Wednesday, December 26, 2007

A Vegge Tale

Much feasting and fraternizing has taken place in the last two weeks, as Styling with Renee Michelle has taken her annual Christmas pilgrimage to the Midwest. We've been sampling the local cuisine. One night at dinner I was rather in the mood for some veggies, so I ordered a salad. (I need to insert a disclaimer here, at the request of my sister-in-law: some Midwestern food is quite nice. And she's right. It's just not as fun to talk about.)

When the salad arrived, I laughed out loud. The vitamins had fled in terror, leaving only iceberg lettuce, mozzarella, and ranch dressing. (Shown in its full monochrome beauty below.)

When we got home, Andrew comforted me by making me a crunchy, flavanoid-filled salad, with homemade vinaigrette.

And my taste buds rejoiced.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Frugal art

Someone looking at the pictures from the party pointed out that one of our paintings is a Mondrian. I guess it is, although I didn't know who he was. (For further education, go here.) This painting was one my recent projects. I wanted something large and colorful for our single largeish wall. After much searching, I realized I would need to make something because I wasn't going to be able to afford anything I really liked. I researched art from the 50s and 60s (thank you, Wikipedia) and settled on a blocky geometric design using the paint I had already purchased for the furniture.

The implementation turned out to be the easy part: I purchased a large canvas and gesso'd it, then laid it on the floor and used pieces of string laid on the canvas to visualize the divisions. (That was the cat's favorite part.) Then I replaced the string with masking tape and painted the divisions. When I removed the tape, here's what I got:
Total cost: $35 (for 1 canvas, 1 can of gesso, and a roll of masking tape)
Total time: about 3 hours
Satisfaction: High

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Party time

I'm so proud of myself. I managed to throw a party on a Friday (that is, no day off to prepare) and yet plan ahead enough that we were ready, calm, and sitting on the couch (really! I wasn't madly garnishing as guests arrived!) when the first guest arrived.

By spacing out the preparations (one weekend for decorating, one weekend for grocery shopping and baking, one weeknight day for the last of cooking), I enjoyed the work even more than usual. Here's an pictorial survey of the menu:

On the left, you can see the cookies: chocolate orange hazelnut cookies, chocolate peppermint sandwiches, and madeleines. In the middle are the savories: in the blue bowl, a warm white bean dip, flavored with cumin and Monterrey jack (the closeup is below); baba ghanouj, the yummiest dish that I can't spell, and lemon cured olives.

The bread was the no-knead recipe I've written about before. I was flattered because most people thought it was store bought. (It's funny how that can be either a compliment or an insult.) The olives need a whole post themselves, but I'll save that for another day. Here are the happy guests, munching and chatting and looking fabulous like only physicists can look.

Monday, December 10, 2007

The long and short (ahem) of it

I think I baked about 24 dozen cookies this weekend. I'm only estimating, you understand, because I quit counting after a while. But I baked a lot, that's my point. And every time I spend much time in my kitchen, I'm reminded of my dream that someday I'll have a kitchen that fits me. I'm a rather short person. I like to think that I'm exactly the right size, because that's what it feels like to me, but (alas) the rest of the world seems to be built for someone larger.

And this leads to my dream of a kitchen where the counters are the perfect height, instead of four inches too high. I've spent some time thinking about how to accomplish this, and because I don't think I would want to permanently alter the kitchen, I've considered installing fake floors up to the point where the cabinet doors open. This will have to wait until I'm planning to stay in a apartment more that a year or two, but it's nice to dream.

Friday, December 07, 2007


I've been busy getting into the Christmas spirit. I think I'm done with my Christmas shopping, which was facilitated by the realization that Amazon ships directly to Australia (where I have several godchildren), allowing me to skip the tedious line at the Post Office. Another thing that helped is that my whole family not only provides wish lists, we combine them with appropriate links on a Google spreadsheet, so that shopping becomes a point and click exercise. I love the digital age.

While I've been hanging tasteful snowflakes inside the house, our landlord has been busy festooning the outside of the house with riotous lights. Each day he adds one more string, and every day it's a new kind of light. The first day, there were multicolored lights twined around the top porch railing. The next day, red rope light appeared, to be followed by white icicles, pastel colored globes on the bush, and a different color on the next bush.
Here's a photo, although I don't think it truly captures the tumultuousness of the scene. While I'm not sure I can give this the Styling with Renee Michelle Seal of Approval, it does make me laugh every time I come home at night. I appreciate his desire for cheeriness and festivity, even if the lights do make my eyes cross.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Because now 170 of us graduate annually

Today as I was walking into the building, I was looking at the majestic old pine trees and enormous magnolias and thinking about how this campus probably didn't look that different fifty years ago: the same brick buildings with tall white columns and the same flowing tide of undergraduates rushing to class. Then I realized one thing that would have been different: I wouldn't have been part of it. Fifty years ago it was almost unheard of for a woman to get a PhD in physics. (The best statistics I could find showed about 8 physics PhDs conferred to women in the entire country in 1958.) So, although I like to consider myself a fighter, that kind of battle would have done me in. I'm grateful to be living now, studying something that I (on alternate Tuesdays) enjoy.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Free: good music

I finally availed myself of a bit of Washington culture that I had been ignoring too long. The Kennedy Center (you know the place - home of the National Symphony Orchestra, looks like it was decorated by Jackie Kennedy, makes you feel like you should be more well-dressed than you are, regardless of the formality of your attire) has something called a Millennium Stage, which hosts free shows every night of the year. You can catch anything from African drumming to Orthodox Jewish bluegrass (honest to goodness - they'll be there on Tuesday). I caught a string sextet made up of National Symphony Orchestra members, and it was terrific. Every note was precisely in place. Oddly, it was the only classical concert I've ever attended where the audience applauded after every movement. Although it's a slight breach of classical music etiquette, I took it as a sign that the audience was not your traditional stuffed shirts, so that means a lot of people are hearing music they wouldn't regularly get to.

And they have performance archive here in case you'd like to catch a peek at those Orthodox bluegrass musicians after Tuesday.