Thursday, December 9, 2010

gnat eats sin city

gnat's chicago experiment is taking a hiatus from chicago. thus, in lieu of real snowflakes, here are some fake ones courtesy of the mirage hotel and casino in las vegas:

yes, i went to las vegas, and in keeping with what seems to have emerged as a trend in "gnat's chicago experiment" the only thing i'm going to talk about is the food. actually, over the course of the weekend there were several exciting food experiences including the PANDA SANDWICH which, i wish i could say was self explanatory but upon some reflection i guess it isn't.

it starts with four slices of pizza, a three entree combo from panda express, and four willing food experimenters (not pictured):

the chow mein goes on first, then the other entrees are layered on top:

and that, my friends, is a panda sandwich. simple enough, no?

shockingly delicious. survey says orange chicken and chow mein are the best toppings, broccoli beef didn't cut it, and kung pao chicken was forgettable at best. comes with 900% of your daily recommended sodium. all you need is $4 and a dream.

also, because they are my absolute favorite thing about vegas, there were piles, nay, mountains of crab legs.

there would be better pictures if i didn't have to clean all the crab gunk off my hands to handle the camera.

also notable in vegas, pastrami sandwiches from capriotti's (all this talk about food is making me hungry), betting on horse races, a superman snuggie (yeah, you read that right... are you jealous? because i am), more cowboy hats than i have ever seen in one place at one time (the national rodeo championships or something like that were at the MGM this weekend), and, well, other vegas type stuff. read about it on "gnat's las vegas experiment." or not, because that's not a real thing.

so now i'm back in california, (still) writing papers and basically bumming around for the holidays. yeah, ok, it isn't going to be a white christmas, but all of the palm trees have christmas lights on them and i think that's kinda neat.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

gnat experiences falling snow for the first time in over two decades

i woke up this morning and looked out the window and there were white flecks lazily and confusedly floating down, up, sideways, in circles, in every direction, really - SNOW. yes, friends, today, for the first time since my family left illinois 20 years ago, i saw snow fall.

after taking several photos from my living room window, i threw on every item of clothing in the immediate vicinity so i could go outside and stand in it.

once the initial giddiness had passed (i'm totally lying, it's been several hours and i still can't stop looking out the window) i found something magnificent sticking to my sweatshirt:

guys, SNOWFLAKES ARE REAL! to think, all these years i thought snowflakes were a mystical imaginary entity created to keep me busy with scissors and coffee filters in arts and crafts during the winter months. no, snowflakes are an actual thing, and they're seriously amazing, and you can bet your ass i stood outside my apartment in the cold for several minutes, like an idiot, fumbling with my camera to capture the little bits of magic stuck to the front of my sweatshirt before they melted.

so much for considering myself...

an (honorary) today's chicago woman! i don't know if i've talked about the honorary street names yet, they're all over the city and some are pretty amusing. i spotted this one yesterday on ontario outside the corner bakery by school where i study. i wonder if my snowflake photographing stunt disqualifies me?

in far less exciting news, it's time for a FALL FOLIAGE UPDATE!

so, there's no more foliage. the city of chicago was nice enough, though, to replace it all with little christmas lights, which i almost like more:

speaking of christmas, the city is starting to get ready and i'm glad i get to see it before i retreat to california. my girl guy has taken a break from his favorite two lines of music and has instead been regaling us with christmas carols. there's a tree up at the hancock center down the street from the apartment:

and the tops of the buildings are all lit up green and red. here's the hancock tower:

the temperature has barely dipped below 20 and cara and i are already desperately struggling to keep warm. because it felt more winter-y, last night in lieu of taco tuesday we had posole, my new favorite soup, with homemade tortilla chips:

(you may be surprised to see the avocados floating in there... cara brought them back from california after thanksgiving.)

there's a very little part of me that's sad that tomorrow i'll be leaving the novelty of "real winter" behind for california's 50 and 60 degree december lows. there's a much bigger part reminding that little part that i'll be back for the VERY real january and february and that REAL winter does not mean the 20 degrees and fun little flurries of snow i'm so excited about right now...

Sunday, November 28, 2010

gnat and harry potter and the deathly hallows (and some other things too)

whereas a few years ago they were commonplace, in my advanced age (24) all nighters have become something of a rarity prompted only by the most special of circumstances. last week the planets aligned and the midnight opening of harry potter and the deathly hallows immediately preceded fakesgiving 2010, leading me to embark on a cross country costuming harry potter watching train plane and automobile taking dead bird disassembling extravaganza.

in anticipation of the adventure, i foolishly stayed up into the wee hours of thursday morning. i was awoken by cara (who had already been up since about the time i went to sleep) and we headed to the south evanston salvation army, which had previously supplied the pieces for my prince halloween costume.

we spent the day studying and marathoning the first six harry potter films, until later in the evening guests began to arrive. cara made harry potter snacks (pumpkin pasties and cauldron cakes) and i made harry potter beverages (the nearest approximation of butterbeer google afforded me):

we costumed up and headed to the theater. i channeled emma thompson's madame trelawney:

unfortunately my hair shrank considerably on the way to the theater and i shattered my teacup in the parking lot while climbing out of the trunk of aleck's car. nevertheless, i enjoyed the movie and the people behind me enjoyed a view unobstructed by my less enormous hair.

all of my fellow movie-goers headed home and to bed, i changed into muggle clothes and headed back out. this is what my train stop looks like at four o'clock in the morning:

somewhat comatose i took two trains, an airplane, and a shuttle to westwood village, was intercepted by my sister, and eventually made my way to laguna, where i deliriously participated in a few rounds of flipcup, sliced my thumb open while removing a turkey's spine and ribcage, and promptly passed out at 9pm. i woke up after an hour or so and rallied for the rest of the night, but man did it feel good to finally get to sleep.

team turduckie was up bright and early the next morning putting all of our deboning practice to good use, taking apart and reassembling huey, dewey, and louie (the chicken, duck, and turkey, respectively) into one large frankenbird:

worth it. he wasn't as easy to slice or eat as we thought, but he was ridiculously delicious.

also delicious during my stay in california, the one, the only...

in-n-out burger!

typically my praise of in-n-out is countered by non california/nevada/arizonans by talk of another lauded burger chain, five guys. well, since my last visit to california a five guys has opened just minutes from my parents' house! naturally, mom and i went to check it out.

guess what: five guys sucks! i would eat at mcdonald's before i'd go back to five guys. the quality of the food is comparable and mcdonald's is about 1/3 the price of five guys.

seriously how can you compare this:

to this?

it's laughable.

i'm back in chicago, briefly, for my last chicago week of 2010. i fly out to vegas on friday and won't be returning to the blustery state of illinois for the rest of the year. i'd like to say i'm going to cram as much chicago adventuring into the next six days as possible, but in all likelihood i will spend the remainder of my time here inside the apartment/corner bakery/the library scrambling to finish readings and papers before the end of the quarter. we shall see.

Friday, November 19, 2010

gnat is deeply confused

at four o'clock this morning, i walked out of my apartment (in chicago) in jeans, ballet flats, a tank top, a sweater, my ucla sweatshirt, and a scarf. it was 30 degrees out. i was chilly.

here i am in los angeles, several hours later, wearing exactly the same clothes. it's 60 degrees out. i am just as chilly as i was in chicago.

this makes no sense.

well, maybe it makes a little bit of sense when i remember that i haven't slept in two days. (more on this later.)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

gnat's duck experiment (a photographic journey)


inexplicably, palm trees have appeared in front of the water tower. i know, they aren't native to california either but really?

as far as real fall foliage goes, it's starting to look a lot like this:

scattered reds, oranges, yellows, and greens, a whole lot of bare branches.

it's almost the end of the quarter and i'm coming up on the due dates for several papers and assignments, so naturally i've been procrastinating via all manners of food preparation. peanut butter truffles:

and of course the duck. next weekend i am participating in the assembly and preparation of a turducken, and in the interest of not going into it with no experience i did a duck deboning practice run.

first i procured bess the duck from the dominick's off the fullerton stop on the red line. (i made sure they wrapped her in several waterproof layers before i put her in my purse.)

after taking a day to let her defrost, work up my nerves, and watch several episodes of nip/tuck to get into the mood, i prepped my surgical field.

no good photographic online source for how to debone a duck really exists, so i combined the advice of several sources (including a very surgical account of the chicken deboning process written by cheex, which gave such such instructions as "make a long, bone deep incision rostral to caudal midline along the spine"). still, i was slightly befuddled as to where i should begin.

it took way longer than it should have (maybe because i kept pausing to snack/take photos of my progress/check facebook) but i managed to separate bess from her bones.

i fried her briefly in my trusty cast iron skillet to remove some of the excess fat (with the intention of using it for other delicious applications).

as i attempted to drain the fat off, however, i lost control of the situation and pitched bess onto the newly cleaned and sterilized counter.

i set her aside for awhile because frankly i was a little tired of her (two hours of deboning will do that) and focused on a duck stock made from the bones and some duck fat french fries to munch on.

unfortunately i was overeager and snatched one straight from the pan, dripping hot duck fat down my shirt and giving myself a duck fat blister (which is, two days later, decidedly more disgusting looking albeit less painful than shown below).

worth it.

i stuffed bess with a goat cheese/apricot/soyrizo (sue me, trader joe's didn't have the real stuff) mixture and (shoddily) trussed her, and into the oven she went.

she looked delicious upon emerging, but by that point i had been eating for several hours and the last thing i wanted to do was eat a duck.

upon deciding i didn't really want to eat her in trussed stuffed roast duck form, i threw her into the dutch oven with some oranges so that today we could have...

duck tacos. yeah, they look like regular ordinary tacos but they're NOT.

happy taco tuesday!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

gnat has pizza for breakfast (and breakfast for dinner)

for those familiar with chicago's illustrious deep dish pizza purveyors, there may, as of yet, be a few conspicuous absences from this blog's pizza discussion. for example:

giordano's famous stuffed pizza! i tried it when i came to visit in february, but as no photos exist of that experience and i was not yet a seasoned chicago resident we'll pretend that doesn't count.

(note: when cara and i went to pick up the pizza the place was was packed, people spilling out onto the sidewalk waiting for tables, presumably most of them visiting for the weekend. as we were snaking our way out with the pizza, i stopped to take the above photo and a woman behind cara said "see? that girl is taking pictures of the giordano's sign!" to which cara immediately turned and replied, "it's ok, we live here." seasoned chicago residents indeed.)

giordano's was chosen best by chicago tribune, new york times, chicago magazine, nbc tv, and now, also gnat's chicago experiment!

solely by virtue of its beautiful soft crust. one of my main dislikes about all of the deep dish pizza i've tried is that once you get through all the delicious cheese and toppings you find yourself faced with a crust that has the consistency of particle board. at giordano's, not so! it's spongy and wonderful.

also delicious this week, elly's pancake house at clark and north.

aleck ran the "hot chocolate 15K" downtown this weekend, (and kicked ass, congratulations!) and his night before carbo-loading meal of choice was pancakes.

(another note: i don't like pancakes, really. i am not a sweet breakfast foods person. elly's pancakes are amazing. all pancakes should taste like elly's pancakes, and then maybe i would like pancakes.)

i opted for potato benedict, which is eggs benedict on potato pancakes instead of english muffins with hash browns, and we split side of french fries.

we were ambitious and intended to try their pie (sweet potato!) for dessert but for reasons that are probably obvious that just didn't happen. even so, i was all carbo-loaded up and ready to sleep in the next morning and wake up just in time to congratulate aleck as he arrived home from the race (and have pizza for breakfast: see above).


rather unexpectedly, the leaves have turned abruptly from yellow to, well, no longer there, without any of the transition to oranges or reds i was hoping to see. except for the ones that are still completely green. what gives?

the temperature has been in the 30s and 40s all week and my girl guy is undeterred - he's still been hanging out on this corner, still singing the same few lines of my girl, still making me wonder how long my water balloon throwing range is. (that's my bedroom window all the way on the left, two floors above the brown and white striped awning.)

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

gnat only wants to see you laughing in the purple rain

thanks to the south evanston salvation army, i was able to overcome my halloween costume woes. the results were utterly ridiculous.

no real update today, as i am muddling through a philosophy paper (ish) but in the interest of procrastination here's some (more) silliness:

cara and i have been hosting weekly taco tuesday dinners, and thanks to an entertaining article i saw on foodgawker last week i served spaghetti tacos in addition to the regular ones. evidently there's a disney channel show that jokingly refers to spaghetti tacos for dinner, causing children all over the country to clamor for spaghetti tacos at family dinners and birthday parties.

kids are stupid. spaghetti tacos are awful.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

gnat has angered the gods

i woke up to this text message from mom:

"worst storm in 70yrs in chicago"

yeah right, mom. a mere 12 hours ago i was posting an entry about how perfect the weather was, and didn't give any indication of any kind of storm (although it does now)... i looked out the window first, and i guess it's a little windy? then i consulted google.

my bad, chicago.

Monday, October 25, 2010

gnat prepares herself for fall (and it doesn't show up)

no joke. check out my closet - sweater for days:

(yes, i arrange my sweaters by color.) it's beautiful out, no sweater necessary! i can hardly believe it. isn't october almost over?

the sky actually is that icky gray color, though. predicts that over the next ten days we'll dip down into the high 50s with some scattered thunderstorms. it's crazy, by now i figured i would be dealing with snow... ok, maybe not snow but also not this.

IMPORTANT NOTE: sweater collection or not, i would be just fine if chicago decided not to do winter this year and it just stayed 70 degrees out for the next few months. none of the above is intended as a complaint. the below, on the other hand, is.

there's this guy who has been hanging out on the sidewalk across the street from the apartment for about three weeks now, i call him my girl guy. i call him my girl guy because for hours on end he stands out there, singing at the top of his lungs, on a loop:

i got sunshine on a cloudy day, when it's cold outside i got the month of may
i guess you'll say, what can make me feel this way? my girl (my girl, my girl, talkin' 'bout my girl, my girl)

again. and again. and again. not the whole song, just the first few lines. for hours and hours. almost every day. if i sound frustrated it's because he's out there right now, and my efforts to drown him out by closing the windows (which is a shame since it's so nice out...) and turning the volume on the tv way up are failing. the guy's got a set of lungs on him. he's making me crazy.

in the interest of preserving happy thoughts, here are some pictures of cupcakes:

and even more cupcakes:

no, i didn't eat them all by myself.

and now it's time for a FALL FOLIAGE UPDATE!

still yellow! not a lot of orange yet, some scattered reds, some have skipped yellow and are half green and half bare. all the trees outside my window missed the memo and are still completely green. maybe that's because it's 70 degrees out.

next time on gnat's chicago experiment: gnat bites her tongue and posts pictures of herself wearing all of her sweaters at the same time and STILL freezing her ass off (probably).

Thursday, October 21, 2010

gnat has a foreheadslap moment

so, halloween is pretty much my favorite holiday. less because of anything that actually happens on halloween night, more because it's an excuse to put together a costume. after all, i'm still a theater kid at heart - i live for costumes.

as i looked back on my costumes over the last few years for inspiration, i noticed something of a trend.

2007, peter pan:

2008, pocahontas:

2009, minnie mouse:

aside from the fact that they are all disney characters, the common thread here is that NONE of these costumes are built to withstand a non-california halloween. the weather channel predicts average temperatures of 40 degrees with light showers next weekend.

basically, for the first time ever and without the aid of my sewing machine (which did not make it into any of the suitcases i brought from california) i need to put together a costume that either a) keeps me warm or b) takes advantage of the shade of blue i turn if i'm not warm enough. i'm thinking either captain planet or a smurf.