Saturday, December 21, 2013

A Year in Review

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Wild Blackberry Pie

We picked a bunch of blackberries last weekend leading inevitably to the making (and consuming) of blackberry pie! We got to share with a couple friends, but for everyone further away I wanted to share our recipe. This pie is low on sugar and butter because we were using wild blackberries, and I really wanted to avoid masking their flavor (they are both sweeter and tangier than the kind I've found in the store, I'm thinking you could replicate with frozen if you use a bit more sugar and a splash of lemon juice). Here's the finished product.

Blackberry pie straight from the oven!

We started with a generous 5 cups of black berries. We picked a bit more than this but we gave about a cup to our neighbors so they could have them with ice cream. We also washed them super well because wild blackberries are home to all kinds of little critters... ick!

5 cups of fresh blackberries

Separate out one cup of berries and set aside, we'll use those later. Mix the remaining 4 cups with 1/2 cup flour and 1/2 cup sugar.

4 cups berries (reserve 1 cup for later)
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar

Mix until the berries are evenly coated, don't worry if they break down a little.

mix until combined.

Let is sit for a few minutes while the flour and sugar absorb the berry juice

it should look like this.

While you are waiting prepare your crust. I made a simple oil crust because it's fast ans super easy to work with. A butter crust would probably be delicious though. My crust also ended up a bit soggier than I would have liked, after the fact I read online that you can avoid soggy crust by brushing the bottom with egg before putting in the filling. I'll definitely give it a try next time!

Bottom crust ready for berries!

Dump in your berry mixture and spread it out so that it evenly covers the crust.

Berry mixture, it doesn't look great, but it'll taste good.
Trust me. :)

Top with the reserved berries.

almost done now!

Top with a lattice crust so that the moisture has a way to escape. If you don't want to do a lattice you could also cover with pieces of crust cut out with a cookie cutter. Just make sure to leave enough open space for the steam to get out, nobody likes runny pie. To help the pie gain a nice golden color as it bakes brush the top with milk and sprinkle generously with granulated sugar. The sugar in the milk will brown as the pie bakes and the sprinkled sugar will add a little crunch to the top.

Protip: always put a cookie sheet under your pie so that
if they leak it's not a total oven disaster.

Pop it in the oven at 425 and set a timer for 15 min. Once your timer goes off lower the temp to 375 and leave it for another 30-35 min (or until the top starts to brown and you can see the berries bubbling). When it's done, pull it out and let it cool for at least 45 min. I know, waiting for pies to cool is pretty much the hardest part of life, but it's worth it!

Waiting is the hardest part!

The first night we had it with vanilla ice cream, but I think that actually masked the flavor a little. The next day we had it by itself and it tasted way better. Cold can numb your tastebuds a little, and you want them in full working order to enjoy your pie!

* 5 cups blackberries
* 1/2 cup sugar (plus a bit more for sprinkling on top)
* 1/2 cup flour
* 9" double pie crust (pie speak for enough for the top and bottom)
* milk for brushing

1. Preheat oven to 425
2. Reserve 1 cup of blackberries and mix the remaining 4 cups with flour and sugar until well coated.
3. Let berries sit to absorb the flour sugar mixture.
4. Prepare the bottom crust (brush with egg to reduce sogginess).
5. Pour in berry mixture and top with remaining berries.
6. Cover with well ventilated crust (lattice, or cookie cutter, or standard with lots of holes cut in it).
7. Bake for 15 min at 425
8. Reduce temp to 375 and bake another 30 min, or until pie is brown and bubbly.
9. Let cool 45 min.
10. Eat!

<3 Elizabeth

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Summer Blackberries

The end of summer is hard to accept. One of the things that makes it easier in the Pacific Northwest is the arrival of blackberry season. Before today we had dabbled in a bit of urban foraging here and there on evening walks through our neighborhood. Today we committed, grabbed a bucket, and engaged in some serious berry picking.
Rule #1: Berries that are still warm from the
sun are to be eaten immediately.

This Seattle tradition runs deep, my dad took us when we were little (although we weren't really very helpful, and mostly just ate the berries) and the local practice was even feature on NPR several years ago. As noted by NPR, the plant is classified as a Class C noxious weed, which basically means it's totally invasive and grows everywhere. We have already experienced pulled armfuls or volunteer blackberries out of our backyard, we may partially submit to home grown bushes one day, but for now we are trying to limit our yard work to the variety that doesn't require rental goats to keep it under control.

Rule #2: Wear long pants, unless you you want to look
like you lost a war with a vengeful cat.

The bushed we visited today are some Nathan discovered when he was walking to work. They grow right next to the sidewalk and it's pretty common to see people stop to munch on a few as they walk past. On our way to this patch we also passed a small park that was covered with berry bushes with a little windy path making it's way through the berry packed bushes. 

Rule #3: Don't stop to eat too many berries or your
husband might walk off without you.

It didn't take long to pick enough for a pie (the goal). If we are successful hopefully I will post the yummy pie recipe soon!

Happy berry pickers, dreaming of pie.
Happy Picking!
<>< Elizabeth

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Peeling LOTS of eggs the fast way.

We got to spend last week with Krista and Jason in upstate New York and it was so nice to get to spend time with them again.  We spent the majority of our time playing badminton, watching old Star Trek, and making lattes on their new espresso machine, but we also got to participate in their church picnic. Krista signed up to bring deviled eggs so in proper picnic fashion we found ourselves late the night before buying 18 eggs from the super market (if you are an organized person you should always buy eggs at least a week before, older eggs are easier to peel).

We tried a new technique for peeling large quantities of eggs and discovered a really great method (just make sure to let the eggs cool fully before you shake them! We waited the first time we did it, and then when we made the video we didn't wait long enough and we had a couple casualties and they were harder to peel... patience is a virtue)

Peeling eggs has always been my least favorite part of making deviled eggs and using this method they basically slide right off. It is the best trick ever! Well either this or the egg separating trick. :)

Happy Peeling!

Thursday, February 21, 2013


Our San Diego Zoo passes run out at the end of April and I'm kind of super temped to renew... I know we don't live in San Diego anymore but... PANDAS!!!

Ok, probably skip the first minute of that video unless you are super into Pandas, it gets more exciting around 1:03. SOO cute!!

Walking Panda!
The San Diego Zoo also has the HOLY GRAIL of Pandas (read as "they have a baby panda"). I haven't gotten to see him in person yet but sometimes I see him remotely on the Panda cam. He'll be one year old in July, so he's extra cute and fluffy. :)

Standing Panda!

So mostly this post was an excuse to look at cute panda videos and photos. Yay pandas!

:D Elizabeth

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Valentines Day! (and Pasta Shells of Death!)

Nathan has always made me Valentine's dinner and brought me flowers, so this year we switched it up a bit. I figured after 5 years of being the Valentine's recipient, he deserved to be able to come home to a fancy meal. I recreated a Valentine's meal he made for me a couple years ago (although he did it full out by not only making home made foccacia, but also making homemade croutons from a second homemade focaccia, I considered doing this, but in the end I got a par-baked load from Fred Meyer... another reminder that Nathan is super human).

Table all set and ready to go!

The pasta recipe is similar to a traditional vodka sauce, with the addition of spicy Italian sausage and red pepper flakes to give it a little kick. This was a super popular dish in the house Nathan lived in in college and it's been with us ever since. We don't make it often since there's a fair amount of cream, and the sausage isn't all that healthy either, hence our pet name of:

Pasta Shells of Death!!!!
* 2 Tbsp Olive Oil
* 1 lb Italian Sausage (Hot)
* Red pepper flakes to taste
* 1 onion diced
* 5 cloves garlic, minced
* 1 cup vodka
* fresh basil leaves
* 1 16oz can of diced italian tomatoes
* 1 8oz can of tomato sauce
* 1 1/2 cup heavy cream
* 1 lb medium pasta shells

(I happen to think this would be awesome with mushrooms too, but Nathan and I are not agreed on this point, if you think you would like mushrooms, I'd suggest adding them in towards the end of the onions step. Also if you want to make a veg-version you could replace the sausage with mushrooms and I bet that would be amazing!)

1. Heat the oil in a pan and add the red pepper flakes

2. Add the sausage to the pan mush it around so that it breaks into manageable chunks, keep cooking until the insides of the chunks are not pink inside and the outside start to brown (set aside) <-- (I forgot to do this part because I have a thing about not reading directions, instead I drained the grease from the pan and added the onions and garlic directly to the sausage. I am happy to report that nothing bad happened, although in the future I think I'd like to try to drain the sausage on a towel for a bit to reduce the grease as much as possible).

3. Add onions and garlic and sauté until transparent

4. Start to boil pasta water

5. If you took the sausage out put it back in.

6. Add Vodka, if you are feeling adventurous, add a bit more. I went a little wild with a cup and a half, hey we buy this stuff at Costco so I can afford to live dangerously.

7. Simmer until vodka is reduced by half (not long, alcohol is good at evaporating)

8. Add basil, diced tomatos and tomato sauce.

9. Simmer some more, just let it keep going until your pasta's done.

10. Add cream and stir until well combined.


I also made Tiramisu for dessert, that was more tricky because the directions I had were a bit skimpy. It turned out alright but I was a bit light handed with the Kahlua, we also buy this from Costco, so I think I'll add more next time, and maybe make some fresh espresso too!

Elephants enjoying the bouquet.


Tuesday, February 19, 2013

San Diego February

Even though we moved, I'm still finishing up my degree in San Diego, so I have to go down about once a month to meet with my advisor and my research team. This is both great and hard at the same time because although I love visiting our friends in SD, I miss Nathan a lot. Between my San Diego trips and my conference trips I sometimes am gone for half the month or more. We have lived long distance quite a bit through our marriage (San Diego-Sunnyvale, Seattle-Sunnyvale, Seattle-San Diego, San Diego-Cambridge, UK), but somehow it is even worse to go back and forth between being close and far apart.

Oh palm trees and ocean! I miss you!
Please jump in my carry-on!
...Oh wait... do you count as a liquid?!? Drat!

I try to make my San Diego visits as fruitful as possible. This time I was able to give a practice talk, attend some group meetings, meet with my advisor, and have some fantastic paper visioning/outlining meetings with my officemate Laura. I also try to intentionally spend time with some of our closest friends in SD, which meant a mini road trip/sister reunion in mammoth (we'll get you next time Roshni and Laura!), a super fun movie sleep over/beach breakfast with our old roommate the night before my flight, an ammeture recording session with our CSE friends (I'll post when we finish, it's pretty rad), and my first ever country line dancing at In Cahoots with our friend Jennifer from GCF. Oh! I also watched the Bachelor for the first time and I think it seems an eery paralel to finding an academic job... you put yourself out there, try to look appealing but not desperate, you don't really know what the other person is looking for, and you progress or get eliminated in a relatively opaque fashion.

About to go down an unsettlingly steep part
of the mountain... or at least Sarah and I though so?
Everyone else was going rather fast
and looked pretty comfortable. :-\

Learning "Whiskey Drinkin" my first line dance ever!

relaxing post breakfast beach stroll
before my 10:10am flight


Monday, February 18, 2013

Cascades Camp - Feb 2013

The first week of February we went with our new church in Washington to Cascades Camp and Conference Center for a retreat. Nathan and I both worked at Cascades for a summer so it was super fun to be back. This time was extra special because we got to go with our friend Margaret who move up with us from San Diego (she used to be one of my trusty Disneyland buddies, now we'll need to find cool Northwest stuf to do! maybe we can just go to Disneyland still... we'll have to see). 

Horse and Mount Rainier

We heard from John Kiemele from the Selah Center. Selah is a word in the Bible that is seen in the Psalms. I don't think we have the exact word equivalent in English, but it basically means to take a moment to pause and reflect. Pausing is something that is hard to do and for me it helps to have structured pausing. I know that sounds kind of counter intuitive, but setting aside time to think and reflect helps me a lot (camp not having wireless internet, or phone coverage also helped a lot).

Mountain is behind us, but we had a hard time
figuring out where to put our heads... oh well :)

It was also a time to get to know our church better.  Margaret went on a fun walk with some of the ladies from our church, and I went on a horse back ride with some of the middle school girls (so... maybe I never gave up the childhood dream of owning a horse, this is as close as I've gotten so far though...). One of the things I love about our church is how intergenerational it is. We hung out with toddlers, teenagers, people our age, middle aged folks and retirees and everyone was awesome and fun.

Mount Rainier with teeny tiny horses in the field.

Nathan and Little Babar enjoying the
view of Elbow Lake from our window. Selah?


Sunday, February 17, 2013

Mammoth - Girls Weekend 2013

I am super happy to have the best academic sisters you could ask for. They are crazy smart and fun, and you can talk about anything with them. Also, there is zero drama, which is a coveted and cherished quality in girlfriends. :) Our academic sister Lisa lives in Mammoth, now that she's graduated, and every year we try to have a reunion together, to ski/snowboard, cook, watch movies, outlet shop, and eat the amazing Schat's cheesy bread. 

meeting Wooly the Mammoth at the top of the
mountain! (photo credit Sarah)

Last year we had a last minute reschedule because Nathan broke his jaw the the week before we were supposed to head up, so Sarah and I rescheduled to drive up later. This was a very fun trip which you can read about here, but it meant that we missed Roshni, our super awesome academic sister who was flying in and couldn't change her plans. Roshni and Lisa had a good time, but we were all super looking forward to this year when we could finally be all together. 

This year everything was scheduled perfectly, until a Roshni's plane was coming in for it's landing, after circling and making one attempt, the captain announced there was a mechanical failure and they were flying back to SFO instead of landing. There are so few flights to Mammoth, United couldn't reschedule her until after her return flight on Sunday so they reimbursed her tickets instead. Now we will wait one more year to see if we can finally reunite. Here's hoping that third time's the charm!

We did have a good time just the three of us. Here's some pictures: :)

Hot Chocolate and German Chocolate
Cake at the top of the mountain!
(Photo credit Sarah)

The view from the top of Mammoth Mountain!

Skiers and Boarders prepare for going down black diamond
runs (don't worry... we stuck to green runs,
much more fun/doable!)

Some Joshua Trees on the drive back to San Diego

Reuniting of the fluffy gang!


Sunday, January 20, 2013

Reviving Celery

We try really hard not to waste vegetables, but it's actually pretty easy to forget to check the status of the crisper drawer residents. Such was the fate of our celery. Originally purchased as an ingredient in cranberry turkey stuffed squash (recipe to come), the remaining stems lay forgotten in the back of the fridge for weeks.

Poor depressed celery, it feels alone and forgotten

Not surprisingly when I finally dug it out there wasn't much life left. The stalks were kinda squishy and unappetizing. Definitely not crispy or delicious. I was about to toss them when I remembered something I heard about reviving celery by letting it sit in water. I decided to give it a try so I snipped the base off of the stems to allow the water to seep in and set them in a cup of cold water. 

I wasn't sure how long it would take, so I kept checking every hour. I was pretty sure it wasn't working because even several hours later my celery looked as sad as ever. After a while I forgot about it, and it wasn't until the evening of the next day that I looked again. 

The celery's mood greatly improves after a long relaxing soak

My celery had completely revived! It stood up straight and was totally recovered! I felt kind of like a wizard. Unfortunately, I then proceded to forget about it on the window sill for several more days (not recommended), and it started to grow something on it, so I ended up throwing it out anyway... :(

1. Discover overlooked squishy celery in the back of your fridge
2. Chop off bottoms so that the stems can absorb water
3. Fill a cup partway with cold water and set the celery in the cup
4. Wait (mine took overnight)
5. Enjoy!


Saturday, January 19, 2013

Adventures in Egg Separating

A while back my dad sent me an email that included a link to a chinese youtube video. It starts slow, but by the midpoint the lady has used an old soda bottle to skillfully separate an egg. It's actually pretty much the coolest thing ever. I was a little skeptical if it would really work, so I asked Nathan to bring a plastic bottle home from work so that I could try it. Not long, after my friend Krista and I were baking a cake and we needed to separate eggs! What a golden opportunity!!! I grabbed my camera and here's what happened.

We ended up separating 10 eggs that night so it was the perfect time to test. We were also watching Brave at the time. I think the background music syncs up rather nicely with our egg separating adventure. 

Happy Baking!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

12 Days of Christmas (letter) - December!!!

In which friends visit, Elizabeth completes a personal goal, and CHRISTMAS HAPPENS!!

Happy 12th day of Christmas! Here is the last installment of our 12 Days of Christmas letter. December started slowly with my monthly trip to San Diego right in the middle of the month. I was able to do some air sampling at the boarder with my officemate Nima, and we also met with a university reporter to talk about our research (now in the San Diego Union Tribune, and the NSF news site!). I also worked on applying for jobs, and refining a research study I'm running with one of my lab-mates.

Air sampling equipment.

I was staying with my officemate Sarah and we got together with one of the other guys from our lab for dinner and board games one night which was really fun. I miss living away from them, I have a pretty sweet lab.

I was also able to spend a few evenings at Disneyland which made me super happy because I hit my personal goal of 24 visits this year (This is perfectly normal... um... maybe... I have to go now...). I went with Sarah from my lab and David from Nathan's lab, as well as a couple of girls who I know through Sarah. It was really fun and everything was decorated really nicely. I also got to see the candlelight vigil for the first time which was super pretty and nice. The night is was there it was hosted by Dick Van Dyke and he did all the readings. He even did a Mary Poppin's move with his umbrella when it started to lightly rain. :) Here's a video snippet I took of him reading and the candlelight choir singing. 

When I came back to Seattle it was almost Christmas time and we started the season by taking a trip up to the German Christmas Market in Vancouver Canada.

Cheers! Gluwine and Spiced Cider!
We also went to see the Hobbit at the Imax theater. This was our second movie of the year so it was pretty exciting. I think it might actually count for two movies since it was almost 3 hour long! Here we are at the science center waiting for the Imax Theater to open. We got to sit in the handicap seats because Nathan was on crutches due to an "overzealous stair decent" earlier in the week.

Giant table!
Butterfly house

...and then it was Christmas

We spent Christmas Eve at my parent's house with my sister, her fiance Ryan, and our close friend Hillary. Christmas day we had our traditional Dim Sum lunch with my mom's side of the family.

Becca loves Dim Sum!

Nathan photo Bomb!

Then we headed back to the house to prepare Christmas dinner. Nathan's sister and her family were also able to join us and it was really nice to have both sides of the family there. 

Penguin and Human, next gen cousins! maybe?

Nathan introduces his nephew to our penguin. 

Preparing dinner

yes, that's jello salad
and yes, it has cottage cheese in it.

Sitting down to dinner!

Nathan's mom and younger sister couldn't come on Christmas day so we hosted Christmas again on Dec 30th, can't have too much Christmas!

Our Christmas tree!

Nephew with his Grandma

Christmas dinner 2.0, this time with salmon!
and there is more jello salad too.

December held some exciting adventures for the penguin and elephant as well.

Penguin playing with the balloon in the
backseat on the way to  visit grandma

Penguin's 5th Birthday! One day maybe we'll actually
give him a fish, but this year we made a chocolate pie.

Salmon AND Rockfish!?! Favorite Christmas ever.

Festive Penguin

Festive Elephant

I also go to spend a day playing Epic Mickey with my
friend who lives near us.
She let me wear he Oswald ears which made it extra fun!