Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Muffin is displeased.

Faraday was quite the Grumpy McGrumpypants at the cat clinic today. Mr. Man hissed, growled, scratched, and bit...but was declared handsome and perfectly healthy.

He's home sleeping it off.

I know it's stressful, Kitty! Hope you're pleasant tonight!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

A Chronicle of Culinary Contemplation

After last year's bountiful harvest, Kelsey and I rejoined our local CSA this summer. The first weeks were a bit lean (perhaps all of our late rain?), but it certainly picked up.

Following is a litany of my summer labors:

Beautiful eggplants!!

With multitudes of gorgeous eggplants and countless garlic bulbs, we made buckets of baba ghanoush. I don't have tahini, but I keep sesame oil and toasted sesame seeds on hand. With a bit of fiddling, it works well.

We received bunches of basil, cilantro, chard, and arugula. I discovered that all of those greens can be turned into delicious pesto! Whatever I couldn't finish in a week was processed with oil, salt, nuts, and sometimes Parmesan or pecorino cheese. I froze a ton of it for the dark winter times.

In contrast to light summer times:
Pretty Lake Carnegie

Also stuffed in my freezer is several bags of homemade tomato sauce. Some weeks, Kelsey and I each got 10lbs of tomatoes. Oh yes. I've found that tomatoes can be incorporated into almost everything I eat and STILL I cannot finish that much in a week! This recipe is tasty AND used up farm basil, onions, and garlic!

Salsa uses up tomatoes, onions, garlic, and beautiful peppers.


Two weeks in a row, we got a few pounds of potatoes. I experimented with making gnocchi. My gnocchi is unbelievably ugly, but pretty good! Especially with homemade tomato sauce or pesto!

Faraday approves:
Radiant Cat

Now, one method I use to eat my veggies before they spoil is blending them into smoothies. Kale is particularly delicious, but lettuce, chard, collards, baked squash, and even roasted beets will do. Oh yes.

Beet smoothie!

With enough milk, bananas, frozen berries, and maybe some chocolate sauce, you'd never know the difference.

Two weeks ago, I had THREE watermelons in my fridge! Besides snacking on it and adding it to my breakfast smoothie, I've made it a bit more adult. I added farm mint and not-farm vodka.

CSA watermelon and CSA mint. Just add vodka.
Mint Watermelon Vodka

Mmmmm. Kelsey and I drank those two lovelies while she helped me clean out my closet. It was much more relaxing than the time we introduced Faraday to Atticus:
Farad and Atticus meet.
My poor boy doesn't play nicely with others.

I knew the seasons were changing when one week we received summer squash and watermelon, and the next we got winter squash and pumpkin! Fall food and clothes are the BEST, and I'm so happy it's here. :)

Fall farm bounty

Faraday is perplexed by my attempts to photograph vegetables in a dark apartment after sunset with a phone camera (because real camera was left in California, driven up to Washington state, and may be mailed to New Jersey tomorrow). Faraday better remember who feeds him.


On a note unrelated to CSAs, marathon sessions of Cupcake Wars inspired me to buy a huge frosting piping tip:
Schoko-Kirsch-Cupcakes mit Buttercreme

The boys at lab obliged and ate my creations.


On a second, completely-unrelated-to-food note, I knitted a Dalek this summer. The pattern is called EXTERMIKNIT! and was SUPER fun, though I winged the eye stalk and indicator lights.


He exterminated three of my tiny wooden DPNs. Broke'm clean in half. I put them to good use: their bits support his plunger arm, gun, and eye stalk.

He brings me such nerdy joy.


Monday, September 19, 2011

There is a season--turn, turn, turn...

It's been another summer of change.

A time to plant, a time to reap

As the first years in my program arrived in July, my cohort and I officially became sixth year graduate students. Like other G6s before us, we hit the wall of urgency to leave, discontent with our thesis research, and "OH MY GOODNESS WE ARE GETTING SO OLD...HOW YOUNG ARE FRESHMEN THESE DAYS??"

It was not this glamorous:

My core group of friends, solidly marching through this weird, wonderful, awful, awesome world of academia, has started graduating and leaving the state for real jobs. There was Audrey, who introduced me to running and even organized a race with Luc and me! (Her husband, Colin, graduated this spring, too.) Ben just graduated, taking my dear friend Rachel with him. We all enjoyed cultural outings together, like the Nutcracker. Rachel was one of my favorite baking buddies. Rachel, Ben, and I drove out to Minnesota for Audrey and Colin's wedding IN 24 HOURS STRAIGHT. (We took two days to come home.) At least Audrey, Rachel, and I gchat constantly...our reality TV show gossip and major life ponderings can continue uninterrupted!

Josh and Meg graduated this year, and Luc will graduate (hopefully!) in a month. Together, we had our book club, FTC, we learned how to run, we ran a crazy mud race, and we also celebrated out-of-state marriage.

We all really did a lot.

Dr. Josh!

Dr. Meg!

While I'm so happy for them (and other friends who got out this year, too!), I am quite sad to be left behind. I'm grateful for the great times we had at Princeton and how we helped each other through the terrible times. I look forward to visiting Chicago and the Bay Area. Yay couchsurfing! You've been warned!!

In case you're wondering, I intend to leave next year. The Old Students frequently said that there comes a time in everyone's graduate career at which you realize that you've had enough, you'd like a real salary, and you wouldn't mind more than one room (those of us in studios, at least). My own research is picking up, and I'm confident, Lord willing, that I can finish in early-mid 2012.

Barring the world ending.

A time to build up, a time to break down

Remember how I was training for the Marine Corps Marathon?

Literally the week I officially started the training schedule, I developed a sharp pain in my right shin. I immediately stopped running and saw the doctor, who confirmed my fears that it was most likely a stress fracture. I had to quit for at least four weeks. In fact, I had to avoid running until I was entirely pain-free for a week!! A month later, there was no improvement, so I deferred my MCM registration to next year. It was heartbreaking, actually.

I've tried to keep fit by biking, swimming, and aqua jogging. I've actually progressed from pool running for only 30 minutes up to 1:30:00! It can be incredibly boring, but I've acquired the ability to appreciate it as a quiet, peaceful time to myself. As quiet as a full university pool can be.

The good news is that today, almost TEN WEEKS into my recovery, I walked outside. For two miles. On the towpath, in the sunny, crisp, just-becoming-Fall air. It was glorious. If I stay pain-free this week, I'll add a minute of light jogging to my walks next week.

Oh yes. We are back to almost square one.

I'm keeping my goals to myself. Rest assured, all of you, encouraging and nay-saying alike, I'm treading carefully.

On the bright side, I'm using this missed race as an opportunity to give back! All of my races have been so wonderfully supported by volunteers. I'm going to volunteer at the MCM in DC on October 30th. Anyone wanna join me?!

A time to dance, a time to mourn

I'm planning a dedicated post on this, but relevant pictures are on the camera that I left in San Diego. My mom is going to mail it to me eventually.

We were in San Diego to remember the life of my dear grandpa, known affectionately to his grandkids as Cooga. He passed away way back in November, but this is the first chance the entire family (and fabulous more distant cousins) had to reunite. Just two weeks before, my unofficial extra grandpa, my great-uncle Roy, passed away. The weekend was a beautiful time of remembrance, comfort, and love.


And a time to every purpose, under Heaven.

In closing:

Monday, September 5, 2011

That weekend Irene came to visit.

A couple of weeks ago, the east coast experienced two unusual natural disasters in a week. Unusual for New Jersey, at least. First, there was the tiny earthquake, which shook the lab buildings just long enough for us to check the internet for confirmation. Indeed, my Facebook feed was quick to inform, an earthquake was felt from NC to Toronto! While it didn't match the great quake of highschool, it was kind of exciting.

Second, of course, was Hurricane Irene. Weathermen predicted mass destruction. We received several warning emails from lab, Princeton, and even my massage therapist. At first I didn't believe it would hit badly, but the closer it got, the more urgent the preparedness messages became. So, I bought water bottles, batteries, candles, canned foods, cat litter, and cat food. The grocery store shelves were quite empty by Friday morning.

On Saturday, I woke up early to vacuum (while there was power). After watching my neighbors make five trips to the storage room with their patio furniture and BBQ grill, I battened down my veranda, too. The air was very heavy and warm. An on-edge feeling of anticipation encompassed the apartment complex. We watched it shut itself in and waited for the rains to come:
Babe watches the water.

We started to get bored, so we did a salsa workout video on Netflix. Okay, only I did that.

We watched a lot of Star Trek. We adore Spock.

In the evening, it started pouring. My patio became a small pond quickly. Thankfully, it never reached my door. When the winds started, I got ready for bed, using what I expected to be the last of my light wisely. I made a huge batch of smoothie for Saturday's breakfast. Sure thing: we lost power around 11pm. Even through my earplugs, the wind was incredibly loud. Faraday slept securely on my chest all night.

I woke up to sunshine, heavy wind, and no power. Naturally. My patio was dry, but I saw a truck attempt to drive down the road, shooting water up on either side. It got halfway before deciding to back up.

Praise Jesus for gas stoves and French press! I enjoyed my morning cup of coffee and smoothie while reading by the natural light of the glass doors on a pile of Moroccan poufs:
Praise the Lord for matches and a gas stove.
My natural-light-nook

A quick walk revealed that two out of the three exits from the complex were flooded:
Can't exit this way, either
Apparently, I can't drive that way.

This is the Ice and Flood Zone:
Ice and Flood Zone

My Droid kept me linked to Facebook, which again proved incredibly useful. The township's police kept their fans fantastically well-informed. I never thought I'd "like" them, but I felt much less alone knowing how my town was fairing. Irene certainly messed it up. At one point, my apartment complex was a black hole--people could drive into it on the one-way street, but couldn't get back out. Princeton itself was basically cutoff, between flooding and downed trees.

Meg and Luc live in downtown Princeton and made a hilarious movie of their epic weekend.

When I got bored, I visited Nadine and Raphael. I brought them disaster food, so brilliantly prepared by me during times of greater power:
At least I have food.

It got really dark. I went to bed early, after discovering that lab was closed on Monday. This was actually disappointing: my phone was dying and I was soooo tired of the dark. BUT! Finally, around 10:30pm, just as I was falling asleep, THE POWER RETURNED. Yeah!

Monday dawned bright and sunny and full of power. The internet informed me that traffic was awful on the roads that weren't still flooded. I decided to stay home, but after several more episodes of Star Trek (Spock started to look rather attractive...), I needed to take another walk. My neighbors all did, too--everyone was going stir-crazy!

The floods already receded:

I checked on the towpath, and was so sad to see its damage:
Not biking here anytime soon
Muddy Carnegie

The bridge is ruined. :(
The bridge is unpassable.

My friend captured this picture of the other end of the towpath:
Pic by Melissa of Harrison side of towpath

But you know, if the worst thing that happened to me personally was damage to my favorite recreation spot, I was blessed. Many people were hit worse.

My phone's camera accidentally turned this shot into an Impressionist painting:
There should be a towpath over there...

The lake water is so high:
Super high water

Okay, it hadn't all receded:
Still can't get out...

The most amazing picture I found of my area was from here:
Hurricane Irene

By Tuesday, I was so happy to get to lab. Three days with mainly the kitty for company was a bit much. As cute as he is!
Hiding in power outage