Sunday, March 29, 2009

I like tourists.


Today has been very productive, outside of the fact that I haven't written this memo yet. I have chocolate marble banana bread in the oven, made smoothies (sans ice), and went for my 1 week out run.

Cherry Blossom is on Sunday. I'm feeling: trepidation. :)
But my run this afternoon was good - I went down from the Marine Corps Memorial, past Arlington Cemetery, along the Potomac on the VA side, across 14th St bridge and into the madness.
The madness being Cherry Blossom crowds at the Tidal Basin of course. It actually wasn't that bad, but the people who decided they should drive down there? Kind of a stupid idea. There I am, running faster than you folks in your cars. So I continued past the Jefferson Memorial (my favorite) and along the river on the DC side with the Cherry Blossoms. There were lots of people out and about (the weather today was also lovely) - people walking, running, biking, etc.
I even saw a bus full of sakura girls (or just Japanese girls dressed up for the parade I guess) escorted by a DC police car.
Then I ran past the Lincoln Memorial, over Memorial Bridge and back past the Cemetery and the Marine Corps.

Cool route. So why did I decide I like tourists? It might have been the historical symbolism involved in the run, but it's nice to ignore DC's problems (Marion Barry, DCPS, guns, crack - heck, all of those can be contributed to Marion) and see what the tourists see* when they come to DC. Also, amidst this recession it's nice to see people still able to enjoy themselves and take a vacation. I know they stand on the left and hog the sidewalks downtown, but I guess I also have the privilege of taking the Blue Bus to work/school and not having to deal much with them.
Maybe it's just the weather making my disposition a little sunnier (maybe, especially because I'm screwed on my bracket now that Pitt lost, Louisville didn't help either).

I dunno. Memo time. House smells like chocolate and bananas (and smiles).

*Unless they have the misfortune of staying in one of the budget NY Ave hotels. Then they'll see the other side of DC.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

What can your pre-tax dollars do?

NERD ALERT - We're not talking cookies here (but if I could repay loans in cookies...)!

Allow me to digress from baking here while I try to work out this idea I came up with at school today. I'm sure someone else with much more influence than I have has had it too, but as grad students with a gazillion dollars in student loans (no, I'm not going to do the math, I don't want to know the real number) clearly we're looking for a way to not be in debt for the rest of our lives. Especially thanks to AIG and predatory lenders destroying the economy.

In class we were talking about social security and Medicare and 401Ks so this was a kind of related topic: Why can't we repay student loans with tax-free dollars? Example, like your flexible spending accounts, a chunk of money comes monthly from your paycheck and goes to health expenses. So in this proposal, the money you would be putting in the bank then sending back to whoever is managing your loan would go straight from your paycheck to the loan people, without setting foot in your bank account (or passing go or collecting $200 dollars). And you wouldn't pay taxes on the money that you're paying interest on. 

You don't have to pay taxes on that part of your wages. 
Less defaulting on loans - if you're employed you automatically are paying for your loans. 
Employers may find it attractive to include loan repayment as a benefit (which may decrease your salary).
Incentivizes college attendance. (A little bit.)

How exactly would this be managed? Does the govt need to set up one loan/repayment place so that employers aren't tasked with managing all of that hassle? (Or would this create new jobs!)

Thoughts? It seemed like a good idea to us in the lounge - those of us who actively need to plan how to get out of this kind of debt-up-to-our-eyeballs. 

Side note: did you watch Mama's Boys? It would have been the worst reality dating show I'd ever seen until that jerk on The Bachelor dumped his fiance on live TV. Anyway, there was this one very fake girl who had $130k of debt - and not the student loan kind. More like the fake tits and over spending credit card kind. Dealbreaker!

But maybe some serious and super-smart economist or Congressional historian can explain to me why this isn't working? (Dear Steven Levitt, if you were to post on my blog I would have a nerdgasm.)

Note, somewhere in this post I used have in 3 different tenses. In a row. And I think the sentence made sense. 

Monday, March 16, 2009


Did I ever tell you about the time I dyed my brother green (mom, stop reading...)? 
It wasn't that bad, I was just being stupid, and maybe I was 12 years old..... I decided that while it's fun to play with Oobleck (corn starch + water) it would be WAAAAY more fun to play with green Oobleck. So I added a few drops of food coloring.
Bad idea. 
All of a sudden our hands were green and of course so was a good lot of my two year old brother. Bath time, immediately. He may have had some stains for a while, but that's ok, I mean, you can eat food coloring so it's not bad for you.

And now the point of this story: 
I thought it would be cute to make green rice krispies treats for St Patrick's day (and cuter if I could find a shamrock cookie cutter but no luck - see Baked & Wired Valentine's treats). Anyway, they came out sort of Army camo colored. Taste good, but a little pale.

Lesson learned. Green food coloring is for frosting ONLY. 

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Sunday Champagne Brunch

The Spread:
Clockwise from the melon:
Cantaloupe, coffee cake, eggs (which SB made for us) & potatoes, banana bread, raspberry scones, mimosa, cranberry muffins.

Berry Berry Brunch

So in super planning, last night I mixed ALL of the dry ingredients for my 3 berry-licious breakfast goodies. Raspberry scones, cranberry muffins and sweet corn coffeecake. (Minus I was short on sugar so I had to go out and buy sugar and just in case more eggs this morning.) Last night I went on a search for frozen cranberries and ended up at Whole Foods where I bought 3 of the 4 bags of frozen cranberries they had - just in case someone else came around looking for frozen cranberries. But cranberry muffins are my favorite and the recipe I have is pretty good.

I also made raspberry scones, with an older recipe that uses all cream and no eggs. They were a little cakier than the other version but the cream makes them sweeter. I kind of had to undo and add more cream then re-form them, so they turned a little pink.

Anyway, here are the final products:

Scones, muffins, muffins...


They were all delicious, I think the cranberry muffins were my favorite (duh), but this cofeecake is super yummy.

Dharma Bete Noir in Photos

I had people over for brunch this morning. I baked a lot. In fact, due to time change and SB not feeling like going out, I kind of staying in last night and cooked. Here is the progression of 12 ounces of chocolate into Bete Noir.

First, 12 oz of chopped chocolate:

Sounds fantastic, now add 2 sticks of butter:

And combine with 5 beaten eggs:


Dust with confectioners sugar:

I didn't have a doily, so I tried to cut out a paper snowflake, but it looks a little like the Dharma symbol. Totally not intentional.
This was delicious. Super super rich (as you'd expect a flourless chocolate cake to be) and doesn't need anything beyond confectioners sugar. Whipped cream might be too rich, but a raspberry sauce could be tasty. Definitely a hit. Fairly easy to make so I'll be making this again.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Kick you when I'm down

So this girl learned the hard way that when it snows south of, oh.... Pennsylvania, people usually flip out, systems break down, buses can't run and there is no way you'll have class. Allow me to go back in time: Winter 2002/03

There was a major winter weather event going on in Williamsburg on Thursday night. This meant that all of my friends were going to drink. But man was I stubborn (what else is new?), I was sitting in my room working on my French homework and desperately trying to finish it so I could go out too. But everyone was adamant that we wouldn't have class the next day, even bad-ex from Chicago. Ok, fine. No class tomorrow, I'll go drink. GREAT IDEA.

(I just want to note, I really only missed 1 class ever because of drinking and then there was that one art class I showed up an hour late too. The rowing helped that considerably, though I may have gone to practice drunk once or twice...)

So we went and got s-faced in someone's room (hi, underage drinking), played various drinking games, etc. And it had been snowing for some time. But by the time we left, maybe it was 1am, and it had STOPPED SNOWING. The ground was covered in maybe 4-6 inches of white snowy stuff, about as much as we have today, and it was a little bit slippery. And I was drunk, in case you had forgotten. And it had stopped snowing. Key parts to the story right there, did I tell you I was from New England? Yeah. So if we had 6 inches of snow that stopped at 1am there would be school the next day without a doubt.

Have I mentioned I was drunk? And also with bad-ex, which means I was feeling angry. It was also his idea that I should come out and drink because we wouldn't have class. So clearly I got a little riled up. I may have raised my voice. I may have said "This is all your fault!" (Clearly it was ALL his fault since generally everything was at that time.) And I may have swung back my foot getting ready to deliver a swift kick to the shins. Has it not sunk in how drunk I was?

All of a sudden, there I was, in a parking lot covered in school-canceling snow, and LYING FLAT ON MY BACK because darn if that snow wasn't super slippery and clearly hadn't seen the likes of a plow.

Whoops. Needless to say, even though Obama makes fun of DC for the mass panic, I understand. I understand the severe lack of snow removing infrastructure. Also, it's probably pretty funny to laugh at drunk people who fall down in the snow. (Or who high jump into bushes covered with it. Just saying.)

Oh yeah, and needless to say, a year later when we had 2.5" of snow and ice we were out of class for 2.5 days. I was not surprised this time.

Outr street before things starting seriously sticking.

Please, no photographs.