Credit card fraud

TL;DR? If you get notified that your credit card information has been compromised, and the suggestion is to close the account and have your bank reissue a new one? DO IT!!

The longer more detailed version:
I placed an order with curlmart back the beginning of October for some curly hair products that were cheaper to buy through them than directly through the company that made them. November 3rd, I get a wonderful email from them, which I’ll paste below for your viewing pleasure:

Dear CurlMart customers,

The purpose of this email is to inform you of an information security incident at CurlMart.com that potentially could affect you. Hackers recently penetrated our firewall and gained access to data containing your name and credit card information without our knowledge. Although we believe the exposure to be minimal, it is possible that your information could have been viewed by others.

In order to ensure your credit information was not used by third parties without your consent, we recommend that you monitor your credit report information and notify your credit card company if anyone attempts to obtain credit in your name. This could serve as an early warning if you become a victim of identity theft, even if such an occurrence is unrelated to this incident. You may also place a “fraud alert” on your personal credit file, which requires creditors to contact you before they open any new accounts or change your existing accounts. To place a fraud alert on your file, you should contact anyone of the three major credit bureaus listed below. As soon as one credit bureau confirms your fraud alert, the others are notified to do the same.
Equifax
l-888-766-0008
http://www.equifax.com
Experian
1-888-397-3742
http://www.experian.com
TransUnion
1-800-680-7289
http://www.transunion.com

Even if you do not find any suspicious activity on your initial credit reports, we encourage you to consider cancelling your credit card or at a minimum actively monitoring your account statements and credit reports. For more information on identity theft and detailed instructions on other actions you might consider, visit the Federal Trade Commission’s (hereinafter “FTC”) website at http://www.ftc.gov. If you believe you have been a victim of identity theft, we encourage you to contact the FTC immediately by calling the FTC hotline at 1-877-IDTHEFT.

We take our responsibility for safeguarding your confidential and personal information very seriously. Please be assured that we have taken the appropriate steps to correct the breach and protect your personal information from further disclosure. If you have any questions or additional concerns, please do not hesitate to email us at customerservice@curlmart.com.

Thank you for your cooperation and understanding.

I didn’t think much of it. I’ve had this happen once or twice before and nothing has ever come of it. Hell, I had my mail stolen a few years ago, and nothing ever came of that.

Well, I got an email today alerting me that credit card statement was ready from my credit union card. That’s strange. I usually only get a statement when I carry a balance, and I knew I had paid off my balance. Log in. $355.58 to Merrell.com. WHAT?!/1/? Call the bank, nothing else has been charged that isn’t mine. Seems fishy. Call Merrell, but because it’s after business hours, all they can do is search by my name. No orders in my name. Hmmm. I was just double checking that I hadn’t ‘accidentally’ ordered something. As I do like Merrell’s products, but I’m pretty sure they don’t have what I need this season. Call back the bank, start the fraud process. Come home, place a fraud alert on with the credit agencies. Close the affected account. Read about problems others have had with their stolen info from curlmart. *ishg* Place a fraud alert on my other credit card, just in case (didn’t want to have it reissued as I know I have pending charges on it, and I don’t think it’s been compromised, just the one card). About all I can do tonight.

So now I wait. Tomorrow I’ll call Merrell’s business person to see what I information I can get out of her. At that point, I’ll probably file a police report. And then I’ll wait for the fraudulent charges paper work to arrive from my bank. As far as I understand it, there is nothing else I can do on my end. It’s a good thing I keep a close eye on my accounts. And it’s a good thing I know how to calmly talk to phone reps and explain what is that is going on and what I need. Honestly, at this point this feels anticlimactic. Hopefully I won’t have any problems getting the money credited back to my account. I’m hoping that since my credit union has been so fabulous with everything else that they will be fabulous with this too. Guess I’ll find out soon enough.

And as I said on FB: They best have bought damn running shoes.

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How to coordinate a large meal

Around the holidays you always find articles about how to simplify making a large meal. What different foods to choose so that they can be made the day, or days, before. Or perhaps by choosing dishes that don’t need a lot of tending. But what if you do want to make that large meal that really can’t be made the day before, and does need some attention in the cooking process? To me, it’s like fitting pieces of a puzzle together. I’ll take you through how I pulled off making the base of a Thanksgiving meal for 9 adults and 3 kids this year.

At least a week before, sit down and decide what you’re going to make. I decided on roast turkey, creamed corn, sweet potato casserole, red quinoa with roasted butternut squash, gravy, and lemon french dressing. Once your menu is decided, take a sheet of paper and write down EVERY SINGLE ingredient for each recipe and the amount of it you’ll need. Nothing else. Now evaluate what you have at home and what you’ll need to buy. Now you have your shopping list; make sure quantities are listed on there too.

Next, you need to figure out what can and can’t be made ahead, or what needs to marinate. For the turkey recipe I use, it gets spiced up to two days ahead. Sweet potatoes can be roasted ahead of time, and dressing can be made a head of time. But really, for the rest of what I wanted to make, it would need to be made the day of. So here’s what I ended up with:
Sunday: do bulk of shopping. Still forget to pick up a few things.
Tuesday: pick up turkey and prep it with herbs and spices. Cover and stick in the fridge.
Wednesday: roast sweet potatoes, make dressing. Realize you need more butter.
Thursday:
The turkey needed to go in around 1:15, so I used that as the time point I needed to work around. In the morning, I prepped the sweet potato casserole base, and put it in the fridge. Next I work on the red quinoa with roasted butternut squash. I got the squash mixture in the oven about 1/2 hour before the turkey needed to go in. Once that came out, put the oven up to the turkey temperature and when the oven was ready (really around 1:30) put the turkey in. That needed to cook for a total of 1 hour and 45 min. During that time I finished up the quinoa dish. Did dishes so that I wouldn’t have a massive mess to clean up afterward. And realized we’d never bought corn because the supermarket was out of it on Sunday. Run to the store. Make creamed corn. Rested a bit. Close to the time the turkey was due to come out, I took the sweet potato casserole bases out of the fridge to warm the glass of the baking dishes a bit and prepped the topping. Once the turkey came out, I slide the sweet potato casseroles in. Conveniently enough, the turkey needs to rest for 30 min before carving and the casseroles take 30 min to bake. During this time I also made the easy gravy from ‘Joy of Cooking’.

At this point, everyone had arrived. All the dishes were ready and serving spoons had been doled out to the dishes that other people had bought. Really, it isn’t hard to do something like this, but it does take patience and planning. It also takes the ability of knowing how much you can make reasonably, and knowing what to cross off your menu. The only dish I added from last year was the quinoa dish for a vegan and vegetarian who celebrated with us. I know this is about the amount of food I’m capable of managing without burning something or forgetting something. Yes, I am capable of making mashed potatoes, but it isn’t something important to me, so I always ask someone else to bring it. Usually this works, but if you have a year like we did last year where the mashed potatoes person never showed up… well, life goes on. It’s only mashed potatoes, right?

Link Love

Despite getting two plates of sequencing out today, my hands are doing ok. Its my arms that still hurt from doing push ups Saturday! We’re a week in over at r/90daysgoal and my goal is to get moving more (sound familiar?). I’m hoping with daily check ins and motivation that I might actually be able to do this. I’m aiming for at least 80% success (as in, move more on 72 days of those 90). The fun thing I thought of last night… I’ve been wanting a new monitor. Using my MacBook is sufficient, but tiny. And it’s not like I don’t have the money. I just can’t justify buying more crap. So I think I’ve decided that if I can hit 90%, then I can buy a new monitor in February when this challenge is done. After all, if I can wait that long, it means I really want it, will have done something to earn it, and then it would fit in with my financial principles :)
Speaking of which, good time to go walk the stairs…

Some link love for you today.

There’s been some confusion in the gluten free world about whether all wines are truly gluten free. While I would still suggest you follow your body’s reaction, No gluten, No problem does a good job explaining why the vast majority of wines are indeed gluten free, even if they do come into contact with gluten, and why you shouldn’t worry about it. But I’ll add the caveat that if you think you react to a wine, then don’t drink that kind again!

Paleochix have a fabulous post about weight today. I fall squarely in the skinny fat side of things. I’ve always been slender, but that isn’t a measure of my good health. In fact, I’d say being slender is about the only thing I’ve got going for me. And is why I want to get moving more. I can feel my sedentary lifestyle slowly catching up with me and I’d rather do something about it now than wait until it’s a real problem

I LOVE the video post on The Art of Nonconformity today. While I’ve certainly been known to march to the beat of my own drummer, it isn’t always a good thing. I’m just thick headed like that.

And a book that I want oh so much after being reinspired by Maggie today. I haven’t added any new fruits to my list in a few weeks. I should get on that.

Thar be leprechauns in the boat house!

On being allowed in my head by myself

I love when different areas of my interests overlap. Mental health? Physical health? Science? Check!

An article that came out in last weeks issue of Science, A Wandering Mind Is an Unhappy Mind, really caught my attention. We know quite well that people who exercise are supposedly happier. Something or other about endorphins. I’ve also heard it mentioned often that praying and/or meditating can increase serenity. And if you believe others, you just need more sex to be happier.

The authors of this paper though reach the conclusion that with very few exceptions, it is what we think about that effects how we feel, not what we’re actually doing. At least they say that’s what their data reflects. Using an iphone app (how’s that for a data collection instrument?!?), they asked people at some interval what they were doing, how they felt while doing it and how much their mind was wandering. If you look at their little bubble figure, it is negative mind wandering that correlates with not being happy. But making love and/or exercising are on the flip side, with happier associated scores. So while the authors conclude that happy(ier) (or more neutral) thoughts result in a better score of happiness, I have to disagree a bit. When you look at tasks where you mind can’t wander as well, these tend to be tasks you are fully engaged in, and you tend to be less focus on anything else, happy or not. Like exercising or making love. I would gander that if you spent more time fully engaging your mind (reading, cooking, taking a walk, making love), you wouldn’t have the mental space to mentally wander nearly as much.

But I guess perhaps my bigger issue is that I’m not sure happiness is the end all and be all of life. When I find myself aiming to be happy, it just doesn’t work. If anything, I end up with a wandering (unhappy) mind. So overall, I don’t aim to be happy. I aim to be useful and productive on some level, and achieving that is what puts me in a better state of mind. But maybe that’s just me. I have been known to need a chaperon inside my own head.

Sweet Potato Casserole

Anyone whom I’ve ever told about Thanksgiving in my family never quite seems to believe me. Growing up, Thanksgiving was always held at my dad’s aunt’s house (they still do it, but 18 plus hour car ride to get there from WI doesn’t appeal to me at this time of year). We’d usually have in the neighborhood of a 40 pound turkey and a 20 pound ham. Every side dish imaginable. Every flavor of soda. Every snack you could think of. We’d eat for four days straight. On a light year, there would be around 20 or so of us. On a heavy year, close to 40 or 50. All crammed into my aunt’s house. And I can guarantee you they already have *next* years turkey picked out.

While turkey, stuffing and mashed potatoes may be the standard dishes, they weren’t my favorite growing up. I found the turkey flavorless, the stuffing unnecessary, and the mashed potatoes lumpy (my mom made smooth mashed potatoes, which I much preferred). So while I’d have a little of those dishes the first day, I mostly gorged on ham, sweet potato casserole and creamed corn for four days.

I’ve been talked out of doing a ham for Thanksgiving the past 4 years, but no one argues with my sweet potato casserole. I’ve never eaten it anywhere else, so to me, the way I make it is just how it’s supposed to be made. Apparently some people do something with marshmallows and sweet potatoes. We’ll be having none of that here.

The first time I made this, I made it exactly as was written, copied from the recipe card at my parent’s house. I got a good chuckle out of how things have changed in cooking (do I need to tell you that the milk you use should be homogenized?). I couldn’t understand what went wrong. What we ate that first year didn’t taste anything like what my aunt made. It was so sickly sweet. Apparently I was supposed to know to cut the amount of sugar in half! Even at 1/2 cup below, I feel it might be almost too much.

And now I present you with one of my favorite holiday foods:

Sweet Potato Casserole
3 c cooked mashed sweet potato – the flavor will be better if you bake them, but the world will still turn if you nuke them instead
1/2 c sugar
1/2 c melted butter
2 eggs, well beaten
1 t vanilla
1/3 c milk
Combine and mix well.
Spoon into a 2 quart casserole (8″ x 8″ is 2 quarts)

Mix:
1/2 c light brown sugar
1/4 c flour (gluten free in my case)
2.5 t melted butter
1/2 c chopped pecans
Sprinkle the nut mix over the sweet potato mix.

Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes.

If you need nut free, you can use *not* fine ground cornmeal in place of the nuts. It changes the taste a bit, but the texture is still good. We do this for my mom since she can’t eat nuts.

When doing this for a large group, I usually double the recipe. I don’t have a four quart casserole, so I usually just buy a large aluminum pan and do it in that. Makes clean up easier too :)

Chicken enchiladas with mole negro

Seems like the ManBeast and I may be coming down with something. I’ve been fighting some sort of chest/sinus ick since the week before Halloween, but the post nasal drip has kicked it up a notch and my body is just feeling tired. Not good.
I also didn’t realize that Thanksgiving is NEXT WEEK. I’ve got about 12 people coming over and this means I need to put together a plan and reserve my turkey already. And start harassing the people who have only told me ‘maybe’ so far.

So, chicken enchiladas with mole negro. This recipe isn’t hard, as some sites would have you believe. There is nothing complicated about it. But it is long and time consuming and you need to have PATIENCE. This is not a work night recipe. Save it for a day when you have the afternoon and evening free and no one pestering you about when dinner will be ready.

I have mixed feelings on how to write this. I don’t think my normal style will work for this recipe, so I’ll attempt the usual recipe set up. Don’t let the number of ingredients scare you. None are anything exotic and most you should be able to find at an average well stocked grocery store (Woodman’s has all the ingredients if you’re in the Madison area). There are a few things I’ll do different next time I make this. Namely, now that I know Woodman’s has all the odd peppers that more traditional recipes call for, my next try will likely be one of the more traditional recipes with an even longer ingredient list. That said, it probably won’t happen for quite some time as this recipe gave me enough sauce to freeze down for another batch of enchiladas (yes, mole negro freezes well).

Chicken enchiladas with mole negro
I highly suggest cooking mise en place for this, it will help your sanity.

2 c plus chopped onion (this was one large onion for me)
3 T oil
1/4 t coriander
3 T chili powder
2 t sugar
3/4 t cinnamon
1/8 t ground cloves
1.5 T canned chopped chipotles (probably leave this out next time)
2 T cocoa powder
2 T peanut butter
3 c chicken broth
1.5 c stewed tomatoes
2 T raisins
4 cloves garlic mashed in 3/4 t salt
3 T honey
1 roasted, deseeded, chopped poblano pepper
3 oz unsweetened chocolate
6 boneless skinless chicken thighs
salt
pepper
garlic powder
bacon fat for cooking
10 corn tortillas
shredded monterey jack cheese

Making the mole negro
1. Roast your poblano pepper. You can roast it under the broiler. Or hold it right in the flame of the burner on a gas stove until almost the entire thing is blistered, rotating often so you don’t burn it and/or set it on fire. Put it in a container with a lid (or a paper bag if you have one). Let it sit for a while.
2. Saute chopped onion until it is a deep gold brown, you want it slightly caramelized.
3. Add chili powder, sugar, cinnamon, cloves and chipotle.
4. Cook, stirring, for one minute.
5. Add cocoa powder, peanut butter, chicken broth, tomatoes, raisins, garlic with salt, honey, and chocolate. Stir well.
6. Simmer it for 20 minutes, stirring regularly.
7. Puree.
-If you have an immersion blender, this is the prime opportunity to use it.
-If you have a regular blender, blend in small batches being very careful to not explode hot mole negro out the top of the blender. I highly suggest putting a dish towel over the top each time you start up the blender. Don’t believe me? Next time you see my mom, check out the scars she has on the inner section of her left upper arm. I remember very clearly helping her change the bandages on her second and third degree burns for weeks after the leek soup she was making exploded out of the blender.
8. If you think the mole negro is too watery, simmer it down to whatever consistency you like. Mine was fine at this step. It should be somewhat thickish, but still pourable and not sludge like.
You now have mole negro.

The enchiladas
9. Preheat oven to 400F.
10. Chop up the chicken thighs into smaller pieces for cooking. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and garlic powder.
11. Melt the bacon fat in a deep skillet. Brown/cook the chicken all the way through.
12. Chop up the chicken into small pieces, smaller than bite size. In a bowl, mix the chicken with 1/2 c mole negro.
13. Spread 1/2 c mole negro in the bottom of a large casserole dish. We’ve got a small 8 x 8, a 11 x 7, and a 15 x 9. I should have used the largest one. I started with the medium one and it wasn’t big enough.
14. Soften the tortillas. I suggest the wet paper towel method (wrap the tortillas in a damp paper towel and microwave for 30 seconds).
15. Lay out your tortillas and divide the chicken/mole negro mix evenly between them.
16. Roll the tortillas up in enchilada style and place in the casserole seam side down.
17. Top with more mole negro, I used maybe another 1.5 c total, but could have put in some more.
18. Top with shredded cheese.
19. Bake 20 minutes.
20. nomnomnom.

Liquor laws

Food politics is something that frustrates me. A LOT. Add in laws about not having to label liquor with ingredients, and I end up near rage while in the liquor section of the grocery store. Every wonder why liquor doesn’t have the same labeling as EVERY OTHER FOOD ITEM?? Marion Nestle has a short piece on the laws behind this stupidity. Damn Puritanical history.

Reading this though reminded me to send a *second* request to Trader Vic’s to see if their Kona coffee liquor is gluten free. I’d also love to know what’s in their Amaretto, as the stuff tastes to me like it has artificial flavors in it. It’s making me wonder if that’s why I’ve had a lingering headache for two days straight now.

Apparently General Mills has something in the pipes for new products, but all the reviews I can find from the 11 bloggers who were invited to GM are well written and mum on what is in the works. It is nice to hear the confirmation though that this company is trying to do it the smart way, and actually listening to those of us with Celiac disease. I’ve been fortunate to not react to the products from them that I’ve tried. But hearing that they haven’t been the most mindful about cross contamination makes me glad that I try to stick to whole foods rather than processed. But I do still have a box of Honey Nut Chex calling my name at home…