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Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Providence Adventures: Part I, Day I of our Fall Vacation

So this blog is much overdue, buttt I finally finished editing our photos from Providence. 

I think I need to get on a schedule once I'm all caught up in my edits so I don't fall so behind again.

That being said, I'm just excited to share our adventures.

In October, Baros and I took our first longer vacation together.  We did 3 cities in the course of a week, starting with Providence, Rhode Island.

It was probably my favorite part of the trip. We had some amazing food and had a great time relaxing together.

We arrived on a Monday afternoon and settled into our wonderful AirBnB.  It was our first AirBnB experience  and it was lovely.  The apartment was just as advertised. It was clean and organized and welcoming.  And happily it was less than the hotels in the area.

We stayed in an upstairs apartment for two nights a little outside of the college area of Providence.  It was close enough to walk everywhere but far enough that it was quiet and relaxing the entire time we were there.  The owners even had a lovely suggestion book that we were able to use for restaurant and coffee suggestions in the immediate area.

Milk Money: So cute and peaceful
We settled into our adorable apartment and headed out to happy hour.  We took our first suggestion from our hosts and went to a restaurant called Milk Money. It was so cozy and warm inside.  Perfect for our first meal in Providence and since we went so early, we practically had the place to ourselves. 
My Handsome Hubby
The Delicious Drinks: I wish I could remember what was in
 Our drinks were lovely. I took a picture of the menu so I wouldn't forget what we ordered... But I forgot what we ordered!  That being said they were delicious. Baros' involved whiskey... mine on the other hand... I have no idea!
 We got some lovely cocktails, a beautiful cheese and charcuterie board, corn bread and mini arancini to share.  Everything was delicious!  The charcuterie was fresh with some really interesting cheeses and meats to try (changed on a regular basis). The corn bread was fresh and crumbly and the arancini light and delicious. 
Our beautiful cheese and charcuterie board
 It was a lovely way to start our trip.  From there we took a walk through Providence.  We walked across the Brown Campus and met the Brown Bear (the statue in the middle of campus) and then walked down to the center of Providence.  We didn't take many pictures of our walk since it was so dark. 
We sat in a park for a little while and then went to a "rooftop" bar.  It was on the 5th floor so it didn't have the most expansive views, but it was nice and toasty and they had live music which was lovely. 
We had some oysters and a pizza to share as well as a few drinks. 
From there we called it a night.  We were exhausted from travelling all Day.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Valentine's Day Adventures: NYC edition

Happy Valentine's Day Everyone!

To tell the truth, I've never been a Valentine's aficionado.  For me, it's always been a bit of a contrived holiday. It's very commercial.  The red and pink hearts everywhere... Plus, there was that year I worked at a floral shop... I was traumatized by the sheer quantity of thorns I had to remove from roses.
Also, being single as a woman during Valentine's Day was never fun.  I don't think it's quite as problematic for single men.  Nobody wants to know why they don't have a Valentines.  That whole double standard always felt problematic to me and to an extent still does.  Why have Galentine's but there's no male equivalent?

I will say I still don't love Valentine's Day but it's not quite as obnoxious to me.  And I've gotten over my issues with roses.  I'm back to loving them (luckily since Baros gets me roses every now and then!) .

Last year, on the day before Valentine's Day I won tickets to see Kinky Boots through a Broadway Lottery.  So on February 13, we had a pre-Valentine's Date in the city.  We saw Kinky Boots, which is AMAZING.  If you haven't seen it, you really should before it goes off Broadway this year.
One of the best shows I've seen!
Being silly at intermission!
 After the show we got dessert at a diner and headed home to relax.
A brownie Sundae
Baros looking on with his strawberry shake
I'm sooo happy.... I did share though...
The next day, Baros gave me the cutest unicorn bags (who needs hearts?  Unicorns are wonderful) and we spent a very lovely evening at home home watching movies and eating yummy food.
Love these bags.  I use them as my makeup bags still. 
And at some point, someone in our neighborhood started shooting fireworks so we got a lovely surprise show too.
The view from our window.  We were too tired to go

This year, we're actually going out ON Valentine's Day, tonight.

Through Todaytix, I found really reasonably priced opera tickets for the 14th.  So Baros and I are going to see Iolanta and Bluebeard's Castle at the MET.

We've never been to an opera together before but we love classical music.  This should be a wonderful experience, especially since one of the operas (there are two one-act operas) is by one of Baros' favorite composers, Bartok.  The other opera is by Tchaikovsky.

They are supposed to be haunting, and lovely and I'm looking forward to it.  It'll also be the first opera I've seen in Russian so it should be interesting.  I've seen operas in Italian, English and French so far, so I'm curious to hear what another language sounds like in opera form.  So far, Italian flows the best for me in operatic singing and English not so much (it was weird to have to read the subtitles for my first language lol).

We haven't gotten reservations so as soon as I get into the city after work, we'll book it to a restaurant.  We're either going to go to Giardino54 or Jacob's Pickles.  I know!  Such a diverse choice!  Neither restaurant takes reservations and we couldn't decide between classic Italian and Southern Charm.

From there (wherever we wind up), we'll head to the MET.

I think it's going to be a lovely evening with my favorite person!  <3

Monday, February 11, 2019

NYC Adventures: Celebrations at Beetle House

On Thursday, I took a day off so Baros and I could go to his Greencard Interview.  For anyone who doesn't know, Baros is from Turkey and when we got married he was on an artist visa.  Together, we decided to apply for his Permanent Residency here.
So from the time we got married (November 2017) we've been busy.  We filled out lots of paperwork (Baros mostly did everything but I helped) and did a ton of waiting.  We've waited for notifications, work permits and most recently for our interview date.
Happily, our interview was this past Thursday and it went really well.  We had all our paperwork in order and hundreds of pictures ready as evidence. It was a stressful kind of day.
We got dressed up and went to Newark.
We waited some more and then just as quickly as the interview started, it was over.
Our case was accepted and Baros is now a Permanent Resident here in the USA!
Once his greencard is in hand, we'll be able to travel wherever we like and have even more adventures together.
I'm so excited and I know he is too!
First thing: TRIP to TURKEY!!  Baros will see his parents for the first time in almost 3 years and I'll get to meet them in person for the first time.
I don't think excitement quite covers the emotions we're feeling.  It's incredible and relieving and wonderful!
So on Thursday, after our interview, we went home to drop off our crazy heavy bags (soooo much paperwork!) and then we head into the city for a celebration!
Beetle House - Downtown Manhattan
It took us a while to decide but we finally chose Beetle House.  We've been talking about going there for ages but it never felt like quite the right moment! 
This is Halloween!  This is amazing!
We're both huge Tim Burton fans so it has been on the agenda for a while. Baros had been back when it first opened but I'd never been.

We're giant nerds.

I've seen many, many Burton films: Edward Scissorhands, BeetleJuice, Batman Returns, The NightMare Before Christmas, Batman Forever, James and the Giant Peach, Corpse Bride, Alice in Wonderland, Alice Through the Looking Glass, Miss Peregrin's Home for Peculiar Children, Sweeney Todd, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Sleepy Hollow.  I love them.  I think Baros has missed a few that I've seen... but we can always watch together now!  I love re-watching.

So Thursday seemed like the perfect night! We could celebrate in true nerd fashion.
Since it was a Thursday night we were able to walk in without a reservation, but if you're going on a weekend, I would definitely make that reservation.  It's a small restaurant so I think it gets crowded quickly.  Even for a Thursday it was pretty busy!  We got the last table in the front.  It was a dark corner facing the bar so I really liked it. <3

The atmosphere was lovely.  It really felt like you were entering a Burton world!

The best thing is that when we walked in we were greeted by The Corpse Bride. She was great and actually came to check in on us and chat with us periodically through the evening. It was lovely and we even got to take a picture with her during the evening.
What a lovely bride! She didn't even try to steal my hubby!
The food was also pretty delicious. However, we weren't careful when we were reading the menu online and didn't realize it was a two course pre fixe menu.  There were two price choices $35 or $45 dollars per person.  So you chose an appetizer and a main course.  The main courses impacted the overall price (most of the vegan, vegetarian or light meat dishes were the lower price option).  It wasn't really a problem, but we also weren't expecting that.  We would have gone hungrier if we had realized.

We decided to share the Brains & Chips (guacamole, black tortilla chips and plaintain chips) and the Nightmare Wings for our appetizers.  Then we also got the Chesire Mac & Cheese and the Edward Burger Hands.  We stuck to the $35 options, for budget but also because they sounded pretty delicious.
Gotta love Jack!
The Brains & Chips was pretty tasty. It felt like a well done Guacamole although the pineapple was extremely mild and not abundantly flavorful.  It was delicious but the pineapple wasn't super present (not a bad thing at all).  It used to be served in a skull but the manager told us that people kept stealing them! so I'm a little sad that we didn't get the full experience.
The Nightmare Wings weren't crazy spicy.  They were tasty and pretty meaty (we had an experience not too long ago with really sad wings, so these were awesome).  Definitely enjoyed them!
The Back of the restaurant
The Cheshire Mac & Cheese was delicious and creamy. The stewed tomato reduction and the salted honey butter crumb topping were really amazing.  We only ate half (we were happily full by the end of our meal) and took the rest home with us to eat the next day for dinner.

The Edward Burger Hands was pretty amazing too (sadly not served with scissors anymore... also due to people).   It's an 8oz burger with pepper jack cheese, lettuce, tomato, avocado, roasted red peppers, smoked bacon, a sunny side egg, and siracha aioli and it was served with the best sweet potato fries I've had in a while.  I'm not always the biggest burger fan but this was juicy and perfectly cooked.  The egg was perfect too.  The most difficult thing was splitting the burger in two!  It was a challenge but I did it! Since the egg was perfect it got all over the place, but we used the amazing bun and sweet potato fries to sop it all up.

To drink, Baros got a couple of IPAs and I got a new drink called The Corpse, recommended by the Corpse Bride herself.  I don't know what was in it since it's not officially on the menu yet, but it was delicious! It was a super cool drink that came out bubbling!  It was such a lovely effect and very yummy.  I think it was vodka, but I honestly don't remember since I didn't see it in writing.
Bubble, Bubble
We had such a great night! The bartender/waiter, the corpse bride and manager were all amazing.
The manager came to check on us a couple of times and even showed us the new cookbook. It is really cool so we decided to nerd out and get ourselves a copy.

It has some beautiful food and drink recipes as well as party ideas and I can't wait to try some of them!  The Giant Peach Salad, Frog's Breath & Nightshade Risotto, Hallowpeno Honey Cheddar Cornbread and the Sriracha-Roasted Butternut Squash Death Soup sound particularly amazing to me so maybe in a couple of months we'll even have a Burton themed house party.

What was also lovely is that we got to meet one of the chefs that contributed to the book.  Chef Chris Binotto just moved to NYC from the LA location so he was kind enough to come out of the kitchen and have a whole conversation with us and sign our book.  It was pretty awesome!
He told us that we should come back in the next few months because he'll be helping to revamp the menu!  Apparently, he's got some new tricks up his sleeves.
Our brand new signed cookbook!  Next time we should remember to get a
picture with the chef!  He was pretty awesome!
We will definitely be back after such a wonderful experience!

After finishing our meal, we grabbed one more drink at a nearby bar called Burp Castle (it's really cool since it's actually quiet and great for conversation) and then we walked back to Port Authority.
Shockingly fun!
It was a long walk from the lower east side and took a lot out of me!  I've been on and off sick for weeks so by the time we got home, I was dead on my feet. I was exhausted and my sore throat and cough came back!  When I woke up the next morning, I was feeling pretty poopy, so I had to take one more day off to recover.

Even so, it was a great day!  I spent the rest of the weekend recovering and relaxing with hubby so I'm a happy camper. 

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Adventures in Reading: Kindle Magic

Last year, I struggled to finish reading 20 books.  I would fall aspleep on the train.  I'd forget my books at home.  Lose the book temporarily.

And then once I finished a book, I would inevitably forget to bring the next book with me.  A week, sometimes a month would pass before I was motivated to find the next book.

However, since January I seem to have turned over a new leaf.
I have read 6 books since the beginning of January!  I'm reading book 7 now.

On Goodreads, I always try to set myself a challenge.  Last year, I set it to 20 and just barely managed to hit my goal.
This year I set it to 30, imagining that I would struggle to reach it like last year.
But I'm 4 books ahead!

So what changed?

My brother got me a Kindle for Christmas.
My Kindle in it's new case!

As soon as I finish one of my downloaded books, I can skip straight to the next.  I don't have to wait till I get home or get to the bookstore or library to pick the next.  I don't have to carry multiple books with me, if I'm almost done with one.
It's made my life a lot easier in that sense.

I'm actually really impressed.  It's the best present my brother has ever gotten me!  I love it.

You can adjust the text size and the brightness of the screen to read comfortably

Don't get me wrong. I love paper books.  There's something about how they feel in my hands, how they smell that just gets me.  I will always love paper books, but the Kindle is so very convenient for my commute and I imagine it will be when I'm travelling also.  I'll still be reading paper books.  I have a few sitting there waiting to read.  But those will be my home, lazy Saturday books.  I'll read those at bed time while curled in bed or on the sofa with dim lights and hot tea.  I now have the entire Eragon series (signed I might add!) to reread.  I'll curl up and imagine being in one of my favorite fantasy worlds.

But on my daily train, I'll reach into my bag and pull out my kindle (I got it a case from Amazon so I'm not worried about damaging it).  It's lightweight and I can keep as many books there as I want.  It lives in my bookbag and comes out to charge after weeks of reading (I've charged it 1 1/2 times since getting it for Christmas).

My Kindle cover from Amazon... I already scratched it, but my Kindle is safe!!
I'm really excited to see how many books I read.  I'm trying new authors and different series and things that I may not have bought for myself before (and let's face it, I've been super lazy about getting to the library to borrow books too).

So far I've read:

  • Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (for the third or fourth time) - Lewis Carroll
  • The Tuscan Child - Rhys Bowen
  • The Pages of Time - Damien Knight
  • Songs of Insurrection - J.C. Kang
  • The Unexpected Gift of Joseph Bridgeman (The Downstream Diaries #1) - Nick Jones 
  • Joseph Bridgeman and the Silver Hunter (The Downstream Diaries #2) - Nick Jones
I really enjoyed these books for different reasons.  I won't individually review them here but I have their individual reviews on Goodreads which is where I keep track of all my reading goals.  I love it since it enables me to track what I'm reading as well as remember what I thought of each book.  When you read a lot, things start to blend so it's nice to be able to look back at my reviews. 
I liked all of the books so far this year but a couple did stand out to me.  
My favorites have been the Joseph Bridgeman series.  They were funny and well-thought out. I got a kick out of them.  It's time travel and hilarious and still dramatic and touching. 
The Pages of Time was another time traveler story, but a little more angsty. 
I also really enjoyed The Tuscan Child.  It was more dramatic and in a historical fiction mystery category.  And I loved that it mostly takes place in Tuscany. 

I will continue the Songs of Insurrection series but it wasn't my favorite.  I really want to see if the main character is developed more as the series continues. In the first book, she's the weakest link.  But it was super interesting and is the first fantasy book that I've read that utilizes Asian themes. Many fantasy I've read have utilized medieval European characters and themes so this was a really cool and interesting change. 

Right now, I'm reading The Last Girl by Joe Hart. So far I'm enjoying it.  I'm almost half way through so I'm very curious to see where it's going.  It's kind of Handmaiden's Tale -esque.  It's a future world in which female births have gone down dramatically so any female child is taken into custody for "protection" and to try to solve the problem.  The main character is interesting and written pretty well.  I won't give away anything else yet...  but I'm enjoying it so far, even though it's more serious than the other books I've read so far.

Have you guys read anything interesting lately? 

My list to read is so long but I'm always looking for new suggestions!!

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Baking Adventures: Cranberry Chocolate Chip Scones

So I haven't baked in ages... or blogged either... but that's another issue entirely.  :D
Just my morning view <3
I used to bake all the time but that was years ago.  When I came home from Rome, I was still baking a bit, but my then work schedule was not great for cooking or baking.  Plus, then I had moved to a home with a shared small kitchen space so I didn't feel like it was mine to make a mess in.
When I moved in with my husband (then boyfriend) I still didn't bake a lot (or really at all).  For one, I still had that awful work schedule (it was split so I worked from 8 to 1 and then 6pm to 10pm).
I think there's a couple of other reasons I wasn't baking right when we moved in together.  The space still didn't feel like mine or even ours.  I was so used to being in other people's spaces (my mother's kitchen, my various roommates' kitchens) that even though the kitchen was/is mine, it took me a while to claim it.  It took a while for us to find a groove in the kitchen. When we moved in together we had been dating for 4 months. I knew he was my person but we were still on "good" behavior since it was a new living situation.  Living with someone new is always a challenge, a balancing act.  And sometimes it takes a little while to put our shields down.  I'm a mess in the kitchen.  I'm a great cook but I am a disaster walking.  I didn't want to scare him with my messy baking tactics. And what if he didn't like what I made?

But now we've been living together for almost 2 years.  I've been at my "new" job for over a year and it has a regular 8-4:30 schedule (not counting my crazy commute). I've been cooking so much more in the past year and a half than when I was teaching.  And slowly I've been incorporating more baking into my life again.

I've made Apple Pies, Cranberry Tarts, chocolate chip coconut cookies (that were an epic fail... but I baked them), coconut macaroons, brownies and cupcakes.  Slowly, but surely, I've been getting back into the groove.

I used to love baking.  I would do it once or twice a week and feed family, friends and students.  It was a great stress relief.  It helped me stay mellow when I felt like things were spiraling out of control.

Nowadays, I feel more in control of life, but I still miss baking.  Plus, it's fun to watch Baros' reaction.  He's only had limited interactions with me and baking so it's entertaining to surprise him when I actually do bake.

This weekend I decided to make scones for us.
It actually started because we have had a bag of cranberries in the fridge for ages now.  Cranberries are hardy, so they don't go bad super easily, but we were pushing the limits.
Baros wanted me to create another Cranberry Tart, but since I knew I'd probably have to throw away a good portion of the cranberries, I decided I wanted to try something else.
I don't really know why scones popped into my head but I love them so I did a little research for recipes.  I couldn't find many that used fresh cranberries as opposed to dried cranberries so in the end I settled on this recipe from allrecipes.com.
yummy scones and coffee for breakfast
I modified it but the base of the recipe is amazing.
I used blood orange zest instead of regular orange, solely because I had blood oranges.  I switched out the walnuts for chocolate chips simply because I was tired of chopping things.
The original recipe says that prep time is 20 minutes but I found that inaccurate.  Dicing the butter was quick but Roughly chopping the cranberries took FOREVER.  They kept running away from the knife!  The other thing that took a while was dealing with the brown sugar! Our fault though, not the original recipe.  Our brown sugar had decided to turn into stone. I feel like there's a trick to prevent it from happening, but I can't remember what! If anyone has any tips, let me know.
I also couldn't remember a trick to get it to soften quickly so we did the next best thing...  We got the grater out.
Well... Baros got the grater out.  He was amazing enough to grate me a 1/4 cup of brown sugar.  It was super fine and I think actually helped the recipe!
That took me a long time, but everything else was pretty quick.
In the end I chopped about 2 cups of cranberries.  I froze 1 cup for future use because I'll definitely be making these again.

Here's my version:

2 cups flour
1/4 cup packed brown sugar, grated
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup butter, chilled and diced
1 cup fresh cranberries, roughly chopped
1/3 cup white sugar
1 grated zest of one blood orange
1/2 cup chocolate chips
3/4 cup half-and-half cream
1 egg

Preheat the oven to 375°F
In a large bowl, stir together flour, brown sugar, baking powder, nutmeg and salt.
Cut in the butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  I used a fork but there are specialty tools for that step as well that can speed it up.
In a separate bowl, toss cranberries with sugar, and orange peel.
Add to the flour mixture along with the chocolate chips. Mix lightly.
In another bowl (I used the same one I used for the cranberries), beat the cream and egg together.
Slowly pour it into the dry ingredients, mixing with a rubber spatula until a dough forms.
Knead the dough 4 or 5 times.  DO NOT over handle.  I would recommend using a little bit of flour on your hands at this stage to avoid sticking.
Divide dough in half and place on a lightly floured surface. shape each half into a 6 inch circle and cut into 6 wedges each.
Place the scones onto a baking sheet covered with parchment paper.  (You can also used a lightly greased baking sheet, but I wanted to avoid some of the clean-up).
Bake for about 20 minutes until golden brown.
Our oven is tricky, so we baked it for 10 minutes on the bottom shelf, and 10 minutes on the top.

Oh man, they came out perfectly!  I was really impressed with the outcome especially since I've only made scones once before.

I'll definitely be baking those again.

So more scones over the weekend, maybe some banana bread!
I'm excited for all the possibilities.
Hubby and me plotting our next bakes while out!!