Thursday, December 30, 2010

Camels and gorillas and bears, oh my!

Aunt Betty and Unke Roy!

Aunt Betty and Unke Roy are the cutest couple in the world. They've been married for almost 60 years, and still perform magic shows for the children's hospital, sing in choirs, and hold annual memberships at SeaWorld and the San Diego Zoo. They are the best zoo guides ever.

Aunt Jody, Cousin Nik, Dad, Mom, David, Amy, Jenny, and I met them in Balboa Park at the zoo. Not as mobile as they used to be, but always enthusiastic, Betty and Roy sent us off on the Skyfari air tram across the zoo while they shuttled to meet us at the elephants.

On the way, we stopped at the polar bears, and enjoyed the most amazing display of bear-happiness we've seen in our long relationship with zoos. A young female bear rolled and somersaulted through the water, biting and submerging a foam toy, while her twin brother watched from the shore of the habitat. She swam over every so often to reach up and snap playfully at his face. He snapped back, and then she returned to her toy, alone.

Polar Bear and her foam toy

She loves that toy.

She dug around in the cave...

At one point, she dug into an underwater crevice in the rock and pulled out a traffic cone! She stuck her face into it and paddled around, like a Conehead. It didn't impress her brother.

See the cone sticking out of the water?
...and pulled out a cone!

Finally, she crawled up on the rock behind him and chased him into the water! Woohoo! They wrassled and fought like our golden retrievers used to.

They played

They fought.

After (I kid not) at least twenty minutes of great bear time, they both exited the pond, exhausted and ready for a nap.

We moved on to the Elephant Odyssey with Aunt Betty and Unke Roy. The elephants have a huge new enclosure! It's beautiful! There's also a new area to watch trainers as they clean and care for the big beasts individually in ginormous holding cells. We saw a dear elephant get her feet cracks rinsed with a hose, and another immerse each front foot into--oh yes--Epsom salt baths for her pedicure.

Epsom salt bath for footsies.

Jody, Nik, my family, and I caught a few more animals on our own. Highlights include the Peccary (insert classic family story of Cary Grunt and Gregory Peccary from 40 years ago), the camels (I last saw them in a butcher stand in the Fez Medina), and the capybaras (huge guinea pigs!!).


We said goodbye to Betty and Roy at the orangutans, where we heard the story of Janie. This ape loves to fix her hair with the help of mirrors held up by guests. Sadly, Janie didn't feel like primping during our visit.

These are not Janie.

Later, we saw the gorillas. Dad adores gorillas. My whole life, Dad has imitated silverback gorillas by walking on his hands and knees in a rather stately manner. We only saw one gorilla this time, but he was quite dignified indeed.

This is not my father.

Nearing the limits of our desire and will to visit animals and walk all over in cool weather, Mom bought churros for us. Thanks, Mom!

Daddy and his sister, Aunt Jody:
Dad and Aunt Jody!

Nik, my awesome cousin, and our awesome snack:
Cousin Nik and churro!

We bid the zoo a fond farewell and drove to Betty and Roy's house for a short visit and to give annual hugs to Dad's cousin Mike and wife Joan. This house is one of my top four nostalgic favorites of all time. Covered in Christmas, Disney, and Zoo paraphernalia collected and saved over their life together, it never gets boring. After a lovely chat and tasty goodies, we hugged them goodbye until the summer. <3

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Merry Belated Christmas!

I just got a blogger app for my Droid (in fact, Blogger-droid app). I'm trying it out from a cozy van full of eight beautiful people on the way to the San Diego Zoo! My immediate family, my aunt Jody, and my cousin Nik are meeting my great-uncle Roy and great-aunt Betty. We can't wait to see how it's changed since last least seven years ago?
Published with Blogger-droid v1.6.5

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Backen auf Deutsch, Part VI: #58 Ingwer-Cupcakes

One of the best (and worst) things about December is all of the delicious baked goodies, which are everywhere. EVERYWHERE. I contributed a lot to their ubiquitous-ness this season.

My sweet friend, Erica, whom I met at the 2008 Lindau Meeting in Germany, drove up from Philly one Saturday to eat lunch downtown, knit socks, and bake desserts. We made a batch of my mom's Candy Cane cookies and also chose a spicy ginger cupcake recipe out of 1 Teig, 100 Kuchen.

Which, by the way, is apparently also in English.

So here is our batch of Ingwer-Cupcakes!

#58 Ingwer-Cupcakes

New Backen auf Deutsch project!

The batter was pretty simple and included a ton of cinnamon and ginger.

Yay Erica!
Erica is my trusty baking pal!

While the cupcakes baked, we got the candy cane cookies ready:
Candy Cane Cookie Dough!


Candy Cane Cookies!!

The best part by far was the candied ginger. I am now obsessed with candied ginger. I will take gifts of buckets of candied ginger. Candied ginger.

I <3 Candied Ginger

Finally, we gave them two thumbs up! :D

Two Thumbs Up!

The cupcakes themselves weren't too sweet, which was complimented perfectly by the very sugary, lightly orange-flavored buttercream frosting.

Changes made:
Next time would:
~add nutmeg and candied ginger to the batter.
Perfect for:
~candied ginger lovers.

And because he hasn't been on the blog enough lately, here is Faraday in his box:
Faraday loves his box.

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Seattle Marathon, November 28, 2010

While the joy of spending Thanksgiving with my family for the first time in four years was a good enough reason to fly across the country, the fact that the Seattle Marathon was that Sunday didn't hurt in the decision-making process! After running my first marathon, the Disney World Marathon, in January, and a few smaller races here and there, I was ready for another 26.2 miler. I trained and trained. I traveled to Rhode Island and Chicago and even Germany and kept training.

My lofty marathon goal is to run it in under 4:30:00. My "this race or at least the next race" goal is to finish in 4:45:00. Knowing that the last several miles of the Seattle race were uphill AND I was recovering from a chest goal was to be under 5:00:00, or at least beat my Disney time of 5:13:50.

The Saturday before, my parents, brother (David), and I drove to Seattle over the Tacoma Narrows Bridge:
Driving across the Narrows!

We checked in at our hotel on 5th Ave, and walked a short couple of blocks to the race expo. I shouldn't compare anything to Disney...but the organization and layout was nowhere near as efficient. True to our family's tradition, though, we had hours to kill, so we just patiently waded through the lines and chaotic crowds. I got my race number, safety pins, timing chip, race shirt, and swag bag. We tried many sports drinks and bars. I finally bought a Tiger Tale.

Mah bag o' swag:
At the expo, gettin' my bag of swag.

David, Mom, Dad, and I took the monorail from Westlake Center to the Seattle Center, where we saw the Seattle Shakespeare Company's performance of Hamlet. It was quite good. I was struck, as I always am, by how many cliches Shakespeare invented.

We met Bethany (a friend instrumental in my running obsession) for dinner at the Spaghetti Factory. She was running the half marathon, so we both needed some good ol' pasta. Soon after carbo-loading, we returned to the hotel and called it an early night.

Early on the morning of November 28th (my parents' 29th wedding anniversary, by the way), I quietly shut myself in the hotel bathroom and starting eating my peanut butter bagel and drinking water. I got dressed in my Disney marathon shirts (long-sleeved over short-sleeved), laced up my shoes, and velcro-ed on the annoying timing chip:
Awful chip system
(It's a large enough to race to use the D-Tag system, for goodness' sake, instead of this bulky monstrosity which caused a cut on my ankle that is still healing!)

Once I fueled and clothed, I woke my parents up to say goodbye...
Ready to go!

...and enjoyed a very brisk, 32 degree F, one-mile walk to the starting line at the Seattle Center. It was calming and focusing.

I arrived just in time to catch Bethany as she started her half marathon in a flash of pink!
Bethany (in pink) starts the half!

After the 17,000ish half marathoners were off, the 2500ish full marathoners accumulated at the starting line.
The start!

I found the pace group for my goal time of 4:45:00, and decided to follow them for a while. While waiting, I chatted with an older guy who was running his 37th marathon of the year. He was from Florida, and complained about how "cold" Washington was that day. I informed him that it was EIGHTEEN DEGREES when I ran my race in Florida, so this was downright BALMY. He didn't have much to say to that.

Soon, we were off! From Seattle Center, we ran down 5th Avenue by the shops and hotels, including our hotel! My dear family screamed encouragement at mile 1:
Running past the fam around mile 1!

We ran past Safeco and Qwest Fields and on down I-90. I pulled ahead of the pace group on the steep downhills, but made sure to run conservatively. Within a few miles, I warmed up enough to tie my long-sleeved shirt around my waist.

We ran about two miles across the I-90 bridge, over Lake Washington, to Mercer Island. Then, we immediately turned around and ran back across the bridge. Hmm. Out-and-backs can be really boring, but there were a few interesting characters who passed by me. Like Superman. But my favorite? Kiltman. If you know a tall, good-looking man who ran the Seattle Marathon in a kilt, do let me know.

At the turn-around, I turned on my music. There are different philosophies about running with music...I say, if I'm going to be running by myself for five hours, I can bring Muse, Basshunter, Scooter, April Smith, and the cast of Glee.

Rockin' the I-90 Bridge

Once off the bridge, we took a left and ran along the lake to Seward Park.

Don't I look EXACTLY like a T-Rex?
Hello, I am a T-Rex.

I saw KILTMAN again as he left the park! GO KILTMAN!

Somewhere in the park, the pace group caught up with me and I followed it again. I passed the half-way mark at 2:24:35!

SADLY, during mile 16, I had to use the port-o-potty. Thankfully, this race had them a'plenty, and the one I used was miraculously still clean and well-stocked with hand sanitizer. (In this respect, Seattle beat Disney!) I timed myself: I lost just over two minutes.

I totally lost the pace group, of course, with my pit stop. Somewhere after this, I started run-walk intervals--five to ten minutes of running, thirty to sixty seconds of walking. By now, the group of racers in my vicinity had settled into the people who'd finish with me. We spent the last six or seven miles alternating passing and being passed by each other. Once my walking breaks synced with a woman who was racing her THIRD MARATHON in THREE DAYS. She has my deep respect.

Around mile 20, the injustice started. At mile 20, people are really tired and things start to hurt. Various parts of them. In the Seattle Marathon, the hills start. The uphills. The steep, awful uphills. After beginning to power up them, I decided to save my strength and walk. I hate hills. A couple hills were too long to walk the ENTIRE thing, so I ran-walked. Long long long. The worst hill had a water station just at the top: the volunteers congratulated us for surviving. THANK YOU. THANK. YOU.

At some point, we left pretty Seattle neighborhood for pretty Seattle woods and trails overlooking Lake Washington and, on the other side, the University District and Husky Stadium! GO DAWGS!

I gave up on 4:45:00 pretty much in the restroom, but for sure on the hills. I still believed I could finish in under 5:00:00, though.

FINALLY the hills seemed to be over and we had less than two miles left. Mile 25 was actually a lot of downhill, which was BEAUTIFUL. That close to the finish, I sped up. I FLEW down those hills.

Oh no! Another uphill! No matter, I JUST PASSED SUPERMAN! I AM BEATING SUPERMAN!

What?? One more uphill! How rude!

But then, I entered the finish chute, where my mother and sisters spied me!
I feel the end near!

I kept going!
Strollin' to the finish



I was SO CLOSE to my goal of being under 5:00:00: my official chip time was ***5:01:48***.

(The 5:48:14 in the picture is counting half marathon time; the 5:03 is full marathon clock time.)

I was relieved to survive the hills and at least get a new, shiny personal record (PR): I beat my Disney time by 12:02. :D

A marine gave me my medal:

And, after finding water, bananas, chicken broth, and hot chocolate, I gave cold sweaty hugs to my family! I could barely talk to them, however. That chest cold? Turned into a sore throat and destroyed my voice. Something about running for five hours in the cold...

They are the cutest support team I've ever had! :D
My awesome family-support-crew!

On the way home, we got Arby's (cheddar and beef sandwich, curly fries, and chocolate milkshake) and Starbucks (caramel brulee latte). I had calories to replace!

So, my goal of finishing in under five hours eludes me for the present. But don't worry--I plan to run the Marine Corps Marathon in DC this October. And up next? The NYC Half Marathon in Manhattan on March 20. :D


Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Backen auf Deutsch, Part V: #4 Schokoladencremekuchen

For the first time in four years, I celebrated Thanksgiving with my family in Washington State. Our traditional Thanksgiving meal is held at my grandparents' house, with their Westie, my two aunts, my three siblings, and my parents (and this year, my sister's boyfriend). We ate delicious food, had the usual quirky conversation, and played games inspired by Minute to Win It. It was beautiful. ;)

Off-topic, but aren't my home-pets adorable?

Scout and Maddie are buddies. Notice the branches down outside from the wind storms.
Scout and Maddie

Amy (sister, not pet) and Ashley are also buddies.
Amy and Ashley

It's well-documented that I have a sweet tooth. It was clearly inherited from my parents and also passed down to my sisters and brother. Therefore, it was only fitting that I bring my 1 Teig, 100 Kuchen book and bake for the fam!

We particularly like chocolate, so Mom and Dad chose one with plenty, and we baked it on Friday.

#4 Schokoladencremekuchen


The recipe was very straight-forward. There were no strange ingredients time! It did call for baking the batter in one circular pan and then slicing it in half to frost the middle, which was weird. Also, my mom's cake pans have disappeared, so we used pie pans, which was weird.

What is not weird, but AWESOME, is my mom's KitchenAid:


Someday, I will own one of those beautiful mixers!!

I matched her red kitchen:

The thing about baking in pie pans, even red ones:
IMG_20101126_151525.jpg that cakes aren't easily removed from them:

At least this cake, by this girl. Oops.

No matter! After cooling, they were semi-easily mooshed together with the frosting, once we added about 1/4 cup more milk than directed. Add the chocolate shavings, and is it even noticeable?? (Yes.)

#2 Schokoladencremekuchen

A close-up, with that night's chosen entertainment:


(¡El Vaquero! I. Love. You. Hello there, Well-Groomed-Man.)

The cake was quite rich and yummy! It was a bit dry, making me wonder if German tablespoons are bigger than American tablespoons, because this happened to a couple of the other cakes. Next time, I would add more liquid. The frosting was quite creamy, though, and made up for it. :)

Changes made:
~Added about a 1/4 cup of milk to the frosting
Next time would:
~Add more milk to the batter
Perfect for:

Sunday, December 5, 2010

'Tis the Season! Or, This is Why I Train for Marathons.

Last week, I made Pumpkin Whoopie Pies.

This week and next weekend, I am making:

1. Peanut Butter Brownies.

2. Candy Cane Cookies, except that I'm using Mom's slightly different recipe, which is:

Mom's Candy Cane Cookies
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 tsp peppermint extract
1 tsp vanilla
2 3/4 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp red food color

Mix all together. Divide dough in half, make one half red. Divide each
half into 4 parts. Cover, chill a lot.
Take out 1 red and 1 white part at a time, roll into ropes, fashion into
canes. Do it again and again! Makes 3 dozen, but don't believe it. Cook
at 375 for 9 minutes.

3. Chocolate chip cookies, ginger cupcakes, or mint chocolate cupcakes (the latter two from my German cake book).

4. Cakes for my department's December birthdays party. The gang is used to grocery store cakes with super sweet gobs of frosting...hopefully my German cake will go over well! :)

What are YOU baking this month??

Faraday wants to know.


Friday, December 3, 2010

A Trip to the Windy City

Chicago, November 7-12, 2010

Our annual conference was in Chicago this year, much to my delight. Previously, my relationship with this great city consisted of a layover in O'Hare (who hasn't done that? Anybody?), a terrifying 4am drive through it on the way to Duluth (in The Great 24 Hour Drive to Audrey's Wedding), and a much more relaxed early afternoon drive-by on the way back.

Mostly, I present my trip to you in picture and list form.

1. The Monday morning kick-off talk was in 3D. The group actually hired the Real3D Hollywood people to turn several slides into 3D images. We agreed that the pictures were basically eye-candy and didn't necessarily add to our scientific understanding, but they certainly added to everyone's nerd style:

Plenary talk was in 3D.

2. We stayed a mere two blocks north of the river. Our hotel was comfortable, surrounded by great restaurants and bars, and just half a mile from the conference hotel. As the weather was gorgeous, walking was only inconvenient on the day I wore my awesome heels. (This day, I took a cab.) We were in the perfect location for the two runs I needed that week, as Chicago has a fantastic paved trail along the river, which joins an equally nice paved trail along the lake! The first run may have been slowed by my incessant need to take pictures like a tourist:

They watched me run.

This guy either hungered for my soul or a shubbery...
He tried to eat my soul. Or wanted a shrubbery.


I refrained from photography on my second run, and amazingly ran faster and farther.

3. I spent two summers interning at Princeton in undergrad. Through the program, I met dear friends with whom I reunite once a year at this conference! We partied two nights together, and ended both at a dueling piano bar:

Howl at the Moon!

Here's the gang from 2005!

The 2005 NUF Gang!

Dueling piano bars are my new fav.

4. One night, a gang of mostly Princetonians explored the wonders of the El(evated train) and attended a Second City Improv show. It was hilarious. It was there that I tried a Pumpkinccino-Tino. Not. Bad.

Pumpkinccino-Tino at Second City Improv

5. One morning, there was nothing relevant happening at the conference, so I explored alone. I love wandering by myself and taking pictures! With Pumpkin Spice Lattes, natch. I headed out to Navy Pier, where I saw what is probably a hopping set of carnival activities at times other than 10am on a Tuesday, lovely views of the skyline, and a peaceful Lake Michigan.

On the way to the pier, I passed a building with rocks and bricks from all over the world embedded in its walls, including one from Mt. Rainier!
Rock from Mt. Rainier!

Hello from Navy Pier!

I then trooped on down to Millennium Park.

Like Central Park, it seems to be a restful spot to get a bit of nature in a busy city environment. I found the amphitheater to be innovative...

...the walk up to the Art Institute to be interesting...


...and the Bean (er...Cloud Gate) to be AWESOME. I spent much time and took many pictures here.


This one reminds me of a stellarator:


There's a city on my heeead:

6. Chicago has many museums, all of which seem to be FREE for at least part of one day a week! I didn't have time to hit up the Field Museum or the Museum of Science and Industry on their free days, but after Millennium Park, I did visit the Museum of Contemporary Art!


My favorite exhibit was Lost and Found--sculptures made with everyday objects.

This reminds me of my dear Timelord:

This was a great backdrop:

And this was my favorite. Spotlights shone on the back and front and slowly turned on and off, creating two very different looks:

7. One of my college roommates, Catherine, is in her first year of medical school in the Chicago area. We attended the Art Institute's free evening and were overwhelmed by the size of the exhibits and crowds. After getting our fill, we found a random restaurant for dinner and then had drinks on the 96th floor of the Hancock Tower!

Catherine and I met for a drink at the Hancock Tower

8. Finally, the Magnificent Mile was INCREDIBLE. Sooo many fabulous shops were in one place, and within walking distance of my hotel room.(As opposed to a quick drive to a mall or long train ride and venture into NYC.) Most importantly, they had a huge Eddie Bauer. Had I the choice, I would dress completely in Eddie Bauer clothing. Blame my Pacific Northwest roots. Blame them. I found new jeans and three new tops. One top got at least four compliments in one day. I think it's a keeper.


Chicago is a terrific city. There were so many museums, tours, shows, and restaurants that I heard of and didn't have the time or money to visit. I guess I'll just have to go back! :)