2014 in review

Click on the links for 2011, 2012, and 2013‘s answers to these questions.

1. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I turned 27, and spent it with L., who I had just started dating. It was low-key and filled with coffee and books, just the way I like it. (This also answers the “did you fall in love this year” question, because: yes. So much yes.)

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At my local Beans and Brews, the day after my birthday.

2. What are your strongest memories from this year, and why?
The moment I realized I wasn’t lonely anymore, that I had finally built up enough of an existence in Utah.

3. What did you do this year that you’d never done before?
Visit the Idaho State Fair–or Idaho itself for that matter. It sounds like a flippant answer, but L. and I come from vastly different families, and going to (and enjoying) the Idaho State Fair is part of that.

4. What did you want and get?
Access to a car. As much as I am a pedestrian at heart, having a car makes everything so much easier.

5. What surprised you the most about yourself this year?
I have become a dog person. (Or at least a Josie person. I’m not convinced my love for Josie has spread to all dogs yet.)

Josie the Dog

Josie the Dog

6. What would you like to have next year that you didn’t have this year?
A Ph.D (or, if I’m being really bold, a job offer). I am ready to start a new phase in my life.

7. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
I did! I discovered the joys of yoga, bought a road bike, and managed to lose twenty pounds through a combination of more exercise and less food.

8. What was your biggest achievement of this year?
Probably finally losing a significant amount of weight, and doing it in a fairly relaxed manner.

IMG_08079. What was your biggest failure?
I’m lactose intolerant, and yet I can’t seem to just stop eating cheese.

L. is also lactose intolerant, so you'd think between the two of us, there would be no dairy in the house. But you'd be wrong. (Picture taken in Muiden, the Netherlands.)

L. is also lactose intolerant, so you’d think between the two of us, there would be no dairy in the house. But you’d be wrong. (Picture taken in Muiden, the Netherlands.)

10. What did you rely on when you were overwhelmed?
A combination of dog walking, venting to others, and mindless Facebook browsing.

11. What are your strongest recommendations for entertainment from this year? (books, television, movies, music, etc)
This was the year of Pentatonix, Jonathon Coulton, and a couple new-to-me tv shows like SHIELD, Brooklyn 9-9, and Eureka (loved that show so much!). Book-wise, this was the year of cozy mysteries, with Rhys Bowen’s Evan Evans and Her Royal Spyness series a clear winner. (I also read a lot of baaad cozy mysteries. I need to learn discernment when it comes to this genre, clearly.) This was also the year of Mario, as I played countless hours of Mario Kart and developed a strong love for Yoshi.

Yoshi riding Yoshi here!

Yoshi riding Yoshi here!

12. What song will remind you of this year?
Ikea, from Jonathon Coulton. L. and I have a thing for Ikea and like to belt out this song in the car.

14.  What was your most enjoyable purchase?
I think my road bike. It was a big purchase, but I love how I feel when I use it.

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Salt Lake City

15. Did you travel? If so, where?
A conference in Texas, a conference in Denver, a couple trips to see my dad in California, a weekend in Disneyland with L.’s family, and an epic LDS immersion tour from New York to Nauvoo, in which I honed both my ideas for my dissertation and my passing-as-a-Mormon skills.

Right after the Giants became the national league champions. Certainly a night to remember.

Right after the Giants became the national league champions. Certainly a night to remember.

At a Cardinal's game in St. Louis.

At a Cardinal’s game in St. Louis–the first non-Mormonism related thing we’d done in a week.

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In Nauvoo, Illinois.

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The Kirtland temple, the highlight of my research trip. Mostly because I was a little done with the missionary narratives being presented at the other historic sites (you know, since I’m not actually a Mormon) and I loved this tour, given by an actual historian, so much.

16. What do you wish you’d done more of?
Blogging, honestly. It’s one of my goals for 2015.

17. What do you wish you’d done less of?
Worrying about finding a job when I defend, even though that’s still a while off. (L. has banned me from searching job sites lest my anxiety levels surge to immangeable heights. I am trying not to mind that if I go the non-academic route, my advanced degrees are … not of much use.)

18. Compared to this time last year, how are you different?
Biggest difference? I’m a European living in the US, not an American living in Europe. Either way, I’m still foreign, so there’s that.

19. Compared to this time last year, how are you the same?
I’m still an overachieving, overthinking nerd that regards my library card as my most prized possession. I suspect that won’t ever change.

20. What’s a life lesson you learned this year?
Clearly not how to pose for pictures. I can do one face, and one pose, and anything else turns out like this.

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Muiden, again.

curmudgeons unite!

To mark my last weekend in Utah until the end of February (I leave for Europe this Saturday), L. and I planned out a whole day of romance. We started with breakfast at Finn’s, checked out the Festival of Trees in Sandy, before braving terrible, terrible traffic to go look at the lights at Temple Square (so pretty!), and then dinner at Texas de Brazil.

10858440_899906400043928_5706535193963367200_nBig conclusion of the day? Though we like each other very much, we don’t like other people enough to want to shuffle past decorated trees in a crowd. Curmudgeons and wholesome, family-friendly fun apparently do not mix. Which is probably why the only picture we have of all the trees is one featuring the Grinch..

things I ate that you might want to eat too

Smitten Kitchen’s warm lentil and potato salad: the dressing is really good. I had it with a boiled egg on top for lunch one day, and I bet the suggested sausage or roast or chops would be really nice too. I skipped the capers, as I’m not really a capers fan, and I just got basic lentils from Smith’s, though you’re certainly free to go the more discerning route. I also forgot the scallions; make of that what you will.

Perry’s Plate’s sweet potato foil packet tacos: I skip the beef, add more spinach, and usually do black beans. I also don’t call them tacos, but sweet potato packages. And since I’m not doing the paleo thing, I sometimes add a tortilla. I get my taco seasoning recipe from here.

Mel’s Kitchen Cafe’s skillet butternut squash, sausage and penne pasta: I am a big fan of squash, and this comes together very easily. Note to self: next time, try saving your appetite for the dish itself, instead of snacking on the sausage while you wait.

Closet Cooking’s brussels sprout and mushroom hash: this is a basic hash, and meant for breakfast, but I had it for dinner twice this week. Anything that features runny egg yolk and toast is a good idea in my book.

As an aside, when I went home for my grandfather’s cremation, I brought back a couple books I needed, but also my set of kitchen knives. I have liked cooking so much more now that I have proper knives again. It’s funny: from all my stuff at home, I miss my books and my kitchen supplies the most. (Immersion blender and bake ware, how I miss thee..) Next time I move somewhere overseas, I might have to drastically rethink my approach of what to bring.

Saturday adventures

On Saturday, my friend Z. and I had quite the European day. We started off with a screening of Frankenstein, put on by British theater company National Theater Live, with Benedict Cumberbatch as Frankenstein. I’m not quite claiming Cumberbitch status, but you probably know my love for the BBC Sherlock series, and I’ll admit that his presence on stage was a major reason to go see the play. It was an intense production, but definitely worth it.

After Frankenstein, Z. suggested we go to a Dutch store located here in Salt Lake. I was a little skeptical (how Dutch could it be?) but it really made my day. I kept exclaiming over products, explaining to Z. what everything was and how to pronounce stuff, and we even bought bitterballen and mustard to snack on as we browsed. I came home with ontbijtkoek, kroepoek and bami mix, topdrop, cheese, and the resolve to go there more often.

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Koopmans! And Albert Heijn!

Koopmans! And De Ruijter! One aisle over, they had Albert Heijn paprika chips.

and conimex.

and conimex. Excuse the blurry photo, I think I was excited.

this was followed by a trip to the Belgian waffle place, where, to my amazement, they had a frikandel speciaal on the menu. So we ordered that, with a chocolate waffle as dessert. It was the oddest thing ever to be eating a frikandel in Salt Lake City, but fit right in with the European theme of the day, so I just rolled with it. I hardly ever eat bitterballen or frikandellen in my Dutch life, but I’m thinking I should do it here more often..

Aside

2013 in questions

2011 and 2012 are here. Also, following RA’s lead, I’m modifying the questions (which mostly means there’s only one music related one..)

1. What did you do in 2012 that you’d never done before?
Lived in an US state that wasn’t California. Despite the fact that I go to the US twice a year or so, I’m generally there to visit my dad. I spent six weeks in Provo the summer before last, but this year in Utah is the first time I’ve lived outside of California for any significant length of time. Conclusion: Utahns are incredibly friendly (it took me weeks to realize the strangers offering greetings on the street were talking to me), Salt Lake City is incredibly not-diverse, and it confuses the missionaries when I can talk to them in Mormon-speak yet have no plans to convert.

Books, sun, and a bike. (November/Salt Lake City)

Books, sun, and a bike. (November/Salt Lake City)

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
Yes and no. Yes, because I resolved to go the distance, which meant for me basically to be present in whatever I was doing. That’s why I spent a lot of time on trains, to be involved in the lives of my family and friends back in the Netherlands, why I took that intensive German class, and why Skype is the best thing ever. But I also failed at this, since I spent most of that year in Germany hibernating and cultivating my inner introvert because it was just so much easier.

My resolutions for next year are, then, to relearn how to streamline the process of making friends, to follow through with the classes I signed up for at the gym (spinning and yoga), and to learn to snowshoe. (I also have a host of dissertation-related things I want to accomplish but my sister says they don’t count as resolutions, so I won’t bore you with them.)

E. and I with grandma

E. and I with grandma (June/Maastricht)

3. Did anyone close to you give birth? Did anyone close to you die?
No on the former, yes on the latter. My grandfather died on Friday, December 13 and I flew home for the cremation, then back to Salt Lake a week later.

4. Did you travel?
Yes. I crossed the German-Dutch border too often to name, but I also made it to the U.S. (first to California, then Utah, and two trips to the East Coast). Surprisingly little European travel this year.

Metro selfies with my sister, E.

Metro selfies with my sister, E. (November/Washington DC)

5. What would you like to have in 2014 that you didn’t have in 2013?
Honestly? A boyfriend. Dating sucks.

6. What was your biggest achievement of this year?
Landing two fellowships: the Tanner Center one (I really didn’t think I had more than a slight chance at it: you should have seen my face when I opened that email) and the Prins Bernhard one. These should get me through my PhD with relatively little money worries (knock on wood).

At the Prins Bernhard fellowship award ceremony.

At the Prins Bernhard fellowship award ceremony. (May/Amsterdam)

7. What was your biggest failure?
I did not succeed at all at building a life in Dortmund that extended beyond my apartment and the office.

8. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Oh my yes. Thanks to that ill-fated hike, I’m still feeling a little concussed.

T. and I (November/Salt Lake City)

9. What did you rely on when you were overwhelmed?
The Salt Lake public library. During my first weeks here, I had enough fictional friends to keep me company that I wasn’t lonely at all.

10. What song will remind you of this year?
Jars of Clay’s “After the Fight.” I saw them twice in concert this year, once with a good friend, M., the other by myself. I’ve played this song a lot since I got the album.

M. and I (February/Dortmund)

M. and I (February/Dortmund)

11. What do you wish you’d done more of?
Is it too late to say dissertation writing?

12. What do you wish you’d done less of?
I could have done without all those fellowship applications. Anyone who has guaranteed funding for their PhD, I alternately felt jealous and hateful of this year.

13. Compared to this time last year, how are you different?
I’m happier, I think. In December last year, I was still really struggling to find my feet after B. and I split up in October. I’m certainly a lot more social, I’m doing better at work, and I’m also going to church a lot more. All good things.

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At Mammoth Lake (August/California)

14. Compared to this time last year, how are you the same?
I’m still very much an introvert and happy with it. I also still spend a lot of time on Pinterest, although Netflix has become a fierce second contender.

15. Did you fall in love in 2013?
Very slightly, but it wasn’t mutual. No serious love for me this year.

16. What are your strongest recommendations for entertainment from this year?
Book: Code Name Verity; TV: White Collar; movie: Gravity (for its pure epic-ness and also because it might have been the only movie I saw and certainly the only one I saw in the theater); music: “Inland” by Jars of Clay.

Saying hi to Brigham Young at the Capitol (December/Washington DC)

Saying hi to Brigham Young at the Capitol (December/Washington DC)

18. What did you get really excited about?The public library here. I got a card my second day in Utah and have spent many, many happy hours browsing the stacks since then. I also got really excited about the Natural History Museum, which is how I ended up volunteering there once a week.

19. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I had a low-key 26th birthday, just the way I like it, with family and friends. Highlight was my dad taking me to a concert at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, which was new to me.

20. What’s a life lesson you learned this year?
Sometimes, it’s okay to give up. I hold myself to very high standards, so this took me a while to learn..

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Christmas Day (December/College Park, MD)

T.

On Friday, I picked up T. from the airport. She and I go way back: we met in sixth grade, went to the same high school, and stayed in touch through college. And despite the fact that our moms live within ten minutes driving distance of each other, we never meet at home, but rather at airports, in Houston, San Francisco, and now here in Salt Lake.

Anyway, I mentioned that I was thinking of getting a bike, and what do you know, twenty-four hours later, I had one. Apparently I’m going to be biking to work now.

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on our way back from testing and buying the bike.

We spent the rest of her time here visiting with her friends (T. spent a year or so here, years ago), eating Cheerios and Halloween candy, and walking all over downtown Salt Lake City. We also talked a lot about the joys and heartbreaks of being so uprooted all the time, and how nice it is going to be to hopefully one day live somewhere for more than a year, and how neither of us had any idea of what we were getting into when we decided to go get that PhD. (Or MD/PhD, in her case, definitely not in mine. Plain old PhD for me.)

tThis is us on our way to the Trax on Tuesday morning, where we discussed the possibility of us perhaps both actually living in the Netherlands next year. Exciting stuff. (Please excuse my tiny eyes, it was a bit bright out.) Anyway, great fun was had by all and I loved having her come visit. Who wants to be next?

M&Ms

Last weekend, two good friends came to Dortmund. They were originally going to come earlier, until I suddenly decided to go to California and made them reschedule. I’m reliable that way.

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M., M. and me.

I love it when friends come to visit me: I get to stay home (no trains!) and still get to see people. It was a bit odd, linguistically, because I rarely speak Dutch while wandering the streets of Dortmund, and one of the M.’s had to keep finishing my sentences because I wouldn’t know the word. Luckily she’s used to doing that and has developed a kind of sixth sense of which words I like to use.

We walked all through the Westfalenpark on Friday and shopped a bit on Saturday, with coffee and cake being the highlight of that rainy day. (I clearly take my refreshments seriously.) We had found a Konditerei for lunch but the menu turned out to be a little too German for us, so we moved to the bakery next door instead, where we took the table next to the senior citizens (walkers included). M. and M. had requested American food for dinner that night, so I made them mac and cheese (recipe by Smitten Kitchen, in lieu of Kraft). On Sunday, after a leisurely brunch*, they left for home and I settled down with my German homework. That was a bit of a letdown, I have to say, but at least I still had the leftover mac and cheese to console me.

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And yes, M. and I are wearing exactly the same cardigans. They were too good to pass up on at 7 euros. Too bad we didn’t pressure the other M. into buying one too. We did, however, threaten to show up at her (fall) wedding in matching outfits. We’re obviously very compassionate friends.

*So leisurely that I didn’t even get dressed until M. declared we needed to take pictures. Even then, I eschewed my jeans for my yoga pants and instructed her to make sure the picture would only feature my top half. Apparently, I’ll go to considerable lengths to make sure I can be comfortable and lazy yet appear somewhat put-together..