09 March, 2015

Mixology Monday- Whiskey Ginger

This drink isn't just for red heads! I've been into this cocktail lately because I love the tingly flavor of a ginger beer that isn't too sweet. The drink is traditionally made with rye, but all I had was bourbon. It still tastes great!

Recipe:
2 oz rye whiskey... Or whatever you have. Let's not be too picky. It's Monday. 
4 oz ginger beer (l like Reed's Extra Ginger or Fever Tree)
2-3 dashes of bitters
A squeeze o' lime

Pour it all into a highball glass (I know, I know, my glass isn't a highball) over ice, stir, and you're done!

Cheers! 


31 January, 2015

Coulda Woulda Shoulda

I was talking to some friends last week and a thought-provoking question came up.

"If you could talk to 18-year-old you, what three pieces of advice would you give them?"

We all have things in our past that we regret. We all have made bad decisions. We all wish we could go back and do some stuff over knowing what we know now. It is funny this came up in conversation, because I've been having some of those thoughts lately. Which leads me to

Piece of advice number 1.

Cs may get degrees, but despite what you think right now, you will want to go to grad school at some point down the road. I graduated with an embarrassing 2.5 GPA. I can give you a laundry list of excuses, some of which are legitimate, about why. My parents are not academically inclined- my dad has a sociology degree and my mom never went to college. They were just thrilled I was in college- they knew nothing about navigating academia. My academic advisor for my major was absolutely worthless. He never  talked to me about my career goals, never told me about getting involved in academic research or internships, never counselled me about my low grades. I wasn't savvy enough to ask about these things. When I met with him the conversation pretty much went like this: "Looks like you're on track to graduate. Keep it up." I worked full time and played in the band. I was busy and I didn't devote the time to my studies that I should have. I slid by and didn't apply myself. After graduation, I landed a job at a well-known medical reference laboratory.

After a few years of working in a clinical toxicology lab, I grew tired of the constant routineness of the job. Following an SOP every day and not getting to actually fix problems that arose drove me crazy. One of the research and development scientists was kind enough to let me help her with some projects and I decided I really liked the R&D end of things. I liked being able to use my brain and solve problems, not just go through the same motions all the time. I worked on an immunoassay validation and the company who provided the kits paid for me to attend the Society of Forensic Toxicologists (SOFT) conference in Oklahoma City, where I presented a poster detailing my project. That kind of sealed the deal for me. In my spare time in the lab, I worked on little side projects here and there. I learned as much about immunoassays and mass spectrometry as I could with the few resources I had.

In order to move into R&D, I knew I'd have to get a masters degree, but my GPA would hinder that. I applied once and failed to get in, though I was not surprised. Fast forward a couple of more years and the perfect job opportunity fell into my lap. The medical director over the lab I was working in received a grant from the university. He needed a research assistant with great laboratory skills who knew about time-of-flight mass spectrometry. I totally fit the bill, got the job, and got myself out of the clinical lab. I was stupid lucky. I was able to move into R&D with a bachelors degree and no publications to my name. I've been working hard  and learning a lot over the past 18 months, but to truly further my career, I really need to obtain an advanced degree. Now I can only hope that my professional accomplishments in the past 10 years will overshadow poor decisions I made in the past. By the time I apply, I'll have a few first author publications to my name and I'll be a middle author on a handful of others. I need to take the GRE and get a really great score, but I'm not too worried about that. I'm not all that worried about good letters of recommendation, either. I have good relationships with people who can write me strong letters. All of this could be for nothing if the graduate committee cannot see beyond stupid things I did 10-17 years ago.

TL;DR If I worked hard and earned good grades during my undergrad, I wouldn't have to be busting my ass now and praying to the Flying Spaghetti Monster that I get into grad school.

The second piece of advice.

Pay your damn bills and do not get in debt. Learn to budget and save. I had way too much of a laissez faire attitude about everything when I was in my early twenties, it would seem. My rather stupid approach to my finances was "I'll remember the fun I had, not the debt." Ugh. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid. I defaulted on stuff. I ruined my credit. I am 35 and am just now climbing out from under those mistakes.

The third piece of advice.

Don't be a bitch about your brother's wedding. I was an ass. I refused to be in the line because I didn't think they should get married. I still think at 21 they were too young to get married, but they are still married and I am still single. So what do I know? All I needed to do was stand up there in an ugly dress and smile and I wouldn't do it. I still have a hard time grinning and bearing it when I have to be involved with something or someone I don't agree with, either personally or professionally. I am stubborn, but I dislike confrontation. My coping technique is avoidance. I am working on it and I am also getting better at keeping my mouth shut, but man is it hard.

So there you go. My three pieces of advice I wish I could give my past self. Now I just need a TARDIS or a Flux Capacitor or whatever they did in Star Trek IV to save the whales.


19 January, 2015

Another Attempt at Blogging and Another Five Things

One of my New Years resolutions is to give blogging a semi-serious attempt. We'll start off easy with this post.
  1. What I am reading: I just finished A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness. I'll give it a "Meh, it was better than Twilight." It's your classic witch meets vampire fluffy chick-lit tale. Diana is a witch and a brilliant historian. Matthew is a brooding vampire and genius scientist. They fall for each other in the span of a couple weeks and people are pissed. It's oddly captivating, but I found myself annoyed with Matthew's over-protective, controlling ways (should we call him Edward or Christian?) at several points in the book. It was slow in places and I found myself skimming a lot. Oh. And like that awful book, Twilight, NO SEX. WTF?!?? Maybe a steamy love scene or two would have spiced things up a bit. Maybe Matthew can't get it up in his old age. Who knows?

    I linked to Amazon, but if you decide you want to read this book, please consider purchasing from a local bookstore, or even a big corporate bookstore in your community. I know it is super easy and convenient to purchase something in a few clicks, but bookstores are struggling. Buying local keeps your money in your community and creates jobs. Besides, isn't it fun to browse the tables and shelves to see what else may strike your fancy?
  2. What I am listening to: A dear friend of mine turned me on to The New Pornographers. They fall into that ambiguous indie rock genre. I've been humming "Sing Me Spanish Techno" from their Twin Cinema album for days.
  3. What I am eating: I started eating a mostly paleo/grain-free diet a couple of years ago. I feel great and I've lost nearly 45 pounds (I also count calories on MyFitnessPal)! I find I don't miss bread and pasta all that much. I don't crave sweets like I used to- when I have a "cheat meal" or dessert, I often feel sick after and it just doesn't taste as good as it once did. I include dairy and drink the occasional beer because beer is awesome. This veggie and meatball soup recipe has been a staple for me this winter. I like making up a big thing of soup so I can take it for lunch during the work week.
  4. What I am drinking: I love beer, but I have recently been turned on to ciders. I totally dig the Stella Artois Cidre. It's dry and crisp and not too sweet. It's a nice, light alternative to beer.
  5. What I am wearing: As mentioned above, I've lost nearly 45 pounds, so I have pretty much purchased a whole new wardrobe this winter. The Limited is one of my new favorite stores and I think I need this shirt. They often have 40-50% off sales, so you can pick up stuff on the cheap! 



13 October, 2012

Obligatory Political Rant, or 'Tis the Season.

I am not a Democrat or a Republican. Like most Americans, I am somewhere in the middle- fiscally conservative, socially liberal. This post isn't going to be about how evil or amazing either candidate is. Rather, I have a few things to get off my chest about how we, as Americans, can improve the economy, our country, and ourselves.

*gets up on soap box*

First of all, the president, no matter who he is, is ONE MAN. He cannot create jobs, fix the economy, provide world-class healthcare to everyone, or walk on water. I don't care who you vote for, Obama or Romney- nothing is going to change unless we change who we are electing to represent us, both on a local and a national level. Until we take big money, big business, and special interests out of politics and demand our representatives look out for the people they are representing  nothing is going to change. Ever.We need people in Washington who are willing to work together, compromise  and come up with common-sense solutions to the problems in this country. And by "problems in this country," I mean getting our troops home, education, funding for science and technology research, our crumbling infrastructure, immigration, energy, and health care. I don't mean abortion and gay marriage. Abortion and the gay people aren't going away, you might as well just get over it. Don't just vote for someone because they are who you've always voted for or because the media has done your thinking for you. Be informed, do your research (and by research, read more than Fox News or the Huffington Post), and don't just re-post something on Facebook that your friend posted because you "like" it.

Want the economy to improve? Here are my suggestions:

  • Vote with your dollar. Support local businesses and quit buying cheap Chinese crap at Wal-Mart. Local businesses put three times more money into the local economy than big businesses do, they also keep more tax dollars in the community. Local businesses create local jobs. Go to farmer's markets and food co-ops, local restaurants, local coffee houses, and mom-and-pop stores when you can. I have found a few local places that I love to visit on a regular basis. I have become friends with the proprietors and I alway feel good knowing my money going to a company I like and support.  Sometimes you'll pay a little bit more, but I think it's worth it if the money stays in the local economy. Don't just order everything online because it's "cheaper." Demanding cheap things is part of the reason we got into this crisis because American jobs went overseas for cheap labor. 
  • Get an education. The unemployment rate for college graduates is less than that of people with just a high school diploma. Check out this chart from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Most of the jobs lost in the economic downturn were held by workers with only a high school education. We live in the future (though we still don't have hoverboards. Damn.) Science and technology are not going away, learn to love them and embrace them. In fact, science and technology are contributing to most of the fastest-growing fields, meaning, you guessed it- more jobs! College isn't for everyone, I get it. Learn a skill or a trade if a four year degree isn't something for you. Do something beyond getting a high school diploma. We have lost manufacturing jobs to people overseas who are willing to work for much less. Let's not lose science and tech jobs to our foreign counterparts because we are an uneducated populace. America needs to become competitive again.
What this all boils down to is personal responsibility and hard work. We need to suck it up and pull ourselves up by the bootstraps. We have turned into such a society of victims; everyone has an excuse for their circumstances, but excuses don't get you anywhere.The economy is not going to get better overnight, but by thinking a bit more about where you spend your money and working toward a little more education, things will get better. Don't have kids you can't afford. You wouldn't buy a house or a car if you were unemployed- kids are a huge financial commitment and your gametes aren't going to dry up while you work yourselves into a better financial situation. If you expect the government to help you, you are part of the problem. Welfare is there for people who fall on hard times; that doesn't mean it's ok to reproduce because you can get Medicaid and food stamps to take care of you. Take care of yourself. Eat healthfully and exercise a little. By doing this, you'll lower your medical costs and feel better; you'll have more energy to do that hard work I mentioned. The economic recovery and the future well-being of the country is up to us, not the president or our government.

12 August, 2012

Five Fantastic Things

This is going to be a girly post. So, gentleman, you may want to check back later for something a little more relevant to your interests.

Eins  (I'm not sure why I'm going with German numbers today. It sounded fun.)

I love nail polish. I've been really into blues and greens lately. And thanks to that evil Pinterest website (a post about my Pinterest adventures will come soon), I found my new favorite color. It's called "For Audrey" by China Glaze; it's Tiffany blue and so, so pretty. I've worn it a couple of times now. The first time, I wore it on all of my fingers. This time, I've paired it with "You Don't Know Jacques" by OPI with Jacques on everything but my ring fingers. I think "For Audrey" is the perfect shade for someone who wants to try a trendier color, but does not want it to be too flashy. It's subtle and classy. Like me. Oh! And this is the best. topcoat. ever. It is super-thick, keeps my mani looking good for a week, and it dries quickly.

Zwei

The sock bun seems to be all the rage right now. My hair is long, but it is fine and often uncooperative, so the cut-the-toe-off-your-boyfriend's-sock technique did not work very well for me. I couldn't get my hair to tuck and roll. My coworker told me about this little gem from Sally Beauty Supply. It's made out of a meshy material that helps grip my hair as I roll it into the bun. I've also discovered that spraying my hair with a bit of water also helps. The best part about this method is no bobby pins are needed to hold it in place! I use a few to touch up the unruly areas, but the bun holds itself together nicely on its own. The hair donut comes in black, brown, and blonde so you gingers are out of luck. Here's a YouTube video describing how to get this look. I had try doing this style a few times before I got it to look right, but now I wear my hair like this at least twice a week.

Drei

I wasted precious hours of my life that I can never get back reading 50 Shades of Grey. How can something so poorly written, so trite, so cliche be an effing best seller?! I've read hotter love scenes in a Nora Roberts book. Let me talk to you about a book that is a much better story, so much better written, and has much more appealing characters. I am currently reading Outlander by Diana Gabaldon and I am totally sucked in. Main character Claire Randal is a former WWII Brittish combat nurse who gets sucked back two hundred years after wandering into a stonehenge-like circle of rocks. The book details her adventures trying to adapt to the Scottish culture in a period where they are fighting the English, modern medicine hasn't been invented, and she is forced to marry a kilt-wearing Scottish hotty for her own protection. This book has all of the things I look for- well-developed characters, adventure, a little romance, and an actual plot. It is the first book in a series of seven or eight and, I'm not going to lie, the length of the books and the series is a little daunting, but if they are all as good as the first one, I'm sure I'll be grateful.

Vier

Do you like Pride and Prejudice? Have you read the book and watched the A&E miniseries over and over? Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy = Swoon... but I've gotten side-tracked. I found a really cool webseries on YouTube that is based on P&P, but is set in modern times. Lizzie Bennett is a college student making a video blog about her life. Jane, Charlotte, and Lydia make appearances among others. It's hilarious and brilliantly done. She posts new episodes every Monday and Thursday. I've posted the first video in the series below. Here is a link to Lizzie Bennett's YouTube channel and here is a link to all of other stuff I've watched on YouTube recently.



Funf

The Mary Sue is one of my favorite websites. They say they are a guide to geek girl culture, but I think they are tribute to female awesomeness. Articles range from comic book news to video games to smart women doing great things in the world. Even if you don't style yourself as a geek, the site is worth checking out. I think it is refreshing to see a site that has articles that have a very positive female spin on them. The geek world can be a rough place for the ladies from time to time, but you'll be among friends here.









20 July, 2012

Mmm...Beer...

I love a good beer. I'm not talking about that domestic lager crap, though. I love craft beers. You'll usually find a smattering of local brews in my fridge, along with a few bottles of stuff that ain't from around these parts. I had been kicking around the idea of learning to brew my own for quite some time, but always found a way to talk myself out of it. Mostly because it would have been a $200 up-front investment for the equipment and ingredients and I was scared I'd eff it up, get discouraged, and never touch the stuff again.

This year the Easter Bunny was way, way to generous and instead of an Easter basket, I received brew buckets and carboys and all of the other bells and whistles needed to make that ancient frothy beverage, that may or may not have saved the world. Hells. Yes. All I needed to do was buy an ingredient kit; for that, I went to Salt City Brew Supply. After discussing my preferences and options with the brew master, I settled on their British brown ale. He told me it would be similar to Newcastle, but not as sweet, and pretty hard to mess up. Sounded perfect to me.

After doing meticulous research (read: skimming this book and Googling "how do i make beer"), I felt I was ready to embark on my beer-making journey. I followed the directions enclosed in the kit, starting with steeping the grains for a half hour, adding the malt extract, and adding the hops at various times during the hour-long boil. After that, I cooled the big-ass kettle in my sink to chill the wort to 80 degrees or so. This took longer than I thought it would. Damn water and it's heat capacity. When appropriately chilled, I transferred the wort to the primary fermentation bucket, added water to bring the total volume up to 5.25 gallons, and pitched the yeast. Eat that sugar and make alcohol, little yeasty friends! (Hm. I think the word "yeasty" might belong in my previous post, now that I think about it.) I did forget a trivial step, here. I neglected to measure the original gravity. Whoops. No big deal, I just won't know how potent my  libation is. Mr. Boyfriends beefy, body-buildy cousin hefted the bucket to the cool basement for me (ok, the bucket wasn't *that* heavy, but muscly guys like to show off their muscly skills from time to time, right?). And the waiting began. The airlock bubbled away and Lady Wiener Dog guarded the door (or rather, I think the was convinced there was something living in the bathroom because she heard the airlock noises).

After a week in primary fermentation, I transferred my fledgling beer to a glass carboy for a secondary. I'm told this step wasn't really necessary since I wasn't adding more yeast, but it helped to settle out more trub and yeast, er, droppings and stuff. After one more week of waiting (this beer making stuff isn't very instant-gratification, by the way...) I added a priming sugar solution to my bottling bucket, carefully siphoned my beer into it, and bottled away with the help of Mr. Boyfriend. After bottling, I think my total yield was around 3.5 gallons or so. I lost some beer in the transfer steps. And more waiting ensued.

After five or so days had passed, I could no longer resist the sweet siren call of my beer. I threw one on the fridge to crack open that night, but alas, it was not as bubbly as I'd hoped. I decided to wait several more days and try it again. Getting better, but not quite there. Damn. More waiting. We went out of town for a few days, which made things a little easier. I could not just sit in the basement coaching what yeast was left to burp carbon dioxide. The cliche "third time's a charm" proved true! My beer was perfectly carbonated and brown and delicious. I was skeptical about how it would turn out. I wondered if it would be one of those skunky homebrews that everyone's tried. "Yeah...this is really, uh, interesting. So cool that you make your own beer. Um, what else do you have?" But guess what?! It was awesome! I could hardly believe it. It was crisp and smooth, with just the right amount of hops. I took it to several parties and received rave reviews from people who would tell me my beer sucked if it, in fact, sucked. I made beer! And it was good beer! That batch didn't stick around too long. I am now making my second batch, an amber ale from the same brew supply store from which I got the brown ale kit. It's percolating in primary right now, awaiting a transfer to secondary this weekend.




06 June, 2012

These Words Must Go.

There are several words that are like nails on a chalk board to me. Depending on the word, I cringe, shudder, roll my eyes, or lose all faith in humanity when I hear it. I know I'm not the only one who feels this way. The links below prove it. If you could ban a word from the English language, what would it be?

Here are my suggestions:

  • "Expresso." I hear people (usually those who are trying to appear sophicsticated by ordering a "fancy coffee") use this when referring to this delicious, caffeine-infused latte ingredient. It's espresso ( e-spres-oh), people! The word is derived from the Italian word for pressed coffee. Hence the "press" part of "espresso." Next time you are ordering your tall, skinny, half-caff, sugar-free vanilla, no foam, extra hot latte you want two shots of espressso not expresso. Your baristas and your friends will be slightly less irritated by your ridiculous order.
  • "Allegedly."Use of this word is rampant in the news to avoid criminalizing someone involved in whatever tomfoolery drew the media's attention to them in the first place. It's used so much that it has become a total cliche and completely meaningless. When a news reporter is relaying a story and says someone "allegedly" did something, do you really hear the word "allegedly" and think "well, they might not be guilty..."? No. No, you don't.  "The man allegedly killed his girlfriend because she allegedly burned dinner again. She was alleged to be a poor cook and housekeeper and he had allegedly had enough." Next time you're watching the news or reading an aritcle about an alleged crime that has allegedly been committed by an alleged suspect, observe how many times "allegedly" or "alleged" is (over)used and you, too, will be annoyed. 
  • "Moist." Ew. Just. Ew. Moist makes me think of damp (this word isn't much better now what I think about it) nether-regions and it just sounds kind of gross. Think about it. Moist. Say it to yourself. Moist. It is probably not the best word to describe cake, soil, underwear, or the weather. Most people agree with this sentiment. When you Google "moist is a gross word" this is what you get.
  • "Panties." There is nothing sexy about this word. When I hear "panties" I think more of this than this. What woman says she needs new panties and can keep a straight face? "Honey, I need to hit the Vicki's Secret, I'm in dire need of some new panties." No. I don't care what you call them, just don't call them panties any more. It sounds pervy and you may need to register as a sex offender if you are overheard by the wrong people. Drawers, knickers, underwear, undies, or even small clothes are preferable. No more panties.
Let us all use these words in a sentence one last time and then vow to never use them again.

She allegedly drank expresso in her moist panties.