Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Power of Procrastination and Grandma's Apple Dumplings

The Power of Procrastination

This evening, GAPSA, the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly at the University of Pennsylvania, hosted an event in which they invited the PhD Comics creator, Jorge Cham, to speak.  For those who have not read some PhD (Piled Higher and Deeper) Comics, I recommend it... or, well, I recommend it if you're a graduate student.  If you're not, then you probably won't get it.  

The central theme of the talk was procrastination.  Let's face it-- for better or worse, we all procrastinate.  As Jorge pointed out, "procrastination" typically has a negative connotation, and because we view it negatively, we usually feel guilty after/while we procrastinate.  But this guilt is all self-created!  Jorge emphasized that procrastination is what we want to do.  We shouldn't feel guilty about doing what we want to do.  

This got me thinking, "What do my procrastination methods say about me?"  I enjoy prepping my Intro to Biomechanics recitations over prepping for meetings with my advisor; I prefer writing blog posts over abstracts; I enjoy reading my Fitness and Women's Health magazines over journal articles; I prefer creating agendas for GABE meetings over creating my research to-do list.  Does this mean I hate my life as a graduate student researcher and should quit now?  No.  I feel like I'm learning a lot (both academically and personally) through my experiences in grad school that I would not be able to learn otherwise.  At the same time, however, I need something else.  I think I've decided that research is not for me in the long term (which my procrastination techniques also seem to hint at), but what is in the long term is still to be decided.  I need other outlets to feel fulfilled, so that's why I sometimes (oftentimes?) "procrastinate" by doing something other than what I am "supposed" to be doing.  Really, though, what am I supposed to be doing?  

I am supposed to be doing what I want to be doing.

Now, procrastination comes about from many reasons, and we should do our best to identify what the reason is.  Often, I procrastinate because I feel overwhelmed or I'm not sure what my next step is or how to go about it.  I think it is important for us to realize and acknowledge why we procrastinate.

How do you procrastinate and what does it say about you?

Grandma's Apple Dumplings

Since it is apple season, and Nick and I picked apples a few weekends ago, I decided to do the ultimate Fall activity: make apple dumplings!  Specifically, my Grandma's apple dumplings.  These are the perfect comfort food.  In my family, when Grandma makes apple dumplings, that is our dinner, served with a (heaping) side of vanilla ice cream.  Yes, this is supposed to be a blog about good health and stuff... but what about the health of your soul?  Apple dumplings feed the soul.  Taking a bite of one of these is like time travel for me and reminds me of all the smiles and laughs we have shared as a family.  A few years ago, Grandma taught me how to make these beauties.  My mom and I attempted to turn her advice from years of experience into quantitative measurements, but the best apple dumpling will always be the one that Grandma makes.  Below is our family recipe, an interpretation of Grandma's art.  Grandma always makes sure to bake the dumplings in a lot of sauce because Grandpa loved it soupy.

Apple Dumplings
(makes 8 dumplings)

8 medium sized or 4 large apples
2 3/4 c sugar
4 tsp cinnamon
1 stick butter or margerine
2 c water
10 tbs milk
2 boxes Jiffy pie crust

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Cut off the end of the apple to make it easier to peel.  Peel and core apples.  Cut large apples in half.
3. In a bowl, mix together 3/4 c sugar and 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon.  These measurements are approximate, so mix the proportions to taste.
4. In a pot on the stove, heat together 2 c sugar, 2 c water, 1/2 stick butter, and 2 1/2 tsp cinnamon.  Once the mixture turns bubbly, turn off the stove.
5. Mix 1 box of Jiffy pie crust mix with 5 tbs of milk.  Divide the dough into 4 balls.  Repeat with the second box of pie crust mix.  This will create a total of 8 balls.
6. Flour your board and rolling pin.  Roll out a dough ball until it is large enough to wrap around an apple.  Hold the dough in your hand with the apple on top.  Fill the apple core with the sugar-cinnamon mixture created in step 3 (~1 1/2 tsp).  Top with a dab of butter.  Wrap the dough around the apple and place in a cake pan.  Repeat with the remaining 7 dough balls/apples.
7. Sprinkle the remaining sugar-cinnamon mixture created in step 3 over the dumplings.  You probably will NOT use all of the sugar-cinnamon mixture.
8. Pour the liquid sugar-cinnamon solution created in step 4 over the dumplings.
9. Bake for 10 minutes at 400 degrees.  Then, turn down the oven temperature to 350 degrees and bake for 50-60 minutes, until the pie crust is set.  
10. Enjoy warm and serve with vanilla ice cream!

I created these when we had guests over for dessert.  Everyone loved them and complimented me.  I told them they should be thanking my grandma!


  1. Sarah great post. I think there is a big difference between wanting to do something and being required to do something. Weather its conscious or subconscious we all would rather do something that is our decision and not coming from someone else. I think that is why our advisers seem to love there job while graduates seem stressed and over worked! Both are working large amount of hours but the motivation is much different.

    1. Steve, I agree! I wonder, if we did the exact same work but took away the feeling of "I have to do it" and turned in into "I want to do it" how much our efficiency might improve. Let's try it.

      I totally WANT to analyze this mouse Achilles tendon data that I'm collecting right now...

      ... ok, maybe it's not that easy to fool yourself. But, I think you have a point, and I wonder what we can do to try to make that mental shift of "have to" to "want to."