Tuesday, June 30, 2009


I will forever think of Boston as the "Seattle of the East Coast." After my conference ended in Maine, Andrew picked me up (in the rain) and we spent one last day walking around Bar Harbor (in the rain). Then we drove down to Boston (in the rain), set up the tent (in the rain), and spent the next week sightseeing (in the rain). Except for the last day and a half, it rained/misted/poured more or less continuously. The title of the post refers to the state of us and all of our belongings. During the day, we'd wander around under the giant golf umbrella, spending lots of time having lunch or coffee in warm cafes. (Did I mention it was cold, too?) Then we'd come back to the campsite and crawl into our damp, and by the end, slightly moldy, sleeping bags. I can not tell you the joy I felt upon arriving home and sleeping in a dry bed.

In spite of that, it was a great trip. The camping wasn't all that enjoyable, but it's a choice I don't regret. Our lodging bill for the whole week? Less than a hundred dollars. That meant that we could blow the budget on food, which is what we did, with gusto. I made reservations at all the restaurants I could find with prix fixe vegetarian offers. Our vacation, therefore, was framed by three terrific meals. Rather than bore you with long menu lists, let me recommend these restaurants if you're in the Boston area: Craigie on the Main, Ten Tables, and Oleana.

Eating all this great food has inspired me to try new things in my cooking. Specifically, I have resolved:
1. To use more fruit in my cooking. I already include a lot of mangoes, strawberries, and apples in salads, but I want to use it other savory food. We had a great toasted cheese sandwich with quince jam served with a side of chilled melon soup. Another outstanding combination was a mango-beet salsa topped with avocado.
2.To eat more arugula. I love arugula - why don't I eat it more? (I know the answer to this: I can't figure out where to buy it.)
3. To remember that pasta doesn't have to have a sauce. One of my favorite dishes of the week was homemade orecchiette ("little ears") pasta tossed with browned, buttered breadcrumbs, bitter rapini, and a rather smooth feta cheese.

My first attempt to do this? On Sunday I made orecchiette and tossed it with Gorgonzola, spinach, and toasted walnuts. The cheese melted so it was sort of sauce-y, but it was at least a change from marinara. And homemade orecchiette needs to become a regular item at our house. I find the chewiness a pleasant change from homemade fettuccine, and they're big enough that they don't take too long to form into the little ear shapes.

Monday, June 15, 2009

On the road

I ran around last week getting ready for a combined conference/vacation excursion. I’ve noticed a consistent pattern when I’m planning to travel to city, like Chicago or Rome: I suddenly become extra-critical of my wardrobe and decide it isn’t good enough. So I run around madly trying to fill in all the gaps I notice. My desperate shopping trips before I travel are regular enough that I should probably start scheduling a day before I lave specifically for them. Or I try to improve how I feel about my clothes, I suppose.

I’m looking forward to this trip. The conference I’m attending is held only once every two years, and they restrict the number of attendees. It’s held on a beautiful, tiny college campus right on the coast of Maine. Because it’s small enough that you get to know everyone, and because the schedule has lots of free time, it’s quite an enjoyable experience.

Andrew is driving up with me and camping during the week I’ll be at the conference. I expect he’ll spend the whole week hiking, and that’s an activity I have no desire to share. Then we’ll spend a week in Boston for our summer vacation. I’ve managed to do some research, and along with the touristy activities, I’ve found no less than THREE restaurants that offer vegetarian prix fixe menus. We will be eating well.

If I don’t manage to post in the next two weeks, then I’ll see you all in July.

Monday, June 08, 2009

At the beach again

This is how the sun-phobic enjoy the beach, after they've applied SPF 50:
It was a good trip, even though the sun disappeared as we approached the beach. It was an odd day - beautifully sunny, but then right at the coast there was some kind of weather anomaly that filled the sky with gray stuff. Fog, I guess? Anyway, it didn't interfere with our naps on the beach, and it eventually drove everyone else away. This allowed Andrew to take some great pictures of all the birds enjoying the seashore.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

What I've been doing lately

1. Buying flowers at the farmer's market. The latest selection is tall, striking, and smells vaguely of skunk. Definitely not your average supermarket flower.

2. Working on the philosophy paper that won't ever be finished. My class has ended, but the professor believes in extensions. I am having trouble convincing him that the philosophy of quantum mechanics is not my new life's calling. He keeps singing, "We can publish," and I keep replying, "Not if I want to get my dissertation done."

3. Making an online cheese atlas. Doesn't that sound like the geekiest endeavor ever? I own a book listing artisanal cheese producers of the U.S. I'm inputting all the locations onto a Google map so that we can go visit one whenever we happen to be in the area. I promise to share it when it's done. (I bet you all can hardly wait.)

4. I've been making granola, lots of it.
It finally hit me that granola is one of those things you can make great batches of, and store in the freezer forever. Homemade granola tastes so much better that store bought to me, mainly because the homemade stuff is a lot less sweet.

I brought some when were camping last week, and it was a hit. (Truth be told, any food you bring camping will be a hit. I think spending all that time with the bugs and rain lowers your standards so much that Ragu turns into the finest marinara.) But the granola actually is terrific, and easy to make: 4 cups of oats on a cookie sheet mixed with one stick of melted butter and 1/3 cup maple syrup. 30-40 minutes in a 300F degree oven and you're set. (Full recipe here.)

5. Eating breakfast. I need an extra delicious breakfast every morning to convince myself to get out of bed. (When people say, "She's not a morning person," they're talking about me.) We've been eating homemade yogurt with fruit, a bit of granola, and toasted nuts every morning. Yum.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Roughing it (with four cars full of equipment)

The camping weekend turned out great. Sure, there was the minor matter of the hooligans partying on Friday night. (I didn't even know it was possible to drink and shout continuously for twelve hours.) But a friend put in two separate calls to the sheriff (they were still yelling at seven a.m.!) and within a few hours we were treated to an entertaining spectacle as the rangers descended en masse and evicted them. They even tried to throw Andrew out, but I think his accent helped convince them that it was a case of mistaken identity...

The company was terrific, the weather turned out to be beautiful, and the food was scrumptious. Did I mention I cooked the whole weekend? My favorite meal was a peanut and yam stew, which I only make when we camp. I served it with some cheddar cornbread muffins that I had baked the night before.

Some visual evidence of our adventure:

The park was situated right at the headwaters of the Chesapeake bay

Andrew and I grin because neither of us has thought about work for 24 hoursMy friend M, smiling big. (This picture was taken before she discovered just how many ticks she had picked up on the hike.)

And finally, our friend Jonny captured a contemplative moment at the campsite. He's working on a project where he creates a set of visual notes every day for 100 days, and I happened to end up in this one.