Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Christmas is fun

It has been a long long time since I posted...Here's what's been happening.

1. Nick and Gina came to stay with us!

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2. Isaac's fellow Alaskan friend Jacob came to stay with us!

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3. The subway and bus drivers went on strike.

4 We took a Metro North train up to the Bronx Zoo anyway! Yay!

5. No one was there, not even to take our ticket money. All field trips were cancelled and it felt like it was just us and the tigers. And baboons, and giraffes and bison, and sand cats, and sloths, etc. We had a great time. This baboon didn't like us.

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6. Then we had dinner at our favorite spicy Chinese place.

7. Many spicy food lovers came, including poor Tiffany who had to walk about 5 miles to get to the restaurant.

8. Look at this adorable sweater I forced her to let me photograph.

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9. The next night was a party at our place for Isaac's birthday. Lots of things were made, including stuffed mushrooms, pulled pork arepas and deviled eggs (by Jacob who put them on a bed of lettuce, an amazing innovation that none of us would have considered). Yum. Also Tiffany gave us a chocolate pannetone, and it was so good.

10. Nick and I took pictures but neither of us have uploaded them yet.
11. We hung out in the apartment on 12/22 and watched movies and ate junk food. I tried to finish the first season of Lost, but didn't have time before it had to go back to the library.

12. Jacob flew back to Wisconsin on 12/23 and we took a bus to Maryland.

13. The bus was kinda broken.

14. Bus stopped in Jersey City for attempted repair.

15. Bus stopped in Trenton for actual repair.

16. We got to Maryland, only 2.5 hours late. And thank God we had the leftover chocolate pandoro/pannetone to get us through it.

17. Christmas Eve we went to Mass and did a big meal and then opened presents. Because my sister Beth is going to her in-laws for Christmas Day.

18. I got a purse, socks, gloves and two cookbooks! Yay! And some adorable mug-shaped candle holders.

19. Isaac got an Ipod holder for his fancy Ipod (i'm so jealous, it was a gift from his dad (of the ipod not the holder, I got that for him)).

20. Isaac got a newish version of Civilization.

21. On a related note, Isaac stayed up until 5am two nights in a row.

22. We went to dinner in Baltimore with Katie and Russell last night. It was in Hampden, which is like the Brooklyn of Baltimore - Bawlmer hipsters everywhere. They had a sign up in the restaurant about a Flickr photo exhibition that was happening there. There were some really cool photos.

23. Tomorrow we leave for Arizona!

24. We will see the Grand Canyon and I will try not to fall into it.

25. Then we will see lots of Isaac's family members and eat too much with that side of the family. Maybe we will light a menorah or something too, I'm not sure.

26. Merry Christmas! (aren't there still 9 days of Christmas left?)

Friday, December 16, 2005

computer guy, i hardly knew ye

I was just coming back from a library run, and I saw the computer guy who saw my 20 GB of mp3s. I was all happy to see him like he was my best friend, after all he did sit at my computer for hours and hours backing up my stuff and then reinstalling it all. Then I realized it was just the forced intimacy of him seeing all my most guilty pleasure mp3s. But then I realized, hey, he was out there smoking a cigarette! Now I feel all disappointed in him, my good friend, the computer guy*. Don't die an early death computer guy, we have all these memories to share, remember the good times. Remember when you told me you found the CD for my chemistry drawing program after all. Oh, what laughs we had.

*PS I know I'm shamefully judgemental about people smoking, but it's only because I care. Oh, and I hate the way it smells. Please forgive me.

Christmas anticipation!

Merry Christmas! I am feeling very Christmas spirity after listening to Sufjan's Christmas music all day. We also attended a noon recital by Kitka. They are a women's vocal ensemble and performed a bunch of "wintersongs" from various Slavic and Balkan countries. Mostly Christmas carols (not that the languages were intelligible to me or Isaac or Nick) and some pagan-y winter songs too. It was a really nice program, full of beautiful harmonies and some touching music.

Now it's time for my lab's annual holiday outing. We are going out for dinner and maybe to a bar (!) afterwards. We are not used to socializing together (they don't come to happy hour, that's Isaac's lab) so it's always interesting and usually a lot of fun once people loosen up a little...but not too much!

Also, Nick is here! We are abandoning him to go to our lab thing tonight, but hopefully we will catch up with him later at Eric's place for drinks. Eric is the cellist/underwater photographer mentioned previously and his birthday was yesterday.

Happy wintry weekend!

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

a more gendered evening than usual

Last night Isaac and I went our separate ways....Him to watch Monday night football and have all-you-can-eat-and-drink beer and wings and me to the Metropolitan Opera. I guess that this is the way that plenty of couples do things. They have separate interests and do things independently. Other husbands regularly watch sports and go out with "the guys" and God knows what else they do. Other women have "girls' night out" and can't get their husbands to see chick flicks, etc.

Which reminds me, someone asked Isaac in front of me what movies we had seen lately, and I realized that the string of films we have seen in the theater this year is pretty much the girliest list of movies you could come up with. March of the Penguins, Just Like Heaven, Pride & Prejudice. Even Isaac couldn't quite admit to the new guy in the lab that he saw Just Like Heaven.

Anyway, the opera was quite interesting - it was An American Tragedy, a new opera by Tobias Picker. I met Tiffany and some other ladies there. First of all, it's much better to go to the opera with Tiffany than without Tiffany. Partly because Tiffany is fun, and partly because Tiffany can buy student tickets! Student! This means that instead of paying $26 to sit in the nosebleed section, I could pay $25 to sit in the orchestra section. Actually, it meant that Tiffany paid $25 for me to sit in the orchestra section because I just realized I totally forgot to pay her for my ticket and she is too polite to demand her money. I'll get you later Tiffany.

Caveat big time: I'm going to talk about this opera and what I thought of it, and I hope that you will forgive my ignorance, and anyone who knows anything about opera should feel free to: a) skip this altogether, b) forget you ever read it or c) express your own opinion to counter my uneducated one.

I wanted to see this opera because it's new and people had some pretty different opinions about its merit, but also because, I admit, I really really wanted to see Nathan Gunn in the leading role. I saw Mr. Gunn and his lovely wife (pianist) at a recital last year. He had a wonderful voice, and wonderful stage presence, but also, he was completely adorable. One might say hunky. His wife was also adorable. And then I read on Alex Ross's blog about An American Tragedy, and saw where he linked to some very beefcakey pictures of Nathan Gunn, I was sold on seeing the opera. When he came out in his little bathing costume, the whole audience gasped.

nathan bathing costume

The performances were really stunning, from Susan Graham (she really blew me away) to Dolora Zajcik playing Gunn's mother, to Nathan Gunn to Patricia Racette and the guy playing Gunn's cousin (william burden). All these singers were amazing, I thought. And some of them (Gunn, esp) were good actors too. But in terms of the music, and individual scenes, I was conflicted. At several times during the performance, there would be action happening on more than one level of the stage (it was a multi-story set) and there would often be more than one person singing on each level, with lyrics that would overlap and often conflict. To me, this device was really wonderful at some points in the story (e.g. the duet between Sondra and Roberta, each offering a different view of married life with Clyde, the Nathan Gunn character) and other times it was just annoying and didn't seem to have any real purpose except to be confusing and beef up the modernist credentials of the composer or something.

Also, the music in general, if I were just listening to the orchestra, I really don't think I would have liked much. Especially the main character, Clyde's, music. It's supposed to be "the most complex" because he's the most complex character supposedly. But it's just not that engaging. At least not on first hearing. Not the way that Clyde should be. He's supposed to be an extremely physical presence (yes good casting) and really charming and compelling. But I don't remember feeling that come through in his solo pieces at all.

I can't really comment on everything I thought about An American Tragedy, but I'm extremely glad that I saw it, and I'm looking forward to the spring and seeing some other performances. I'm also looking forward to seeing Alex Ross's review in the New Yorker...

umm, that funky monkey?

Apparently the operating system on my computer at work had to be reinstalled and all my data will be lost. Luckily, the IT guy brought along an external hard drive to back up all my stuff before doing the wipe. But I guess he wasn't expecting my 20 GB of mp3s...so he didn't have enough room. When he explained this to me, I said, oh, that's okay, I have almost everything backed up already. And my face was really red because it's clear that I'm spending way too much time grooming my itunes collection. But he had to show me what didn't copy onto the hard drive, "it looks like it ran out of room when it got to the Beastie Boys..." Redder and redder I got. Also noticed were my Enya, Abba, Gaelic Storm (don't worry, i've got it backed up, stacy) and various Hindi film songs. Somehow this strikes me as kind of invasive. The forced intimacy of this guy going through all my music files... eek. I don't think he noticed my Two Live Jews collection, or at least I'm telling myself that.

dinner parties are the best parties

Not to gloat or anything, but I've been having a pretty good week. Knock on wood.

Thursday night, as I mentioned before, Isaac and I joined Mai, Li-Ling, and I-Chen for a four course dinner presented by Tiffany. Since pictures are worth a thousand words, here are a few thousand...

Before the first course, Tiffany made us these little amuse bouches. They consist of some chopped up shrimp and some minced green vegetable (was it chives?) on top of a fried slice of lotus root. It was delicious.

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On to the soup course, which was made of three (!) different squashes, butternut, acorn, and yellow. There is also some cayenne pepper and cracked coriander seed in here, which was absolutely delicious.

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This was Mai's favorite dish, and she kept going back for more and more...

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Then we had a salad with fennel, grapefruit, black olives and some pomegranate seeds thrown in. Yum yum yum. I can't remember what the dressing had in it. It was so fresh and light and I loved the sharpish fennel, but cut through with the saltiness of the olives it really "worked". And the pomegranate seed addition was a stroke of genius.

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Then we had a little break from eating while the next course simmered away. This picture tries to answer the question, how many people with some knowledge of Japanese does it take to read the little card that came with Tiffany's bottle of sake? The answer is, more than four. Actually, I think they figured out that it had something to do with a date of expiration.

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Then it was time for porcini mushroom risotto with a balsamic vinegar syrup, the recipe for which has already been posted by Tiffany. This was so delicious! Especially with the balsamic syrup.

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This one was Li-Ling's favorite and she had to have seconds...actually we all had seconds, so she was having thirds or something. Also, she tried to sneak some pomegranate seeds onto her risotto, an unauthorized use which got her a little reprimand.

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Finally, it was time for dessert: Pandoro! I've always been too afraid to eat cake that comes in a box and sits on the shelf. Just the shape of the box intimidated me. But this was so so good. The chocolate one is supposedly even better. I took the picture before the powdered sugar went on top, unfortunately. Yum. We kept having more and more - I must have had four plates of it.

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And that was dinner at Tiffany's. Then we hung out some more and under the influence of the wine, I forced Tiffany to pour me some scotch (maybe not the best idea in retrospect) and then in the scotchy glow, had to have some sake. Can you say, take a cab home? But before that, Tiffany let Isaac play some of the piano thing he's been working on, and gave some constructive criticism. Then she played some more Schubert (it was Schubert, wasn't it?) for us, and we went home feeling all happy and as I said before, I got to spend the whole next day thinking about what a great evening we had.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

pictures and holiday rushing

Thursday night Isaac and I met up with the G-quartet members and groupies (that's you and me, I-C) for a wonderful four course dinner prepared by Tiffany. I have pictures of every course and everything was so good. Mai and Li-Ling had their favorite courses, of which seconds (and thirds) were demanded and received. Tiffany can actually cook things while people are present, and she got everything ready while we sat at the table in her kitchen (don't we sound lazy? we tried to help) I can't really concentrate while people are in the room. I guess it's also true that our kitchen doesn't have any seating.

Anyway, this post is really to say that I wish I had time to put up the pictures right now, but we have to go to Century 21 to buy my husband some new pants. You don't want to know what he did to the pairs we got last year. And then we are going to be rushing back to the apartment to get our bushel of wine, to get to Penn Station and catch a train to NJ for the extended family party. Even though it's only been two weeks, it will be great to see my mom and dad and Beth and Glenn again. And of course all the aunts and uncles and cousins.

All right, I'd better dry my hair for this special day!

Friday, December 09, 2005

what's going on?

I had to come home from work to wait for a FedEx package (isaac's birthday present from his sister!)

And the toilet just flushed all by itself. Eeeeee. I don't like that.

I feel a little better since I remembered there is some weird stuff going on with the water in general around here. The kitchen faucet had no water, but now it does, etc.

I'm never creeped out in my apartment, but just for a second there, I was looking for boogymen in the closet and stuff.

Downstairs across the courtyard neighbors: An Encounter

I don't think I need to remind my few readers of the obsessive voyeuristic interest that Isaac and I have directed towards our downstairs across the courtyard neighbors. We have gathered information on these people like it was our job. Friends visiting the apartment must observe the neighbors, like they are a tourist attraction.

So imagine my surprise when I walked over to Isaac's lab the other day and found him deep in conversation with the guy from downstairs across the courtyard! Apparently the guy (TOM) is a grad student in our building. Not surprising since our housing is through work. But it was surprising to see him on our floor because it is a big place, and they keep the 1 floor of chemists safely segregated from the 12 floors of biologists, with a no-man's land of mice in between. That way if we start a fire, everyone else has time to get out. I really think that is the reasoning...

Anyway, here is the conversation I walked in on.

Isaac: ....so in case you need to come back and get this Buchner funnel i'll just leave it right here...

Tom: okay, thanks. Hey I think we actually live in the same building....303....

Isaac: (oblivious and not recognizing him) What? We live where?

Tom: You know...303?

[I start sending urgent psychic message to Isaac, forseeing his imminent recognition of the guy and how he will spill the beans that we know exactly where he lives and what he's been eating, drinking and watching on TV with his cute woman and dog and cat. Sadly the psychic message failed to penetrate.]

Isaac: (light goes on) OHHHH! You live on the...

Tom: (trying to clarify) We are the people with the dog....

Isaac: ....second floor across from us, and you have a cat too!

Tom: (nervously laughing) Oh, uh, how much can you actually see through the windows?

Isaac: (going on oblivious the my desperate psychic signal of secrecy and tact) Oh, we can see the people on the first floor who live under you too. They have a little boy and he just got a toy racetrack with cars that go really fast... I guess it's a lot easier to see down than up!

Tom: Uh, yeah, well, see you around...

Embarrassing! Oh, well, they haven't pulled the shades or anything, so I guess it doesn't bother them to be observed in their natural habitat. Tom really did seem like a very nice and friendly guy.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

some peoples blogfriends are more fortunate than others and by more fortunate I mean richer

Isaac and I are trying to get ready for the company (Nick, Gina, Jacob) that will be staying with us pretty soon. To that end we wanted to get a new futon for our place. The one we have now is 7 years old, and pretty far past its prime. We saw a flyer up in our work building - people are always moving away after only a couple of years, leaving furniture in their wake. So we met up with this nice Spanish guy who is moving back home to Barcelona and selling his futon. He escorted us back to his apartment on Roosevelt Island so that we could inspect the merchandise.

We took the tram to the island, which has a really lovely view. You can see the pictures that someone else took of their trip on the tramway here. At night, you ride past all of these beautiful expensive high-rise buildings, and Isaac and I gawked at their opulent interiors. You know how we like looking at people in their apartments...people in big apartments with expensive stuff is more interesting and more boring at the same time. Most of the people are still just sitting on their couches with their laptops on their laps. But what about your plasma projection super-wonder entertainment system? Nope, they are all just blogging or something. So that's how the other half lives!

Then last night Isaac had some nice people come over to our place and they played some string quartet music while I read my books and baked bran muffins. It was really great, especially since they played something of a familiar favorite of mine (Beethoven Opus 59 No 2). The musicians were Mai and her friend David, and Isaac's college friend and cellist Eric. Eric is in town for a 3 month computer programming gig. He also works in underwater photography. He helps lead dives and travels all over the world (mostly the South Pacific I think). But the real point of mentioning Eric is that he is a longtime blogger. Like since before they were called blogs. I don't know if he does call his online journal a blog. But that's what it is. So anyway, he's been doing that for a long time.

In fact, one of his blogfriends happens to be a guy who he's staying with for his time in New York. And where does this guy live? In one of those fabulous high-rise buildings that we passed on the tram. Turns out Eric's blogfriend worked his ass off for 7 years as an investment banker trader working for a hedge fund. Now he's semi-retired at 35 and traveling all over taking pictures of fish underwater. The blogfriend's apartment is huge and Eric has his own nice big room.

Well, isn't that nice? Maybe I'm just being materialistic (I guess I'm really getting into the holiday spirit!) but, for your sake and mine blogfriends, I wish we were all independently wealthy. I wish I could put you up in a palatial New York flat (or a brownstone maybe?) etc.

In other jealousy news, Eric ventured an estimate of how much our google friends are worth. Holy holy holy moly. That's all I have to say about that.

And now I'm going to Tiffany's place for a wonderful dinner. Hopefully she will let me take pictures of the food, if not of her outfit. :)

Monday, December 05, 2005

blog-block

Hello Monday!

I was trying to think of what our weekend was like, and thought of that song, "everybody's working for the weekend" and thought "everybody's working on the weekend". It was a work-weekend. We are about to have a lot of nice things happen though which will take us away from work, so I will not complain too much.

In the next couple of weeks:

1. Tiffany is going to make a (sure-to-be) delicious dinner for the music people at her place.

2. My dad's side of the extended family is having a holiday party in New Jersey. (does anyone have a good grab bag gift idea for such an event?)

3. Nick and Gina are coming to town.

4. Brian is coming back from Chicago for about 48 hours and I will get to see him for a brunch-length portion of them.

5. Tiffany and Isaac will turn 30 within 3 days of each other and we will have:
a. Birthday dinner for Tiffany
b. Joint birthday dinner for T&I at our favorite chinese place
c. Birthday party for isaac at our place

6. Isaac's best childhood friend is coming from Wisconsin to celebrate too!

7. Then it's Christmas and New Year's traveling again.

In the meantime/intertime, we are trying to live the least spendy, least piggy-eating, most hardworking life we can manage, to allay future guilt. I even started logging my food again.

PS It snowed here yesterday morning! Our first snow of the year. So exciting, especially since we don't have to drive anywhere. Then we went outside and it was all slushy already. boo. But it's supposed to snow some more tonight and tomorrow!