Saturday, June 30, 2012

June Reads

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, by Aimee Bender
A strange book about a girl who can taste emotion in food; fascinating premise, somewhat complicated by an odd plot twist, slightly unsatisfying ending.  But the whole idea of it made reading the book worth it.

Tender at the Bone, by Ruth Reichl
Not quite nonfiction, a lovely tale of growing up in the 60s.  

The Cookbook Collector, by Allegra Goodman
I love that it is partly set in Cambridge, it really makes me feel like a local!  And the setting in startups, with interesting kept me interested.  Yet---the comparisons to Sense and Sensibility are nutty.  It's not Jane Austen.  At all. 

Friday, June 29, 2012

Chelsea Market

The day of the jazz fest, we walked to Chelsea Market (apparently the home of the Food Network!  I have no idea until watching a rerun of The Next Food Network Star and on week 8, they set a camera challenge there!).  

Before you go, be forewarned...there are zillions of people at Chelsea Market.  And not near enough restrooms, architecture fail.  (though they do get extra points for making them unisex, the guys in line all looked very uncomfortably annoyed at the whole thing).

After perusing Chowhound reviews, we ended up at Amy's Bread for breakfast---with a biscuit, a giant caramel roll, and pain chocolate.  (not to mention fresh squeezed grapefruit and orange juice!)

As we sat down, the pointing had begun to start, the whispers under people's breath...  "What's with the flappers?"  "Look at them, I love New York City!"   "You look like you belong in another era!"

We explained to our admirers that we were headed to the Jazz Age Party---and people seemed mostly bemused about the whole thing. 

The former home of the National Biscuit Company, everything from saltines to oreos were once made here.

Now, the space is filled with an astonishing number of stores, from Fat Witch Bakery (they sell brownie ends!) to L'Arte de Gelato.  While the portions of our nocciola and chocolate gelato were measly, my well-seasoned traveler friend took a bite, sighed, and said longingly, "This is so close to real Italian gelato." 

Thursday, June 28, 2012


A couple weekends ago, I was lucky to spend a couple glorious days in New York City to help quite the crowd of revelers celebrate the annual Jazz Age Party on Governor's Island (more on the party in an upcoming post, complete with an absolutely crazy amount of photos).  We stayed at the Chelsea Lodge, a very cute brownstone on 20th Street and 8th Avenue, in a very tiny room, with a tiny shower and sink to match!

Bolt Bus!  And gas station booty for the rest of the trip.

New York City lights

So fancy!

Standing in the doorway.

Still standing in he doorway.  It's small.  My friend and I both loved staying here, but be prepared to get cozy.  Two girls sharing a full is certainly possible, but guys beware, you may not fit in the shower all that well...

The brownstones were just wonderful.

See the Penthouse and the trees?  I may be biased, but I think I like mine better!

Pre-war apartments.

I love the archway and the chevron pattern.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Midsommarfest 2012

A beautiful day turned into a rare Massachusetts thunderstorm followed by a full arc rainbow over the city of Boston (and see the double rainbow in the background?).  What a lovely sight.



The Angel of Meatballs appears!    (and, if only to document this, I received a very complimentary toast from a labmate of mine (quite the culinarian), saying that this is his second most-looked-forward-to gustatory event of the year, following Thanksgiving.  I'm pretty sure I turned pink.)

The evening ended with a gorgeous pink sky, and me in my outfit (sans hat, sorry!). 

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Fifty Things in Five years, update

The challenge was accepted June 21, 2009 (seen here) --now that it's three years later, let's see how I'm doing!

1. Graduate. (oh boy. this is a big one)
--working on it.

2. Dance at a ball in Vienna! friend who lived in Vienna no longer lives in Vienna, but you never know, maybe I'll get lucky.

3. Host an REU student (a summer undergraduate student)
--Always seems to be out of my reach, sadly. 

4. Prepare curriculum for malaria for ages K-12.
--I amend this to the work I've done with malaria outreach already (the podcast!).  I do hope to get involved with more public education and science, though!

5. Visit DC and see the cherry blossoms bloom!
--I did get to visit DC, but not during cherry season.  One day! 

6. Weekend trips to:

Newport, RI
Providence, RI
Martha's Vineyard
The Jersey Shore
Acadia National Park

7. Go on brewery tours here in Boston with my brother
--Definitely on his next visit!

8. Pick my own berries and make homemade jam
--Last summer, and likely more this summer!

9. Sew my own duvet cover
--Not yet, but on the docket!

10. Make my own yogurt
--Once a month, via this crockpot method.  Easy and delicious

11. Start the tradition of "Monday Classic Movie Night"
--Apparently this isn't the right crowd here at McCormick for such a thing...but muffin nights have definitely been a hit!
12. See the band "Beirut" live
--They'll be in Boston in September! 

13. Store all of my things in fun vintage suitcases instead of office boxes
--Absolutely.  All of the storage in my living room underneath the twin daybed is

14. Keep an orchid alive.
--Utter fail.  Not enough light in this place.

15. Compost in my apartment
--Hm, at this point, composting just isn't feasible.  I don't have the space.  But, MIT expands their composting program every year, so hopefully I'm on the path to composting more often.

16. Finish 10 semesters with the MIT Symphony Orchestra
--I've finished 8!

17. Go back to Gotland to visit Birgit and Åke (as well as visit Pallav's family in Stockholm and Ulrika in Uppsala)
--Not quite yet. 

18. Successfully refinish/reupholster something.
--No space!  This will have to wait til after I graduate.

19. Publish a paper.
--not yet...

20. Find the perfect powerpoint font (I thought I liked Futura, but then I toyed with Gill Sans, and now I'm all in a tizzy because neither of those is quite right)
--Calibri wins.

21. Plan all my meals, all the time
--Arg, not really.  I wish, though.  I keep trying different methods, one day I will find one that will work.

22. Get a DLSR and learn how to take fantastic photographs
--No DLSR, but a lovely Canon S95.  And at this point, I don't want a DLSR, too big and hard to handle.

23. Do the 100 pushups plan (may have to be modified due to a knee injury, but we'll see)
--Sometimes, I'm lazier than I think I am.

24. Have a shoe collection which is practical, lovely, and of very good quality.
--Getting there!  I'm slowly purging my collection, and I would like to say that I haven't bought a single pair of shoes from Payless in over three years. 

25. Picnic in Boston Common
--I can't believe I still haven't done this. 

26. Visit all of the stops on the T (subway line) here in Boston, and see what's going on around them.
--or this!

27. Make my own vanilla extract.
--At this point, I've made about 5 liters of vanilla extract from vodka. 

28. Play horn in a friend's wedding (to be biased about my own instrument, Ave Maria on horn is simply gorgeous)
--Yup.  And there was Star Wars.  Most excellent.

29. Hold a tea party, complete with cucumber sandwiches and macaroons!
--I have attended a tea party with these things (and made lambingtons) but I've never held one on my own.  This summer, maybe?

30. Make spritz cookies
--done!  Spritz guns are treacherous, though. 

31. Go to a beach during the day wearing a two-piece swimsuit (this contains about 85 fears. Sharks, bikinis, sunshine, UV rays....thank goodness Aveeno makes SPF55)
--Nope.  Still a wuss.

32. Visit certain someones in Canada
--I wish!  Have you seen airfare prices lately?  Grumble grumble.

33. DIY space rack out of these tin canisters

34. Scan in all of the pictures from my childhood and archive them digitally
--oh, fits and starts.  My brother's helping with this one.

35. Embroider something
--this summer!

36. See the Northern Lights
--Nope, can't seem to track them down.

37. Learn the basics of another language
--French, for my trip to Paris summer of 2013!

38. Have guests from out of town all the time! (if you come I will feed you copious amounts of cannoli!)
--I have done well on this one

39. Learn how to play one song in full on guitar
--Yeah...I don't have access to a guitar anymore.  And I have no particular compunction to complete this one, at least right now.

40. Send out creative/fun/retro Christmas cards
--This winter I have big plans. 

41. Feel like I have kept in touch with friends from high school and college
--This is a struggle.  Unfortunately, some people don't want to stay in contact.

42.  Exercise!
--65 minutes of elliptical a day is a start.  But I could always improve on this.

43. Learn how to cook with tofu.
--I can't say that I have. 

44. Commission a painting from a friend here at MIT.
--I don't really have anyone to commission from...

45. Fix my broken jewelry, and then inventory all of it for safety/insurance/posterity
--I've gotten started on this, but it does take time (and the right cloud cover to provide light sans shadows in the Penthouse)

46. Fix my iphoto archives (currently a mess and a half)
--getting there

47. Make a felt advent calender (kind of like this one)
--in the works!

48. Put one more stamp on my passport (besides the aforementioned Austria, Sweden, and Canada)
--Paris, next summer!

49. Have a midsommar celebration, complete with sill (fish), beet salad, new potatoes, strawberries and cream, cloudberry jam and baguettes, and lots of lingonberry and elderflower saft (juice concentrate-like thing)
--This Saturday makes the third annual Midsommarfest!

50.  Start a garden!
--I'd call the Penthouse garden a start! 

All told---I've completed 12 absolutely, worked on 13 more, 6 are hereby declared unimportant or un-doable in my current living situation, and I still need to do 19 more.  Two years left!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Stage Door reminiscing

A couple weeks ago, I started thinking about New York movies we could watch on the way down to the city, and suddenly Stage Door popped into my head, something I hadn't thought about in ages.  As a sophomore (?  I think?) I played the part of the whorish Linda Shaw in the stage version of a show (the original iteration, by playwrights Edna Ferber and George Kaufman).  There's a movie of the same name based on the play, but despite it being a lot of fun (Katherine Hepburn and Ginger Rogers!) ---it's nothing like the play. 

from my New York City trip this past weekend; this deli is at 33rd Street and 8th Avenue

I don't necessarily think of my former high school life as an actress with tremendous fondness, though it was always a learning experience.  I'm an awful actress, only good at being myself.   Frankly, the best part of the whole thing was that the care I took with costumes meant that Barb, our costumer, trusted me with period costumes---and I got some doozies.  Next time I get home, I'll try to track some of them down. 

The original Linda Shaw was Jane Buchanan, quite a looker despite the dearth of photos online---the only one I could find was a soap advertisement (middle bottom).

It's funny, rereading the script, the names stick out---Judith, Bernice, Susan, Kaye, Pat, Louise, Kendall Adams (daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Roger Winthrop Adams, of Boston and the Lucky Strike ads), Terry, Jean, Lou.  And the word swell, absolutely under-utilized these days.  Stage Door takes place in a boarding house for aspiring actresses in New York City in the 1930s:

Milhauser:  What'd you say this place was?  A Home for Girls?
Powell:  Yeah, all actresses.  A whole bunch of 'em live here.
Milhauser:  Kind of a handy place to know about.

And Linda was a young lady dating a very married man, oops: 

Big Mary:  Oh girls, look!  There's the Cadillac again for Linda Shaw.
Little Mary:  Is he in it?
Big Mary:  No, just the chauffeur, same as always.
Pat:  Who's the guy, anyhow?  Anybody know?
Little Mary:  He doesn't ever come.  Just sends the car.
Pat:  Well, nice work if you can get it.
Ann:  (righteously)  I think it's disgraceful.  A nice girl wouldn't want a man to send for her that way.  And if you ask me, it gives the club a bad name.

(A warning gesture and a "Pss-s-st!" from Little Mary as Linda descends the stairs.  Linda is beautifully dressed for the evening.  She is wearing the dress whose pressing had annoyed her; her evening cape is handsomely furred.  Enormous orchids.)

Big Mary:  Oh Linda!  How gorgeous!
Linda:  (pausing reluctantly)  Oh, hello.
Little Mary:  Come on in, let's see you.
Big Mary:  What a marvelous coat, Linda!
Pat:  Yes, and a very nifty bit of jack rabbit, if I may say so.  (Her finger outlines a collar in the air)
Linda:  Oh that!  Mother sent it to me.  It used to be on a coat of hers.
Little Mary:  It's lovely.
Pat:  (mildly)  Oh--Mother has a nice taste in orchids, too.
Linda:  (baring her fangs)  Yes.  Don't you wish you had a mother like mine?  (she sweeps out)

(the two Marys dart to the window)

Pat:  What would you two do without that window?  Why don't you pull up a rocking chair!
Ann:  Linda Shaw's comings and goings don't interest me.  Girls make such fools of themselves about men!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

first lab member, graduated!

A very exciting day, indeed!

And as requested by the graduate, I made sea salt brownies for the occasion (deadly, oh yes).  And despite having to troubleshoot another oven (glory be)  --they turned out great!  And let's just say that if I want to open a bakery, I think I've found angel capital from Brian's grandfather...apparently my baking is a better bet than the stock market!

Sea Salt Brownies
(adapted from Bake or Break and Food and Wine)

Do not be afraid to use so much butter.  These are rich, wonderful, lovely brownies, and a treat. 

1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
2 cups sugar (I use demerara sugar, which is usually a much chunkier crystal)
3 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract  (or if you're me, and you have homemade vanilla that you adore, add about 2 tablespoons)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon sea salt (the flaky kind)


1.  Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a 9-inch square baking pan with aluminum foil or parchment paper, letting the excess hang over the edges.
2.  Melt butter and chocolate on low heat on the stovetop in a saucepan.  Turn the heat down.
3.  Whisk in cocoa, then the sugar.  If you're using the demerara sugar, keep on the heat until it's a bit more incorporated.
4.  Turn off the heat and whisk in, one at a time, the eggs, vanilla, and flour.
5.  Pour into prepared pan, and smooth the top of the batter.
6.  Sprinkle salt over the top of batter. Using a butter knife, swirl salt into brownie batter.  Lick the knife.
7.  Bake for 30-35 minutes, until edges are set and center is a bit soft. A toothpick inserted in the center should come out with a little batter coating it.  Getting the perfect state of doneness is a bit maddening depending on your oven and how you feel about gooey brownies.  If it doesn't turn out how you want it the first time, mark down to shorten your baking time the next time you make these brownies.
8.  Cool at room temperature for an hour (super important!).  Then, cool in refrigerator for an hour or until firm. Remove from pan and foil. Serve at room temperature.  Or with goat cheese ice cream.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

MIT Graduation 2012

I love this picture, love love love it.  And I can't wait til I'm the one wearing the puffy hat.  Congrats to the class of 2012!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

The Donation Room

A dorm of 250 young ladies is bound to be a crazy mess of a time during move-out season, and my girls have been leaving since May 15th-ish.  Graduation day was yesterday, and now the leaving begins in earnest--they have to be gone by Sunday afternoon.  In the meantime, this year's move-out has been particularly felt on my end because I ended up volunteering to coordinate a donation room for students to donate food, clothing, school books, the whole nine yards.  The first day, not much happened...and I was lulled into the false sense that people will be neat, be efficient in their packing, and it won't be that big a deal to coordinate.

Famous last words.

I've spent at least an hour every evening for the past two weeks organizing and bagging clothes, throwing out stained underwear (really?!) and piling books.  As it's an open room, the students have been rummaging through it as well, and there seems to be a steady stream of new items appearing, old items disappearing.  And for someone who is as organized as I am, waking up in the morning and heading to work seeing all the efforts of the night before completely undone, it's a little maddening.  Great practice for having children one day, I'm sure.

Last night a guest stayed at my place, and it was the first night I hadn't done the requisite tidying up.  Here's a taste of the before:

And the same room, three and a half hours later:

The clothes and shoes are being taken out to the suburbs by a staff member and donated to one of the pickup clothing drives, and housewares will most likely be taken to goodwill at some point.  Books are being donated to the start of a library in the hometown of a student who was killed in a bicycle accident this past year.  The other things, especially the giant cache of hangers, the eight lamps, these may stick around for other students to use next year. 

But really, all I have to say is next year, I'm enlisting more help to start with.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Scooper Bowl 2012

The annual Scooper Bowl was this week, and despite the cold weather and rain, the ice cream was delicious!  And eating ice cream for charity, a great deal. 

(also---look at the little kids on the right!  adorable ice cream faces!)
Icing on the cake
Lunar Cheesecake
Splish Splash
Superfudge Truffle

Ben & Jerry's

Americone Dream
Blueberry Vanilla Graham Greek Frozen Yogurt
Chocolate Nougat Crunch
Chocolate Therapy

Cookies and Cream
Mint Chocolate Chip
Vanilla Bean

Brigham's The Big Dig
Brigham’s Peppermint Stick
Hood Bear Creek Caramel
Hood Maine Blueberry and Sweet Cream Frozen Yogurt

Byrne Dairy
Cookie Dough
Cotton Candy
Holy Cow
Mint Chocolate Chip

Ciao Bella Gelato
Malted Milk Ball Gelato
Mango Sorbet
Passion Fruit Sorbet
Strawberry Gelato

Chocolate Chip
Espresso Chip
Dulche de Leche
Rainbow Sherbert

Hunka Chunka PB Fudge
Graham Central Station
Mint Chocolate Chip
Rockin Poppin Cotton Candy

SoCo Creamery
Cake Batter
Mission Fig
Lemon Poppy Seed
Salted Caramel

And the winners of the day?  Well, I was smart this year and joined a group of four other people to round-robin taste all 37 flavors.  My favorites were Ben and Jerry's Chocolate Therapy (dark chocolate ice cream with perfect brownies), and Ciao Bella's mango sorbet. 

Saturday, June 2, 2012

The pleasures of learning to cook

Learning how to cook is all about reading about flavors, trying new things, failing sometimes.  It's about watching the Food Network and being confused, a lot.  It's about learning of new fruits, the perilous art of fileting a fish, or taking the skin off of a giant pork shoulder with a chef's knife, without cutting yourself.  It's about reading cookbooks before you go to bed at night, dreaming about when you'll finally have enough extra cash for the next level of wonderful adventures in your kitchen (mine?  a dutch oven.  then after I leave grad school and hopefully have a kitchen of a larger size, a set of really nice saute pans). 

I discovered in my efforts to fit everything into my freezer last week a forgotten container of roasted red peppers from last fall.  I stuck them in the fridge to defrost, thinking I could make a red pepper hummus or something.  Upon seeing the mush, I quickly nixed the idea and started running through other ways I'd seen people use peppers.  And then I thought about my absolute favorite summer soup, Serious Eats' wonderful gazpacho.  You see, I am nuts about this gazpacho.  And the month of summer tomatoes here in the northeast, I eat it, oh, probably four or five times a week.  It's that good.  (and if you're checking out the recipe and gasping at the amount of olive oil, no you don't need quite that much, but you do need some.  There are flavor compounds in tomatoes and other veggies that are soluble in oil, not in water, and you need some fats there to make it extra delicious.  And, yes, you have to strain it.  Yes, it's work, but it is so worth it). 

So - I put the peppers and their juices in a pot, added some bread cubes, some salt and pepper, and pureed it with my stick blender.  I strained it through my sieve, tried a spoonful, and boy, was I ever pleased as punch with myself.   Being able to do something like this, have an ingredient that I need to use, make something up, and have it actually taste great?  That's what I've been trying to do for the past three years.  I think I can now actually call myself a good cook. 

Friday, June 1, 2012

Red Sox!

I lucked out and became the beneficiary when a friend had an extra ticket..I finally got to see the inside of Fenway for myself!  And while the Sox did lose to the Rays (when did they lose the Devil part of the name?  How did I miss that?) ---well, we got to see both a grand slam and a fight.  And what a beautiful park, truly baseball at it's finest.  Though, it would have been better if they served those awesome little chocolate milkshake ice creams with the wooden spoons...