Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Christmas Festivities

For Christmas this year, we did our usual routine. Christmas Eve at Sam's aunt's house in Windsor Terrace for some Swedish Meatballs and decorating the tree, and then a movie and Chinese food for Christmas Day with my family. We saw Bolt 3D up near my parent's place, which has to be the emptiest I've ever seen a movie theater in NYC on Christmas Day, especially surprising for the Upper West Side. Very fun movie. And then rather than going to Chinatown, we went to get hotpot in Midtown at a place I'd been with Tien many years ago. It was empty, which beat long lines in Chinatown, and was just as good, though with a bit less variety and a bit higher prices. Definitely hit the spot though.

After our dunch (dinner/lunch), Sam headed back to Brooklyn since he had to work Friday and I headed back with my parents to go up to Massachusetts since our office was closed. We had a nice relaxing weekend, and picked Sam up from the train on Friday evening. Naturally, the majority of the weekend revolved around food as well, though there was some time for walking around Hudson, NY, work on crossword puzzles, and for Sam to diagnose the problem with the garage door opener.

+ More photos on Flickr

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Saturday, November 22, 2008

My How Time Flies

Wow, its been a while since posting. Life has been pretty busy lately, but this looks to be a productive but relaxing weekend. I spent this afternoon filing about 6 months of paperwork (paid bills, statements, paystubs, etc), and mailing in flexible spending receipts, and it feels so good to be done. We've been seeing a lot of theater recently, mostly at BAM's Next Wave Festival, so that's been filling up a lot of our time. We saw Continuous City this past week, and it was really interesting - a true melding of modern technology with the theater. And following the show we had a great dinner at No. 7, which looks to be the next happening restaurant in our neighborhood.

We also saw Complexions Dance Company last night when my parents friends had to cancel at the last minute. Half way through, we realized we had seen them last year with my parents as well. I remember them being good before, but not leaving that much of an impression. This time, however, they really shined. Highly recommend them if you can make it to The Joyce in the next week.

All the going out means we haven't been eating at home that much, but we've still had time to try out a few new recipes. And Sam's actually cooked a few of them himself! I made Apple Potato and Onion Gratin a few weeks ago, which I highly recommend, though with a tad more salt, but Sam made the Chicken with Sherry Vinegar Sauce to go with it. And later in the week, he made Pork Chops with Spiced Sweet Potatoes, also very tasty, even without the apples since I had used them all up in the gratin. And Thursday night Sam whipped up a simple pizza with mozzarella and prosciutto from some store bought dough I picked up at Trader Joe's the week before. Pretty much the only cooking I did in the last week was last Sunday's dinner of Pan Seared Chicken w. Tarragon Butter Sauce and Spaghetti Squash w. Moroccan Spices, both of which were very good and I was jealous that Sam got to eat the leftovers for dinner. That and the leftover gnocchi that I had frozen a few weeks ago, which may have been even creamier than the original. Definitely making that again.

Oh, and I almost forgot, the other thing we've been busy with is swimming at our new pool! Our swim team got kicked out of the Dodge Y, so the Brooklyn Dodgies are no longer, but we worked out a deal with LIU and we started swimming this past Tuesday! Love the new pool and am so glad to say good riddance to the Y. Sure, I'll miss having towel service and a locker to keep my stuff, but I won't miss the hot pool, poor air quality, random pool closings and broken showers on a regular basis. Hurrah!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Economics Update

From my man Dean B.;

"There is considerable effort by many analysts to blame the current downturn on a credit crunch, implying that if we could somehow fix the financial sector, then the economy would be back on its feet. While the troubles in the financial sector are certainly exacerbating the economy's problems, the main cause of the downturn is the loss of more than $5 trillion in housing wealth, coupled with a loss of an even larger amount of stock wealth over the last year. The disappearance of so much wealth is the main reason that the economy is crashing, not difficulties that individuals and businesses face getting credit."

Sam rephrases as;

The problem is not "credit".
The problem is also not, and never was, "subprime".
The problem is an overvalued housing market.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Gnocchi and Pork

This past week, we actually had time to cook some new stuff. First, Sam was in the mood for some pork, so he picked up some tenderloin and parsley and I tried out this recipe for Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Sage Corn Bread Crust. Very easy to make and it was a good opportunity to use some sage from our deck that has really grown huge (its actually taking over the rosemary a little bit).

And then later this week I finally got a chance to try out a recipe I've meant to try for a while - homemade gnocchi. Ricotta gnocchi is a lot easier than potato gnocchi - no ricing needed. Just some waiting for the water to drain out of the ricotta and some mixing. And the fluffiest gnocchi ever. So tasty.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Sunday, November 2, 2008

NYC Marathon 2008

As you can see from Sam's posts below, we spent this morning watching the New York City Marathon from our favorite viewing spot (three years in a row) outside of Choice Market on Lafayette and Grand. We probably would have been happier if we had worn gloves, but otherwise it was great weather to watch the race. Now just on to some studying and laundry for the afternoon, and probably some Pan Grilled Chicken for dinner. And maybe wishing we still had some leftover chili from last week.

+ More New York City Marathon 2008 photos

NYC Marathon 2008

NYC Marathon 2008
Originally uploaded by samtny

NYC Marathon 2008

NYC Marathon 2008
Originally uploaded by samtny

Monday, October 27, 2008

Ben Stein is Not Sam's Favorite

Dean Baker points out this August 2007 commentary containing dubious economic analysis by Ben Stein;

I'm sure Mr. Stein can "explain" his poor foresight (in characteristically patronizing tone), but to me it seems like he was looking at all the wrong figures. He wastes a lot of space talking about the "subprime" percent of the market in the article, going out of his way to minimize the extent of subprime defaults, meanwhile missing the point; subprime mortgage problems are not the cause of our financial troubles, they are a symptom. The cause is an overvalued housing market; by various accounts, 3 to 6 trillion dollars overvalued.

I look forward to the New York Times, NPR and other major news outlets' discussion of the *prime* mortage problem in the very near future! Like yesterday! Why haven't we heard about it yet? It will be another obvious "symptom" of an overvalued housing market, there is no reason not to start discussing it right now.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Woyzek and ETHEL

This weekend we had back to back shows to kick off this season of the Next Wave Festival at BAM. And it started off great. Friday night we saw Woyzeck, a reinvention of the German 19th century play by an Icelandic theater group with a score by Nick Cave. I didn't know what to expect really, but the result was great. A morality play about a worker who is driven insane by his superiors and by jealousy, the music by Nick Cave worked great with the play (see above for an example), as well as trapeze work and water tanks that were worked in to the show. It sounds really odd but it was great.

And yesterday, after spending the day painting a school up in The Bronx for New York Cares Day, we saw ETHEL's TruckStop. This was another unexpected show in a good way. ETHEL is a classically trained string quartet, but they were performing with a bunch of guests, featuring a Hawaiian slack key guitar, a Mexican style accordion, a banjo and bunch of traditional Native American instruments. It was a really interesting melding of sounds, and they were recording the show as well - I'd recommend it if it ends up getting released.

Hopefully, the rest of our shows are as good as the first two!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Joe the Plumber

Dagnabbit, Obama's tax plan doesn't raise Joe the Plumber's taxes one single penny;

That one's a dead horse, McCain, go cook up another one...

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Weekend Updates

Short and sweet summary. Last weekend we went up to Mom and Dad's place in the Berkshires. We hadn't been up since May and were hoping for some good R&R. Somehow, we got lucky though and the pick your own berry farm I found online was open and even had golden raspberries, so we went a bit overboard with the raspberry picking and ended up making 6 batches of jam total - 3 batches of golden raspberry, 1 of red raspberry, and 2 of donut peach jam, and a raspberry not so crisp crisp (the topping kind of melted). So that took most of Saturday, but we managed to get in some nice relaxation on Sunday.

This past week was pretty busy. Only cooked at home once this week - salad and a quick and easy chicken saltimbocca. We caught Boeing Boeing last night for a fun night at the theater.

And today, we wandered around Gowanus/Park Slope, checking out places for Open House New York, including the Tom Otterness studio. Looking forward to some napping before a friend's birthday celebrations this evening.


Originally uploaded by samtny


Originally uploaded by samtny

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Sunday, September 21, 2008

A Whole Lotta Baking

This weekend was one for doing laundry, fixing the radiator (success - you may no longer boil in our apartment in the winter!), paying a trip to target, visiting with friends from out of town, and baking. Lots of baking. Saturday, I made our favorite scones recipe - very similar to my mom's biscuit recipe from The Joy of Cooking but a bit less labor involved. And then I noticed that the bananas on our counter were starting to get a bit too ripe (i.e. we skipped to many swim practices last week), so I decided to make banana bread. And I just pulled a new batch of granola out of the oven.

Last week, we even did a bit of baking during the week, with Sam whipping up a batch of pizza dough, using Deb's favorite recipe, and we made our first attempt at replicating Amorina's delicious fig and prosciutto pizza. I couldn't stretch out the pizza dough very well so the pizza was a bit thick in a few places, but otherwise, it was a pretty good start. No real recipe - brushed the pizza dough with some olive oil and chopped rosemary, then covered with mozzarella cheese (1/4 lb?), quartered figs, and prosciutto until it looked covered. Love that combo.

On the non-baking front, last week I picked up some fresh ricotta at the farmers market at Grand Army Plaza, so when we were feeling lazy Friday night, I whipped up some Pasta w. Asparagus and Ricotta, a super easy dish that can all be put together while the water is boiling. I use a shortcut of throwing in the asparagus in the last few minutes of the pasta, so that you can cook everything at once.

On the dining out front, we had a good meal last night at Spitzer's Corner down on the Lower East Side. We stumbled upon it because 'inoteca had a two hour wait for a table for 5, and Spitzer's was across the street, but it was great for our group - very lively, not too pricy, a great beer list, and lots of good food.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Pasta and Eggplant

We've been eating well the past week, with a couple new restaurant finds and some new recipes, as well as some old. At Amorina, we had a delicious fig and prosciutto pizza that we loved so much, I picked up the ingredients to try and replicate it at home. We had eggs and potatoes and not much else around last Thursday, so I made a Tortilla Espanola, which is always tasty. And the tomatoes looked delicious at the coop on Saturday, so we whipped up the old standby of Tomato and Basil last night for dinner. Think it was the best of the whole summer. And tonight, we got around to making the Eggplant Dengaku recipe my mother-in-law was so kind to scan for me, and it was as good as she said. This coming from someone who's not the biggest of eggplant fans.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Monday, September 8, 2008

Grilled Marinated Pork Tenderlion with Pineapple

I pulled this out of one of the many New York Times Magazines I brought with me to Mongolia, and got around to making it for dinner tonight. Boy was it a good one! Definitely a keeper.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Mongolia Recap

After the Flaming Cliffs, we headed north. The first stop to the ruins of two monasteries around Ongi (or Ongiin) Temple. The Soviets had destroyed the monasteries, which sit on both sides of a bubbling stream, back in the 1930's (I think). The buildings looked like they had been in ruins for much more than 70 years though.

Then, it was on to the ancient city of Karakorum. The city had been the capital of the Mongolian empire under the Khubilai Khan. Later on, the oldest monastery in the country of Erdene Zuu was built there. A lot of it had been destroyed by the Soviets as well, but there were still some buildings standing, as well as the wall.

We headed to the Terkhiin Tsagaan region and the Khorgo volcano. This was one of my favorite spots. The lake was beautiful and our ger camp location was well worth the extra drive. Sam and I decided that the lake was perfect for swimming. However, we decided to wait until the next morning to take a dip, which may have been a mistake. It was warm and sunny when we go there late in the afternoon, but the next day it was chilly in the morning and after wading, we decided it would be better for after hiking the volcano. The hike warmed us up and the volcano was amazing as well, but when we got back to camp, I just couldn't get the guts up to get past my knees. Sam managed to get in the water and did a few laps in front of the beach!

The last stop before heading back to the UB was to Lake Huvsgul, up near the border with Russia. The lake was beautiful, with crystal blue water, but by that point we weren't sure if it was worth the two days dive it took to get there.

Overall, we saw some amazing places, but it took a very long time to get to them. There aren't really any paved roads (or roads for than car tracks) outside of the capital, or road signs, so it is very slow going when you're driving, and very easy to get lost. Throw some flat tires in there along with some other auto troubles and it took 10 hours of driving one day. I think that until there are roads (or at least helipads, which we didn't see anywhere), its going to take a while for the tourist industry to get too crazy. There are only so many people who are willing to spend so much time in the car and stay in ger camps the whole trip.

+ All my Mongolia photos

Monday, September 1, 2008

Twin Cities

As you will have seen already from the previous post, Sam and I were in the Twin Cities over the weekend visiting Sam's family and paying a visit to the Minnesota State Fair. The state fair isn't a small fair by any means. This is a huge tract of land devoted to the entertainment of the state for two weeks a year, within the city limits of St Paul. Its a big deal. There's a ton of rides, prize winning quilts, jams, pumpkins, and cows. Livestock giving birth. Tiger Woods seed art.

And most important in my book, food. More to the point, fried food. On a stick. We started the day (breakfast because we wanted to beat the crowds) with corn dogs (which were way too large and we didn't finish since we wanted to leave room for other foods), then on to some cheese curds, draft root beer, walleye on a stick, pickle on a stick, and I think there was some ice cream and a few ribs thrown in there too. Mmm.

Saturday we hit up the St Paul farmers market for breakfast (yes, our whole trip revolved around food), met up with Sam's dad, managed to fit in a trip to The Mall, and then headed to TJ's where we were spending the night. And Sunday, more food at one of Sam's favorite breakfast places, Key's, and then a walk around the U, and eventually Minnehaha Falls which was right near the airport and was a good last stop. We know how to pack things in!

+ Photos of the trip
+ Sam's flickr also has some more photos from his camera phone than are shone here.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Technological Interlude

Those of you following my Flickr photos (there be scads of ye) have noticed my new computer "build in progress."

It's been about 5 years since my last build and my choices this time reflect a change in the industry since 2003; we're all thinking about power consumption a little differently these days. Don't really want to drive that electricity bill up any higher! I made this my top consideration while researching the latest chips from lowly "Atom" processors to "QUAD CORE EXTREME" monster units. A valuable resource for this was the CPU power dissipation wiki, which told me that modern processors may consume anywhere from 65 to 130 Watts... That's a lot of Watts, and quite the differential...

Finally settled on the Intel E7200 Core 2 Duo which is based on a newer 45 nanometer transistor technology; smaller transistors allow this chip to waste less energy on heat dissipation, running at a max of 65 Watts- and considerably less than that when "idle," which is most of the time. Despite this, it is a speedy little devil, running 2 64-bit cores on the same die (essentially 2 separate processors, but contained all on 1 "chip"). My second choice would have been the 95 Watt, quad core Q6600, but that chip is based on a less efficient 65 nanometer technology while offering very little performance improvement over my dual core choice.

My second breakthrough in this area was the power supply, an Antec Earthwatts psu, rated at 85% efficiency, wasting fewer Watts than my old power supply which was around 70% efficient. This is about as good as you can get these days- it's tough to design a power supply that doesn't waste a lot of energy in the form of heat.

Top 10 Things I Learned Building my New PC, August 2008 by Sam T;

#10) New Intel E7200 cpu rated at 18% fewer Watts than old AMD Athlon XP 3200+ cpu (goodbye AMD, it was fun while it lasted...)

#9) New cpu nevertheless 4 times faster than old cpu... whoah, that is some progress...

#8) Motherboard, processor, memory, power supply and all related parts cost about half what they did 5 years ago - not even including inflation which means they cost far less than half

#7) 4 gigs of RAM is just about enough to run Microsoft Vista

#6) My new Asus HD3850 video card runs 3D games like Oblivion mad fast and consumes about 90 Watts on full power, pretty much negating aforementioned cpu power savings. Fortunately it throttles back to around 25 Watts for normal non-3D gaming

#5) Everything is quieter in my new system; fans in particular, which means no more rattle or hum from my computer which is right next to our bedroom. One choice I made related to this was an Arctic Freezer 7 Pro cooler, which sounds like a very serious product, but actually is just a big copper pipe with giant aluminum fins that draw heat away from the cpu more efficiently than the standard Intel cooler; so the fan is less noisy because it doesn't have to run as fast to keep things cool.

#4) Actually starting to like Microsoft Vista now that I have the horsepower to run it, although it still doesn't come close to Apple in terms of user friendliness and I would recommend it to no-one on that basis

#3) Did I mention I now have 4 gigs of RAM? Doesn't that scare you?

#2) Witness my new motherboard, the Biostar TP43D2A7; it has an earth-friendly name but is actually just your basic motherboard in a pleasant blue color.

#1) I love building computers! Actually I didnt' "learn" this but knew it already. Hopefully in my old age I will be allowed to tinker with computer parts, even though by then we will probably be using holographic psychic implants instead...

Links to the parts used in my build;

CPU: Intel Core 2 Duo E7200 Wolfdale 2.53Ghz
CPU Cooler; Arctic Freezer 7 Pro
Motherboard: Biostar TForce TP43D2A7
RAM: G.SKILL DDR2-800 Dual Channel Kit
Power Supply: Antec Earthwatts EA380
Case: My existing Antec Sonata is still beautiful, and "quiet" too

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Flaming Cliffs

Our next destination was to the Flaming Cliffs. On the way, though, we had a very amusing attempt to get gas. We actually drove through a town, our first since we landed in the Gobi, and it had a gas station, but we couldn't find the person who ran the station so we ended up driving around town for about 30 minutes before we found someone to open up the gas station.

Anyway, we made it to our camp, and despite the threatening looking weather, we headed to the Flaming Cliffs. The cliffs are famous in Mongolia for being the site of a very successful archaeological dig back in the 1920s by the Museum of Natural History, when they found nests of dinosaur eggs. You can still see a bunch of eggs sticking out from the sides of the cliffs.

The Flaming Cliffs were really amazing - they were like a combination of all southwestern national parks rolled in to one in the coloring and scenery. And there were maybe 5 other tourists wandering around there. No paths, no rules, no entry fees - you can just roam wild. And the tourist museum they have set up nearby is a ger with a few fossils just sitting on the floor, and some posters with information about the dig.

+ More photos from the Flaming Cliffs
+ All the Mongolia photos

Monday, August 25, 2008

Grilled Pizza!

Last night Lucy and Jeff came over for dinner and I used this as an excuse to try out a recipe for grilled pizza. I couldn't find Brinata cheese, so I subbed with Manchego cheese, and otherwise followed the recipe and it came out great. Its also a good recipe for company because most of the work can be done ahead of time. We grilled the crusts earlier so it was just a matter of grilling the pizza with the toppings, which only takes a few minutes, while guests are there. And paired with gazpacho, it was almost completely hands off once guests arrived.

Saturday, August 23, 2008


Just made another batch of my mom's granola. Boy is it tasty. I've been using dried cranberries instead of raisins because our raisins are a bit dried out, but we're heading to the coop this afternoon after my company summer bbq, so i might pick up some interesting dried fruit to experiment.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Zucchini, Corn and Bacon Fusilli

Well, we've been grilling a lot of stuff since we've been back, but not with any particular recipe other than olive oil and salt and pepper. And of course, a lot of gazpacho and cucumber soup. Last week, though, we made the Zucchini, Corn and Bacon Fusilli recipe from the latest Gourmet on my parents recommendation. It was delicious. Not that I doubted that anything with bacon wouldn't be. Highly recommended and very easy. And of course we made our own pesto to go with it. Mmm.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Khongor Sand Dunes

After a very long ride from our first stop (oh, did I forget to mention, outside of the UB, there aren't really roads. Or signs. So the drivers really need to know where they are going. And as great as our driver, Bor, was, we definitely seemed to get lost on more than occasion), we headed to the Khongor Sand Dunes.

First activity on the list was a camel ride. We got to the nomadic family who owns the camel herd right after another tour group, so we had to wait a while with the family for them to finish. It was extremely warm out, so we were welcomed into one of the family's gers, where we were given agir, fermented mare's milk, and homemade cheese and biscuits.

The fermented mare's milk tastes kind of like sourish yogurt. Its ok, but not my favorite. Then we sat around and watched some Naadam wrestling on the tv, since they had a solar panel and satellite dish. They even had a washing machine sitting out on their "front lawn". We also got to see the daughters milking the mares - they bring a foal over to its mother and have them start nursing, and then pull the foal away and milk the mare. By this point, the camels were on their way back and we hopped on the camels for a fun ride around the base of the sand dunes.

We headed back to the camp for lunch and a rest for the afternoon since it was really hot in the sun. We planned to wait for the late afternoon for a hike on the sand dunes, but when we peaked out of our gers after a nap, it was clear that we weren't to be making our hike. A yellow/brown cloud was heading quickly towards our camp from the west, and we hid out in the dinning room while it blew past.

Since we missed the hike the evening before, we decided to get up early and hike the sand dunes before breakfast. This ended up being great timing because the sandstorm had some significant rainfall accompany it, so the dunes had a layer of wet sand on top, making it much easier to walk on. Also, being early in the morning, it was a lot cooler than it would have been the day before. That said, by the time we half way up, the sand had dried out a lot and it was incredibly painful to reach the top since the sand fell away with every step. We made it though and it was just gorgeous at the top. Sand dunes for miles in either direction, and on the other side of the dunes, the Kazakh mountain range stretched on. Coming down was a ton of fun because the sand just slid away with every step. Sam took a great video of how easy it was to run down.

+ More photos of the sand dunes
+ All Mongolian photos
+ And photos from my brother, dad and Sam

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Eagle Valley

We landed outside of Dalanzadgad and the tarmac of the runway was the last asphalt we saw for a very long time. Our guide Uyenga and driver Bor picked us up and we took off into the desert, with no signs as to where to go, and headed for our first Ger camp of our road trip.
A ger, shown above, is the traditional Mongolian dwelling, related to a yurt. There is a wooden frame covered in a waterproof layer and a layer of felt (around in mass quantities from all the goats and sheep around the company). They can be set up in two hours and taken down in half an hour, so the nomads (1/4 of Mongolia's population is nomadic) can easily transport them as they try and find greener pastures. All of the places we stayed on our road trip were camps made up of 20 or so gers, each of which can sleep 2-3 people on some very small and not so comfortable beds. Temperature wise, they're very comfortable though. The gers have a hole on the top of the structure, so in the summer, you can pull one of the layers of felt back to allow hot air to escape through the roof. When its cold, you can cover the top, and there is usually a wood stove in the center of the ger, with a flue out the top, which keeps the ger very toasty when its lit.
Anyway, back to the trip. We got to our camp, seemingly in the middle of nowhere, that had previously been the location of the airport, before it moved to its current location. The scenery, or maybe the lack of scenery, was beautiful.
The next morning, we got up early and went for a hike in Eagle Valley. Eagle Valley fills with snow in the winter, forming a glacier of sorts deep in the valley. It used to last through the summer, but these days it melts completely in August.
Eagle Valley was also chock full wildlife. We saw some small chipmunk type animals scurrying around, as well as larger ones that looked like mice that were the size of small hamsters and with feet kind of like rabbits so that the pounced around instead of running, called a pika. And we even saw some ibex, but from so far away that you could barely make them out. After our morning in Eagle Valley, we headed back to camp for lunch and then hit the road for a very rough six hour drive to the next camp.

Chicken Kebabs

We finally filled our propane tank on Friday, so I picked up some meat at the store yesterday and was looking for a good grilled chicken recipe that wouldn't need ingredients other than what we had at home. The Grilled Chicken Kebabs recipe from Cooks Illustrated. For a marinade, I went with the garlic and herbs, using a mix of rosemary and sage since both are growing very well on the deck. Rather than skewering the veggies, I sliced some squash and grilled them coated in olive oil and salt and pepper. All together very good, I would definitely make this marinade again, and maybe try some of the other ones as well.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

KFC in China

We noticed while we were in Beijing that KFC was everywhere. Marketplace had a story on yesterday's show about the popularity of KFC, and other multi-national companies, that is an amusing listen.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Sunday Night Dinner

I'm to try and keep track of new recipes I try here. I bookmark so many recipes but I hardly ever note if I've made them before, so if I want to make it again, it can be a bit hard to track down. I had been planning on making Pan-Grilled Chicken with Avocado Salsa tonight with Cucumber Soup to start, but the avocados at the store were all rock hard, so I tried out a recipe for Black-Bean and Tomato Quinoa instead of rice and salsa with the chicken instead. It turned out really well and was very tasty. I would definitely make it again for a summer side, or a picnic dish. And it goes well with the pan-grilled chicken, so a good alternative if there aren't any good avocados.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Ulaanbaatar and Surroundings

So we've finally uploaded some photos and I'm getting around to writing about our trip. On our way over to Mongolia, we didn't have the most direct of routes, so after over 36 hrs of travel, we made it to our hotel in Ulaanbaatar (referred to as the UB by most Mongolians), one day after the rest of my family. And first thing in the morning, we got started on our trip in earnest, with our city guide picking us up to take us to Terelj National Park, about 1.5 hrs outside of the city, for some beautiful scenery.

It started pouring after we finished hiking down from the rock that looks like a turtle (above), so we headed to lunch and then back to UB and swung by an overlook of the city before hitting the Mongolian history museum.

The next day was the start of the action. The archery competetion was starting for Naadam, the Mongolian Independence Day that features lots of traditional Mongolian athletic competitions. The four sports are archery, wrestling, horse racing and anklebone shooting. And they are all very unique in Mongolia. The archery is shot using a different kind of bow than is used in western competition, and you aim for a target that is a couple of rows of rubber blocks on the ground, so is much harder to overshoot. The distance from the target from which one fires is dependant on age, if in the kids competition (some are very young!), or sex for the mens and womens competition.

Wrestling is kind of like sumo wrestling in that you just have to get the opponent on the floor and there is a lot of customs associated with it, in this case the eagle dance that one performs when they win. But unlike sumo, there's no ring, and it all looks very informal watching it. More on the horse racing and anklebone shooting below.

After the archery, we headed out to Chinngis Kahn's Cavalry show, which featured a reenactment of traditional horse battles on a huge scale, along with some wrestling and traditional music show. The horse fighting was really impressive, especially given the broad expanse of nothingness around the site.

The next day was the Naadam opening ceremonies, featuring a very packed house at the national stadium (though the fact that this was the biggest stadium tells you something about the infrastructure in the city). There were a bunch of contortionists, a fashion show of traditional clothing, a horse parade and the start of the wrestling competition.

The anklebone shooting was going on next door, so we checked that out as well. Anklebone shooting involves flicking an anklebone (a tile carved from a goat or sheep's ankle bone), at two targets (also anklebones I think).

Then, it was off to the races. The horses in Mongolia are much smaller than the ones we see regularly in the states, so rather than having adults ride the horses, they have kids. Very small children, usually between six and ten. And the horses race a really long distance - we watched the five or six year old horses race, so they raced 30 km. We had a good spot at the finish and below is a photo of the winning horse, which as you might notice, doesn't have a rider on it. A lot of the children fall off during the race.

There are more pictures of mine and Sam's over on Flickr. Sam has all his photos up so you'll get a sneak preview of the rest of the trip. And I'm going to try and keep posts a bit shorter in the future!