Saturday, June 30, 2007

Friendship bread

My neighbor upstairs gave me her starter for Amish friendship bread because she and her husband and child were going on vacation, so last night I went out and spent a bunch of money buying little things like measuring spoons (yes, I'm still outfitting my new place--probably will be for a while) and this morning I dutifully made the bread. I was expecting it to take about an hour and a half (half an hour to mix, an hour to bake), which was really only sort of okay (I had to make a CV to send in with a proposal and both were due today), but I started at about 7:30 this morning and thought that would give me plenty of time. So, I mixed up the batter and then realized I didn't have any crisco or pam to grease my bread pans. Grr. I was just going to walk over to the grocery store quickly and buy crisco, but on the way passed a yard sale where they had a stool I was very much interested in (stools are amazingly expensive, and the chair I have is rediculously short for my table). Since I live in the world of the cashless, I had, you guessed it, no cash. The lady wasn't going to take a cheque, so I went home, grabbed my checkbook, drove to the grocery store hoping they would take an out of state cheque and give me cash back, found out they would (YES!), got money, and went back to the yard sale, where the stool was still waiting. The three ladies were all very nice, and I stood around and talked to them for a while, completely forgetting about both my bread and my waiting CV, and ended up buying the stool, two books (Shel Silverstein's "A light in the Attic" and "The Giving Tree", each for $1--score!), and a cool set of stacking toys with frogs on them.

I finally got home and baked the bread. by this time it was oh, about 10:30 or so. After an hour of baking, I tested the bread to see if it was done. It wasn't so I let it go for another 15 minutes (it was REALLY not done) and tested again. Still not done. 10 minutes after that, I gave it another five, and decided the moist crumbs that came out on the toothpick meant it was probably okay. So, I pulled it out of the oven and let it cool. It sort of fell a bit in the middle, but that's not all that unusual for quick breads, right? I tried very to turn the bread out onto a cooling rack, but it wouldn't budge, so I tried gently loosening the sides with a knife. Still no luck. So, then I turned it over and started banging on the bottom of the pan (always a good choice, no?) and finally got it to move. Or, perhaps more accurately, I got the middle of the bread to move. The part of the bread that was still gooey and underdone, because, as it turns out, the hour and a half of baking hadn't actually cooked the thing. So, now I have pieces of Amish friendship bread, pried oh so indelicately from the non-stick pan, all over my kitchen counter.

Anyone want to be my friend?

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Ambivalence

I filled two prescriptions today: one for birth control and one for prenatal vitamins. As you might imagine, the pharmacist asked me about the combination since usually they only fill prescriptions for one of those at a time. I explained that my husband and I are going to start trying in a few months, and I just wanted to fill both prescriptions at once. Really, it's more because I'm undecided. I know right now is not the time to get pregnant. I also know I'm sick of taking birth control (even if it does make me less grouchy and makes periods short and far more pleasant). I want a baby, but I want to live, oh, I don't know, in the same place as Derrick when I have one. And then there's the whole working with funky chemicals that I do on a daily basis that may be a very good reason to postpone pregnancy. There are moments when the thought of having a baby makes me seriously sick to my stomach, and others when my non-pregnant state causes me pain in my bowels (what a lovely image that is, I'm sure).

This is such an amazingly complicated decision. How does anyone decide?

Float on

My junior year at tech I moved into my own apartment. It was a rather spare space with one cushioned chair (where I spent the majority of my waking hours), a table with a couple of additional chairs, and a bed (my first at tech--before I'd always slept on couches) all inhabiting a single large room. The only sprucing up I did was to scatter glow-in-the-dark stars over the wall above my bed and put my stereo and a few books on the enormous entertainment center on one wall (coincidentally, that's also the last apartment where I didn't have television). It was my space, in a way, but I never really moved into it, never made it mine. I was always camping in some sense. The furniture was, of course, standard housing furniture, and the dishes I used were borrowed or disposable. I'll never forget the first time I tried to cook with my then boyfriend in that apartment. We made a delicious Thai dish with coconut milk and chicken and it wasn't until we went to eat it that I realized the only silverware I had was a set of bamboo chopsticks from the local Mongolian restaurant, and a couple of plastic forks gathered from other local eateries.

Fast forward to my newest own apartment and it's quite a different story. I can't move by myself anymore because I have real furniture, and even without the furniture I have an impressive collection of stuff that has to be carted from one spot to another. One thing that hasn't changed is my lack of dishes. I have wonderful, high-quality pans for cooking, but for eating I'm limited to a motley array of rubbermaid storage containers, the green glasses Karla inherited from someone else and never used, and a couple of plates I snagged at a yard sale. Money's a little tight after moving (predictably) so I had every intention of not buying anything unnecessary, but yesterday morning I realized I'd used all of my round rubbermaids to store leftovers for lunch and consequently had nothing suitable for my cereal. What did I do? I went out and bought myself a couple of cheap glass bowls, and a couple of small plates while I was at it.

It's a strange thing to realize I'm not willing to camp out in a place anymore--not only do I want a space that's mine, I want to have in it all of the various utensils and accoutrements to which I've become accustomed. I'm feeling ambivalent about this aspect of growing up. On one hand it's probably a good thing I've come to appreciate the niceties of a real home to the extent that I now try to create a home for myself, but on the other hand I kind of miss living a spartan life, enduring the slight discomforts of making do with what's at hand instead of immediately going out and buying the "optimal" solution.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Data!

I hate killing sea monkies.

I know it's for a good cause (research and all) but I hate killing them anyway. I drown them in ethanol and the wriggle and writhe like they're in pain (they probably are, after all). Somehow working as hard as I have just to kill them in the end seems contradictory.

I am so never doing research on living things again. I'm anthropomorphosizing crustaceans, for heaven's sake! It's a good think algae don't have eyes or I'd probably feel sad for killing them, too.

On the plus side, I have data! We're still working on standards for oxygen and hydrogen, so I decided to measure my natural samples for CN. For the amount of work I put into my stable isotopes class I figured I should get at least one potentially useful data set. So, here it is:



Cool, huh?

Apparently, there's a shift in the Nitrogen isotopes of my little brine shrimp somewhere between September and October. Not sure why yet--my current theories are this could be an input of light nitrogen from someplace else making its way into the brine shrimp biomass, or it could be the physiology of the little beasties getting ready for massive cyst production (maybe?).

Monday, June 18, 2007

Home, sweet home

I'm all moved in!

I still have boxes to unpack and closets to organize, and I'm coming to the realization that a bookshelf is a must have, as is a desk, but it's my house, it's my mess, and I can do with it what I want. I can walk around in my pj's because 1) I have no roommate, and 2) I close the blinds at night before I go to bed. I love the freedom of being able to walk around in my house in whatever state of dress or undress I choose (weird, huh?). All of the cabinets in the kitchen are mine, all of the dishes are mine, all of the food is mine.

The only thing missing is Derrick :)

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Just in case I'd forgotten...

So, I finished my laundry this morning (last chance for free laundry for a while) and as I was putting my sheets in the dryer my roommate said, "Don't forget the lint screen." Such a tiny, seemingly innocuous comment, and yet, a perfect reminder of why I'm leaving.

I forgot to change the lint screen once when she was present, and forever after I've been in her mind irresponsible and incapable of remembering even simple things (at least, that's my interpretation from the amount she bosses me around). If it's not the lint screen it's the dirt I track in from the garden (a hobby of which she disapproves for women), or snow that comes in on my boots in winter; it's having to ask permission for my friends to come over (I'm 29! She's not my mother!); and most of all, it's her request that I and my husband find someplace to be other than the house I'm paying half the rent for so she can feel comfortable in her house. I suspect this woman is probably overbearing and mothering to just about everyone she comes in contact with, but living with her just presents so many apparently irresistible opportunities for her to show how much more than me she knows, how much more responsible and considerate she is, and how much better she could live my life than I do.

Yesterday she helped me move some of my stuff to my new apartment. Halfway there I realized she wasn't behind me anymore, so I slowed down to see if she'd catch up. Surprise, surprise, she was waiting for me at my apartment building. Her point was made--she knows how to get around this town better than I do. If I get annoyed at someone else's one-upmanship does that indicate I'm competitive too, or just thin-skinned?

I was almost feeling badly for all the mean thoughts I've had about her (I probably still should, but I'm now planning to procrastinate my future change of heart for a few more days at least). Since Derrick went home six weeks ago she's been downright cheerful most days--I think she's been snarly only a few times. I guess it's easier for her to deal with me when there isn't a constant physical reminder around (like my husband) that I have the life she so desperately wants in spite of my ineptitude and unrighteousness.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Bartimaeus

I finished the last book of the Bartimaeus trilogy, Ptolemy's Gate, by Jonathan Stroud. I would highly recommend this trilogy to anyone who likes fantasy. It chronicles the adventures, and misadventures, of a djinni named Bartimaeus and his master, Nathaniel, and a common girl named Kitty Jones. It's witty, fast-paced, and refreshingly original. The wizards that populate Stroud's book, with their paranoid, control-freakish tendencies and magical technologies, make the lawyers of our world look friendly and laid back. If Harry Potter ends as well as this trilogy did, I will be extremely pleased.

I'm spending much of today getting things ready to move tomorrow. I am so excited about the new place! It's my own--I get to arrange the furniture and decorate as I see fit, I don't have to share kitchen space anymore. Living by myself is going to be awesome.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Red House

I'm moving on Saturday to my own apartment (yeah!). It's been nice living in a cheap place for the last year and a half, but it's also rather a pain having a roommate. I've also discovered that in the three years since I got married I've turned from a responsible, trustworthy adult into a credit risk. Grr. Turns out that if your name isn't on any utilities bills for 3 years you have to re-prove your worthiness to receive things like electricity without putting $170 deposit down. So, here's a lesson to all of you getting married: keep your name on the utilities so if anything should happen to your husband, your marriage, or your career, people will still think you're a responsible adult!

Saturday, June 9, 2007

She wore an itsy-bitsy, teeny-weenie...

Okay, so it's not yellow polka dot (it's blue), but I bought my first bikini last night. Target had a bunch on clearance, and I decided I'd like a new bathing suit since Derrick's going to take me to Greece in October. The last swimsuit I bought was a blue plaid I bought from (C)Ross Dress for Less while I was at tech, so it's pretty old. Still in good condition, but old. This one was less than $10 for both pieces (yeah clearance!), so I spent about $21 for the swimsuit, 35 lb of cat litter, and a pack of gum.

I've never had a bikini before--growing up Mormon, two-piece swimsuits in general were pretty well outlawed, and even once I stopped going to church in college I was pretty self-conscious about my appearance. I'm short, and short-waisted to boot, so I've had a belly ever since adolescence, even when I was really skinny. I'm to a point now where I'm not sure I care anymore. Not that I'm proud of my little belly pooch, but I'm kind of realizing this is the best my body is probably ever going to look and I shouldn't be ashamed of it.

Oh, and in potentially good sea monkies news, my Dunaliella cultures arrived, so I can start growing labeled food for my calibration experiment. At least, as long as the cultures survived. There was a bit of a miscommunication and I didn't realize the cultures had been mailed to me, so they've been sitting in my warm, dark mailbox for the last week. Oops! Hope they survive...

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

R-E-S-P-E-C-T

During comments on this post on being a stay at home mom, Rosalynde linked to an article on working women (working meaning for pay outside the home). I found it annoyingly wistful for a time when women's choices were proscribed by the society in which they lived. At one point Wolf (the author) claims:

If the able women of 70 or 100 years ago entered classrooms and hospital wards merely because nothing else was available, they would have brought little commitment to their work, and greater choice would clearly have benefited them and society alike.


What a load of crap! People who find pleasure in working hard and doing a good job (which is most of us, if we stop and consider) will find enjoyment from any number of tasks. I was very happy as a lab technician, and I could imagine being being just as happy teaching in highschool or junior high as I am being a poor starving grad student. There are a multitude of things I am good at that I would enjoy doing for the rest of my life. And I am hardly unique among women.

Yet the virtual disappearance of home-based, educated women (at least below the age of 60) has had an effect. A path once followed by able women across the developed world led to university, teaching and then motherhood, homemaking and voluntary work. Such women are now too busy. The average amount of time that today's British citizen, male or female, devotes to volunteer activities is four minutes a day.

The old unpaid female labour force is now otherwise engaged. Ask the Girl Guides if you doubt this. Scouting and guiding are themselves redolent of that vanished past. Yet Robert Baden-Powell understood exactly what excites and interests children, and the movement has them queuing, often vainly, at the door. What it lacks are adult leaders.


Okay, so, why not ask where the men are too? My church does a bang-up job of getting enough volunteers to fulfill these sorts of duties by asking all members to contribute. Volunteers are still probably mostly women, but the men are not left out of the picture at all.

I'm still reading Ann Crittenden's The Price of Motherhood (which is an excellent read so far) in preparation for a book club discussion of the book over at FMH. It's an excellent read, and I highly recommend it to everyone.

I have always considered myself a feminist, and never thought "feminism" was a dirty word. I have to admit, though, for a long time I looked down on the stay at home mom as a sell-out to feminism. Through my association with FMH, and through watching my friends who now have babies I've come to, perhaps grudgingly, accept the choice of becoming a SAHM as a valid feminist choice. This book was quite a wake-up call to me. It points out that we've made great strides in that women are, indeed, equal to men in the workplace--as long as they act like men. Once babies come along, though, the situation changes and women find themselves on the proverbial short end of the stick.

I loved the chapter on Sweden (I don't have the book in front of me, so identifying it more precisely will have to wait!). I think it's very true that the solution to working mother's issues will only come when both men and women are aware of them, and contributing to the solution: raising children. Somewhere else in the book (and again, I'll have to look it up later) Crittenden points out that the choice of husband is the most important choice a career-oriented woman can make. Find a guy who is willing to help out with kids and you can manage both. Marry a guy who doesn't contribute to child rearing, and all of that work will fall on the woman, which, in most cases, will force the woman out of the workforce and into the home. Here's to hoping I married well!

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Let us go not far astray

As I am sometimes wont to do on Sundays, I've spent some time today thinking about some past, very painful events in my life and how I dealt with them, and how I could have dealt with them better, what I've learned. I belong to a church that places great emphasis on the idea of personal revelation. There are, of course, caveats to believing personal revelation--over at bcc there was recently a discussion of how much trust we should put in the ideas, opinions, and revelations from the GA's vs. our own feelings, ideas, and experiences. It's an interesting question, as always and, of course, has precipitated my current musings (if it's not clear why, I'll get to that in a moment).

I am a scientist, and I admit freely I place more trust in science, logic, and reasoning than I do on faith. I am much more likely to do something if I understand the why behind it than if someone simply says, "do it because God says to." Most of the time this works out pretty well for me--sometimes there are conflicts, but most resolve themselves in an adequate manner. I tried the other way--the listening to the spirit and leaving decisions up to the Lord way--and it really didn't work for me.

After college, when I went to grad school, I decided I wanted to go back to church. I realized I did have faith in Mormonism, and so I made many changes in my life and went back to church. Most of the changes were pretty easy--I've never dressed terribly immodestly, I was never into drinking much, and I never liked coffee or tea--but giving up boys was hard. I felt like I had to give up dating non-Mormon guys and find someone who shared my faith. So that's what I did. I broke up with Derrick, started dating this other guy, I prayed over him, and for the first time in my life, I felt like I was in a relationship my Father in Heaven approved of and I felt that he would be pleased if I married this young man. It was a very powerfully good feeling, that certainty I was doing the right thing in the eyes of my Heavenly Father.

Then, the guy cheated on me.

Because of the confirmation I thought I'd felt, I gave him another chance. And another. And another. At some point I knew the confirmation was gone and that the relationship had turned sour, but it was so difficult to give up on that hope that I let him come back and tried to make things work. I felt like if the relationship failed, it would mean I'd failed and was unworthy of the promised blessing of a righteous husband. When the relationship finally ended, I felt like I must have been the bad person, and felt like I was being punished for my bad behavior in college.

I kept going to church, even though it was really hard to be there. I struggled for a long time, wondering if the feelings I'd felt were really true, or if I'd just imagined the confirmation of that relationship. When Derrick and I got back together I didn't ask the Lord if he approved the relationship--I wanted to be happy, I knew Derrick would provide that, and if the Lord wanted me stop, he was going to have to make me. (Really mature, huh?)

The latter approach worked. I'm glad I married Derrick. He is a wonderful husband, and he's a wonderful friend. I know why I wanted to marry someone who shares my beliefs, but I came to realize that religious beliefs aren't necessarily good indicators of shared beliefs.

I've also come to realize that all revelation, personal or not, is conditional. We can, through our actions, change the outcomes prophesied by the Lord's mouthpieces. We can give up promised blessings with bad behavior (Samson and Delilah, anyone?), and we can avoid promised punishments if we repent and turn back to the Lord. God may be all powerful and omniscient, but just because he said it doesn't always make it true.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

I in ur sonnet, doin ur ritin

4w3s0m3.

Happy Birthday to me!

Okay, so yesterday was my 29th birthday. I'm wishing myself belated birthday greetings, which probably explains why it is I send everybody belated birthday greetings. Usually birthdays are an annoyance to me, especially if I spend them alone, like I did yesterday. From my 22nd birthday to my 26th birthday, it was just a bad day. Let's see--my 22nd I was working like mad to finish a paper so I could graduate a week later, and assiduously avoiding all my classmates who were already finished, and especially avoiding my ex boyfriend, who I'd treated rather shabbily, and missed terribly. I don't remember my 23rd, so it couldn't have been too bad or too good--I was probably in Utah babysitting or something. The next year I was getting over another break-up, and spent the entire day alone because all of my church friends were off on a field trip I would have liked to attend, but I was again assiduously avoiding an ex. The next year wasn't too horrible--I was still in state college, but my birthday landed on a Sunday, so I at least had a big break the fast gathering to attend and Derrick visited. Derrick was the best part of that day. I made a cake that year for myself--white cake with strawberry filling and whipped cream for icing--that was the precursor to Derrick's and my awesome wedding cake (thank you Mimi!). That was definitely the best birthday I had in state college since the next year I defended my master's and spent the rest of the day crying because I was so tense.

I've been much happier since I got married in general, and my birthdays are markedly better, especially than my early 20's, but I still dislike them (at least, the even numbered ones, apparently). I spend the day feeling bad. It's really much better if I work because I can't mope so much, but I wish I didn't feel like moping in the first place. I certainly felt loved this year--a bunch of people called and emailed, which kept me from feeling like too much of a loser. So, thank you to all who remembered me on my birthday!

I think much of the moping is simply looking over my life, thinking about where I am now and where I think I *should* be. I'm a little frustrated to still be in grad school, though honestly not that much--I like what I'm doing, I like where I am for the most part, and I'm grateful for all of the experiences I've had along the way to this point. I'm even finding myself at least occasionally grateful for the bad experiences--even the bad birthdays!--because they're part of what makes me who I am, and I like that person. I'm excited about my future (even my first professional talk), and I can't wait to see where Derrick and I land next--together this time!