Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Renee Michelle's Bedroom Stylings

Watch the video
The style guru talks about the little touches she has added to her bedroom to give it a little pizzazz.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

The Results Are In...

...and the party was a success. Everyone came dressed up. We had more than enough food. We hit that ever-important critical density, in which the room is crowded enough that you have to wade through the people. By the Renee Michelle standard, that's how you know the party is working.

I've posted a lot of photos. First, the cookies: I made ginger cookies (the favorite according to my informal poll), miniature chocolate chip cookies (so buttery, but only acceptable to those in the crispy chocolate chip cookie camp), chocolate dipped pretzel sticks, biscotti (beloved by those who know to dunk, otherwise - obviously- very dry and hard), and brown butter cookies (which were carmelly and delicate, but such a pain to make that I will never bake them again). You'll also see pumpkin bread and chocolate cupcakes that people brought.

The decorations took a whole day to make and hang up, but were sufficiently cheap to make it worthwhile. We hung pine rope garland with lights and little white balls, and then I cut out snowflakes and hung them from the ceiling. All in all, including the red table cloth I bought from Goodwill ($1) , the candles and ribbon ($2), and roses($8) for the centerpieces, I think the decoration budget came in just under $25.

The dress was $7 at a thrift shop, which in my book is pretty pricey, but I had enough fun with that dress to make it worth while. I was going for the late 50's/early 60's look - I hope that comes through.

In other news, check out the hair video below. I swear, having this blog is like having my own little fan club. Who else has a friend who will spend a weekend making a video devoted to the evolution of your hairdo? If I thought anyone was actually reading this stuff, I might start to have an inflated opinion of myself.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Renee Michelle's Hair History

Watch the video

Renee Michelle describes the evolution of her hair- the styles, the lengths, the colors!  This is also the web-debut of her latest hairstyle.  As the wise style guru says, "It's only hair!"


Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Preparing for a Party

Thanks for the menu suggestions, everyone. Once my current work craziness has subsided, I'll take a look at at the recipes and let you know what I decide. Oh, and I should probably consult with the people who'll be paying for the groceries, as well.

I'm in the midst of busyness on both personal and professional fronts. By next week I need to have written two talks, on two separate research projects I'm involved in. Powerpoint, which I have never used before, has luckily proven to be as idiot-proof as promised. Still, I only have eight slides for a thirty-minute talk, so there's a bit more to do.

At home, I'm almost ready for the Christmas party I'm throwing on Friday. (And if anyone reading this is in the area, you're invited.) I've baked four types of cookies. We spent all weekend decorating the house, and last night I bought a dress. I think this is the first time I've actually done this much prep work before a party, and it feels good. I hated baking a batch of cookies every night after I came home exhausted from work, but I think I will achieve my goal of looking calm and serene as the guests roll in.

I've asked my camera woman to snap pictures at the party, so I'll post afterwards. It's a dress-up affair, so it should make for some fun pictures. If I remember, I'll also post a review on the cookies - I tried four new types, so it could be interesting.

Friday, December 01, 2006

To the sound of carols

I have a coworker, who, due to scheduling conflicts, had an early Christmas celebration. On Thanksgiving Thursday, they partook of turkey. On Friday they put up the tree, and on Saturday they had Christmas dinner and opened all their gifts. Now, that's efficiency. Just think, your entire Christmas season would be stress free. Just sit back, listen to the carols, and drink eggnog (or many hot toddys, in my case.)

My Christmas won't go quite that smoothly. This year Andrew and I are driving to Ohio to celebrate early with my family, then flying to England, arriving Christmas Eve morning, to spend a few weeks with his parents. This means that I have twice as much Christmas shopping to do, and all that early celebrating means everything needs to get done a bit earlier.

Still, I really love Christmas. As long as I remind myself that this is all fun, not stuff just to be checked off the list, I enjoy shopping (well, when it's online). I love sitting in the living room and soaking in the lights of the tree while I wrap gifts. And this weekend I'm decorating my house and baking several dozen cookies for the Christmas party I'm throwing next week.

Thinking ahead, I'm trying to figure out what to make for my family's Christmas dinner. Any suggestions? In the past we've had roast goose, miniature beef wellingtons (yum), and stewed rabbit (too many bones). I like to do something fancy, preferably with a type of meat or a preparation technique that you don't have every day. I was thinking of seafood, but I can't think of any impressive ways to do seafood. I appeal for help to you, my great foodie audience.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Oh Christmas Tree!

Watch the video
How to add modern style to an old holiday? Renee Michelle gives a little style advice while garage sale shopping.

More Cute Kyla Pictures

An official Styling with Renee Michelle tip: small children and pets are cutest when they are photographed within a container of some sort.

Here are the latest pictures of my niece, sporting a stunning pink ensemble, and then (not-so-happily) a seasonal pumpkin look.

According to her doting father, she now locomotes by scooching. (He couldn't quite explain how that works.) I have also personally witnessed her excellent rolling abilities: she just keeps rolling and rolling until she hits a piece of furniture, then she just looks up and enjoys the view of the ceiling for a while.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006


So, on Sunday I was sick. Not "I think I'm about to be quite ill" sick, thank goodness, just "lay around quietly" sick. When I got tired of laying around on the bed, I found variety by laying around on the sofa. There I was entertained all afternoon by the cat.

Andrew built her a new toy by attaching pieces of yarn to a revolving fan. Now Phi positively adores yarn. Waving a piece of yarn in front of her is like offering her cat porn. There is absolutely nothing she would rather be doing than watching that yarn.

Thus, as I lay horizontal on the couch, the end table in front of the couch prevented me from seeing the floor. Then the fan would spin, the yarn would dance, and, without warning, there would suddenly be a cat in mid-air, leaping to catch that string.

As I always say, who needs a TV when you've got a cat?

Friday, November 17, 2006

Here come the holidays!

Thanksgiving is almost here. I'm so excited. As I've done for the past three years, I'm hosting a Thanksgiving dinner for all the people (read: physics graduate students) who have nowhere else to go. Many of them aren't from the U.S., so that makes it even more fun - they have no expectations about grandma's stuffing or their favorite cranberry sauce.

Since we do it as a potluck, my job is to cook the turkey and a few other dishes, and then I get to spend the rest of my time doing the fun work of decorating. Putting out the fall colored tablecloths, making bouquets of branches and berries and stuff I find out in the yard, and making place tags. Not turky-themed place cards, I assure you. Something classier. Which I will, um, decide on real soon.

In my next post I will detail my patented, absolutely favorite way to cook a turkey. I haven't actually eat a turkey cooked in this way, but I swear, it gets good reviews every year. Gotta love the irony of the vegetarian being in charge of the turkey.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Have you replaced your spices lately?

Hello, I just came back from a dee-lightful weekend. Sure, it involved driving fifteen hours in two and a half days, but I got to go home. To a new home.

Our trip to Ohio was ostensibly to (a) spend some time with an old friend who is currently visiting from Malaysia and (b) help my parents unpack. Mainly, we ate. Waffles (with literally pounds of sausage on the side, Andrew was in heaven, I tell you) and maple syrup, cherry pie, brownies, lasagna, eggplant parmesan, chocolate cheesecake, and, um, lots of good wine and beer. I will take a moment here to recommend Great Lake's Brewery's "Holy Moses" White Ale. It is brewed with chamomile, orange peel, and coriander, which sounded a bit odd, but it was really terrific. I normally prefer porters and stouts, but this had a lot of flavor.

In between our rounds of eating, I helped my mother organize her spices. I have convinced her that spices do not actually keep their flavor for a decade, so every few years she goes to an Amish store where they sell them in bulk, and replenishes her stock. We generally split everything she buys, so we both end up with new spices and it doesn't cost nearly as much as buying them all at the grocery store. Having spent yesterday morning refilling shakers with fresh fennel, curry, cloves, and peppercorns, I itching to get into the kitchen and start cooking with my new zippy spices.

And, to wrap up loose ends from other posts: the cheesecake and key lime pie were terrific. I will definitely make the lime pie again, as it was super easy, once I zested and juiced the limes. Unfortunately, Andrew can eat a half a pie in on day, so I may have to learn to make larger quantities. Also, my hair is now a very bizarre blue-brown color. No pictures. I don't want this color to go on my permanent record. I will keep up the weekly henna applications, and hopefully it will resemble some natural color (any natural color) before I meet Andrew's family at Christmas.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Even more about food

Continuing the series of food posts: I've been making a lot of soup lately, as I always seem to do in the fall. I had a friend over for lunch on Saturday, and made her favorite corn and potato soup which turned into corn chowder because that's what I had a hankering for. That will probably be the last of the corn soup for the season, because I like it best when I can use corn on the cob. I cut all the corn off the cob, then boil the cobs until I get as much corny goodness out of them as possible, scraping the last of the corn from them. Then I dump in the corn, a chopped potato or two, and a few spices. Not too much, because mainly I want to taste corn. This time I added milk at the end, because I used to love clam chowder as a kid, but now don't eat it so often (well, never) on account of the whole vegetarian thing. So this was the best I could do.

On Sunday I made borscht. Nothing like a hot pink soup to put a smile on your face. As my grandmother pointed out, you can't make a small amount of borscht - what are you going to do, add a quarter of a parsnip? So we've been eating it for the past three days, but I think we've reached the bottom of the tupperware now.

Tonight it's on to a chocolate extravaganza. In my research group, when a graduate student defends his thesis, we always have a potluck reception afterwards. The soon-to-be-PhD defending this time has requested all chocolate, so (per her specific request to me) I'm making a chocolate crusted-key lime pie and (per my own desires) a super rich choocolate cheesecake. Yum. The promise of cheesecake and champagne is reason enough to finish you PhD, isn't it?

Sunday, November 05, 2006

It sounded like a good idea at the time

Friday night was one of those nights when you get home late and realize that there are no more fresh vegetables or fruits in the house and you should have gone grocery shopping, like, three days ago. I thought this was the perfect opportunity to try out a new recipe that I had seen in the New York Times food section, "Eggs Poached in Red Wine." It sounded simple, used ingredients that I always have around (red wine, eggs, garlic, bread, and parmesian comprising the entire list) and I am always excited about alcholic main courses.

Saute the garlic, lightly fry the bread in the garlic and oil mixture and remove, and then add red wine and poach the eggs. Top with parmesan, serve with the garlic croutons on the side, and you've got... something really revolting. We ate the garlic bread with gusto, fished out the eggs and ate them because we were hungry, and dumped the revolting, salty, acidic, red wine down the drain. It amazes me when a recipe can take perfectly lovely ingredients and put them together to make something far worse then the sum of the parts.

Next time, I'll make the garlic bread, fry the eggs, and drink a nice big glass of red wine on the side. Lesson learned.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Dinner partying the nights away...

I've been so busy entertaining I've had no time to post. Sorry. I'll try to be better in the future.

Since passing my quals, I've felt the weight of social obligations pressing upon me, and decided to throw big dinner parties and clear them all up as quickly as possible. So twice in ten days I've pulled out the oven mitts and gotten busy. The first week I kept it simple and made a big pot of soup for the main course, something I'm usually loathe to do because soup just doesn't seem fancy enough to carry a meal. But Julia Child's Soup au Pistou (I'm sure all you French speakers will be happy to correct my spelling) is really quite a killer recipe. It's just a simple pot of vegetables: potatos, onions, carrots, green beans, and canned white beans boiled in water. Then you add the carbs: a handful of broken spaghetti and a couple of pieces of dry French bread, broken into pieces. While that finishes boiling, you make the pistou, which is the French version of pesto: a lot of fresh basil, garlic, parmesan, and tomato paste. Add that in at the last moment, and you have a heaven in a pot. The guests had a good long discussion about the flavor umami, which this soup has in abundance, thanks to the parmesan.

The highlight of the meal seemed to be the long sesame breadsticks (you know, the kind that look like large cracker chopsticks) served upright in glasses around the table. Sigh... I don't know why I try to impress people with my oh-so-fabulous cooking when I could serve them each a package of sesame breaksticks and wine they'd be just as happy.

The second meal was more work: ten people, tapas. The idea was the tapas would be easier on me, because it's just one course. In the end it didn't much matter, because ten people require a lot of food, no matter how few courses you have. I tried to have a mix of hot and cold (for variety and so I wouldn't be freaking out frying six things ten minutes before the guests arrived), and the menu was: tortilla espanola, fried potatoes with garlic aioli, tapenade and bread, apricots with rosemary goat cheese, chickpea salad, and a blue cheese-almond green salad, followed by oranges in simple syrup, arroz con leche, and flan. A completely vegetarian, almost gluten-free, kosher meal. And pretty yummy on top of that.

Now I must get back to my pressing concerns of the week: transcribing audio interviews and trying to re-die my hair. My now blue hair needs to turn to a normal color as soon as possible. I just realized I need a new passport, and I refuse to be immortalized (well, immortalized for ten years) in blue.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Waking to the smell of fresh coffee

I am now officially spoiled rotten. A few months after Andrew and I started dating, we ended up spending every night together, either at his house or mine. At first, we'd take turns making coffee. But now it has somehow come about that every morning the alarm goes off, Andrew gets up, feeds the cat, and makes coffee. Then he brings it to me in bed, allowing me another fifteen minutes of sleep. This is wonderful, and I am properly grateful about this turn of events.

It does mean, however, that on the days when he must go in much earlier than me, that there is no one to make coffee. And I find that I'm just sort of out of the habit, and what happens is that instead of making it myself, I stumble blearily into school, remaining sleepy and grumpy, until I finally relent, walk up the hill to the student union, and buy coffee. Today I made it until noon, but by then I was rather unpleasant.

I think I need one of those coffee pots with a clock, that can be set to start brewing right as you wake up. Unfortunately, though, I think they don't come in a french press style, and drip coffee won't cut it. It's not chewy enough.

Her Royal Blueness

Renee Michelle passed a big milestone in her life- she passed her qualifying exams.  She was so happy, her hair turned blue!  The style guru gives tips on how to achieve blue-ness in an easier manner than to have to go through physics qualifying exams. 


Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Out of the closet

An incident from our weekend vacation that I forgot to mention... I declared that there would be no discussion of physics, and no doing homework while on vacation, because I just really wanted to forget about it all. At one point, I came into our room, and Andrew was standing in the closet reading his gravity textbook. He claims that his gravity class is fun, and reading his textbook should count as pleasure reading, but that's just sad...

Monday, October 16, 2006

A weekend with no physics

This weekend was our getaway weekend - designed either to allow Andrew and I to celebrate in style, or to run from the crowd so I could cry in peace, depending on the results of the oral exam. As you all know, the oral went great, so we were celebrating.

I made all the plans, and surprised Andrew. He knew that we were going to Virginia, but not more than that. I dropped numerous, but hopefully confusing hints, just to keep him interested. And I made him stay blindfolded for the last hour of the trip. (A friend of ours pointed out that before this, he'd never heard of a sitatuion involving a blindfolded person in a car that didn't end badly :)

I got us reservations at a bed and breakfast in Winchester, Virginia, which is at the northwestern tip of Virginia. The apple capital of the world, they claimed. We did, in fact, see a fair number of apple orchards, but not once did we see somewhere to buy apples, which was a bit disappointing.

On Saturday we wandered around the historic part of the town. I dragged Andrew into about a dozen kitchy giftshops - the kind filled with figurines, scented soap, and plaques with sickeningly sweet sayings. Normally, I, too, hate these shops, but the cool, crisp weather put me in mind of the approaching holiday season and I was looking for gifts. Although, come to think of it, I don't have any friends who appreciate plaques with cute sayings.

We had a terrific meal in the evening, which I will detail in the next (foodie) blog post, and on Sunday we went canoeing on the Shenandoah. All the posted pictures are from that. The weather was just picture perfect: a clear, brilliantly blue sky and hills covered with trees that are just starting to show their color. It was a very easy canoe trip, as they had allotted us far too much time between drop off and pick up, so we stretched it out by drifting for long periods of time. We also found that Andrew can propel and steer a canoe on his own, leaving me in the front to read the Sunday paper. This is the perfect outdoor activity for us: unlike hiking, I don't have to exert any physical effort, we can both enjoy the scenery, and Andrew is happy that I'm doing something outdoors with him. He did point out that it would be easier to just get a rowboat next time, if he's going to do all the rowing himself.

I've only stayed in a bed and breakfast once, and I was keen to do it again. They cost a fair bit more than a hotel, but you feel so pampered. The house was large and there was lots to do right there, including wandering the grounds with their resident cat (who Andrew instantly fell in love with), a cozy library, a rec room with a variety of movies and a pinball machine, and a jacuzzi that we never even found time to use. We were also served a three course breakfast each morning. And let me tell you, three courses is a lot to face at nine in the morning. Still, we did our best, and soaked up as much enjoyment as we could in two days.

So, now I return to my work rested, relaxed, and hopefully ready to research. (How's that for an alliterative sentence?)

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

The Physics Car

Watch the video
With the help of some friends, Renee Michelle adds a little style to her car.

Monday, October 09, 2006

I passed!

I don't know how to express it otherwise, but Woo-hoo! Of course, everything comes with a caveat, which in this case is that the examining committee "recommends that Renee Michelle pass." However, I've never heard of a case where the graduate committee ignores the examining committee's recommendation, so we'll hope (in this case, unlike before) that I am just like everybody else.

I was quite nervous this morning, beforehand. But I walked into the room in front of three honest-to-god physicists and, using only a whiteboard and markers, showed that I knew quantum mechanics like they could only dream of knowing it. Okay, maybe not quite like that, but it went really smoothly. The three profs (my advisor plus two) were friendly - they acted like they wanted to know what I thought, not like they were trying to prove that I shouldn't be allowed to be a physicist.

I answered questions for about an hour and fifteen minutes. At the end, I wanted to say, "Wait! Ask me about Green's functions! Ask me about unitary operators! Ask me about coherent states! I know so much more, and I learned it all just for you!" But, thankfully, the thing was over. I had to leave the room while they talked, so I stood out in the hall with Andrew (who had sat out in the hall the whole time, just to give me moral support. Then I was called in and told that they recommended a pass. The best part was the comments. My advisor said that it was the best oral he's ever given, and that I didn't seem nervous at all. And one of the other professors said, "She will be a good physicist." I will treasure that comment for years to come, I think.

So, right now I'd like to thank my agent, my mother, God, and all the little people... Oh, wait, it's just a test on the way to getting my PhD. Sure feels like the Oscars. So, thank you to everyone who sent out good wishes and prayers. Right now I salute you and send thanks.

You can safely assume that coming posts will detail my many celebrations...

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

No one spoils better than a mother

For the past four days, my mother has been spoiling me. And it has been beautiful.

She came out to Maryland to help me survive the last week before my oral exam. In the not quite four days she stayed with me, here's what she did: made double batches of four meals (so that we could both eat well now and freeze some to eat well later in the week), washed my laundry, trimmed all the shrubs in my yard, went grocery shopping every single day, baked brownies and banana nut muffins, vacuumed my floors, and washed about a hundred sinks of dishes (from all that cooking). On top of that, she gave hugs, made me tea, served me ice cream, and generally made me feel well-loved. You can't ask for anything better in life.

On an additional note, I have loads of people cheering for me. One friend even wrote to say, "I am coming as close as an atheist can to praying for you." I just loved that. I'm grateful for all the support my friends have given me, and equally grateful to all my coworkers who have allowed me to let all my other work slide until next week.

Only six days left to go... I'll be sure to post the results on Monday once I know them.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The oral exam - it's really going to happen

My department has finally given me a date for my oral exam: Monday, October 9th at 10am-12pm. My advisor (who's on sabatical this year) will be in town that day, so he will head the committee. There are two other professors on the committee, but I don't know them very well. So, please continue holding your breath and crossing your fingers, and you may now begin your sacred dances and sacrifices to the physics gods.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Random musings posted so that I can put off doing my homework

I have been studying for my oral exam all weekend. Now, I have to hurridly finish grading and take notes on the articles I should have been reading for class.

But why do that when I can kill a few minutes entertaining you all with notes from my non-life?

Some friends went out of town this weekend and I'm taking care of their two cats. For some reason, almost every physicist I know names their pet after other physicists. Sometimes, for variety, we name them after mathematicians. My cat, Phi, has had visits from Fermi, Pascal, and now a Gauss. Gauss, however, has been nicknamed Squeakers, which I think is a sad fate for any cat. How can he expect any respect at all in the cat community with a name like Squeakers? Of course, his devotion to small tinfoil balls and random pieces of dirt found on the floor probably doesn't help his credibility either.

His housemate Pascal, however, is not a cat to be trifled with. In his quest to catch small animals, Pascal once crawled into my ceiling. (To explain, I live in a basement apartment and my ceiling has those lightweight tiles that you just drop into tracks suspended from the floor above.) Apparently it was like a cat wonderland up there, and it took some heavy persuading, and serious pulling, to convince him to come down.

As an ending bonus, I include a photo from the Star Trek convention that I forgot to post. Sadly, this costume is not homemade - the Ferengi is an employee of the Star Trek gift shop. Still, he made the properly in-character sexist remarks about oomaks...

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Renee Michelle's Kitchen

Watch the video
Renee Michelle shows you what a few old photographs and a can of paint can help add a bit of style to your kitchen.?

Monday, September 18, 2006

A styling baby...

My niece... Who is now extra cute, as she just learned to giggle.

Death by mechanical pencil

If any of you live beyond the reaches of the new non-planet Pluto, you may not have heard the results of my qualifier, which is that I passed one half and must take an oral exam on the second half. This is further proof that the physics Man, whoever he is, has it out for me. "How can I turn the screws just a bit more?" he thought, and then conceived of the oral, so that I will not know for another three or four weeks whether I'm going to be a physics professor or a physics dropout. "And, as a bonus, she'll have to study from all those books that she wishes she had already burned!" I'm not bitter, no, not at all.

But I am working towards resignation. So, minimal hijinks will be taking place here in College Park, at least for the next month.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

A Foodie Experience to Remember

This past weekend my boyfriend suddenly decided that a trip to Ohio to visit my family would be a good idea. This was probably prompted by my incessant sobbing over my upcoming oral exam. So, within an hour of having this idea we had packed up and left. But this post is not about the 16 hours of driving we did so that I could spend 24 hours with my family. No, this is about the far more interesting restaurant experience we all had.

My parents have recently purchased a new house. Okay, they don't have the title yet, but they're this close to being the owners. So they took me, my boyfriend, my brother and his family to see the new property. Afterwards, we wanted to have some dinner together, so we headed into the tiny town that is near there. Our options being a take-out pizza joint, Subway, and a family restaurant, we chose the family restaurant. This seemed especially fitting since we are a family.

Although it was Saturday evening, all of the restaurant operations were conducted by a sixteen-year-old waitress and some guy cooking in the back. This was not a problem, as we were the only customers there. Our first indication that something was amiss was that our questions of "What is the fish of the day?" and "How big is a medium pizza?" stumped our waitress. After consultation with the guy in the back, she reported the answers, "Cod" and "Fourteen. Line. Line." (Think about that for a minute.)

She took our orders after my father had fetched her and told her we were ready (maybe she was already scared of us). After fifteen minutes, my brother and father received their bacon cheeseburgers. After they pointed out that the burgers were lacking the bacon and cheese, those orders were whisked back. We sent my sister-in-law's food back when we discovered that the center of her deep-fried fish was still ice-cold.

At this point, when three orders have already come out, the waitress comes back and announces that they can't make my mother's order because they can't find the shrimp. My mother decides just to eat off of the other entrees, which is good, because the waitress forgets for the next fifteen minutes to come take a new order. This is because she is announcing to my boyfriend that they can't find the garlic butter to make his pizza. After he decides on a substitution of tomato sauce, they make it and bring it out. It appears distinctly smaller than 14". My father whips out his ever-ready tape measure, and, sure enough, it is 10". We suggest that the waitress only charge us for a small one, but in the end it didn't much matter, because she took off fully one-third of the check for "prep errors." Oh, and I forgot to mention that all three side salads were frozen.

I can vouch that the beer was good, although when we asked for the darkest beer they had, they presented us with Belgian white ales. And, asked if they has foreign beers, they recommended Labatt. Which technically is foreign, even if it is Canada's Budweiser.

Except for the fact that most of the food was awful, we actually had a terrific time. It was the most amazing restaurant experience I have ever had. And, in the end, my brother loved his burger and announced that he would be back.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Cuisine in Las Vegas...

...Seems to be divided into two categories: really awful cheap food, and fairly nice insanely expensive food. To be fair, eating a vegetarian diet anywhere in the middle of America is always a difficult undertaking, but this trip made me wish I had brought my own provisions with me.

The first night, I had nachos made with cheese whiz. The second night, at a different restaurant in the same casino, I ordered a taco salad, which turned out to be those same cheez whiz nachos, now atop a bed of iceburg lettuce.

The next night I was convinced to go to the casino buffet, which turned out to be a Ponderosa on steroids. The salad bar portion consisted of iceburg lettuce, cucumbers, and anemic tomatoes, to be topped with six dressings and cheese. By this point, I was so desperate for real vegetables, I seriously considered pulling out the raw kale garnish under the ham and nibbling on it.

We did go to one nice chinese restaurant, which allowed me to have a tearful reunion with crunchy vegetables who still remembered where their vitamins were. And the picture attached shows the highlight of my gustatory experience in Las Vegas, when I ate the best darn lemon sorbet I've had in recent memory (two of those three cones are mine).

Round the menu out with daily cheese danishes and espresso for breakfast, and you're talking about a cholesterol level that hit the heavens. We came home and ate salads for a week, and now I'm feeling much better, thank you very much

Live Long and Prosper...

The qual is over! Let there be general rejoicing among the masses! Let the bells peal and the fireworks begin! Just don't ask me how it went. I've answered that question several hundred times, mainly with variants of "I don't know," and "Well, I didn't cry during it (much)." Rest assured, my adoring public, that as soon as I know my results (which should be posted at the end of next week), I will relay them immediately. Hmmm, perhaps not immediately, because I will probably first have to drink heavily - either to drown my sorrows or to celebrate wildly.

In the meantime, here is a bit about my trip to Vegas. My friend Tom, my boyfriend Andrew, and I spent four days in the company of 4000 Trekkies. 4000! That's the biggest Star Trek convention to date, according to the organizers. I've included a snap of the masses listening to Walter Koenig, Nichelle Nichols, and George Takei below, just so you can see what it's like to have so many geeks all in one place.

Our days were packed as we sprinted from autograph-signing lines, talks by the stars (where they recount stories from their past or talk about their current work), and buying souvenir upon souvenir. Andrew came away with seven models of the different Enterprises, Tom walked off with about a dozen signed photos, and I loaded up on kitchy Vulcan keychains, a T-shirt, and a six-pack of Romulan Ale. I promise to report on the Ale when we taste it at our next Star Trek viewing Party. It's intriguingly blue, but distressingly brewed in the Midwest.

Also included is a shot of the finalists in the costume contest . I will soon post a foodie addendum to this post, in honor of my cousin Alexis, who always includes a separate entry detailing her eats when she travels.

In conclusion, a little lesson for my non-Trekkie readers. When someone greets you with "Live Long and Prosper," the correct response is, "Peace and Long Life."

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Here's your brain when studying for the Quals - any questions?

I am currently studying for what looks to be the worst test of my life, aka the Quals taken for the third and final time. Having failed both parts of the test twice, I am no longer optimistic. Yet I admit that it would be foolish to give up at this point. So I struggle through, working practice problems I've already worked through several times, yet still can't always complete. I try to comfort myself with the thought that in two weeks, I will never have to take the qual again, whether or not I pass. But it is, I admit, a bit of a cold comfort.

My camera woman wanted me to post a missive on foods to eat while cramming for an exam, but mainly I live on fruit, protein bars, and boxed macaroni and cheese, and hope that my body can live on this for a short period without permanent damage. Actually, that's probably a pretty good goal for this whole month - just try to survive it without permanent damage. I'll survey the fallout of the exam in September and figure out then what to do next.

Next week I'm headed to Las Vegas for a Star Trek convention with Andrew and another friend. We've been planning this trip for a year, and the promise of rubbing elbows with thousands of other Star Trek fans is a beacon of cheeriness in my otherwise rather bleak outlook. Now, I know that even admitting that I'm headed to a Star Trek convention opens me to ridicule, but I know that each and every one of you has a geeky hobby of some sort, so try and have some sympathy. And if you're lucky, I'll get some good video of people dressed in Vulcan Robes or in Klingon regalia, and won't that brighten your day?

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Beach Days

Lately I spend six out of seven days studying for my upcoming quals. Sigh... There's nothing more fun than working physics problems for ten hours a day, but on Sundays I allow myself a day off. And for the past few weeks (and this upcoming weekend too) we've gone out to a State Park/National Seashore called Assateague. It's a very long, thin island on the edge of Maryland and Viriginia, complete with beaches, bountiful wildlife, and wild horses. Yes, for reasons that are never explained, several packs of wild horses live on this island.

I'm not normally a beach person, but after spending the long week working in a windowless room staring at papers that command things like, "Use second order time independent perturbation theory to find the shift to the nth energy level," it feels really good to let waves pummel you and just bake your brains out.

So, I'm posting some pictures of me and Andrew stylishly enjoying the waves, and one nice one of the horses. It feels a bit surreal to be wading in the surf and then see a horse wandering by. It might be the one time in my life when I'm happier to see a horse than a motorcycle.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Rag painting

Watch the video
Renee Michelle's mom, Bernice, describes one of Renee Michelle's early decorating efforts- rag painting.?

Thursday, July 27, 2006

A House and Forty Acres to Call Their Own

This news isn't particuarly related to style, but it is certainly worthy of a post. After a mere ten years of househunting, my parents have bought a house! This has to be some kind of shopping record. For one third of my life, they have been looking at houses, talking to architects, looking at more houses, and sending very nice real estate ladies into conniptions.

I have posted a photo of the house, which they will close on in the next month or so. Already friends of the family are making plans to get pregnant, flee the country, or be incarcerated - anything so they don't have to help my parents move the six cars, dozen or so motorcyles, and tons (literally) of machinery that my father has collected since we last moved twenty years ago. Run for your lives!

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Midwestern Montage

Watch the video
Renee Michelle makes a short visit back to Brunswick, Ohio to expose her camera woman, Matty, to Midwestern culture

The Land of Jello and Tractors

In my efforts to expose my friend Matty to the stylish world of the Midwest, I did my best to provide her with activities typical to my life while growing up. However, I fear that she was really introduced more the the Goertzen way of life than anything particularly midwestern. We did enjoy the previously discussed pretzel jello salad, and had a large cookout. But we also spent lots of time on heavy machinery. Proof is furnished here in the two posted pictures, one of Matty looking tough on a 80cc bike (which is rather difficult on such a miniscule bike) and Jonathan channeling the Midwest Gothic at Tractor Supply Center. The guests also had a chance to eat lots of meat, drive a tractor, and take naps on a hammock. For more pictures, see the photo motage that Matty made, right above this post.

Trip to the Midwest, Part 1

I have recently completed a cultural exchange with my friend Matty, who does all the behind-the-scenes work on this blog. Last year I went and visited her family in Chinatown (in New York) for Chinese New Year. This year, she returned the favor by accompanying me to Ohio for the Fourth of July. Her husband, the two of us, and my boyfriend piled into the physicsmobile and took a nine hour trip to the Great Midwest.

Her husband Jonny Goldstein, has his own terrific blog, mainly with posts about video blogging. He posted a terrific interview with my brother's mother-in-law which featured her world-famous Strawberry Pretzel Jello Salad. Check out the July 6th posting of the intervew here:

More details and pictures of the trip to follow in the next posting.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Renee Michelle's Living Room

Watch the video
Renee Michelle talks about how a simple things like an umbrella can help add style to your room.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Outdoor Room Garden

Watch the video
Renee Michelle adds a bit of style and beauty to an old drainage ditch

Soup - It's what's for dinner.

I'm currently on a campaign to convince my boyfriend that soup can actually count as the entree of a meal. I mean, I'm a huge fan of three course meals, but sometimes soup is all I can manage. Now, this is a battle I tried to fight with my father, and lost, because he just couldn't accept that a bowl full of liquid could fill you up.

My current tactics are making soups that have lots of cream and butter in them, and then serving a huge bowl of roasted potatoes or a large loaf of homemade bread as a side. I don't think I've convinced him yet, but he's willing to suspend judgement for the time being.

Inspired by all the nice spring ingredients, I've made two really great soups recently, both from the website. One was a cream of garlic soup which used forty (really, forty!) cloves of garlic for four servings. But most of the garlic was roasted and it made for a fairly mild, flavorful soup. And last week I picked up spring onions and thin little asparagus spears at the market. I sauteed them up in butter, then added broth and pureed the whole thing. I mixed the juice and zest of one lime into a half a cup of sour cream, and served the soup with spoons of the lime cream in the middle. Yum.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Tis the season for salads

I've had a few more thoughts about salads. First, about the herbs: you can always just throw in whatever fresh stuff you have, and surprise yourself with what the mix tastes like. Parley, thyme, chives, sage, cilantro, it's all yummy. But don't forget about less traditional flavorings, like citrus zest or mint. I made a spring salad for Easter with asparagus, greens, carrots, and a mint/parsley vinagrette that was pretty darn yummy. And mint, with its prolifigate nature (to put it mildly - if you've ever grown it you know that once you start, you can't stop, because the mint just won't ever die) really sings spring to me.

Another thing to think about is what to do about your vegetables. I'm a fan of blanching the really crispy ones. Most people, if they're going to make a salad with asparagus, cook it first, but it also works well to blanch vegetables like carrots or broccoli. And if you have no idea what the word blanch means, fear not, for I will translate: it's just a quick cook in boiling water (usually no more than three or four mintes) followed by a bath in ice water to instantly stop the cooking. This leaves your vegetables pleasantly toothsome, but now sweeter and lacking in the bitter flavors I always dislike in veg like raw broccoli.

Friday, April 21, 2006

The truth about oil and vinegar

A few nights ago I had my friend Greta over for dinner, and she mentioned that she loves my salad dressing. Now, I pretty much make the same salad dressing every single time I make it, because I like my recipe too. And if you know me, you know that once I find something that I like I stick with it. Hence my daily consumption of Campbell's Clam Chowder for most of my elementary school career.

So, if you're tired of Paul Newmans's Balsamic Vinagrette, or have OD'd on Ranch, here is my recipe. Basically, it's all about proportion. The mantra you can sing as you work is 1/2, 1, 4. That is, 1/2 measure dijon mustard, 1 measure vinegar, 4 measures extra virgin olive oil, plus a pinch of salt. That's it. Mix up the mustard, vinegar, and salt, then whisk in the oil. And you have to be true to this - a lot of people want to stint on the olive oil because it looks like too much, or they're worried about fat. If you're worried about fat, then just make less dressing. But too much vinegar makes for a mouth-puckering experience that will send you running back to your bottled French in a hurry, trust you me.

And once you've got that down, it's super easy to vary it. Try different vinegars: red wine, balsamic, or apple cider, or a different acid - lemon or lime juice. Add herbs, chopped or fresh. Add a teaspoon of sugar, if you like sweet dressings, or a clove of fresh chopped garlic, if you're a garlic freak like me. Fresh ground pepper, or a splash of a different oil, like sesame or walnut, also gives the dressing a whole new flavor.

Then, toss with your salad and enjoy your greens, glistening with your very own tasty homemade salad dressing.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Styling Your Kitchen

If you're going to be a regular follower of Styling with Renee Michelle, you're going to need gear. I was at Target yesterday and noticed that at the entrance, where they sell all kinds of random crap for a buck, that they had a bunch of kitchen implements. So if you're in need of a garlic press or a vegetable peeler, go check it out. Of course, if you have an IKEA addiction like I do, you are not impressed by cheap stylish stuff because you can go get it there any time you want.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Books That Tell You How to Dress

If you're intrigued by the idea of fashion, but can't figure out where to begin, take a look at this article:

It's a review on Slate of various books on fashion. They explain why you have "clothing issues," help you discover your inner sense of style, and give helpful hints. It's true: short women really shouldn't wear Capri pants.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

How to cut a grapefruit

Watch the video

Grapefruits can be stylish.  Let Renee Michelle show you how!

Music by Inverted Silence 

Monday, March 06, 2006


Watch the video

Renee Michelle, the style guru, shares her wisdom on thrift store shopping.

Music: Rainha do Sol by Lavoura Electrico and Berimbau by Inverted Silence/Jim Kang