Tuesday, November 30, 2010


In the 1930's, Frank Lloyd Wright built a home for a Stanford professor and his wife.  The Hanna House is notable for many reasons, the most obvious of which is that it is built on a hexagonal grid (like a honeycomb).  I have visited the house twice - once as a part of the class "Discovering Stanford's Treasures" and once as part of a tour I organized for other students.  It is really quite an unusual space. 

Hanna House - Notable Info
Every year, a Stanford student is chosen to be the caretaker and live in a room in an adjacent guest house.  It just so happens that the student caretaker this year is a good friend!  Therefore, on Sunday night my husband and I went to the Hanna House to hang out.  We brought Chipotle burritos and played Catan - a game built around the hexagon!  It was amazing to play a hexagonal game in a hexagonal house!  

Hexagon Overload!
The pictures I took don't do it justice.  It was quite dark when we got there, but there are some better pictures on the house website.
A view from the dining area into the living area

the long hexagonal dining room table where we played Catan
I don't think I have ever been in such a consciously and consistently designed space before.  The house is full of little nooks and crannies created by the fact that everything is 120 deg (rather than the standard 90 deg).  Apparently when they were building the house, they churned through a lot of frustrated carpenters.  In the end, it was mostly built by cabinet makers, as they were used to very detailed work with odd angles. Case in point - check out this drawer below.  Instead of opening towards you like most drawers, it opens at an angle.  I love the creativity and consistency of execution.  Very interesting.
a drawer in the kitchen that opens at an angle
Thanks again to our friend for the opportunity to share in this unique living situation!  

Monday, November 29, 2010

Thanksgiving leftovers!

Two weeks ago, my husband went to China for a week.  The night before he left, I made him a chicken pot pie to get him in the mood for Thanksgiving (which would happen less than a week after he got back from China).  When my mom made pot pies for us, she always decorated them with the leftover dough scraps (which I did as well).  

turkeys on a chicken pot pie

Although due to a technical difficulty, my crust cracked apart a bit in the lower right corner (covered so artfully by a leaf).  

yum yum
Chicken pot pie is one of my favorite dishes and it is so easy - a great way to use leftover chicken or turkey.  If only there was leftover turkey from Thanksgiving... although can you blame us when the turkeys looked this good?

Our two Thanksgiving turkeys

Sunday, November 28, 2010

lazy winter Saturday

With two days off from work last week, this has been a wonderful four day weekend.  With the Christmas tree up and decorated, the next order of business was holiday cookies!  I had bought the 2010 Fine Cooking Cookies magazine as well as the 2010 Martha Stewart Cookies magazine and thought I'd start with Fine Cooking.

2010 Fine Cooking Cookies Magazine
I decided to attempt the cover recipe (gingersnap snowflakes) and classic lace cookies before heading to the Stanford football game at 4:30.

making the gingersnap dough
I think I was a little two ambitious because I was already elbow deep in flour before I realized that the gingersnap dough had to be refrigerated for 2 - 8 hours (which I didn't count on), so after all that - the dough is still in my fridge this morning.
half of the finished dough (which had to be refrigerated)
On the other hand, the lace cookies were super easy!  The recipe made just a little bit of dough, but it was enough for 24 cookies (less than the 36 it estimated, but maybe mine were bigger than they should have been).
lace cookies - just sugar, corn syrup, butter, flour, vanilla and almond flour
 The finished product were rich and crispy - perfect with a cup of tea in the afternoon.
golden brown
We then went to the Stanford game (got in for free with tickets Alison found online)!  It was a pretty great game for us - a complete shutout!  Where was good Stanford football when I was actually a student...

Go Card!
We came home after the third quarter to eat beef that had been slow cooking for hours.  Sorry this picture isn't that good looking (I realize that it must be pretty unappetizing), but it is all I could get before I ate 4 sandwiches worth.  DELICIOUS!  My husband bought two pot roasts, trimmed the fat, and then let them cook on low in our crockpot (thanks Julie and Julia!) in a bottle of costco BBQ sauce.
soooo goooood

We finished off the night with lace cookies and wine (Kelley and I watched A LOT of SportsCenter last night).  I will say that by 10pm that night, the cookies were losing their crispness!  Any suggestions on how to keep them from absorbing moisture?  Overall a good fall/winter day - cookies, beef, football. :)

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Christmas is coming!

How is it already the end of November?

This year, my husband and I decided to get our tree the day after Thanksgiving. We busted out our Christmas decorations and headed down to the tree lot.  This year we'd thought we go big - like 8 feet big.
a big tree!
We brought it home and set up an area for it.  We just learned that a tree this big could drink up to a gallon of water a day!  That's a lot of water...

a tree skirt I got my husband a few years ago (before we were married)
We spent the next few hours putting on lights, ornaments, and the star at the top.  Then we watched Love Actually, my all time favorite holiday movie.
putting on the star!
Isn't it pretty?  It makes our house smell so good - and feel so cozy.  If only the month of December lasted a little longer.  At least now that Thanksgiving is over,  I can listen to my Mariah Carey "All I Want for Christmas is You" Pandora station guilt free. :)

Friday, November 26, 2010

Gobble Gobble!

Happy Thanksgiving!  For the second year running, I spent my Thanksgiving in California with my new in-law family.  They have a lot of fun traditions including assigning jobs to people (e.g. "god given grace giver" and "water waiter") that allow all the guests to pitch in and help prepare the meal, as well as watching National Lampoons Christmas Vacation while digesting dinner.  As it was last year, the food was amazing, the table settings were beautiful, and the opportunity to relax with extended family around a big meal (and later a movie) was really wonderful.  The only thing missing was my family (next year I'm going to put on the hard sell for California over Texas).

Since this was our first married Thanksgiving, I'd thought I bring some of my family traditions to my new family.  First and foremost, I'd thought I'd make my personal favorite part of Thanksgiving, my grandmother Memaw's cornbread dressing.  It is a family favorite and I am the third generation to make this dressing (others might call it stuffing).  It also makes the best leftovers when smothered in gravy.  Although there would already be two other kinds of stuffing at our Thanksgiving this year (stuffed onions and a stuffed turkey), can there ever be too much?

it starts with onions and celery 
and then you add butter...
(this would make three 13"x9" trays!)

yum... the smell of melting butter!

onions + celery + butter = the smell of my childhood
(or would that be the smell of bacon?)

get the dry ingredients ready - cornbread cubes and Pepperidge Farm stuffing mix

Mixing the wet and the dry
adding chicken and rice soup and a couple eggs

the finished (golden brown) product
The next family tradition to bring to the wilds of Northern California?  Cafe Brulot - a big time special occasion tradition in my family.

first I studded the peels of two lemons and two oranges with cloves

clove studded orange peels

next I added 4 cinnamon sticks, 2.5 cups brandy, 1.25 cups Grand Marnier and let it soak while we ate

Our silver Cafe Brulot set (thanks Aunt Donna!) and 12 brulo cups
(our cups feature the Antoine's devil, although we use a different recipe)

Cafe Brulot set to burn!

"don't burn off all the alcohol"
my dad showing us how it's done last Christmas
After you flame the alcoholic components - you add sweetened black coffee and serve.  It was very delicious - although I do blame the Cafe Brulot for my inability to clearly remember the end of the night...

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Twas the night before Thanksgiving...

When my grandparents were still alive, we spent every Thanksgiving Eve eating Chinese food at a restaurant in New Orleans called Five Happiness.  Invariably the kids would fight over the meat on a stick that you rotate over the table top flame and rounds of shirley temples and roy rogers would be ordered with lots of maraschino cherries.  

These days my family no longer heads to the Five Happiness, but instead my cousin and his wife host a shrimp creole night on Thanksgiving Eve.  It is particularly special because they now live in the house where my grandparents lived.  This year they sent around the invite and included a picture of my cousin Zizi with my grandmother at what must have been a school Thanksgiving celebration (if you look closely at the picture you'll see that my grandmother is wearing a pilgrim hat).  

pilgrim grandmother and Indian cousin
This year I stayed in California (so no shrimp creole for me), but my husband and I upheld my family tradition by inviting over friends and eating Chinese take-out on the night before Thanksgiving.  I later talked to my parents and siblings (who spent the holiday in Houston) and realized that they ate Chinese food too.  Not sure how this tradition got started, but it is a fun way to stay connected through the years and across the miles. 

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

love actually is all around

It is almost the holiday season and every year I watch Love Actually (many times). One of my favorite lines is when Emma Thompson says "I love her, and true love lasts a lifetime."  She is talking about Joni Mitchell, but she could be talking about anything. It seems so simple.  True love lasts a lifetime.  I love my husband, my family, Chipotle burritos, my friends, Philz coffee, crawfish bread, etc.

I recently had the good fortune to spend a weekend with my college girlfriends in New Jersey - my Terps Laurie, Rachel, Christina, and Kelly.  There is nothing better than spending time with old friends.  It isn't often we get to spend time together, but when we do we make the most of it (including a major photo montage).

So this Thanksgiving, I am thankful for my lovely friends and family.


Monday, November 22, 2010

fall in Vermont

About a month ago we went to a wedding in Stannard, Vermont for a wedding.  I had always wanted to go to New England in the fall and was VERY excited to see Jeff and Mona get married against a backdrop of fiery rolling hills.

First stop?  The original Ben and Jerry's in Waterbury, VT.  I usually don't like Ben and Jerry's as much as I like Bryers (mint chocolate chip) - but chocolate fudge brownie from time to time is pretty awesome.
taking in the historic New England landmarks
I thought this list of the top ten B&J's flavors was interesting.
the Top 10
Because Stannard is a pretty small town, we stayed in rented houses to share with 10 or 12 other friends. Check out our view from the front porch.  If you are wondering, it is much colder than it looks.
our view
 Jeff and Mona were married in a little church that her father helped restore.  It was built in the mid to late 1800's (can't remember the exact date).  It was really sparse on the inside, but I really liked it.
quaint country church
The flowers were a gorgeous mix of fall colors and textures (note the apples on the window sill).  You know I never go to a wedding without stopping to enjoy the flowers.
the flowers
The light fixture inside the church held oil lamps that had to be lit by hand.  The entire fixture then could be raised back toward the ceiling.
lamp lighting
Even though this wedding was an hour and a half away from Burlington, the entire college crew came for the occasion.  It was such a great weekend.  
getting the band back together...
Congratulations to the bride and groom!

Friday, November 19, 2010


Having taken the last month off of blogging, it's hard to know where to begin again when so much has happened!  I figure I would just share the most memorable stories, even if they were out of order and a bit disjointed.  Oh well!

I was looking over pictures from the past month and one made me laugh.  I was in Finland for work and eating lunch everyday in a cafeteria that was mostly feeding Finnish construction workers with big appetites.  My last day on-site, I was in line behind a Finnish work colleague.  To spare myself the trouble of having to communicate (i.e. mime my order) with the lunch ladies who didn't speak English, I asked this guy to just order me whatever he was having.  Imagine my surprise at this massive plate of potatoes and sausage (along with some rice and garlic oxtail).  It was very hearty.  VERY hearty.  

sausage and potatoes
with a side of garlic oxtail

While I'm on it, I will also mention what my Finnish co-worker drank with his meal.  Non-alcoholic beer is really popular, so of course he had near beer (as he called it).  However, he also drank cream - an entire glass of cream so think that the last drop from the carton left a little dent in the top.  So to recap, my co-worker ate an enormous plate of sausages and potatoes, and washed it down with a tall glass each of near beer and cream.  Definitely interesting.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

All in a days work!

Today Maximillian Riedel (of Riedel wineglasses) was on hand to teach 50 or so of us about wine tasting.  Did I mention this happened at work?  It was really fun, although most of this wine ended up in the spittoon because I had to drive home (what a waste)!  I'm looking forward to using my 4 piece Riedel tasting set at home - where I won't have to use the spittoon!

4 piece Riedel XL tasting set
Maximillian is a bit of a character.  He is the 11th generation glass maker and says all kinds of funny things.  He is very serious about wine and the things that came out of his mouth made me laugh.  For example, he called the varietal specific wine glasses "messengers."  He also made us look at the wines for about 30 minutes before we could taste them - saying things like "Ladies and gentlemen, let's dive into the aroma" with a completely straight face.  It was a lot of fun - perfect way to end a long day.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

I'm back!

So I have been a delinquent blogger over the last several weeks (almost a month)!  I have been all over the place (Vermont, Georgia, New Jersey, Belgium, Finland), battled a sneeze filled cold, hosted a Halloween party, and most important and life changing of all - the family welcomed our gorgeous niece Claire into the world.  Let me explain with photos.

The condition of my toe nails are a barometer for my mental health - and after all of the running around for the last month, they weren't pretty.  They were hooves.  My toe nails have been painted for a solid 15 years at this point - so you know things were busy when I get them get like this:

a hot mess
However, last week I was able to emerge from the fog and spend a very relaxing hour at the nail salon.  With my toes back in order, I've slowly gotten my head back on straight.

soooo much better
I've done loads of laundry, checked lots of email, and cleaned up the house (we still have halloween decorations out and Thanksgiving is next week).  I'm so happy next week is only three days!  I have so much still to tell you...
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