Loafing about

Hi everyone, how’s it going? I’m still pretty upset from all the craziness with the fires in and around my hometown last week. But today we are going to talk about bread.

Cobalt and I have been enjoying fresh bread from a local bakery. But then our friend K gave us a jar of sourdough starter and a recipe so we could try it ourselves. So on Friday night, we rolled up our sleeves and started the process. It’s long. Most of the steps aren’t really time consuming — just add some flour here or some water there — but there is a very specific order to things… and there are a lot of six-hour wait times. Also, there are a lot of steps where you only keep a little bit of the dough/starter and toss everything else, which Cobalt and I found wasteful. Oh well. Let’s get to the details!

Anyway, so on Friday night before we went to bread bed, we fed the starter. Turns out it eats flour and water, which is good because I don’t know if I could afford to feed a starter that liked steak or sushi. We got up on Saturday morning and took a little bit of that fed starter and fed it again. Same diet. Then on Saturday afternoon, we mixed some of that starter with more flour and water plus yeast and salt to make the actual bread dough. On Saturday night, we split the dough in half and set up an experiment. One loaf got to proof at room temperature and the second loaf got to proof in the fridge.

On Sunday morning, the room-temp loaf was huge. Waaaaay overproofed. We spent the morning quoting Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood from The Great British Baking Show. But we baked it anyway. And it didn’t turn out too bad (Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood would say otherwise, I’m sure ;)). It still looked and tasted amazing, which is what really counts. Plus it crackled as it cooled, which we found heartwarming. It reminded Cobalt of a line from the movie Ratatouille: how the sound of the crust will tell you how good a bread is going to be.

It was a bit flat but still delicious. :D

Tarantula was very curious about our baking. We’re starting to wonder if it’s the smell of yeast. She was intrigued as we set up the overproofed bread Sunday morning and even more intrigued during its photoshoot an hour later. Crazy cat. You’re supposed to be a carnivore!

Endlessly curious…

The fridge-proofed loaf turned out much better. We baked it on Sunday afternoon and it just looks lovely.

Yay bread! We saved some of our starter so we’ll definitely have to make more soon. Maybe even next week? What fun recipes should we try next? So many options…

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This one hit a little too close to home

Yesterday, a good chunk of my hometown burned down. My parents and their house are currently safe (at least when I wrote this in the evening of 10/9) but many of my friends lost their current and/or childhood homes.

It was so hard to work yesterday. My heart and my mind were back in California, and I felt helpless two states away. I was constantly reloading the local news site, checking Twitter and Facebook for updates, and texting my sister and my childhood friends. My heart is broken, you guys.

Also I have a vicious cold that keeps pretending like it’s going away and then coming back with a vengeance.

So that’s all for today, folks. Back to photos next week.

Apparently Tarantula likes cinnamon

It’s been a rough week, you guys. There is so much going on right now, and I’ve been feeling super anxious. It helps to make my kitchen an absolute mess while I bake something delicious. Unfortunately I get the idea to bake something after the sun has gone down so we have some less fancy iPhone pictures for you today.

Two weekends ago, in honor of Fall, I decided to make apple cinnamon rolls! I have a tasty cinnamon roll recipe from an old version of Joy of Cooking (apparently my version is too healthy to have the recipe for something so buttery…). Then I scoured the internet for how to make them apple-y. Turns out it’s easy. Just add chopped up apples!

So the kitchen turned into a cinnamon, brown sugar, and butter mess while I rolled out the dough, painted it with tastiness, and sprinkled apples everywhere. While I was bustling around, Tarantula showed up, apparently very interested in what I was doing. She even stood on her hind legs to try to get closer to the dough! CAT! Go away! I shooed her away because I was pretty sure cinnamon isn’t great for cats. But she didn’t get the hint. She spent the rest of the evening hunting for cinnamon chunks in the kitchen… even after I cleaned the whole room and hid the cooling apple cinnamon rolls in the microwave.

She was back at it again the next day when I was trying to photograph the completed rolls (see that pic above). Who would have guessed that she liked the way cinnamon smelled?

In other baking news, this past weekend Cobalt and I made Smitten Kitchen’s red wine chocolate cake. After we’d served a few pieces, the cake started to look like a pac-man.

For some reason, Cobalt decided to spread the whipped topping across the cake like it was frosting…

That’s all for today! What do you do when you have really bad anxiety?

If you give a girl a microscope

Be prepared for some crazy photos.

OK so I may be in science communication now but that doesn’t mean I’ve forgotten about my microscopy roots. Sitting in front of a microscope and looking at cool biology is pretty much the main thing I miss about doing bench work. So when I found out that Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (where I am currently working) made a microscope for your smart phone, I knew I needed it.

You just download the pattern from PNNL’s website, 3D print the holder and put a bead on it to use as a lens. Voila. Microscope. And the baseline version magnifies things 100x!

Sign. Me. Up.

One of my coworkers is super into 3D printing right now. So on Friday I told him about my need for one of these microscopes. He left and came back with an already completed microscope that he found in his desk! :D

I put it on my phone and immediately started looking for things to inspect in closer detail. Like this stuffed shark eye (obviously I have stuffed sharks on my desk).

I like that you can see all the fur around his eye.

The lighting in my cubicle is not great for microscoping, however. Just like most things with lenses (cameras, microscopes, etc.), the more zoom or magnification you have, the more light you need. I packed up the microscope to save it for more adventures over the weekend.

Now it’s fun times for you. Below I’ve posted a variety of things that I imaged around my house. You should try to guess what they are. The answers may or may not be at the bottom (don’t cheat!).

Ready?

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    1. Whatever it is, it looks dirty. But I like the grid…
    2. I think this one is my favorite. It’s so artsy. Also hint: this one is the same object as what’s in the photo above it.
    3. “There’s a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”

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Answers!
1. Camping chair, 2. Potassium’s arm, 3. Living room carpet, 4. Kitty fur, 5. Also kitty fur, 6. Kitty ear (poor kitty), 7. Potassium’s shirt, 8. Shark towel, 9. Cobalt’s ear

I love all these pictures because they make science fun and artsy. I think that’s one reason I like microscopes in general. They give you a chance to marvel at how beautiful the world is, especially part of the world that you can’t normally see. Did you have a favorite image above? What would you want to look at up close? I think next I want to try some plants…

What did you do this weekend? Can you believe it’s almost October? I really need to get started on my Halloween costume. In other October news, I’m thinking about doing Inktober again on my Twitter account. I’d have to draw something every day of October. Could be fun…

Stay glassy, Seattle

This weekend, Cobalt’s sis and her kiddos (actually teenagers … !!!!) came to visit, and we went on a family trip to Seattle! We even met up with my sister so it was epic family time. Great fun. We went to the Space Needle, Pike Place, the Seattle Aquarium, and… the Chihuly Garden and Glass museum.

I went to college in Washington so I am well aware of Chihuly glass. One of the buildings at my school even had some of his artwork hanging in one of the windows! It looks a little like the glass in my photo on top. It’s always fun to see Chihuly glass out of the Pacific Northwest — once we found it on display in an Oklahoma airport! But I was excited to see what Seattle had to offer since Chihuly is actually from Washington (Tacoma, actually). So I went on a mission for some of Chihuly’s artwork that looked different from what I was used to. I was successful in my quest.

Inside the museum, there were some beautiful glass sculptures that looked like baskets, really nice eel and octopus sculptures, and other interesting creations. I really liked the way the art was staged and lit. It made for fun colors and reflections.

Eeeee Octopus!
I like this egg shape, though those yellow things are venturing into the usual Chihuly territory. I like their reflections a lot though.
I couldn’t really see into any of these so I stood on my tiptoes to take a picture of the inside.

Then we headed out into the garden part and I had fun playing with reflections! This museum sits right next to the Space Needle so you could see it reflected in the art. Fun times!

Double Space Needle…..
Let’s end on a romantic self portrait with the Space Needle in the background. <3

That’s all for today. Is there an artist from your state that you can recognize anywhere? How do you feel about the artwork?

The great Spokane ramen-off!

Hellooooo everyone! I hope you are all doing well, especially people affected by Harvey, Irma, or fires. You are all in my thoughts right now. Tell me how I can help!

Today’s post is about ramen. First of all, I love noodles in almost every form but I have an ridiculous amount of affection for noodles in broth, like udon or ramen. Then Cobalt and I watched Tampopo, a Japanese western movie about ramen (yes you read that right), and now we are on a mission to eat as much ramen as possible.

We even made our own ramen to eat while we watched Tampopo! It was okay. We still have much to learn….

Moving on!

So the other weekend, when we were driving to Glacier National Park, we had to drive through Spokane, Washington. It was around lunch time when we hit the city so we decided to stop and grab some food. Two ramen places popped up on Yelp: NUDO Ramen House and King of Ramen. Who knew Spokane had such tasty ramen options? Because we were going to drive back through Spokane in a few days later, we decided to try one ramen place on the way there and the other ramen place on the way back. Then we could compare the two places and I could practice my on-the-go (read: with an iPhone, not a DSLR) food photography.

Conclusion: Though both places were pretty delicious, it appears that King of Ramen really is King, at least with this current dataset (once a scientist, always a scientist).

The breakdown:

We started with King of Ramen (photo up there!).
This one felt more like an authentic ramen shop. It had all these small pots for the noodles in the kitchen, which was separated from the restaurant with cute curtains and a bar. They had a variety of tasty ramen and curry options on the menu. Cobalt ended up ordering something spicy while I went with the vegetarian option. We also got some fried tofu and I got an iced green tea. The tofu was fried to perfection: crunchy on the outside and soft in the middle. It was tasty on its own or as an addition to our ramen. Also my tea was yummy too. But the ramen itself felt like something was lacking in the broth and/or my soup was missing a key ingredient. Not sure what though. We’ll have to come back and try it again!

Oh and also we have to go back so I can try the curry because I love Japanese curry.


On the way back, we stopped at NUDO.

If you’re wondering why the colors of this photo are a little more dull than the King of Ramen photo, it’s because it was 110% more smoky outside when we came back through Spokane. Booooo fires… :(

This restaurant is definitely more “hipster-y.” It had ramen-themed pop art on the walls and it just had a cool, sleek interior that seemed to be catering to the millennial crowd (as a millennial, I think I’m allowed to say this). Even the bathrooms were fancy – they had weird sinks.

Okay okay the ramen, Potassium, the ramen. So this time we both ordered a beef ramen and also got spring rolls. The beef ramen was good – the meat was tender and the broth was really flavorful. Plus I liked the bok choy in my soup! The noodles weren’t as good as King of Ramen’s noodles. And there was no egg in my ramen, which was sad because eggs in ramen are the best.

NUDO had one other problem: our waitress pretty much completely ignored us. Not like I need to be entertained by my waitstaff, but it’s nice when someone refills your water. Or at least brings you a carafe so you can refill your own water. I just wanted water! Plus she was so engrossed in a conversation with the only other patrons of the restaurant, that she didn’t even bring us our check. Some other server had to bring it to us. And then he asked us if we wanted to pay together or separate, which we thought was weird, considering it was only the two of us, and not a group. Is it weird? Discuss below.

One last thing. It was insanely smoky here last week (you can even tell that the light is off in that NUDO picture). The smoke was so thick that it felt more like we were eating the air instead of just breathing it in. Not great. But it’s cleared up a little and I even managed to catch a pic of Sunday night’s sunset. I’ll end this post with that.

Fire and ice

Happy Day After Labor Day, everyone! I hope you all had relaxing holidays!

This weekend, Cobalt and I headed to Montana to see Glacier National Park. Our visit was kind of ill-timed, however, because the park currently has an epic fire ripping through it. In fact, just an hour or so after that picture was taken, this part of the park was closed and evacuated. So we got a bit of a smoky tour of the park. But seriously guys, even with smoke around, this park is gorgeous. We’re definitely going to have to come back some time under less smoky conditions.

So what is it about this park that makes it so fantastic, you ask? Well the answer is in the name. The glaciers. Giant glaciers left behind these incredible towers and valleys when they melted. Plus there are still some glaciers hanging out there today!

Glaciers also formed a lot of the geographical features of one of my other favorite national parks, Yosemite. I think I have a thing for glaciers. They do cool things to rocks.

So anyway, Cobalt and I really wanted to meet a glacier, but they are a bit of an oddity at this point because so few are left. So instead we decided to venture to Iceberg Lake because if you can’t get to a glacier, a lake filled with water that used to be frozen is almost as good.

The trail to Iceberg lake starts on the east side of the park, which also looked like it was a little less smoky. Cobalt and I were staying in a hotel on the west side of the park so to get to our trailhead, we either had to

  1. enter the park at the west side, drive through the whole park, drive out of the park, go around another lake, and then drive into the east side entrance or
  2. drive alllllllllll the way around the whole park and then drive in the east side entrance

We opted for option 1) because it meant getting to see the park on our way to/from our hike.

So we got to the west side entrance around 9 am. It was a little smoky but not too bad. It was actually a little chilly outside too, a welcome feeling after melting all summer in the Tri-Cities. It was perfect day for exploring a national park! We wound our way through the park, stopping here and there to take pictures and marvel at the beauty of the park. It wasn’t until we entered the east side of the park that the ranger told us that the west entrance had been closed and evacuated at 10! Yikes! So much for going back through the park on our way back to the hotel…

Anyway, it was time to find that Iceberg Lake! The east side of the park was way less smoky than the west side (though it got smokier as the day continued). So we filled our backpacks with food and water, slapped on some sunscreen, and headed up the trail. It’s a really pretty 5 mile (each way) hike! My favorite part about the trail is that you can actually see the top of the basin that holds the lake pretty early on. Then we weaved in and out of forests and over waterfalls to get up there.

Cobalt on the hike to Iceberg Lake. I think the walls surrounding the lake look a bit like the Black Gate of Mordor. So jagged…

I think it was worth the hike! So pretty (even with the smoke). We ate our lunch by the lake, even though it meant chasing away some pretty fat and sneaky chipmunks. I attempted to get into the lake but the water was really really really cold (though other tourists did make it all the way in). For the record, Cobalt got his feet in too.

This little fatty tried to steal our cheese!

This is as far in as I could go. Photo credit: Cobalt.

Then it started to get much more smoky and we decided it was time to bid our new lake and chipmunk friends goodbye. Don’t worry, Iceberg Lake! We’ll be back soon!

Some sharks and a whale made the trek up with us. Luckily the water was too cold for them too so they didn’t try to swim away! Photo credit: Cobalt.

After we left the park, we had to drive all the way around it to get back to the hotel. It seemed to take a lot longer (especially when I was driving on crazy twisty narrow mountain roads) but when we actually did the math, it took us the same amount of time as it did for us to drive through the park. Good to know.

In other news, the smoke was pretty terrible on the way back to the hotel and on Monday morning. In fact, we drove back to Washington through a smoky haze. It’s bad, guys. These fires are outta control.