Monday, January 11, 2016

A couple of pictures from 2016...and also 2015

Since it's mid-January, it's possibly too late to post pictures from Christmas/our time in New York, but I'm going to post a couple anyway. To make this post more timely, I'll also include a couple from my birthday this weekend. Yep, I'm 30 now, which feels remarkably like 29. Sam baked me an excellent cherry pie (actually two!) for the occasion, something he has only ever done twice since I've known him, so it did feel rather special. Otherwise, I just enjoyed having the day off, went for a nice hike, had a happy hour and then a dinner party with friends, and just generally kicked back.

At any rate, here are a few photos from both the beginning of the year and the end of last year:

Our attempts at getting tickets to Hamilton were foiled by all these people who were also trying to get tickets to Hamilton. Honestly, after talking to some of them, many of them definitely wanted it more than us.  
In Central Park. One of our engagement photos was taken in this tunnel. It looked a lot better than this does. 
We saw a few of our favorite New Jerseyans while we were in town!
Me at Pedernales Falls State Park. January 9 never felt nearly this good on the East Coast.  
More Pedernales Falls. It was actually crazy windy, but otherwise a beautiful day. 
Sam came with me naturally but none of our photos together came out. (He's still too embarrassed to take his selfie stick out of the house.)
I think 30 is going to be pretty great. I've learned a lot in the last decade. Except for Calculus and the soundtrack to Garden State which I've spent my 20s quietly forgetting. A friend made me a birthday card with a message in it she got from some birthday book she owns. She said that January 9 is the "day of ambition." I'm taking it as not exactly a mantra, but hopefully a sign of things to come. I've got a few things I'm excited about on the horizon, if not a fully fledged five-year plan, and I'm looking forward to seeing where the future's going go.

Monday, January 4, 2016

A short visit to Copenhagen

Sam and I are back in Austin after what feels like quite a while away (at least as measured in how abject and needy Dinah seemed by our arrival). I'll post a bit later about Christmas in New Jersey and New York (spoiler: we did not get tickets to Hamilton). Sandwiched in between our time on the East Coast, we took a short trip to Copenhagen. We were able to get some cheap flights, due to our usual strategy of going places at a time of year when no one else wants to. Copenhagen in winter is a bit light on daylight and chilly during the day, although really no worse than New York. While I got tired of the guide book constantly talking about how great it was to sit in the parks or cafe decks on a sunny day, overall, I'd say Scandinavia in the dead of winter has its own quiet charm. 

Nyhavn. Hans Christen Andersen lived in at least three of these houses. 
 When we first arrived, we were immediately committed to going to all the museums. Our reasons for trying to pack it all in were two fold. 1) We'd bought a 48-hour museum card that got us in anywhere, and 2) Everything would be closed starting on New Year's Eve day. I think we made an impressive showing of our 48-hour museum marathon though; we managed to fit in: the National Museum of Denmark, the Statens Museum for Kunst (Danish and European art museum), Christiansborg Palace, Rosenborg Castle, the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Tivoli Gardens, and the Round Tower observatory. Here's a few pictures from some of those places:
The view from the top of the Round Tower. It used to be an observatory used by Tycho Brahe, but today it's only occasionally used by amateur astronomers. 
Inside the ballroom of Christiansborg Palace. It's still used for parliamentary functions. Note the awesome tapestries and Stanley Kubrick-esque flooring. Also, a rare photo with Sam in it. 
At the Louisana, there was a room where you could place polka dots anywhere you thought a colored polka dot was needed. It would have been very exciting to place the first one, probably. 
The Louisiana is a wonderful museum in part because of its beautiful sculpture garden overlooking the ocean. We would have enjoyed it even more if it hadn't been quite so cold and windy by the seaside. 
 Aside from museums and royal residences, our main goals for our vacation, as with any vacation, were to eat great quantities of food. Our AirBnB hosts were kind enough to point us in the direction of a great indoor food market that reminded me of the Ferry Building in San Francisco or Pike Place in Seattle. If we hadn't been traveling light, I most certainly would have returned with some expensive olive oil. Our food odysseys also took us to a microbrewery, a restaurant with an all-you-can-eat herring buffet, and most notably to a 12-course meal at a fancy restaurant, Kokkeriet.

Knowing that Copenhagen was a foodie city but otherwise having only heard of Noma (which closed permanently while we were there and thus we were unable to come close to getting a reservation), I'd done some research to find a nice splurge place. This particular restaurant follows the Noma methodology of using locally grown and foraged ingredients and redesigning traditional Danish food. Better still on Tuesdays they offered their 12-course tasting menu for the price of the 7-course one. That said, we still were talked into several wine choices that elevated the price from special occasion expensive to more-than-the-rent-of-my-first-apartment expensive, but I consider it worth it for the experience. The chefs would come out and serenely whisper a litany of ingredients that we would try to piece back together once we'd actually tried the dish. The only thing I know for sure that we ate is duck.

One of the things in this picture is celery root. That's about the best I can do. 
 We celebrated New Years in the city which more than made up for the fact that everything was closed before and after. After dinner at a tapas place that won our business by virtue of having seats open without reservations, we headed to the square in front of city hall.  We were told that people gather there to watch the Tivoli Gardens fireworks. The fireworks over Tivoli were nice, but I think the coolest thing about New Years Eve in Copenhagen is that everyone everywhere was just shooting off their own fireworks in the streets. Apparently it was all legal as we saw cops drive right by some kids shooting bottle rockets by a church and not stop. The sounds reverberated off the stone streets and buildings making it feel a bit like you were constantly under attack. Overall, not a bad way to ring in 2016 at all.
It looks like we're the only people here, but we were not. We stood clear of the main crowd after seeing an errant fireball head their way. 

New Year's Day swans.
As you know Sam was also on this trip, so these are only a fraction of the total photos taken. I've put a bunch more here (which again are only a small portion of the total number he took) for those who are interested in a more in depth look at our travels. Hope everyone is having a wonderful 2016 so far!

Monday, December 21, 2015

Hamliton (not the musical)

I'd been wanting to visit Hamilton Pool since moving to Austin, but hadn't gotten around to it. A large part of that is because it's a popular swimming spot, but was closed to swimming all summer due to flood and later because of high bacteria levels. Nevertheless, biologically toxic waters notwithstanding, it's also a pretty spot, so we decided it was worth a little visit, just to walk around. Here's a few photos:
Sam got a selfie stick from his office Christmas part white elephant exchange, but we were too embarrassed to use it in public. 
I told Sam we should just tell people we're that couple, because if so this would be a fantastic picture of us. 
My attempt at take a panoramic shot from under the rock overhang. It's pretty cool, but I feel like you lose the scale of it. 
One more without the random couple. You can make out people behind the waterfall, to get a sense of the size of this place. 

Unrelated to Hamilton Pool, but we're going to try for the lottery to see Hamilton the musical when we're in New York. Seems unlikely since it's sold out until June and I've heard close to 1,000 people have been known to show up to the lottery. I've had good luck in the past though, so hopefully I'll have a post about Hamilton the musical soon.

Monday, December 14, 2015

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

Things have been a bit hectic around here with holiday mayhem added to the normal why-did-I-take-on-3-books-this-season mayhem and a dash of annoying master's program application stuff. All of which is to say, I'm impressed with myself for staying with my (admittedly worse than before) track record of posting every other week. I'd like to think that now that I'm nearing the end of writing and applications (1 book + 1 application to go!) that it means that I'll have more time to blog. Then I remembered that theoretically I will actually be spending time taking classes next month, so we'll see how it goes.

At any rate, setting aside the boring GRE taking and book writing (unless you want to learn more about the Neolithic Revolution, as I am now a fount of information), holiday parties and get togethers have been aplenty. We were also excited to decorate the house this year. Hard to believe this time last year we were just seeing it for the first time and it was still several ugly paint choices away from being our home! We decorated the inside with the usual assortment of Santas plus a few additional ones that were donated to us this year (thanks, Barrie, for letting us raid your Santa stash!). While in our small apartments, the numbers of Santas seemed to fill the space quite nicely, in the house, I feel like the decorating seems almost a little too subtle. Nevertheless, I resisted the urge to buy more things. I'm liking the fact that we still have empty storage spaces right now and am in no hurry to fill them with Santas. Our two holiday decorating purchases were a wreath for the door and some twinkle lights. A modest display, but they turned out nicely.
You can't really appreciate the wreath or the twinkling, but I think the fact that our house is already painted in Christmas colors adds to the effect. 
In addition, to decorating, we've been doing a fair amount of eating and drinking. I've now attended a gingerbread house building party, a cookie swap, a Hanukkah brunch, and a holiday dinner party. It's been filling to say the least, and we're still only gearing up for the true onslaught of food that is Christmas proper (or any meal really) at Sam's parent's house. 

You may remember I made this bread last year. But this time I made it with 6 points instead of 8, to be more on theme for the Hanukkah brunch. 
Our finished house. For the record, he did the side with the candy canes. 
To theoretically counteract the eating, I signed up for the Trail of Lights fun run. Actually, the reason I signed up was there was Groupon deal for it back in September, and I figured it would be a less crowded way of seeing the Trail of Lights. Turns out, that's not the case. There were 6,000 people in the fun run, so it was just as crowded and involved just as much walking as normal Trail of Lights attendance. Our first clue that this 2 mile run was not at all competitive (other than the fact that it was called a "fun run" I guess) was when one man was carrying a plate of fried potatoes at the starting line. One friend, who was more dedicated to running led us in dodging and weaving through the crowd during the first mile, but at some point we gave up. We at least traveled the whole 2 mile course though, so some exercise did happen. 

During a more competitive run, we would not have had time to stop and take photos. 

Now I'm done with my holiday shopping and many of my other assorted tasks and I'm looking forward to enjoying a little rest and relaxation before the next batch of to-dos.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Another year, another delicious turkey

I do believe this is the fifth Thanksgiving I've recorded on this blog. It does make me rather impressed with this blog's longevity, even if I haven't been updating with quite the same regularity as before. I think I actually started back in 2010 with two posts a week! I think I had a lot more time back in 2010. Anyway, point being, most of you know the Thanksgiving drill by now. In fact, most of my readers are even a part of said drill. This Thanksgiving was like many of the others in all of the best and most comforting ways. It was also a bit bittersweet because it was the first Thanksgiving missing one very important person.
The turkey master surveying his domain.
We had all the usual favorites, plus some cauliflower I snuck in (recipe here if anyone is interested). Our normal habit of frequent post lunch walking was held in check by nigh constant rain. I don't think it stopped raining for more than a couple of hours the whole four days we were there. Without the ability to exercise, we had no choice but to hunker down, eat more, and work an obscene number of crossword puzzles. Some also chose to nap. I think it could be best described as a "hibernation." It was the perfect respite, especially because I've had a pretty busy November and a very busy December approaching.
Some favorite people, and me standing very awkwardly for some reason. 
We did make the occasional venture out. One day we went to the Kimbell in Fort Worth to see the Caillebotte exhibit. Truthfully I wasn't entirely sure who was Caillebotte was prior to the exhibit, but I did recognize his most well known painting as one that my mom has had on an umbrella for decades. The exhibit was a really good one. Nice to see more about an impressionist's work who I wasn't previously that familiar with. We also had a nice lunch at the Kimbell, which was a welcome break from Turkey leftovers at that point.

You couldn't take pictures in the exhibit, but they hung a giant print of his painting "Paris Street, Rainy Day" outside it with props so you could join in as a rained on Parisian. 
 Since we'll be spending Christmas with the other side of the family, we did our annual Thanksgiving gift exchange. I enjoy this particular tradition because it enables me to get half of my Christmas shopping done early. This year I got a particularly lovely gift. My mom created this beautiful portrait of Dinah. It's not hanging in our office, but before that I wanted to do a photo shoot with the painting's subject. I wanted her to pose like the portrait, as that is usually her natural stance. Of course getting a cat to strike a pose is rather difficult. Below is probably the closest I came.

This was the point in the photo shoot when she started to tire of my need for documentation. 
After a wet drive back on Sunday, we're back in Austin, where the weather has not sunned up too much. Looking forward to putting up Christmas lights on our house for the first time though, rain or shine!

Monday, November 16, 2015

Paella for all of us

Sam and I are part of a wine club/dinner club that meets monthly called Grape Escape. We alternate hosting and the host picks the theme. Generally, the focus is more on the food, but we do enjoy choosing wines from different regions to match all the different courses. I don't know if it's improved my knowledge of wine any, but I have discovered I don't hate all ports as previously thought (although by the dessert course, it's fair to say my palette is compromised, so who can say for sure).

At any rate, this month was Sam and I's month to host and we picked Spain for our dinner/wine theme. This led to some excellent tapas and churros being brought. It also led me to take on the challenge of making paella for the first time. After doing some research online on different types of paella, I decided to go with the seafood version, since hunting down rabbit and snails, seemed like a tall order even at Central Market. I also didn't have a paella pan, so I ended up making it in two batches (which worked out well since we had a seafood allergic person partaking).

I went shopping Saturday morning at Central Market and about a million dollars later had all the ingredient. This included $10 (!) for an ounce of saffron threads, but I figured: go big or go home. I'm not planning to make paella that often, so I wasn't going to waste time on imitation saffron, if such a thing exists. As a side note, we also managed to spend $7 on fancy tonic water for the signature cocktail (Grape Escape makes some allowances for non-wine drinkers). At first I was aghast that they could sell tonic water for $7 right above the reasonably priced $.57 tonic water. Especially because tonic water is disgusting. Turns out though, $7 tonic water does actually taste better, and even more so when you put gin in it.

Above are the ingredients for paella for 10. Protein-wise there's: mussels, chicken thighs (cut into one inch pieces), chorizo, and shrimp. For those wanting to follow along at home, here's the recipe I used and surprisingly deviated from very little.

 The finished product! I never quite got the rice crunchy on the bottom as it was supposed to be. I think part of that was because I was worried about overcooking it. I also realized paella is a terrible thing to serve at a dinner party because most of the work has to be done right at the end. I ended up making it right when people were supposed to arrive and then letting it rest in the warm oven during the  first course. I might have lost a little of the texture there, but the taste was on point. For that, I can only attribute the saffron threads splurge.

And finally, here's a picture of all the Grape Escapers (minus Sam, unless you count his reflection in the window) enjoying their paella. It was important to take this one for posterity because I may not be making paella again. It actually was a lot easier than I thought, so my aversion to putting it into the dinner rotation is more a financial one. Still, it was a fun experiment to try. I'm already looking forward to next month's dinner club theme: holiday favorites.

Monday, November 2, 2015

A busy end to a busy month

I realize I only had one post that month, but it's only November 2 and I'm already posting so who knows how things will fare this month? I'm not sure what to post about because I think I saw pretty much all of my known readers in the last week. It seems silly to recap in too much detail what many of you lived in real time. Nevertheless, I do have a handful of pictures for posterity. (Not too many, of course. I know some who rant about the over photographing of things).

We had a whirlwind and very rainy trip to Arlington this weekend. The primary reason (aside for visiting folks, of course) was to see my very talented aunt perform in Arsenic and Old Lace at the Artisan Center Theater. It was a wonderful performance and a fun time was had by all. I'd give a longer review except that I know most of my readers who have not seen it, have their tickets already purchased.

The crew with Abby Brewster. Well, minus Sam. We actually did get one of the other members of the cast to take a group shot, but I managed to blink in every one of them. 
Totally out of order and from earlier in the Austin visit, but there's Sam!
The next couple of pictures are more Halloween themed. This was our first year having a house for Halloween, so we were excited to get trick or treaters. We had five good sized groups and were able to run through much of our purchased candy. (We've since consumed the rest.) It was interesting to see that costume trends in kids are nearly as changeable as with adults. Princesses were still very popular. There was also a very cute little James Bond.

We carved those pumpkins in a matter of minutes, but they turned out quite nice. 
This photo is from a few days before Halloween, but it seemed to fit with the theme. We went to see Nosferatu at the Alamo Drafthouse as accompanied by a live band. Carolyn and Aileen posed in the lobby on their installation homage to the The Shining.
You can't see it in the picture but they also put the carpet on the ground in front of the backdrop. 
Our costumes were somewhat of a last minute (or last few days anyway) concept. We were four out of the five feelings from Inside Out. We actually put some effort into our hair and makeup, but the colors really don't show up in this lighting. Alas it was the only picture we took and was done on an iphone with a timer. We'd figured when we got to the party that we could ask someone to take a better photo of us, but it turns out the party was outside, so our costumes showed up even worse. Also, after talking to people there, I discovered not everyone has seen Inside Out. Something they should definitely fix, as it's pretty wonderful.

Anger, fear, disgust, sadness. We were only missing our Joy.
The rest of the week was a lot of fun. Full of eating copious amounts of BBQ, kolaches, and Tex Mex (though especially BBQ). Come back and see us any time!