Sunday, April 15, 2018

My Synesthesia Experience

At some point in college, I had a professor explain synesthesia.  She described it as crossed neurons in specific sensation receptors of the brain, so that people experience senses in different ways than might be considered neurotypical.  The examples she used were associating colors with words or letters, sounds with visuals or numbers with visual space.  I raised my hand and offered that I had synesthesia, to which her response was "bullshit" in her French accent.  What followed was a pretty funny 30 minutes in which she made me eat basically all the food she could find, draw them and then compare the drawings.  Because I taste in shapes. Which is weird.

I don't remember when my synesthesia started, probably because it developed around the time I was learning to communicate, so I never figured out that it was different.  To be honest, it isn't an intrusive thing for me - I don't think many people try and consciously describe tastes very often. When I do, however, people usually look at me like I have three heads.

For me, taste is a visual sensation.  I recognize that what I'm tasting is a mouth thing, but I experience it as sight.  To clarify, I don't actually see stuff (no hallucinating), but the food's taste creates a painting in my head, basically.  For some foods, the visual is 2d and pretty basic - bread is basically just a flat oval towards the bottom of the frame.  Others are 3d or shift as the taste develops.  Wine is especially fun - because the flavor is complex and changes as you keep it in your mouth, the shape can be very dynamic.  Certain flavor profiles are always the same for me.  Salt is a jagged series of points to the top and front of the shape, the saltier the pointier.  Citrus is often a single cone shape at the top.  More umami flavors develop to the back of the shape.

My food preferences are definitely shaped by the visuals.  For instance, dairy tends to be rounded and citrus pointed, and I hate when round shapes intersect with pointed ones.  Lemon ice cream freaks me out, so does coconut seltzer.  Mushrooms are low and super bulbous to me, and their shape feels ominous in a weird way, so I don't eat many mushrooms.  One of my friends likes to tell the story of the time she gave me a cold clementine, and I couldn't eat it because it was way too pointy.

Trying to cook with synesthesia can be challenging - I'll taste what I make and know something's missing, but need to go by the shapes in order to figure it out. Often times, the visual I get will be missing a piece, like a big gap in the shape, and I need to identify a food or flavor profile that will fill that space. Sometimes that's easy, especially if it's food I've prepared, but you should basically never ask me to help you finish a dish you made. You're going to get feedback like, 'make it pointier in the front' or 'it's too low and round in the back', which is helpful to no one.

Synesthesia is pretty common - around 5 percent of adults in the US have it.  A number of novels have been written about it, and more information can be found here

Monday, February 19, 2018

Spring Wish List

It's going to be 70 degrees on Wednesday, and I'm threatening to go to school naked.  Holy crap, warm sounds good right now.  In honor of this gift of climate change (which is real and scary), I gathered my favorite items currently scattered in carts across the internet for your viewing pleasure.

Vans
BP Peplum Tee
Old Navy Moto Jacket (comes in a bunch of colors!)
Old Navy Gingham Dress
Old Navy Flats
Target Booties
Target Floral Skirt
Loft Yellow Blouse
Loft Floral Wrap Dress 
J Crew Bell Sleeve Top
J Crew Scalloped Skirt
J Crew Chambray Dress

Monday, February 5, 2018

Movie Pass Review

I, like everyone on the planet, recently signed up for MoviePass, a subscription service for movie tickets.  So far, I've used the service a few times, so it's already paid for itself this month and we've still got 4 weeks of Oscar season left!


How it Works -

You sign up here and pay 10 dollars a month.  MoviePass then sends you a debit card with your name on it, which you can use at any applicable movie theater. I placed my order on January 18th, my card arrived on January 28th, which seemed faster than average, according to my googling. Once the card arrives, you can use it immediately. To buy tickets, you download the MoviePass app, check in at the theater and show that you want to attend, and the magic elves move money onto your card, which you use to buy the tickets. I was skeptical the first time I did it, but it really does work, and super quickly!

What I Like -

As someone who works 60+ hours a week and basically doesn't leave campus for days on end, having a 'free' activity that gets me out of my head feels like a miracle. Even on a tight budget, 10 bucks a month feels manageable, and I really do love going to movies.  Also, every movie theater near me is on MoviePass, so my options are open (check locations here)!

What I Don't -

The locations are hit or miss - there are few theaters near my parents, who live in a way more populated area than I do.  Also, I'd love the option of using the MoviePass app as an e-ticket in more theaters, but that's mostly so that I can talk to even fewer people...




Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Vegan-ish Thai Curry Soup

Lovingly adapted from here

I really love soup.  It's basically all I eat in the fall/winter.  And I really, really, really love this soup.  I've made it two weeks in a row, and considering how many soup recipes I have stockpiled, that's impressive and also I need to clean up my recipes. I said vegan-ish because I use fish sauce in mine - it's really easy to omit if that's more your game. I would sub in some soy sauce if you do, just to round out the flavor.

This soup comes together in a snap, and you can basically use any veggies you want.  Just promise you'll use baby corn, because you should never miss an opportunity to eat baby corn.


THAI CURRY SOUP
Serves 4

Ingredients
2 tbsp oil
1 onion
2-4 cloves garlic*
1 tbsp grated garlic
3 tbsp red curry paste
8 cups vegetable broth
1 can coconut milk
1 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp brown sugar
Red pepper flakes/sriracha
Rice noodles

1 sweet potato
2 bunches baby bok choy
1 small head broccoli
1 can baby corn

Limes
Cilantro

*I am a person for whom suggested garlic amounts are scorned and then tripled. I think I actually used 8? cloves of garlic when I made this, but normal people should stick to 2-4


1 Chop everything.  This baby comes together quickly, it is really helpful to have all the things cleaned/chopped/prepped.  The second section of ingredients are the veggies I used - add or subtract as you see fit. I chopped the leaves and the stems of bok choy separately FYI.


2 Saute the onion in the oil, adding the garlic and ginger after a couple of minutes.  Add the curry paste and continue to sauté for a few minutes. If you like things spicier, add the red pepper flakes or hot sauce.

3 Add the sweet potato and the vegetable broth, bring to a boil, then drop it low until the sweet potatoes are fork-tender.

baby corrnnnnnnnn

4 Dump in the coconut milk, fish sauce (omit if vegan) and brown sugar. Add the other veggies (I didn't add the bok choy leaves until the very end) and simmer for a few more minutes, or until you remember you're making soup if you're me.

5 I didn't add the rice noodles until serving, so they wouldn't get soggy.  Personally, I like my noodles basically raw, so I just added them to the bowl and poured hot soup over and let them sit for a few minutes. If you like your noodles soft, cook then add!  The soup itself keeps beautifully, but I wouldn't add the veggies if you're freezing it, they'd probably go weird.


Friday, January 19, 2018

72 Hours in Nashville

As a part of my Christmas gift this year, Mom and I flew down to Nashville for MLK weekend.  We caught an early flight out of Boston, which means we got to Nashvegas by 10 and jumped RIGHT into things.  We've been down there quite a few times, so we skipped most of the touristy stuff and mostly stuck to favorites.


SATURDAY

10 - Yoga! The reason we went down there, ostensibly, was that one of my brother's best friends from Vanderbilt had a gallery opening/pop-up yoga classes, so that was our first stop. If anyone is in Nashville, the show is up through this month and is delightful - highly recommend.


11:30 - Brunch at Sutler.  Delicious, but JAM PACKED. We lucked out and got easy seats at the bar, so we enjoyed some yummy food and people watching.  It's bottomless mimosas on the weekend, pro tip is to order a can of Radler to go along. It's a grapefruit "beer" (not really) that really pops the mimosa-ness.

1:00 - Haus of Yarn. Cause who doesn't want to shop for yarn slightly tipsy?! I don't knit, but my knitter mother was very happy, and I liked petting all of the soft things.

3:00 - AirBnB check in.  Our stay was awesome - the apartment was a bit sterile in terms of decorations, but was very comfortable and well located.  We'd definitely stay there again.

6:30 - Dinner and Pats game at Taco Mamacita.  I LOVE tacos and margs and chips and salsa, so it's hard to disappoint me when those things are involved, but Taco Mamacita impressed me.  I actually didn't love the chips or salsa, but the spicy margaritas made up for it, and the plantain taco was the best I've ever had.  Highly recommend, and not just because the Patriots won.


SUNDAY

9:30 - Breakfast at Marche.  My brother and I came here together before, so I knew I liked it.  The almond croissant we had was insane, and I loved my quiche. Mom got the breakfast poutine, which was very unlike her, and she liked it but didn't love it. We tried to wander around 5 Points, which is a great neighborhood, but Nashville is basically a ghost town on Sunday mornings, so we didn't have much to do.

1:00 - Movie at The Belcourt.  The theater itself is a joy - beautiful architecture, real popcorn, actual booze.  I cannot recommend The Phantom Thread, because I found the plot insufferable.  The acting is incredible, but not worth 2 hours and 13 dollars.


5:30 - Dinner at Hopdoddy.  If you're a vegetarian, please get yourself down there ASAP.  The Impossible was the best veggie burger I've ever had, it blew my mind.  Also, the place is adorable, there are tons of options and our bartender was another girl named Kyle.  Must do.

9:00 - Drinks and games at The Hurry Back. I cheated, Mother, I'm sorry.  We went to meet up with one of my brother's best friends, ended up basically being the only ones in the bar, so we got a lot of attention.  It's a really fun place to hang out - great list on tap and tons of games/activities to engage with.


MONDAY

8:00 - Last yoga class :(

9:30 - Breakfast at Biscuit Love. Holy crap, this place is good. It's a long time family favorite, so it was not my first time.  The biscuits are insane, but the cheese grits are equally delicious. And the coffee is wicked strong.  You can't not go...

11:00 - Souvenir shopping for Goo Goo clusters, plus Hillsboro Village, which is adorable.

12:00 - Tea at High Garden. Guys, this place is a lot.  It's got herbal remedies for literally everything, every kind of tea ever, all kinds of kombucha and juices.  It also looks like the inside of a hobbit's home and Mom and I both thought that Billy Crystal from Princess Bride was due to come around any corner.  It's an experience and fun, if you're into that kind of thing.


Thursday, January 11, 2018

Lo and Sons Catalina Review

As mentioned in my Pearl review, I'm on a mission to slowly own the entire Lo and Sons collection.  For those who have never heard of the company, they're a family owned, US based bag company that focuses on functional, beautiful pieces.  In the years that I've owned thing from them, I've experienced superior customer service and learned that their stuff is built to last.  When I decided to upgrade my weekender bag (from a Vera Bradley I'd had since 2011), the Catalina was it.


After debating the different sizes/options (the Catalina comes in 4 different varieties, compared here), I decided on the large deluxe for a few reasons. One, the structured base, which I LOVE for shoe packing, among other things. Two, weirdly enough, was the suitcase handle sleeve? I don't know why, but I feel like SUCH an adult when I slide my tote bag onto my rolly bag? It's weird, I know that, whatever. And three was the option of over the shoulder or crossbody straps.  It's basically perfect.

This weekend will be my first time using the Catalina.  I'm going away for 3 days, and am not packing lightly, mostly because of who I am as a person.  The bag stood up to my ridiculous packing with ease.

Overall, I love the bag. I appreciate that the canvas may be a bit informal for some, and I'm terrified of the day I inevitably spill something on it, but the fabric can also take a beating and is relatively light, so it's a tradeoff I am more than willing to take.

The Catalina is normal 148 dollars, but goes on sale regularly and can be bought here

Friday, January 5, 2018

Best Books of 2017

According to Goodreads, I read 45 books last year.  It's possible there were more, I'm notoriously bad about updating book lists, but regardless, a good number.  And goodness, there were some good ones. I think I'll say good a few more times just to prove the half million dollars spent on educating me were fully wasted. Cool cool. Anyway, here are my favorites!



Bear Town // This book is in my top 5 books of all time list.  I read it in one (highly unadvisable) sitting, including a two hour bus ride, the walk home from the bus, while making dinner and ended at 2 am.  Fredrik Bachman is an extraordinary author, and this relatively simple story is masterfully done.  The characters were perfect, the conflicts aching and the resolution perfectly imperfect. As a warning, sexual assault is a central part of the plot.

The Hate U Give // Required reading for anyone who interacts with teenagers. Star, the main character, is a young black woman who witnesses police violence against her black friend. She is also one of very few students of color at a predominantly white school far outside of her neighborhood. I found her an enormously compelling character, and felt like I learned so much about being black in America from her.

The Lost City of the Monkey God // This one is definitely not for everyone, but I gobbled it up.  It's nonfiction, and looks at a group of researchers and journalists who travelled to a remote area of Honduras to track down a hidden city.  Basically, real life Road to El Dorado. I found the entire expedition fascinating, and loved all the gory details.  If archaeology/history/anthropology are interests of yours, I highly recommend.

This is How It Always Is // I usually read synopses before starting books, but skipped it with this one.  At first, I was underwhelmed, thinking it was just another family drama book.  And then it was 7 hours later and I was still reading and didn't want to stop.  I found the family at the center of this book incredibly real and true, and loved how they addressed the central conflict with one of their kids.  It is especially appropriate in this social climate, but think anyone would fall in love with this family and book.