Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Scrapbook Pages: Mommy Visits Portland

Papers from Shabby Princess, Elements from Shabby Princess and Persnickety Prints 
Much better!  Having decent pictures to use really makes all the difference.  Everything looks so much brighter.  Unfortunately, I took the food images in a dark restaurant so they ended up rather blurry.  I'm hoping at the smaller size it won't be so easy to tell...

One nice byproduct of this new hobby is getting more comfortable with Photoshop.  I learned how to use the pen tool today to cut out that sign of Multnomah Falls.  I'm also starting to slip in more elements here and there.  I think the staples and stitching are cute without being overly cluttered.  The best part of this is revisiting happy memories; now that I'm done with 2011 (until more stuff happens) I will start scrapping 2010.  That will be a hard year to revisit in some ways, I had many very happy times and some not so great times.  It was a year of extremes...

Monday, May 30, 2011

Scrapbook Page: ORS 2011

Papers and Element from Shabby Princess
I feel pretty bleh about this one.  I had very few good pictures from this trip because a lot of the picture taking happened in dark places/night so many of the pictures turned out grainy and strange (and often blurry).  And as I am now learning, there is only so much you can do to fix this.  I tried some green/gold paper combinations at first, but since the pictures were so dark with many reddish tones, they clashed rather miserably.  So this Hogwarts combo is what I ended up with.  It would be more fitting if we were dressed as Harry Potter characters, but that might have drawn some negative attention at the conference...  So far, I think "Jess and Ryan Visit Portland" are my favorite pages to date.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Scrapbook Pages: Jess and Ryan Visit Portland

Papers from Persnickety Print and Shabby Princess, Element from Persnickety Prints
Ok that's it!  I am removing myself from this computer and going to do something that involves more movement than finger clicking on mouse.  My self-imposed ban from earlier was only partially effective as you can see.  I'm quite happy with how these pages turned out though since I had a hard time figuring out paper combinations that looked decent together.  Many of the pictures above were taken by the Bunny which is why they look so nice.  It's crazy how addicting this project is.  My goal right now is to get the major events of 2010 and 2011 documented.

Scrapbook Pages: Israel

Papers downloaded from Persnickety Print, Element from Shabby Princess
Here are the pages for my recent trip to Israel.  I am now officially banning myself from Photoshop for the rest of the day, unless it's work-related.  At least, until I finish everything on my to do list.  It's remarkable how quickly time passes when all you're really doing is aligning and resizing images.  I thought the mustard-ish papers from Persnickety Print's 'memories of you' kit looked desert-like and would be a good fit for my Israel pictures.  I am really enjoying all of this though, because it is nice to revisit these memories.  Naturally, the journaling aspect also holds immense appeal for me.  And again, the people who do this by hand get much props from me, I have no idea how you do it!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

My First Scrapbook Pages

Paper and elements downloaded from Persnickety Print
I know I know I know.  The last thing in the world I need these days is another hobby.  The thing with my hobbies though, is that I tend to pursue them cyclically.  For example, I've taken a break from knitting because that is largely a winter hobby and I haven't made soap in a while because I have quite a great deal of soap stored up at the moment.  Don't ask me about sewing because I really meant to finish that quilt before summer but at this rate we're looking at Summer 2015.  The balcony garden however, is doing well and of course I cook year round because I get hungry.

Scrapbooking never held much appeal for me because it seemed way too laborious and finicky.  Not to mention, the thought of taking scissors to pictures makes my heart sink.  And who even has prints these days?  So it wasn't until J at work told me about digital scrapbooking that my interest was at all raised (see her scrapbooking layouts here).  These first two pages took me a ridiculous amount of time, but I'm rather happy with how they turned out.  I don't think I'll ever be able to manage complicated layering of patterns so I anticipate that my pages will be consistently "collage-like" and basic.  But that's ok because I like looking at pictures best anyway.  Perhaps with more practice I'll get better at this.

Miscellaneous This and That

I've been making my collages in Picasa but I'm starting to wonder if it might not be a little easier to just do it in Photoshop.  Trying to get my pictures to line up properly in Picasa was not completely easy, and even now I doubt they're perfectly aligned.  

Anyway, here are some pictures I took while I was in San Diego, although the picture of Tony was obviously taken at home.  Actually the kimchi/bulgogi wraps were of Portland origin also.  I was trying to find new and interesting ways to eat my leftovers and thought hand rolls might be pleasant.  And indeed they were.  My seaweed wraps were not properly sized to make hand rolls, but no one was looking and it tasted fine.  I highly recommend that you pre-toast the seaweed though, to prevent rubberiness.

The Bunny had one red tomato growing in her garden.  I meant to eat it at some point to see how it tasted but somehow never got around to it.  While I was there, my mom made me soup for lunch, using these special squid balls from Taiwan.  I couldn't take the rest of the frozen ones with me so they still reside in the Bunny's freezer, for my next visit.  The idea of squid balls probably sound gross to anyone not Asian, but I am a fan of all fish balls and meat balls.  And I like the minimalist nature of the soup as well.

Fish (Squid) Ball Soup

Put one bowlful of water in a small pot along with frozen fish (squid) balls.  Bring to a boil and let simmer for a while until the fish (squid) balls are completely heated through.  Add thinly sliced scallions (1 or 2 scallions) and season expertly with salt and pepper.  I also like to add a dash of hondashi.  Simmer for a couple of minutes more and serve.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Kimchi Chigae

Whenever I go to New York, I always make time to go to my favorite Korean restaurant, Kunjip.  And when I go, I feast on the free collection of tiny dishes and order the tofu seafood soup (I think it is the Soon Doo Boo Chigae).  I have no idea how to make that, but I recently found a very good recipe for Kimchi Chigae, and have been repurposing my homemade kimchi toward the cause.

The recipe originally came from norecipes and he has a much more attractive picture of this dish on his site.  I would strongly discourage you from omitting the miso or the butter; they add a depth of flavor to the dish beyond what I have found in other recipes I've tried.  The recipe below incorporates my adaptations, please go to the norecipes site for the original recipe.

Kimchi Chigae (adapted from norecipes)*

1/2 small onion diced
1 1/2 cup loosely packed kimchi
4 cloves of garlic minced
2 1/2 cup water
1/2 tsp dried ginger
1 Tbs cooking wine (shaoxing)
2 heaping tsp gochujang (Korean chili paste)
2 tsp miso
1 tsp soy sauce
8 oz silken tofu sliced into cubes
1 tbs butter

Heat a little oil in a small pot and add the onion. When onions are soft, add the kimchi and garlic. Saute until the mixture is very fragrant, then add the water, ginger, cooking wine, gochujang, miso and soy sauce, stirring everything together to combine.

Bring to a boil and add the tofu, turn down the heat to a simmer and let it cook for 20-30 minutes.

When you’re ready to serve, add the butter and give it a quick stir to incorporate. 

* I've never tried this with store-bought kimchi, but the dish is divine with my homemade kimchi.  I found it to be quite spicy without the addition of Korean chili flakes so I omitted that from the recipe.  I didn't add any kimchi juice because my kimchi was really flavorful already.  The original recipe also included pork, which I didn't have on hand, but I imagine it would be quite delicious.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

San Diego and Baby Shower

Last Wednesday I went to lab and then hopped on a plane to San Diego.  The main purpose of the trip was to throw my little sister Bunny a baby shower, but it was also just nice to see her and my mom and Mr Bunny again.  Pregnant tummies are sort of like magic 8 balls, they're completely irresistible.  While I was there I got to feel the baby kick a few times and it was totally exciting.  Please note, I'm not usually a big fan of children at all, the one exception will be the Baby Bunny.  So please don't expect me to admire your children.  

I feel like this picture maybe warrants some explanation.  My sister is not a professional hair stylist, she is a professional programmer.  A few years ago though, my mom asked her to trim her hair a bit and my sister gamely took on the challenge.  It turns out she has quite a natural knack for cutting hair and my mom is her most loyal (and sole) client.  According to my mom, no one cuts her hair better than the Bunny does and after seeing the results for a few years now, I have to agree.

Friday I made some preparations for the shower and put together two antipasto salads, one with meat and one without.  The recipe is from allrecipes.com and it was quite simple and delicious.  We ended up having massive amounts of leftovers to take home.  The following pictures will demonstrate why...

It's important to note that all this food (including some not shown in these pictures) was meant to feed a few women.  Needless to say, there was more than enough even after the men arrived to scavenge.

The mothers are so beautiful and adorable, I only hope I'll age half as well.  We threw the party at Spike's house and she really did a remarkable job with everything.  My only job was to generate the favors (oatmeal milk and honey soaps) and a couple of dishes (in addition to the antipasto salads, I made a salad with spring lettuces and candied walnuts and assisted Bunny in making dill and cheddar scones, so yum); Spike did everything else.  The decorations in particular really took my breath away.  They were the perfect combination of cuteness, sweetness, elegance and taste.

And of course the Bunny herself.  She took much better pictures than I did and I was really tempted to use some of them but I knew she'll be putting them up herself dammit.  She got many lovely gifts and after the shower we had a fun time by ourselves looking through everything again.  The next day we started setting up the baby's room and it was so nice to fill up the drawers with tiny things.

And this last picture I did steal from the Bunny.  These are the baby booties I knitted up for her.  They were such a fast project and I'll probably be knitting up another pair.  By the time the baby is 3 months old it'll be winter in San Diego...

Antipasto Salad (adapted from allrecipes)

1 pound medium shell pasta
1/4 pound Genoa salami, chopped
1/4 pound pepperoni sausage, chopped
1/2 pound Asiago cheese, diced
1 (6 ounce) can black olives, drained and chopped
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 green bell pepper, chopped
3 tomatoes, chopped
1 (0.7 ounce) package dry Italian-style salad dressing mix
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1 tablespoon grated Parmiggiano Reggiano cheese
salt and ground black pepper to taste

Cook the pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water until al dente. Drain, and cool under cold water.  Drain well.

In a large bowl, combine the pasta, salami, pepperoni, Asiago cheese, black olives, red bell pepper, green bell pepper and tomatoes. Stir in the envelope of dressing mix. Cover, and refrigerate at least one hour or overnight.

To prepare the dressing, whisk together the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, oregano, parsley, Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper. Just before serving, pour dressing over the salad, and mix well.

Note: the salad keeps wonderfully well.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Radishes are entirely satisfying to grow

because they grow so fast!  Look at these monsters.  By contrast, look at the sad little basils next to them that were started several weeks before I even thought of radishes.  Since the leaves are bushier than anything else I've got at the moment, I was quite relieved to find that they were edible.  Excellent!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Strawberry Plant

One of the first things I do every morning when I wake up is to race over to my living room and pull up the blinds.  I kneel down by my french doors and press my face to the glass to inspect the plants.  If it's not raining for once, or freezing, I'll open the doors and inspect everything happily while simultaneously shooing Tony with one hand so he doesn't run out to the balcony (I have an understandable fear of Tony plunging to his death).  

It's amazing how much things change from day to day.  This cool weather is still favoring the lettuces, but I've learned my lesson (again) about plant crowding.  When I compare my radishes to the lettuces, the difference in size is really striking; I think it's because the radishes have more space.  I can't wait to pull the radishes when I get back from San Diego.  Can there really be a little radish there after so short a time?  I'm half-heartedly thinning the lettuces a little, but I hate killing the little ones I planted by seed.  Next year, I will sow one seed at a time, no matter how laborious, instead of sprinkling.

Out of three strawberry plants, I have one that brings me excessive amounts of joy.  It's been making little white flowers and the look of the flowers among all the green would bring delight to any heart.  I'd like to have some strawberries this year, but even if that doesn't happen, the little plants would still have been well worth it.  Meanwhile, no sign of flowers from the nasturtiums yet, although they are setting forth masses of leaves.

Portland Farmer's Market at PSU and Beet Greens

This obviously isn't a picture of my groceries; I DID go to the farmer's market but I dashed to lab directly after and when I came home I completely forgot to take pictures before cooking up my beet greens.  There wasn't much to see this week anyway, because I'm leaving Wednesday night for San Diego and didn't want to buy too much.  Of last week's groceries, I still have some gouda and a bunch of purple kale left.  This week I hauled home:

1 bunch beet greens with tiny attached beets: $3
1 bunch dandelion greens (I think that's what they were....): $2.50
3 heirloom fuji apples and 2 red anjou pears: $4.10

Total: $9.10

I really miss my regular fruit people.  At this point I'm starting to think they've left the farmer's market permanently.  Yesterday I woke up a bit late (10am) and didn't get to the farmer's market until around 1pm, which was a big mistake!  Almost all of the fuji apples were gone and I had to pick up these "heirloom" apples instead.  This sounds fancy, but the color is a muddy green and the flavor is nowhere near as delicious in my opinion.  The price though, was better at $1 per pound instead of $1.99.

Beet greens are a wonder and I'm making plans in my head to plant some next year.  The tiny beets are perfectly tasty roasted and the tops have a spinach flavor, without that feeling in your mouth you get sometimes with spinach.  How to explain...sometimes you eat spinach and your teeth feel rough.  I think you know what I mean.  The beet leaves are just a bit sturdier than spinach too and cook up to a nice texture.  And thankfully, the stems are tender, unlike kale or chard stems.  I did my favorite thing with the greens, which was to fry them up with garlic, cooked sprouted brown rice and chickpeas (dashes of soy sauce and a couple of pinches of sugar) and the reddish juice from the leaves colored my rice a little, which was rather pretty.

Roasted Baby Beets

Preheat oven to 350.  Rub the clean beets with a bit of olive oil and then seal in a foil packet.  Roast for maybe 45min to 1 hour until tender, depending on size of your beets.  Rub the beets with your hands to remove the skins and enjoy the little nuggets.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Working Working

Because writing without pictures is a little sad, I've included this one from my Israel trip, even though it has nothing to do with this post.  Actually, I have nothing specific to post, I only feel I ought to put something up, to keep in practice.  

Since the mother left, I've been throwing myself totally into work; instead of feeling tired though, I've been rather  happy about it.  My house is messier as a result, and my hobbies are neglected, but I feel productive and interested in science again.  Once in a while, I think I could be happy as a housewife - keeping house and garden, cooking, knitting and being domestic - but in my hearts of hearts, I know all of it would pall and instead of giving me pleasure, those very things I love doing now would become a burden and lose sparkle.  I'd be depressed, with nothing to strive for.  Because ultimately, none of it is enough to keep my brain busy and engaged, or provide the social interactions and relationships I need.  And then there's the money.  Perhaps because of my own personal history, it has always been extremely important for me to make my own money and be able to support myself.  Being able to do so fosters feelings of independence and confidence.  I'm lucky of course that I found a career I love; it would be different if my work was just work.  But even given the choice between a regular old job and endless leisure time, I think I'd still choose to work.  

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Portland Farmer's Market at PSU

Beets: $2
Shiitake Mushroom Bag: $5
Fuji Apples: $5.10
Farmhouse Gouda Cheese: $4.46

Total: $16.56

Ok I'm back on track with these!  I really meant to spend only on fruit today because I still have some vegetables in the fridge but I couldn't resist picking up a few more things.  And in truth, I am growing rather tired of kale.  Unfortunately, my regular fruit people were not around today so I had to buy my apples from a pricier stand.  The apples are bigger, but they were also $1.99 per pound.  We will see how they taste.  And the shiitakes were so beautiful that I had to snap up a bag when I walked by them.  As for the beets, I justified their purchase  by reasoning that the leaves were also edible...

Friday, May 6, 2011

Portland Farmer's Market at PSU (Late Post)

Oops!  I took a picture last Saturday after I got my groceries home and then forgot all about posting.  I didn't buy very much, but since I had a lot of bulgogi and kimchi left and since Wednesday I ate all of my meals with our postdoc candidate, I didn't do a very good job of finishing up my groceries.  Not to mention, I was finishing up the giant bunch of parsley and chives I got the previous week (most of it went into noodle soups, but I'm sorry to say a lot of the chives have wilted).  Tomorrow's visit to the farmer's market will therefore be pretty light I think.

Purple Kale: $2.25
Green Kale: $2.25
Duck and Porcini Pate: $7
Spring Raab: $2.50
Fuji Apples and Red Anjou Pears: $5.40

Total: $19.40

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Mommy Visits Portland: Part II

It's sometimes amazing how fast a week can go by.  I just dropped the mother off at the airport and am feeling melancholy.  A blog post is in order then, to revisit some of the happy times of the week.

Tuesday - Thursday

The weather was really not very good for most of the week so we stayed in a great deal.  Sometimes we ventured out to run some errands, but for the most part, we cooked and chatted and worked on sudokus and watched movies.  My mom would run the vacuum around the house while I was at work in the mornings (this actually seems to be a trend for people who visit me...) and then I would fix lunch for us when I came home again.  All very pleasant.


In the afternoon we made a small batch of zhong zi so my mom could show me the proper way of wrapping them.  I was quite impressed, it was obvious the way I had been doing it before was totally wrong.  She made really beautiful pyramid shaped ones.  I asked her why she never made these for me growing up and she just laughed and shrugged.  The nerve!  

We then headed to the Portland Museum of Art, but unfortunately once my mom found out it was NOT in fact, free friday, she was resistant to going.  So instead we walked about the downtown area and then went to Stumptown for cappuccinos.  She agreed the coffee was tasty, but then declared that she could make it herself as she had a milk frother at home.  I was skeptical and told her to practice so she could make one for me the next time I came home.

Later that night, we went to a french bistro called Little Bird for an early mother's day celebration.  My mom never likes to spend money on going out, but once we were there, she enjoyed herself quite a lot I think.  The place was very charming and the staff friendly.  Most importantly, the food was completely delicious.  I thought the appetizers sounded more interesting than the entrees so decided to order 6 little plates and a dessert.

We had:
Grilled lamb belly, peas, mint, whipped creme fraiche
Sweetbreads, roasted mushrooms, marrow onion puree
Escargot, garlic cream, gourgeres
Roasted marrow bones 
Beets, mache, hazelnuts, goat cheese cream
Lavender creme brulee with riesling strawberries
(and I forgot to take a picture of the mussels, green garlic, lemon fries)

We ate ourselves silly and had some to bring home for lunch the next day.  It was such a nice time and I'm already looking about for another interesting restaurant to take her to the next time she visits.  She's fun to go out with because she appreciates novel foods and new places (even though she puts up some resistance initially).