Engagement gift

The other day I got a package in the mail. The timing was such that it could have been a birthday gift or a wedding gift. The return address was from a friend of The Little Red Haired Girl’s mom, so we guessed that it was a wedding gift. Although it was confusingly addressed to me.

She opened the box, and discovered a card inside that said it was an engagement gift for me. So I opened the gift inside, and found a framed photograph of The Little Red Haired Girl at age 6 in the bath. Weird but hilarious. Not sure where we’ll hang it. In the bathroom? What’s appropriate?

Ouyang House

Yes, there is dim sum in Nashville! After I read about Ouyang House on the Scene’s Bites Blog last week, I immediately made plans to go. We got there at around 11:30 this morning, and saw right away the rows and rows of buffet. When they were ready to seat us I asked if there was dim sum, and the led us off to a room to the left where just two tables were occupied. Our server came over and immediately addressed me in Mandarin (the other two I was with are white), asking what kind of tea we wanted and saying that she’d bring a menu.

It was kind of hilarious, since I haven’t been mistaken for a Chinese-speaker for a long time. I can actually sort of hold my own in basic conversation, but my vocabulary recall gets worse and worse and my accent has become embarrassing. For the rest of the meal I sort of bumbled along, trying to stick to Chinese when I could and switching to English when I had to.

The menu was clearly the special Chinese-people-menu, and had some dishes listed only in Chinese on one side and the familiar dim sum items on the other. That side had English translations, but soon our server rolled a cart over with a bunch of different things on it and I just picked from there. I’m happy to report that they had just about everything that we generally expect from dim sum (although we didn’t see the head-on shrimp that The Little Red Haired Girl loves), and it was all quite delicious.

I wasn’t responsible enough to take pictures of any food, but imagine steamed pork buns, shaomai, short ribs, bean curd skin roll, eggplant stuffed with shrimp, fried sweet rice and pork dumpling, taro dumplings, and a couple other things I can’t remember. Probably because of the small number of occupied tables there wasn’t that much variety in the cart, but we could have ordered what we wanted from the menu.

The service was really nice; our server brought over the taro dumplings as soon as they came out of the fryer to see if we wanted them. She kept recommending things on the menu to me too, but I could only partially follow the things she was pointing out. We did order one bigger dish that was a wide rice noodle and shrimp thing, which was fantastic.

So, it’s not quite the cavernous banquet halls of restaurants in New York with a cart rolling by every few minutes with new piping hot items. But it’s a great start. We’ll go back, probably soon, just to support their endeavor. We think you should go too. I think you can always order the dim sum items, but it’s weekends when they have the cart(s).

Same eats all week

There’s a character in some Anne Tyler book (maybe it’s Back When We Were Grownups?) who makes himself a big batch of something (stew, meatloaf, pot roast, something like that) once a week and just eats that until it’s gone, every day. It struck me as the most depressing thing ever at the time. Actually, it still seems really depressing, but this past week since The Little Red Haired Girl has been out of town I’ve been doing something similar. Not nearly as depressing, and actually quite enjoyable for me, but still reminiscent of that character (whom it turns out I don’t really remember that much about at all).

In general, when left to my own devices at home I just won’t eat, I’ll drink my dinner, or I’ll eat some previously canned or frozen crap. It’s partly that I’m lazy, and partly that cooking only appeals to me when I need a stress release, and/or there is someone to appreciate my cooking, and/or there is someone there to do the dishes later. Given that The Little Red Haired Girl was to be gone a full 6 days, and my stomach has been behaving badly as it is, I figured I needed some sort of new strategy.

So at the beginning of the week I did two things. I cooked a package of bacon, and made some broth and chicken for Vietnamese chicken pho soup. The rest of the week I had two of my daily meals were cobb salad and chicken pho soup. It has worked out quite well, but I’m now out of bacon and broth, and am starting to feel lonely.

Istanbul cafe

After having a fire lit under my ass about exploring the restaurants down on Nolensville Road, The Little Red Haired Girl, The Superheroes and I hit Istanbul Cafe last week for our kickoff Nolensville Wednesday. I hate to say, I was a little disappointed. Maybe we just didn’t order the right thing. Stupidly we forgot to check the article from Good Magazine to find out what the recommended thing was.

We started off with some fantastic stuffed grape leaves, which I forgot to get a picture of. They just looked like 7 grape leaves on a plate, anyway. The Superheroes ordered a salmon plate and white bean soup while we ordered some sort of meat combo. The entrees were so-so, but cheap with huge portions. We thought most of the things on our plate were too salty.

The salmon that The Superheroes ordered didn’t seem to come with everything as described on the menu, but there was still plenty of food and the salmon was quite good. The service was strange and inattentive I thought, and we never got the olives that we thought we ordered. The Little Red Haired Girl and I talked about this later and decided that we never actually expect the service to be all that good in small cheap eateries. But if the food isn’t great, then it becomes an issue for some reason.

Anyway, I’m not sure we’ll go back to Istanbul Cafe, but if someone invited me I wouldn’t refuse. I think I might ask for recommendations about what to order though. I’m not discouraged about Nolensville Wednesday either. Wherever we end up this week, I’ll make sure I do a little more research about what to order.

Sad news for the haves

I found this out on Wednesday, but have not been able to bring myself to talk about it. It’s just so sad. The Yankee Doodle in New Haven closed this week. It’s understandable, they just can’t make enough money. A bunch of folks are trying to “save the doodle,” and it looks like the owners are accepting donations, so maybe there is still hope.

If you don’t know, the Doodle was this tiny diner-type restaurant over by the Broadway strip. Basically you walked in the door and there was a counter running to the back, and enough room to either sit at the counter or stand behind someone sitting at the counter.

The first time I went was as a high school student; my advisor then was a Yale alum, and thought it a travesty for his students never to have experienced the Doodle. So one day he arranged for us all to meet over there for lunch. The place was packed, so that people were standing and eating or waiting outside the door for their food to be ready to take away.

It’s hard to describe why the place was so great. Clearly, part of it was that it was family-owned and operated, so the same folks were always behind the counter and they got to know you. But for me, it was the food. They had a small menu, but everything they made was delicious. Mostly I think of the hamburgers. There’s nothing like it. They scoop some chopped onions onto the burger before pressing it into the grill. Then they butter up the bun and toast that in the hamburger grease. When those things are done they top it with mystery barbecue sauce that is strange and chunky and delicious. There were other things too, that are part of Doodle legend.

Like the doughnuts that they slice in half, grill in the hamburger grease, then serve with cold vanilla ice cream. Or the muffins that they slather with butter, then, of course, grill in the hamburger grease. Egg sandwiches. Omelets. Freaking delicious. And, they’d open early enough on Saturday mornings that we’d be able to get hamburgers for breakfast on our way to rugby games.

Our trip to bham

Yesterday afternoon The Little Red Haired Girl and I embarked on a three hour journey to Birmingham with our New Little Buddies. We had plans to have dinner at one of the only restaurants in the city open on Sundays, then head over to UAB to see the Indigo Girls and Brandi Carlile. I had never heard them play together live before, so I was pretty excited for the show. And I’ve been a huge Indigo Girls fan for so long that I’m just always excited to see them play.

Anyway, we go to the restaurant, and meet our New Little Buddy’s sister and brother-in-law, who are totally fun. The restaurant was also pretty delicious, although it was literally empty except for us and the service was a little slow and surprisingly unknowledgeable about the menu despite the fanciness of the place.

So, we rushed through dessert to get to the theater with enough time not to miss a minute of Brandi, and were delighted to find a parking space pretty much right in front of the building. Come to find out there was tons of parking available because the concert had been postponed “due to illness.” So freaking disappointed. We drove the 3 hours home, tail between our legs, too sheepish to admit that we were actually glad to get home by 10pm on a Sunday night. But definitely sad about the show.

It has been rescheduled for a Monday in a few weeks. I think we can go, but we’ll be totally exhausted for Tuesday, and we’ll have to drive the 6 hours there and back again. Plus, we are worried that they won’t be playing with Brandi then. They are touring with Michelle Malone the next few weeks, which is super cool, but I’d just really been looking forward to seeing them play with Brandi. I’ve seen them play with Michelle Malone a few times before, although it was years ago. Maybe they’ll feel bad for postponing and all 4 of them will play for the postponed show! Wishful thinking, I know.

View from my room

I’m in Bermuda this weekend for a good friend’s wedding. It is so freaking beautiful here. This is the view from the little balcony in my hotel room. The little putting green is weird, but other than that it’s fantastic. The water is gorgeous, and the weather is perfect.

The Little Red Haired Girl couldn’t come with me cause of her opening, so I’m here alone. Not really, a good friend from college also did not bring a +1 so we are rooming together. It has been pretty fun. We got here yesterday afternoon, sat out by the little pool restaurant for a while, then rehearsal dinner. Delicious. I had scallops, chicken on the best risotto I’ve ever had, and cheese plate for dessert.

Then lots of dark and stormys at one of the hotel bars. Today we are going to hang by the pool I think. Our hotel is close to town but far from beach, so there is a ferry to get there. The schedule doesn’t fit ours though, so we’ll have to stay around here, which is a bummer. Not that I’m complaining about chilling by the pool in Bermuda.

Weird week

Well, I guess the preparing part could have happened before last week. But let’s be honest, that’s how it generally comes down. Anyway, I put a lot of energy into trying to make something out of some work that I’d done last year with Everything Guy. So on top of my regular school work I was doing this. Also I was getting yelled at for not doing enough on my second job which I do for money but actually kind of hate. So that was crazy busy and stressful.

Then come to find out that the spouse of a friend of The Little Red Haired Girl’s was ill, then passed away all in the week. So I was trying hard to get my work done and still be emotionally available for The Little Red Haired Girl, and I’m not sure I was too successful with the latter. And now I don’t really feel like the week is over yet, since I feel somewhat behind on my regular work and there is a funeral to attend today. Meanwhile we are spending time putting together catering menu ideas for the wedding, which should be really fun but somehow seems like a chore in the midst of all this.

I’m not complaining, mind you. It’s just been a really weird week.

Working on a presentation

Tomorrow we give our second year presentations. That means we stand up and talk about some research that we did during our second year of school for 15 minutes, conference style. Yeah, that is all I know about it. There are no guidelines other than that. I don’t know if it’d be ok to present something that’s essentially incomplete, or if people will complain that my talk doesn’t have a point or real findings.

I’m fairly certain there will be no real evaluation (or feedback even), because that is how first year poster presentations were last year. You’d think that at a school of education they’d try and do a little better than just throw something like this at us. The irritating part of it is that I’m losing sleep over this thing even though there are no academic stakes.

I guess it’s a pride thing, because I’ll be publicly representing a year of work and I want people here to think that I’m worth their time and their funding and that maybe I’ll become something someday. Even if deep down inside I think it might be a sham and I might not really.

My first real celebrity encounter

Frankly, the whole celebrity phenomenon makes me slightly uncomfortable. At the same time, there are people out there whom I really admire for whatever it is that they do that makes them famous. Generally I think it’s fun to have celebrity sightings and to talk about it. I’m not, however, the kind of person who goes out of her way to meet celebs. That’s why I was so uncomfortable the other night when we were at City Hall for the Brandi Carlile show, and we noticed Amy Ray in the crowd. I’m a huge Indigo Girls Fan, and have been pretty much since I started owning CDs. Their music got me through my brooding in-the-closet angsty teen years (and even many embarrassingly angsty adult years).

Well, one of our New Little Buddies spotted her standing a little in front of us during the concert, but she slipped away through the crowd after a few songs. I figured that she’d gone backstage (and hoped that Brandi would get her to come up and sing), but when the lights came up I saw her walking toward the back of the venue. So she was practically standing right by the door as we walked out, and The Little Red Haired Girl insisted that I go say hello. I didn’t want to, because I knew I’d just feel stupid about it later.

At the same time, I knew (as did The Little Red Haired Girl) that I would regrett letting the chance go by. So I went over, waited my turn (at this point there were three or four others who wanted to say hello to her), and shook her hand. I said something totally inane like, “I really love your music,” and walked away. I’m really glad that I approached her, but at the same time I feel a little cringe-y about it. She was totally nice and greeted everyone with a lot of patience and grace, but it is just such a weird thing. Is there ever actually a good way to approach a celebrity?

Anyway, I’m glad The Little Red Haired Girl pushed me to do it. Otherwise this would have been a very different post, wouldn’t it?