Sunday, October 30, 2011

Fall Came

...finally, about 6pm on Thursday night. A cold front finally made it feel like season the calendar has been saying for a month and a half. If it were up to me, the leaves would begin changing on the first of September and warm, golden days would give way to cool, breezy nights. Around October, you would start to need to jacket, nothing big, just something light to keep the chill off. By November, every outfit would include a scarf.

But this is Texas and it was 85 degrees at Sea World last weekend. The only sign of fall has been the drop in our electric bill as we use (slightly) less A/C. But let's not dwell...fall came. And with it, my desire for all things Halloween.

My parents came to visit last weekend and my mom joined me in making some of these Halloween pennants. I'm a lover of cute Halloween over scary Halloween so these are the the perfect decorations for our front porch and my parent's fireplace. I made mine out of craft foam to make it a bit more weather resistant than paper.

Also sweet, not scary was this hat-ette (or pumpkin beret as was sung to my Prince-style by a coworker) that I made to go with my stenciled pumpkin shirt.

I finished my beret in time for my office Halloween party for which I also made these "witches' cauldrons." My mom shared the recipe with me. It is just brownie bites topped with rice crispies in melted caramels and mini M&Ms. The cauldron's handle is black licorice.

I wore the shirt, but not the hat to run in the Dia de los Muertos 8K Night Run on Friday. I didn't prepare for it as well as I should have, but I was pleased with the run. The first mile was great and pretty fast, the second was really tough, and miles 3-5 felt good. The park was dark so we ran in headlamps which felt a bit like running on a treadmill - you don't really feel like you are going anywhere.

On Saturday, we joined the Holtzes for some pumpkin carving. Geoff was intensely focused. This is his concentration face:

I decided to do the most detailed pattern in the book (cause I'm overly ambitious in pretty much everything). Just transferring the pattern took half an hour. But I was so pleased with the results.


Saturday, October 29, 2011

Foto Friday {29}

Saturday October 22: Sea World
Sunday October 23: Crafting with Mom
Monday October 24: Flowering Tree
Tuesday October 25: Tower of the Americas
Wednesday October 26: They Peck on My Window
Thursday October 27: Oyster Mushrooms
Friday October 28: Pre-Run

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Feeding Friendship: Pumpkin Gnocchi with Mushrooms and Balsamic Vinegar

I've been meaning to make pumpkin gnocchi for several autumns but my last gnocchi experience left something to be desired.  The end result was pretty tasty but I found the process so arduous that I have never tried it again.  It is one of the few things (ravioli also tops the list) that I would rather leave to the pros.

This recipe from steamy kitchen, however, is quick and easy enough for a weeknight.  Weeknight gnocchi instantly deifies you as a certified domestic goddess.  The key is that this recipe is for a ricotta-based gnocchi so the boiling, mashing, and cooling potatoes steps are completely skipped in favor of a base of pumpkin puree, ricotta cheese, and Parmesan.

When adding the flour, I was as gentle as humanly possible.  This is definitely the time to get in there with your hands to minimize over-mixing.  The less you can possibly mix it, the lighter your gnocchi will end up.  Roll out gently and on a well-floured board and you have gnocchi in less than fifteen minutes.

The other key to this recipe is that the gnocchi are pan-fried instead of boiled.  Cooked in a very hot pan, the gnocchi get crispy on the outside while remaining soft inside and the textural contrast brings a lot to the dish (according to my inner Tom Colicchio).  After the gnocchi were cooked, I fried up some sage leaves which I crumbled over the finished dish.

Whenever possible, I like to make one dish meals so I cooked some thinly sliced crimini mushrooms in the finishing butter because, like gnocchi, mushrooms love butter and sage.  Some spinach would be nice too.  The splash (I used a glug) of balsamic vinegar added at the end makes a great sweet and sour glaze on the gnocchi.  Although the pumpkin flavor gets lost, these pretty orange gnocchi are worth the (modest) effort.

This recipe only used about a quarter of a can of pumpkin so I made this pumpkin bread with the remainder.  A very fall-appropriate breakfast in some very un-fall south Texas weather.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Foto Friday {28}

Saturday October 15: Chinatown Montreal

Sunday October 16: My souvenirs

Monday October 17: OJ and Sprite (I'm sick)

Tuesday October 18: Back to Work

Wednesday October 19: Finished just in time for the Spina Bifida Texas Silent Auction

Thursday October 20: Commute Landmark
Friday October 21: I'm not the only one, right?

Where I've Been

My posting has been sporadic lately because I have been traveling to two conferences (and then I got sick, but I'm not sharing pictures of that).  First up was a dermatology conference focused on skin of color at Hampton University in Virginia.  It was an interesting opportunity to learn how clinicians think about skin and to speak to a mostly physician crowd about how the evolutionary history of our species has shaped the variation in skin color we see in modern human populations.  One of the organizers said it was not what she expected but that she enjoyed it and the rest of the crowd seemed to be paying close attention.  I'll take that.

Hampton is located near Norfolk and Virginia Beach so I convinced Veronica to fly to DC with me where we met up with Sarah and then all drove down to Hampton.  After the conference, we went for a hike along the bay in Virginia Beach.  We ended up hiking quite a bit further than we meant to, but saw a lot of the coastline, marshes, tiny crabs, weird fungi, barnacles on trash washed up in the relatively recent hurricane, hordes of Spanish moss, and various birds.

I flew from Norfolk (awesomely small airport - car to departure gate within 15 minutes) to Montreal for the International Congress on Human Genetics.  It was held in the Palais de Congres, which is a colorful and modern building close to both the Old City and the financial district.

The conference had an opening ceremony featuring - naturally - French Canadian circus performers and a pasta bar.  I almost knocked over one acrobat wearing a lab coat standing on the shoulders of another acrobat in a lab coat.  I assume that would have gotten me deported.

My favorite part of pretty much any conference is getting to see friends.  I was expecting to see several of my old lab mates from Penn State but was pleasantly surprised to find almost all of us were in attendance.  We took a picture for our adviser who couldn't make it.

I also got to see some of my friends from my undergrad days at KU, including these three who stole my camera and took about five variations of this picture during an anthropological genetics mixer I organized.

The actual purpose of my attendance was to present a poster about my current work on an enzyme related to heart disease.  The poster room was more than a little overwhelming with about 1000 posters presented each day for three days.  This is less than a quarter of the room.

After the conference ended on Saturday, I was able to spend some time walking around Old Montreal and see some of the gorgeous architecture. In addition to all the signs being in French, the juxtaposition of the old and new architecture really makes Montreal seem like a European city.  It is always great to see friends and travel new places, but after ten days gone, I was glad to head home.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Foto Friday {26 & 27}

Saturday October 1: Finally Cool Enough to Keep the Doors Open

Sunday October 2: Let's See if we can keep these alive

Monday October 3: Movie quote embroidery

Tuesday October 4: Toasting Veronica's Homemade Marshmallows

Wednesday October 5: Chinese Food and Japanese Beer

Thursday October 6: Sarah and V love their birthday gifts!

Friday October 7: Detour to the Williamsburg Outlets

Saturday October 8: Gave a talk at the Hampton Conference Center on the Left
Sunday October 9: Hiking in Virginia Beach marshland

Monday October 10: Flying to Montreal

Tuesday October 11: Poutine!

Wednesday October 12: Palais de Congres

Thursday October 13: Oh, Canada

Friday October 14: Last Day of the Conference

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