Hi everyone! Today I’m using our blog to host some plots that I made as a challenge project for the Data Incubator. For more information on this program, visit the Data Incubator’s hompage.
Hi everyone! Today I’m using our blog to host some plots that I made as a challenge project for the Data Incubator. For more information on this program, visit the Data Incubator’s hompage.
It’s been a while since I(Deena)’ve posted something, hasn’t it? Getting my dissertation written plus being on the job market unfortunately doesn’t leave me with a lot of creative energy, but today I have something I’m super excited to share with y’all.
To say that I am obsessed with the winter holidays might be the understatement of the year. Thanksgiving is my favorite, because food, duh, and it is a perfect opportunity to relax for a day.
This year, we’re staying home and spending Thanksgiving with our neighbors. It is going to be a wonderful, stress-free day full of good food, the wine I only buy for the holidays, and catching up with some of our favorite people. We’re very lucky to live on a cul de sac in a nice-but-not-snooty suburban neighborhood, and we have better neighbors than I ever could have dreamed of.
Without further ado, here’s our plan for hosting this year!
Appetizers: I don’t want to take focus off the Thanksgiving meal, but I do want to provide some snacks for our guests to enjoy while we watch football.
-A big cheese board with 2 types of cheese (TDB, but I do love the Toscano from Trader Joe’s), crackers, salami, spice roasted pecans, grapes, and pickles.
-Cranberry baked brie with crackers (Not really using a recipe for this, but I am going to top a wheel of brie with cranberry sauce and wrap it in frozen puff pastry, then bake until it looks good)
-Spanakopita (Frozen from TJs)
Drinks: Thanksgiving is time to bust out the good wine! This year we’re also serving a signature cocktail. Beer is a must, and don’t forget the nonalcoholic drinks for kids or people who prefer not to drink.
-A double batch of these cranberry margaritas will serve as our signature cocktail.
-We’re also keeping a bottle of good (Bulleit) bourbon on hand, because it’s the south, y’all.
-A perfect but not too expensive red wine is Mollydooker: The Boxer (shiraz). My uncle was kind enough to purchase this wine for our wedding, and it has since become our go-to special occasion wine.
-I’m not a huge white wine fan, at least not when it is cold, but turkey. We’re serving the Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc, which is a nice crisp, dry wine.
-A mix of microbrews and light beer. We’re planning on serving Shiner Holiday Cheer, Aviator Frost Nipped, and Yuengling Light.
-Sparkling cranberry and apple juices (from Trader Joe’s) as a delicious nonalcoholic option.
The main meal: Here I’m going for classics with a twist. Excited!
-Hickory smoked turkey. I’m using one of the pre-brined turkeys from Trader Joe’s to save myself a little headache. Also not really using a recipe but planning a bbq rub and loading the liquid reservoir of my smoker with either beer or cider.
-Gravy, courtesy of Whole Foods. Since we’re smoking the turkey, I’m not sure what the dripping situation will be and I am leaving the gravy to the pros. I already preordered and paid for it, and will pick it up after work on Tuesday. How convenient is that?
-Mashed potatoes. Y’all, I just bought a potato ricer and it is one of the best purchases I have ever made. I’ll boil and rice the potatoes, then add salt, milk, and butter.
–Sweet potato and swiss chard gratin. I know people usually go for sugary sweet potato dishes, but I’ve made this before and it is just to die for.
-Cranberry sauce. Again, no recipe except boiling cranberries, water, and sugar. I am making about 5 bags’ worth as this is Nick’s favorite.
-My best friend Caroline’s macaroni and cheese. She has a killer recipe, and kids just love it.
-Pepperidge Farm stuffing. I tried a homemade cornbread dressing recipe a few weeks ago, but I used jiffy mix for the cornbread and the end result just had a bizarre texture. I decided to keep it simple (stupid) and use the Pepperidge Farm mix my husband and I both like. There’s no shame in some shortcuts when you have this much food to cook.
-My dad’s carrots. Again, no recipe, but we caramelize them in a mixture of french onion soup mix, lemon, sugar, and water.
-My neighbor is bringing more veggies as well. Need some green to cut through the carbs!
–Pumpkin dinner rolls with cinnamon honey butter. Tried these out a few weeks ago, and omg. I am making a double batch and suspect that the kids will love them.
Dessert: I am serving the classic pumpkin pie alongside two desserts that are a little more fun.
-Decaf coffee. Do people drink coffee with dessert, or is that just my family? Regardless, I picked up some decaf beans.
–Classic pumpkin pie. I’ve never made a pumpkin pie before because my grandmother is the queen of pies, but this year I will give it a shot. I’m not making the praline sauce (team whipped cream over here!), and I’m using frozen pie crust. If you hate making pie crust like I do, I highly recommend the frozen pie crusts from Trader Joe’s.
-Homemade whipped cream. Kitchen Aid to the rescue!
–Nantucket cranberry pie. This is so, so good.
–Pumpkin whoopie pies with cinnamon cream cheese frosting. I follow her cookie recipe exactly, but I am not a big maple syrup fan. I instead make a cream cheese icing and spike it with cinnamon and nutmeg. I made these as one of the desserts for Nick’s 29th birthday party, and the kids would have eaten the entire plate if their parents had let them.
Shopping/prep tips/misc: I want to do a more detailed post on this, and it will probably help y’all if I have hindsight after the day is over. Here’s what I’m thinking now:
-I’m doing my grocery shopping in two rounds. After work yesterday, I went and grabbed all the nonperishables. Next Monday, I am planning on grabbing the turkey and all the vegetables after work. There is no way I could have done it all in one trip by myself, but I think it is certainly possible to make one trip if you bring another person. I wanted to save my slave driving for making my husband clean the house.
– I was surprised by how much serveware I was missing! I ordered most missing things from amazon, and bought foil pans and cocktail napkins from Target. I am serving my apps, dinner, and dessert on these plates, because I know I am going to trash my kitchen in the cooking process. My spread may not look like something from Southern Living, but it will be delicious!
-I am planning to set up a self-serve bar/apps table and then put the dinner food on a buffet table. I’m not really sure how I will decorate the dinner table, but I figure that tea lights and flowers are usually a win. I bought these cheap but festive napkins in orange. Decorating is not my forte.
-We have 2 children coming so I wanted to get them something special. I’m sure it isn’t fun to hang out with adults all the time! I bought things to make them treat bags, and I got them each a small toy (Target dollar spot). I also bought a gingerbread house making kit and plan on having board games on hand to fight off restlessness.
-Last month’s Real Simple had a really good article on pet etiquette surrounding the holidays. My plan is to brush the cats and dog on Wednesday, then clean the hell out of my house. I won’t be vacuuming on Thursday as that can stir up dander and aggravate guests’ allergies. The dog will be in his crate and the cats will be upstairs during our gathering.
That’s all I have for now. What are your Thanksgiving plans? Is Thanksgiving your favorite holiday, too?
Hi everyone! We had a fantastic weekend full of food (okay, and cleaning). Here’s what we ate!
On Friday night we celebrated our friends’ recent engagement with dinner at the Stanbury. Everything we had was delicious, but my favorite was the scallop crudo. We’re super excited for our friends as they start a new chapter in their lives, and this was a great place to celebrate!
On Saturday, we spent most of the day cleaning and decided to relax and eat dinner at home. I made bbq red snapper tacos, inspired by the bbq mahi tacos at one of my favorite restaurants. Easy, healthy, and delicious.
On Sunday, we started the day with a bowl of this quick but delicious granola, yogurt, and sliced peaches. And lots of coffee. We’ve learned that buying a big house with two full time jobs sometimes means we need to just take a weekend and hit the reset button–especially when it comes to our bedroom, which we probably had not cleaned in a somewhat embarrassing amount of time.
Nick worked so hard this weekend! I thought he deserved a special reward, so I made him a perfect summer cocktail on Sunday night. I peeled and muddled one peach (one beautiful peach from my favorite lady at the farmers’ market) and a couple of basil leaves. I then added bourbon and ice, and there you have it. It was too strong for me, but Nick just loved it.
Ever since my parents bought us a smoker, our Sunday dinners have changed for the better. We started a rack of beef back ribs around lunchtime on Sunday, and by 6 pm they were perfect. I also sliced up some of our garden tomatoes and drizzled them with olive oil and salt, and steamed some white corn. It was a delicious seasonal dinner, and I am looking forward to many more adventures with our new toy.
What did you eat this weekend?
Okay people, I know it is almost July. Work has been absolutely nuts and we’ve both been traveling like its going out of style. Here’s what we’ve been up to for the last month (and some)!
Nick went to Denmark for work, and I was lucky enough to be able to go along. We had a great time wandering around Copenhagen and enjoying the local culture. We capped the trip off with a visit to my aunt and uncle’s house in Geneva. The picture below is from a day trip we took to Yvoire, France. Wonderful views and excellent gelato!
We enjoyed a quiet Memorial Day at home, including getting our house back together(ish), having our crazy race day, and visiting our neighborhood pool.
We also added more to our veggie garden, bringing our tomato plants up to a grand total of seven! We already have some big tomatoes, and we are impatiently waiting for them to ripen. I have never successfully gotten jalapenos to grow before, but this year all three plants are growing like crazy. We also have about 12 small crookneck squash and 6 small cucumbers. I am so excited and preparing for our summer vegetable explosion.
Last week we traveled in parallel. Nick went to Indy for a Fuel Ethanol conference, and I went to Stuttgart, Germany for a water resources conference. I was able to take an afternoon and visit the Klinsmann Bakery (owned by the family of US Soccer Coach Jurgen Klinsmann–he also worked there!) in Boatneng which was just beyond neat. The bakery was incredibly pastoral and made no mention of soccer or Klinsmann’s fame, save for some cookies shaped like soccer players. While in Germany, I also got to spend time with some friends from UNC and visit family friends in Heidelberg.
Speaking of US Soccer, World Cup fever is in full force over here at the Giffen residence. To say we have been going crazy is a bit of an understatement.
This weekend, we’re taking a quick trip up to Richmond for a wedding, then running home on Sunday to host some friends for the USA game. We hope you had a great month, and GO USA!
Usually Deena writes about food or fitness, and I about sports. This is one of our favorite blog posts, because we get to combine food and sports!
Every year (except last year when we were at our friends’ wedding) we plan a menu for the Memorial Day weekend motor sports triple header. We wake up and make a European themed breakfast and eat it while we watch the Monaco Grand Prix at 8am ET. We clean up, then prepare a Midwestern themed lunch while watching the traditions of the opening ceremonies for The Greatest Spectacle in Racing, the Indianapolis 500. This year will be a little bittersweet during the opening ceremonies, since it will be the great Jim Nabors’ last year singing Back Home Again in Indiana, by far my favorite part of the opening ceremonies. We of course then enjoy the meal during the race itself. After the winning driver sips the milk in victory circle, we clean up again and usually take a power nap (maybe that’s what Kurt Busch will be doing as well as he flies from Indy to Charlotte trying to complete the double). Then we prepare an All-American or Southern themed dinner to have while we tune in to NASCAR’s Coca-Cola 600.
Oh yeah, and of course we have an alcoholic beverage for each race that matches the themes, duh!
This year we have to be a bit more creative, since I have realized I have a gluten sensitivity and therefore need to eat gluten free. I think we’ve handled that pretty well in the menu below, I’m really excited about gluten free chicken and waffles!
So without further ado, here’s our menu for Race Day 2014…
Morning (European Theme):
Race – Monaco Grand Prix
Food – Spanish tortillas
Drink – Mimosas
Going for a run between these races…
Mid-day (Midwest Theme):
Race – 98th Running of the Indianapolis 500 (!!!!!)
Food – Bison burgers with Wisconsin cheddar and sweet corn sautee
Drink – Bell’s Amber Ale (Deena), 7 & 7 (Nick, rooting for Simon Pagenaud #77)
Power nap between these races…
Evening (Southern Theme):
Race – Coca-Cola 600
Food – Chicken & waffles (gluten free!) and watermelon caprese salad
Drink – NC Microbrews (Deena), Bourbon or Richard Childress wine (Nick)
Happy Race Day 2014 everyone! Let us know what you are doing for the races and who you think will win each one. I’ll have a follow up post later tonight with race predictions!
Hi everyone! Today I’m sharing some of our favorites from our lives this month.
I made a huge easter dinner even though it was just the two of us. Ham, sweet potato and chard gratin, deviled eggs, green beans with candied pecans, and a beet, citrus, and mint salad. For dessert we had lemon mascarpone and mango sorbet parfaits. And a Bellini bar. It was a beautiful day, so we had dinner outside and enjoyed the nice weather.
We had so much fun at the Tar Heel 10 Miler! It was a tough race, including a 1 mile climb up Laurel Hill at the end of the race. They gave us separate splits for Laurel Hill, and Nick finished third in his age group! Afterwards we explored Chapel Hill and Carrboro. We looked at plants at the North Carolina Botanical Garden (they have carnivorous plants!), then sampled some beers at the Steel String Craft Brewery, and had a lovely dinner at Kipos. We are definitely going to sign up for this race again next year!
Coming off of the race, Nick has decided he wants to run a mile PR (his PR was 6:14 back in high school) and will be using this plan. We’ll keep you updated!
I cannot wait to make this pad thai salad. I LOVE pad thai, and this looks perfect for the hot summer months.
In girly news, I finally bought this Garnier BB cream. I’m now wondering why I waited so long to try BB cream. This stuff is amazing–the moisturizer is light enough so that I don’t break out, and the tint covers small blemishes. I’m obsessed.
I’ve been looking for closed toe shoes that look good with shorts. I run a lot, and a weekly pedi just isn’t a thing for me. I ended up with a pair of sperrys and a pair of toms.
This year was the one year that I got my veggie garden in the ground on time, but we got frost April 15 and 16! I covered the plants with plastic bags each night, and everything survived. I planted Greek basil, Thai basil, mint (in a planter!), rosemary, crookneck squash, grape tomatoes, yellow tomatoes, cucumbers, and jalapeños. I am wishing I had more bed space so I could plant more stuff!
We hope you had a wonderful month!
I have a not-so-secret secret: I deal with stress a million times better when I work out regularly. Even just getting a couple miles in at the gym can instantly change my day for the better.
In an ideal world, we’d all have time to do every single thing we wanted. However, life is chaotic, so we need to arm ourselves with strategies to stay fit. Here are my top suggestions for dragging yourself to the gym (or outside!).
Note: I have a math degree, and am only here to describe what works for me as well as for people I know closely. This is not intended to be medical advice. Please consult a physician before starting a new exercise plan.
1. Make a Goal
What kind of exercise do you like? Is there something on your bucket list, like finishing a triathlon? How many days a week (in the real world, people) do you see yourself making time for workouts? Can you exercise after work, or will family/work commitments mean you have to exercise at lunch or in the morning? Ask yourself these questions and make yourself a workout schedule to accomplish your goals. And remember, you can always add more later.
2. Find a Workout Buddy
Accountability can be the difference between working out or sitting on the couch and ordering pizza. Find a friend, and make a date to run or even just drive to the gym together. Chances are, you’re not comfortable standing someone up, which equals lots of workouts. If you’ve had a long week, grab dinner/drinks afterward, too.
3. Use an Online Fitness Tracker
While we’re on the topic of accountability, remember that you can use social media to motivate yourself. Try logging workouts in an online tool such as MapMyRun, then add some of your friends who use the same tool. I see social fitness tools as having a dual purpose–first, I feel guilty if I don’t log anything, and second, it helps me keep track of how much I’ve been running.
4. Runners–Sign Up for Races
I usually run a couple miles on the weeknights no problem, but when it comes to the longer runs on the weekends, sometimes I’m just not motivated. Signing up for races gives me a reason to get those miles in on the weekends. (Bonus: people within a reasonable drive of the Triangle should check out the Fat Ass run series. They do about 3-4 FREE races per year. Find information about the next one here.)
5. Get a Real Pair of Athletic Shoes
No matter what type of exercise suits you, you’re going to need real shoes. Consider going to a running store, where the salespeople can analyze your gait and suggest a pair of shoes that complements and/or corrects your stride. I roll my ankles in when I run (technical term: pronating), so I buy motion control shoes.
6. Find a Gym that Works for You
There are all kinds of gyms out there, and finding one that suits your needs is key. If you have children, consider a gym that has child care. Always aim for a gym that is close to your home or work. Nick and I belong to a Planet Fitness that is 1 mile from our home, which consequently eliminates the excuse of “its too far away.” Many gyms offer free passes for a week or two, so play the field and find your gym. Also, don’t be afraid to break up with your current gym if it just isn’t working for you.
7. Set Up Ways to Exercise at Home
You don’t have to spend thousands of dollars on gym equipment to be able to exercise at home. Youtube has tons of free yoga videos, and pinterest has numerous fitness pins. My favorites:
8. Use your Crockpot
Sometimes, by the time I’ve worked a full day and gone to the gym, I’m exhausted and really freaking hungry. Consider prepping a crockpot dinner before you leave for work if you know you’ll be short on time and energy. Pinterest has tons of good ideas.
9. Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate!
Drink lots of water. Dehydration makes me sluggish and more likely to blow off a workout. If you work a desk job, buy yourself a plastic tumbler and get up and refill it every time it is empty.
10. Don’t Beat Yourself Up
Your body needs time to recover after workouts. Give yourself a day off when you need one! On that note, some weeks are just plain crazy and you may not get to the gym as much as you intended. It happens to all of us, but remember that a lifelong commitment to health and fitness is far more important than a few missed workouts.
What are your favorite tips for staying motivated to work out?
Hello there! Since my wonderful husband dove right in with the sports analysis, it is my turn to write and I figured we should actually, you know, introduce ourselves.
Nick and I are both mathematicians by trade. Nick works for a biotech company and I am about 15 months from completing my PhD. During the day we write code, analyze data, fit parameters, and curse at our laptops. When we aren’t working, we enjoying running, cooking, watching sports, entertaining, and enjoying the Raleigh nightlife. We were married in March of 2013 and live in the suburbs with our four crazy cats.
We created this blog to share a little of our life with the outside world. I’ll be sharing workout tips and schedules, (mostly) healthy recipes, and other random things that happen in our day-to-day life. Nick has always been interested in sports analytics, so he will be writing about everything from fantasy football to college basketball to NASCAR. We will also write about things that pertain to us as a couple that many normal people go through, such as balancing work and life.
Now, onto the fun part. Cocktails! Since we live in a huge (to us) house, we love having people over. We’ve hosted many gatherings, and one way I’ve found to get things started is to serve a signature cocktail. It’s a great icebreaker and you get to expose your friends to something they may not have otherwise tried.
Today, we’re infusing vodka. Sounds fancy, right? It is actually very easy, the only catch is that it involves some advanced planning.
Like most of the rest of the United States, we’ve had insane weather and cannot wait for spring. For the moment, we’re forgetting about all the snow and cabin fever by making an upbeat and fresh cocktail. Craft vodka is infused with fresh ginger, then combined with lime juice and simple syrup to make an elegant yet easy cocktail. The ginger is present but not overpowering, which makes this perfect for porch sipping.
Ginger Lime Sippers
Makes 2 drinks
Ginger infused vodka (recipe below)
Simple syrup (recipe below)
Combine 4 oz. ginger vodka, 1 tbs. simple syrup, and the juice of 1 lime in a cocktail shaker. Add ice and shake.
Fill 2 highball glasses to the top with ice. Strain the mixture into each glass, dividing evenly.
The best hosts are ones who take all of their guests’ needs into account. If you have girlfriends who are pregnant or friends who don’t like to drink, consider serving a mocktail version. Replace the ginger vodka with a non-alcoholic ginger beer such as Reed’s ginger brew. Skip the shaking step and simply combine all ingredients and serve over ice.
Inspired by the Moscow Mule at Beasleys Chicken + Honey
Ginger infused vodka
3-4 inch knob of ginger
10 oz. vodka
Remove the skin from a 3 to 4 inch piece of ginger. Dice. Meanwhile, add 10 oz. vodka to a glass jar. Add the ginger. Cover and let sit in a dark place, 48-72 hours. To serve, use a sieve to remove the ginger from the vodka.
2 c. sugar
Bring a kettle of water to a boil. Place 2 cups of sugar in a glass jar. Add boiling water until all of the sugar is dissolved, stirring frequently.