Staying Busy, Making Cheese

Being Cheesey

I am taking this really cool food science class called “Food Facts and Fads” and our first assignment was to make cheese! Yes! You heard me! CHEESE. A simple cheese that involved adding acid to boiling milk to make the milk coagulate. This came at a perfect time since my milk was about to expire. Anyway, It was super cool (although it didn’t taste fantastic). I have documented the process for your enjoyment (and because I had to for the grade).

And TA DA!!! My plated cheese 🙂


Studio Things

This semester, I am taking the Baltimore Ecosystem Study studio which looks at a neighborhood in the Baltimore area that has potential for ecological designs. Baltimore is a “shrinking city” which basically means people are moving out of it and leaving lots of vacant lots (Detroit is another city like this). These vacant lots and buildings have the potential to be turned into so pretty cool community spaces like urban farms, parks, and restoration projects. Right now, we are in the inventory and analysis phase where we look at what’s there and how that might influence our designs.

I looked at environmental educational awareness and green economy for Baltimore and Johnston Square (which is our neighborhood of focus). We got to make lots of maps in GIS. For our presentations, we had to make a 10 minute power point. But it wasn’t just a power point… nO. we had to RECORD our voices and then listen to them IN CLASS. In mine, you could hear my birds in the background. (Don’t worry though, I fixed that). The presentations are to be sent out to people in Baltimore that have taken an interest in the Johnston Square area in terms of renovating areas of the neighborhood. It ought to be interesting.


As you may or may not know, I am helping out with graphic things for a big annual student-run landscape architecture conference/networking event being held at the one and only Pennsylvania State University! Things are heading up in the communications committee. There was recently a competition to design an advertisement that will be printed in Landscape Architecture Magazine which is like the official magazine for landscape architects. Very exciting! I was chosen as a finalist with another dude and we basically smushed our two designs together to create one fancy Ad!

Here is my design:

And here is the final design:


Pretty Spiffy!

Getting Paid to Judge People

Yes! I am a undergrad teaching assistant for the 3rd year planting design studio! It has been an interesting experience so far, as most people do not actively seek my opinion on things. They had a deadline last night so I figured I should stop by and make sure no one was crying haha. Just kidding that doesn’t happen until the end of the semester! Anyway, they seemed appreciative of my being there which was nice!

Anyway, enjoy the rest of your day!


Survival of the Most Caffeinated: Finals Week

Just kidding, I don’t like coffee. But I thought it was a good title.

I am done with finals!!! That’s right! I’m DONE! As in, I finished my first semester of college EVER! (And I’m fairly confident that I didn’t fail)

So now I’m home, and enjoying the fact that I could go sit in the kitchen and eat food for as long as I want, because there’s enough food in the house for me to do that.

So finals was not too bad for me since I only had two of them, but I basically did nothing but study for the past four to five days, which has led me to some interesting realizations:

Firstly, I discovered that I can draw an extremely accurate depiction of endosymbiosis (which is when a bacteria swallowed a cyanobacteria and, from that cyanobacteria, gained the ability to photosynthesize. And this, the primary producer was born!):


I thought my cyanobacteria was cute 🙂

I also realized that I even make puns in my typos:


HAHA! Did you find it? I type up all the notes I’ve taken during lecture to study for my exams and I was looking over them the night before the test when I came across this typo. I’m pretty sure I laughed at my self for a good five minutes. Pants or plants? Genes or jeans? These are the real questions we need to be asking.

Thirdly, I realized that I know way too much about soils. I was walking back from my last exam and it IMG_5652(1)was raining and I took this picture.

What I was thinking was: there was runoff due to saturation excess and that Penn Sate really needed to get their surface runoff under control to reduce erosion. And, what it with this soil structure!? It’s terrible! I mean, clearly these soil aggregate are not well flocculated. There are too many impervious surfaces on campus. And then I had to tell myself to stop thinking because the soils test was yesterday.


I would now like to compare my desk at the beginning of the semester to what it looks like now:

In the beginning…


Aaaaaand then at the end of the semester…


Somehow, my desk actually got way messier than when I first moved in.

Sidenote: Shout-out to my awsome mother for suprising me with the things I needed the most during finals week!



Can Someone Find My Motivation? I Think I Lost It

Finals week is upon us, and the students are reacting in the that only students would. We are being proactive and getting a lot of work done in a super relaxed manner… HAHAHAAHAHAHAHAAH. Let’s be realistic here. As one would expect, finals are being met with panic and procrastination. Luckily for me, I got all my final stuff out of the way (I had an 2 essay-type things and a studio final)! I still have to study though. Blaaah.

Anyhoo. [Insert transitional sentence here]

Our final project for studio was to create a design ‘board’ that showcased some of the work that we did over the semester. But the photos we used had to be tied together by some common ‘theme.’ My idea was to use photos that showed how to get to my final product, I had to go though the process of drawing things over and over and over and over again (That is called iterations). I titled my board, “I Use So Much Trace” because it’s probably the truest thing to be said about first year studio.The professors seemed to think it was funny which made me happy 🙂 So here it is:



Also, just because of why not, I’m posting excerpts from my two essays I had to write 🙂 I read to Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan for this essay, and I definitely recommend reading it if you’re interested in the state of modern agriculture or are looking for a book to read that makes it sound like you read books for your edification (Ironically, I leaned the word ‘edification’ on an episode of Phineas and Ferb). But seriously, this book will make you completely rethink the ethics (or lack there of) involved in the production of food. However, if you don’t want to feel sort of guilty about eating meat for the rest of your life, don’t read it.

Fixing Our Problems with Duct Tape: The Unsustainable Nature of Modern Agriculture

…The mass-production of livestock is, within its own system, unsustainable. The increasing push for meat has resulted in the creation of over-crowded warehouses full of animals lying in their own poop. Conditions this insufferable will, undoubtedly, lead to diseases that must be treated with antibiotics and other chemicals. The animal feed is, of course, made with cheap, federally subsidized corn. This feed turns out to be a problem for a multitude of reasons. Ruminant animals like cattle are built to digest grasses – not corn – and this diet change causes health issues (Pollan 77). The additives in chicken feed cause the poor birds to grow faster than their little legs can handle, so most of them can’t even support their own weight. As Pollan observes, “most of the problems that afflict feedlot cattle can be traced either directly or indirectly to their diet” (77). But of course, corporations rationalize that they are making money, and corn is cheap so it works. Here is a clear example of the second contradiction of capitalism. By shoving all the animals into dark warehouses to maximize space and profit, they are degrading the quality and health of the animals they are selling (Robbins et. al. 106). The way I see it, these corporations are trying to fix their crumbling foundation with duct tape. Duct tape is a good temporary fix for a lot of things, but it won’t last for the long haul; in other words, it’s not sustainable.

Ooooo. Chills.

And then there’s my experimental design project for plant biology. We had to ask a scientific question to research and then make up an experiment for it. Here is a bit of my ‘background research’ that I did. Please don’t feel obligated to read it because it’s boring. I was checking the paper for spelling a grammar errors and all I could hear was the voice of any of the adults that talk in Charlie Brown.

Scientific Question:

How does exposure to a static, electro-magnetic field affect germination of pea seeds?

By Zoe Roane-Hopkins

Many scientists have begun experiments testing the specific effects of electromagnetic forces, with magnetic fields that are stronger and weaker than that of the Earth. There are also a large number of studies testing the germination and growth of different plants using variables including the strength of the magnetic field, frequency, length of exposure, and direction of the field in relation to the seeds. Over all of my research, it appears that scientists attribute changes in germination, inhibition, root growth, water uptake, and nutrient uptake to plant exposure to electromagnetic fields of various strengths (Selim et. al, 2011).These changes were positive or negative, depending on the variable being tested. Martínez et. al. say that the effects of electromagnetic forces are difficult to test because there are so many processes that are influenced, and there are many variables within the question that can be tested (Martínez et. al., 2009).


So that’s fun.

Also, in lab a while back, we propagated plants from stem cuttings and mine lived! It’s so cute!


[said in a very sarcastic voice] As you can see in the background, I keep a very neat desk.

Side note: In the featured image at the top of this post, my computer screen is displaying a draft of this very post that I am writing right now! ooh. Blogception.


Pollan, Michael. The Omnivore’s Dilemma. New York: Penguin Books, 2006. Print.

Martínez, E., Carbonell, M.V., Flórez, M., Amaya, J.M., and Maqueda, R. (2009). Germination of Tomato Seeds (Lycopersicon esculentum L.) Under a Magnetic Field. International Agrophysics 23, 45-49.

Selim, A. H., El-Nady, M. F. (2011). Physio-anatomical responses of drought stressed tomato plants to magnetic field. Acta Astronautica 69, 387-396.