the sometimes senseless ravings (and the occassional rant) of an aspiring marine ecologist who may enjoy killing things a little too much

Monday, April 27, 2009


My twitter followers will already know that I have recently ventured into the wonderful world of bread making. So far, I have baked two loaves of homemade bread. The first was a basic white loaf, and it was awesome.

Here's what that first loaf of bread looked like:

The basic white bread recipe (for those who might want to try making their own bread):
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. butter
  • 1 packet active dry yeast
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 2 1/2 - 3 cups all purpose flour
  • Butter or non-stick cooking spray for bowl and loaf pan
What to do:
  • Dissolve yeast in 1 cup warm water in a large mixing bowl.
  • Melt butter and add it, milk, sugar, and salt to the yeast mixture and stir.
  • Add 1 1/2 to 2 cups flour to the mixture and stir with a spoon (do not add the rest of the flour yet).
  • Keep mixing in ~1/4 cup of flour at a time until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl and loses some of its stickiness.
  • Kneading (can be done in the bowl or on a floured counter or tabletop) - rub a little flour between your hands and knead the dough for 5-10 minutes, adding a little bit more flour as needed when the dough sticks to your hands. Just work the dough around really well with your hands, squishing it and forming it into a ball then squishing it around some more, adding small amounts flour all the while. You've kneaded it enough when the dough becomes springy (it bounces back when you poke it).
  • Coat another large bowl with butter or non-stick cooking spray, then form the dough into a ball and roll it around in the bowl so it's covered in butter or spray. Leave the dough in the sprayed or buttered bowl and cover it with a clean kitchen towel. Let the dough rise in a warm place for ~ 1 hour.
  • Punch down the risen dough (yes, punch it with your fist) and lay it out on a floured surface. Spread the dough into a rectangle (the short side should be about the length of your loaf pan). Roll the dough up, pinching the seams as you go. Pinch the ends closed and fold them under to form a loaf shape. Place the dough into a greased loaf pan, and cover it with a clean kitchen towel. Let the dough rise again for 45 minutes to 1 hour in a warm place.
  • Bake at 375 degrees (preheat the oven before baking) for ~30 minutes.
  • Remove from pan and place on cooling rack as soon as it comes of the oven. Let cool before slicing.
Today I made my first loaf of whole wheat bread. Actually, it is about 2/3 whole wheat flour with some all purpose flour in there, too.

Here's my whole wheat loaf after rising in the pan:

Now, here it is after coming out of the oven:

And here is the final sliced product:

The wheat loaf is every bit as good as the white one. Here's the recipe I used for the wheat bread:

  • 1 packet active dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 tbsp. melted butter or margarine
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/4 cups very warm water (hot tap water microwaved for 30-45 seconds)
  • 2 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
  • ~1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
Here's what you do:
  • Dissolve yeast in warm water.
  • Mix honey, butter, salt, and very warm water in a large bowl and cool for 5 minutes.
  • Beat in 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour with electric mixer; beat for 2-3 minutes. Beat in remaining whole wheat flour and dissolved yeast.
  • Stir in ~1 cup of all purpose flour with a spoon. Stir in ~1/4 cup more all purpose flour if the dough is still very sticky and does not pull away from the side of the bowl.
  • Knead in remaining all purpose flour as needed. Knead for 5-10 minutes until dough is springy. Place dough in a greased bowl (roll dough around in the bowl to cover in butter or cooking spray), cover with a clean kitchen towel, and let the dough rise for ~45 minutes.
  • Grease a loaf pan and punch down the dough in the bowl. Spread dough out on a floured surface to form a rectangle. Roll the dough up tightly, pinching the seams as you go. Pinch the ends of the roll to seal then fold them under to form a loaf shape. Place the dough in the loaf pan, cover the pan, and let the dough rise for 30-45 minutes.
  • Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350 degrees and bake for another 10 minutes.
  • Remove the bread from the pan to a cooling rack as soon as it comes out of the oven and let it cool before slicing it.


The Friends of the Mobile Public Library book sale was this past weekend, and Chad and I took Max to the Civic Center to take advantage of tons of books for super cheap prices. We came away with a ton of loot for the low, low price of $19.

Here's what I got (this does not include the books Chad picked out for himself):
  • Lullaby by Chuck Palahniuk
  • The Chocolate Jewel Case by Joanna Carl
  • Key Lime Pie Murder by Joanne Fluke
  • Lucky You by Carl Hiaasen
  • Brother Odd by Dean Koontz
  • Demon Seed by Dean Koontz
  • Cold Fire by Dean Koontz
  • One Door Away From Heaven by Dean Koontz
  • The Prodigal Son (Frankenstein Book 1) by Dean Koontz
  • 'E' is for Evidence by Sue Grafton
  • 'F' is for Fugitive by Sue Grafton
  • Three Complete Novels ('G' is for Gumshoe, 'H' is for Homicide, 'I' is for Innocent) by Sue Grafton
  • 'J' is for Judgment by Sue Grafton
  • 'K' is for Killer by Sue Grafton
  • 'L' is for Lawless by Sue Grafton
  • 'M' is for Murder by Sue Grafton
  • 'N' is for Noose by Sue Grafton
  • 'P' is for Peril by Sue Grafton
  • 'S' is for Silence by Sue Grafton
  • Digital Fortress by Dan Brown
A pretty good take, I think. I've had to clean off another bookshelf (i.e., move books to the shelves in the dining room) to make room for all of them.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Cooking Bug

I have caught it again, guys. Well, actually I didn't feel like cooking At All yesterday, so we ate leftovers all day, but today the urge to exercise my culinary muscles has returned. Does anyone else out there in InternetLand find recipes for things they have no idea how to make and then totally change them on a whim? Because I do that all the time. I almost never make a recipe exactly as written. I'm always adding something or leaving something out (on purpose). Tonight I am going to make chicken & rice for dinner (no, I have never made chicken & rice before, now kindly pick yourselves up off the floor), and I am totally not using the exact recipe I printed out. I wanted a recipe that did not invlove canned soup or heavy cream. Not because I have anything against canned soup or heavy cream, but because I have none of either in the house, and I've already been to the grocery store once today, thank you (I was buying ingredients for blackberry tarts. Actually, the recipe was for raspberry tarts, but I made blackberry instead. See? I can't help myself). I also wanted one that didn't call for instant rice. I have instant rice, but I just prefer the non-instant kind.

So, I found myself a recipe for chicken and rice using uncooked, regular, long-grain rice (I am using brown rice) and evaporated milk. But it also calls for celery, which I don't have. But I am totally going to add onions and bell pepper, which the recipe does not call for. But I have onions and a yellow bell pepper, and I am going to use them. Don't judge me. Anyway, I hope it doesn't suck. But there is still some leftover spaghetti in case Max won't eat it.

I hope I don't cut myself tonight. I already have three cuts on my hands, and I don't need anymore right now, thank you. I am such a klutz. The other day when I was chopping vegetables and herbs for chicken and risotto, I got a little careless with my knife, and cut my middle finger. Thankfully, the knife also hit my fingernail or that situation would have been really bad. In retrospect, that cut probably could have used a stitch or two anyway. It was pretty small (maybe 1/4" long) but kind of deep for a cut on a finger. Later on, I cut my other hand opening a can of parmesan cheese. That's what I get for not grating it fresh, right? I have another cut on my other middle finger, but I don't know where that one came from.

So yeah, no more cuts today. I just sharpened my knives, too, so wish me luck.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


As you can probably tell, I have been feeling rather uninspired lately. On all fronts. I am having a really hard time motivating myself to finish the dissertation and finally get the hell out of grad school. I find myself wasting an obscene amount of time doing absolutely nothing. I haven't even had anything good to blog about.

Here's the short version of what's been happening lately:
  • Max had pinkeye over the weekend, and I've been fighting him to let me put drops in his eyes.
  • I've been struggling to re-work the discussion section of the second chapter of my dissertation into something I can live with.
  • I've been eBay-ing way too much.
  • I painted a lot of faces (and the occasional arm and hand) at DISL's Discovery Day this past weekend.
  • I've been making an effort to exercise. Period. Because I realized that aside from housecleaning and hefting Max around, I don't.
  • The weather has been way too nice to be cooped up inside writing. I'm thinking I should take this party (meaning, me, my laptop, and a few papers) outside.
In other news, Max turned 15 months old today, which means another checkup soon. Also, he has finally started going to sleep on his own. I know, all the parenting books say you should lay babies down "drowsy but awake" from the time they're teeny tiny so they can learn to fall asleep on their own. But The Max? Has never been into that. Believe me, we tried. But he has always been the baby who screams bloody murder as soon as you move to lower him into the crib and continues to wail at the top of his lungs until he is picked up. It did not matter if I was right by his bed or if I was patting his back. Or if I was not in the room. He would just scream, and there's only so much non-stop screaming a person can stand. So we've been cuddling/rocking Max to sleep pretty much his whole life. Then he goes into his crib asleep.

But lately Max has been fighting the sleep thing. He's been squirming and struggling to get down and play after he has his bedtime cup of milk. So after a half hour of struggling and squirming and fussing the other night, I got frustrated and just put Max in his bed awake. Well, I told him goodnight and gave him a kiss, then put him in his bed and left the room. He didn't even cry, really. I could hear him moving around for a little while, and there was a little bit of whining that first night, but Max fell asleep maybe 10 minutes after I put him in his crib. So for the last few nights, we've been keeping his bedtime routine the same as it's always been, but instead of sitting down to cuddle/rock after his cup of milk, we do "goodnight"s and kisses, and Max goes in his crib. With no fuss whatsoever. We can hear him jumping in his bed for a few minutes, and then he's quiet. When I check on him before I go to bed, he's always snoozing away. So I'm loving that.

I am not loving that Max is waking up a zillion times a night (except last night, when he slept straight through from 8 p.m. to 6:10 a.m., which is still a bit too early). But at least he's staying in his bed instead of screaming bloody murder for as long as takes for me to take him to our bed.

Ah, well. It's time for me to get back to work. I'm also thinking about going for a jog at the park, so maybe I'll do that, too.

Monday, April 13, 2009


i guess the first thing i need to say today is that, when it comes to max, i am kind of a crazy control freak. i don't know if that's normal, and i don't care. i should also say that chad and i grew up in very different ways. his grandmother lived with them when he was little, and pretty much his whole family lived 5 minutes (or less) away. so maybe it was normal for his grandparents to treat him like their own child instead of their grandchild.

when i was little, my grandparents were about an hour away, which is close enough to see them often and have a fairly close relationship with them but not so close that they were around every single day. most of the time, we went to visit them instead of the other way around, and i can remember asking to go with them when they went into town for something while we were visiting. and my mom usually let me. but i don't remember my grandparents randomly coming over and asking my mom if they could take me and my brother somewhere without her. they just weren't like that. they did volunteer to babysit when mom needed it, though.

my in-laws have a bad habit of treating max like he is their child instead of their grandchild. everything with them is too much, which makes me crazy. and then i feel guilty for getting annoyed with them and wishing they would back off. if they lived closer to us, they would be here every day. chad warned me when we got married that his mom was going to be exactly like ray's mother on 'Everybody Loves Raymond.' and to a certain extent, she is. but i think she tries really hard not to be, which is probably why i feel guilty that she drives me crazy.

all of this was brought on by an unexpected visit from the in-laws on saturday. they called while i was in the shower that morning to say, "surprise, we're coming to mobile today, and we want to take max to the flea market with us." it really threw me for a loop. for several reasons.
  1. it was completely out of the blue.
  2. chad just took max to their house last saturday while i was at the graduate student symposium at the DISL. i guess they feel differently, but they don't need to see him every single weekend. we have other things to do.
  3. the following day was easter. so they were going to see him then. i understand that they like max and that they want to spend time with him. but they don't seem to understand that they are not his only relatives and that other people want to spend time with him, too.
  4. i am just not comfortable sending my toddler off anywhere without at least one of his parents. i am ok with leaving him at a friend or relative's house for a while, though. i don't care if that's rational or not.
  5. in my head, i already had a plan for the day, and apparently i don't deal well with unexpected changes to my schedule. especially annoying ones. i think if they'd given us at least a day's notice, i would have handled things better.
  6. i did not let max go with them, so they came over to our house for a while before they went to the flea market. hoping i would change my mind and let them take him. they kept making little comments about it the whole time they were here.
i can't seem to make myself not get annoyed at something every time we're around the in-laws. and it's always just little things that piss me off, so i guess that's my problem. but i can only deal with so many little things.

things they've done recently that totally hit me the wrong way:
  • constantly distracting max while he is eating. talking to him very animatedly and waving toys in front of him while he's having lunch doesn't make getting him fed easy.
  • little off-hand comments that don't really matter now but might when max gets older and really understands what they're saying. things to the effect of, "if you don't like what mommy does, you can come stay with us. call us anytime and we'll come get you." that is never going to happen.
  • they bought him a life jacket. because they assume that they will be taking my very small child fishing. on a boat. without his parents. maybe when he's older. as in, school age. not anytime soon.
  • grabbing max and taking him outside without a word. they have done this at our house and theirs. they did it yesterday. they just decided to take him outside to hunt easter eggs in their yard without waiting for chad and me. i was in the process of looking for max's sunglasses, and chad was fixing something on their computer. at their request.
  • letting their enormous dog (a bull mastiff) run around with max. they usually grab the dog and put him on a leash when we pull up so he won't jump on us. but it's fine if he's loose when max is running around outside? i don't think so. most of the time, he's pretty calm, but he has his moments, and the fear of the dog bowling max over and accidentaly hurting him is not irrational.
  • acting like they have to buy everything for max. they go completely overboard. all the time. not just holidays and birthdays. they sent 3 outfits home with max last weekend. they had just given him a whole box of clothes (in the same size) at his birthday. and they have no idea what they have already bought for max. they have bought multiples of the same outfit in the same size on more than one occassion. at a certain point, the amount of stuff they buy becomes incredibly wasteful. they have bought 6 pairs of shorts and 10 shirts for max in the same size over the last two months. we already buy clothes for max. and toys. gifts are fine, but it's always just too much. they never ask what max already has or what he needs. they just buy mass quantities of stuff. the couple of times i have told them something that he needs, they either don't get it or get it later when we don't need it anymore (i.e., when i said we needed 12 month size pajamas and they waited three months to buy them, when max was starting to outgrow them). they just buy whatever they want, wasting money and whatever they bought. i've returned what i can, and i'm sending other things to the goodwill.
  • stocking their house with the little veggie bowls and stuff that i sometimes get for max. they don't seem to understand that he's not going to be there often enough to justify special purchases unless they're planning on using them too. plus, max usually eats what we eat. and i always take back-up toddler food anyway.
chad says that sometimes his parents feel a little awkward hanging out with max at our house, and i can sort of understand that. but at the same time, i don't think that they should feel free to do whatever they please with him. maybe i'm weird, and other people think that grandparents have the right to do whatever they want to with their grandkids. but to tell the absolute truth, i don't want them to feel like they can come over anytime they want to and take max. and that is not the same as saying that i don't want them to see max. i want max to know his relatives and love them. but they should not have the same responsibilities and privileges with him that his parents do. there should be boundaries.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

The Toddler Room

so, max started in the toddler room at daycare this week, and before he actually moved up to the new class, i was afraid i would have the same issues that i had with the big baby room at first. but i didn't need to worry. i think i love the toddler room. it's funny how max has spent the majority of his daycare career in the big baby room (aka, infant 2 class) when i like the other classes so much more. except it isn't really funny. i mean, i got used to the big baby room, and once he was about 9 months old, the big baby room was good for max. but it still sucked for the two or three months before that.

max spent 7 1/2 months in the big baby room at daycare. he started that class when he was 6 1/2 months old and the youngest baby in the class, and now he's 14 months old and was the oldest baby in that class. now he is 3rd youngest in the toddler room. but he is smaller than both the kids who are younger than he is. the youngest kid in the toddler room isn't really a toddler yet. he is 13 1/2 months old, but he can't walk yet. so it seems silly that they moved him up just because he was next in line. the little girl who was behind that kid can walk, but she is still in the infant 2 class. i don't see why they couldn't have moved her up instead and left the kid who can't walk yet in infant 2 for a little while longer. there isn't much difference in their ages (maybe 2 weeks). oh well. at least it wasn't my kid that got stuck in the toddler room before he could walk.

anyway, i was pleased with max's first day in the toddler class. they sent home a schedule last week, and it really isn't much different from the infant 2 schedule. they have lunch at the same time. the only differences are that snack times are a half hour later, and afternoon nap starts an hour later than in infant 2. but max never went to sleep at the beginning of nap time, anyway, so he's still actually going to sleep around the same time in the afternoon (2-ish). also, they do a morning snack from 8:00-8:30 for the toddlers, which is only about an hour after max has breakfast. daycare provides that snack. this morning it was pop-tarts (which max doesn't really like), cheez-its (which max LOVES), or animal crackers (they're ok). max probably won't ever eat much at morning snack, and i guess it won't hurt it him. mostly, it's for the kids who don't eat breakfast before they get dropped off or wake up really early, and their parents usually bring breakfast for them.

the toddlers have their own little cafeteria where they eat lunch and their afternoon snack. it's really just a break room with two big tables that have baby seats built into them. each kid has a little cubby in there with their snacks.

the toddler room is much less chaotic than the big baby room, and the teachers seem much more organized. there is a hook below each kid's box (where we leave snacks, pacifiers, etc) to hang his bag on, instead of the jumbled shelf where the bags went in infant 2. one of the teachers showed me everything on max's first day (where to put max's juice and milk in the fridge, the toddler cafeteria & cubbies, etc.) and asked if i had any questions. i just felt like they had their shit together, you know?

so yeah, i think this toddler thing is gonna work out.