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I don’t have much time to write up our trip to Grant park for Obama’s big win, but it was pretty neat. Andrea put up some photos of the event here. While we were standing for ~6 hours, I often wondered what the Obamas were up to the whole time. I guess now I know, since they have a flickr photostream with new pictures taken during the returns! (thanks dillon!)

Also, I have updated the blogroll with Andrea&Nubia’s sewing blog and Michael Pierce’s enviably-named science blog.


Not that market, the farmer’s market!  With the first frost predicted in the coming days, we say goodbye to the wonder and beauty that is our Oak Park Farmer’s Market.  When fruits and vegetables good for little else than decoration crowd the grocery, our Market has supported our culinary adventures with bright tastes and more nutrients.

Since our hero has been spending his nights with Lady Synchrotron and his days counting sheep, I filled the role and brought back this little bounty.  Pies, roasted veggies, cabbage experiments, and nummy apples await.  Hopefully, our hero will rejoin the daytime living by then and partake.

Who knows when our hero will remember this humble little blog!  He’s been occupied with designing a chamber for a mid-winter beam run, working on a book chapter, and fleshing out some explanations for out-of-phase crystalline film behaviors.  And he thinks I don’t listen.  In the meantime, our little household is chugging along!  This past Saturday, we had separate but equally important causes to tend: Tim’s, to ensure that we would eat delicious vegetables through the winter, and mine, to do what I could to help Barack and Michelle move their lil munchkins into the White House.

Clockwise: Some homemade tomato sauce, baked Hubbard squash (the farmers recommended dropping the squash from a balcony to open it), and blanched corn stripped from the cob.  The end result will be more photogenic, but having reserves is endlessly reassuring.  Bread-n-butter pickles!

Next: A standing-room-only crowd of volunteers at Illinois’ 7th District Democratic Headquarters; a man giving a spontaneous speech about how we are realizing MLK’s vision of judging a man by the content of his character; chaotically and democratically splitting up into cars for the 2.5 hr ride to Michigan; the Kalamazoo Democratic Headquarters.  My group spent half the day registering voters in a subsidized housing development and the other half talking to undecideds about where they stand and what would convince them.  We were only five people, but beyond the actual contacts we made, the presence of volunteers for a candidate is sometimes a strong message alone.  Or so I hope.

With the first 40-degree nights in sight, we’re getting ready for the impending doom that is winter in Chicago.  Our hero and I scooted over to Michigan over the weekend to shake down an apple orchard and ride our bikes along the lake, where we learned that much of the lakeshore is private property and not so visitor-friendly.  Our hero would want me to tell you that we picked 45 lbs of apples, so says our bathroom scale.  Jonagolds, Empires, Fujis, and some contraband Honeycrisps –apparently they were off-limits but too tempting to pass up– turned into apple oatmeal, applesauce, and apple crisp yesterday.  Mmm.

Fall also demands a fall jacket!  This muslin pattern will (hopefully) be transformed into a jacket using these fabrics — the satiny being the liner.  I think the colors are more pumpkiney and cornflowerish in real life.  The sewing exploits may spin-off onto a separate blog in the future, lest the land of Lester and cooking be sullied by thread and bobbins.

In the absence of other things to occupy my time, I have taken up a new hobby which is taking our dining room by storm — a storm of thread and fabric scraps, that is.  Please note: if you have miniature people in your house, you’re more likely to get homemade things from my neighborhood sweatshop. 

From top left: jammies for the twin nephews, furry block for niece Sarah, chair cover for Tim’s bum, and furry hat for Tim’s head.

Apparently Chicago is prone to hurricanes. First Gustav and then Ike, with a vengeance. With all the flooded roads between here and Argonne it took at least an hour each way in the car. I guess I’ll bike again tomorrow since that’s a shorter-feeling 90 minutes. The one downside: the stench of mildew and sewage at certain points along the way.

In other news…not much going on! Postdoc is humming along well I guess and I’m still cooking a lot. Although I’m dreading the demise of the farmer’s market in October. Andrea is spending about 14 hours a day on her sewing machine, so I guess that was a good b-day present on my part. Honestly, I haven’t felt much urge to update this l’il website since she’s been out here, but I’ll try to once in a while.

Here are some pictures I found on the camera…explanations below.

(working across) nanoprobe, taken downstream; my peach b-day cake; new, nappable couch with our heroes; new, nappable couch with Andrea and Nubia (not exactly chopped liver); Andrea’s homemade beer cozies (get yours now!); a flock of Fisters; four pictures from a fancy dinner I made (local cheeses from down the street, beet salad, corn flan, scallops and roasted cipollini, shrimp with toasted cumin, ricotta/marscapone/lemoncurd/berry tart); Lester and his new, homemade cat toy; a bunch of tomatoes prior to getting sauced.

What a weekend!  Team Tim and Andrea just returned from a sun- and fun-filled tour of Southern Michigan.  While the casual citizen of the world might yawn and roll over to the words ‘Southern Michigan,’ TTA now know better.  Peaches, blueberries, wines, grape vodka, sun, sand, waves, and small-town fairs, (with sequined horse-riding youth) greeted us just over an hour outside our hustling Chicago.  Had you any idea?  Neither did we!

After filling up on cheese grits and banana pancakes at the legendary Sweet Maple Cafe, we drove through Indiana as quickly as possible and headed to our midwest paradise!  Those words are no longer an oxymoron!

The wineries out there were really cute and homegrown, with mostly friendly folks pouring lots of wine.  I think the Round Barn was the Team favorite, which was purchased in Indiana and moved –in pieces– to MI, where nice Amish folks reassembled it for our pleasure.  They had some fruity dessert wines and a grape vodka that made a smooth martini, and Tim couldn’t stop posing in front of the barn.  We also ran into a “town” fair, with Driers’ family-owned cured meats and some soft and squishy coffee-can corn bread, an art fair, with live twangy music, more wineries (I think we hit 6 in all), and bigger waves in that freshwater “ocean” than I’ve seen in some parts of San Diego.

Back in Oak Park, Tim is nursing his crispy skin.  That much fun has some consequences.

So Andrea & I are very opinionated about…just about everything. Rather than duking it out at home, I thought it would be fun to compare our views in front of the world–just quick little tidbits of things. Ok, here goes:

The Squid and The Whale
Tim: B+ I thought it was funny, and not that heavy despite being a movie about divorce. I wish other movies would be 85 minutes too
Andrea: C+
What was the point? All the characters were screwed up and did nothing to acknowledge or rectify their screwed-up-edness. I can’t imagine that family’s therapy bill!

Abita Strawberry Harvest Lager
Andrea: B+ The strawberry touch is perfect, better than any fruit beer I’ve had (so, 1 of 2). The underlying beer taste is a little bland. Perfect for a hot summer night.
Tim: B-. Not as sweet as I had dreaded. Very refreshing with just an aroma of strawberries. A good summer beer, but ultimately too diluted for my taste. (cute label!)

Great Lakes Sampler
Tim: A-. Nice range of beers. I liked the Edmund Fitz the best, although porters are a little hard to drink in the summer. The pale was great as well, although it was a borderline IPA. The only one I shrugged at was the white beer. In any case, well worth trying.
Andrea: N/A Tim sucked this case down before I could taste more than one. The white one was good — typical belgian.

God grew tired of Us
Andrea: A An endearing story of human resilience and perseverance. Also a nice double-take on our own society and customs, which we’re not often asked to do.
Tim: A. Shamefully, I tend to hide from message movies, but this one pulls you in both its treatment of the Lost Boys’ journey from the Sudan to Kenya and their relocation over here. Definitely worth checking out.

Andrea: A- I docked points only for some of the interpretation and delivery of the script, which I loved. Julia Cho nailed the Korean family dynamic and culture, which left me smiling widely and on the edge of my seat. The theatre company made inventive use of a small stage and limited funds, too. [sidebar to Reviewer #2: how American of you to insist on perfect clime wherever you go!]
Tim: B. Acting was a little inconsistent, but the script was quite eloquent. Silk Road theater needs some better AC!

The First Breeze of Summer
Tim: B-. The acting was top notch, but I got tired of the main story. My attention sort of petered out during the predictable ending
Andrea: B+ Life is predictable, it’s true! People die when they’re old! I liked the lack of formulaic plotline — sure, it rambled a bit, but that just allowed more time to get to know the large cast.

Dead Man’s Cell Phone
Tim: A-. Pitch perfect, except the lead actor’s take on her character was a bit grating for me. I love this type of absurd theater though and the scene transitions were ingeniously laced into the show itself.
Andrea: A The use of props, the acting, the lighting, the scene transitions — perfect. The lead was written to be seemingly weak, but that helped define where she held the line.

Comedy of Errors
Andrea: C- A ton of money went into this production, which was evident in the lavish costumes and the extravagant set, but though there were ostensibly two plays — the movie set and then the Shakespearean drama they were filming — the acting styles were identical in both. I was also distracted by the over-acting and two-dimensional emotions.
Tim: B. A lot better than I expected when I heard it was a play within a play (that was a period piece as well). Hammy fun and solid on the acting and technical sides. Too long for my taste, which probably has detracted from my memory of it.

Joffrey American Moderns
Tim: C+. Well, I really tried to give my first show at the Joffrey a fair shake, but I got a little tired of the dancing after the second intermission. Inner Space was pretty great though, albeit more circus than dance.
Andrea: B+ (I don’t think it’s fair to downgrade a dance performance b/c you don’t like dance) Some things were boring and overused, like sailing across the stage with helicopter arms, but the box act was incredible. There were microphones inside the box so we could hear all the squeaks of flesh against the plexiglass, and the different combinations and non-emotive emotions were fascinating.

Famed mystery writer, Barbara Fister (known as “mom” to some), is passing through town while dodging tornadoes on her book tour. Her newly published detective novel, In the Wind, follows her critically-acclaimed On Edge. I chanced upon her new book at the Seattle Mystery Bookshop and was instantly pulled into the Anni’s world. If you’re in Oak Park, it’s also at the library right now — on display!

Back in Chicago, we’ve been cooking up a southern storm. The past few days have seen a mess of collards, cornbread with honey butter, jerk chicken, and gumbo. Tim schooled me in roux-making and added ham hocks to complete the gumbo.

It’s been a bit busy lately–we went to Seattle and have been ushering a lot. (seriously, yesterday’s play, which I liked, and the transportation to and from it basically tanked our day). Andrea‘s astounding picassa show was up way before my lazy ass could post this pile of words! up later, but in the meantime here’s a foodcentric rundown of last weekend:

  • Broke fast at tilth, wonderful tilth (our waiter’s tourette’s led to about 30 dollars worth of heirloom bloody mary’s)
  • At a new ice-cream place in Wallingford, I attempted to eat the strangest sundae ever: chocolate ice cream, bergamot-infused olive oil, sea salt, and whipped cream. Will stick to the basics next time.
  • For a bus tour of Seattle, bought some lemonade, tequila, and sunglasses. One should never ride a hot bus in Seattle without a thermos of faux margaritas.
  • Arrived at the Madison Park beach in the mid to upper 80’s, which inspired Andrea to jump in the lake.
  • Landed at Green Leaf, a terrific new Vietnamese place in the ID. Andrea doesn’t like Vietnamese food usually, but she dug Green Leaf (maybe it was the blood cube in her soup).
  • Watched Mariner’s beat the Pods, danced with the little one, and had one more beer at the best bar on Phinney ridge.
  • Woke up, shook off hangover, walked to Senor Moose and ate some fancy beans.
  • Hit the Ballard farmer’s market and walked away with some frozen blueberries, four pounds of rhubarb, and lot of green garlic, mint, and #2 heirlooms.
  • Had a leisurely afternoon making a prosecco sangria (with mangos, canteloupe, grapefruit and the rest of that pomegranate lemonade), blue-cheese/chipotle turkey burgers, roasted potato/garlic salad, a big green salad with the market’s bounty, and a giant rhubarb/blueberry crisp.
  • Proceeded to feed a lot of people this food. Had a contest with Natty to see who could expand their belly the most. Unexpectedly, I lost.
  • Luckily, this boring list comes to life in Andrea’s pictures!
  • Retired to Silver Cloud stadium, which had been billed as ‘close to pike’s place market’ on Hotwire. I noticed afterward that the highlighted portion of the map had a small strip that extended several miles south to include this place. Did Tom DeLay end up working for hotwire?
  • Met with folks at UW, did a little work.
  • Dinner at Jerry’s where I got to meet Ida, who is so cute that she makes buttons look like shit.
  • Post-dinner at Micah’s. Had such a good time talking I never even thought about getting out their wii.
  • The next day, after several aborted meetings, we went to Salumi. It’s a Seattle institution that I’ve never paid my respects too. It’s sort of like being the only guy to have not seen Star Wars, but for foodies. (that’s a little more tasteful than the ‘lost my meat virginity’ phrase that I was originally going to toss out)
  • Attended the department’s awards banquet which had a nice spread and the vundervul Andreas handling mike duties. Andrea was a little overwhelmed by the sea of nerds. Fortunately Paul C. lightened the mood with tails of dropping stuff (beds, etc) on people when he was at the top of one of Columbia’s student towers.
  • Andrea stayed out way late with her ‘reans. I was not invited to their karaoke party at China Gate Great Wall, but should’ve crashed it in retrospect. I guess calling and asking if a “group of Koreans” are at the asian restaurant is a version of crashing. Andrea also apologized for getting carried away and making me worry which I appreciated. What a sweetie!
  • Took a bus to the airport and returned to Chicago. As a reminder to the fact that we were, indeed, back in Chicago, there was a gang-related shooting about 30 feet from our apartment. Yee haw.

Ok, kids, I was going to wax on about my new garden at Argonne, but apparently I’ve rambled too long so I’m waxing off.