Science Museum Scavenger Hunt

This happened back in February so I don’t know why I’m only talking about it now. Maybe because none of the pictures look that great due to me being completely unable to make normal expressions in selfies. It’s a curse. Anyway, I wrote this scavenger hunt for the science museum:

I don't know how you visit museums, but it's probably way less fun

I don’t know how you visit museums, but it’s probably way less fun

Scavenger hunt completion depended on taking a selfie with all the things listed. I know it was a little unfair, since I wrote the hunt in the first place, but I totally won. Here’s how:

#1: T-Rex Head!

#1: T-Rex Head!

You can tell it is the past because of my hair: both its color and the fact that I haven’t chopped it all off yet.

#2: A live animal

#2: A live animal

There is totally a fish back there. It was harder than it looks to maneuver some of these things into a selfie with you.

#3: A dead animal

#3: A dead animal

That’s a taxidermied bird if you can’t tell.

#4: Something in the gift shop you wanted as a kid

#4: Something in the gift shop you wanted as a kid

Leopard shark whatttt yes! I still want this.

#5: A museum employee

#5: A museum employee

This was definitely the most difficult item to get. For Rob because he fears strangers and for Rachel because guys who work at museum cafes hate their lives. Steven and I lucked out and met awesome people, though!

#6: A butterfly

#6: A butterfly

The butterfly dome was super hot and I got sick of trying to get a live one to land on me. Butterflies don’t know anything about selfies.

#7: Something trying too hard to make learning fun

#7: Something trying too hard to make learning fun

This was probably the hardest picture for me to finagle my way into.

#8: Something that terrifies you

#8: Something that terrifies you

That’s my scared face

#9: North Carolina

#9: North Carolina

This was probably the easiest one. North Carolina is everywhere in the North Carolina Science Museum. Of course I went for the biggest one.

#10: A sea creature

#10: A sea creature

I have no idea what this expression means.

#11: Something purple

#11: Something purple

Rob and I both spotted this purple thing at the same time, but I was faster/more willing to elbow children out of the way.

#12: A globe

#12: A globe

Another easy one

#13: Where you would sleep if you were secretly living in the museum

#13: Where you would sleep if you were secretly living in the museum

This is a tunnel showing you the ~underwater world~ of prehistoric North Carolina. It would of course be the coolest place to sleep if you were Mixed Up Files of Basil E. Frankweilering it

#14: Something you want to steal

#14: Something you want to steal

Giant ground sloths are my favorite prehistoric creature!! But I promise not to really steal them, NC Museum of Science. I know that’s been going around lately.

#15: Creepy child statues

#15: Creepy child statues

There are actually more than one set of creepy child statues in this museum.

#16: A map of North Carolina highlighting where we live

#16: A map of North Carolina highlighting where we live

This one probably got me the most stares from other museum-goers. Probably just jealous they weren’t having this much fun

#17: ROCKS ROCKS ROCKS

#17: ROCKS ROCKS ROCKS

If you’ve ever been to the geology section of the NC Science Museum, that expression makes total sense

#18: Someone else doing this scavenger hunt!

#18: Someone else doing this scavenger hunt!

Rob was unaware I had taken this picture somehow. SCAVENGER HUNT NINJA!

I’m excited to write one for the history and/or art museums! Just one more reason to come visit me.

Lorde’s “Tennis Court” Song is about the French Revolution

It’s probably a coincidence that this song came on the radio while I was listening on my way to the library on Bastille Day. OR WAS IT. I am 99% sure that this song is all about the French Revolution, most obviously the tennis court oath:

Let's go down to the tennis court and talk it out

Let’s go down to the tennis court and talk it out

I mean, really, what ELSE could that lyric be referring to? In 1789, Louis XVI was broke, in no small part because of France’s involvement with the American War for Independence, so he called the Estates General, an advisory body made up of nobles, clergy, and commoners. The Estates General was a purely advisory body, and traditionally each of the groups had met and advised the king separately, but the 3rd Estate, the Commons (i.e. 99% of France), wasn’t taking that shit anymore. In protest, they refused to do any work until the others agreed to meet all together. The stalemate went on for weeks, until one day the Third Estate found their traditional meeting room locked. Coincidence… OR ROYAL PLOT? They filed on down to a tennis court and took an oath to not leave until they’d given France a Constitution. A little act of Englightenment-style rebellion that basically led to this:

Because I'm doin' this for the thrill of it, killin' it

Because I’m doin’ this for the thrill of it, killin’ it

And then later:

Getting caught's half of the trip though, isn't it?  I fall apart with all my heart

Getting caught’s half of the trip though, isn’t it?
I fall apart with all my heart

Think about it.

Baby, be the class clown

Baby, be the class clown

I'll be the beauty queen in tears

I’ll be the beauty queen in tears

Everything's cool when we're all in line for the throne

Everything’s cool when we’re all in line for the throne

But I know it's not forever

But I know it’s not forever

Open your eyes, comrades!

June Books

This month I got through 10 books, so I’m 59% done with this project! 39 to go!

Relish by Lucy Knisley

Relish by Lucy Knisley

Title: Relish
Author: Lucy Knisley
Rating: 5/5
GoodReads’ Rating: 3.89/5

This is a graphic novel/memoir about food adventures that includes recipes!! Delicious recipes! I tried the chocolate chip cookie one and definitely plan to use it again.

I actually checked it out of the library again when I realized I forgot to write down the recipe

I actually checked it out of the library again when I realized I forgot to write down the recipe

The stories in the book are hilarious, the recipes are delicious, and the art is fun. A great book for anyone who loves food!

The Theory of Everything by J. J. Johnson

The Theory of Everything by J. J. Johnson

Title: The Theory of Everything
Author: J.J. Johnson
Rating: 4/5
GoodReads’ Rating: 3.97/5

Even though I rated this one a 4/5 after I read it, I literally remember nothing about it now so maybe it wasn’t as good as I thought. I actually had to look it up again to remember what book it was. Even then, I’m just remembering it as “dead best friend + Christmas tree farm”. Each chapter started with an amazing chart or graph, which is probably why I upped its final score.

Geeks, Girls, and Secret Identities by Mike Jung

Geeks, Girls, and Secret Identities by Mike Jung

Title: Geeks, Girls, and Secret Identities
Author: Mike Jung
Rating: 3/5
GoodReads’ Rating: 3.91/5

I read this book while waiting for my car inspection, so it wasn’t really a deep read, but it was okay for what it was: a middle grade novel about a town with a resident super hero and his biggest fanboy. So of course major drama ensues when he discovers the superhero’s secret identity: a girl at his school. I liked the girl power messages (of course).

Concierge Confidential by Michael Fazio

Concierge Confidential by Michael Fazio

Title: Concierge Confidential
Author: Michael Fazio
Rating: 3/5
GoodReads’ Rating: 3.34/5

I wouldn’t say the writing in this book was particularly strong, but it was interesting to read about funny and ridiculous stories from a concierge’s past. I guess I never really knew the full extent of a concierge’s job, not usually frequenting the kind of hotels that have them. My favorite part was probably his attempts to fill and subsequently clean up a hotel bathtub with liquid chocolate for a guest’s romantic anniversary surprise.

The Ones I Decided Not To Read

Title: Joel and Cat Set the Story Straight
Author: Nick Earls
GoodReads’ Rating: 3.74/5
Why I’m not reading it: This looks like the kind of gimmicky chick lit I would enjoy on a plane, but not enough to ILL.

Title: The Boy Who Sneaks Into My Bedroom Window
Author: Kristy Moseley
GoodReads’ Rating: 4.06/5
Why I’m not reading it: I’m pretty sure this was only on my list because the title reminded me of Clarissa Explains it All. This book could never live up to that expectation.

Title: September Girls
Author: Bennett Madison
GoodReads’ Rating: 3.01/5
Why I’m not reading it: The reviews didn’t sound great after further investigation

Title: Railsea
Author: China Mieville
GoodReads’ Rating: 3.93/5
Why I’m not reading it: I read the first chapter, and decided that I would love this movie, but it ultimately wasn’t worth forcing myself to read the rest of the book. It was more about worldbuilding and spectacle and I need to care about characters first.

Title: In the Garden of Iden
Author: Kage Barker
GoodReads’ Rating: 3.78/5
Why I’m not reading it: Similar to Railsea, the concept the novel is built around is interesting, but the first chapter didn’t grab me.

Title: Divergent
Author: Veronica Roth
GoodReads’ Rating: 4.37/5
Why I’m not reading it: I feel like I already know everything about this book.

Previously: May Books

The Ultimate Kitchen Challenge: French Macarons

After hearing that delicious French macarons are “the ultimate kitchen challenge,” you’d better believe I was ready to pick up that gauntlet and use it to punch baking in the face. My opponent was Steven, because everyone else I texted about it has lives. FOOLS.

Here’s a picture of what French macarons are supposed to look like:

If you do it right, and are fancy enough to have this many flavors

If you do it right, and are fancy enough to have this many flavors

They’re a delicious mixture of crispy outside, cakey inside, with different kinds of ganache/coulis/whatever fancy filling in between. They’re also, hands down, the hardest cookie to make. Even this youtube tutorial, which is a “foolproof” method trying to convince you that YES YOU CAN, admits that. And that one little mistake can make all your work for naught. These cookies are finicky as hell. The batter has to be mixed to just the right consistency–my recipe even specified the approximate number of spatula turns in an attempt to guide me that still didn’t work–and then it’s piped out onto a cookie sheet and baked at just the right temperature. After reading a few online tutorials, all of which began with something along the lines of “Okay, I’ve tried this five times, and here’s what I’ve got so far…” I started to think that maybe I had started trashtalking a little too early. Regardless, I powered through.

My macaron game face

My macaron game face

The first step (in my recipe at least) was to sift together the almond flour and the powdered sugar. I had a long argument with our food processor, but finally, after covering most of the kitchen in sugar, ended up with this:

So far so good, except for the mess

So far so good, except for the mess

Apparently it has to be as powdery and fine a consistency as possible, or else. Next step, beat the egg whites into stiff peaks. I think this step was my eventual downfall:

Next time (lol) I will turn the mixer up higher

Next time (lol) I will turn the mixer up higher

My biggest mistake, looking back, was that my egg whites weren’t stiff enough. So when I reached the crucial step of combining the ingredients–but only just enough OH GOD IS IT OVERMIXED OR UNDERMIXED WHAT IS HAPPENING–the batter was too runny. So when I piped it out (or tried to–another battle with a kitchen apparatus ending in stalemate) I got blobby puddles:

Ehhhhh it's probably fine

Ehhhhh it’s probably fine

At this point, I was pretty sure all was lost, but I was going to put them in the oven anyway, because whatever. Though the recipe was supposed to be for 24 macarons (therefore 48 cookies), I ended up baking about 18 after said battle with pastry piper. Probably because they were thinner than called for, they ended up a little more golden than they should:

Crispy

Crispy

Plus, the tops of many of them had separated from the still-gooey bottoms, which were stuck to the parchment paper like glue:

Nice try

Nice try

Undaunted, I whipped up the lemon mascarpone filling:

So lemony

So lemony

And assembled what macarons I could from the cookies I could salvage:

The grand total

The grand total

Then I put them in the fridge since one of the tutorials I read said they needed 24 hours to mature. I was pretty sure I had lost, but wouldn’t know until Steven tried his recipe later.

He’d done way more research than me (I spent more time assembling my power playlist), and he started so strong. His egg whites were definitely whipped to perfect peaks.

His were chocolate, but he dyed them pink

His were chocolate, but he dyed them pink

His piped beautifully too:

I knew I was doomed

I knew I was doomed

And, though they’d changed color after coming out of the oven, they still looked great:

Ugh

Ugh

Some chocolate ganache filling and they seemed to be the perfect macarons:

I was pretty mad, not going to lie

I was pretty mad, not going to lie

BUT THEN, after maturing in the fridge, his were still hard as rocks and crunchy, not at all the consistency a true macaron should be. While mine were few in number and a little weird-looking and thin, at least they had the crunchy outside and soft insides that make macarons so delicious. Plus, mine were super lemony, his favorite flavor (not cheating–he could have picked any flavor too). So, with complete astonishment, we agreed that I was the true winner of THE ULTIMATE KITCHEN CHALLENGE!

clapping

Although we were both far from perfect. And while I’m content to never try that again (too much work for too little pay off), Steven is all set for more experimentation. As you probably could have guessed.

2014: Halfway Point

Alright, roughly halfway through 2014, so that means it’s time to check in on my goals to see how I’m doing. I’m not looking forward to the brutal truth.

1. Read All of Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable: 44%

After my initial enthusiasm, my reading pace has definitely flagged. I’ll forget about it for weeks, then freak out and read 20 pages in a day. I’m still on H.

Bring it

I don’t know if this is happening

I have to try harder in the year’s last half!

2. Make a pie once a month: 33%

I’ve actually made more pies since the last time we talked! I think maybe three?

They turned out awesome

And there was pie day of course

Unfortunately, this is one of those goals you can’t catch up on once the month passes.

3. Make a new cocktail once a month: 0%

I can’t drink anymore

whatishappening

So that’s not happening

4. Get everything currently on my “To-Read” list off it: 58%

YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

celebration

It’s a slight lead, but I’ll take it

5. Make dwarf helms: 60%

I have literally not touched these since the last time we talked.

6. Update my blog at least once a week: 50%

Suckas

Total: 40%

Sigh

Previously: 2014 Goals
Quarter Quell

Reasons Steven is Amazing!!!

I realized recently that I’ve told you all about why my mom and Bova are amazing, but I’ve never written anything similar about Steven. Which is weird, because he is definitely amazing!! Usually I would debut such a list around his birthday, but that tends to get swallowed up in mine, which is the day after and vastly more important (let’s be real). So in the middle of June it will have to be!!

1. Steven is an amazing cook!

Homemade pasta day!

Homemade pasta day!

Steven is a great cook, especially if you want something more complicated and fancy than other people would attempt at home. Sure, you might be eating dinner 3 hours later than expected, but it will be delicious and quality-controlled on the minutest scale.

Everything that can be done by hand is

Everything that can be done by hand is

This attention to detail is also the reason why:

2. Steven is amazing at painting nails!

Well, he is

Well, he is

I am terrible at painting nails. At least I will be until painting your entire finger blue by accident comes into fashion. Steven takes painstakingly tiny strokes, and seems to have infinite patience. It means the process may have multiple lengthy steps, but the results look great!

This is like five different coats, what!

This is like five different coats, what!

3. Actually, Steven is just amazing at defying gender roles in general

Picture unrelated

Picture unrelated

Natch I would never be with someone who was all “I only want to bro out and watch sports and you better change your name to mine so everyone knows I own you now etc”. But that’s an insultingly low bar so we’re not going to talk about that. Steven is amazing because he is actively interested in things and enthusiastic about things he enjoys no matter what anyone else thinks. “Do you want to learn to knit? “Sounds fun!” “Painting my nails is so hard.” “I can paint your nails–I have some cool ideas to try.” “Crap, I don’t know how to iron this bridesmaid dress without ruining it.” “I got it.”

Also there's that whole My Little Pony/rainbow hair thing

Also there’s that whole My Little Pony/rainbow hair thing

4. Steven is not so great at crosswords, but he still tries which is amazing!!!

On Sundays (and Wednesdays, randomly) the News and Observer has TWO crosswords, so Steven and I always go to Panera, eat bagels, and do one each. Then we switch.

Mountain dew is the breakfast of champions

Mountain dew is the breakfast of champions

Even working together, we rarely finish either of them, but it’s being a regular at Panera that counts.

5. Steven is amazing at being stupid

And it's amazing

And it’s amazing

Brewer’s E and F

My enthusiasm for reading all of Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable has flagged a little bit in the last few months, possibly inevitably. I’m still trying to soldier through. Right now I’m on page 490, in G, and I thought I’d combine my entries on E and F, since E was quite short on its own. Right now I’m 37.75% done with this project, with 808 pages to go. I need to work harder in June to be at 50% by the halfway mark!

Here are some interesting things I read about this time:

The Eagle and the Child: The crest of the Stanley family and the Earls of Derby. The legend is that Sir Thomas Latham, an ancestor of the house, caused his illegitimate son to be placed under the foot of a tree in which an eagle had built its nest. When out walking with his wife, they “accidentally” found the child, which he persuaded her to adopt as their heir.

Because wives are not cool with your bastards, but they are strangely accepting of random eagle-foundlings.

Give us back our eleven days: When England adopted the Gregorian calendar in place of the Julian calendar, eleven days were dropped, 2 September 1752 being followed by 14 September. Many people thought that they were being cheated out of eleven days and also eleven days’ pay. Hence the popular cry: “Give us back our eleven days!”

And you bitch about daylight saving time!

The F section has a 3 page long list summarizing famous fakes and forgeries, all of which are really interesting. The ones I like best have motivations other than making money, like:

The Ireland forgeries: William Henry Ireland (1777-1835)… came out with two “lost” Shakespeare plays: Vortigern and Rowena and Henry II… His motive appears to have been a craving to secure the admiration of his father, whose antiquarian interests amounted to an obsession.

Piltdown Skull or Piltdown man: By 1912 Charles Darwin and Sir Arthur Smith Woodward had discovered a whole skull… thought to be that of a new genus of man… The hoax, which duped most experts, was apparently planned by William Sollas, Professor of Geology at Oxford, through his dislike of Woodward

The Vermeer forgeries: Hans (Henri) van Meegeren (1889-1947) began his series of brilliant fakes of Dutch masters in 1937… His intention seems to have been to indulge his contempt and hatred of the art critics by a superlative hoax, but the financial success of his first fake led to others, mostly “Vermeers.” Discovery came only in 1945 when Allied commissioners were seeking to restore to their former owners the art treasures that had found their way to Germany during the war. Among Goering’s collection was an unknown Vermeer, The Woman taken in Adultery, and its original vendor was found to be van Meegeren. Sale of such a work of national importance involved a charge of collaboration with the enemy. To escape the heavy penalty, van Meegeren confessed to faking 14 Dutch masterpieces, 9 of which had been sold for a total of 7,167,000 gulden and to prove his story agreed to paint another “old masterpiece” in prison in the presence of experts.

There’s also an awesome 5 page list of Famous Last Words in even tinier type than the rest of the entries. Here are some favorites:

William Hazlitt (1830; English writer) “Well, I’ve had a good life.”

Heinrich Heine (1856; German poet) “God will pardon me, it i His trade.”

Lady Mary Wortley Montagu (1762; English poet) “It has all been very interesting.”

I was particularly pleased to read this entry about the phrase “Dinna fash yourself,” a favorite of Highland romance novelists:

Dinna fash yerself’! Don’t get excited; don’t get into a state about it. The word is not of Scottish origin, but comes from obsolete French fascher, “to anger.”

Also, a phrase you might use casually has dirty origins:

To fill someone in: To provide them with information… The expression probably derives from the earlier low sense of making a woman pregnant.

Brewer’s is judging you for your slang terms and your knocking people up.

Previously: D
Next: G

May Books!

This month I got through 8 books, so I’m 49% done with this project! Gotta pick up the pace!

To Be Or Not To Be by Ryan North

To Be Or Not To Be by Ryan North

Title: To Be Or Not To Be: A Chooseable Path Adventure
Author: Ryan North
Rating: 5/5
GoodReads’ Rating: 4.26/5
When it was added to my list: 11/4/2013
Why was it on my list?: Um, did you read that title?

THIS IS A CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE BASED ON HAMLET!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! You should buy it right now. The e-book is ridiculously easy to navigate, and the illustrations are amazing. My favorite ending involves becoming a ghost marine biologist. Let’s face it, the other books I read this month really didn’t have a chance of making Top Spot after this.

Hell House by Richard Matheson

Hell House by Richard Matheson

Title: Hell House
Author: Richard Matheson
Rating: 3/5
GoodReads’ Rating: 3.8/5
When it was added to my list: 10/23/2013
Why was it on my list?: A list of good horror stories before last Halloween

I was interested to read this because my only Matheson experience is his seminal vampire/zombie work I Am Legend, which is pretty different than the Will Smith movie of the same name. I like how he tends to write horror in an almost clinical, science fictiony manner, where the “supernatural” elements can be explained by science even as traditional horror tropes are utilized. This is a typical “strangers locked in a haunted house” narrative, which I enjoyed, though like most genre novels, the characters were mostly two-dimensional and I didn’t really care about any of them.

An Exaltation of Larks by Robert Reed

An Exaltation of Larks by Robert Reed

Title: An Exaltation of Larks
Author: Robert Reed
Rating: 3/5
GoodReads’ Rating: 3.49/5
When it was added to my list: 03/09/2010
Why was it on my list?: No idea

This book was way weird. Like to the point where I don’t even really know how to describe it. Here is the first sentence: “Youth is a bird. A simple and vivid wild bird. Quick to anger, and love, and hungry to forget, if only so that it can do everything again for the first time. Yet this is not a time of birds. It is a time of turtles.”

Easy by Tammara Webber

Easy by Tammara Webber

Title: Easy
Author: Tammara Webber
Rating: 3/5
GoodReads’ Rating: 4.24/5
When it was added to my list: 11/16/2012
Why was it on my list?: Who even knows, that was 2 years ago

I struggled a lot when it came to rating this book, because parts of it are really problematic, but I was still able to enjoy it by purposefully not thinking too hard about it. It’s a fairly typical romance novel about college students, but it also addresses rape frankly and calls out the bullshit victim blaming that so often shrouds the issue on college campuses. I really appreciated that, but found a lot of the main character’s actions surprisingly chill for someone who should be dealing with the aftermath of a sexual assault. Hopefully no one reading this would think there’s something wrong with them if they aren’t ready to fall in love/lust with the next cool, hot dude they meet.

Enchanted by Alethea Kontis

Enchanted by Alethea Kontis

Title: Enchanted
Author: Alethea Kontis
Rating: 2/5
GoodReads’ Rating: 3.72
When it was added to my list: 1/10/2013
Why was it on my list?: Probably because I was really into reimagined fairy tales in 2013, like everyone else

Ugh, I am so over reimagined fairy tales, and this one gave me nothing special to focus on. The characters ranged from forgettable to annoying.

The Counterfeit Family Tree of Vee Crawford-Wong by Tam L. Holland

The Counterfeit Family Tree of Vee Crawford-Wong by Tam L. Holland

Title: The Counterfeit Family Tree of Vee Crawford-Wong
Author: Tam L. Holland
Rating: 2/5
GoodReads’ Rating: 3.53/5
When it was added to my list: 12/2/2013
Why was it on my list?: A list of notable books out last year

I really wanted to like this one! The plot sounded interesting: after an assignment about making a family tree in school, Vee sends a fake letter to his father, supposedly from his long-lost grandfather in China asking for a family reunion, basically tricking his father into exploring a past he’d left behind. Unfortunately, Vee is completely unlikable. I think the author was going for how teenagers can sometimes be selfish or egotistical, but went too far until I couldn’t understand why any of the other characters would willingly spend time with him. I certainly didn’t want to.

The Ones I Decided Not To Read

Title: Breaking Beautiful
Author: Jennifer Shaw Wolf
GoodReads’ Rating: 3.93/5
When it was added to my list: 10/25/2012
Why was it on my list?: Good YA books published that year?
Why I’m not reading it: No joke, I have checked this book out on THREE separate occasions. The furthest I’ve gotten is Chapter 2. I have no idea why. I can’t tell you anything really wrong with it. I guess it just didn’t grab me, so I’m giving up.

Title: Wildwing
Author: Emily Whitman
GoodReads’ Rating: 3.43/5
When it was added to my list: 6/11/2012
Why was it on my list?: The cover looked really stupid
Why I’m not reading it: I don’t have time to ILL something for a funny cover

Previously: April Book List
Next: June Books

Site and contents are © 2009-2014 Patricia Ladd, all rights reserved. | Admin Login | Design by Steven Wiggins.