12 Days of Gym Days of Christmas 2012 and GYMGO!

It's that time of year again! Time for another round of the 12 Gym Days of Christmas!

(You can read about last year's Gym Days of Christmas here and here)

In case you missed last year's Gym Days of Christmas, here's a rundown. My friend Djillian (aka DJ-Illian or, The DJ) created it as a way to encourage people to work out during the holidays, a sort of antidote to all the holiday parties, desserts, rich foods, extra drinking (for some), and general lazing around. You can read about the updated format of Gym Days of Christmas on her blog, here. If you don't already read her blog, I highly recommend it, as her writing honest, funny, and heartfelt all at once.
In order to participate, you have to...

  • work out 12 times for at least 30 minutes each time (only work out per day will count) between Dec. 1-24 
  • somehow tell Djillian how you worked out (facebook or a blog comment)
  • and if you manage to do all 12, the DJ will mail you (yes, you!) an amazing prize in the form of a button to commemorate your accomplishment. 

This year, there is a very exciting addition to Gym Days of Christmas: 


I'm personally excited about this aspect of Gym Christmas because a) I miss the fun of New Orleans Conference Bingo, and b) I think I have a good chance of actually getting a GYMGO. The DJ says there will be GYMGO prizes awarded during Gym Christmas, at least until people like me call GYMGO to the point that it annoys her. 
You can download your own GYMGO card as a pdf and find all of the GYMGO rules on her blog. 

As a personal challenge to myself, I'm going to write a blog post about each of the work outs that I count. They will be pretty simple posts, but I have three items that I'll write about in each one:

  1. What I did to work out, and what GYMGO box, if any, I've checked off. Note that you can only check off one box per work out. 
  2. Provide a photo that may or may not be related to the work out, but that was taken the day of the work out. Get ready for some awesome pictures of my backyard.
  3. Tell you what I ate for dinner that day (items 2 and 3 may often be related). And if it's not dinner time yet, then I may tell you something else I ate that day - because, you know, my diet is fascinating. Prepare to have your MINDS BLOWN

Since I normally work out 5-6 times per week, fulfilling the minimum requirements for Gym Christmas probably won't be terribly difficult for me (knock on wood). But writing a few sentences about it every time will probably be a lot more challenging, and it's nice to have something new to think about at the end of term.

If you'd like to participate in Gym Christmas, you are most welcome! Feel free to start any time after December 1st and leave a comment on Djillian's blog. The program is on the honor system, and you don't have so sign up in advance (though it might be nice to say hi in a comment on this post and let her know you're excited). I find that it's a great way to stay motivated to exercise after the fall races are over and while gingerbread and brie and stuffing (separately, duh) are calling my name.

Merry Gym Christmas to all! 


American Thanksgiving 2012

Last week, we had our third annual American Thanksgiving Dinner with our friend, Gwen. John helped me reign in my excitement and only plan a very large meal, instead of a crazy big one. Like previous years, we made a Thanksgiving dinner without meat, but in this case, a large amount of dairy, and somehow, no soy products.

We set the table for four, and unfortunately one of our guests got the stomach flu the day before. He kindly stayed home, instead of spreading his virus to us. 

Yes, I was that person who made the little pears with name tags on them, an idea I saw all over the internet this year. It was actually really easy and kinda fun, even though I felt silly making fake little name tags and tying them on to pears. 

Here are some links to the recipes we enjoyed. 
Basic Cranberry Sauce from MarthaStewart.com (the sauce in this photo is in progress, of course). John said he didn't like cranberry sauce, but that this recipe converted him. I had no idea it was so easy to make! Berries + sugar + lemon zest + water + heat. Done. 

Our sick friend was supposed to bring pie, so at the last minute, John and I decided to make a pumpkin pie from scratch (who are we?!). Actually, we practice "cutting in" all the time when we make biscuits, so John handled the crust recipe like a pro. 

Here's the pie before it baked: voluptuous vegan pumpkin pie, from Vegan Pie in the Sky, from the geniuses at the PPK.  

This pie turned out 50% awesome, 50% not quite right. First, I subbed tapioca flour for agar powder, which was probably an error. The consistency wasn't quite right for pumpkin pie. Also, we under baked it, so the crust on the bottom was a little chewy. Still, the spice balance in this is great, and it's not very sweet. To make the filling, you just combine all the ingredients and dump them in the pie shell, much easier than cooking them on the stove first. Making the crust was somewhat an epiphany for John, since he didn't realize it was so simple. I think this pie has him pretty excited, and that this will be the Christmas of Pies. 

We also made this Pear and Pecan Cornbread Stuffing, also from the PPK. 
This stuffing is delicious. It dries out easily, so be generous with the stock, especially when you reheat it. I think it needs about 2 cups of stock from the start, and we've added more with the leftovers. It's so flavorful and good, I can't wait to make it again at Christmas.

This picture of John maniacally stirring is the only one I got of the mashed potatoes. We didn't follow a real recipe here, just cubed and boiled potatoes, mashed them with chopped rosemary and a bunch of butter and cream. It's basically potatoes+fat. We use red potatoes and leave the skin on for a little color. 

I made brie en croute with the cranberry sauce pictured above. I loosely followed a similar recipe using apple compote from Annie's Eats, just to get the general idea of how to wrap it and how long to bake it.   This brie turned out beautifully, because, how could it not? Brie oozing out of puff pastry? If you don't like that, then I can't help you. Once it came out of the oven, we started eating it so fast that I didn't snap a picture, but take my word for it that the finished product was really pretty and presented well. We ate it with some cranberry-pumpkin seed pita chips from Costco, which I would highly recommend. You need a firm cracker to stand up to all that brie. We meant to also use green apple slices, but it completely slipped my mind when the time came.
You'll notice from the picture that I didn't really wrap it in any kind of systematic way. I just gathered the pastry up around the brie a bit at a time and kind of knotted it at the top. John and Gwen literally exclaimed "Oooh! Ahhh!" when I took it out of the oven. Can't wait for Christmas when I can make this again. 

Here is my plate. Clockwise, from 1 o'clock, you have the cornbread stuffing, then mashed potatoes, blanched green beans (just so we could say we had a veggie, and for something green on the plate), then the actual "main" course: Apple Walnut Lentil Loaf, from Oh She Glows. As predicted, the loaf was a big hit and we gave some to Gwen to take home. It would definitely please any vegetarians, vegans, or omnivores you serve over the holidays. Just make a little extra glaze for dipping.

No post-bake photos of the pie, since we covered it in whipped cream and stuffed it in our faces. I hope you had a Happy American Thanksgiving, or a regular Thursday, depending on where you are. Here's to a delicious holiday season!


Pumpkin French Toast

**Update: I stumbled upon the recipe on the PPK site, so I've linked to it below. This recipe is meant for the world to see, obviously.**

If you've read basically any post here, you know of my deep and abiding love of brunch. 

This weekend, I got a particular kind of brunch craving. I knew I wanted to have a Thanksgiving-related brunch food, but that we'll be busy on American Thanksgiving Day with cooking an enormous meal to compensate for how we're not eat someone else's enormous meal. Instead of interrupting my live-cam stream of the Macy's parade (easier to find on the internet than you might think) and my cooking marathon, we decided to have a small brunch today with just the two of us. I also realized that I had everything on hand to make the Pumpkin French Toast from Vegan Brunch, which I have to say is my all time favorite cookbook. Everything in it is a winner, from the scrambles to the entrees, to the muffins, to the other sides. I have plans to make the vegan sausage pastry puffs and the smoked almond gravy as Breakfast For Dinner later this week (drool). 

We decided to pair the french toast with a bottle of Rogue's Bacon Maple Ale that Kira gave us back when we ran the half marathon in Fort Wayne. She told me that it was kind of a novelty beer, but that it paired well with brunch, and I thought, "Sold."

Unfortunately, I have to report than neither of us liked this beer basically at all. The smoky flavor is really strong, but it's also pretty sweet. It was fun to try, but I wouldn't seek it out again. However, if you love smokey beers, then this might be your thing. You can read a more in depth but also more negative review over on Cheaper Than Therapy. I think my favorite moment while drinking it was when John said, "Man, something about this beer reminds me of kindergarten." It's the combination of that bacony, greasy, but also syrupy smell that he apparently associates with his elementary school cafeteria. I feel like there is someone out there who this beer is made for, who loves that sausage-waffle-smokey taste.

The french toast was pretty great, and typical of Isa Chandra. The pumpkin takes the place of eggs in the batter, and her spice blend was particularly savory. We both felt like the slices benefitted from a generous sprinkle of confectioners sugar and some syrup. I'm pretty sure we'll make it again over the holidays.


IT'S THANKSGIVING THIS WEEK WHICH MEANS THE HOLIDAYS ARE HERE! FINALLY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Now that my fall races and conferences are over, I can devote the rest of my blog posts in 2012 to all things HOLIDAYS. I'm getting excited.


Conference Bingo

Just as we arrived at our hotel in New Orleans a couple of weeks ago, a (nameless) graduate student I know handed each of us a copy of the "AMS/SEM/SMT NEW ORLEANS 2012 BINGO" card. At the bottom it reads, "Remember to shout 'BINGO!' when you complete a row or column. The louder, the better, especially if you are in a business meeting or plenary session. There are no prizes to be won, and the creator takes no responsibility for any personal or professional consequences of shouting 'BINGO!' in the middle of a session."

Y'all, I came so close to getting Bingo. So close. 

Things I got: 
  • "My question is more of a comment..."
  • Conference attendee circling book exhibit with no purpose (I did this myself before seeing it on the card). 
  • Any discussion of the US presidential election (the conference ended on Nov. 4th, so this happened over and over and over). 
  • Speaker gets drowned out by musical example playing from adjoining room. 
  • Anyone with a flight departing Sunday before 7AM. 
  • Audience member on Facebook or Twitter during a session.
  • Senior scholar overly drunk at a reception. 
  • Conference attendee still wearing name badge while out on Bourbon Street. 
  • Standing room only at a senior scholar's paper (saw this when Thomas Christensen spoke, but I like to think they were mostly there to see my friend Anna who was on the same panel). 
  • Technical difficulties with PowerPoint or musical example. 
Things I was missing
  • Theorists criticizing presenter's Schenker graph. 
  • "Seeing as I'm running out of time..."
  • Junior faculty gets mistaken for graduate student (this did happen to a friend of mine, but not while I was around). 
  • Any reference to "musicking."
  • Any reference to "the performing body."
  • Conference attending completely overdressed for New Orleans weather (I was especially surprised that I did not see this). 
  • Senior scholar criticizing the New Musicology. 
  • Three or more office ribbons on a name badge (John and I debated whether this is even possible, I say no - at most, anyone could have two. But I didn't see anyone with two, so it's blank either way)
  • Grad student gets burned by senior scholar during question period (I have seen this before, and it's pretty demoralizing, again not naming names. But I was grateful not to see it happen again). 
  • Any reference to an on-going debate on [society listserves] AMS-L, SEM-L or SMT-talk.
  • Audience member hijacks question period to talk about his/her own project (I saw someone hijack a Q&A to talk about the work of one of their dept. colleagues, but I was trying to ruthlessly adhere to the game, so I didn't count this. Otherwise it would have given me a BINGO!). 
  • Presenter clearly does not understand the theory she/he is citing. 
  • "That's beyond the scope of this project."

More than once, a graduate student or faculty member would see this Bingo card in my lap as I took real notes during a session, muffled their laughter, and asked me where they could get one of their own.  I won't name names, but one of my professors thinks it came from some fairly recent Harvard musicology grads. We may never know. 

I also never saw anyone get a BINGO. But maybe next year, in Charlotte, NC...


AMS/SEM/SMT New Orleans 2012

Last week, John and I traveled down to New Orleans for the academic conferences we normally attend, except this year, all three of them happened at once: AMS/SMT/SEM, aka 

THE TRIUMVIRATE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

We had a pretty good time and saw a lot of interesting papers. I think my absolute favorite was an SEM panel on women who play guitar in various pop/rock music settings, and the gender implications. It turns out, if you are a black woman playing guitar, people feel free to come up to you and say racist/sexist things while you're playing, or otherwise insult you, or put money into your jean pockets as though you are a stripper. The panel included three smart women talking about their field work, one of whom is from Toronto. After speaking with her, I decided we have to try to get her to come to UWO to speak. 

My second favorite (though in some ways better than my favorite, it's hard to say) was another SEM panel on music in prisons. Unfortunately, one of the presenters was unable to attend, but the two who were there did an excellent job. The first spoke on music as a way for women in a Louisiana prison to create private spaces and maintain relationships with other prisoners while incarcerated. The author was simultaneously working on a documentary about the same topic, so he played some clips of the women who he spoke with, and it made his paper very moving. The second presenter spoke on his own experience as an inmate in a prison in NY state. Once he started talking, I immediately wanted to ask him a million personal questions, but shied away. Somehow this guy ended up serving a 6 month sentence after earning a PhD at NYU, so there must be an interesting story there. His paper focused on the way men used the special music room available at the prison, and it was also a very personal, moving story. I almost didn't make it to this panel because of the CSW 7 AM breakfast, after which I'm almost always exhausted. But I'm so glad I stayed up and went to it. 

I also went to the Committee for the Status of Women breakfast and lunch meetings, and had productive discussions at both. I have high hopes for a good session at the 2013 meeting in Charlotte. I think I've mentioned before that SMT has a pretty awful gender discrepancy, and the CSW always has a thoughtful discussion about it at our lunch meeting every year. For next year, I'm hoping for us to extend that discussion to the actual paper session that we get on the program, so that the relatively private lunch isn't the only place where that conversation happens. 

Saturday night of the conference usually involves a bunch of parties hosted by different universities. Before we started party hopping, though, we went with our friend Anna (who also delivered a pretty great paper!) to a reception/sing-along hosted by the North American British Music Studies Association Reception and Musicale, where they had free finger food (alligator sausage), beer, wine, and a booklet of part songs. This was one of the most fun and memorable parts of the weekend, especially getting to see so many academics trying to sight read after 2-3 glasses of wine.  


Especially these academics:


Of course, we spent a lot of time wandering around New Orleans, especially on the first night we got there: Halloween.

We traveled with our new friend Ian, a masters student at Western. He and John eventually settled on drinking "hand grenades" while we were walking around Bourbon street. I think it was at this point that another colleague, who shall remain nameless, shouted, "What makes a conference better? Street drinking!!!"

We ate a bunch of different good restaurants. For lunch: Remoulade's, not far from the hotel. Dinner: Bourbon House, actually attached to our hotel. Ian tried a sampler flight, and after dinner we both had "bourbon milk punch," basically a bourbon milk shake. John also had raw oysters basically every chance he got.

(Milk punch, above, John with oysters, below)

We also made our way to Cafe du Monde twice for beignets, coffee, and hot chocolate. 
(Here's a half-eaten beignet, below...I think I will try to recreate this at home at some point)

Also dinner, somehow not pictured: El Gato Negro, for Mexican food. They made guacamole at our table and served us tasty margaritas in to-go cups. I also had a pretty sweet veggie taco there with squash and tomatoes. 

John and I stopped in to Cafe Beignet so that he could get espresso at one point. Even though the pastries looked amazing, it was the near the end of our trip and I was starting to feel kind of gross from so many days of really heavy food.

On Sunday morning, we were able to eat at the Green Goddess, a great place for vegetarians and omnivores alike. I had some amazing grits and sweet potatoes biscuits (yes, carbs only for me, thanks). It started pouring while we were there, so they moved us inside to a very small courtyard. I took a picture, looking up:

Sunday afternoon, John and I went to the Audubon Aquarium for a mental break from music.
They have a big, scaley fountain in the lobby.

We spent some time in the Amazon rainforest section, which also had some big catfish. 

They also had a lot of beautiful sea horses. We watched them swim and wrap their tails around these stems, then lick the algae off of them (I guess? Who knows what they eat?).

They also have a big "Carribbean" tank with a lot of rays, giant fish, and a bunch of sharks.

Oh yeah, and this awesome sea turtle.

Sunday night, we walked along the street a final time and saw the gallery belonging to this artist, whose dog painting is all over town:

I think my only real regret is not seeing inside St. Louis cathedral. Another time, I guess. Here's part of the back at night. My other regret would also be not completing a conference Bingo, but that's my next post...