Thursday, October 30, 2008

Snack crisis averted

Today's afternoon snack was supposed to be three Belgian butter cookies. After I made the accompanying cup of tea, I discovered they were a bit chewy, so I popped them into the office toaster oven. Set to toast dark. Three minutes later, I was rewarded with three small, smoking black wafers. Thinking quickly, I carried the entire toaster oven outside until the smoke cleared.*

But what to do? A day without a snack is a day without sunshine. Luckily, some of my office mates were up for a jaunt. A quick trip to the campus ice cream parlor provided us with pumpkin pie ice cream cones, and life was good again.

*I'm actually quite practiced at this, as I had to carry the microwave out last year when I set its contents on fire.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Things I am thankful for today

1. Fall weather. Besides providing me with beautiful arboreal colors to enjoy, autumn lets me dig out all my favorite winter coats and hats. I bought a new one in Italy this summer and was especially keen to wear it today.

2. People who provide free blog header pictures for common use. (Hence, the redesign.)

3. My cast iron pan. A friend recently told me that she doesn't have one because she can't handle the worry of cleaning them improperly. A well-seasoned cast iron pan is a joy. It's insanely cheap (I don't know how you'd even spend more than $15), it lasts forever, and it holds heat like the sun. They aren't that scary to clean - either scour with salt or coffee grounds, avoiding soap, or wash with soap and water, and then re-season (i.e. smear with oil and heat) after each wash. Voila.

4. My husband. On Friday night, around midnight, I realized there was nothing that could make me happier at that moment than mint chocolate chip ice cream and he went and bought me some. I'm embarrassed to admit how often things like this happen.

Thursday, October 23, 2008


I happened to get a deal on lemons when we were in Philadelphia a few weeks ago. That led to last week's lemon fest, salted lemons (on the left) and the previously mentioned lemon mousse. (Recipe here, although I didn't make the berry puree. The mousse was pretty terrific even without it.)

I have survived the homework crunch of the past three days. You know it's going to be a doozy when you think, "Why change out of my pajamas? I'm not going to leave the house all day, and I can spend an extra five minutes working on this problem."

Now it's back to the work that pays my bills. Looks like I'll be working this weekend too...

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

All quiet on the Eastern Front

I seem to have no time, and yet I have nothing to tell you about. Our house is a busy beehive of work. Andrew spends every spare moment coding, trying to get a program to run and give him data (sweet data!) before his conference in November. I alternate between homework and trying to write a draft of a paper.

Luckily, this weekend I went on a cooking spree and we have been well fed during our work. I made a particularly lovely dessert which layers homemade lemon curd and lemon mousse. So when I'm totally frustrated by space-time as we know it (that was a general relativity reference, by the way) the lemon mousse soothes me.

Monday, October 13, 2008


A secretary admonished me for using a microwave I wasn't allowed to use. And while I violated the letter of the rule she was quoting, I don't think I was violating the spirit of the rule. I wish I wasn't so prone to feeling guilty about things like this. In real life, it took me two hours to quit feeling bad about the encounter. In my ideal life, I'd just let this slide off my back. How do you just let stuff go?

Friday, October 10, 2008

My newest favorite toy...

Bento boxes. (Also known as tiffins or small stackable tupperware.) 

Andrew and I got new lunchboxes at the start of the school year, and I'm loving them. There are four individual containers that all fit in one insulated holder, so I can send either hot or cold food. We get more variety than we ever did before, and even though I know what is in them each day, I still enjoy the surprise. 
Here's how they work. You lay them out:

You fill with leftovers:
They all get a lid. 
And they they all get stacked (and put into the thermos).
I thought it would take loads of time to prepare this much food, but I normally only fill the largest container with leftover dinner. Then one gets some miso paste and veggies, which we turn into soup with the addition of hot water at school. The other two get some combination of fruit, yogurt, nuts, dried fruit, or some cake, if we're lucky enough to have some. Yum.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Adventures in the kitchen

Monday I had a cooking disaster. I have no pictures of the (two!) wretched pot pies to show you. I hope to expunge them from my memory. I figured out what I did wrong, but only after they were all done. Even worse, I had made the second one as a gift for friends who just had a baby. I can only hope that their sleep-deprived state inured them to the tragedy that was my crust.

Not one to give up, I ventured back into the kitchen yesterday and made an outstanding cabbage soup. I can use such adjectives without appearing boastful because all the credit goes to Epicurious. I must admit that I didn't expect such pizzaz from cabbage. But the onion and cabbage soup was topped by apples quickly sauteed in butter, which provided a more toothsome texture and delicate sweetness to occasional bites. On advice from one of the commenters, I topped each bowl with gruyere cheese (the maiden voyage for our new french onion soup bowls) and got this:

Epicurious, you've saved me again.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Ring, ring goes the cash register

In these difficult times, are you craving a little retail therapy? The president has told us many times that when the economy goes south, the people should go shopping. If you don't have any money to spend yourself, help me spend mine. Thanks to our generous friends and family, Andrew and I have wedding money to spend. Accustomed to our frugal graduate student ways, we're having trouble actually spending it. This is where you, my great reading public, come in. If you had a couple of hundred dollars to spend on an item or two for your household, what would you buy?

We want to buy good quality stuff that will last, if not as long as we hope our marriage will, at least a couple of decades. So far we've purchased silverware and wine glasses. Suggestions?