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random musings of a crazy cat lady

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Old Biddy Music Review: Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zero

OK,it's already fall,  and the Mumford and Sons album is set to come out in a few days and I know that I'm going to be listening to that a lot, so I'd better blog about my summer favorites now.  Back in the summer of 2009 I was minding my own business, about to have a very crappy year.  Unbeknownst to me, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros released their first album, "Up from Below".  I became vaguely aware of them a year later when I moved to Ithaca and heard their first single, "Home", but it wasn't until this year that I realized that they did a lot of other songs that I also liked,  So I bought their first album and and played it constantly in my car/lab/iPod, and  then I got their second one, "Here".
It's a big group (12), and no one is actually named Edward Sharpe.  They're sorta folkie/indie, but they have a lot of musical influences.  In no particular order, I am reminded of Mumford and Sons, the B52's, Jimmy Buffett, random goth songs, U2, and many more.  They're from the LA area, but for some reason their music seems perfect for an Ithaca summer.
"40-Day Dream"

In which I am completely oblivious again

Dear friendly good looking goatee guy at the Toyota dealership service department,
You came by and took over from the gruff old German guy who was ringing me up.  You complimented my car and offered me roses from the big bouquet by the service desk.  When I acted surprised and demurred, you told me that since the dealership was closed tomorrow the roses should be enjoyed, so I said ok.  I don't know if you were being flirty or if this is just normal for this dealership. Or perhaps you were trying to ease the pain of my expensive unexpected repair so that I wouldn't pester you with questions about whether it was truly necessary.
Anyway, I am sorry that I didn't even notice the flirting until after the fact, regardless of whether it was real or not.  I was cranky because I had just realized I had just spent enough on my car to make it a bad idea to get a Subaru this year, and because I had just had a somewhat harrowing car ride with a half-asleep cab driver.  Nonetheless, you made an old biddy smile, somewhat belatedly, and I thank you for that.
Old Biddy

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Old Biddy Book Review: Gone Girl

After reading lots of hype for "Gone Girl" by Gillian Welch, I went ahead and bought it.  There are a lot of plot twists so I won't give away anything critical, but here's the shortest review ever.  You can go read longer ones over at Amazon if you're so inclined.
Nick and Amy are annoying smug Manhattan yuppies.  You know, the type whom the New York Times assumes are their only readers.  They meet cute, then he loses her number, then they meet again in the street about a year later.  They get married and a few years later they lose their jobs and move to Missouri to help out when Nick's parents become ill.  They rent a MacMansion, Nick opens a bar, and Amy mopes around missing NYC.  Then she goes missing on the day of their fifth anniversary.  Lots of complicated plots twists ensue.  He's an asshole, she's a psycho bitch, and they're both totally unlikeable, as are a lot of other characters in the book.  Most everyone is a misogynist, including some of the women, and the ending was weak.  Nonetheless I got completely sucked in.  I recommend it for bathtub and airplane reading.

Friday, September 14, 2012

"Clean Out the Cupboards" Chewy Granola Bars

I subscribed to Saveur magazine recently.  I haven't cooked anything from it yet but have been enjoying the daily recipe emails.  They do a good job of not getting too cutesy with ingredients or techniques but still having some interesting recipes.  A few days ago they posted a recipe for granola bars.  I've never made granola bars before so I decided to give it a shot.
Ok, I exaggerated a bit.  This recipe did call for cutesy ingredients such as coconut oil, almond butter, trail mix  and rice syrup.  Of those, I only had the almond butter, and I was trying to get rid of it since it's kind of old.  The same goes for of my dried fruit and nuts, which took the place of the trail mix.  Anyway, although some ingredients were random, it was amenable to substitution.  Here is the modified recipe.  I recommend trying to get the overall wet-fat-sugar-dry proportions fairly close but using whatever you have in house or like.  I imagine they would be quite tasty with peanut butter instead of almond.  If you add chocolate, watch them more carefully so they don't burn or melt too much.

Old Biddy's Clean Out the Cupboards Granola Bars


4 cups rolled oats
1 cup raw sliced almonds
1 cup sweetened shredded coconut (optional - I had it but forgot to add it)
1 cup dried fruit and nut trail mix (or just use a total of 1 cup of what you have in house)
¾ cup dried cranberries, cherries, or blueberries
½ cup butter
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup almond butter
½ cup syrup (I used a combination of corn syrup and maple syrup)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
½ tsp. salt
1 ½ tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. nutmeg


1. Preheat oven to 350° with a rack in the middle position. Line an oiled 13" by 9" pan with parchment and set aside. Mix oats, almonds, coconut, trail mix, spices and dried berries in a large mixing bowl.

2. Combine butter, brown sugar, almond butter and syrup in a small saucepan over medium-low heat and stir until dissolved, 3–4 minutes. Stir in vanilla and salt, and pour over oat mixture, tossing well to combine.

3. Pour the granola mixture evenly into prepared pan and press into an even, firmly packed layer using a sheet of waxed paper or plastic wrap.  Remove wrap and bake 20–30 minutes until lightly golden and fragrant. Remove from oven and allow granola to cool completely before cutting into 12 bars. Wrap bars in wax or parchment paper and store in an airtight container for up to three weeks. 

They were easy to make and I didn't encounter any weird surprises.  If you have little kids who want to help, this is a good recipe for them, although the dough isn't as tasty as cookie dough.  Definitely press down on the dough before baking to pack it in well. 
I let them cool most of the way and then cut them into 24 squares.  In the morning I ate one for breakfast.  It had good flavor and texture - just the right amount of sugar so that it worked as a breakfast bar but was sweet enough to eat as a treat. I took them in to work for the graduate students. They ate them.  They're an easy crowd.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Molly, 5 months

Molly is five months old now.  Sometime in the last two weeks she had another growth spurt and started looking like a mini-cat rather than a kitten.  She also suddenly became a lot better at jumping.  she is around 5 1/2 lbs, possibly 6, and is well on her way to being a large cat.  Her paws are big for her size, and her whiskers are long, and she is a total butterball. If she hits puberty early, that may change things, but thus far she seems to be a bit of a late bloomer.  I'll get her spayed once she is 6 months old, as recommended by her vet.
It's been a hot summer here, and Maine Coons don't always get very fluffy their first year or two.  She's got an extremely long fluffy tail, some pouffy belly fur and the beginnings of a ruff, but the fur on her back is still fairly short and sleek.  I am curious to see how fluffy she gets over the winter. Her fur has darkened up and there is more brown mixed in with the grey.
I started letting her out two weeks ago, after she had her rabies shot.  I was afraid I'd have to keep a close eye on her, but she is a homebody.  The first time I let her out, Lucy stayed close by and kept an eye on her.  She generally stays close to the house and comes when I call her.  In this regard, she is very much like Rugrat was.
Molly and Lucy are  best buddies now.  They spend a lot of time playing, which entails a combination of wrestling, pouncing on each other, chasing each other around the house/yard, having staring contests and ninja swat battles, and cuddling/grooming each other.  Lucy is usually the licker, and Molly the lickee, but that is starting to change.  When Lucy is not around, Molly likes to sleep near Luna, who sort of begrudgingly lets Molly into her personal space.  Surprisingly, Luna seems to really like Molly, and tolerates a lot more than she would've in the past.