We’re headed to the game tomorrow, Nationals vs. Pirates.

The new park is incredible (punny restaurants and all), and I’m looking forward to spending a spring afternoon at the ballpark.

Blog Watching

With the introduction of Google Reader into my daily Internet habits, I’ve been keeping tabs on a few more blogs than normal. Those who know me know that I am prone to sending around articles and other reading materials, and really, blogs are no different! I thought I’d highlight a few of my favorites. They may not know that they are my favorites, but they are about to find out. It’s a mix of established blogs (ie people who blog for a living) and other friends and random connections.

Marc Ambinder – After my stint in campaign world came to an end, I needed a break from 2008 politics. A long and sustained hiatus. But of course, as political junkies know, it is hard to go cold turkey. My two week vacation helped, along with some internet boycotting. These days, Marc Ambinder is the only person I read who writes about the 2008 race, aside from the occasional NYTimes story. He is thoughtful, smart, and doesn’t get bogged down in the non-stories of politics.

TheBarnstorming – This blog was introduced to me by a Williams friend, and being an Eph myself, I like to plug the efforts of other former residents of the Purple Valley. But in addition to being Williams alums, these two are hilarious and quite inspiring. They write and illustrate books (I’m about to subscribe!) and he writes this blog, which makes me laugh out loud at least once a day, which is always a good thing! Witty and entertaining, this one is a blogroll must if you like books, babies, and barns.

Daniel Drezner – Another Eph, see a theme? Daniel Drezner is a political scientist professor who has some of the best writing on American foreign policy. Since this was my “concentration” in college, I’m particularly interested in what he writes. This blog is good paired with Useless Tree and Abu Aardvark, two of my former professors at Williams which might appear in future Blog Watching episodes.

60 second books – Gotta plug my brother’s blog, both for the excellent mini book reviews and for the stellar writing. Go check it out, you’ll get addicted to the snappy prose and good book recommendations!

That’s all for this edition of Blog Watching. If you have any great blogs that you love to read, leave them in the comments, I am always looking for more!

Computer trauma

My computer has returned to me after a traumatic episode in its two year old lifespan. First we had a corrupted operating system, then a defective battery, and a whiny logic board to top it all off! But with the help of the wonderful people at the Apple store Genius Bar, we are back up and running again after a short trip to Appleland.

I’m going to be posting much of normal stuff but with a particular focus on baking as I try some new recipes. Look for a post about my lesson at Cakelove!

Note to self

Never, never, never, ever use unsweetened chocolate for baking (unless you know how to sweeten it).

Photos to follow.

The end.

Since I usually cook for one, I am always looking for recipes that will help me use up extra ingredients from other meals. This pasta sauce is basically a simple bolognese sauce, but when I tried to look up bolognese sauces in my cookbooks, they called for lots of extra ingredients that I didn’t have, so I decided to make it up.

I know this is a pretty basic recipe, but I had fun with it, especially using up my leftovers.

Tonight I had several things in my fridge that needed to be used up:

ground beef
half an onion
three slices of pancetta (you can definitely use normal bacon as well)

to this ingredient list I added:

1 can of tomato sauce (you could also use any sauce from a bottle, Classico etc), olive oil, sea salt, pepper, half a box of pasta, and a few red pepper flakes.

First I chopped up the onion and minced some shallots. Shallots are great to use in pasta sauces that you have to simmer because they give a similar taste to garlic but they don’t burn as easily. I sauteed the onions and shallots with some olive oil and waited until the onions turned translucent. Then I added the mushrooms. After sauteeing the mushrooms until they were cooked, but not completely, I added the ground beef.

I should add that while these things were sauteeing, I started the water for the pasta and fried the pancetta in the microwave. I could have fried the pancetta with my onions and shallots, but I was worried about all the fat affecting the taste of the mushrooms. I also have a smallish stove and needed the workspace! I chopped up the pancetta and added it to the beef, onions and mushrooms.

After cooking the beef for a bit I opened the can of sauce and put it in a pot. I turned the heat on low and let the sauce heat up a bit. After making sure the beef was fully cooked I took the whole beef, mushroom, onion mixture and transferred it with a slotted spoon to the sauce. Beef creates a lot of juices which don’t always make your sauce taste that good! A little is okay, but don’t overdo it.

I let the sauce simmer for a good 15 mins. In theory, sauce can simmer for much longer, especially if it is in larger quanities, but I didn’t have that much time tonight. I added the red pepper flakes to the sauce and tasted it to see if it needed a bit more pepper (it did!).

After draining the pasta and checking the sauce one more time, I combined and enjoyed my meal! I had enough for dinner and enough for lunch tomorrow, which to me is the perfect recipe!

Back from abroad

I’m back from my two week trip, and what a trip it was! I saw so many incredible things, I will hopefully try and put together a few travelogue posts, but knowing my sometimes lack of attention to this blog, I’ll have to see it to believe it!

Anyways, it was so good to get away, clear my head, and just focus on having new experiences. The company was the best, the sights were unbelievable, and I saw and experienced many things that I never imagined.

It was my first trip to the Middle East plus all the decadence and fun of Paris, the perfect combination! Looking back, I can’t quite believe it all worked out so well, but I am so happy that it did.

Stay tuned for more on the travel, plus the coming of spring to DC! I’m so happy the weather is warmer, everyone is more cheerful, and there are plenty of fun things to do in the city. Plus April books are on their way, I am in the middle of a page turner right now and I want to finish it before this month’s installment.

I know…

that no one reads this, but I’m putting up a vacation note anyways!

I’m traveling overseas for two weeks, photos and updates when I return.

A few weeks ago a friend and I decided to try a new restaurant, something un-Metro accessible because the red line has been a nightmare all weekend, and also because we liked trying things off the beaten path. We chose Colorado Kitchen, so called because of it’s address and it’s informal style. The place is busy, busy for a restaurant in a neighborhood where there are no other lighted storefronts!


The decor is like a diner, with kitschy salt and pepper shakers, silver diner tables with red fake leather, plastic menus, and a array of colorful sodas including a root beer du jour! But the menu, except for the plastic part, is nothing like a diner. It is Southern modern American comfort food but upscale.

We wanted to try the goat cheese fritters to start, supposedly one of the highlights of menu, but sadly they were out. Instead we had a yummy mixed green salad with great dressing. For our main course, my friend had the fish special, ray (sting?) with these puffy sweet potato fritters and a vegetable. I had the garlic encrusted pork chop with creamy polenta and carmelized onions. It was heavy food, but comforting and good for the cold evening.

Our entrees were very good, especially the ray, but the real star was our dessert. As it’s gotten to be a trendy dessert item, I have had my share of molten chocolate lava cakes, or sometimes they are just called chocolate torts. But this one beat them all, it was warm and chocolatey and accompanied by delicious cinnamon ice cream.

All in all, the service was friendly (if a bit stressed because of the busy tables) and the food was innovative and delicious. I would definitely recommend Colorado Kitchen!

March Books!

Whew, I haven’t done a book post in a long while. I’m happy to be back to what brought me to blogging in the first place, and I’m also happy to have a life again where I can read a lot of books! I felt like a long review this month instead of more books, so if you need another recommendation, feel free to drop a comment for me! So without further ado….

Life Class by Pat Barker

One Sunday a few weeks ago, my roommate convinced me to watch Private Ryan for the first time. I don’t enjoy war movies, or violent movies in general, but I think they are important to watch. As I was lying awake trying to get the war images out of my mind, I decided to pick up the book I was reading, Life Class. Unfortunately, World War I replaced World War II as what kept me up at night!

Life Class is principally the story of Paul and Elinor, two art students who meet at Slade, a premier art college in London. Paul is struggling, having used landscapes to escape his alcoholic mother and depressed father, he cannot paint anything “real” that does not allow him to devolve into fantasy. Elinor is talented but restless, kept under the thumb of her proper mother and famous journalist father. Elinor is desired by both Paul and Neville, though the two men could not be more different. Where Paul is awkward Neville is smooth, where Paul is sincere Neville is flighty, and where Paul is artistically stuck Neville has his first gallery show. Both men, frustrated by England’s sputtering entry into the war, join up on the Belgian front. Paul works in a field hospital as an orderly and hopes to be promoted to ambulance driver.

Paul’s time in the field hospital is where the story intensifies and becomes increasingly complex. Elinor goes to the front to visit Paul, and finds herself overcome with the depth of Paul’s experience, the suffering of the patients, and barrenness of the war zone. Meanwhile, Paul is again using an escape hatch to suppress his feelings: Elinor.

I won’t give away the ending, but I recommend it based on the author’s vivid writing of the World War I period and the complexity of the relationships between young people barely able to comprehend the events the world has wrought.

Royal icing

This weekend I took my first crack at homemade sugar cookies with royal icing. My goal was to make these cookies look as similar to those in the Williamstown coffee shop as possible, and while I don’t know that I was completely successful in looks, the feedback at the office and from my roommate was very positive as far as taste! It took me a while to figure out which recipe to use, and I settled on the “rich roll cookies” from Joy of Cooking. For the icing, I used a modified royal icing recipe from a baker on this website. The best thing about the cookie recipe is the almond extract, I have made sugar cookies before with vanilla extract, but this was so much better.

Laid out on the cookie sheet, (as you can see, these were my more decorationally challenged cookies!)


Packed up for the office


All in all I highly recommend the recipes I used, with the exception of the dough being a little hard to roll at times (hint: chill for more or less time depending on the coolness of your fridge), and they were very fun to make. I think as I repeat the recipe and get better at rolled cookies they will be less time intensive.