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.