Monthly Archives: December 2012

Pumkin Butter Cake

This recipe is another favorite at my house.  However, I’ve only made it twice because it is heart disease in cake form.  It’s a Paula Deen recipe and she calls it BUTTER cake for a reason.

Pumpkin Butter Cake

Pumpkin Butter Cake

It’s nothing pretty look at in the pan, but it is like a soft pumpkin cheesecake because it includes cream cheese.

You can find the recipe here.

I just Googled to find the link to the recipe, and that link about includes variations like peanut butter, banana, and pineapple!  Those sound awesome and I want to try all of them.

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Apple Blondies

I LOVE this recipe.  It’s another from Martha Stewart.

Apple Blondies

Apple Blondies

I’ve made it twice now and it turned out nice and moist both times- once for a snack for lab meeting at work, and the second time for Mabel’s pre-school Christmas party (which I missed).  The recipe was a hit with both audiences.

It’s quick, easy, and doesn’t require any ingredients that we don’t always have on hand.

Since it’s from Martha, and not something I made up, I’m linking to her site.

Recipe HERE.

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Red Velvet Gooey Butter Cookies

I’m not sure how I stumbled on this recipe for Red Velvet Gooey Butter Cookies, but I’m glad I did!

I participated in a Holiday Cookie Exchange with a parents group I am a member of, and decided to try these.  I did it well in advance, in case they didn’t turn out well and I had to make something else.

Well, they turned out REALLY well!

Red Velvet Gooey Butter Cookies

Red Velvet Gooey Butter Cookies

Since the recipe is not mine, you can find it here on the blog Taste and Tell.

The only thing I changed, was to cook mine for 14 minutes.  The first batch I did for only 12 minutes and they weren’t as puffy as I expected, and didn’t hold together as well.  So subsequent batches I did 14min and they came out perfect.

I got a little over 2 dozen cookies.  We ate several, but they were so good that I froze 2 dozen them for the cookie exchange.

I have to say, this is a great recipe- of all the cookies we got at the exchange these were amongst my favorites!

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Early Christmas Morning

Wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas!


Grandpa and Grandma’s Christmas tree just after Santa came.

Mabel checking her email on her cell phone. Nemo playing with his toy truck cargo.

Taking Sheep’s blood pressure.

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Irish Soda Bread French Toast

A few weeks ago, I randomly tried a new ‘recipe’.  I’m finally getting around to posting it now- and perhaps post-Holidays, others will have breads they could use for this.

We had lots of leftover Irish Soda Bread that my mom had made for Nemo’s Christening.  It was a Saturday morning and I wanted to make breakfast.  I offered Mac French Toast, but when I went to the fridge, I saw the soda bread.  I thought, “Why not?”

Irish Soda Bread French Toast

Irish Soda Bread French Toast

I basically did exactly as you would for french toast- egg, milk (I used half and half), and cinnamon.  Because the soda bread was more dense than regular sliced bread, I had to leave it in to soak for a while.

Then, I sprinkled it with some brown sugar (so it would caramelize and get a little crisp), and cooked it on the griddle.

I had to cook it a little longer than usual because of the thickness.  Overall it came our well.  It was yummy and even Mabel tried some.

If I make it again, , I will wait to sprinkle the brown sugar to prevent it from burning during the longer cooking time.  Also, I’ll soak the bread even longer- perhaps overnight, to allow the bread to really absorb the eggs/milk.

Have you used any ‘different’ breads for French Toast?

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Wordless Wednesday: Merry Christmas

Dr. Donna Stolz of the University of Pittsburgh took 19th place in the Small World Competition 2011 with this confocal image - a collage of a variety of immune-stained mammalian cells (200x)

Dr. Donna Stolz of the University of Pittsburgh took 19th place in the Small World Competition 2011 with this confocal image – a collage of a variety of immune-stained mammalian cells (200x)  Source

I’ve met Donna.  She collaborated with my post-doc lab.  Great and talented scientist.

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My reaction to the Sandy Hook Shooting: What does the science say about guns and violence?

Ani DiFranco released this song in 1999.  Listening to it, or reading the lyrics today, one would think she is a prophet.  Oh how I wish this song were a relic, a reminder of the last century, and not a heartbreakingly relevant commentary on the current one.

To The Teeth by Ani DiFranco

the sun is setting on the century
and we are armed to the teeth
we’re all working together now

to make our lives mercifully brief

and school kids keep trying to teach us
what guns are all about
confused liberty with weaponry
and watch your kids act it out

and every year now like christmas
some boy gets the milk fed suburban blues
reaches for the available arsenal
and saunters off to make the news

and the women in the middle
are learning what poor women have always known
that the edge is closer than you think
when the men bring the guns home

look at where the profits are
that’s how you’ll find the source
of the big lie that you and i both know so well

by the time it takes this cultural
death wish to run it’s course
they’re gonna to make a pretty penny
and then they’re going to hell

he said the chickens all come home to roost
malcolm forecast it this way
are we really going to sleep through another century
while the rich profit off our blood?

yeah it may take some doing
to see this undoing through
but in my humble opinion
here’s what i suggest we do

open fire on hollywood
open fire on mtv
open fire on nbc and cbs and abc
open fire on the nra
and all the lies they told us along the way
open fire on each weapons manufacturer
while he’s giving head to some republican senator

and if i hear one more time
about a fools right to his tools of rage
i’m gonna take all my friends
and i’m going to move to canada
and we’re going to die of old age

As a disclaimer, I should share that I am not against guns.  I got my hunting license at 12.  My gift from my dad on my 14th birthday was a shotgun.  We annually host a trap shooting event for friends and family.  I am not anti-gun.  I have spent my life using them.  I know how to properly handle them.  I know their usefulness. I know their destructiveness.  I do not want all guns taken away, because I know that would mean the loss of family heritage and tradition for many, including myself and my children.  However, nobody needs an assault rifle or a Sig Sauer to go hunting.   The science would say, you also aren’t making your family safer by having them.  I do not confuse liberty with weaponry.  I want my kids to come from school at the end of the day.

Is it possible to have guns and kids in the same house and be safe? Yes, I grew up in such a household.

Is it sometimes necessary to have guns in a house to keep kids safe? If you live in an area with bears bold enough to break into your house and/or come up on your deck while you are grilling and your toddler is romping in the grass, most definitely yes.

Does this mean that every family is the same in this regard? No.

Does this mean our country does not have a tremendous problem with gun violence? No.

Prior to Friday, I was not particularly thoughtful about gun control in the US. Did I think there were dangerous loopholes? Yes. Did I think our populace was too stupid to be trusted? Yes. Absolutely, yes.

However, I felt that perhaps existing laws, if loopholes were closed and they were properly enforced, should suffice to keep us safe.

Since Friday, I’ve done what I always do, research. My mind has changed.

Maybe it was the research alone.  More likely it was also because Newtown is not far from me.  It is a town I have been to many times.  I have spent Christmas Day in Newtown with family and friends.  I have dined at My Place, a favorite of the shooter’s mother, maybe alongside her.  I’ve taken my family pumpkin picking in Newtown, and it has crossed my mind if the kid’s birthday party that was happening on the farm that day was celebrated by or with one of the victims.  I’ve admired the flag pole in the center of town.  I’ve succumbed to the small town feel.  My mom is a school nurse, coworkers of hers were quietly pulled from their classrooms, told of the tragedy, and released early to rush home to Newtown and ensure their own children were safe (by the grace of God, they were safe).  Maybe geographically and emotionally, this was finally close enough to home for me to get it.  To understand the severity of this crisis, to make me open my eyes and do the research and think critically and make up my mind.

Do I think it’s possible to change someone’s mind?  That this post might help to change someone’s mind?  Not sure.  Not if they confuse liberty with weaponry.  Maybe not until the loss is theirs to suffer.

But to quote another Ani DiFranco song, Out of Range:  “If you’re not angry, then you’re just stupid.  You don’t care.  How else can you react when you something so unfair?”  Maybe this post will make you angry.

The shooter at Sandy Hook Elementary used his mother’s guns, guns she legally owned. Guns in several recent shooting were legally obtained. Yet, they were used to commit heinous crimes. Obviously then, the thinking that criminals would simply obtain guns via other means is insufficient to explain what is actually happening here.

Can we know what was going through the minds of these shooters? No. Is it safe to assume that at least some fraction of these shooting could have been thwarted just by preventing these men/boys from having ready access to guns? I think so.

Whatever is wrong with us here in America, we cannot be trusted to own the number or type of guns we do. We cannot be trusted with guns.

I scoffed out loud yesterday morning when I read the following from an AP article:

Marsha Lanza told the Chicago Sun-Times that Nancy Lanza wanted guns for protection. “She prepared for the worst,” Marsha Lanza told the newspaper. “I didn’t know that they (the guns) would be used on her.” Source.

It pretty much couldn’t be more obvious that Marsha Lanza did a piss poor job of keeping herself safe. She also did a piss poor job of keeping the entire population of her town safe.  Here is the heart of the issue:  You bring guns into your house to protect yourself, and you’re actually putting yourself at risk.  You are putting your intimates at risk.  Who is to protect you from yourself, from your own naiveté, stupidity, short-sightedness if not the law?

The media has done a piss poor job of reporting on this story, and given that it’s only 4 days since this event transpired, I’m taking all the ‘reporting’ with a big grain of salt (When the NYTimes is using Twitter as a source, you know you’ve got problems). However, if there is even a kernel of truth to the reports that Lanza knew her son was troubled and not to be trusted enough to even turn her back on him, why in the name of all that is holy would she have guns in her house?!?

Obviously Americans cannot be trusted to make good decisions about gun ownership- and given the number of guns we own, that’s a big problem. Americans need to wake the *$#% up when it comes to this issue.

Here are some facts:

A gun owned for self-defense is more likely to be used to intimidate an intimate than to protect one from a criminal. (Source)

Owning a gun increases your chances of being killed by a gun (most likely at your own hand) by 50%. (Source and Source)

Guns are rarely used as self-defense, even if TV makes you think otherwise. (Source and Source and Source)

Now you know.  “If you’re not angry, then you’re just stupid.  You don’t care.  How else can you react when you something so unfair?”  Maybe this post will make you angry.

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Ambivalence=career aspirations+mommy guilt

I’m ambivalent today.  I’ve made a hard decision and I don’t feel relieved that it is made, I don’t feel resolved, I feel upset and sad and torn.  Just like the graph above, as the accompanying article states, I have “an ambivalent attitude, in which both positivity and negativity are co-activated.”

Most people think ambivalent means a lack of caring, when it means the opposite.  It’s the right word for how I’m feeling.  I remember being struck by one particular scene in “Girl, Interrupted” and I recalled that scene today.

Susanna: I’m ambivalent. In fact that’s my new favorite word.
Dr. Wick: Do you know what that means, ambivalence?
Susanna: I don’t care.
Dr. Wick: If it’s your favorite word, I would’ve thought you would…
Susanna: It *means* I don’t care. That’s what it means.
Dr. Wick: On the contrary, Susanna. Ambivalence suggests strong feelings… in opposition. The prefix, as in “ambidextrous,” means “both.” The rest of it, in Latin, means “vigor.” The word suggests that you are torn… between two opposing courses of action. — From “Girl, Interrupted” Source.

So what’s going on?  What’s the decision?

Well, Mabel’s Holiday Concert and party are happening at preschool tomorrow.  It’s been on the school calendar (and mine) since September.  I was very much looking forward to it.  We’re signed up to bring Apple Blondies.  My plan was to drop Mabel at school at 8:45am, have breakfast with Nemo and Mac at the diner down the street, and return to school in time for the concert.  We’d stay for the party and then, depending on how I felt, I would take the rest of the day off, work from home, or head into the lab.  That was my plan.  My supervisor had even given me the OK.

Then last Thursday at our scientist meeting, our Executive Director reminded us all of the Oncology Interdepartmental meeting that we’d gotten a ‘placeholder’ appointment notification for a couple of weeks ago.  I had totally forgotten the placeholder, since there had been no follow up.  Well, it was happening despite the lack of formal details.  It was schedule for 8:30am to 5:30pm on the same day as Mabel’s concert.

My heart sank.  I didn’t do or say anything right away.  I figured I would wait for the agenda to come out.  There was a chance it wouldn’t be all day, or that I’d be able to slip out/come late and still go to the concert.

No such luck.  The agenda was waiting in my inbox this morning.  The most crucial parts for me to attend overlap exactly with Mabel’s concert.  “Ducking out” wouldn’t be an option.  While my absence might not be noticeable (come on, I’m not THAT important), I would be missing out on crucial opportunities and it was the time my absence would be most noticeable.

I asked a colleague, another mom with two young kids, who is higher ranking but I do not report to.  I felt she’d understand my ambivalence and be best able to give me the bottom line of how important it was to be at the meeting.

She said while it was ultimately up to me, by January nobody would remember if I was there or not, I could probably sneak out and back in again, but I definitely shouldn’t tell my Executive Director why I wasn’t there if he noticed or asked.  He doesn’t have kids, he doesn’t understand, and while he’s not unwilling to make accommodations, he is rather unsympathetic to family concerns.  (For example, before I started maternity leave, I ordered a new microscope.  When we spoke about it, he said, “It’s good motivation for you to come back.  I’m sure you’ll be excited.”  Um. no.  A microscope will not make me excited to leave me 3 month old.)

I spoke with a couple of other colleagues I trusted to give frank and honest feedback, and the consensus was, that while it sucked, I couldn’t miss the meeting.  Further, I didn’t want to miss the meeting.  I would definitely feel I was missing some important face time with colleagues in different departments, as well as higher ups, including the CSO (Chief Science Officer).  I felt bad about missing the meeting.

I thought perhaps Mabel wouldn’t mind or notice me not being at her concert if my father (Pop) went in my place.  So, I called home to tell Mac and while I was on speaker phone, he asked her, “Do you want Pop Pop to come to your concert?”  Her response, “Noooo!  I want Mommy and Daddy!”  Knife to heart.

I don’t want to miss her concert.  I feel bad about missing it.  I want to be two places at once.

So, both positivity and negativity are co-activated.  Missing either is a bad choice.  Attending both is not possible.

I’m reluctant to even publish this post, because it feels like my decision is final if I do, and I don’t like the decision I’ve made.  I’m ambivalent.

I’ve decided.  I will miss Mabel’s concert tomorrow.  My father will go in my place.  I’m ambivalent.


ETA:  Ironically and tragically, the day of Mabel’s concert, while I was in a marathon all-day meeting, the Sandy Hook shooting took place.  During a break I checked my email and saw the news online.  I felt sick to my stomach.  If that tragedy doesn’t make you pause and take stock, nothing would.  At that moment, I wished I could be with my children, to cherish them and hold them close, knowing there were 26 families that were being devastated.  Looking back, would I make the same call again?  Yes.  There will be times in my children’s lives that I wouldn’t miss, but an annual Holiday Concert isn’t one of them.  Mabel had people who loved her in the audience- I didn’t have to be one of them.  That said, this is what I posted on Instagram later that night.


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Wordless Wednesday: Happy Hanukkah!


Credit: Mary Engelbreit Source:

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Macy’s Thanksgiving Day (Pre)Parade 2012

Having be born and raised in the suburbs of New York City, there are lots of touristy things I haven’t done.  I’ve never been to the top of the Empire State Building, I was never to the top of the World Trade before they were destroyed, never spent New Year’s Eve in Times Square.  While I have been to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade a few times, I’d never been down the night before to see the balloons being blown up in preparation for the parade.

That changed this year.

For several years, my sister has been working for a woman who lives just off Central Park West, on one of the streets used as a staging area for the parade.  The woman has been generous and offered to have us down to see the balloons several years in a row now, but with travel and other constraints, we haven’t been able to.

Until this year!

Thanksgiving 2012 mcphd

Now, the way it works is that all the streets being used as staging areas are around the Museum of Natural History.  The museum side of the streets are open to the public, but there are thousands of people, hours long waits, and general insanity.  The opposite side of the streets are residential and closed to the public- unless you are an invited guest of someone who lives on that street.  Thus, my sister’s boss’ invitation allowed us past the barricades, onto West 77th street- the street the marked the start of the parade!

Unlike the public access side, the residential side wasn’t crowded or crazy.  Mabel could walk around without even holding hands, without fear of us losing her in a crowd.  We got to see several balloons- Hello Kitty, Charlie Brown (and his football), the Paul Frank Monkey, a dragon, Pikachu, Kermit the Frog, Kung Fu Panda, and other assorted ornaments, stars, and bobble-headed presidents and pilgrims.

When we arrived, Kung Fu Panda was just fabric on the ground.  As we stood and watched, and walked back and forth, it was blown up.  Very cool!

There were big tanker trucks of helium up and down the street, nets over all the balloons, and it was really neat to watch how the teams work together to blow up each balloon in sections.  If you watched the parade, you probably saw that Pikachu had some ear problems- guess they missed that part!

The other cool thing was, because we were at the starting point of the parade, Mayor Bloomberg paid a visit!

We were waiting on the corner for Aunt Meg, when I noticed security and a fleet of black SUVs.  I said to Mac that somebody must be here.  Looking around there were lots of press and staff milling around.  Sure enough, by eavesdropping on conversations, I hear “Bloomberg”.  Since we were already waiting for Aunt Meg, we decided to also wait for the Mayor to make an appearance.

Sure enough, he did, and Mac snapped this photo.  I totally got a kick out of it.

Mabel and the Mayor

Mabel and the Mayor

After the Mayor passed by, Aunt Meg appeared and we actually got to up to her boss’ apartment.  Looking down on the balloons from 13 stories up was kind of amazing.  The picture on the bottom right was taken from the window- it definitely doesn’t do it justice.

Mabel had lots of fun- although she didn’t remember the parade from previous years, so I don’t think it really sunk in what she was seeing.

However, the next morning, she sat with Aunt Meg and watched the parade.  Once she saw the balloons floating down the street, she realized and got a big kick out of it.

The other thing she was excited about was the performance by the cast of “Annie,” the revival of which just opened on Broadway.  Aunt Meg and I made a really big deal of watching it because tonight, we’re taking Mabel to see it!  It will be her first Broadway show- just as it was for me almost 30 years ago!

With Mabel being so young, the fact that we only saw one street’s worth of balloons was fine.  Given how insane the opposite side of the street was (you can see in the bottom right picture that the crowds were a dozen people deep- which wouldn’t allow you to see much of anything), I don’t think we’ll ever do all of the balloons (our invitation only gave us access to the street on which Meg’s boss lives and not all of them).  It was so pleasant and fun on the residential side- no crowds, easy to see everything, nobody pushing or shoving, nobody rushing you to move on- that I think we’ll stick with that one street as long as we’re invited.

Aunt Meg- I’m sure you’ll read this, so thanks again for orchestrating this amazing opportunity !  We’re lucky to have you!

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