Coming up for air

Was my last post really all the way back in November?

I mean, I’ve sure been busy since then, but it’s not like I haven’t had anything noteworthy to post. After finishing my GRE test, I started racking up the hours at work. Two days before Thanksgiving, I was coming home late from work after having picked up some dinner when a car pulled out in front of me on the highway. I hit the side of that pickup truck going 60mph, but managed to walk away with whiplash, bruising, and some intense soreness for the next week.

Of course, that hampered my plans to spend all of that holiday time working on my grad school applications. I hammered them out anyways, though, because many of them were due on the 1st of December. I must have done something right, because after waiting for almost two months I received the first of many emails scheduling interviews and visits.

Then, almost two weeks ago I received my first official acceptance! I got the call somewhat early in the morning (I’ll admit, I may have been asleep), and I was high on cloud 9 all day. I then had the somewhat twisted pleasure of being able to reject the school that rejected me during my first application season:) That probably felt better than it should have!

I’m now in the process of whittling down the offers. I’ve been to visit one school and have an upcoming visit to another. I’ve also been waitlisted at another choice pending funding, though I still have at least a month and a half before I hear back from the National Science Foundation regarding my fellowship application. Once I hear back from them I should be ready to make my decision just in time for my birthday!

Either way, I will be attending grad school for my Ph.D. in psychology next fall! To celebrate, I’ve purchased myself a few small gifts. The first is a self-inking book stamp (“From the library of…”) to mark the books I’ll be buying over the course of the next 5-6 years. I’m also buying a tea press and a bag of my new favorite tea. If you’re a black tea fan, I’d highly recommend buying a bag of Tolstoy’s Sip. It’s smokey, with fruity hints of strawberries, blackberries, and currants.

So. That’s been life since November. I’m still working hard to save money for the move, wherever that ends up being. I’ve had time to knit and read for pleasure, and I hope to indulge in more of both before I start my program in August. Life is good, folks. Life is good.

GRE Tips from a Two-Time Test Taker

That’s right! I’m a no-good, lousy,  two-timing GRE test taker!

Well, maybe I’m not no-good or lousy, but I definitely took the GRE a second time. My first time scores were alright, but they weren’t outstanding for a psychology applicant. My scores: Q-153, V-158, A-4.0. I had a 311 overall, but my quant scores and writing scores were just barely above the 50th percentile. I applied to graduate school in 2013 and was rejected across the board.

I’m still in the middle of my second round of applications, so I can’t tell you whether or not I’ve been accepted. However, I knew that I’d need higher GRE scores to make up for my less-than-stellar GPA. This time around, I approached things differently and raised my overall score by 9 points, 6 of which were on my verbal score.

First things first – I bought Magoosh. Magoosh will be your best friend thoughout this entire process. My quantitative scores were very low, and most psychology programs want students with scores at least in the 60th percentile. A 153  equated to the 52nd percentile. Like many of you, I don’t remember my middle school and early high school math classes because I don’t use any of the formulas on a daily basis. Magoosh helped refresh my memory, but it also walked me through problems step-by-step. Not only do they have lesson videos and videos on how to approach certain question types, but they provide a video explaination for each of their 500+ practice questions so you know exactly how to work the problem.

Magoosh provides a score range predictor that is activated after you complete 50 practice questions. From what I’ve read on sites like GradCafe, Magoosh’s range tends to predict your scores as lower than what they will actually be. I found this to be true as well. I scored above what they thought I would, and I’m okay with that!

I tried to practice at least an hour a day for four months, but more often than not I would skip some days and then binge watch videos on others. If you want to keep to something a bit more structured, Magoosh does have free study plans depending on what you want to study and how long you have to study. I kept a notebook nearby to take notes on the math videos, and I used the free ETS math practice set to work on problems away from the computer. After two months, I took a practice test to see where I was at. I worked on the types of problems that stumped me the most. The week of my test I took a second Magoosh practice test, and then took the ETS PowerPrep II test. Each time I went back to fix my mistakes. You have to do this. You need to identify which types of questions cause problems, and you need to avoid those traps. Like the old saying goes, “practice makes perfect.”

The first time I took the test, I tried using flashcards. Magoosh had a free flashcard app that I used, and it seemed to work well. However, I’d find myself forgetting the words I had learned less than a week after memorizing them. This time around I tried something different. Instead of memorizing useless vocabulary, I read. Specifically, I read engaging novels that I had been meaning to read, like Sherlock Holmes, on my Kindle. When I came across a word I didn’t know, I’d highlight it and read the definition. I found that when I saw a word in context, I was more likely to remember that word. That, and I could “study” without really needing to study. It was more like a nice break…and if I so happened to learn a few new words? Well, then that was a plus! If you don’t have a Kindle, the Kindle app is free and can be downloaded on a variety of devices. Certain e-books are free on Amazon, and you may be able to download more books from your local library.

I wish I had some tips for the writing section. I think it’s kind of a crapshoot. My score only increase 0.5 points on paper, but percentile-wise it jumped from the 52nd to the 80th. I mean, seriously: I wrote an essay on Marshawn Lynch and the Seattle Seahawks. I guess everyone respects Beastmode. Just take the time to read and fully understand what the prompt is asking, write a quick outline, and then stick to a standard five paragraph essay and you’ll be fine. The Magoosh videos were pretty helpful for understanding what this section required as well.

I left the test with a Q-156, V-164, and a 4.5 on the writing section. 320 is a great overall score, and every section was over the 60th percentile. If you’re getting ready for the GRE, take the time to figure out which kinds of test prep materials work for you. Take a practice test and figure out where your weaknesses are, and then focus on those sections for as long as you can. You’ll want to try and take the test before Oct 15 if your application deadline is Dec 1 in order to ensure that your test will be graded and sent in time.

Well, that’s all I have for now! As for me, I’m just happy I’ll never have to spend another damn cent on any ETS related material. I mean, besides sending my score reports to all of my schools. Sigh.

Halloween :)

This is the first year that Spencer has been home for Halloween!

Even though we never seem to get any trick-or-treaters at our house, we decided that we’d dress up the front entrance of our home with a few jack-o-lanterns. Since this was Spencer’s first time home for Halloween since we’ve been together, this is also the first time we’ve carved pumpkins (and completed a goal on my 101 in 1001 list).

This is also the first time Spencer has ever carved a pumpkin with a stencil. Pretty good Jimi Hendrix, no?

Jimi and the Doctor.

Jimi and the Doctor.

And, of course, we’ve decided to dress up our dog so she looks awesome when we take her for a walk on Halloween night. We love our little lion!


Happy (almost) Halloween!

Rewards for a Job Well Done

Last week I had a meeting with my lab advisor about the National Science Foundation fellowship I’ve been working on. I was talking through some issues I had with my research proposal, and we discussed how my mindset for this project should focus on this as a learning experience versus a fellowship that I have to win. Of course, I’m more than a bit competitive when it comes to anything academic related. I’d love to win more than anything, but I also recognize that a lot of fellowship winners are second-time applicants who received great feedback during their first application cycle.

As we ended the meeting, she noted that I had a lot of projects and grad application stuff on my plate. She encouraged me to reward myself after finishing my projects by doing something relaxing that I really enjoy doing. Well, last night I finally finished my proposal draft and sent it out for feedback, so today I’m taking a moment to do what I want. This includes:


Sweet potatoes I pulled up from the garden! Yummy :)

Sweet potatoes I pulled up from the garden! Yummy:)


I've just cast on some socks for my husband. I'm using a hand-dyed super-wash merino sock wool in TMNT by Oatmeal and Fox. Cowabunga!

I’ve just cast on some socks for my husband. I’m using a hand-dyed super-wash merino sock wool in TMNT by Oatmeal and Fox Dyeworks. Cowabunga!

and just sitting and relaxing with my cuddlebug cats.

Especially Darcy, who is a momma's boy and loves chin rubs almost as much as basking in the sun.

Especially Darcy, who is a momma’s boy and loves chin rubs almost as much as basking in the sun.

Today won’t be all fun and games, but I will take a moment to reward myself for powering through a horrible cold last week to get this project done in a timely manner. Here’s to powering through the rest of this month…and the rest of this year, really. Grad school applications are time consuming to say the least!

Taking Advantage of the Weekend

As I’m typing this right now, I’m sitting on my back porch in shorts and a light fleece sweater with a blanket wrapped around my legs. Now, I won’t go so far as to say that Autumn has reached Florida, but we are experience a cold snap that is supposed to drop the temperature into the low 60s tonight! After having lived in Washington all of my life, that doesn’t seem like a low nighttime temp for this time of year, but I guess it will have to do. We’ll take advantage of it over the next two days, too, because it’s supposed to be back in the 70s and 80s by the middle of the week.

Since it was cool this morning, we took the time to mow our lawn, trim some hedges, and plant a thornless blackberry plant. I also had to kill two hornet nests, and I learned a little about lawn mower maintenance. Did you know you had to change the oil in a lawn mower? How about changing the spark plug? We’ve had this mower for 3ish years, and haven’t done either. Needless to say our lawn mower doesn’t work really well at all:) Oops!

On Saturday, we had an all-out feast in honor of the first UW Huskies home game of the season! We had a kick ass charcuterie plate, apples and caramel, hummus and pita, carrots, puppy chow, Not Your Father’s Root Beer, and brie en croute with local blackberry honey (which I may or may not have finished off for dinner tonight). It was a lot of food for two people, but it was perfect for two people who had spent the morning kayaking.

Which, wow! I can’t believe I had to move down to Florida to get interested in kayaking. I’ve only ever gone canoeing, which is no where near as fun. In fact, if someone told me that tandem canoeing was the highest stated cause of divorce in the country, I’d take them at their word. However, my husband and I went kayaking two weekends ago, and we’ve already decided that this will be our weekend activity. We can rent the sit-on kayaks from our military base for pretty cheap, and we can either kayak right out of the base marina or take our kayaks to a different location. It’s been so much fun so far, and I’d really like to invest in a sit-in kayak at some point so we can do this year round. We’ll see if we keep up the kayaking long term, but I’m really enjoying it and I’m hoping it will help get my arm “muscles” back into shape.

Unfortunately, it’s back to reality tomorrow! I have a ton of writing that I need to finish by the end of October, and I’m already starting to feel the pressure. Thankfully, I have football and kayaking to look forward to on the weekends, right?:)

Grad School Application Prep

Sorry I’ve been so inactive lately folks!

I’m sort of in the middle of preparing to apply for graduate school. What this means for me right now is that I’m spending a bunch of time narrowing down the schools I plan on applying to and preparing for my second GRE test in October. Like last time, I’m focusing on the quantitative or math portion of the test. It’s all the math I learned in middle and early high school and never used again…of course, until I had to take this test. My scores weren’t bad, but were nothing to write home about for sure. I was pretty solidly in the middle of the pack, which is not where you want to be when applying to grad school. Thankfully, I have a lot more research experience this time around, which I hope will help me out immensely.

In the next few days I’ll start contacting professors that I’m interested in working with. I had a chat with my current lab advisor about some of the programs, schools, and advisors that I’m interested in, and was able to gain some good insight. Where I apply depends on which professors might be interested in taking me on as a student, so it’s important to start contacting people soon.

In the meantime, I’m also writing up a few articles for submission. I also have a grant proposal in the works, and that’s taking up a bit more time than I thought it would. Even if I don’t get the grant, it’s been a great learning opportunity. I’m supposed to get feedback from the reviewers as well, so I’ll be able to take what I learn and apply it to my future grant writing endeavors.

Anyways, I expect I won’t be posting a lot through the end of the year. Most of my applications are due around December first, and I have a lot of writing deadlines in October. I wish I was more active on my blog, but there are a lot of other things that take priority right now.

Sweet Home Seattle

We just recently returned from a trip to our “real” home, Seattle. Unfortunately, I seemed to have developed a weird eyelid spasm in my left eye, so I’m not going to spend too much time on the computer typing up anything special. Hopefully, this stupid spasm is due to tiredness from time zone changes and goes away soon. In the mean time, however, I’ll leave you with a few pictures of Western Washington!

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If you're ever up in Whatcom or Skagit County, go visit a Woods Coffee and get an iced mint leaf tea. You'll thank me later

If you’re ever up in Whatcom or Skagit County, go visit a Woods Coffee and get an iced mint leaf tea. You’ll thank me later

These are a few of my parents' tomatoes. In one go, I had a 5 pound harvest,  which was turned into a wonderful tomato sauce :)

These are a few of my parents’ tomatoes. In one go, I had a 5 pound harvest, which was turned into a wonderful tomato sauce:)

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