Saturday, January 31, 2009

Insomnia and Asparagus Scones

I have been suffering from frustrating insomnia, not for any particular reason other than genetic, but frustrating none the less. I suggested to Ryan yesterday that perhaps I was gradually becoming nocturnal (I mean more so than I am already) and asked him if he would still love me, were that the case.

"I'd try. But it'd be hard, because I'd never see you."

Last night, I went to bed reading a Christmas present from my father, Children Playing Before A Statue Of Hercules, short stories compiled by David Sedaris. I actually fell asleep (not because it's not a good book! It is! You should read it!) while reading for the first time in weeks and was in blissful somnolence by around 11:30. Then I was woken up, loudly by knocking on my door.

The knock came again, rousing me further from my unconscious state and thus I realised I'd better go and see what it was about. Ryan was no where to be found and I wasn't wearing anything except a small t-shirt and underwear. As I was steadying myself on the door frame and looking around my house in confusion, a voice called out,

"Hello! Hello?"

Yes, I replied.

"You order some teepiedoe?"




"Did you order some teepidoe?"

I was trying to figure out what he was saying as well as work out the current problem of me being trouserless. I couldn't really think how I was to solve both problems.

Luckily, at this point, Ryan returned.

"You live here?"


"You order some teepidoe?"




"Did you order some teepidoe?"


Ryan checked the address on the receipt and it was ours, but clearly, we couldn't have ordered any teepidoe as we had no idea what it was.

This morning, I asked him about it. He was just as confused as I was as to what the man was saying, but seeing as he wasn't mostly asleep and was wearing trousers, he had the wherewithal to send the man away.
Prior to that incident I had made Asparagus Scones. I absolutely love asparagus. And I love asparagus wrapped in phyllo dough, but having neither phyllo dough nor the time to make it, I looked for something that would provide the same satisfying, carbohydratey, buttery deliciousness. They're a great thing to stick in a packed lunch.

2 c flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
3 tbs parmesan cheese
1 1/2 c grated cheddar cheese
1 c butter, diced.
1/3 c milk
2 eggs
1 lb asparagus, steamed

Prehat oven to 425 F.

Trim the tips from the asparagus and reserve. Slice the stems into quarter inch thick little cylinders.

Combine the dry ingredients and the parmesan cheese.

Add the butter and smash with a fork or pastry knife until the mixture resembles a coarse meal.

Combine eggs and mik in a seperate bowl, then add to the flour mixture and stir until it all starts to come together.

Add cheddar cheese and asparagus pieces (not tips). Bring together to form a nice stiff dough and knead (add more flour if necessary).

Once all is incorporated, lay dough out on a floured surface, knead a few times and then form it into a rectangle, about 1/2 an inch thick.

Using a sharp knife cut rectangle into 3 strips, lengthwise. Cut each strip into triangles or rectangles or whatever. Place triangles onto a greased baking sheet.

Brush with milk.

Press asparagus tips artfully into the tops of the scones.

Put in oven for 15 - 20 minutes.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Ridiculously Easy Soup

1 Onion, chopped

3 heads of broccoli, floretted

1 block of Gorgonzola (or Stilton or Bleu etc), crumbled (maybe 6 oz?)

3 cloves garlic, minced

salt, pepper, olive oil to taste


Toss the chopped onion in a saucepan on low heat. Once it is softened, add broccoli and garlic. Cook for about a minute. Add the water/stock (I did about a pint and a 1/2 water with 4 cubes of my homemade stock). Leave to simmer until broccoli is cooked. Remove from heat and add Gorgonzola, stir until it is fully melted/incorporated. Whiz in a blender, in batches, until smooth. Return to saucepan and reheat.

SERVE AND EAT. (You can sprinkle a little extra Gorgonzola on the top if you wish and serve with nice, fresh, crusty bread)

Thing A Day, Butchering Lou Reed and Volunteering

I have been sending out resumes and searching for further employment but the current economic situation (Cornell has instituted a 'hiring freeze' and has gone as far as to remove the water coolers from Ryan's department in order to save money) has lifted some of the weight off my shoulders, because I can now, in all honesty claim:

It's not me! I'm still a viable human being even though I can't find a job!

So. I have decided that I am going to try and be more productive for productivity's sake and have registered for Thing A Day 2009. I have also sent an email to the Women's Opportunity Center ("a local non-profit organization dedicated to helping women and men overcome obstacles to gain employment.") offering my volunteering skills, helping teach people how to Microsoft Word, etc. (or, in my brother's terms: M$ Word: The Basil Fawlty of Operating Systems).

I'm losing interest in the dog walking at the SPCA because it's so strangely run. They seem to have an appearance of organisation but there are so many loose ends, like 3 different ways to make notes about each dog, 4 different places to go to find the information you need. I sort of feel totally unnecessary every time I go, but then they tell me otherwise.

I'd also like to help people and I'm not quite brave enough for a suicide hotline. Something that I think my grandmother instilled in all her daughters, is that it is important to be useful and help others. All her daughters, except one (she is no longer living), went into some kind of nursing and they all give generously with their time and/or money to help the community. I admire them all immensely. It's something I feel remiss in not doing more of, so as sappy as it may sound, I think that this sort of thing (volunteering my time and being productive) is important in order for me to become the kind of human being I want to be and to stave off my own personal demons.

It's these sorts of sentiments as well as my unabashed "Get Off My Lawn" kind of outrage at our downstairs neighbours last night for playing some sort of BUTCHERED version of Walk On The Wild Side make me realise that I'm showing my age. We have to shovel the sidewalk outside the property when it snows otherwise the city sends a bill. I wasn't going to shovel the driveway that only these offending neighbours get to use this morning out of spite. Then I felt that was petty. Then Ryan told me not to.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Cornell is about to turn down my application for health insurance

Because I was not insured prior to my petition to be added to Ryan's plan outside of the enrollment period. The reason I did not apply during the enrollment period was because

a)It seemed absurdly expensive for spouses
b)I assumed I would get a job with health insurance

Seeing as my parents have generously volunteered to cover the extra expense of health insurance for me and strangely, Cornell has the cheapest available, I petitioned claiming that I had started a job that did not have health insurance - working for Casey.

This was turned down, infuriatingly, bureaucratically, in very "Computer Says No" terms, because I had applied outside the enrollment window. Which I was aware of. And why I had to fill the forms out in the first place.

I sent an email to someone I had been communicating with earlier on the subject. She got back to me with this:

Dear Alice,
Your petition stated that prior to your employment you could not afford
the student insurance. It did not mention any coverage prior to your
latest position...did you have insurance?

If I follow the reasoning here, they are denying my health insurance because I was previously uninsured. Uninsured because we moved to Ithaca and I am no longer covered by Ryan's work. I assume then that they are denying my insurance because I didn't 'lose' it unvoluntarily, I was already in an uninsured state before I accepted a position without benefits. Somehow, I chose to be uninsured and thus must remain so.

I'm already composing a letter in my head about how inhumane their bureaucracy is. That in this economy, everyone needs all the help they can get and to deny someone health insurance on the grounds that they were previously uninsured is, ludicrous, greedy and cruel. I can't understand how a country that claims to be as civilised as it does allows this sort of thing to happen.

Cornell does little or nothing for the spouses of it's graduate students besides offering them an id card with their picture on it, unless you have a child, which I don't, nor do I plan on having one anytime soon. The least they could do is make it easier for spouses to get health insurance, as that is in everyone's best interest.

PS. Ryan discouraged me from sending the above video to the woman turning me down.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Yam Soup

Last night, I made Fantasy-ish Fudge from the 101 Cookbooks Blog. It's in the fridge setting at the moment, but based on the spoon licking that I did last night, I'm looking forward to it.

I had leftover coconut milk from the fudge and 2 yams, so the obvious choice for dinner was:

Yam Soup.

First I baked the yams in the oven until they were nice and soft. While this was happening, I tossed some Quorn in a pan with garlic, pepper and soy sauce. I'm not the biggest fan of Quorn, with it's long ingredients list, but it adds some protein and texture when needed. It's better than some other, similar products.

When the yams were ready, I took them out, peeled them (Jeeves had a lovely breakfast this morning of cooked yam peelings and dog kibble) and put them in a bowl with some soy milk and mixed it into a slurry. I'm sure a lot of people at this point would have shoved it through a siv, but I feel like that sort of thing is a little wasteful, both time wise and resources wise. I might do it if we had dinner guests over (and maybe save the leftover stuff for stock?).

I tossed chopped onions and sliced garlic into a sauce pan with some olive oil. I stirred it around a bit so as to get the scrummy browning bits of the bottom of the pan and did this until the onion was translucent. At this point, I added the yam slurry, the coconut milk, ground black pepper, salt and curry powder (about 2 teaspoons). I also added the Quorn (making sure to spatulate the frying pan so as to get the garlic and olive oil into the pot as well) and some frozen peas.

I squeezed half a lemon in, to balance out the sweetness of the coconut milk and yams and a little more salt, to taste.


Sunday, January 25, 2009

Winter Riding.

Yesterday Casey had some people driving up from Pennsylvania to look at some horses. This was a tricky endeavor because it involved trailering horses from her place to the indoor arena up here for two days in row as well as some creative craftwork on my part, fashioning ear plugs for horses out of pom poms purchased at AC Moore. You see, the normal pom poms they sell there are too small for an averaged sized horse ear, so I stitched 2 together to make one ear plug. I made a total of 3 sets. I was quite pleased with myself.

The earplugs were for Lucy, a 5 year old Oldenburg/TB cross who is just gorgeous and easy to ride, but young and silly. Anyway. We forgot to put the earplugs in after all and she was fine. Raina, because she's perfect in every way, doesn't need earplugs.

The equestrian facilities were surprisingly dismal, considering it's affiliation with a major institution. The school horses appeared to be kept in these funny, old fashioned stalls that are really just made up of dividers, with no 4th wall. That is to say they are made up of the wall of the barn and two perpendicular walls that are about 3.5 feet high. There is no stall door, just a space. There are 2 horses to a "stall" and they are kept "separated" by a plank that is dangling on ropes from the ceiling. The reason this "works" is because in their stalls, they are tied to the barn wall. But that doesn't stop them from kicking out at each other. So you walk down an aisle with nothing between you and 30 sets of hindquarters but air and your own good sense to stay far away. I saw not a few pinned ears and carefully aimed swipes. I'm sure I'd be cranky and snappy too if I spent the day tied to a wall.

The real stalls (presumably the stalls for the boarders) looked so tiny that a biggish horse wouldn't be able to lie down comfortably.

The ring is nice and huge and the footing is great. On Friday we had it mostly to ourselves. I went for a good long gallop on Raina and then switched to Lucy because Casey wasn't feeling brave and there was a 17.2 hh 3 year old gelding who was leaping around at the end of a lunge line. I don't blame her - I may not have health insurance, but she has 3 kids all under the age of 10.

Riding on Saturday however brought back all the hell that was riding at (the old) Stanford during the winter (or really anytime of the year...). Something which, after 10 years of riding at private facilities, I had really not thought about.

Let's see, we had:

The tottery child learning to steer, on a tiny pony. A tiny pony that I could barely see from atop Lucy.

The weird horsie version of a crazy cat lady, insisting on running her poor (very pretty, I might add) Arab at a (our) jump while throwing herself at its ears. It stopped, three times, before she gave up and went back to trotting slowly around in a circle.

Rubber booted undergraduates doing practice rides, trying to remember what they learned in their lesson program when they were 12, white knuckling the reins, terrified because of the people that know what they're doing keep riding near them and thus they are continually stopping suddenly, for no reason, in the middle of the track.

The very serious dressage rider making sudden and violent circles in front of the jump you are pointed at (I know, I know. Dressage is just so much more legitimate than anything else you could possibly do on a horse).

Horses being ridden in a halter. Not something I am entirely opposed to, but given the circumstances, not something I would have chosen to do, considering the amount of time it takes to get the average horse to turn or stop while wearing a halter.

People getting off and letting their horses roll in the middle of the ring (really!). One girl got off and had her horse follow her around without a lead, practicing stopping and starting, while she desperately looked around for someone to notice. I noticed all right - I noticed the poor clip job her horse had and what a dangerous thing to do that was.

The place was rampant with Pony Club Don'ts, and I don't mean draw reins or spurs (I didn't think their were enough of those sorts of things, actually, considering the behaviour of some of the horses, who had obviously been cooped up on account of the winter - if you think there's a possibility that your horse might want to stand up - and I saw 2 horses do exactly that - wouldn't you want something - anything! to attempt to keep its front feet on the ground??). I'm talking about the kind of things that made my inner riding instructor want to start listing loudly to the person committing the error, all the ways in which the particular behaviour in question could/would result in injury or death to either person or horse.

I realise that these places are necessary. I understand that for some people this is the only way they can ride. I'm so very glad that it's not that way for me.

ANYWAY. Sarcasm aside, I had a great time and I can't wait to go again. We'll be riding there again soon because Casey's ring is still frozen solid and will be for another month or so. I was so happy to be riding that despite the fact that I noticed all of these things and laughed about them, none of the difficulty of the situation mattered. I'm sure I'll get used to it again. Besides, in a month or two, I'll be able to go back to my own, private little barn surrounded by miles of trails and mountains, and ride whenever and whoever I want with little to no interruptions. I can put up with the inconvenience for now. Besides, the at least the ring's heated.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Here's some music.

Say what you will about Kylie, her videos kick ass (even the ones that aren't directed by Michel Gondry) and I know you like dancing to her better than Madonna. These days, anyway.

PS. facebook viewers: click 'original post' below to see the video I pasted up.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Dream job! Again!

In order to continue my current, non stressed lifestyle, but also to return somewhat to the lifestyle I became accustomed to in California, I have decided that I need a part time job to supplement the work I do for Paula and still allow me to ride for Casey and purchase avocados willy-nilly, so to speak.

I know in the past, I have noted jobs at Arby's and other such delightful places. Today I bring you a most prestigious of positions, offered by a company known for its quality products, built to last and bring tasteful elegance to your home, the Kmart Corporation. It is also known for its ability to employee marketing geniuses who realise that the word "shelf stocker" may dissuade people from applying for the job as they would have to tell people at cocktail parties that they were a "shelf stocker." Far better to present the job as:

Now you can proudly tell your friends that you are more than just a stocker, you are an associate and therefore an integral part of the Kmart Corporation. Did I say corporation? I meant family. Because you know how well treated and valued Kmart employees are. Why in Santa Barbara, they even employed the mentally handicapped people from the local halfway house, to help build a sense of community. Of course, this meant that Kmart didn't have to pay them full wages but that just made it win-win. Kmart saved money and these people were given a sense of purpose, as replenishment associates.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Sparkly Positiveness and More People Should Watch Peep Show

I was trying to write an email today, recommending a vegetarian recipe website to a friend, but I couldn't make it not sound like spam.

I guess because it was an unsolicited email but still. I know her really well and I know she would dig it. Especially now that she has a real kitchen with an oven and sink, instead of a hotplate and plastic bucket.

I think I'll just call her instead.
I've reread over the last few entries on this blog and realised that they all seem somewhat negative. My boss from PAI told me once that he felt I was too sceptical and sarcastic. I spent 3 days in a panic thinking that I was too sceptical and sarcastic. Then I woke up one morning (at 5:30am, so as to be at work on time at 6am) and thought, "What the hell? I've worked damn hard to cultivate a healthy scepticism. I think it's an important path towards growth and learning. What does he know? He thinks going to one Goo Goo Dolls concert consitutes a love of live music and that Burning Man is the end all-be all of creativity." (No. I've never been, I'm sure I don't understand. Or whatever.)

But since living in this grey land of the White Witch, I'm worried if I am actually getting too negative. It might be because I secretly hate it here. Which is most likely my own fault - I am a firm believer in creating your own happiness, it's just it's just a lot harder to create it when it feels like you're 3,000 miles away from the nearest person who understands why "Peep Show" is funny. Plus all my attempts at creating happiness haven't quite worked yet.

So. Here are some New Year's Resolutions to help gussy up this blog in sparkly positiveness.

1. Make more jams and preserves. This will be assisted by the joining of a CSA.

2. Find a place to use my new snowshoes (and use them. Obviously).

3. Knit a sweater. It's time, Alice. You've diddled around with scarves and gloves long enough. Knit something substantial for God's sake.

4. Read more and better books. Watch more and better films (Can you believe I only just watched Cinema Paradiso? I also just watched Night at the Museum, duped into watching a Ben Stiller movie by the additional presence of Steve Coogan and Ricky Gervais in the credits. The less said the better, that movie is terrible.)

Okay. I think that's enough for now. Are we all smiling? Can we think of anything else I should do in my mimimally employed capacity?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Ludicriously tragic ways financiers do themselves in.

Ahh, my strange fascination for the camp ways in which today's financiers do themselves in. I never did get to blog about Bernie Madoff, although I (obviously) followed the case in whatever newspapers I managed to find left behind on the London Underground. You'll remember my entry about the Paul Giamatti doppleganger who faked his own death by parking his car on a bridge and scrawling those immortal words "suicide is painless" across the hood. In that entry, I also mention Norman Hsu, the Clinton campaign contributor and Ponzi scheme operator, caught fleeing from justice on a train on account of his being violently ill. Then there was fund manager and CNBC comentator Seth Tobias, found dead in his own pool, possibly drowned by his wife. His story is worthy of it's very own Lifetime made-for-tv movie (here's a quote from the NY Times article: "Mrs. Tobias confessed to him that she had cajoled her husband into the water while he was on a cocaine binge with a promise of sex with a male go-go dancer known as Tiger.").

The latest in this list is Marcus Schrenker, another financier who faked his own death by leaping out of a plane and making his escape by way of hidden motorcycle. Here's a description of the shenanigans, courtesy Jessica Pressler of New York Magazine:

The Plan: Schrenker, an accomplished pilot, would arrange to fly himself back from Florida to Indianapolis. Near Birmingham, Alabama, he would radio a distress call, parachute out of the plane, and when it crashed later, everyone would assume he died! Or something!
Where It Went Wrong: When Schrenker made his distress call, he overelaborated, saying "his windshield had shattered and he was bleeding profusely." When the plane was later found in a Florida swamp — where it had landed and thankfully not injured anyone — the windshield remained unbroken, and there was no blood in the plane.

The Plan: When he emerged from the woods 200 miles away, he would tell police he had been in a "canoe accident."
Where It Went Wrong: He was still wearing aviation goggles.

The Plan: Check into a motel, then casually disappear. Go pick up red motorcycle stashed in a storage unit and drive into the sunset.
Where It Went Wrong: (1) According to motel owner Yogi Patel, Schrenker was "last seen running into the woods wearing a black hat." (2) He rented the storage unit in his own name. (3) A red motorcycle? Really? (4) Around this time, a self-congratulatory video Schrenker made of himself doing DARING STUNTS on an airplane made him a giant YouTube star.

The Plan: Go to campground, commit suicide.
Where It Went Wrong: Marcus slashed only one wrist, and somehow punctured his elbow.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Dear Sir Richard Branson,

Dear Sir Richard Branson,

In spite of the fact that your name is so similar to that of Branston Pickle, I have a problem with your airplane service. It's not just that the names are so similar that I feel misled that you serve no Branston Pickle on your flights (which is something that should be remedied).

Yesterday or whenever it was, I woke up early (6am) to go to Heathrow and catch my flight to JFK, where I was to catch a bus to the Port Authority Bus Station and then catch another bus to my home in Ithaca, where my husband and dog were patiently awaiting my arrival. I had hoped to find my friend Brian in New York - a friend I haven't seen in several years, have ane nice leisurely meal and a good old fashioned chin wag before departing on my 6 hour bus trip to Ithaca.

Things didn't go according to plan and, Sir Richard, I blame you. Or at least your airline. I was notified of a one hour delay, when I checked my bags. This one hour stretched to 2 hours, then 3 and then canceled. It was by the grace of fortune that the Virgin desk is next to the toilets that I was just leaving when the flight notification board was changed to read: New York, VS003, Flight Delayed to 12:00, Gate Opens 15:45. The fact that the gate was set to open several hours after the flight was supposed to gave me pause enough to walk straight over to your desk. Within 10 minutes everyone else on my flight was standing behind me, including a loud Welsh woman and her mortified daughter (the Welsh woman kept threatening to faint) and a crabby, depressing New Yorker woman with droopy eyelids and a permanent frown who kept making increasingly more rude and scathing comments about the girls behind the desk.

We were then told that we were all to be transferred to the 2pm flight. And this, Sir Richard, this is where I feel there must have been a gross misuse of us as customers. Because, I just don't see how it was at all possible to fit all of us on another flight. I think that one of the flights - and I'm inclined to think it was the 2pm flight, wasn't full. And you'd be damned if you were going to send a plane over that wasn't full to capacity. Even if it resulted in your customers trips to New York (there were a lot of vacationers) being ruined or it meant that it made an already unpleasent trip, infinitely worse. I didn't get home until 25 hours after I woke up to get ready to go. I almost missed the last bus of the evening which would have resulted in my arriving home at 4am.
I felt even more unfairly treated when I opened up my "Sorry Voucher" packet, only to find that I was totally ineligible for any extra miles offered by Virgin, because I was only delayed 5 hours (not 6) and I hadn't paid enough for my ticket. Of course I purchased a cheaper ticket out of stinginess and because I am uncouth and unstylish and don't really understand what the word "luxury" means. Not at all because I couldn't afford a more expensive ticket and that we paid for the trip by scrimping and saving money, so that I could spend at least one more Christmas with my 100 year old grandmother. Which explains why I am so undeserving of any compensation beyond the 5 pounds I was given for 'light refreshments'. The actual flight itself was an interminable 8 hours, not including the extra time we spent circling JFK and subsequently taxiing on the ground at JFK. I had selected an aisle seat, near the front but was given a seat between a 6'3 Swede and a little old lady who applied nauseating perfume twice throughout the trip.

So anyway. My trip was absolutely horrible. And your airline's attempts to make me feel better were weak and infuriating. I am an unhappy customer.


Wednesday, January 7, 2009


I think it can all be summed up in this photograph, courtesy Malcolm Hobbs: