Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Highlights from my Christmas holiday in Ohio

1. Waking up at 3am last Tuesday and standing in a cold, snowy field with my parents and husband to see the full eclipse of the moon. I believe that every single day we were in Ohio it was cloudy, but the skies happened to clear at that hour. I thought it was incredibly cool that my parents would wake from a dead sleep and look at the moon with me.

2. Decorating the table. My father and I designed this one together.

3. Discovering that my husband knows how to draw. We colored with my niece and nephew for an afternoon. We were there with paper and pencils and then he just produced recognizable scenes on the page. This is something I’ve never been able to do, so I’m rather in awe.

4. Reading. I love reading, and whenever I go on vacation I’m reminded that I want to do it more. I read to my niece and nephew, I read my own books, and now (thanks to Andrew) I’ve got a Kindle so I can read even more.

5. Cooking a four course English Christmas dinner: Welsh rabbit, standing rib roast roast with onion gravy, roast potatoes and vegetables, and a boiled pudding with custard sauce. I learned that Welsh rabbit is actually cheese sauce on toast and that boiled puddings (which are just cakes that are steamed rather than baked) are deliciously moist and just as easy to make as regular cakes.

6. Reveling in winter. I appreciate many aspects of Miami, but I really miss the changing seasons. I soaked in the winter feeling as much as possible, which meant taking a walk in the woods while the snow was falling and drinking Gluehwein.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Chicago: Days 3 and 4

Sorry about the long radio silence. Work has hit me hard, and it's not going to let up until I take my Christmas vacation. I thus present an abbreviated version of our last two days in 'my kind of town, Chicago'.

It turns out that Andrew didn't ever remember visiting a zoo during his childhood. His whole family loves animals, so I guess they were too busy visiting the animals at wildlife preserves, model farms, parks, and beaches to make it to a zoo. So we visited one of the last free zoos still around in America - Lincoln Park Zoo. It was a small-ish but excellent zoo. The unseasonably warm weather that we had enjoyed the previous days had disappeared (and since I had accidentally left my winter coat in storage) I waddled around wearing two shirts, two sweaters, and two jackets. I was not exactly an icon of style, but I mainly stayed warm.

That night we had dinner a restaurant which was exclusively vegetarian. When travelling, we're often lucky enough to find vegetarian restaurants that cater to the foodie crowd, or high-end restaurants that serve vegetarian prix fixe menus. It seems a bit cruel of fate to give me a decent job so that I can afford to go to restaurants like this but plunk me in a city like Miami that would never support such a restaurant. In any case, Green Zebra served a great meal. We had a panna cotta, which I've never had because I didn't know they could be made without gelatin. The waiter assured me that it was done with agar, so I may be trying that myself one of these days. We also had a lovely potato soup with smoked sunchokes and a pasta in brown butter. These dishes, of course, made me vow to buy a smoker and learn how to make brown butter sauce.

During our final day we squeezed in a trip to the Art Institute of Chicago. I love this art museum, and have visited many times. But this time we only had a few hours and Andrew had never seen anything there. So we availed ourselves of the "If you only have an hour, see these twelve paintings" insert in the guidebook. I felt like the epitome of a tourist, checking off the paintings: Edward Hopper's Nighthawks? Check. American Gothic? Check. Seurat's A Sunday on La Grande Jatte? Seen it, moving on. But sometimes it just turns out that way.

Then we were off to the airport and to our respective homes. And those were our four days in the town that Billy Sunday couldn't shut down.