Monday, November 28, 2005

And All That Jazz

Daley Plaza Tree 1

I know what you're thinking. It ain't no Rockefeller Center.

Well, you're right. But I could still appreciate the effort. This tree is located in Daley Plaza, downtown in the loop, behind one of many the government buildings. It's surrounded by the Christkindlmarket, a German-style street market selling glass ornaments, hot cocoa, and of course, wurtzes of all kinds.

Daley Plaza Light Fountains 2

Is it worth a special trip downtown to see? No, but it's not a bad stopping place on the way from the el to the Palace Theater, if you happen to be going that way. Last night Baker and I saw Chicago the Musical as it came through town on its national tour. The tickets were a birthday gift to Baker from his parents (a gift I had an interest in, I must say).

Chicago the Musical sign

The show was fun - decent but not fabulous. Paige Davis starred as Roxie Hart, and sadly, I'm pretty sure the casting choice was based sheerly on the fact that Americans will flock to and pay big bucks to see live and in person anyone they've seen on TV, even if, or perhaps especially if, she's hosted a home makeover show.

Nevertheless, an enjoyable evening, especially after a long weekend full of festivities and schoolwork.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Adventures in Culinaria Part II

What did you do last Saturday night? I bet it wasn't as fun and exciting as staying home and making mac and cheese! Yeah, that's what I thought.

Luckily, you can relive the experience here with me.

So we started with nothing but Alton's recipe and our will to succeed. I had just come off a long day of test-proctoring and data-entry (my nickname should be "Speedy Fingers" - no comments from the peanut gallery, please), but Baker was raring to go.

Baker stirring pasta

All I had to do was grate the cheese.

Lots o cheese

Within mere minutes, things were bubbling away nicely on the stovetop.

Bubbling pots

But it took a while (30+ minutes in the oven) for us to get to this point.

Bread crumb texture

We had to season our portions just so...

Pepper application

... before we were ready to eat our cheesy mounds of goodness.


Now you know why this type of blog post is often referred to as "food porn." You just wiped the drool off your chin, didn't you?

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Adventures in Culinaria

Friday night, Baker's team had a 6:30 game which actually started at 7:00 and didn't finish until after 8:30. Instead of resorting to regular Chinese take-out for a late supper, I had arranged for us to tackle what's known as the city's second Chinatown, a stretch of Argyle St. only a few blocks from our apartment.

What's makes this area different from the real Chinatown, which is down on the south side, is that the restaurants at least seem to be predominantly Vietnamese. I'm intrigued by Vietnamese food for one, because I have no experience with it, and for another, because it is heavily influenced by French cuisine. (Makes sense, since France occupied much of southeast Asia for over 100 years.)

So I combed the Internet to find the best restaurant at which to begin my foray into the world of Vietnamese food. I picked Hai Yen, a restaurant with middle-of-the-road pricing, good reviews, and a full menu printed on its website.

"And... how was the food?" you ask. Well, pretty good. "Better than plain old Chinese?" Slightly, yes. Overall, I think Vietnamese cuisine offers a greater selection of lighter, less MSG-laden dishes than one would find on a Chinese take-out menu. And the prices were comparable.

So here's what we had:

Banh Xeo (Vietnamese pancake)

Ban Xeo, or aVietnamese-style crepe

This was good but kind of bland. And I'm still not sure what made it so orange. But, for some reason I still haven't really figured out, it did come with...

Herbs and Vegetables to go with Crepes

Vegetables, including plentiful supplies of cilantro and Thai basil

Seafood Egg Rolls

Seafood egg rolls

Goi Cuon (Spring Rolls)

Goi Cuon, or Spring rolls (which were my favorite, largely because of the peanut sauce that came avec)

Orange chicken 3

Baker's dinner of orange chicken (the presentation in this photo was all him)

Dana's plate 3

And finally, my plate

All in all, a worthwhile experiment.

Stay tuned for "Adventures in Culinaria II: Baked Macaroni and Cheese." This time, it's home-made...

Friday, November 18, 2005

I decked the halls...

Garland 2

Tis not quite the season, but what can I say? I had to get out all the decorations...


the little tree...

Wreath 2

the wreath given to Baker by his grandparents...

Christmas in November garland

and the garland, which I twined together with lights and garnished with a little bow.

You know the grinch? Just think of me as his polar opposite: Dana, the anti-grinch, the embodiment of Christmas cheer.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Belted Galloway Appreciation Day

Love those belteds

These days, I seem to feel unjustified in posting if I don't include a picture. Hence, the cows. They are far removed from me in time and space but they are still quite pleasing in their pastoral beauty, aren't they?

Looking at photos of spring in Massachusetts makes me slightly sad that winter is coming to the Midwest. Today it is 53 degrees and raining. But tonight we might get snow. And tomorrow's high is 36. In addition, finals period is looming and I have two mammoth papers and a project of unknown proportions due by December 10th.

But I must say this: looking forward to a Christmas vacation spent in warmer climes is a feeling I'm just not accustomed to. For some crazy reason, I think two and a half weeks in southern California may be just what the doctor (will have) ordered at the end of the quarter...

Friday, November 11, 2005

Oh the mundanity ...

corn close-up

It's my first quiet Friday at home in two weeks and I have managed to do everything that I needed/wanted to do besides schoolwork. I ran for 22 (virtually) pain-free minutes, my first real run in many weeks of nursing a bum knee. I cleaned the bathroom and the office, even laying out a towel and a freshly-cased pillow, in preparation for a weekend visit from a friend from out of town. I did laundry. I ran the dish-washer. I even vacuumed the couch, for goodness sake.

But now I am exhausted and have no desire to read Mallarme. He is a feisty little devil who has been nagging me since the beginning of the quarter, taunting me with his obscure symbolism and his paradoxical project. I'm determined to get him once and for all.

But it looks like he will win again this afternoon. Those freshly vacuumed couch cushions look too soft and welcoming to ignore...

p.s. The corn is just cause it's fall.
p.p.s. The biggest little game in America is tomorrow. I will be watching. Amherst will win.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

A Rant

I like the New York Times, I really do. I thoroughly enjoy their fluff sections... Dining, Fashion & Style, Travel. But the articles they pass off as news are simply ridiculous sometimes. It seems like every writer has an agenda that he or she makes no effort to hide.

I could go into my own views on the issue dealt with in this article, but those are really beside the point. What bothers me most is the way the owner of this cafe in my neighborhood has been portrayed as an evil tyrant. To stoop so low as to compare the prices at his cafe with those of competing local businesses is absurd. How does what the place charges have any relevance to the purported subject of the article?

That being said, of course I will continue to take full advantage of the Times website, to procrastinate by reading Nigella Lawson food articles and by flipping through slide shows depicting European vacations. But I'm not likely to spend another nickel on their over-editorialized newspaper.

So there.

p.s. Meanwhile, this statement issued by the bookstore mentioned in the article shows just how inaccurate the article really is. For shame!

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Fall Foliage


So, Chicago ain't no New England, and the leaf peeping here is not exactly first rate. But if one takes the time to appreciate what color there is on the trees here in the city, one is all the better for it.

So without further ado, a photo gallery...

Wolley cab

A cab on Lake Shore Drive (Grant Park in the background)

Tree on quad

A firey red tree on the quad at the U of C

Morning skyline

The big tall white building and part of the Chicago skyline

Tree outside Business School

A little tree outside the business school

Lab courtyard 1

The courtyard at the U of C Lab schools

58th and Kimbark

A tunnel o' color on 58th Street

p.s. On a completely-unrelated-but-nonetheless-all-important note, it is now November. Which means that the Christmas music listening season has begun. I have begun, um, obtaining music (through perfectly legally and legitimate means of course) and I am looking for suggestions. So tell me: what is your favorite Christmas song?