Grad school is hard, and other things I learned during my blog blackout

You remember that scene in Jumanji in which Robin Williams emerges from the board game after 20 some-odd years and has NO IDEA what’s going on in his hometown?

Other than the whole trapped-in-a-jungle-board-game hell, I can completely relate.

In November, I started my first semester in the Master’s of Fine Arts program at Spalding University. My concentration is creative nonfiction. I’m not gonna lie — I thought this would be relatively easy-peasy to fit into my life. I was a journalist. I have a food blog. I got this creative nonfiction thing in the bag, I thought.

Holy shiitake, was I wrong.

I underestimated how challenging grad school would be, even if it was studying a topic that I loved in a low-residency/independent study. And I was naive enough to think I could “have it all” and go to school, blog, freelance, work a 9-to-5, play with my dog and give my husband some attention. That meant the blog went dark for longer than I anticipated.

Fortunately, I’ve just sent my last assignments for the semester, so school will be on hold until the fall. I’ll be back on the blog, eatin’ cheap and writing about it.

Before I dive right into food blogging, let me share a few lessons I’ve learned from my graduate school experience thus far:

  • I’m too old for all-nighters. I stayed up past midnight two nights in a row before one of my deadlines. I was tired and cranky for four days after that. But when I got my undergrad, I was staying up until 3 a.m. at least two nights a week and would turn around and go to class the next day. These days, mama needs a proper bedtime.
  • Coffee is king. My heart has always yearned for coffee, but the addiction has only solidified this semester. A little math:
    • Instant coffee > no coffee
    • Bad coffee > no coffee
    • Reheated day-old coffee > no coffee
    • Shame = 0
  • Pizza is the perfect food for higher learning. Pizza incorporates major food groups (if you get a supreme), you can get it just about anywhere at any time, and it’s good lukewarm. Nuff said.
  • Friends are important. My grad school friends get me. Not just because we’re tortured writers committed to documenting life as we see it (seriously, these are the conversations we have), but you need someone to bitch to in a Facebook message at 11 p.m. when you have no idea how to end an essay. Non-school friends are equally as important, especially when they forgive you for flaking on plans to stay inside and peck at a computer.
  • So is a supportive life partner. Poor Rob. At best, I’ve been inattentive. At worst, I’ve been a terror to be around, especially if caffeine hasn’t hit my nervous system. Rob not only restrained himself from fleeing in the night, but he has also been the most encouraging husband a gal could ask for. /mushielovetalk
  • Writing about food is easy. Writing about myself is hard. Need me to write a 500-word essay about the joys of a Panera bagel? DONE. Need me to write an essay about what my parents’ marriage taught me about love? HOLD ON THERE WITH YOUR HIPPIE REQUEST. Creative nonfiction is a lot of self-reflection. I could float by and get a degree by writing a grand piece about the joys of oatmeal, but higher education is supposed to be about challenging oneself. (Look at me, using words like “oneself.” Who do I think I am?) So please forgive me if I’m a little more reflective, self aware, and a general pain in the ascot.
  • Antiques Roadshow is the perfect program to play in the background while you write. Give it a try. That show is GOLDEN.

Got an idea for a post or podcast?

I finally got somewhat fancy and dedicated a Gmail account to this blog. 

If you want to give me a shout, just send an email to ashlee [dot] eats [at] gmail [dot] com (did I type that correctly, Internet?).

Here are some things you should send me:

  • Ideas for $10 Challenges 
  • Restaurant news (openings, closings, upgrades, downgrades)
  • Pictures of food (seriously, I’ll marvel at them)
  • Blog post ideas — guest posts included!

Here are some things you should not send me:

  • Naked pictures. Just throwin’ that out there. DON’T GET ANY IDEAS.
  • Anything that will break my computer (viruses and the like)
  • Spam (the email clutter, not the food — the food is acceptable)

Visit Louisville.am to hear the Deliciously Louisville podcast and other great shows

Want to hear me talk about food with fascinating Louisville people?

Me after a recording in the Louisville.am studio.
Me after a recording in the Louisville.am studio.

Check out Deliciously Louisville, my podcast on Louisville.am. I interview folks around town about dining, restaurants and whatever strikes our fancy.

I’m three episodes in, and I’ve had some great conversations with the first guests:

Each of the six shows (and counting) on Louisville.am focuses on some aspect of Louisville, such as Cardinal sports and family-friendly activities. I’m excited to be a part of this start-up collection.

View from the desk.
View from the desk.

I’m still getting the hang of this hosting thing. It’s a lot harder than I thought. There’s something about slipping on headphones and sitting in front of a microphone that turns me into a pile of nerves. Bear with me as I work out the kinks.

New episodes of Deliciously Louisville are available to download on Wednesdays. You can see the list of episodes and download them here.

Thanks for listening, guys. It really does mean a lot.

Paula Deen, a podcast and everything I missed during my social media blackout

This has been a crazy couple of weeks. Technically, kind of a crazy year. But let me start in the present.

I’ve been absent or only halfheartedly involved in the interwebs for the past two weeks because I’ve focused on completing my application for grad school. I sent my materials off yesterday (almost 24 hours before the deadline — improvement!).

Applying to grad school is part of my 2013 “if not now, then when?” mindset. This YOLO attitude has left me with:

  • A tattoo

My tattoo. I shall call her... Lulu.

  • The shortest haircut I’ve ever had

AshleeHaircut

  • The gumption to further my education

Since my graduate school application is officially out of my hands, it’s time to channel my anxiety into other useful pursuits, like blogging and cleaning out my inbox (I’m not ignoring you, I promise). Here are some highlights of what’s happened that I haven’t had a chance to properly dish on:

  • Paula Deen lost her damn mindDon’t even get me started. Seriously. I’ve debated sticking my toe into this hot-topic debate, but I tend to want everyone to play nice in the sandbox and not talk about politics, sex and race relations. HOWEVA, I feel very disappointed in her comments and what this says about where we are as a country in terms of empathy and understanding amongst people of different racial backgrounds. *sigh*
  • Mad Men’s sixth season endedThis has nothing to do with food or Louisville. But it was a major event in my life.
  • I have a podcast! I’ll devote a whole post to the podcast this week. The short story is that I’m the host of Deliciously Louisville with Ashlee Eats that you can download at louisville.am. Special thanks to Dan Vonderheide for making this happen.

A food blogger needs a food tattoo, right?

My tattoo. I shall call her... Lulu.
My tattoo. I shall call her… Lulu.

You’re looking at my lower back. My muffin top area, if you will. Upon that muffin top is a permanent slice of cheesecake, a tattoo that I’ve affectionately named Lulu.

This is my first and only tattoo. Kudos to the amazing tattoo artist Amanda Pepper in St. Louis for creating this. I knew I couldn’t go wrong with an artist who shares my love of desserts and Golden Girls.

I don’t want to wax poetically about what it symbolizes (visit the blog F Yeah Tattoos if you’re into that). I’ll simply say that Lulu is a little souvenir from my 20s that I get to carry with me for a lifetime. And it’s as cute as a button.

And the Grind winners are…

Thank you to everyone who entered to win one of two vouchers to Grind food truck. And, of course, thank you to Grind for being awesome and providing aforementioned vouchers.

And the winners of a voucher good for one voucher from Grind are …

  • J.J. V., who said, “Their new Veggie Burger is amazing! Filled with all that fiber goodness!”
  • Britt, who said, “I would love to try the veggie burger!”

Congratulations, winners. Look out for an email about getting your voucher.

[Giveaway] Celebrate an Ashlee Eats Facebook milestone with a chance to win a burger from Grind

Mary, one of my Moth StorySLAM buddies, getting a burger from Grind back in October.
Mary, one of my Moth StorySLAM buddies, getting a burger from Grind back in October. This could be you.

**This giveaway is closed. Thanks for commenting!**

 

Sometime around the new year, the Ashlee Eats Facebook page hit a great milestone — 100 fans, baby.

I think that calls for a giveaway.

Liz and Jesse, the couple behind the Grind gourmet burger truck and favorite of Ashlee Eats readers, have offered up two vouchers for a blog giveaway, each worth one burger from the Grind truck. These would be great to use at Truckin’ Ain’t Easy, a food truck gathering at Apocalypse Brew Works on Friday, Jan. 25 (click here for more details).

It’s easy to win. Just answer this question:

What’s your favorite burger from Grind? If you haven’t had one, what kind of Grind burger would you like to taste?

For a chance to win one of the vouchers, leave a comment on this blog post or the Ashlee Eats Facebook page. Just one comment per person, please.

Post your comment by 11:59 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 16. I will randomly choose two winners (one voucher each) on Thursday and post about it.

And thanks for reading and liking the Facebook page!

Leave a comment about Shakespeare to win a copy of the Menu and Hours iPhone app

Michelle Jones of Consuming Louisville and I want to give away some goodies.

Michelle is the creator of Menu and Hours, a Louisville-centric iPhone app that provides basic information about your favorite local restaurants. I may have talked about the app a time or two.

We want to share this app with the world (well, the iPhone world, but Android development is in progress). Any time that I write a $10 Challenge that features a restaurant on Menu and Hours, Michelle will give away two free copies of the app (usually $2.99 in the iTunes Store) to readers who leave a comment on the $10 Challenge post. 

The Bard’s Town, the most recent $10 Challenge contender, is featured on Menu and Hours. For a chance to win one of two free copies of Menu and Hours, answer the following Bard-themed question in the comments section of this post:

What is your favorite William Shakespeare play? (Or tell me why you don’t have a favorite Billy Shakes play.)

You have until Thursday to leave a comment. I’ll randomly select two names on Friday.

A little $10 Challenge housekeeping

I keep a little notebook in my purse in which I take notes on future blog posts, Twitter updates and freelance assignments.

That notebook is getting full fast.

I’ve been blessed to pick up some extra freelance writing assignments, including writing for LEO Weekly and the WFPL blog. I’m working on balancing those responsibilities to my first passion — this blog. I want to maintain a level of writing of which I can be proud.

To accomplish all this, I’m going to publish the $10 Challenge every other Friday. That will give me more time to write a good piece and meet other deadlines. So come back to the blog next Friday for the next $10 Challenge.