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!