Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Snowy Princeton

On Sunday, December 26th Princeton got quite a bit of snow with blizzard conditions - winds up to 50 mph. We totaled over 14 inches, officially. I took these shots on Monday the 27th after a little bit of shoveling, salting and plowing had already happened. It was nice to see the sun.

With so much wind the trees and tops of buildings were pretty clear of snow, but there were some serious drifts in places, too.

The storm dumped more snow in the NYC area and interrupted lots of travel plans. I decided to head home from my parents house earlier than expected on Sunday and John and Jill decided not to come at all. We were supposed to do family Christmas on the 26th, but we're postponing it until next weekend.

Sylvie and Miriam also had to change their plans to head to NYC and stopped by Princeton a few days earlier than expected. Sadly, I didn't take any photos of their quick visit, but it was great to have them in town.

Even though this storm was pretty hefty for NJ in December, it's still nothing compared to last year!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Friend Christmas

Every Christmas I love getting together with some of my oldest friends from middle school and high school. Mike H., Meg, Kim (& Alex) and I have stuck together through thick and thin and always find time to catch up over the holidays. This year was no exception. We all gathered at Kim's brother's house on Christmas night.

This year I got Alex table-top ping pong, which was opened immediately and enjoyed by Mike and Alex. The net and paddles are a little small, but it was still lots of fun. We also all sat around the table and played Quiddler, a new game for most of us, and that was fun, too. It was also nice just to catch up with everyone. I even got to see Kim's parents before they headed back to Philly for the night.

While we were taking group photos I realized that Alex is now taller than me! It was a shock earlier this year when he started high school, but now this is a little bit much. It's amazing that I've known him since he was born. Time sure does fly, and kids get tall!


The next morning, Brian, my other dear friend from middle school and high school stopped by and we headed out for breakfast before it started snowing too much. It was also great to catch up with him as he recently moved to LA and has some great stories to tell.

It's always nice to reconnect with all of these people. We don't get to see each other all the time, but when we do, we pick up right where we left off. That's the great thing about old friends.

Family Christmas, part 1

On Christmas Eve, I dropped Mac off at the train station so he could catch his flight to Houston and then headed down to my parent's house to go out for our traditional Christmas Eve Chinese Dinner. It was delicious as always! After wrapping a few gifts, I headed to bed hoping that Santa would be good to me this year. :)

Well, it was fun to have a relaxing Christmas morning, reading the paper and having breakfast while we waited for my Grammy to wake up. And once she was awake, we started opening presents! My dad is notoriously hard to shop for - what do you get for the guy who has everything? This year, in a flash of genius, I came up with the perfect gift: the DVD of the 1960 World Series Game 7 between the Yankees and the Pirates. My dad has memories of watching this game as a young pirates fan with his dad, so it was neat to watch the game with my dad that afternoon.

Grammy got lots of nice clothes and some other fun gifts. She is so grateful for every gift that she gets. It's really fun to see her open her gifts.

And talk about grateful - or at least surprised - my mom got an unexpected gift this year: an iPad! My dad totally surprised her with this, and you can tell by the photos that she had no idea this was coming! I'm glad I had the camera out to catch this expression:

And one after the shock wore off a little bit:

It was a really fun Christmas morning. The plan was to have John and Jill and their kids and Dan and Mo and their kids come over on the 26th, but those plans got postponed thanks to the foot of snow that we got. I'll be catching up with them next weekend instead.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Cheetos-shaped country

During our Thanksgiving dinner with Mac's friends we got into a discussion about our upcoming trip to Costa Rica. Mac said "What snack food does Costa Rica look like?" The answers were all over the place: Fritos? Kettle Cooked potato chips? None? Finally Mac declared that Costa Rica looks like Cheetos (a Cheeto?). We pulled out an iPhone and looked up a map of Costa Rica and even after seeing the map everyone disagreed. We decided what it really looks like it a crab. Well, Mac was insistent. He kept trying to convince people of his beliefs, but no one was taking the bait.

To entice him to sit down and actually make some plans and book the plane tickets I bought a bag of Cheetos and said that I was up to the challenge to eat a bunch of Cheetos until we found one that looked like Costa Rica. I kid you not, the Cheeto pictured above was the first one we pulled out of the bag. It's not perfect (that little peninsula to the south is missing), but it's pretty darn close. I laughed so hard when I saw it!

And yes, the tickets are now booked! I'm already looking forward to getting a tan in the middle of winter!! Hooray! Let me know if you've been to Costa Rica and have any suggestions for the trip.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Flocking

On Sunday night I watched this performance piece that was the result of a collaboration between students in the Program in Dance and Engineering & Applied Sciences. It was quite fascinating. On Sunday the performance was in a building where you had a vantage point from above. You can see people (including me) at the top of the photo reflected in the huge windows.

They had another performance on Monday night and Mac and I decided to participate. It was a really neat experience to be part of the "flock". It took more concentration than I would have imagined to follow just a few simple rules (don't get too close, don't get too far away). The Monday night performance was in a much smaller space, which I think might have worked better, even though it lacked the overhead viewing option.

This was the first performance of this type at Princeton and I hope they do it again. It would be interesting to see how different performers and different spaces affect the outcome.

Emerson turns 4!

My nephew Emerson had his 4th birthday party last weekend! It was Batman themed and the kids loved having masks to wear and flashlights to play with.


Emerson's best friend got him this awesome Batman costume which he wanted to wear immediately! I asked him to give me a good Batman face and this is what he did:

After the party was over I stuck around to give Emerson and Nathaniel (who turns 9 tomorrow!) their birthday presents. Nathaniel was very excited to show me some of his drumming skills:

video

It was a quick morning in Montclair since I had to be back in Princeton to work in the afternoon, but it was worth it!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Family Thanksgiving

My family has been celebrating Thanksgiving on Black Friday for a few years now. When Dan and Mo had to travel a long distance, this gave them an extra day to make it to NJ, and now it just seems to work out the best for everyone, so we're sticking to it. This year it gave my brothers a chance to celebrate Thanksgiving with their respective in-laws and it gave Mac and I a chance to make it to Regina's.

It was a really nice, laid-back day with the whole family. While my mom was setting the table we realized that it would made a really nice matchbook football field, so the punting started, even while the good china was being laid out. My nephews thought that was pretty cool, and I think my brother John was able to flick it the farthest - from one of the table past the other end. Really, quite impressive. Here's my dad showing Sebastian how it's done:

Here's everyone gathering around the table. I didn't get a good shot of everyone at the table (and the one dad is taking here didn't come out), so this will have to do.

My nephew John brought his saxophone with him and played us a tune before we said grace and went around the table saying what we were thankful for.


And there is so much to be thankful for! We had some amazing food! I made roasted Brussels sprouts and an arugula and beet salad - both with ingredients from the organic farm. We also had a wonderful soup, whipped potatoes, a spinach salad, two types of cranberry sauce, delicious bread, broccoli & cheese sauce, sweet potatoes and some turkey! It was all so good.
And after a little cleaning up we had pies!

It was getting late (Emerson was already asleep) and the boys were excited to all sleep together on the pull out couch. This is where they were when Mac and I said good bye. These boys are so cute and so silly!

It was a really wonderful day and a great way to spend the holiday. I'm so thankful for my family and friends! Love you all!

Friday, December 3, 2010

FriendsGiving

On Thanksgiving morning Mac and I headed out of Princeton on our way to Baltimore to celebrate Thanksgiving with Regina, one of his friends from high school, and some of her friends. We planned on stopping by my parents' place to drop off a few things for dinner there on Friday and before we even made it to them we got a flat tire and had to change it on the side of the highway. When we got to my parents' house they insisted on us taking their car to Baltimore because they didn't want us driving all that way on a donut. So after a little bit of rearranging, we were on our way to Baltimore again!

We stopped at our hotel to check in and drop off our bags and then headed over to Regina's. She has an amazingly huge studio apartment and it had no trouble holding a table big enough to seat eight. When we arrived there were already appetizers on the table and the food just kept coming from there. We had a beautiful traditional Thanksgiving complete with turkey, potatoes, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, stuffing and so much more.

After dinner Mac made Turkish coffee and we had a fun time reading the coffee grounds to predict the future. We also played tons of fun games including Celebrity and Charades and just enjoyed the company for hours!

A few hours after dinner, Regina decided to whip up some brownies. We were in the midst of playing games and she said "Oh this will just take a minute". So of course, we timed her and she actually managed to get the batter in the pan within a minute. It was pretty amazing. And the brownies were delicious!

So after spending many hours having fun at Regina's, everyone was pretty tired and the guests staying at Regina's house had actually put on their PJ pants. So Mac and I finally decided to head out. It was a wonderful way to spend the holiday.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Final Harvest

The day before Thanksgiving this wonderful local organic farm decided to have a final harvest where people could volunteer to help in the fields picking arugula, beets, parsley, turnips, Brussels sprouts, and any number of other things that were still good enough to eat.

After the harvest, the people who helped were invited to take whatever they needed for their own Thanksgiving meal and the rest would be given to a local food bank. It's such a great idea and is truly a win-win-win situation for the volunteers, the farmers and the food bank. I showed up about an hour and half into the time they had allotted for harvesting and they were already finished (or nearly finished) in the field. They said I could still take whatever I needed and had a donation jar for money to go to the food bank, along with all of the produce. So for a $10 donation I got beets, arugula, head lettuce and Brussels sprouts that beautiful graced my family's Thanksgiving table.

And on top of all that - the farmers also had home made vegetarian soup, fresh bread, hot chocolate and cookies for anyone who stopped by the farm that day. I have to say, I'm kind of in love with this little farm and I look forward to them starting classes in their brand new building in the spring and of course, I'm looking forward to their wonderful produce!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Baby Monkey Jam Session

video

Last night Mac, Mike, Zeynep and I went out to dinner in honor of Zeynep's last night in Princeton. After dinner we headed up to my apartment for dessert and ended up bringing out the guitar and ukulele and playing a few tunes. And Mike got to debut his interpretation of Baby Monkey (Going Backwards on a Pig), caught here on video. Enjoy!

Pumpkin carving with Kiddos

Many of you know of my love for pumpkin carving and I love to share it with my nephews. On Friday night I drove up to John and Jill's to hang out and carve some pumpkins. It was really fun, as always, and we got some really creative pumpkins out of it. Emerson made a face to show us what he wanted his pumpkin to look like:

Nathaniel and Sebastian both drew their own designs for their pumpkins. I cut out what Sebastian had drawn (under his watchful eye to make sure everything was just right) and Nathaniel actually did some of the carving on his own this year (under my watchful eye to make sure no one got hurt).

The pumpkins turned out really great! Here they are lined up on the counter in the kitchen. Emerson's on the left, Sebastian's in the middle and Nathaniel's on the right.

I spent the night in Montclair and had a great time at Sebastian's school's pancake breakfast on Saturday morning. Then I headed home to get ready for my own pumpkin carving party.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Girls Night Out at Erin McKeown

On Sunday night I drove into Philly and met up with Kim to attend an Erin McKeown show at World Cafe Live. It was part of the Distillation 10th Anniversary tour and the first set was all of the songs from her album Distillation, played from last to first. She actually wore the dress that she wore on the cover of the album for the first set. It was great to hear all of these songs, some of which I'd never heard performed live before.

The second set was a few new tunes and then an all-request set. She also changed into more comfy (and less frumpy) clothes, as you can see in the above photo. It was fun to hear some of my favorites played live. Her shows never disappoint and this was no exception. It was also a great excuse to hang out with Kim! This fall has been busy for both of us and it was nice to know that we had this to look forward to.

Leaf-peeping from a canoe

This Sunday was an absolutely beautiful day and Mac and I decided to take the canoe out for possibly the last time this season. We spent a little bit of time on Lake Carnegie and then portaged over to the canal.

Mac is always a good captain, steering us through spaces that I never thought we could fit through. And for a good part of the trip I had this dragonfly keeping me company.

The day was beautiful and the foliage was outstanding! This fall has been particularly lovely.



As we approached Hibben, where the canoe is kept, all of these birds started flying across the lake. This photo doesn't even do it justice, and the noise was amazing. That's the Washington Street bridge and more great colors in the background.

It was a beautiful day to be out on the water. I'm so glad we could squeeze in one more paddle before the winter.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Soufflé!

On Saturday night, Mac and I ran a bunch of errands together and after getting home way later than anticipated, I still wanted to make soufflés for dinner. Ever since I got a copy of Judith Jones' book The Pleasures of Cooking for One, I've been wanting to attempt the soufflé that is so beautifully photographed on the cover, and when I was in Minneapolis I picked up a second souffle dish, so now I could make two (So much for "cooking for one")! So I doubled the recipe, and after Mac and I both made our arms hurt from whisking the egg whites so much to get them to "soft peaks", I finally put everything together, put it in the oven and hoped for the best.

Mine didn't quite puff up as nicely as the one on the cover of the book, but I realized later that my soufflé dish is much deeper, and I was still happy with how much they rose. And now that I've successfully made the basic egg and cheese recipe, I'm looking forward to trying to add some veggies and maybe even venture into the world of chocolate soufflés! Thankfully I have a taste-tester who's willing to try almost anything.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Minneapolis, Part 2

We started out Sunday by heading to Jerri and Mark's local farmer's market. We had lots of delicious treats and picked out pumpkins and gourds and even brought home a stalk of Brussels sprouts, which Zoe did a good job of helping to carry. It was a beautiful morning to be at the market. After hanging out with the neighbors for a bit and putting away all of the produce, we hopped in the car and drove downtown to the Mill City Museum. Zoe thought it was pretty funny to pretend drive in the driveway before we left:

The Mill City Museum was outstanding. I really enjoyed the film at the beginning of the visit and the interactive elevator ride and viewpoint from the top. The museum is housed in an old flour mill and sits right on the banks of the Mississippi.

You can see the Guthrie Theatre complex from here. I've been in that little yellow box on the side of the blue theatre building when I visited Minneapolis to ring in 2008.

And here is a cute shot of all of us at the top of the museum, overlooking the Mississippi River.

The museum also had a little demo kitchen with homemade play-dough for kids to use. Zoe and Jerri had quite a good time rolling out dough and cutting pretend cookies.

After the museum we headed out to dinner, and after much indecision ended up at a great Italian place that has awesome happy hour food and drink specials all day on Sunday. We called Joey at the last minute and he joined us for dinner, too. He mentioned that he needed to create a poster for his upcoming cabaret that night and I offered to help him out with some photoshop skills, so after dinner we headed back to Jerri and Mark's house and worked on our computers. It was actually quite fun.

On Monday, Jerri and Zoe and I headed to Stillwater, MN to enjoy yet another beautiful day. We had lunch, walked around to a bunch of shops and finally stopped for a snack at this cute little cafe and shop where we got sorbet and cupcakes. Now Zoe doesn't eat a lot of sugary treats, but when she does she really wants to savor every bit! Right down to the crumbs on the cupcake wrapper.

After our snack we walked along the St. Croix and enjoyed the view of the fading fall colors. It was really a lovely day.

On the way out of town we stopped at a Scenic Overlook and got to see some hot air balloons, too. It was great to see a part of MN that I'd never been to before.

On Monday evening Mark and I went to see Joey perform in a cabaret. We sat right by the piano and had a great time listening to great music and watching him play.

Tuesday was my last day in Minneapolis and Zoe came in to my room in the morning after she woke up and was really cute and chatty. We talked about books and looked at photos and played silly games. It was a nice way to really connect with her before I left.

Here we would both slowly move in towards each others' noses until we were cross-eyed and started laughing! After I did it once, Zoe said, "Do it again!". It was really cute.

We took the morning before I had to get to the airport to walk around Dinkytown and the University of Minnesota campus. We got to see Trinity working at the One Stop desk in the same building as this great sculpture. It's a new building on campus and full of all sorts of fancy things and new technology. It was cool to see.

And then we walked across campus and got a nice little view of the skyline and parts of the campus on our way to see the Art-o-Mat that was just installed in the health center.

We had a quite a good time choosing our art from the Art-o-Mat and taking photos of ourselves in the mirrored front.

I got a nice little painting of a Minnesota farm scene and Jerri got a little painting with an orange as the sun and Zoe picked out a photo from The Smooch Project. It was really fun to see her interact with the Art-o-Mat.

I think she was a little scared at first, but after a while she warmed up to it and thought it was pretty neat:

After the Art-o-Mat we went back to Dinkytown and grabbed a little snack before heading out to the airport. Jerri and Zoe dropped me off at the airport with big hugs and I was on my way back to Princeton! It was such a fun-filled, action-packed trip! And the good news is that I'm planning on being back in town for a conference in March, so I'll get to see them all again really soon!