Sunday, January 31, 2010

Stop: Winter time!

Is my SO trying to remain anonymous here? Nope, he's just dressed up for a nice little trip to the grocery store, in full winter biking regalia. This includes a ski mask, neck warmer, a coat that probably came from a German army surplus, work gloves and a pair of cropped old man wool pants that came from the thrift store (too bad you can't see these in the picture, because I did a really terrific blind hem on those bad boys!). It's been coooold the past few days in Ithaca, though, so this isn't quite as insane as it looks.

I've been working my butt off on applications all weekend, and I'm tired times four. I'm going to settle into bed now with a tasty sour cherry cupcake, so goodnight, mystery reader!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Bacteria attack

Okay, I finally broke down and did it -- I put the antibiotics in my tank today. I've been hesitating on this for a while, because I really don't want to cause some sort of disaster that would end up taking out all of my fish along with the bacteria, but my SO pointed out this morning that my plants are starting to look really sad. And indeed they are. My water sprite, which was once so prolific that it was nearly taking over they tank, is now all but dead, and my java ferns are getting totally sad and brown looking.

So I dosed the tank today, with as many precautions as I could think of -- I cleaned out as much junk as possible by hand so it wouldn't foul up the tank when it died, did a 20% water change, tested the levels (nitrates down to 5pmm this week, and the freakin' BGA continues to grow!). I also took out the bio-beads from the filter and stored them in a little tupperware container of tank water in the fridge. I don't know if the bacteria will actually survive for five days this way, but I figured doing this really couldn't hurt. The other filter media should have more than enough bacteria to keep the tank going, and if the antibiotics take those bacteria out this might work as a backup plan.

Nothing to do now but sit back, cross my fingers (or press my thumbs) and take the levels tomorrow AM. Send my fish positive thoughts, and my BGA very negative ones....

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Bike tire changing

Believe it or not, I've actually never changed a tire on my bike, or possibly any bike (that I can remember, at least). When I was living in Portland I had a few rather annoying flats, but I always wimped out on changing them myself. Portland is already such a bike savvy city that I felt pretty silly being "that girl" who goes into a bike shop and has never even changed a tire before, so instead I opted for being "that girl" who's willing to pay someone ten bucks to do it for her. When I was biking this summer by myself a lot, I figured it was probably pretty important that I take at least some steps towards learning how to repair a flat, lest I find myself in 15 miles from home with no way to get back. I watched some youtube videos, carried around tire levers and a spare tube, but never managed to run over anything bad enough to slow my bike down. Amazingly, I still have yet to get a single flat in the 1.5 years that I've had this bike.

Don't worry, nothing bad happened to my bike today, although I'm sure it will have a rough encounter with a beer bottle or something eventually. Tonight's tire change was entirely voluntary, although not entirely painless. My SO got a generator hub for me for christmas (yay!) and built it up for me, and I asked him to show me how to take the tire off of the old wheel and put it on the new one so that I could finally get some tire changing experience.

I'm pleased to report that I got the thing on and off mostly on my own, with my SO sitting over my shoulder and giving directions. The most difficult part was getting the tire back onto the rim, which required some help from someone with stronger fingers than the biketopus. Tire levers were flying everywhere, and I thought I was probably going to snap the tire levers (or my fingers) trying to get that stupid thing over the rim. Suffice it to say that if I had to change a tire alone in the wilderness, I would have arrived home pretty late/annoyed. But, I'm proud that I finally gave it a go. Do you think I should get this bike jersey now?

Oh, and I also made it over 850 this week, with my highest ever moving average: 15.09 mph over a 25 min ride. A 25 minute ride fueled by Lady GaGa, that is!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

First day of school dress will have to wait

Did you ever get to buy a new outfit for the first day of school when you were a kid? I loved doing this (along with buying new school supplies in September). I thought I would make myself a back to school dress for this semester, but unfortunately the dress looks like it's not going to make it in time for the bell.

I started working on this pattern, using some plaid fabric that I got from

The plaid doesn't have one inch stripes, but I figured that this wasn't really essential, as long as I took out tucks big enough to reduce the waist area by 50%. After reading up about the pattern on, though, it seemed like a lot of people were having trouble with the waist ending up a bit smaller than planned. Taking out just a little extra to make sure that the white squares are tucked out adds up, and people were suggesting to size up by one or two sizes to make sure that it didn't end up being too snug. I thought I could solve this problem by simply taking out a bit less than half on each tuck, thereby ensuring I'd have a roomier waist. Well, it turns out that the problem is just as annoying in the reverse.

Do I look unhappy here? Yeah, that's because the waist of my dress is now 40 inches, instead of the 34 inches that the pattern promised. I could go back and make each tuck a little deeper, but that sounds so unappealing after carefully sewing each of these 60 tucks or so to make sure that the plaids lined up. I think instead I'm going to just try to reduce the dress at the side seams, which will also make the shoulders a little less droopy (I'm not sure how these ended up so big on me as well. WTF?).

The bigger problem is, of course, that I now have no dress to wear for the first day of school :) What to do, what to do?

Canning chutney

I finally got around to making some chutney this weekend with the two absolutely gigantic asian pears I bought last weekend. We're on the last jar of the green tomato chutney we made aaaaages ago, and so I thought I would stock up on some of the asian pear and red pepper chutney that I made a few months ago. The recipe is from the Millennium Cookbook, which is one of those fancyfancy cookbooks with time consuming recipes that become even more time consuming when you have to hunt down all the crazy ingredients that the recipe calls for first. This chutney is surprisingly straightforward, though: It has asian pears and red peppers (surprise), a sugar-vinegar base, some chili paste and roasted cumin seeds. With all the vinegar/sugar/spice in there, I think this one has a good chance of surviving on the shelf, so I made a big batch to can.

I've done some canning before using regular kitchen equipment, but this time I thought I would invest in some proper canning tongs to make the process a little easier. This did make a BIG difference. Pulling those cans out of the boiling water with barbecue tongs is a bit slippery and unpredictable. I'd say the rubberized tongs were totally worth the extra five bucks and kitchen drawer space.

After 25 minutes of rattling cans, and the fun sound of lids popping as they cool, I now have five nice jars of chutney. Nom.

I also made some spicy corn chowder for dinner, which unfortunately I didn't take a picture of. I always get really excited when this soup comes up at CTB, but my SO doesn't really get my love of this soup. Last night I made a veganized version of it so that he could finally try it, and I have to say it turned out really well! The CTB version is already vegetarian, but a lot of the internet recipes I found called for bacon. Ah, bacon. It's one of the few meats that I really do miss the taste of. So, I thought this might be a good time to bust out the bottle of liquid smoke that I've had in the cupboard for a while (impulse purchase at the grocery store) and see what that did. It's fantastic! A couple shakes of that stuff really did give the soup that smoky, bacon-y smell. I'm getting hungry again just thinking about it.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Impulse buying at the asian grocery store

I am admittedly a huge impulse buyer when I go to the grocery store (okay, and other places too, but it's particularly bad at the grocery store!). This is one of the main reasons why my SO does most of the grocery shopping, because his rational German self is able to buy the one best brand of canned beans without getting swayed by cool packaging or the fancy chocolate on sale on the endcap. When I do the grocery shopping, I tend to forget to buy things like rice and end up carrying home a bunch of fancy sauces and weird vegetables instead.

This weekend we were out doing some shopping and popped into an asian grocery store in search of bok choy, which surprisingly they didn't have, but they did have a lot of other cool looking stuff screaming "try me!" from the shelves. I got a few asian pears for making some chutney later in the week, and this bottle of aloe beverage.

My first thought was, "woah, does this really taste like aloe?" Answer: Not really. It's fairly sweet, a bit tart, kind of chalky tasting, and past that I don't really have the vocabulary to describe the rest of what's going on in there. It's tasty, but I'm not sure I'd be running to buy this one again. This may not have been the best way to get the full on aloe experience, though, since this beverage is only aloe enhanced, so next time I may splurge and get the 1L size bottle of aloe juice that was next to it in the fridge. Or, just juice some of my aloe plant? Can that possibly produce a tasty beverage?

Oh, and quick bike update: 826.12, as of last night.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Ask and you shall receive!

Guess who has a 40% off one item coupon at the moment? And guess who's going to get a giant Olfa mat today? :D

Saturday, January 16, 2010


Ah, these little Sephora sampler kits are just death for me... I can't resist the lure of 8! mini! items! So much variety! I've been wanting to try the Buxom lip gloss for a while, too. Maybe I'll be able to hold out long enough to see if it will go on sale after Valentines day.

Supplies for destruction and construction

Much as I enjoy being a hermit in the winter, even hermits eventually have to leave to get supplies. First up, a trip to the pet store to get some supplies for destroying blue-green algae (BGA). I've been having BGA wars for the better part of a month now and am starting to get really annoyed about it. I've had my share of algae in the tank so far, but surprisingly no BGA, so I was pretty unpleasantly surprised to find a BGA bloom when I put in some new lights in December. Two weeks ago, I did a huge water change and scraped a whole bunch of it out by hand, and last weekend I did a 25% water change and more gunk removal. It's not as bad as it was, but my plants are still getting covered and beginning to look a little worse for wear. So, here are the supplies for my two-pronged attack:
I've decided to give the BGA one more good cleaning, and see if this will help things, and I also bought some clearmax to remove phosphates/nitrates. The nitrates are not particularly high in my tank at the moment (around 10ppm last week when I tested them), so this is probably going to make my plants pretty unhappy, but hopefully it will make the BGA unhappier. If the BGA is still back with force next weekend, then I'm going to consider just nuking it with some antibiotics. My friends over at wet web media advise against this, and I know it's a little risky, but we're getting into last resort territory here. Doesn't this BGA know I have a dissertation to write?

I also popped by Michaels to get some sewing notions, notably some loops for the tie back on the vest that I'm making:The fabric is a really awesome linen with teal and peach threads in it, and I'm going to make it into a vest and pants outfit. I thought I could use a little break from the quilt again and do a quick and easy something that I could wear around, and so I cut the vest out last night. I also wanted to try at least one vest before I draft one for my top secret project, which I will reveal soon! Amazingly, I managed to walk out without purchasing all kinds of stuff that I only kind of need, although I was sorely tempted to get a new Olfa cutting mat. I probably will break down and get one at some point, maybe Joanns has one of those nice 20% off one item coupons out.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Processor quilt in process

Sorry, I know that's a cheap play on words, but I couldn't resist making it at some point!

Here's a shot of what I have so far on the processor quilt. This was taken about a week ago so I actually have a little bit more done than you see here, but it gives you an idea of what it will look like. This is pretty much the full length of the quilt and almost half the width, and as you can (kind of) see it's already starting to take over my kitchen. I can only imagine what a nightmare it's going to be to quilt this thing once I get it all pieced together. I blame the massiveness of this project at least partially on my SO, who requires an extra long blanket to cover up his ridiculously long German legs!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

More high scores -- 807.51!

One of my goals for this winter is to try and make it to 1000 miles on my bike, using the indoor trainer that my SO and I invested in a few months ago. While he finds it rather boring to be on the trainer staring at the stove for half an hour and pedaling away like a hamster, I actually really like this setup. When I work from home for the day my opportunities for exercising are somewhat limited, and it's nice to be able to pop on my shorts and ride for half an hour when I get sick of writing my dissertation without having to think about where I'll ride or how much time it will take me to get to and from the gym.

I was at around 750 miles on our winter solstice ride, and as you can see four weeks later I'm up over 800, which I think is not too bad considering we were in Canada for at least a week of that. With about ten weeks or so before we have even the hope of good weather in Ithaca, I'll have to ride about 20 miles a week to make it to my goal (which is about three rides a week, if I ride for half an hour at an average of 14mph).

It's kind of annoying to me that it will take three rides a week to get such pitiful mileage -- when I was living in Portland, for example, I was riding about 50 miles a week just from my daily commute. It's nice to have a setup where work is just far enough away to give you regular exercise, and the 10 mile round trip for me was perfect. I suppose now I have the rather hilly walk into campus as my daily commute, but unfortunately that doesn't show up on my odometer!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

474 Hell yeah!

Highest score EVAR for me in Scrabble today! Oh yeah. Here's the final board, and the final score was 474 to 251. This was a pretty seriously good game for me considering that my previous highest score was 421, but luck was also on my side: I got both blank tiles, each of which I played for a bingo, and the X, Q and J. I play on facebook with one of the professors in my department, and we're a pretty good match. Last semester he beat me quite a bit (increasing my beer debt, since we play for beer), but this semester I'm up on him 3-1 so far. Bet he's not too happy about this last game!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

What writing my dissertation feels like, on a good day...

Oh PhD comics, you know just how to capture the angst of grad student life. Sigh indeed.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Processor quilt... the project that never ends

One of the reasons that I wanted to start a blog was to encourage myself to document some of my projects in process, especially ongoing ones that I get somewhat less excited about as they drag out over months and months. The processor quilt is one of these projects. I've had the idea to do a computer themed quilt for a while now. I toyed with the idea of doing a motherboard quilt and even started sewing something along these lines, but I wasn't really happy with the design. Then about a year ago (almost exactly a year ago, actually), I saw this photo in a Technology Review photo essay, and I thought, now that would make a great quilt. The geometric shapes, the balance between detailed bits and big blocks of color all just said "quilt" to me, and as a bonus the colors already happen to match some of my bedroom furniture and sheets. I bought some awesome batiks, started on a pattern, and got less than halfway through sewing the red blocks in the bottom part of the image before I just ran out of steam -- too much work, not enough gratification. I ended up putting this aside in the unfinished objects pile while I worked on some clothes and other little projects that came together much more easily.

Well, a few weeks ago I was once again feeling the itch to work on this project. I started working on the top part of the quilt this time, and have actually made some pretty good progress with that part. I'd say I probably have somewhere between 30-40% of the quilt pieced now, and it's already turning out to be huge (but cool looking!). I have a few pictures of the quilt in progress on my camera that I'll upload in the coming days. Maybe putting them out there on the interweb will help keep me motivated to finish it?

Hemming income = guilt free pattern shopping!

A friend of mine has offered to pay me for hemming up some pants for her (which I should be pretty good at by now, considering all of the pants I've hemmed for my own short legs), and so I think I'm going to feed this income right back into my sewing obsession by buying some new patterns! I've been eying up the new Colette patterns line for a while and feeling too guilty to splurge on new patterns, but this is just the excuse I need. These patterns are goooooorgeous. So gorgeous, in fact, that I have no idea which ones to get. Sencha seems like a pattern I'll get lots of mileage out of and is probably a must buy:

I think I already have some fabrics in my stash that would be pretty great for this blouse. There's also a variation with front pleats and one with a keyhole neckline and a little tie as well. But which one of the dresses should I get? Both Rooibos and Oolong are pretty fantastic, and I think Macaron with look awesome with a sheer contrasting fabric on top. Decisions, decisions... but I guess first I should find some time to actually finish hemming the pants!