Monday, November 27, 2006

Oh Christmas Tree!

Watch the video
How to add modern style to an old holiday? Renee Michelle gives a little style advice while garage sale shopping.

More Cute Kyla Pictures

An official Styling with Renee Michelle tip: small children and pets are cutest when they are photographed within a container of some sort.

Here are the latest pictures of my niece, sporting a stunning pink ensemble, and then (not-so-happily) a seasonal pumpkin look.

According to her doting father, she now locomotes by scooching. (He couldn't quite explain how that works.) I have also personally witnessed her excellent rolling abilities: she just keeps rolling and rolling until she hits a piece of furniture, then she just looks up and enjoys the view of the ceiling for a while.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006


So, on Sunday I was sick. Not "I think I'm about to be quite ill" sick, thank goodness, just "lay around quietly" sick. When I got tired of laying around on the bed, I found variety by laying around on the sofa. There I was entertained all afternoon by the cat.

Andrew built her a new toy by attaching pieces of yarn to a revolving fan. Now Phi positively adores yarn. Waving a piece of yarn in front of her is like offering her cat porn. There is absolutely nothing she would rather be doing than watching that yarn.

Thus, as I lay horizontal on the couch, the end table in front of the couch prevented me from seeing the floor. Then the fan would spin, the yarn would dance, and, without warning, there would suddenly be a cat in mid-air, leaping to catch that string.

As I always say, who needs a TV when you've got a cat?

Friday, November 17, 2006

Here come the holidays!

Thanksgiving is almost here. I'm so excited. As I've done for the past three years, I'm hosting a Thanksgiving dinner for all the people (read: physics graduate students) who have nowhere else to go. Many of them aren't from the U.S., so that makes it even more fun - they have no expectations about grandma's stuffing or their favorite cranberry sauce.

Since we do it as a potluck, my job is to cook the turkey and a few other dishes, and then I get to spend the rest of my time doing the fun work of decorating. Putting out the fall colored tablecloths, making bouquets of branches and berries and stuff I find out in the yard, and making place tags. Not turky-themed place cards, I assure you. Something classier. Which I will, um, decide on real soon.

In my next post I will detail my patented, absolutely favorite way to cook a turkey. I haven't actually eat a turkey cooked in this way, but I swear, it gets good reviews every year. Gotta love the irony of the vegetarian being in charge of the turkey.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Have you replaced your spices lately?

Hello, I just came back from a dee-lightful weekend. Sure, it involved driving fifteen hours in two and a half days, but I got to go home. To a new home.

Our trip to Ohio was ostensibly to (a) spend some time with an old friend who is currently visiting from Malaysia and (b) help my parents unpack. Mainly, we ate. Waffles (with literally pounds of sausage on the side, Andrew was in heaven, I tell you) and maple syrup, cherry pie, brownies, lasagna, eggplant parmesan, chocolate cheesecake, and, um, lots of good wine and beer. I will take a moment here to recommend Great Lake's Brewery's "Holy Moses" White Ale. It is brewed with chamomile, orange peel, and coriander, which sounded a bit odd, but it was really terrific. I normally prefer porters and stouts, but this had a lot of flavor.

In between our rounds of eating, I helped my mother organize her spices. I have convinced her that spices do not actually keep their flavor for a decade, so every few years she goes to an Amish store where they sell them in bulk, and replenishes her stock. We generally split everything she buys, so we both end up with new spices and it doesn't cost nearly as much as buying them all at the grocery store. Having spent yesterday morning refilling shakers with fresh fennel, curry, cloves, and peppercorns, I itching to get into the kitchen and start cooking with my new zippy spices.

And, to wrap up loose ends from other posts: the cheesecake and key lime pie were terrific. I will definitely make the lime pie again, as it was super easy, once I zested and juiced the limes. Unfortunately, Andrew can eat a half a pie in on day, so I may have to learn to make larger quantities. Also, my hair is now a very bizarre blue-brown color. No pictures. I don't want this color to go on my permanent record. I will keep up the weekly henna applications, and hopefully it will resemble some natural color (any natural color) before I meet Andrew's family at Christmas.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Even more about food

Continuing the series of food posts: I've been making a lot of soup lately, as I always seem to do in the fall. I had a friend over for lunch on Saturday, and made her favorite corn and potato soup which turned into corn chowder because that's what I had a hankering for. That will probably be the last of the corn soup for the season, because I like it best when I can use corn on the cob. I cut all the corn off the cob, then boil the cobs until I get as much corny goodness out of them as possible, scraping the last of the corn from them. Then I dump in the corn, a chopped potato or two, and a few spices. Not too much, because mainly I want to taste corn. This time I added milk at the end, because I used to love clam chowder as a kid, but now don't eat it so often (well, never) on account of the whole vegetarian thing. So this was the best I could do.

On Sunday I made borscht. Nothing like a hot pink soup to put a smile on your face. As my grandmother pointed out, you can't make a small amount of borscht - what are you going to do, add a quarter of a parsnip? So we've been eating it for the past three days, but I think we've reached the bottom of the tupperware now.

Tonight it's on to a chocolate extravaganza. In my research group, when a graduate student defends his thesis, we always have a potluck reception afterwards. The soon-to-be-PhD defending this time has requested all chocolate, so (per her specific request to me) I'm making a chocolate crusted-key lime pie and (per my own desires) a super rich choocolate cheesecake. Yum. The promise of cheesecake and champagne is reason enough to finish you PhD, isn't it?

Sunday, November 05, 2006

It sounded like a good idea at the time

Friday night was one of those nights when you get home late and realize that there are no more fresh vegetables or fruits in the house and you should have gone grocery shopping, like, three days ago. I thought this was the perfect opportunity to try out a new recipe that I had seen in the New York Times food section, "Eggs Poached in Red Wine." It sounded simple, used ingredients that I always have around (red wine, eggs, garlic, bread, and parmesian comprising the entire list) and I am always excited about alcholic main courses.

Saute the garlic, lightly fry the bread in the garlic and oil mixture and remove, and then add red wine and poach the eggs. Top with parmesan, serve with the garlic croutons on the side, and you've got... something really revolting. We ate the garlic bread with gusto, fished out the eggs and ate them because we were hungry, and dumped the revolting, salty, acidic, red wine down the drain. It amazes me when a recipe can take perfectly lovely ingredients and put them together to make something far worse then the sum of the parts.

Next time, I'll make the garlic bread, fry the eggs, and drink a nice big glass of red wine on the side. Lesson learned.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Dinner partying the nights away...

I've been so busy entertaining I've had no time to post. Sorry. I'll try to be better in the future.

Since passing my quals, I've felt the weight of social obligations pressing upon me, and decided to throw big dinner parties and clear them all up as quickly as possible. So twice in ten days I've pulled out the oven mitts and gotten busy. The first week I kept it simple and made a big pot of soup for the main course, something I'm usually loathe to do because soup just doesn't seem fancy enough to carry a meal. But Julia Child's Soup au Pistou (I'm sure all you French speakers will be happy to correct my spelling) is really quite a killer recipe. It's just a simple pot of vegetables: potatos, onions, carrots, green beans, and canned white beans boiled in water. Then you add the carbs: a handful of broken spaghetti and a couple of pieces of dry French bread, broken into pieces. While that finishes boiling, you make the pistou, which is the French version of pesto: a lot of fresh basil, garlic, parmesan, and tomato paste. Add that in at the last moment, and you have a heaven in a pot. The guests had a good long discussion about the flavor umami, which this soup has in abundance, thanks to the parmesan.

The highlight of the meal seemed to be the long sesame breadsticks (you know, the kind that look like large cracker chopsticks) served upright in glasses around the table. Sigh... I don't know why I try to impress people with my oh-so-fabulous cooking when I could serve them each a package of sesame breaksticks and wine they'd be just as happy.

The second meal was more work: ten people, tapas. The idea was the tapas would be easier on me, because it's just one course. In the end it didn't much matter, because ten people require a lot of food, no matter how few courses you have. I tried to have a mix of hot and cold (for variety and so I wouldn't be freaking out frying six things ten minutes before the guests arrived), and the menu was: tortilla espanola, fried potatoes with garlic aioli, tapenade and bread, apricots with rosemary goat cheese, chickpea salad, and a blue cheese-almond green salad, followed by oranges in simple syrup, arroz con leche, and flan. A completely vegetarian, almost gluten-free, kosher meal. And pretty yummy on top of that.

Now I must get back to my pressing concerns of the week: transcribing audio interviews and trying to re-die my hair. My now blue hair needs to turn to a normal color as soon as possible. I just realized I need a new passport, and I refuse to be immortalized (well, immortalized for ten years) in blue.