Grad Life Program Highlights: Writing Accountability Groups

As graduate students, we spend much of our energy on one activity – writing. The quantity and quality of our writing is, in many fields, the benchmark by which we are evaluated by colleagues. The greater the volume of the writing we produce, and the more citations it receives, the more distinguished grows our reputation.

We’ll leave aside the perturbing questions that this reality should raise, and state the obvious: writing is the centerpiece of a graduate student’s career, whether it’s our dissertation, a class presentation, a journal article, or a conference talk.

Many of us find ourselves alone as we wade into this morass of words and ideas, relying on a combination of calendar and willpower to forge ahead. In these trackless swamps, however, procrastination is ever at hand and our thoughts and expressions tend to curl inwards until we find ourselves in an echo chamber of our own making.

Our mistake is to think that writing is a solo expedition, a way to express ourselves, but it’s more than that. Writing is a relationship. It’s about articulating the truth so that it can become somebody else’s too – and the words that we think best express our thoughts may not be as successful as we suppose. There’s only one way to tell, and that’s to get feedback. Equally helpful is having a companion in our toil to encourage us and, at times, prod us into making progress.

Each of these aspects of composition – communication, feedback, and accountability – happen in the context of community, a world far larger and richer than any dissertation or article. The academy may evaluate you on the basis of words produced, but the real font of meaningful living lies deeper – in friendship, the very heart of human flourishing.

Grad Life’s Writing Accountability Groups program is about building just such a community of writers. The premise is simple: you and your colleagues form a writing group for the purposes of keeping each other accountable in your work and providing one another feedback, and Grad Life gives you money – up to $10 per person per month – so that you can enjoy snacks and coffee or tea together. The community is yours. We just help with the cash.

For the full details, additional guidance, and to register your own group, check out the Writing Accountability Groups webpage on the Grad Life website.

8 Restaurants in Mishawaka

It’s deep winter in Michiana. The sky is cloudy, your fingers are numb, and the latest glacial air mass has transformed our campus into a winter wonder-if-I’ll-live-to-see-grass-again-land. Rumor even has it that woolly mammoths migrating from Canada have been spotted outside the city!

At times like these, only one thing can warm your frosty innards: food, delicious and piping hot. We’ve already given you some good suggestions on where to find it in previous posts (see especially this one on cheap restaurants) so today’s will focus on eight Mishawaka restaurants not previously featured on Ask the Salmon or on the Grad Life website.

So lash your sled dogs together and zip on your snow pants. It’s time to dine!

Diner on 12th
1212 E. 12th St.
Website

This little diner has sandwiches, burgers, hot dogs, pizza, and baskets on the menu, all of them as cheap as they come. They are particularly known for serving a life-changing ham sandwich.

Pasquale Rulli’s
904 Division St.
Website

Reasonably-price, family-owned, authentic Italian diner. What more do you need to know? Not to be confused with Sam & Mary Rulli’s Pizza in Elkhart.

OneFourteen
114 Lincolnway East
Website

A modern gastro-pub serving hand-crafted burgers, sandwiches, salads, and sides, all made with fresh ingredients. The best news? It doesn’t come at a premium in price.

Taste of Asia
5327 N. Main St.
Website

Chinese and Thai food for dining in and taking out. No frills, low prices–but delicious.

Oliva’s Bar & Restaurant
327 Union St.
Website

Family-run Italian-American diner open for lunch and dinner. Check out their daily specials!

Macadoo’s Family Restaurant
2108 Lincolnway East
Website

An unpretentious American diner known for its breakfast and brunch, especially for biscuits and gravy.

Kristin’s Cafe
303 E. 4th St.
Website

Another hole-in-the-wall American breakfast diner serving up large portions at low prices.

Scoobie’s
223 N. Main St.
Website

Rock-bottom prices for a delicious, American-style lunch and dinner–sandwiches, burgers, pizza, pasta, and more. “Get Toasted at Scoobz!”

As always, check out the Grad Life website and TripAdvisor for more restaurant suggestions in South Bend, Mishawaka, Granger, and beyond. And don’t worry: spring is only two months away!

 

Ask the Salmon: On Winter Break

It’s starting to feel a lot like Christmas! Or perhaps it will once this week and next have passed, with all the intensity of final projects.

And blessings on your winter break. Rest is a wonderful thing: treasure it while you have the time. Be present to those whom you love. Eat good food and take time to do what you enjoy. These things, in the end, are more important than what we are doing at school. Our career is only a part of who we are, and that part changes throughout our lives. But fellowship – leisure – delight – these go to the heart of being the human person you are.

Grace and peace be with you in this Christmas season. May the God and Father of all people touch your heart with joy.

Living Cheap in South Bend: 10 Restaurants Under $10

Chicory Café

Located on the corner of Michigan and Jefferson in downtown South Bend, the Chicory Café serves a smorgasbord of Cajun-themed foods, including breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Most sandwiches are less than $7 and most entrees  less than $9. Nearly the entire breakfast menu is under $5. The food is delicious and the venue is charming. One visit will surely turn into many more!

J.W. Chen’s

Between Studebagels and The Salvation Army Family Store on South Bend Ave, you’ll find J.W. Chen’s, a local favorite for MSG-free Chinese cuisine. Most dinner plates come in below $10 and there is a full range of lunch specials for $6 or $7. The owner, Jean, takes orders herself and regularly recommends dishes to her guests based on their preferences.

Mango Café

Across the street from J.W. Chen’s is the small Mango Café, specializing in Venezuelan food and burgers. With a large number of vegetarian dishes, sandwiches, and Venezuelan specialties (including cachapas and patacones), most of which are $9 or less, this is one South Bend eatery that is not to be missed.

Allie’s

Allie’s is open Tuesday through Sunday for breakfast (served all day) and lunch. The full breakfast menu includes all of the standards, plus a bit more, with sandwiches, salads, and burgers for lunch, all for under $10 and often much less. Allie’s also serves a $10 Polish dinner all day on Saturday. The restaurant is located on Mishawaka Ave just east of IUSB.

Girasol

A hole-in-the-wall, cash-only, carry-out joint serving Salvadoran cuisine, Girasol is known especially for pupusas, tamales, and horchata. Although you’ll have to take your food elsewhere, expect to spend somewhere in the range of $5 for delicious, homemade food.

Nick’s Patio

At Nick’s Patio, near the crossroads of Ironwood and South Bend Ave, you can eat 24 hours a day. Breakfast and lunch are affordable, with most options coming in under $9, including breakfast casseroles, omelettes, pancakes, waffles, sandwiches, and burgers. Many of the dinner plates, with sides and bread, are also available for reasonable prices.

Toscana Pizza and Pasta

Near Nick’s Patio on Ironwood, Toscana serves a small menu of Italian entrees and sandwiches for $10 or less. Their specialty, however, is pizza with a Chicago-style thin crust (only the personal size is under $10). Carry out your pizza or enjoy it on site–no matter which way you slice it, the Italian family who runs this joint serves up some delicious food.

Cambodian Thai

Lovers of Thai food (and who isn’t?) need look no further than Cambodian Thai in downtown South Bend, where there are only two options over $10: a whole fish, steamed or fried. Soups, curries, noodles, and specialty plates are all on the menu, as well as decadent Thai iced tea and coffee.

Blaze Pizza

For less than $9, Blaze Pizza serves an 11″ personal size pizza with all the toppings you want: that’s one price for any toppings. The word is that the joint has some deficits when it comes to customer service, but the food is still delicious, especially for the low price.

Evil Czech Brewery

While it may surprise some that Mishawaka’s Evil Czech Brewery made it onto this list, there are two simple reasons: Burger Box Monday and Taco Tuesday. Evil Czech is a craft brewery that serves a variety of delicious American and pub foods, well worth a visit even on days when they don’t have specials. On Mondays, however, they run a special on burgers: $10 for the burger plus fries. Tuesday’s deal is even better: street tacos for $2 each.

And they are good.

Fiddler’s Hearth

Yes, this is number eleven. But Fiddler’s Hearth is a true classic of downtown South Bend. Here, you can eat the Salmon of Knowledge for dinner and gain its wisdom for yourself! This family-friendly restaurant serves all manner of Irish pub fare, features live music, afternoon tea parties, and a self-playing pianola from 1955 that was willed to the family by a Notre Dame alumnus. Not everything on the menu is under $10, but be sure to ask about the 10% discount offered to students (and spouses!) with an ID. And don’t forget about their Sunday breakfast and brunch buffet. This is one South Bend establishment that you’ll want to visit before you graduate.

Living Cheap in South Bend: Food

We all have to buy food, and cutting costs in this area is one of the best ways to maintain a budget. Martin’s may be convenient for its near-campus location, but you’ll find that the best prices on food are found elsewhere in town. Here are a few locations to check out that may not be familiar to students from out of state.

Aldi

Aldi is, to put it mildly, life-changing. They have all the staples you need to stock your pantry and they have them for cheap. Low prices, however, need not mean low quality. Run by the same company that runs the upscale Trader Joe’s, many of Aldi’s products contain simple, wholesome ingredients, and they even stock some local produce. Before you go, however, you’ll need to know a few things that distinguish Aldi from other stores. First, to get a cart, you’ll need a quarter, though you’ll get it back if you return your cart after loading your car. Second, you’ll want to bring along reusable shopping bags. If you forget, you can always pick up empty boxes for free in the store or buy bags for five cents apiece. Thirdly, items like produce are not sold individually, but in bags or boxes. That produce is cheaper per pound than at most stores, but you buy more of it at once. All of this helps Aldi to offer its customers lower prices on basic goods and contributes to the relatively high wages made by the employees.

Fresh Thyme

Fresh Thyme is a farmer’s market-style grocery store, stocking local, organic, natural, and specialty foods. As a result, many of their products are somewhat more expensive than elsewhere (though not as much as you might think!). Their produce and meats, however, are often available at a very competitive cost, so check their weekly advertisements for their latest sales.

Meijer

This Midwestern store has everything at a reasonable price. There are groceries, household goods, office supplies, electronics, pharmaceutical products, outdoor and garden supplies, and far, far more. If you need it for cheap, chances are good that it’s here.

Summer in South Bend: The End of Summer

This summer blog series began by arguing that leisure is an indispensable part of living a human life. Now, the school-year is upon us, when we’ll find ourselves hemmed in by a perpetually growing list of obligations, always haunted by the sense that we should be doing more. The more we accomplish, the longer our resumes; the longer our resumes, the better our job prospects. We are constantly looking to the next step in our careers, the next project, the next thing to do. Meanwhile, our work becomes toil as we do it more and more for the sake of what we’d rather be doing instead.

Leisure is different than toil. Toil labors for the future; leisure awakens us to the present. Leisure is about delight and contemplation, about thanksgiving and rejoicing. When we enjoy something, it directs our gaze to what is present, toward our companions and neighbors, to the things and events unfolding before us. How rarely do we rest like this, receiving what exists as a gift!

The goodness of the world, which we recognize in leisure, is indeed a gift, for nothing good exists of necessity. We may need food, but food does not have to be delicious. Every person, both friend and neighbor, exists as we know them in large part due to a contingent series of choices made by them and by other people. Parks, books, movies, bicycles, restaurants, beaches, board games, and basketballs: none of them had to be. Nudge our Earth a little closer to the Sun, tilt its axis a smidgen, make a change ever so slight in the chaotic discs of rock and gas that formed our solar system, and none of them would exist. Nothing in the universe is so unlikely as our living world and the people within it.

Yet there they are before us, all the things we enjoy and all the people we love. Against all odds, some deep root within the world keeps springing up, bearing delightful and nourishing fruit. Despite the wickedness of our bedraggled human race, the sun and stars still shine, rain falls on the ground and on our faces, and the earth brings forth our food. Exploited, ignored, cursed, our world still feeds us in body and in soul.

Only love could be this generous, giving good things without measure to both the deserving and the undeserving. Love is the living energy that hums and crackles in the fabric of the cosmos. It is the mover of what moves, the sower of what blooms, the being of what is. Love makes the world. God poured forth the ever-given light, and having made all that exists, he called it good. He loved the world.

Leisure is also, in the end, about love. When we set aside our anxious and busy thoughts to look around, to enjoy what exists, and to have compassion on our neighbors, we affirm those words of God. We also call the world good. We give thanks, and we learn, once more, to love.

Summer in South Bend: The Big City

The perks of living in South Bend are many, and one is our proximity to the city of Chicago. One of the biggest cities in the United States, Chicago has something for everyone: museums, theaters, city parks, restaurants, and all manner of opportunity for adventure. If you are looking for food, music, or a just a stroll around the bustling downtown, the city is only a couple of hours away.

Getting to Chicago

The first step is to get to the city, a task not as easy as it may seem. The time it takes to travel to downtown Chicago by car from South Bend can vary from a low of 1 hour and 45 minutes to a high of 3 hours, depending on the time of day and the amount of traffic you encounter. If possible, you will want to avoid entering or leaving the city during the morning and afternoon rush hours, though you could hit traffic at just about any time of day. There are two major routes to Chicago from South Bend: the I-90/I-80 toll road and the I-94 interstate. Taking the toll road may save you some time, though probably not very much, and it will cost you a few dollars. Usually, taking the toll road is a better option for those who need to travel through the city to another destination.

If you are driving to the city, you’ll also need to locate a place to park. Be prepared to pay at least a few dollars though, since free parking is non-existent in downtown and other tourist-heavy areas. While there are numerous parking lots and garages near to many of the main attractions, some can be quite expensive. The best way to find an affordable and conveniently located parking spot is to use an app or website ahead of time (SpotHero and Parkwhiz are two popular options), so that you know where you are going and what you’ll be paying to park.

If you would rather avoid the headache of negotiating potentially heavy traffic and finding a spot to park, you can also take public transit from South Bend to Chicago. The most cost-effective and convenient option is the South Shore Line, an electric commuter train that runs from the South Bend airport all the way to Millennium Park in downtown Chicago. The trip takes between one and two hours, and a one-way ticket will cost you $13.50 (less if you plan to get off before Millennium Park). At many stations in the city, you will be able to make an easy transfer to a bus or to the metro. Given that the cost of parking downtown for a whole day can easily exceed $20, taking the train is not a bad option. By transferring to the metro from the Van Buren or Millennium Park stations, you can also get to either of Chicago’s major airports. (If you are just looking for transportation to the airport, you might also consider the Airport Super Saver bus service, which runs at all hours from South Bend to both of Chicago’s major airports)

Once you have made it into the big city, getting around is not difficult. You can always drive in the city, though traffic and Chicago drivers can make things a little crazy. On the other hand, downtown Chicago is very walkable, and for locations in other neighborhoods, you can also take a bus or the metro. Check out current schedules, routes, and fares on the Chicago Transit Authority’s website. Various bike rental services are also available, including Divvy, the city’s official bike rental system. They have numerous docking stations throughout the city where you can rent a bike for 30 minutes at a time with your credit card, or you can buy a day pass online before you go.

Things to Do

There is no end of things to do in Chicago, and any claim to an exhaustive list would be spurious. Below are a few suggestions for major attractions, but if you look around, you will be able to find just about anything you could want to do.

Museums and Zoos

Museum of Science and Industry

Field Museum

Adler Planetarium

Children’s Museum (free admission Thursday evenings, first Sundays)

Chicago History Museum

Shedd Aquarium

Lincoln Park Zoo (free admission)

Since tickets to these museums and to the Shedd’s Aquarium can be expensive, and since only the Field Museum offers student tickets, the most cost-efficient way to see multiple museums is to purchase a CityPASS (about $100 for adults), which gives you admission to five attractions in the city over the course of nine days, often with add-ons included. The pass includes admission to Shedd’s Aquarium, the Field Museum, the Chicago Skydeck, and your choice of either the Planetarium or the Art Institute and either 360 Chicago or the Museum of Science and Industry.

Arts and Culture

The Art Institute of Chicago (small discount for students)

The Newberry Research Library

Lyric Opera of Chicago ($20 student tickets, discounts for ages 21-45, rush tickets)

Chicago Symphony Orchestra ($15 student tickets)

Chicago Shakespeare Theater ($20 tickets for students and young professionals)

The Chicago Theatre

Food

Chicago, like every big city, has great food. Although the city is best known for deep-dish pizza (with Lou Malnati’s, Giordano’s, Pequod’s, and others all contending for the title of best) and hot dogs, you can find any other type of food imaginable if you are willing to look for it. For example, you might check out Cafe Ba-ba-reeba! for tapas or visit one of several Glazed & Infused locations for specialty donuts. If you are into coffeehouses, try Big Shoulders or The Wormhole. Pubs, cocktail lounges, and bars abound, as do restaurants serving Mexican, Korean, BBQ, Mexican-Korean BBQ, and foods that don’t belong to any category at all.  With dozens of “best of” lists available from far more knowledgeable sources, providing yet another list here would be a futile exercise at best.

Other things to do

Check out one of the numerous independent bookstores in the city, go to a Cubs or White Sox game, walk along the lake-shore, visit some of the city’s many neighborhoods, take an architecture tour, do a Big City Scavenger Hunt, or check out one of the city’s many bars and pubs, where you can hear the blues, watch some improv, or get a tropical tiki cocktail. In short, you’re not going to run out of things to do while visiting the big city of Chicago.

Best places for a Cup of Joe (or tea)

Need a little caffeine boost or a change of scenery? As you figure out your workflow this semester, consider integrating an occasional, or maybe even frequent, visit to some of these awesome local coffee shops. Most of these places have no problem with grad students coming in and setting up shop for a few hours (or more than a few…)

Here are some that took me a while to discover:

  • Zen Cafe – With a cool industrial vibe, this local roaster has a huge space perfect for spreading out and studying.
  • Top Heavy Cafe (Niles) – Just a quick drive north of campus, this extremely modern cafe features hipster quality drinks with minimalist design features. There is also a delicious pizza place just up the street from Top Heavy. They are also open on Sundays!
  • Electric Brew (Elkhart and Goshen locations) – This cafe has a great eclectic vibe complete with bikes hanging from the ceiling and burlap bags hanging on the walls. The coffee is great and they are also open on Sundays.
  • Union Coffee House (Buchanan, MI) – This bright little coffee house features both tables and couches to study in maximal comfort. They have both vegetarian and vegan eats as well!
  • Cafe Tosi (St. Joe, MI) – About 45 minutes from South Bend, this beautiful beach town has a charming French style cafe with delicious (seriously delicious) eats and endless cups of Joe. I love driving up to St. Joe on the weekend and working in some research time at this charming cafe after a dip in Lake Michigan.

And here is the classic list:

  • Chicory Cafe – A favorite among grad students, Chicory is the only New Orleans themed cafe in South Bend. They have a wide range of caffeinated options, as well as excellent Mac N Cheese and Po Boys.
  • Chocolate Cafe – A South Bend classic, this cafe seems to have it all – ice cream, cake, caffinee, a wide variety of sweets, and hearty food as well! You haven’t really been to South Bend if you haven’t visited the Chocolate Cafe
  • Starbucks – Several locations to check out. If you want to use the rewards program (i.e. free refills), you will want to go to a stand alone location. My favorites for studying are the one north of campus just past the toll road, the one on South Bend Ave right by school (although this one can be crazy during exam time), and the one south of school on Ireland road.

Summer in South Bend: Food, Seasons, and Local Produce

Food is a truly beautiful thing. If ever there was a good valued by all, it is delicious food. Good food, like leisure, has its value not primarily from utility, but from delight. And significantly, like leisure, food is often found at the very heart of authentic community. In eating together, we don’t simply savor aromas and tastes. Food, used well, strengthens us to take joy in one another’s company, serving as a catalyst for the formation and renewal of friendship. Examples are not far to find: the family supper, the dinner date, the summer barbecue, the coffee-shop chat.

More wonderful still, every season on earth brings with it its own fruits and flavors, the old cycle of sun, earth, and water that has shaped all cultures and human lives. Summer in Michiana is no exception. It brings with it berries and cherries, cookouts and picnics, all in their time. Nowadays, the seasons notwithstanding, we can purchase whatever foods we want at the supermarkets all year round. Still, it is both edifying and enjoyable to take some time to peruse the seasonal produce of the region in which we Domers live. Here are a couple of ideas.

The South Bend Farmer’s Market
1105 Northside Blvd.
South Bend, IN 46615

The South Bend Farmer’s Market opened for the first time in 1911 on the Colfax Avenue bridge. As it grew in size and popularity, it moved in 1928 to its current location on Northside Boulevard. Although the market has since been rebuilt several times, it still opens on the same days as it always has for over 100 years: Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday (with the addition of Fridays during the summer). Join other shoppers here to browse all manner of local fruits, vegetables, meats, and dairy products, as well as jellies, honeys, pastries, herbs, cheeses, and all sorts of handcrafted and locally-made goods. Even if you aren’t buying, take a look around, strike up a conversation with the producers at their stands, or stop by the café at the center of the market, which serves a full menu for both breakfast and lunch.

U-Pick farms and orchards
Indiana and Michigan

Indiana and Michigan are filled with farms. Leave the urban sprawl of South Bend and Mishawaka, and you’ll soon find yourself amidst corn fields and stock pastures. One of the benefits of South Bend’s proximity to the rural countryside is the large number of orchards, vineyards, and farms nearby that are open to the public. Several farms and orchards open their fields during harvest-time to allow customers to pick their own fruit. In the summer, you can pick cherries, berries, peaches, and vegetables; return in the fall, and you can amble amongst the apple trees and pumpkin vines. Farms in St. Joseph County include Blueberry Ranch, Beech Road Blueberry Farm, and The Apple Patch. Across the border in Michigan, there are countless more: Lehman’s Orchards, Tree-Mendus Fruit, Eckler Farms, and dozens of others. Call ahead or take a look at the farm websites for information on what they are currently harvesting. For more farms, check out the listings under Cass and Berrien counties in Southwest Michigan on Pick Your Own, a website that keeps a list of U-Pick farms located across the nation.

Purple Porch Co-op
123 N. Hill St.
South Bend, IN 46617

Purple Porch Co-op sells local, organic, and bulk food items and household goods. They run a grocery store and a café, both open throughout the week, as well as a farmer’s market on Wednesday evenings, where you can meet, converse with, and buy from many of the local producers who sell their goods through Purple Porch. In anticipation of the farmer’s market, you can even pre-order items on Purple Porch’s website in order to help producers avoid wasting un-purchased food. All products sold at Purple Porch were grown or made within a 300-mile radius of South Bend, while all of the participating producers at the Wednesday farmer’s market come from less than 60 miles away.