Friday, December 19, 2008

More snowy bliss in Duluth.

Scott and I met with the pastor who will be presiding over our wedding next fall, and since the church is so close to the Lakewalk, we went down and took a walk afterwards. Short, because there was a strong wind coming off the lake, and it was cold. Here's a video of the waves crashing up on the breakwater.

It's been snowing all day - big, fluffy "Christmas card" flakes. Scott and I helped Mom clean off the driveway, so we don't feel too guilty about sitting inside and drinking tea during the rest of the day.

More photos here!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Life is good

1. I took the GRE this morning! Given that I only studied for three and a half days, I'm pretty happy with my scores. And I'm pretty happy to have it over with.

2. Scott is en route to Minnesota as I type! He'll get to Duluth around midnight... just 9 more hours to go.

3. My mom took me to go see the Minnesota Ballet's production of The Nutcracker! We were supposed to go on Sunday, but bad weather postponed it to Monday night. I danced in this production all the way through my senior year of high school, so it brought back lots of great memories. The only strange part was not recognizing any of the dancers - Lindsay was supposed to be in Merlitons, and Anna should have been the Chinese Maiden. Thank goodness Suzanne was still the Snow Queen and Robert was Mother Ginger.

4. My dad took me out for pizza last night, since my mom was at a meeting and neither one of us felt like cooking. I am such a spoiled daughter... especially when I'm the only kid home. (Fred gets in tomorrow, so then things will return to normalcy around here.

Finally, a few photos to illustrate the last post.
Mom's baking extravaganza!

The view out the back door - very white, and very cold!

And, just for fun, here's a picture from last year. Scott and I are both very much looking forward to NOT having our noses buried in our computers this year! Maybe we can actually play in the snow instead!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

At home in Duluth!

Right now, Mom is in the kitchen cooking spritz cookies, biscotti, cranberry chutney, venison stew and apple carrot spice bread.

I'm in the kitchen studying GRE vocab: distaff, dyspeptic, enconium, etc. Lots of interstitial chat with Mom though...

Dad is outside. He got out the BIG snow blower for the first time this year and is clearing out the driveway. It's stopped snowing, but it's still blowing, so some of the snow will probably drift back in over night. Still, better to get the bulk of the work done this evening, when the temperature is in the double digits. Tomorrow, the predicted low temperature is -18. The predicted high is -7. Uf da!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Apartment excitement! And a master's degree?

Scott and I ran through the Arboretum today, and took a quick detour to check out our new apartment. The great news is that it's on the ground floor, and the patio faces south, so we can plant a little garden for ourselves! Not quite as much fun as a kitten, but it is exciting.

I'm all done with finals, but still have a pretty full plate. I've decided to apply to the M.S. program in Nutritional Biology at UC Davis. And my application is due January 15th. I registered to take the GREs (next Wednesday! eek!) and contacted professors about writing recommendation letters and have been meeting with nutrition faculty about research I could help out with. I'm still hoping to have a low-stress Christmas break... we'll see!

(I'm still planning to go to medical school afterwards... I think I'll be in school forever.)

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Good news & bad news

First, the good news! Scott and I get to move into Solano Park! This is a subsidized apartment complex for UCD students, so we'll be saving $500 per month on rent, and it's even closer to downtown and to campus. Now that both of us are students, this is wonderful news for our bank account.

The bad news is that Solano Park doesn't allow pets. Not even kittens. So we won't be getting a kitten for a few years.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Feeling vacation-y...

So much good stuff going on... besides the imminent kitten.

1. The advent calendar I made for my sister a while ago finally arrived! I sent if off before Thanksgiving, and it was supposed to get there on December 1st, so I was nervous about its whereabouts when it still hadn't arrived a week later. But today it showed up, safe and sound. Yay!

2. My bro is arriving tomorrow! I get to pick him up at 6:15 AM (how's that for sibling love), take him and his buddies out for breakfast (I'm thinking Ciocolat), and then send them off in our trusty Saab on a climbing & bouldering trip in Bishop. I'm excited to see him, and to show him around Davis.

3. I took my bio and chem exams today, and they both went well. I just have one left (Physiology) to take on Thursday.

4. I'm making stock from our turkey carcass. It doesn't actually fit in our dutch oven, and the neck is sort of hanging out the side, but I bet it will be tasty!

5. I get to go climbing with Scott tonight.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Kitten update...

We just made plans to pick up our kitten on January 1st! Here's what his breeder has to say about him:
He is big, going to be the biggest in his litter. He is very playful. He is a little shyer than most of them. He loves interactive toys, will pounce and hang on since his jumping is generally good enough to cling to the toy. His color is red silver, similar to his mother's. I have had other people come in and ask for him because he is so handsome.
So it sounds like we're getting the most athletic, most handsome cat. We'll try to make sure it doesn't get to his head (or ours). How on earth am I supposed to study for final exams when there's a kitten to anticipate?

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Submit your kitten vote!

Thanks for all the great name suggestions! Now it's time to vote. Here's the official ballot. Voting ends when the kitten comes home, sometime after January 1st. I promise to post photos!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Call for kitten names!

As many of you know, Scott and I are getting a kitten this Christmas! A hypoallergenic Siberian cream and white tabby, like this one:

We were thinking that a Siberian name would be good. For instance, Numi - the supreme god or father god of the Ob-Ugrian peoples in Siberia. Or Taiga, which is the world's largest biome, is characterized by coniferous forests, and happens to cover Siberia and northern Minnesota. Taiga has the added bonus of sounded like a bad-ass version of Tiger. "Tigah!"

But then again, Mr. Scratchy Pants would make a pretty great name, in honor of Mr. Splashy Pants, a humpback whale in the South Pacific Ocean who's being tracked with a satellite tag by Greenpeace. (The Wikipedia article is really worth reading if you haven't heard of Mr. Splashy Pants before.)

What do you think? Have any better ideas? Send us your ideas for names (or post them in the comments), and in a few weeks we'll put it all up for a vote on the world wide web!

- Libby & Scott

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving weekend is off to a beautiful beginning. I started cooking Thanksgiving dishes yesterday:
Chipotle-mashed sweet potatoes (my favorite Thanksgiving recipe) and a cranberry-apple relish. And, for Wednesday night dinner, I made a fantastic squash stew from my new Vegetable Love cookbook (recipe below). Scott and I had a relaxed evening - we drank a bottle of dark chocolate oatmeal stout beer, nibbled on dark chocolate, and watched TV - the second episode of Supernatural that his sister Julie guest starred in (Go Julie! She was great!) and then an episode of Nova that was all about fractals - I loved it.

This morning, we both woke up at 4 am, so I baked the dinner rolls (very easy, when you already have a bunch of dough in the fridge). We went back to bed from 6-9. Woke up, went for a run (it's beautiful out today!), made a Northwest Waldorf salad, and called to wish my parents a happy Thanksgiving. We're just about ready to head over to Lindsay & Nathan's house. What a wonderful day.

Also, here are some photos from our trip to Yosemite, a week and a half ago.
Yosemite November 2008

Coconut-Jarrahdale Vegetale Stew

* 3 T butter
* 2 medium onions, diced (2 cups)
* 2 medium carrots, chopped (1/2 cup)
* 1 bunch broccoli, chopped (5 cups)
* 2-3 pounds of winter squash (Jarrahdale, acorn, etc.)
* 1 cup coconut milk
* 1/2 cup stock/broth
* 1 T ground cardamom
* 2 T celery seeds
* 1 T salt
* Black pepper

1. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions. Cook for 3 minutes, or until limp & translucent. Increase teh heat to high. Add the carrots, broccoli and squash. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionaly.
2. Reduce heat to medium-high. Add the coconut milk and stock. Bring to a boil. Stir in the cardamom and celery seeds. Continue to boil for 3 minutes. Cover, reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 10 minutes, or until the squash is cooked through.
3. Remove the lid and cook over high heat to reduce and thicken the sauce. Season with salt and pepper.

From Vegetable Love by Barbara Kafka

Monday, November 10, 2008

New cookbook yields delightful results

Mini pumpkins!

I saw them at the farmers market, and even though we already had four large winter squashes sitting on our counter at home, I couldn't resist taking these little guys home with me.

At the time, I had only a vague notion of filling them with something and baking them for a while. But then along came a fantastic new cookbook: Vegetable Love, by Barbara Kafka. It's a book for non-vegetarians who love vegetables. I found a recipe for ground lamb stuffing, and seeing as we'd had a pound of ground lab in the freezer for quite some time, it seemed like a good first recipe to try. The lamb was spicy (from curry and chipotle powder), and the pumpkin was sweet, and we will certainly be making this again in the future!

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Berkeley Day Trip

I had a great day in Berkeley today - it's only about an hour from Davis, and a very easy trip on I-80. I spent $120 at Games of Berkeley (some Christmas shopping!) and $40 at The Cheeseboard (truffle goat cheese!). But the highlight of the trip, and the reason for it, was visiting with my friend Anna, who's in town for work for a few weeks. It's always fun to reconnect with a Minnesotan, especially one who endured many Nutcracker seasons with you. And, of course, it's a bonus when that person has an excellent taste for cheese and can help you decide how to spend your money on the stuff.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Bike joy.

I got my bike fixed up over the weekend, and it feels wonderful to ride! A new chain, new shifter cables, new tires, and a tightened-up headset. It's so crisp!

Other things that brought me happiness these past few days:
  • Rainy days, and the sun coming out after the rain
  • A college campus on Halloween - I can't think of a better place to spend the day. My favorite part was the two dancing Storm Troopers - they were roaming campus (and lecture halls!) all afternoon, along with a guy carrying a boombox, dancing away. Awesome.
  • The looong line of students waiting to vote (early) in the student union
  • Planning a Yosemite camping trip!
  • Celebrating at Ivona's baby shower

Sunday, November 02, 2008


I realized I never posted a finished picture of the baby quilt I made this summer. Here it is! I get to give it to Ivona today at her baby shower.

Yesterday, Scott and I went to a Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) party in Woodland. Each person got a skeleton to decorate as an ancestor. I decided to try to do my great-grandmother Marie Elizabeth. I don't know what she looked like, but I gave her blond braids, and she's holding some flowers and a kitten. (My three-year-old helper decorated her skirt, and gave her another white kitten.) Definitely a fun activity.

In other news, the fall rains have finally arrived. I'm not necessarily looking forward to biking in them for the next few months, but it is nice to have a change in seasons. It makes our apartment feel nice and warm and cozy, and it makes me appreciate the the sunny days much more. The markets are full of winter squashes and big, beautiful, leafy greens. We didn't carve a pumpkin for Halloween, but we did eat one for dinner! I need to outfit my bike with fenders and buy a pair of rainboots, and then I think I'll be all set for the season.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Classes, Corvallis, Cat!

Good thing #1: I'm officially enrolled in three pre-med classes at UC Davis this quarter! I didn't know if I'd get in, since priority goes to the degree-seeking students, but happily there was space for me. And so far, I'm really enjoying them. My first chemistry midterm is this Friday, followed by biology and physiology midterms on Monday.

Good thing #2: Regionals was fantastic. It was a long trip (a 9-hour drive to Corvallis, OR) but totally worth it. We played really well together; we were seeded 10th and finished 6th. Last year, the team came in 11th. I'm happy with how I played, and it was good to be outside on some beautiful fall days.

Good thing #3: Scott and I are getting a kitten!! I've been wanting a cat of my own for a long time, but had resigned myself to petlessness since Scott is allergic to cats and dogs. But then two weeks ago, we were sitting on the couch and, out of the blue, he asked me if I'd like to get a kitten. I was speechless. Turns out he found a breeder down in Los Gatos who breeds Siberians with particularly low levels of the protein Scott's allergic to. We went down to visit her that afternoon, and after spending an hour in her house, Scott proclaimed he was not allergic. We put down a deposit on one of the week-old kittens that was mewing on the couch and made tentative plans to pick him up when he's old enough to leave his mother, right after the new year. He'll look something like this:

We're already researching which tricks to teach him.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Minnesota Adventures

We've been in MN for a week and a half now, and have just a few days left. So far, it's been fantastic. My parents and Scott and I spent a long weekend at the cabin, where I finished two quilts, went running with my mom, took some very chilly dips in the lake, cooked up some tasty dinners, and generally spent quality time with the people I love.

Back in Duluth, we plunged into all sorts of wedding planning - reception site & food, flowers, invitations, dress, and more. We have a lot of work to do, but it feels good to have so much started on this far in advance. Apart from wedding appointments, Scott and I did some hiking around Hawk Ridge - a beautiful wilderness area in the city, and a great spot for watching the hawk migration this time of year.

Now we're down in St. Paul. We visited the science museum yesterday, as well as a terrific musical instrument museum. Today we're off to the Walker art museum, and we're having lunch with my aunts, cousin and sister. Tonight we're going to my second cousin's wedding - I'm looking forward to a pretty fun party. And I'm excited that Scott is healthy enough to dance with me!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Quilt update

Two-thirds of the quilt squares are sewn! I've got 12 more pink ones and 6 more greens to make. I'm pretty happy with how it's coming along.

Friday, September 05, 2008

365 days and counting!

Today is our first ante-anniversary. Exactly one year to go before we get married! Being a math nerd, I'm referring to it as our i ² anniversary. (In math, i = √(-1), so i ² = -1.) I'm not sure how we'll celebrate, but there's a free chocolate tasting at the Co-op tonight, and that sounds like a good place to start.

Also, we had our friends Myra and Chris over last night for a barbecue and a game of Euchre. We made these lamb meatballs, and they were delicious. We also grilled some thick slices of watermelon (brushed with olive oil and and chipotle chili powder), which was pretty tasty.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Next quilting project!

A not-so-focused photo of the quilt I'm starting! An easy pattern, so the sewing should go quickly.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Name this vegetable!

What has...
The size and shape of a spaghetti squash,
the color of a marigold,
the firmness of a not-quite-ripe eggplant,
the scent of a cucumber, and a cucumber-esque flavor, except drier and with a slightly bitter aftertaste?

Don't worry, we have no idea what it is either. But tonight we cooked it up with some bulgar and beet greens, and it was all right! Kind of slimy, the way you'd expect cooked cucumber to be. We decided to name it faux-cumber.

Monday, September 01, 2008

What to do with a bunch of toasted hotdog buns?

At a recent barbecue, we toasted some buns to go with our brats. But they got forgotten, and everyone happily munched on the brats straight up. We dutifully preserved the toasted buns in the freezer, and tonight they made for an excellent bread pudding. We followed this recipe pretty roughly, so that we had the right ratios of bread, eggs, milk and veggies, and the right oven time and temperature. But we used the vegetables we happened to have on hand (a leek, two zucchinis, some weird "climbing spinach", and a can of Green Giant mushrooms that's been languishing in the cupboard since the Minnesota Party). Highly recommended!

In other news, we had a great Labor Day weekend. It was great to see the Gruver/Kelly clan on Thursday, and Mavis and Maya were extremely gracious hosts - as always. Scott and I spent most of Thursday at the SF MOMA, checking out the Frida Kahlo exhibit, the Lee Miller exhibit, and (my favorite) selections from their permanent exhibit. We met up with a friend from Scott's Grinnell days and drank very girly (sweet, pink, and stiff) cocktails on a rooftop deck. Then we headed west to have dinner with some Amherst friends at an excellent Italian wine bar.

I played in a tournament on Saturday and Sunday. Not nearly as exciting as the Best Tournament Ever two weeks ago in Chico, but it was good to play. And I hardly got sunburnt!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Summer vacations

I'm not taking any classes right now (but I am crashing some general chemistry lectures, in an attempt to brush up on the stuff before I take organic chemistry in the fall). Also, I'm not working (but reading a general chemistry textbook cover to cover definitely feels like work). Scott is minimally employed. Hence, we have time for fun stuff!

DC Adventures (Friday, 8/8 - Thursday 8/14)
First and foremost, I got to visit so many wonderful people - my aunt and uncle, my frisbee communities, my Delafield friends, even my Bohemian Caverns Belgian beer aficionado friends.

Second, I got to visit a bunch of Smithsonian art museums. My favorite was the Martin Puryear show at the National Gallery, followed closely by a Jim Henson exhibit. (Did you know the original Kermit was sewn from Henson's mother's worn-out spring coat?) Actually, I think the recently opened Renwick gallery for American crafts ties for first - small, but extremely well-curated. I forgot how much I enjoy seeing art.

Third, I got to eat some of my favorite foods: pizza from Coppi's, gueuze (a very sour Belgian beer) at Brasserie Beck (where there are nine gueuzes on the menu!), hummus from the Greek Deli downtown (which I consumed in the beautiful little "secret garden" just south of Dupont Circle), and hot, crunchy, delicious falafel sandwich from Amsterdam Falafel in Adams Morgan.

All in all, an extremely satisfying vacation.

Chico Tournament aka Best Tournament Ever (Saturday, 8/16 - Sunday, 8/17)
I got home from DC late on Thursday night, did laundry on Friday, and then left for Chico at 5am Saturday morning. Our first game was at 8am. Fortunately, our team was caffeinated and sufficiently warmed-up, and we ended up winning all four games!

We finished early afternoon and ate lunch at the Sierra Nevada brewery. Then we went swimming at Bear Hole - a gorgeous stream running through a mini-gorge, with lots of opportunities for exploring, jumping off high rocks, and napping in the sun.

As if we hadn't had enough fun so far, we proceeded to a teammate's aunt's house - a 14,000 square foot, took six years to build, custom-built house overlooking a canyon. She and her husband fed us pizza and beer and stuffed zucchini and salad and fresh strawberry pie. We explored the house, relaxed on one of several balconies while the sky faded to black, and watched Olympics.

We won our first two games on Sunday and then lost in the finals - disappointing, but it's hard to feel bad when your team has already won six games in a row. We stretched, drank beer and generally wound-down on the fields for a bit before heading home.

Fun in Sacramento! (Saturday, 8/23 - Sunday, 8/24)
We checked out the California State Fair on Saturday. I got to see goats, earless goats, pygmy goats, horses, cows, seals, chickens, chinchillas, guinea pigs, kittens, bats and hatching quails. We saw a fish taco cooking demonstration, Chinese acrobats and some pretty neat art and crafts. The food options didn't hold a candle to the MN State Fair, and I was generally disappointed by the scale of things. You'd think a state as big as this would have a giant state fair, but Minnesota's really does take the cake. High quality food (even though it's all served on a stick), tons of beautiful quilts, more extensive displays. Still, it was a fun day at the fair.

We headed back to Sac on Sunday. Our first stop was the farmers market, which (as reported) is much bigger and less frou-frou than Davis's. We loaded up on tomatoes, basil, peaches and figs. Our car smelled wonderful. Second stop was the Sutter's Fort State Historic Park, where we spent about two hours learning about John Sutter and his (mis)adventures in the Central Valley. Lots of interesting artifacts and audio commentary - definitely a place worth visiting, especially if you don't know as much as you should about your state's history.

Live in Reno! (Wednesday, 8/27)
Last night, Scott and our friend Sharon and I drove over to Reno for an outdoor Neko Case concert. We had a nice drive through the Sierras and dinner at a funky vegetarian diner (the Pneumatic Diner, highly recommended, if you're ever in the area) before arriving at the amphitheater. It's a small venue, and we had great seats. The show was short, but high quality. An excellent mini-adventure.

Escaping the Heat in San Francisco (Thursday, 8/28 - Sunday, 8/31)
It's supposed to hit 104°F here today, so I'm happy to have an excuse to evacuate to San Francisco. Mavis and Maya are having a presidential candidate party - we get to watch Obama give his acceptance speech, and we get to dress up as our favorite presidential candidate (past, present, future or imaginary). I think I'll go as MacGyver.

We'll spend the night there, and go see a Frida Kahlo show at the SF MOMA in the morning. Not sure what's in store for the rest of Friday, but I'm sure we can find something fun to do!

We'll spend another night there, and then head to a tournament at Golden Gate Park on Saturday morning. Scott still can't play - his hamstring pulls are better, but now he's recovering from a calf pull. Poor guy.

Culinary Adventures Wrap-Up (Ongoing)
Scott and I paid a visit to the UCD Meat Lab (a USDA-certified processing plant on campus, where students learn about meat processing) and bought some extremely fresh brats and chorizo sausages. We hosted a little barbecue in order to eat them. We grilled a bunch of veggies as well. Scott's talent as a master marinator is becoming apparent - he has a gift for throwing together fantastic marinades.

Peach cobbler
Pizza with fresh tomatoes and homemade ricotta
Fresh figs and goat cheese on toast
Stir-fried yam leaves - sweet and very tasty!

That's all for now. My computer is running out of battery power, it's almost noon and I'm still in my pajamas, and I have nothing more to say. Be well!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Happy birthday, Julia!

Since it's Julia Child's birthday today (and because I'm feeling very happy to be home again), I'm making a nice dinner tonight. Here's the plan:

Peach & blue cheese bruscetta

Rosemary Rack of Lamb with Balsamic-Raisin Reduction (recipe)
Spinach salad

Peach (and brandy) Galette

It's going to be tasty!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

At the zoo this morning!

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Ogunquit, Boston, DC

Just a quick update on my East Coast adventures...

We were in Maine until Wednesday evening. This was my third time attending the reunion, but the first time we've had a chance to stay more than a few days. It was wonderful to have such an uncompressed schedule - no sense of urgency that you have to cram in all the fun stuff into two days (lobster dinner, trips to the beach, runs on the beach, long walks on the beach, walks along the Marginal Way to get coffee or saltwater taffy, etc.). It was great to spend so much time with the family.

On Wednesday night, Scott's dad dropped us off in Boston, so we could have dinner with Gabi - one of his high school friends. We spent Thursday morning at Wellesley - just wandering through the buildings and the grounds. Scott was very patient with my reminiscences and nostalgia. We had lunch with my friend Robin and dinner with Nate and Jess and various members of their family. An excellent day.

We were kindly delivered to the airport on Friday morning, and Scott headed west, and I headed south. I arrived in DC just in time for happy hour at Cafe Asia with some of my old teammates. I eventually retired to Aaron's, where we watched the opening ceremonies in Beijing until midnight.

I'm out at my aunt and uncle's today. The weather is absolutely gorgeous - not too hot, and not humid. The three of us picked peaches off the tree in their backyard, and then my aunt and I went and picked blackberries at a local farm - we came home with about 11 pounds of berries and made a very tasty peach and blackberry cobbler, which we ate out on the deck after dinner. Life is good.

(Poor Scott didn't get home until 12:30 am PT, which is 3:30 ET, to an empty, grocery-less house. He told me he got good heirloom tomatos at the farmers market this morning, though, and they always cheer us up.)

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

All's well.

Just a quick note to say that I am very thoroughly enjoying Maine. It's been a little bit cloudy and rainy, but that hasn't dampened anyone's spirits. It's great to be here.

Friday, August 01, 2008

1630h - Board bus to the airport. Receive call from JetBlue that they have to rebook me. Big props to JB for calling me and rebooking things before I even arrived at the airport!

1730h - Fail to get off the bus at the airport. (I rang the stop bell 5 seconds too late, and bus driver told me she'd lose her job if she stopped anywhere unofficial.) Ride all the way into Sacramento and back out again.

1830h - Arrive at airport, attempt to check in. Since my new flight won't leave until midnight, I can't check my bags til 8pm. Sit and wait in the baggage claim area. One New Yorker down, 97 to go! (Great article on the Chinese pianist Lang Lang.)

2000h - Check in! Breeze through security! (I was the only one in line.)

2030h - Chat with the best custodian ever in the ladies' room. She had enough flair to work at TGIFriday's, plus a curly blonde wig and tons of glittery makeup on her face. When I complimented her on the big pink flower in her hair, she told me where I could find one of my own - over at Gate B1, where they tape flower to the pens to keep people from walking off with them. (She didn't steal the flower though, they'd given it to her.) I'm seriously considering going to ask for one - it's pretty fantastic.

Just a few more hours of waiting until I can board the flight and try to fall asleep. Less than 12 hours until I see Scott! The delay is annoying, but I'm happy with JetBlue's customer service, happy that my detour into Sacramento didn't make me miss my originally scheduled flight, happy about the glittery custodian, and happy that this airport has fast, free wifi. Just think how much happier I'll be when I'm in Maine, with my betrothed and my family-to-be!
0330h - Noisy neighbors wake me up. Noisy trains and an unquiet mind keep me awake.
0400h - I roll out of bed and have the second half of last night's burrito for breakfast while studying for my bio final exam.
0630h - Starting to feel sleepy, I head back to bed!
0700h - A phone call wakes me up. A wrong number.
0730h - Caffeinating and cramming at Mishka's.

Coming up...
1100h - Two-hour exam!
1300h - Pack
1630h - Catch the bus to the airport
1900h - Up, up and away! I'm fairly confident I'll be able to sleep on tonight's "red-eye."

Monday, July 28, 2008

Looking forward to the East Coast!

Lots going on lately, hence the light blogging. I have one week left of bio, which feels good. I'm still really enjoying the class and am looking forward to the next courses in the series.

This past Saturday, we went to San Rafael for a one-day round robin tournament. We lost all four games, which is disappointing, but it was good to be there nonetheless.
On Wednesday, Scott leaves for Maine, and on Friday night I'll follow him out there for his family reunion. I'm excited for the beach! We'll stay through the week, visit some friends in Boston, and then part ways - Scott back to California (to study for one more prelim), and me to DC to visit old friends and old haunts. I'm disappointed Scott can't come along, but I'll have plenty to keep me busy.

When I get home, I get to start studying general chemistry in earnest. And reading wedding books!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Hospice volunteer training

Today was my third out of four full days of hospice volunteer training. I have six more hours tomorrow, and then I'll be more or less ready to start work as a volunteer. On the whole, training has been very good - informative, productive and interesting. I've learned an incredible amount about the process of dying - the physical, mental, and spiritual aspects of it, both from the patient's point of view and from the survivors'.

Last Saturday was a particularly intense morning. We went through a guided imagery meditation on what it's like to be diagnosed with and die from a terminal illness. I'm sure I only felt a fraction of the emotions I'd experience in real life, but that was enough for me - it was heartbreaking. It made me remember a dream I had 10 or 15 years ago, in which I had opted for euthenasia and was at my own pre-funeral. I woke up sobbing, because I couldn't stand the thought of leaving my family behind. Discussions of this kind of loss are not easy to have. I'm grateful for the range of experience and insight that my classmates bring to the table.

From what our leaders and classmates keep telling us, being part of the dying process can be a profoundly good thing. I'm nervous about starting this work, but excited somehow. Already, this training has given me a deeper perspective on my life, and I can only imagine how it will develop over the course of this year.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Potlatch 2008

Just a quick post to say that Potlatch was absolutely fantastic this year. It's the biggest coed ultimate tournament in the world - 100 teams - and one of the most spirited. After every game, teams get together and exchange gifts, play games, sing songs, etc. I had the honor of playing with "Chiquita," a team of many of my friends from DC. They were excellent teammates and camping buddies. (Most people camp on the perimeter of the field.) I was at the tournament for just 3 days, Thursday night to Sunday night, but it felt like a nice long vacation. I was able to just focus on and enjoy my surroundings, and I didn't have one single physics or biology dream! The only downside was that Scott couldn't come.

Many thanks to Paul for captaining, and to everyone else who helped organize, buy t-shirts, drove around and generally made for a ridiculously fun weekend.

Arrival in Seattle - REALLY happy to be here!

Playing a banana-eating game with Team Stella: The Pirate King's Daughter!

Sharing a beer-garita with Captain "Top Banana" Paul

Tozer sporting the fantastic banana costume

Me sporting my Carmen Miranda-esque costume

Last but not least, Team Chiquita:

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Watermelon and other fun things

Maybe I should have been studying for Monday's physics midterm, but I spent a few hours in the kitchen instead and was happily productive there. I made cheese (with dill), pickled grapes (with jalapeños and ginger) and watermelon soup (with more jalapeños and ginger). For dinner Scott and I made a very tasty watermelon and tomato salad, based on these two recipes: Mark Bittman's and Cooking Light's. It's so nice to have a fridge filled with good food!

Other fun stuff...
- I got to play in a small tournament yesterday in San Francisco - 4 short games, which was enough to get worn out and to feel like we really earned out burrito dinners.
- Scott and I are petsitting a very cute guinea pig named Hazelnut. She has a zebra-print hammock in her cage!
- I get to go to Seattle next weekend for Potlatch! I'm a little nervous about the homework crunch, but I'm very very impatient to see everyone and to play all weekend!

Thursday, June 26, 2008


Alas, Scott pulled his hamstring at our track workout tonight. His other hamstring, the one he wasn't already nursing back to health. It means he's out for most of the rest of the frisbee season. I was really looking forward to playing with him this summer, so I'm (selfishly) very bummed out... and I'm not even the one who has to stop playing.


Sunday, June 22, 2008

Çok Güzel Dinner

Just finished eating a fantastic dinner - if someone fed it to me in turkey, I'd tell them it was "çok güzel" (pronounced "choke gazelle") - very nice. I figured I'd better record the recipe so that I can make it again sometime...

1. Brown some ground lamb (about 6 oz.). Season it with cumin and parsley.
2. Take the lamb out of the pan, but leave the grease in. Sautee an onion and some zucchinis (I used one green and one yellow, diced to half-inch chunks). Add a little olive oil if it starts sticking. Season with dill and harissa.
3. Stir in a diced tomato and the lamb.
4. Serve over a whole grain of your choice. (We had wheat berries seasoned with a veggie bullion cube.)
5. Top with yogurt sauce. (Yogurt, lemon juice, dill, mint.)

I had a tasty Turkish lunch yesterday, from a Mediterranean deli in San Francisco - lamaçun ("llama June"), which is ground meat on a thin pizza-like crust. Greasy and delicious!

Side note: Scott's first (and most difficult) preliminary exam is tomorrow morning, so send him and his classmates your prayers or good vibes or whatever you deem helpful!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Beautiful AM in SF

I went to a CrossFit class in San Francisco this morning - this was the view on the walk there. Beautiful scenery, lots of sun, a nice reflection of the bridge. TONS of people were out walking, running, cycling, generally enjoying themselves. Lovely day!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Opera at the Ballpark

Mavis and Maia and I went to the SF Giants stadium on Friday night and watched... an opera! the San Francisco Opera simulcasted the evening's performance of "Lucia de Lammermoor" to the ballpark. And they didn't even charge admission! It was a beautiful performance, and it was a bunch of fun to be watching it outside.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Arts and Crafts

At our hospice volunteer training session yesterday, we got to make "soul collages"! We sifted through magazine pictures spread out on a table, selected ones that answered "Who am I? Why am I here?", and then glued them into a collage. It was a very touchy-feely exercise, but everyone enjoyed it, and it was a really good way for us to get to know each other and to do a little self-exploration. Here's mine!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Two good Bittman recipes

Fun stuff from "How to Cook Everything Vegetarian" this week! On Monday, I made a very tasty raw beet salad - I diced some raw beets, carrots (half pound each), a little zucchini and a few shallots in the food processor and then added a tablespoon of grated ginger, salt and pepper, dijon mustard, olive oil, lime juice and a little kefir (which is sort of like sour cream). It was delicious, and very pretty. I love cooking with beets.

Last night, I made cheese! It took a little time, but it was totally mindless and easy.
(1) Bring two parts milk to a boil.
(2) Stir in one part buttermilk. (I made buttermilk by adding lemon juice to regular milk.)
(3) Once it separates into curds and whey (this takes about 10 minutes, I think), pour it into a bowl lined with 3 layers of cheesecloth.
(4) Gather the edges of the cheesecloth together, so you have a ball of curds in the middle. Run it under cold water to cool it down, and then squeeze out as much water and whey as you can.
(5) Tie the bundle to a spoon and let it drain/set for an hour and a half.
(6) Unwrap and enjoy!
My first attempt is tasty, but I'm already looking forward to Take 2 - you can add seasonings between steps 2 and 3, so I'm planning to add salt (1/2 teaspoon) and whatever fresh herbs look good at the farmers market. And some beet juice for color, of course.

Saturday, June 14, 2008


Some very successful kitchen spontaneity I wanted to share! I steamed some carrot greens and pureed them with a cup of chickpeas, a little olive oil and lemon juice, and some other spices that I cannot recall. It turned out beautifully - a carroty pesto hummus sort of thing. We ate it over whole-wheat pasta and lightly boiled carrots.

Carrot greens really are worth eating; I'm surprised there aren't more recipes for them.

Physics on My Mind

Physics is going well, and for the most part I'm enjoying the work, but I fear I'm taking it a little too seriously. I'm struggling to figure out how electric circuits work. At least twice now, I've had dreams about solving homework problems. But I realized this class has completely pervaded my consciousness the other day at my weekly track workout. I was running warm-up laps with my frisbee teammates and I had this sudden vision - almost like deja vu - of myself as an electron traveling around an circuit. It was pretty funny, but it didn't bring any clarity to my homework problems.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

What's cooking

I haven't posted any kitchen adventures for a while now, but we've been cooking up some pretty good stuff.

I improvised a beet hummus the other day that turned out surprisingly well. It all started with a beet (raw) and the food processor - the plan was to chop it up and serve it over zucchini. But before I knew it, the thing was puréed, and I figured it was a good opportunity to dress it up a little. I added a cup of black beans and some harissa (red pepper paste) from Turkey, and a little soy sauce and rice vinegar. I couldn't quite figure out what else it needed, but fortunately Scott hit the nail on the head when he added a healthy splash of lemon juice. The end result was sweet, tangy, a little bit spicy, and very tasty over sauteéd zucchini and bulgar.

Lunch yesterday was less exotic but no less pleasing to the palate. I baked a fresh loaf of bread (spiked with rosemary) to go with heirloom tomato slices (so sweet!) and fontina cheese. And we had mizuna salad dressed with olive oil, lemon juice, salt and Turkish pomegranate syrup. We'd been pretty impatient for tomatoes to return to the farmers market, so now that they're back we're savoring each one.

Today's recipe was a departure from my usual culinary repertoire - sugary, processed ingredients rather than fresh whole foods - but it was a hit at the barbecue party, so I figured I'd better share. S'mores pie! I took some shortcuts, like using a pre-made graham cracker crust and store-bought marshmallows. I'm sure the real recipe is excellent (it was published in Gourmet magazine, after all), but the quick'n'easy version is still worth making, especially for outdoor summertime events. Just be careful not to burn the marshmallows under the broiler like I did. Unless you like charred marshmallows.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Return to studentdom

I started taking a physics class this week! It's my first step of a very long journey to medical school, and it feels pretty good to be on the road! The metaphorical road, that is. The real road is a commute to Sacramento. The trip there is a quick 20 minutes, but the way home coincides with rush hour and can take twice as long. For someone who's never had more than a 20-minute bike commute, this feels quite draining. And having to fill up the gas tank is pretty draining too.

The class itself is so-so. (I've been spoiled by engaged teachers and classmates ever since 7th grade.) But... I really like having physics homework. I love figuring out the math and logic of it all. I'm pretty rusty - I took the pre-requisite for this class in 1998 - but so far, I'm remembering (or figuring out, or googling) everything I need to know. Already this week, I learned how a photocopier works and what a superconductor is. And my inner geek is yelling, Geez! This stuff is really cool!

Monday, June 02, 2008

Glum Monday

I'm suffering from tournament withdrawl today - the result of 36 incredible hours with Night Train at the Cal States tournament in Santa Cruz.

We played six games altogether - four on Saturday, two on Sunday. We played well - we made smart decisions; we executed good throws, catches, cuts and defense; we were fired up, focused and intense; and we ran hard, the result of a few months of weekly track workouts. Now that it's all over, there's nothing I'd rather do than go back to the field and play another game.

Spending time with Night Train off the field was almost as much fun as playing on the field with them. The highlight was the tournament party on Saturday night, where I discovered that my teammates are very fun dancers. I knew this was a great team, but I didn't know how great!

Man, I love this sport and the people who play it.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Memorial Day weekend climbing trip!

I spent the weekend on an Outdoor Adventures trip to Owens Gorge - it was fantastic.

We met at 5:30 am. It was dark and drizzling, and despite my decaffeinated state and lack of sleep, I was pretty darn excited. We packed up the 8-person van and set off on the 6-hour drive to Owens Gorge. We had two guides and five participants. Everyone was friendly and good-natured, smart and interesting. We got along exceedingly well, and it was nice to have such a small group.

View Larger Map

We arrived just before noon and went straight to the gorge, pulled out our gear and our lunches, and hiked down. By 1:30, we had two ropes set up and were climbing our first routes!

We climbed 4 routes altogether on Saturday afternoon - a 5.7, a 5.8, and two 5.9s. It's a very different experience from climbing in a gym. Most notably, there isn't any brightly colored tape telling you where to put your feet and hands. You have to think for yourself how to get from the bottom of the top, the result of which is a *great* sense of satisfaction when you figure out how to get past a problem spot. It's incredibly rewarding.

Here's Lisa climbing up a 5.9, one of the tallest routes we did.

After a few hours, we packed up, found a campsite, and made burritos for dinner. Then we ate cookies and chocolate around the campfire until 10, when we were very ready for bed.

We were up around 7, and were at the wall climbing by 10. We got four runs in (a 6, two 8s and a 9) before a rain shower made the rock too slippery and cold to climb. (Our fingers were numb by the time we made it to the top.)

By the time we had packed up all our gear, the rain had cleared. We probably could have kept climbing, but we were pretty chilly, and our fingers were worn out, so we hiked out and went to a natural hot springs. We soaked our cares away and then headed into the town of Bishop. We visited a great gallery, founded by Galen Rowell, a very talented climber and photographer. We stopped at a cafe for the hot chocolate we'd been craving all day, and then went home to our campsite... just as it started to drizzle again. We set up a shelter over the picnic table and spent the rest of the night huddled under it. It rained steadily all night long.

Since it rained all night long, we couldn't go climbing at Owens Gorge in the morning. Definitely a disappointment. We packed up camp, and headed off on a short hike to the top of a bluff to see some petroglyphs. I'm not sure how old they were, or what they meant, but they were incredible. We spent some time puzzling over them, but didn't come to any conclusions. (Photo coming soon.) The sun had come out by then, so we continued down the dirt road about a mile to the Happy Boulders - one of the best bouldering locations in an area famous for good bouldering. We had a great time poking around, trying this and that, abusing our fingers one last time before we had to head home. It was nice and sunny out, and we were very happy boulderers.

At noon, we loaded up the van and drove the 6 hours home, about as tired as we had been on Saturday morning. It was a fantastic trip - I really like climbing outdoors, and I was fortunate to have such great traveling companions.

Here are a few more photos from the trip.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

A peaceful Sunday morning

I made strawberry shortcake for breakfast - a sweeter and richer meal than I'm used to first thing in the morning, but delicious nonetheless. We used the extra whipped cream in our coffee, of course.

Now we're side by side on the futon in the living room, listening to Mozart's violin concertos (My parents gave me Anne-Sophie Mutter's recording for Christmas). The window is wide open, since the air outside is still cool. I can smell honeysuckle.

Friday, May 16, 2008

An afternoon in the park

This is a terrible picture from my cell phone camera, but I think it gives a sense of what the fountain in the park is like - seven jets of water coming straight up through the concrete. You can run (or bike, or skateboard) right through the middle of it. Lots of kids like to lie down right on top of the jets. Lots of big trees, so lots of shade and nice rustling noises when the wind blows. The building you see in the background is the long shed that covers the farmers market on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

Playing in Davis

When I started putting this post together in my head, I thought it was going to be a mopey one. I decided (discovered?) this week that I can't go to my cousin's wedding in June, and I can't go to my five-year Wellesley reunion. It's the money as much as it is the time: I can't afford the airfare (Prices are ridiculous this summer!!) and I can't afford to miss classes (I'm planning to take a biology and a physics course in June and July.). I'm really disappointed to be missing these events. It makes me feel a little stranded out here, very far from family and friends. I find myself wishing I lived in Minnesota, so I could visit my family, and the cabin, and Lake Superior, more often.

However, taking classes rather than earning money is my choice, and I'm convinced it's the right one right now. And I'm definitely enjoying California these days - I have great friends, and tons of great stuff to do.

Playing the Violin
Yoko and I met for a second time last weekend, and played through a handful of duets. The Bach Double went more smoothly then last time (and it still gives me chills, it's so beautiful), and we tried our hands at some classics (Pachabel's Canon) and some Suzuki pieces (the Two Grenadiers, for instance). We played Mozart's Table Music, which is a brilliant composition - one person plays it right side up, and the other plays it upside-down, and the result is a nifty duet!

Playing with Kittens
Last week was my first "Kitty Kindergarten" class, designed to help new kitten owners train and socialize their feline companions. Happily, the instructor provided kittens from a local shelter for the pour kittenless souls in the class, so I got to spend an hour holding a 6-week-old tabby, hardly bigger than my hand, acclimating it to the way a vet might hold it. I can't wait for next Sunday!

Playing Outside
Last weekend was the Whole Earth Festival at UC Davis - a fantastic food, shopping and entertainment extravaganza that was very sustainable, granola, hippie, etc. There was organic tie-dyed cotton and flowing hemp clothing as far as the eye could see. All of the food vendors sold vegetarian fare (much of it vegan and organic), and it was served on reusable dishes. All of the trash cans were converted into compost bins, and there were two big dish washing stations set up - very cool. There were two drum circles and four solar-powered stages for different kinds of music and dance. Lots of wonderful social non-conformity, and of course all kinds of peace and love. I loved it.

On the days when there's not a gigantic hippie festival going on, I've taken to spending my afternoons reading in the park. Yesterday was exceptional - it was the hottest it's been all year (around 100°F), so I chose a shady bench on the downwind side of the fountain. I got a refreshing little spray every time the wind gusted, and I got to watch all kinds of people playing in the water. Most were toddlers, wearing nothing but their Crocs, but a few mothers were in there getting drenched too. A college kid came by, dropped his bike, wet his shirt, and rode off. A professional woman in a blouse and skirt looped through the spray a couple of times, getting delicately refreshed. It's a great spot to hang out.

Playing with Pots and Pans
I've been very much enjoying my new cookbooks. As promised in the last post, I made "Zucchini Slippers" - zucchinis stuffed with an egg and cheese mixture - that turned out to be both cute and tasty. I overcooked the lamb shank a little, but it still made a tasty meal, and the resulting lamb stock went into a very good red lentil and apricot soup, as well as a lovely avocado soup.

Strawberries are in season, so I'm hoping to make strawberry shortcake this weekend. We also have a bunch of very ripe bananas, so Marbled-Chocolate Banana Bread is on the horizon. And I've been thinking this whole wheat, flax-riddled zucchini bread looks like a good way to use up some aging zucchinis...

Playing Frisbee
I officially made the ultimate team I tried out for, Night Train, and it's wonderful. I love the exercise - we have two 2-hour practices a week, plus a track practice. I wouldn't do the track workouts on my own, but they're really good for me, so I'm glad for the group motivation. And I love being part of an Ultimate team - there's something so great about the culture of this sport. After practice on Wednesday, our captains invited us to their apartment for poolside beer and watermelon. I love my friends from Scott's department, but it's really nice to hang out with people whose common denominator (and most common topic of conversation) is frisbee and not economics.

Also on the frisbee front, I just bought tickets to Potlatch, a super fun tournament in Seattle, so I'll get to spend Fourth of July weekend playing Ultimate with some of my favorite people from DC! Our team name is "Chiquita," and already the banana-related jokes are filling my email. I can't wait.

Playing Dress-Up and Make-Believe
I bought my first wedding magazine today! I feel a little cheesy looking at something so... cheesy, but I decided to treat myself to a grown-up version of make-believe. And two of my friends have agreed to meet me for coffee and giggling over the pictures, I don't feel quite so embarrassed about being excited about these glossy, girly, consumerist magazines - there are other smart, independent women who like looking at them too!

Tonight, we're meeting friends at a fancy-ish bar for a little engagement party! Lisa, who organized it, and I decided we should wear cocktail attire, so I'm excited to play dress-up tonight. I used to own this fantastic black straw fedora, and I'm kicking myself for not bringing it along with me to California. It was a great hat and would have been perfect tonight.

Now, I'm off the to thrift store. I think I need to make a Chiquita Banana Lady costume for myself to wear to Potlatch.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

New Cookbook Yields Tasty Breakfast!

I stumbled into a going-out-of-business sale at a used bookstore the other day, and picked up two new cookbooks: The Best American Recipes 1999 and The Best American Recipes 2000. This morning we made Turkish Poached Eggs from the 1999 volume, and it was tasty! You lay a piece of toast in the bottom of a shallow bowl, and put a pair of poached eggs on top. Then pour on your garlicky, minty yogurt (a half cup of yogurt mixed with one clove of minced garlic and one teaspoon of fresh mint), and then drizzle some cayenne-spiked melted butter on top. Lovely!

Tonight for dinner, we're going to make the roasted lamb recipe (Mechoui) and stuffed zucchini ("Zucchini Slippers").

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Photos - people and signage

Two more small batches of photos for your viewing pleasure!

First, pictures of my traveling companions.
Turkey, People

Next, pictures of interesting signs.
Turkey, Signage

More photos from Turkey!

Here are my parent's photos - it's a great, well-edited collection. Enjoy!

(This is one of my favorite pictures of them.)

Monday, May 05, 2008

More Turkish stuff!

Here's my first batch of photos! They're arranged thematically, not geographically or chronologically, and represent a smattering of the art and architectural details I noticed.

(Click the Play button above to watch the slideshow, or click here to go to the album.)

I made Scott an approximation of a Turkish breakfast yesterday. We sliced the fresh tomatoes and cucumber we'd found at the farmer's market, added some fresh cheese (it was Mexican queso fresco, but close enough) and black olives and toast (no simit, sadly) and brewed a pot of the black Turkish tea I brought home. Lovely.

For dinner, we broke out the spice grinder I bought at the Spice Market in Istanbul. It only cost 6 YTL (about $4.50) so I was happy to discover that it works really well! We ground up cloves, cardamom and black pepper for our red lentil dal.

We have some lamb from the farmers market in the freezer, so we'll have to do something Turkish with that for dinner sometime this week!

Saturday, May 03, 2008

I'm very, very happy.

Two big things to announce.

First off, Scott and I are getting married!! He proposed last night, while we were walking through the Arboretum. He gave me a beautiful Lake Superior agate to commemorate the moment, and I've been carrying it in my pocket and smiling ever since. The more it sinks in, the happier I feel. I feel absolutely wonderful.

Second item - not nearly as emotional, but still exciting: I am no longer an employee of the Electric Sheep Company. Instead, I'm going to start taking pre-med classes and studying for the MCAT so that I can go to medical school and eventually be a physician! I've been thinking about going into medicine for a long time... but now I finally feel ready to move on it. I have about a year's worth of classwork to do before I can apply, and then it will take about a year for the schools to make their decisions, so the earliest I'll start is fall 2010, which is really not such a long ways away. It's going to be tough, but I know it will be worth it, and it feels good to know that.

Taking a bath in Ankara, and taking Istanbul by storm

We spent all day Tuesday in Ankara, checking out Atatürk's very impressive mausoleum and the city's not-so-impressive old walls. In the afternoon, we split up: Uğur took my dad, aunt and uncle to the civilization museum, and Margaret took Mom and I to the hamam, or Turkish bath. It was great! We entered into a big room with a large table in the middle, occupied by women chatting, smoking and doing their hair. We were ushered into one of the dressing rooms that surrounded the common space and stripped down. We stripped down, wrapped up in towels and teetered into the bathing rooms on the awkward little wooden sandals they provided. The bath rooms had pearly grey marble floors and walls, and the domed ceilings had star-shaped windows cut into them. We were the only foreigners there but felt totally at ease - Turkish people are so welcoming. The bath can be as leisurely as you want it to be. You can sit by a spigot and pour warm water over yourself, or you can lie in the sauna, or you can lie on the big marble slab that covers the fires that heat the entire complex. The highlight is when it's your turn to get washed. One of the women who works there has you lie down on a mat, where she exfoliates you and then lathers you up and gives you a brief, soapy massage. Wonderful.

We spent most of the day Wednesday busing from Ankara to Istanbul. We settled into our hotel near Taksim Square (the most Western part of the city), and then Mom and I went out for an exploratory stroll. Dad joined us for a nice dinner at an outdoor table on a narrow, busy pedestrian street. We enjoyed lamb brain as one of our mezes.

Since Thursday was our last full day in Istanbul, I wanted to see and do as much in as I could. Fortunately, my parents were amendable to my ambitions. We hit the streets at 8 am and walked south, through the New District, across the Galata bridge spanning the Golden Horn, to the Old District. We bought all kinds of great things at the Spice Market - pomegranate syrup for salads, chili pepper paste, a spice grinder and tulip-shaped tea glasses. We poked our heads into the New Mosque (completed in 1663) and took our time in the Rüstem Paşa Mosque (1561) which is small and has the most beautiful İznik tiles of all the mosques in Istanbul. We really wanted to see the Süleymaniye Mosque as well, as it's one of the most important and most beautiful mosques in the city, but it was closed for renovation. Grr. We walked south the the Grand Bazaar where we stopped for lunch, and then continued to the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts. It has a great collection, but I was disappointed that nearly all of the tiles were off being restored. We stopped at a café for chicken breast pudding (surprisingly tasty!) and then taxied to the Istanbul Modern (2005) - a contemporary art museum that was, disappointingly, closed for May Day. We walked back along the north shore of the Golden Horn and made our way to the Galata Tower (6th century origins). We scraped together the cash required for three tickets to the top and took in the panoramic view of the city, marveling at the ground we'd covered. We walked back to our hotel and enjoyed a relatively quiet night - drinks in the bar with Aunt Flury and Uncle Mel, dinner close by, and some pretty impressive packing maneuvers to get our souvenirs all tucked away.

(Rüstem Paşa Mosque)

We woke up at 2:30 a.m. on Friday morning for our 5:30 flight to Amsterdam. We had a celebrity on the flight - The Enigma and his partner Serana! My parents sat right behind them on the Amsterdam-Minneapolis flight. My Amsterdam-Portland flight was really empty, so I stretched out and watched four movies (27 Dresses, Mad Money, Peepers and Cars) over the course of 10½ hours. Scott picked me up in Sacramento, and I got home safe and sound by 5 pm - about 22 hours of traveling, door-to-door. It was a wonderful vacation, and it's wonderful to be home. Photos coming...

Monday, April 28, 2008

Kapadokya to Ankara

We spent all day Sunday enjoying the Cappadocian landscape. In the morning, we toured an underground city - one of many in the area. The guide we hired had actually been born in one of its caves and lived there until 1964, when the government paid everyone to move into modern houses so they could turn the complex into a tourist sight. (Some people later moved back to the caves because they were more comfortable than the houses - warmer in the winter, cooler in the summer, quieter and darker.) It's definitely smaller and darker than I'm used to (even after basement living in DC), but brilliantly designed and constructed. Stables, wells, ventilation shafts, communal kitchens and dining rooms... I wish I could have seen it in action. A living history set-up would have been great.

We had tea at a panoramic viewpoint and then continued to the Göreme Open Air Museum, which has a concentration of very old churches (approximately 11th century). Some had frescoes, and some had simple red ochre painting. Originally, Christians lived in the area to escape persecution, and later they lived there as hermits, monks or nuns to pursue a solitary way of life.

After lunch, we hiked through Rose Valley and soaked up the (mostly) natural landscape. There were a few farmers tending grape vines and 2 postcard shops, but besides that it was just the soft, organic windswept stones. Some are snow-white and some are rosy, and some are yellow. I can't wait to post pictures.

Today, we had a relaxed morning in Ürgüp - Mom and I went shopping and stumbled into a ceramics store, tended by the artist herself. We each bought a very pretty plate - it's one of the things I'd been looking for as a souvenir of this trip, so I'm happy to have found such a nice one. Mom also found a really cool rug for her kitchen, so it was a successful morning!

We took the bus to Ankara, and had a terrific dinner at Margaret's apartment - cooked by Uğur, her boyfriend. Dessert was asure - the story goes that at the end of the voyage, everyone on Noah's Ark brought whatever food they had left and added it to the pot. The result is a sort of rice pudding that includes barley, chickpeas, nuts, dried fruit and other stuff. I'll definitely try to make a batch when I get home.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

More ancient ruins, some school children, and an introduction to carpet making

Abstract: I'm having a great time, and Turkey is fascinating.

Thursday: We mini-vanned to Bergama (formerly Pergamum). The Greeks founded it in the 8th century AD, but it got really famous when the Roman physician Galen set up shop there in AD 129 and made it the Mayo Clinic of its time. The ruins were neat, but I think we'll all remember the school children the most. We ran into a group of about 30 kids - fourth graders maybe? - who were really excited to talk to us. Their guide spoke good English and Margaret speaks enough Turkish that we could ask questions of each other. After that, the kids just had a great time practicing their English on us: What is your name? My name is _. How old are you? Where are you from? What is your favorite football team? Fortunately, Margaret had taught us about Turkish soccer - Fenerbahce is the most popular team, so when I told them I rooted for Fenerbahce, they all cheered. Then they discovered that I have a tongue piercing and I was completely mobbed. I kept trying to say goodbye and to find the rest of my family, but I was like the Pied Piper! Finally their guide called them back, and we toured the rest of Aesklepion in peace. Great day.

We also saw the Red Basilica, which is referenced in Revelations as one of the seven churches of the Apocalypse. Originally a Roman building, it's so big that instead of taking it over, the Christians just built a smaller church inside of it. We mini-vanned to Izmir, Turkey's 3rd largest city, and spent the evening wandering through the bazaar and enjoying raki (anise liqueur) and mezes.

Friday: We flew to Kayseri in the morning, which is in central Turkey and took a van to Urgup, our home base in the Cappadocia region. This area is made up of very soft stone (the result of volcanic ash) topped with harder volcanic stone. The tuff is so soft that people have been digging caves into the hillsides and inhabiting them for thousands of years.

We spent Friday afternoon learning about carpet making, and then shopping for carpets. It was really interesting (We saw how they make silk thread from the cocoons of silk worms!) and definitely gave us a greater appreciation for the handmade rugs we see everywhere. My aunt and uncle bought two gorgeous carpets, and my parents bought two simple kilims (woven, not knotted) for the cabin. It was a stormy day - lots of wind and a little rain - so it was good to stay inside.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Just a brief note today, since I'm at an internet café and running out of time...

We spent all day Tuesday in İstanbul - toured Hagia Sophia in the morning and took a boat tour of the Bosphorus ın the afternoon. Had a super fun dinner with my mom's cousin (who lives here) in the Taksim neighborhood - bustling, modern, nary a headscarf in sight.

We spent all day Wednesday traveling from İstanbul to Selçuk - a ferry and three buses. Today we visited Ephesus - lots of beautiful Roman ruins. We also saw the house where the Virgin Mary spent her last days, and the tomb where John was buried.

The weather is beautiful. There are poppies and roses and cats everywhere. And turtles!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Blue Mosque, Topkapı Palace, & my sister!

Very successful first full day in Turkey. We visited the Blue Mosque in the morning - one of the most important, and beautiful, in the world. It's not as vast as St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, but for me equally awe-inspiring. There's a huge central dome, and many smaller ones cascading down around it. The inside is completely covered with blue İznik tiles - up close, you get to appreciate the intricate floral patterns. From a distance, they dissolve into geometric patterns.

(Here's a detail from one of the domes... I couldn't find any great images of the interior on Google Images.)

In the afternoon, we visited Topkapı Palace and the surrounding Gülhane Park. There are thousands (millions?) of tulips, and most are at their peak. We ate lunch in a little tea garden overlooking the Bosphorus, and then entered the palace grounds. There are four courtyards, each fancier (and more exclusive) than the last. We paid extra to see the Harem - well worth it. Much of it was built by Mehmet Ağa, the same architect responsible for the Blue Mosque, and it was fun to pick out details that carried over from the morning's visit. In addition to the palace buildings, we saw a neat collection of items that the residents would have used - china and silverware, armor, kaftans, jewels, etc.

(This is in the 3rd courtyard.)

We returned to our hotel, happy to find that Margaret had made it there safely, and drank beer on the rooftop deck. We had dinner at a famous local kebap shop (akin to Ben's Chili Bowl in DC) and dessert (tea and baklava) at a sidewalk café. Margaret and I stayed up late talking - it's so good to see her again.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Arrival in Istanbul!

I've been in Istanbul for just over 12 hours now, and it's wonderful. I met my parents in the Minneapolis airport, and together we flew to Amsterdam and on to Istanbul. A van picked us up and drove us on roads lined with thousands of tulips, along the shore of the sea of Marmara where hundreds of families were picnicking, to our hotel. We freshened up (I'd been traveling for 22 hours) and met my Aunt Flury and Uncle Mel (my dad's sister and her husband) on the rooftop cafe. We had a clear view of the Sea of Marmara - busy with ships coming from the Black Sea (via the Bosphorus), bound for the Aegean, Mediterranean and beyond (via Gallipoli). I looked to my left and saw the Blue Mosque, practically next door!

(Here is someone else's picture of the Blue Mosque... I won't be able to post my own photos until I get home. But it's pretty much the view that we had.)

After a little chatting and a bottle Turkish white wine, we set out for a brief tour of the neighborhood - lots of shops targeted at tourists selling mostly carpets, fezzes, beautiful ceramics, and an evil eye charm that wards off carpet salesmen; the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia; and a bunch of pretty buildings, in a bunch of architectural styles. We enjoyed a great seafood dinner (again with a view of the Marmara) and happily got to bed at 10.

(Here's the Hagia Sophia - again, not my photo.)

There are a lot of street cats here (probably about 10 outside our hotel door at any given time), and when I woke up at 2 am to open the window, a little grey cat greeted me! I'm in a street-level room, and there's no screen on the window - just an iron grille. I had to leave the window closed, because I didn't really want the cat to come into my room, and it looked curious enough that it just might.

I'm not sure what's in store for today, but at some point my sister will be joining us! I'm very excited to see her.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Great wedding, great weather, great excitment!

Mea culpa, I've been miserable about blogging lately. I've been busy with lots of stuff that shouldn't go on a blog this public, but all in all, life is excellent.

On the travel front:
I was in Minnesota last week for my cousin Lisa's wedding! I spent a few days in Duluth shopping and walking the Lakewalk with my mom, eating venison for supper and sour cherry crunch for dessert (which is nearly as good as rhubarb crunch) and generally enjoying being home. The wedding, held in Minneapolis, was terrific. Excellent locations, beautiful ceremony, and a fantastic band - they had everyone dancing and begging for an encore when they took their leave at 1 a.m. I wish Scott could have been there - partly because I missed him, and partly so that he could witness the Slick family in full force. I loved dancing with all of my cousins and aunts and second cousins. (Rumor has it there will be another Slick Christmas at the Yukon Palace this year... I sure hope so.)

The only hard part about Minnesota was the weather - it was cold (just above freezing), windy and raining/sleeting/snowing just about every day I was there. I returned home to California where it was a dry 85. Enough said.

This Saturday, I'm leaving for Turkey! I'll meet up with my parents in Minneapolis, and the three of us will travel together to Istanbul, where we'll meet up with my Aunt Flury and Uncle Mel, and then we'll meet up with my sister! I haven't done nearly enough background reading. Good thing I have some long flights coming up, right? I expect to be checking email every few days and will do my best to post some updates here.

And now for your regularly-scheduled kitchen adventure updates.

This is not, I grant you, the most photogenic dinner. Nor is it a halfway decent photograph. But it was an adventure worth documenting - one of those "necessity is the mother of invention" kind of dinners. The kabocha squash had been languishing in the fruit basket for weeks, and I felt kind of sorry for it. I'd picked up fresh salmon from the grocery store that needed to get eaten, and we had a few cups of cooked amaranth in the fridge. We nuked the squash, mixed the amaranth with curry powder and stuffed it in the squash, nestled the salmon on top, and popped it in a hot oven for a few minutes. Not bad! Not great, but a good starting point for next time.

If you want a great recipe, try this curried eggplant soup. I microwaved the eggplant instead of roasting it, to save some time. We made this earlier this week, and it's definitely going into my "tried and true" recipe folder!

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Ultimate weekend

Just a quick post to announce that I had a great weekend and arrived home in Davis safe and sound. I drove down to Santa Cruz early on Saturday morning and met up with the Caltech team. (Michelle, a former college teammate, invited me to play with them.) The fields were very dewy, so I played with damp feet all day long, and I'm going to lose one of my big toenails as a result. Gross. Besides that, it was a great day. Lovely weather, four fun games (I scored the winning "universe" point of our last game!), and great teammates. Nice Italian dinner, followed by dessert at an ice cream & cookie parlor. We only played two games today, which was about all I had energy for. We finished around one, and I got back to Davis around 4:30. I ate (a lot) and went for a walk with Scott, which was a good loosening up of the muscles after the drive but made me realize how tired my legs are. Looking forward to a movie tonight and a quieter day tomorrow.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Recent recipes

We've been cooking some good things this week that I wanted to report on.

On Monday night, we had Peter and Amy over to play games. (We just bought a card game called "Gloom" and a board game called "Save Doctor Lucky," and Peter and Amy are game buffs - good guinea pigs for new games.) For dinner, we served wheat berry-stuffed winter squash. We overcooked the squash a little, and it dried out, but it's a good recipe. We marinated some asparagus and roasted it, and used the leftover marinade to fry up some tofu. I also baked the fourth loaf of the 5-minute bread. The dough had started to ferment a little bit, we think, but it ended up having a really wonderful flavor. I'm going to start letting my bread dough "age" more often. We had the last of the rhubarb crunch for dessert - it was a big hit.

Yesterday for lunch, we used the first of our Easter eggs and made Mark Bittman's shrimp deviled eggs - delicious! There was a lot of yolk mixture, so we had some of it in the egg whites and the rest on toast. Lovely.

This morning, I invented an oatmeal pudding. We like our steel-cut oats in the morning, but they tend to leave us feeling hungry after a few hours. I cooked a half cup of oats according to package directions (next time I'll use less water though) and then added two eggs and ¾ cup of milk (mixed before added to the pot). It's still too early to call, but hopefully the added protein and fat will help the oatmeal stick to our ribs a little better! It definitely tasted good.

Tonight, if I'm lucky, Scott will make the mole he's been talking about for months... we shall see!