Monday, August 25, 2008

Countdown to Ireland

On Friday, Andrew and I are heading eastwards to spend five days hiking across the Irish countryside with two of Andrew's college friends. We're following a trail called the Wicklow Way that stretches from south Dublin all the way to Clonegal. Over the course of five days, we'll be traveling by foot from Knockcree to Shillelagh--as you can see on the map below, that means we're doing almost the whole thing!

Andrew and his friend did a couple days of the trail during study abroad in college, and apparently it is a lot of walking through pastures and country backyards. We're staying at hostels, B&Bs and the odd cottage, and we'll be doing four-and-a-half to seven-and-a-half hours of hiking each day. At least the weather is going to be cool (it's also going to be wet).

I'm looking forward to it...I think. I've got my misgivings, mostly about what it's going to be like to spend seven hours walking, and right now I'm bogged down with figuring out what we still need to do before we leave on Friday. We've got a decently long to-do and to-buy list, and I didn't get to check anything off of it today; Andrew says this is just because I didn't put enough on it to begin with. Today we purchased reading material for the trip as well as small moleskin notebooks for travel journaling (I won't have internet access over there, but I will take detailed notes, a la beach trips in Mexico); I also started throwing some things into a pile to be packed Thursday night. Tomorrow I'll knock out most other things, hopefully: buying duffle covers for the plane trip, tiny shampoo bottles, a toothbrush, a bandana, socks, turkey jerky, calling the bank so they don't freak over over foreign credit card charges...hoo boy.

But, we've got the important stuff: books to read, notebooks for writing, camera for picture-taking (of course).

So, next week I'll be blogging even less than usual, but I'll presumably return with a flurry of posts about sheep and Guiness and things that come up when you spend a week with three people (two almost strangers) testing the limits of your physical endurance. Should be exciting.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

What's a walk in woods without running into some cobwebs?

Andrew and I went for a hike today, in half-assed preparation for our week-long hike in Ireland coming up soon. It was something of a mistake...turns out August in Houston is hot--unbearably hot when it comes to hiking around outside for over an hour.

There were shady sections to our trip, but these had their own excitement...

(Picture courtesy of Wikipedia; my camera was unfortunatey malfunctioning today.)

Anywhere there was canopy, and trees lining the path, these spiders (golden silk orb-weavers, apparently) had strung their webs across the path. In most cases, a few golden-yellow strands of web were attached to branches on either side of the path, with an orb web in the middle and its creator--usually they were about three or four inches across including legs--sitting dead-center Luckily for us, most of the time the webs were high enough up that we didn't even need to duck; but it was still a rather unsettling walk, always being on the lookout for webs (and Andrew is hardly a fan of spiders). They're not poisonous, and we didn't walk into a single web, but it felt a little like walking into a cave filled with booby traps, seeing dozens of these webs and predators hovering just over (or way over) our heads.

EDIT: Also, we got hella bitten up. I've got almost 40 bites, and more keep showing up. When I went to bed last night, I had four. This is despite having used bug spray.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

More food not fiction

I don't think this is going to turn into a full-time foodie blog, but I made some pretty photogenic dishes recently that I'd like to share.

First up, tonight I thought I'd try to recreate a pasta salad that I used to buy all the time from the cafeteria in the building where I work in Chicago:

I call it "Fiesta Pasta:" fresh tomatoes and cilantro, corn, black beans, and grated Asiago cheese, with a bit of olive oil, salt, and pepper. The kind I bought always penne pasta, but I had rigatoni, so there. It's really delicious, and but I made it for tomorrow...
must resist...

Last week, I made a spinach quiche, using a recipe from a friend at work. It was purty!

It was really full and puffed up a lot in the oven; this is after it had already started to fall:

Also, on Sunday night I decided to be decadent and roasted a whole head of garlic. We smeared it on toast and ate it with steak and green beans. Thai curry later this week--red curry with peanut butter, chicken, and bell pepper.

Well, now I'm hungry again. I think there is some Ben & Jerry's in the freezer...

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Omnivore's Hundred

A little diversion, courtesy of the Very Good Taste blog (by way of Chocolate & Zucchini):
Below is a list of 100 things that I think every good omnivore should have tried at least once in their life. The list includes fine food, strange food, everyday food and even some pretty bad food - but a good omnivore should really try it all. Don’t worry if you haven’t, mind you; neither have I, though I’ll be sure to work on it. Don’t worry if you don’t recognise everything in the hundred, either; Wikipedia has the answers.

Here’s what I want you to do:

1) Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.
2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten.
3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating.
I've starred the things I would like to try (I had to look a lot of them up). I've also explained in most cases why I wouldn't try what I've crossed out.

1. Venison
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros
4. Steak tartare An interesting read
5. Crocodile
6. Black pudding
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari
12. Pho
13. PB&J sandwich
14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart
16. Epoisses*
17. Black truffle*
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans
25. Brawn, or head cheese I could maybe be convinced to try this, but...
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper
27. Dulce de leche
28. Oysters
29. Baklava
30. Bagna cauda*
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl
33. Salted lassi*
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float
36. Cognac with a fat cigar I don't smoke.
37. Clotted cream tea*
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O
39. Gumbo
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat I've had goat byrani, though; too much bone.
42. Whole insects
43. Phaal*
44. Goat’s milk But I love goat cheese!
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more
46. Fugu Not sure it's worth the risk.
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
50. Sea urchin
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi*
53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini
58. Beer above 8% ABV
59. Poutine*
60. Carob chips
61. S’mores
62. Sweetbreads
63. Kaolin
64. Currywurst*
65. Durian
66. Frogs’ legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake
68. Haggis
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette I had to look this up, and it looked/sounded disgusting.
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini*
73. Louche absinthe*
74. Gjetost, or brunost
75. Roadkill Why should I?
76. Baijiu
77. Hostess Fruit Pie
78. Snail
79. Lapsang souchong
80. Bellini
81. Tom yum
82. Eggs Benedict
83. Pocky
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant.
85. Kobe beef*
86. Hare
87. Goulash
88. Flowers
89. Horse
90. Criollo chocolate*
91. Spam
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose harissa*
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano*
96. Bagel and lox
97. Lobster Thermidor*
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Snake

So, 52 out of 100--not bad. There's some consistency with what I wouldn't want to try... Some of the stranger things I would try for culture's sake, but I wouldn't go out of my way.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Cooking versus writing

Cooking is winning.

makes fun of me for taking pictures of the food I make, so I oblige him I snapped this of our dinner:

Turkey panini on Italian bread with cheddar and fresh guacamole (which tonight featured chili powder, cumin, fresh cilantro and fresh lime).

For tomorrow, I've put together a tuna salad that I recreated based on a catered lunch the other week, with chopped pecans and water chestnuts (I used equal parts mayonnaise and yogurt to make it creamy).

My next kitchen experiment will be to see if I can recreate (or at least approximate) this raspberry-habaƱero sauce that was served over cream cheese at a party last night.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Itsy bitsy frog

A couple days ago I stepped outside of my apartment and something danced across my path, something small. When I looked closer, I realized it was a frog:

This fellow is no larger than my fingernail (and not the one on my thumb, either). There are lots of toads and hoppy things around our apartment; they come out at night and when it rains. I've seen one the size of a plum, and now I've seen one smaller than a dime, and everything in between, of course.

You may recall this is not the first time I've photographed tiny wildlife:

Wednesday, August 6, 2008


Just like my fictions! I admit, I have dropped the ball with regular drabbles. But look!

From the mind of Elizabeth (as far as I know): pasta salad with fresh mozarella, cherry tomatoes, and sauteed zucchini (with basil and onions). I used multigrain pasta.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

August 3: Divigate

“Unhand the maiden, foul scum!”

The mugger turned, still gripping the struggling woman’s arm. Rising up before him was a man the size of the Jolly Green Giant. He froze at the sight.

“I said UNHAND HER!”

The force of the exclamation sent the man flying, still attached to his victim. Fortunately, the oversized crime-fighter reached out with his enormous hand and captured her mid-air.

Then, something above caught his eye. “BALLOONS!” he cried gleefully, releasing the woman, who landed on the pavement with a crunch.

The onlookers shook their heads. “The Boy Blunder must be off his meds again.”