An Affair of Character

A blog by Vera Schneider

Cookbook Review: Cravings by Chrissy Teigan

One of my personal goals this year was to cook more. I really like baking, and I had never felt like I really had “cooking” under my toolkit. My roommate last year would often gently tease me if I had my go-to waffles, pasta or eggs too frequently. There’s also a ton of free food at business school, so I could get by without contracting scurvy.

I found a really basic cooking forum that had a list of basic tools and recommended cookbooks. I started looking at Marc Bittman’s How to Cook Everything series. From what I’ve read, his cookbooks are wonderful. That said, his writing doesn’t get me excited to cook. It reminds me more of an abstract algebra textbook of flavors.

Once I read Chrissy’s recipe on noodles, I was hooked. She was unapologetic about her love for Stovetop Stuffing, and she explained the entire recipe step by step without any condescension. Most importantly, I felt like I could actually do this!

Cravings by Chrissy Teigan

Cravings by Chrissy Teigan

I also knew I had to start small. In case you don’t know me that well, I can be very “all or nothing”. My first reaction was to try to go out and buy every cookbook. After more rationally deciding that I should start with 1, my first reaction was to get the ingredients at once to try every dish. Unsurprisingly, this approach can lead to completely inaction.

The Results

Continue reading

Learning Gmail Shortcuts for 101 in 1001

I remember one of my undergrad classmates who could respond to 50 emails in about 30 seconds. I have to admit I was jealous of his mad skills. Now, I want to learn the shortcuts myself.

The first step is turning on the keyboard shortcuts within Gmail. Go to settings on the top right, and press “Gmail shortcuts on”. Without this, none of the shortcuts will work.

learning gmail shortcuts

Next, I decided to focus on only a few Gmail shortcuts at a time. I started by thinking about what actions I do the most. I use “Mark as unread’ for any email that will take more than 2 minutes. If an email will take less time, I try to immediately respond.

Forward = f

Reply = r

Send = Control + Enter

Archive =  e

Mark as unread: _

While these are the most helpful for me, I would suggest looking at the the full list of Gmail Shortcuts available. (The shortcut for “reply all” seems dangerous because you could get yourself in trouble though!)

Because I want to get into the habit, I try to disconnect my mouse and still read through my email.

Another tip would be to keep a list of the most common Gmail shortcuts printed out. As a result, you will always have the shortcuts close by at your computer.

In conclusion, the shortcuts are easier than I thought! I already use copy and paste, and these Gmail shortcuts are very similar.

Is it weird to admit I already feel more productive using these Gmail shortcuts the last few days? Let me know on Twitter (@affairofcharact) or Instagram (@affairofcharact) if you are now using some!



MBA Take-home Study Tips

As I mentioned a few posts ago, I have a lot more take-homes this term than ever before. While it seems a lot less stressful than an in-person test, a take-home can still be overwhelming.

One of the biggest tips I would give is to keep track of all the deadlines with a calendar app. Even if you pretty much know your schedule, it’s a great way to double-check everything is submitted.

Once you have the schedule in place, then back-track the amount of time you expect each test to take. Also, think about your best times to be productive. For example, I had a six hour strategy final last year. I normally write better in early morning and at night, so I decided to take my test at 8 am. I set alarms for my bedtime and wake up time so I got my “window”.


Treat the test as seriously as in-person. I prepare my coffee and get my whole area set up so I am not walking back and forth. I also don’t leave Facebook or Gmail open. One of my favorite take-home study tips is a to-do list in front of me. Once a test is submitted, I check it off of my calendar and my to-do list.

Back up your test! The thought of a random keystroke destroying hours worth of work keeps me up at night. I normally edit in Google Docs or in a Dropbox file. If my computer does shut down, I’ve only lost the time it takes to get to a library to finish my paper.

The last thing I would mention is that there are often submission issues. If you have an extremely long take-home or many people in your class, your page may crash. Try to have an email set up to your professor or TA just in case.

All in all, i hope my take-home study tips help! Good luck!



The MBA Magic Wand: Become a Different Person

Today is the first day of exams for first-year MBAs. Accounting, finance, and a huge marketing project on top: I remember it really well! Now, I have some group projects and take-home exams. While preparing for one of our group presentations, I was thinking a lot about the elusive MBA magic wand.

We were sitting around a table working on our final presentation. One woman after another mentioned that they didn’t want to close out the presentation. At first, I didn’t say much either. I normally like to present first — and so that’s what I’ve always done. After thinking about it for a second, I decided to volunteer to close. Continue reading

Morning Tips: Wake Up, Beautiful!

I haven’t ever been a morning person. While other people would like to crush marathons at 6 am, I’d rather sleep in and have a nice brunch. I can always walk later 🙂

Here are some tips for better mornings:

Before you sleep:

  • Use a REM cycle calculator. Usually, it’s in 1.5 hour segments (4.5, 6 or 7.5 hours) and you want a buffer of around ~15 minutes for waking up. Never wake up groggy again!
  • Prep a go-to great breakfast. I generally make waffles at the beginning of the week or fry up some eggs. I also have started to freeze some bananas if I am not feeling too hungry.

morning tips for a busy woman

When you wake up:

  • Wake Up Beautiful Playlist; This is inspired by Verily Magazine‘s “best morning playlist”. It starts out slow with piano ballads and ends with some pop rock. It’s totally cheesy but also gets my morning going in a nice way.
  • Try to avoid checking email when you first wake up. I know you are supposed to wait 30 minutes or an hour, but I generally check after 10-15 minutes. I have enough time to shower and make coffee “by myself”. Otherwise, I get distracted thinking about what’s on the docket.

Overall, I focus on starting my day off on my own schedule. The rest of the day may get off track, but those 15-20 minutes are mine! 🙂

Learning to Paddleboard

For this second year of my MBA, I have really been trying to get out of my comfort zone. The old cliche “get comfortable with being uncomfortable”. One way I am keeping myself accountable is listing my 101 in 1001 prominently on this website.  Along the way, I’m going to discuss my adventures as I check things off the list! One of the most recent adventures has been learning to paddleboard.

Why now? I love to swim, and kayak—and paddleboarding always looked super fun in magazine spreads! When I saw that the Rice gym had a weekend trip to a surf town in Texas, I signed up!

On the first day, I had to admit I was really nervous. I had no idea if I would be the oldest person there (would there only be freshman?!) or the most unfit. I had had a pretty bad experience trying to do rock climbing while being in the latter category, so it wasn’t completely unfounded when learning to paddleboard. I really wanted to chicken out the night before. I had a ton of work I could do, and I would figure out paddleboarding later…when I was better…more fit…something.

I decided to just go for it anyway, as I had paid the money. When would I next have the opportunity to learn? Luckily, it was a good mix of undergraduates and 1-2nd year graduate students. Rice is thankfully a school known for computer science and pre-med; my fellow surfers were at least as pasty and sun-deprived as me! The student leaders were also extremely friendly and made it a point that everyone felt comfortable introducing themselves.

When we got there, I learned how much EQUIPMENT there is to paddleboarding. You need a paddleboard (not a surfboard–who knew?!), a leash (to hold the paddleboard to your ankle), fins (that you attach), and a paddleboard. After a few minutes of instruction that basically amounted to “try to keep your balance”, we were off! I was pretty happy we were left alone to be honest. I learn better when I have some time to think, rather than having someone peering over my shoulder.

Surprise: I fell down a lot. My knees were literally BRUISED from how many times I fell straight down! I also stood up a few times and it was so fun. I think the best part was that (mostly) everyone was in a good mood and not taking themselves too seriously. After our beach day was over, we ended up getting the truck stuck like 3 times. We all were laughing the entire time. It wasn’t a big deal! We were all having fun.

After all that, I was really glad to have gone…even if I was not the paddleboarding goddess on my first attempt. I signed up for my 2nd trip, which was yesterday. I’m not an expert yet, but I’m one step closer than the person who never got out of bed. (#clichebuttrue). I’m really excited and hope to be learning to paddleboard in more locations!

How to Get a 5 Star Passenger Rating on Uber

Since I don’t have a car in Houston, I have taken Uber a lot. And, not to brag or anything, but I have like a 4.9 passenger rating. YAAS!

Before you call the Uber:

  • Call the Uber only when you’re actually ready to go. I’ve waited anywhere from 10 seconds to 30 minutes for a car in Houston and Chicago. Sometimes, the car is right outside. Sometimes, the car decides to go for a wild adventure for 20 minutes
  • If you have a super long trip or a trip to the airport, I would suggest calling the driver first to make sure they are okay with your ride.

Before you get in:

  • Always check the license plate and ask who the driver is. Even if it seems awkward, I have never had a driver get upset that I double checked. If there’s no license plate, I don’t go in.
  • At a minimum, say hi and ask the driver how they are doing. Like anyone else, they don’t want to be seen as a human automaton!

During the ride: 

  • Don’t throw out all regard to safety! I never mention that I am headed home (“Headed to a friend’s home) or that I am going to an empty apartment. I also try to avoid holding bulky things if I’m alone.
  • Try to avoid bringing dirt and debris into the car. You can get fined ~$200!

After the ride: 

  • If your driver doesn’t get a 5-star rating, he or she is at risk of losing their ability to pick up passengers. So, think twice before rating someone average as 2-3 stars. For myself, I usually start with 5 stars. If there is a minor problem, I go to 4 stars. If there’s a major issue, I rate them 1-2 stars.
  • If you feel like the driver was exceptionally slow or circuitous, you can request a refund from Uber after your ride. I’ve done this more than once and gotten my money back.

Stay in Your Own Lane

Virtually every day, I end up walking on Rice’s 3 mile trail. Although a lot of the joggers don’t necessarily go any faster than me, I have to admit that I am a little bit different with my casual flats and ginormous purse. I also am usually not wearing running shorts or a tank top. Now, the important thing to visualize for this is that the trail itself is relatively large and can easily fit 2 large men or 3 small-sized women.

One thing that always gets me is that there is a huge range of attitudes of people running this trail. Invariably, I will have someone snarling or making a comment at me (“EXCUSE ME!”)…rarely does someone actively smile or say good morning. A “Good morning” is a little thing but it does help the ~mile I have to walk go by a lot quicker.

Do I think that the person saying “Good morning” is having an easier or better time on the trail than the one who snarls? At the same time of day and with the same track, it’s hard to see how the two experiences should realistically differ. The only difference is the attitude of the people approaching the trail.

I have been actively trying to incorporate a more positive attitude in my life, so that I can be more like the “Good morning” people than the “EXCUSE ME!” type. If I think a top is cute, I don’t hold that compliment in. I make sure to say it as soon as I can to that person. If I think of someone going through a tough time, I make sure to text them and send them good vibes. I also try to “shake off” any bad attitudes I have before talking to other people—if I am having a bad day, I might have to consciously think about other, happier topics.

I can’t say that doing all this will fix the world, or even make an appreciable difference, but I think it might be a better way to approach this trail we’re all on. Even if the track and the weather conditions are a little bit different for all of us.

How to Show a Guest Your City

If you have moved cities for your MBA, you will soon realize how many of your friends and family want to visit. Here are a few things that help take their experience from “good” to “amazing!!! let’s do it again!!”

Ask them about their favorite snacks before they arrive. Right before you go to the grocery store, give them a quick call or text and ask if they have any favorite drinks or snacks. Also, be sure to ask about any food allergies and preferences. You don’t need to go crazy, but having a 6 pack of their favorite Lacroix seltzer and a sleeve of their favorite cookies can go a long way after a long flight.

Be upfront about your own routine. Remember how it always feels like you are underfoot at someone else’s apartment? Be sure to mention when the critical parts of your day are: maybe you always want to have the last 10 minutes before you walk out the door to be very quiet and peaceful. If you don’t mention that to your guest beforehand, they may be put off when you rush a quick goodbye out the door after 10 minutes of silence.

Give a few restaurant, coffeeshop, and tourist-y options around your apartment. Even if they never go there, it will still help your guest feel less trapped! Make sure to mention the type of cuisine and what you normally order for restaurants. 

Ask them what they want to do! This may sound basic, but I think it’s easy to assume that your guest will mention what they want to do during their trip. Is their goal to see your city? see you as much as humanely possible? check out job opportunities? Knowing someone’s goals for the weekend will be very helpful in terms of planning your activities.

Print out their boarding pass. Yes, we live in the age of mobile boarding passes and airport food…but it’s so much nicer for someone to check you in and hand you that boarding pass. It’s a really easy gesture on your end that will mean a lot to that other person.

Overall, think about how you can make their time as a guest better. What did you love in other peoples homes when you stayed? Can you replicate that in your own home?

On Campus Recruiting with Friends

It’s hard to believe it’s only been a year since I started my MBA. In some respects, it’s a positive as I’ve gained new skills, confidence, and friends. I have also lost two close family members and moved cross country in that same 12-month period. To say the least, it hasn’t been easy.

Going back to school is also different as we are all separated. Last year, I spent 10-12 hours with the same ~60 or so people at least 5 days a week. Even the “days off’ were filled with networking events, treks, and group projects with my class. Now, everyone is more or less knows what they want and is going in their own direction.

This can be great–classes in specific topics can go to a deeper level and you are around “your people” who also like those subjects for most of the day. That said, if you are recruiting on campus, it’s likely you will be facing the same people for the same jobs you want. Here are some things I learned from the past year:

-Protect your heart. You don’t need to be shady about what you’re applying to, but you also don’t need to tell everyone the status of each application you submit as it happens. Even with the best of intentions, your classmates may ask you about the interview call you never got, or the follow up round email that never existed. Try as much as possible to keep your own counsel. Remember: it’s not over until the fat lady sings (or you have a written letter signed and accepted).

-Practice interview questions (and cases) with either BFF+ friends or near-strangers. These are literally the only two scenarios I’ve seen work out well for interviewing. A true best friend can give it you straight about exactly what you are doing wrong, and a near stranger also doesn’t feel awkward about giving constructive feedback. Unfortunately, the other 95% of people who are ready to help you on cases are not likely to be super helpful. If you are on four group projects with someone, a person is unlikely to tell you anything that will upset you.

Be gracious about opportunities you don’t want. If you find out from an interview that the job would be a poor fit, still show up and do your best to represent your school well. If you get an offer for a job you don’t want, also try not to criticize it. Every job has drawbacks. Frame it as an opportunity that didn’t work for your life or (even better) keep it to yourself. Would you want to hear that another classmate had rejected your prized job offer? Probably not. Seems basic but it bears repeating.

Finally, know when to listen and when to help. If someone is complaining about the 10th application of the day, they may just want to blow off steam…rather than hear about your amazing cover letter and autofill form technique. Keep the conversation positive and switch to a new topic!


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