Friday, November 18, 2011

Visiting Kristen in Seattle

Over a month ago now, I visited Kristen in Seattle. She has been completing her physical therapy rotation in Kent, WA this fall, and I thought it would be fun to visit her while she was there. We had a really great weekend.

Kristen had to work during the afternoon that I arrived, and so my first stop was to the original Starbucks. Or at least, what Starbucks is calling their original store. Kristen and I took a coffee tour of Seattle on the Saturday I was visiting, and we learned all kinds of secrets about that sneaky company. Secret 1 - the true original Starbucks store was a block down the street from the store pictured above, but that store burned down, so they rebuilt it at the location I visited. During the rebuild, another Starbucks had already opened up in downtown Seattle, making the place I visited the third Starbucks in existence and not the first. (Silly details ruin all good marketing schemes...) I happened to be in Seattle the first week of pumpkin spice latte season, so I shelled out the big bucks to get my latte from the flagship store. (It was delicious.)

Right down the street from the flagship Starbucks was Pike Place Market. I was very excited that they had bouquets of flowers for $5.

I also took a ferry boat ride to Bainbridge Island and back while I was waiting for Kristen. It was magical, even without McDreamy to keep me company! I could honestly ride that boat all day long.

Here is a view of Seattle at night from the ferry boat, taken with my limited camera.

We visited the EMP, which is a really cool museum (especially if you like Nirvana). They had a special exhibit on the music in horror films, which featured a scream booth. Naturally we had to take photos of us screaming. Above is the two of us together (which didn't turn out as well because we we did our individual photos first and were both laughing by this point).

Here is Kristen, who looks like a normal person screaming (or singing in the shower)...

...and here is the one of me. (I do not look so normal, but I love love LOVE this photo anyway.) Lesson learned - my "scream face" is more terrifying than anything that could possibly scare me...

On our coffee tour, this latte was on special at one of the cafes we visited...perfect for David!

Before I left on this trip, David told me that he "hoped I would see Mt. Rainer" while I was visiting WA. I did not understand what he meant; how could I miss a giant mountain?? It is the strangest thing how it can be completely hidden from view...and then...all of a sudden in plain sight. We saw the mountain as we were driving back from our coffee tour.

Kristen and I took Levi to a dog park and walked around there for quite some time. This was not your average dog park in the woods; the views were breathtaking.

Happy Levi, playing fetch.

Kristen and I went to a pumpkin beer festival the day I was leaving, and we wanted to make pumpkin t-shirts with puffy paint to wear for the occasion. (I am sure you can guess which shirt I made.) We had a lot of fun making these shirts, but neither of them dried in time for the event, so we did not get to wear them. We were forced to buy Halloween-themed clothing from Wal-Mart instead.

What a fantastic trip! I am looking forward to seeing Kristen back in Butler in December (in just a few weeks)!

Monday, November 14, 2011

The lull before the holiday rush...

The holidays are fast approaching, and this weekend is my last weekend in Ithaca before I begin a massive amount of traveling to see family and friends over the course of the 2011 holiday season! There is not much to report, but here are some random photos taken over the last month or so that do not require their own post, but are still fun.

My laboratory is in the middle of another CHESS cycle. We were given three weekend blocks of time throughout October and November to conduct our experiments, the last of which is a 24 hour time block this weekend from 12 noon on Saturday to 12 noon on Sunday. My CHESS data collection has been frustrating as of late (to put it mildly), and so I am hoping this weekend's trip will be more productive. On November 4, Karen and I worked a night shift at CHESS during one of the Crane weekends there, working from 10 pm until 9:30 am. To survive, we watched episodes of Gilmore Girls while we collected data (and during our 3 hour wait for broken equipment to be repaired), and to stay awake, she consumed a 5 Hour Energy drink and I drank this 2 L of Coke Cherry Zero out of a coffee mug. These were terrible choices - we may have been awake, but we made ourselves massively sick to our stomachs. While in undergraduate, I used to consume a 2L bottle of Coca Cola (not diet) EVERY DAY, 5 days a week...and I have no idea how I did this then, but I am not capable of it now! It will be awhile until I will want to consume cola-type beverages...

Our Sunday afternoons are spent watching NFL football. Here is a cute photo of David and Ipita while enjoying the Dolphins' first win last weekend (the Dolphins also won their game yesterday too).

I have been invited to give a talk at a conference in CA during January. I was excited about this opportunity for about an hour, and then I became completely stressed out about getting more work done between now and then. David and I saw this wine in the store a few weeks ago and thought the name was clever enough to justify purchasing a bottle (the label also suits me perfectly, because I take a bath almost every day to unwind). I am sad to report that the wine itself was nothing special, but I still like their concept of a Tough Day Chardonnay...

The coolest shoes I have ever owned!

I have a problem buying things for myself. I am very good picking out things I like, and I always have a strong desire to purchase them...but I lack follow-through. When it comes time to click "purchase" or to go through the check-out line, my guilt sets in and I save the item(s) to my cart for a later day (to be forgotten forever) or put the item(s) back on the shelf. (The only exception to this pattern is when I open iTunes, the store where all of my self-control vanishes...)

When I saw Adidas's new special edition Kermit shoes, I knew my obsession with the Muppets (and passion for Kermit, in particular) would and should win out. These shoes were made for me to wear them, and though I spent an hour putting them in the cart and then closing the webpage, I am so glad I was able to click "purchase." I only wish I had bought two pairs, because now they are sold out of my size and I have no option to extend their lifetime by having a back-up pair in my closet.

This is the box they came in. I have kept it, and I currently store the shoes in it when I am not wearing them so that they last longer. (David thinks this behavior is hilarious.)

THE SHOES! Go ahead, be a little jealous. Money may not be able to buy long-term happiness, but it certainly can buy shoes that put a big smile on my face!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!

As Linus and Sally were not big enough to carve, David and I went to Grisamore Farms to pick out some pumpkins for carving. I found a Groupon deal that allowed us to get $20 dollars worth of pumpkins for $10; this amounted to 60 pounds worth of pumpkins!

Here is David holding the pumpkin he picked out to carve.

Here is me (pretending to) pull the wagon with our three 20ish pound pumpkins. These pumpkins were so heavy I could barely lift them individually, let alone pull three of them.

We invited Karen (a post-doc in my lab) over to carve with us since we had an extra pumpkin (and she loves Halloween). The pumpkin I carved is obvious - nothing makes me happier than carving a smiley pumpkin every year - but Karen carved "Happy Halloween" and David carved the spider web pumpkin.

Our pumpkins all lit up in the dark.

Tonight we will inevitably be visited by many trick or treaters. I hope that they 1) say "trick or treat!" (many of them just stand there and wait for candy which I find both entitled and way less fun) and 2) save me at least one bag of Reese's Pieces!! (Maybe I will have to eat one before they start arriving, just to be safe.)

UPDATE: We were not visited by very many trick or treaters, which means we do have leftover candy! Also - the kids that stopped by were very polite, which was a nice change from last year. There were even high schoolers collecting cans for a food drive instead of candy! And now I must eat my words above with a slice of humble pie and a few bags of Reese's Pieces...

Friday, October 28, 2011

The last harvest

Ithaca had its first snowfall yesterday, which means our gardening days are over. We have packed up The Danger Zone after an incredibly successful year.

This is the parting shot of the Danger Zone before we tore it down. From afar it still looks like we had quite a bit still growing, but do not let this picture fool you - the already cold temperatures damaged most of what we had left.

Once thing that we wanted to try to harvest was our potato plants, which we planted later (and sort of haphazardly) in the season after our onions failed to produce anything. This is a picture of David beginning to dig out the plant...

...but sadly, we found only the remains of potatoes that had rotted. I guess we waited too long to harvest them. We will know better next year.

We brought Ipita on our last journey to the garden. I think he will miss his trips outside! I will certainly feel guilty when we take him in the car next because he will be tricked into thinking he is going on an adventure (when really, he will be going to the vet for some shots).

So long, Danger Zone!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Ben's baptism

Ben's baptism was held at Immaculate Conception Roman Catholic Church on Sunday, October 2 in Durham. It was such a special day for everyone! Amanda and Paul got a really neat outfit for Ben to wear during the ceremony - part baptism gown, part romper - and I thought he looked adorable.

Here is a nice shot of father and son before we left for the church.

During the ceremony, the children of the church were invited to come forward to make the sign of the cross on Ben's forehead and welcome him to the church. I have never seen this done before and I thought it was a really nice sentiment, but their church really does need to start providing a chair for the person holding the baby being baptized!! Poor Paul got so tired holding Ben at an angle that was low enough for all of those children! Amanda had originally wanted me to hold Ben during the beginning of the ceremony, but I passed this job over to Paul for fear that my noodle arms would not be strong enough to manage 21-pound Ben for a long period of time. I definitely made the right decision! You can see Amanda, Erik (the godfather), and me laughing as the line of children kept getting longer and longer. (I swear they started bringing random children in from the street to meet Ben, because it didn't seem like there were that many children in attendance when the receiving line for Ben was initiated.) I never would have had the arm strength to make it through the entire line of kids!

Instead, I got the job of holding Ben during the actual baptizing part. When we were getting set up for this part of the ceremony, I thought I could just hold Ben close to my body (easier on the arms) with his head facing into the water.

However, the priest motioned for me to bring Ben over the center of the baptismal font, and when I began to move him, my arms began to droop. I was very relieved that I chose to wear a short-sleeved dress for the ceremony, because if I hadn't, it would have been very obvious to all of the bystanders that I skimmed the surface of the water with Ben while moving him to the center of the baptismal font (dampening his backside and soaking my arm). Ben's near-drowning was only temporary though, and I soon got Ben stabilized where he wasn't partially lying in the water. (But now all readers of this blog are thinking twice before granting me repeat godmother duties...)

My favorite part of the modern Catholic baptism is the end of the baptism, or what I like to call "the Simba moment." This is where the newly baptized baby is held up by the priest for the entire congregation to see (just like the beginning sequence of Disney's The Lion King). Ben nearly missed his - he was being fussy after being doused with water, and so Amanda made a break for the church lobby to calm him down instead of joining our candle-lit procession to the front of the church for the Simba moment! It was one of those spontaneous mishaps that we will all remember and laugh about in the years to come. The priest clearly thought we were total amateurs, but it was not our fault we were unprepared. The Catholic Church has rehearsals for many of the other sacraments (First Holy Communion, Confirmation, Marriage), and baptisms should be no exception. How is anyone supposed to keep everything straight on the fly with a squirming, wet (because they were partially drowned by their godmother) baby on their hands?

Godfather Erik, Godmother Sarah, Paul, Amanda, and little baptized Ben.

I am thrilled and honored that Amanda and Paul asked me to be Ben's godmother! I am looking forward to all of the memories we will continue to share together.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Welcome Great Pumpkin #1!

Of all the things that we grew this year, the pumpkins were what I was most excited about, and so...I am VERY excited to report that Linus the pumpkin was ready to be harvested from the garden on Tuesday. I was very worried that our pumpkins would not survive the extreme flooding in early September, but both Linus and Sally remained unfazed. Above is a photo of Linus with his faithful blue security blanket.

Though great in terms of awesomeness, Linus is not so great in terms of size (these pictures are misleading - he is really the size of a candlestick bowling ball). I am not sure what his purpose will be yet. I think trying to carve into him to make a jack-o'-lantern might be challenging because he is so small...and I am also not sure that I want to carve into our first pumpkin! Perhaps he will be decorative, and when Sally (Great Pumpkin #2) is ready we can use her for a Snoopy-themed jack-o'-lantern.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Another year at the Danger Zone comes to an end...

It has been a very busy and very wet September, which does not bode well for farm updates. Ithaca got hit with a record 4 inches of rain on the Wednesday after Labor Day, closing Cornell and flooding just about everything. (Though we were not here to see it - we were experiencing the flooding from a Pennsylvania perspective while vacationing with the Hokansons in the Poconos.) Luckily, most of the things we still had growing in the Danger Zone (carrots, potatoes, swiss chard, cucumbers green beans, and pumpkins) held on despite all that water. (The tomatoes...not so much.)

Now that October is almost here, our gardening days are almost over. We have potatoes to pick (which we have never grown before, so I am pretty curious about that) and more carrots, as well as our two great pumpkins(!), but that is about it. These pictures were taken right before we left for the Poconos, so they are a bit outdated...

Our green bean production was completely out of hand, and we were often unprepared for the amount of green beans ready to pick. David put as many as he could in his pockets!

We pickled many of the green beans this year and tons of cucumbers. (If anyone would like a jar of pickles for Christmas, please let me know.) These jars are just from one round of pickling!

We also made three jars of homemade tomato sauce from our limited tomato crop. I am really excited to use one of these with some of David's homemade ravioli... (hint hint, dear)

Our lazy broccoli finally made an appearance, though it did not produce very much. This is a picture of a crown just getting started.
Many of the other surrounding gardens grew more reasonably sized sunflowers that obviously had to be intimidated by our tall (and fierce-looking) ones.

In case you were not convinced that our sunflowers were big, here is a photo of me with one of the ones that we picked. Notice how the sunflower is bigger than my entire head (though my afro of curly hair was tamed in a ponytail, so I may have won the size battle had my hair been down).

Our Chinese eggplant finally came in, and they were totally worth the wait. I am glad this one plant survived all of those pesky black beetles.

Linus (Great Pumpkin #1) was starting to turn orange at the start of September (and is now probably close to being ready to pick)...

...while Sally still grew bigger (David's foot is next to the pumpkin as a make-shift scale bar).

I love how colorful all of these vegetables are!! We used most of these in a giant stir fry. You will notice the carrots look strange; this is what happens if you do not thin your carrot plants early on. As they mature, they run out of space to develop and begin growing together. Many of our carrots are really several carrot plants combined.

The beautiful pork stir fry Chef David made with our vegetables! Yummy :)

As always, it is sad to have another year of farming come to a close, and we will likely have only one more farm update. Luckily, there are many exciting things happening this fall and winter to occupy our time, like...

...Ben's baptism this weekend! trip to Seattle to visit Kristen next weekend!
...the impending arrival of Baby Boy Bennett (late October), Baby Girl LaPierre (mid-November), and many other little ones (10 and counting)!
...and of course, the holidays (Butler for Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve, then onward to South Carolina for Christmas)!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Happy birthday to me!

In August, I turned 28 years old. (One could argue that I am almost 29, in fact...) This birthday was a particularly exciting birthday because I got to celebrate it twice - once in Butler with my extended family, and once at the NYS Fair with David.

My birthday was on a Friday, and we spent six hours of it in a car driving to Butler. David made me this card, which I thought was hilarious. The hunks featured in these photos (Dean Cain, Noah Wyle, Adam Levine, and Conan O'Brien) are all of my celebrity crushes, and David Photoshopped in their Pittsburgh Pirates hats because we had plans to go to the Pirates game with my parents on Sunday. (David would like me to point out that he gave Adam Levine a girl's Pirates hat, because he feels that Adam sings like a girl.) Butler was tons of fun, though I am sad to report that I did not photo-document any of it. We went to Natili's on Friday night with Elliot's parents, Phil Ball, and (briefly) my sister. On Saturday, we hung out with Kristen, and had dinner and strawberry shortcake with my family. And finally on Sunday, we enjoyed a close Pirates game (from amazing seats) at PNC Park, complete with yummy Primanti's sandwiches and Quaker Steak and Lube wings! The Pirates did not win, but it was still a great game and I was glad to get to see them play once this season.

The week after my birthday, David and I went to the NYS Fair. This trip was a double sacrifice for David: 1) David is not so into fairs to begin with and 2) The evening was planned around tickets to a Gavin DeGraw / Train / Maroon 5 concert at the end of our fair visit. I think in the end he still managed to have some fun!

Here is David with his corn dog, his one requirement for attending the fair. We bought that as soon as we arrived. David also had a fish sandwich, and I had fried green tomatoes and a caramel apple.

My favorite fair animals are the "moo cows." These ones were particularly cute.

We played some games during our fair visit, and I insisted that David play a dart game until he won me this Angry Bird. I named it Bomb Squad initially (until David "misheard" me and started calling him Bomb Squat), but now I call him Klabam! Klabam! lives at my lab desk currently.

I took pictures of the concert, but we were so far away that Adam Levine really just looks like an ant under a huge spotlight. All three acts sounded amazing, but this concert was the best Maroon 5 performance I have ever seen. They did some great rearrangements of their hits, and actually played an almost 8 minute medley of songs before even greeting the audience to say hello. It was musically intense and truly fantastic!

I am not sure how I will top two 28th birthday celebrations when I turn 29...but I am sure I will think of something...