Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Found Interview!

I finally got ahold of a link to one of my press site interviews!  Start watching at about 12:00 in for my interview for STS-134 with Spaceflightnow.com! 

Friday, May 27, 2011

Happy Memorial Day Weekend

Whether you are taking advantage of the long weekend to travel or staying home and cooking out with friends and family (which is what I plan to do), I hope everyone has a wonderful Memorial Day weekend!

(pictures from here, here, here, and here)

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Chocolate Fix

When I can't get my hands on one of my mom's homemade yolk-less chocolate chip cookies or a homemade truffle/chocolate covered pretzel/etc, I have no qualms about making the jump to store bought chocolates. 
Three of my favorites are Ritter Sport Dark Chocolate with Whole Hazelnuts, No Pudge Fudge (an egg-free brownie), and Kinder Bueno bars - a candy bar I discovered in Europe consisting of a chocolate coated wafer filled with hazelnut cream.  Yes, it's a little hazelnut heavy, but that's my particular flavor profile preference.  The Ritter Sport is virtually guilt free as it is dark chocolate (anti-oxidants!) and has nuts (healthy fats!), plus it can be chunked into 16 mini squares that can break up the calorie intake a bit, if you have the willpower...  The No Pudge Fudge only requires the addition of a container of yogurt, so it's super easy to make, and it is also deliciously fudgy and tastes best served warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.   Mmmmm.  As for the Kinder Buenos, these are my kryptonite.  They're becoming a bit more popular in the States and an usually be found at european food stores or if you're lucky, like me, the import food aisle at your local grocery store.  It's dangerous...
When I go to the mall, it's virtually impossible to stop me from swinging by Godiva Chocolatier and picking up a few Dark Chocolate Raspberry Truffles.  They're by far my favorite offering at the store.  And if I'm feeling particularly naughty, I can find the ice cream version at the grocery store every now and then.  Absolutely sinful and ridiculously fattening as I can rarely hold myself to the recommended serving size...

(Top picture from here)

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Shuttle Simulators and Art Cars

 I had no anticipation of an actual "weekend" last week.  Friday was a bit of a slow day because we were waiting on data we would get during the focused inspection early Saturday morning and so my coworkers and I took the opportunity to let off some steam. 
One of my coworkers had scheduled an appointment for us in the shuttle simulator for that day and luckily it fit into our schedule perfectly!  I got to sit in the commander seat and feel a simulated launch.  Then our instructor let me take the controls and I got to perform a landing!  I actually did pretty good too!  After my turn, my coworker took the commander seat and I got to feel what it's like from the backseat.  Let me say, it's a good thing I took a dramamine before hand because it's a bit of a bumpy ride...
One of the cool things about the simulator, it attempts to recreate the images you would see during a normal launch and landing in the windows.  So during launch there is an image of the launch pad out of the left window and during reentry you see the coast of Florida and the VAB as you approach the runway.  One of the coolest things we saw in my opinion was the image of the external tank floating away once we reached orbit:

While we were in the simulator, all of my other coworkers were getting some fresh air an exercise with a bit organized kickball game!  So once we got out, we headed over to the field to have a drink and watch the game.
We all went for hibachi dinner afterwards followed by an early night since the new data would be coming in early in the morning.  It was a pretty wonderful surprise when I woke up to see emails stating that the new imagery indicated that the damage was not the full tile depth and therefore would not require an on orbit repair!  When I got in to work the analysts were able to run the thermal models quickly and it turned out that not only would we not require repair, we would be able to clear the vehicle for reentry that day!  It is a tradition on the Damage Assessment Team to get a special mission polo shirt that everyone wears on the day we clear the vehicle, so we sent one guy back to all of the hotel rooms to collect the shirts and then we went down to the Mission Management Team and gave the all clear for TPS!
The following day I stuck around for a while to spend some time with my good friend B!  We went out for brunch at an Irish pub and had bloody mary's and then headed over to Houston's famous Art Car Parade!  It is exactly what it sounds like and was a lot of fun - the parade was insanely long, I couldn't believe how many different types of painted/decorated cars there were.  There were tons of crazy, original designs, but I think my favorites were the nostalgic re-creations, namely the car from National Lampoon's Vacation complete with the dog leash hanging off of the back and a School House Rock van!
I got back to Florida pretty late on Sunday night and took Monday off to catch up on my sleep :0)

Friday, May 20, 2011

Seeing Red

Doesn't Emmerson look fantastic in her red pants???  I've been craving a pair all spring and the craving appears to be lasting into summer.  They're definitely statement making, but can be simple when paired with neutral basics.  The pair Emmerson sells at her site are pretty fantastic.  There are a couple of other pairs I've found on yoox too, here and here:
 What do you think?  Should I just go for it??

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Waking Up Wonky

So there's obviously been a lot going on in my life over the past week.  Last Friday I left straight from work to drive up to Gainesville to celebrate my cousin David's graduation from UF Law School!  He's put in so much work and I'm so proud of him!  This trip was planned a bit last minute, so I was up late the night before packing, then I spent 2.5 hours driving, followed by surprising my entire family and then dealing with the ensuing craziness, celebrating at the bar, and then passing out on my cousin's couch.  The next morning I had a delicious brunch with the fam while torrential downpours trapped me in the area.  I finally left for home, but it was a super stressful drive as there were moments I was gripping the steering wheel with white knuckles to keep the car from blowing off the road in the wind while also driving at 20 mph with my hazard lights on as the rain was so heavy I couldn't see the car in front of me. 
I got home with a completely tensed and stiff body.  J had friends in town for launch, but I was a horrible host and wound up taking a 4 hour nap to reset my body.  The next day I was more social, but I couldn't go out drinking with them late because I had to wake up at 3 am to support my 5 am interview at the KSC press site (which went well by the way and I'm working to find a video of it).  The launch was incredible and afterwards I had to arrange my stuff for travel to Houston.  By the time I got home I was completely exhausted and once again wound up being a bad host and taking a ridiculously long nap.  I was up late packing once again and had to wake up early the next day to catch my flight.

In Houston I got lunch, food to bring to the imagery lab, and then fell asleep once again around 5:30 in the afternoon since I had to be at work at 3 am for the imagery inspection. Wound up waking up at 12:30 am, which is a pretty good amount of sleep and I was okay being at work for a while.  After a 15 hour work day I was once again exhausted, though.  I met up with my friend B for dinner and then basically passed out.  Now I'm back at work at 8 am, which is at least somewhat normal.  But my body is already out of whack and the weird, sometimes lacking, sleep schedule is definitely taking it's toll on me.

As for what we found during the imagery, we have a deep tile damage on the lower right wing that requires us to do a focused inspection.  This means I'm out here working more wonky hours until we can clear this damage for reentry.  Focused inspection will use a tool on the end of the shuttle's extendable arm to take a 3-D digital impression of the damage so we have a more accurate geometry to use in our analysis.  It is a somewhat similar damage to what we saw on STS-118, so I'm hopeful we won't have to perform an on orbit repair.  You can get an idea of the damages we're working at this link.

(launch photo courtesty of a coworker, alarm and airplane photo from here)

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Go Girls!

The Huffington Post reports that census figures show that women outnumber men for the first time when it comes to finishing college and holding advanced degrees.  100,000 more women have masters degrees than men, although men still hold higher numbers in the business, science and engineering subcategories.  In terms of finishing college, women surpass men in earning bachelor's degrees, by 1.5 million.  Go women!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Did you see??

So Endeavour launched on it's final mission this morning, headed to the international space station!  I was up at 3:00 this morning to get all gussied up in order to support a 5:00 interview at the KSC press site.  The interview went well (see the screen shot my coworker captured of it below), some people even saw it despite the insane hour.  I stayed at the press site to watch the launch and it was gorgeous, although the cloud cover limited visibility after the first few seconds.  And the shock waves!!! Oh my goodness, they were the strongest I have ever felt during a shuttle launch, how exhilarating!!! However now that the excitement has died down I am completely and totally exhausted. Time to go home and nap before I pack my bags to head for Houston!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Reminder: Shuttle Launch Attempt Monday Morning!

Don't forget!  Endeavour is scheduled to launch on Monday morning (May 16) at 8:56 EST!!!  And if you're up early enough, I am scheduled to be interviewed on SpaceFlightNow from the Kennedy Space Center press site around 5:00 am EST on Monday morning for their live news webcast so you should tune in!

Enjoy your weekend!

(photo from here)

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Increasing the Awesome

This is a video that has been making the rounds at KSC, and I think most of us here agree :0)
Also, here are some websites that list all of the current technologies that are a direct result of NASA research.  Proof that what little money each of us puts into space research actually does benefit our lives directly:
NASA @ Home and City
NASA Space Place
NASA Spinoffs
Top 20 New NASA Spinoff Technologies

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

100th Post Giveaway!

I just realized that my last post was my 100th!  Small steps I know, but I'm pretty proud of myself for keeping up with my resolution to blog. In honor of this small landmark, I have decided to have my first giveaway to thank those of you who keep up with my daily musings.  Please write in the comment section of this post and let me know how I'm doing to enter, and the winner will be chosen randomly on Thursday.  
What will you win?  Well I'm starting off small but impressive.  Winner will get a package of mint chocolate chip astronaut ice cream as well as a STS-134 insignia patch and pin!  STS-134 is the upcoming shuttle mission (the one that was supposed to go up a couple of weeks ago, but is now scheduled to launch in 6 days!) and it is an important mission as it is bringing the AMS, or Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer that will help researches study the formation of the universe and look for dark matter and antimatter, up to be mounted to the international space station!

Step by Step

After over a month of no relaxing weekends you'd think I'd be done with projecting for a while.  But I've always wanted to do something to the ugly, dirty, carpet covered steps that are the first thing you see when walking into my home.  These pictures are proof that stairs do not have to be purely functional.  My favorites are probably the  Je Monte, Tu Montes, Il Monte, Nous Montons, which means I climb, you climb, he climbs, we climb - so great - and the numbered one.  I'm thinking for my house that I'd probably try more of the style in the other picture, though, with the painted/stained step and the under portion either painted/wallpapered/tiled.  I kind of love the idea of backsplash type tiles.  No matter what I do, there will definitely be a satisfaction in ripping up the disgusting carpet first!  What are your thoughts?

(some of the pictures from Apartment Therapy, which also has some other great stairwell designs)

Monday, May 9, 2011

Busy Bee

How was everyone's weekend?  Did the mothers out there sit back and relax and let their family pamper them?  My mom told me she spent her weekend taking in the finally gorgeous and non-rainy weather in Chicago and requesting my dad perform the first official grill-out of the spring.  And my family in south Florida all got together for a giant Chinese food feast (so Jewish). 

Not being a mother and not being able to travel to see the mothers of my family due to the unpredictable shuttle delays, I spent my weekend running around town and checking errands off my list.  I FINALLY got an oil change (only about 5,000 miles overdue...), and while the car was in the shop J and I ran across the street to Walmart to pick up a few things (including these fruit bites that I'm obsessed with!).  After that we made stops at the drugstore and Target, where we picked up some of their wild caught frozen salmon.  That night we grilled out ourselves for the first time since we fixed up the backyard.  In addition to the salmon, J also grilled up some adobo chili spiced beef strips and I used some Masa de Harina (corn meal) to make homemade corn tortillas!  We paired those with some of my specialty guac for incredible tacos. 

The following day we started off laying in bed and reading, which I haven't done in a while.  We followed that up with more errands - dropping off some stuff at a friend's house, grabbing a bite to eat, buying some picture frames for new artwork I recently purchased, getting fluffy and soft new towels to replace the old ones I've had since freshman year of college, and stocking up on yummy food stuffs at Super Target. I may or may not have also picked up a dress or two as well :0)

Friday, May 6, 2011

Happy Mother's Day Weekend!

Another quiet relaxing weekend planned with my to-do list only consisting of getting an oil change and a long and cheerful Mother's Day convo with both my mom and grandma.  This will not be a travel weekend for me, so I won't be able to see them, but lovely personalized cards are on their way from Tiny Prints, a great online card and stationary shop I just discovered that offers some absolutely delightful options.  I don't generally do too much more for this particular holiday as I enjoy showing my appreciation throughout the year with weekly phone calls, girls' days out when I do visit, and small, thoughtful gifts for no reason at all other than they are both awesome!

A quick shuttle update too: don't expect launch to happen before NEXT weekend at the earliest now.  Root cause of the issue and repairs have been finalized, but work still needs to be finished up.  I'll hopefully have a slightly better idea of the launch date by the end of the day today...

(image from here)

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Happy Cinco de Mayo!

I was up late last night making a huge batch of guacamole for my coworkers today in honor of Cinco de Mayo.   I was also running late this morning and forgot it in the fridge....  Go figure.  My coworkers seem to love mexican themed foods.  When we have pot luck lunches it always winds up centering around tacos, fajitas, salsas, etc.  And every time we have said pot luck, I always get voted to bring one of two things, my guac or my key lime pie.  I can't tell you how many times I've made these two items for my coworkers as I've truly lost count.  Here are the recipes for those of you looking for some Cinco de Mayo inspiration:
The guac is really easy.  I mash up about 5-6 ripe avocados with a fork (gives it better texture than a food processor), then add in about 1/2 a chopped red onion, 2 chopped vine ripened tomatoes, 1-2 seeded and chopped jalepenos (if you like spicier guac, feel free to leave in some of the seeds), a handful of chopped cilantro, juice of one lime, a heaping spoonful of sour cream, and salt to taste.  I do a bite-sized chop on the onion and tomato, a small dice on the jalepeno, a rough chop on the cilantro, and I taste test with corn chips as they contribute more salt to the overall taste.
Key Lime Pie
½ cup ground pretzels
½ cup graham cracker crumbs
¼ cup sugar
1/3 cup melted butter

Set oven to 350 degrees.  Combine ingredients in a bowl until crumbs are all moist.  Then pat into a buttered pie tin to form an even crust along the bottom and sides.  Bake for about 10 minutes or until crust starts to brown slightly around the edges.

3 egg yolks
1 ½ tsp fresh lime zest
14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
2/3 cup lime juice (I use about 5-6 fresh squeezed regular limes and top it off with store bought lime juice if needed)

Whisk egg yolks with an electric mixer on high speed until fluffy and lighter in color (about 2-3 minutes).  Add the lime zest and the can of sweetened condensed milk.  Beat until mixture gets slightly thicker.  Add 2/3 cup of fresh lime juice and mix until just blended.  If green color is desired, add 1-2 drops of green food coloring as well.  Add the filling into the crust and bake in 350 degree oven for 10 minutes or until the filling is set (jiggle the pan to test for filling movement). 

Let pie cool and serve with whipped cream.  I usually top with extra lime zest for garnish.

Whipped cream:
1 cup heavy whipping cream
3 Tbs powdered sugar

Mix in electric mixer until stiff peaks form.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Can't.... Stop.... Buying.... Shoes......

My shoe obsession is reaching epic proportions.  I have 3 new pairs of shoes I haven't even worn yet and I'm still craving multiple other pairs.  I may be at a point where I should seek intervention, because I CAN'T STOP!!!  I want all of these.  Maybe once the shuttle finally launches and I start putting in some overtime during mission support then I'll be able to justify one or two pairs...

These nude-hued beauties are from Gap!!! They're part of the Design Edition collection and they are so gorgeous. I'm sure they'll sell out soon enough, and so I'm trying to bargain with myself over whether or not to buy them.

These sparkly J. Crew stunners are a more wearable (and slightly more affordable) version of a pair of glitter Miu Miu wedges that I've been obsessing over.  Hoping they don't sell out before they make it to the sale rack...

Teal/turquoise/aqua is my favorite family of colors.  Pair that with the fact that this pair by Heavy Machine, a brand I just recently discovered that creates the most incredible styles, is a near style match for a sold out pair of Marni shoes I wish I had known about sooner, and they've been floating at the top of my list.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Chicago Girl

After 7 years in Florida, I may have found my go to places and acclimated to the temperatures here, but I will forever and always be a Chicago girl.  Although many cities have come close (notably Seattle and San Fran), Chicago will always top my list of best cities in the United States.  I love the parks, the museums, the food, the plays and musicals, the easy to access public transportation, the sports teams, the profusion of spring flowers, the quirks of each neighborhood, and of course the people.  And to get my fill between trips back home, here are some Chicago themed picks to proclaim my adoration:
necklace | t-shirt | cuff

I'm pretty sure I'm going to cave on the shirt, I just love it.  The necklace has been on my wish list for a while too.
city print | adler poster | papercut card | heart map
The city print is a new discovery, but I'm quite taken with it.  The Adler Planetarium poster is the perfect combination of vintage chic and space geekery (so me!).  And the papercut of Lake Michigan with a star representing Chicago is actually a card, but I think it would be so great framed and hung!
And just in case I need a deep dish fix, one of my favorite Chicago pizza establishments ships their famous deep dish pizza for long distance consumption!

(skyline picture from here)

Monday, May 2, 2011

Lovely Birthday Weekend and Shuttle Update

Well, the only upside to the shuttle not launching on time (more on that later) is that I didn't have to spend my birthday on an airplane.  Instead I had a wonderful weekend with J filled with lazy mornings, a trip to Orlando for shoes and a Whole Foods extravaganza, lunch out on Sunday with my friend R, and even a little productiveness regarding the planting of herbs and flowers in my garden.  Speaking of flowers, check out the incredible bouquets that J and my cousin C got me!  I'm such a sucker for flowers :o)  In addition to my cheerful blooms, I also got a bottle of my favorite perfume, a fabulous Kate Spade necklace, and Tina Fey's new book Bossypants that I plan to start when I finish my current read (I can hardly wait, Tina is HILARIOUS!).

As for the shuttle, an electrical box needs to be removed and replaced, which puts launch currently at no earlier than Sunday, May 8 at 12:09 pm EST.  Keep in mind, this is "no earlier than", not "definitely scheduled for" as the launch date not only relies on continued troubleshooting of the electrical box and all associated components, but the scheduled Atlas launch at the end of the week...