Sunday, December 28, 2008

Christmas in Miami

Valerie: We headed to Miami for the Holidays and had a warm and fun Christmas. The weather in Miami all week was excellent (much better than the weather we left behind in New York). Adam spent Christmas eve cooking "el lechon."

Adam: In Cuban families, tradition dictates that christmas eve -- "noche buena" is the center of the celebration, and at the center of noche buena is always a lechon -- a pig, marinated in mojo (sour orange, garlic and oregano) and roasted all day long until the skin is crispy. Valerie's family had talked for a long time about me cooking the pig (always as a joke -- I don't eat pork). But this year I figured it would be fun to try to cook it, even if i didn't eat it -- and I would thow a few chickens in.

Valerie: The first step in this process is to marinate the pig. My parents bought an 86 pound pig from a farm in Hialeah.

Adam: First, you take a few bags of sour oranges, juice them, and add a few heads of garlic, a salt brine, and oregano. You mix this all together, and then take a syringe and inject it into the pig flesh. It's a messy process, and as you can see below, the pig was huge, so it was very difficult. But we managed to get it all in there.

Adam and the marinated pig ready to be placed inside the caja china.

Valerie: We let the pig marinate overnight -- out on the dining room table in my parents' house (since there wasn't a refrigerator large enough). Probably not the most hygenic means of storing the pig (nb: if you have a refrigerator that big, put the pig in it -- otherwise, the house can start to smell).

Adam: Early on Wednesday morning, I got up and began preparing to cook the pig. A lechon is traditionally cooked in a big hole dug in the ground and covered with palm leaves. However, the Cubans have devised something called a "caja china" or "chinese box" which makes the process somewhat easier. Apparently, the contraption has nothing to do with China -- but in many caribbean cultures, to call something "chinese" is to imply that it has magical powers.

The first step is to put the pig inside the caja china, split in half so it lays flat.

Adam and Valerie's uncle transferring the pig into the caja china.

Adam: Then you put a lot of charcoal on top. A lot of charcoal -- 35 pounds in this case. The fire gets really hot, and as the day continues on, you continue adding charcoal.

Adam and Molly watching the pig cook.

Adam: The temperature inside the caja china gets really high -- Valerie's family had told me that this would take 8 hours, but the pig was ready at 12 noon -- and dinner was at 8. Oh no!

A peek inside while the pig is roasting - look how done it gets in 3 hours!

Adam: So we basically let the pig rest under a few coals to keep it warm, and then flipped it and cooked it for another 45 minutes to crisp up the skin, which I'm told is the tastiest part.

The finished pig ready to cut and serve.

Adam: After the pig, I cooked a few chickens for us non-pork-eaters. They ended up pretty tasty as well. Overall, the great caja china experiment was very successful, and surprisingly easy to use. If I had a balcony, I might even consider getting one in New York -- for parties, it does produce a lot of meat with minimal effort.

Valerie: Right before dinner, we took the annual christmas picture.

La familia.

Next: Valerie and her sister try camping out for the first time, Adam meets the world's largest mosquito in the everglades.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Leaving on a Jet Plane

We are off to Miami tonight to spend the holidays with Valerie's family and to rescue Molly, who has been enjoying the warm weather since the wedding. We'll be back in a week and we'll recap Adam's first time cooking lechon in a "caja china" for noche buena. Valerie's parents picked up the pig yesterday and it weighed in at 82 lbs. It is currently in Valerie's parent's freezer waiting for Adam to marinate it. More on this to come.

Also, after the holidays, Valerie is going to recap all the wedding details and post some pictures from the fun-filled night! In the meantime, here is a sneak peek:

[pre-ceremony at the Loews Miami Beach]

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Valerie makes paper. Adam bakes. No change.

December 14, 2008

Adam: We haven't posted in two weeks, but we have been busy at work.

Valerie: Since the last time we updated the blog, I joined a holiday card swap via Brooklyn Bride. I swapped handmade holiday cards with four others who also read the blog.

[Valerie's card (front view)]

[card from the back: snowman sticker sealed the envelope]

Adam: This week, we had a small get-together at our new apartment. We styled it a dessert party, so Valerie and I got to work baking.

Valerie: Adam's first crack at making chocolate cupcakes didn't turn out so well. Adam substituted whole wheat flour for regular flour and the cupcakes tasted less like chocolate and more like whole wheat bread. But then he tried again - and the second batch was very yummy!

Adam: In addition to the better triple-chocolate cupcakes, we also made lemon cupcakes, carrot cake cupcakes, chocolate chip cookies, gingerbread cookies, chocolate truffles (flavored with curry powder and salt caramel), miniature apple pies and candied nuts.

[chocolate chip cookies]


[carrot cake cupcakes]

[apple pies]

[candied nuts]
[lemon cupcakes]

[adam cooking]

Unfortunately, no pictures from the wild, wild party (where we met our friends' newest addition, Hektor) -- but we promise better stuff next week!

Up Next: Adam's work holiday party on Monday. Bela Fleck concert at the Blue Note on Wednesday. Headed to Miami on Sunday to rescue Molly!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Turkey Weekend

Sunday, November 30

Adam: This week, we begin with thanksgiving. On Wednesday afternoon, Valerie and I made our annual trek down to Olney, Maryland to spend Thanksgiving with my family.

First, a side note about zipcar. We have been using zipcar for transportation for almost a year now. It has been a very mixed experience, and this weekend illustrates why. Despite the fact that we paid $99 per day (plus tax) for a car, this car could not be described as in "working condition." The defroster barely worked, the oil hadn't been changed in over 20,000 miles, and at times, it sounded as if the car wouldn't ever start again. At least the car had a valid registration and up-to-date plates -- unlike the previous cars we rented. The truth is that zipcar isn't all bad -- they're much more convenient than rental cars, and the fact that they all have EZPass is nice. But at this point, zipcar -- billed frequently as the solution to increasing traffic -- has convinced us that purchasing a car would be a better idea.

Valerie: We spent Thanksgiving day playing Wii (golf and baseball) and eating.

(Adam, Adam's brother, David, and Elliot, Adam's cousin playing Wii baseball)

Valerie: After the boys finished their game of baseball, I joined them in golf and beat them all. Best round of golf I've ever played!

Adam: Who knew? Valerie has many mysterious talents. After playing virtual sports, Valerie and I took a drive around various neighborhoods in D.C., just to explore the city a bit more. Valerie hasn't spent much time in D.C. proper, and she really took a shine to Dupont Circle.

Valerie: After our drive, we had a fabulous meal -- turkey and all the trimmings.

Our Butterball turkey (very yummy)

Adam: Black Friday -- for those of you who are unaware, a morning of unbridled capitalism with a 4:00 am wake up call -- led to mixed results for us. We snagged a 19" TV -- but online. We then tried to wake up to go to the sales anyways, but "missed the alarm" several times. Nevertheless, we made it out to circuit city, staples and target, and scored a number of dvds and an office chair. Cool!

Valerie: After shopping we headed to Adam's dad's house in western Maryland. We made it out to Washington Monument State Park on Saturday. Apparently, there are two Washington Monuments: one in DC and one in Boonsboro, Maryland. The one in Boonsboro is the original Washington Monument, built in 1827 by the citizens of Boonsboro. The monument sits smack in the middle of the Appalachian trial.

Adam in front of the "looks-like-a-beehive" monument

[Us at the base of the monument]

Adam: Apart from obscure monuments, the Boonsboro-Keedysville metropolitan area is also a center for Mennonites, the Pennsylvania religious sect that my father's family traces its heritage back to. They are also bakers of some excellent, excellent donuts!

[the box of donuts after breakfast]

Adam: On Saturday night, I went to my 10th-year high school reunion. It was a bit bizarre -- I saw a lot of people who I haven't seen since graduation day. But everyone was basically still the same -- most people still had hair, nobody became obscenely large. Valerie pointed out that I went to one of the nerdiest high schools around (true). She also pointed out the obscene number of my friends who are doing MD-PhDs (also true). Makes us feel like underachievers!

Valerie: We woke up at 4am on Sunday to drive back to New York. After beating the rain and traffic, we arrived in Brooklyn and went out in search of a Christmas tree. We found one on Court street.

[Decorating our tree]

[The finished tree. ]

Adam: I admit it -- I consented to the channukah bush / christmas tree. I have to admit -- decorating it was fun.

Next week: Pictures of the new furniture arriving in our apartment!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Painting and cookies

This weekend was rather quiet. Adam had to work on Saturday (boo!) and Valerie didn't do much apart from going to her trapeze class. We recently moved to Brooklyn and decided to paint our living room on Sunday. We opted for an "accent" wall in a "lazy sunday" blue (or for those Sex and the City fans, its a similar blue to the one used in Carrie's remodeled apartment in the movie). The color looks fantastic and definitely beats out our yellow wall from our 23rd street apartment.
(Valerie painting - our great view of Brooklyn in the background)

(Adam and the finished wall. The Giants game on the TV. Giants beat the Cardinals!)

We're still waiting for our new furniture to be delivered. We'll post an updated picture once we get the living room all squared away but for now you can see our TV and new white TV console. We're going with a modern decorating scheme and bought the white console to go with a matching white wall shelf to sit above the TV, a black rug and a black/white sofa.

After dinner we made these cookies. The cookies turned out pretty good and the recipe was easy to follow -- except that Adam added too much pumpkin and we think the cookies are more cake-like than they should be. But otherwise they are tasty and we recommend giving the recipe a shot.

The finished cookies cooling on the rack.

(Adam taking a bite of the cookies)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Organic Eats . . .

Despite having no yard, no soil, no grass, and living in a tiny NYC apartment, Adam was able to grow vegetables (at least for a short time) in our apartment last winter. I was doubtful at first but plenty of sunlight and water led to some tasty lettuce, snap peas, broccoli, and basil.

[Snap pea from the garden]

[ home grown basil ]

[Lettuce from the garden]

[Adam enjoying the fruits of his labor. You can see the garden in the background.]

Our window sill turned out to be too cold in the winter and eventually everything died. Growing the veggies for a while turned me into a believer of growing what you eat. If we lived in a warmer climate and had a yard, I would definitely be into growing our own produce like this family.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Blog is Back!

Adam: We've decided to start the blog again. Since our last episode:

- We returned to New York from Asia. We went to Miami to rescue the Potato and moved into our new apartment in Chelsea.

- We attended the wedding of our good friends Monica and James at the
River Cafe. It was a blast!

[Valerie looks beautiful. Adam looks like he's part of the band!]

[Judge, Kim, Tom, Adam]

- We started planning our wedding. First, we were going to have it at the Wolfsonian museum . . .
. . . and then at Villa Woodbine . . .

. . . nope! Back to the Wolfsonian . . .

. . . oops! Too small. So on to the National Hotel. But more on that later.

- Valerie developed a roaring addiction to paper. She is currently in recovery. (editors note: as I was typing this, she told me about something called a "stamping class." I am not making this up.)

- Adam was sucked into the black hole of work assignments. He was not seen at home for a number of weeks.

[No picture]

- Adam and Valerie went with their friends to a house in the Catskills for the weekend.

[Best steak ever, cooked in a fireplace!]

- Valerie's bridesmaids came to New York to do some sort of shopping-related activity. Maybe it's related to dresses for the wedding?

- The Giants won the superbowl. Valerie got so excited, she slammed her engagement ring down onto a glass, shattering it -- no joke. Then she went to the parade. Adam watched from his office.

- Happy Valentines Day 2008!

[Top of the Rock]

[Kumquat Cupcakes]
- Mets Game!

- Valerie met Eli Manning. To be specific, she stalked him while waiting outside of the mens bathroom.

- Valerie learned to bake cookies with Adam's mom.

- Molly made a number of appearances.

- Adam's brother David graduated from Georgetown law, and Adam bought a seersucker suit!
- Adam, Valerie and the Doog went to Montauk!

- Adam started a farm in their 500 square foot apartment.
- Valerie convinced Adam to wait all night long to purchase an iPhone.
- Our first anniversary: Jets v. Giants

More in the next post!