Thursday, January 30, 2014

Philadelphia Eats: Southwark

My trusted source Serious Eats recommended Zento for sushi, and Southwark for cocktails, so off we went to the very old school bar for a perfect end to the night. 

Cozy seats, candlelight, and an attentive bartender made for a lovely experience.  (word to the can indeed order hot water with lemon at a bar!  it's so cold out, forget water with ice). 

Sarah enjoyed her first grownup orange creamsicle drink, a Harvey Wallbanger, while I went for the Philadelphia, an apple brandy and port concoction.

Prices weren't outrageous, and even at 10 pm on a Saturday, you could hear others at your's well worth a visit!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Philadelphia Eats: Zento Sushi

When your husband doesn't like sushi, it's always a plus when your friends from out of town love it---so off to Zento we went!

Their miso soup with fresh tofu was such a perfect way to start the meal in this chilly weather. 

Shrimp tempura, tuna, avocado, all wonderful. 

Sunday, January 26, 2014

A walk in Philadelphia

I spent a quick 48 hours in Philadelphia this January, visiting the lovely Sarah and her husband Jeff!

Despite the crazy weather, we decided to head out into the snowflakes!

We spent some time at the Mütter Museum, a medical museum housing anatomical specimens from the fascinating to macabre to downright sad.  Not for those with weak stomachs, that's for sure...but for two biologists, it was quite the treat!

I love the little alleys here!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Wistful traveler

Charles de Gaulle airport...I felt like a piece of luggage being transferred through a maze.  After a whirlwind trip, it was a strange way to say farewell to Europe.  It felt very space-age, as if I was going from somewhere quite unreal back to the real world.

And even now, six months later, I feel just as I did standing there, feeling as if I lived through a marvelous time that couldn't have been real, surely not.  I imagined the entire thing, down to the last detail, Sara waving goodbye as my passport and ticket were checked and approved, me thanking the ticket officer with a quiet "merci." 

But it was real.  It was a two week extravaganza of people, places, crowds, art, flowers, food, music, late nights, early mornings, train rides, castles, mountains, was astonishing.

It's an understatement to say it was a departure from my current life, a life where I work 60 hours a week, in lab every day, rain, shine or winter storm.  I bolt upright in the middle of the night with improved phrasing for a talk I'm preparing to give, a control I should include, or the best setup for an upcoming experiment.  My walk to work isn't a pleasant stroll, it's a strategy session.  My waking hours are spent swimming through SOPs for carbon monoxide experiments, coordinating repairs for biosafety cabinets, cloning a myriad of constructs with the requisite swims through DNA sequences 20000 letters long.  Tunnel vision is encroaching, and I have to do everything to make sure it doesn't take over completely.

A far cry from Europe, to be sure.

So it's hard to look back on everything and be assured that I did see Monet's Garden, ma Tour Eiffel, Opera Garnier, Big Ben, Guggisberg, Lake Geneva.  But I was there.  It wasn't a hallucination. And every time I see someone's photos from a trip on facebook, all I feel is a wistful sort of jealousy, an almost unfair feeling that time should speed up, so I can go more interesting places, do more interesting things. 

I don't dislike science, certainly not.  Science and talking about science will always be my thing.  And I know, poor me, I have to get paid to do something I like to do that will advance my career while living in an amazing city for free in return for mentoring smart and talented young ladies.  First world problems. 

Yet.  It's no Bastille Day in Paris spent at the Louvre and then watching the fireworks over the Eiffel Tower, or an afternoon spent in a quiet English garden drinking the best cup of tea I've ever had.  And it makes me wonder how I'll get back, when I'll get back.  I know it will be someday, but it's hard to be in the no man's land of spinning my wheels in science with no defined end in site, and no travel plans in the future.  And once you're a traveler (and when you're lucky to be brought up as a traveler, thanks mom and Pa!) -- you can't let go of the next trip, the next thing to plan.  Thank goodness I have some visitors coming to the city soon, that's all I know.

(apologies for the self-pity...I think the sappy Olympics commercials about dreams and my long days at work are getting the best of me). 

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

wintery Boston

This winter has been all kinds of strange...lots of snow, then melting, then ice, then a dusting.  Cold, warm, simply changeable. 

Part of me really misses Minnesota winters...the dependable cold and chill, the snow, the crisp air.  I'd take that any day versus a brown January. 

Monday, January 20, 2014

Tampa Bay Eats: Thai Market at Wat Mongkolratanaram Temple

Melinda's aunt found a really fun place to do breakfast on Sunday, a market at a Thai Buddhist Temple in Tampa...certainly not what I expected, but such a great idea!

We wandered through the market, and made our way to the flower stand - full of gorgeous orchids!

Eating breakfast under the spanish moss.

Doling out rice.

The famous coconut custards!  They tasted like fried coconut rice pudding, and due to the time-intensive preparation, they had a system where you paid for a box and put your name on it, the women behind the counter estimate the time it will take (mine was 60 minutes!) and you come back at that point to your box full of custards!  Certainly an honor system approach, but absolutely worth it!  Warm, gooey, a perfect dessert.

(the other dessert I tried was topped with savory fried onions and decidedly not my favorite).

They have a three step method...pour batter in to coat the sides, let it set, and then fill the middle with additional batter (making the outside even more cooked than the center).  Finally, they put one half on top of another, and they bond together, giving you a sphere of coconut goodness.  
I found a recipe online here, it looks like you can make them with pancake puff/ebelskiver pans! 

View from the pier!

The temple.

All in all, it was definitely a fun place to go!  A few tips:

--make sure to stop for dessert first on the way in, it's all premade and you can get it packaged up...but what they have is all they have, so watch out or you will have sad onion breath like I did.
--it takes about 40 minutes for the pho line, so be patient.  
--the line for rice + curry was much shorter, and they have pad thai there as well.
--their Thai iced tea was delicious
--buy some fried bananas to share, they have a lovely sweet fried crust, dotted with sesame seeds. 

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Pre-wedding fun!

While I wait for more fun photos of the wedding from the photographer and Melinda's mother, I thought I'd show a few of us getting ready. 

Her beau's ceremonial sword.  I was the sword-keeper for the night.  I wonder if I can put that on a business card...

Sitting pretty, while her hair sets.

The updo!  (43 bobby pins later)

A bit blurry, but lots of fun braids!

Hairdresser:  "So...can I part this on the side?  Or would you rather it be in the center?"
Me:  "Uh...don't really care.  As long as it looks good."

I am hopeless.

Mother and daughter, in a somewhat staged zipping of the dress. 

All smiles and ready to go!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Tampa Bay Eats: Columbia Restaurant

The rehearsal dinner was held at the Columbia Restaurant, a Tampa establishment since 1905.  The Spanish-inspired food was delicious---paella, plantains, black beans, warm bread, key lime pie?   It was everything you could want for a big dinner with friends.  They also do flamenco shows!  It's well worth a trip if you're in town.

And I will say...I've never had shrimp so perfectly cooked in a paella.  It was served buffet-style to the whole room, in a pan about three feet wide.  The shrimp were perfect.  Even now all I'm thinking about is how to make shrimp at home that taste that good. 

However, the decor left us...a little confused.  The large scale oil paintings of couples that looked to be men and trophy wives, dressed up in medieval costumes felt a little strange.  Once the whole story was explained, however, it made a lot more sense. These were the Kings and Queens of the Krewe of the Knights of Saint Yago...essentially a Latin version of King Boreas of the Snows.  Started in the 1970s, the knights sought to preserve and maintain Latin culture in Tampa.  The King and Queen are pillars of that effort, and every year get dressed up, there's a parade, and the costumes, yes, totally real. 

On her last night as a single lady!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

A tour of the NOAA Hangar

Melinda's beau is a commissioned officer in NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.  A strange combination of outpost of the US Department of Commerce and the military, NOAA is in charge of coastal mapping, wildlife and scientific research for defense and commerce-based purposes, and they're the ones that fly into hurricanes.  Any doppler radar pictures you see of hurricanes come straight from NOAA, and no one has ever heard of them.  ...which is a shame, because the work they do is fascinating!

Early Friday morning, we traveled south to MacDill Air Force Base, headquarters of CENTCOM, the United States Central Command, also known as the folks that oversee the entirety of the United States involvement in the Middle East, Northern Africa, and Central Asia.  The base is home to 20,000 personnel, and to put it mildly, there is a lot going on. 

While he does have an office on base, his home away from home is the NOAA Aircraft Operations Center, the hangar where all the planes are stored.  On site were the hurricane hunters!

This is Gonzo, a G4.  Smaller than the P3, it's more nimble and does more flying in the bumpy outskirts of a hurricane.  (when Henson Productions found out the planes were being named after Muppets, they agreed to do the logos! cool)

Miss Piggy, a P3.  The larger of the two hurricane planes, there are three radar units; the strange black nose cone, the weird black m & m on the bottom of the plane, and the really weird-looking tail.

The planes themselves were full of the oranges and golds of the 70s, utility obviously being far more valued than looks.  The cockpit had seats for a pilot, co-pilot, flight engineer (in the center) and two pilots riding jump seats behind.  Everyone is taught in flight school the exact responses to given events, but even so, having extra eyes on hand while you're in a hurricane...well, it seems like a good idea.

The flight engineer is in charge of the mechanics of the plane, which is what they do when they're not flying.  There are about 873 knobs, dials, and doohickeys that they monitor in flight.  That's the seat I sat in during the tour, and all I can say is wow...I am glad I do not fly into hurricanes.

Besides the commissioned officers that do the flying, there's also a navigator, and self-proclaimed "I'm kind of the IT guy on board" (didn't catch his actual title) and several civilian meteorologists and weather folks on board.  

On a hurricane day, any given flight lasts 9 hours.  Based on how long it takes the plane to get from Tampa to the hurricane, and wherever they're landing, they have a certain amount of time that they maximize to get as much data as possible to relay back to meteorologists in the plane and on the ground.

They try to get as many passes from the edge to the eye as they can, making what would be a star pattern, but since they always direct back towards the eye of the storm and the storm is moving, it looks like much less of a defined star if you see the final flight path. 

They also send out beacons from a tube in the plane that detect air speed, precipitation, all sorts of other data on the way down, and as long as they can before sinking into the ocean.  This info is relayed back to meteorologists as well. 

As we're not actually in hurricane season right now, all planes are being serviced.  One is getting ready to have it's wings replaced, they've been through quite a few years of flying through bad weather and are near retirement.  

The other planes NOAA uses (and the ones that her beau flies) are out on assignment doing all sorts of winter-appropriate projects.  

For instance, they bring along scientists on flights to count polar bears, seals, and whales throughout US territories.  You may think this has nothing to do with defense and commerce..but in fact, scientist use the numbers of these top echelon predators to infer populations of other sea creatures that are harder to track---a good example is tuna.  All the rules and regulations about tuna catch, numbers that can be caught, come directly from the scientists that count dolphins in the ocean.  The numbers are added into numerical models, and the final product is a recommendation enforced by the US Department of Commerce--"You can take out X number of tuna this year without further endangering the population."

They were also the original mappers of the coast line.  Following the Revolutionary War, the British hardly wanted to hand over their own maps to the uprising colonies, so the US had to figure out maps all by it's lonesome, and this job went to NOAA.

Miss Piggy!  And the hurricanes the plane has flown through are all listed on the bottom right.

Miss Piggy's tail radar. It was the first thing I saw when I came in, and all I could think about, I know I haven't been in a hangar for a long time, but seriously?  This looks ridiculous.  And yes, I was right. 

I also searched my archives from my life as the granddaughter of a pilot visiting hangar after hangar after hangar growing up, and while I'm sure there are more, here is awkward 11 year old Bridget for you:   (look at those socks!)

From The National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, Florida. 

"How big is the plane, Jacob?"  "So big!"

Sunday, January 12, 2014

A Trip to Tampa Bay

This January, I spent a weekend in the lovely (and warm!) city of Tampa Bay for a dear girlfriend's wedding.  There was family, there was great food, there was a tour of a hanger on MacDill Air Force Base, oh, and I have a friend who now has a husband!  

The picture above was taken at our hotel, and it really was so strange, to be in 75 degree weather after three days in a row where the high was below zero back in Minnesota.  Certainly a study in contrasts.  My last time in Florida in the winter was not a happy one; we took my grandmother there for Christmas the holiday after my grandfather passed away, and everyone just felt out of sorts.  Yes, the weather was great, we had the beach to ourselves, there were lovely things about the trip, and I'm glad we did it for grandma...but I'm a girl of the north.  Despite being the girl who is always cold, I love cozy winters, hot cocoa, snowflakes, and I have an unabashed adoration of snow pants (yes, the kind with the bibs).  Let's just say it would take a love as wonderful as Melinda found to take me away from my pine trees and apple cider. 

Friday, January 10, 2014

Winter Storm Hercules

Thank you, weather service, for your named storms.  It makes things so much easier to remember (and, ahem, make themed cocktails for). 

It was so windy and so cold that my window bay was filled with snow. 

Warming up with a bowl of udon noodle soup at Tampopo in the shops near Porter Square.

The city just gives up on plowing the sidewalk on the bridge...

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Winter at the Cabin

Cozy, though not quite as much as expected due to a faulty thermostat.  We had to macgyver wires together to get the gas fireplace started in order to have heat in the living space. 

I'm also a bit spoiled, though.  Winter warmth in McCormick is 74 degrees, and what the entire family thinks is terribly hot in the cabin was likely about 68.  To me, not all that hot.


So much love and spoiling!

Snow on the lake!

In the summertime, the sun sets directly west, opposite the cabin, but in the winter, it sets 45 degrees south of that.  Physics! 

Love these trees!

Monday, January 6, 2014

The trouble with beavers

Nature's engineers (and also the mascot of MIT) made a nuisance out of themselves this year at the cabin.  Strange, too, since we're far away from any river that would need damming, and there have been no reports of the beavers building up a home on the side of the lake itself.  So it was curious indeed when mom and Eric woke up one morning this fall to find a large tree completely down, fallen into the water, birdhouse knocked askance.

They came up with a plan: wait until the lake freezes over the leafy part that is now in the water, and chainsaw the rest of the chunk into bits to transport away from the lake. 

Planning the attack.

First cut, successful.  Once the lake thaws in the spring, Eric will fish out the top of the tree and branches.  I'm sure the cover will be appreciated by all the little fish in the meantime.

I've never used a chainsaw and have no desire to (loud, vibrations, not my thing), but dad was making cuts up into the wood because of an old chain, it kept getting caught in downwards motions.

Some of the rings were a bit indistinct, but it looks as if the tree is about 30 years old.d

Bracing the load helps counterbalance the work of the chainsaw.

Can we just lift it up now and flip it back into the woods?

Err...heavy!  Too heavy!!

One more cut.

Removing logs.

While it's a bit hard to tell, the bank is about two feet in front of the largest section of tree.

Eric, tired from the workout.

Dad, also tired from he job, slept all afternoon.  It's hard work, hauling wood. 

On a completely unrelated note, after working last Wednesday-Thursday-Friday (a holiday, holiday, and snow day) after a holiday back in Minnesota that included hospital visits and norovirus, I just had one of the WORST Mondays of my life.   Cat videos, silly comics, and things that will make me smile (unlike this, which made me want to bawl my eyes out) are completely appreciated.  And yes, I ate puppy chow for dinner.  I am not ashamed. 

Saturday, January 4, 2014

A Sanborn Cabin Christmas

It all starts with the preparations.  There are two large bags of chips for each family member, a fridge full of Guggisberg cheese and Swedish sausage, more crackers than you can shake a stick at, and the crucial new container of baking powder for Christmas morning caramel apple rolls.

("Bridget, this baking powder expired in 2010...will it still be okay?"  "Nope")

Early morning, loading up the car

Time to make the caramel!

Why yes, I did roll out the dough with an empty champagne bottle.

Rising rolls and the caramel glaze (yes, they do look a bit...oozy.  If I make these again, I would make the dough the night before as well as the filling, and bring them out to room temperature about an hour prior to rolling out.  That way the filling would be much kinder to work with when cutting the rolls than warmish apple goo.  It will gel up---because you leave the apple skin on, there's enough pectin to make it more of a gel than the goo I worked with.  But in general, it's a great recipe option if you have a nut-free house, thanks Pioneer Woman!)

Ready for presents!

Can we have some?  Of course we can, it's Christmas!  Pleeeeaaaasssseeeeee?  
(the day after Christmas, Ayden took it upon herself to relieve the frying pan with leftover hashbrowns of their leftover-ness, denting the pan and making a huge mess in the process.  Never a dull moment with these two!)

Christmas Card attempt #1.  Ha.

The family favorite.  Also, I would like to point out that I am not short, they are tall (I am 5'5)

"I am interested in this.  It could be food."

Ooh, socks!   Interesting, but not worth getting up for.

Can I help?

Lovely texture, this. 

I am not quite sure about it, but I do like carrying it around.

Okay, I'm already up, I may as well investigate these new socks...

Thrilled about his first belt.

White Christmas!

Dog: bored
Dad: opening his Costco Membership card.  He has developed an astonishing fondness for bulk food items in his dotage. 

Flame Grilled Steak Chips from my snack haul from the UK this summer.  They tasted like beef ramen chips.  Cripies, Wispas, Haribro Stars, so many delicious options.

In honor of Pa.

Awesome lego minifig book perusal

German Smurfs candy, all the way from Lausanne.

And of course, for the Christmas-away-from-home experience, some Christmas lights for the mantel and around the windows.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

The dogs: a holiday 2013 retrospective

(See 2012 retrospective here)

Time for ice cream!

That's all?  Really?  Are you sure?

You could always let us lick the spoon.

No?  Well...I suppose...if you're sure that's all you're going to give us.  We'll stick around the kitchen, though, looking pathetic, just in case you change your mind.

No one is paying any attention to me.

9:05 am

10:15 am

10:30 am