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random musings of a crazy cat lady

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Massage/Good Riddance Day

Today is apparently Good Riddance Day. It's been going on for a few years, although I did not know about it. You can take tokens of whatever you'd like to say good riddance to, and shred/burn/destroy them. Obviously, I am amused by the timing, and may do a belated burn when I get back to Ithaca.
Continuing with the pampering theme, I got a massage today. That was probably more useful than Good Riddance Day. It was extremely helpful. Even without recent events, my body has become a mass of sore areas due to my various old biddy recurrent aches and pains. As always, I told myself that I need to get massages more often. This time I'm going to make it part of my New Year's Resolution and make it a habit. Yes, some of you have told me this in the past and you were/are totally right. Thanks for not giving up on pushing me outside my comfort zone and old habits. I know it takes me a while, but ever so often I do take your advice, albeit belatedly, and remember what you told me years before.


Before (wacky hat)

I'm visiting Missy in Sacramento. Today we went to the mall and decided to get makeovers at the MAC counter. I've never had a makeover before, and haven't bought any makeup there, although I had heard good things. It was an interesting, and expensive, experience.
Although you would not know it to look at me, that does not mean I don't own any. Back in high school I was a big fan of goth-pale foundation (complete with a full coat of powder) and eye-makeup in bright 80's colors. Fortunately, there is little photographic documentation of this. Nowadays I still love to buy the cheap stuff but only use it occasionally and minimally. It's kind of like very expensive adult crayons. I like the colors and the textures. Ever so often, I realize that I might save money if I just bought the good stuff, in colors that work for me, and actually use it rather than doing lots of small impulse purchases.
My makeup skills have not progressed since high school, although I have learned a bit of discretion since then, and, more importantly, am much lazier. Today, I wanted to get some makeup that looked good on me and learn how to put it on properly. Some of you are probably cheering, after years of telling me that I needed to do this, and some of you are probably saying "Huh - Old Biddy owns makeup?"
It was a pampering experience, and just what I needed. After priming, painting, concealing, powdering, misting, and sealing my face with a massive plethora of products, I was fully shellacked and my complexion looked way better than I had anticipated. My inner goth chick was very impressed, even though the look was substantially less pale than normal. I purchased a subset of it, because it did look nice, and one of my new years resolutions is to put more attention to my appearance. (Yeah, shallow, I know...) Anyway, it did look very nice. Missy kept commenting on it. I felt like it was a bit over the top, but it was pretty subtle.

I did not tell the saleslady that I was just involved in a breakup. That would be like telling the car saleperson that I was having a midlife crisis. I am sure that lots of makeup is sold under these circumstances. In terms of self-administered therapies, it was somewhat expensive but healthier than too much booze, and probably not as healthy but more effective in the short term than exercise.

After (note - I am not wearing mascara or lipstick)

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Return to sender: email to cowdude

I am doing much better now. It's a lot easier now that I have closure, and it also helps that I have been hanging out with my family and CA friends. I am sleeping and eating normally. I've been waking up at 5 AM with mind racing, but subtract out the mind racing part and that is just me, still on east coast time and is pretty typical when I travel to CA. I brood sometimes, but a lot less each day.
I wrote back to cowdude. Part of me wanted to do the cool aloof email - "Thanks for letting me know, have a nice life", and part of my wanted to something more in tune with my honey badger side "Thanks for finally telling me, asshole - bye. By the way, you weren't that good in bed..." His email was not nearly interesting enough to submit it to "Crap Email from a Dude" so I won't bother with that, although it is tempting.
Since cowardude actually had the temerity or cluelessness to write that he didn't know where his email left us, I decided to clue him in. I had a long boring plane flight to ponder my message, so it went through many iterations. It was an aloof but obviously pissed off masterpiece by the end of the flight, but later that night I modified it a bit from its aloof perfection, so a bit more hurt showed through. I won't post it here, but basically I thanked him for his honesty and said that after a month of keeping my distance I wanted to give him my side of the story. I told him that I noticed him pulling back in November, and eventually pulled back myself and mostly gave him his space since I didn't know what else was up in his life. Since he had alluded to his actions being out of character, I wrote that yes, it was out of character for him, so I gave him the benefit of the doubt rather than pester him or break up with him through some electronic means (intentional dig there). I told him that it hurt me greatly that he cut off all contact with me with no explanation and made me realize that whatever else was going on in his life, our relationship was not that important to him.
I then went into nice mode and told him that I had enjoyed his company, and left the option open of being platonic friends, if he was so inclined. I do not think I will hear from him again.
On a better note, I did have a few pleasant distractions during this time.
To the man sitting next to me on the flight: Thanks for asking if I was going to school back east, even though you do use probably use a variation of this line often. It did cheer me up. I'm sorry for then subjecting you to several hours of me fidgeting, sighing, writing, and rewriting.
To the merry couple at the baggage claim: Thanks for showing up in full Santa costumes (both of you!) with your dog in the cutest little reindeer outfit. It was truly an epic win. I wish I had taken a picture so I could post it here.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Email from cowardude, full story and the temporary return of breakup blog

Caveat: I don't normally blog about my relationships other then to mention that person in passing, but make an exception during/after a breakup, and even then I try to keep it mostly about my own feelings and responses. I do this because I find it sort of therapeutic. Also, I am much better at putting my thoughts into writing than in conversation. You can read it or not, as you see fit. These sorts of posts are usually left up for a while and then removed.

As I alluded to in previous posts, I hadn't heard from cowdude, now rechristened cowardude (thanks Missy!) in more than a month, other then a cryptic text message and birthday card. Once I realized that something was up, every week or so I'd call and/or send an email, but heard nothing back. At first I figured that something was up with work (things had been stressful there and were getting more so, plus it was nearing the end of the semester) and I know he tends to hide from the world and get very focused on work. I figured he would come up for air eventually and gave him his space. It was out of character for him, and I was puzzled. As time went by, though, it was more than could be explained by that excuse. I brooded and fretted, and realized that things were over, and that even if he didn't break things off, he was an asshole and not someone I should waste my time on. He did not make this easy, though, since and he had cut off all contact my only options were impersonal ones like email (which I didn't think he was checking, and there's no way I was going to send something like that to his work address), voice mail, letter, or text message. I decided to send a letter at the new year, if it came to that.
As I was boarding the flight from Philadelphia to San Francisco, I received an email from him. In it he stated that he had been under a lot of stress in November and December and had been extremely anti-social to friends and family, and hadn't checked his email in more than a month. During this time he realized that my birthday was coming up and that we hadn't talked in a while, and wondered why, and realized that he just hadn't felt like talking to me. This led to some reflection about our relationship and he realized he just "wasn't feeling it", which surprised him since it didn't make a lot of sense to him and he hadn't realized it before. He said that he didn't know where this left us (uh duh!!!) but that he would leave that up to me, and wished me well if he didn't hear from me.
Anyway, even though the message and the content didn't surprise me, the timing really sucked. I could do nothing on the flight but brood, compose my response to him, and read a novel that had seemed promising when I bought it but turned out to be really depressing. I couldn't call my friends, I couldn't call cowardude and call him an asshole, I couldn't cry, I couldn't exercise or burn off nervous energy, I couldn't throw stuff without causing a TSA incident, I couldn't take a bath or go on a cleaning frenzy. I could get drunk but I don't enjoy being drunk while flying, and it would've been expensive.
I did a lot of second guessing of my own actions during this time, and throughout our relationship. I was already well into brooding freakout mode by my birthday. If I had realized he wasn't checking his email at all I would've skewed more heavily towards calls. I don't think it would've changed anything - if it delayed his self-realization that would've actually been bad, but perhaps if I'd pestered him with lots of voice mails it would've gotten me some closure sooner. Or not.
I had judged him to be someone who was honest and direct, and who would tell me in a timely manner if he wanted out, so I gave him the benefit of the doubt for a long time. I knew about his tendency to hide from things on occasion, and that it had caused problems in other areas of his life, but did not realize that it could override the better aspects of his personality. I am definately better off without him, but it still hurts.
I spent yesterday visiting with friends and family, and it cheered me up immensely. Thanks to all of you for your support!
In a strange turn of events, I had made plans with T to have lunch yesterday. It was nice, and surprisingly normal, even under very weird circumstances. It was also a reminder that life goes on and things get better. In an even stranger turn of events, he had a relationship end recently under very similar circumstances, right down the the cryptic text messages and our relative inaction to the situation. (He was the one left wondering, not the one who disappeared.) So we commiserated about the whole weirdness of it all, and compared notes. (Take home message - be wary of people who are overly private about things that are completely non-sensitive bits of information.)

Monday, December 19, 2011

Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies (according to CI)

I'm breaking the rules here a bit and posting a CI recipe that I've made before, because I'm trying to get into the holiday spirit and y'all really really needed to read a chocolate chip cookie recipe. Also, I'm posting it because I find it easier to look up recipes on my blog than to track down where I put the paper copy.
Anyway, CI calls them "The Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies". They don't usually use superlatives, but in this case is warranted, as is the extra work.
There is a secret ingredient, sort of - browned butter. There is also a somewhat unusual mixing technique - you whisk the melted butter/sugar/egg mix for about half a minute, then let it rest for a few minutes, then repeat the cycle several times. Then you mix in the flour and chocolate chips, and bake the cookies one tray at a time. The other secret technique is to be really careful not to overbake these, although they still taste fine if you do. They come out nice and chewy and have a delightful carmelized flavor. I don't make chocolate chip cookies very often, but these are what I make if I want the archetypical chocolate chip cookies.

Chocolate Chip Cookies, a la CI
Makes about 30 large but not gigantic cookies

14 tbs butter, divided
3/4 c brown sugar
1/2 c sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 3/4 c flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/4 c chocolate chips
3/4 c nuts (optional)

Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 375F. Line 3 cookie sheets with parchment paper or foil.
Mix flour and baking soda and set aside.

Heat 10 tbs butter in a skillet until melted. Continue cooking over medium-high heat, stirring, until it is golden brown and has a nutty aroma (1-3 minutes). Watch it carefully because it can get burnt very quickly.

Transfer butter to bowl and add remaining 4 tbs butter. When all butter is melted, add sugars and salt and mix. Add egg and egg yolk and whisk until all ingredients are blended, about 30 seconds. Allow mix to rest for 3 minutes and then whisk for 30 seconds. Repeat process 2 more times. The mix should be smooth and glossy. Stir in flour mix and then add chocolate chips and nuts.

Using a tablespoon, scoop out dough onto cookie sheets. Bake 1 tray at a time for appx 10 minutes, rotating halfway through, until cookies are golden brown and puffy The edges should be set but the centers are still soft. Watch them carefully since there is about a minute between underdone and crispy. Cool cookies on wire rack.

You're welcome.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Department Holiday Party/Chocolate Truffles a la CI

Some of the grad students decided to form an official chemistry department grad student organization. The main goal seems to be "MOAR FUD + BOOZ PLZ" That is an oversimplification, of course. Their goal is to have more social events, with food and booze, and more food (preferably bagels + cream cheese) at seminars, and they have been pretty enterprising in working towards this goal, fundraising, and making their funds stretch as far as possible.
They convinced the department to let them take over the organization of the holiday party and upped the amount of food that was purchased by supplementing with funds from their beer-mug sales. They also only ordered main dishes. To further increase the amount of food, they added a potluck component to it, as well as a best dessert competition. Many chemists like to cook, so it's not hard to convince us to bring something. Perhaps due to the dessert competition, there were a lot of desserts, as well as plenty of side dishes. They tried to hit up some of the faculty for booze funds - I'm not sure how successful they were at that, but they did convince me to contribute booze for the eggnog. They manned the alcohol table and set up a donation jar to collect money from their compatriots. One of them stopped at Trader Joe's when she was home at Thanksgiving and picked up a lot of "Two Buck Chuck" of various varieties, and charged a nominal fee to do a wine tasting/drinking. They ended up making money on that for their future events. (Note - we don't have Trader Joe's around here so not everyone knew how cheap it was. It's hard to find wine here for less than $7/bottle, even bad wine.)
I won the dessert competition. The voting may've been a bit skewed since not that many people voted but there was an enthusiastic contingent from my group. Anyway, I made dark chocolate truffles using a recipe from the latest issue of CI. They weren't perfect, due to some liberties I took with the recipe, but they had very good flavor. Anyway, without further ado, here's the recipe.

CI's Chocolate Truffles

12 oz bittersweet chocolate
2 tbs corn syrup
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 tbs butter, divided into 8 pieces

1/4 c powdered sugar
3/4 c cocoa

Melt chocolate carefully in the microwave. Heat cream in microwave until it is warm but not hot. Add corn syrup and vanilla to cream and then stir it into the chocolate. Mix until blended and then add the butter one or two pieces at a time. Mix until blended.
Line a 8" x 8" pan with parchment paper and spray lightly with vegetable oil spray. Spread chocolate in pan and let it sit at room temperature for a few hours. (The slow cool will prevent the truffles from being grainy.) Place pan in fridge for a few hours, then cut into 64 1"X1" pieces.

Mix cocoa and powdered sugar and then roll the squares into balls and roll in the cocoa/sugar mix.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Sugared and Spiced Nuts

My neighbors Rick and Kate had a party and I needed to bring an appetizer. Rick and Kate could be Martha Stewart's long lost twins. Their parties are pretty impressive, so I wanted to bring something tasty. Besides, I have a certain reputation to uphold amoung my neighbors. (That would be the reputation as a good cook, not the reputation as someone who gets drunk off her ass, which has also happened at a few parties. And let's not even mention the crazy cat lady reputation...)
I love to eat appetizers, but I don't have a go-to recipe. Asparagus wrapped in proscuitto works pretty well, but I brought that last time they had a party. I decided to play on my strengths and bring something sort of desserty that I didn't have to assemble immediately beforehand. I opted to make candied nuts. The added advantage is that I wouldn't have to buy anything since I always have nuts in my freezer. A quick internet search led me to Smitten Kitchen, as usual.
This recipe uses a mix of sugar, salt, cinnamon, and smoked paprika. You could use cayenne pepper instead of the paprika, or add a little of both, which is what I did, or add your own favorite blend of spices. An egg white is beaten with water, then mixed with the nuts. The sugar and spice mix is then mixed in and the nuts are baked. I added a little bit of vodka to give a little more liquid to give an even coating. I figured it would evaporate faster than if I'd used more water or egg white.
It was very easy and I got a nice, fairly even coating. After half an hour in the oven, the coating was nice and dried out and the nuts didn't stick together too badly. I let them cool and then stored them in a Ziplock bag. Once they had cooled, they were very tasty and addictive. I recommend you don't leave them lying around unless you have a fast metabolism or have a lot of people living in your house.
If I were making them again, I'd use less of the sugar coating (maybe 1/2 - 2/3) and decrease the amount of cinnamon and increase the amount of savory spice. I took most of them to the party, where they were all eaten. I saved a few for myself,and they are tempting me more than they should. Anyway, they're a winner and I will probably add them to my Christmas cookie and treat repertoire this year.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

What I got for my birthday...

a partial and somewhat strange list, in no particular order

shrimp and grits and coconut chocolate banana cream pie - thanks Chris!
snow on the ground - thanks Mother Nature!
one freshly killed dead cardinal and world class playing with dead prey exhibition - uh, thanks, Lucy?!?!
a happy birthday song on my voicemail from a classroom of 4th graders - thanks Missy and co!
flowers - thanks T, a nice surprise but WTF?!?
a home depot gift card - thanks, Dad!
an owl T-shirt and the best card ever - thanks Missy and Kadin!
no card, phone call or email - thanks for nothing, and WTF, cowdude?!?

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


I got a call from a florist today saying that they had some flowers for me but didn't want to leave them outside since it near freezing. I almost told them they had the wrong number since I have never ever received flowers from a florist.
Anyway, a few possibilities about the identity of the sender crossed my mind, none correct. The flowers were from none other than T (who, for the new readers, is my ex, who never did this when we were dating.)
Um, WTF?

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Approaching 43

All I want for my birthday is a snow day, or at least a few inches of snow.* The latter may happen, although the former seems unlikely given the mild fall we've had this year.
As was the case with Thanksgiving, this is the first one in a few years that I can relax, work-wise. It's a good feeling. Last year I was coming off the NSF proposal/equipment installation and was still completely fried. The year before there was the looming layoff AND an interview on my birthday. Two years ago we had a first set of layoffs at my former company.

*I lied. For my birthday, I'd also like to know WTF is up with cowdude. This should not have to be something that needs to be a birthday wish, however. Two weeks ago he stopped answering my emails and calls. In a text message on Thanksgiving, he'd said he'd had a really rough two weeks. That is all I know. I hadn't done anything out of the ordinary. I know that there were some ugly politics going on at his work, and when things get stressful I know he needs lots of space and doesn't like to talk about it, so I've been keeping my distance. I'd assumed that if things weren't working and he wanted out, he'd let me know, but I think I may have been wrong. I'm not as in touch with my inner honey badger as I should be, so I'm biding my time and stewing and assuming that we have broken up, rather than being proactive on it.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Black beans and rice

So easy, and so good. It's basically the recipe on the back of the can of Goya black beans, without the MSG. If I had known it would taste so good I would've tried it sooner.

1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 cans black beans (don't drain)
1 1/2 cups water
1 tbsp dried oregano
2 tbsp vinegar

1 cup rice, 2 cups water

Start cooking rice.
While rice is cooking, saute onion and bell pepper in olive oil until somewhat softened. Add garlic and saute until aromatic (30 seconds). Dump in beans, water, oregano, and vinegar. Bring to a boil and then lower heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Serve with rice. (I like to mix them together so that the rice has a change to absorb the bean liquid) You can also use it in burritos.