Photo of the Week: A New Theme

Hello, Globetrotters.  Beginning this week I’d like to start sharing with you a brief mid-week post with the theme “Photo of the Week.”   I’m not sure where this theme will take me, but I’m excited to share more about me through photos.  I’ll still maintain full-length posts every Sunday (sometimes Monday or Tuesday) while starting this new venture.

To start us off I’m sharing a selfie.  Selfies are great.  Selfies say “Hey, I liked how I look, so I took a photo and I’m sharing it with you.”  Well, this is me.  Photo credit: me.  Model: me.

Have a fantastic week!

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I’m A Scientist: But What Do I Really Do?

As you may or may not know, my day job is to be a scientist. I work at a small pharmaceutical company in their skin biology or “IVPT” (In Vitro Permeation Testing) department. Let me warn you right now, if you’re squeamish about dead stuff/the human body you should probably click away. I’ve got nice, fun articles about traveling in New York or making yummy veggie squares that are not gross at all.

StopifYoureSqueamish

Okay, non-squeamish people, thank you for sticking with me! My job is to test various topical products (skin ointments, creams, gels, etc) on various membranes, most commonly on human cadaver skin. I’ve also worked with fresh/flash frozen human skin (skin that was removed during surgery), pig skin, and nasal tissue cultures.

My least favorite was the pig skin; after awhile I couldn’t get those little dead piggies out of my head. I don’t know how folks work with animals that they are conducting studies on and then have to euthanize. It’s definitely not for me! However, it is a necessary evil: the FDA requires animal testing for all pharmaceuticals (including things like sunscreen) before they can reach human clinical trials. Luckily, there is no live animal testing at my company, and the pig skin (which was harvested off-site) is my only experience working on any kind of animal testing.

franz-diffusion-cell

Most of my work is with human cadaver skin, which is donated by 100% consenting human adults! I am tasked with mounting pieces of skin onto diffusion cells, applying a topical formulation on top, and removing samples throughout the testing period. I also have to separate the skin layers and process the samples for analysis. They’re then passed on to another scientist who analyzes the samples on a Liquid Chromatography/Mass Spectrometry or High Performance Liquid Chromatography/fluorescence detector. Analysis is super complex and not my job so I’m not even going to try to explain it!

I’ve also done a variety of non-lab work for the support of the skin biology department. Writing protocols, placing skin orders (way creepier sounding than it is. I like to say “My job is to order dead people’s skin off the internet.”), organizing tissues and other supplies, and other boring office stuff are the less-cool parts of my job.

catoncomputer

I mostly wanted to share with you all a little bit more about me. I hope you learned something new! The US’s drug approval process is long (10-15 years) and I participate in one tiny sliver of it. There are definitely movements to shorten the process, but having seen a little of the behind-the-scenes, let me tell you, you do not want it shortened at the expense of your safety. So much goes into testing the safety, stability, and bioavailability* that it’s difficult and unsafe to rush.

I would love to see a reduction in animal testing, which brings me to my secondary goal with this post: to encourage you to become an organ donor/donate your body to science. So many fields benefit from having real human organs/bodies to conduct tests on; from pharmaceuticals to medical schools, to forensic science to transplant centers: the list goes on and on. An increase in the availability of human organs in pharmaceuticals would not only reduce the animal testing needed, but increase the accuracy and reliability of the results. I’ve linked a few different guides to the steps you need to take to donate your body to science.

https://www.wikihow.com/Donate-Your-Body-to-Science
http://www.sciencecare.com/how-does-the-body-donation-process-work/
https://www.refinery29.com/donating-your-body-to-science?bucketed=false&bucketing_referrer=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.google.com%2F

Are you an organ donor? Do you plan to donate your body to science? Why or why not? Tell me about it in the comments below! Share this post via Facebook or Twitter and, as always, follow me here on WordPress for more GREAT content like this!

*basically how well the drug will actually work with your body.  See linked article for a more detailed explanation.

NYC Part 4: 9/11 Memorial, A Broadway Show, and More!

A couple of weeks ago, my husband and I spent a long weekend in NYC. You can read about Part 1 here, Part 2 here, and Part 3 here.

911

We slept in a bit on Sunday morning, knowing we’d need to be well-rested for another day of trekking around the city. We took the subway from Queens to downtown Manhattan so that we could visit the 9/11 memorial. On the site of the twin towers, there is now a single, functional skyscraper, a memorial museum, and two enormous, sunken waterfall pools. The pools are covered in the names of all of those who lost their lives during the attack in 2001. It wasn’t easy to see those huge memorials completely covered in names. The site is beautiful, but there’s something haunting about it.

911-pool

The Grand Central terminal was next on our list, so after a quiet and reflective morning, we headed back up to midtown. Grand Central is one of those very New York things you just have to see when you visit the city. We walked around for awhile, taking in the mural on the ceiling, the huge market downstairs, and of course, taking advantage of free public bathrooms.

GrandCentral.jpg

We met my cousin for lunch at a tiny (TINY) little pizza place called Patzeria Perfect Pizza on W 46th. She took the train in from New Haven that morning so we could spend the rest of the day together! The pizza place was so cramped, I’ve been in delivery-only pizza places with no dining room that had more space. But it was warm, cheap, and the pizza was really good. We managed to snag some tight seats on high stools at the table along the wall.

While we ate, we talked about our plans for the day. Holly (my cousin) and I wanted to see a matinee of a Broadway show. David was encouraged to come along, but insisted that he didn’t want to come. Holly and I had hoped to see Come From Away, but it was sold out. We talked about several different shows, but we both love theatre and would really be happy with anything. We settled on Once On This Island.

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After we finished our pizza, we headed back into the cold and over a few blocks to the Circle in the Square theatre, where we got tickets for the 3PM show. Knowing that left us at least an hour to kill, the three of us decided to just walk around. We went to Rockefeller center and watched people ice-skate, passed by the NBC building and Radio City Music Hall, just enjoying being in New York and catching up with Holly. By 2:15 we made our way back to the theatre, knowing the doors would open around 2:30PM.

OnceOnThisIsland.jpg

Holly and I said goodbye to David (who planned to see the NY Stock Exchange and explore the financial district) and headed into the theatre when the doors opened. Crowds of people swarmed into the warm lobby, showed their tickets, had their bags peeked in, and all headed to the restrooms on the bottom floor, as there’s no intermission. On our way back up, we had our pictures taken at this cheesy but super fun red-carpet style backdrop. We showed our tickets again, found our seats, and waited for the show to begin!

OnceOnThisIsland-redcarpet

Read about our experience with the show, fun with the alleged coolest bathrooms in NYC, and more in my next NYC post! (5/20/18 Update: The whole story is live!  See the final post, part 6 now.) Did you enjoy this post? Have you visited New York before? Did you see a show? What is your favorite musical? Tell me about it in the comments below! Share this post via Facebook or Twitter and, as always, follow me here on WordPress for more GREAT content like this!

Veggie Squares

For Easter this year, my parents hosted a covered dish lunch for family and “chosen family.” For years I took my mac and cheese to every Easter/Thanksgiving/Christmas, but for the past few years I’ve been trying different things. This time it was veggies squares. I found a video on Facebook and thought “perfect.” I told my mom that’s what I’d be bringing, she put it on the Facebook event and I was committed. I looked back at the video and realized it wasn’t a recipe, it was just someone cooking. There were no measurements or times or temperatures! I decided that I would carry on and just come up with my own recipe inspired by the video I watched. Here is that recipe!

Veggie Squares
Appetizer, Vegetarian
Serves 8

Ingredients:
1 can crescent rolls
8 oz cream cheese, softened
1 cup Sour cream
1 ½ tsp Italian seasoning
Salt and pepper to taste
Red, yellow, and orange bell pepper (about ⅓ each)
Broccoli (a small head)
Cucumber (about ⅓)
Carrots (4-6 large baby carrots)
Jalapeños (½-1 per personal taste)

Directions:

  1. Roll out crescent rolls as a single sheet onto a parchment paper lined baking pan. Pinch together edges of rolls to seal gaps. Bake according to package instructions.
  2. Combine cream cheese and sour cream. Add Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper and set aside.
  3. Dice all vegetables. Proportions can be adjusted based on availability and personal taste. I only placed jalapeños on half as I assumed many people wouldn’t like them.
  4. Once crescent sheet has cooled, spread on a thick layer of cream dip from step 2. Add diced vegetables on top, pressing gently into the dip.
  5. Cut into desired sized squares using a pizza wheel and serve.

VeggieSquares-ingredients

VeggieSquares-crescent_sheet

VeggieSquares-better

That’s it! Pretty easy, right? It’s very easily customizable, too. Try it out with different vegetables, add your own spices to the dip and let me know how it goes in the comments below! Share via Facebook or Twitter and, as always, follow me here on WordPress for more GREAT content like this!

NYC Part 3: Evening in Manhattan

A couple of weeks ago, my husband and I spent a long weekend in NYC. You can read about Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

After spending most of the day in Brooklyn, we took the Q train back into Manhattan. We had dinner plans with a friend of David’s on the Upper East Side that evening, but knew we had a little time to kill first, so we got off in Midtown Manhattan. I wanted David to see Times Square for the first time.

UsManhattan

We got off the subway at the Times Square station. I looked around the part of the city I was most familiar with and felt that deep, uniquely New York energy. Together with about a billion of our closest friends, we walked around Times Square. On a Saturday evening. Even in March it was ridiculously crowded. David said it reminded him of India, but was not as crowded or as hot (but he was in India in July and New York in March). We stopped into H&M (one of his favorite stores, because it’s Swedish) and looked around for a while.

DisneyStore

We went to the Disney Store which was insanely packed, even for the Disney store. I, of course, wanted to buy every princess item in the store, but walked out empty-handed. Next we visited the M&M store where, again, I wanted to buy everything in sight but, again, restrained myself. It’s like $8 for a magnet and $30 for a T-shirt and I’m not made of money. It’s so tourist-y, but God, I love Midtown. David wasn’t impressed though. He said it was like “any other big city.” Sigh.

MMStore

We took the subway uptown to the Upper East Side. We found our way to a little cafe called Alice’s Tea Cup to meet a friend of David’s. It is a cute little Alice In Wonderland themed tea shop, and they also offer sandwiches, soups, and salads. The food was good, but a little on the pricey side. I had a grilled cheese with vegetables on regular pre-sliced loaf bread and it was like $20. There’s no tipping, but still, it was a bit too expensive for what it was. I guess that’s New York for ya.

David and his friend split a pot of chocolate chai tea. I have never liked tea. I’ve tried it hot, I’ve tried it iced, I’ve tried it sweet, I’ve tried it with milk, I just do not like tea. They offered me some, but I had just a sip of David’s. It was pretty good, which is a huge endorsement from me because, as I said, I do not like tea.

WashingtonSquarePark

After dinner we headed down to the Village near NYU. We took tourist-y photos in Washington Square Park, then went to a bar called “Fat Black Pussycat” which is above The Comedy Cellar. We showed our ID’s at the door (the only time we were carded in NYC, surprisingly), then stood at the bar with a few beers.

TheVillageBeer

We chatted and drank for a while before David said “Is that that dude from 30 Rock? Frank?” We looked over to the table he indicated. In the dark bar, we weren’t sure, but it sure looked like him. “The one with the hats?” David’s friend asked. “Yeah, him…Judah Friedlander?” David answered. David’s friend suggested that perhaps he was performing at The Comedy Cellar downstairs. We checked it out, and it was totally him. (Getting excited over seeing a B-list celebrity in “the wild,” check).  Also, they had a Polish Beatles poster!

BeatlesPoster

We finished our beers, walked around the Village for a while, then headed back towards Queens. David’s friend was very concerned we’d get lost, but we didn’t. We ended up back in our Airbnb without incident.

Read about our adventures at the 9/11 memorial, Broadway, and more in my next NYC post! (Update 5/20/18: All posts posted!  See part 5 and part 6 now!) Did you enjoy this post? Have you visited New York before? Did you have a celebrity sighting? Tell me about it in the comments below! Share this post via Facebook or Twitter and, as always, follow me here on WordPress for more GREAT content like this!

1 Year of Blogging!

Wow. My blogging journey began in April of 2017, 1 year ago. I’ve made about 52 posts since then (1 per week) about everything from traveling to cooking to buying gifts for hard-to-shop-for relatives to science. It has made me realize that my calling is to write. I have a blog full of posts and a journal full of mundane day-to-day activities, poems, short stories, novel ideas; I’ve found my mind to be an endless tap of creativity. I love exercising that creativity and sharing it with all of you!

Moving forward I’m excited to share more personal posts, more travel guides, and some different themes. I won’t say too much here, but some new content will be launching soon, so keep an eye out and look forward to more posts!

bitmoji-Champagne

I’ve loved having guest posts from David, who can share so many unique travel experiences and bring diversity to my blog. If anyone else is interested in writing a guest post, please share your ideas with me; I’d love to have you.

My top posts from the past year have been:

  1. Travel Mistakes I Made (So You Don’t Have to)
  2. Destination: Montreal, QB, Canada
  3. 6 Tips for Packing Light
  4. Spontaneous Beach Trip
  5. Vegetarian Mexican Pizza

I will keep trying to bring you content like this, but I’d love to hear your feedback, too. What have you liked so far? What were your favorite specific posts or types of posts? Do you want to see more destination guides? More personal travel journals? Recipes? Science topics? Let me know in the comments, and a million thank yous for sticking with me for a whole year! You’re the best!

bitmoji-ManyThanks

 

NYC Part 2: Morning in Little Odessa & Afternoon in Coney Island

A couple of weeks ago, my husband and I spent a long weekend in NYC. You can read about Day 1 here.

On day 2, Saturday, we were ready to brave the subway. We’ve both traveled to cities with metro systems, together and independently, so despite coming from NC where people will clutch onto their giant pickup trucks in a cloud of smog before they use public transport, we were both familiar with the concept. However, New York City’s subway system is confusing as hell. There are a million lines, some of them are numbered, some lettered, all of them are colored, but there are multiple green lines, for example, so that’s not helpful. Thank God for Google Maps.

NYCMap

We walked about 15 minutes to the subway station nearest to our Airbnb, then took the R train from Astoria, Queens into Manhattan, and the Q train all the way down through Brooklyn. Our stop was Brighton Beach also known as Little Odessa. Little Odessa is home to many Eastern European immigrants, especially those from Russia and Ukraine.

If someone had said to me “imagine a cross between Eastern Europe and New York City” I would’ve pictured Little Odessa, even before going there. We walked up and down the main street, under the raised train tracks. A variety of Slavic languages swirled around us; I didn’t hear anyone speaking English. There were tons of little convenience stores, delis, and shops. We went into a “department store” that was essentially an Eastern European style Walmart. David observed that it reminded him of similar stores in Serbia. They sold everything from underwear to kitchen appliances to pharmacy items and everything was very cheap by NYC standards.

LittleOdessa

Next we stopped in a bookstore. They sold English books in Russian, Russian books in English, kid’s books, romance novels, adventure stories, language books, and Russian cultural books. David definitely enjoyed it more than I did, considering he speaks some Russian.

We left the bookstore in hopes of finding a good lunch spot. Many of the restaurants looked amazing, but were sit down and we didn’t really have the time or money for that. Others had folks lined up down the sidewalk, but didn’t have a dining room. Did I mention it was 40F and windy the entire weekend? We aren’t Russian, and I can’t quite enjoy eating outside in the cold wind. We finally found a little corner restaurant selling 2 slices of pizza and a soda for $5. Sold. The store owners seemed to be Russian, even though the food wasn’t.

Pizzaday2

After walking around a bit more, we hopped back on the train to Coney Island (we totally could’ve walked, but woulda coulda shoulda, eh?). Since it was March, none of the rides were operating. Many of the shops and arcades were closed. It was a really cool way to experience an iconic piece of Americana.

CandyStore

We visited one of the few shops that was open, a candy store. They sold all kinds of novelty candy; giant boxes of cereal marshmallows, giant gummy bears, a huge variety jelly beans and gummies, Harry Potter themed candy, alcohol themed candy, and a bunch more. We had fun looking around before stepping back into the wind. There was a cute cafe/restaurant down the street with great views of the still amusement park rides. David got a macchiato and I had a hot chocolate (I’m a kid at heart, what can I say?). We enjoyed our hot drinks and people-watched for a while.

ConeyIsland

We had dinner plans with a friend of David’s in Manhattan that evening, so after finishing our drinks we went back to the train, which we road from Brooklyn back to Midtown Manhattan, so that David could see Times Square for the first time.

Read about our adventures in Times Square, the upper east side, and the village in my next NYC post! (5/20/18 update: the whole story has been posted!  See part 4, part 5, and part 6 now!) Did you enjoy this post? Have you visited NYC before? What’s your favorite neighborhood? Did you brave the subway? Tell me about it in the comments below! Share this post via Facebook or Twitter and, as always, follow me here on WordPress for more GREAT content like this!