Saturday, February 27, 2010

Succinct Summary

Lunch: Greek Salad with a small french baguette from Panera. I do like a good Greek salad, and the bread is a good compliment.

Work: Galactic Astronomy homework. This set always takes me forever, and I tend to put it off until last. So today I'm starting it, nice and early, and seeing how far I can get. Hopefully working on it will also help me prepare for the midterm

Work II: Doom-like Statistics homework and studying for the midterm. *sigh*

Knitting: Tiny Fishes for my kitties! Next week or the week after I get to visit them! glee!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


Drowning in work, as usual. Not going to see the Twin this weekend as a result :( but Midterms are next week and if I am lucky, I will be in a good state after that.

Twin and I talked a bit about how my program seems front-loaded--right now, everything is quite difficult and time-essential; but once I'm done with classes, I set my own schedule and have flexibility and so it gets easier. I always work better when I can focus on one thing at a time, very thoroughly, for a few hours straight every day for a week. Which is difficult to due when homework is due M through Th, leaving me 3 or 4 days only to do all my learning. In contrast, her program is very back-loaded; it only gets harder and more intense as time passes. Which to me seems crazily ridiculous.

I am almost interested in finding out how spinning works--I think perhaps mostly because when I become a professor, I'd like to keep a spinning wheel in my office and use it when I'm on tele-cons and holding office hours.

It would be fun. But for now it's outside my time frame. I get knitting done in class and in colloquium, but I don't have time or space or money for a new hobby.

Monday, February 15, 2010

I can't, I can't, I can't stand...

I can't stand losing you more snow. It won't stop falling! It's snowing again today. My friend's place, in DC, is essentially falling in. Another friend has fled Baltimore--fled it, I tell you!

Meanwhile I'm hoping to sign up for the food co-op and get tons of fresh vegetables and produce and fruit and eggs, and I'm beginning to doubt that they'll be able to grow anything.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

I have a problem

How am I supposed to eat healthy when I can find recipes like these?:

Lemon Drop Cupcakes

Unworldly silky fudge brownies


Molasses Bars

lemon cake with lemon frosting

Cinnamon cupcakes with honey frosting

I need to get a muffin tin or a cupcake tin or something... gah!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

I love my slow cooker

Cooking: Shredded Chicken Fajitas
Reading: The Demon and The City by Liz Williams

Today before running off to work I took the time to slap some stuff into the crockpot. And lo and behold, when I ducked back home 7 hours later, I had AMAZING and DELICIOUS shredded fajita chicken meat. This is probably the first thing I've cooked with chicken that I'd consider a success. My chicken tends to get quite dried out in the oven or on the stove top, even if I drown it in broth or oil, etc. But the slow cooker did the trick!

As a note, most crockpots or slow cookers instruct you to fill it no less than half full when cooking. Mine was barely 1/4 full, and as a result there was definitely a little browning going on around the edges. But still, delicious!

You will need:

1-4 chicken breasts, thawed
1 medium onion
1/4 of a green pepper (unless you actually like green pepper. then you'll probably want more)
1/4 of a red pepper (see above)
a couple of mushrooms (optional--I was out of these, but they would've been delicious)
(you can use pre-packaged jerk or taco seasoning, but I made my own: a couple of teaspoons of paprika, chili powder, and garlic powder, with a touch of cumin, salt, and crushed red pepper)
1 cube of chicken bouillion
about 1 or 2 cups of water

1) trim your chicken and slice it into finger-wide chunks. Don't wory if these are too big--it will be falling apart when it's done
2) chop vegetables into reasonable sizes
3) put everything in the crockpot and add enough water to just barely cover everything. For me, this was 1 cup. If you have a lot of vegetables, you might want to limit yourself to a cup or two of water--you're not making soup here.

If you want, instead of water and a bouillion cube, you can just use chicken broth instead

4) cook on low for 6-8 hours. If you don't have a lot, like me, this might be done in 6 or 6 and a half hours. if your slow cooker is full, it might take the whole 8.

By the time this was done, the chicken was literally falling apart. I didn't have to use a fork or anything to shred it. I slapped together some quick tacos with tortillas,cheese and a little sour cream.

Since I have so little free time, I like to read when I cook. It's a good way to fit in two requirements: you know, that sustenance thing? as well as my undying need to read. Today I worked on Liz Williams' The Demon and the City. This is the sequel to her Snake Agent book, which I absolutely loved. She has a rich, powerful world that lies somewhere between classic noir and urban fantasy. In her futuristic Chinese world, here's a very thin line between human and evil, which I always like (I like to sympathize with my villains). Her pacing is always very good-- you move through at a nice pace, and it's difficult to put them down, but you can always pick one up again. Williams has a lovely grasp on real characters as well as a unique perspective on fantasy and mystery. Best of all, her novels are always very tangible--I can practically taste the blood and the smog in the market places, the salt spray of the sea on the houseboat, the medicinal tang of the laboratories.

If I could incorporate one part of her writing into my own, I'd go for the uniqueness of it. I know my own stories have that edge of the familiar to them--you know, every story's been told before, right? But Williams' books are powerfully distinct, and even if there is a common storyline in there (oh, hey, a boy meets girl, or a evil attempting to overthrow good), her stories remain above the common ground. That's something I'd love to be able to pick up.

Monday, February 1, 2010

New Things

I played Settlers of Catan for the first time Friday!

It was utterly AMAZINGLY confusingly awesome. WAY better than monopoly.

I must acquire a set of Flux cards and maybe Munchkins and see if I can corner some friends into playing that.

Snow Defeats South

Hah. It snowed this weekend. Everyone panicked. Hilarity ensued. Friday night, everything is well, I have a whole weekend and tons of plans laid out ahead of me. But everything went downhill from there (including me, eventually, on my rear. For a few feet, anyway). It snowed primarily on Saturday, and since people here have many concepts of hill and no concept of plow, it is still difficult to get around on the narrow back roads. Since I live in a tiny town, this holds for most of the roads, including my parking lot. I also currently lack a shovel (gasp!), so I couldn't dig my car out. So out went the plans for meeting old friends, having fantastic sushi, and then playing games until midnight. Instead I stayed in, read books, studied, and baked two dozen peanut butter cookies.

The peanut butter cookies were DELICIOUS, which is why there are now only three of them left. Hey, don't judge me. I have a deep love for baked goods! I ate other things too--I made popcorn, and I had eggs and toast once or twice, and I even baked some fantastic crispy shrimp!

Chunky Peanut Butter Cookie Recipe:

1 stick of butter, softened
1/2 to 1 cup chunky peanut butter
a handful of peanuts, shelled, no salt (optional)
a handful of mini chocolate chips (optional)
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar + a tablespoon extra for rolling
1 1/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 egg
1 dollop of vanilla (or a tsp, if you must measure).

Beat butter and peanut butter together with a mixer until uniform. Beat in brown and white sugar, baking soda, and baking powder, scraping the sides, until uniform. Beat in egg and vanilla. You might want to pre-mix the egg, though with a high speed beater this wasn't a problem for me. Add half a cup of flour and beat it in as well. If the mixture is not too thick, add the next half, and beat mightily until it is well mixed. I had to fold and hand-mix the last 1/4 cup of flour. If you're including the peanuts and/or chocolate chips, fold them in last by hand; don't use a mixer.

You can let this sit in the fridge until it's easy to handle, but for me it was fine to work with right away.

Roll the dough into balls of any appropriate size. (1-2 inches). Roll these balls in the extra granulated sugar (on a plate, or in a bowl), and place a couple of inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. To get the characteristic pb cookie pattern, press the balls flat with the tines of a fork.

Bake in an oven pre-heated to 375 for 7-9 minutes. My oven runs a bit hot, so I preheated to 350 and left them in for 10-12 minutes. Note that when they first come out of the oven, done or not, because of all that peanut butter and butter they feel very soft. I checked mine by carefully lifting them with a spatula to see if their bottoms were a slightly darker golden brown. I did burn a batch, but not too badly to eat. Pop them on a cooling rack for a few minutes and enjoy!

NOTE: These are SWEET cookies. Very sweet. I'm sure some people will say too sweet. If you want a less-sweet cookie, you might consider finding an unsweetened peanut butter in the organic foods section of your grocery store, or cutting back on the sugar (to 1/4 of a cup each), or not rolling them in the sugar.