March 31, 2013

How the college crumbs fall

Well, the good news is that we're done with the college selection, application, and notification process!  YAY!!

The bad news is that we're still figuring out which college J will be attending in the fall.

Here are the options (even if they're not REALLY all options) in alphabetical order:

Bard College  ::  Annandale-on-Hudson, NY
Bennington College  ::  North Bennington, VT
Goucher College  ::  Towson (suburb of Baltimore), MD
Hampshire College  ::  Amherst, MA
Macaulay Honors College at Hunter (CUNY)  ::  New York, NY
New College of Florida  ::  Sarasota, FL
New Paltz (SUNY)  ::  New Paltz, NY
Skidmore College  ::  Saratoga Springs, NY
University of Vermont  ::  Burlington, VT

Bennington, Hampshire, and UVM are pretty much out due to net cost.  Goucher is pretty much out because the net cost, even with a $20,000/year merit scholarship, doesn't seem worth it over the others left on the table.  (Sorry, Goucher - we still love you anyway.)  It's hard to believe that even with that big of a merit scholarship, the price still doesn't compare favorably with some of the other "better" schools.  For sure, this is a wild ride!

We have one piece of the puzzle left, and that's the financial aid package for Bard.  Ugh!  They're not sending the packages out until the week of April 8th (that's SO late!).  He got accepted way back in December, and this long wait for the financial info is frustrating.  Bard has always been at the very top of J's list, so the long wait is especially frustrating.  <sigh>

So who does that leave?  Macaulay, New College of Florida, New Paltz, and Skidmore.  

Macaulay would offer tremendous opportunities that not a lot of kids get and it's a terrific deal financially, but one has to admit it's also a little intimidating - moving down to Manhattan at 18 years old and meeting the requirements of the program (honors courses, minimum GPA requirement, community service hours).  We're going down for a few days in a couple of weeks to spend some time meeting students, touring the campus, looking at the dorm, taking the subway between the dorm and main campus, etc., so that should either make him feel much more comfortable or freak him out.  LOL

New College of Florida is totally awesome and is quite a deal for what it offers.  Unfortunately, it's farther away than J would like to be, so it's having trouble competing against the viable options closer to home.  

New Paltz is one of the better and "hotter" SUNY schools, but it's always been far down on J's list.  Unfortunately, that Open House last fall just didn't leave the best impression.  In hindsight, sometimes I wonder if we should have picked another one or two SUNY schools for him to apply to, but I still can't really envision another one being a better fit for him than New Paltz. 

And Skidmore.  Skidmore has a great academic program and a fabulous location (who DOESN'T love Saratoga?!), but we have a bit of concern about the student mix - <ahem> that he'd be thrown in with a whole lot of really rich kids.  I don't know how big of a deal that is, but I don't think I'd love being thrown into a round-the-clock environment where the vast majority of folks around me had significantly more wealth.  It just seems like it might not be the best fit.  I don't know though.  Maybe that doesn't matter so much???

Realistically, it seems to me that we're for the most part looking at either Macaulay or Bard, contingent on the financial aid Bard offers, and that Skidmore and New College of Florida are still in the picture but for the time being off on the sideline.

One thing I DO know for sure?  I will be so relieved when the final decision has been made!  Hopefully soon, hopefully soon, hopefully soon. . .

March 30, 2013

My chicken feet and bone broth. . .

This post is also for Kristi and for anyone else interested in what exactly is in this broth I think is miraculous.  To give credit where credit is due, the original recipe for it is from Rubin and Brasco's book "Restoring Your Digestive Health".  I started out following the original recipe, but over time, I've developed my own method so that's what I'll share.  

For the most part, I wing this one now too.  If you don't feel comfortable winging it, buy the book and follow their specific instructions.  :)

a couple tablespoons of apple cider vinegar
1 whole chicken or carcass - I use what happens to be available at Greenmarket (a.k.a. our local farmers market), what I have on hand, and/or what I simply feel like using given the situation of the day
chicken organs (if available)
2-4 chicken feet (if using a carcass, I'll use 4; if using a whole chicken, I'll use 3; I'll only use 2 if my stash is running low)
several spoonfuls of coconut oil 
4-5 inch long piece of ginger root
2-3 onions
the equivalent of ~6 medium sized carrots
5-6 big cloves of garlic
1 bunch of celery
2 zucchini squash

NOTE:  I believe very deeply in eating organic foods as much as possible.  All of the ingredients I use besides the apple cider vinegar and ginger root are organic. I also believe very deeply that if one is going to eat animals and animal products, that every attempt should be made to ensure the animals that had their lives taken were at least treated humanely while alive.  As an aside, I also believe that those animals are healthier and, in turn, better for OUR health if we are going to eat them.


I've learned that roasting the chicken first adds a very nice flavor to the broth.  A huge bonus is that we can eat the chicken for a meal, and there's still plenty left to make great broth.  At first, I followed the recipe instructions and was putting a whole, raw chicken into the soup pot, but it just seemed like a very inefficient use of the chicken.  I buy my chickens at the Greenmarket.  They're not given drugs, they're free-range, they're well-fed, they're treated humanely, they're healthy.  The roasting chickens also happen to be quite expensive.  Roasting chickens are the best because you get a great meal out of the chicken, but the farmer will sometimes have available inexpensive stewing chickens (meat would be too tough to eat) and/or inexpensive carcasses that can be used for making the broth.  I don't think a purchased carcass gives the broth the same flavor as a whole stewing chicken or the carcass that's left over from a roasted chicken (maybe too many bones missing??), but I try to keep a couple carcasses on hand in the freezer because they're easy to use and they don't take up too much room.

So. . . I will roast a roasting or stewing chicken at 375F until it's done.  If it's a roasting chicken, we eat the meat we want as part of a meal and then use whatever is left for the broth.  If it's a stewing chicken, I use the entire bird for the broth.  I typically don't roast a purchased carcass first, but that's because if I'm using one of them it's typically because I'm short on time anyway.  Ideally, I think I'd roast that first too though.

To prepare the chicken feet, I bring a pot of water to a boil, and then I boil the feet for about 5 minutes.  I'm not sure what that actually does, but I've read in several places to do it, so I do.  I assume it kills any germs that may be in the foot crevices since I'm guessing chickens don't spend a lot of time making sure to avoid stepping in their own and their buddies' poop.  It also seems to release any stray feathers or other things you probably don't want in your broth.  I've also read about cutting off the toes at the first knuckle and removing the skin.  Initially, I did those things, but I don't anymore.  I've learned that after a couple hours of cooking, the feet become so tender that all you need to do is use any old utensil to press the toes against the side of the pot and break them apart.  I also don't really know why you'd need to skin them.  It seems to me that the skin must offer even more collagen that we want in the final broth, and again, after a couple hours of cooking, it easily falls right off.  And besides all of that, the process of cutting off all of the toes and skinning the feet is not a particularly pleasant one.  Boiled chicken feet smell - and not very good.  Cutting off the toes isn't so much of a problem, but skinning those feet really seems to release their odor.  Take my advice - just don't worry about it.

While all of the above is happening, I leave the organs sitting on a plate waiting patiently.  If I were using a typical grocery-store chicken, I would NOT use the organs.  Actually, I don't think I would make this with a typical grocery-store chicken at all because of the treatment-of-the-chickens issue, but if that's all you have available to you, I would never recommend using the organs because of the level of toxins potentially concentrated in them.  

By this time, all of my veggies have at some point been chopped.  For efficiency's sake, I will often chop all of the veggies the night before and keep them overnight in a huge mixing bowl in the refrigerator.  Don't worry about how they look!  It doesn't matter!  These days, I don't even wash any of the vegetables.  They're all organic, so I know they don't have any toxic chemicals on them.  And any bacteria and such will be destroyed during the cooking process.  If I weren't using organic for some reason, I would either scrub the hell out of them or peel them all.  It takes a while to chop this many vegetables.  My friend and neighbor says that a big food processor can do the job quickly, but I don't have one and I don't have interest in buying one.  Oh well.  Anyway, I expedite the process as much as I can.  For the celery, I don't even break the stalks apart.  I just put the entire bunch on the cutting board and start slicing them all at once, leaves and all.  For the carrots, I don't peel them.  I just cut them in half or fourths lengthwise (depending on how fat they are) and then slice them up.  Really, it doesn't matter.  Just get everything cut up into pieces however is most convenient.  

The original recipe calls for grating the ginger root.  The first couple of times, I painstakingly peeled the ginger root and then grated it.  Now I don't even peel it.  I just score the outside and cut the root up into as many small pieces as I reasonably can.

So finally we're ready to get the broth started!

I put the chicken feet and the chicken into a soup pot and cover them up with water.  Then I pour in a little bit of apple cider vinegar.  Apparently, when the bones soak in vinegar, they more readily break down and will release more minerals and collagen/gelatin.  I've read to soak them anywhere from 5 minutes to an hour.  I usually soak on the low end simply because I can only plan to stay awake and work on this for so many hours in one day!

After 10-15 minutes of soaking, I add in the organs, all of the vegetables, and several spoonfuls of coconut oil (which is supposed to have "amazing" health benefits).  I add enough water to cover it all.  (The original recipe calls for 3 quarts of water; I measured it out at first, but especially since I use the same pot every time, I know to simply fill mine up to the tippy top.)  Time to bring it to boil for a minute or so.  I don't know for certain, but I'm guessing that the reasoning is the same as with the yogurt - to kill any bacteria that may be lurking around.  And then it simmers for about 12 hours.  The original recipe calls for it to simmer for 12-24 hours, but I don't feel comfortable leaving the burner on when we're sleeping, so I usually only get 12 hours in.  I've read that some people put it in a crock pot so it can cook longer and when no one is at home, but I haven't tried that yet.

During the next 12 hours, I stir the pot every once in a while.  After a couple of hours, as I mentioned above, I easily with any utensil cut the toes into pieces, leaving the claws right there in the pot.  I also start stripping skin off and maybe cutting the organs into a few pieces.  Several hours in, I start fishing bones out and breaking them into pieces.  THIS IS AN IMPORTANT PART OF THE PROCESS!  Look at the picture below.  Do you see all of that bone marrow?!  It's very healthy!  The more you can pull out and into the broth, the better!  I break the little bones as well as the big ones, and if I find a lot of marrow, I might try splitting the bone down the side and scraping out as much as I can.

After 12 hours, I have a pot of "something" that smells awesome but that, truthfully, doesn't look all that appetizing.  The veggies are super squishy, claws and swaths of skin are floating about, and feet are shriveled balls.

The original recipe calls for removing the bones and feet and eating the rest as soup.  So the first two times I made this, that is what I did.  Oh.  My.  Goodness.  Do you have any idea how long it takes to try picking out everything that isn't edible after it's all been cooking for SO long?!  (Of course, it was a little bit easier than it would be now because the original recipe doesn't call for breaking apart the toes or bones and it doesn't specifically call for the organs, but it was still QUITE a process.)  So pretty quickly, I decided that wasn't going to work for me.  What DOES work for me is to strain the soup, throw away all of the solids, and save the broth.  I store it in various sized glass food containers, putting some of them in the refrigerator and some of them in the freezer.

The fat will separate and settle into a thick layer at the top.  I do not, would not, could not ever throw this part of the broth away.

And ta-DA!  Every day, at least once a day, I put some of the broth in a mug, heat it up, and drink it just like a cup of tea!  Delicious!  Nutritious!  Soothing!  Energizing!  HEALING!!


UPDATED:  What a silly girl I am!  I almost always make my broth on Sunday, and timing is critical.  Everything needs to be done before we start the work and school week on Monday morning.  This weekend, though, I started it on Saturday.  I was able to cook it all day, put it in the refrigerator overnight, and cook it for several more hours when I got up.  So I guess that's one way to get in more than 12 hours of cooking time without leaving the stovetop on all night or using the crock pot!

March 21, 2013

My yogurt. . .

This one is for Kristi, and she'll get another one soon too!  ;-)

This is how I go about making yogurt, and it works ridiculously well.  The neat thing is that I've become aware of a number of different ways to do it, so I guess you just have to figure out what works best for you.

I have a Euro Cuisine yogurt incubator that comes with 7 individual-size glass jars.  When I first got it, I also ordered an extra set of jars and am glad I did.  The maker also comes with specific step-by-step instructions for how to make the yogurt and a variety of recipes.

I use local cream-top milk for my yogurt.  I'm not afraid of naturally occurring fat in my food.  I happen to actually be quite fond of it.  If I don't have any cream-top on hand, I use whole milk (organic, of course).  I don't know what it would taste like using low-fat milk, and frankly, I don't have any interest in finding out!

I measure out 44 or so ounces and pour it into a medium-to-big pot.  I bring the milk up to a boil (it'll start to climb up the side of the pot), stirring regularly, and let it simmer for several minutes.  Almost all instructions will tell you to take it up to a specific temperature using a thermometer.  I don't.  Instead, I just wing it.  Then I leave it alone to cool down to lukewarm.  Again, almost all instructions will tell you to let it cool down to a specific temperature using a thermometer.  And again, instead, I just wing it.  I test it with my finger, and that's that.  As it cools, a skin forms on the top, and I use a big metal spoon to gently but swiftly in a circling motion gather it up and scoop it out. 

Then I use a soup ladle to put a little bit of the lukewarm milk in a bowl, and I stir in the starter.  The starter refers to the "good bugs" (i.e. beneficial bacteria) you want to have in the finished product.  You can buy starter in powder form, use a high quality plain commercial yogurt, or use some homemade yogurt from the previous batch.  I usually use the middle option, and again I pass by the low-fat varieties in favor of the cream-top or at least whole milk ones.  After that's nicely mixed together, it gets put back into the pot, where it's stirred gently into the rest of the lukewarm milk.

I use the soup ladle to fill up my little yogurt jars, I put them in the incubator, and I turn it on.  Easy!  I used to follow the pretty standard 8-10 hour incubation period, but ever since I first got so sick, I've been incubating for up to 24 hours.  It's yummy, and now I can't imagine not super-incubating.  When the yogurt is done incubating, the jars go into the refrigerator so the yogurt can set.  I used to like adding local, homemade jam to the yogurt right before eating it, but again ever since I got so sick, I only add a teaspoon of local honeycomb (that I'm able to find at our greenmarket).

So that's the step-by-step process from beginning to end.  But. . . I found that understanding the "whys" behind the process is very helpful in making better yogurt.  It also increased my appreciation for it.

There may be living "things" in the milk.  Because we want the very particular "good bacteria" in our finished yogurt, we need to make sure we start with a clean, pure medium.  Bringing the milk up to a boil kills any organisms that may be living in it.  Once I understood that, I didn't worry any more about not having an appropriate thermometer to use for taking its temperature.  Bring it up to a boil, and you know you're good.  Let it cool to lukewarm.  Why?  Because if you add the good bacteria when the milk is too hot, it'll kill them just like it killed everything else.  I don't worry about bringing it down to a particular temperature, probably because I've made bread approximately one zillion times in my life, so I feel comfortable with being able to tell by touch when it's ready.  If it's just a little warm to the touch, it's fine.  So now you've got a bunch of good bacteria introduced into a clean, pure medium - a medium that contains lactose, a.k.a. sugar, which happens to be a perfect food for those little bugs to dine on.  But they do like to be warm and cozy as well, and hence the need to incubate in order for them to multiple.  I don't worry about this temperature either because I have the special incubator that worries about it for me.  These bugs are fickle and don't like to be disturbed.  Therefore, it's important to put the incubating yogurt someplace it won't get jostled.  

One of the benefits of super-incubating the yogurt is that the bugs keep multiplying and multiplying and multiplying.  There ends up being more of them, and they end up devouring nearly all of the lactose.  That's a beautiful thing in particular for folks who are lactose-intolerant, whose bodies won't need to worry about breaking down the lactose.  The job has already been taken care of.  I've ready that historically all yogurts were super-incubated and that today's commercial yogurts are only incubated for a few hours and hence cannot be considered "true" yogurt.  Who knows?  That's just what I've read.

So there you have it.  That's how I make my homemade yogurt.

Now, a few other things I've heard about people's doing in place of using a special yogurt incubator.
  • Pouring it in a big container, wrapping it up in a blanket, and putting it overnight in a closet.  (An acquaintance does this and she swears it's perfect every time.)
  • Putting it in the oven with the regular oven light bulb temporarily replaced with a 60 watt bulb.  Apparently, that keeps the oven at the perfect temperature.  Just don't forget to change the bulb back afterward!
  • Using an electric heating pad (though I can't remember at what setting, but I'm assuming it must be low).
  • Using a crock pot filled with some water (again presumably with the crock pot set to low??).
I don't know.  Maybe I'm spoiled, but the specially-designed incubator didn't cost that much, especially considering how much use it gets, that I can't really imagine using one of the other methods.  It's true, though, that yogurt is pretty much an ancient food, so people have been using an array of incubation methods successfully for a long, long time.  (And hey, they did fine without that thermometer too!!)

I would love to hear about what yogurt-making methods others use if anyone is so inclined to share!

March 20, 2013

I've taken a time out

trying to deal with, well, my life!  I have another long post drafted about college strategies and suggestions but I'm not done with it yet.  Boy, I feel like I could write a book about it all!  

MUCH stress was relieved last Friday afternoon, though, when J got accepted into CUNY's Macaulay Honors College at Hunter.  It's a very selective program, and it took a few days for me to process that his acceptance was actually real.  The program itself is very unique and comes with lots of perks - free tuition for all four years, free housing (a single!) in mid-Manhattan for the first two years (then we'd have to pay for the last two years), free laptop, $7500 to use towards study abroad or internship experiences, priority class registration every semester, special interdisciplinary seminars that revolve around the culture of NYC, and a "cultural passport" that provides free or low-cost admission into over 100 places in NYC.  Especially with his being a musician, what an amazing, incomparable opportunity for him!  We're going down in a few weeks for accepted students day and a dinner hosted by the college president, and I'm super excited!  It seems to me like his going there is a no-brainer, and I hope he ends up seeing it that way too.  Oh, yeah, and the dorm he'd live in?  In addition to the standard kitchen facilities and lounges, it has a snack bar, gymnasium with basketball court, indoor swimming pool, bowling alley, courtyard, and tennis courts!

Health-wise, things are remaining stable.  My days continue to revolve around chicken feet broth, super-incubated homemade yogurt, and raw honey, but I usually eat one "normal" meal a day and I've been doing pretty well with that.  One funny thing has happened though.  The kids are discovering the glory of my special foods!  I used to be okay with making one batch of yogurt a week, but now I need to make two because J(17) and S(7) love it so much too.  And of course, now they also add the raw honey to theirs.  But the most hysterical thing is that B(9) and S(7) are really into the broth now!  They want to drink a cup of it before school each morning.  Why?  Well. . . because they say it gives them energy.  Hey, that's what I said!  Remember?!  It really is amazing.  Try it, and you will see too!  I love that they're drinking it because I think it is SO healthy but at the same time am a little concerned about how much of it I'm going to have to start making if THREE of us are drinking it on a daily basis.  It is super time-consuming to make!  And making double batches is going to take up A LOT of space in the refrigerator and freezer.  Oh well - I'm tickled pink that my kids are so into eating well!

March 4, 2013

I wish I had more suggestions

for those of you who haven't yet hit the time when your children will be getting ready to graduate from high school and move on to college.  The biggest suggestion I have is this - be prepared to be stunned.  Stunned at how much more difficult it is to get into colleges now than when we went to college.  And stunned at how much you'll be expected to pay for your child to attend one of those colleges s/he does get into.  It's a crazy world out there in higher education.  And as a parent of a high school senior, I feel like navigating him through the process is equivalent to having a second full-time job.

I think I'm going to throw a few random thoughts and tidbits out there in no particular order.

These days, there's a thing called the Common Application, which nearly all colleges participate in.  In fact, most colleges ONLY accept applications through the Common App.  Most SUNY schools accept applications through their own app or the Common App.  CUNY accepts only their own.  I don't really know much about other state systems, but we did apply through the Common App to UVM (University of Vermont) and New College of Florida (which is part of their state system).  The Common App is an interesting phenomenon in that it certainly has made applying to colleges easier.  All of the applicant's information is stored in one place online, and it's ridiculously easy to keep track of the various applications.  To differentiate themselves from everyone else, most of the "better" colleges require special custom-designed supplements.  This may include a simple "why do you want to come here?" or having to share thoughts about a selected phrase from the college's mission statement or it may include something a bit more obscure like "pretend you're looking through a window and tell us what you see".  Some colleges (like Brown) really make their applicants jump through hoops by making them write numerous supplements.  That's a great way to weed out people who aren't *truly* interested in attending the college.  Which brings us to a particularly interesting result of the Common App - students are applying to more schools than ever simply because it's so easy to do so.  Which brings us back to the first stunning fact - it's much more difficult to get into colleges now than it used to be.  As a general rule, many, many colleges' applicant pools have increased so much that the acceptance rates have been driven down.  Hence, students apply to even more colleges and so continues the cycle.  Off the top of my head, I think J ended up applying to fourteen schools.  That sounds crazy to me, and while I think maybe most kids stick to around ten, fourteen is certainly not crazy in today's world.

Especially when you consider the current college costs.

Our strategy included casting a wide net in hopes that we end up with at least a few schools to choose from that seem relatively affordable.  We selected from three main groups - more elite colleges (small, liberal arts ones) that have relatively large endowments and are reputed to be relatively generous with how they define "need", "one- or two-steps down schools" that award merit scholarships to their best applicants and whose 75th percentile academic stats are below J's, and a SUNY school to be the financial "safety".  Unfortunately, the financial safety happens to be J's last choice and the only one he'd really rather not go to - not because it's a bad school by any means but because compared to all of the others we ended up selecting (very non-traditional, just like him!), it seems very rigid to J (and comparatively speaking, it is).

Hold onto your hats, friends, because here we go.

The typical annual cost of a private institution these days is running up to - brace yourself - $60,000.  $60,000!!!  I think at least four or five of J's selected schools are between $58,000 and $60,000.  Crazy.  And they've been increasing by a couple thousand dollars every year.  What you'll read and what you'll be told is not to worry so much about the "sticker prices", that what you really need to worry about are the "net prices".  What you may not read or be told is that for middle class families, those net prices are still remarkably high.  How high?, you might wonder.  Well, for our family with four children, our average expected contribution is running about 20% of our PREtax annual income (and that includes loans; without loans, it's higher).  How about if you don't have four children?  Well, my virtual parental peers indicate that for a couple of kids, the expected contribution runs 25%  - 33% of PREtax income and up to 40% of net income.  I don't know many (if any) middle class families that can part with up to 40% of their income without making very major sacrifices, and I don't know many (if any) middle class families that have been able to save enough money to pay for these costs that have been spiraling out of control.  

But, what about those merit scholarships?  Well, J was very fortunate at four schools so far to have received the "biggest and most prestigious" merit scholarships offered.  Um, guess what?  They hardly make a dent in the overall cost, and so far, it's likely that the balance of aid (or at least most of it) is offered up in the form of work study and student loans (unsubsidized, even, for us comfy middle classers).  I don't know about you, but I don't much consider work study and loans any real sort of "aid".  It's still us paying.

So what's a middle class family to do?

<sigh>  I'm not quite sure yet what the answer is for us.  Many families take out parent (PLUS) loans, but with four kids there's no way we're doing that, especially for the first one.  An increasing number of middle class graduates are staying at home for a couple years, commuting to a local college.  An increasing number are also attending a state school (um, that's why many of the state schools are tripling their double residence hall rooms).  Some kill themselves getting extra jobs, but we can't do that - I'm already wiped out as it is.  And some cut back to the bare bones, which doesn't seem like it's all that fair to younger children.

We're in a bit of a holding pattern at the moment because while J has received all of his EA (early action - there's a lot of lingo to learn!) decisions, he's still waiting on his RD (regular decision) ones.  We've just recently started getting estimated FA (financial aid) packages (an entirely different discussion that involves FAFSA, PROFILE, and iDOC) and are just starting to make sense of them.  J has two schools tied for top choice, and we've already appealed one of their FA packages.  I have no idea how that will turn out, but the worst they can do is say "no", right?  We're not even talking to any other FA offices until we hear back from this one because if we end up being able to work things out with them, we might well call it a day.  A very wonderful non-SUNY school actually would be doable, but it's farther away (a lot farther away) than J wants to be.  It's still on the table though.  It has to be.   

We'll see how all of this works out.  What I DO know is that we spent a significant amount of time choosing colleges we believed were genuinely the best fits for him, so my hope is that while he may not get to attend his first or second or even third choice, he will end up being just fine wherever he ends up.

This past weekend, I said to DH that an easy scenario to envision is this:
J attends Bennington College 
C attends FIT (SUNY school down in Manhattan)
B lives at home and in his own used car commutes back and forth to the local state university
S lives at home and takes the public bus (route 70!) back and forth to the local community college

Oh, how I don't like that vision - and our job right now is to try to prevent that from happening!

To end this post on a totally unrelated note, take a look at this cooled stock.  Are you kidding me?!  Look at this stuff!  I'm learning more tricks, which I'll save for another day to share.  :)

And I actually DO have some suggestions regarding this whole college adventure.  I'll save them for another day too.  Too much venting has made this girl tired and needing to go up to bed.  LOL!