Tag Archives: travel

Oh … hello!

Is anybody there?

This tiny, online space is not forgotten. I simply took some much-needed time for me. But I’ve missed this terribly. This place. Writing. It’s not to be overlooked or undervalued.

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I haven’t been comfortable sharing my thoughts, opinions and experiences for immediate public consumption. Striking a balance between my online presence and real-world life has been an impossible task over the past year (and it’s not just me). Nonetheless, there has been a fair amount of ice cream and perhaps a cocktail or two. Some fantastic travels to the south of France with dear friends and scuba diving in Bonaire with family (where you might just find yourself swimming with a pod of dolphins) and many other places near and far. A re-upholstered chair and a revamped sofa table turned kitchen cart. But more than anything else – life as an academic and biologist.

This past year has been a doozy and change is underway.

(The details on that are for another time).

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But on to more pressing topics … It’s springtime in Minneapolis! At last! Opening the windows, biking into campus, beers on patios and the start of farmers markets. – a glorious time indeed. I’ve been in a flurry of spring cleaning – my closets, my kitchen, the laboratory. No space I occupy has been safe from my critical eyes. I adore the process of shedding winter layers. To rediscover lost treasures and carefully assess what to keep close and what to finally let go of.  It’s no small task and not an easy one either. But the psychological satisfaction of this particular accomplishment is one of the best there is. It’s not for everybody, but it certainly is for me.

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Now that the dust has been cleared and I’ve got no upcoming travel scheduled, I’ve been having fun playing in my kitchen. To brush up on my skills and hone my culinary instincts. To anticipate the summer bounty and enjoy fresh, seasonal food again. Which brings me to … RHUBARB!!! I’ve waxed poetic time and time and time again about my favorite spring crop, so let me just cut to the chase. An afternoon tart of roasted rhubarb with cardamom pastry cream and orange poppyseed shortbread crust.

This dish took me the better part of a Saturday morning, but there is no reason why the parts can’t be made independently and assembled whenever it pleases you. It’s good. Very good. In my opinion, worth not only the time, but also the number of dirty dishes.

 Not-so simple rhubarb tart
Serves 4
 
Roasted Rhubarb
~10 oz rhubarb, cut in 4 inch pieces
3/4 – 1 cup orange juice
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 vanilla bean, split
 
Combine all ingredients in an oven safe dish. Roast at 300 degrees for about 50 minutes, occasionally  so that the rhubarb is soft, but still holds its shape and the juice is reduced to about a quarter cup or so.
 
Cardamom Pastry Cream
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup milk
2 eggs
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into ½” cubes
 
Make the filling: Whisk together sugar, cornstarch, cardamom, and salt in a 2-qt. saucepan; whisk in milk and eggs. Bring to a boil over medium heat; cook, whisking constantly, until thickened, about 1 minute. Remove from heat; whisk in butter. Transfer mixture to a bowl (pressing through a sieve, if you are so inclined, as I usually am); press a piece of plastic wrap onto surface of filling. Refrigerate until ready to use.
 
Orange Poppyseed Shortbread Crust 
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup confectioners sugar
1 teaspoon orange extract
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
 
Cream the butter, mix in the sugar, lemon zest, poppy seeds and salt followed by the flour and mix until it forms crumbs. Press the mixture into a 4” x 13.5” rectangular tart pan. Freeze for 10-15 minutes and bake in a preheated 400F oven until lightly golden brown, about 15 minutes before letting it cool.
 
Assembly
Spread chilled cardamom pastry cream into baked shortbread crust. Carefully top with roasted rhubarb pieces. Brush with the reduced vanilla orange juice. Serve cold or at room temperature.

Travel Photos: Two Americans in Paris

Work has been intense lately. Let’s just leave it at that. But before too much more time passes I wanted to share some of my favorite photos of the few days I spent in Paris with one of my dearest and best friends last month. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.

Gathering Stories

I’ve been quiet lately. Partly because I’ve been travelling. Largely, because I haven’t felt like sharing. I’ve wanted to keep my life, my thoughts and my feelings to myself. I’d been feeling for a long time at a loss for words. For not knowing what I wanted. Feeling completely uninteresting, with all of my life stories being tired and well-worn. And to be perfectly honest, a little vulnerable about sharing past experiences. Previous posts about my incredibly painful loss of love have been frequented a lot recently and it’s left me uncomfortable and over-exposed. Added to that is the what seems like constant (although I realize I’m exaggerating) news of engagements, babies and new job opportunities and my feelings of inadequacy have exploded.

People preach about savoring and being thankful for everyday pleasures. For appreciating the small things in life. That’s all well and good, but sometimes you need to spike in something new and exciting to recharge you. To gather new life stories that don’t revolve around experiences in the distant past. So that you don’t feel like you peaked in high school, college or grad school. To know that you aren’t afraid of stepping out of your routine.

I’ve spent the past four weeks traveling. Simply because the opportunity presented itself. And as a single adult, I didn’t have anything preventing me. So I dropped the cats off with my friend Laura, packed my bags and gathered my passport.

 First to Paris, to spend three days with one of my dearest friends. We seized the opportunity of having work obligations (myself in Germany and her in the south of France) to meet and play in the city of light. It was my first visit to Paris and we reveled in about every touristy thing you can imagine.

From Paris I took the train to Heidelberg, the most adorable, gingerbread town in Germany for a conference. It was a  yet another opportunity to meet up with old friends and colleagues and nerd out about yeast genetics and evolution. To drink beer and eat pretzels and sausages.

After that I flew to Tel Aviv, where I could unpack my luggage and settle in for three weeks. My academic advisor has started a lab at the university there, so I went to offer my support and expertise to the newest and naive members of the lab. I was already halfway there, so why not? I was visiting Israel with a soon-to-be labmate and inevitably good friend.

I have new stories. That are interesting, quirky and beyond the everyday, simply because they are foreign. I am still keeping them close, holding them tight and waiting for the right moments to share. But they exist.

Home

At some point, every summer, I make a pilgrimage back to the Pacific Northwest.

Home.

I struggle to find the words to describe what this place means to me. There is some sort of fantastic synergy of family and landscape that makes this the most special place in the world to me. It’s enough to make me believe in fairy tales. The way I feel when I am in this place is, for lack of a better word, enchanted. The clouds wrap themselves around me, the sea salt air fills my lungs, the infinite shades of green permeates all that I gaze upon and the siren’s songs of the mountains all lure me in and entrap my heart. It’s a spell that I never want to have broken.

And is it any wonder … this place is stunning.

I may not have the words … but as always, the themes revolve around the following:

Family

Food

The scenery

I’ll be back. I can never stay away for long.

Putting reality on hold…

My lab bench is clean.

So is my desk.

My bags are packed.

I am meeting up with some special ladies for a week filled with sun, sand and silliness.

If you can’t join me, than at least eat this glorious breakfast.

No recipe required, just an assembly of pink grapefruit, avocado, roasted salted marcona almonds and crystallized ginger. My new favorite. Until something else is.

Now I have a vacation to go on…