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

November 2016: The Month in Tom and Holly

Life in Philly

This hasn’t been a great year for fall color, but there’s a little bit more of it:

University of Pennsylvania
University of Pennsylvania
Rittenhouse Square
Rittenhouse Square

They put the “FMC” on the FMC Tower this month:

Walked by where they were staging the
Walked by where they were staging the “M” and “C” near the Walnut St Bridge
FMC Tower, now with branding
FMC Tower, now with branding

We made it over to the new Christmas Village at Dilworth Plaza on our way to Reading Terminal Market to pick up some groceries for Thanksgiving. I liked it better there than at Love Park. I was also glad that we ran into an anti-Trump protest march on the way.

Photo by Tom Ipri
Photo by Tom Ipri

Thanksgiving

This year for Thanksgiving we had two dinners, one for just the two of us on Thursday, and one with the family on Friday.

For Our Thanksgiving, we made:

lemon poppyseed pancakes
lemon poppyseed pancakes
Thanksgiving dinner
Thanksgiving dinner
Baked apples
Baked apples

On the next day, for Thanksgiving #2, Dennis made turkey and cranberry sauce, and Tom’s mom made green beans with peppers and peas with bacon. In addition to cheese and wine, Tom and I contributed:

Thanksgiving #2
Thanksgiving #2
pumpkin stuffed with everything good
pumpkin stuffed with everything good

Thanksgiving #2 had the added bonus of Tom’s cousin and her boyfriend joining us, who were really great to visit with. Overall it was a really nice holiday weekend, some much needed rest, and of course delicious food.

Farmers Market

We only took one picture this month, as we were prepping for Thanksgiving, but this is pretty representative of the season right now:

Pre-Thanksgiving farmers' market shopping
Pre-Thanksgiving farmers’ market shopping

Dining In

We made a bunch of fantastic chicken recipes this month. As usual, the chicken recipes are not very photogenic:

Cranberry balsamic chicken
Cranberry balsamic chicken
Garlic paprika chicken
Garlic paprika chicken

We also made braised fish, pot-roast style, and shrimp Mozambique. Tom made a homemade lamb kofta, inspired by the kofta at Kanella Grill, with dried apricots and pistachios.

Lamb kofta. Photo by Tom Ipri
Lamb kofta. Photo by Tom Ipri

Finally, I tried a Dutch Baby for brunch one day and it worked out really nicely.

Dutch Baby
Dutch Baby

Dining Out

We didn’t get out too much this month. We ordered in another Mexican pizza from Rosario’s – this time, chicken mole. This was very good – in my top three of the pizzas we’ve ordered so far, with the La Mexicana and Choriqueso.

We had an impromptu date night at Tio Flores, which we really enjoyed. It was sad that we hadn’t been to a Mexican place so nearby, but we had been quite skeptical given how much we dislike another nearby bar operated by the same owners. However, at Tio Flores, in addition to some very good food, we had friendly, prompt service, and it was a relatively quiet and mellow atmosphere. Now that we know we like it, I’m sure we’ll be back more often.

Tio Flores
Tio Flores
Margaritas at Tio Flores
Margaritas at Tio Flores

Toward the end of the month, we enjoyed Sunday Supper at Rex 1516. Unfortunately not many people signed up, but it was a fantastic menu and we really enjoyed all the food and drink pairings. The brisket and burnt-end beans paired with Edmund Fitzgerald porter was especially good.

Dessert at Rex 1516
Dessert at Rex 1516

Books

After watching the author’s interview with Patrick Rothfuss, I ended up reading and very much enjoying Sabaa Tahir’s An Ember in the Ashes and A Torch Against the Night. I found the story and the characters very engaging, and I thought the second book added a lot of interesting layers. I look forward to the next book, although it will be awhile!

I finally finished reading the third and final book in the Star Wars Dark Lord Trilogy, Dark Lord : the rise of Darth Vader. I had started it months ago, but the writing is not that great, so it was a bit of a struggle. Story-wise it’s an interesting look at the events immediately following Episode III, showing the struggles of Darth Vader as he comes into his own, as well as some Jedi that survived Order 66. It might be the last non-Canon thing I read for awhile. Next up in the Star Wars universe, I want to read Lost Stars, Bloodline, Ahsoka, Tarkin, and Catalyst.

Last Month’s Update

October 2016: The Month in Tom and Holly

Life in Philly

This month marked 5 years since we’ve been in our Philly apartment! I guess last month I forgot to mention that it had been 5 years since I moved here and started my new job. I took a picture and compared it to the day we moved in to see how much the skyline has changed. Most notably, there’s Cira 2 (Evo), Cira 3 (FMC), CHOP, One Riverside, 2116 Chestnut, and the new rowhomes across the street.

Staycation!

It’s that time of year again! We took a week off and went out for breakfast & dinner most days and tried to hit museums and other stuff in between, all while Tom also attended the 25th Philadelphia Film Festival (and I spent my “free” time grading papers). We’ll go into more details on our SuperPlus Eats blog, but here are some highlights:

Dining Out

Since just about all our dining out this month was during Staycation, there’s not much to add, other than we tried a new pizza from Rosario’s. I was sick at the beginning of the month and on one of the days I stayed home, I ordered a “choriqueso” pizza, which used hot red salsa instead of red sauce, mozzarella & chihuahua cheese, chorizo, portabella, and onions.

Dining In

Other than Staycation, we did a fair amount of eating in this month, and even during Staycation we built in far more meals in than we have in the past so that we didn’t get too burned out on eating out.

As I mentioned earlier, I was sick at the beginning of the month, and a combination of not having much to work with as well as a desire for spicy food led me to making my first batch of kimchi jjigae. I had made the kimchi a long time ago but had barely made a dent in it. I happened to have some bacon in lieu of pork belly, and the rest of the ingredients were also things I happened to have without going shopping. And then I put an egg on top. It was so satisfying!

We usually do chicken once a week, and this month we tried several new great chicken recipes:

We usually do fish on the weekends and continued this even during staycation. This month we made:

scallops with apple cider balsamic glaze
gochujang cod with jalapeño
tilefish wrapped with prosciutto over sweet potato puree

We’re still sort of easing into Fall. We’ve gotten a few spaghetti squashes and have made them enchilada style (enchilada sauce, black beans, jack & cheddar cheese) and lasagna style (red sauce, garlic, mozzarella, parmesan).

Last but not least I got my first wine club shipment from Tablas Creek!

DIY

I didn’t make much this month, but I did make a new batch of groundcherry bitters for Sweet Lou. I didn’t take a picture because I thought I already had one from a previous batch, but turned out I didn’t. Oh well, maybe next time!

Books

I have not been doing a lot of reading since I started teaching again this Fall semester. However I did finish one book this month, A New Dawn, which is a new-ish canon Star Wars novel that introduces the characters in the Star Wars Rebels TV show. The book had higher quality writing than the Star Wars novels I’ve read previously, and once I got into the story I quite enjoyed it. I’m looking forward to reading more of the new books in the canon, including the new Ahsoka book and the book that will lead into Rogue One.

I started reading Kitchen Confidential, which Tom had checked out from his library. It’s OK but right now I’m in the boring middle part (which Tom had warned me about) so I’m not making much progress.

StitchFix +

I got a Stitch Fix at the beginning of the month. I was kind of meh about it even though I kept everything. I was supposed to have gotten a new stylist, but I didn’t. I complained, so I will definitely get one next time. I was pretty impressed with their customer support. I got a blazer that seemed too small but wasn’t sure if it was supposed to fit that way or not. I sent an inquiry and they responded with a photo of someone else wearing the blazer, which was really helpful (it turned out that yes, it was too small, and I was able to exchange it for the correct size, no problem).

Indianan graphic print mixed material tee
Indianan graphic print mixed material tee
Koda split neck blouse
Koda split neck blouse
holly02_2016_11_06
Benson 3/4 ruched sleeve blazer (with eShakti dress)
Renesme geo cube jersey faux wrap dress
Renesme geo cube jersey faux wrap dress
Rhonda faux leather jacket
Rhonda faux leather jacket

I also got rid of a bunch of old clothes. My new rule: if it moved here with me from Long Beach, it’s too old.

I tried buying some stuff from places other than StitchFix, with mixed luck. I got a new dress from eShakti that I liked a lot at first but have become less enamored with after actually wearing it. Same with a new skirt from ModCloth. I tried some shoes from Zappos but sent nearly all of them back. I did get some new scarves from Etsy that worked out (hard to mess that up), and some sweaters from the new Target on Chestnut. But overall it was more frustrating than not… and this is why I use Stitch Fix.

Last Month’s Update

September 2016: The Month in Tom and Holly

Life in Philly

The month started with Labor Day weekend – I was busy due to the impending start of the semester where I teach, but we did make it out to the Reading Viaduct Park PHS pop-up garden. The beer garden was only aiight but I’m excited for the Reading Viaduct Park to actually happen – we barely got a glimpse.

Viaduct Rail Park Pop Up Garden
Viaduct Rail Park Pop Up Garden

Later in the month we went to the South Street PHS pop-up garden, which was fun but also a bit scene-y (the mayor showed up).

South Street PHS pop-up garden
South Street PHS pop-up garden

The most amazing Philly thing that happened this month was the implementation of PA’s new only very slightly relaxed liquor law that now allows direct shipping from out-of-state wineries. My favorite CA winery, Tablas Creek, was on top of their game and got their license to ship right off the bat. I was thrilled to get my first legal shipment of wine, and all the wines I got from Tablas were exquisite.

The Schuylkill River turned all green mid-month, but it turns out it was just duckweed.

Travel

The last weekend of the month, we traveled slightly outside of Philly to attend a wedding in Collegeville, PA.

Right after the wedding, I went straight to the airport to head to Columbus, OH for a conference. I was actually pretty excited about it because while I’ve been to Dublin, OH (a suburb of Columbus) several times, I’d never had a chance to spend much time in downtown Columbus proper. I had an excellent time exploring downtown Columbus and the Short North neighborhood on foot, and I had much tasty, tasty food and drink.

Downtown Columbus
Downtown Columbus
Columbus North Market
Columbus North Market
Short North
Short North
Columbus food highlights
Columbus food highlights

Full photo set:

Short North

 

Farmers’ Markets

We enjoyed the tail end of summer tomatoes and corn!

Dining In

We continued to try to make the most of tomatoes and other summer vegetables…

tomato frittata
tomato frittata

Including burrata with tomatoes and wine

Pasta with corn and bacon

scallops with orzo, corn, tomatoes…

chicken with tomatoes and red wine vinegar...

mediterranean chicken with summer vegetables…

… and fish in parchment.

Dining Out

We’ve enjoyed the new Iron Hill brewery when we’re up in the Northeast Philly area – it’s nice to have another option since we always go to the same places when we’re up there. Here’s a photo of a gaucho chimichurri steak I got my first time there:

We were fortunate enough to make it to another Tuesday night BYO at Cafe Lutecia. As usual, it was outstanding. This time around we had quail, mini-croque madames with quail eggs, mini cassoulet, vegetable terrine, lamb merguez, and a cheese plate.

We continued to try more of the Mexican pizzas from Rosario’s. This month we had the pizza al pastor:

Pizza al Pastor from Rosario's Pizza
Pizza al Pastor from Rosario’s Pizza

Since we had the day off, we went out for breakfast on Labor Day to Little Spoon Cafe. I had a delightful Monte Cristo that wasn’t too greasy.

DIY

I continued making recipes from Ferment Your Vegetables. I tried a fermented tomatillo salsa, which was just OK, and I made another batch of fermented corn salsa since we liked it so much last time.

The biggest hit, though, was (Italian) fermented tomato sauce. This ended up with a beautiful deep red color, even though I used a variety of red, orange, yellow, and green tomatoes. After the tomatoes are fermented with onions and garlic, it’s blended with fresh basil and a bit of oregano and rosemary. It looks like ketchup but tastes so much better. We’ve enjoyed it with pasta, on top of roasted vegetables, and as a dip with crackers and cheese.

Remember when I used to make bitters? There was some lovely looking celery at Z Food Farm (pictured in the Farmers’ Markets section above) so I made my annual batch of celery bitters.

Books

I continued my voyage down Star Wars nerddom with (non-canon) Star Wars: The Dark Lord Trilogy. I finished the second story in the trilogy, which was the Revenge of the Sith novelization. Still one more story to go!

Speaking of Star Wars, now that we’re done with Clone Wars, we started watching Rebels. Wow! It totally evokes the wonder and joy of the first trilogy – I love it. Next up I’ll be reading a (canon) novel that is the lead up to Rebels.

Chopper!!!
Chopper!!!

In non Star Wars news, I read Throne of the Crescent Moon. It was quite enjoyable, and I’ll be sure to check out the next book in the series, whenever it is released.

Sadly I don’t think I’ll get a lot of reading done between now and the end of the year, since teaching is keeping me pretty busy. But I am ahead of schedule for meeting my reading goal of 25 books this year, and I may well meet it next month if I finish up what I’m reading now.

Last Month’s Update

August 2016: The Month in Tom and Holly

Life in Philly

This month, we got things off to a good start by going to First Friday. We hadn’t been in nearly 5 years, when we first moved here. We went to dinner in Chinatown first, then walked through the art galleries in Old City. We finished up with a drink at Good King Tavern on our way home.

Other than that, ugh, it was the hottest August in Philly ever, so we stuck to air conditioning when we could.

We did go on a nice walk after a rainstorm, up and down the Schuylkill boardwalk, and got some good pictures of reflections.

Farmers’ Markets

The best part of August for sure is summer produce. We’re still getting lots of tomatoes, corn, zucchini, and peppers.

Dining In

We made some really good lunches this month. Some of my favorites were corn panzanella, Mexican quinoa, tomato & corn salad, peach panzanella, french lentil salad with blue cheese, and 3 bean Israeli couscous salad.

After getting some hot green peppers from the farmers’ market, I ended up improvising a fish curry.

One weekend Tom improvised a scallop dish with roasted corn, white beans, and tomatoes. Another weekend he improvised a clam dish with farro, corn, pepperoni, and shishito peppers.

We made polenta with roasted cherry tomatoes, corn, and pesto:

We also made a delicious chicken cacciatore:

One weekend Tom made slow cooker carnitas tacos w/peach salsa

We tried a new recipe for harissa salmon (a week later we did the same recipe with cod, too):

I also remade a favorite from last year, summer chilaquiles

And toward the end of the month we tried a new recipe, summer bolognese:

Other recipes without good pictures include:

Tom also made another round of homemade pizza!

Dining Out

Speaking of pizza, the best thing we did this month was finally order Mexican pizza from Rosario’s Pizzeria. I stayed home each Friday this month to prep the class I’m teaching in Fall, and that first Friday I ordered myself a La Mexicana pizza with chorizo, roasted corn, tomatillo sauce, poblano peppers, and fresh avocado (pictured below). The next week we ordered a chicken tinga pizza. All the toppings and the crust are delicious, so it’s my new favorite pizza place.

As mentioned at the beginning of the post, we ate in Chinatown on our way to First Friday – specifically, we went to Vietnam Restaurant. Tom had been there before, but I’d never been. We had a great meal and especially enjoyed the sausage and vermicelli.

Later in the month we had a nice date night at Audrey Claire.

DIY

I made a few more pickle recipes from Ferment Your Vegetables: zucchini bread pickles and pickled peppers. The zucchini bread pickles used black tea and spices and were really interesting. The pickled peppers used oregano and are straight up delicious.

I tried the fermented hot sauce recipe from Ferment Your Vegetables, but this one didn’t work for me any better than past recipes I’ve tried. I don’t know what it is, I just don’t seem to have a knack for this (yet). (On the bright side, I finally got over my Tapatio vs. Cholula issue and have learned to embrace Cholula hot sauce, so it’s fine if I don’t have homemade hot sauce.)

The fermented tomato salsa I made last month turned out great so I made some more. I also made more hummus and harissa for snackies.

I hadn’t made bitters in awhile, but after finally acquiring some more cayenne pepper I did make a new batch of healing bitters.

I hadn’t made cold brew coffee in awhile, either, and since it’s been so hot, I made a few batches this month. I tried a new (to me) ratio based on Food in Jars and it worked really well. This is way less concentrated than what I’m used to but I think that’s a good thing.

Finally, my favorite DIY project from this month was peperonata – definitely a keeper!

Books

Tom bought Saga v.6 so I’m caught up on that series for now.

I heard a recommendation a few months ago for Planetfall, I think via Mary Robinette Kowal on Writing Excuses, in which the recommendation was something to the effect of “I can’t explain it, just read it.” I’ve been in a bit of a rut after I finished Dancer’s Lament last month, so I requested this via interlibrary loan and burned right through it. I really liked it and would pass on the same recommendation – just read it!

Tom shared an article with me on Pocket, 8 Parts of the Star Wars Expanded Universe That Should Have Stayed Canon, that I finally got around to reading in the wee hours some night when I couldn’t sleep. As a result, I ended up buying the Star Wars Dark Lord Trilogy, which is my first entree into the Expanded Universe (Legends). I have now leveled up like 100x in Star Wars nerddom. So far I’ve only finished the first book of the trilogy, Labyrinth of Evil, which takes place after the Clone Wars animated series and leads right up to Revenge of the Sith. (In the meantime, we’ve made it up to Season 6 in Clone Wars so this is good timing.) So the writing is complete shit but the storyline is really interesting. I’ve been supplementing by cross-referencing in Wookiepedia, now I know more than I ever wanted to know about things like the 7 lightsaber forms. But I’m also worried about how reading non-Canon stuff might be messing with my brain. Oh well. Rather than going deeper down the non-Canon path, if I’m gonna read more Star Wars novels, next time I’ll try to pick something next that is in Canon, though there are still a few more Expanded Universe books I want to check out.

I started reading Throne of the Crescent Moon, which is great so far, I’ve just been distracted by other things. More on that next month!

Last Month’s Update

July 2016: The Month in Tom and Holly

Life in Philly

It’s been really hot and gross pretty much all month, with quite a few thunderstorms. On the plus side, there have been some really beautiful sunsets.

The Democratic National Convention was in town, but unlike with the Pope visit last year, it ended up not really affecting us directly, in terms of getting around, etc.

Sadly there’s not too much to say about our month in Philly since we spent most of it inside trying to stay cool!

Farmers’ Markets

Tomatoes were really late this year, but they’re finally here. We’ve been getting lots of tomatoes, corn, and summer squash. I’ve been too lazy to take pictures every week, but here is a representative haul:

Dining In

As it’s been too hot to go out, we’ve been doing a LOT of cooking in.

One of our new things is to do a “fancy” pasta on Friday nights, which still feels as easy as lazy pasta, but more celebratory. In addition to the below recipes, we also fancied up some easy non-recipe dishes by 1) using fresh instead of dried pasta and 2) topping it with burrata!

fresh fettucini with tomatoes, olives, basil, and burrata

As usual, we get chicken and seafood every weekend at the farmers’ market. Occasionally we supplement with seafood from Di Bruno Bros. That means we’re pretty much always on the look out for chicken and fish recipes. We tried quite a few new ones this month in addition to repeating some favorites, like shrimp & corn chowder, fish in parchment, fish with red pepper sauce, and chicken souvlaki. We also tried chicken brined with feta cheese, but that was a bit boring.

Scallops with tomato-olive salsa

We also tried cooking a whole sea bass. Shore Catch sells them already gutted and cleaned so I thought it might be easy, but I was wrong. I consulted a few branzino recipes and stuffed the fish with lemon and thyme, with lots of olive oil, salt & pepper. The fish itself was delicious, but this is definitely something I’ll leave to professionals in the future. It sure made me appreciate the delicate hand of restaurant servers who carve the branzino tableside, and it also makes me appreciate how much those whole branzino dishes cost, as there is a lot of labor involved.

We’re still trying to make lunches to bring to work, but really only one recipe this month was a true success. In addition to lunch, this was fantastic for brunch with eggs on top!

Despite it being hot, we made a few big batches of things on the weekends, like veggie chili and stewed pinto beans, that we were able to use during the week for lunches and/or weekend brunch. We also made a standby, summer vegetable enchiladas.

This is a tasty egg dish I made with stewed pinto beans, corn tortillas, eggs, cheddar & jack cheese, homemade queso fresco, and homemade fermented corn salsa

In addition to all the veggies, it’s also peach season. We tried a few savory peach recipes that both turned out great. In addition, Tom made a delicious honey-vanilla mascarpone dip that we enjoyed with plain peaches for dessert.

Peach-burrata pizza

Dining Out

As mentioned above, we barely went out this month. On 4th of July weekend, we went up to Fox Chase to visit family and had a nice lunch at Hop Angel. On 4th of July itself (a Monday), we went to brunch at Tria Fitler Square.

We did a few date nights toward the end of the month. The first was at Ralph’s, the oldest Italian restaurant in the U.S. It was good to cross it off the list, but overall we weren’t too impressed. The service was lousy, the wine was terrible, and the food was good (the veal parm was fantastic) but overall not as good as some of the other South Philly Italian-American places we’ve tried.

Veal Parm at Ralph’s

We also had a date night at Sawatdee, one of our favorite Thai restaurants. It was during the DNC, so afterward we went to Rex1516 where they were having a few DNC cocktail specials (Martini with regular Bluecoat gin, Martinez with Bluecoat barrel aged gin).

DIY

The availability of summer produce has opened up some more opportunities for vegetable fermentation with recipes from Ferment Your Vegetables.

Inspired by a visit to SouthGate last month, I made a batch of green bean kimchi, which turned out delicious. I also made a fermented corn salsa and a fermented tomato salsa, both of which have been great to have around. The corn was a particularly active ferment, so it was fun to watch it bubble away. I’m not a huge fan of cucumber pickles, but I decided to try a small batch of spears anyway, and I loved how they tasted with the black pepper & mustard brine, with plenty of garlic.

July ferments

I also give ginger beer another try, since one of my theories as to why my previous attempts didn’t go so well was the weather. Well, I did get it to bubble this time, so something worked. However, it still went flat when I bottled it. I used a growler for bottling, maybe that wasn’t airtight enough. When I get the energy to try this again, I’ll try to use swing-top bottles.

Stitch Fix

Once it got really hot, I was ready for some new summer clothes. I ordered a StitchFix box for mid-July, but was a little disappointed this time around. I kept two tops, but sent back a top, a maxi dress, and some jeweled sandals. I scheduled another one for about a week later, and was annoyed that it seemed especially tone deaf following the previous return, as they sent yet another maxi, and PANTS during hot-ass summer. However, from the second fix, I kept a top, a skirt, and a beautiful dress. I debated keeping the second maxi dress – it was gorgeous, but I just can’t see an opportunity to wear it, unless, you know, I’m like vacationing on the beach, which isn’t happening. I got a load of compliments on the dress I kept.

Katniss Crochet Yoke Top
Katniss Crochet Yoke Top
Montgomery Cross Front Knit Top
Montgomery Cross Front Knit Top
Bastille Tulip Sleeve Blouse, Sadie Printed Swing Skirt
Bastille Tulip Sleeve Blouse, Sadie Printed Swing Skirt
Millie Textured Knit Dress
Millie Textured Knit Dress

I also made some small progress in buying things for myself without the aid of StitchFix. I bought a few long necklaces from Etsy (pictured below), as well as some shoes from Earth (the shoes are in all the pictures above), all of which worked out well. I am particularly pleased with the combo of bright red shoes with a red necklace that I got this month. Still, I made some mistakes – after being annoyed with my first StitchFix box I ordered some stuff from Eddie Bauer and had to send almost all of it back. I still can’t quite be trusted to dress myself, but baby steps.

These are the necklaces I bought on Etsy
These are the necklaces I bought on Etsy this month

Books

It’s hard to believe that at the beginning of the month I was still reading Dancer’s Lament. Well, I finished it and loved it. Esslemont is redeemed, though, I look forward to getting back to me re-read of Erikson’s Fall of Light, because even though both authors are writing in the same world, I love Erikson’s increasing richness in his use of the English language.

I did a quick read of Daniel Clowes Patience, a graphic novel which Tom had checked out from the library. It was a really interesting, trippy story, and might be my favorite of Clowes’ works that I’ve read.

I checked out The Sympathizer via interlibrary loan. The writing was excellent, and I was enjoying the story, but I knew I wasn’t going to have enough time to finish it before I had to turn it back in (I didn’t start reading it until the week before the due date), so I skipped around and ended up reading a disturbing rape scene that made me not want to keep reading it at that time. I think I would like to come back and revisit the whole book sometime when I have more time to read the whole thing.

Last Month’s Update