paper writing haikus

Writing a paper
Means endless snacking all night.
Sticky sweet keyboard.

Instead of writing
I eschew my paper to
Blog humble haikus.

Haikus seem lazy:
Only partial poetry.
But it’s all I’ve got.

Ironic it is,
My paper about poetry
I leave half finished.

I pray for the morn,
That is, after four p.m.
Freedom shall return.

Dear Mom, this I swear:
I’ll pass, notwithstanding my

Dear brain, love poems please.
Dear posture, you must improve.
Dear screen, why so bright?

Of this I am sure:
I am making poets cry.
I blame Sor Juana.

Oh the apathy.
It’s become antipathy.
I loathe poetry.



namelyGermany is a confusing place; talking with or corresponding with new people can be daunting. Of course, the language barrier caused by my halting German is an issue, but often a more immediate problem presents itself: namely, what to call people. This particular quandary occurs when I’m sending an email to someone I’ve never met in person. He? She? Frau? Herr? Here, I’ll illustrate for you.

Let’s play “Guess the Gender of This German Name:”


Wrong. Male.


Yup, male.


Doesn’t follow the pattern. Female.


Nope. That’s short for Florian. Despite its reminiscent-of-flowers sound, it’s a guy’s name.

Usually I do a quick Google search before I email someone with the first name “Uwe,” for example, to ask him – that’s a masculine name, apparently – a question about housing or classes.

As if the names themselves weren’t ambiguous and befuddling enough, then there are the spellings. You can’t just hear someone’s name and then know how to spell it. Oh, no.

Lorenz  = Lawrence with the accent on the second syllable.

Marija = Maria, but my immediate reaction is, “What on earth is that J doing next to that I?!”

Niklas = Nicholas; I guess they just toss out the middle vowel.

Sure, they’re all logical, given how the letters of the alphabet are pronounced in German. But it still catches me off-guard.

It was particularly bothersome in Portuguese class on Monday when we were learning how to tell people how to spell our names. When I did the same exercise in German and Spanish in the past, it was easy, because I could guess. As my American classmates spelled “J-E-S-S-” I could anticipate “Jessica” or “Jesse.” Alternatively, if I knew that my neighbor’s name was “Andrea,” I could wait for the familiar letters with unfamiliar sounds.

But not in Germany. Nope. When Lorenz spelled his name, I naively expected “L-A-W-” et cetera. I should’ve known better. Instead, my face probably betrayed my confusion as I struggled against my intuitions and attempted to decipher the German spelling of a familiar English name recited using the Portuguese alphabet as spoken by a German.

What. have. I. done?

an ode to mustard

I’ve always loved mustard. I put it on everything. I think my love for it rivals my adoration of peanut butter. That’s serious.

But lately I’ve appreciated mustard more than ever. I’m doing a Whole30 – perhaps I’ll explain in further detail in another post – and brown mustard has become my go-to flavoring for everything. It makes life bearable – no, wonderful!

And so, I wrote an ode to mustard. It should be sung – not read! – to the tune of “My Favorite Things” from The Sound of Music. I’ve conveniently included a link to a karaoke version of that song, which will provide accompaniment to your singing. So, there’s no excuse for not belting it out as your eyes skim along the lines.

To mustard!

An Ode to Mustard (to the tune of “My Favorite Things“)

Dijon on omelets
And yellow on burgers
Honey on mushrooms
And spicy in dressing
Mustard, my condiment,
Fills me with joy.
These are the ways
That I mustard enjoy.

Yellow mustard with french fries
Is better than ketchup.
Mayonnaise and hot sauce
Just cannot catch up.
I wish my yard was
Full of mustard weeds
Then I could jump
In piles of mustard leaves.

All salad dressings
Taste bland without mustard.
Marinades for grilled meats
And sauces for fishes
Must include mustard
To taste just right.
Otherwise I might just
Put up a fight.

When the dish is bland,
When the eggs taste eggy,
When I’m feeling sad,
I simply remember
That mustard exists
And then I don’t feel so bad!

Sometimes people try to
Add odd ingredients
To mustard.
Wasabi and horseradish
And dill or some ginger.
These all distract
From mustard’s perfection.
I don’t know why people
Try such concoctions.

In the fridge door
We have our collection
Of mustards.
A row of happy
Yellows; my heart beats gladly.
A different flavor
For each different mood.
What joy it brings me
To see my mustard brood.

For breakfast I flavor
My fried eggs with mustard.
Spicy brown is
The perfect accompaniment.
At lunch I eat sandwiches
Slathered with yellow.
And Dijon goes well with
My black bean salad so mellow.

When the dish is bland,
When the eggs taste eggy,
When I’m feeling sad,
I simply remember
That mustard exists
And then I don’t feel so bad!

bits of 2013 and 2014

New year, new hair.

New year, new hair.

So 2013 has drawn to a close. Here’s some things I didn’t blog about sufficiently during our most recent journey around the sun, more or less in chronological order:

  • We found out we were moving to Houston in March.
  • In the spring I became a Linguistics and Hispanic Linguistics double major with a minor in German.
  • But we staying in Wilmington until August.
  • My younger brother graduated from high school.
  • Two of our cousins came and stayed with us for a beach-filled week in the summer.
  • Aforementioned brother left on his gap year and missed the entire moving process.
  • We moved to Houston, Texas.
  • My youngest brother started attending private school rather than being homeschooled.
  • Dad traveled the world to meet his new team.
  • I finished my second and third semesters at UNC.
  • We decided that I will stay at UNC instead of transferring to a Texas school.
  • My great-aunt and uncle let me cook in their kitchen once a week all semester long.
  • I waded through the process of  applying to be an exchange student in Germany.
  • My exchange program in Germany changed from Tübingen to Freiburg, at the very last minute.
  • I joined my church in Chapel Hill.
  • I bid goodbye to my teenage years and began to feel really old.
  • I started going to a small group at church.
  • I became an assistant coach at CrossFit UNC-CH.
  • I stayed on as the secretary/co-president of Mezcla, UNC’s Spanish-English student magazine.
  • After an entire weekend of training in Charlotte, I became a CrossFit Level 1 Trainer.
  • I survived the fall semester, which wasn’t half as stressful as I expected it to be.
  • The best friend and I road tripped the 20 hours to Texas in under two days.

And those are just the highlights. It was a marvelous year. What I’m looking forward to in 2014:

  • Being home in Texas for two months.
  • Cooking, and hopefully blogging.
  • Finally finishing the books I started last summer.
  • Being an exchange student at the Universität Freiburg in Germany, from March til July.
  • Drowning in German.
  • Returning to NC.
  • Starting junior year (whaaat?) at UNC in the fall.

so Houston is home, huh?

home is where the puppy isI’ve thought about the concept of “home” some more.  And I’ve concluded that there are varying degrees of “home.” It’s a spectrum. At the furthest, most home-y end of that spectrum is where my parents live.

I started to realize that when I was tagging my last post. I have a category for posts that I’ve written “from home.” I didn’t use that category when I lived in Peru for three months or at my grandparents’ for two months, during my gap year. I don’t use it when I’m at college. But, by golly, I’m going to use it in Texas. Once the best friend and I road trip down there in December (oh yes!), you’d better believe the food-filled posts popping up one after another on here will be all categorized as “from home.”

Maybe, if my parents someday retire to the mountains or decide to become nomads and circumnavigate the world in a sailboat once they are empty-nesters and my brothers and I are scattered across the US, then the place I associate with my “from home” category will change. Even more likely, if I manage to find a job and a place to live after college – though a linguistics degree is a far cry from a guarantee of that – then that place will be my “from home.” But for now, it’s where Mom and Dad are.  And that’s Texas.

Just please don’t call me a Texan. Not yet, anyhow.

so, where is home? [going to Houston]

Why this picture? Because it's the only one of Texas I have left that you haven't seen already. Why the Instagramy editing? Because it's Texas.

Why this picture? Because it’s the only one of Texas I have left that you haven’t seen already. Why the Instagramy editing? Because it’s Texas.

I’m going to Houston in about a week.

Here’s the short story: My family moved to Houston, and I still go to school in North Carolina.

Here’s the slightly longer story: Just days before school started this semester, family moved to a house I’d never seen in Houston, Texas.  Instead of accompanying them to my new “home,” I slept on a comfy mattress on the floor of my best friend’s house for a few days, and then drove our little Civic, filled to the roof with the belongings necessary to facilitate learning, back to school. And at school I have remained, fully expecting to finally experience that elusive place that part of my family calls “home” only once Christmas break and the blessed end of the semester arrived. But, lo and behold, my test schedule miraculously arranged itself  so as to provide a brief interlude in studying, falling directly over the duration of fall break. So, I (read: Mother dear) booked a ticket and laid my plans to go “home” to Texas for four days.

But what is “home,” anyway? Whenever I return from trips, I’m convinced that “home” is where you can raid the refrigerator with gleeful abandon or where you have a favorite bathroom and know exactly where to find the extra toilet paper. But, when I’m traveling, “home” is the most recent place where I left the contents of my suitcase strew across the corner where I’m assigned to sleep. Here at school “home” could either be Wilmington proper, our former house outside Wilmington, in Houston,  in my dorm room, at my best friend’s house in Wilmington. Which is it? I haven’t a clue. And – while I’m questioning things – why do I have to pick? They say “home is where the heart is,” but what if your “heart” happens to be in multiple places?

This is strangely familiar. I think I’m drawing on the vestiges of the little short-term missionary kid I once was – the one who, for what seemed like the longest time, felt as if she’d left “home” back in Uganda when returning “home” to the US. But it’s different this go-round. I’m in a different stage of life, and not living in the same place for a year straight has become normal since I created this blog in 2011.

As it stands, I’m not too concerned. I’m getting far better at dealing with this nonsense called “change,” I think. I’m not feeling any separation anxiety for Wilmington. And I lived there for 17 years. I don’t miss Wilmington like I did Uganda. And I only lived there for two. Sure, there are people there who I’d rather not live farther than 30 minutes away from, but that’s life. Proximity to people I like doesn’t make a place home. I’m starting to think that I’m a turtle: I carry my sense of “home” along with me.

However it works, I’m rather excited to add Houston to the list of places I’ve called “home.” I figure the more places on that list there are, the better. So, save me a seat on the next plane, because likely as not, I’ll feel right “at home” once I get there.

procrastination blogging [+ ginger lemon marinade]

I blog at the most inopportune times. For instance, this morning I wrote a post – that I’ll publish in the coming week or so – when I should’ve been studying for today’s German test, practicing my presentation for Spanish class, or perfecting my first phonology paper. Instead, I spent 45 minutes or so of my morning letting my thoughts flow freely through my fingers onto the computer screen. This very post I wrote – by hand, no less – while sitting in the shade of the towering lab buildings during my 30-minute break between classes. I should’ve been catching up on reading from the previous class.

This same phenomenon occurred to me last semester: writing, blogging for pleasure when my school work is most pressing and critical. Even when I crawl into bed – later and later as the week wears on – my mind is composing blog posts and perfecting their sentence structure as I drift to sleep.

I’m sure it must be a form of procrastination – something seemingly more productive than browsing Buzzfeed or Foodgawker or, but nevertheless an escape from or delay of the task at hand.

Maybe it’s the satisfaction I get from hitting the “publish” button and seeing my post there, finished, on the front page of my blog, the product of my own brain, with no one to criticize it but myself. Meanwhile my tests and papers are graded and marked and deemed good or bad by my professors – outside my control. They can always be improved upon or changed; they always demand a second, third, eighth look.

Maybe it’s the constant state of high alert, brought on by the endless succession of weighty assignments, that puts me in the writing mood. My brain is running fast and hard and can’t even slow down enough to mindlessly browse the web. It must create! Question! Analyze!

So here I am, with a treatise about why I blog what I blog when I blog it – and a recipe that has sat in my drafts since the early summer, waiting, apparently, for the mad rush of October for it to be posted.

My, what a strange experience life is.

And with that, here’s a recipe for marinade that I made several times this summer.

I used it with beef and paired it with grilled pineapple. It was delightful. It’s a lovely combination of the slightly warm and vaguely licorice-y Chinese 5 Spice and ginger flavors and the tart acidity of the lemon and rice vinegar. Flavor contrasts make for the best marinade, I think.

Ginger Lemon Marinade

  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon Chinese 5 spice
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 inch  slice of a medium onion, minced

Whisk together all ingredients. Place meat in a tupperware container and pour marinade on top of meat. Marinate in refrigerator for at least 6 hours. Marinating time depends on how thick your cuts of meat are. Cook the meat according to your preference – grill it, bake it, sear it, whatever. Enjoy!

[I used this marinade for four or so good-sized steaks. I suspect it would also work with chicken.]