Friday, December 30, 2011

New Years Resolution

from the nytimes.com
I only have a single resolution to make this year.  I had been wondering what to do and I got my wakeup call in this article from the nytimes.  What I want in 2012 is to remember the really important things in life and help make the world a little better.  To make sure that others have the right to live as I do, in peace and security and with freedom, to be fully human.  I've been making efforts toward a minimalist life, but it was effort without true purpose.  I think I have a purpose now - the goal of this minimalism will be to live more simply so that I can give my excess to others in need.  I can only give my dollars, but hopefully they will allow others to directly help people in my stead.  As women's rights is something I feel extremely strongly about, I will likely focus my giving to these groups.  My charitable giving in the past has been mostly sporadic, sparked by some catastrophic event (earthquakes, tsunamis, etc), so I need to institute a system and schedule.  I'm thinking to start reasonably within my budget at first ($100/month) and then see if I can add to that.  My clothing budget is probably the most frivolous, and I think I have enough to wear certainly, for a year.  So whatever I can manage not to spend in this category will be funneled toward charity.  I want to be less selfish, and when I look back at the end of 2012, to see that I've done a little good, the best I can.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Homemade Chinese Noodles


I am a noodle girl through and through.  In the wide world of noodles, I have a particular weakness for noodle soup.  The other day in lab, while waiting for some samples to incubate, I started an idle search for Japanese ramen recipes (I looooooove ramen).  The first hit was this instructable on how to make the noodle.  Now I have to say that the end result doesn't taste the way a true ramen noodle ought to taste, but it's a very nice noodle nonetheless and I am finding it a good Chinese noodle substitute.  The texture remains nice and chewy all the way to the end (soggy mushy noodles is my pet peeve).  Since I have a pasta maker, this recipe is a cinch to make, and I've been making up little batches of noodle soup in less than an hour.  Delicious.

Homemade Noodle (adapted from Neryam)

3/4 cup (3.8 oz) flour
3/4 tsp salt
1 egg mixed with 1 tbs water

Combine the flour and salt in a large bowl, make a little well in the center and add the egg mixture.  Mix everything together and form into a ball with your hands.  Sprinkle some flour on the counter and knead until it feels fairly stiff but still a little sticky.  I always have to add a bit more flour to get it right.  If you press your palm to the ball and lift it up, it should stick to your hand for a second and then fall off.  Cover the ball with a slightly damp towel and let it rest at least 30 minutes.  

Split the ball into two and flatten with your hands.  It doesn't have to be so thin because we will roll it out with the pasta maker.  Sprinkle each side of the sheets with flour and then starting from setting 1, roll each half of the dough through.  Repeat, increasing your setting each time by 1 finishing at setting 5 (1, 2, 3, 4, 5). Make sure to flour very well each side of the sheet and then cut your sheets.  Otherwise your dough will stick and not cut well (ask me how I know this).  I have an attachment that cuts fettucine width or spaghetti width so I just went with the smaller and cranked each sheet through.  

Bring a little pot of water to boil.  Toss in your noodles and stir around a bit.  I give them a bite after about a minute or two and that usually seems ok to me.  Combine noodles with broth (userealbutter has a nice broth recipe here) and enjoy!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Beginning of a Minimalist Life

I think my move from Philadelphia to Portland really opened my eyes to how much my stuff had been weighing me down.  In preparation of the move, I did a ruthless cull of my belongings; little did I know what it would be the start of!  The hardest part of that first purge was books.  I was very attached to my books, lugging them around with me everywhere I moved, whether or not I ever reread them.  To me, the books represented my wish to be seen as an educated, interesting person and reflected my love of reading.  In getting rid of these books though, I realized that I didn't need to prove anything to anyone.  The only people I ever invited over were friends, and they already know I'm educated, already find me interesting and are fully aware I love reading.  In other words, I don't need my things to say anything about me, I am what I am, with or without these external things.  So I kept the best loved books, the ones I returned to again and again and donated/gave away the rest.

Since moving then, I've continued to declutter and refine my belongings to only items that are in regular use and/or beautiful.  I try to be fanatic about what I bring in and beg everyone I know not to give me things.  Every time I take another bag to Goodwill I start filling another.  It's funny how much easier it is to part with things over time.  After a while, it is apparent that I really never wear that skirt, even if it's lovely and the material is so fine - it doesn't fit quite right and I don't feel great in it.  Same with the sweater that's 100% merino and feels so soft but looks so awkward on.  In the process, my house and life feel simultaneously more serene and also more focused.  I am never searching for anything because I know what I have and better yet, where it is.  

I don't want to give the impression I have NO stuff though.  Compared to someone like Miss Minimalist, I have a lot!  But I'm totally ok with that because as Miss Minimalist would be the first to say, minimalism is really all about tailoring your possessions to only what you truly use and love.  It'll mean different things for different people.  Since I have done a lot of decluttering in the clothes department, here are a few tips that have worked for me in my journey so far:
  • Do not fall for sales (especially with clothes).  It does not matter how much it's marked down, evaluate it as if you would have to pay full price for it.  There are so many clothing options out there that there is no reason to settle.  The only exception is if you lost all your clothes and you literally have nothing to wear!
  • On a similar note, be aware of price/wear.  I no longer buy anything from H&M because frankly they don't stand up well to washing in general.  I've had too many $15 shirts/dresses (so cheap!) that shrunk peculiarly after a single wear.  $15/wear is the opposite of cheap.  People say this everywhere but it's really true - stick to a small wardrobe of high quality clothes and you will save money and look put together all the time.  Chances are, you are wearing only a small portion of your wardrobe anyway, so you might as well do this consciously and deliberately.  It will enable you to get nicer things upfront.
  • Take care of your things!  Namely your sweaters.  I'm someone who is cold pretty much all the time so I'm constantly in a sweater or cardigan.  Before the great decluttering, I had too many sweaters and most of them were not worn on a regular basis.  Since all of my sweaters were kept together and they were all made of natural fibers, you can imagine the lovely moth community I was maintaining without my knowledge.  This is a great argument for keeping only what you wear - infestations like this cannot gain a foothold if your sweaters are in constant rotation.  In the summer, make sure to put them away safely and they will greet you like old friends come winter (or in my case, don't put them away at all because you will be wearing them in Portland year round!)
  • Wear all of your clothes and you won't need so many.  My exceptions are my suits, the two dresses I wear to weddings and my workout clothes.  Everything else I can wear and I do.  My regular style tends to be a little bit dressier than is average for my work place but not inappropriately so, and these outfits take me easily to any social event as well.  
  • Base your entire wardrobe on a strict color palette so everything matches.  For me it's black, gray, white, blue and darkish purple.  This seriously makes shopping and dressing 1000x easier and these colors happen to be flattering on me as well.  What you wear should make you happy not tortured, so pick colors accordingly!  The place where I make exceptions is shoes.  For instance I love red, but it looks terrible against my face so I relocate the color to my shoes.  And for me, I have found that red shoes go with every outfit I can put together so they are just as versatile as black shoes.
None of these tips is particularly novel, but the reason you encounter variations of this advice everywhere is because they're true and effective.  Simplifying my life is something that's very much on my mind these days so "Minimalism" will be a regular sort of feature from now on.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Bar Method Five Months

www.blog.barmethod.com
By the time I realized that I had forgotten to post my four month update, it was close enough to five months that I figured I'd wait.  So here I am again with another progress report.  Actually, I don't really have any concrete progress to report, so here are some musings:
  • I'm still on the same weights and using the strap for round back. I thought I'd be able to move up by now, but I'm sticking to the same weights because they're still challenging.  The interesting thing is that while I definitely feel stronger, my form during exercises got a bit better with time and so the same exercises  feel harder.  Small adjustments in position really make a difference.
  • It's incredible how challenging the class is still.  In my previous attempts at exercise, I might be sore for the first week or two but then my body adapts and the soreness subsides.  This is not true at all for bar method.  I am always always sore after a class and sometimes remarkably so, considering how long I've been going.  I'm not an exercise person so I have no idea if this is typical, but it makes me feel great that my body is still responding to it and reshaping.
  • I'm not going to lie, it is really hard to go to class in the mornings now that it's so cold.  I'm still going four times a week, but this week and last week I only attended three times/week...Still, that beats last year's exercise record by a million and I must say, once I manage to get to class, it feels awesome and I'm proud of myself.  The instructors are also always full of energy and super encouraging, which generates a great atmosphere.
  • Since my last update, I've been trying very hard to push on through tricep dips and I'm getting better! Sometimes I still have to collapse for a moment, but it's better than before.
  • One of the nice things about bar method is the constant stream of instruction.  The only decision I have to make is getting myself there, but once I'm there I just follow orders.  Considering how many decisions I have to make at work and in my life in general, this is actually really relaxing.  
That's all for now.  As I write this, my butt, arms, legs and abs are all sore from this morning's class.  Crazy.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Early Resolution #1

(www.interiorrespector.blogspot.com)
I ended up not making any New School Year Resolutions after all, but while setting my apartment to rights tonight I thought of a good one for 2012.  It's one that I'm always half-heartedly trying to make, but this year I will officially resolve to do so and keep myself accountable.  It's not an easy one...

1. Make sure the kitchen is clean before going to bed.  

While I am generally ok at keeping my kitchen tidy, it's the main thing that falls to pieces when I'm busy.  And once it gets messy, I am loathe to clean it because it seems so daunting.  The worst situation is when the following happens: a) clean dishes are in the dishwasher waiting to be unloaded, b) dirty dishes are in the sink and also on the counter because the dishwasher is full of clean dishes, c) I can't unload the clean dishes because the counter is full, d) dirty dishes accumulate.  I also like to wash my pots and pans by hand because my dishwasher doesn't get them clean enough so I usually have a stack of clean pots/pans in the right-hand sink and for some reason those can just sit there for days until I finally put them away.  It's really silly.

So from now on, I get everything washed and counters wiped down before I go to sleep.  Dirty dishes can hang out in the dishwasher until it's full.  And then in the morning, I will put away the dried pots and pans from the right-hand sink.  I actually used to be quite good about all of this when I first moved in, but I think that was partly because I was a lot less busy.  But a nice clean kitchen makes me feel SO much better so I think it needs to be something I devote effort to maintaining.  And hopefully after a while it will be so engrained that it's something I absolutely have to do.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Scrapbook Page: Arch Cape


I think I still need to go around and add a few elements (pins and staples or stitching) but I quite liked how this one turned out.  I was still on a scrapbooking high and cranked this one out very fast.  And I realized that it's kind of great just having a very simple page sometimes!  I was constrained by the photo sizes because several of these photos were from a friend's facebook album so the resolution was small.  But it was so much fun looking at these photos again; that's one of the best aspects about scrapbooking I think - reliving happy memories.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Scrapbook Pages: Mommy and Jiyi Visit Portland

Papers and elements downloaded from Shabby Princess

It's been an embarrassing age since I last made pages for my album but nothing like an important work deadline to bring out all of my procrastinating inclinations.  Fortunately, I met my deadline with time to spare and finished my layout to boot.  And I love it!  My aunt (jiyi means second aunt in Taiwanese) has been visiting the US because of the baby and she and my mom took a two week trip to see me.  They both marveled so much at the Fall foliage that I thought these colors would be especially suitable.  As usual, I am leaning heavily toward squeezing in as many photos are possible, but I really like the effect.  I do wish I had more space for journaling though, it's so tough to pare down my words so much just to make it all fit.  However, a picture is supposed to be a thousand words so...enjoy!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Saturday Noon and Homemade Cards


After a flurry of card-making earlier in the year I fell off this wagon, mostly out of forgetfulness.  Also for some reason I have many friends with January, September and November birthdays.  Anyway, I'm back on the wagon, although for this card, I am relying less on cutting things out with bits of paper and just drawing instead. I was a little nervous about drawing straight with a pen (instead of pencil first and then tracing) but my ferret turned out quite well.  Mr. Walrus (the tiny figure on the right) looked odd, but I didn't have a good picture to rely on so sort of approximated him from memory.  In any case, the recipient was pleased, which is all I hoped for.


I never posted this one (made quite some time ago), but this was one of the best cards I ever made (I thought).  I think for the rest of the cards this year I will continue to lean more on drawing, for the simplicity of it.  But overall I'm enjoying this much more than buying cards and it is certainly very cost-effective (not that Hallmark cards were draining my bank account or anything); I also think they are appreciated far more than store-bought cards so it's all worth it.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Delicious Pan Fried Fish


During the first week or so of the family visit, I did most of the cooking since there were many things my aunt had never tried.  She took over the last few days though, and I was certainly not going to say no, because she is a very notable cook.  In addition to what is shown above, she also made a wonderfully tasty sesame ginger soup with rice wine and bits of pork.  And another night she made milkfish ball soup with bits of cilantro.  I was made to promise to never add scallions to fish ball soup because the flavors are apparently incompatible (it tastes ok to me though...).

I made a special request for whole pan-fried fish as it is not something I know how to cook myself and she gladly obliged.  We had to go to Fubonn market to acquire such fish since American grocery stores tend to only have filets, but it was well worth the trip.  I only wish we had bought more so I could have a stash in my freezer.  It turns out that frying such fish is not difficult if the fish is fairly small, as these were.  I don't know the name of this type of fish, but it had very few bones and was tender and tasty.  Once I finish the food in my fridge, I will definitely be taking another trip out there for fish.

Pan Fried Fish

1 whole cleaned fish
salt
vegetable oil

Cut two slits on each side of the fish (as shown above).  Rub a generous quantity of salt onto each side and let the fish rest for 15-30 min.  Swirl some oil into a skillet large enough to fit fish and heat with medium flame until you see wavy lines in the oil.  Quickly give the fish a few swipes with a paper towel to get rid of extra salt and to dry fish and add to the pan.  Immediately clap a lid over the pan and turn the flame down to low.  Take a peek at the fish once in a while - when the flesh in the slit have turned white, the fish is ready to flip.  Using a metal spatula, flip fish and re-cover.  Cook for a few minutes more and serve!

I apologize for the hazy directions, maybe once I've cooked this myself I can update with more exact quantities and times.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Happiness (Number Three): On Having Less Stuff

My mom and aunt ended their two week visit to Portland last night and I spent a quiet evening decluttering every room in my house after they left.  It was lovely having them here, but it also reinforced for me how much I value a life not cluttered with stuff.  My family is composed of women who simultaneously can't resist a "good deal" and also can't bear to throw away/donate anything.  My mom won't throw away 20 year old makeup that she never uses, nail polish I bought when I was 14 years old, etc.  My mom also likes to save her nicer things from regular use because she is afraid of damaging them (for example, my sister and I bought her a Le Creuset pot a few months ago for her birthday and she is afraid to use it in case the paint gets scratched.  She also has a lovely knife set someone got for her 10 years ago that she has never used) and whenever I try to get her to use these things, she counters by saying she is saving them for when I get married.  Which is completely absurd.  While they were visiting me, their favorite thing to do was shop.  They bought a whole bunch of things on sale, which wouldn't bother me except I knew that these new things were not replacements, but additions to already over-full houses. I can't change how other people live, but the thought of ever living in such an environment was enough to spark a cleaning spree.  I tend to have these fairly often anyway, but it was such a cathartic thing to do.  Here are the rules I apply to things:

Clothes - With the exception of more formal attire (should not have more than a very few of these items), everything must work for my day to day life.  I should be able to wear everything and they should all match with each other.  This actually makes shopping much easier because I then stick with a very strict color palette and can't get distracted.  I also end up gravitating toward a few basic silhouettes and that again makes future matching way easier.  This is a category I prune the most often I think, because sometimes I'll impulsively buy something that ends up not being a good idea.  But pruning these is not difficult for me at all.

Shoes - This is a total weakness.  I have 20 pairs of shoes, which I think is too much.  There are about three pairs that I rarely wear (2 for wedding-ish occasions, 1 to wear with my suit) but are functional so I have no qualms about keeping.  But there are also three pairs that I should not have bought in the first place, are completely frivolous and don't match the life I have.  I can't really part with them yet, but have been trying hard not to add to this group.  While I can't get my shoe collection down to a more comfortable number right now, I think starting now I will install a "one in one out" rule to shoes to nip any growth of this collection.

Kitchen - I'm actually ok with this category of items at the moment because I use everything I have, even though I have quite a few things.  The only thing that gives me any qualms is my bread machine, which takes up a lot of space and is seldom used (I bake a lot of bread, but not with the machine), but it was a graduation gift from two of my dearest friends so it's not something I feel ok about getting rid of.  

Bathroom - I wear very little makeup but like any other woman had somehow accumulated random piles of eye shadow and blush, etc.  I have a feeling most of these were samples gifted to me by my mom at some point, but last night I did a major weeding of my bathroom drawers and rid myself of such makeup, cheap jewelry, old nail polish, and random bits of flotsam.  I would actually like to get rid of more stuff, but at least the most obvious things are gone.

Office - I don't have a real office at all, but I do have a drawer of office supplies.  This was also scrutinized last night and many pens and again, random flotsam and jetsam were tossed.  The truth is, there is no reason for a single person to have more than 10 writing utensils in her home at any moment, especially if she can get a pen from work in the unlikely event that all her pens at home should simultaneously run dry.  In my life, I am constantly accumulating free pens from conferences and this can easily get out of hand.  In this case, even if the pens works, I don't have to keep it.  My mom would say that was wasteful, but what is more wasteful to me is maintaining 100 un-used pens all over my house until they finally run dry.

Food - I cook a lot so there are basic supplies (flour, sugar, grains, spices etc) that I have to keep on hand.  My mom and aunt took this to a whole new level.  Despite my protests, I now have 3 bottles of rice wine and a remarkable number of ramen packages.  I know I'll consume all of these things eventually, and if I had a large pantry I wouldn't be bothered, but as it is, I really do not want a 2 year supply of consumables in my house.  At the moment I also have more fruits than I desire to eat, but at least this stuff should either be eaten or spoiled in a couple of weeks and therefore off my hands.  My mom and aunt grew up very poor so I wonder if this stashing away of food is a consequence of that.  I get very stressed if I have too much perishable food in my fridge because there's such a pressure to eat it all before it goes bad.  I like to plan most of my meals for the week and only get enough for that.  Bah.

Mementos - What to do with the little gifts and cards and things that accumulate over the years?  I think the best idea is to keep it as small as you can.  Fairly generic "happy birthday!" cards I toss after about a year, while cards with more special messages I keep.  I still have the MIT stuffed beaver my sister gave me when we were both in college and a small collection of knick knacks from my best friends.  At the moment this category is well under control, but it's important to still be vigilant.  Things of sentimental value are always harder to part with, even if they don't necessarily add value to my life.  I try to remember that my memories and friendships don't rest on any physical things and that makes it easier.  Physical letters though, I always treasure.

Crafts - This is going to take a good bit of time to organize logically and efficiently.  Tackling this is a project for another day (possibly later this weekend since I'm on a roll!)

I think this is mostly everything.  Thanks to digital cameras, I don't have boxes of photos and albums thank god, and when I moved I ruthlessly pared my book collection to only beloved volumes.  Now that I have my kindle, all new books are also in digital format and clutter is automatically a non-issue.  I seldom have the urge to re-watch movies so I don't own many dvds and I expect this to also be completely digital in the future.  Technology is tops!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Bar Method Three Months

the-bar-method-portland-01.jpg
Image from blog.oregonlive.com
I just realized that I'm a couple of weeks overdue for my three month update so here goes.  My Monday/Wednesday/Friday/Sunday routine is working extremely well; I get enough rest between classes and when I go I am not too sore or tired.  Maybe sometime I'll try five times a week again but for now I'll stick to this schedule as best as I can.

My progress since last time is small and steady, but there is still progress!  
  • One of the instructors thought I might be almost ready to stop using the strap during round back, which was very exciting to me.  I think it's due to a combination of better flexiblility and improved leg strength.  Perhaps by next month I can do away with the strap altogether.  
  • For the time being, I'm not trying as much to lift both my legs during flat back (I really hope I'm naming these exercises properly, I'm not certain), because I felt it was straining my back and neck when I did so.   Instead I just focus on exhaling as sharply as possible and hope for the best.  At the same time, I find this a pretty restful part of class so it probably means I'm not working hard enough...
  • Eventually I would like to stop doing modified pushups at the bar and do some on the floor, but maybe I'll try it out at home first and see how it goes.  
  • Tricep dips are the bane of my life.  I think I need to make stopping just non-negotiable from now on and see how that goes.  I'm too used to giving up midway during this exercise perhaps.  
  • Abs are better than previous! 
Compared to most of the other people in class (not that I'm really comparing), I'm not very strong, but I'm doing better than I was when I first started.  Of all the half-hearted attempts at exercise I've tried (jogging, yoga, gym), this is the only thing I've stuck with for so long and have seen the most improved results.  My size is the same I think, but I can see subtle changes in shape and tone, which is very encouraging.  After very little mulling, I recently signed up for the 6 month package instead of renewing for just 3 months, and am looking forward to continued improvements!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Park Kitchen


I took my mom and aunt out to Park Kitchen for dinner tonight and I think the pictures speak for themselves.  It was a delicious and fun time, I love trying many little dishes.  We did the small plate tasting menu and I think that's really the way to go, if you are someone who likes to eat everything.  Yum.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Falafels, Pita, and Hummus Oh My!


I discovered MFK Fisher when I was in college; my roommate's mom had given her With Bold Knife and Fork and one day it caught my eye and I started reading.  By the end of the year, I had read and reread that book so many times it was practically in tatters.  Eventually I proceeded to collect all her books and even now, if I'm feeling particularly blue I can always rely on her to cheer me up, or find a phrase that fits that moment in my life perfectly.  One person she alluded to again and again was a man who lived in the 18th century - Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin.  He was apparently very quotable; for example "Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you who you are."  The quote that sprung to my mind tonight upon my first bite of falafel sandwich was:

"The discovery of a new dish confers more happiness on humanity, than the discovery of a new star."

Falafel sandwich in this case, is not precisely a new dish because of course I've eaten many falafel sandwiches in my lifetime, of varying quality.  In this case, it's discovering a new favorite recipe, a new addition to what I can make at home.  I started planning this sandwich yesterday, making pita bread and hummus and soaking a batch of chickpeas for the falafels.  As with almost everything I make these days, I followed a recipe from cook's illustrated and it was extraordinarily easy and delicious.  The hummus recipe is also from cook's illustrated so I don't feel right posting either of them, but the pita bread I made from this recipe.

Pita Bread (from about.com)

1 package of yeast, or quick rising yeast
1/2 cup warm water
3 cups all purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 cup lukewarm water


Dissolve yeast in 1/2 cup of warm water. Add sugar and stir until dissolved. Let sit for 10-15 minutes until water is frothy. Combine flour and salt in large bowl.  Make a small depression in the middle of flour and pour yeast water in depression. Slowly add 1 cup of warm water, and stir with wooden spoon or rubber spatula until elastic.  Place dough on floured surface and knead for 10-15 minutes. When the dough is no longer sticky and is smooth and elastic, it has been successfully kneaded. Coat large bowl with vegetable oil and place dough in bowl. Turn dough upside down so all of the dough is coated. 

Allow to sit in a warm place for about 3 hours, or until it has doubled in size. 

Once doubled, roll out in a rope, and pinch off 10-12 small pieces. Place balls on floured surface. Let sit covered for 10 minutes. Preheat oven to 500 deg F. and make sure rack is at the very bottom of oven. Be sure to also preheat your baking sheet.

Roll out each ball of dough with a rolling pin into circles. Each should be about 5-6 inches across and 1/4 inch thick. Bake each circle for 4 minutes until the bread puffs up. Turn over and bake for 2 minutes. Remove each pita with a spatula from the baking sheet and add additional pitas for baking.  Take spatula and gently push down puff. Immediately place in storage bags. 

Notes: I made half the recipe to test it and my dough was doubled in size in less than 2 hours.  The dough was extremely easy to roll out, unlike the flour tortillas I recently made and they puffed up beautifully.  The heat source for my oven was on top so I baked close to the top instead of the bottom.  When I cut them in half today for my sandwiches, there was a nice pocket in all of them.  Success!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Necessity is the Mother of Invention or Beets with Cilantro Yogurt Dressing and Lentil Sprouts


Lengtil Sprouts
As you know, I've been on a sprouting kick and my latest sprout of choice is lentil.  I've tried here and there to cook with lentils, but it really is not my favorite thing in the world.  The last time I was in San Diego, my sister begged me to take a bag of French green lentils off her hands so I did and they were stashed in my cupboard and largely ignored.  Lentil sprouts though, are delightful!  I've been making lentil sprout quesadillas (I know this sounds hippie gross, but it's actually really tasty with the tortillas I recently made) and tonight I incorporated them into the above beet salad.  As with any sprouts, you first rinse and soak the lentils in water overnight.  And then for the next few days you rinse with fresh water and drain thoroughly, and keep lightly covered (so air can circulate but the lentils don't dry out).

Quick Cilantro Pesto
I've never made any pesto aside from the classic pesto with basil, but I've read everywhere that you can theoretically grind up any kind of herb in olive oil and enjoy it in all manner of ways.  Ironically, after attending a seminar on circadian rhythms yesterday, I found myself struck by insomnia and was infuriated and awake at the wee hours of night.  At some point I got out of bed and noticed that my bunch of cilantro on the counter (I like to keep herbs in water on the counter with varying degrees of success) was looking decidedly tired so I decided to attempt this pesto.  It literally took 5 minutes.  I twisted off the top leafy part of the bunch from the bulk of the stems in one go (no need to be finicky here and spend the rest of your life pulling off individual leaves), peeled one small clove of garlic and threw the whole thing with olive oil in my mini-food processor.  Being both lazy and out of containers, I ended up removing the blade, adding a layer of olive oil over the top to seal the mix and sticking the whole thing in the fridge.  These have also been good in my quesadillas, along with the sprouts, fresh salsa and sour cream.

Beets and Salad
A couple of Saturdays ago I picked up a magnificent bunch of beets and promptly set to roasting them.  I had so much edible stuff lying around that these were largely neglected in the back of the fridge.  Until today!  I was determined to eat some, but wanted something a little different.  A dollop of the cilantro pesto, mixed with a dollop of homemade yogurt* and a generous pinch of salt and I was in business.  This tasted awfully good; I'm very happy I have more beets left.

*I just realized I never had a post about making yogurt, but there are so many tutorials online that it doesn't seem at all necessary...maybe someday.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Homemade Flour Tortillas


As promised, I attempted homemade tortillas on Saturday night to console myself for the Phillies' loss.  And consoled I was!  I found a highly rated recipe from allrecipes.com and despite the author's explicit instructions not to substitute shortening for lard, I was certainly not going to run out to buy a tub of lard just for this recipe.  And besides, many of the reviews had subbed in shortening successfully.  A few notes:

  • I don't really know what homemade tortillas taste like, but these tasted great to me.  Good enough that I will certainly make them again and will even buy a small amount of lard so I can see what the fuss is about.
  • They were a pain to roll out because the dough kept stretching back toward the center.  I made just half the recipe and was still tired.  Next time I will try Pioneer Woman's recipe, which calls for resting the dough for 1+ hour - this is supposed to help with that problem.
  • These were much smaller than I was envisioning.  Dinner plans quickly changed from one burrito to two quesadillas.  Based on the instructions in the recipe, each ball made a tortilla the size of corn tortillas you buy from the market.
I'm excited to try making these again.  This is one of those times when it's totally great to live alone.  If I had anyone else to feed these would be long gone and not worth the time and trouble of making.  Is that selfish?  Probably, but I'm not a machine and these take time and effort!  It's a similar thing with dumplings.  Of course, if I have assistants, they would be welcome to the spoils...

Homemade Four Tortillas
(adapted from LaDonna's recipe at allrecipes.com)

4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons lard (or shortening)
1 1/2 cups water (I used hot water based on reviewer comments)

Whisk the flour, salt, and baking powder together in a mixing bowl. Mix in the lard with your fingers (or a food processor!) until the flour resembles cornmeal. Add the water and mix until the dough comes together; place on a lightly floured surface and knead a few minutes until smooth and elastic (or knead with food processor!). Divide the dough into 24 equal pieces and roll each piece into a ball.

Preheat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Use a well-floured rolling pin to roll a dough ball into a thin, round tortilla. Place into the hot skillet, and cook until bubbly and golden; flip and continue cooking until golden on the other side. Place the cooked tortilla in a tortilla warmer (or under tea towel); continue rolling and cooking the remaining dough.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Bar Method Musings on a Sunday Morning With Earl Grey

Image taken from Bloomspot
I am back from a Sunday morning class and am nibbling on a chunk of challah toast smeared with some tasty cheese.  And of course a morning mug of Earl Grey.  Morning classes are the best (not that I've taken classes at any other time, since they don't fit into my lab schedule well) because I feel productive and awake after them.  My muscles are a little sore and endorphins are rushing about and it's just a great feeling.  While it's harder to go to class now that it's dreary and cold, I think BM will keep my spirits from sagging under winter blues.

Some things:
  • I can hold myself fast through thigh and butt sections of class, no matter how much I burn and shake, but I can't consistently go through the tricep dips and ab sections without breaking.  Today's ab section felt especially killer for me, so I was constantly taking little breaks.  I hope to do that less in the future.  I AM proud of being able to go through more tricep dips than I could manage when I first started though.  Perhaps I am growing some muscles.
  • During each section of class, in addition to trying to stay in the right position, I am often thinking about my goals and what I'd like to work toward.  I think I look fine generally, so my goals are things like: work up to 2 and 3 pound weights, be able to do the leg lifts without straps (and eventually managing a vertical leg), be able to lift feet during flat back, touch nose to knee during bar stretches.  Stuff like that.
  • The other women in the class are really inspiring.  That's one thing I like about the studio here anyway, the people who come are committed but it doesn't feel unfriendly or competitive.  I never feel bad that I can't do the things that other people can do and am inspired to see women of all ages.  Keeping an eye on my fellow students also helps me to correct my own position and form because I can see what I'm doing wrong or right and I also push a little bit harder since everyone else is working so hard.
  • I've scaled back from my 4-5 times a week to just 4 a week.  I don't think I'm at the point where I can keep on going to two classes in a row all the time (Last week I was hobbled by two different twinges).  So at the moment, it's MWF and Sun and I think my muscles are appreciating the rest in between classes.  Next week will be a little irregular because of my schedule, but this is the BM routine I hope to keep to, until I am stronger.

As for Earl Grey - I bought a canister of loose tea leaves from Whole Foods a few weeks ago and have been making cups whenever I am tired of my green teas.  It's a nice tea, especially now that I've finally realized that the water really does need to be boiling when I add it to the leaves.  The water from my electric water pot just isn't hot enough.  So I have to forgo a little convenience, but that's fine.  Leftover tea leaves of course, go to my worms.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Portland Farmer's Market at PSU


I think I went a little overboard.  The theme of today's purchases seem to be "round."  I meant mostly to get fruits and pick up some salsa ingredients (the Phillies did in fact lose last night, and I have decided to try making tortillas and from these, burritos, in order to set the world to rights again), but I spotted this interesting looking acorn squash and of course the red peppers seemed like a good deal.  Red peppers in grocery stores always cost a million dollars so I never buy them unless absolutely required.  These three will be promptly roasted and stored away for future use.  I made a Whole Foods run yesterday which is why I didn't have a pressing need for vegetables.  

Acorn Squash: $1.15
Red Peppers: $2
Cilantro: $1.50
20th Century Asian Pears: $1.05
Early Girl Tomatoes + Red Onion + Jalapeno: $4
Jonagold Apples*: $5
Red Flame Grapes: $1.50

Total: $16.20

*I usually have a stand I go to for my apples and pears but I passed the peach stand and noticed they had a box of really big nice-looking apples.  There was a sign saying they had just been picked yesterday so I was intrigued.  I was going to buy just one but noticed a girl nearby giving out samples and man they were really delicious.  And here we are.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Baking Challah Bread to Soothe the Spirits

I was only able to take one blurry photo of this before my camera died, oh well!

Last night I watched a dramatically tense baseball game (Yankees vs Tigers) on my computer while juggling various lab tasks during commercial breaks.  It was so gripping I ended up staying in lab for far too long.  I can't be considered any kind of real baseball fan since I only follow post-season games and only care about two teams: the Yankees (#1) and the Phillies (#2).  The fates of these two teams have been remarkably parallel the last couple of seasons so I really hope the Phillies will make it through round 1 tonight.  Yes, the Yankees lost last night and was eliminated, an event so annoying that I decided to start a challah bread at 9:30pm.  I never made challah bread before and there was a simple looking recipe included in my food processor recipe book.  Everything came together marvelously well and at around 12:30am I was rabidly eating warm slices, restored to my usual sunny spirits.  It is incredibly, insanely delicious warm.  This morning it was still tasty, but nothing compared to how it was last night.  I highly recommend eating this loaf fresh.  I do foresee some pleasant challah french toasts this weekend!

I like to weigh everything so I am including my googled weight conversions in parentheses in case anyone else likes to do the same.  My food processor is 9-cup size, fyi.

Challah Bread (adapted from Cuisinart's recipe book)

3 tbs white sugar, divided  (I probably used more like 3 tbs + 2 tsp)
1 package active dry yeast (googled to be 2 1/4 tsp)
1/4 cup warm water
3 1/4 cup unbleached all purpose flour (406 grams)
1 1/2 tsp table salt
1/2 cup cold water
1/3 cup butter, melted (76 grams)
1 large egg, mixed
egg glaze (1 large egg + 1 tbs water)
cooking spray

In a 2 cup liquid measuring cup, combine 2 tsp sugar, yeast and the warm water.  Let stand until foamy, ~5min.

In food processor using dough blade, add flour, 3 tbs sugar and salt.  Pulse 2-3 times to mix.

In the cup with the proofed yeast, add cold water, melted butter and the egg.  With the food processor on, slowly pour in the liquids in a steady stream.  Let the food processor knead the dough for 45 seconds (I'm obsessive so I actually timed this exactly).  Place dough in a plastic ziplock bag and let rise for 1-1.5 hours (1 hour was good for me) until doubled in size.

Place dough on lightly floured surface and press down.  Divide into 3 equal pieces and roll into long ropes (1 1/2 x 14 inches, again I measured because I like measuring).  Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray, set the three ropes onto the sheet and braid.  Tuck the loose ends under and let rise another 45 min until doubled in size.  (Cover with a piece of plastic wrap sprayed with cooking spray to prevent sticking)

Preheat the oven to 375F, 15 minutes before you are ready to bake.  Mix up the egg glaze and brush on the top of the bread.  Bake for 20 minutes on the lower third of the oven and then turn the heat down to 350F and bake another 10 minutes.  Cool on wire rack.  

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Sprouting Mung Beans


I'm a huge fan of sprouting and have been on a mung bean kick recently.  When I first started sprouting, I followed the method that was most recommended on the internet:

Method 1 (soil-less)
Soak a handful of beans in water overnight
Next day rinse the beans, drain well and cover lightly (want some air to circulate through)
Repeat step 2 every day (once a day) until the sprouts are long enough to eat (~3 days)

This method was fine and made perfectly edible sprouts.  I liked sauteeing them alone or adding them to fried rice or other dishes.  Recently though, I was researching how to sprout sunflower seeds and saw that a few videos recommended growing them in soil.  Not being able to find sunflower seeds so far, I decided to try out the soil method with my mung beans (see picture above).

Method 2 (soil)
Soak a handful of beans in water overnight
Next day, rinse and press into a container filled with a thin layer of wet potting mix.  Cover with a piece of plastic wrap for 1-2 days.  Every day, check to make sure the potting soil is still quite damp.  Water as needed and remove the plastic wrap when the mung beans start to push against it.  

Soil-grown sprout vs soil-free sprout


Comparing the two methods, I felt that the soil-grown sprout (top) had a fatter stem than the soil-less sprout and were more similar to the mung bean sprouts you find in stores. At the same time, the soil-grown sprout was more of a pain to harvest.  Whereas the soil-less sprouts were ready to be cooked with no additional prep, the soil-grown sprouts had to be either pulled or cut from the soil and then washed.  If pulled, the washing took more time because the soil clung to the roots, but cutting was more laborious since the sprouts didn't all grow at the same rate and I kind of end up cutting each one individually.  So far, I've been cutting the tallest sprouts and leaving the rest to continue growing.  I like the fatness of the soil-grown sprouts, but will probably split my efforts between both methods of sprouting because of the ease of the soil-less method.  Note, I used the lids of strawberry containers for my soil-grown sprouts, but I might try to find deeper containers and see how that goes.

After sprouting, I toss the soil into the compost bin and start anew.  You might notice that the soil-free sprout looks a little greenish but the other does not.  I think that's because I was growing the soil sprouts in my laundry closet and the soil-free sprouts were on my kitchen counter and got a little light.

Plate of soil-grown sprouts after washing
Sprouts are supposed to be very good for you, but I confess I do this mostly for the fun of it.  At any given moment you can find something soaking, sprouting or fermenting on my kitchen table.  Science spills over into the home I guess!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Portland Farmer's Market at PSU


It's been a few weeks since my last visit to the Farmer's Market but I managed to go this weekend and was so glad I did! There were eggplants galore so I had to pick up a few Japanese eggplants - my plan for these is a Chinese dish my mom makes, that was one of my favorites growing up. I've finally gotten a little tired of tomato on toast so these will go in my hotpot or into tomato egg (another beloved childhood dish).

Beets: $3
Strawberries: $3
Eggs: $6
Fuji apples + Pears (forgot the name of this kind): $3.95
Japanese eggplants: $3
Tomatoes: ~$3? (forgot!)

Total: ~$22

Last night I went to a friend's house for teppannyaki and it sparked a desire for hot pot (especially with the rainy chilly weather we're suddenly having). So tonight I assembled my ingredients and mixed up the sauce. Unfortunately Whole Foods didn't have any napa cabbage and I didn't feel like stomping over to Safeway so I'm eating it without; it doesn't feel like hotpot without napa though, so I'll be getting some tomorrow after BM class. All in all, a lovely evening at home!
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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Bar Method Two Months


I've been doing this for a little over two months now (minus my 10 days away in San Diego) and still really liking it.  It's become part of my routine.  This morning when I woke up to go to class it was JUST starting to grow light outside though, so I think the winter classes will be more difficult.  Especially once I have to throw on layers just to go outside.  But I love going to class and I definitely think I'm in the best shape I've been since I was 16 and running cross country.  Granted, that's not saying a lot...but I'm still proud of myself for going to this consistently.

The schedule I've set up for myself since returning from San Diego is 2 days of classes followed by one day of rest.  Some weeks this ends up being 4 classes a week and others 5.  I think that's a reasonable balance.  My progress since my last update has not been dramatic, but it's noticeable to me.  All the improvements are small and gradual.  I'm still on the 1 and 2 pound weights, but they are getting a little easier.  My flexibility is improving and I can put my leg on the bar easier.  I'm not shaking as much during the thigh exercises so I think I need to start going a little lower.  All in all, slow but steady!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Saturday Morning With Monkey Picked Oolong Tea


Insomnia is just the worst thing.  I don't know why I was hit with it last night but it was unpleasant.  I've learned the best thing to do is not to lie there and waste additional time, but to get up and do something.  So I decided to plant some lettuce and swiss chard seeds, make panna cotta and set some mung beans out to sprout.  After a bit of reading I felt drowsy and went off to bed but didn't actually fall asleep until 3:30ish, bah.  I had signed up for a bar method class today so I was up at 7:30 to give my bread dough one more knead for it's final rise (Cook's Illustrated Almost No Knead Bread) and then I was off.  I'm glad I went because now I feel totally energized, but I'm not sure how I'll stay awake all day.  Today will be busy with work earlier and fun later, but I really need to get some chores done as well - my house is such a disaster and I need to grocery shop in the worst way.  One thing at a time...

My sister got me a food processor for my birthday so I have all sorts of things I want to try making in it.  Top of my list: peanut butter and hummus! (not together)

(PS.  Neither cat nor garden shown above belong to me; both belong to my sister)

Update: Just a note on the monkey picked oolong tea.  I tried a sample cup at Teavana back when Ferret was visiting and decided to splurge on a little for myself.  The flavor is very light but pleasant and though the salesclerk told me I could brew the same leaves 5 times, I think it's maybe more like 3.  I have a hot water thing that my mom bought for me ages ago so having 195 degree water around is never a problem.  I'm not sure I'd buy it again, my tastes my run to something slightly stronger.  But I LOVE making tea via teapot instead of bags.  The little ritual and tinkering with the pot is all very relaxing.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Fall Wardrobe Planning Over Morning Coffee

Summer turns to Fall rather quickly in Portland since I have been wearing jackets outdoors the last few days and am missing the sun.  As I mull over potential Fall resolutions, I am also accumulating a little pile of things destined for Goodwill and making a mental inventory of things to purchase in the coming year.  As usual the focus is on my closet.  A few years ago, I had the terrible habit of buying things simply because they were on sale.  I'm not the biggest fan of shopping so these trips were infrequent, but the cumulative effect over years gave me a closet full of things I never ever wore, either because the style was off or the fit was off.  So maybe two years ago, when I was approaching 30, I took stock and did a major purge and have been more thoughtful about shopping ever since.  There were some things I held onto for sentimental value (hand me downs from my mom when she was my age, actually younger!), and these things I have been considering this week.  I would never donate these items, but anything I am deleting will go back to California with me next week.


Yesterday I put on this blue shirt and decided that actually I love it.  I suspect the material is synthetic, but it's remarkably well-made and fits pretty nicely.  Today I will wander around in a burgundy-ish velvety blazer that I used to wear all the time in college (update: nevermind, today is not blazer-day).  As part of my critical sweep, I am also taking inventory of my shoes and find that: 1) I have one pair of black flats that are comfy but not particularly stylish and 2) I have one pair of black flats that are more stylish but not particularly comfortable.  Naturally I wear #1 all the time but today I will give #2 a whirl and it will go out if it does not pass muster.  On my "to shop" list then, I think I need to add a pair of black flats that is both comfortable and stylish.  The goal for this week then is to try to wear such little-worn items and make assessments and decisions.

I like clothes but I don't like having a lot of clothes and shopping is often frustrating - how to reconcile all of these things is beyond me, but that is an ongoing process.  Ideally I would have a few perfect uniforms for each season, feel good about it and not have to bother much about it all for several years.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Too Much For One Post!


I've been in quite a tizzy all day.  My sister sent me an email this morning at 7:45am to tell me she was having real contractions so I spent the rest of the day, talking to my mom and my sister on the phone, in between squiring Ferret around the city.  My day went something like this:

Talk to my sister on the phone.
Go to First Republic Bank so Ferret could take out some cash (fresh cookies were available for all so naturally I grabbed one).
Talk to my mom on the phone.
Go to Public Domain to read and drink cappuccinos.
Text my friend about baby.
Go to Stumptown to buy coffee beans.
Talk to my mom again on phone.
Go to Peem Keaw (spelling?) for lunch.
Talk to mom.
Walk to Trader Joe and Sterling Coffee for more cappuccino and reading.  Talk to mom and sister.
Accompany Ferret to airport.
Talk to Ryan on phone.
Finally return home, continue talking to family members.

The suspense is killing me!  My sister is pushing now apparently and hopefully the baby will arrive within the hour.  All in all, being in labor sounds awful.  Oh hang on, my mom is calling.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Blueberry Muffins and Coffee on a Tuesday Morning


I went to my class this morning so of course, instead of running out the door to go to work, I'm having breakfast and blogging and massaging sore muscles.  Last night I made these blueberry muffins from Cook's Illustrated, who claimed they are the best.  I quite like them, but I'm not sure if they really are the BEST.  Granted I had one fairly warm from the oven last night, and I think in general baked items need a little bit of time for the flavors to develop.  I plan on eating another at lunch before completely passing judgement.  I used fresh blueberries from the farmer's market, but I really think frozen blueberries would have done quite as well and the next time I make them, I will definitely employ frozen and save my fresh for gobbling.  

One thing I do regret, is not putting more lemon sugar topping on each muffin.  I'm a little shy of super-sweet items and I was worried that that much topping would overwhelm things. But the lemon zest really lends a nice bright note to the muffin and the sugar a satisfying crunch.  The picture above doesn't look that spectacular but it was a little challenging trying to get a good angle of the plate on the floor, while simultaneously shooing Tony away with one hand.  Also I am lazy and did not want to spend more than 10 seconds taking a picture.  If only my sister was here.

The recipe can be found here at Basically Baked, who got permission from Cook's Illustrated to post this recipe.  If you are someone who has a glut of blueberries (I know of at least one person in this delightful dilemma) then perhaps you will give this recipe a try!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Resolutions for 2011: Taking Stock


Even though I'm no longer a student, the start of a new school year still feels new to me.  So my habit is to make New Years Resolutions in January and New School Year Resolutions in September.  The Fall resolutions are smaller since they're only for 4 months, but it's a good time to take stock of where I am in terms of my January resolutions and to tweak things as necessary.  I never feel super committed to resolutions, but I love making them and they act more like guidelines for where I want my life to go and be.


So let's see how my January resolutions are doing:


1) Go running at least once a week once it gets warm (no way I'm stepping out in this 25 degree weather. Did I somehow bring East Coast weather with me to the West Coast? Is this my fault?)
  • This one totally did not happen at all, but since I DID start doing Bar Method and have done some outdoorsy sorts of things (hiking in Israel and hiking in Arch Cape), I'm going to chalk this as a victory.  The point of this resolution was to be more physically active and get regular exercise.
2) Start a new garden on my new balcony! (yayayayyayaya, can't wait!)
  • This was completely successful!  It's been interesting to see what would grow well and what would not. To my surprise, my basil never took off; the leaves stayed small and the plants grew leggy despite my best efforts.  The sage died completely for reasons unknown.  Parsley and chamomile did well.  
3) Make homemade cards all year (I've made two already so I'm totally successful so far).
  • I've made several cards this year and will continue to make more.  
4) Finish the quilt already.
  • Complete fail. I don't think I've touched the quilt at all this year.  Morale plummeted after realizing that I miscounted the number of patches I would need and that actually I still needed about 20 small squares.  This shouldn't be so long to cut and sew up but it's a bit of a production to haul everything out so this is on hold.
5) Start vermicomposting (try not to be grossed out by the worms).
  • Success!  I was VERY disgusted by the worms when I first got them and could barely look at them, but now I've adjusted and it's fine.  I'm still wearing gloves every time I go near them, but I like to dig around and see if they are still there and alive.  There's a layer of composted material at the bottom of my bin already so I look forward to using it next year.  How I get that stuff out is going to be another production I think...
6) Learn to drive and join zipcar.
  • This one is a little tricky.  I did look into driving schools but they all assume that you have a car of your own to practice on outside of classes.  This of course, I do not have.  My next plan was to just practice driving a bit whenever I was at home with family, but that hasn't really panned out.  This will require more thought, because I really need to do this.
7) Ride my bike around when the weather gets nice.
  • Oops.  My bike still has flat tires and has not been fixed.  I would still very much like to do this and I think I have a couple of months left of decent weather left.  
8) Update my blog regularly.
  • There are some weeks I update more than others, but I would say this was overall successful.  As a corollary to this one, I've started scrapbooking and that is a really nice way of documenting the important events in my life.  
9) Learn and memorize all of Bach's Two Part Inventions.
  • Um, I was off to a good start on this but it sort of fizzled out around April or May.  I'm honestly not sure why, except things got rather hectic around then with visitors, travel, mouse course and fellowship.  I'd like to resume but must figure out a way to balance this with all of my other activities.
10) Speak louder.
  • I forgot about this one!  I've been making a little more effort when giving presentations to speak louder but this is just an ongoing thing for me.  

I'll have to think about what Fall resolutions I want to make, but overall I feel pretty good about the state of my January resolutions.  I think I've made some positive changes in my life and am doing things that make me happy.  That's kind of all one can ask for.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Portland Farmer's Market at PSU


As you can see, I am still very much on my blueberry and tomato kick.  I got 4 different kinds of tomatoes today, although to be honest, I wouldn't have bothered with the little salad tomatoes at all if I had seen the other tomatoes first.  Naturally, handfuls of blueberries and a few tomatoes had already been eaten.  I bought the little eggplant mostly because it was adorable and the two summer squashes are entirely new to me.  I think I will cut eggplant and squashes into small pieces and roast them together and then toss into a lentil salad, with or without tomatoes.  Should be good.


I went into lab for a bit after farmer's marketing and a few of the tomatoes and blueberries got crushed in my bag (sadness).  To prevent general spoilage, I rinsed everything and now it's all laying out to dry post-inspection and eating.

I bought a bunch of things together so where I didn't have an exact price, I listed the price/lb.

Eggs: $6
Blueberries: 2 cartons for $5
Salad tomatoes: $3 for a carton
2 Early Girl tomatoes: $2.25/lb
1 Tomato with name I've forgotten (starts with C): $2.25/lb
1 Lemon Boy tomato (yellow): $2.25/lb
Zephyr squash: 60 cents
Italian squash: 60 cents (prickly on outside)
Eggplant: $2
Basil: $2.75 a bunch (I think)

Total: $24

I was really kicking myself today for not bringing my camera because on the way to the farmer's market I passed some sort of classic car exhibit.  All along the park there were antique-y cars parked and they were really very cool looking.  I hope it's still there next week when Ferret visits because he loves old cars.  Right now I'm tending to domestic matters - cleaning out my freezer and taking inventory of my pantry.  I'm looking forward to an evening of cooking.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Bar Method: One Month


So I'm 5 weeks into my BM classes and everything is still going great.  So far, I've established a schedule of 4 times a week, although I think I will bump it up to 5 times the next few weeks since I'll be going to San Diego for 10 days in September.  After some slight mental struggle, I decided to go with the monthly unlimited package (3 months) instead of buying a pack of discrete classes.  In a way, it's been better for me because the thrifty part of my nature forces me to go more often to get the price/class down to reasonable levels.  It's only tricky when I have to travel.  It sounds crazy, but when I was away last weekend I really missed taking classes!  Perhaps I've gotten addicted to exercise endorphins.  So, in anticipation for my next trip, I will buy a dvd to take with me so I don't lose everything during my 10 days away.  And it might be a good exercise to do with my aunt and mom while they are there too.  My aunt used to be a big runner and tae-bo person but she had to stop due to back injuries, so I think she will really like BM.

I've taken classes with three instructors so far and it's interesting to go through the same sets of exercises with different people.  Creature of habit that I am, it took me about two classes to get adjusted to each new-to-me instructor, but I like everyone so far.  The morning classes are fantastic for me and each class gives me energy all day.  The drawback is I do end up lounging longer at home after class than I probably should.  For instance, here I am blogging and eating muffin and coffee instead of going to work.  Overall I can see little changes in myself, mostly harder and a little more obvious (to me) muscles.

Progress:
Still on the 1 and 2 lb weights.
Thighs still shake uncontrollably but I can make it through the sets without breaking.
Flexibility in legs gradually improving although I am always still the least flexible person in class by far.  
Am starting to get a better hang of the tucked position (it still feels weird).
Ab exercises kill!  I must have a very sorry core.
Enjoying the classes, still not in the least bored.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Scrapbook Page: Mouse Course 2011 Page 2


I think I need to shift everything over to the right a tad, but it's good for now.  One thing I've noticed is that I tend to be drawn to the same elements over and over again.  For example, staples, the rusty pin and stitches.  Buttons are always attractive to me.  These things just seem like simple realistic little elements that add interest to my collage-ish pages.  I think at some point I'll try to do one of those very layered and clustered layouts with a single photo as a focal point, but "Mouse Course" isn't so suited to that.  I just have so many pictures and it's so hard to decide which ones to leave out.  It'll be interesting to see how I end up adjusting these paper components over the next several pages so that the look is still cohesive but not repetitive.  I also think I might do a page that is just journaling, because I always have more to write than will fit within photos.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Scrapbook Page: Mouse Course 2011


The Cold Spring Harbor Mouse Course I took this year was one of the best things I've ever done.  I had a great time and learned a lot, although I think I'm forgetting a lot of it now, which is pretty unfortunate.  Since it was three weeks long and took every minute of my waking life during those three weeks, I imagine I will need to make quite a few pages to encompass it all.  Fortunately, not only do I have the pictures I took, but I have pictures from other people as well.  The combinations of colors for this cover page is sort of a departure from my usual inclinations, but I wanted something bright and summery while also recalling a classroom vibe.  Not sure how successful I was, but I do rather like it.  It's so great to be able to scrapbook again!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Tasty n Sons


This picture was totally stolen off of Tasty n Sons' website.  Since I was with several people I didn't know, I couldn't very well whip out my camera and not feel stupid about it.  Today was SO's birthday so I met up with several of her friends and family for brunch.  This was the first time I've been here and though I got there 5 minutes after opening, there was already a gaggle of people out the door waiting to get in.  I hate waiting, so I was pretty delighted that my party already had a table inside.  You can go to the website to see menu items, but needless to say, everything was delicious and pretty reasonably priced.  I don't think there was anything over $10. I got the small order of french toast and a date wrapped with bacon.  Both were intensely delicious.  They serve things as they are ready, family style, which was a little odd for breakfast but overall nice.  I wasn't really in the mood for sharing but I did get a bite of someone's polenta and that was quite a dish.  Very very good.  Happy birthday to SO and a lovely beginning to the day.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Arch Cape


The Oregon coast is immensely beautiful. We arrived at SO's friend's beach house at around 6pm and they immediately dashed off to go surfing despite the cloudy chillyish weather.  Not knowing how to swim, let alone surf, I curled up on one of the many comfy chaises under a blanket and started reading the latest Dresden File book: Ghost Story.  (I have to say, this "beach house" was not like any sort of casual summer home I've ever seen.  Not that I've been to so many beach houses, but I was pretty blown away by the place.  I'm certain I will not have a home this lovely as my primary establishment ever.)



For dinner, SO threw together a simple but lovely meal in the remarkable kitchen (pasta not shown) and we accompanied our dinner with several glasses/bottles of wine.  This naturally led to an impromptu dance party in the kitchen until a polite neighbor asked us to be more quiet.  At that point I was already horizontal, first on the carpet, and then on the sofa, half asleep.  Maybe more like 3/4 asleep.





The next day, while SO and PH went to collect breakfast from a nearby bakery, I took a mug of coffee with me on a little walk along the beach.  It was beautiful and quiet and helped to chase my hangover away.  After breakfast, SO and PH went surfing while GS and I went on a hike up Neahkahnie Mountain near Short Sands.  I don't have pictures yet (edit: now I do!) because I managed to forget my camera at home in a fit of idiocy (I was charging the battery and then totally forgot about it), but I will have them soon hopefully.  It was 2.5 miles up the mountain and the same path down; the view from the top was very striking, although I felt a little precarious, clinging up on the rocks.  I've actually always been afraid of heights, even though I appreciate the view.  It was lucky that SO and I happen to wear the same size shoes as she was able to lend me her hiking sandals.  I ended up with a couple of blisters still, but I'm sure I would have ended up with sprained ankles had I attempted the hike in my flip flops.  


After the hike, we joined the others at Short Sands.  GS went to surf and I continued my book, resting on the beach against a log.  We then went back to the house for dinner on the deck before coming back to the city.  The night didn't actually end there though; since it was GS's last day in town, we went to Fez for their 80s and 90s dance night.  I loooooove dancing and don't really do it often enough so I had a huge blast.  The combined effects of drinking, hiking, dancing and then my 9:30am exercise class this morning left me pretty stiff and sore the rest of today though.  Aside from a brief stint in lab, I've been doing some light cleaning and finishing my book.  All in all, a lovely mini-holiday.  I can't wait to return to the coast!