2016 in Review

Photos

Here are my 9 most-liked photos from Instagram in 2016. I was surprised that most of them came toward the end of the year. Only one was not a food picture.

Here is a set I put together on Flickr of my favorite photos from 2016:

wake (me) up (inside) (save me)

 

Life in Philly

This was our fifth year in Philly – I had my five year work anniversary in September. On the anniversary of the day we moved into our apartment, I took a picture to show how much the western skyline has changed as viewed from our window

During our annual Staycation, we visited the new viewing deck at the top of One Liberty Place and got some great views of the city

Speaking of the skyline, a few new buildings have neared completion, the FMC Tower and CHOP:

FMC Tower
FMC Tower
CHOP
CHOP

We had fun this year going to several BYO movies at the Roxy, including Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and Clerks. We also managed to see the Philadelphia Orchestra several times, and saw the silent film Metropolis with live organ at the Kimmel Center.

We went to the Spruce Street Harbor Park in spring, checked out a few pop-up beer gardens in the summer, and walked through the new Christmas Village at City Hall in the winter.

Pennsylvania’s liquor laws loosened ever so slightly, so we are finally able to get a little bit of wine from out of state, but only direct from the winery and only if that winery has a PA license. So far that’s only one place I’m interested in, which is Tablas Creek. But it’s been fun to get a few things from Tablas and I look forward to visiting the winery in person again, perhaps next time we’re in California. The other positive thing about the law is that hours at many of the state stores have been extended, and now all our local stores are open on Sunday.

We didn’t take too many long walks on the river this year. However, we did explore a few new (to us) neighborhoods. In February, we hiked up to Brewerytown to visit Sp0tBurgers new brick & mortar location, and we also hit up Crime & Punishment Brewing Company while we were there. Toward the end of the year we walked down to Girard Estates and tried Philip’s Steaks and the new Brewery ARS. Other than that, we walked all the way to Northern Liberties several times, and as usual we walked all around town for Staycation.

Here’s my complete Philadelphia 2016 set on Flickr:

GO AWAY

 

Travel

I went out of town three times this year.

At the beginning of the year, we visited Boston for the ALA Midwinter meeting. On the first day I had a preconference at Harvard and got to visit with my friend Aimee who lives in Cambridge, which was so nice, especially spending some time with her kids. It was my first ALA conference in over a year, so during the conference I got to reconnect with a ton of people, which was so rewarding personally and professionally. We had a great time eating our way around Boston, too. I look forward to going again!

Harvard

 

In June, we went back home to Long Beach, California. It was my first time back since 2012! It had been far too long. It was wonderful. We stayed at the Beachrunner’s Inn, a little B&B in my old neighborhood. We managed to visit most of our favorites as well as try some great new places. The weather was beautiful and I could have stayed forever!

Long Beach, CA

 

In September, I went to a conference in Columbus, Ohio. It was my first time staying and hanging out in downtown Columbus and I really liked it. I got around on foot really well, exploring downtown and the Short North, and took the free downtown bus my last day when it was raining. It was very kind of hippie and hipster and urban at the same time.

Short North

 

Dining In

Our favorite condiment of the year is Huy Fong Chili Garlic Sauce! We’ve put it all over our fish, veggies, and chicken to great success.

We finally figured out how to cook swordfish, so that gives us some more options at the farmers’ market.

We also finally started using a panini press from my dad, which has been great for sandwiches and toast. We also finally started using an oven thermometer from my brother, which has really helped with cooking meat. Tom started making homemade pizza from time to time, which was a joy.

I tracked most of our meals last year in a Google calendar, which has provided some interesting insights. We ate in over 80% of the time; without prior years’ data I can’t be sure, but it certainly feels like more dining in than in years past. Looking at my financial management software, I see that my restaurant expenses went down by 40% from the previous year, so there definitely does seem to be a trend toward more cooking and less going out. We certainly had our share of throwing things together, but we also tried 150 new recipes this year, which averages to nearly 2-3 new recipes per week, which seems like a quite a bit.

There are too many recipes to mention, but a few that stand out from this year include:

We had a new chicken recipe almost every week of the year, so those were the most interesting and exciting to me overall. I also just love cooking in summer with all the corn, tomatoes, and zucchini, I just can’t get enough of those flavors.

Here’s our Dining In photos from 2016:

Huevos Rancheros at home

 

Dining Out

Toward the beginning of the year we were still enamored with a few new 2015 openings, Buckminster’s and SouthGate. Unfortunately Buckminster’s didn’t make it through the year, but we enjoyed it while we could.

My favorite new restaurant we tried on a date night was Samsom Kabob House on South Street, which had recently relocated from Samsom St.

We finally ordered Mexican pizza from Rosario’s pizza and it’s been really fun trying different pizzas on the menu. It’s actually the first time we ever had pizza delivered in the 5 years we’ve lived here!

One of our favorite coffee shops, Cafe Lutecia, started offering Tuesday night BYO dinners, and those was by far the best casual dinner experiences of the year.

During our October staycation we tried a lot of new (to us) restaurants. The standouts were Sate Kampar, South Philly Barbacoa, Kanella Grill, and Cafe La Maude. We also really enjoyed our first afternoon tea at The Dandelion.

For my birthday we had a great dinner at Hungry Pigeon, and for Tom’s we had a lovely night at Victor Cafe.

Toward the end of the year, a neighborhood favorite, Friday Saturday Sunday, reopened after having been sold & remodeled. We hadn’t actually been to the original, but we stopped by the new iteration and really love it.

We haven’t been to Rex every Thursday like we used to, but we still try to make it to there and Jet when we can!

Here’s our Dining Out photos from 2016:

Townsman

 

DIY

This year my DIY efforts were focused on fermentation, specifically vegetable fermentation. My cousin Jenny got me a great book on Wild Fermentation, and I had some luck with several of the recipes. My favorite might be the simple farmer’s cheese, even though that’s not even fermented. I tried sourdough starter and ginger bug, but our apartment just wasn’t warm enough. I found, though, that the temperature of our apartment is perfect for vegetable fermentation. I bought Ferment Your Vegetables and did primarily vegetable ferments for the rest of the year, including a kimchi, a sauerkraut, and lots of pickles. The only thing that I really didn’t care for was kvass – partly user error on my part and part just not liking the finished product all that much even when it turned out correctly. Favorites for the year were probably the fermented corn salsa, tomato salsa and tomato sauce.

fermented tomato sauce
fermented tomato sauce

This year I added hummus to my regular projects; as with the Di Bruno Bros crackers recipe, I always keep a batch of hummus around for snacking. Though my local stores stopped carrying some of the ingredients I needed, I’m now buying garbanzo beans and tahini online and it’s working well.

Books

I met my goal on GoodReads to read 25 books, which was a higher goal than I had set for myself in previous year. Here is my year in books: https://www.goodreads.com/user/year_in_books/2016/131968

My reading this year was more diverse than in some years, yet still dominated by fantasy. Unlike last year, I didn’t spend the year re-reading any big series. The best non-fantasy things I read were Between the World and Me and Americanah. The newest Erikson book came out, and I totally loved the new Esslemont book. I completely loved the Ancillary series by Ann Leckie – it was the first book(s) in a long time that I couldn’t put down, and re-read immediately upon finishing. I also really enjoyed Shadowshaper by Daniel Jose Older. In a descent into complete nerddom, I started reading Star Wars novels and am now sucked in. Toward the end of the year I also really enjoyed Ember in the Ashes and then immediately bought the sequel.

2016 books, except for library books that have been returned
2016 books, except for library books that have been returned

Other

My friends Jodi and Amy recommended a clothing rack – this feels like the dumbest/most obvious achievement in adulting ever, but it really makes a big difference to be able to dry my clothes properly rather than over the back of a chair.

I made some financial progress, paying off 2 credit cards by the end of the year and getting my student debt under $20,000.

I did StitchFix all year and feel like I really made some progress in figuring out how to dress myself. I now have 4 blazers I really like, as well as several skirts, blouses, and dresses. I’ve figured out some stuff on my own as well, thanks to the combination of StitchFix and Pinterest. I keep a list of outfits near my closet to try to decrease the stress of dressing in the morning, but this only helps slightly.

2016 Goals Redux

Last year I made some loose/informal “ideas” for 2016, so I thought I’d check in to see how I did.

  • Make lunches to bring to work. We did a decent job at this, though it came more in spurts. There are definitely some weeks where I didn’t prepare lunches at all, and some weeks where we prepared lunches some days and not on others. I didn’t actually track this, so I can’t point to any data, but my sense is we brought lunches more often than not, whether that was leftovers or something we made specifically. We did find a few lunch recipes we really liked, including mujadarah and harissa lentils. As much as I love grains, though, they do get boring.
  • Track meals/recipes in a Google Calendar. Yes, I did this, and kept up with it all year. It gave me some interesting data about our habits (see Dining In section above) and it was really good to see how much we are cooking and trying new recipes. I didn’t specifically set out to do so, but I’ve also been doing weekly meal planning in Evernote as well. Since I write over the Evernote list each week, it’s nice that the Google calendar serves as more of an archive, while Evernote serves as more of a temporary to-do list each week.
  • Send real (paper) birthday cards to people in the mail. Fail. Nope, I didn’t do this at all. However I am on a mission to do this in 2017.
  • Drink beer > wine. Nope, didn’t do this either, at least not at home. The best I can say is I now tend to almost always order beer rather than wine when we go out, especially to Rex, so I guess that’s something.
  • Keep in better touch with people. No, I did not do a good job of this, in any medium.
  • Don’t overthink social media. Ha! I got worse at this, not better. I hardly posted anything at all, and the election has only made this worse.
  • Exercise more. Nope, though I did join the gym at work, which gives me even more opportunity to do so, if I make an effort to schedule it.
  • Keep writing. If what I meant was keep up with this blog, then yes, I did this. However, I barely posted to SuperPlus Eats at all, so I’d like to do better at writing elsewhere.
  • Make more things. Yes, I did this. While I don’t make bitters very often anymore, my fermentation experiments were pretty much year round, and that was fun. I didn’t get around to making homemade Christmas ornaments as I had hoped to, but maybe next year.

What I found in thinking about this was there were things I didn’t specifically set out to do or conceive of as goals in 2016 that happened anyway:

  • I didn’t explicitly set out to do so, but I have been dressing better, thanks to StitchFix and Pinterest.
  • I didn’t explicitly set out to do so, but I have made charitable giving more of a regular habit than a one-off thing when something terrible happens.
  • I didn’t explicitly set out to do so, but we did a lot more dining in, and a lot less dining out, as discussed above.
  • I didn’t explicitly set out to do so, but I made progress with my debt. I haven’t calculated exactly what it would take to make this happen, but theoretically I would like to be out of debt by the time I’m 50 (#GenXGoals).

2017 

What’s in store? Well, in terms of travel, I’ll be going to Atlanta for ALA Midwinter, and Tom will be going to Baltimore for ACRL, to which I plan to tag along. We don’t have any other out-of-town trips planned for now, though of course we’ll do our annual Staycation in October. Other than that, same old same old. Hopefully in 2018 we’ll take a big trip for Tom’s birthday so this year might be more about hunkering down to save up for that.

Here are my “ideas” for this year, in no particular order:

  • Continue to make things. This year I want to try more canning since I finally have the equipment for it.
  • Get in the habit of using the work gym at least once a week.
  • Send birthday cards in the mail, like I said I was going to do last year. So far I am on track and have bought cards for everyone with January birthdays. Cards are a lot more expensive these days than the last time I did this, but that’s not the point. The hardest part is actually getting people’s mailing addresses, but actually that has been incredibly pleasant, because just the act of asking for the address in the first place creates additional one-on-one interactions with people I care about.
  • Blog more on SuperPlus Eats
  • Continue trying to bring lunches to work
  • Make more things from cookbooks, not just online recipes
  • Invest in a Kindle and see if that helps me adjust to e-reading.
  • Call politicians
  • Keep up with meal planning and tracking
  • Continue to make progress on paying off debt
  • Try to have more non-social-media interactions with people, whether that’s email, hand written letters, phone calls, etc.
  • Take more people pictures
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December 2016: The Month in Tom and Holly

Life in Philly

Winter came a few weeks early with some very chilly weather, but luckily it warmed back up a little for the holidays. I finally switched out my short-sleeved shirts for long-sleeved shirts in my closet.

First snow, December 17
First snow, December 17

On the way home from my work’s service award luncheon, I stumbled upon the AMOR statue, which came to Philadelphia for the Pope visit last year and may now be staying permanently. Until recently, it had been at the Art Museum, but now it’s on the Parkway near Sister Cities Park.

The best thing for sure to happen this month was Star Wars Rogue One! We saw it on opening night at the Prince Theater, and then again over winter break. On opening night there was this great Star Wars themed brass band, Wookiedelphia, playing in the lobby [video]. We really loved the movie and both put it pretty near the top of all Star Wars movies.

Wookiedelphia
Wookiedelphia

I didn’t take too many festive Christmas photos around town this year, as they look the same as usual, but here’s a picture of Mister 1801, with Tom’s reflection in the window.

Mister 1801
Mister 1801

Birthday

I had a very nice birthday week. We started a little early by having a BYOB dinner at Cafe Lutecia.

Cafe Lutecia
Cafe Lutecia

The night before my birthday, I left work early, and we went out to dinner at Hungry Pigeon, preceded by cocktails at Southwark. The food and wine at Hungry Pigeon were outstanding, and we had a nice cozy table by the window with lovely Christmas decor.

Hungry Pigeon
Hungry Pigeon

On the day of my birthday, Tom cooked for me all day. We started the day by going to the farmers’ market as usual. For brunch, we had egg pancake rolls. In the afternoon, we had a nice wine & cheese snack. For dinner, we had Taiwanese beef noodle soup, slow roasted carrots over coffee beans, and gougeres for dessert.

Birthday summary
Birthday summary

The day after my birthday, we met up with Tom’s family for brunch at In Riva. Although it was too cold for sitting outside, it was still a nice view, and we had delicious appetizers and brunch dishes.

In Riva
In Riva

Christmas

We made a bunch of delicious food for the holidays. For Christmas Eve, we made Eggy Puds for brunch, and for dinner we had a Sicilian seafood stew (with halibut, salmon, and scallops) and squid ink linguine (with shrimp and clams).

Eggy Puds
Eggy Puds
Christmas Eve dinner
Christmas Eve dinner

On Christmas Day, we went out to Parc for breakfast. For dinner, we made a Zuni Cafe roast chicken along with bread salad for the drippings, and roasted carrots with an orange glaze.

Christmas dinner
Christmas dinner

The day after Christmas, we went up to Fox Chase to see family and had prime rib, bourbon mashed sweet potatoes, fig & blue cheese salad, gougeres, and grilled asparagus.

Day after Christmas Dinner
Day after Christmas Dinner

Tom and I exchanged some delightful gifts. We will certainly be baking bread and making preserves in the new year thanks to some of these cookbooks!

Christmas gifts
Christmas gifts

Unfortunately there were two downsides to this Christmas. One, I was sick with a cold the entire time and couldn’t taste anything. Two, due to the late start to this semester, I was stuck grading papers the entire time. I finished the last round on Christmas and turned in grades the next day. I wasn’t able to start tasting food until Wednesday the 28th!

Christmas greens
Christmas greens

Winter Staycation

We had the week off between Christmas and New Years and made this into a low-key mini-staycation. Our goal wasn’t to go very far, but to visit some favorites in the neighborhood, go to some museums, see some movies, and perhaps try a few new places on the way.

For movies, we saw Moonlight and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (again).

For museums, we went to the Philadelphia Museum of Art for the Mexican Modernism exhibit, and the African American Museum of Philadelphia for the i found god in myself exhibit, on the 40th anniversary of Ntozake Shange’s for colored girls…

Philadelphia Museum of Art
Philadelphia Museum of Art
African American Museum of Philadelphia
African American Museum of Philadelphia

We visited some old favorites, including Cheu Noodle Bar,  South Gate and Cafe Lutecia.

Breakfast sandwich at Cafe Lutecia
Breakfast sandwich at Cafe Lutecia

We tried some new places, including Banh Mi and Bottles, Friday Saturday Sunday, Philip’s Steaks, and Brewery ARS.

I had a bowl of pho at Banh Mi and Bottles, which I wish I could say more about, but despite all these jalapeños I was not able to taste anything that day due to my cold. I’ll need a do-over!

Banh Mi and Bottles
Banh Mi and Bottles

Friday Saturday Sunday quickly became one of our new favorite places. We had maitake toast, carrot confit (carrot yogurt, burnt coconut crumble, fermented salsa verde), and roasted potato gnocchi. We enjoyed wines by the glass with our food, and then finished with some of their tasty cocktails.

Stigmata cocktail at Friday Saturday Sunday
Stigmata cocktail at Friday Saturday Sunday

Our cheesesteak adventure involved a long walk down to Girard Estates. After walking around the neighborhood, we hit Taproom on 19th for a beer, then headed to Philip’s Steaks. The cheesesteaks were totally up my alley (sliced, not chopped), with thick cuts of beef. We tried one regular cheesesteak and one “old fashion” with roasted tomatoes and long hots. We took our steaks to Brewery ARS to try this brand new small brewery. They had 3 beers on tap, all of which were excellent. We look forward to trying more of their beers as they are able to expand their production.

Stephen Girard Park
Stephen Girard Park
Philip's cheesesteaks and beer at ARS Brewery
Philip’s cheesesteaks and beer at ARS Brewery

On New Year’s Eve, we stayed in, went to the farmers’ market and the gym, and had leftovers. Tom baked his first batch of bread, and I started my first batch of preserves!

Tom's carrot bread
Tom’s carrot bread

Farmers’ Markets

We only took one farmers’ market picture this month but this is pretty representative:

Dining In

It was another great month of cooking tasty recipes, besides those already mentioned above:

Breakfast tostada, because why not
Breakfast tostada, because why not
Almond crusted flounder with vanilla sauce; cider-braised delicata squash
Almond crusted flounder with vanilla sauce; cider-braised delicata squash
Chicken adobo and garlic fried rice
Chicken adobo and garlic fried rice
Five Peppercorn Halibut
Five Peppercorn Halibut

Dining Out

We met some friends up in Fishtown, which gave us an excuse to re-visit Sancho Pistola’s for some delicious tacos. On the way back, we also tried City Diner for a chill place for some late night drinks. On my last day of work before the holidays, Tom had the day off so he met me for lunch at JG Domestic, which was one of our holiday traditions when we used to work together in University City.

Grilled cheese & red pepper soup at JG Domestic
Grilled cheese & red pepper soup at JG Domestic

I’ve already mentioned Friday Saturday Sunday above in our Winter Staycation, but I’ll mention it again here because it was definitely one of the best meals of the month!

DIY

We had some leftover apple cider after Thanksgiving, so I tried leaving it out to make hard cider and apple cider vinegar, per the instructions in Wild Fermentation. Both turned out OK but I didn’t think it was worth the trouble to do it again.

Fermenting cider
Fermenting cider

From my new Preserving Italy cookbook, I made a batch of oil-preserved butternut squash with mint, which I look forward to trying. I also started a batch of bitter citrus marmalade, thanks to a bunch of backyard fruit my dad sent me from Arizona.

Oil-preserved butternut squash with mint
Oil-preserved butternut squash with mint
Citrus from Arizona!
Citrus from Arizona!

Books

After a few months, I finally finished Kitchen Confidential. Meh, I like Anthony Bourdain, and there were a few interesting chapters, but I thought most of it was obnoxious.

Once I finished teaching for the semester, I read The Fifth Season, which I had wanted to read for awhile. I had a hard time starting it (actually I had tried to start it months ago on the Kindle version and couldn’t do it on my phone so I bought it again on paper), but once I got to a big reveal that brought the storylines together, I was sold and really enjoyed it. I do want to read the sequel, but I’m not in a huge hurry, just because I don’t think the same narrative technique that I enjoyed so much can work again.

To finish up the year, I started reading the graphic novel The Legend of Wonder Woman, which I am enjoying very much so far, thanks to Tom for getting it for me for Christmas!

StitchFix 

These photos are from last month’s Stitch Fix – we didn’t get a chance to take photos in time for my November post, so here they are, a bit belated. This was my first time with a new stylist. I kept three items: a burgandy sweater, a black pencil skirt, and a green-striped blazer.

RD Style Kara Cowl Neck Sweater and Lysse Abrie Pencil Skirt
RD Style Kara Cowl Neck Sweater and Lysse Abrie Pencil Skirt
Tart Salma French Terry Blazer and Lysse Abrie Pencil Skirt
Tart Salma French Terry Blazer and Lysse Abrie Pencil Skirt

On SuperPlus Eats

Our Staycation blog posts are finally up! Start here for the Staycation 2016 index.

Last Month’s Update