DIY Candied Ginger (and related cheesecake)

When we moved to Boston in August we  spent nights watching Netflix and singing remixed songs to our pets (i.e. the chart-topping hit  “Teddy Boy” sung to the tune of “Danny Boy”). Don’t get me wrong – these evenings had their own special appeal – but I started to go a little nuts. I wished so hard for a way to fast-forward the friend making process, but how do you make friends as a working adult?

No really. Do you have any advice? Besides the obvious don’t tell them about the remixed pet songs??

My mom’s answer for finding a girlfriend/boyfriend and finding friends is the same – go to church. To mom’s credit, the two searches do have a lot in common. Read and I chatted with a friendly dog-owner in the park this fall who just moved from Cali, and when it came time to leave both sides awkwardly hesitated. “Um, so…if you ever want to walk dogs together…I mean…do you maybe want to trade numbers?”

Kitty love

O Teddy boyyyy, the pipes the pipes are callllllinggg..

Slowly but surely we’ve been been able to swap out nights at home with social activities. Drinks after work with coworkers. Watching the Rose Bowl with the neighbors. This past Friday Read pointed out with pride that we had something scheduled for each weekend night. Don’t laugh at us…we were genuinely proud. Friday was a burlesque show in Back Bay (his classmate was the fully-clothed singing act at intermission), tonight is watching the Oscars with neighbors, and last night we  cooked dinner at my coworker’s apartment. The theme was Moroccan-(ish) and Misty and I combed food blogs last week to develop the menu:

Chicken Tagine with Chickpeas and Mint

Carrot Salad with Harissa

Mini Ginger Cheesecakes topped with Lemon Curd

Carrot Salad

I couldn't find Harissa so I substituted a little siracha

Chicken Tagine with Chickpeas

Between the Le Creuset pot and the stainless steel range, I had a bad case of kitchen envy

I fell in love with the cheesecake recipe before reading all of the directions and realizing that I was committing to an extra step: DIY candied ginger and ginger syrup. It took a while to cook the syrup down so we were late to dinner, but the final product made up for it. A little sweet, a little zing, and just the right marriage of ginger and lemon. We didn’t have a mini muffin tin so we used a 9″ springform pan and the cheesecake was thin like a tart. I ate a leftover slice for breakfast this morning and then scrubbed the stovetop free of hardened sugar syrup.

DIY candied ginger and syrup

Getting ready to peel and slice 1 lb. of ginger

DIY candied ginger and syrup

Cooking down the ginger and sugar syrup until it reaches 225 F

Ginger Lemon Cheesecake

Ginger Cheesecake with Lemon Curd

The best part was that there was enough leftover ginger and syrup for two pint jars. How pretty is that?

DIY candied ginger in syrup

DIY candied ginger in syrup



Community Container Gardening

Progress on shrug

Shrug progress

Melting snow. Singing birds. Leftover sunlight when I get home from work. If I’m not careful, warm weather will get here before Neulottu is done. YESSS I can’t lose. Plus a coworker warned me that they like to crank the AC during the summer, so it could be that the sweaters stay out year round.

Once you get the hang of this pattern it’s relatively mindless. And I love how it showcases all you can do with only knit, purl, and shortrows.

The promise of spring’s got me thinking about gardening. Without a proper ground plot, I’m going to see what’s possible this summer using a 2nd story porch, pots, and planters (that sentence was like an ad for the letter P). Anyhow…a little google searching brought up a balcony gardening version of the knit-along!

I really miss my community garden plot from Oregon, and so far all of the community gardens around our apartment are full. So this “community container grow-along” idea made me happy. Our balcony has zero shade so it might actually work out as long as I can keep up with watering…

If you’ve done much urban vegetable gardening in containers and have tips/links/tales of woe, please lemme know.

Five Days in Tulum, Mexico: Take me back!

It was hard to come back to snowy Boston after sitting on white sandy beaches in a swimsuit. And it was hard to leave Tami, somebody I used to see every day in Oregon. But I did. Without too many tears (I was given strict “no goodbye tears” orders). Now that a little time’s passed I feel emotionally recovered enough to write out some notes from our travels:

Sunbathing in Tulum

Hmm this begins to capture just how bow-legged I am...

I wish I could’ve stayed longer.  No surprise there. I mean, look at that beach!  With only 5 days I had to work hard to get a proper suntan that my coworkers would envy. Tami carefully monitored my color. Every time a bartender or hotel owner heard how long I was in town, they gave me a pity-filled frown and said, “But why so short?” Seeing as how they work in the tourism industry, I suppose they had personal reasons for wanting me to take a longer vacation. But when your office is an open air bar on the beach, I think you can drum up real pity for a sunburnt Bostonian on her last day in Tulum.

I’d choose Tulum over Cancun. Lemme clarify. In college I was talked into the classic Cancun Spring Break week. It was some of the best people-watching I’ve ever experienced and I absolutely fell in love with the ocean, but the physical built environment (granted nobody would leave the hotel mile with me) was too…Vegas-like. Big roads, big resorts, glitz, lights. In comparison, downtown Tulum is scaled for the pedestrian. Little restaurants, little shops, and small streets. It’s grittier – on either side of our hotel were tar-paper roofed houses guarded by scruffy dogs – but everyone was friendly and we never felt unsafe. Actually, nobody was nearly as troublesome as the drunk American boys swarming the beaches and pools of Cancun. Also it’s worth noting that Tami speaks excellent Spanish, which made it easy to navigate all sorts of daily interactions.

Margaritas on the beach

Margaritas on the beach

Akumal (where the sea turtles are)

Akumal, where you can snorkel in the bay with giant sea turtles. When they eat seagrass they chew like cows.

Tacoqueto in Tulum

Tacoqueto, where there's no written menu. You just point to the pot of what you want.

Foodcart tamale with hot sauce

Chicken tamales (with a little bag of hot sauce) from a foodcart

Glass bottle wall

Back-lit wall of glass bottles along the main drag in Tulum

In Tulum you have an important choice: stay at the beach or stay in town. They’re only about 2 miles apart (40 peso taxi ride). I think each have their perks, but Tami chose in town and it worked well. The hotels are slightly cheaper and you’re within walking distance to internet cafes and lots of eateries. Here are photos of our two hotels: The Secret Garden & Hotel Posada. Hotel Posada was plagued by some 8am construction next door (our walls shook with the hammering) and their customer service response was umm…frustrating. But the place is beautiful. Secret Garden took the prize though. They had all the necessities: clean comfortable rooms, a shaded inner courtyard, two on-site friendly dogs, and a cute owner whose sister bartends down the street.

Secret Garden in Tulum

the courtyard at Secret Garden after a morning rain

Hotel Posada in Tulum

the winding pool inside Hotel Posada

My very favorite thing on this trip was the Gran Cenote. Just a couple miles from downtown Tulum, it’s more than worth the 100 pesos entrance fee. The best way I can describe swimming in the cenote is that it felt like a Katie-sized freshwater aquarium. The water is crystal clear and underwater you can see fish from 30 or 40 feet away. The one upside to the  construction at Hotel Posada is that we were up and at ’em early, and we had the cenote to ourselves for a while. Around 11am a big group of Japanese tourists showed up wearing flippers, and they were followed by several European families with a dozen kids under the age of 5. Suddenly it wasn’t a private aquarium anymore. So if you go, go early.

Gran Cenote outside Tulum

Snorkeling the Gran Cenote

Gran Cenote outside Tulum

so many fish...

Gran Cenote outside Tulum

Tami snorkels through the tunnel

I made some progress on the Neulottu naisen jakku cardigan too. It’s such a joyful color, especially next to that ocean and those chairs.

Knitting on the beach

Progress on Neulottu naisen jakku

Progress on Neulottu naisen jakku

Neulottu naisen jakku: back panel and sleeves

Thank you Tami for a vacation so good that I hope we can make the February Getaway an annual thing. Readers – any suggestions for a destination in 2012?

Date Cake

Today is our six-month anniversary! I think because so much has changed in the last six months, Read and I agreed that it seems like the wedding was longer ago. It was fun to look back at some pictures…

My "borrowed and blue"

My "borrowed and blue" for the wedding was this ring from Grandma. My mom wore it on her wedding day too.

Cutting peaches for pie

Cutting peaches with mom for the reception pies

first dance

first dance

We celebrated today by sleeping in, taking the bus to Harvard Square for a movie, and making dinner at home. I tried a date cake recipe from one of my favorite cookbooks – Cook Something by Mitchell Davis. I told Read it was “date nut bread,” but with two sticks of butter I think it’s more accurately classified as cake.

Date Cake

Date Cake

When I panned out to get a different angle, I noticed a certain little black dog. His expression is too much.

Date Cake

Sam wants a date with the cake