Thursday, March 31, 2011

Old School

Oh snap, ALA Libraries Direct.  It's like you knew how excited I used to get in anticipation of the school book fairs in elementary school.  It's like you knew how much often I read those fine, newspaper print beacons filled with the hopes of future books.  But seriously, including a link to old book club fliers?  GENIUS. Most of them appear to stylistically be from before my (reading abilities) time, but hey, we all can't be awesome harem pant, hypercolor t-shirt wearing, side pony-tail sporting children of the 90's, can we?  
And you, URLesque, well played on choosing to feature a 1990's Scholastic Book Club version containing a Maryanne and Logan Babysitters Club Book (also how I learned the world versus and that it could be abbreviated, not like it was a big deal or anything...).    It's not like I identified with Maryanne and had my first secret literary crush on Logan or anything...  Incidentally, a while a go a friend passed along the link to The Hairpin's The Babysitter's Club: Where Are They Now?  Most of them?  Dead on.  But the Logan assessment?  Dead off.  There is no way he's not fabulously Southern and gay.  Who's with me?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Giza Gauntlet

Egypt threw down the gauntlet at the Giza Pyramids.  I wish I could say it was a really great experience, that the pyramids dazzled me, that I was inspired, etc.  But honestly, the hassling was so extreme at this tourist trap that I spent the first 45 minutes completely overwhelmed, frazzled, frustrated, and even near tears.  I knew it was going to be a bit intense, but what I realized retrospectively is though there were still busloads of tourists, I was more or less the only solo tourist visiting at the time.  Which meant open season on me.  I should have anticipated this; I already was aware that there were less tourists than usual (something that made me sad for Egypt's economy, but happy for my ability to actually see things and not be crowded at tourist places!), and that it was a pretty intense experience at the pyramids.  But holy. guacamole.  From the minute we approached the entrance in my cab, the cabbie let some guy hop into the front seat.  I was completely alarmed, and was all "What the what.  What are you doing?" We stopped at the "entrance" twenty yards away.  It was pretty clear it was not the entrance; thanks to my guidebook I was aware that this was a bit of a scam that is often run to get tourists to fork over extra money, rent a camel they don't want, etc.  

Monday, March 28, 2011

Librarian Mecca: Bibliotheca Alexandrina!

 As many of you know, I happen to have an occupational predilection towards libraries.  They excite me with their stores of fantastic knowledge and excellent organization.  Also, the big deal ones?  They tend to be kind of architecturally gorgeous.  Also:  books.  They've got them!  For all these reasons and more (as in, hello opportunity to visit the worlds first library even though the original was burned like six times so it's really not the real deal but whatever), I was stoked to visit the Bibliotheca Alexandrina.  And let me have you know: it is worth a trip.  I gasped when I walked in.  It is really that impressive, huge, and flat out architecturally gorgeous.  I want to go to there every day.  I want to work there.  I want to sneak in and live there in the way that the kids in From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler live in the Met.  No joke.  Am I gushing?  Is the Pope Catholic?  Deal.  I warned you of my occupational predilection.  

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Rain and foreign book covers

 Hello friends. Shockingly, after an overnight train followed by a day in Cairo followd by leaving for the airport to travel 18ish hours home, posting was not a priority. I will update fully later so you'll get to know allllll about my adventures.  But to tide you over enjoy these phone pics from my last day in Egypt.
This picture? Evidence that it does actually rain in Cairo.  I was shocked! It lasted approximately 2 minutes, but I still think it counts, no?

Mmmmachiato @ Pottery Cafe, Cairo's hipster cafe.  Yes, they DO have sheesha and skinny cigarettes to accompany your skinny jeans!
I like the American cover sooooo much better.  Doesn't Katniss look like a Hogwarts bad girl?  There is no magic in the Hunger Games, cover artist!
Wall o'teen fiction at a Zamalek bookstore (yes, these are all in English).

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Luxor sunset

I arrived in Luxor this morning at around 6:30am, just in time to see the sun rising as I pulled in. It is not so easy to use my tiny key
s or the tiny wireless signal at my delightful hotel, Hotel Nefertiti. Thusly I leave you with my sunset view. 

Monday, March 21, 2011

Alexandria Part Two

Photo essay, as I am on my way to catch an overnight train to Luxor.  I spent the day at the pyramids.  It was...overwhelming.  But I'll post on that later!  Enjoy some of my photos from Alexandra, the port city/former home of Cleopatria.  Maybe you've heard of her?  Sadly no pictures of her here. The only thing I did not take a picture of were the crypts.  I have never been claustrophobic or especially afraid of the dark.  But you know what?  I have always had an active imagination.  And when a place that is normally crawling with tourists featured just me and nobody else underground, wandering around in a crypt (the bodies were removed), where I had to walk around on planks of very unstable wood in places due to flooding, let me tell you: I gladly walked into a tourist trap and willingly followed around the "guard" who was the only other thing with a pulse two stories down.  I even tipped him.  Twas really cool, especially the mashup combo of Greek, Roman, and Egyptian funerary carvings in one area.  But I'm pretty sure it was responsible for my freaky dreams last night too! (I will devote a special post to the library because, hi, I am a librarian).

A pita maker in Alexandria


More on yesterday's day trip to Alexandria later, but I'd just like to leave you all with this image.  This will for SURE make you sleep easy, PopTart:
One of the many, many tanks I've seen in Egypt, but the first I have posed in front of. 
I particularly liked noticing that the writing on the tank is all in English...generally indicating American made.
Well done Team America.
 The other best part of this endeavor?

Election day in Egypt

It was election day in Egypt the last time I posted.  It was also my "I probably shouldn't have eaten that" date with destiny, we took it pretty easy and basically spent the day strolling through the fruit market and stalking the polling stations in Dokki, near Becky's apartment.  It was really very exciting!  Although the results (now published) don't seem like what the more liberal and/or educated Egyptians were hoping would happen, I still found it heartening to see so many people out and about, waving their fuscia dyed fingers in our general direction. 

This picture totally warmed the cockles of my heart.  Is that girl not the cutest thing ever, waving her little Egyptian flag, clutching her father and her pink stuffed bunny?  I love the expression on the soldiers face.  He's all, "Oh snap, what do I do with this cuteness? It is overwhelming me, play it cool.  Don't smile.  Seriously.  Stop it lips."  It was so much more adorable in person

Finally, you food porn enthusiasts, this one is for you:  Enjoy my bounty from the fruit market (ie. fruit stalls and the bakery I obviously visited.  I got some pretzel wheel thing with dates inside, a honey croissant, and some Fig Newton-esque other snacks.  Yum!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Deserts and fat cats

Hello friends!  I am feeling rather lazy and am going to mostly post pictures here today.  Yesterday, we spent the day out in the desert at what I believe is an oasis and also believe is called Al Fayum.  Spelling?  Probably wrong.  But that's okay, because Google's screen appears in Arabic and general confusion is thus expected.  It was totally fun!  I was under the impression it was a sit by the shore and cheer for dudes if you happened to be of the female persuasion, and dressed accordingly in a long dress and cardigan.  Except this was way more nature than I or my new gladiator sandals were anticipating.  Seriously.  Mudflats, hiking across the top of waterfalls, etc.  Plus, I'm pretty sure I scandalized an entire village by hiking up my skirt to ford the river.  Or rather, I probably blinded them with my blazingly white kneecaps.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Typos make my day.

No photos today; I spent yesterday at the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir Square, where your camera is confiscated at the door.  Because they take such good care of the antiquities there...sarcasm.  I mean, they do.  They are in a museum, there are guards, people were cleaning reliefs and things.  But the museum is not exactly on the standards of more westernized museums; we'll call it a little rag tag.  It's a little confusing to navigate and there are very few signs up about the multitude, and I mean multitude (the rooms are stuffed to the brim with antiquities) of items on display.  There are some super cool things there; I was a big fan of the animal mummies.  But as per, the emphasis seems to be on the gold coated things, not the every day cool things like mummification tools and make up equipment.  However, it is still really, really cool, and you could seriously spend all day there and not see everything; I kind of gave up midway through the top floor because I got tired of dead things. 

The other crazy thing about the museum is that it is directly below the burned out National Party buildings.  I knew they were close, but I didn't realize they were THAT CLOSE.  I actually gasped when I left the museum because it was directly above my head and the exit.  Those protesters weren't messing around!
Becky and I also attended the British Cultural Association or whatever they call themselves (seriously, they are mostly American) St. Patty's Day party, which amused me because...well, Britain and Ireland have such a notoriously loving relationship.  Twas fun!

But the best part of the day?  The two awesome typos I spotted that I wasn't able to take pictures of. 
The first:  in the museum, there is a relief of a king and a queen playing with their daughters.  The sign tells me about how "they are fondling their young daughters."  Don't they know I'm a boy of 12 at heart?  The second:  at our awesome dinner of Egyptian pizza (a calzone-like thing made w/filo), the menu offered me a tasty side dish of "Homoes."  Seriously.  I am still laughing. 

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Holy Wednesday

Yesterday was a big day for me, religiously.  I got in with the big man upstairs FIVE TIMES, in three different religious, you guys!  Yes. That's right.  I visited two Coptic Christian churches (think Greek Orthodox), one very old synagogue, and two mosques.  Not only that, but we managed to crash services in both a church and a mosque, so I'm feeling pretty good about my juju today. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Tahrir, Feluca, Koshuri, Sunset and a Stella

 As you can see from the above image, I walked around downtown Cairo today, which included a trip to the world famous recent home of the Egyptian revolution, Tahrir Square.  The square has largely been cleaned up - the army came in last week and forcibly removed lingering protester and thusly, there aren't a terrible number of street vendors selling January 25th memoribilia.  The Square still has some visible markers of the revolution; many sidewalks were chipped away by Revolutionary fighters to use as stone ammunition against the government thugs.  These sidewalks are now just swaths of sand, which is odd and quite the visual reminder.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Arrivals, Germany, McDonalds

Hello all!  I have arrived safe and sound in Egypt following a lovely 18 hour trip.  I left Boston on Sunday night, missed my stop at South Station due to chatting with a cute baby on the T, and promptly ran into students from my school on the same flight at the airport.  Self high five! Luckily, I arrived in Germany with my dignity intact, only to realize that I was cracked out, had a bad headache, and still had 8 hours to go.  Also - German coffee?  What is up with the teacup size serving for like FIVE euros?  That is not enough to rev my engine.  Aren't you guys supposed to be super duper engine rev-ers?  What up with that? Not only that, my phancy phone was not working.  After several phone calls to set it up, I was displeased.  I spent about oh...probably in the family of way too much Euro getting internet so I could get the phone number (which had suspiciously disappeared off my phone) and then calling, only to find that they'd forgotten to turn on my SIM card, and then receiving a text from Verizon that my phone after approximately 15 minutes of being on had racked up $50 in roaming charges.  Which is why I put the international plan into action in the first place.  W. T. F.  You and me's gonna be having some wordz, Verizon.  Right around this time, I started to go jet lag loopy, and realized that people (Germans) were riding bicycles through the terminal. 
Even the German janitors rode them!

Yeah.  I thought about jacking one, I'm not going to lie. 

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Cairo is calling!

You guys. 
True story: I bought a ticket to visit a lovely high school friend in Cairo in December after much hemming and hawing and near purchases and near purchase panic attacks.  Plane tickets to Africa are expensive, yo!  As I'm sure those of you not living under a rock are aware of, some pretty serious stuff went down in Egypt in January and February, which led to my friend being evacuated, things looking like they could go really sour, my discovery that travel insurance doesn't cover acts of war or civil unrest (but yet it covers injury evacuation and death...kind of counterproductive, no?), and my fleeting hope that things would get better.  And get better they did!  The Egyptian people prevailed and my friend was able to return from her extended stay in Istanbul.
Thusly, I am traveling to Egypt today!

Case of the terribles: gross roadside food

I have done two things with this post.
one, discovered that when posting from my phone i cant use proper punctuation or capitalization, but can post nonetheless.
two, have shared with you the grossest gas station snack ive ever seen at a rest stop.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Case of the terribles: I am not proud...

I just cried from laughing at the following Filthy Pride and Prejudice, spotted on Jezebel.  Not safe for work, public, or if you are a teenager and I know your parents. 

Recipe 46: Spinach, Artichoke, and Goat Cheese Strata

This recipe comes from the March 2011 Cooking Light.  I had my way with the recipe largely because I love spinach and because Cooking Light always seems to have odd sizes and weights not readily available in your local grocery store.  What up with that?  Additionally, spinach and artichokes are known to go together like peanut butter and jelly.  In a cheese loving world, of course.  I would say this recipe could be better - I think the baking time and my failure to pre-cook the spinach is the key.  I had to rush the baking time and spinach.  If you choose to follow this recipe, adhere to the baking time and don't crank it up to 450 to shorten it like I did!  As a side, this serves a lot more people, but ultimately I'd say 6 full sized servings is about right.  Ultimately, you do not need a Le Creuset Dutch oven for this recipe; a normal baking dish will suffice.  But whateverrrrrrrr.  It works!  Sorry for the quality of the picture; it's actually a very pretty dish.  Unfortunately, it was devoured before I had a chance to grab the camera.  Which, I supposed, speaks volumes about the devourability of this recipe.  Or just means my friends are starving heathens. 

Spinach, Artichoke & Goat Cheese Strata
(adapted from Cooking Light's March 2011 Recipe, Artichoke & Goat Cheese Strata)

1 Tbsp olive oil
3/4 c shallots, minced (approximately 3 shallots)
1 10 oz drained can of artichoke hearts, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 tsp dried herbes de Provence
1 9 oz package of young spinach
1 3/4 cups 1% milk
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp salt
4 large eggs
1/3 cup grated Parmesan or Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 1 lb loaf of bread torn into small pieces (I used a country loaf from the grocery store, but feel free to get creative and use all kinds of fancy bread; I bet that would be tasty!)
cooking spray
4 oz goat cheese crumbled (one small tube)

  1. Preheat oven to 375.  In a large nonstick skillet, heat the oil over medium high; add the shallots and cook for approximately two minutes, stirring throughout.
  2. Add artichoke hearts and garlic and cook while stirring occasionally for approximately 8 minutes or until the artichokes begin to brown.  Once you notice browning, add the spinach and cook three more minutes until artichokes are browned and spinach is lightly wilted.
  3. Remove skillet from heat and let cool ten minutes.
  4. In a separate large bowl, mix together milk, pepper, salt, eggs.
  5. Add parmesan and bread, tossing to mix and coat all pieces of bread.  Let mixture sit for 20 minutes.
  6. Prepare your baking dish or Le Creuset with cooking spray.  Add one half of bread mixture, crumble half the goat cheese over this layer, and repeat with remaining half of bread mixture and goat cheese (cheese should be top layer).
  7. Bake for 50 minutes at 375 or until the top is browned and bubbly.  
  8. Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Very Exciting Business!

You know how I gush about my love for Melina Marchetta a lot?  Stop reading now if you do not care or care for it.  

Okay now that we've got that out of the way, two items of VERY EXITING BUSINESS.

1.  Jellicoe Road has a movie script!  I don't know if this means it has been optioned or what (do share if you know!), but I like to think of this as promising.  It could be so cool as a movie!  All sparkly light on water and light through trees and teen angst and mystery and tree houses and drama and secrets and secret societies and boarding school...I'll just cut myself off.  Plus, it sounds like this company makes good movies.  I am filled with hope!  I love Jellicoe Road! Spotted this on YALSA's YA blog The Hub.  I'm not cool enough to have a google alert or anything of the like for Melina Marchetta.  Yet...I have one for Diana Gabaldon.  Yeah.  Judge away.

2.  I am so so so sad I cannot go to this next wonderous event:  The Teen Author Festival in NYC from March 14-19th!  It looks like such fun.  Plus, guess which awesome Australian author is going to be there?  Seriously.  I am bummed that I would have been able to go but can't as I'll be an ocean away in Egypt (yes, really.  Possibly more exciting, more on that later).  If you live in NYC, you must go for me and then tell me all about it!  You have full permission to rub it in.

Recipe 47: Fresh Pea Soup St. Germain

I select this recipe for one reason, and one reason only:  I am dying to see green.  This winter has been long and hard.  I am ready for spring!  I want to see little green things poking up from the cold frozen ground!  As bonus, this recipe was not only violently green, but mindnumbingly easy and quick.  I doubled it, and while it is decent, I wouldn't say it's all that great.  If you like green peas, and I recommend this soup.  I would also recommend adding more flavor to the recipe below, either in the form of garlic, maybe some curry...other spices...something.  It tastes just like fresh peas, so if that is your thing, you will love this soup! As per, it came from my bible, The Soup Bible.   Size wise, this is maybe the only recipe in the book with a realistic outlook on servings.  My only other suggestion is get rid of none of the water if you want your soup to be at more soupy than smashed pea-y.  Seriously.  Just stick a blender in there and have at it.  This recipe features a special Le Creuset guest, Blue's baby brother, Blue's Baby Brother.  From here on out, he will be referred to as Triple B.  
Say hello to Triple B!

Triple B looks good in spring green, don't you think?

Fresh Pea Soup St. Germain
(from The Soup Bible, by Debra Mayhew)


A small knob of butter (hehe, knob.  I'm twelve)
2 to 3 shallots, minced
3 cups fresh peas, or frozen peas that have been thawed and rinsed
2 1/4 cups water
salt and pepper
a crouton or bread garnish
OPTIONAL: 3-4 tablespoons cream (if you prefer creamy soups)
 What to do with your ingredients:
  1. Melt the butter in your pot.
  2. Add your minced shallots and cook for approximately three minutes, stirring occasionally, until they become tender.
  3.  Add the peas and water to the pot, season with some salt.  Cover and let this simmer for approximately 12-18 minutes, until peas are tender, bright green, and taste cooked.  Don't overcook or they will turn Army Puke Green. 
  4. When the peas meet the tender green description above, remove from heat and either add the mixture to a blender or use an immersion blender to blend until smooth.  Remember, use all the liquid if you want it to be more soupy, less if you want it more firm and like smashed peas.  
  5. I did not strain my soup because I am lazy, but the OG recipe recommends it.  Whatever, if you want to do more dishes and have a high class soup, be my guest.  
  6. If you want to use the cream, add it now, while reheating the soup on low.  I chose leave it out and let my guests cream their own soups.  Yes, that's what she said.  Also, gross.
  7. Garnish and serve hot to your non-pea hating friends.  

Monday, March 7, 2011

A Classic Case of the Terribles: Tiny Redcoats

It is rare that things are both unbearably cute and totally messed up.  I like to call this mishappenstance (it's a word now, punks) a case of the terribles.  
I think the following qualifies:  Boston tots are reinacting the Boston Massacre, complete with fake foam snowballs, pistol-whippings via musket, and you know, the inevitable massacre from whence the name came. Nothing says field trip like a good massacre reinactment!
How can you resist tiniest little redcoat drummer ever?  I bet if our colonial masters had looked like this, we would not have thrown our tea party in the nursery, not the harbor. 
Tsk, tsk, England.  Classic rookie miscalculation while you were powdering your wigs and marmalading your toast.  Next time, colonize with kindergarteners. 

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Called it! The Girl Who Could be Katniss?

Since about a hot minute into True Grit, I knew I wanted one thing:  Hailee Steinfield as Katness Everdeen.  Oh snap, Hollywood.  Thanks for catching up.  If you can make this pipe dream a reality, we'll be in business! Not going to lie, I'd be pretty happy if they cast Jeff Bridges as Haymitch, but seeing as that movie is already called True Grit, I'm also open to other suggestions. 

Source:  Bookshelf of Doom (font of mucho awesome)

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Recipe 48: Lentils with Wine-Glazed Winter Vegetables

Today's recipe was a big first.  This is the first time I've ever encountered the weirdest looking vegetable in all the vegetable lands (or at least top ten):  the uber fug celery root. 
The scourge of my vegetable drawer meets its match.

Doesn't it look a bit like the trolls from Ernest Scared Stupid?  Proceed with caution, this movie terrified me as a child.  

Isn't it terrifying?  Every time I peeked at it in the vegetable drawer, I kept worrying that my celery root would have turned into that guy and shanked me with a carrot spear or something.  I have a very active imagination.  Even after I peeled it, it still looked crazy!  I had to chop it into small cubes to feel good about it not turning into a murderous troll. 
In which I crush the spirit of my celery root.

As per usual, I digress.  As fug as the celery root was, this recipe caught my eye because it has two things I love, red wine and dijon mustard.  Also, I'm a sucker for roasted vegetables.  And now troll-like vegetables.  This recipe is not pretty.  In fact, it has the same coloring as our friend, Mr. Troll.  But gosh darn it, it is delish and easy to make.  In a departure from almost every other recipe I've made in Blue, this one actually makes the four servings it claims to.  Enjoy this recipe with some nice crusty bread and a side salad.  

Lentils with Wine Glazed Winter Vegetables
(via MyRecipes, from Cooking Light)

Lentils with Wine-Glazed Winter Vegetables


3  cups  water
1 1/2  cups  dried lentils
1  teaspoon  salt, divided
1  bay leaf
1 1/2  teaspoons  olive oil
2  cups  chopped onion
1 1/2  cups  chopped peeled celeriac (celery root)
1  cup  diced parsnip
1  cup  diced carrot
1  tablespoon  minced fresh or 1 teaspoon dried tarragon, divided
1  tablespoon  tomato paste
1  garlic clove, minced
2/3  cup  dry red wine
2  teaspoons  Dijon mustard
1  tablespoon  butter
1/4  teaspoon  black pepper

1. Combine water, lentils, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and bay leaf in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil.
2. Reduce heat, and simmer 25 minutes. Remove lentils from heat, and set aside.
3. Heat olive oil in a medium cast-iron or nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.
4. Add the onion, celeriac, parsnip, carrot, and 1 1/2 teaspoons tarragon, and sauté 10 minutes or until browned. You can now breath easy; your celery root is officially dead and should look something like this: 
The only good celery root is a dead celery root.
5. Stir in 1/2 teaspoon salt, tomato paste, and garlic; cook mixture 1 minute.
6. Stir in wine, scraping pan to loosen browned bits.
7. Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes or until vegetables are tender.
Stir in mustard.
8. Add lentil mixture, and cook 2 minutes.
9. Remove from heat; discard bay leaf, and stir in butter, 1 1/2 teaspoons tarragon, and pepper.
10.  Eat with some bread!  I strongly recommend the Sesame Garlic Rolls from When Pigs Fly Bakery for this and for life in general.  I'm drooling right now.

Greatness, thy name is Amazon Wireless Beta

I am still waiting for the other shoe to drop, to find out I've actually gone and married a Nigerian prince after a night of drinking in Vegas.   But I'm feeling pretty good about mentioning this, because seriously you guys.  Amazon Wireless Beta?  Possibly the greatest thing EVER (unless you say, have Verizon Wireless and want an iPhone.  Then it sucks to be you.).

I've been needing a new cell phone for nigh on a while now.  My old LG enV has survived a full dip into a water font (of sorts...okay, fine, the toilet) and has worked for three years, the last of which it has had a fully cracked front screen.  The power cord has to basically be folded in half for it to charge and the phone has taken to turning itself off with great passion when there is a temperature change.

I came to terms with needing a new cell phone, I just wanted to get an upgrade to a smartypants phone.  After much hemming and hawing and chatting with less than amused sales dudes, I settled on the Droid 2 Global.  Verizon wanted to charge me $150.  That would be WITH my $50 upgrade credit (the program expires in June, get on  it stat!).  But I accidentally stumbled across it on Amazon, and seriously.  Seriously guys.  Not only is it a collaborative thing with Verizon (as in I still get my bill from them, I'm just buying the phone from Amazon), it is a truly magical thing.

They are charging me $20.

Twenty bones! It will be here in two days!

There are some conditions, like having to keep the phone for 181 days.  I think I can handle that, after having had my junker for three years.  If you at all belong to Verizon Wireless, Sprint, AT&T, or T Mobile, do yourself a favor and check there.   

But if you wind up with a Nigerian Prince, know I just wanted the company. 
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