Sunday, October 26, 2008

in which my new career plans fall flat

Well, I know that I'll probably never be a baker. I made cupcakes from scratch today for the first time ever, and they are possibly the worst cupcakes you could possibly imagine. 

They are rubbery, strongly egg-y in their flavor and let's just say the frosting puts the "butter" in buttercream.

I'm bummed about the texture, and I can't figure out what I did wrong. Probably overmixed the batter, even though I used cake flour. (However, the instructions weren't very helpful..."mix until batter has a curdled appearance". Well, maybe that is helpful except I didn't know what it meant. Curdled milk?)

But the flavor was the real disappointment. I followed the yellow cake recipe from "The Best Recipe" by America's Test Kitchen, which has a LOT of butter in it. So much that the cupcakes are actually a bit greasy. And you can really taste the eggs. 

And the frosting? I've had "real" buttercream frosting before and it definitely had a better texture than what I made. Perhaps I didn't beat it long enough because it's not very fluffy and it's not even very sweet. It really does taste just like butter with some sugar and lime (I didn't have any lemon) mixed in. If there is a difference between handheld mixers and stand mixers in the amount of time needed to achieve the results, I wish a recipe would note that. The cake recipe did, but the frosting recipe (from the same book) didn't.


Saturday, October 25, 2008

in which I discover the perfect diet plan

Yes, I will consume only food that I grow myself.

Given that the total garden produce from June to October has been less than four quarts of vegetables total, dramatic weight loss is sure to ensue. I would probably die from starvation after a few months, after which weight loss is even more rapid!

Yeah, so the garden is a bust, although I did make a salad for lunch in which all the veggies came from the garden, picked about 20 minutes before consumption.

I have learned a few things about gardening, though. 

1. You must stake your tomatoes. Otherwise they fall over and you have to dig through the plant to find the ripe ones. I hate the way tomato plants smell. Absolutely hate it.

2. Cucumbers have spines. 

3. Supermarket cukes are not waxed for aesthetics but to keep in moisture. They shrivel up really fast.

4. Just because a product is called "garden soil" doesn't mean it's necessarily good for all gardens. Especially if it says "great for flowers!" on the label. It was probably great for flowers, but it sure sucked for root veggies. 

5. Despite what I've read to the contrary, you probably should put a liner at the base of a raised garden to keep the grass from growing up into it. Several layers of cardboard and the weight of several inches of compost is not enough to smother the grass. 

6. I'm glad I like green beans because that's about the only thing that I seem to be able to grow well. Even the second crop of radishes didn't do well (see #4).

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

in which I try not to talk about kittens but fail

Nadja, the white foster kitten, is back at the Humane Society for observation. Over the past week, Mouse has gotten very active and playful, but Nadja remained very quiet. She loves people and would jump up to your shoulder at every chance she'd get, but she wasn't very active. On Sunday, I picked up both kittens to put them in the spare room for the night and noticed that Mouse was substantially bigger and noticeable heavier than Nadja. Just out of curiosity, I weighed them on the kitchen scale. Mouse weighed about 700 grams, but Nadja weighed only about 400. She's not eating for some reason; don't know if she's being bullied by Mouse or has stomach issues. I hope she's ok; and that's she's not ill because of something I did or didn't do. 

(At this moment, Mouse is fascinated by the end of my nose. She's sitting on my chest--why does every single cat love to sit on my chest?--and keeps sniffing and nibbling the end of my nose.)

In non-feline news, I am participating in a Value Engineering study this week. I only agreed to it because I am rather slow at work and this is a whole week of project chargeable work, but while I find it very interesting to listen to the project, I don't think I'm actually adding anything. In the whole two days so far, the only thing I've contributed was knowing what is the minimum height of a bike path (8 feet for bikes/pedestrians, 10 feet if equestrians are allowed). So I've been feeling bored and useless which is making me a bit depressed. I wouldn't feel quite so bad except my boss is a participant as well, so I can't even head out and go back to the office. 

And the PE exam is on Friday, which has only increased my stress. I am so unprepared. I am unprepared because I am unmotivated. But I am stressed because I feel like I should be motivated. I've been working as an engineer for the past eight years, and I've pretty much chosen this as a career path, so suck it up all ready! Everyone I know who studied engineering was really interested in the subject. I was not interested in the subject and so I didn't study engineering at university, and a lot of my career anxiety stems from ending up in a profession that doesn't really fascinate me. Parts are interesting, yes. But am I motivated to read Engineering Today and find out about new types of bridge construction and different types of retaining walls? Not especially. So I feel like a fraud. And so I feel like a fraud like me shouldn't even have a PE license. And so I am unmotivated to study. But I stress anyway, because I feel like I should be more interested.  blah blah blah in an endless cycle. However, since I was slow at work, I was spending my down time studying the topics I didn't do very well in last time. Which was essentially the topics I wasn't all that interested in. 

Ah well, enough bellyaching. Back to the books. Fluid dynamics!!! 

Monday, October 06, 2008

in which I update the animal situation

1. Nadja, Mouse, and MamaCat are back at the Humane Society under vet observation. I spoke to someone on the vet staff who seemed rather irked that I didn't keep Jasper's remains, but I explained that I didn't know that I was supposed to do that. (In Foster Cat Training 101, they don't cover Death of Foster Animals.) Besides, keeping a kitten corpse in my freezer is going above and beyond the call of duty, if you ask me.  She said she'd call the emergency vet to see if they could get the remains for testing. 

(On a side note, the emergency vet faxed the visit summary to my regular vet, and Dr Warren called me this morning to express her condolences. That was very nice of her, and unexpected too since Jasper wasn't one of her patients.)

2. My friend HippieChick give Eddie a new home. I'll miss the guy, but I know she's a great human to her pets.

3. I spoke to my neighbor and told him we'd foster his dogs until they could find a good home if he wasn't able to rehome them by the time he had to move. I'm 95% sure that he won't look very hard for new homes and that we will end up with them. This is actually what I'm hoping for. I know you can find good families for pets via "free to a good home" ads (after all, that's how we found Seamus), but these are an Amstaff and an Amstaff mix and I'm really concerned that they'd fall prey to a not-very good home. Both these dogs are really good dogs, and they deserve a chance.  

Sunday, October 05, 2008

in which there is balance in things

It's been a pretty rotten past couple of days. Things could definitely be worse; I am a disaster minded person, so trust me, I can think of many ways that things could be worse. But there's balance right now. 

Here's a summary of my life since Thursday.

1. My near death experience on the streets of Seattle. 
I'm not joking. I work in an old, six storey building in Pioneer Square. Old brick buildings and ancient glass? Super high on ambience, character, and charm. Not so great with safety factors. I left a little bit after lunch to walk to a meeting held at another office in downtown, and I noticed the window washer had set up his cone of safety on the sidewalk. I walked around the cone of safety, and heard a crash. I looked up, and a giant chunk of glass was falling from the sky right towards my head. I quickly stepped to the right, and the glass crashed on the pavement right about where I had been standing. It was a windy day and the window washer had been caught in a gust of wind and crashed into a window, which shattered. The large chunk of glass obviously hadn't completed its 40 hour occupational health and safety course because it completely ignored the cone of safety and smashed to smithereens well outside it. The window washer was all right; he wasn't cut by the glass. 

So yes, I avoided grave harm by luck. The broken window was on the fourth storey. This is probably what saved me from harm. If it were on the second storey, it probably would have fallen before I'd even processed the crashing sound. If it had been the third storey, it most likely would have struck me right as I looked up. 

Strangely, I wasn't really affected by the whole experience. No shaking nerves of a narrowly averted disaster. I was ok, the window washer was ok, so that's that. He had set up his safety protocols like he was supposed to, and I avoided the work area like I was supposed to. Later, I told my boss about it, and she had the attack of nerves. "Oh my god, do you realize that you could have been killed?" "Yes," I said, "at the very least concussed, possibly gashed, depending on whether it hit me in the scalp or in the face. It probably wouldn't have hit me in the neck." (See, I told you I was disaster-minded.) "I'm so glad you are all right," she cried, and gave me a big hug. "Who would have done your job if you were hurt?" 

Ms Swann, our office administrator and my friend, had called in ill all week. She had surgery a few months ago and it's been a slow recovery for her. She never called in sick before the surgery so when she's ill, she's ill. On Friday, no one had heard from her. She has alternate Fridays off, so most people assumed it was her day off. Later, we realized it wasn't her Friday off, and since she didn't call in, we all got very worried. There was no answer at her home phone, nor on her cell phone. After a few hours, my boss called her emergency contacts to find out any info. Ms Swann lives alone and we were all concerned that she was at home, too ill to contact anyone. Finally, late afternoon, Ms Swann called me. She did call in that morning; to the same person she'd called every day. Unfortunately, that person just happened to take that Friday off. Ms Swann had been at the doctor's all day. She's developed a complication to the surgery she had, and so had to undergo a battery of tests. 

Well, y'all already know about Jasper. Perhaps it was a silly thing to authorize euthanasia on a kitten that was already dying, but I couldn't bear the little guy to suffer. However, the other kittens seem to be all right. Alert, active, stools look ok. And...slowly but surely, they are getting better at using the litter box. In these potentially tough economic times, I encourage you to buy stock in Nature's Miracle. I foresee brisk product sales, at least in S. End Tacoma. 

Dead car battery. Our neighbor kindly gave us a jump and we went to Sears to get a new battery. It was packed, "crazy busy" as the attendant told us, so we had no choice but to try to kill 2. 5 hours until the car was ready. Yes, changing a battery is really easy, but it's first come first served at Sears, and there were 10 cars ahead of us. Oscar and I walked the length of the mall (kill me now), then walked over to TGIF for a late lunch/early dinner, and got a craptastic, overpriced meal. My mood was really foul by the time we got back to Sears. Between the kitten care and the car, I've spent nearly $300 this weekend (does not include craptastic TGIF meal).

Some good news though. Our neighbors next door are moving, and the woman has already moved out ("staying with friends") and took the annoying, yappy dogs with her. Yay! But the bad news--they aren't taking their other two dogs, who are still here. These are good dogs, good natured and very sweet, and this just pisses me off. I'll call the Humane Society and get some advice on fostering, and then approach the neighbors saying I'll take them and get new homes for them through the Humane Society. One of the dogs is a pit bull, and I fear that a "free pit bull" will attract the wrong sort of home for him. 

I think I will go to bed now. 

Saturday, October 04, 2008

in which I find a silver lining on a sad day...

It's October, and that means it's Halloween candy season. 

and Halloween candy season means....


Yes, I love candy corn. Unapologetically. 

RIP Jasper

Jasper was very lethargic this afternoon and after a few hours, it was obvious that he was very ill. Oscar and I took him to the emergency vet where we found out that he was very close to death, and his body temperature was so low that it didn't even register on the thermometer (meaning it was less than 80 degrees F, instead of the healthy 100 degrees F). The vet estimated his chance of survival at less than 25% so we opted to let him go. (Based on the symptoms, the vet is concerned that he had panleukopenia, a highly infectious virus, so I need to notify the Humane Society tomorrow and keep a close eye on the other kittens.)

Even if he were my own cat, I would have made the same decision. If the vet had said his chances were higher, I would have elected treatment. But I am incredibly sad, because Jasper was the sweetest and the friendliest of the bunch, and he was my favorite. And just a few hours ago, he was fine.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

in which I am not safe

The kittens figured out how to get out of the office this morning so they've been wandering freely around the house, exploring and searching for Mama Cat (who is a remarkably indifferent maternal figure). They actually like being around people; in fact, it's really hard to get away from Jasper and Nadja. Mouse, however, is more indifferent. She's happy to climb up to my shoulder and hang out but doesn't seem to enjoy being petted or held. 

Unfortunately, the kittens remain clueless about the litter box and since they are wandering freely, they kind of drop a load wherever. Arg! Even Mama Cat, who so far has been really good about using the litterbox, decided to relieve herself on the kitchen rug. 

Our house definitely won't win any tidiness awards but dammit, even I have standards, and they don't include kitten piss and poop everywhere! Mama Cat doesn't clean them so I've given them towel baths for the past few nights. It is amazing how stinky a kitten can get.