Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Mac & Cheese: The Repeat

I made mac & cheese again, using this recipe I previously tried. This time I used provolone instead of gruyere because the gruyere received a definitive thumbs down. I kind of liked it, but agree that it was a bit strong. I used a blend of cheddar and provolone with some monterey jack in the cheese sauce this time. On top of the casserole, I put provolone and cheddar.

The original recipe calls for chipotle chile powder, which I still don't have on hand. I used about an eighth of a teaspoon of hot paprika in the cheese sauce, plus the garlic powder and salt called for in the recipe. I sprinkled some regular Hungarian paprika on top before I baked it.

With the provolone and cheddar combination, it seems like some onion would have tasted really good in there. The next time, I'll probably try mixing in some onion powder, or other form of onion to give it just a hint of flavor. Another option would be to very finely chop some onion and mix it in with the cheese sauce and pasta before baking.
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Whole Wheat Apple Muffins

I made these whole wheat apple muffins over the weekend from a recipe I found at Smitten Kitchen. These were described as "awesome," "wonderful," "no changes needed to this recipe." They are really quite tasty. I used buttermilk (recipe calls for either buttermilk or yogurt) and two huge Golden Delicious apples - they were what I had on hand. There almost seemed to be more apple than batter.
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Saturday, May 24, 2008

A bored geographer...

This is what happens when you have a bored geographer with a limited amount of time on their hands...

Maps of where I've been. Sometimes it seems like a lot of places, and sometimes it seems like I haven't been anywhere. Guess it depends on whether it's a glass half full or a glass half empty kind of day.

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A Basset Hound with Patience...

I didn't realize such a thing existed.

View from a Hotel Room Window - Atlanta, GA - May 2008

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Found money!

I just spent about 10 days in Atlanta working. Working long, hard days. I got to go outside twice a day -- going between the car and the office and between the car and the hotel. The weather during those fleeting moments was really wonderful.

But even though I was in the office working for what seems like forever, I did manage to find $.35. $.10 in the hotel parking lot and $.25 in the MARTA ticket machine. I added the $.10 to the Mike E retirement fund shown above. One of my coworkers started this by putting a penny in the window of Mike's cubicle, and others have simply added to it over time. I put the dime I found in the next window over. Not sure when/if anyone noticed there was a dime instead of a penny in there. Apparently, this is approximately $1.50.
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Ground Squirrel Convention

This is the view from our new apartment. I took this during the daily ground squirrel convention -- I count 5 different squirrels out there. They're everywhere. They even dig in the dirt area just outside our door that I'm planning on putting some plants in. I'm even going to get a pot and put some tomatoes in there, unless it's too late for that.
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Sunday, May 11, 2008

Billy's Boathouse Grill

We ate at Billy's Boathouse Grill tonight. It was a bit on the disappointing side.

I had the shrimp and scallop alfredo (the fried shrimp looked good, but I just had fried shrimp last weekend). The shrimp and scallops were good, and there was a pretty even amount of both shrimp and scallops. But the sauce was heavy and cloying (yes, I know it's alfredo, but even this was a bit too much). I ended up picking out the shrimp and scallops, and just having a few bites of the side vegetables. I had the vegetables on the side, instead of potatoes or rice, and they were overcooked and bland. The broccoli was so cooked it was pretty much not green anymore.

Carlon had the steak sandwich. The steak was good quality meat, but it wasn't seasoned before it was cooked, which would have imparted a nice flavor. There was also a side of cole slaw, but it looked like KFC cole slaw, and tasted watery.

While we were there, there was a group of women in the next room over. They started screaming at one point in time, and the men from the bar started going to this room. Instead of baboon mating calls, I guess these were human mating calls. I never realized that if I screamed along with a bunch of other women at the same time that men would appear. And I'm pretty sure that I'm not going to try it at any time in the future, either.

Chocolate Storage Question

Where should you store your chocolate?

Key West, Florida

Mile 0 marker for US 1, Key West.

Rooster at Blue Heaven restaurant, Key West.
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Smathers Beach, Key West, Florida

These are photos from our trip to Key West last summer. This is Smathers Beach, one of the public beaches in Key West.

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Key West, Florida

View from the Turtle Kraals restaurant in Key West.

Interior courtyard of the Turtle Kraals restaurant where they hold turtle races.

Church in Key West.
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Saturday, May 10, 2008

Great Pyrs at Jax Beach

On one of our Friday happy hours, we saw a woman walking, really more attempting to walk, a couple of Great Pyrenees. If you don't already know, Pyrs are these giant white dogs that are gentle guardians. They're bred to protect herds of sheep and work on farms in the Pyrenees Mountains. They are absolutely beautiful dogs, with the softest fur. My mom has one, and when she's had a bath (the dog, that is), she's just incredibly soft. Of course, she does roll in the dirt at the first opportunity, resulting in leaves hanging from her tail.

The one on the right in this photo is just a young pup. I believe their names were Glacier and Ice, but it's been a few weeks since I saw them and I can't remember for sure.
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Ocean Club Happy Hour

Why we moved to the beach!!

We've been going to the Ocean Club for happy hour on Fridays now for a few weeks. The bartender now recognizes us and has our drinks ready for us as we get to the bar. It's right on the beach in Jacksonville Beach, just immediately south of the pier (which costs a $1 to enter, by the way). They have two for one specials and it's just so nice to be able to be in a casual place and enjoy the weather. We enjoy the people watching -- some folks walks dogs, some folks walk dogs much bigger than they are, some swagger, some skateboard, and some ride some amazingly interesting bikes.

When gazing to the east (towards the ocean) -- yes, I know, for a West Coaster, it's hard to "re-orient" myself and accept that the sun rises in the ocean and sets over land, everything inside the covered area is just a silhouette. The bartender said he recognized us by the way we walk because everything he sees is a silhouette/outline.
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20 year reunion angst

My 20 year high school reunion is coming up. It brings back lots of memories. Some I'd like to forget, and some I can't believe I've forgotten.

There's this wonderful site started by one of my friends and co-graduates for members of the Arlington High School Class of '88. Although co-graduates isn't quite the right term, I can't find the word I'm looking for. That would be the flicker-flicker vs zot that Mrs. Miller of AP English always talked about. (Hey, look at that, two sentences that end in prepositions!)

I see names of people I don't recognize, yet at one point in time I thought I'd never forget the other 200 or so people that graduated high school with me. Some I remember as cheerleaders, and I wonder, do they still remember those cheers they chanted at every football game for four years? I know I remember some of them. I hear other high schools' cheers occasionally and the AHS, Lions, and maroon and gold of my high school years come flooding back. I wonder if drill team members remember their routines.

I had completely forgotten about this "contraband" t-shirt that was created by another member of the Class of '88 until I read about it on her page on the class site. Yet I just recently saw that shirt in a box when I was moving. How could I forget about something that was such a huge issue at the time because it resulted in someone being suspended? Yet I can remember what I ate for lunch every day during sophomore year? (Oh, yeah, it was really, really healthy [said in an extremely sarcastic tone].)

And I wonder, what should I say to some of these folks? I remember some very well, and others I'm not sure how to go about contacting them. Everyone seems to have kids except me, so I feel sometimes like I got left behind at the dock while everyone else made it to the party boat. I can't even imagine what it would be like to have kids -- the time commitment, the sheer joy of loving a child. So I feel at a loss as to how to try and connect with some people. My children: B.A., M.A., and PhD. My experiences have been how to cope with jet lag while they deal with diapers and preschool. Seeing all these folks, and recalling some of these memories, I sometimes feel like I'm back in high school, intimidated by all these people that are more perfect again. Yet I know that we are all people, that we all have the same feelings of love and joy and pain. But it's so easy to fall into those old patterns even 20 years later.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Cool friend photos

A friend of mine is currently having a grand adventure in Qatar and has posted some photos on Flickr.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Clearwater, Florida

Clearwater Beach, Florida -- beautiful white sand beach on the Gulf of Mexico. Clear water, no waves. Sand is soft, but very, very bright on the eyes.

The previous day we went to Ft DeSoto Park beach, part of the Pinellas County park system, and has one of the highest rated beaches of white sand according to the signs at the beach. To get to the actual beach, we had to wade through a lagoon (and the water was cold!). The weather was lovely, not too hot. But the water still wasn't very warm and the waves weren't very big.

Mile marker along the Gulf Cities, going from Clearwater south to St Pete Beach, the barrier islands off of Clearwater and St Petersburg. There's a trolley system that goes all along Gulf Blvd with stops along the 25 miles.

Pelicans at Johns Pass, Madeira Beach. We stopped at Johns Pass and had lunch at the Friendly Fisherman, then wandered along the boardwalk. The usual touristy kitsch was available for purchase.
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St Petersburg, Florida

Pelicans at St Petersburg, Florida, near the pier, by the Art Museum.

Sea horse on the ground on the foot of the pier at St Petersburg, Florida.

Boats in Tampa Bay, view from the end of St Petersburg Pier.

We went to St Petersburg, Florida this weekend, staying at the Pier Hotel near downtown. It's an older hotel, and it's big selling point is a lovely veranda on which we sipped wine during afternoon/evening happy hour. The rooms were decent sized, but the bathrooms were tiny. And there was no view except for the backside of another building from our room. And the walls with the connecting doors were a bit thin, we could hear a lot more of our next door neighbors' conversation than we really wanted.

Another great selling point was the fact that there was so much within walking distance -- the art and history museums (which I hope to get to the next time we go to St Pete), the pier, Central Avenue (first Friday of the month is a huge street party), and lots of restaurants and shops.

For dinner on Friday, we ate at the Central Avenue Oyster Bar. I had the crab cakes and enjoyed them. There was clearly recognizable crab meat in them, and they weren't mushy. They had just enough spice for flavor (in other words, they weren't too hot for me!). Carlon had the bourbon salmon. Dinner started with a caesar salad. And was accompanied by bread served with olive oil drizzled over grated parmesan cheese. Sides were fresh vegetables (broccoli, yellow squash, green beans) and mashed potatoes. The vegetables were clearly fresh, although the broccoli was a tad overcooked. The potatoes were bland. Service was good.

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Lasagne: Carrabba's v Maggiano's

We've recently had the opportunity to eat out numerous times, so often in fact, that I've forgotten what we have in the refrigerator. The other week we ate at Carrabba's here in Jacksonville, and last Thursday we ate at Maggiano's in Tampa. And I tried the lasagne at both of them. And my favorite was Carrabba's.

The Maggiano's lasagne was huge. Gigantic. So large it could have fed 3-4 people, at a minimum. And that was for a single serving. It also had layers of sausage slices, which I'm not that fond of in my lasagne, with meat sauce poured on top. The ratio of sauce to lasagne wasn't very good -- I prefer plenty of sauce to ricotta, but I had to scrape the plate to get enough sauce. The sauce was poured on top of the lasagne, then the plate was placed in the oven to heat it up before being served.

The Carrabba's lasagne wasn't so huge, it was a decent sized serving, and I brought some home as leftovers. The sauce was baked with the lasagne, and the sauce to lasagne ratio meant that there was a good mix of sauce, noodle, and ricotta in each bite.

We were going to have dessert at Maggiano's, but when the waiter described it as being an 1/8th of a basketball in size, we decided that it was too large, even for two people to share.