Thursday, March 13, 2008

The best baguette so far and dinner with Tom & Amy

Last Tuesday we had a dinner with Tom and Amy at our place (it is a spring break here this week: 10th -14th March).
To welcome them, I baked baguettes, as well as prepared a gratin, a salad (which was actually by Amar), and two kinds of desserts (creamy custard pudding and chocolate banana brownie cake).

I have been working on improving my baguettes lately, especially in terms of appearance (including the color of the crust, crustiness of the crust, and coupe/scoring of the crust). To my great pleasure, everyone who tried my baguettes seem to really love them, and give me a lot of pleasing comments. I do agree with them (humbly) that the homemade baguettes always taste nice, probably largely thanks to the fact that these baguettes I bake for the guests are always fresh from oven.
But at the same time, it is still very difficult for me to create really aesthetically superb baguettes --- especially the coupe! So my quest for a perfect baguette still continues (a long way)...

But I was quite pleased with the outcome of my recent efforts on Tuesday --- the baguettes I baked for Tom and Amy turned out the best so far. Although the coupe (scoring) is far from perfect yet, they look quite appealing compared to my former ones.

It is a bit unfortunate that I won't be able to do much baking for a while after our baby comes... but of course nothing makes us happier than having our own little baby ^^ I just hope that I won't have forgotten everything that I have learned by the time I can start baking again :-)

(I was quite glad with the crumb of this baguette, with lots of holes in it.)

The evening was great, we had so much to catch up with each other, and couldn't stop talking... And the appetizer and the bottle of French white wine they brought were fabulous too! I loved the hummus Tom made, both its taste and its presentation. (Tom is a great cook as shown by the fact that he won the first and second prizes in an annual salsa contest at a local farmer's market three times (over three years) in a row!)

Tom and Amy also enjoyed the gratin, and both of the two kinds of desserts I made - Amy especially loved the creamy custard pudding. ^^

Thank you for coming and for your great company, Tom and Amy. We should get together more often... well, we surely will, when you come to live near us in May!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Sunday Brunch at Story Inn

Sunday two weeks ago, we went to Story Inn for a Sunday brunch with Erika and Simon. 
It was a great place!  You need to drive for about 45 minutes to get there from Bloomington, but as Erika and Simon had assured us, it was really well worthwhile.  As they said, it was a very nice drive (and it will surely be even more lovely and beautiful in spring, summer and fall), and the restaurant was lovely and cozy with good food (with not too-expensive prices).
But what makes Story Inn so special is that it is one of the best preserved examples of a 19th-century (pioneer-era) building that survives till today in the American Midwest.
You can read more in details about Story Inn on their official website, if you are interested (*Caution: when you jump to this website, music starts playing - so beware!). I particularly enjoyed reading about the history of Story Village and Story Inn.

We bought one of these mugs, as we liked the printed words such as "What's the Story?" "One Inconvenient Location Since 1851." :-)

The "Tall-Stack Chocolate-chip Pancakes" that Amar ordered.  "It has long been my dream," he said, "to have such tall-stack pancakes, pour a bountiful amount of maple syrup over them, sink a knife into it and eat a big, tall piece in one bite!" ... So there he went.  He looked so happy fulfilling his long-sought dream. ;-)

In the upper right corner picture, Erika is stroking the house cat. The upper left picture shows a team of race-bikers (?) who seemed to stop to use a restroom here ;-) Their house cat was quite willing to pause for my camera, but he or she rarely smiled and looked rather grumpy most of the time...

There is a lovely cottage garden at the back of Story Inn too. Luckily, it was such a lovely day with a warm sunshine (a-few-day spell in the midst of severe, lingering cold weather) - so we made most of it and took a little walk around the garden. I bet the garden will look superb in spring and summer, with lots of flowers, greens and vegetables grown there. We should definitely go back there during summer!

The tree with an elephant-like name "Babar" (as in the famous children's picture book). We found it very cute ^^

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Great news from Amar's lab --- his recent achievement and recognition

This is a news which kept our Amar happy for as long as a whole week --- one of his recent papers was accepted and published by Angewandte Chemie, a German chemistry journal and one of the best and leading academic chemistry journals in the world.

And shortly after the paper was published (on the Feb. 25th issue), Amar got 3 calls from different chemistry/science journals, each of which wanting to interview him about this paper.

So, although you may not be able to access his paper itself on Angewandte, you can check out the interview articles about his paper on the websites of these three journals:

The first one is C&EN (Chemistry & Engineering News), a leading professional magazine of the American Chemical Society (ACS) whose readership is 150,000.

The second is Chemistry World, a journal published by British Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC), and a British equivalent to C&EN. 

And the third is Nature, the world's leading magazine for science --- but the coverage has not been  published yet.
(*March 12th update: the coverage was published in the latest issue of Nature, but unfortunately you need to subscribe to the magazine to have an access to the article.)

To be published in Angewandte Chemie, and then recognized by three leading chemistry/scientific magazines, is truly a great achievement for such a young chemist as Amar --- so I am very proud of him and very happy for him. =^^=

More baby pictures (of my sister's baby)

On his second day

On his third day

So finally my sister and her husband decided their baby's name --- His name is Yuuto (pronounced "YOU"+"TO" as in "TOm"), and it means "a man with a gentle heart".

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

New Baby Born - My sister Tomoko's first boy

My younger sister Tomoko successfully gave a birth to her first baby yesterday (March 4th, 8:15am by Japanese time) --- a great news to all of our family!

It seems it was quite a long and difficult labor and delivery, but now both the mother (Tomoko) and her baby are fine, and all that ends well is well.

Our (=Tomoko's and my) Mom and Tomoko's husband Koichi have accompanied her all through the night while she was in labor, and at the last moment of birth, it was Koichi and our youngest sister Yuriko who were in the birth room. (Unfortunately Mom had to go back to her work at 7AM, to attend the city government's assembly meeting, and Dad had to drive her to work, so they missed the very moment of the birth just by 1.5 hours!!).

But all of us are very happy now, so that's the most important thing I guess.

Next is my turn 〜 ^^