Sunday, December 19, 2010

Invention! Chocolate Almond Shortbread Bars.

This week Derek and I found ourselves with some extra almond filling. This is a common problem in our house. You know sometimes you make almond turnovers and then you have leftover filling. This filling should not go to waste.

On Friday night we split a bottle of Prosecco and invented a new dessert. The recipe sounds complicated and it was a lot of steps. It is worth it, in the end.


Chocolate Almond Shortbread Bars

Almond Filling
2/3 cup blanched slivered almonds
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
7 tablespoons sugar
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon almond extract

1. Grind almonds and flour into food processor until it is a fine powder. Add the sugar, butter, and almond extract. Blend this until it is smooth. Mix in the egg.

2. Transfer the almond mixture to a bowl and cover it. Chill this for 3 hours (it can be chilled for a couple of days).

Shortbread
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. In a mixer, beat the butter, powdered sugar, sugar, and salt until they are fluffy. This will take a minute.

3. Sift flour over the butter mixture while stirring.

4. Lightly knead until blended and smooth. If the dough is too dry to hold together add a few drops of water, do not add too much water. Firmly press the dough evenly into 9 by 9 inch pan. Prick the pan with a fork all over.

5. Bake the shortbread for about 25 minutes. Take out the shortbread and spread the almond filling onto shortbread. Bake this for 20 minutes more. Take out the bars and let them cool.

Chocolate Topping
6 to 8 ounces Bittersweet Chocolate
1 Tablespoon Butter

1. Heat up the chocolate in a double boiler. When it has started to melt add the butter. After it has all melted, pour this on the bars.

2. Use a spatula to spread the chocolate over the bars. Let this cool until the chocolate has hardened.


These are truly amazing. Worth the three step process. Try me.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Vegetarians Avert Your Eyes...

Really, this might be the post to skip if you don't eat meat. In fact, I think you should just read my post about Arugula Pecan Pesto. Scroll down quickly too.

We love bacon in this house. Every Saturday morning we religiously make bacon and eggs with toast, my week would not be complete without this meal. At some point in my obsessions with food, I always try to recreate my favored item from scratch (this can be disastrous and has resulted in many failed candy experiments). Recently, we have made our own bacon with great success! I will document the whole process below.

Warning! The gross out factor is a little high here...

Homemade Bacon
modified from Charcuterie by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn

1. Obtain a pork belly. This was not difficult for us in Chapel Hill, pork belly is for sale at our farmers market in Carrboro or at our local butcher.

2. This is the gross step. Remove skin from pork belly, if it is present. I made Derek do this. You could wait to do this later, but the skin grossed me out. *

Note bag of skin in photo

There is no easy way to remove the skin. It is gross and time consuming, but I promise it will be worth it. The answer is to buy pork belly with no skin. It is available like this, but we did not know to ask.

Derek removing skin.

3. Make dry cure. Ingredients: 1/2 cup Kosher salt, 1/4 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon pink curing salt.

Pink curing salt is obtained from specialty stores, it is also known as nitrite salt and it prevents the botulism, makes the meat a nice color, changes the flavor, etc. It is also toxic in large quantities. Life lesson = use for curing, not for the table.

4. Add about 1/4 to 1/2 cup of the salt to a tray of some kind with a couple of tablespoons crushed black peppercorns and about 1/4 cup of dark brown sugar. Stir.

5. Wash and pat the belly dry. Coat in salt mixture, shake of excess. Place the belly in a plastic bag and get as much air out as you can.

Yummy dry cure

6. Put the pork in the fridge and let it cure sitting flat for about 7 days, flipping it every other day to redistribute the juices.

7. After 7 days if the thickest part of the belly feels firm it is cured. If it is still feeling squishy keep it refrigerated for another day or two.

8. Rinse the belly thoroughly and pat dry with paper towels. Curing liquid should be discarded.

9. Preheat oven to 200 degrees (Fahrenheit).

10. In a roasting pan, roast belly until it reaches an internal temperature of 150 degrees (F), this will take a couple of hours, maybe longer. This will now smell delicious and look like bacon. You could also remove the skin here while it is hot (and probably easier to remove). I was not willing to wait this long, because it weirded me out to have pig nipples curing in my fridge (yup, I said nipples).

11. Allow bacon to cool to room temperature, when it is cool, wrap, refrigerate and enjoy at your leisure. It will keep for about a week like this, but you can freeze it to make it last longer. Remember when you cook homemade bacon, it is really best cooked at low temperatures for a longer time period. It will still get crispy, but it needs longer and lower...

Homemade bacon on Saturday morning

*Derek asked me, "So you are willing to eat meat, but you don't want to think about it belonging to an animal?"

I replied "I know it belonged to a pig, I just don't want to see nipples hanging out in my fridge. It is weird."

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Boat Captain

Captain Me (supervised by Lee)

Last weekend our dear friends Rachel and Lee sailed into my 'hood and we drove out to the coast to say hey. Rachel and I were in graduate school together in Denver. When I finished, I came out to North Carolina to drive around and dig stuff up. Rachel and Lee moved onto a sailboat. She blogs about her life on the sea and it is a pretty grand adventure.

On their way down south to the Carribean (because who would stay up north in the winter if they lived on a boat?), they stopped by me. We drove out to water to meet them and they took us sailing. We brought lunch out to the boat and sat in the galley (I love nautical words) to share some Weaver Street Market olive bread, sourdough bread, a nice aged gouda, and a Giacomo's Italian Market salami sampler. This lunch also made me happy. Nothing like a quick lunch of bread, cheese, and freshly made salami to give a person the energy to go out and sail a boat around.

The boat was particularly exciting, because I learned that day that I love sailing! They even let me drive the boat. I got to stand behind the wheel, widen my stance, put one hand on my hip and say things like "turn up" and "tighten the hatches" (by the way, I am making this all up. I said none of these things). When we were going upwind the boat was tilting very dramatically. I thought we were going to roll over. But Rachel and Lee did not let me crash their house. Apparently, it is supposed to tilt like that, something about keels. I am now going by Captain Sarah, or just Captain for short.
Note Lee making sure I did not tip the boat over.

Then we drove back to Carrboro and made a feast for weary sailors.

Pan Fried Flounder

1/4 cup flour
salt
pepper
cajun seasoning
1 whole flounder, filleted
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1. Heat a large heavy frying pan with olive oil and butter at medium high heat.


2. Mix flour with cajun seasoning, salt, and pepper (seasonings to taste).

3. Rinse flounder fillets and pat them dry with paper towels. Dredge the fillets in the seasoned flour, shake off excess flour.

4. Place fillets in the frying pan skin side up for about 4 or 5 minutes, flip and pan fry other side for an additional 4 minutes.

5. Serve the fillets with lemon wedges.


Rotini with Pecan-Arugula Pesto
(modified slightly from A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen by Jack Bishop)
3/4 cup pecans
1 1/2 cups packed arugula (stemmed)
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1/3 cup good tasting extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesean Cheese (and more for topping)
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
salt
1 pound rotini

1. Heat a heavy frying pan on medium heat. Toast the pecans on medium heat until they start to get aromatic, then remove them from the heat and allow them to cool completely.

2. In a food processor, pulse the garlic cloves several times. Then add the arugula and pecans and pulse further until the leaves start to break up. While the food processor is running, add the olive oil slowly. Pulse in the grated parmesean cheese.

3. Scrape the pesto into a large bowl. Grate the nutmeg into the bowl and add salt to taste (this needs to be generous because it has to season the entire pound of pasta.

4. Meanwhile, bowl a large pot of water. Add the rotini pasta and bowl for about 7 or 8 minutes, you want the pasta to be cooked al dente. Drain pasta, reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water.

5. Add some of the pasta water to the large bowl, stir together the two until it has a saucy texture. Stir pasta into the sauce. Add more pasta water, if it is needed to help distribute the sauce.

6. Eat.

This feast was wonderful! Sorry for the lack of food photos. Bad blogger, bad...

Monday, November 22, 2010

Shovel Testing


I am an archaeologist. This is a fact that I have not discussed much recently, which is odd because I spend 40+ hours a week being an archaeologist. I travel as an archaeologist and every dinner party I go to I have to discuss being an archaeologist. Archaeology is actually a pretty diverse field. This is surprising to most people.

Typical conversation -
New acquaintance: "What do you do?"
Me: I am an archaeologist.
New acquaintance [is thinking, but how do you make money?]: "Who do you work for?"
Me: "I work for a cultural resource management (CRM) company."
New acquaintance: "So who pays you?"
Me: "I work for a private company that contracts with a variety of federal, state, local and private agencies."
New acquaintance: "Oh [then they decide to let the subject drop]. What is the coolest thing you have ever found?"

Everyone asks about the coolest I have found. I do not know the answer. Archaeology is about context. If a group did not have many ceramics and you find a sherd, this is cool. Ceramics are not as cool when you find 100+ sherds in every screen full of dirt.

Last week I was in Charleston, SC. We were working on a tract of land that has been a tea farm, rice plantation, and more modern housing. Did you know that tea was briefly subsized by the U.S. government? It was a largely failed enterprise as a whole. There is still one operating tea farm in the United States (see this). There were still wild tea plants growing across the tract.

Shovel Test

In CRM archaeology one common way of exploring an area that has not been previously surveyed is shovel testing. To shovel test an area a grid is established and regular holes are excavated throughout the grid. The distances are measured through pacing and the angles are determined using a compass. The dirt from each shovel test is screened for artifacts.

This is a sort of zen inducing activity. Walk, dig, screen, dig, notes, repeat. This is supposed to locate archaeological sites. Often it even allows sites to be roughly dated. Shovel testing is a necessarily flawed activity. What if a site is less than 30 meters in size and sits between shovel tests? Oh well... let me know if you think of another, better, way to find archaeological sites.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Blue Cheese Potato Carrot Soup



Today I found myself in need of a comfort food dinner. Derek told me he could not have too much cheese before he played hockey. This eliminated the macaroni and cheese option. I have been really obsessed with soups lately. We had black bean soup last week and butternut squash soup the week before.

So, I made up a recipe. One of my very first, now I am going to share it with you.

Blue Cheese Carrot Potato Soup

1 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil (really you could use all olive oil if you want to avoid dairy)
4 medium sized carrots, chopped
1 medium sized onion (indifferent about color), chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 pounds russet potatoes (approximately), diced
3 cups vegetable broth (low sodium is preferred)
1 bay leaf
6-8 ounces blue cheese (something creamy), crumbled (blue cheese could be optional, it is not for me)
salt
pepper

1. Melt the butter with the olive oil in a large pot on medium heat. Add the carrots and onions with a heavy pinch of salt. Sweat until onions are translucent (about 5 minutes). I love saying this even though I do not think onions are ever translucent.... Really they will just be soft. The carrots will not get soft yet.


2. Stir in the garlic. Let it cook for another minute or so.

3. Stir in the potatoes and let them get coated with the butter and oil. Then, pour in the vegetable broth and add the bay leaf.

4. Let this simmer on lowish heat for about 30 minutes or until the carrots and potatoes are falling apart and soft. Then remove the bay leaf and discard.

5. Now, carefully, use a stick blender, regular blender, food processor, or a potato masher (maybe?) to blend the soup. At this point it kind of looked like baby food. It is bright orange.

6. Season the soup to taste with salt and pepper. Then add the crumbled blue cheese and let it melt in.

Serve with wine, fresh bread and good company.

I apologize for the awful photos. Really the soup was good, my camera karma was just not with me today.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Conference

Last week I went to the Southeastern Archaeological Society (affectionately known as SEAC). Once a year archaeologists who study the southeastern United States meet up at a random hotel to talk about archaeology, drink beer, and generally nerd out. This year it was in Lexington, Kentucky. Home of bourbon, the derby, and, well, not much else.

I presented a paper entitled "Geophysical Prospection as an Archaeological Survey Method: Ground-Penetrating Radar, Magnetometer, and Intra-site Patterning in North-Central Tennessee." No one really wants to hear about my presentation. Actually, there were people at the conference who did care.

The conference was so much fun. Nothing like being surrounded by people who share a common interest. Then you can drink beer and gossip about the same stuff.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Women's Rights National Historical Park




Seneca Falls is the home of one of the country's only National Parks dedicated to a movement. I have to say that visiting the park's museum totally inspired me. Rights for women! Go ERA! Equal pay! Etc!

The park has a museum, the Weselyan Chapel and two historic houses that major leaders in the women's rights movement. The chapel is the site of the first women's rights convention. The houses belong to Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Mary Ann M'Clintock. Without this convention and these people, I would not be doing what I am doing today. Elizabeth Cady Stanton believed that women could do whatever they wanted. That was pretty intense stuff in the 1840's. For some people that is still pretty crazy.

The museum is very well done, with sections on politics, fashion, education, and work. It makes a valiant effort bring all of this into the modern era and related to women's status today. It would do a much better job if it were still 1980. As it is, the funny haircuts tend to undermine the very serious subject...

It is a little sad that women have basically made no strides since the 1980's exhibit was put together.

Girls are still not represented in the math and sciences.

That's me... archaeologist was not an option (Park Ranger though, really?!).

You boys were wrong. We can do!

Anyway, I think the park is a must visit for everyone of any gender. It is nice to be reminded occasionally of how I got here, a woman working in a male dominated field.


At least we don't wear corsets any more. Thanks, E. Stanton, S. B. Anthony and their cronies!




Thursday, October 14, 2010

In the field! teaser...

This past week and a half I have been at the Women's Rights National Historic Park. I know, this is a pretty cool place. I am a woman. I enjoy voting, owning property, etc. I have these gals to thank for it all.

We have been incredibly busy this trip. I have yet to find time for a real post. But, here I will summarize our field schedule so you can picture me out there slaving away.

7:20 ish - Leave hotel

7:30 - fill our mugs up with real coffee from Zuzu's cafe in Seneca Falls (a very worthwhile visit)

7:45 - arrive at the site, drink coffee, discuss plan

8:00 - begin data collection

12:00ish - lunch, usually cheese and crackers, little soups, apples (it is that time of the year up here in New York)

4:30-5:00 ish - wrap up, finish data collection, roll up tapes

6:00-7:30 ish - Dinner

7:30-10:00 - Data Processing, downloading, and back-up

10:00-11:00 - Quiet time, reading

11:00 - Sleep. Goodnight

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Carolina Tiger Rescue


While my friend was visiting this weekend we decided to go to the Carolina Tiger Rescue for a tour. This is a pretty interesting place. It is basically a cat shelter for big cats. Apparently, sort of dumb people get tigers or other large cats as pets. I think they think said cats will curl up and sleep at the foot of their bed. This does not happen, they are wild animals and sort of violent (see this story about a crazy tiger owner).

Anyway for $12 we got a tour around the grounds and got to meet the cats. It was pretty awesome.

Caracol
The Caracol can jump 10 feet (or something like that). They attack and kill animals bigger than them, they tend to go for the face. Great pet!

Tiger
There were lots of tigers, they were the most common animal. They feed the tigers one whole chicken a day, bones and all. We got to watch it chew the chicken and the bones sounded incredibly creepy.

Hot Tiger
It was warm in the afternoon and tigers like water, unlike my kitten.

Kinkajou
The kinkajou is not actually a cat, note prehensile tail. This guy likes bananas, which is why he is visiting.
Serval
The Serval eats rats. That is all I remember.

Ocelot
This ocelot loves Calvin Klein perfume and it smelled like cat pee. Ocelots live in the rain forest and they love climbing.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

News!

Hello blog readers (do I have any blog reader? Mom?)! I have good news! My long period of office time is coming to an end. I am going somewhere. Now I can write about something interesting. Well, cooking is interesting too, but even I get bored of talking about our latest conquests in the kitchen. I want to go somewhere, get dirty, meet new people, try new things, etc.

I am going to.... drum roll please... upstate New York! More to come on this later...

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Today is about delicious (and football)

This afternoon I am watching a football game with my dear friend Sara. She went to the University of Arkansas and today they are playing Alabama. I did not know this until the day before yesterday when Sara informed me that it would be physically impossible for her to miss the game.

Originally, we thought we would go to a sports bar and watch the game. It turns out that the University of North Carolina was playing at the same time. In Chapel Hill, if UNC is playing, no other football game exists. Therefore, we are sitting in my living room watching the game.

As soon as we found out we were staying home to watch the game, I started to think about football food. A quick internet search confirmed something I had already suspected, I am missing out on an entire culinary tradition by not watching football. A delicious tradition.

I love dip. I love cheese. We made cheesy dip.

Photo by Sara (not me)
Chorizo Queso Dip

2 tablespoons diced onion
1/4 pound chorizo
1 jalapeno pepper, diced (and seeded, optional)
2 tablespoons flour
about 1/2 cup beer (just pick something delicious)
1/4 pound muenster cheese, grated
1/4 pound sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1 big handful chopped cilantro

1. Brown onions with chorizo in a frying pan. When the chorizo is mostly cooked add the jalapeno. After the chorizo starts to brown add the flour and stir it in well.

2. Stir in the beer. Let it make friends with the delicious pan.

3. Add the cheese a little bit at a time, stirring constantly.

4. After the cheese is incorporated, stir in the cilantro. It will be super thick.

5. Now, transfer this into a small oven safe casserole dish. I think the one we used was an 8x8 inch. But this under the broiler on high until the cheese gets bubbly and a little brown.

6. Now eat this with chips, bread, or a spoon. Must be consumed with beer.

It took us about 10 minutes for three people to finish this. I might double the recipe for larger groups.

If this is what football tastes like, I like football.


Sunday, September 19, 2010

How to make your GPS stop smelling like armpit

First a little background. My very first "real" job was a summer seasonal job as a cartographic aide at Chaco Canyon. I do not have the energy or time to explain Chaco here, but if you really must know more go here or here. The short story is that this place is a sort of Mecca for archaeologists (and a lot of other sometimes slightly crazy new age people). I ended up working at Chaco for a total of three summers and I loved it there. It is a truly beautiful amazing place, full of wonderful people. I could talk forever about the archaeology (and I might in some later post) but here I am going talk about what I actually did in the canyon.


Although my Masters degree is in archaeology and I got an undergraduate degree in anthropology (which I working on at the time). I double majored in geography and in Chaco Canyon, the archaeological mecca, I worked for the natural resources division as a cartographer. So, in the shadows of these great sites, I made maps and collected GPS data (like this picture only I had a park service uniform on, which on me looked sexy).



Now this is a skill that has come in extremely useful as an archaeologist, so at work on Friday I decided to finally update the software on our GPS units. Just like the park service (and pretty much every other geographically inclined professional), we use Trimble units, which are really tough, pretty accurate little yellow GPS units.

I opened up the cases the units are stored in and I quickly remembered the last project we used the units at (a survey in 100 degree plus heat in Tennessee). I also remembered why archaeology is NOT a glamourous profession. The unit smelled like fermented armpit sweat. Worse than Derek's hockey bag, worse than the time I left a slice of pizza in the work truck for a week. I almost lost my breakfast. It was not subtle either, you did not have to get up close to smell it.

Being the charming person I am, I made everyone in the office smell the Trimble. Then we puzzled about how to make the smell go away. One coworker voted for not even trying because, "it will just get stinky again." I tried cleaning off the surface with disinfectant. But, clearly the mold had crept into the crevices. Then another suggested using those little anti-moisture packets that come with your shoes (or your sushi seaweed wraps, I am such a yuppie). Can you tell I work with all men from these comments?


In the end, we ended up putting the unit in a bag with some rice (due to a lack of those little moisture absorbing packets). It seemed to work. So there you go. That is how to make your very expensive little computer stop stinking. Oh, I love my job.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

A Cannon Ball Landed Here

During our Delaware Beach vacation we all rode our bikes to the town of Lewes. This was mostly just a cute town now, but it has a sort of awesome history.


The town was the first in the state of Delaware dating to 1631. It was settled by the Dutch, although they did not make it long. Now there is a replica of a Dutch town hall in Lewes, but it was built in 1931.

That is not what I found particularly amusing about Lewes. There is one house near the harbor with a cannon ball in its foundation. Not near its foundation, no this cannon ball is embedded in the foundation. This cannon ball is from the War of 1812.



It sort of blows my mind that after the War of 1812, then the Civil War, industrial revolution, Vietnam, and everything else that this cannon ball has been commemorated so faithfully. It has been cemented into place so it will forever mark the place where the house was struck by the damn Brits. Thank you Lewes. I really appreciate these quirky American historical sites. I know they are everywhere, but they never get old.


Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Labor Day


On Thursday afternoon Derek and I decided to head up north to visit Derek's aunt and uncle at their house on Rehoboth Beach in Delaware. They spent the weekend completely spoiling us.

The only "dark" cloud on the weekend was that I had to work on Friday. It is a nasty business this work thing, no one tells you that when you are done slaving away on college degrees you are expected to work 40 (!?!?) hours a week. This upsets me until I get a paycheck. Oh, that is why this is better than being a carefree student!

Anyway, I digress. We went up to the beach and, despite the dire hurricane warnings (Ha Earl!), the weather was great. Amazing actually. I had not been outside without feeling like I was sweating gallons of water since May. I do think the nice people on the weather channel were a bit disappointed in Earl's poor performance. I could see it in their faces.


We went to the beach and the salt marsh. We walked along the boardwalk. Apparently I was deprived as a child because I did not know that all of these fabulous junk foods existed on the board walk. We ate freshly cut french fries, frozen custard, and carmel corn. That was just a sampling of the offerings. I opted out of funnel cake and salt water taffy.

There were also games to play on the board walk. Wonderful, old-fashioned carnival games. It made me feel like I was living in the 1950's.

To work off all of these calories we went on bike rides. Then we came back and ate more.



After this exhausting daily routine went to bed and slept like the dead and woke up to do it again the next day.


Then we had to go home. Sad. But the cat was happy to see us and we were happy to see him.



Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Summer!

I have not done any interesting work lately, so I want to talk about summer food.

To me, summer is tomatoes. Summer does not bring tomatoes, it IS tomatoes. I generally do not have the heart to do anything with beautiful heirloom tomatoes other than eat them in wonderful salads.

When I was twenty I studied abroad in Athens (Greece) and fell in love with Greek salads. In Greece, these are called horiatiki (χωριάτικη σαλάτα) or village salad. There are basically 6 ingredients in a traditional Greek salad. Lettuce is not ever incorporated. In Greece, if you want lettuce in your salad you must order a lettuce salad.



As I believe that more Americans need to try a real Greek salad, I am going to give you directions here. Please note, feta and olives on a lettuce salad from your pizza place does not make it Greek.

Village Salad (χωριάτικη σαλάτα)

Ingredients:
Tomatoes (only use really tasty ones)
Cucumber (preferably, European seedless)
Red Onions
Green Peppers (optional)
Kalamata Olives
Feta (preferably sheep's milk packed in brine)
Red Wine Vinegar
Extra Virgin Olive Oil (get the really good tasting stuff)
Oregano (dried or fresh)
Pepper

1. Slice the tomatoes into wedges (bite sized pieces).

2. Slice the cucumbers into thin disks. They should not need to be peeled.

3. Cut the red onion in half and thinly slice the onion (you only need about 1/2 a cup of this, or to taste).

4. Cut up the green pepper into bite sized pieces.

5. Combine the tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion, green pepper, and olives in a large salad bowl. Cover the salad with feta. It can be crumbled on top or you can just put a slice of feta on top of the vegetables (this is how they do it in Greece).

6. Sprinkle the top with oregano and a dash of vinegar. Liberally coat the salad with olive oil.

7. It is now ready to be eaten immediately. Tossing is not necessary, just use salad tongs to serve out the vegetables and break apart servings of feta.


This salad is missing the onions, green pepper and olives, but sometimes you need to work with what you have...

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Hello Blog!

Hello Blog! It has been awhile. I missed you. Well, not really. I have been much to busy to miss you. I will recap the past couple of months in as few words as possible.

Derek and I got married.

We gardened.


Hiked.

Visited a Civil War Battlefield (well, it is the south).

Went to Cape Cod.
We moved too, no pictures of the new place yet. It looks like it was attacked by angry hooligans. I hate unpacking!

And of course, I worked. Because life would not complete without several trips to central Tennessee. There is not much to tell about Tennessee. It was hot. I did not know my body could expel water that quickly. The archaeology was cool (as always), the people were .... interesting...

Now I am back. I will try to write more now. Because the internet needs my thoughts to make it a better place.


Sunday, April 11, 2010

Captain Jack's Seafood Shack

Tonight in Byron, GA I was looking for a restaurant for my dinner. Fortunately, I thought to ask the lady at the front desk of my hotel and she told me that her favorite was Captain Jack's Seafood Shack so I thought I would give it a shot. I considered this rather courageous considering that that I was in CENTRAL Georgia, not coastal Georgia. I was not disappointed. The food was not bad, probably the best I could get at that particular freeway exit (which is all Bryon really had to offer). I had blackened shrimp, as they were recommended by the waiter. Because I am in the south they came with hush puppies and french fries (all for about $8). The hushpuppies were a little cakey for my taste, but the shrimp were delicious and it was such a good deal. They also did not even make a big deal over the fact that I was by myself. Dining by myself is actually something I enjoy. I do not enjoy people asking me if I am waiting for someone or if it will be "just you".

I am in Byron, GA to do a GPR survey on a completely unmarked cemetery. This is pretty interesting stuff. This cemetery is going to be moved because a new highway is being constructed. Moving this cemetery is the best option (read, least destructive). It was an interesting survey, well, it was hot, sunny, sweaty, and I almost stepped on a giant snake. Archaeology is so glamourous.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Office

My job seems like crazy traveling all of the time (the address is "archaeologist on the road"). I do spend a lot of time all around the southeast, but then I go home to North Carolina and I get to write reports and work in the office. I process data, write reports, make maps, etc. This time starts out really nice, because I really do miss my boy and my cat. Then get kind of antsy. I like traveling, I enjoy not sitting at a desk all day, every day. This is where I am now. I can not WAIT for my next trip!

Boy and Max (Cat)!
Max and Mead!

I will take this time on my lovely Sunday to show you some more cool GPR images. Because I can not necessarily disclose information from my recent clients, I will show some images from some older surveys. The results from the data that I collect these days still looks basically the same.


Underneath the plaza at the Bluff Great House, UT

A historic site in PA.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

On "the beach", South Carolina

I am in South Carolina right now for work. Current location, Litchfield, which is not too far south of Myrtle Beach (I think). We had an extraordinarily difficult time finding this hotel, we were planning on staying in Georgetown, SC. Then it turns out the local paper mill is closed this week and a ton of contractors are in town. All of the hotels were full. Even the nasty places with sketchy parking lots.

We continued to drive north and after stopping to check at a few places (what happened to no vacancy signs?), we ended up at Litchfield Beach and Golf Resort. This places has many good qualities: 1. A free huge breakfast buffet 2. Good price. But.... Begin rant. I tried to go see the "sea" today, thinking it would be a short walk from the hotel we were staying at. It seemed logical, they were offering "sea" rooms. I should have known, however, when I passed a shuttle stop. Then I passed some signs to places like blank bay and blank cove. Stupidly, I assumed these were geographic formation. Rather than condo development, which is what they were. After a 20 to 30 minute walk past several pools, tennis courts, at least three man made lakes, and a real marsh, I arrived at the beach. It was nearly dark, so I had only a few minutes to enjoy the ocean.

Then someone's dog ran over to me and proceeded to jump up on me, claw me, and lick me. This is all right after I walked by a sign requiring dogs to be on a leash. The owners did nothing. They just laughed and tried to call the dog back. NOT OKAY! I may piss off dog owners everywhere by saying this, but I do not like dogs. I especially do not like YOUR dog. I do not like it licking me, I do not like it jumping on me, it is not funny, and it is not cute. If your dog is going to run to any random person on the beach, it should be on a leash!

Sorry for rant, but it feels good to get it out into the internet.

In other news, we had a really great dinner at a place called Quigley's Pint and Plate. It was happy hour, so we got fried pickles and beer for under $5 (before tax). Then, I had some delicious blackened tuna for dinner. All for under $20. Nothing too memorable, but recommended if you happen to be in Litchfield...

Friday, March 12, 2010

Bagels


As I type this blog post, I am sitting in my living room eating lunch. This is extremely significant because my lunch is a homemade, fresh out of the oven bagel! That is right, a bagel. We were going to go on a hike today to celebrate spring, but Chapel Hill is currently experiencing spring showers so we decided to try a bagel recipe. It is from the cookbook,Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois. This is an amazing cookbook for a variety of reasons. We make all of our bread using their light whole wheat recipe, which is a great flavorful bread with a nice chewy crust. It truly takes about five minutes of hands on time.

Today, we made their bagel recipe, a rousing success. They took about half an hour of hands on time, but they were totally worth the effort. We sprinkled the tops with parmesan cheese too. Eating a fresh, warm bagel is no longer the exclusive territory of those living within stumbling distance of a bagel shop. It is worth the effort!

Lunch.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Swainsboro, GA, addendum

So, I was less than generous about Swainsboro, GA in my last post. While they do deserve some unkind words for their lack of restaurants on Sunday night, the town has since redeemed itself slightly in my eyes. Today, Monday, the clients I was working for took me to lunch at the Campbell House Bed and Breakfast. The lunch was a true southern buffet. It included many salads, pineapple dressing, fried chicken, smothered chicken, turkey, potatoes, rolls, and other stuff I was unable to identify (it all tasted good). My companions were eager to educate me about southern food, as I can easily be identified as not from Georgia (or the south). This is an education I happily accepted. This fried chicken was amazing. It had a very light breading and tasted almost delicate, but still crispy. I totally recommend this place. Plus the ambiance is pretty awesome. We ate lunch on the porch under a pressed tin ceiling looking out on the blooming daffodils in the yard.

The project was pretty interesting too. I was mapping the historic African American cemetery associated with a very old family cemetery. Essentially, I was looking for the graves of the families slaves and black servants. The cemetery is very well maintained, but there is one section with no grave markers remaining, so that is where we surveyed. It was also 70 degrees and very springy. The clients were extremely sweet and helpful. This is why I love my job.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Swainsboro, GA


Tonight I am in Swainsboro, Georgia. In order to get to Swainsboro I had to drive a very long way on a very narrow road. It was dark on that narrow road and occasionally I got a waft of cow, so I am assuming that I am in the heart of Georgia farm country. At some point I went through a few very small towns and then I arrived in Swainsboro.

This is actually a very charming town (that's right, I used the term charming). My first encounter of with the town involved circumnavigating a little town square that has a fountain in the middle of it. Nice! Then I found my hotel... It is okay, pretty typical small town hotel, not the worst I have called my home. Really the only point where Swainsboro comes up short in my estimation is in its restaurant scene.

After checking into my room I went in search of dinner. Now, I know looking for dinner in a southern town after 8 pm on a Sunday is a little presumptuous of me. But, after I saw the beautiful town square I had high hopes. These hopes were dashed to the ground after I took myself on a short tour of the town. I passed three (!) Chinese restaurants, at least two fast food fried chicken franchises, a Waffle House, a Huddle House, two Subways, and several burger places. Absolutely no local restaurants, unless you count Chinese (which I do not count in any small town). Can I ask why any small town would have so many gross looking Chinese super buffets? Could they possibly be any good? So, I did what any self respecting resident of a small town would do... I went to Wal-Mart (otherwise known as "the great satan") and got myself a frozen dinner and some fresh fruit. Now I am sitting on my bed eating the lasagna watching the Academy Awards.

Why am I in Swainsboro, you might ask? Well, I am here to do a ground-penetrating radar (GPR) survey of a cemetery out here. It is common in older cemeteries to have many unmarked graves. Often people with little money or African Americans, were buried with wooden or ephemeral markers. Sometimes people just moved headstones because they were in the way of the lawn mower. Anyway, for various reasons people need to know where other people are buried. They typically do not want to dig people up. So they hire someone like me. It is extremely rewarding to help local communities manage their resources (such as I am doing tomorrow). Also, old cemeteries are interesting. People have interesting old fashioned names and creative epitaphs.

GPR works by sending electromagnetic energy into the ground, which reflect off of changes in the physical and chemical properties beneath the ground. The reflected energy is received and the strength of the reflected energy is recorded along with the time elapsed. Because graves often have different physical and chemical properties than the surrounding ground they can be visible using GPR. Other stuff can be seen using GPR too. Such as architecture, old roads, and prehistoric and historic trash piles (we call them middens). Here is a website developed by my graduate advisor that goes into more detail.





Picture of me collecting some GPR data, in Ecuador, not Georgia. Pictures of GPR data to come...






Monday, February 22, 2010

First (again...)

It has been suggested to me that I share my food and life philosophy. I am not really sure anyone is reading this blog. But, I will start by explaining where I come from.

I think I have made it clear that I travel a lot. When I am on the road for work I get some small amount of cash called "per diem". This money is supposed to be for food. Some people eat TV dinners and peanut butter and jelly. Then they take the cash home. I am completely unable to do this because I love food and the cooking options provided by a mini refrigerator and microwave are limited. Therefore, I go out nearly every night, sometimes for lunch too. I also really do not like national fast food chains. Because I want to save as much money as possible, I am on a budget. My choices usually do not include white table cloths.

I choose restaurants based on cool signs, local recommendations, and online reviews. Sometimes I drive by to see how full the parking lot is. This is not always a great indicator as the Golden Corral parking lot is seemingly always busy (why there is a critical mass of people at the Golden Corral in Beaufort, SC at 4:30 pm is still a mystery to me). This method of dining selection produces some hits, a lot of misses, and a lot of mediocrity. I hope to share some of my finds here.

When I am home, I love to cook. I am always experimenting with food, recipes, and ingredients. Sometimes I even try to recreate things I have had on the road. I love cheese, summer tomatoes (from the farmers market), fish (and shellfish), spicy, pasta, chocolate, and many more things that I can not think of at this moment...

Also, I love sewing. I am a big fan of customizing my stuff to be exactly how I want it for work and life. I love making presents for friends and family and inventing new things. I am not really good yet, but I am persistent. I use a mix of pre-made patterns and my own designs.

Okay, that is probably enough background for one night. It is dinner time. I am still in Beaufort and it is time to eat.




Sunday, February 21, 2010

Beaufort and Blackstone's Cafe


For the past week, I have been in Beaufort, SC. The home of Parris Island and a U.S. Marine Corps Air Base. We have been doing condition assessments at some cemeteries. These cemeteries are in absolutely beautiful locations, surrounded by marshes and giant live oaks. However, the cemeteries themselves seem very forgotten. They are covered with overgrown vegetation. Headstones are broken and most burials are unmarked. Many can only be identified as graves because of the giant depressions left when the coffins collapsed. Unfortunately, this is not an uncommon problem in older cemeteries. I think the work we are doing is the first step in bringing attention to these locations.


Here is a collapsed grave (it is hard to see the 1 foot deep indentation in the photo)

This town is pretty and historic, and has some awesome food. I will start with our favorite spot so far.

Yesterday, on our day off, we went to Blackstone's Cafe in downtown Beaufort for brunch. Now, I can not take credit for stumbling upon this restaurant. I actually first read about it on the Stern's great website roadfood.com. They were right to recommend this place. I had the corned beef and hash and it was the best $8.50 I have spent in a long time. The waitress told us they make it all from scratch and it tasted that way. The texture was perfect and the flavor was a great combination of salty and beefy. They serve it with two eggs over it, which is really ideal because my slightly runny eggs made a sort of sauce for the hash. I can not claim great experience with corned beef hash, as this was my first time trying it, but I can tell this was delicious. Should you go to this locale, do not miss the homemade biscuits, delicious coffee, and wonderfully crunchy hash browns. This place made my Saturday morning. I am planning on going back before I leave town.