Sunday, February 17, 2008

Flowers and more flowers

Jesse and I don't have any Valentine's Day traditions. What I mean is that each Valentine's Day is different. Some years we do nothing other than give each other a hug, and some years we exchange candy. Jesse sometimes makes me "Luv-E Duv-E" mix CDs (I'm up to Luv-E Duv-E Volume IV) with love-themed songs (not the sappy kind... you wouldn't find those songs in his extensive CD collection!) and sometimes we make each other cards. Well, this year, I made a fancy dessert (more fancy than yummy, but it wasn't bad) and he had flowers delivered to me at work! I've never got flowers for Valentine's Day before, never mind delivered ones! The flowers are a bunch of alstroemerias.

He was surprised that I didn't bring them home on Valentine's Day, but my reasoning was that if I left them at work, I could spend the whole of Friday admiring them and I was sparing Jesse the pollen (since he's allergic to flowers). But, with Jesse's permission, I brought them home on Friday so I could admire them over the weekend. Well, when I got home from having my car smog checked and doing the grocery shopping yesterday, I found Jesse feeling miserable and blaming the flowers on his agonies (nausea, sinus headache, chills etc.). So I moved them to my bedroom and cut off all the anthers (pollen holders). We also opened up the windows and it seemed to help him a bit. He's still sleeping, so I don't yet know how he's doing today (hopefully better). You can see the cut stamens in this photo.

More flowers
Then, I woke up at 6:45 am today (Sunday), which is earlier than normal and, for once, was not because some early-morning golfers decided to shout at each other (I live next to a golfcourse and am frequently annoyed by golfers being loud, urinating in public, and/or setting off their car alarms). I don't know why I woke up then, but once I was awake there was no going back to sleep because I was too excited, thinking about a vacation Jesse and I are starting to plan. We've been saving to go on a big trip this year, and had been considering going to Australia (neither of us has been there before). Yesterday, we finally got around to more seriously thinking about our trip, and we're now thinking of going to South Africa! There are parts of South Africa I haven't seen but want to, so our preliminary plan is to rent a car in Cape Town and go for a ~10 day excursion up the west coast then inland to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park and back (or, continue to Johannesburg... rental car companies allow one-way trips, for an extra fee). We're thinking about doing this in September or so, which is when Namaqualand will be in bloom! I hope this trip comes to fruition! I've already been thinking about what camera equipment I'll want to take, whether I should get another memory card for my camera, and how much cash I should take (from my trip to Denmark for a conference in 2006, I learned that taking US $ cash is the best way to exchange for local currency). I've even thought about what luggage I should take and which Pick 'n Pay in Cape Town we should go to buy food for the drive. Perhaps some of those thoughts could wait? Oh--one other thing I have thought about doing, while in Cape Town, is to go on a bike ride through the Cape Point Nature Reserve. As long as the baboons don't get us. I'm sure I'll be writing more about this in the coming months.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Quick update on my resolutions

- Losing weight: no go
- More exercise: fine (I ran 4.5 miles yesterday and 4 miles today, for example!)
- Work on PF: bought a splint to wear at night... doesn't seem to have helped yet :-( Will keep trying
- Still not picking split ends
- Blog trolling still way down

So, mixed success, but at least I've stuck to some of them :-)

A few odds and ends

My project this weekend was to make a cover for my stand mixer. Here is the finished project:

I had to learn how to make bias tape in the process, and found this website very helpful for that.

Something else I did this weekend was to finally buy a muffin pan so that I could make my first batch of cupcakes from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World (see previous post). They turned out great! I made the "Tiramisu" ones...

Sorry... did that photo make you hungry?

And that was my weekend.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

The week in review

This is the post I never got around to writing last weekend, so this is really about the week starting  January 28th, the best day of the year: my birthday!! I like the fact that my birthday is a celebration of me :-) This year, I was particularly spoiled in the number and quality of gifts I got. I already knew what my biggest present was, since it had been living at the foot of my bed for a few weeks: a stand mixer! My sister and parents got together to buy it for me. Jesse and I already love having it and I have plans to sew a cover for it. Here's the stack of gifts:
In the back is the mixer, of course. Draped on it is an AWESOME T-shirt I got from Jesse that says "Powered by tofu!" on it. I love it. On top are some cards I got. On the floor from left to right at the back are: "The elements of style" by Strunk and White (I do a lot of writing as a scientist; Jesse gave this to me), "Persuasion" by Jane Austen (also from Jesse), "Vegan Cupcakes take over the world" (a cookbook; from my sister), a "Mansfield Park" DVD (from Jesse), a box of notecards (from Jesse's mom) and a book by Andy Goldsworthy of his fantastic natural sculptures (from my parents; do a google image search with his name for an idea of his work). In the front are a pair of silver and garnet earrings from my parents, and an enormous bar of chocolate from Jesse's mom. As I said, I was particularly spoiled this year!

I also had two birthday meals courtesy of Jesse. One was Sunday brunch the day before at our favorite all-vegetarian restaurant, Jyoti-Bihanga. We'd never tried their brunch, which they don't have every week. We were a little disappointed because they seemed understaffed and they were continually out of plates or food or coffee or water or water glasses, and our table wasn't bussed from the previous occupants until the end of our meal. But I feel bad saying anything bad about them, because they do have excellent food and I highly recommend their restaurant. I told Jesse that we'll have to give them one more chance for brunch, then decide if we should just never go to brunch there again, or if it was just a bad day for them. Of course, Jesse and I go out to brunch about once every two years...

On the day of my birthday, Jesse and I made two cheese fondues for dinner: one with Jarlsberg cheese and one with goat cheese. The goat cheese one just tasted like warm goat cheese, so was "okay." The Jarlsberg one was more a classic fondue and was awesome. We dipped bread, broccoli, apples and dried apricots. We don't have a fondue pot: we just served it in the pots we'd heated it in on the stove. I'd been inspired by a recent New York Times article on fondue. For dessert, Jesse made me a (Key) Lime pie (with normal limes, not Key limes). Yum! He baked the crust and filling the day before and it smelled SO good. When it came time to eat it, he made the meringue topping. It was so pretty, I took some photos.

A slice of the finished product:
We so loved the first pie, and Jesse appreciated how simple they are to make, that he made another one this week, with real Key limes that I got at the grocery store last weekend. The second one is significantly more tart (Key limes are more tart than regular "Persian" limes), but I like that. [For my 2007 birthday, Jesse made me the tartest lemon cake with lemon frosting--it was awesome too.]

With my birthday celebrations over, I returned to life as normal, except it wasn't a normal week at all! Starting January 30th, I had jury duty. This is the second time I have been called up to the San Diego County Superior Court in the three years I've lived here. You only have to report for one day, unless you end up on a case or, as I've discovered, you get called into a courtroom where the jury selection takes multiple days. The first time I got called up, I didn't get called to a courtroom until the afternoon, but it was for a murder trial that was predicted to take 2 weeks and I didn't get kicked off until the third day of selections. For murder trials, the lawyers get to kick a LOT of people off, I have discovered. I think I was the 17th person the prosecutor kicked off (if I remember correctly, he had 20 "freebies," so he waited a long time to kick me off, especially considering that I had been in the jury box from almost the very first minute we were in the courtroom). This time, I got called in the very first group to a murder trial as well. One that was predicted to take 4 weeks! I wasn't very excited at the prospect of being on a jury for 4 weeks, I have to say. I knew I'd be working evenings and weekend and court holidays (there are no jury trials on Fridays for example, though the judge assured us that he and the lawyers would still be working) but even so, I'd fall behind in my research. And, I knew other people in the lab would suffer too, since I am frequently sought after by lab members who need questions answered. Well, long story short, I got kicked off by the prosecutor in the afternoon of the second day. I was the 5th person she kicked off (the lawyers don't provide a reason for excusing jury members in this phase of the selection, but I presume the prosecutor was nervous about having me on the jury panel of a case that was going to involve DNA evidence... I'd been specifically asked if I work with DNA, which I do). The murder in this case had taken place in 1997! 

Jury duty took a lot out of me. I had an hour commute each way (drive to park-and-ride, take two trains, and walk several blocks to get there, then go to work by doing the reverse, but taking the train past the park-and-ride to go to campus... Jesse picked me up on campus and took me back to my car later) and even though there were many breaks during the day (they take 1.5 hours for lunch!), I'd be concentrating so hard while in court that I was exhausted at the end of the day and was actually mostly useless for doing lab work in the evening. During the breaks (including the 35 minutes we waited the second morning for a potential juror to show up, which he never did (can you say "contempt of court"?)), I read... first, I read a couple of scientific papers for work, then I switched to a shortish novel, The Life and Times of Michael K by J. M. Coetzee (takes place in South Africa). I finished all but the last few pages of the book in those two days! I haven't read that intensely for pleasure since I was a teenager, I don't think!

Well, I've gone on longer than I should, as usual! This past week wasn't nearly as interesting, so you won't have to read about it.

Take care.