Monday, January 31, 2011

Adventures in non-cooking

Dear readers, I want to share with you a wonderful new kitchen experiment that has been engaging me lately. I call it Unbakeable cookie dough. Inspired initially by one roommate's sweet tooth and the other's insatiable hunger for eggs (and our resultant inability to keep any in the house for longer than a day), I whipped up a batch of cookie dough that had no eggs and no baking soda, and that therefore would have been a soggy mess in the oven. It was pretty good, but once we put it in the freezer for an hour or so, it was fantastic! Since then, I have made about four or five different batches of unbakeables, each time with a different flavor in mind. Today's is the best: orange spice cookie dough. Cinnamon, ginger, coriander, cloves, nutmeg, and allspice go in with the flour (and a pinch of salt in you're using unsalted butter), and put in a little more orange extract than you would vanilla extract in normal chocolate chip cookie dough. Even before the freeze, SO GOOD! After the freeze, I can only guess that it will be ambrosia.

Oh, and we add soy milk to replace the egg liquid, but you can use anything you want.

Next up: booze.

Friday, January 28, 2011


Sometimes, a cup of tea is the solution to absolutely everything. One of the many reasons I admire Jean-Luc Picard—he knew that.

Yesterday I had an unintentional almost-liquid-diet day, and let me tell you when you are very dehydrated, a liquid diet is just amazing. Here is my menu:

Smoothie (orange juice, a banana, frozen strawberries, and hemp protein, all courtesy of Trader Joe)

Cup of peppermint tea (Celestial Seasonings brand, no milk or sugar added)

Potato soup (water, potatoes, onions, celery, garlic, soy milk, dill, and Penzey's Spices "Tsar Dust Memories") and a slice of homemade bread

A few handfuls of trail mix (salted roasted peanuts, unsalted dry toasted almond slivers, sweetened dried cranberries, chocolate chips)

Lentil and wheat berry stew (lentils, wheat berries, onion, carrot, celery, garlic, lots of red wine, water, mustard, bay, paprika, and Penzey's "Bavarian Seasoning" blend) and another slice of homemade bread

Lots and lots of water

All of it was wonderful, and I am currently continuing it with a perfect cup of English Breakfast tea (decaf, with sugar and soy milk). If you are suffering from dry everything, as I have been known to do in the terribly overheated buildings of NY in the winter, this is a great way to regain a little of your lost moisture.

I feel like I'm shilling for a weird new diet plan, but really I just wanted to share with you the delicious food I had yesterday. In terms of diet plans, I obviously recommend the Hollywood Cookie Diet, because what could possibly go wrong?

Monday, January 17, 2011


Guess what, internet friends! I got into a conference! And that conference is in Liverpool! And it is all about Divas! HOW AWESOME IS THAT!?

They are still looking for a few more papers and they've extended the deadline until February 7th, so if you (a) want to go to England in July and (b) love divas, you should totally send in an abstract! We can be England buddies! I will insist, of course, that we also be Scotland buddies before we leave, so that I can have wonderful whiskies to drink before returning to the States.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Domestic affairs

"Like the drip, drip, drip of the [you] stand against the wall," goes the elided and somewhat reordered introduction to Cole Porter's "Night and Day." That's what I heard at 8:30 this morning, with my ear against the spot on the wall that yesterday bulged with unwanted fluids. Somewhere, deep inside the wall, there is an irregular flow of water from (presumably) the shower in apartment 5I, just above us, that threatens to one day burst forth and drown the world. Or slightly moisten our living room. Either way, it's not good.

I had imagined that the leak in the wall was a replacement for the plague of mice that (for want of a better word) plagued us for the last several weeks (months?), until I discovered last night that we had yet to exorcise those demons. I had lost one mouse trap; I found it. It had long since done its job. The smell was abominable, as was the entirely unexpected squeak that emerged from the trash can as I compacted the refuse to tie the bag shut. Can a weeks-dead mouse still squeak? Or had someone else thrown out a dog toy? The world may never know, but let me tell you that was the fastest I have ever carried a trash bag outside in my life. No commentary from dead rodents can ruin my winter cleaning, thank you very much.

Now my room is clean, free of the scents of dead mouse and dirty hedgehog bedding and smelling instead of vanilla. This new aroma, in case you didn't know, is much better than those.

The hedgehog, of course, was furious that I was cleaning. Keeping a light on at night? Moving things around? Sacrilege! However, his newly scoured and rearranged habitat seems to have mollified him somewhat; he ran on his wheel until nearly 7 AM. Hopefully he is happy enough that he won't be completely petrified when I give him a bath today...but that's unlikely. Bath time is scary.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Signs of the times

You know what puzzles me? Sane, intelligent people who believe that some essential part of their personality is determined by their zodiac sign. I'm not talking about people who believe the local newspaper's pronouncements, but people who simply feel that saying "I'm a Taurus" indicates something about them other than "I was born between May 13th and June 21st."

Or, I suppose, "I am a mythical bull from Greece." Or, "I am a Ford sedan."

I guess the phrase has a lot of possible meanings, but not one of them relates to the person's behavior, personality, taste, or anything that matters. Oh, and those dates are correct; apparently Twitter is just now learning that the zodiac signs have been off from their constellations for hundreds and hundreds of years, so many people are sharing the news.

I am now a Taurus, not a Gemini, if these dates stick (which they won't). Instead of being:

adaptable and versatile
communicative and witty
intellectual and eloquent
youthful and lively
nervous and tense
superficial and inconsistent
cunning and inquisitive

I should start being:

patient and reliable
warmhearted and loving
persistent and determined
placid and security-loving
jealous and possessive
resentful and inflexible
self-indulgent and greedy

But here's the big secret: I WON'T DO THAT. Nor will I have far to go because I was born on a Thursday. Nor will I be happy, honest, fertile, and virile because I was born in the year of the Pig. And especially nor do I have anything to do with Ephrem the Syrian, who stood against dangerous heresy (Jesus was an incorporeal spirit, not a man? Blasphemy!) in the fourth century and whose feast is observed on my birthday.

You know what my birthday says about me? It says that my parents wanted to have kids at the beginning of the summer (because my dad had summers off), and it says that they were good at planning and at counting to nine.

That's it. The end. No magic from the sky, be it from stars or some fictional God figure.

This has been a Public Service Announcement from your friendly neighborhood atheist who wishes the President didn't have to end every damn speech with a reminder that most people believe in a big rock candy mountain in the sky where Santa Claus will give you a shiny new rocking horse whenever you want.


Wednesday, January 12, 2011


Five out of five chapter summaries have been sent to the advisor. Step next: wait for feedback. Step after that: fill in the [bits that look like this] that were my notes to myself or to my advisor about what still needs to be done. Step third: string 'em all together into a whole proposal!

I want to complete these three steps by Monday night, as that will be one month before my defense. Can I do it? Possibly.

After that, I embark on the perhaps-Quixotic task of dashing off my very last seminar paper from last spring's incomplete before returning to editing the proposal. Can I do it? Probably not, but I'll try.

Before I do any of that, I am hoping that I can finally clean my wardrobe of the various mouse-related detritus. That particular task has been on hold until I determined that it would not immediately renew itself, and as the last two nights have been mouse-free, I think I can actually scrub the darn thing and put my clothes back in it! No more getting all my clothes out of a duffel bag! Huzzah!

Of course, since I posted this on the public interwebs, the mice will read it and come back. Damn.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Lucky number

Thirteen pages drafted, and three chapter summaries sent off to the advisor for feedback. That leaves only chapters 1 and 2 to draft! My goal is to finish drafting chapters and to add connective tissue by a week from Monday, which will give me a month to edit. That seems totally manageable, if I can keep up this pace!

Unfortunately, each draft has had more and more holes and incompletenesses, so it may take a little longer to tie them all together and fill in those holes than it did to write them in the first place.

Also unfortunately, I saw another mouse in my room today, despite having caught four already. This is getting ridiculous.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Keep on truckin'

And then there were ten.

Ten drafty, drafty pages of diss proposal, that is, not doomed murderers hanging out on an island.

No? Nobody likes terrible Agatha Christie jokes?

Well, fine. Tomorrow is new glasses day and I have drafted about half of my diss proposal in two days so I don't care if my jokes are bad!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

It's witchcraft

And just like that, yesterday's one sentence is today's almost four pages of prose. Thank you, thank you. Send flowers, not chocolates; I just had a not-so-fun trip to the dentist.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011


Hello, internet—I have exciting news for you. Today I wrote the first sentence of my dissertation proposal!!

Okay, it's really the first sentence of the summary of chapter three, but it exists! I was so excited I had to immediately stop writing and tell you all about it. That seemed like the most productive way to follow up Sentence 1. Forget editing out the ridiculous excess verbiage, or (heaven forbid) writing another sentence: blog it.

Baby steps, people, baby steps.

In other exciting news, I went to the optometrist for the first time since (according to her postcard) 2006. Have I mentioned to you how much I adore my optometrist? I would guess the answer is no, because I haven't seen her since before this blag existed. She's my Dad's optometrist too, and she used to be Mom's. My sister, curse her, doesn't need an optometrist. Yet.

There are many reasons I adore her, not the least of which is the warning that came with my last pair of glasses, the one I'm still barely able to wear: "You know people will call you Harry Potter. Can you put up with that?" True enough: a drunk man in an underpass in Moscow in the summer of 2004 asked me for a light and then told me I looked like Harry Potter. This time she dismissed my father's (in)ability to be a style consultant with a flip of the wrist and a "He wears wire."

I had geared myself up to tell her that Mom had died. After my experience breaking down in tears at the dentist when the hygienist asked how she was doing, I knew I needed to be prepared to break the news. And then, magically, she already knew. And not only did she already know (thanks to a friend of Dad's who, I guess, also gets her glasses there), but we talked for fifteen or twenty minutes before my exam about her father's illness and death 20 years ago, and about how unfair it all was, and how her mother coped with her father's death, and how frustrated he was when he couldn't speak anymore, and it was just a feast of empathy from someone I really hardly know, even after all these years. And she spoke about how fast it all seemed from her perspective, since she only saw Mom once a year or so. And it helped. And that's the last sentence fragment I'll start with "And."

Other wise advice from the eye doctor: "Don't let anybody talk you into seeing 3D movies. You'll be wasting your money; you can't see it." Also, she tells me I need to take breaks from looking at things that are close to my eyes, and go outside or look down a hallway about once an hour or two. This seems like sensible advice in general (ok, not really the looking down a hallway), so I think I'll make eye health a part of my routine and stop looking so much at books and computer screens. That should help with the dissertating, right? Right?