Sunday, July 31, 2011

Bar Method

I started taking classes at the Portland Bar Method two weeks ago and I'm totally hooked. Please note that I am not usually a fan of any kind of exercising besides walking.  And unless you are over 75, walking is hardly exercise.  When I was in grad school, I would go to the gym sporadically, usually because my friend made me go, but since moving to Portland almost a year ago, I've done very little.  There was some light jogging early on, but then the weather and my natural laziness put an end to that.  I've also never been one for exercise classes because scheduling my life around them seemed like such a chore; the most I've done in that front was a few yoga classes, again usually when my someone (my sister) dragged me.

I don't remember exactly how I heard about the Bar Method, I think it was a combination of having walked by it a bunch of times and also maybe reading about it back when Black Swan first came out in theaters and everyone was talking about ballet-style exercise classes.  In any case, once I decided I could benefit from more activity and that self-discipline wasn't cutting it, I decided to check it out.  I've always been really thin, but also really weak.  My goal obviously was therefore not to lose weight, but to gain strength and flexibility and tone up generally.  

The classes were brutal the first week and I was pretty much endlessly sore for the first week and a half.  The last few days have been better; while my muscles definitely feel tired after class, subsequent soreness was not as intense.  More, a pleasant reminder that I exercised.  The classes themselves run through the same basic sequence of exercises each time (with little variations here and there), which would seem boring except you have to concentrate so hard to maintain proper posture and alignment that it's actually really interesting.  And since I find them so challenging, they really require all of my focus.  The classes are an hour long but the time goes by in a flash.  I'm really enjoying it so far and actually look forward to my class days, which seems unbelievable for someone like me.  My morning classes always gives me such a little lift to the rest of the day. So far I'm going 4 times a week, but I can see stepping it up to 5.  The classes themselves are spendy, which is the main drawback, but I think it's enough of a benefit that it's worth the money for me.  I highly recommend it!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Portland Farmer's Market at PSU

I literally had to run away from the farmer's market only a few stalls in because I was on a rampage.  Everything looked so amazing that I just could not help myself.  I think in honor of summer I will relax my grocery shopping budget to accommodate more wonderful items. 

Eggs: $6
Blueberries and Blackberries: $5 (2 for 5 deal)
Early Girl tomatoes: $2.20
Basil: $2.75
Peaches: $4.35

Total: $20.30

By the time I took this picture I had already eaten a few handfuls of blueberries and blackberries, there were so delicious.  I have not been able to stop gobbling them since I got them.  For lunch I mixed chopped tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper and spread on top of my toast and nearly passed out from delight.  I've never had early girl tomatoes before and they were insanely delicious.  My new goal is to try many fancy new tomatoes this summer and make notes of which I like best.  All in all, a happy haul.

Saturday Mornings, Coffee and Chamomile

When I wrote coffee and chamomile in the title I realized it sounded like I was drinking some kind of gross hybrid beverage.  Let it be known therefore, that I like my coffee and herbal teas quite well and quite separately.  As you can see from the picture, chamomile here refers to the flowers I have growing on my balcony (german chamomile is better for tea than roman).  I was delighted at my last count (23 little flowers), but the size of these guys means I will likely be able to brew maybe two cups of tea in the end.  Internet searching suggests at least 2 tsp of dried flowers for a cup of tea, and these flowers are much tinier than I anticipated.  Ok, the scientist in me just got out a ruler and measured 3/8 inch diameter for the fresh flower and about 1/4 inch for the dried.  The fact that I have ANY flowers to harvest counts as a great success though, and I look forward to having two pots of these out next year.  They grow in a very tidy vertical fashion, perfect for my limited outdoor space.

Harvesting Chamomile

I am no expert, but I believe you have to wait to harvest until the white petals pull all the way back from the yellow buttons. And even then I waited some more because sometimes there was still green in the centers so I waited until it was yellow all over.  The scent of chamomile becomes stronger as it dries, I couldn't really smell much when it was fresh (maybe it was allergies too though).  The part to use for tea is the yellow buttons, but I don't plan on devoting my life to plucking away the white petals as I think they are rather pretty.  Discard the green stems.  I let the flowers dry on the countertop for a few days and then collect them into a glass jar.  Will keep you posted on how much I use for tea when I have enough.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

New Pizza Method (and toppings)

I was almost sure I had exhausted the number of pizza posts possible to me, but apparently not.  Tonight I decided to try out a method described here.  David Lebovitz's blog is one of my favorites to read; he is consistently interesting and I love his descriptions of his life in France.  This recipe caught my eye because the baking time was so quick.  I stuck closely to the potato/onion/roquefort combo he described (minus the thyme because I didn't have any) and since I didn't have any bread flour, I used my own pizza dough recipe instead.  Everything went off without a hitch and I'm really fascinated by the possibilities of this method.  You can't really see in this picture, but you first have to heat up a cast iron pan on the stovetop, then you flip it over and plop your pizza dough on top and then put the whole thing under the broiler to cook.  I think my dough actually might not be the best for this method, since it was optimized for regular oven cooking - I'll be trying out his dough recipe as soon as possible to see if it works any better here.  Overall I'm excited about the possibilities (and I thought the topping was quite good).

Monday, July 18, 2011

Tomatoes, Strawberries and Artichokes Miscellany

Tonight I had the perfect summer dinner for one girl - sweet grape tomatoes chopped with bits of garlic, tossed with nice olive oil and sprinklings of salt and pepper.  This was heaped generously atop some toasts (Cook's Illustrated's almost no-knead bread).  It's crazy, I don't know what happens to tomatoes when they come into contact with olive oil and salt, but the whole thing just tasted far more complex than the simple list of ingredients would suggest.  I mean, I didn't even add any basil.  In a few minutes I will enjoy the rest of my blackberries with a cup of tea, but for now the taste of garlic lingers pleasantly on the tongue (actually I hope it does not make my blackberries taste gross later...)

These strawberries were actually harvested and eaten the day after I returned from mouse course.  Though they were tiny, they were wildly delicious and all the more so because I grew them myself.  Naturally, I gave one of them to my neighbor who tended to Tony while I was away.

As you may recall from my Farmer's Market post, I bought several baby artichokes on Saturday and conducted a series of experiments this weekend.  All artichokes were split in half, prior to cooking.

1. Heat generous glugs of olive oil in cast iron pan, salt and pepper your chokes and cook.
2. Boil in water.
3. Boil in water then salt and pepper 'em and fry in olive oil.

Of the methods I tried, #1 turned out to be a bit of a disaster (N recommended this method to me and now he says my oil must have been too hot or I did not remove a sufficient number of outer leaves, or likely both - actually this is all true).  #2 was nice and tender and is the way I've traditionally eaten artichokes, but compared to #3 it was quite bland.  #3 will be my go to method of eating baby artichokes from now on.  Perfectly tender and very fragrant.  I bought both green and purple artichokes, but I think in the future I will stick with the greens, because their artichoky flavor seemed to hold up better after frying.  The purple ones are so pretty though.  However, I did learn that one gains nothing by keeping too many leaves on.  The outer two or three rows of leaves are basically inedible.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Portland Farmer's Market at PSU

This was my first trip back to the farmer's market since my return from the mouse course (almost three weeks ago) and my first thought when I was within sight of all the tasty produce was, why did it take me so long to come back?!?  

I had a late start this morning because I might have been a little bit hungover and slow.  My intention was to walk down and meet my friends, B+S but about 15 minutes after I woke up, I got a text from B saying that they were driving and could pick me up.  I got ready in literally 5 seconds and ran downstairs and leaped into their car.  It was such fun to walk around the stalls again and I had some potato latkes for lunch and a little cappuccino cream cooky thing to follow.  A wonderful start to the weekend.

Asparagus: $3
Big artichoke: $3
Little artichokes: $2
Green beans: $2.75
Little cabbages: $1.15
Venison pate: $5
Blackberries: $3

Total: $19.90

Now I will mix up a loaf of bread so I can have a proper accompaniment to my pate.  And continue to gobble blackberries.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Fun and Busy Summer

I have been too busy to post the last couple of months or so and I don't see it changing until the Fall.  First, I was at Cold Spring Harbor for most of June taking a mouse embryology course.  I worked very hard, I learned a lot and I also had lots and lots of fun in between.  Things haven't changed since coming home; I am still working a lot and having lots and lots of fun in between.  Not much downtime and certainly no time at all to pursue my usual hobbies.  It's a shame because I'd love to crank out some more scrapbook pages.  Summer in Portland is just so beautiful though, and everyone is in such a state of glee that it's hard to justify spending extra time sitting in front of the computer.  So instead, I've been making new friends and probably eating and drinking too much.  xoxo.