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You may find it surprising that, although I am a PhD student in English, there are plenty of commonplace words that I would not be able to define for you. Most recently, I heard a word that I had not heard in a very long time – about four years, actually – and that seemed like a ghostly echo from some long forgotten past.
The word: summer.
Can you please use that word in a sentence?
“In ancient times, the period between two academic semesters, when occurring during the months of June, July, and August, was known as summer vacation.”
“Of course, recent empirical studies conducted by a reputable PhD student in English Literature and her colleagues have demonstrated that the notion of “summer vacation” is purely mythical.”
I’m guessing 90% of you out there know that feeling. As the awesome lady of manners Maggie Smith once famously asked: “Wh-what is a weekend?”
Summer may be in full swing for most of the educational world, but here in Grad School Land, every minute not spend researching dissertation materials is either spetd worrying about not spending enough time researching dissertation materials, or girding our loins for the Back-to-School teaching curriculum that, lo and behold, is only two months away. Now somebody tell me, WHEN AND HOW DID THAT HAPPEN?
And I don’t want to hear any Interstellar jokes, okay?
Just the other day, I was mulling over the prospect of starting another school year and started doodling up a list in my notebook. (Note: I love love love making lists!) After jotting down a few thoughts, I realized what I was writing and scribbled a huge title across the top of the page:
<10 Things I Absolutely Do Not Want to Do After Getting Home from a Long Day at School!> <– “Work” also works. Ha ha ha, get it? “Work” works….Never mind.
Because I am incredibly bored and determined not to work until I have run out of every single procrastination technique known to mankind, I’ve decided to share my list here – what do you think? Was it a good use of the 30 minutes that I will never get back, and that will never be redirected to the research on which I should have been working? Would you add anything else to this list?
10. Be on after-hours behavioral patrol duty with tiny human beings. Granted, I don’t even have kids of my own–but it sounds like a raw deal if I came home from an entire day school/work, only to play babysitter until that blissful moment when I finally wrangled my children into their beds. To all the parents out there: #RESPECT.
9. Think. Because why would you even when you don’t have to.
8. Put my shoes on the shoe rack where they belong. Ugh, let me fling them off like an irresponsible messy person alreadaaayyyyyyyyyyy, I’m HUNGRAY
7. Clean things. Some weeknights I get home from school, spill an entire pot of tea over my countertop, and slop on a few paper napkins to soak up the major damage before trudging off to bed, leaving the rest of the clean-up to Future Ala. So sorry, Future Ala. Really.
6. Do my finances. NO NO NO NO NO. I DON’T WANNA BE A REAL GROWNUP. (This one applies at all times, school or not.)
5. Slave over the stove making dinner. Simple, easy, magic. Is that so much to ask for?
4. “Wow” people. The only “wows” happening around here should be “Wow, I love my PJs, Care Bear blankets, and Netflix so much.”
3. Anything that involves looking at things. Granted, this half-contradicts my earlier point about Netflix–but it’s surprising how much you can get out a HIMYM episode without actually having to keep your eyes open.
2. Deal with BS or drama. Because we have to smile and put up with enough BS at work/school as it is – don’t you dare bring that a single step past my threshold!
1. Work some more. And yet, isn’t that the wonderful defining attribute of a researcher? Maggie Smith, were you secretly a PhD student when you asked us what a weekend was? YOU UNDERSTAND ME SO WELL.
In an act of infinite wisdom and surprising proactivity, I decided it’d be a good idea (during this fabled “summer vacation” period) to do a bit of experimenting and look for shortcuts that I can actually use during the school year to avoid the items on my list of 10 Not-to-Do Things After School/Work. And lucky for me, too – because otherwise, I wouldn’t have this awesome Vegetarian Tortilla Soup recipe to share with all of you today!
To be honest, tortilla soup is one of my favorite things in the world. Ever since I became 95% vegetarian, however, most tortilla soups served in restaurants became off-limits because they are usually made with chicken broth and/or actual chicken meat. Fortunately, I researched a few recipes and discovered that it’s actually really easy to make a vegan-friendly version of tortilla soup on my own: all it takes is some fresh produce, spices, salsa, broth, and 30 minutes.
BAM! I was so excited. Take that, hangrays!
So a few days ago, I went a-shoppin’ at Walmart and picked up my ingredients: some Pace Picante chunky mild salsa and Swanson’s vegetable broth.
Since Campbell’s is having some great back-to-school promotions, I also swooped in for some Prego pasta sauce (I grabbed three cheese marinara for pasta later this week) and SpaghettiOs for, you know, SpaghettiO’ing.
As a lifelong student, I’m always stoked for cheats that make Back-to-School loads of FUN rather than a drag, which is why I don’t have any qualms adding this awesome plug for back-to-school food savings/hacks. For those of you who are anticipating this coming fall already, this soup is BOMB. And for my coupon-clippers, I thought I’d throw in what Campbell’s doing by way of sales for quick weeknight meals (you can find all of the coupons for the seven fantastic products here):
- Pace® Picante Sauce – Save $1 on any Two (2) jars of Pace® Picante Sauce or Salsa.
- Swanson® Chicken Broth – Save $0.50 on any TWO (2) cartons of Swanson® broth (26oz. or larger).
- Prego® Italian Sauces – Save $1 on any TWO (2) Prego® Italian sauces.
- SpaghettiOs® – Save $0.40 on any THREE (3) Campbell’s® SpaghettiOs® pastas.
Is there anything that I missed on the list? What’s the LAST thing you want to do post-school/work?
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 zucchini, chopped
- 1 small head of broccoli, chopped
- 1 roma tomato, chopped
- 1 cup frozen corn
- 32 fluid ounces vegetable stock
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 cup mild chunky salsa
- 1/2 cup tortilla chips, crumbled
- 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese (optional)
- Heat oil in a large heavy pot. Toss in chopped onions and garlic – sauté for a few minutes, until onions began to get tender. Add zucchini, broccoli, and tomato. Continue to sauté for an additional 2 to 3 minutes.
- Add frozen corn, vegetable stock, cumin, lemon juice, and salsa to the pot. Bring to a simmer and continue to heat over medium-low heat for 25 to 30 minutes.
- Serves soup in bowls, topping with tortilla chips and cheese. Enjoy while hot