Ithaca, New York

I strongly recommend a few wonderful things that I happened to do in Ithaca this past weekend.

#1: Eat lunch at Viva Taqueria

Viva Taqueria!

I had a Daddy-Daughter date while waiting for my car’s new tires to get aligned, and let me tell you, the burritos are killer!

#2: Bask in the glory of Wegmans

Wegmans!

My love of Wegmans is no secret. This place is magical . . . I mean, rainbow roses and a hummus bar? Where can you go wrong? I can’t wait until these abound in Massachusetts!

#3 Walk around “The Commons” in Downtown Ithaca

downtown Ithaca

The Commons is currently under construction, so there are lots of temporary community art projects everywhere to spruce it up! Even if that wasn’t a draw though, there are loads of fun and quirky shops down there to explore!!!

#4: Go out on Cayuga Lake

Cayuga Lake

#5:Go Blueberry Picking at Glenhaven Farms

Blueberry Picking at Glenhaven I have picked blueberries at this farm for as long as I can remember, and they are always delicious! It’s also quite a lovely rural setting.

#6: Visit at least 1 waterfall

Taughannock Falls

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There are just tons of waterfalls in Ithaca, and this is the one that is closest to my house, Taughannock Falls. One of my favorites, though, is called Lucifer Falls, which is found at Upper Treman State Park.

#7: Go to the Farmer’s Market

Farmers Marketvia

This is the best place to find local color, beautiful artwork, delicious fresh bread, baby kittens, flowers to make you swoon, cambodian stir fry, mountainous ears of corn, artisan earrings, hand-painted pottery, and other generally fun shopping. Little Known Fact about Abigail/Cakey: my first non-babysitting job was directing traffic at this Farmer’s Market. Yup. Glamorous. They also have insanely good ethnic foods on site. Oh, and I once had the best Tapioca pudding of my life at the Farmer’s Market. No joke.

Brakes over Break…

Usually, a trip “home” to Ithaca, NY means a lot of beautiful experiences, and this long weekend trip was no exception! From sunrise on the lake (with Dad in a fishing boat!) to blueberry picking with Mom to local beer-tastings with dear old friends, this past weekend had a lot of lovely moments.

HomeHowever . . .

. . . getting home turned out to be a bit more of a pill than usual. On the usually 5.5-6 hour drive home, I got a flat tire. Then I got another one. Lets just say by the time I got home, it was a good 12 hours after I’d begun driving, and I was new-best-friends with a lovely woman named Deborah at the Honda dealership in Oneonta, NY.  Four tires later, our local mechanics let me know that I ALSO happened to have a little issue with my break pads. . . a little issue with the fact that they were 90% worn away.

thems the brakes...

Woof. Thankfully, I have a father who is a genius with car maintenance of all kinds. Determined to gain myself a new skill, I decided to learn from the master (Dad) and DIY the heck out of this task. I am going to share my newly acquired skill, but you should know that I will be doing this in completely non-technical terms, which only befits my actual skill-level.

 First, we assembled the tools needed.

Dad's Workbench

My Dad has an incredible (and incredibly disorganized) workbench (as you can see in the picture above). This is like the Room of Requirement for people who need to work on cars. Inside, we (ahem: Dad) found everything we needed for the job ahead. That would be (from left to right in the picture below): a ratchet wrench, a screw driver (not a phillips-head!), a C-clamp, some Caliper grease, a set of wrenches, a few different sets of ratchetty-top-things. Not pictured: we also used a hammer-wrench (to get the bolts off the tires easily) and a big jack (to hold up the car).

Tools needed to change brake pads

After we had the requisite tools and had taken the wheels off of the car while it was jacked up, we started by removing the bolts from the Caliper (with the ratchet wrench), and taking that off of the wheel well. You have to do this part carefully because  you don’t want to have anything happen to the hose that connects it to the rest of the car. We sort of gently balanced the caliper on the top of the tire-mount-thingy. Then you take out the old brake pads (see above). Which leaves you with something like this:

Caliper Off, old break pads off

At this point, use the C-clamp to push the compressor piece back in on the caliper.

See the pushed-out thing below?

Caliper detail . . .

image source, other image source

Just make sure the C-clamp is placed inside the caliper, not on the rim anywhere (because if it is on the rim, then you will wind up bending this piece of the caliper and the breaks won’t work as well.) Once that is pushed in, then you are gonna want to prep the new brake pads. This involves taking something called Disc Brake Quiet (or, as I like to call it: Red Goo), and putting some (not too much) on the two outside parts of the new brake pads that are going to touch the caliper. This will keep the brake from squealing or making any unhappy noises.

Disc Brake Quiet ON

partial image source

Then, with a little care to not get red goo on yourself, you slide the new brake pads into the notches we saw earlier, red goo side facing out, and then all that remains is to screw the caliper back on nice and tight (with your ratchet wrench!).

There they are - New Brake Pads!The last step, once the caliper is re-attached, is to put the wheel back on and take your baby for a test-drive! Be sure to hit the brakes hard a couple of times, just to make sure you did it correctly!  Oh, and remember to congratulate yourself, because you just saved yourself some money and learned to change your own brake pads!!!

Isn’t that cool?

Hamlet: A Positive Experience

Hooray for Hamlet!!!

Maybe you think the excitement/exclamation points are a little ridiculous. Hamlet is not exactly the most positive story in the Shakesperian repertoire.

Things I Free-Associate With Hamlet Include:

  • Alas poor Yorrick
  • über-morbid grave-digging humor
  • bat-shit crazy heartbroken girlfriends
  • soliloquies on suicide
  • bloody death-fests with poison-tipped swords

Overarchingly not-positive, right?

You know not what it is?

Well, ALLOW me to introduce you to a whole new world of Hamlets. That’s right! Hamlets are (drumroll please) MY ABSOLUTE FAVORITE SANDWICH!

doubt not. . .

via

. . . this sandwich.

Ingredients Needed:

  • Rye bread (I like it swirled with pumpernickel!)
  • ham cold-cuts
  • cole slaw *
  • dill pickles
  • tomatoes, sliced
  • bacon
  • swiss cheese slices

Ingredients to LOVE

* whisk together 1/2 c. mayo, 1/2 c. vegetable oil, 1/8 c. sugar, 1/6 c. white vinegar, then pour over 1 bag of shredded cabbage/coleslaw mix and let sit for about 1 hour before using

Now you just layer it all!!!

Sandwich by LayerPlease note, step #8 involves broiling for a minute. . . or putting it in the oven for about 5 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Once it is out of the oven,  you just ENJOY IT in all of its glorious mess! Which, ironically, is how you enjoy the play as well, if you really want to know.

AMAZING!Trust me, it’s delicious!

Disagree with me on this one? Well, all I have to say to you is:

get thee too a nunneryvia

A “Healthy” Treat

Occasionally, my sweet tooth hits an insatiable level, as I’ve mentioned before. In those moments, when my sugar cravings are hulking out, I have been attempting to enjoy sweet treats that have some redemptive scrap of nutritional value. Having finally wearied of turning on the oven to bake chick-pea based cookies (which are still delicious, by the way), I decided it was time to look into a no-bake option – it is summer after all.

Ingredients to Assemble:

  • 1 cup creamy peanut-butter (I used the organic kind, because it’s supposedly better for you…)
  • 2/3 c. honey
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil
  • 1 & 1/4 c. chocolate (I used semi-sweet chips, but whatever you have handy can work, as long as it’s chopped into small bits)
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 cups old-fashioned oats
  • 1 c. flaked coconut

Step 1 of 2 (aka. this is going to be easy)

Mix everything but the oats and coconut in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring regularly, until it is one smooth, melted-together consistency. Healthy-ish

Step 2 of 2 (a no brainer)

Add in the oats and coconut and stir it up. Then scrape the whole gooey mixture into a pan that you have lined with tin-foil and non-stick-sprayed as much as possible! Throw this into the refrigerator to set before you slice them up!healthy . . . glue?

When they are done, slice them up and enjoy! Just remember to store these suckers in the fridge or they will melt!bites of fake-healthy goodness

It is probably worth mentioning that these are by no mean low-calorie. . . which is why the “healthy” is in quotation marks. HOWEVER, they have no butter, no straight sugar (except in those chocolate chips, I’m sure), no processed oils, and (probably arguably) some nutritional value (ahem: oats and protein, man).

SO . . . while not exactly guilt-free, probably better than your average candy bar, yes? eat them!!

Take-A-Number Bars

Meet Zach.

zachary

Zach is my little brother who got married (to the lovely lady pictured on the right above, incidentally) and moved to Florida temporarily where he is living my own personal dream: working in thrift stores and experimenting with new recipes. Now, is this his personal ideal? Probably not. But being in Florida so short term means that his ideal is kind of impossible, so in the few-week interim he happens to be filling his days doing two of my all time favorite things. I’m trying not to be jealous. In one of our many conversation, he started to tell me about a recipe for a homemade version of Take 5 Candy Bars that he had found online. Pretzel crust, peanut-butter fluffy-ness, caramel full of peanuts and chocolate? That’s five very nice things. In fact, we got to thinking that you could probably eliminate any one . . . or two . . . or three . . . layers, and still have a delicious treat. So, without further ado, here is my first experiment with what I am lovingly referring to as

Take-A-Number Bars!!!

If you really want to go to the source, click here, because they are the experts who really know what they are doing (at least, comparatively), but feel free to follow my meager attempts as well! You might notice that I cut every amount in half to make a half-batch. . . but I’m giving you the original figures, because I don’t want to say “half of a third of a cup” like 5 times.

Step 1: The Pretzel Crust

Making The Pretzel Crust

Crush up pretzels so that you have 2 cups. Then mix the crushed bits with 3/4 c. melted butter and 1/2 cup light brown sugar. Bake this at 350 for about 10 minutes.

Step 2: The Peanut-Buttery Fluffy-Sweetness Layer

peanutty filling

Mix together one half cup of softened butter, 1 cup of creamy peanut butter and 2 cups of powdered sugar. Spread the resulting peanut-buttery fluffy stuff over the cooled pretzel crust.

Step 3: TWO of the Take Five Components 

Caramel and Nuts

In a pan, put 1 and 1/2 cups of white sugar, 2 Tbsp light corn syrup, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/3 cup water. Don’t stir it, but DO stick a candy thermometer in and make sure it reaches 340 degrees fahrenheit! The sugar will just have started to darken/turn caramel-y colored when it is at the right temp. This takes about 15 minutes. At this point, remove it from the heat and add 1/3 cup of heavy cream, 1/3 cup butter and 1 Tbsp. sour cream. Mix it until it’s all incorporated and then let it cool into lovely caramel.

Note: If you screw up the timing/temperature on this, you might accidentally wind up with something resembling maple sugar candy (ahem, not that I know this from personal experience or anything). IF that is the case, please feel free to do what I did and re-do this step, following the directions better.)

THEN, when the caramel is cool(ish) crush up about 1 cup of honey roasted peanuts and put those bits into the caramel before spreading those on top of the peanut-butter-fluffy-stuff layer.

Step 4: The Final Chocolatey touch

The final step is melting some (2 cups) milk chocolate for the top, which I do in a microwave because it’s easy. (Double boilers = twice the dishes, right?) I skipped adding the cream that the recipe called for, because I didn’t think it was really necessary. Spread the melted chocolate on the top and let it all cool in the fridge!

1-2-3-4-5 essential layering pieces!

Step 5: Checking Out the Finished Product

I'll Take FiveAll things considered? These are pretty darn tasty.

Well chosen, Zach.

Shangri-La and Sangria!

Something about this summer is making me love the music of the sixties and anything chilled. I don’t really think there’s any great argument for sixties hits and cold drinks over any other era. . . but it really is quite a magnificent pairing. Don’t take me at my word, though! You should probably test my theory, make yourself some white strawberry-lemon sangria (like I just did!) and listen to Little Eva (above) and The Lettermen (below) with me.

delicious white sangria

This is summer. 

A Travellogue

This was written just after Christmastime, at the start of 2007, as I travelled from Boston to Marseille after spending a short week home.

Alright, let me preface my “travel thoughts” section with the somewhat-obvious point that I arrived safely and am now sitting in my room in Aix feeling very sleepy but wonderful after a nice long shower and tooth-brushing. God I love hygiene. Anyway, so there you have it. I am safe and sound and back in France. I’m sending you my travel thoughts, because they might be amusing…especially since I was extremely tired while writing most of them! I love you guys so much, and I miss you already!

Logan Airport

Loganvia

How often do people sit alone in a seedy Boston airport diner called Houlihan’s? Well, pretty often . . . apparently. I’m definitely not the first. I’m not even the only one to be doing this right now. Go figure. Nothing like travel. You step off of national soil, and step onto an airplane with hundreds of other people from all over the world. Yes sir, there’s nothing like flying to open up the world . . . and make you realize how small and insignificant you actually are.

I get a real kick out of airports. You know the movie Love Actually? I love that movie. It’s true: arrivals gates are fun places to watch all sorts of people welcome their haggard loved ones. Still, arrival gates? Come on…they’re overrated. What about departure gates? I’ll bet you don’t have too many people crying broken-heartedly at arrival gates, do you? There’s always at least one at every departure gate (ahem…yes, I have done it before). I think it’s nice though. It lends a touch of tragedy, and if I’ve learned anything from Hollywood, it’s that tragedy sells. But you don’t just have tragedy at departure gates. You’ve got the whole range of emotions: love, sadness, hatred, anger, excitement…and (my personal favorite) panic.

departuresvia

I just watched an old woman have her panic-moment of the year. Seriously. There she sits. After the third consecutive time that an airport door-alarm has sounded for high pitched 10 minute periods, her nerves are on edge. She sips her little plastic bottle a little faster…begging the question of what is in said bottle. But that’s not even the end of it. Oh no. If you have ever traveled, you know that the news station is constantly on in any airport and playing a continuous stream of depressing news (just to enhance your travel experience). So, there we’re sitting when the perfectly coiffed newscaster goes into a ten minute discussion of an uncommon rash of tornados that are “sweeping” across the country, inhibiting much travel. She didn’t stop there, though. Oh no. Then she told us about two missing airplanes that have been assumed lost. Apparently, this “freak occurrence” is “evidence that horrible accidents can always happen, despite all our best efforts.” I’m not going to lie. I laughed. I wonder how many beats that poor woman’s heart just skipped.

Flying...

But it only makes departure gates even better. People leave countries in a strange state of mind. They are angry, sad, honeymoon-ing, you name it. And in the midst of it all, I am sitting at Houlihan’s nursing my strawberry smoothie (that tastes suspiciously like alcohol) and a tall glass of unsweetened iced tea. Can it be that I’m getting used to travel? Impossible. But I have transitioned. I am no longer the sobbing first-flight, ticket-clutching touch-of-tragedy girl that I was the first time I flew out of country. Oh no. This time I am the tea-sipping, computer-typing, bag-slinging cheerful person who gets waved through the security line without any pat-downs or feel-ups or wand-checks (…actually, without even going through the second check-point in the security line…) because most airport security people realized that such an incredibly white, happy New-Yorker who is named Abigail Adams is probably not the next terrorist to pop up in America’s Most Likely. Thank goodness some people are still logical. Gosh.

But really, you gotta love travel. Now I’m going to chug the rest of my tea (which I’ll regret later when I get a claustrophobic attack in the airplane bathroom cubby) and get in line to board my next plane. Catch you on the flip side!

Flying Away

Frankfurt Airport (or Frankport, as I like to think of it)…aka: the Flip Side

Frankfurtvia

I guess you could sort of call this the flip side. I’m waiting in another departure zone in Frankfurt. After about 11 hours, I have a slightly less rosy view of airports in general. Some places grow on you. Airports stomp on your spirit. Just kidding. Sort of.

I flew the whole way here next to a very sweet girl named Christiana. She’s a German law student who is practicing in Boston to be near her boyfriend…and she is beyond terrified of flying. Our first exchange involved us switching seats so that she wouldn’t have to look out the window. Then I proceeded to watch her put up a picture of her loved ones in front of her and pull out a well-worn stuffed animal of a British soldier which she held onto for dear life. (It ended up being some cutesy story about her boyfriend giving it to her for “protection”.) She was practically crying when we took off, so although my book and i-pod were calling, I decided they could wait and Christiana and I talked about lots of everything.

You know what’s amazing? It never fails what country or what language, but the names that are paged over the intercom in any airport are always impossibly to understand or pronounce. “Would Mister Stoner Von Mildersaday contact airport security?” “Would Michana Legivovichicala contact the terminal?” Seriously. And they must never recognize their butchered pronunciation, because the poor woman usually has to make the announcement at least 5 times. Thank God for modern convenience. Sigh.

I read a 200 page novel on the plane. Thus, consequently, I did not sleep. Right now it is about 10am in Germany and I feel like my teeth are growing some unknown new species of fungus, my face might just be able to oil a frying-pan after the in-flight meal that was served, my palms are blistered from carrying my carry-ons around and my inner eye-lids have turned into sand-paper. It sounds like I’m complaining, but I just want you to get a clear image of me right now. I just sat up and gave up trying to use my computer case as a pillow. I am sitting at departure gate E6 and a large group of Japanese tourists/businessmen (?) is playing an unbelievably animated card game behind the decorative palm trees. The pinstriped, buttoned-down man behind me is reading a book (in French) about Hinduism while the German news is going full force. The only words I can understand from the news real is “Bush”, so maybe it’s a good thing I can’t understand.

It’s actually not so bad. Once I finally got my second boarding pass (apparently my flight got delayed so that my lay-over is now for 6 hours instead of 2) and got through airport security, I slept for about an hour and a half on these little benches. And I found a rest-room (even if the girl in the stall next to me was puking her brains out), so that was nice. All in all, I’m fairly ready to arrive in France. Or even to just depart from Frankfurt.

Oh and I now have a German stamp in my passport. And I haven’t even had a beer. Not to mention I can’t find Frankfurters anywhere in the Frankfurt Airport. That seems a little contradictory, eh?

Home: 14 Rue de la Mule Noire

Rue de la Mule Noire - panneau

Well, after the 6 hour layover, in which I actually did sleep a little bit, I got onto the last flight back to Marseille (THANK GOD). I actually stepped onto that tiny little plane and my seat (17H) had a big sign taped to it that said “DO NOT OCCUPY” Soooo, that threw me for a little loop, but me and one other lady ended up getting bumped up to the front of the plane. Normally that would mean we were in first class, but since it was an eensy-weensy little baby plane, It basically just meant that they gave us water in a glass instead of plastic and we got offered tea multiple times instead of just once. It didn’t matter though, because I slept almost the entire way…well, for about an hour of the hour and a half flight. Once I got off the plane and collected my eggplant colored luggage, I changed my dollahs at the airport and took the first bus home.

Rue de la Mule Noire

I actually think that the walk from the bus station to my doorstep seemed like the longest part of the trip. My back might never be the same! But now I’m half unpacked and squeaky clean, so it was all worth it!

There you have it. Aren’t you glad you got to be a part of all of that?

Too Many

too many cooks. . .

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You may have heard the old adage “Too many cooks spoil the batter“? (Batter, broth. . . you get the picture.) Well, I have just come to the distasteful (literally) realization that too many batters can also ruin a good cooking venture. Lets just say I got inspired to try to make my own Peach Butter (like Apple Butter, but with PEACHES!). Which led to my trying to make my own Peach Curd/Peach Curd Bars. Which lead to an excess of egg whites and an almost-attempted making of meringue cookies. All of which led to one VERY flopped attempt at Peach Butter. . . At least, I think it flopped. Let’s say I’m 98.4% sure that it wasn’t supposed to look OR taste the way it turned out.

peach but . . . but . . .

Back up a little bit to my reason for frenetic evening cooking. . . I sat in a small non-air-conditioned room with 71 other potential jurors for just shy of 8 hours today. Needless to say, I hit my household like a whirling dervish when I finally got home. After mowing the lawn, weeding the gardens, showering, cleaning the bathroom, and eating a yogurt, I caught sight of the freshly rinsed peaches waiting patiently on my counter and impulsively decided it was time to put them to good use. Pinterest yielded oodles of delicious looking peachy ideas, but the most incredible sounding was for Peach Butter. Unfortunately I got a little side-tracked making other . . . experimental . . . things. Aaaaaand I’m pretty sure I wound up putting (and this is embarrassing to admit) a healthy heap of salt into the peach mixture instead of sugar. I don’t remember doing it. I could’ve sworn I didn’t, actually, but . . . my taste-buds indicate otherwise.

All this to say, another one of my favorite expressions has proven true today.

not everythingvia

So, with a pot full of nasty salty peach sauce and a dubious plate of shortbread in the oven, I decided to make something completely different that I knew would work. S’mores dip. Melt 1 cup of chocolate chips with 1 cup of mini marshmallows and 2 Tbsp of milk. Then put more mini mallows on top and stick it under the broiler for just a minute. BOOM.

S'MORE dip

My Newly Mustachioed Pint Glasses

I was over at a blog called Make it & Love it, when I stumbled upon Ashley’s glass-etching post! It looked worth a shot, and I immediately went to my friendly neighborhood thrift store for some workable pint glasses.

Pint Glasses from the thrift store...

Four pint glasses later, I set about making the stencil . . . and settled on the idea of mustaches. Why? Well, because I couldn’t choose a specific word. Plus, mustaches are reasonably easy to draw!

Making a stencil that will stick...

The hardest part about this project was getting the paper on the glass without leaving air bubbles. . . I would choose traditional English pint glasses, which made this a lot harder. I think my next etching project will be something nice and flat!

Stuck on this idea...

Once the glasses each had a mustache-shape, all I had to do was apply Armour Etch (which I bought on Amazon, because it was cheaper than the craft store!) to the visible space!

The crazy mixture...

This had to sit for 10 minutes. I might even go a little bit longer next time.

The armour etch should stay on the glass for about 10 minutes

When the waiting was done, I rinsed off the goop, and PRESTO CHANGO, there was a mustache left on my cup!!!

Voilà! I etched a glass!

Now, my final product is far from perfect. . . I might even dislike them a little bit because of the flaws I can see, but, still, I think they’re not too too shabby, all things considered. More food for thought with the next attempt, but here is a peak at my set of newly etched glasses!My finished Stache Set of Glasses!