Friday, February 29, 2008

Happy Leap Year!

And the recipe for my favourite easy soup:

Yielding 2 meals for 1 person.

2 cups of chicken stock + some extra liquid to top up at the end.
Beef, cut into bite-sized slices.
Half an onion, chopped.
2 small potatoes, chopped (I leave the skin on)
Kale, chopped
Carrot, peeled and chopped
1 dried whole chili, cleaned of seeds
Herbs to taste

Sautee the onions in the soup pot and add the beef to brown it. Add the stock at room temperature and deglaze the bottom of the pot. Toss in the potatoes, carrot, and kale. Add the chili pepper and seasoning; I use 2 bay leaves and some dried thyme (because those are my favourite flavours and the only herbs I've invested in for my short stay). Salt and pepper to taste.

Cook it for 20-45 minutes, until the flavours are blended. I like it cooked longer rather than shorter so that the starch from the potatoes thickens the broth a little.

Very fast prep time, and you can substitute pretty much anything for any of the ingredients based on what's available!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Things that brighten my day:

Sluggy. If you're ever bored, read the the archives! That's what I did for a whole summer while I scanned those infamous liner notes.

ICHC in spite of it's stealing internet memes from other, more established sites. Sorry, A. It's too funny to ignore just because it steals.

Your mother was a hamster and your father smelled of elderberries.

This silly image makes me laugh for no good reason every time I look at it: has occasionally made me laugh to tears.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Delicious Food

Any of you who know me, know that I love food. It is indeed among my favourite things. Here is a list of some of the great meals I've eaten in the last few days:

Last Thursday Niyati and I went for tapas and sangria at Jaleo's in Bethesda. We had all sorts of good things... Endives filled with oranges and goat cheese, duck confit with clementine sauce, bacon-date fritters (best thing ever!), sauteed mushroom, salted tuna with cucumber and tomato... and for desert, a wonderful custard and just-right coffee.

On Friday, for lunch, I made seaweed salad with rice vermicelli, 2 kinds of seaweed (I don't remember which at the moment: the clear kind and dark green skinny strips), sesame oil, sesame seeds, chili oil, and some rice vinegar. Quick to make, healthy, and very tasty.

On Saturday I made pan-fried snapper with garlic mashed potatoes and kale cooked with sesame and chili oil. The snapper was melt-in-my mouth tender and buttery. Kale is one of my new favourite vegetables! Versatile and tasty.

Yesterday I made wild rice pilaf with chicken. I made it sort of like my mom taught me, but with boneless-skinless thighs and I cooked it on the stove-top instead of in the oven. It could have cooked a few minutes more I think, but I was too hungry to wait! J also made some rye bread from scratch, which smelled heavenly all night.

Tonight I made pan-fried fresh brussels sprouts and yellow zucchini with garlic and dried chili flakes. I ate them with rye crackers with cream cheese, lox and tomatoes. Not a very intuitive combination, but I'd just arrived home from my pilates class and needed something easy.

Tomorrow I think I'll make soup with sliced, browned lean steak, kale, and potatoes. And maybe some chilies. I'm very much enjoying the chilies lately--they seem to add just enough heat to deepen the flavour without burning my mouth.

Finally, my favourite new blog is Bitten, by Mark Bittman. I've been a fan of his video series "The Minimalist" for a long time, and his recipes have inspired me often (most of my latest cooking adventures have been inspired by him, in fact!). I'm also inspired by Whole Foods... I really wish they would move up to Canada.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

IKEA museum

This afternoon we got coffee and wandered around IKEA. J had to return a purchase, so we decided to hang out for a while. It really felt like wandering through a museum as we went around all the displays. In spite of the fact that it was crowded beyond belief, we both enjoyed wandering and talking and critiquing.

We also went to a few open houses in Greenbelt, where J wants to move. The townhouses are not big, but they are quaint and welcoming. One of the places we looked at was on the end of a row and backed 2 sides against a forest. It had a big garden and a nice kitchen. Even though it was smaller than the other good one, the location/view were a total seller for me.

Tonight I'm looking forward to relaxing and finally learning to play Settlers of Catan, drinking wine, and watching lost. Tomorrow there is a Sacred Harp singing in Alexandria, but I'm not sure if I feel like trekking out there. It would be nice to spend a Sunday wandering in my neighbourhood and relaxing in a cafe for the afternoon. I already have my plane ticket to go to the Western Mass. singing in a couple of weeks, and I know that will be really wonderful. Maybe I can wait until then for my next fix...

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

New York: Chapter 4

On Sunday morning in New York I was very excited to spend some time at a new cafe that we passed by on Saturday in Williamsburg. We went inside and met the owners on Saturday, and I immediately vowed to come back when I could stomach some coffee. And it was well worth it.

The cafe is called El Beit and they have the first Clover coffee machine that I've seen. I read about it a little while ago in this NY Times article, and was fascinated by the innovations in coffee making.

My cup of clover coffee was delicious. Nuanced and flavourful without being too strong or overpowering. Also, it was surprisingly not very acidic--very smooth feeling. It was also great fun to watch the barrista make it for me.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Sunday Afternoon

While I'm still a little sick (and very hoarse), I'm finally feeling like I'm on the mend. This morning J and I walked over to the farmer's market right when they opened at 10 (lazy farmers sleeping so late!). I finally caved and bought some lactaid pills, and I came home from the market with some delicious tangy yogourt and cheddar in addition to my usual eggs. I'm so excited to eat yogourt again!

One thing I've been really pining for here in DC is my favourite radio station, CKUA. I've tried many tricks and haven't been able to get the WMV plugin that's required to play the online broadcast on my mac to work properly, but Jenny has a PC and today basking in the nostalgia of the Old Disc Jockey. Man, this show just makes me feel warm and fuzzy all over. I'm sure I'll spend the rest of the day smiling because of it.

That said, if anyone has had success getting the Flip4Mac plugin to work with OS 10.5 for the CKUA site, drop me a note and let me know how you did it. I'll keep searching.

Ahhhh Sarah Vaughn singing "Black Coffee" in 1958 at the Newport Jazz Festival... so wonderful...

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Ugh, sick.

It seems that the bug I successfully fought off before my trip to New York found a way past my defenses. I'm sick, whiney, and mopey. I've been down since Wednesday though, so hopefully I'll be over it very soon. I missed to 2 days of work, so I think all that extra rest has been good for me. J is also sick; it looks like pinkeye so I'm staying away from her (just a little).

In spite of our maladies, we went for potluck dinner with J's games night friends (sans games) for an asian feast and good conversation. It was a wonderful evening.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

New York: Chapter 3

After tea we went back to Lex's place and napped for a bit, then we went out to Pete's Candy Store in Williamsburg for some drinks and music. We picked this bar because the music was free and it was in walking distance.

When we got there, Bob Wiseman was just setting up. We were a little unsure of what it would be like. It was a very involved stage setup for such a small room (only seated about 14 people or so) and he was wearing some odd clothes. However, the show turned out to be excellent! He's a filmmaker and singer/songwriter and he accompanied his films as they were projected onto a screen on the stage. He's going to be in Edmonton in March, and I highly recommend checking out his show!

Also, he toured Europe with Feist, who he met in Cafe Mosaics!

The second performer was Jason Trachtenberg, who I wasn't so fond of at first, but who really grew on me by the end of the set. He did a great version of "She Loves You" in addition to several of his own songs. I guess he normally tours with a family group that makes music based on slides of strangers that they pick up second hand. Pretty neat idea, I'd like to see the full show sometime.

All in all, it made for an excellent (and cheap) evening of great entertainment!

Monday, February 11, 2008

New York: Chapter 2

After dinner Alexis and I went to a great little bar called Burp Castle. This bar is monk themed, with beautiful murals on the walls. There are little signs all over that say things like "The monks value silence," and if you talk too loud people shush you! We giggled and "shhhhhed" a lot.

After Burp Castle we went to a different bar and drank more, but I was kinda drunk by that point and now I don't remember what it was called. After that I think we went home and slept soundly and drunkenly.

On Saturday we got up and ate breakfast at Egg, it was delicious. Then we walked to the farmer's market and I met some of Lex's friends who work there. After that we went and walked in central park for a couple of hours, which was totally fantastic! The park is big and beautiful even though it's winter.

After the park we went and had tea and scones at Alice's Tea Cup, which was absolutely lovely.

New York: Chapter 1

I arrived in New York at about 3pm on Friday afternoon. The bus ride was easy, clean, and comfortable for the $35 round trip fee. Alexis didn't get off work until 5, so I took the subway over to the neighbourhood where she works and wandered around for a couple of hours.

The NY subway, living up to rumours from my DC friends, is crowded, claustrophobic and smelly. I even saw a rat there (the first rat I've ever seen!). It's also considerably more complicated than the DC system, but cheaper.

Alexis' building is just off 5th avenue near Central Park. I walked up and down 5th avenue, which was pretty cool. I visited the Apple Store, which was very cool (lived up to everything I'd read about it). I walked past the Trump tower and many designer stores.

One thing that really impressed me was the way that the buildings are so close together, like a very tall wall. There are all sorts of really interesting looking buildings, growing up with odd angles and different colours all pressed in right next old historic churches.

Alexis and I met up at 5 and headed to her place to drop off my stuff and then go for dinner. We had happy hour drinks at a great little bar, then ate at Sea (a Thai restaurant where they filmed an episode of Sex and the City).

More to follow soon...

Friday, February 8, 2008

New York New York

Today I leave for New York! I'm all packed (pretty much) and ready to go. Can't wait to spend (almost) 3 FULL DAYS with Lex!! It's been years since we've had the chance to see so much of each other... and in New York!! Yay!

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Bugs in the House

Strike one against DC. Jenny keeps telling me they are totally harmless, and I do believe her. But we've found 4 of these beetles in the last 2 days (not counting the one that crawled out of my dinner on my birthday). Maybe they are harmless, but they are at least twice the size of any bug I've seen in Edmonton. Ugh. My skin crawls just thinking about it.

On the upside, I'm leaving tomorrow morning for a weekend in New York with Alexis! I'm sosososososo excited. We are going to have a grand time do cheap/free things around the city.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Silly Viruses

I am quite sure that there is some virus attempting to invade my body. So far I'm not too sick, and hopefully the imbibing of much orange juice today will stave off the invasion and leave me healthy for my trip to New York this weekend!

On another note, I finally caved and bought a new iPod today. Terry gave me puppy eyes because he's sad to see me give up on the iPod he bought me for x-mas 3 years ago, but it was time. This new one is great! It's small and green and holds twice as much music. I named it Krunkteef.

I also bought an album by Yael Naïm, who did the song for the MacBook Air commercial (with the laptop in the folder). J and I were listening to her online on the weekend and I decided she would be the perfect present for Krunkteef. I definitely recommend the album.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Confronting History II

As I thought about this topic a little more today, I realised that I think the US is already doing what the author of this article suggested. Perhaps that's why he suggested it for Germany...

Most of the recognition of slavery that I've seen does in fact focus on the people who worked to help the ancestors of slaves build a less oppressive world: Martin Luther King Jr day and Black History Month to name just 2 that I've experienced since moving here. However, I haven't yet encountered any holidays or monuments that focus on the victims. Perhaps I'm not far enough South... Send me some links of different holidays and monuments if you know them.

Confronting History

The African-American work song session at the FSGW workshop has led to much discussion here among my friends on the nature of racial politics in the US and their failings in properly addressing their history of slavery in a way that would significantly improve race relations.

I don't know enough about it to really comment, but David sent me this interesting article on how Germany has attempted to come to terms with their horrific past.

I am also reminded of what Dr. Gramit said to me a few years ago when I was really struggling with a reading from Adorno in which he focused on a single note in a Beethoven symphony as the turning point of modernity: Adorno was a German who was writing just after the Holocaust, and in the wake of such unfathomable events he was searching for whatever he could find to justify German existence.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

FSGW mini-fest

Today we went to the Folklore Society of Washington mid-winter festival in Takoma Park. It was close enough to walk to and great fun all around. We opened the day watching J's friends Margaux and Matthew's family playing and finished with Sacred Harp. The Sacred Harp singing was pretty great, and much too short for my taste. By the time we set up there was only about 45 min left for singing. Pretty good turnout though, for such a small event. I led 274 on the top, Golden Harp.

I also went to 2 sessions of Bulgarian singing, a banjo/fiddle tunes workshop, a klezmer fiddle workshop, and a session on African-American work songs. I enjoyed most of it, but the work songs session put me off pretty badly. It was hosted by a couple of WASP-y types, one of whose family had previously employed slave labourers. It seemed like an effort to placate his sense of guilt over his family's activities and smacked of oppressive colonialist attitudes. Although the music was presented with respect and information on historical context, the fact that it was presented by a white couple to a room full of white listeners singing along really seemed wrong to me.

The comparison that I made is that it would be akin to someone whose family was part of the Nazi SS during the holocaust getting up and singing Jewish traditional songs to alleviate familial guilt. Though perhaps that would be more offensive because it is 2 or 3 generations closer to us. At any rate, i would have felt much better about the experience if they had actually invited someone who is an actual culture-bearer of the music (if such a person exists) to participate in the singing.

On the positive side, J and I really enjoyed the Bulgarian presentations and are thinking of visiting one of their rehearsals on Monday nights. That music is great fun and very, very beautiful.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Coffee Thoughts

I follow Judith Warner's NY Times blog pretty closely, and I just finished reading this fantastic post. Please read it!

My strongest memories of coffee represent some of the few warm memories of Aaron that I keep close. The ritual of making the coffee... grinding the beans, boiling the water, steeping it until it was just right, and slowly pressing down the plunger in the french press we always used. On special days we would use the stovetop espresso maker to make small delicious cups. Then we would sit at the table and read together or chat about something one of us had read. It was easily the time that he smiled the most in a week, and the times that I can say I felt truly happy with him.

Whenever I breathe in the smell of fresh coffee it takes me back to those moments. Even though our marriage was turbulent and painful in so many ways, the coffee gave me something to hold on to and treasure.