Friday, December 17, 2010

Getting creative - baby-themed sugar cookies

At the Biology Department Holiday Party (which is always a good time), I ran into several people who made comments about how I must be ready to have this kid out of me.

Nope, not really. 

I feel pretty good. My two complaints: First, although not terrible, I'm not sleeping particularly well (e.g. last night I went to bed around 11, woke up once to head to the restroom, and another 4 times for no real reason, finally giving in and getting out of bed at 6:30); and, second, it getting a little more awkward to walk (a little because of balance challenges, and partially due to tenderness from baby's head hitting nerves). In the grand scheme of things, those are relatively minor. 

So, what does this have to do with getting creative? Well, I would like to bring cookies to the hospital when we go in, but it seems they disappear as quickly as I make them! This just leads me to making more, but I don't want to get bored by making the same recipes over and over, so I took some inspiration from my friend Laura, who posted this family recipe for sugar cookies and frosting. In conjunction with some adorable onesie-shaped cookie cutters my friend Christina gave out as favors at a baby shower she helped organize, I made these:

In contrast to all the pink we got, I chose to ice them with my favorite colors, shades of purple and green. I also attempted some designs, but by 11, I had run out of steam, so only some of them are fully decorated. Also, yes, that grey protrusion on the left is my sweater-swathed belly finding its way into the picture. The cookies are delicious! They are not too sweet on their own, so are perfect with a little icing. 

Thursday, December 16, 2010


I've been reading a lot of baby books lately. My in-laws picked up a series of "What to Expect" books, so I've read through:

What to Expect When You're Expecting: 4th EditionWhat to Expect the First Year (What to Expect (Workman Publishing)), and What to Expect the Toddler Years, 2nd edition.

My overall impression of them is that most of the information I could easily find online, and, with the books, I end up sifting through a lot of FAQs that aren't entirely relevant. Still, I suppose there a good place to start if you find yourself feeling lost as an expecting/new parent, to give you a starting point.

Several friends have also given me books to read through to help deal with challenges that may arise with infants and sleeping.

The No-Cry Sleep Solution: Gentle Ways to Help Your Baby Sleep Through the NightSo far, I really enjoyed, "The No-Cry Sleep Solution, and would highly recommend it.  The book is structured well, and I didn't feel as if the author was condescending at all. I liked her emphasis on doing what is best for you, as a parent, giving many options, citing research on what has worked, but really leaving it up to the parents' choice. Further, although anecdotes are included, they are concise, relatable, and formatted so that they don't interrupt the flow of the book. Well done.

The Happiest Baby on the Block: The New Way to Calm Crying and Help Your Newborn Baby Sleep LongerOn the flip side, I have not been able to make it through, "The Happiest Baby on the Block". The author, a pediatrician, seems well-meaning, but started off on the wrong foot for connecting with me as a reader when he stereotyped the western cultures and the "backward" third world cultures. The first chapter was all build-up, with no real results, directions or conclusions. Perhaps this would have been good to read a few months ago, because I just don't feel like I have the patience to sit through it. Or maybe it is his, "let me tell you a story" style that rubs me the wrong way. I want to get to the point.

The Nursing Mother's Companion, 6th Edition: 25th Anniversary EditionFinally, another friend (thank-you so much!!) sent me a box of extremely useful baby-related items, and in it she included a tiny handbook called, "Nursing: the First Two Months: an Excerpt from the Nursing Mother's Companion". I just recently picked it up - as nursing will soon be upon us! - and have to rave about it. It is compact, highly informative, and no-nonsense. There is a lot of information, but it isn't overwhelming. I may have to wait until after I attempt nursing to fully rate it, but as someone attempting to learn about nursing, I would give it two thumbs up. I'm even tempted to buy the Nursing Mother's Companion, from which it is an excerpt. 

My last name is two words, take two

I recently received a question asking my thoughts about a last name with two words, a year after I first posted about changing my last name. As a small reminder, my last name is not hyphenated, but consists of two separate words, Wilson Sayres, where the first word is my maiden name and the second word is my husband's last name.

I love it. It was the best decision for me.

For family-related things, we are Melissa and Scott Sayres (which has been nice for Holiday cards this year!), and for publishing, research and professional applications, I am Melissa Wilson Sayres.

It has caused minor confusion at some places where the staff claim they can only allow one last name, so either require that I hyphenate it (instead of two separate words), or choose one, but it has been a minor inconvenience.

With respect to having kids, we have decided to give our children my husband's last name only. I had thought it would be neat to give them my last name as a middle name (Wilson is a perfectly acceptable middle name), and Scott's last name as their surname. However, we've moved away from that idea because it would only be fair to do that for all kids, and it might be a little weird for them all to have the same middle and last name.

I do have a friend whose last name is two words, one is her mother's last name and one is her father's last name, and she really loves having a piece of both of them (note that both parents kept their "maiden" names).

Now, regarding baby's first name... that's a whole other can of worms. :)

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Nothing brings you back down to earth like being rejected

I was on a high after finding out I was awarded a postdoctoral fellowship (yay!!) to study at Berkeley. It is completely awesome. I have funding for three years to study wildly fascinating questions (i.e. questions I proposed), in collaboration with some rockin' scientists!

For a couple days I rode this wave of excitement, probably thinking a little too much of myself, then received word that the review article my advisor and I wrote was rejected, hard. Many thanks to the gods of science for reminding me that I need to constantly work on both my research and myself.

That doesn't mean all of the excitement from the fellowship has vanished (hardly!), just put into perspective.

Things really couldn't get better for us right now - both Scott and I get to research exciting topics for our postdocs, with top scientists, we're expecting our little girl any day now (due in 5 days, on the 20th of December), have two adorable doggies, and we are surrounded by incredibly friends and loving family.

Monday, December 13, 2010


Yesterday I opened a can of pumpkin and made a host of stuff: muffins, pumpkin roll with chocolate filling and pumpkin pie:

The roll and the pie are based off the Libby's recipes for pie and roll, but halving the sugar. The muffins are... okay - I used whole wheat flour, cut the sugar in half and omitted the oil, so they're okay, for being healthy, but I wouldn't make them again, so I'm not going to post the recipe.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Winter baking

I've been on a cookie kick lately, and since I haven't posted about food for awhile, here are some recipes/pictures to satisfy your sweet tooth.

Peanut Butter Cookies (modified from the recipe on the organic brown sugar from Woodstock Farms)
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 cup crunchy peanut butter
- 1/2 cut butter
- 1 egg
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 tsp baking soda

Cream together sugars and butters. Add egg. Stir in flour and baking soda. Drop by teaspoonful onto a baking sheet and bake in preheated oven (325 F).

From left to right, Orange cookies with lemon filling, PB cookies (recipe above), Lemon-scented cookies with vanilla filling, and in the back are Oatmeal chocolate chip cookies (from Quaker's recipe).

The Orange and Lemon cookies are the same recipe as the PB recipe above, just remove the peanut butter and add either grated orange zest (apx 1tsp) or 2 tsp lemon juice.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Because Science is Fun!

Scott and I are looking for Christmas presents for our nieces and nephews that are a little more brain-stimulating than the majority of those promoted in the public scope.

Today I came across this website:

It seems like they have a lot of great toys mixed in with some mediocre toys, but I suppose that's always to be expected (especially when the one judging is a huge science geek!). Also, I am a little disappointed that when "Shopping by Age", the toys are divided into the most popular Toys for Boys and Girls of different age groups. It seems like a self-fulfilling prophesy. "Oh, these toys are the ones that have been most popular for 7 year old girls" so they'll continue to be bought by parents for their 7 year old girls. But really, at seven, I would have rather had the Carnivorous Creations Dome (#37 on the Boy's list, not included on the Girl's list) than the Fairy Triad Dome (#4 on the Girl's list, not included on the Boy's list), and so would one of my nieces. Furthermore, it pretty much excludes little boys who might want a Fairy Dome. 

I guess, I'd just rather them leave the gender-assignments off, and list the top selling items for all the age groups, combined. Science should be gender neutral. 

SunArt Paper Kit - 8 x 10 inchesAlso, I should note, there were a lot more foofy barely-science-related toys listed on the Girl's list than the Boy's list. 

I am kind of curious to try to the SunArt paper. But, I'm not sure if the packaging describes the scientific process behind why it works, or if it is just one of those "ooh, look! It's science! (but we aren't going to tell you what's going on)" toys. 

So, all in all, this site has potential, but, as with everything, keep your skepto-glasses handy. :)

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The things we do to our pets

First, I'm excited because this morning I got the final email confirmation that my NIH Postdoctoral Fellowship was officially uploaded (two days ago, which is one day before the deadline). Yay! I had chosen to submit it on the 30th of November, so sent all my materials to the Sponsored Programs Office at UC Berkeley for their review on the 18th of November. I'm so very glad I did because rather than be submitted on November 30th (well before the December 8th deadline), it didn't get officially submitted until the 7th of December. Eek! Good thing I planned ahead.

And, in case that is just too boring for your morning, please enjoy these pet "sounds":

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Technology fail: EndnoteX3, Word2008 and the User

So, finally, FINALLY, I figured out what the problem was (and yes, I am proud to say that I figured it out all on my own!).

Word2008 and EndnoteX3 were both properly installed on my PowerPC Mac, both working away happily, but unwilling to talk to each other.  Our IT guy upgraded my OS to Leopard (apparently there isn't good support for Snow Leopard with Power PCs, like there is for Intels). And....drumroll... nothing.

After following all of the instructions in Endnote's pdf, all three techniques, to no avail, I had a wild idea. Perhaps the Word Startup file (even though I explicitly defined it) was not programmed smartly enough to look where I told it and, because of being on the afs server (So now my "home" directory isn't under "Users), it couldn't find the template files that allowed it to communicate with Endnote.

So, what I did was moved the template files to the Word Startup directory on my local machine (instead of the afs server), and - ta-da!! - it works! Yay!!!

Yes, yes, I am a technological genius.

But, as punishment for it taking me so long to figure it out, I now have a new operating system, and all of my applications have been erased (which our very nice IT guy neglected to mention). F. I know it shouldn't make me want to cry, but it does. I could have at least made a list of everything that was going to get erased. Guess I have something to keep me busy the rest of the day, and tomorrow - figuring out which programs are missing and which versions to install. F.

Monday, December 6, 2010

400th post to commemorate Dr. Ashton Welch

Flipping through the magazine from my undergrad (Creighton University) this weekend, I was caught off-guard by the obituary for my freshman advisor, Dr. Ashton Welch. I was surprised because he was always so vibrant and active (and only 68 years old). I remember him commenting on how surprised he was that some of his students would be winded walking up the stairs to his fourth floor office.

Dr. Welch encouraged and supported me when I first came to Creighton. He helped me through my first year, and always had something new and interesting bit of information to share when I would stop in to his office throughout, usually describing one of his new artifacts, the rest of my tenure at Creighton.

In all likelihood, I would probably have never seed Dr. Welch again, but he made his impact that first year I knew him, and I am sad that he will no longer be an active positive influence in the lives of new students.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Top five

I think I'm going to have to add Tim Minchin to my list of the top five people I'd like to meet.

Eco-friendly AND Made in the USA?


We have been transitioning to products made by Seventh Generation, and I wanted to highlight that, not only are they generally made of less-toxic materials in sustainable ways, but these products are also all made in the US of A.

I like that they disclose all ingredients (as far as I'm aware of).

Their diapers are chlorine, latex and frangrance free, and hypoallergenic. Seventh Generation Chlorine Free Baby Diapers (Pack of 4)

I say "transitioning" instead of "switching" because we aren't just throwing out the supplies we already have. Instead, as our current cleaning products, paper products and such run out, we replace them with Seventh Generation products. Partially I was encouraged to do this by a sound-byte claiming that the most "green" building is the one that already exists, and partially by practicality.

And, in case you needed something to help you remember to take your reusable bags to the store:

Friday, December 3, 2010

Cheerleaders for science

At the USA Science and Engineering Festival there was a group of women cheerleading for Science. All of them are professional scientists and cheerleaders:

I have thought about blogging about it, but there are so many posts about it, I figured I could find someone who said it better than I would (especially because I've never been a cheerleader), and, thanks to the interweb, I did!

Please see this post by Andrea Kuszewski. I'll highlight this part:

"How does this relate to cheerleaders and sexuality and science? In short, the people that have a problem with women displaying their sexuality or scientists showing their fun, flirty side need to just get over it. As humans, we are sexual beings. Just because we may be serious as hell about the science we study, does not mean we gave up our sexuality and traded it in for a "license to practice science" badge.

Suppressing our sexual nature just because some people engage in maladaptive behaviors and have unrealistic expectations surrounding our sexuality is the exact wrong way to handle this issue. We need to keep on being who we are, sexual beings and all, and make those people deal with the fact that it isn't going away. They are the ones being maladaptive in their thinking, so they are the ones who need to change." 

Prosperity depends on us all

"In our more diverse and secular society, the place of religion has come to be a matter of lively discussion. It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue and that the wellbeing and prosperity of the nation depend on the contribution of individuals and groups of all faiths and none."
 - Queen Elizabeth II  as quoted here.

I think this holds just as true for the US as the UK. :)

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Accessible Research: How 1000 genomes can inform on male driving habits

Okay, so not really driving habits, but male driven evolution. Male driven evolution, also referred to as male mutation bias, describes the phenomenon whereby males contribute more mutations than females to offspring (because sperm experience more rounds of replication, and so have the change to incorporate more mutations, than do eggs).

Ideally, we could measure mutations directly in sperm and eggs, but it is very invasive to collect eggs from female mammals, and so we need to find alternative ways.

In the recently released 1000 genomes pilot project, they briefly talk about a very exciting potential dataset. Currently there are two trios (a mother, father and daughter) that were sequenced. The benefit of this dataset is that, with completely sequenced genomes from each of these, scientists can determine which mutations are new in the daughter (i.e. occurred in the germ cells of the mother or father), and can compute a human mutation rate per generation time.

It isn't discussed in the paper, but these kinds of datasets (genomic sequences of both genetic parents and one or more offspring) are ideal for determining the strength of male mutation bias, because the number of mutations can be partitioned into those that came from the paternal germline and which came from the maternal germline. But, in order to do this, I think, one must also sequence the germ cells from at least one of the parents (it would be much easier to sequence some sperm). This is because, in order to be identified as a new mutation in the offspring, by definition, it will not exist in the somatic tissues of the mother or father. So, although we aren't there yet, we are very close to being able to directly measure the male (and then compute the female) mutation rates in human.

Some potential conflicting factors to keep in mind are that: 1) we don't want to confuse somatic mutations in the offspring with parentally-inheirited mutations, so many tissues should be sampled to determine which mutations are shared across all tissues, and which are tissue-specific; and 2) there is likely a lot of statistical fluctuation in mutation rates between individuals, so any one set of trios may not accurately represent the majority. Thus, many families, and ideally families with many children, should be included in such an analysis.

(28 October 2010)

White wine in the sun

I don't know why, but the original version of the song is much more moving (I doubt I can blame it on hormones since it is hasn't been that long since I first heard it). The emotion in his voice really hit me and I couldn't help myself when a couple tears welled up.

This part especially got me:

And you my baby girl 
My jetlagged infant daughter
You'll be handed round the room
Like a puppy at a petting zoo

And you’re too young to know
But you will learn one day
That wherever you are and whatever you face
These are the people
Who'll make you feel safe in the world
My sweet blue-eyed girl

And if my baby girl
When you're twenty one or thirty one
And Christmas comes around
And you find yourself 9000 miles from home

You’ll know whatever comes
Your brothers and sisters and me and your mum.
Will be waiting for you in the sun


How to decorate a little girl's room?

With some proactive posters!

Technology fail, part two

After completely reinstalling Word 2008 and Endnote X3, following all the guidelines online, including manually defining startup pathnames, ensuring all updates were installed, and being particularly anal about ensuring I opened everything in the correct order, I've still had no luck getting the two to communicate.

The last effort is to upgrade my operating system from Mac OS 10.4 to Snow Leopard, so as of noon today my desktop has taken a small vacation up to the fifth floor to be rebooted. Consequently I'll be working on my laptop the next day or two. The one small problem is that I forgot to restart my "Dropbox" (due to network security Dropbox requires me to restart it on my desktop to sync updates, whereas from home, all updates are nearly instantaneous). Now, I'm left with the option to either re-write two days of work, or take a vacation from the projects until my desktop returns home.

So, in my forced vacation, I am motivated to work on some more Accessible Research blog posts. Look for a few more in the next day or so.