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random musings of a crazy cat lady

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Old Biddy Movie Review plus more: Skyfall

I saw "Skyfall" recently.  My movie review will be short, since that's not really my thing.  This is the third Bond movie starring Daniel Craig.  I was a bit dubious at first, but have since been won over by the newer, darker style, the inclusion of Judy Dench as M, and the fact that these Bond movies are geared a bit more towards women than the older ones.  Skyfall continues this tradition. There was more nudity from Bond than from the Bond girls, and there weren't really any Bond girls here. It was darker than the previous two, and dragged on a bit sometimes.  Daniel Craig was shirtless quite often.  I approve.  I was disappointed that they didn't let Javier Bardem be a hot sexy villian and instead made him into a creepy looking one, but I know that is pretty typical.  M is the queen of all honey badgers - I want to be her when I grow up.   Anyway, I don't think you need to go see it in the theater, but it was enjoyable.  I am still holding out hope that Angelina Jolie will be the next 007.  She would seriously be the best Bond ever.
But no, the movie review or even the fact that M is a badass honey badger is not really why I'm blogging.  No, the real reason that I'm blogging is to do a smackdown of a 50 or 60-something writer (previously accused of sexually harassing a 23 year old coworker) who whined that it's so unfair that Daniel Craig is muscular and sexy, when past middle-aged movie heroes got the hot young babes by means of charm and savoir faire alone.   Cry me a river and call the wahhhmbulence - this is the sound of someone who doesn't like it that he has less male privilege than he wants.  Gawker and Jezebel already did epic smackdowns of it.  I highly recommend checking it out.  I shouldn't really have anything more to say, but I do.  Is he complaining that men are now held to the same ridiculous standards as women?  Is he suggesting that the Bond girls be age- or experience appropriate for Bond, rather than having Denise Richard play a nuclear physicist? Is he bemoaning the fact that in sitcoms and movies it is perfectly common to pair a fat schlubby guy with a supermodel?   No.  He's just pissing and moaning that James Bond has a nice body now and it's so unfair.  Dude, I hate to break it to you, but even in the days when Bond was slightly less ripped, you're no James Bond.
It's been a little while since I did any rants about online dating,* but this just summarized a lot of what annoys me about it nowadays.  It's that small subset of middle aged guys who have suddenly gotten more, rather than less, picky and tend to blame women or other men, even fictional ones like James Bond, for their woes.  Since I tend not to go for older guys, and they don't go for me either, I was blissfully unaware of this until I hit my 40's and started encountering it in my own age bracket.   I can even see it in their profiles sometimes.  In person, I get younger guys checking me out all the time, as well as some fairly attractive guys my age and older, but from what I can tell the 40-50 age bracket on OKCupid is full of the pickiest low-libido guys ever.  I blame lowered testosterone levels as well as an inability to face reality.  My brother has a friend who's sort of like this.  I'll call him H.  He is my age and is good looking and a total player.  He is also very fixated on the really hot young women.  A lot of guys who are total players just adjust their expectations somewhat and continue having fun, but not H.  Even though he could easily get lots of super hot women in their 30's,  he's not having as much success getting the super hot 20-something hotties as he used to, and is not adjusting that well. 
Anyway, guys, please get used to the fact that neither you nor the women who will date you are as young and hot as you once were.  I know that I am no longer the plump cute Zoe Deschanel lookalike that I used to be**, and that is ok. I don't expect to fuck guys who look like Matt Damon anymore either.  But really, it's not all that bad.  We bring a lot of experience, humor and maturity to the table.  Just because some older guys can attract much younger women doesn't mean that you will.  Decide what works best for you, but please don't waste anyone's time with your whining.  Life is not TV or movies - you won't get the hot babes just because you have a pulse.

* Mr Cub is still in the picture.  I don't know if it will lead to anything, but it is entertaining.
** Sadly, although I did used to have Zoe Deschanel hair, I was born about 10-15 years too soon to fit the adorkable geek girl archtype.  I was too far ahead of my time.  Geek girls were not popular back then.  Of course, my demeanor was/is more like Daria meets honey badger rather than manic pixie geek girl, so that didn't help either.

Friday, November 23, 2012

CI November: Triple Chocolate Mousse Cake

I got invited over to a colleague's house for Thanksgiving dinner.  I volunteered to bring a dessert, and since the pies were already covered I decided to make the triple chocolate mousse cake from Cook's Illustrated.  I've been wanting to make this for a while but never had a good excuse.  It's a bit too rich and fancy for an impulse bake, and there's no way I'd trust myself with it with no one to help me eat it.
Fortunately, I'm not the only one blogging the recipes from CI, so I don't have to type everything in, although I've changed the commentary as needed.  I've pilfered this one from the aptly named Annie's Eats.

For the bottom layer:
6 tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces (plus extra for greasing the pan)
7 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
¾ tsp. instant espresso powder
1½ tsp. vanilla extract
4 large eggs, separated
Pinch of salt
1/3 cup light brown sugar, packed

For the middle layer:
2 tbsp. cocoa powder, preferably Dutch-processed
5 tbsp. hot water
7 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1½ cups heavy cream
1 tbsp. granulated sugar
Pinch of salt

For the top layer:
¾ tsp. powdered gelatin
1 tbsp. water
6 oz. white chocolate, finely chopped
1½ cups heavy cream
For garnish:
Chocolate curls or cocoa powder
To make the bottom layer, butter the bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform pan.  Your springform pan should be at least 3" tall.   Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 325˚ F.  Combine the butter, chocolate, and espresso powder in a large heatproof bowl and microwave carefully until chocolate is almost melted.  Stir occasionally until the mixture is smooth.  Remove from the heat and let cool slightly, about 5 minutes.  Whisk in the vanilla and egg yolks.  Set aside.
In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites and salt on medium speed until foamy, about 30 seconds.  Crumble half of the brown sugar into the mixing bowl with your fingers to remove any lumps.  Beat until incorporated, about 15 seconds.  Add the remaining brown sugar and continue to beat on high speed until stiff peaks form, about 1 minute more.  Using a whisk, mix one-third of the beaten egg whites to the chocolate mixture to lighten it.  Fold in the remaining egg whites gently with a rubber spatula until no streaks remain.  Pour the batter into the prepared springform pan and smooth the top with a spatula.
Bake until the cake has risen, is firm around the edges and the center has just set but is still soft (should spring back after pressing gently with a finger), about 14-18 minutes.  Transfer the cake to a wire rack to cool completely, at least 1 hour.  Do not remove the cake from the pan.  (If not making the second layer right away, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to proceed.)

To make the second layer, whisk together the cocoa powder and hot water in a small bowl; set aside.  Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over simmering water, stirring occasionally until smooth, or microwave it carefully Once melted, remove from the heat and let cool slightly, 2-5 minutes.
In the clean bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the cream, sugar and salt on medium speed until the mixture begins to thicken, about 30 seconds.  Increase the speed to high and whip until soft peaks form when the whisk is lifted, 30-60 seconds.  Whisk in the cocoa powder mixture until smooth.  Using a whisk, mix one-third of the whipped cream to the chocolate mixture to lighten it.  Fold in the remaining whipped cream gently with a rubber spatula until no streaks remain.  Pour the mousse into the springform pan over the cooled cake and tap gently on the counter 3 times to remove air bubbles.  Gently smooth the top with a spatula.  Wipe the inside edge of the pan to remove any drips.  Refrigerate for at least 15 minutes while preparing the top layer.  I covered it with plastic wrap and put it in the fridge overnight.
To make the top layer, sprinkle the gelatin over the water in a small bowl and let stand at least 5 minutes to soften.  Place the white chocolate in a medium bowl.  Bring ½ cup of the cream to a boil in a small saucepan.  Remove the pan from the heat, add the gelatin mixture and stir until dissolved.  Pour the hot cream mixture over the white chocolate and let stand about 1 minute.  Whisk until the mixture is smooth.  Cool to room temperature, about 5-8 minutes, stirring occasionally.

In the clean bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the remaining 1 cup of cream at medium speed until it begins to thicken.  Increase the speed to high and whip until soft peaks form when the whisk is lifted, 30-60 seconds.  Using a whisk, mix one-third of the whipped cream to the white chocolate mixture to lighten it.  Fold in the remaining whipped cream gently with a rubber spatula until no streaks remain.  Spoon the white chocolate mousse into the pan over the middle layer.  Smooth the top with an offset spatula.  Return the cake to the refrigerator and chill until set, at least 2½ hours.  (Note: Do NOT cover your pan with plastic wrap unless you are completely sure you can do so without it touching the top of your cake during placement or removal.  If it does touch the cake, it will smudge the perfectly pristine top, forcing you to make an excessive amount of chocolate curls.  I speak from experience.)

OK, old biddy Annie commentary again...The base layer took longer than expected. I left it in there around 20 minutes.  I thought it was done in the middle but it started looking gooier as it sunk and cooled.  It was somewhat gooey but ok in the final cake.  The second and third layers were pretty straightforward.  I was out of chocolate so I didn't put any chocolate shavings on top, but it would've looked nice.  Some of the commenters suggested using a collar of greased parchment paper around the cake to make look prettier when it is removed from the pan.  It did stick a bit, but no one seemed to mind since they were fighting to lick the knife.
It was really rich, but since it was fluffy and not too sweet it was not overwhelming.  I'll definitely make it again when I need a showstopper dessert.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Cook's Illustrated Recipe Testing: Saag Paneer

Saag Paneer
It's November, and as usual I am observing neither No Shave November or National Novel Writing Month, but am instead doing the annual CI recipe testing marathon.  Due to unforeseen circumstances, today is the first actual CI recipe in a while.  I'll keep it going until the New Year since I've got a backlog of recipes to test from CI, as well as the new Smitten Kitchen cookbook.  Today I was on the lookout for something that bears little resemblence to anything normally served at Thanksgiving.
Anyway, there was a recipe for Saag Paneer in a recent issue of CI.  Based on my fondness for dairy products and my one-time relationship with Cowdude, I think it's probably a safe guess to say that I was a cow in a past life.  I love saag paneer.  Veggies, spices, cream, and cheese - what's not to like!?!?  I've never made it at home, although I have bought paneer and eaten it all by itself.
Anyway, CI doesn't usually do anything half-assed, so they had a recipe to make the cheese as well.  I've made ricotta, yogurt, and kefir, but have never made paneer.  Fortunately for me, other bloggers have blogged about it already so I can cut and paste the recipe. There are a lot of pictures and amusing commentary so I recommend checking it out

Homemade Saag Paneer

Yield: Serves 4-6
Prep Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes


3 quarts whole milk
3 cups buttermilk
2 teaspoons salt
Spinach Sauce:
1container baby spinach (11 ounces) spinach, washed
1 large bunch turnip or mustard greens, washed
3 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon cardamon
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 inches fresh ginger, minced
1 jalapeno chile, diced
1 (14.5 ounce can) diced tomatoes
1/4 cup peanuts or cashews
1 cup water
1 cup buttermilk
Fresh cilantro (garnish)
Cashews (garnish)
Rice, for serving
Helpful Equipment:
Cheese cloth
Adapted from a Cook's Illustrated recipe.

Making Cheese

My only advice, if you decide to make this, is to make sure you use a very large colander and have enough cheesecloth.  Mine was overflowing and got clogged.  I got out a sieve and used that once the curds had started to stick together,  I probably lost a lot this way, though.
Anyway, bring your milk to a simmer and stir in the buttermilk and salt. Then let it sit for a few minutes. Pour that through your cheesecloth lined colander and let it drain for about fifteen minutes.  Squeeze out the excess liquid and place the cheesecloth-wrapped ball on a plate.  Place another plate on top and set something heavy on top. (I used a dutch oven)  Let it sit for 45 minutes.  It will firm up and drain off more liquid during this time.  Remove the cheesecloth and cut the cheese into cubes.  Allow to air dry while you are making the sauce.

The Spinach  Sauce
While the cheese part has a few ingredients but is maybe a bit intimidating, the spinach sauce has a bunch of ingredients but is really simple to make.
You could use all spinach, but CI recommended using  turnip greens which gave it a more peppery flavor.
Basically just rinse all your greens and then chop off any large stems. Add them to a large bowl and microwave them on high for 3-4 minutes until they are wilted and tender. You will have to work in batches.

Chop up enough spinach and greens to equal 1/3 cup of each and set it aside. Then add the rest of the greens to a blender
Meanwhile, melt butter in a large skillet. Then add your ground spices, diced onion, and a pinch of salt and cook until the onion is soft.  Add the ginger, garlic, jalapeno and cook another minute.
Then add in your canned tomatoes and let that all cook together for a few minutes.  Add half of the mixture to the blender along with the water and cashews.  Puree it and return it to the pan.  add chopped greens and buttermilk to pan, and add additional salt if needed.  Bring to a simmer and cook  minutes.  Then just gently fold in the cheese and cook it for another minute or two so everything is warm. Be gentle with the cheese or it will just crumble into super-tiny pieces.  Serve with rice.

Anyway, this recipe is steppy and I got an awful lot of dishes dirty, even though I was using stuff multiple times.  It came out really well - I loved the pepperiness that the turnip greens imparted, and appreciated that it was lighter and healthier than the usual restaurant version.  The taste was pretty similar, even though I forgot a few ingredients  Next time I will just buy the cheese, make it in advance, or use tofu.  But overall it was a winner and I will make it again.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

My brief foray into cougarhood

A few weeks ago I met a French guy on OKCupid.  I will call him Mr Cub.  He was new to town - a new assistant prof here, and was like a breath of fresh air after this recent batch of OkC guys.  He is also 11 years younger than me.  For reasons not entirely obvious to me, he was very persistent. I ignored my usual rules of not responding to guys without pictures, who are too persistent in emailing me, and who haven't written much in their profiles.  I also ignored my own rule about guys who are too much younger than me - he was on the borderline.  Anyway, he was quick to pull the conversation into sexual territory, but it was kind of entertaining and not creepy.  We met up for coffee, hit it off really well, and then continued to text/IM a lot.  But then reality intervened.  Ever move to a new town and start a new job where you have to build a research program from scratch and set up a lab?  Well, I have, sort of, and it's exhausting and can eat up every last bit of your time, and then some.  So we didn't get together then first weekend afterwards, but I didn't give it too much thought.  The intensity with which he tried to seduce me online was the exception to my norm, rather than the slow pace of getting back together after the first meeting.  I heard more compliments, flirtation, and endearments in a week than I did in a typical year with T.  It was entertaining and was a good counterbalance to the stress of Luna's death.  We continued with our texting/IM'ing/sexting. I will spare you the naughty details but it was fun.  Since I knew he was busy and had an inkling he might mainly want to just be online chat buddies, I offered him that option early on.  But no, he didn't take it and wanted to meet in person again.  He was going to come over for dinner last Sunday, but at the last minute he texted me that stuff had gone really badly in lab and he was way behind schedule and was going to have to bail.  I didn't text back right away.  Eventually I did.  He was apologetic - it was one of those situations where once you start things you have to keep going until you are done.  I know how that goes and have days like that myself, although I usually try to plan so that it doesn't impact my plans.  I was kind of cold at first - not harsh, just didn't write much.  After a bit more texting, we were back to normal, or so I thought.  But this week the relentless pursuit has ceased, although he is still checking out my online profile frequently.  I've texted him a few times and he has seemed normal but very tired.  Nonetheless I suspect that my foray into cougarhood was a brief one and this is the start of the fadeaway.  I am disappointed but it did do wonders for my self-esteem and provided a lot of entertainment when I needed it.

Molly and Rugrat: Confessions of a Crazy Cat Lady

My cats and I are slowly adjusting to not having Luna around.  They're a fairly bonded pair, so I didn't expect them to act that much differently than normal, but they are.  Lucy is still very clingy and lovey.  I think this is a combination of her missing Luna and her just needing more companionship and play when there are fewer cats in the house.  In the absence of another cat, I am the stand-in.  She was like this when I first got her, before she bonded with Luna and Rugrat, and also in the time between when Rugrat died and when I got Molly.  This time around she is extra affectionate.  She sits on the edge of the bathtub like Luna used to do and purrs and wants me to pet her.  Sometimes she even climbs onto my chest.  This is highly unusual since she is not a big purrer and up until now she hated water and stayed away from the bathtub when I was in it.  Now she has taken over Luna's role as tub cat. It seems like Luna's death has affected her more than Rugrat's did, even though she now has Molly as an age-appropriate buddy.  Although I thought Lucy was closer to Rugrat than to Luna, now I'm not so sure.  Luna had a strong alpha cat presence and other cats tended to really like her even though she wasn't particularly social to them.
Lucy is a complex cat.  Of all the cats I've had, she is the least predictable and the most quirky. This is becoming more and more apparent as she matures.
Molly loved Luna and spent a lot of time with her, especially towards the end.  She was very clingy and kept climbing into my arms any chance she got. Fortunately,  she also began to be more active and resumed her frequent wrestling matches with Lucy.  Nonetheless, she still spends a lot of time in "Luna's" chair and still leaves a spot open for Luna. 
Now here comes the confession part.  Even though Lucy and Molly are a bonded pair, and it is easier to just have two, I am still tempted to get another cat.  Having just gone through having two cats die in the same year, I feel like I shouldn't get another kitten or young cat, since then I'll have three the same age.  I am kind of tempted to get an older (>8 years) kitty.  It will take a lot of luck to find one that gets along well with the others, and will probably also end up being one that picks me out.  I will ponder this for a while and perhaps visit the humane society occasionally.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Dear Haters: Please STFU

As you might imagine, I have a lot of commentary about the David Petraeus/Paula Braodwell affair, but none of it really concerns the affair itself.  I really don't judge what other people do in their bedrooms unless I happen to be having sex with them.  Then I care.  However, I like interesting gossip so I do admit to be entertained by some of it.
Anyway, first of all, I hope no one is monitoring my emails/texts/IM's. I have been know to engage in salacious behavior by those means. If my passport renewal gets turned down I will know why.   I was amused by the accounts of a shared email account to try to get around detection.  I get that nothing is tagged as incoming or outgoing, but it's not exactly secret.   Furthermore, I bet they got some entertaining Google Ads.  Then again, maybe not.  I have been known to deliberately fill emails with sexual references to try to get some good ads.  I have never gotten in interesting Google ads that way, but the minute I mention a clogged toilet, I get ads for plumbers.  In my future career as  a crude humor marketing genius I am planning on leading up the new "Adult ads" department at Google.  I will also begin consulting at BJ's on how to make their email subject lines even more suggestive.  (I will do this for a year's supply of cat litter and Chobani.)
Secondly, I am amused by the growing number of people involved.   It sort of reminds me of grad school.  Unfortunately, there are no hot Navy SEALS involved (yet), or I might be more interested.
Thirdly, and most importantly, all the internet haters need to STFU about Holly Petraeus' looks.  She didn't do anything, and she is a perfectly normal looking 60-something woman.   Don't blame it on her and how you think she should have lost weight/dyed her hair/etc/etc or been able to run 6 minute miles at age 60.  Most people can't do that at any age.  She and her husband are perfectly looks- and age-appropriate.  A lot of this snark comes from women, not men.  I just don't get this, although I am used to it as part of the "U R Doin it WRONG!" syndrome that women get (and dish out) everyday.    I see it to a lesser extent in what is considered what is normal "good grooming" among men and women.  I'm going to do a bigger blog post on this someday, but I'll be succinct - if men aren't expected to do something and women are, it's sexism.  Do it if you want, but don't snark on people who make different decisions.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Dear Conservatives: Neener neener!!

I've only been waiting nine months to publish this. The irony of the length of time does not escape me.  I tried many times but couldn't quite put it into words, and others more capable than me were writing about it in the feminist and mainstream blogosperes.  But the time has come for me to be a raging old biddy and engage in some long-overdue gloating.
September 11, 2001 was the start of my feminist consciousness, although I always considered myself a feminist before.  I will blog about this sometime.  The 2008 primaries reinforced that in my mind, with all the vitriol directed at Hillary Clinton about her gender and not her political viewpoints. The months leading up to the 2012 presidential election saw the rise of some of the ugliest sexism that I have witnessed in my life, but, unlike the previous two events, women fought back en masse.
Recently in Slate there was an article about how conservative pundits are "blaming" single women for Romney's loss.  Because, of course, we are women so you can blame stuff on us and get away with it, because whatever we do it is wrong.  NOT! No one would even think to use the same wording or the same vehemence if they were describing another population block and their voting habits. 
Anyway, as a single woman I am enjoying a few days of gloating at my newfound power and elevation from usual crazy cat lady status, but in all honesty, and using some appropriately juvenile language, they started it.   We didn't make it an issue - they did.  Us single ladies, and our married counterparts, were simply minding our own business, having sex or maybe not having sex.  Some of us* might even have sex with the same conservative guys who are pushing this legislation.**  Our concerns were not drastically different from those of the other women, or even (gasp!) men.   The amount of legislation, and the general level of intrusiveness trying to limit access to abortion/birth control/women's health has skyrocketed in the last year, as the Tea Party Republicans began to posture and prepare for the election.  All of a sudden we started hearing frightening threats of transvaginal ultrasounds, of "legitimate rape" and "rape rape", of employers being given the right to exclude birth control from insurance plans, even though this makes no sense from an actuarial point of view, etc., etc. Thanks in part to the power of the internet and social media, we fought back, and didn't let the divisions between different generations of feminists get in the way this time.  Instead of realizing that these extreme tactics were a bad idea and backtracking, they upped the ante.  It was like a bad dream, and every time I had a blog post in mind, they did something else that infuriated me.  Even now, I have a million other things I want to add, but in the interest of conciseness, I will just say "Neener, neener".  It's 2012, not 1950.  You can't turn back the clock just because you want to.  End of fucking story.

*  Not me, of course, because I am a cranky liberal old biddy with impressive bonerkilling powers.  That, and I do have standards...

** The mantra of "Do as I say and not as I do" and the definition of a slut as any woman who is having sex who is not having it with you, have been out in full force, thanks to idiots like Rush Limbaugh and his cohorts.  I just don't get it.  Mind your own fucking business, literally.

Sunday, November 4, 2012


 I had to have my cat Luna put to sleep on Friday.  It was almost 8 months to the day since I had Rugrat put to sleep.   She was 17 1/2 and had kidney failure.  It came on suddenly on Halloween, although there were some subtle signs that I missed in the last few weeks.
 For those of you who never met Luna, she was a badass honey badger of a cat.  She picked me out at the Chapel Hill SPCA, and proved to be an intelligent, quirky, alpha cat with a sense of humor.  Although she was not particularly big and had asthma most of her life, she was the queen of the house and the neighborhood, primarily by through sheer force of will.  She would take on all other cats, rats, racoons and most dogs.  Despite being such a badass, she trusted me completely and was very bonded to me.  However, as a total one-person cat, she was not all that social to people other than me.  She let Rugrat take care of that.  Later in life she started being friendlier to other people and had a good memory for people whom she had met before.
Due to her asthma and her tendency to get in trouble, she used up more than her given nine lives.  She may've borrowed a few from Rugrat.  I made many after hours trips to the emergency vet with her, as well as a lot of regular trips.  I always assumed that she wouldn't live that long.  A few years ago, when I was between jobs and was home a lot, I realized that Luna was actually more active than Rugrat, who was two years younger, and had a premonition that she would outlive Rugrat.  Unfortunately, that proved to be right.
Luna took Rugrat's death hard, even though Rugrat loved to annoy her.  She had a lot of digestive upsets and became more lethargic.  I got Molly for myself and as a playmate for Lucy,  but she and Luna really bonded and Luna perked up a lot once I got Molly.  I think that Molly probably prolonged Luna's life by a few months. I don't know if she reminded Luna of Rugrat, or if it was something else.  In the last month, Molly spent a lot of time sitting with Luna. 
I'm not very religious, and most days I don't know what I believe, if anything.  Halloween is the modern incarnation of the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, when the veils between the worlds are thinnest.  The Catholic Church preempted this custom and converted it into All Saints/All Souls Day/Day of the Dead.  It gives me comfort to think that Luna picked that time to leave this life and go join Rugrat in the mists.