Sunday, February 9, 2014


All right, it's about time I come clean. I've been keeping something from you. Well, two somethings. 

One is my recent vanilla bean discovery. Okay, to be clear, I didn't discover vanilla beans, obviously. I mean, I started using vanilla beans in my baking, and I'm not sure I can go back to the extract. It all started last August when I got tired of shelling out $5 for a 4 ounce bottle of vanilla extract (and that's at Trader Joe's, where it's the cheapest!). I learned about making homemade vanilla extract here, so I decided to buy myself some cheap vodka, make it myself, and save some money. I ordered a bunch of vanilla beans off of Amazon, but then the job market happened and I forgot all about using them. And I continued shelling out $5 for vanilla. Then, about a month ago, I ran out of extract and finally got around to using a few vanilla beans and making some extract. It's embarrassing that it took me so long, because using vanilla beans is super easy (split in half and scrape out the seeds) and so is making extract (rinse 3 spent beans and put in a jar of cheap vodka). Anyway, using vanilla beans in my baking instead of extract is life changing. It's so amazing. 

And speaking of life changing, I got a job. I'll be starting next fall at the University of Wisconsin, Green Bay. The academic job market is tough, and the stars certainly aligned for me. This job is a really good fit for me, both professionally and personally, and that doesn't happen a whole lot. If you pursue an academic job, you are at the mercy of location. For the most part, you don't get to choose where you live. You really can't say to yourself, "I'll work in Dallas, Texas and nowhere else" because if you restrict yourself too much geographically, it's unlikely you'll get a job. It's not like applying to college or even graduate school, or like applying to most jobs. Turnover is low, and jobs are very specialized. Imagine, for example, that instead of posting an ad that says "Now hiring," Target posted an ad that said "Now hiring an associate to work in the kitchen section, specializing in pots and pans." You might be thinking, well, someone working in electronics surely has the skills to transfer to the kitchen section, but that's not the case because someone who's spent the past 7 years or so specializing in electronics would not be qualified to sell pots and pans. 

So anyway, I'm glad to have a job and I'm glad to have one that's such a good fit. I'm excited about the position and joining my future colleagues, and I'm glad to finally get back to having real winters! There are many things I'll miss about California, but for many other reasons, it's time to move on.   


Hmmm, I surely ate more than what you see in this post, but this is all I could find on my phone. I made a shaved brussel sprouts salad from Food52
I would totally make that again. And I'd make this again:
It's an artichoke and not sun-dried tomato pasta with kale. It was super easy to make, tasted fabulous, and left the kitchen smelling so good. 

And while we're on the subject of pasta, can we talk about trottole? I love this pasta. It tastes really good and the shape is so fun. This is the only pasta for which I make an exception and forgo the whole wheat kind (I have 3 different types of whole wheat pasta in my cupboard, but I still made a trip to Target for trottole. Okay, well, I was going there anyway, but still.). Last night, I used it to make pasta with broccoli, pistachios, and olives.  
 It was very easy to make (do you see a theme here?) and I love the idea of using broccoli to make a pesto. 

phuket, thailand

We went to Phuket, Thailand for the second half of our trip. It was hot, really hot. And humid. 
We went to this outdoor food stand for pad see ew: 
And pad thai:
 We went to the beach:
I think this was on Christmas day:

After two beach days, we ventured out to this tour to Ao Phang-Nga National Park. We were a little nervous about this trip. It involved traveling on a small-ish boat, and Drew is prone to seasickness, and I was still under the weather from the food poisoning. It could have been a disastrous day, but fortunately, it wasn't. Needles to say, we were pleasantly surprised.  

So basically, the tour boat took us around to all these destinations, where we got out and explored the sea caves in guided canoes. We saw monkeys:
You go through the sea cave and into these calm, peaceful clearings: 

And that was basically it, in and out of these sea caves and clearings.  

Ao Phang-Nga is known for its karsts: 
Inside one of the caves: 

Later that afternoon, we made these, um, I don't know what they're called. Uh, we made this: 
It was a really good day, and that night we headed back to Shanghai. 

angkor wat, day 2

Looking back, I have no idea how I survived our second day at Angkor Wat. I ate some sketchy fish and meat on our first night, and I got food poisoning. It must have been mildly traumatic because my stomach turns just thinking about it right now. I mean, it's not like I died or anything or like my life was in danger, but food poisoning was not a pleasant experience. 

We went to Ankgor Wat for sunrise, getting there at about 5:30 am. It was okay, but it was cloudy so we didn't see much. It didn't occur to either of us to check the weather before going. When you've lived in a place where it's pretty much 75 and sunny every day and never rains for almost 8 years, you fall out of the habit of checking the weather.    
 This is Angkor Wat, the main temple at, uh, Angkor Wat. 

 The nice thing about getting there so early was that it wasn't too crowded. 

 A swimming pool:

 I'm not sure if you can see the detail here, but there are sculptures and etchings everywhere:

After spending the morning at Angkor Wat, we left and went back to the hotel. I wasn't feeling too well, and we saw everything we wanted to see. We bought a three-day pass, but we didn't return. 

On our third day in Siem Reap, I still wasn't feeling well, but we were able to venture out for lunch and a short walk. We found a vegetarian restaurant and ate on its second floor balcony. 
After 3 full days in Siem Reap, we left for Thailand on the 4th day. In my previous post, I mentioned that Cambodia wasn't like anything we'd experienced before, and that we could tell we weren't in a first world country. One of the noticeable differences was the lack of infrastructure-no traffic lights, paved roads, sidewalks. I snapped some pictures on our way to the airport, and you can kind of see what I mean:

Sunday, February 2, 2014

angkor wat, day 1

I majored in art and political science in college, and I have a lot of random memories from my classes in both majors. I remember very little from this art history class, but I remember learning about the Hagia Sophia, Easter Island, Machu Picchu, and Angkor Wat. I don't remember what I learned, but the slides must have really resonated with me because when Drew asked me where we should go, I knew I wanted to go to Angkor Wat. 

It was the most economical to fly to Phnom Penh and take a bus to Siem Reap, so that's what we did. Unless you have a strong constitution, I'm not sure I would recommend doing it that way and you might want to just fly into Siem Reap instead. The bus ride was long (7 hours), and the first half wasn't so bad. The scenery was nice (everyone had houses on stilts! I saw cows!), but we were on a bumpy two lane road. They say you learn stuff about yourself when you travel, and so I learned the hard way that I get motion sickness. 

We arrived at about 7 pm, and a tuk tuk driver took us straight to the hotel. We hired that same driver to take us around Angkor Wat the next day. That's really the best say to see Ankgor Wat. The place is huge, and you're not just going to walk around. Some people ride bikes, and others hire cars or go in a tour group, but it seems that most people hire a tuk tuk to drive you from temple to temple.  

I can't remember the names of all the sites, so hopefully that's not important to you. We started off here, at this location that I probably never knew the name of.   

I think Drew would want me to post the picture of him below. I tend to take pictures without either of us in them, but he prefers people pictures. I guess he wants us to have some sort of proof that we were actually at Angkor Wat. 
We strayed off the beaten path and explored these temples. We had them almost entirely to ourselves.

This is another temple, and judging by the size and number of people there, I think it was pretty major one. I think maybe it was called Angkor Thom but I forget.

The temples are really impressive in and of themselves, but what is especially impressive is the level of detail. There are carvings everywhere

Another temple we explored: 

Angkor Wat is more than temples. It's a park and you can hike around, so we did. It was nice getting away from the crowds. 
 Another temple. Here I am, pretending to the be the other lion:

This tree is awesome:
 Check out the massive roots:

Our first day at Angkor Wat was a really long one, but it was a lot of fun and we saw tons of stuff. It was a good thing we did, because I got food poisoning on our first night and was out of commission for much of the rest of our trip.