winter warmer…

yum yum in my tum

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My trusty steed

I got a new bicycle for my birthday last October. My husband bought it for me after a three year sojourn from cycling. Just before the birth of Seren, I fell and broke my knee. That put an end to my cycling days for a while. Back then, I had a lovely yellow mountain bike. When I was out of action, my bike was parked outside all alone. Bit by bit, pieces would get thieved. One day the saddle would get nicked, then the wheels etc. until one day there was only a sad skeleton attached to the pole! Oh, they are ruthless.

I yearned to be able to cycle again. But alas no bike was had and my knee and leg was weak for more than a year. Then I became pregnant again with Olwyn and well I really didn’t feel like taking cycling up again. So last October Peter was missing one day. I think we were actually going out that night and he was expected home. But he was late! I was getting mad and got annoyed when he got home – poor him. It turns out he was at the bike shop ordering my bike. Oh, I felt bad. We all went to pick it up the next day. Seren was so excited that there was a seat for her.

Well, I was only on my bike for a few weeks when the bad weather hit us. I got a puncture. Turns out someone must have been jealous of my bike in college as it was a staple that caused the puncture! With that, there was snow, Christmas and more snow to compete with. I only managed to get my tire mended in January. I haven’t looked back since…

I love the freedom of cycling. I sleep much better as a result of the exercise and it is a great way to relax and unwind after a long day of staring at words. I try to bring Seren out at the weekends and she gets a kick out the bell and going over the bumps.

I have to admit though, drivers really are not aware of their surroundings and it is shocking. And YES, I do follow the rules of the road!

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Best friends… most of the time

 

 We are sisters and we are best friends (sometimes): that is when Olwyn is not taking my toys or I am not pushing Olwyn over! I love my little sister. She is so cute. We laugh a lot together, like when one of us says a silly word like “boinkydinkitydunk”

We like to hang out in the kitchen. Usually our plan of action  is  to see how long it takes to get on our parents’ nerves while cooking dinner for us. Our secret weapon is that we both whine in unison, which is usually a winner. On other occasions, when we ask really nicely, we get to make rice crispy buns and other nice things. But really we just like licking the spoon and bowl afterwards.

I like to look after my little sister when we go out for walks. Although it is often the case that I do not know my own strength and my Mami and Daddy yell at me to be gentle. I must remember to not put Olwyn in the death grip! I can’t wait until she is big enough and we can go out and explore together.

We also like to sing and read. I am teaching my sister words like “thank you” and “please” because grown-ups like good manners and for some reason it gets you more treats. Olwyn is really good at singing songs and our favourite at the moment is Jingle Bells and Old MacDonald.

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