October 25, 2014

Let Jane eat cake!

by Janie Jones

I like dessert.  I crave a little sweet after a savory meal.  And, even though I always like a little bit of dessert with my meals, I am generally truly satisfied with just a little bit.

I used to enjoy baking cakes and pies and other desserts, but as I had no one to share them with, I always seem to have friends who aren’t sweet lovers, usually the goodies would go bad before I could eat them all by myself.  So, for many years I used to enjoy just two store-bought cookies, or one of the bite sized candy bars and be quite content.  And when I felt like baking, somethings I could freeze, but then I got busy with school and didn’t have time for baking anyway.

Now, though, I’m finding it harder and harder to find any store bought goodies or candies which I enjoy and are worth the expense.  Much of the cheap stuff tastes like crap, and even many fancy restaurant desserts aren’t as good as homemade.  Last time I was craving chocolate cake and bought a slice at a restaurant (for $7 no less) I was extremely disappointed.  The cake was dry and flavorless and the frosting so overly sweet and waxy that I couldn’t get through two whole bites.  Last weekend when I visited Leif at the farm I splurged and bought out a frozen cake from the grocery store.  It was okay, but it still didn’t quite hit the spot.

At my room in town I have no real oven to bake in, and my dessert selections have been limited to ice cream and a succession of disappointing cookies, donuts and other store made sweets.  I’ve tried some break-and-bake cookies in my toaster oven, but I’m having trouble getting the timing right, they always seem to go from raw to burned in an instant.  Besides, my taste buds have been wanting brownies or chocolate cake, and not the waxy, sugar over-kill, crappy kind that you spend way too much for at the stores, but real brownies or cake that is moist and rich and not over frosted.

So, I decided to try a crock pot cake.  I still bought a box mix, not having room to store a myriad of baking ingredients in my kitchenette, but I’ve used Pillsbury Devil’s Food cake with pudding in the mix before when in a pinch and found it to be pretty close to my favorite homemade cake recipe.  I looked at a few crock pot cake recipes on the internet, and they all said to cook on low for anywhere from 1 hr 50 min up to 3 hours.

Well, on the down side, I can tell you mixing a cake by hand without a blender was a muscle building exercise.  On the plus side, I probably burned enough calories mixing the cake to off-set the eating of it.  But the problem really was the timing.  I either have a really low power low setting, or my crock was too small for the cake mix.  I lost track of how long it took after the 4th hour of cook time.  I kept going back every 15 or 20 minutes testing and testing.  Finally I took it off the heat because I was afraid the bottom and sides would burn.

In the end the cake didn’t quite cook all the way.  The top quarter inch or so is still pudding-y.  But as the cake is so thick, if you just cut off that upper layer the lower 80-90% is perfect.  And it makes one huge hunk.  I think I’ll end up cutting it into 3 or 4 serving size hunks and freezing them so none goes stale before I can eat it all.

cake 003

So, crock pot cake is delicious, but takes a long time to cook.  And now I know that it might not cook all the way, but that’s okay too.

October 24, 2014

Forever Friday

by Janie Jones

I found a new guilty pleasure on Hulu.  This fall a new TV show came out called Forever.  It’s about a guy who doesn’t die.  Well, he can be killed, but he always comes back to life.  So he works as coroner/medical examiner to try and figure out how/why he is the way he is, and along the way he solves murder crimes.  I missed the beginning of the season, so I am about 4 episodes behind.

My reward for getting all my homework done is to watch an hour of TV while I eat my dinner.  Tonight, being Friday, I just might throw responsibility to the wind, live wild and watch two episodes. Crazy, crazy times.

Oh, and eat cake too.  I am going to try making a crock pot cake, as I have no oven unless I want to go upstairs and use the real kitchen.  Which I don’t– it is always full of dirty dishes, stacks of guy stuff, and it stinks.  So, crock pot cake, here we come!

Happy Friday to you all!


October 23, 2014

Thursday Quote Du Jour #15: Funny my life doesn’t feel like it’s moving at light speed

by Janie Jones

“If you have everything under control, you’re not moving fast enough.” ~Mario Andretti

October 22, 2014

About yesterday’s comic

by Janie Jones

So it occurs to me that many of you non cell biologists might enjoy the first comic from yesterday’s post a little more if I explain what is going on.

The cell membrane is made of a double layer of phospholipids.  A phospholipid has a “head” region which contains a phosphate group and a glycerol molecule.  This head has a negative charge that can react with water and is therefore known as “hydrophillic,”or water loving.  The remainder of the the phospholipid consists of two “tails” made of lipids, (fat).  Most of you know fat and water don’t mix, so the tail portion of the phospholipid is known as “hydrophobic,” or water fearing. This dual nature of the phospholipid bi-layer membrane ensures that water is sectioned off on either side of the barrier but never between the phospholipid layers because the tails are hydrophobic.

Now try to apply this new knowledge to the fact that the comic is showing a membrane of phospholipids and one of the tails has a water gun…

Any chuckles yet?

Here’s a bonus comic for wading through that explanation:

two blood cells met cartoon*This image/joke has been spotted everywhere on the internet.  Just google it….

October 21, 2014

Tuesday Titters shares the love

by Janie Jones

You know, I’ve been posting a lot of physics jokes, and it occurs to me that I should share the love with biology.  As it happens I’m talking Cell Biology this semester, and yesterday I took the test which covered cell membranes so this comic is especially appropriate.  I hope you all get a laugh.


comic phospholipid bilayerFrom Isobel’s Blog

Okay, so yesterday’s test went well, I got a 97.5%.  So we’ll celebrate with a second cartoon.  Besides, this ones just too corny not to include:

why did the germ cross the roadThis one you can get as a poster from Cafe Press.

Yeah, I’ll be giggling about this one the whole time I’m measuring Chlamydomonas reinhardtii flagella in lab today.  Those buggers were very elusive last week.  I hope they behave better today.

Happy Tuesday.

October 20, 2014

Mental Health Monday: Thoughts on Home

by Janie Jones

“I’ll be home for Christmas.”

“Hey it’s good to be back home again.”

“Sweet home Alabama, Lord I’m coming home to you.”

“Our house, in the middle of our street.”

“Home, where my thoughts escaping, Home, where my music’s playing, Home, where my love lies waiting…”

“Take me home, country road, to the place I belong…”

Just a few song lyrics from the top of my head about the concept of home, and I’m sure there so many more I probably can’t think of right now.  Home is an important concept to me and a lot of people.  Home, they say, is where the heart is.  And to me, a home is like a second skin.  It holds me in, holds me together, it provides safety and security in every sense of the word.  To me, having no home is like having a painful burn on my whole body.  Sure I’ll survive, but every moment will be painful.  My home in Small Town Great White North USA might have been a rental, but I loved it all the same.  I repainted every room.  It reflected me.  It was me.  It was my second skin.  And, while there were other homes I had to leave that I loved, this one hurts more than all the rest.  Possibly because I hoped against all hope that it might be my last home.  But that was not to be.  I had to leave and let go.  But a piece of me is still there.  Leaving ripped off a huge layer of skin.  And it hurts.

A real home, in my opinion, has a soul.  It lives and breathes like any other entity.  To lose a beloved home is like losing a loved one, someone who loved you no matter what you did, who gave you strength when you were weak, who sheltered you when you were cold and tired, who shared years of happiness and sadness, who had a history with you.  Knowing I had to leave it has been like watching someone you love more than life itself die a slow painful death from some hideous disease these last few years, knowing you can do nothing but try to love every last minute you have with it.  Knowing each moment is tainted with sadness as it might be the last time you do whatever together was sad and depressing.  A terminally ill loved one can’t live forever, and I couldn’t live in that house forever.

So, for those of you who worry about my depression, know what I’m going through feels a lot like I imagine it would be like coming to terms with a deforming accident like being burned over 90% of your body, or grieving a death of a family member.  You have to accept that there’s things you can no longer do after you heal or you have to accept that you’ll never see that person again.  Now I have to come to terms with it and accept that I have to start over.  But starting over can’t happen until I have some income to start over on.  So it’s not just the grief of loss, but the grief of knowing I can’t fully move on until I am done with school and hopefully land a real job again.

I was at the farm this past weekend, and I was thinking about my belongings out there that I will have to decide to leave behind for the winter.  My bed.  My furniture.  My brand new washer and dryer.  While we are not the sum of our material possessions, many of them do act like anchors for me in the craziness that is my life.  With all the stress of school, my tumor, being broke, cars falling apart on me, sending my daughter south to live with her dad, and all the other mundane daily trials of life, I relied on the consistency of a beloved home and familiar objects to keep me together, centered and feeling secure.  When you’re tired and stressed out the simple things like not being able to find your cookbook, or that box of envelopes, or the fact that it takes 15 minutes of digging through boxes to find something that always used to reside right there at your fingertips is bad enough.  But now I have to decide which things I can fit in my room in town and what I can live without for several months.  The knowing I can’t have access to things that are mine, and used to be ever available for whenever the need might arise, is its own kind of stress.

I think about what it might be like to lose everything to a fire or a natural disaster.  Those people must be devastated.  And perhaps it’s wrong of me to say this, but in some ways perhaps really losing everything would be better.  I could blame it on acts of God or Nature.  I could file an insurance claim and resettle.  But I’m in a limbo.  I have things I just can’t have them.

It’s like life is teasing me.  “Here’s your favorite chew toy, Fido.  Whoops!  No you can’t have it.  It’s going to stay up here on this high shelf where you can see it but you can’t touch it.  Now, just try to forget about it until I get home from work.  And, if you’ve been a very good dog Fido, maybe, just maybe someday I’ll take it back down and you can have it again.”  So Fido can either knock over the trash can and make a huge freaking mess, or he can try and forget about it.  But, you never know when he might catch a glimpse of that toy and he’ll start howling for it.

I’m trying to move on, to accept.  It feels like I’ve been maimed, I’m grieving a death and fighting the anger of not being able to move on.  It’s a tough road to travel.

“Go home, said the man in the moon, go home.  We didn’t know who we were, we didn’t know what we did, we were just on the road.”


October 17, 2014

At last it’s Friday, the weekend is just hours away

by Janie Jones

So, it has been a grueling week at Janie’s Place.  But, I’ve survived.  And this weekend has just three tasks (that I know of) on the schedule: laundry, sleep and study for my test Monday in the class I actually like.

But first I have to sit through my physics test beginning in two and a half hours, a lecture, a group meeting at noon, a conference at 12:30 and three hours of counting mouse poop   I. capensis.  Then I’m going out to the farm to see Leif, the dogs and cat, and what’s left of the chickens.  Apparently my favorite, Chickie Baby, got caught and eaten by some mystery critter last week.   All Leif could find of her was a pile of feathers.    It’s sad, but also the law of the jungle, eat or be eaten.  But unlike the other chickens she was so friendly and pretty.  She’d come up to you to be picked up and pet, and then she’d sit on your lap and just hang out.  She’d eat feed right out of your hand, too.  :(

Anyway, at least I didn’t suffer the same fate as poor Chickie Baby.  I am still here.  And looking forward to a hopefully low key weekend.

Happy Friday to you all.


TGIF cartoon*Found at Google Images