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.

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!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Thursday Morning Bustle

It's always easier for me to wake up early in the summer than the winter, which makes sense.  This morning I slipped out of bed at 6:30 so I could attend my 7:15 bar method class.  It was actually quite nice to get it out of the way a bit earlier than usual, I feel like I have all the time in the world this morning.  This afternoon, I'm off to the coast and won't be back again until Friday evening. I hope it doesn't rain, but even if it does it will be pleasant since I will have good company, a good book and a change of scene.  

The picture above was really from about two weeks ago, when I made my last Farmer's Market run.  I've never seen basil so fresh.  Usually by the time I get them from the grocery store they are sort of limp and lifeless.  These guys were so dark green and perky, I just plopped them into a glass of water and they remained gorgeous all week.  Whenever I needed some I would just lift a few branches from the glass.  The bonus of course was how lovely they looked and smelled on my counter.  The least rustle of leaves would generate wafts of fresh basil fragrance.  Can't wait to replenish my supply this Saturday!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Chamomile Flowers and Zen

Chamomile flowers are pretty funny. In the morning when it's cold, the white petals lie straight down against  the stem and then as the day goes on and the sun comes out, the petals lift out like the ones you see here.  These particular flowers aren't ready to pick yet, because the yellow buttons still have a lot of green in them.  Once they are completely yellow, they will be ready to dry for tea.  

I'm finally nearing the end of this application process and feeling pretty good about things.  As my advisor says, my proposal has been "well-cooked."  I'm going to take that to mean it's nearly done, and hopefully well done.  At least I feel that I put my best effort into it and even if it doesn't get funded (although of course I deeply hope it will be), the entire process has been interesting and useful for me.  While the real deadline is on Monday, my institution has a deadline of this Thursday (8am to be precise); at first I was covered with dismay but now I'm really glad it'll be over with sooner.  And the timing actually works out for the best because my friend invited me to the coast Thursday-Friday so it is all quite perfect.  I can't completely relax because I have to write an abstract that's actually due Monday, but that sort of thing is much lower pressure.  And I actually relax better if I have a bit of work to do, if that makes sense.  There will still be plenty of sunning and reading for fun of course.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Dinner Party

If blogging was my job, I'd probably be fired because those three pictures you see above are the only pictures I took of my dinner party Saturday night. And you don't even have to look too closely to tell that the middle photo is quite blurry. However, it doesn't matter because I had a great time. This was the first time I entertained non-family members in my apartment and I'm happy to say it was a success. While the timing of the party was a bit bad, because my fellowship application is due in three days (why am I blogging???), I didn't regret taking a break from writing at all. I spent much of the day cooking and cleaning, aside from a small trip to lab. Because my guests included 4 active and hungry people, I decided to err on the side of  meat and potato rather than  veggies. 

White rice
Salad, brought by SO
Tofu dipped in wing sauce, brought by SO
Mango and Pistachio ice creams
Cherries, brought by SO

*This was the first time I made the potatoes and I think I made several mistakes. While the flavor was good, it turned out a little more mashed than it was supposed to be. Next time I will use Yukon gold or white potatoes instead of russets, and not cut the pieces quite so small. Definitely a dish worth repeating though.

I love my current kitchen because it's quite easy to socialize with guests while still cooking and getting things ready. It makes for a more relaxing experience for me I think. After dinner we had ice cream and cherries, served in actual bowls and not in sake cups as depicted in the picture. We then played ridiculous 80s music videos for the rest of the night and had a fun drunk time.