Thursday, November 5, 2009

Just like Lena used to make for Ole

So last week, there was 24 inches of snow on the ground, and today it's supposed to be 70. I do not understand Colorado weather. In other news, I'm keeping busy at school. I'm learning how to clone DNA, working on a term project for each of my three classes, and learning LINUX for various data analysis programs I need for them. I don't bake much these days. Partly because we don't know that many people here to eat it. Not sure why otherwise.

Matt and his side hobby/company just put out another game for android phones this week in preparation for the verizon launch on Friday, and they're working on yet another.

I did made lefse. From scratch. And it's awesome. I tried making it a couple of years ago, and it was pretty good, but it ended up being a little crispy when all was said and done. Not this time. We always have lefse at holidays and family gatherings, even though most of us aren't that Norwegian. We're from Minnesota, and we're proud of the Norwegian we have, I suppose. Anyway, here's the recipe:

6 cups mashed potatoes
6 Tbsp butter

1 Tbsp salt
1 Tbsp sugar
1/2 cup milk
3 cups flour plus a lot more for rolling.

1. For the potatoes, chop them up and stick them in boiling water for 20 minutes until they're really mushy. I don't have a ricer, but if you do use it. I just mashed mine with a fork. Stir in the butter and let it cool in the fridge until its a little colder than room temp.

2. Mix in the rest of the ingredients and stir/knead a few times. It will feel pretty wet, but should still be malleable. If it's a sloppy mess, go ahead and add more flour.

3. Form into 1/4 cup rounds and start rolling. If you're a Norse grandma, you have a lefse roller and griddle, but I'm not and don't. I just used an ordinary rolling pin. To start, sprinkle a 1/2 cup of flour on the rolling surface and roll, flipping every now and roll as thin as you can. Just make sure you can still pick it up. You'll use a lot of flour for this.

4. Transfer the lefse to a heated 12-inch cast iron skillet (you could probably use any old pan that conducts heat well) over medium heat. No oil needed. Cook until it bubbles (about a minute) and flip. It should have nice brown spots on the cooked side. Cook again until you deem it done. They might be a little crispy when they come off, but if you stack them up on top of each other, they'll soften up.

I froze 3/4 of my batch by folding in half and putting in plastic bags.

Have a lovely November.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Pre-Halloween snow. Lots of it.

I guess that when I moved to Boulder, I had resigned myself to not having snow drifts all over town in the winter. Well, we've had a huge dump of snow the last two days. It's been so gorgeous around town. Everyone seems to be freaking out and complaining that school isn't closing (it did close yesterday afternoon) but I'm content to sit around and watch the snow fall outside. That is, from my office. With a window. I also have a desk as of Monday. As if this isn't exciting enough, our admin assistant has a friend who works at Celestial Seasonings, so we have a vast array of teas available as well. Life is pretty good up there.

In other news, to commemorate the white wonderland outside, I made lazy girl soup. Essentially browned some onions then added all the chopped veggies I had along with some water, stock, spices and tomato paste and simmered it until delicious. Oh, soup.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Best garage sale find of the decade

So Matt sleeps a lot on weekends. This usually results in me waking up at 8, and him sleeping until noon or so. It's boring. So I try to do exciting things, like garage sale-ing. Actually, I've been going to garage sales about every weekend since we moved here. Two months ago.

But today was apparently quite auspicious on the garage sale front. The main objective was to find mugs to put in my office(s) for tasty hot drinks at work. I did find some. But the primary amazing find: a 9-quart copper saucepan. For those not obsessed with food, copper cookware is the best conducting, fastest cooking, prettiest, and most expensive kind. The pot I bought today probably retails about $250. And I got it for $2. I actually bought some Brasso to clean it for $3.79, almost twice the cost of the pot.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Our new apartment

We moved into our new place this weekend and most everything is unpacked and settled. It's a little eerie doing everything here for the first time and knowing that we'll be here for at least a year. I'm happy to have finally gotten out here, and thanks to families for all the moving help. Still need a bookcase for my cookbooks, but everything else seems to have it's place.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Why I love Boulder already

What a lovely town.  It seems to be a funny mix of outdoor enthusiasts, crazy hippies, rich retirees, drunken students, professional athletes, and occasionally a normal person.  Regardless of any previous notions, I'm going to have to pick things up a bit if I want to still call myself an active person.  Everyone here seems to bike 200 miles a week and run marathons several times a year.

The downtown area is very trendy and classy.  The Pearl Street mall has a wide array of cutsie shops and restaurant patios.  My favorite is Peppercorn, a cooking store that has more cookbooks than I have ever seen in my life.  It also has quality cookware and utensils and import specialty foods.  Today I visited the spice shop nearby, which has dried spices and spice mixes from just about every cuisine imaginable.  You can buy them in bags of varying sizes or in jars.  And they have tasters out so you know what you're getting.  And there are various nice bookstores.

Campus is very pretty and everything matches.  And I can't get over having the Flatirons just over your shoulder wherever you are.  Never any confusion about which way is West here.  

Yesterday went hiking with Erin in Eldorado canyon.  There were lots of flowers (including cactus flowers) and stunning views of the rock formations. 

Monday, July 20, 2009

The end of my wanderings

I'm writing from my new hometown of Boulder, CO.  I don't move here officially for a couple of weeks, but I feel pretty good about making this place my new home.  I'll keep posting occasionally when something exciting happens, so don't forget all about me.  This past year has been pretty amazing.  I feel like I have changed so much and have a much better grasp on life and its endless shenanigans.  I should be here pretty consistently for about 5 years until I finish my Ph.D. and I am really looking forward to staying put.  

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Our shopping day in Paris

I don't know how, but Friday ended up being mostly shopping.  We got up a little late and headed past the Pompidou center to Les Halles, the old market area.  It's now a huge underground and street level shopping complex.  We bought a few clothes at a cheaper store.  Everything is on sale now.  Really everything.  We went inside the nearby St. Eustace church.  It was really tall and had an amazing looking organ that some woman appeared to be having lessons on.  Afterwards, we went around to corner to E. Dehellerin, a big old-fashioned cooking goods store where I got a lovely fat rolling pin (baton de patisserie sounds so much better), and wooden spatula, and a couple of rubber bowl scrapers.  While we were in the area, we stopped at a cookbook bookstore.  

We walked through some of the arcaded shopping passages that used to be much more widespread in the city.  It was vary charming.  Next:  Galleries Lafayette.  (we had a ham/cheese crepe to keep our energy up).  The shoe level was pretty entertaining, with lots of designers that Amanda educated me on.  And of course the food halls were pretty fantastic too.  We picked up some chocolate waffels to take home and some serrano ham and grissini for that night.  

We were feeling a little tuckered, so picnicked on the opera steps on our favorite Eric Kayser baguette and tune.  Refreshed, we hopped the metro to the Arc de Triomphe (it's bigger than you think) and strolled down the Champs Elysee.  We even stopped at Saphora for a massive whiff of perfume.  

At 4:30, we met some friends at a metro stop at the east end of the city near Maelle's apartment.  We made dinner together and Claire made her chocolate pear tarte.  Henni also brought German wine to share.  It was really fun to spend a last evening together chatting and reminiscing.  I don't really know when I'll see any of them again.  
As the evening grew late, we got back on the metro for the long ride across town and went up the Eiffel Tower.  Paris at night is not quite as breathtaking as in the day, but it's very peaceful looking and fun to pick out the important monuments from afar.  The tower itself was all lit up and occasionally glittered like a swarovski store from thousands of bright light fixtures.  

We finally got back to the hotel around 1AM and packed up a bit before flopping down for our last night in Europe.  

In the morning, we got up and went to the nearby Enfants Rouge market to pick up some last minute things and spend our last euros.  We got mom and dad a chocolate and almond croissant respectively and a nutella crepe for ourselves.  The guys at the crepe booth were funny old men and gave us crap for ordering nutella at our age.  Armed with our last 4 euros, we got an assortment of Moroccan pastries too.  We like sweet things it you didn't notice.  

We took the metro/RER to the airport, entertained by some awesome accordionists on the train.  The airport went smoothly and we found at the gate that we had been upgraded to first class and even sat next to each other (thanks mom for checking us in early!).  The Delta first class seats are very classy.  There are about 6 different adjustable things on your seat and you couldn't touch your toes to the seat in front if you tried.  So they wined and dined us home, including a warm chocolate chip cookie halfway through.  

Dad met us at the airport and we rushed home to unpack a bit before Amanda's EP tournament soccer game at 6PM.  Funny how you can wake up in Paris and play a soccer game in Minnesota in the evening.  

It's nice to be home, and feels like nothing has changed.  I'm a little restless to get out to Colorado, but it will be great to catch up with friends and family here for a bit first.  

Thanks Europe for a swell time.

Catacombs and Rodin. And more food of course

On the 9th, we tried the catacombs again.  but first we visited the Blvd. Richard Lenior open air market in the morning at the Bastille square. (The bastille isn't there any more, it was torn down in all the hulaballoo two hundred years ago).  When we got to the catacombs just after it opened, there was already an hour long wait to get in.  So we hunkered down and waited.  The catacombs were originally mining tunnels in the outskirts of Paris.  Sometime in the 18 hundreds, there was no more room to bury people in the city, so they started unearthing mass graves and sections of cemetaries to make room. The bones were carried by monks into the tunnels and stacked as much as 80 feet deep in the corridors.  Each section was labeled with date moved and origin.  When we got down, there was a little walk before the ossiary part.  Once there, we had to hold hands despite the plethora of people down there.  The bones were arrayed behind walls built of femurs and decorated with skulls.  It was hard to imagine all the thousands (millions?) of people whose bones we saw.  Very humbling.  I don't know if I've even seen human bones before in real life.

After we got out and dusted off the creepies, we hopped a metro up towards the river and had lunch at a neo bistro recommended again by Clothilde, Pre Verre.  They had a nice set lunch menu for 13 euros with two dishes and a glass of wine.  Pretty yummy.  Amanda actually enjoyed the wine.  We'll have to watch out for her. . .

Post lunch, we stopped by the roman baths outside the Cluny museum, and had a nutella crepe from a roadside stand.  We wandered through the left bank, stopping at pastry shops and chocolate store intermittently to the invalides area.  The Rodin museum is in a house he used to live in and surrounded by beautiful gardens littered with sculptures.  We decided we really like sculpture.  It's so expressive and Rodin's style imparts so much life into the forms.  In fashion eyes, it's like shoes while paintings are like clothes.  We still don't quite understand the bronze casting process (how do they mechanially enlarge them?) but approve anyhow.  In the gardens, we enjoyed our chocolated from Patrick Roger, even though their store was very intimidating.

We walked Rue Cler, which is an upscale foodie street with shops for honey, olive oil, cheese, fish, charcuterie, butchers, and produce.  We bought some cheese, a Rebuchon and a Sa__chon for a later picnic on the Champ de Mars.  We ate cheese on baguette under the eiffel tower, taking amusing pictures at intervals.  The S. cheese was amazing.  Kind of like a firmer camembert, but a little more pungent.  The R. cheese was very pungent.  On a scale of one to pungent, I'd say it was about 13.  Pungacity: high.  The inside resembles brie in taste and texture, but the rind imparted a little cow-flavored funk to it.  Oh lovely.  

By this point, we were pretty sleepy, so we went home a little early.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Paris, the city of foodies

  "please leave box five open for my use." -Phantom of the Opera

We had quite a wonderful day yesterday.  Not quite according to plan, though.  I really like to plan our days out, but the enjoyment is not really dependent on whether we actually follow the plan.  We started out visiting the Enfant Rouges market near our hotel in the morning, but it was a little early and all the places were still pretty sleepy and closed (at 9:15!).  Wandered down to Place des Voges.  It was built by Henry IV as a square for the high-class and home for royalty, but fell into disrepair in the 19th century, when it was a working class area.  Victor Hugo lived here.  At 10, we went to the Carnavalet museum of Paris history.  They followed the entire span of history in art and artifacts.  The french revolution part was the coolest, though I have a hard time keeping track of all the republiques and reinstated monarchies.  We were one of the only groups visiting so early, so there were a lot of curators, which made us feel very hovered over.  We stopped afterwards for a huge meringue in a pastry shop.  It was amazingly fluffy and light and delicious.

After the museum, we took the metro down to the catacombs, but on arrival, the line was super long (everyone else seemed to give us the impression that the catacombs were little visited).  We opted to postpone to another day and walked through the Montparnasse cemetary instead.  We were close to the Montparnasse station, so we stopped in at Creperie Breton for a creppy lunch.  This station is where trains from Brittany come in, so the people from there just stayed in the area and opened up an absurd amount of crepe places.  Not that crepes are ever really absurd.

We strolled around luxembourg gardens for a bit watching the cute kids playing on the playgrounds.  Poliane, one of Paris's bread celebrities had a place nearby, so we stopped in and picked up a quarter of a miche (large loaf of bread) for a later picnic.  We then went to Christian Constant's tea room (recommended by Clothilde) for a mille-feuille (Napolean) and a pot of oozing rich hot chocolate.  I really think this stuff at room temperature could not be classified as a liquid.  It was so rich and thick and delicious. Like drinking ganache.  We were very full afterwards, but lumbered to the puppet theater in the gardens for the 4:00 show.  There were a lot of little kids that enjoyed chanting and reacted to all the stage happenings in very cute ways.  

We caught a metro up to the opera and met up with my friends at 6.  The Opera Garnier (as in phantom of the opera) was built by Napoleon III and is a huge building with endless hidden corners.  The lobby is a 5-story atrium with arching marble stairways, golden gilding, carved candelabra, and mirrors.  The theater itself is also about 6 stories and has numerous boxes (for the classy types) and a ceiling that is now painted by Marc Chagall.  And a chandelier of course.  We got rush tickets for the opera, La Fille Mal Gardee, which is a classic French pastoral opera.  It was pretty amazing seeing something there, and wandering the building during breaks.  The opera itself was really good, apparently the best company in France.  

Afterwards, we strolled along the seine a little before heading back to the hotel around 11PM.  It was a lovely day in all.  

Today we have big plans, but again, we'll take it as it comes. 

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Paris day 2

I woke up again at 7:30 and somehow convinced Manda to get up early too.  The hotel was kind of sneaky and although they had no breakfast included when we booked it, now apparently it is.  Hopefully we don't get billed for it at the end.  Anyway, we had some really good croissant and some hot beverages from the machine in the lobby.  I actually enjoy machine coffee better than the real stuff, so I'm happy enough with it.  They also give you a little snack pack bag with a sammy and an apple.  

We left the building and took the metro to Madeline, which has a large church that looks like unnerringly like the parthenon.  It also is home to two of the famous gourmet epicerie food shops in Paris, Fauchon and Heidard.  Alas, both didn't open until 9, so we had to wait a bit, but eventually wandered them both.  We felt a little odd, as we were the only customers in both and they were very fancy.  Fauchon especially.  And pink.  

We walked by the Tuleries to the Musee d'Orsay, where we met my friend Henni.  We had 2.5 hours for the museum which was about perfect.  Impressionism is as amazing as always.  We especially liked some of the pastel works that you don't usually see.  And Renoir seascapes have a special place in my heart.  I hadn't seen much work of Auguste Rodin the sculptor (think the Thinker), but he is pretty fantastic too.  We plan to see his museum tomorrow.  I've always loved sculpture.  It seems so much more organic and expressive.  

After the museum, we met some other friends at Place St. Michel and picked up some lunch for a pique-nique on the Seine.  It was great to see everyone again, and they are as silly as always.  Benjamin, Maelle and Claire, the 3 Parisiens, were amused by my extensive lists of things to see and foods to eat.  

Afterwards we pondered the Luxembourg gardens, but the rain started coming down in earnest, so we went and got ice cream (how does that work?) from Berthillion on Ile St. Louis.  (Not the original store, which is closed in July, but from one down the street).  The hit flavor was cocktail exotique (passion fruit, mango, and papaya).  Another note:  a magic wand in French is baguette magique.  As in magic baguette.  

We walked North a bit to the Pompidou center.  It's the newish modern art museum, and all of the usual innards of a building are placed on the outside:  stairways, elevators, structural steel supports, heating/cooling ventilation, plumbing.  It looks pretty crazy.  We wandered that area near Les Halles, which has a lot of cute shops and ended up at St. Eustice church (apparently in the Da Vinci code (Dan Brown is a n00b)) and sat resting our feet in the square out front.  Afterwards, we passed by the legendary cooking good store, E. Dehillerin.  In an 1860's style, they have all sorts of copper pots, utensils, and cooking ware crammed into little dark aisles.  It was amazing.  It closed right as we got there, so we may have to try to go back.

As early-birds, we said goodbye to my friends and headed back to Au Pieds du Cochon, a classic french bistro with (supposedly) the best french onion soup in town.  We sat our tired little feeties down and supped on the soup, beef tartare, confit au canard with a red wine reduction (aka heaven on a plate), and a dessert called La Coupe Vie en Rose, which had rose and strawberry ice cream and rose jam.  The bread here also came with "confiture du cochon," which literally means "pig jam."  It was actually quite good, though it tasted vaguely like something Asians would put into bao.  We were very satiated and satisfied, but definitely had to sit and digest for a while.  

We made it back to the hotel, and I made our daily list of plans for the next few days (they change every day, so I can make a new list/plan every evening.  Yes I like lists way to much).  Amanda is conched out already at 9:45.  We are trying to get tickets to the Opera Garnier (as in Phantom of the Opera's opera) for later this week.  We also have most of our meals planned out until we leave.  

It's been another great day in the city of food (or is it love?).  We miss you all back at home and think of you a lot.  

Monday, July 6, 2009

bum-kicked by Paris

We totally got our pants kicked by Paris, today and it was awesome.  If I get my bum kicked by anything, it better be someplace as cool as this.  Foodie heaven.

Yesterday we got into Gare du Nord around 7:00 and took the metro a few stops to our hotel, Hotel le Marais in the 3eme arrondisement.  It's 80 Euros a night and very minimalist but very clean.  They don't provide soap, but they have free wi-fi.  It's pretty much exactly what you need in a hotel, so we're pretty excited.  There is also a boulangerie/patisserie literally right next to the door.  We took a little stroll through the Marais district to the Seine and walked by a lot of sidewalk cafes and charming shops.  After getting excited, we went back to the hotel and perused the guide books even more.

Today, we woke up around 7 (as per my usual) and walked to the Ile de la Cite for a little breakfast of hot chocolate and tartine (half baguette slices with butter) in the shadow of Notre Dame.  Afterwards, we wandered inside the church.  It was so cool and dark and gothic.  Full of stained glass windows and awe-inspiring.  We were going to climb the tower, but the line was super long just before it was going to open at 10 so we postponed for another day.  

We took a couple of recommended walks in the Rick Steve's book and saw the Latin Quarter.  It was pretty cute with lots of little cafes and old windy streets.  Shakespeare and Co is a really cozy bookstore that used to be frequented by James Joyce, Hemingway, and others.  They had books piled everywhere and an upstairs with a magnificent collection (not for sale).  We also dropped by Le Procope, frequented by the likes of Voltaire, Ben Franklin, and Robespierre. 

Wandering near St. Germain-de-pres we passed by a Eric Kuyser, a bakery mentioned in Clothilde's book, and bought a half-baugette for 60 cents.  I love how you can buy a half-baguette by the way.  And we ate it plain in the square.  Divine.  

We walked up the the Bon Marche department store's "Grand Epicerie de Paris" which took us about an hour to peruse through.  They had just about everything you could look for in groceries, falling just short of Harrod's food hall in magnificence.  We got some pate for later picnics.  

Up at the Louvre pyramid, we met some of my Tsinghua friends Claire and Henni, whom we wandered the Tulleries with.  We also saw Rue St. Honore and a square with all the really high-end fashion types.  At 3:30 we said goodbye planning to go get tea at this divine sounding place that we ended up not finding.  We tried to take the metro home, but got on the wrong direction.  We decided to go to a recommended crepe shop near our hotel, but its closed Monday and Tuesday, so we sat down in a cafe for a snack only to discover that they weren't serving food at 4:30 in the afternoon.  ah the dismay.  So we got a little snack at the supermarket and are currently recouperating at the hotel before going off for Falafels in the Jewish quarter later.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Goodbyes and Hello

The last week at eawag went pretty fast.  We did another step of the lab work we've been doing that involves large gels and UV light (which is why I have a 1 inch strip of sunburn on my wrist) that was pretty cool to finish off with.  

Wednesday was my official last day and Deb's too.  She's been post-docing for a year here, so we co-hosted a little apero after work to day our goodbyes.  I made tiramisu from an American recipe, which amused all of them, and Deb made cookies, which is very American too.  It was fun to just sit around and chat.  Afterwards, a lot of us went into town and sat by Lake Zurich for a few hours.  It was so lively there and was fun to just watch the characters passing by. 

Thursday I didn't leave until the evening, so I did my last long run, checked out of my room, and stopped by eawag for a lab meeting and lunch.  I said my real goodbyes and headed up to the Uetliberg with Aline for a last view of Zurich and a last Movenpick ice cream cone.  

I caught my night train at 8:42.  City Night Line trains are so plushplush.  The chairs lean back super far and are really comfortable.  I slept like a baby, and woke up in the Netherlands.  I met Amanda just fine as she was getting off her flight. 

We dropped our bags in a locker and trekked into Amsterdam for a little wander.  All the architecture is so difference and so quaint.  It's really fun to see what people carry around on their bikes.  Sunflowers is popular, but we've also seen hula-hoops, dogs, edibles, and small children.  The canals and sidewalk cafes are really nice.  

We were a little tired by mid-afternoon, so we headed for our next destination, Delft.  One of my friends from Beijing lives here, and its a cute smaller Dutch town with a lot of history.  (Antonie van Leuvwenhoek, the first person to see a bacteria for example).  Our bags are heavy, but we made it to our nice hotel and were informed that we were the first people to book through, so were upgraded to a suite!  So we have a kitchen, lots of closet space and lots of comfy seating for the cocktail party we could host.  Its quite nice.  We went for a little wander in town and found the fresh stroopwafel (cinammony caramel sandwiched between waffel wafers) stand.  Too bad.  It was pretty amazing.  We then watched all the cute children playing on the central square while listening to the nice church bells that seemed to go on forever. 

Today we meet my friend Matthijs at 10 for a little town tour and catching up.  Tomorrow we might try to rent a bike to get around Dutch style for a change.  And we catch a train tomorrow afternoon for Paris.  

We have two guidebooks for paris, Rick Steve's, and Clothilde's Edilble Adventures in Paris, written by a Parisian food-blogger and food enthusiast.  It's pretty great, and we are quite excited.  

                Doesn't Amanda look European?

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Football, eawag style

Yesterday, some people at eawag organized a football tourney for the whole institute.  Some 13 teams got together and played football at a nearby pitch for about 5 hours (with short 12 minutes games).  Each team was required to have one girl, and I think we were the only one with more girls than guys.  That's ecology for you.  We didn't have much experience, but had a lot of energy, and it was fun.  We finally one a game for the 11th/12th place game (our 5th and last match).  I was amazed at how well a lot of people did on energy and momentum alone without having much ball handing or strat skills.  Just go.   It was a fun afternoon and a good excuse to get away from the lab bench/computer screen (though our 17 degree C analysis room actually felt good in yesterday's heat).  Naturally the event ended with wurst and beer in proper central European style.  And the winning teams got champagne. 

Three days left here.  Pantry cleaning time.

Monday, June 29, 2009

A Wilty Weekend

My ex-roomie Jamie and her brother came into town this weekend en-route to Southern Italy and Greece.  It was great to see her.  I showed them around the area, but I think they ended up looking at more chocolate chops and grocery stores than they bargained for because that's what I usually look at.  

On Thursday in preparation for their arrival, I visited the huge Glattzentrum mall and got some food and a nice bottle of spatlase riesling from a Zurich winery. Also, I had gone to a friend's place on Wednesday to pick up some air mattresses and a pillow so they could crash more comfortably in my little room here.  I picked them up from the airport around 7PM, and they were much less sleepy than I expected.  We enjoyed a dinner of pizza bread and riesling.  

Friday morning they were a little slow to wake up, but we made it into Zurich center and took a wander down Bahnhofstrasse, the huge shopping street.  Naturally we stopped in at all the big chocolatiers.  At the lakeshore, they were just closing up the morning farmers market, but we found some nice Italian ladies with bread, and snagged a nice brown loaf before they packed up.  They even threw in three little foccacias since they were done for the day.  Pretty good deal, I'd say.  We caught a bus down the lakeside to the Lindt and Sprungli chocolate factory, which according to various internet sites, was supposed to have a factory tour with free samples.  But alas, the tour deal had been gone for a few years, so all we got was a huge Lindt shop.  We did pick up a few 100g chocolate bars for a buck each (usually 2-3).  

On deciding that a boat ride back to town would be more exciting than a bus ride, we picnicked at the lakeside and caught a boat back into town.  We were a little tired by this point, so we stopped in at Cafe Schober in the old town so Jamie could try their fantabulously decadent hot chocolate.  Wandered a little more, climbed the Grossmunster, and stopped at the Coop for dinner supplies.  For dinner, we made homemade fondue with gruyere and bergkase.  And we dipped sausages.  It was pretty awesome.  

The Wilts needed to find a hostel for Rome, and Jamie wanted Andrew to learn to pick one.  It definitely took him/them about 3 hours to finally decide on one.  It's so hard making decisions. . .

Saturday, we got up a little earlier and hopped a train into Bern, the national capital.  The city
 burned down in the 15th century,
 so all the wood buildings were replaced with sandstone.  As a result, the city is really beautiful with matching buildings and wide streets.  There was a farmers market here too, which had good samples.  There was also a lady from Globos handing out amazing pralines.  We tried to ge
t in for a tour of the parliment building, but all the tour spots were gone for the day.  :(  We wandered down the main street which has cute statues on columns every 100m or so.  The buildings all hung over the sidewalk, which made for a nice walk, and there were little cellars along the street.  Some had shops, but many were bars, so it would have been fun to see the place at night.  

Bern is named after this guys who shot a bear on the site, and bear
s are the city's special symbol.  They have a bear pit with bears, but recently voted to make
a nicer bigger new one, so we didn't get to see the bears.  We walked up a hill to a lovely rose garden and an expansive city view.  Lunchtime was rolling around and our tummies were getting rolly too, so we walked back into town and stopped at the Markthalle, which has a lot of little food stalls, for lunch.  Afterwards, we visited the Swiss Alpine and Mountaineering Museum.  It was a little disappointing, but they had a model of the Val Roseg there, which was cool.  

We took the train back to Zurich, and had dinner and beer in a place in the trainstation recommended by the lonely planet.  It was not amazing, but the food was hearty, and the beer selection was vast.  

Sunday looked rainy, but we took a boat ride on the lake anyway.  It was a 2-hour ride to the other end of the lake, and we amused ourselves with 3-person pinochle.  Not nearly as cool as 4-person, but we made do.  On arriving at Rapperswil, we found a festival going on in the town with jazz and blues concerts and tons of food stands.  Mostly Asian ones, oddly enough.  The castle in the town was really pretty and the courtyard had a funny covering funnel thing.  There were vinyards, and Jamie got a baby bottle of riesling from the next town over.  The wander through the old town was quite charming.  For lunch, they got a cervalat and a wurst and we had brought some picnic stuff.  Andrew was really excited about the Miller beer (silly Americanisms) but they were out so had to settle with Heiniken.  After lunch, we watched the birds and listened to the music until the next boat came.  

They had a night train to catch at 8:30, so I made them some pasta (cleaning out the pantry already) and they packed up their things.  I dropped them off at the station and said goodbye for now.  Sounds like the rest of their trip will be a blast, and I'll even be gone and playing tourist in a few days.  

This is the last week at work.  Today the whole company has a soccer tournament in the afternoon, which should be quite amusing.  Thursday I catch my night train to Amsterdam.  I'm starting to pack and have a lot of chocolate to bring home.  

         My first macaroon experience.  Chocolate wins.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Spontaneous sampling trip

I went into work early today just because I was up early, and I caught a few people who were going up the Swiss national park for the day sampling.  And when they asked if I wanted to come, I just couldn't say no.  So I left a note on my lab-mates desk and hopped in the van for the 3-hour drive to the park.  It was rainy on this side of the mountains and very snowy up at the top of the pass (isn't it supposed to be summer now?) but the other side was pretty dry.  We parked right next to the border crossing to Italy, and hiked over a hill to the sampling site.  There were four of us for about 6 samples that took 30 minutes to take, but scenery was nice and we were having a good time.  On the way home, we had to stop at the inn nearby to try the Gerstensuppe (barley soup) under the new management, and after finding it satisfactory, we climbed back into the car for the ride home.  

For going across the alps in a car, there are two options.  You can drive your car onto a hollow train that goes straight under the mountains twice an hour (like a ferry, but on a train).  Or in the summer, you can drive over one of the passes.  If it was snowing today, I imagine it's pretty impassable in the winter.  There were some guys biking it today.  Hardcore.  

I made a beautiful braided yeast coffee cake filled with a mixture of almond paste and poppy seeds and brought it into work today. Since I wasn't around, I didn't get to hear the response, but it was all gone by the time we got back, so i guess it was enjoyed.  

I've been trying to do more writing the past few days, but feeling a little overwhelmed.  I searched yesterday for recent papers on the subject, and it came up with about 60 in the past 2 years, most of which I haven't read or heard about.  I feel like after each paper read, I feel like I know less and less of the big picture.  I guess I'll just keep plugging along.  In good news, I think our reactor materials are about 1/50th the cost of the standard materials used in the literature, so we should have some impact.  I hope.  

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Last weekend alone in Zurich

This weekend was pretty laid-back after a busy one last week.  On Friday, my professor had a group from the lab over to his flat for dinner.  It's always entertaining to hear people from other countries poke fun at their usual targets.  For the Swiss, it's the Austrians.  For the French, the Belgians.  Kind of like Texas for us.  

Yesterday, I went to the Oerlikon farmer's market for a nice wander and some fresh bread and yummy little red berries.  After that, I had a little wander around Zurich city and rode on a lot of different kinds of transit (train, tram, bus, boat) over the course of the day.  

Today, I spent a lot of time at home writing this paper I'm helping with, which was good.  I also spent a bit of time with fellowship application essays, which are actually surprisingly fun to write.  Though less so to edit.  It was forcasted to rain all day, but as usual it didn't.  So I went out for a 30 km bike ride around the Greifensee, which is really close and has a lot of cute towns and farms around it.  It was nice to get outside.  I realized that I really hadn't biked anywhere other than work and the grocery store before.

Jamie and her brother Andrew arrive this Thursday for the start of their sister-brother Europe excursion.  I'll spend 3-4 days hanging out with them and showing them the sights before they head down to Rome.  And after that I only have 4 more days left.  

I did buy a map of Paris yesterday from a wonderful travel books shop in town, and have been marking down famous markets, boulangeries, patisseries, and specialty food shops.  Let me know if you have any recommendations!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Swiss Fire Cooking

On Sunday, a bunch of us took the train to Einsideln, where my friends Silke and Olivier live in a cute swiss house in the country (3 hours of commuting daily).  We'd been talking about having cooking over a fire for a while, and Aline had a few classically Swiss techniques for us to try.

The town is pretty cute and has the most important Catholic pilgrimmage site in Switzerland.  There was some sort of holy day, so the streets were packed with church-goers and monks.  There was even a priest store selling supplies.  I don't know if you needed a permit to buy things or not.  

Their apartment was really cute and a ways from town.  We had a little apero on their terrace with artisan Belgian beer brought by Silke's parents on their last visit.  I 
also shared a Graubunden nuss-torte I'd gotten in St. Moritz.  The day was hot, and it was nice to just hang out outside.

For the fire, we walked up into the woods to a firepit.  They had logs chopped at the pit and a grill that you could lower down and lots of branches and twigs cut nearby.  Pretty plush-plush.  The view from our vantage was pretty amazing.  If you imagined a cute Swiss valley, that would be about it.  We started up the fire with ease, as the last user's coals were still hot, and prepared out meat items.  For Aline's Neuchateloise method, you season the meat with
 mustard, salt and pepper and then wrap it in parchment paper and several layers of newsprint. Then you tie it up like a present.  When the coals are hot but not firey (after and hour or so), you bury the packets in the coals (hoping they don't light on fire while you do it) and wait for another hour until they are cooked.  

In the meantime, we were hungry, so we broke out the sausages to cook on sticks.  There were several different methods used, but Aline's slit-end sideways method seemed to have the best results.  We also put some marinated veg on the grill.  The food was great, though the meat was a little scorched.

Afterwards, it looked like the rain had missed us, so I broke out the s'more material I'd brought and introduced them to the art of roasting marshmallows.  I think it was a hit.  Aline also had some sweet dough along that you wrap around a thick stick and cook over the fire before filling with jam.  Pain au trappeur.  Or "trapper's bread" for us English-speaking types.  It was pretty great too.  It did start raining during the marshmallow time, but we persevered anyway. 


I was out for a scheduled 11 mile run today, and felt so unnaturally happy at about 80 minutes, that I kept going and ended up running over 13 miles.  Those endorphins.  I used to think that distance runners must be totally crazy, but now I'm beginning to understand.  I felt like I could keep running for a long time and couldn't really feel my legs or feet.  They still don't really feel sore.  

I made an awesome pizza for dinner, so gotta go eat it.  Man, I feel giddy. . .

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Alpine Adventure Part 2

The hostel in Pontresina was pretty nice.  I had a 6-bed room to myself the first night and just one other girl the second night.  They provided a 3-course dinner and breakfast buffet with amazing hot chocolate.  I'm convinced the key to good hot chocolate is using real whole milk.  None of this powdered milk swiss miss/carnation crap.  It was right next to the train station too.

On Friday, I got up and caught an 8:09 train towards Poschiavo, a sleepy little Italian town just north of the border.  The train crosses the 
Bernina pass, which (I think) is the only above ground passage through the alps.  It was pretty cold and windy up there.  I took it all the way into the valley of Poschiavo, down a lot os switchbacks.  The town had a cute little square area with churches and cafes.  I walked up into the hills for a lake view and visited with some cows and horses.  With nice little cowbells.

View of Val Poschiavo from Alp Grum station
On the way back, I stopped at the station Alp Grum for an awesome view of Val Poschiavo and the nearby mountains.  From here, I walked up and over the pass.  The hike took me around a dammed lake at the pass and I ended up walking through a lot of snow.  My feet were very cold.
  Here's the part where I though I was going to fall into the lake.  I couldn't stop thinking of the large amount of melting snow above me either.  I was pretty terrified, but made it out alive.  After that traumatizing hour, I caught the train back to the hostel for the day.  

On Saturday, I had planned to hike up to the Monterasch glacier in the morning before breakfast and see the sunrise in the valley, but when I got up at 6, the sun was already out and I just went for a short walk in the woods.  There were good views of the mountains though, and the sun had not yet made it up over them, so the lighting was cool.
After a hearty breakfast with 3 hot chocolates, I took the train down to St. Moritz and wandered for a couple of hours.  The town hosted the olympics in 1948 and seems a lot like Vail.  Hoity toity and lots of fancy shops.  A lot of places weren't open, as the summer season hasn't started yet.  Plenty of chocolate stores though.  

I caught a train to Chur, the capital of the canton, and enjoyed the view over the 2-hour ride up and down through mountain valleys and along pretty gorges.  The old part of Chur was really cute and pretty expansive.  There was also some sort of kid's action fair going on in the main part of town.  Different areas had things for kids to play with like little hand-pumped railroad cars, various wheeled self-powered transportation contraptions, and good old-fashioned climbing apparatuses.  I was pretty tuckered by then, so I headed back to Zurich and Dubendorf for a quiet evening.  

My milk was going bad again, starting to taste like buttermilk, so I heated it up and put some lemon juice and herbs in, and voila, farmers cheese!  The whey was also really good, kind of like chicken broth, that I've been drinking that too.  Yeah it's a little weird.  

Saturday, June 13, 2009

My Alpine Adventure

I just got back from 5 days in the alps.  Little did I know that it's the low season there.  Winter is big, and summer doesn't start up there until July.  The primary purpose of the trip was sampling glacial streams in a valley with some students and a couple postdocs.  I stayed two more days for the heck of it.  

I drove up early Tuesday morning with Mirela, a visiting Croatian student, and Patrick, a Canadian working at Eawag for the summer.  (How is he getting paid, but I'm not?  Oh well)  We made stop at the routine "Heidiland" rest stop.  No
, Heidi wasn't a real person, but you'd be milking it too.  The bathrooms were very classy.  Felt like I should have a bathrobe and slippers on. We made it up to Val Roseg around 11AM, and after dumping our stuff at the guesthouse, we started on our way up the valley.  Mirela was taking drift and benthic samples, so she had some long nets that she left in the stream for 20 minut
es and she also had a device where she collected all the stuff she dug up.  The weather was pretty cold, and it rained on and off, but we finished 3 sites in time to pick up the rest of the people at the train station at 5.  

The hotel was this little place halfway up the valley.  I think it's mostly used in the winter for nordic skiing, and we were the only guests the whole time, though a lot of people made the hike up the valley to the hotel and back.  The rooms consisted of a huge bunk bed that slept four people top and bottom.  Pretty cool.  The valley borders I
taly and consists of two glaciers that have receeded a ridiculous amount in the past hundred years.  It was a pretty gorgeous place

On day two, we all hiked up to the Tschiarva glacier for the first site.  It was rough going through the boulders, and the glacial morraine was huge on either side of us.  I helped out collecting bacterial soil samples for a student.  Mostly getting the GPS coordinates of the sites, which was a lot harder than I thought.  We finished early, but the rest of the team didn't get done until 6:30.  

The restaurant had some Graubunden (the province) specialties like capuns (pasta rolls with spinach and bacon in a rich cheesy sauce), pizzocheri (whole wheat pasta with potatoes and cheese) and Nuss-torte (a caramelly nut pie).  They also had an extensive breakfast buffet with excellent cheese, and I acually wasn't the only one yoinking stuff for later.  I guess we're all students.

On day 3, I joined the main group which was taking samples
 of algae and benthic bugs.   We had 8 sites and by the end of the day were pretty efficient.  It was really cool working with the stream ecologists and seeing how excited they get about the in
sects and larva
e in the stream.  They would get the samples and then pick through them on a white tray to put into bottles, and were very excitable about certain kinds of bugs.  They would pick them up in their hands and show them to everybody.  It's funny because most people, probably including me, think that stream grubs are pretty gross.  

Afterwards, the rest of them hurried home to get the samples in the fridge.  I took the 7 km walk down the valley to the town of Pontresina, where I spent the next two nights in the YHA hostel there.  More on this in the next post.

Monday, June 8, 2009

A Day on the Rhine

Yay, I finally figured out what button puts pics in my posts.  About time, I know.

This weekend was supposed to be really rainy, and Saturday sure was.  It ended with me and my roommates all cooking a lot of soup over the course of the day.  And lots of reading and Ted Talks.
Sunday, I decided to take the rain risk and I bought a special ticket for a Rhine day-trip.  I went north by about and hour to Stein am Rhein, a cute old medieval town just at the start of the Rhine river.  It was fun to wander the little Germanic streets lined with cafes and cute touristy shops.  Lots of bakeries, chocolate shops, and tons and tons of cafes.  Some of the buildings in the central square were really old with murals on the fronts.  And of course quaint church towers.  There was a nice castle on the hill above town with a good view and some vineyard surroundings.  There were also a lot of cute little snails around.  Like slugs but with the shell, like you see in books, like I've never seen in American terrestrial environments.  Cute. 

After an extensive wander and some
 Hemingway to tide me through the lulls, I caught a boat downriver to Schauffhausen.  It is home to the continents largest waterfall.  Alas, though I walked toward it, I didn't really get to see the front because I had to run back to catch my train.  Luckily, the train went by and had a great view.  Now why did I walk 6 km there and back?  Anyways, the town was again really cute, though a little more modern with trendy boutiques and a McDonalds.  I like towns with pedestrianized centers.  Speaking of, I have to go to Copenhagen someday.  Back to the Rhine, I caught a train back to Zurich.  

I had seen a poster last week for a concert in Zuri's Grossmunster church.  This church was the post of Zwingli and the most important site of the Reformation in Switzerland.  Sure enough, there was a nice little choir/organ concert to round out my lovely day.  I like organs, but never realized how awesome it is that piano keys are so sensitive.  And there is something so magical about multi-part music.  They ended the concert with a couple American spirituals, which were classy, and I forget how fun their odd harmonies can be.  

Today was a normal day at work, packing for tomorrow's trip.  When I got home, I packed lunchy things and baked three little bread rolls for sandwiches and also baked some plum snails..  Kind of like caramel rolls but with plum jam and cinnamon instead of caramel.  

Tomorrow at 6AM, I leave for the Eingaden mountain region near St. Moritz, where we will be sampling in the Val Rosegg glacial valley.  It'll be a fair bit of walking and carrying, but I'm sure the scenery will more than make up for any hassle.  I'm going along as an extra pack mule to help people carry their samples and equipment.  Oh, life is hard.  I'll be staying a couple of extra days to savor the mountains, and returning for a BBQ at a friend's house on Sunday.

Best wishes to everyone back home.