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


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!

Minneapolis, Part 1

I flew out to Minneapolis on Thursday, Oct. 14th to visit with some great friends in this great city. Jerri and Zoe picked me up at the airport in the afternoon and after dropping off my bags at their beautiful home, we went for a nice walk around their neighborhood. We went to a rose garden where Zoe was quite interested in the water in the fountain. She had picked up a stick that she was pretending was her pet dog, and that "dog" wanted to go for a swim. She's quite the creative little person.

We also walked through a peace garden with a beautiful Japanese bridge and along the lake. We got to have some good time for chatting and catching up and when we were back in the neighborhood we stopped at a patisserie to pick up a sweet treat and some bread to have with dinner when Mark got home. Zoe really liked looking at all of the pastries that were right at her eye level:

On Friday morning Zoe and I decorated a little postcard for Mac that I wanted to try and get to NJ before I returned (and it worked!). Here it is clipped to the mailbox with a cute little birdy clothespin:

On Friday we had another adventure exploring the Linden Hills area of Minneapolis. Jerri and Zoe showed me one of their favorite public libraries, complete with a kids room with this cool magnet board. Zoe is really good at picking out "Z for Zoe!":

Also in this neighborhood we went to a wonderful children's bookstore called Wild Rumpus. And the name lived up to the store. Zoe went through the kid-sized door that's built into the regular-sized door and instantly yelled, "Kitty!". She really loves animals and was so excited to see all of the ones in the store.

I'll admit, it's nothing out of the ordinary to have a cat in a bookstore, but several free-roaming cats and chickens along with other animals in cages and terrariums, including chinchillas, tarantulas, doves, mice and lizards makes this bookstore unique. Here is Zoe petting one of the chickens with another young customer.

After a wonderful Italian lunch, we found our way to a great antique/vintage store called Hunt and Gather. It was full to the brim with so much interesting stuff on two floors, but I was especially smitten with all of the piles of letters. I took a bunch of photos, here's just one:

After finding our way home we met up with Mark again at the house and put a wonderful dinner together. Jerri and Mark always make great food and it's so nice to sit around the table and catch up. Our good friend from college, Joey, also lives in Minneapolis and he joined us later for some dinner and then Pie Happy Hour! A restaurant around the corner from Jerri and Mark has the wonderful concept of a Pie Happy Hour where each slice of pie is only $1. So Joey and I went and picked out some good slices. I had banana cream, which was outstanding. We also got some gigantic cookies for only 97 cents each. It was the perfect dessert to have while playing Bananagrams and enjoying the evening.

On Saturday morning, Mark took Zoe to swim class and Jerri and Trinity and I went out to brunch at a great little place called Butter. The food was good, and the company was even better. I met Trinity (and her husband Paul) through Jerri and Mark when we were living in Chicago, and they also lived in Boston while I was living there so we got to become good friends there. They moved to Minneapolis around the same time I moved to Princeton, so getting to see them is quite a treat! Here are me, Trinity and Jerri (and Zoe) on Jerri and Mark's front porch after brunch:

After brunch Mark, Jerri and Zoe and I headed to Theodore Wirth park to enjoy a walk through the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden. It has a neat little trail around the garden and a book that you can take with you to help identify some of the plants. Zoe really liked holding onto the book. Here are Jerri, Zoe and Mark looking a little chipmunk among the logs:

Toward the end of our walk, we paused to take some photos and Zoe started doing this cute thing where she would run from Jerri to Mark (who would give her a little flip) and then to me, giving each of us big hugs. She just kept on doing this and we were all laughing pretty hard. It was just too fun, but she eventually got tired from all the running, flipping and hugging.

Here she is giving me a big hug!

Saturday night we all (including Joey) went to dinner at Paul and Trinity's house. We brought some good appetizers and beer and Trinity and Paul made a wonderful vegetarian Orzo dish and roasted Brussels Sprouts for the main course. It was a wonderful evening full of chatting and eating and a grand tour of their house and gardens. It was great to see where they're living now.

And while we were in the garden I spotted this monster zucchini! Trinity is quite the gardener!

It was great to see Paul and Trinity (and all of their pets) in their home. We ended the night with a fire in their fire pit in their backyard, which was a perfect way to end another beautiful fall day in Minneapolis.

More photos and blogging about the rest of my trip coming soon!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Slow Food

On the same day that my parents came up to help with the IKEA furniture, I attended a lecture on campus by Carlo Petrini, the founder of Slow Food. He's Italian (and really does talk with his hands!) and the lecture was in Italian with a translator. It made for a slightly halting delivery, especially since some of the audience spoke Italian and got the jokes before the rest of us, but it was a good talk by a very interesting man. It's always good to be reminded not only to eat locally and support your local farmer, but also just to slow down your life sometimes, to take a deep breath and enjoy the view.

IKEA build

OK, folks. Here's a little sneak preview of my apartment. After a trip to IKEA a few weeks ago I ended up having to leave this huge armoir at my parents' house because it didn't fit in my car. So they brought it up two weekends ago and my dad decided to stick around and help me build it (and building IKEA furniture is not something he enjoys). While my dad and I got building, my mom made us lunch. It turned out to be a very productive afternoon and by the time they left the armoir was in place and I just had to install the doors and shelves. What a project! But it was worth it since it really is helping to organize my place. More photos of my finished apartment coming soon...

Gravity Hill Day

On a beautiful Sunday morning, Mac and I decided to get going early and do a little hiking and organic farmstand shopping. We were planning to hike first, then shop, but we ended up driving past the farm on our meandering way to Washington Crossing State Park. The farm we went to was Gravity Hill Farm in Titusville, NJ. They have a great farmstand on Sundays with lots of seasonal options, so I loaded up on some of the last tomatoes of the season, peppers, greens and other goodies. We also took a little walk around the farm to say hello to the llamas, donkey and chickens. It was a beautiful fall day.

From looking at their website, I knew that the name of the farm came from a local phenomenon known as The Gravity Hill, where if you stop your car at a certain point, it's supposed to feel like you're being pushed uphill by an outside force. You can read more about the phenomenon and others like it here. This is the farm's downhill tractor logo on their weathervane:

So Mac and I wanted to try this thing out. I was out to be amazed, and Mac, ever the scientist, was out to prove it wrong. We were told by the folks at the farm that there was a big X and the word "Johnson" painted on the road where you had to stop. So we found the X and put our car there. We were facing slightly downhill and lo and behold when we put the car in neutral we ended rolling.......downhill. It was pretty anti-climactic. But I was convinced that we were doing it wrong, so we did a u-turn and tried again, and again. Only one time was I able to convince myself that we were rolling the wrong way, but Mac quickly pointed out the optical illusion that even though their was a hill rising in front of us, which looked higher than where we were, we were still facing down a small hill, which made the car roll toward the rising hill.

You can kind of see this illusion in the photo below. When we were parked on the X facing toward where Mac is standing, the car rolled forward, toward the little rise in the road. It made for an interesting morning and I'm glad we went out of our way to check (and double-check) on this interesting local legend.

After our shenanigans at the Gravity Hill, we decided to finally get a little hiking in before Mac had to go to the lab. We went to Washington Crossing State Park and followed a few of their marked trails. It was a super-sunny day, which allowed us to take this shadow photo of the two of us:

I was hoping for some more fall colors, but we were a little early for our area. But it was still a beautiful day to be walking through the woods:

This was actually the same day that my parents came up with the IKEA furniture and I went to the lecture by Carlo Petrini! What a busy day!