TGI – Friday

Ah, the weekend. Time to trade in the dress pants for jeans and do a little yard work, or hit up the local farmers’ market for an end-of-season tomato bonanza, or lounge on the couch all weekend.

Whatever you do to relax on the weekend, make sure you keep up with your assignments and don’t let anything slip by!

Have a good one!

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Writing with Personality

Let’s be serious for a second – writing is not always easy or fun. You would think that your wit in person would come through inherently on paper or on screen, whatever your medium… Not so, I declare. I find myself to be a pretty decently snarky and clever gal in conversation, but I have my days where I sit in front of a freshly written paper and just berate myself. For like. An hour. “How on this sweet,  green earth did I think that was canny or insightful? What the hell does that sentence even mean? Is that SERIOUSLY supposed to be a creative metaphor? Garbage. Seriously. Have a nap. Wake up competent. Thanks.” 

My subconscious can be really harsh…

And then there are other days where I write as if I’m just regurgitating information in my own words. It’s disgusting. It’s practically word vomit. It’s unfocused, boring, and stiff. No one wants to read that.

My point is – write with your personality! It shouldn’t be horribly informal if it’s for a class, but we should still get the idea that you’re probably an interesting and insightful person. Unless you’re not, then…sorry, I guess. You should have had more Kool-Aid or something.

I’m not sure if I’ve made it obvious enough, but I’m kind of a smart aleck in person. Shockingly, people like that. Take your signature character trait and use it to your advantage in writing! There’s no magic method to finding your ‘self’ in your writing, so why not play and practice a little? Try writing a paper as formally as you can, then write it as if it’s the biggest joke in the world. Is there a happy medium that you can find?

I know I’m not the only one who would like to be mildly entertained while reading something informative! Learning new things is a lot easier when it’s also fun, guys.

Best Value

I love a sale.  I love getting a high quality item that won’t break my wallet.  I just bought some killer Gucci sandals at T.J.Maxx for only $30.  It may not be sandal weather yet, but that didn’t stop me from taking a picture of my sandals, along with the price tag, and sending it to all my friends.

When it comes to education, this is hard to do.  School is expensive.  Wouldn’t you love a high quality school without the high price tag?  Well, according to Princeton Review’s 2012 ‘Best Value Colleges’ list, that is exactly what you are getting at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

UW-Eau Claire was recognized on the 2012 ‘Best Value Colleges’ list based on academics, costs, and financial aid.  The Princeton Review profile stated that UW Eau Claire “scholarships and grants are numerous, and often considerable, too”.

Read what UW-Eau Claire Students had to say:

  • “a great all-around school while still being affordable”
  • “a very good education for a very reasonable price”
  • “makes a high quality education accessible to those who could not typically afford one”
  • “scholarships offered secured my decision to attend”

So go ahead and brag.


Source: http://www.uwec.edu/News/releases/12/02/0210Princeton.htm

Dear Weekend…Never leave me…Sincerely, Life

Okay, so it’s Friday, and I have some advice.

Get the most out of your weekend! Like many of you, my week is completely swallowed up by work, more work, classes, and a personal life (shockingly). I don’t know about the rest of you, but I actually value my weekends. Starting Monday of every week of my life, I begin planning my weekend. What movies are out? Are any of them worth the money (seriously, January and February are where movies go to die)? Can I eat enough for three people between Friday and Sunday? Do I have time to both sleep in and get some amount of homework done?

By Friday, I have an excellent idea of how I’m spending my weekend. This two day break from insanity shall include some homework (unless someone would like to do it for me), morning yoga, dinner with great friends, a going-away party that will include ample amounts of dancing and snack foods, and a relaxing Sunday afternoon at the dog park with the spoiled mutt.

I repeat. USE your weekends. Recollect your sanity and focus. Start your next week with purpose and focus and a clear mind. Loosen up! I won’t judge.

E-Books and Why They Win

In case you’ve been living under a rock for the last five or so years, you should know that e-books are taking the techie and literary world by storm. I’m hardly a tech freak – new electronics are essentially just to new toys for me to abuse and try not to break/lose… But I can’t help but be enthusiastic when it comes to e-readers and e-books. After all, they combine my two favorite things – Toys and books (I’m really just a grown-up child). My newest toy (that I’ve taken very good care of, by the way) is my Nook Simple Touch, one of the many e-readers on the market. The screen is all of six inches which makes this bad boy easy to tuck into a backpack or purse and weighs next to nothing. So instead of toting around your enormous sack of learning all over the place with three unnecessarily heavy textbooks in it, consider this fresh gadget of excellence.

If the concept of saving your poor back alone doesn’t persuade you, how about saving your sanity? It’s a lucky day filled with triumph when I show up to class or my designated study space (a coffee shop, a friend’s, etc.) with all of my vital materials. Ironically, it’s always the most important material, the textbook, that I forget. I drop all of $100 on the Nook Simple Touch and suddenly, I never have to worry about forgetting a textbook again. Every single textbook for my classes this semester have been available as an e-pub/e-book. If it just so happens that yours isn’t, shoot an email to the publisher! Barnes and Nobles has a clickable link for interested consumers to send publishers emails if their book is not available in a digital format.

Are you still not convinced that you’re living in the dark ages? How about the fact that e-books are cheaper than their physical counterparts? Or that you can actually share books with fellow e-bookies? I hear all the time from friends who refuse to try out an e-reader that “nothing will ever be as wonderful as turning a real page”… They clearly haven’t had the joy of swiping a finger across a screen and watching words magically change. Silly archaic friends…

Your school is famous…well the city is

Eau Claire, WI was put on the map February 12th 2012, when hometown hero Justin Vernon of the band Bon Iver, accepted the Grammy for the best new artist.  He also won the Grammy for best alternative music album.

Justin Vernon was clearly nervous accepting the award.  But he remembered to thank his hometown of Eau Claire, WI and his parents, just in time as the Grammy producers rolled the “your time is up” music.

Interestingly, Bon Iver was asked to perform at the awards show, but not on their own terms.

“We wanted to play our music, but were told that we couldn’t play. We had to do a collaboration with someone else…they sort of acted like they wanted us to play, but I don’t think they wanted us to play.”

Have no fear!  If you have never heard them play, as I had not, here is your chance to hear them play, and to be proud of the talent coming out of your university’s hometown, the city of Eau Claire.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0KrmxavLIRM


Source: http://www.myfoxtwincities.com/dpp/entertainment/bon-iver-grammys-justin-vernon-speech-feb-13-2012

Valentine’s French Macarons!

Happy Valentine’s Day, BPSers! When I think of Valentine’s Day, I think of all things red, pink, white and delicious. Combine delicious treats with French confections and you have a sweet and holiday appropriate treat…the French Macaron! If you’ve never had these airy delights, you’re missing out, but you’re in luck. I have a recipe. Macaron’s are a sweet meringue-based pastry commonly filled with buttercream or jam. All you really need to know is how addicting they are!

Basic French Macarons
Adapted from I Love Macarons by Hisako Ogita

The basic meringue-style French macaron is merely the springboard for your wildest color and flavor combinations. Try adding a teaspoon of Dutch-process cocoa and red gel food coloring for a red velvet macaron, or a 1/4 teaspoon rose extract and pink gel food coloring for rose. Always add the dry flavorings to the almond meal/powdered sugar mixture and the extracts/gel color to the meringue.

Ingredients

2/3 cup almond meal or ground almonds
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
3 large egg whites at room temperature and preferably aged up to 3 days
5 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 280º and position two racks in the lower section of the oven. Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. If you have time, draw 1-inch circles on the back of each sheet, spacing the circles at least 1/2-inch apart.
  2. If your almond meal is very coarse, grind it with the powdered sugar in a food processor until fine. Sift the almond meal-powdered sugar mixture twice through a mesh sieve.
  3. Place egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer (or use a hand mixer) and begin to beat on medium-high. When the eggs are frothy, gradually add granulated sugar one tablespoon at a time until fully incorporated. Continue to beat the egg white mixture until glossy and stiff peaks form when you lift the beaters. Be careful to not overbeat the meringue (e.g., the meringue takes on a clumpy texture).
  4. Add half of the sifted almond mixture and gently fold it into the meringue using a flexible silicone spatula. Lift from the bottom, up around the sides, and toward the middle, being careful to not overagitate the meringue and lose too much air. Once the almond mixture is predominantly incorporated, add the second half and repeat the folding motion.
  5. When the almond mixture is just incorporated, you will need to transform the batter into the appropriate texture. Using the flat of the spatula, “punch” down into the center of the batter, then scrape more batter from the sides to the center, and punch again. You will need to repeat this 10-15 times (or more, depending on your arm strength and the beginning texture of your batter) until the batter slowly and continuously drips back into the bowl when you scoop it up with the spatula. Think of the consistency of molten lava. For the best results, punch the batter a few times, check the consistency, then punch a few more times, etc. Do not make the batter too runny or the macarons won’t rise as they should, and you could end up with oil stains on the surface.
  6. Pour batter into a pastry bag fitted with a 0.4-inch tip. In a pinch, you can also use a gallon size Ziploc bag: just snip a teeny bit from one of the bottom corners. Twist and clip the top of the bag to avoid overflow. On your prepared baking sheets, pipe out 1-inch rounds in the circles you drew (remember to draw the circles on the back side of your parchment to avoid ink or pencil stains on your macarons!).
  7. Holding the baking sheet in both hands, rap each baking sheet firmly on the counter two or three times. This smooths out the tops and helps form the “pied” or frilly foot on the bottoms of the macarons. Allow the piped macarons to dry, uncovered, for at least 15 minutes. The macarons should form a very thin, smooth crust where, if you tap it lightly with your finger, the batter will not stick to your finger. If after 15 minutes, the batter is still sticky, let it dry longer. This may take up to an hour on humid days.
  8. Place both baking sheets in the oven and bake for 15-18 minutes. After the first 2 minutes, open the oven to allow any excess humidity to escape. Halfway through, swap oven racks and rotate the sheets for even baking. The macarons are done when they are baked all the way through and the shells are just hard. Take care to not underbake (insides will still be mushy) or overbake (tops will begin to brown). Remove them from the oven, and cool on baking sheet placed on a wire rack.
  9. When fully cooled, assemble the macarons with your choice of filling. The assembled macarons can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one week.

Makes about 4 dozen macaron halves (about 2 dozen complete macarons).

And here’s the buttercream filling recipe!

Ingredients

7 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 egg yolks
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3 1/2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

  1. Cut butter into pieces and mash with a spatula until the consistency resembles mayonnaise.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk the egg yolks, then add the granulated sugar and whisk until the mixture lightens to an off-white and you can no longer see the granules of sugar. Add the milk, and whisk to combine.
  3. Pour the egg mixture into a small saucepan and heat over low heat, whisking frequently to ensure that the mixture does not curdle or scorch. Cook until the mixture becomes thick and custardy, like pudding.
  4. Pour the egg mixture back into its bowl and whisk constantly until it returns to room temperature. Whisk in the butter in three batches, add the vanilla, and stir until smooth and all ingredients are fully combined. Pipe or spread onto one macaron half and sandwich between the other.

Makes enough for 2 dozen macarons.

Enjoy! <3