Monday, December 31, 2012

Five and counting

Photo taken by David Svilar, copyright 2012

It's been a long road together, as relationships often are, but I'm glad to report that on this day, we're celebrating 11 years and 7 months since we first shyly clasped hands as bright-eyed youngsters and started on this journey of life together. 

Exactly five years ago, the journey shifted to a different and new phase--some might say a more serious phase--but the truth is we've been traveling the same road all along. The marriage certificate was only a formality and symbol of the commitment we already made to each other long before.

So here's to the innumerable years ahead, hands still clasped tightly, of walking on the road together. Hopefully somewhere along the way there might be an extra hand, or a few hands, to join our family. But even if not, hey, we know we'll always have plenty of furry paws and plenty of friends to share the road along the way. And of course, we'll always have each other.

Happy five years, my chuck.*

Photo taken by David Svilar, copyright 2012

*Macbeth, anyone?

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Ramen in Pittsburgh: Taste Test at Last!

ramen 3

After months of waiting and two failed attempts to eat at the newest Asian-cuisine addition to Pittsburgh, we finally scored our bowls of noodles last night!

I ordered a miso-base ramen that had one large chunk of stewed (chashu) pork and a bunch of bean sprouts. I also added a soft-center egg. It was great. The noodles were chewy and plentiful, the egg yolk was wonderfully unctuous, the meat was tender and very generously sized, and there was plenty of soup to slurp.

ramen 2

Michael opted for a soy sauce based soup with wontons. He had five wontons, a decently sized piece of tender white meat pork, and plenty of slightly pickled bamboo shoots. He enjoyed it and gives it 3.5 truffles out of 5 truffles.


So would we go back and recommend it to others? I would say yes and yes, but with an asterisk. We wouldn't necessarily frequent it very often as a random weekend dinner, as it is indeed a bit pricey ($9-10) for an-only-slightly-better bowl of noodle soup than we could make at home with frozen ramen kits from the Japanese grocery store (~$4, serves 2).

But it would be a fun experience with friends, good amount of food for the price, and they have some wild crazy ramen choices that you can't get from the grocery store (e.g. kimchi ramen, curry ramen). Unlike many Yelp reviewers, I think the amount of meat they give you is really quite tasty and generous (obviously those reviewers haven't eaten at noodle establishments in Asia where they only give you a few super thin slices of meat per bowl of noodles). And it really isn't that much more expensive in price than noodle bowls at other Asian restaurants, like Vietnamese pho.

Next time, curry ramen!

Friday, October 26, 2012

No Whey - We Made Cheese!


I will admit, my title made me laugh which means you now know my big secret - I'm pretty lame :)
But I am getting  off topic, so we had quite the adventure the other day: early Christmas present, delicious food and intriguing spreads! Liang came over bringing her surprise which turned out to be the neatest thing - a cheese making kit. Not only was it a magical dairy transformer package, but it was a MEGA magical transformer kit because it lets you make several different kinds of cheeses! But Liang had more in store for me because she pulled out 2 quarts (her purse was like Mary Poppin's bag I swear) of goat milk and a huge grin on her face when she informed me that we were going to make cheese! Yum. Again she reached into her purse and pulled out 2 more goodies, a fig butter and an olive tapenade that would pair wonderfully with the cheese. I kid you not, I was drooling.

We set to work sterilizing everything, heating up the milk and adding the citric acid when needed, cheese salt, and brought everything to temperature. The only time we faltered was when  we were ready for the curds but we weren't sure how fine was okay to work with. Needless to say a few extra pinches of citric acid later we decided to take our chances and let it drain through the cheesecloth and see what we got. It was a bit tricky lining the colander with the cheesecloth and pouring in the curds and whey but we managed it - slowly! After draining we put it in the little draining mold the kit came with and placed the sack-o-cheese curds we had created into it and topped it with a can of pinto beans to weight it. Finally after 30 excruciatingly difficult 30 minutes we were able to unveil our creation. We peeled off the cheesecloth from the sides and revealed a beautiful and perfect 1/2 lb goat cheese.


You can be sure that we savored this little white block of heaven with the tasty fig butter and olive tapenade. I know I definitely ate more than I should have, but I figure dairy is good for me because it helps ward off osteoporosis - so I was really investing in my future by indulging in this delightful treat hehe. YES I am aware that I'm deluding myself but I am perfectly okay with that :) That is my story and I am sticking to it (besides, that's why we run during the week, right?) Now don't get carried away, we didn't eat the WHOLE 1/2 lb of cheese (geez!) Most of it is saved for David's party this weekend, so maybe you'll get a chance to try it!

Monday, October 15, 2012


Since our recent visit to the Fall Foliage Festival all I have been able to think about is treats that I love to eat when the weather turns. And since I love to eat said treats so much I have to try and make them a little healthier at least to justify my gorging on them :) So I thought I would share one recipe I make that I REALLY enjoy (and I think Liang and Michael have too) and look forward to making soon. Unfortunately, I have been too busy to make this just yet - but I will be doing it soon! (I have a hankering for them so it has to be soon ha ha)

I was curious and found a fun fact about cinnamon rolls - the first cinnamon roll was baked in Sweden on October 4th, and there it is now known as National Cinnamon Bun Day. These delicious buns are called "kanelbulle" there, but they are known as delicious everywhere I know.

Cinnamon Rolls

I would like to say these are at least a tiny bit healthier (or maybe its my personal bias) and certainly tastier than their store bought brethren that come in a can that you have to slam against a counter to get to pop open. These puppies are more like when you wake up from a dream and you smell delicious bread baking in the oven, the caramelizing sugar, the yeasty bread smell . . . sorry I'm starting to salivate a little . . . well I didn't wake up to this today, but you can imagine what I'm talking about.

**These rolls freeze wonderfully, and can be reheated in the microwave or oven. You can also prep the dough the night before, just make sure it comes to room temperature before you proceed.

  • 3 1/4 tsp dry active yeast (about 1 1/2 packages)
  • 1/4 c warm water
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 c shortening
  • 1/3 c sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 c milk
  • 1 egg
  • 4 1/2 - 5 c flour, sifted (I use bread flour)
  • melted butter
  • brown sugar
  • cinnamon
1. Add warm water, sugar and yeast together and let sit 10 minutes, or until frothy.

2. Scald the milk; pour over the shortening. Add sugar and salt and then let cool to tepid.
3. Add the yeast mix and beaten egg to the tepid liquid. Then add 4 cups of flour adding one at a time beating after each addition.
4. Dough should be soft yet firm enough to handle. Knead it until it's elastic and smooth. Avoid using too much flour because the finished product will be a dry, tough bread. Turn into a well oiled bowl and let rise 1 1/2 hours.

5. Press dough down and divide into a workable size. Roll dough into a rectangle. Cover with some melted butter and then layer on a generous layer of brown sugar (a good one is 1/4" or more thick of sugar). Sprinkle on the cinnamon to preference and roll up jelly roll fashion.
6. Cut off slices from the roll that are approx. 1 1/2" thick using unflavored waxed floss (trust me this is easier than trying to cut with a knife). Place the slices in a greased pan, giving them all a little room because they are going to rise!

7. Let them rise until they fill the pan generously, about another 1 hour.

8. Bake at 350 degrees F for about 15-20 minutes, or until golden on top. If they get too brown, cover them with a piece of foil until they're done. Don't over bake them!
9. Remove immediately from pan by inverting them onto a plate and then use another plate to right them. OR you can just serve them out of the pan to people :) Now for the glaze!

  •  1 c powdered sugar
  • 1/2 c (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1. Mix cream cheese, sugar, butter and vanilla in medium bowl until smooth. Spread the glaze on rolls after they've cooled to just warm - unless you really like your glaze runny, then have at it!

I have had customers at my work beg me to bring it in every week since I first made them, so you can be assured they're at least good enough to give a chance. (Of course I don't make them every week, otherwise I'd NEVER finish a 10K race Gangnam style or not...)

Bedford Fall Festival 2012


A few weeks ago, we trekked out to Bedford to attend the 48th annual Bedford Fall Foilage Festival. We really lucked out on the weather, and it ended up being a cool 50-some degree cloudy day that held off on the rain until we were leaving. Score!

So we wandered around for a few hours, taking in all the sights and tastes, and loading up on treats to haul back for our husbands' enjoyment!


Of course we had to get some fair food! Liang got a buffalo burger with peppers and onions, which she wolfed down too quickly before a picture could be obtained. Shannon enjoyed a gigantic and tasty gyro (pictured above) and we shared the humongous order of cheese fries. We'd originally planned on getting some sweets like funnel cake, but after all that food, we found ourselves too stuffed for dessert!

So we collected dessert to bring home instead. We picked up some cinnamon roasted almonds (there were stands everywhere and they smelled so good!), fudge, caramel corn, and apple dumplings.


Also we found the fresh cider press! Shannon had promised to take a gallon home, so we waited in line patiently as these guys worked at a furious pace at this old-timey cider press. You can see the pile of apple mush on the pickup truck in the background. While we waited, we sipped on some hot spiced cider they were selling by the cup on the side. So tasty and warming on the chilly day!


We can't wait to go back next year! It's such a large event, full of interesting sights and yummy food!

And lastly, Liang's trophy finds on this trip:


Cookie cutters! Especially the BUFFALO cookie cutter! Woohoo! You can bet you'll be seeing some cut out cookies in the near future with some of these beauties!

Sunday, October 7, 2012


This is what happens when I have yarn out at home: cats chewing on yarn, ignoring all other indignities, including being wrapped in a scarf.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Arts & Crafts

No longer is this reserved for summer camp or an easy A in school. At this point in our lives, Liang and I and have found craft time as a stress free time to spend together enjoying an entertaining podcast (or two hehe) and a creative outlet for the weeks stresses. Also, Liang has been able to claim refuge in my apartment to protect her yarn from her cats. I haven't been able to witness said cats stalking their prey (the yarn), but from how it's been described this is what I imagine they look like.

Random picture from a Google search
I can see it in his eyes - he's just waiting for his owner to drop their guard so he can attack the yarn! At least that's how it plays out in my mind. Apparently there's no negotiating with these yarn terrorists - our only choice was to hide :)

Liang's blanket is going to look so good, judging by the soft and pretty squares she's made so far. I just want to bury my face in the blanket (but I won't - I promise). So, I needed to pick up an artistic hobby, so I decided on quilling (or Paper Filigree). Basically, as long as I can roll paper strips and manipulate the coils into different shapes I am golden. So far I have been able to create some pretty neat looking cards and I'm enjoying it so I feel like it's a win. Although, I'll have to start using them as the cards I send to family for occasions, otherwise I'll just be a weird lady with a bunch of unused cards in their house. . . yeah, I better start doing that. If I'm going to be that strange lady on someones street, I want to collect something much more strange than cards, because I figure if you're going to do that you may as well be interesting.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

2012 Great Race!

Pre-race (still clean)

Well, we ran the Great Race this year! After our respective half-marathons in May (one of us ran the Pittsburgh one, the other did the Cleveland one), we have been doing short races to keep ourselves motivated to keep a training regimen going. Can't let that hard-earned muscle mass atrophy away!

All in all, we haven't been training too hard, but we figured 10 kilometers (6.25 miles) is COMPLETELY doable compared to a half-marathon (13.1 miles)!! So other than making sure to get a few short running workouts in each week, and keeping a close eye on types of foods before the race (less caffeine, less fiber), we sort of winged it.

Captain America joined the 10K fun! (blurry due to taking the picture while running) Spectators of all ages were SO excited to see him!

The course was not too bad-- a steep hill in the beginning, but otherwise a steady downhill with a few small inclines as we went from Frick Park all the way downtown to the Point. However, at about mile 4-5 as we are running on the Boulevard of the Allies ramps towards downtown, there are always spectators standing there yelling "It's all downhill from here! You can do it!" While we appreciate the encouragement, Liang had learned (the hard way) when running the same stretch at the end of the half-marathon that IT'S ALL LIES. Indeed it is generally downhill from that point to downtown, but ramps go up and down as you run in, and when you're running that at the end of a race, even a small bump still feels like a significant incline.

About 2/3 of the way through the race, it started raining steadily. We were soaking wet by the time we arrived downtown!

Photo credit: David (husband of Shannon)


 And last but not least, here are our results:

Liang -- 01:00:04 (9.6 min/mile)

Shannon -- 00:54:24 (8.7 min/mile)

We are super happy with our times! This was Shannon's first 10K race, and she ran it Gangnam Style all the way! (No, really, she listened to the song on repeat throughout the race...she may be on to something there!) This was Liang's second 10K race, and she beat her 2011 time (1:03:26) by over 3 minutes! 

Go us!
Photo credit: David (husband of Shannon)

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The 2012 Ig Noble Awards

It's that momentous time of the year again: the unveiling of the Ig Noble Awards! 

Yay for funny science!

From the announcement page of the 2012 awards:
"PSYCHOLOGY PRIZE: Anita Eerland and Rolf Zwaan [THE NETHERLANDS] and Tulio Guadalupe [PERU, RUSSIA, and THE NETHERLANDS] for their study "Leaning to the Left Makes the Eiffel Tower Seem Smaller"
REFERENCE: "Leaning to the Left Makes the Eiffel Tower Seem Smaller: Posture-Modulated Estimation," Anita Eerland, Tulio M. Guadalupe and Rolf A. Zwaan, Psychological Science, vol. 22 no. 12, December 2011, pp. 1511-14.
ATTENDING THE CEREMONY: Tulio Guadalupe. [NOTE: Two days after the ceremony, Anita Eerland and Rolf Zwaan will marry each other, in the Netherlands.]

PEACE PRIZE: The SKN Company [RUSSIA], for converting old Russian ammunition into new diamonds.

ACOUSTICS PRIZE: Kazutaka Kurihara and Koji Tsukada [JAPAN] for creating the SpeechJammer — a machine that disrupts a person's speech, by making them hear their own spoken words at a very slight delay.
REFERENCE: "SpeechJammer: A System Utilizing Artificial Speech Disturbance with Delayed Auditory Feedback", Kazutaka Kurihara, Koji Tsukada, February 28, 2012.
ATTENDING THE CEREMONY: Kazutaka Kurihara and Koji Tsukada

NEUROSCIENCE PRIZE: Craig Bennett, Abigail Baird, Michael Miller, and George Wolford [USA], for demonstrating that brain researchers, by using complicated instruments and simple statistics, can see meaningful brain activity anywhere — even in a dead salmon.
REFERENCE: "Neural correlates of interspecies perspective taking in the post-mortem Atlantic Salmon: An argument for multiple comparisons correction," Craig M. Bennett, Abigail A. Baird, Michael B. Miller, and George L. Wolford, 2009.
REFERENCE: "Neural Correlates of Interspecies Perspective Taking in the Post-Mortem Atlantic Salmon: An Argument For Multiple Comparisons Correction," Craig M. Bennett, Abigail A. Baird, Michael B. Miller, and George L. Wolford, Journal of Serendipitous and Unexpected Results, vol. 1, no. 1, 2010, pp. 1-5.

ATTENDING THE CEREMONY: Craig Bennett, Abigail Baird, Michael Miller, and George Wolford

CHEMISTRY PRIZE: Johan Pettersson [SWEDEN and RWANDA]. for solving the puzzle of why, in certain houses in the town of Anderslöv, Sweden, people's hair turned green.

LITERATURE PRIZE: The US Government General Accountability Office, for issuing a report about reports about reports that recommends the preparation of a report about the report about reports about reports.
REFERENCE: "Actions Needed to Evaluate the Impact of Efforts to Estimate Costs of Reports and Studies," US Government General Accountability Office report GAO-12-480R, May 10, 2012.

PHYSICS PRIZE: Joseph Keller [USA], and Raymond Goldstein [USA and UK], Patrick Warren, and Robin Ball [UK], for calculating the balance of forces that shape and move the hair in a human ponytail.
REFERENCE: "Shape of a Ponytail and the Statistical Physics of Hair Fiber Bundles." Raymond E. Goldstein, Patrick B. Warren, and Robin C. Ball, Physical Review Letters, vol. 198, no. 7, 2012.
REFERENCE: "Ponytail Motion," Joseph B. Keller, SIAM [Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics] Journal of Applied Mathematics, vol. 70, no. 7, 2010, pp. 2667–72.

ATTENDING THE CEREMONY: Joseph Keller, Raymond Goldstein, Patrick Warren, Robin Ball

FLUID DYNAMICS PRIZE: Rouslan Krechetnikov [USA, RUSSIA, CANADA] and Hans Mayer [USA] for studying the dynamics of liquid-sloshing, to learn what happens when a person walks while carrying a cup of coffee.
REFERENCE: "Walking With Coffee: Why Does It Spill?" Hans C. Mayer and Rouslan Krechetnikov, Physical Review E, vol. 85, 2012.
ATTENDING THE CEREMONY: Rouslan Krechetnikov

ANATOMY PRIZE: Frans de Waal [The Netherlands and USA] and Jennifer Pokorny [USA] for discovering that chimpanzees can identify other chimpanzees individually from seeing photographs of their rear ends.
REFERENCE: "Faces and Behinds: Chimpanzee Sex Perception" Frans B.M. de Waal and Jennifer J. Pokorny, Advanced Science Letters, vol. 1, 99–103, 2008.
ATTENDING THE CEREMONY: Frans de Waal and Jennifer Pokorny

MEDICINE PRIZE: Emmanuel Ben-Soussan and Michel Antonietti [FRANCE] for advising doctors who perform colonoscopies how to minimize the chance that their patients will explode.
REFERENCE: "Colonic Gas Explosion During Therapeutic Colonoscopy with Electrocautery," Spiros D Ladas, George Karamanolis, Emmanuel Ben-Soussan, World Journal of Gastroenterology, vol. 13, no. 40, October 2007, pp. 5295–8.
REFERENCE: "Argon Plasma Coagulation in the Treatment of Hemorrhagic Radiation Proctitis is Efficient But Requires a Perfect Colonic Cleansing to Be Safe," E. Ben-Soussan, M. Antonietti, G. Savoye, S. Herve, P. Ducrotté, and E. Lerebours, European Journal of Gastroenterology & Hepatology, vol. 16, no. 12, December 2004, pp 1315-8.


Sunday, September 23, 2012

Barrels of Apples!

When Liang suggested this joint blog I got very excited because I love experimenting with our bakery items and sharing our experiences. So, I racked my brain trying to think of a post for this joint effort, and kept drawing a blank. Then I realized I was really hungry and lo and behold in my shelves I saw my recently canned applesauce and chicken stock. I had my answer.

During a recent (and much anticipated) visit to Soergel’s orchard with Liang and both of our husbands, we were walking around their store looking (and smelling) the delicious apples and suddenly I realized I was lusting after a whole bunch of apples. I mean a whole BUNCH of apples. A half bushel of apples is very nearly a barrel of fun! So a half bushel of apples in the apartment later, David asked what I planned on doing with all of these apples. Applesauce of course! In an excited flurry I ran and got my pressure canner out of storage. I then set off on an exciting adventure of cooking down apples with a couple of cinnamon sticks, filling my jars and pressure canning them into perfect preservation. Using the majority of the apples from my half bushel I was able to get 7 quarts of deliciousness. After completing the ‘sauce and setting aside a bowl of apples for eating, I realized my canning high needed riding out, so I set off on the next project: homemade chicken stock.

David and I have fallen in love with using real chicken stock in recipes. After using homemade chicken stock I can’t go back to using store bought broth unless it’s a dire emergency. And by dire emergency what I really mean is never. I remember watching Michael Symon on the Food Network and he said that if you don’t have real chicken stock opt for water because the store broth isn’t worth it. So, after making a roasting chicken for dinner one night that week we froze the bones, along with various vegetables and had everything ready to make some golden deliciousness in a jar. Now I just had to decide a recipe to follow, and since we have been watching a lot of Jacques Pepin on DVD I felt like that was the winner. You can see the finished products in the picture below, the applesauce on the right and the stock on the left.

Can I just say that I love Jacques Pepin’s style of cooking not only because of his practicality, but also because he works to get the most out of each ingredient to create a masterpiece out of simple components. So this is his method of making stock, but with my own adjustments so I could make enough to can it. The recipe below is adapted from Jacques chicken stock recipe in his cookbook “Chez Jacques”.

Chicken Stock for Canning

Makes approximately 12 qt stock

-          1 chicken carcass (neck, wings, etc.)

-          Enough cold water to cover the bones in each pot

-          2 Large pots

-          4 medium onions cut in halved and peeled

-          4 tsp dried thyme

-          2 bay leaves

-          2 small leeks, or the green tops of the leeks

-          4 ribs celery

-          6 carrots

-          1 ½ tbsp whole peppercorns

-          1 or 2 peppers (type is up to you)

1.      I had to split this up into 2 large pots. So I split up the ingredients as necessary into each pot.

2.      Bring the bones in the water to a boil and as soon as its boiling, reduce the heat to maintain a gentle boil. Let boil uncovered for 10-15 minutes before adding the other ingredients. Skim any scum that comes to the surface off and discard.

3.      Now add the vegetables and seasonings. Return it to a gentle boil and let go for 2 hours.

4.      Strain through a colander, and then through a fine mesh strainer to filter out any pieces.

5.      You can cool it overnight in the fridge and then skim off the fat to completely de-fat the stock, or just immediately can it if you don’t mind having the chicken fat remain in it.

6.      If you plan on canning the stock, take the quart containers and run them through the dishwasher to sanitize them while the stock is boiling. When you’re ready to can it, start a pan of water on the stove and sanitize the lids and rings for about 5 minutes before using them. Fill the pressure canner to the 3 quart line in the bottom.
7.   Fill the jars leaving 1” head space. Carefully wipe the tops of the jars with a damp cloth. Tighten on a lid with a ring and place in the pressure canner. When it’s full carefully put on the lid and place on the stove top. This will require the 10 lb pressure gauge and you will need to process 25 minutes. Follow the pressure canner’s instruction guide.
David was exciting about our impending ‘gastronomical’ experiences that awaited us, and I have to admit that I found myself salivating thinking about it! So many options! Soup, stews, and baked goods! I have to start planning for next month’s meals …

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Countdown to the Hobbit!!

83 days and counting until The Hobbit (Part I) hits theaters on December 14, 2012!!!

To say I am excited would be a gross understatement.

The second trailer came out just a couple days ago. Gave me goosebumps, like all good trailers should!

Who else is excited about The Hobbit movies??


Hi! We're Liang and Shannon, two twenty-something BFFs who are a wee bit nerdy and love to do crafty and food-related activities completely unrelated to our day jobs.

We decided to join forces to create this blog as a written record of our personal accomplishments and obsessions, and to share with each other and our family and friends all the wonderful things we discover along the way. We will try to encourage our long-suffering husbands to contribute occasionally, as they can be just as nerdy and apron-wielding!

Our prior history of collaboration has been very fruitful, a few examples of which are shown below:

Birthday cake for Shannon's husband

Peach marmalade and blueberry jam making

Christmas cookie extravaganza

We've also trained for a half-marathon together and gotten each other hopelessly addicted to new books. We hope you will join our conversation about food, life, fun things, and yes, sometimes (very) nerdy pursuits.