Friday, May 30, 2008
I used a bottle from Pom Tea as a vase and noticed that I had four roses in it. That's something I would not have done a few years ago: I grew up with a superstition that you could only have an odd number of flowers in a vase. Also, you could not cut your hair or nails on a Sunday, or cross a street that was crossed by a black cat without spitting over your shoulder. Over the last few years, I've thrown those superstitions out of the window (or door?). What is left, are four pretty roses, all happily sharing one vase.
Thursday, May 29, 2008
And so I try to avoid them, but they continue to lurk around, and make their presence known from time to time.
Go away, leave, and don't come back!
I was filling out the spreadsheet today to record all of my expenses in Columbia, SC, when I noticed that Marriott Hotel charged me $205 for my two night visit. The problem is, I already paid through http://www.lastminute.com/. I called both companies and was promised that the issue will be resolved in 2-3 days. It'd better!
See, it helps being slightly anal :)
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
Preheat the oven to 475 with a cookie sheet inside. Peel and cut sweet potatoes into 1/4" thick slices. In a bowl, mix potatoes with garlic powder, cumin, Spanish smoked paprika and a bit of salt. Bake the potatoes in one layer on a cookie sheet for 7-10 minutes on each side.
When Anna and I were little, our parents cooked hotdogs by making an "x" cut on each end of a hotdog, and sauteing them in a pan in a bit of oil. This time I boiled them first, and then browned a bit in a pan. Oh the memories!
P.S. I'm wearing my new shirt from Macy's
P.P.S. Once Stacey becomes a famous photographer, I can say that I knew her way back when she was just starting out :)
P.P.P.S. Too bad I'm going to end all of my on-line dating in the next few weeks: these would have been the bomb!
The program director instructed the mentees to hold the hands of their mentors and recite a little speech about how much they appreciated us and that we are heroes! It was very touching, even though I've never read to this particular child. At the end she told me thank you for stepping in for her mentor, and I thanked her for stepping in for N. We then had pizza and boxed juice and carrots and a chocolate cookie! Hopefully, N is in school next week: our last time reading together this year.
The children read 857 books! N and I contributed about 7 :)
In other news, I told Ashley that I thought one of the mentors was really cute, but was probably in his early twenties. She told me that he's most likely gay. I have no radar...or it's broken. Sigh.
No, not the lottery, but still.
Last week Culinate had a contest where readers submitted their "what's for dinner" ideas. I submitted a few things including my WTF(S) salad, and my post was randomly chosen to be the winner of a deluxe Pyrex set!!!! Might this be it? or this? Nope, it's THIS!!!
I registered with the website and submitted a few of the recipes from my blog. And then the obsession started: I would check every few minutes to see if they chose my entries. And finally, today they published my watermelon/tomato/feta/steak salad! I could not be happier :)
Just search for "watermelon" on the site and you'll see it!
Warning: don't look at the website when you are hungry!
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
I bought two bags of red peppers, "roasted" them under the broiler for 30 minutes. I then took a bag of frozen sweet corn (thanks, Paige!), microwaved it for 3 minutes and finished cooking it in a pan with a bit of oil. I then added in fresh watercress, a bit of oil, salt & pepper and raspberry vinegar. Salad done!
I also bought a can of salmon (skinless & boneless), added an egg, some breadcrumbs, chili powder, coriander powder, garlic powder, fresh parsley and chopped onion. I cooked the patties for a few minutes on each side and put one in between an English muffin smothered with mayo.
After a quick bagel with cream cheese, I went to the University of South Carolina campus: and what a pretty campus it is! Flowers everywhere, trees, fountains, shady areas with benches and very pretty old buildings. Very quaint!
I also went to the McKissik Museum right on campus. This was my favorite museum by far! There was an interesting photo exhibit about BBQ joints and people who run them. Another exhibit focused on the life of Florestine Kinchen and the dresses she made. Tragically, Hellen Hill, a woman who made a film about Florestine Kinchen, was murdered in 2007.
On the 3rd floor of the museum there was a collection of gemstones! I was like a kid in a candy store: tourmalines, garnets, diamonds, amethysts and many others: too bad I could not take one as a souvenir :) [Actually I ended up buying absolutely nothing this entire trip...sort of sad...I usually like to buy a piece of jewelry to remember the trip.]
...and then it was time for lunch. I walked to the Five Points neighborhood and had lunch at the Congaree Grill. This place was recommended by several people, and they had fried pickles!!! (A few weeks ago I was watching the Travel Channel, and they had a show on fried food, including fried pickles: I knew I had to try them.) I had a Congaree Appetizer Sampler (FRIED DILL PICKLE CHIPS with ranch dipping sauce, LOWCOUNTRY EGGROLLS with honey garlic bleu cheese sauce, and STUFFED SHRIMP with chipotle honey sauce)...and I'm so happy to report that I did not suffer from clogged arteries or a heart attack: omg the food was so good!!!
And then my trip was over. Back to the hotel. Shuttle to the tiny airport (only one terminal!) with white rocking chairs and an hour flight to DCA. Quick dinner (potato salad w/green pepper, cucumber, parsley, mayo and wasabi) and off to dancing!
All that is left are fond memories, photos and a worn-out map:
I stopped at Cool Beans near the University of South Carolina, and had a bacon & cheese croissant and some sweet tea. Perhaps, vegetables were not going to be part of my "diet."
The plan was to take a cab to the Riverbanks Zoo & Garden, but unfortunately, Columbia is not like DC: you can't just flag a cab on the street. I had to go back to my hotel and have them call a cab for me. $15 later, I was there! Admission was $9.95, but it was so worth it! There was the garden, the zoo, the mini aquarium, and a trolley ride through the forest and across the river. There were also TONS of children, strollers, and families. It was quite nice to be able to come and go as I pleased and not having to wait on anyone else.
This was one of the prettiest zoos I've ever seen. (To clarify a possible confusion: I don't like animals as in cats and dogs, but I do like zoos) I've never seen a giraffe so close! They literally came and ate lettuce from children's hands: I wasn't brave enough to feed them, and did not want to spend an extra $1.
Had the same cab driver pick me up, and drop me off at the South Carolina State Museum. There were interesting exhibits covering the history of SC, some of the technological advances, but I've had enough. I was also hungry. Alas, some of the places I wanted to eat at (I know, so grammatically incorrect) were closed. I ended up at the Motor Supply Company Bistro. This place changes the menu twice each day! I had a spinach and artichoke quiche with Havarti and fruit salad. This was perfect! Eggs, flaky dough, vegetables and fruit. And I discovered something new: YELLOW watermelon! It tastes pretty much exactly like the regular watermelon, but still...how cool?
After brunch I headed to the Koger Center for the Arts, for a free Palmetto Concert Band concert. I was so impressed! The band is composed of mostly band directors, but there was also a nuclear physicist! The music was grand and they did a tribute to the five military branches: The Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard. It was also interesting to see the "regular folk" of Columbia: some people were dressed to the nines, others were in shorts and flip flops.
After the concert I headed back and watched One Tree Hill at my hotel. Then it was 8 pm: time for dinner. I was exhausted from swimming the previous day and walking in the sun, but the room-service menu looked pathetic. I changed and went out in search of food (does it sound like all I did was eat? Well, yes, there was a lot of eating!)
The Indian restaurant I wanted was too far away, and would not deliver, and I wasn't interested in American bar food. And then I saw a sign for Saki Tumi (I honestly crossed my fingers and wished it was open...and it was!!!). The restaurant was beautiful: modern, minimalistic, but with dark wood and dark red colors. I was asked if it was just me for dinner: yes, I'm by myself, blah, blah, blah. This was the first time my sushi was prepared by two white college students...and alas, it showed. I ordered a spicy tuna roll (Tuna, green onion and spicy mayo. Rice outside and sprinkled with Togarashi spice) and Charleston Roll (Lump blue crab, avocado, cucumber, green onion and Japanese mayo, sprinkled with wasabi flavored sesame seeds). There was SO much rice (shamelessly I scraped some of it off) and the Charleston roll was quite disappointing: not enough crab...and I'm not even sure there was avocado.
The highlight of the meal was actually a Hon-Dashi styled miso soup with tofu, carrots, and shiitake mushrooms. I also had edamame sprinkled with pink Hawaiian salt: fancy!
After dinner I stopped by Marble Slab Creamery and treated myself to a double dark chocolate icecream [tip: ask for a children's size cone! save $$ and calories]. I was a happy girl. 2 episodes of Big Love and I was out cold till 9 am the next day.
Columbia is a little college town. I stayed in Downtown, and quite a few places were closed for the weekend and also on Monday because of the Memorial Day. Nevertheless, I found things to do :)
It was shocking to see so little diversity: pretty much everyone was either white or black. Not too many Hispanics, or Asians. I think I saw a few Indian families, but that was the extent of it. So far from what I'm used to in DC.
The people in Columbia are extremely nice. Everyone says hello, asks you how you are, etc. Again, so far from what I'm used to in DC.
I stayed in Marriott. The room was lovely, I just wish they had 1) free Internet 2) fun cable channels (there was no Food TV, Bravo, HGTV, etc). Good thing I brought Big Love DVD with me, so I had something entertaining to watch.
I was tired. It was a bit warm. And it started to sprinkle. I made my way to the Columbia Museum of Art. Luckily, Saturdays are free admission days. I strolled through the Egyptian exhibit with its beautiful jewelry, and then checked out some of the permanent collections. Sadly, they did not allow to take pictures (but this is quite lucky for some of you, because otherwise, I would have had an additional 50 photos!).
Back in the hotel I watched Law & Order SVU, and then decided to go to the pool and get a bit of exercise. My body is still aching 2 days later: thank god for Aleve.
After the pool, I was ready to do a bit of exploring and see what Columbia had to offer. I went by Finlay Park, managed to find the Governor's mansion, which was unfortunately closed, and even a Jewish cemetery, which was also closed.
I think other than the homeless people, I was the only one walking instead of driving. It felt a bit strange: like I did not fit in, but there was no other choice. Plus, I needed to walk: there was food to be had ahead!!!
When I was doing my research on places to see and eat, Maurice's BBQ was recommended several times. In South Carolina, BBQ is served with a mustard based sauce: quite different from what I've had in the past, but good. I had Jr. Pig Quarter of a pound of pit-cooked BBQ Pork, Carolina Hash over rice, homemade coleslaw, hushpuppies, dinner roll and sweet tea.
After dinner, I made my way back to the Capitol Building for a free Jazz Under the Stars concert. The music was great! There were several couples slow-dancing and some swing dancing. It felt a little sad being there on my own, with no one to dance with...but that's life.
After the concert I wanted something sweet and went to Hampton Street Vineyard, right across from my hotel. What a sweet way to end the day: Vanilla Bean Creme Brulee.
Saturday, May 24, 2008
Yep, I'm in Columbia, SC. I really wanted to get away this weekend, but waited too long to buy tickets to cooler places like Chicago or Savannah, so I ended up in the Capitol of South Carolina: Columbia.
Look for updates later (depending whether or not I decide to buy Internet service at my hotel: $9.95!!!!).
Friday, May 23, 2008
Alas, this was not said to me by a gorgeous guy with a sexy voice in a romantic situation.
Nope, this was something Stacey told me during out photoshoot today. It was hilarious! Or maybe I just have a dirty mind. Can't wait to see the pictures! Such a fab experience.
These are the same flowers, but they are in my bathroom instead of living room. Amazing how the natural vs artificial light changes the color! I also like how you can sort of make out the white/green tiles on my bathroom floor.
Because the salad was going to be my entire dinner, I added some steak from a few nights ago. Not having any basil, I added parsley. A bit of oil, pepper and you are done! Tip: the key to this salad is to make sure that you have the best quality ingredients: the tomatoes should be red and ripe, the watermelon juicy and sweet.
Thursday, May 22, 2008
She was so confused! I explained to her several times how I did not want the 91 cents. Finally she had a lightbulb moment! And said "oh! I was like what?"
Perhaps they don't teach simple math anymore...I just thought someone who works in the bank would know elementary addition.
Rant over :)
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
I cannot believe Top Chef told Dale to pack his knives and leave! I think I even screamed (not too loud, because I was watching the show at the gym: yes, while actually working out and not just standing on the elliptical). I just hope that the last three standing will be Richard, Antonia and Stephanie.
Wow, very disappointed. I think Lisa should have been sent home.
N: your blue bracelets are the same color as your blue earrings.
me: I know, I like to match.
N: your sweater is black and your watch is black. and your hair is black.
N: your shirt is white. and your feet are white.
me: yes, that's right.
N: your face is white.
N: your skin is white.
me: yes, I'm all white.
Okay, maybe it was slightly more humorous when it was actually taking place. We then returned to the task of reading and it was so rewarding when she was able to read "without" and "lose" and "them" without my help! It's all about little steps.
I'm really going to miss these Wednesday mentoring sessions once the school is out in a few weeks. Too bad they don't have a summer camp where the children can continue to read and build on their accomplishments.
P.S. another mini funny story. The book mentioned something being "in style." When I asked N what that meant, she said "being fabulous!"
Monday, May 19, 2008
Not pictured: dressing (lemon juice and olive oil), home-made hummus and carrots
*Because I hope the vegetables will remain crisp for a few days, I seeded both the cucumber and the tomato. This step took a few extra minutes, but will prolong the life of the food!
Other additions: green peppers, white beans, red onions (maybe not for lunches at work), good quality canned tuna, steak from tonight's dinner, etc. The possibilities are endless.
Sunday, May 18, 2008
Oh God, maybe I will end up being 70 years old and living on my own with 6 cats....
-Peel and cube 4 sweet potatoes.
-Drizzle potatoes with oil, sprinkle with salt, pepper, garlic powder and chili powder and microwave for 6 minutes.
-Put potatoes on the cookie sheet in one layer and roast for about 10 minutes.
-Add rinsed and drained garbanzo beans to the sweet potato mixture and roast for an additional 5-7 minutes.
Serve with yogurt to cut down on the heat.
Thursday, May 15, 2008
I needed to wake up, so we decided to get coffee across the street. But then I changed my mind and thought maybe I should get a salad instead. Stacey recommended Fiesta Salad from Starbucks (White Chicken with fire roasted corn, black beans, salsa, smoked sweet paprika, olive oil, cilantro and cumin, topped with red grape tomatoes and fresh lime wedge). And just like the BBQ chicken salad from California Tortilla, this one was a great recommendation!
I might actually try replicating it at home. Apparently the original version of the salad had avocado, but now with the price of avocados increasing, Starbucks decided to take them out and add cherry tomatoes instead. I think they should consider adding some sort of ranch dressing (ooh the calories!).
Thanks, Stacey :)
P.S. I ended up getting a Diet Pepsi: hopefully the caffeine will kick in soon and the chemicals will not do too much damage to my body.
I'm sad today because Paige is on her way to Atlanta. No, not to visit: to stay. Over the last five years I had to say good-bye to some of my very good friends who moved out of DC area, and it doesn't get easier with practice.
Laura was the first one. She left four (!!!) years ago, and Jenny and I lost our Musketeer. But maybe I should concentrate on the positive? After Laura moved, Jenny and I went to visit her in Florida a few times and will be making our way to Puerto Rico next! I still have a plant Laura left behind, and it's doing remarkably well. But of course there are so many things I miss: Laura's no-sugar-coated approach to things, her reminders that "hate is such a strong word," the little penguin dance she'd do for me, fried plantains, and just hanging out together and watching TV. Recently I found a tile craft project we did when we just started working at BLS (do you remember???).
Alyssa was next. First she moved for a year to St. Croix. But that was almost good, because Anna and I met up with her in Puerto Rico and had a great time sightseeing, eating out and dancing. Then Alyssa came back to DC area and we went back to eating out, dancing, visiting museums, and even took a trip to Atlanta, which was one of the most low key and pleasant vacations I've ever had. And then Alyssa left again (is there a pattern?). Before she left, Alyssa gave me a mini orange tree she started growing from a seed, and a year later, the tree has doubled in size! Who knows, maybe at one point I'll have a few home-grown oranges?
Jenny was the second Musketeer to skedaddle out of here 2 years ago. And now she's in NYC, an MBA Graduate from Stern Graduate School of Business. Can't believe how fast the two years went by. From Jenny, I too have a few things: a pretty white cabinet in my bathroom, a hanging basket, and a pair of shoes. But those things don't make up for flowers and soup that Jenny used to bring over when yet another boy broke my heart, our shopping adventures, and outings to Eastern Market. Good thing NYC is so close by and since Anna is in Hyde Park, we all see each other a few times a year. And Jenny is coming to DC in a few weeks!
And finally Paige: a girl I met in my apartment complex two years ago, who became such a good friend! I will miss our Greys Anatomy and Desperate Housewives nights, our crafting afternoons and long chats. Who will make a lemon meringue pie now? Or tell me to get out of my apartment when the fire alarms are blasting through the hallways? Good thing with gmail and phone we can still confide in one another!!! And now I'll have a place to stay in Atlanta! I hope you get to Atlanta safely and with your sanity intact :)
Luckily I still have good friends in the area. It just sometimes feels like one step forward, two steps back.
Click on the link to see How to segment a grapefruit
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
Moines. Delicious! Maybe it will brighten up my mood a bit (the cup was a present from Era more than 7 years ago!).
Sunday, May 11, 2008
Friday, May 9, 2008
Kim O'Donnel requested stories about your mom for her cooking blog, but mine did not get picked to be published. I thought I'll copy and paste it here instead.
One of my fondest childhood memories involving my mom and cooking is the Russian potato salad. The salad was a staple at every birthday and holiday celebration. I remember my mom boiling and then cutting potatoes, carrots, eggs, and adding in canned peas, mayonnaise, granny smith apples and pickles. This combination might sound odd, but the amount of labor you put into the salad really pays off: and the leftovers are to die for! At first, my twin sister, Anna, and I simply observed the process. However, as we got older, my mom would give each one of us a task to perform. This was a perfect opportunity to learn how to boil things, how to cut everything in uniform cubes and how not to overmix ingredients (to prevent the salad turning into mush). Years later, Anna and I took over the salad making duties. I'm sure that when we'll have our own families (fingers crossed), we'll pass the tradition of making this potato salad and spending time together to our loved ones.
Another food item that always makes me think of my mom is her apple cake. It's a super simple recipe (and she in fact can recite it from her memory) containing flour, oil, eggs, sugar, sourcream, vinegar and of course apples. I remember eating the cake quite often when I was growing up, and ever since I moved out of the house I made it multiple times for my friends, who all liked it. The beauty of the cake, and something that my mom taught me, is how you can use your creativity and imagination to make the cake different every time you bake it. With an addition of cranberries, orange zest, and or nuts, you get a completely new result! I really think that these childhood memories I have of my mom and her teaching me how to cook and bake have instilled in me the love and appreciation for food. (oh, and just so that my dad is not left out completely, he makes the best borscht!)
Thursday, May 8, 2008
The embassy was beautiful and we tried quite a few wines, of course preferring whites to reds. Our favorite was The Tincho New Age White (go to the link to see the pretty label!). The food was really good too: tortillas, empanadas, cheese, sausage, and dessert. The best part, in my opinion, was a tango performance: it was magical, mesmerizing, beautiful and made me want to take a few classes once again. And the best part? The woman is not required to smile! (Lera, this totally made me think of you! And incidentally I wore the earrings you bought for me in Argentina).
And at the end both Annie and I won a bottle of wine!!!! Mine is Tilia Malbec Syrah (2007)!
I bought these adorable Bandolino slides for $17!!! I'm just sad that tomorrow will rain, and I'll probably not going to be able to wear them.
I also bought this super cute jacket for $11. It reminds me of my green "Israeli military" jacket that I bought at Secondi and absolutely love. Sorry the poorly styled picture, but it's after 10 pm and I'm quite tired.
And then when I came home, I received my Steel by Design Status Link Bracelet in 18K gold from QVC (search for J30841). And I was pleasantly surprised by the quality: will have to see how long the gold stays on.
Tuesday, May 6, 2008
Okay, in all honesty, my mom would actually make this salad, but she'll probably use shrimp instead of chicken.
Combine rotisserie chicken, avocado, mango, red pepper, red onion. mayonnaise, salt & pepper and cilantro. Enjoy! Yes, it is that easy (you can add as much or as little of any of the ingredients: this is cooking, not brain surgery).
32 oz of plain fat free yogurt
1 fine mesh strainer
1 coffee filter*
24 hours in refrigerator
about 2 cups of super thick, smooth and creamy Greek-style yogurt!
(and 2 cups of liquid, which I was told has a ton of nutrients and should be drunk!)
I'm planning to spread this on a Wasa cracker for breakfast. I can also impinge it with fruit or granola!
** obviously I did not have coffee filters: instead I used a paper napkin; lesson learned: buy coffee filters or use cheesecloth to avoid having to separate a soaked paper from the yogurt
Monday, May 5, 2008
Tilapia was on sale, and I decided to build a meal around it. No, it's not that I really need to watch my budget, but with the price of food increasing, it's just annoying to be spending so much money at the store. (examples: red pepper $2.50 on sale, avocado $2.40 on sale...seriously?)
Tilapia Soft Tacos (for two meals)
2 pieces of tilapia cooked in a bit of oil and lime juice
1/2 avocado cubed
Directions: spread sourcream on a soft tortilla, add salsa, pieces of tilapia, top with avocado and cheese.
1/2 cabbage shredded
1/2 red pepper shredded
1/4 red onion shredded
1/2 can of black beans
a bunch of cilantro chopped
a dash of cumin
a dash of Spanish smoked paprika
salt & pepper
juice of 1/2 lime
a few dashes of vinegar
Directions: combine all ingredients, mix, refrigerate for 30 minutes and enjoy!
But this movie was absolutely awesome. I went to see it at the closing night of the Film FestDC with Radha (it's nice having single friends!). The soundtrack was fantastic, and the plot was your typical French movie with twists and turns and many unanswered questions.
That's why I love living in DC: so many interesting things to do!
Sunday, May 4, 2008
Filling: cooked quinoa, sauteed onions, celery and mushrooms (I used dried shitake mushrooms, which I rehydrated...thanks Anna!); salt, cumin powder and a bit of chili powder.
I cooked the peppers at 375F for about 30 minutes, but you can leave them in for a bit longer...I was running out of time. I served the peppers with sourcream and Monterey Jack cheese.
Sorry, no pictures of the final product.