Saturday, June 30, 2007

Terrific Twisted Noodles

A couple of nights ago, my parents and I went to Thai Cafe and had another excellent meal. They had a new coconut shrimp appetizer special, which was good. It came with a mayonnaise based sauce, which I wasn't as crazy about, because their tangy honey based dipping sauces are so much better. The real excitement of the evening was my parking job. When my dad saw how close I was to the bricks, he repeatedly urged me not to mess with masonry. I, however, was rather pleased with my efforts.

Last night, after guitar practice, I wanted to try out one of the newer restaurants in Durham, so we all went to Twisted Noodles, a new Thai restaurant in one of the strip malls on University Drive, kind of behind Eastern Lights. JA told me that I'd never go to Thai Cafe again after tasting the food at Twisted Noodles. I don't think that's actually true, but I was immensely pleased.

I ordered Pad Thai, since that's the standard basis of comparison for most Thai restaurants. It was excellent and I was pleased to have enough for my lunch this afternoon. Thai Cafe's strikes me as somewhat on the mushy side, while the noodles I had last night had the perfect firmness. I like a little more emphasis on the tamarind flavor, but it was very good and that's just my personal preference. JJ had the duck special, which our waiter described as "the show", because it came out on an almost deafening sizzling hot platter. The bite that I tasted was absolutely delicious.

Dessert was actually the best of all. For $1.95, they have warm crepes rolled in condensed milk and sugar, called rotee. They are simply wonderful and it's a nicely sized portion, cut into six pieces. You can get it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream for another $2, but I think it's completely unnecessary.

A restaurant critics, albeit an amateur one, should always go to a restaurant more than once before reviewing it, right? Well, I did just that. I decided that my parents needed to go to Twisted Noodles as soon as possible. We shared the shrimp tempura appetizer. The batter is thinner than Thai Cafe's, so it's not nearly as doughy. Both the shrimp and the broccoli were great. You probably get more for your money at Thai Cafe, since that is almost more than I can eat as a meal, but this was a good sized portion and practical to share. I had an enormous bowl of roast pork wonton and noodle soup, which was delicious. I have more than enough for lunch tomorrow. I'd been looking forward to having a second rotee all day and my second one was just as good as the first.

Some important things to note: They do not have enough wait staff and may not have enough people working in the kitchen. Tonight we observed four people get up and leave, because no one took their order. That said, their staff are extremely courteous and friendly and the food is worth the wait. I have no idea how common this is, but in the two times I've been there, they've been out of several things and have removed some items from the menu. Don't be surprised and just consider it as part of the charm.

Will I quit going to the Thai Cafe? Of course not. I love the Thai Cafe Baskets, the Massaman curry dishes, their coconut soup with shrimp and their potstickers. It's also pretty fast. I am excited that they are expanding and hope that their popularity will continue. No, I am just looking forward to enjoying Thai food even more often now!

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Refreshing Cucumber-Mint Salad for an Indoor Picnic

We were supposed to take off from work this afternoon and have a picnic at a shelter in Duke Forest, but we had to cancel due to an impending thunderstorm. It was rather hot today, so that might have been a good thing.

I made a cucumber-mint salad, which I thought turned out well. I based it on parts of recipes I saw on the web, but it was influenced heavily by what I happened to have on hand. In lieu of the picnic, we ended up snacking on perishable goods (cookies can spoil within minutes, I hear) in the quasi-kitchen and the salad is almost gone, so I must not have been the only one. I thought it was pretty, too, but ironically, I didn't photograph it.

Here's the recipe:
6 medium sized cucumbers
1 cup (or so) of coarsely chopped fresh mint
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp olive oil
black pepper

I peeled and sliced the cucumbers and added the mint. I put the lemon juice, sugar, pepper and oil in a jar and shook it before pouring it on the cucumbers. I stirred it all up and put it in the refrigerator overnight, so the flavors blended quite a bit.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Slushy Granita Goodness

Yes, it is worth the mess. It's wonderful. It has the perfect tartness, in my opinion.

This camera phone pic doesn't do it justice, but I was in a hurry to try the granita and I was uploading photos from my SD card at the time. The recipe makes a quart, so I'm looking forward to several more servings.

In other news, my as yet unlabeled Field Day 2007 pics are now available on Flickr. We had a great time and I made 6 contacts on 40 meter phone and 10 contacts on digital PSK31, on 40 meters.

Granita Goo

Since I wanted to use up some of my naked lemons from making the lemon-blackpepper-cornmeal cookies last weekend, I decided to make lemon granita from the same Luscious Lemon Desserts cookbook. At a high level, it's pretty easy until you realize that you need to put a 9"x13" pan full of sticky liquid onto a shelf in the freezer. I had realized that enough to clear out a space, but not to realize how difficult it is to keep such a pan....level. The one I'm using is made of pyrex glass so it's on the heavy and unwieldy side. I'm imagining that some sort of container with a plastic or rubber tight-fitting lid would be so much nicer than just covering it with tinfoil.

You also need to stir the frozen stuff every half hour for a few hours, which means precariously taking it out of the freezer again. I think my kitchen is going to be sticky for a while, no matter how much I scrub.

Stay tuned and find out whether the taste of the granita will make it all worthwhile. I have a feeling that I'm going to want the ice cream/sorbet maker attachment for my Kitchenaid mixer in the not too distant future.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Field Day 2007!

Since this blog has continued to get several local hits recently, I thought I would tell all of you about the most exciting activity going on this weekend. Forget Durham Rising.* The real action will be at Field Day. Actually, this is far from being just a local phenomenon, but I highly recommend participating where ever you happen to be.

For those of you who don't remember my reports on past years' activities, Field Day is a 24 hour period on the fourth full weekend in June where amateur radio operators get together and try to make as many contacts as possible, with other hams in the United States. While individuals can participate at home, many ham radio clubs get together in some location away from power lines and preferably not at the lowest altitude they can find and make it a community event. I have been an operator for 10 years now and I have not missed a Field Day since I started. Of course, part of the fun is to eat lots of junk food while you're operating and since my dad does the grillin' for OCRA, the club I hang out with for this, I am looking forward to an exquisitely prepared Boca burger. One other nifty thing that OCRA does is operate as if there were emergency conditions, using no more than 5 watts of power while transmitting.

All stations will be operating from 2pm Saturday to 2pm Sunday. Yes, that means in the middle of the night, I am likely to be operating in the middle of a field swatting at big bugs flying into my hair. One of the coolest things about Field Day is that anyone, regardless of whether or not they are a licensed operator, can participate. This also means that hams with lower license classes (Technician) can use High Frequency (HF) bands during that 24 hour period. This is potentially a great experience for those who want to experience this hobby, or service, first hand.

Again, there are clubs doing this all over the United States and Canada.

To see photographs of OCRA Field Days from the past couple of years, you can see my flickr sets.
*No, really, you can do both!

Thursday, June 21, 2007


I saw a movie last night that is worth mentioning. It was Capote, about Truman Capote as he wrote his most famous true crime novel, In Cold Blood. I didn't particularly enjoy the film. It was probably educational, but that's about the only positive thing I can say. If this film accurately represented Capote, he was not a likable character, particularly due to his dishonesty. I don't know if the representation of his speaking was accurate, but the actor who played him was almost impossible to understand at times.

Please feel free to comment if there is some favorable aspect of this movie or any other that I failed to appreciate.

Monday, June 18, 2007

YoYo World

Even after living in my house for over three years (unbelievable), I still have lots of stuff that needs to be moved from my parents' house to mine. Late last week, my parents brought over a bunch of the paintings and drawings that I did while I was in highschool. Many of them haven't even been photographed, so they haven't been up on my website. Above is an example of one of which I was and am very pleased. That is my hand in the painting, but whatever you think about what this might say about my personality, remember that, as a lefty, my right hand was the most convenient model. I painted this using gouache on bristol board in 1993.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

A Zestive Occasion

I had a party at my house last night and as a result did several things for the first time.

  1. I zested lemons. That was surprisingly easy and enjoyable, because it smells so good. The lemons reminded me of shorn sheep afterwards.
  2. I used my microplane. I received this as a Christmas gift a couple of years ago and hadn't used it before, because I had never tried to get lemon zest from lemons. I've always used dried lemon peel. Using the microplane makes getting zest super easy, because you don't get into the bitter tasting pith. You can also use it for woodworking or grating hard cheeses, such as parmesan. I hadn't used it for grating because I've always been happy enough with Kraft. Yes. I may be every other kind of snob, but I'm not a parmesan cheese snob and I consider it to be one of my favorite foods. It's a meal, not a condiment.
  3. I discovered that I like eating plain mangoes. Mango sorbet is way too boring to me and I thought the fruit was also kind of bland. A few months ago, I decided that they just needed to be combined with lime juice, which I'd tried at GM's. The ones I served last night, which were pre-sliced from CostCo, were just wonderful by themselves.
  4. There was a lot of debate at the party about how salsa is defined and whether what I made was salsa or chutney. Since my mom is avoiding all vegetables in the Solanaceae family (tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and potatoes), I wanted to make some very mild salsa with mangoes and lime juice. I also added onions, black pepper, fresh mint, brown sugar and minced ginger. I would have used honey, but I knew one of my guests had a honey allergy. From what I have been able to determine, salsa consists primarily of uncooked fruit or veggies while chutney has usually been cooked. While it may not have been typical salsa, since it had neither tomatoes nor peppers and was barely hot at all, it was certainly salsaesque.
  5. I made lemon-cornmeal and black pepper cookies from the Luscious Lemon Desserts cookbook, by Lori Longbotham. That's why I needed zest from four gigantic lemons. It was fun, because you make logs of dough, chill them in the refrigerator and slice them. This may seem trivial for some, particularly those who are used to making cookies from canned cookie dough, but I'd never made that style of cookie before. I was really pleased with how they turned out, too.
Did I break new ground in any new non-food related ways? Well, no, but I had a really good time.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Showing Off My Impeccable Taste

As is probably hard not to notice, I've added a bunch of Amazon ads to my site. I've actually had loads of fun with this. If I'd been clueful enough to realize that one can put up ads the products of one's choosing, then I would have done this years ago. These are products that I use and like.

For example, I have an ad for Leonidas dark chocolate covered orange peel. I certainly don't care whether or not you buy it from Amazon. If you live near Durham, I strongly encourage you to support your local businesses and buy it from the chocolate counter in Parizade. That's what I do, unless I am shipping it to someone directly. The point is, if you like dark chocolate, please try this chocolate, because in my opinion it's the best dark chocolate covered orange peel available and I've tried a lot of different kinds.

Many of my readers can tell you that I can talk for a good twenty minutes about how I think that Duke's mayonnaise is the only mayo worth buying. Some people have never heard of it, but I have even craved it! Now you can see what the bottle looks like so you can try it out the next time you go to your local supermarket, because I'm assuming that you won't want to buy a whole gallon from Amazon.

In addition to adding a little more color to the site, it's fun showing off which music I think is the best. If they are compilations, they are the ones that I have and like the best or the ones that have the highest percentage of my favorite songs.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

From Princess to Pauper

Forget sitemeter. If you want to know who is reading your blog posts, all you have to do is say something really outrageous. In order to guarantee results, your attempts at humor while leveling with your audience must fall completely flat.


Back in the day, people would say things to me like "You are neither cute nor funny, young lady!"
Now sometimes I think I can be sarcastic and pull it off. I forget that my readers don't have the benefit of seeing that twinkle in my eye or my smirk. You have been spared from the giggling.

Anyone who has had a semi-lengthy conversation with me over IM knows that half of what I type is smileys. I try to avoid that in my blog. I'm conserving bandwidth.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Adsense Riches and picasa2flickr

If any of you have wondered, yes, I am getting rich off my Google Adsense ads. Since I put the first ones up last October I've earned $1028.

I've been uploading lots of photos to flickr. I've been thrilled with the new picasa2flickr plugin for flickr. The only problem I've seen so far is that it doesn't seem to transfer when the photo was actually taken. That's a major flaw, but it's still much more convenient than any other flickr uploader I've seen, so I think I'll live with it and correct the dates later. Maybe I'm naive to think that I'll actually will have time to do that, but we'll see. It's a little more likely since I want photos in sets to appear in the correct order.

What? You think I forgot a decimal point up there?

In the middle, perhaps? I won't be actually getting a check from Google for quite a while. That's ok. I'm entertained by seeing what ads come up based on my writing and that's the real reason I put them up.

Update: The missing time and date info may just be because the pictures I've been uploading have been from an old camera. The info I have in picasa itself is likely just the timestamp of the file and that alone may not be enough flickr.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Penguins and Ice Cream

This afternoon, I saw Surf's Up, which was fun and enjoyable. It's a movie about surfing penguins filmed as if it were a documentary about surfing. It was very cute and well done. I would recommend going to a later showing to avoid hearing screaming kids throughout the movie. No, 4:10pm is not late enough to avoid that.

After dinner, LG recommended that we all go to Marble Slab Creamery. Coconut ice cream with pineapple pieces mixed in is an excellent combination.

A few days ago, I watched a DVD of Torch Song Trilogy. I though it was an excellent, funny and thought provoking film. It provided an unfathomable reminder that so many still perceive sexual preference to be a choice. As a straight female, it's still hard for me to imagine what it must be like to be gay and live in our still very straight-centric culture, where almost all forms of entertainment and regulations are still geared toward people who have relationships with the opposite sex. It, however, continues to get easier to relate to being different from the perceived cultural norm, as the percentage of people my age who are married and have children continues to skyrocket. While it is true that being married and having offspring crosses all cultures, the responses to this phase of life (the minivans, after school activites and the non-stop Disney DVD marathons) are all the epitome of American culture today.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Objects in the Mirror...Wait.. What Mirror?

Ok, I have a lot of news to report!

First and foremost, I received actual e-mail from N. Todd. Wow. That may surpass my meeting Itzhak Perlman when I was 6.

A couple of days ago, I got e-mail from PW, at Vosges, who read my post about their new line of bacon chocolate, and is sending me a free sample! That's is very exciting, indeed. I will report as soon as I taste it, or perhaps even while I'm tasting it.

Last night I went to a new restaurant, Piazza Italia, in Brightleaf Square. I believe it's where the old CD store, Millenium Music, used to be. One of fine characteristics of the restaurant is that it's connected to their gelato store. The restaurant is also huge and nicely decorated. I ordered Mezzaluna Al Zafferano, which was effectively ravioli filled with shrimp and salmon mousse in a creamy saffron sauce. It was delicious. For dessert, we shared a serving of gelato with three flavors: green apple, pineapple and kiwi. The pineapple and the kiwi were the best and had the strongest flavors. The prices seemed reasonable and I look forward to going there again. Somehow I had completely missed that they have a spinach salad with "large chunks of lobster sautteed in a warm buttery garlic sauce" for only $11.

Today, when I left work, I was startled to see that my parking tag had fallen off. It took me several seconds to notice that my entire rear view mirror was also no longer there! My van has really good side mirrors and I didn't really miss it until I passed a bicyclist on 751 and looked up to see if I could see him him behind me. Oops.. Well, I didn't hear anything unusual.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Red Bellied Food Snob and the Queen

I've finally started working on copying over photos from floppies, which I took with my old Sony Mavica. It's a 1.1 megapixel camera and is comparatively gigantic, but it has a great lens, with 8X optical zoom. So, I'm finding some great, albeit comparatively low resolution images. The last time I tried copying any of these, I was getting lots of bad sector errors, but I haven't run into too many problems so far using an IBM floppy reader. Most of the ones I've been copying are from January of 2000, when we had the big snow, which was approximately 30 inches in Hillsborough. I took so many pictures of birds, that it's almost ridiculous. Here's a beautiful example of what was probably one of the relatives of my adoring fan, the obnoxious head-banging red bellied woodpecker:

Last night, after guitar practice, we went to Tripps. Regular readers will know that I am a food snob. I fail to understand why people go to chain restaurants, although, as JJ did point out, they have good parking. To be fair, my meal, salmon with lobster cream sauce with broccoli, cauliflower and mashed potatoes, was good. They weren't generous with the sauce, which is both good and bad, depending on whether one is feeling health conscious. The entree, with a glass of fresh squeezed grapefruit juice, cost $21 and change. For that price, I hope to have something that's better than "good". As always, the company was the important thing, so I definitely had a great time.

The night before last, I saw The Queen. I hadn't realized how much it focused on Diana's death. It was interesting watching a movie that was about a time and subject that I recall so well. It brought back memories of second semester calculus, since that's what I was taking at the time and our instructor was from Britain. Helen Mirren, who I'd watched previously in Prime Suspect episodes, did an excellent job portraying Queen Elizabeth, but I have to wonder whether the whole royal family is really as unpleasant as they seemed in the movie. It's been about twenty years since I read a biography of Elizabeth and her sister, so I don't remember much, but it seemed almost as if both the book and the movie were about two completely different people.

Now I'm craving grapefruit juice.