Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year's Eve!

Sorry things have been quiet lately, but we've been back in Calgary enjoying the holidays, the relatively calm weather, and a lot of food. I've caught a nasty little cold, which has upped my tissue consumption about three-fold, but I'm trying not to let it slow me down in the eating or shopping departments! The good thing is that I've finally gotten my hands on the last Harry Potter volume, and even when you're sick, life doesn't get much better than curling up with a blanket and a good book.

So we're home for almost another week, and then it's back to the grind (and bjourning about our adventures)! 

We hope you are all having wonderful, warm holidays. We're looking forward to 2008... anyone have any good resolutions?

Thursday, December 20, 2007

OFT No. 10 - Triple date!

Last weekend we didn't have plans for Friday or Saturday night, but ended up going on a triple date with two couples from Brian's lab. We went for dinner and a movie in Evanston (how cliche is that?!)

Dinner was at the Dixie Kitchen & Bait Shop, a Southern/Cajun restaurant that Brian and I
found when we stayed at Donald's apartment during the apartment hunt. Their bread basket consists of ultra-yummy mini cornmeal pancakes (with honey butter), and they make a mean fried chicken. Big portions and pretty good service - and no, no bait.

Then we watched Juno, a movie about a teenager who gets pregnant after sleeping with her best friend, and the way she deals with it. We were particularly excited about the movie because of the cast. The actors included not just one, but two of the stars of our favorite and very sadly now-defunct TV show, Arrested Development. That would be Michael Cera (a Canadian) and Jason Bateman, of course. The main star of the movie is Ellen Page, (another Canadian) who's getting good press. She was good, though we thought that the script was a little overwrought - she was a little too smart-alecky too much of the time. Michael Cera's character was fairly central to the movie, though he didn't have that many lines or screen time. The scenes he was in, though, were great, due in no small part to the ultra-flimsy running shorts that he sported for most of them. They were cringingly delightful. Jennifer Garner did a somewhat surprisingly good job, though Jason Bateman wasn't terribly believable as an aging rock musician. (Eh, don't feel sorry for him - it's his comeuppance for the snubbage he inflicted upon me and some friends at a film premiere a couple of years ago...some of us are still rather bitter about it...)

Anyway, go see it. It has an interesting soundtrack, a pretty good story, and some very promising young Canadians. What could be better? Oh, in case you're not convinced, take a look at these gams:

Need I say more?

Thursday, December 13, 2007

OFT No. 9 - Fried Turkey, With a Side of Guitar Hero

This goes back to last weekend. Was this really our first OFT in December? Yikes! Well, the weekend before was when the snow hit, so we stayed holed up in our apartment. I did a bunch of craft-y stuff, which to me is a VERY fun thing (a VFT?), but not really worth bjourning about.

So last weekend we had a bona fide OFT, which was going to Brian's labmate Jenni's house for hijinks and fried turkey! Now, I've had fried turkey before, but it never fails to be really fun to watch. For one thing, it takes less than an hour to cook, which is nice. The best thing though, is seeing the bird go in the oil. It roils like crazy, bubbling and spitting loudly (much like the insane piranhas I encountered in an olive grove in Morocco... but that's another story).

Here's the turkey going in (that's Randy, Jenni's husband):
Randy was quickly engulfed in the steam (it was pretty cold outside):

There was plenty of tasty food (we made macaroni and cheese, and turned some of it into fried mac 'n cheese balls) and dessert - just like any proper holiday party.

While the food was being prepared, some of the guys were setting up the ubiquitous Guitar Hero. If you haven't been exposed to this phenomenon yet, you should try it. We were first introduced to this by Jackie and Jon playing Frets on Fire (a PC version) on their keyboard - before they got the 'guitar.' What, you've never seen a keyboard being used as a guitar before?!?

They burned us a DVD and we played it with my keyboard. Unfortunately, I have a very big ergonomoic keyboard, so it just wasn't the same! The game guitar is not like an actual instrument where the output is digitized, it's really just a joystick in guitar form. You have 'frets,' a strum bar and a whammy bar. You don't have to know anything about reading music or even notes - it's more of a rhythm game than anything.

We sort of had a competition, but it just devolved into random people picking random songs and playing, while the rest of us watched, mesmerized. Style points were also given if the player did something especially noteworthy (like playing behind their back).

Here's Brian rocking out:
And me:
Baby Ming approves:
There was also a White Elephant gift exchange, where we ended up with a cookie cookbook (not bad, not bad) and some reusable shopping bags (useful, especially since we're really trying to cut down on plastic bags).

Fun times, and a good kickoff to the holiday party season.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Vande Rose Farms Applewood Smoked Bacon (Dec 2007)

After a disappointing showing in November, the Bacon of the Month club redeemed itself with the latest selection, which apparently comes from a special breed of pig ("Duroc hogs").

We didn't have any tomatoes or lettuce, so we went with grilled cheese and bacon sandwiches the first night. (A couple nights later, we also made some BLTA's.)

The Vande Rose Farms was clearly more similar to the North Country Cob Smoked Bacon than the Tripp Country Bacon: thick slices producing great texture, and not too salty. However, I wasn't able to pick up too many distinctive flavors.

As everyone knows, value is always an important consideration for me (in this case, I'm also looking out for my friends who pitched in to buy this subscription), so I was a bit disappointed that this month, we only received 12 oz of bacon (compared to a full pound each of the previous two months). Furthermore, this bacon also shrunk considerably upon cooking (although not as much as the Tripp Country Bacon), so we didn't get much final product.

Overall, the Vande Rose Farms was impressive, but it still fell short of the North Country, which had a more interesting flavor, in addition to simply giving us more.

Bacon ranking:
1. North Country Cob Smoked Bacon (Oct 2007)
2. Vande Rose Farms Applewood Smoked Bacon (Dec 2007)
3. Tripp Country Bacon (Nov 2007)

Sunday, December 2, 2007


We had our first real snowfall yesterday. I'm talking big, fluffy white stuff that actually stuck to the ground and to our car while we were grocery shopping. I was going to take a picture but once we got back into the house I didn't want to go out again! We even turned down an invitation to go out, it was that bad.

It wasn't cold enough for it to really stay around, though, so while a fair bit of it fell, it quickly turned into freezing rain and howling wind. There was quite a storm through the night, and rain all day today, but it looks calmer (yeah, we didn't go out all day today either! Wimps...)

This really shouldn't be a big deal, since we grew up in Calgary and all, but living in California for 6-7 years will really change your perspective. It was a little magical, a lot cold, and really nice that it was the weekend and we didn't have to go out if we didn't want to! I'm just not looking forward to when the snow really does pile up, since you can't park on city streets if there are more than 2 inches on the ground. Parking is hard enough most of the time!

Welcome to Chicago winters...

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Dim Sum Fiasco

We haven't eaten much Chinese food since we've been in Chicago, so we were intrigued by an article in the Chicago Tribune about a neighborhood that is sometimes referred to as "New Chinatown" or "Little Saigon". We were happy with the vietnamese pho and banh mi in the area, so this morning, we tried the dim sum restaurant that was mentioned in the newspaper article.

Big mistake.

The restaurant was relatively empty when we arrived (which should've been a clue), but the hostess wanted to seat us at the table next to the door. After we managed to get a table in the center of the restaurant, we were greeted by the familiar carts, but instead of ornery middle-aged women, they were manned by a bunch of teenagers wearing neon green t-shirts who spoke to us in English. Overall, the staffing was rather strange; at one point, we counted 15 servers, many of whom were standing in the corner chatting. At the time, there were about 10 tables of customers. For the most part, however, the teenagers were working relatively hard.

We started with a few dim sum staples (siu mai, har gow, shrimp rice rolls, gai lan), and quickly noticed that the food was lukewarm (at best). Not only that, it seemed to quickly cool to below room temperature (only a slight exaggeration). In hindsight, we definitely should've sent the food back, but I think we were too shocked by the whole situation.

We stopped ordering dim sum items, but foolishly decided to try one of the "weekend specials", a seafood chow mein, thinking it would at least be made to order (and therefore, hot). It was indeed hot, but it was by far the smallest portion of chow mein I've ever seen, and had a strangely sweet sauce.

I guess we'll keep looking for good (hot) chinese food.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Thanksgiving Feast

They say that you should buy 1-1.5 pounds of turkey for each person you plan to serve. This year, we were serving three people: the two of us, and my brother Donald. Add that up, with a bit of a fudge factor, and you can easily explain why we made a 19 lb turkey.

When we went to buy the turkey Tuesday night, there wasn't much of a selection. It was either a 12 pounder or a couple that were 19 lbs or larger. However, we had a coupon for $6 off a turkey between 14 and 24 pounds, so we didn't really have much choice: use the coupon.

A few years ago, I joined the brining movement. Even my 12 quart stock pot wasn't tall enough for the turkey to be completely submerged, but this turkey may be my best effort yet (if I do say so myself).

When you make 19 pounds of bird, you have no choice but to make plenty of side dishes. Roasted brussel sprouts (this year with carrots and Tripp Country Bacon) and sausage-sage stuffing have become classics in our household:

We also made a second stuffing with cornbread, more Tripp Country bacon, and smoked oysters. And the sweet potatoes had a ginger-lime glaze (very good).

Of course, we also had cranberry sauce, gravy, and mashed potatoes. Michelle made a lime-ginger sorbet, pumpkin cheesecake tartlets, and pecan butter tart bars (definitely ask her for this recipe).

And the best part about having a large turkey? More bones for making soup.

Tripp Country Bacon (November 2007)

Our November Bacon came just in time for Thanksgiving. As you can see, the packaging was rather unassuming, but the Grateful Palate described it as having "a spicy sweetness that makes it unique among the country-style bacons [they] carry".

As with our October bacon, we cooked it on the cast iron grill pan, and made some BLTs. It's not obvious from the picture, but this particular bacon was extremely fatty. The first time, I tried to render as much fat as possible, but after a few minutes resting on paper towels, the bacon became crispier than I'd like:

A night later, we took it off the grill a little earlier, so the texture was much better.

The BLTs were good (how could they not?), but overall, the Tripp Country Bacon did not particularly stand out (especially relative to the previous offering). Unfortunately, I probably could not distinguish it from Oscar Meyer or Farmer John's.

Bacon ranking:
1. North Country Cob Smoked Bacon (Oct 2007)
2. Tripp Country Bacon (November 2007)

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

OFT No. 8 - Happy 11.5 Years!

This week was another multiple-OFT sort of one. It started off with going to the opera with Donald. No, Brian didn't go. No, we didn't even ask him if he wanted to. Yes, he's ok with that.

The opera was Handel's Julius Caesar at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. When Donald mentioned that there countertenors involved, I knew we were in for an interesting ride. (Countertenors are often men who sing in the soprano range, modern day castrati essentially.) It was a strange night. It was 4 hours, 48 minutes of very facetious staging. Caesar was written in 1707, and let me just say, I'm not sure how Handel would feel about the inclusion of warships, blimps, the Charleston, and a Cleopatra costume worthy of a Vegas showgirl. Anyway, interesting evening, nonetheless. Every review I've read of it has been positive, so... I guess I'm the weakest link.

Anyway, the real OFT of the weekend was Saturday, which was our 11 and a half-year anniversary! To celebrate, we got tickets to see The Crucible at the Steppenwolf, Chicago's famous ensemble theater. Gary Sinise is a co-founder, and a lot of well-known actors have been a part of it (my personal favorite: John Mahoney, aka Frasier's dad, Martin Crane). The play is a powerful commentary on persecution, innocence, and mob mentality, and this version was pretty well done. Yeah, I'll admit it, I cried a couple of times (but really, that doesn't say much now does it?) A few of the main actors were away, which was most noticeable in the performance of the understudy for Mr. Parris. Eeek. Overall though, it was nicely staged and emotional. Hard to go wrong with such a great text!

After the play we had dinner - thanks to our dear, sweet friends Mike and Misha. As a graduation/housewarming gift, they had sent us a gift certificate to an Italian restaurant that was quite close to the Steppenwolf, so we headed over and had a nice dinner of crab-stuffed shrimp with sauteed spinach, and Vitello di Franco. Everything was tasty, and the restaurant seems to be pretty popular, as it was packed the whole time we were there. Thanks Cohens!!!

So that's the OFT report. Sunday was spent working wedding stuff. I got to break out my ol' Gocco machine, which is a screenprinting press from Japan that is really neat. Hopefully I'll have some more free time to do other things with it, since it is really fun and you can get pretty creative with it.

Well, I hope everyone is having fun getting ready for the Thanksgiving holiday! We'll be cooking up our usual feast, and bjourning about it after the fact. Also, we just got the second Bacon-of-the-Month installment yesterday, so stay tuned!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

OFT No. 7 - Dumpling Party!

That's right, this week we had a food-related OFT, as some of you have been clamoring for. I'm still sad that I didn't get to go to Hotlanta, but instead we got to make dumplings!

First off, you should know that I am a dumpling FIEND. I don't think I've ever met a dumpling I didn't like, and I'm always up for trying more, or eating the same ones over and over again! Favorites include: Din Tai Fung soup dumplings (xiao loong bao), pierogies (with grilled onions and a little bacon - which reminds me, Bacon-of-the-Month #2 should be on its way soon), gnocchi, and the super cheap ubiquitous pork and veggie dumplings we got in China (something like 20 for a dollar!)

Making dumplings is a fun activity for us, because it's easy and of course, at the end you get to eat superyummy pockets of goodness. You can really put whatever you want in them, but we like to follow a recipe we copied out of a Ming Tsai cookbook, Pork and Ginger Potstickers. We don't make the dumpling skins ourselves, because you can easily find wrappers at the market (certainly at Asian markets, and I think maybe even at big supermarkets). It's pretty easy to prepare everything, and then you can get down to the filling and wrapping.

Ok ok, on to the photographic evidence!

All prepped and ready to go. It kind of looks like bibimbap, doesn't it? Let the mixing begin!

Now it looks like a giant meatball. A very very cold, frostbite-inducing giant meatball:

The wrapping station. You want to have a floured surface for your finished dumplings so they don't stick, and eggwash to help seal them:

Pleats may be out when it comes to pants, but they are definitely the way to go for dumplings (I just think it looks nice and professional, but Brian says it helps with the seal). Brian is a master at this - look how beautiful that is! We couldn't find plain wrappers, so we tried these green 'vegetable' ones (I forgot to look at the ingredients, but there was no noticeable difference in taste).

Oh yeah, we also did spring rolls. I love Vietnamese imperial rolls, or cha gio, especially when made with rice wrappers, because they have this lovely crisp-chewiness that is so satisfying. You can see the set up in this picture - the wrappers come in dried sheets that you need to re-hydrate in hot water (the pasta bowl at the top). I didn't take a pic of the package, but these are the same ones I used, if you're interested. Then they're pliable and translucent (you can see one in mid-wrap on the cutting board), and ready to roll! These are the same wrappers that are used for Summer Rolls - if you use ingredients like beansprouts, vermicelli noodles and shrimp that are pre-cooked or don't need to be, you'd be done at this point. Ours, however, were destined for a trip into a shallow pan of hot oil...

My preciousssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss:

And the finished products!

Sooo good, and now we have plenty of dumplings in the freezer for lazy-dinner days. Or, erm, any day, really. YUM.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Coolest. Ads. Ever.

I know, I know (and Brian keeps reminding me), this definitely goes against my initial declaration that this bjourn would not be a product placement vehicle. I just had to post these though, because they are awesome!

They could be a little less war-related, but they are so creative and, in a weird way, elegant. They really capture the spirit of the toy, don't they? Especially the T-rex one. ROAR!

Friday, November 9, 2007

No Atlanta For Me

I have a ticket to fly to Atlanta this weekend, to attend a meeting at the CDC. This is the government agency that gave me a grant for my dissertation, part of which was supposed to go towards traveling to this meeting to present my work, and meet with the 3 other grantees and lots of important CDC people. My friend Robin works at the CDC, so I had arranged to stay with her (and she had gotten time off to attend my talk!)

So, in preparation, I practiced my talk for my lab today. It went well, they are super supportive. However, almost immediately after I finished, I received a call from the coordinator.
"Um, your security clearance has not come through yet. You'll have to cancel your plane ticket."


"Because you're not a citizen, it takes longer to get clearance. I'm sorry, but Monday is a holiday and they probably won't be looking at this over the weekend" (probably? This is a government agency. Definitely is more like it). "Well, you have a couple of options - you can come in another time, or present via speakerphone."
I considered it for a bit, but, much like how I try to make even the surliest tech support person laugh while they're troubleshooting my laptop's Blue Screens of Death, it's important with me to connect with my audience. Especially with academic talks, since they're nervewracking enough as it is. It's nice to find the one person who is nodding and smiling at you (even if in their head their thinking, this it total BS) so you can make eye contact once in a while, for moral support. I just imagine them saying, Go on, you're doing a great job. Tell me more about your multitrait-multimethod matrix. It's so intriguing. Anyway, the thought of speaking into a phone, telling someone "next slide please" while the audience stares at an empty lectern just doesn't really do it for me. Plus, I wanted to network with people, see Robin, and hang out a bit. I guess I'll go another time, it just won't be as cool, and I'm out $100 for having to change the flight.

Wah. Darn my non-US citizenship. (Did I really say that? Oh, great Canadian maple leaf, I didn't mean it!)

Well, maybe we will have time for an OFT this weekend after all...

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

OFT No. 6 - The Museum of Contemporary Art

Sorry, yes, have been neglectful in the past couple of weeks. I like how the absence of OFT posts makes people contact me and ask "oh no! Does this mean you're not having any fun?"** It's just been kind of busy recently, and last weekend one of us was not feeling well so we took it easy. All is well now, not to worry.

Last weekend (ok, two weekends ago), we felt like getting a little cultured up, so we headed to the Chicago MCA. Smartie Brian noticed that it is free for forty days to celebrate 40 years of being open. Score!

The MCA is actually pretty small. The building itself is not really impressive, unlike other museums where the edifice is a work of art in its own right. The main temporary exhibition was called "Sympathy for the Devil: Art and Rock and Roll since 1967" which sounded so promising! But it wasn't really that great. We joined a tour, and while the docent obviously knew her stuff about the pieces and the artists, she didn't really have that rock 'n roll kinda feeling, you know? Also, it seemed like they mostly were showcasing music and art from the 60s and 70s. I think the 80s and 00s could have used a lot more press (I am kind of willing to skip much of the 90s...shhhh...not all of it). One cool thing was that they set up a recording booth that anyone could book, so it was like a performance and a demo session all in one.

The rest of the museum was just kind of eh, although they had a nice exhibit of Calder mobiles (Brian: "I wouldn't want that in my house"). I would!
Polychrome and Horizontal Bluebird

The lowlight of the museum was a performance art piece that just involved a male/female couple making out in various positions. I'm sure it was supposed to make us aware of our discomfort (or arousal?) at such a public display of affection, or our immaturity. Yeah, I'll admit it, I giggled. It was just odd though, and I kept wondering a) if they had a whole lot of chapstick stashed somewhere; and b) what would happen if someone plunked down beside them and starting making out too.

Anyway, that was about it. Then I dragged Brian to an art supply store for some more canvas. We met Donald for dinner at a Mexican/Cuban resto, where I had some decidedly awesome pork chops (size of my head! perfectly cooked! on top of sweet potatoes!) Portions are definitely not lacking in this corner of the world.

**Since starting work at the U of Chicago, I have since learned that it is often referred to as the place "where fun goes to die"... sigh.

Monday, October 22, 2007

OFT No.5 - Music To Our Ears

This week we actually did TFTs - three fun things!

First, was the Bright Eyes concert on Friday night, at the Chicago theater. This was a highly anticipated show for me, because I just love Bright Eyes. The frontman, Conor Oberst, is one of the best lyricists around these days, and I was excited to see if he put on a good show, too. The theater was beautiful, an old baroque movie palace. Our seats were awesome, we paid just a little extra and got box seats rather than balcony and it was so worth it. Soloist Andrew Bird opened the show, and reminded us a lot of Final Fantasy, who opened for Bloc Party when we saw them last year. His stuff was very inventive - any given song included several layers of looping, whistling, singing, guitar, glockenspeil, and two very interesting looking, er... instruments:

He had a nice voice and obviously was multi-talented, but after about 3 songs it got a little repetitive.

Bright Eyes on the other hand was really good, though Conor seemed sick, drinking lots of water and telling us about how he was cold all day. Listening to a BE album, you might think it's just him, but there were two other guitars, a drummer and a keyboardist. It was good fun, they sounded good and played no less than 3 of their war-protest songs. It struck me during the concert, as it has a couple of times before while listening to one of their albums, that they sometimes have more of a folky/country sound than I would ever usually go for. But that's only on a few songs, and regardless, the lyrics are too good to pass up. They didn't play my favorite song, unfortunately, but Brian sweetly put it on our mm50 iPod player when we got home.

The second OFT of the weekend was Donald's first orchestra concert at Northwestern on Saturday night. They played 3 pieces - a Brahms overture, a Brahms concerto for violin and cello and a Dvorák symphony. It was a good, free evening of culture (thanks Donald!)

Finally, the third OFT was going out for dinner with Brian's lab (including his boss) to celebrate some good news about a grant application. We went to Opera, a restaurant housed in an old film storage warehouse in the south loop. On Sundays and Tuesdays they have a prix fixe, which is a pretty great deal relative to the prices of each of their dishes. We had a fun night chatting with Weiss labbers and stuffing ourselves silly!

A pretty busy weekend, as you can see. Not sure what's up for next week, but my Chicago Architecture Foundation membership finally showed up, so perhaps we'll try to go on the architecture river cruise...

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Home Sweet Home

Well, the time has come, we can finally post pictures of our house!

Here's the view from the bedroom door. It's hard to tell but there's quite a bit of room between the bed and the window, so we'll be putting a small loveseat or chair-and-a-half there in the (hopefully) near future:

The bed - those are the paintings I did on the weekend. I think they work pretty nicely in the space.

Obligatory bathroom photo - note the cool inside of the medicine cabinet - one of my favorite ideas put into action!

The entranceway - it was too narrow for a console table, so we installed a small wall shelf - it's perfect!

The view of the main area from the entranceway. Hm, who's that on the TV?

The living room area. Note our awesome new rug, and the chaise part of the sofa under the stripey throw - very decadent! Also, my "photoscape" makes its appearance on the wall that we painted ourselves. The color looks a little light in the picture, but it's a lovely shade of minty green. And zeroing in on the TV, why, it's Rose and Dorothy, a couple of Golden Girls!

The view out of the living room; in the foreground is our "window bench" made from Brian's old coffee table and some of the cushions I have:

My desk/office area. As you can see, we still need to buy a new office chair. The lone kitchen table chair that Brian brought with him suffices in the meantime:

The breakfast bar. Brian's favorite place to sit in the morning with the paper:

The inside view of the kitchen:

And one last shot, of my very fun sock monkey slippers:

That's it! I hope it was worth the wait. We love it.

News From My Desk

  • Apparently there are bats around campus, as I was greeted by this email in my inbox this morning:
    "I have urged everyone to close their windows and all windows of conference rooms when leaving a space because of pigeons taking up residence in vacant rooms…and that still applies. But Dr. Larson found another type of critter that might make its way through an open window….BATS. Fortunately “his” bat was dead upon his arrival, but even a dead bat is scary. This is nesting season for bats and I am sure that no one wants to share space with a bat family. So please….please….please do not leave windows open. I know that it is unseasonably warm; I know your air conditioners have been removed; and I know some silly person in the Plant Department turned on the heat. So feel free to open a window, but don’t open it too wide and be sure to close it when you leave…even for a short period unless of course you are fond of pigeons and bats."


  • One of the Research Assistants in our lab found out that she is free and clear of cancer! She struggled with lymphoma in the past year and heard this amazing news at her scan today. Woohoo!

  • Ok, back to work.

    Mental Note

    On Tuesday, I left my car headlights on all day. Of course I hadn't realized it, so I was confused when I couldn't open my car door with my remote. A few things were conspiring against me: 1) about a year ago, my battery died and when they replaced it, for some reason the electrical system got a little screwed up, and so the warning sound doesn't go off when the car is off but the headlights are still on; 2) in all the moving craziness, I've let my AAA membership lapse, and 3) I don't have any jumper cables. Luckily, my boss lives right off campus and we were all going out for dinner in a couple of hours with our out-of-towners. So all is good, the car seems fine, don't worry.

    I've had to jump cars a few times in the past couple of years, so I'm getting pretty good at it. But someone else always provided the cables. So, I made a mental note: buy jumper cables!

    Oh, stay tuned - I just took pics of the apartment in the morning light - I'll post them when I get home from work tonight!

    Tuesday, October 16, 2007

    Teaser pic

    Pics of the apartment will go up asap, I swear. It's pretty much ready, I just have been really busy since a couple of people from a lab that my lab collaborates with have come into town to do some work with us. It's keeping me busy, but hey, who am I to complain about free meals?

    So when they leave tomorrow, I will have a little more time to tidy up and show off the apartment! But, just to whet your appetite, here is a pic of the three panels that I painted over the weekend, which now reside above our bed. The orange matches our walls...

    Sunday, October 14, 2007

    Oct 2007 - North Country Cob Smoked Bacon

    Tonight, we fired up some bacon on the cast iron grill pan. We each ate a slice straight off the grill, then made some BLTs. As a side dish, we also made a macaroni and cheese with broccoli. We realized that the bread we bought had relatively small slices, and we thought 3 slices of bacon in the BLT might be overdoing it a bit, so we crumbled a slice over the mac and cheese.



    And plated:

    1. The slices were relatively thick, so the final product had a good combination of crispiness and chewiness.
    2. Even on its own, we weren't able to taste much maple flavor (despite the purported maple-curing), but there was a nice smokiness.
    3. BLTs were great.
    4. The addition of bacon to the mac and cheese proves what we all already knew: everything is better with bacon.
    5. The bacon was noticeably less salty than regular store-bought bacon, so I think it's much better-suited to be eaten in this format (rather than cooking it into another dish).
    6. I recommend Trader Joe's "Real Mayonnaise".
    7. Yes, we each ate 4 slices of bacon.

    We still have bread, cheese, and bacon. Whatever shall we do?
    Tomorrow night: grilled cheese and bacon.

    OFT No.4 - Interpol at the Aragon

    This week's OFT was seeing Interpol live in concert. In LA and San Francisco we were pretty successful in going to a number of shows, and I was in part excited about Chicago because I felt like we would have plenty of opportunities to see live bands here as well. We bought these tickets during the summer - and I've been anticipating a fun evening ever since.

    The Aragon theater is pretty interesting, it is huge and kind of reminded us of an amusement park ride - sort of "It's a Small World"-style. There was open seating upstairs - next time I might try to get there early to get the really good seats.

    The opening act, The Liars, was pretty terrible. The music was jarring and obnoxious, and the lead singer's voice was awwwwful. However, he was very entertaining, with a lot of groovy dancing. As for Interpol, though they aren't my favoritest band ever, I do like them a fair bit. Their album Antics has some really key songs, and the new album Our Love to Admire is growing on me. I have to say, their set was technically excellent. I think it was the best sounding concert I've ever been to. No off notes, no patchy bits, no uncomfortable lowgrade feedback. Everything was clear and crisp, a really enjoyable listen. That said, I would say they were solid. They only played for about an hour before they left the stage the first time, which I was disappointed about, but the encore was pretty long. It was in the encore that they got a little innovative - during the main set they pretty much played straight from the albums, and it would have been nice to hear a little more creativity earlier on. Brian remarked that "their songs are too similar." I can understand that, but the quality of the sound made up for that for me.

    In all, a good evening out and a nice OFT. Next week we have tickets to Bright Eyes - I can't wait!

    Saturday, October 13, 2007

    The Bacon Has Landed

    Like most people who like good food, I enjoy bacon. So when I finished my Ph.D., my lab got me a "Bacon of the Month" subscription, which they started after we settled in. The first shipment arrived yesterday.

    We didn't know what to expect, but the Grateful Palate is clearly running a solid operation. The bacon arrived in an insulated package with two gel ice packs:

    This month's selection is maple-cured "North Country Cob Smoked Bacon":

    There was an information card describing the bacon, along with a wine selection, and a recipe (North Country Cob Smoked Bacon Navy Bean Soup). According to the card, they slow cure the meat in maple syrup for days. I'm not sure I understand what it means to cure something in maple syrup, but I have a feeling I'll approve of it. There was also a second card with "The Most Popular Bacon Disguises of Halloween 2007" (that we could probably do without).

    Stay tuned for a highly scientific analysis of this variety of bacon.

    Monday, October 8, 2007

    Good News/Bad News

    Bad news: The remote control for the bedroom TV went through a full wash cycle with the sheets.
    Good news: After a little drying time, voilà! It still works!

    Good news: We finally bought the rug we have been eyeing since we moved here.
    Bad news: It's on backorder, and we won't get it till the weekend.
    Good news: We should be ready to post the long-promised pictures of our place when we get the rug situated. (And hopefully after I do a little painting during the week.)

    Good news: Our gift subscription to a bacon-of-the-month club will start this week.
    Bad news: Our gift subscription to a bacon-of-the-month club will start this week.

    Sunday, October 7, 2007

    OFT No.3 - The Magnificent Mile

    This week's OFT was not that exciting, we just went downtown to the "Magnificent Mile" which is a major shopping strip on Michigan Avenue. As with pretty much everywhere in Chicago, there is neat architecture to be seen, such as the Hancock building. But, that deserves its own post - preferably after we have gone on one of the architecture river cruises. I'm just waiting for my Chicago Architecture Foundation membership to kick in, hopefully before it gets really cold.

    So not much to report, OFT-wise. Shopping isn't quite the same with Brian as it is with my usual partners in crime (you know who you are) - it's generally a lot quicker and more goal-directed. Saturday we did some research on a winter jacket for Brian, and I finally bought a jewelry box, something I have been looking for forever. Just so that you are not picture-less, here is a photo of it. I was looking for something modern and sleek, which this totally isn't, but it has all the room I needed and actually fits in pretty well with the orange walls of our bedroom. It's kind of charming though, I think.

    Thursday, October 4, 2007

    Watch Friday Night Lights

    The best show you aren't watching starts its second season Friday night on NBC.

    Friday Night Lights is easily one of our favorite shows, and we recommend you give it a try. What's that? You don't want to watch a show about football? Don't worry, "FNL" isn't really about football. It's an insightful look into a small town and the characters (particularly, Coach Taylor and his family) are extremely well-written. It's a good mix of drama (Michelle cries almost every episode) and comic relief (primarily from an actor we refer to as "poor man's Matt Damon"). I would actually say the football is the weakest part of the show (too many last-second hollywood comebacks).

    Want to know more? Read this article from Bill Simmons (ESPN). As he says, "if you continue to ignore FNL, it's only because you're trying to hurt me".


    Good luck to Jen today! (Because I know she reads this religiously :) )

    Wednesday, October 3, 2007

    OFT No.2 - Pumpkin Picking

    On Saturday, we picked up one of Brian's labmates and her husband and drove North to a pumpkin farm. I think the original plan was to go apple and pumpkin picking but there was a family festival going on so we did that instead. A few other labmates joined up, and we quickly noticed that it was very family-oriented; we may have been the only group there without kids in tow (at least until we were joined by yet another of Brian's labmates with her family, complete with a 4-year old and a baby).

    Here's the group on a 'shortbus':
    Jackie, Jenni, Brian, Charlie, Jon, and Yuan.

    As you might expect, there were lots of pumpkins!

    Big ones you could cuddle up with:

    and giant ones that might take over the world:
    (actually it's a really little one that I'm holding up opportunistically)

    They had already harvested a bunch of them and put them in organized piles for you to choose from, but we paid extra and went on a tractor hayride that took us out into the field. We were so excited when they stopped to let us pick pumpkins, only to realize that the ones next to the road weren't connected to any vines - it looked like they'd just driven along the path and tossed a few pumpkins out of the truck. I'm sure the guy in the tractor was snickering as he watched us "pick" our pumpkins..."he he he, city slickers, he he he..."

    Of course you need a little red radio flyer wagon to cart around your orange treasures:

    but you can't take it with you into the 3-mile corn maze:

    It was a fun, g-rated day and we came home with a couple of beauties.

    What's going to be our OFT next weekend? I don't know for sure, but Brian just cut out a Filene's Basement coupon for me... hmmm...