Thursday, September 24, 2009


I have been extremely busy and have several updates! This last Saturday my boyfriend and I went to go visit Natural Bridge. Even though I lived nearby in Lynchburg for 4.5 years, I never went to go see it! It was absolutely beautiful, and interesting historically. George Washington himself actually surveyed the area and left his initials carved into the rocks. I highly recommend visiting this place. We got a military discount and it worked out to about $23 per person to see the bridge, Native American village, wax museum, caverns, and a toy museum! I suggested going because I didn't know how much longer the good weather would last.

On Tuesday we went up to Arlington for a military funeral of one of John's relatives. Even though it was very sad, it was neat to get to come through the cemetary from a different perspective. There were a fair amount of military funerals happening that day and it was sobering to see the official flag-draped coffins passing by on the walkways. It made me proud to see how many people have given their lives to service.

And Miss VA 08 shaved her head! I'm so proud of Tara for continuing her legacy and doing this. She has done amazing things for children her entire life and her year as Miss Virginia still remains sometime I will always recall with fondness. I was spoiled having her in Roanoke and I'm very proud to call her a friend!

And finally, on top of all my other responsibilities, I'm taking a sewing class! I thought it would be fun since I've only sewed a little in Home Ec in middle school. My grandmother was a wonderful seamstress and since she passed down the tap dancing genes, maybe I got these, too. After struggling to find something easy enough to make in six weeks, I settled on pajama pants. Guess how much length we had to add to the legs to make them fit me? 8 inches! Guess this is the upside to sewing my own pants- they will finally be long enough!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Research and Publishing

During my time in graduate school, one thing that I felt would have been really helpful to me is knowing exactly what to do. There are so many crazy paths and trying to sort out your life (or rather, even have one!) while doing research, teaching, and preparing for your own classes can make you crazy. And if someone doesn't teach you clearly how to do research or write good proposals, you can really get stuck!

So, my blog is going to take a slight turn while still including some pageant-related news. I've found very little general resources for graduate students about all these things that are a key part of our life. Over the next several months, I hope to use my passion for teaching politics to channel that into some posts as well as talking about the ins and outs of getting research done!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Quest for the Prius

In my two years of involvement in the Miss Virginia program, I put 40,000 miles on my car. Granted, it's an 1984 Cavalier that only had 20,000 to start with. My car became almost part of a joke- my directors were concerned about it's ability to make my frequent drive back and forth to Lynchburg, my boyfriend concerned the brakes were going to go at any moment. Whenever I have to run over to campus and take my car, he jokes "No, I don't mind riding in it, you get a free massage." Yes, the car idles at every stop.

When you drive a car like that, you just get used to it.

I haven't had air conditioning in my car since the summer of 2008. It has been brutal in the Virginia humidity. Last year, I accidentally locked my keys in my car running in the rain on my way to Miss Roanoke Valley. I had to wedge the back window down with my elbow to get in. It was terrible, and you can tell in all pictures that I had had quite a time. Any time it rains, I also have to make the decision of whether to get soaked or keep cool. Needless to say, I'm glad fall is here.

My car is so old it doesn't have any of the modern contraptions that help keep you on the road in winter, either. I slid off the road in an Ohio winter two years ago. Never again.

I've been dreaming of owning a Prius for some time. After spending so much time on the road and having to deal with fluctuating gas prices, it's important. Last semester I went to Richmond at least once a week. Yes, that's a 3.5 hour drive each way from here. Gas is important.

When my boss/advisor found out about this, he channeled his love for Subway into collecting the little Subway stamps for the Scrabble game to help me win a Prius, if possible. Honestly, if I don't get it now, I do plan to get it at the beginning of 2010. But it has turned into a great class-wide project. In one of the classes I TA, a student had taken her entire biology lab to Subway and she said "Laura, in my hand I hold 8 chances for a Prius." Will I likely win a Prius? Probably not.

But it's nice to know that other people support my quest for an eco-friendly, cute, blue Prius.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Congratulations, Shannon Beam!

Tonight in Hoopeston, Illinois, Shannon Beam was named the winner of the Sweetheart pageant. This pageant is for runners up from state Miss America pageants to have the chance to enjoy being "Miss State" for the week and compete against other women from all over the country.

Shannon was first runner up at the Miss Virginia pageant this past June as Miss Greater Richmond; she had previously been 2nd runner up as Miss Central Virginia. She is pictured here before her interview at the Hotel Roanoke in the 2009 Miss Virginia Pageant.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Deb Girl Model Search

Hi all! I entered a contest last month and would appreciate your vote :)

Vote Laura

Foodies Unite

If you've haven't seen the Julie/Julia movie yet, you need to. I was really impressed with this movie for a few reasons. Like several of the movies I've seen randomly and really fallen in love with, I didn't know that much about it before chancing upon it at the theater with my mom. I've since seen it again with my boyfriend and despite the economics of diminishing marginal utility, I loved it more!

It's no surprise I love food. Perhaps it's why I just could never starve myself to compete in a swimsuit! I love cooking when I have time. Even though this semester I have a great deal on my plate with thesis writing, helping teach two classes, writing a book (I know, exciting!), and applying to PHD programs, I decided to get back into cooking. Last year I lived in an apartment with a very tiny kitchen, but this is the year of upgrades in many ways and my new place has a great kitchen!

This year is a great opportunity to get back into cooking and enjoy the food. ( Fact: I haven't eaten a single wrap since Miss Virginia the end of June.) Watching Meryl Streep's new movie definitely inspired me to continue on with cooking even though I come home exhausted from school and work half the time! I've tried recipes from a variety of different sources, some easier than others, but all have worked! Yes! I'm not a total failure at making food.

My first foray into cooking came when I lived in England for a year. I lived with 8 other women and we visited the dining hall once. That was enough to know that it simply wasn't going to suffice for food. I began cooking using (great for conversions and shifting to smaller portions, fyi) and recipes from my mom. Let me tell you, it's no fun cooking for one! I made that comment to a male co-worker once and he mistook it as a date invitation. Oops.

In any case, my housemates and I shifted cooking responsibility. It's much easier to cook for six or eight and have everyone chip in a small amount of money for groceries. I also cooked for my roommate a lot because we had similar taste and similar schedules. It was a great experience that pushed me into new territory and forced me to think ahead and eat healthier. England isn't really known for its food, but they have much less preservatives in anything (for example, milk only lasts four days or so) and once your stomach adjusts to that you feel much healthier.

I'm now moving on to breads and desserts in addition to just dinners. I've made some great ready-to-go lunches which are perfect for my schedule this year.

Sick of frozen Lean Cuisines and ordering pizza? Go see Julie/Julia and get some motivation. My new favorite are the betty crocker recipe books at the checkout with easy tear-out recipes. Check them out! We've had great fruit salad, pasta salad, parmesan chicken, and taco casserole from there!

Oh, and one more thing: God bless crock pots! If you don't have one, invest!