Monday, January 31, 2011

"OPEN YOUR MOOOOUTH!" or, World Traveler Visits New Jersey

My middle sister, Amy, age 21.88, is pretty cool. A few years ago, she lived in Japan, teaching English to Kindergartners. A couple months after that, she attended school in Sweden for a semester. Two years ago, she and I visited Morocco. Last year, she moved there for six whole months and Mom, Dad, and I visited her. (Oops. There's a blog thread I never finished. Heh.) After all of that exciting travel, guess which exotic location was next on her list???

NEW JERSEY!!!!!!!!!!!!!


She arrived late one Thursday, exhausted, but excited to see her favorite (ahem, only) older sister and of course, Faraday.

Welcome to NJ, Amy!!

I greeted her with a crayon-ed sign, because that's the best!

We slept in. I made her a latte and a green smoothie. I headed off to lab for a few hours and left her with Faraday, my laptop, and the espresso machine (the girl's a barista, when not touring the world; she'll need seconds).

While flapping away with FORTRAN, I received this adorable picture:
Amy and Faraday

That evening, ten friends, Amy, and I had dinner at the most amazing restaurant in the area: Banzai Hibachi Grill. We always order the hibachi dinner, which comes with salad bar, soup, fried rice, noodles, shrimp, and two or three of chicken, scallops, or steak, PLUS ice cream (red bean or green tea are the best). We also have to get warm sake, because that's amazing. So much food. SO much. It's all grilled right in front of you with massive amounts of garlic by super enthusiastic chefs who ridicule you the whole time! Awesome! They make flaming onion volcanoes, blow fire all around, squirt cooking alcohol into your mouth with condiment squirt bottles, and throw vegetables at you. (The last two actions are accompanied by "OPEN YOUR MOOOOUTH!!!", which became the catchphrase of our sister weekend.)

Here is our chef (and Meg):

One always leaves Banzai reeking of garlic and with enough leftovers for at LEAST one more filling meal. Love it.

Saturday morning, dearest Amy and I took the train up to NYC. Dear, eight-degrees-Fahrenheit NYC. Yes. It was cold. We stepped out of Penn Station and froze. We found the nearest Starbucks and warmed up.

We froze in Times Square:
We freeze in Times Square.

We found Magnolia Bakery in Rockefeller Center and warmed up:
Mocha cupcake at Magnolia Bakery in Rockefeller Center
Chocolate orange!
Chocolate orange.


We visited a few more stores and froze. We warmed up in the Olive Garden. (Soup, salad, and breadsticks for girls on a budget, baby. Plus lots of seating in the theater district. Plus clean, empty bathrooms.)

Finally, it was time to line up at the Minskoff Theater for the matinee showing of the LION KING!!!

It. Was. So. Cold. Have I mentioned? Can you truly understand how cold the single digits are? Probably a bunch of you can. Minnesotans and Wisconsinites. *shivers*

Me with Mufasa

We had terrific seats, right in the center and near the front of the mezzanine. We sat next to a darling three-year-old boy, who remained quietly enthralled the entire show. The Lion King was incredible. COMPLETELY incredible. Rafiki opened the show with her (yes, Rafiki is played by a woman) unbelievably strong voice and gave me goosebumps.


The animals slowly and majestically lumbered on stage from all directions; some were even up with us! The entire thing was so gorgeous and inspiring that I choked up for most of it. I know, I know. I felt a lot like this (thanks Piper!):

BUT I AM SERIOUS. YOU SHOULD GO SEE IT. IT WAS WORTH THE EXORBITANT AMOUNT OF MONEY IT COST. (But Ticketmaster Person, you are the lowest form of human being for charging me $2 to email the tickets to myself.)

Later that evening, Amy the Sweetheart bought me dinner! We had yummy Turkish food at Akdeniz. I've been there a few times (including with our brother David) and it is always delicious. (The servers aren't bad, either...)

Chilled to the bone, we decided to hoof it and catch an early train home. Good thing--we were exhausted.
Sleepy girls on the train home from NYC

Sunday, we went to church, where she got to meet some more of my friends. We enjoyed an afternoon in Princeton, wandering around and seeing The King's Speech (TERRIFIC).
AMy enjoys frigid Palmer Square

That night, we made pasta and watched Hamlet with David Tennant and Patrick Stewart:
Pesto pasta, grapes, and wine!
Faraday the Shakespeare Cat

Monday, I skipped lab. We were bums. She made bacon, I made smoothies and dirty chai. We watched Doctor Who with Faraday.
Smoothies, dirty Chai, bacon.
Bubbins watches TV with us

We may have had Cheez-its for lunch.

Then I drove her to the airport. :(
Amy Loves Heem

The beauty heads back to Morocco soon. I love you, Amy!

Saturday, January 29, 2011


My two new prize possessions. Oh the fun I'll have!!
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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Guinness Stew

Okay, I like snow when it begins with a showy lightening storm (THUNDERSNOOOOW) and ends with labs and universities closing because it's THIGH-HIGH. WOO!

Today would be the perfect day to make Guinness stew, but alas, I have no meat. Boo.

You should, though! The recipe I use is from my mom. :)

Guinness Stew
2 Tbsp paprika (be generous; the hotter the better)
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup flour
1 lb-ish stew meat
1 big onion

1 can or bottle of Guiness
28 oz can stewed tomatoes
some carrots
some yam
some potatoes
some whateveryouwant
some love

~~~Put paprika, salt, flour, and meat into a bag and shake it all up.
~~~Brown the stew meat in oil.
~~~Chop an onion, throw it in there next, and brown it.
~~~Dump the browned meat-onion mixture into a Dutch oven (Mom's favorite) or a crock pot (my favorite/all I got).
~~~Add Guinness, tomatoes, carrots, yams, potatoes, etc.
~~~Cook VERY SLOWLY for a long time. I.e. until everything is soft and delicious. I believe it was in my crock pot on low heat for 4-6 hours?

Eat with bread. Yum. I used goat cheese biscuits. Drink a Guinness. Sigh with contentment.

Here's the illustrated version:

Put spices in a bag:
The spices

Add some meat:
The meat

Shake it up!!

Add beer:
Add beer.

Add vegetables:
Add veggies!

Check on Faraday:
Adore cat.

Annoy Faraday with your love:
Annoy cat.

Take a walk in the snow:
Take a walk in the snow.

Check on crock pot:
Check on crockpot.

Enjoy with a beer and biscuit!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

How to Cope with a Northeastern Winter

Every winter, I say, "BRING ON THE SNOW!" I'm one of those annoyingly optimistic people who loves the cold and thinks snow is a beautiful blessing, not a annoying curse. I'm the type to claim that I even enjoy running in the snow.

Have a picnic

At least...I used to be.

Sometime between the Great Winter of 2010 and this here Great Winter of 2011, I fell out of love with it. I STILL like cold weather, as long as it's over 20 degrees F. I STILL like snow, as long as it's on a day I don't have to a) drive anywhere or b) run anywhere. I'm tired of digging out my car! I've had enough of high-stepping through snowdrifts at a 12:00 min/mile pace! (And don't even suggest the treadmill.)

My running trails look like this:
Realize that running trail is impassable.

But on days when lab closes early (*cough*today*cough*), and I arrive safely home after slipping all over the roads, I still appreciate the beauty of it. A mug of dirty chai, some Doctor Who, and delicious home-cooked meals and the cat and I are HAPPY!

TARDIS Cookie Jar

What have I been cooking lately? Some WONDERFUL recipes.

First, please try EatLiveRun's Black Eyed Pea Stew with yummy sausage. I used kale instead of collards, because I heart kale. I also didn't have vegetable broth or soup, or chicken bouillon cubes, so I added water and extra spices. It was excellent when served with tortilla chips!

Second, eat these brown sugar meringues, because they are perfect. We made them using my new mixer:

New Mixer!

Kelsey and I ate an entire batch one evening while watching many episodes of Psych. Amy and I ate an entire batch over two days, while watching Doctor Who and Hamlet (the David Tennant and Patrick Stewart version). Yes. We did.

Third, do combat the meringues with a healthy kale salad, because we heart kale and have some leftover from the soup.


Fourth, you should have a second dessert. Or two. Make some fabulous chocolate chip cookies:
Amazing chocolate chip cookies

And for no good reason other than you have yolks leftover from making meringues, whip up some Citrus Curd. I don't like tangerines, so I substituted lime juice.

Lemon sugarrrr:
Lemon sugar!

Absurdly delicious:
Delicious dessert!

Finally, go high-step through a snow bank for three miles.

Or at least take a walk!
Admire canal

Realize walking is hard.

I also recently made Guinness Stew, but as it's a recipe I got from my mother and I took detailed-ish pictures (more than usual), I'll devote the very next blog post to it. :)

I'll then get back to my sister's visit!


My day in the northeast...versus the pets' day in the northwest. Sigh.
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Saturday, January 22, 2011

Friday, January 21, 2011

Sister Time

Look who I found at Newark!

Faraday is uncertain, but intrigued. They will soon be buddies, I'm sure.

We have until Monday to find out!
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Sunday, January 16, 2011

Bellingham with the BFF

In December 2010 (so long ago), I spent a couple of days up in Bellingham, WA, with my best friend forever, Bethany JO. Beth and I go way back. We met at a slumber party around when we were ten. We instantly bonded over the devastation that our young foodie selves felt when we were only allowed one slice of pizza for dinner and NO DESSERT. At a SLUMBER PARTY. THE HORROR.

We reconnected a year or two later, when we cleaned house and watched the children of a woman in our church pregnant with triplets. Then, we were in homeschool band together. Now, still BFFs.

She collected me from SeaTac and we started the two hour drive north to Bellingham. First things first: Cedars called. This is without a doubt the best Indian food I've ever had. Their coconut or mango curry with lamb and their bottomless chai were staples in college at UW. I'm positive they've been on the blog before.

Fueled by countless mugs of chai, we chatted long into the night. The next morning, she went off to work like a good girl, while I slept in and woke up to:

NELLIE, Bethany's dear cat. She is a friendly lap cat who makes weird chirping noises at birds.

After a slow, relaxing morning, I walked through cute downtown Bellingham to Starbucks, where I entertained myself for a couple of hours until Bethany was off work:
Enjoying Starbs and a good book

I thoroughly enjoy meetings friends of friends whom I've heard about for years. I was a wee bit overwhelmed, however, by the evening's activity: a 30-person lingerie shower. Oh yes. They were super fun girls who welcomed me, fed me delicious taco salad (with ranch dressing. Who knew. I am in love.), and bought the blushing bride many, many embarrassing gifts. Ahem. Sarah, you'll look terrific. Nice to meet you.

Our final day was an adventure back down to Seattle. A mission we set for ourselves: find affordable and beautiful sock yarn and sock-appropriate double-pointed needles (DPNs) for Bethany's very first socks.

Beth drove me down picturesque Chuckanut Drive, singing:
My singing driver
Chuckanut drive
The Sound
Drivin' down from Bellingham

We stopped at Michael's along the way. Michael's had sock yarn, but not the right DPNs. We moved on.

We saw some snow north of Seattle:

But then it was gone.

Another culinary tradition of ours is Trophy Cupcakes. They have ALSO been on the blog before.

Beth got her staple, Chocolate with Vanilla:
Chocolate with Vanilla at Trophy!

While I chose a new one, Chocolate with Cream Cheese:
So excited for my chocolate cream cheese cupcake at Trophy

Trophy, in my opinion, is the best I've ever had. They even beat Magnolia Bakery, my favorite in Manhattan. A key difference: Trophy has the perfect amount of frosting. Magnolia has too much. I'm never able to do this to a Magnolia cupcake:

(Never fear, Magnolia, Amy-sister and I will visit you next weekend. We still love you.)

The Wallingford Center (home to Trophy) has a beautiful little yarn shop. They had wonderful DPNs and gorgeous yarn. Sadly, it was for at least twice the amount I spend on supplies myself. Bethany tore herself away and we kept looking.

We continued our tour of Seattle eating establishments with lunch at Red Mill Burgers on Phinney Ridge. Red Mill Burgers, as they claim, is one of the Top 20 Burgers You Must Eat Before You Die, according to GQ and Oprah. Our burgers were, in fact, delicious.
Red Mill Burgers!
Red Mill Burgers is in Oprah's top 25 burger joints.
Delicious fries

Next up: Starbucks. Next door. Heh. We had to charge my Droid, a.k.a. our guide. While sitting, I knitted. Thinking that such a cute area must have a yarn shop, we checked my phone: YES! Just three streets down! We zipped over there and found that the prices were no better than Wallingford. Oh well. She gave up, and I sent her off to the awesome Knit Picks, my source for all needles and affordable yarn. :)

Finally, we had to part ways at the ferry terminal. Much love to you, Bethany dear!