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End of another year...

Another New Years Eve. My husband was here for Christmas, but now he's back to 2400 miles away. So we're both watching Hulu and playing on the internet together. He's catching up on the first season of Buffy, which expires tonight (I finished it yesterday). I'm catching up on a couple of fall sitcoms. Sure, we're boring, but we like it that way. At least this year, we like it that way.

This year has been good and bad. I defended and moved to an awesome post doc position, I got a couple of great publications out, we got an adorable new niece and a new nephew, we moved half of us across the country, and we adopted Gibbs the free energy puppy. I only managed 5 bee stings. But we lost Milja, our cat of 10 years, after a long illness. We had to spend half of the year in different states. And I got a truly awful and scary medical diagnosis, which leaves me alternating between optimistic determination and wanting to crawl under a rock and cry. Actually, right now I'm more in the crying under a rock phase. It'll pass in another 10 minutes. Apparently this is normal.

But I am looking forward to the new year. I have a batch of awesome experiments ending and two new sets planned out. I have some nice travel planned, thanks to a decent travel budget and conferences in cool places. My husband and I have some visits planned, and hopefully he gets a job here soon and our cat Elsa will meet our dog Gibbsy. We even have our 12th wedding anniversary coming up this year! Twelve years and we're as happy as we've ever been. Except for that being in different states part. The distance sucks. Especially with the shitty medical stuff going on. But oh well.

Other great things? We got light-blocking, noise-reducing curtains for the bedroom right after Christmas. That plus the new humidifier means I don't wake up with traffic noise all night long, or even worse, those damned police helicopters. What is it with the police helicopters here? Seriously, they are constant and all night long. But I no longer care, because I can't hear them anymore.... ah bliss. And decent sleep is always something to look forward to.

Fun with Apples

When I was a teenager, one of my favorite afternoon snack was a microwaved apple. I'd slice an apple, sprinkle it with brown sugar and cinnamon and microwave it for a few minutes. It reminded me of the skillet apples my grandfather would make on Christmas Eve during our annual brunch.

Personally, I have an abysmal track record with skillet apples. I finally got my recipe perfected. I would have posted a picture, but I ate them pretty quickly tonight. So, sliced green apple and butter in a skillet. Sprinkle over some sugar and a good amount of cinnamon. Cook that down and stir every now and then (but not too much or the apples break apart). Once those apples are soft and the moisture is getting a nice caramelized texture, toss in some amaretto and its done.

I added a little bit of whipped cream on top. Seriously, my refrigerator is never without whipped cream. The canned kind holds up well and its easy to put a tiny bit on the little deserts I can't seem to live without.

Right now I'm in the countdown to Christmas. My husband is flying in on Tuesday, which gives us 2 days to get all the cooking done for our Christmas Eve dinner. Of course this means I will be starting earlier than that. Cookies. Breads. Ham to brine. Herring to get together. And of course many, many vegetables to peel, chop, boil, mash, and whatnot. I love cooking. I still have to get the recipe for liver casserole from my mother-in-law. Not my favorite, but my husband misses it, so we're going to have that liver casserole. Maybe I'll post a picture when its cooked.

On Shitty First Drafts

One of my favorite books on writing is "Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life," by Anne Lamott. A very good friend gave it to me a number of years ago and its one of those books that gets better on the re-read. Anyway, Anne Lamott writes about the inavoidable "shitty first draft." Every first draft is shitty. That's what second drafts are for... and well sixth and tenth drafts as well. This is how you get to looking back on something you published a few years ago and wonder what awesome person wrote it, because wow, it sure reads well.

I am a master at crummy first drafts and this is because I have no fear of committing total crap to the screen. If that degree in writing has done anything for me, it has been taking away the hesitation of writing that first sentence. Yep, all due to that degree and enough coffee... or occasionally a half a bottle of wine (at home, I promise. I cleaned out my drawer of vice when I moved to the new university).

What has come as a revelation to me is that a dear former mentor of mine writes shitty first drafts also. He's one of the best writers I've ever known. He can take a few of my paragraphs, make some minor tweaks that never would have occurred to me, and the text just sings. God I hate it when he does that. So freaking annoying. I usually only saw what were probably his fourth or later drafts. Until Google docs. Collaborating with Google docs is an eye opener because everyone sees every little draft. I always knew he worked hard at being such an awesome writer, but I guess it never really clicked until I saw those awful first drafts. Crap-tastic, just like mine.

This has been pretty inspirational for me. And a reminder that good, clear scientific writing is not going to come quickly, so I might as well hunker down and enjoy the process without all that extra anxiety piled on top. It'll get there. Eventually. At some point. With enough coffee.