fall fest

Readers! It’s so good to be with you again, after getting completely sidelined by an ugly cold and playing catch-up on chores.

Last Saturday (yes, a whole week ago–I said I was behind on all my daily tasks) I went apple- and pumpkin-picking with three dear friends. We had all gotten Groupons to a farm in Virginia, at the foot of the Blue Ridge mountains. So, I requested a day off work, packed up my recipes and pie plate, and ventured into the countryside. Now, this weekend is actually the fall color peak weekend in the Shenandoah Valley, but we were definitely not disappointed. We pulled into the pumpkin-patch-turned-parking-lot at Hollin Farm and selected pumpkins for carving and eating, as well as fall vegetables. I got a little table-top pumpkin, a handful of gourds, and a nice big bag of arugula and bok choy. Yum!

Little apartment = little pumpkin

After a run through a corn maze with beautiful views of the orchards and mountains, it was on to a small apple orchard to pick tasty fruit off the trees and go on a hay-ride. Imagine my surprise when we pulled up and were greeted by a crowd of people with their show-quality basset hounds! They are very friendly (people and puppies), and I wanted to take a furry friend home with me, but my friends kindly reminded me that my apartment is pets-free, so we moved on to the apples. The hay ride, or Hay Odyssey, as it came to be known, was absolutely gorgeous. We spent about half an hour hitched to a tractor and going up and down the hills. After a somewhat awkward moment when we were invited to a Saturday-evening country church service, we filled our peck-bags with apples for cooking and snacking on. A quick trip to a third orchard for cider and a variety of jams and preserves rounded out the countryside part of the day.

Apple orchard as seen from the Hay Odyssey

Back in civilization, it was Baking Time! I had put together a big collection of recipes for pumpkin bread, pumpkin waffles, apple crisp, apple sangria, etc., so we set to work on some bread and pie. Let me tell you, scraping and shredding an eating pumpkin is no easy task! It was by far the longest part of the baking time. We put together two loaves of pumpkin-chocolate-chip bread and an apple pie, complete with Margaret’s mom’s homemade crust recipe. Tomorrow I’ll type up the recipes we used so you, Dear Reader, can join in the Fall Fun. Maybe I’ll throw in the apple sangria one as well. Friends: have you gone, or are you planning on going, fruit- and vegetable-picking this fall? What is your top fall recipe?

Hard at work on the pumpkin. Please take note of my school spirit!

P.S. In keeping with this delicious-themed post, La Petite Pancake is giving away an Ina Garten cookbook and an exciting new rolling pin! Winner picked tomorrow, so enter now!



Can I just tell you, having no voice for two days in a row is really terrible! I called in to work today so I could rest my throat and hopefully recover…Saturday is Apple-Picking Day and I want to be healthy.

On to the meat of this post. In July, I acquired a male crowntail Betta splendens named Raymond. He lives in a purple tank on my kitchen table and has a mini castle and plastic plant to keep him happy. My building is pet-free (which is very nice to control noise and mess), so almost everyone has a fish tank going on. I’m so glad I joined the crowd! Even though Raymond can’t snuggle during movie nights, it’s still nice to come home in the evening and have another living creature in the apartment. I did a lot of research before getting Raymond, because I wanted to be a Good Pet Owner, so I’d like to share a few tips with those of you who are considering getting a pet.

Raymond's setup: light, tank, castle, fish, plant, gravel

Know what you can handle. I got a single Betta because they don’t require a very large space, they are not expensive, and they’re easy to maintain. If you’re new to fish-keeping, you probably want to start off with an ordinary goldfish, a small platy, or a Betta, rather than something complicated like an angelfish or a piranha (which may or may not be illegal in your area). Do you have little time to spend filtering water, scrubbing tanks, and aquascaping? A 50-gallon outfit may not be for you. Short on cash? Stick to tropical freshwater friends. The outlay is simpler and the more popular fish themselves usually do not cost very much.

Betta pellets, water conditioner, net, and cup. I try not to net Raymond because of his fins.

Remember that your fish is a living thing. Scientists and fish fanciers debate whether or not our finned buddies can feel pain or not, but I think it’s best to assume that they can. If your fish looks sick or hurt, please do something about it, don’t just let him swim around in discomfort. I’ll be honest, I have forgotten to give Raymond his morning pellets sometimes when I’m running late. But as soon as I get home, I take proper care of his needs; I’d hate for him to go belly-up because I was too busy to feed him. Should you need to move, or are unable to care for your pet properly anymore, please do the right thing for him and your community: find an appropriate new home for him. Never abandon a fish by flushing a live one down the toilet. He will most likely die a horrible death, but if he somehow escapes into real water where he does not belong, he will damage the ecosystem.

Stick-on tank thermometer. Raymond's tank is usually a lovely 75 degrees.

Continue to expand your fish-keeping knowledge. You know me, I’m a nerd and an information sponge. When it comes to my beloved Raymond, there’s always new things to learn and new areas of fish-keeping to explore. For example, did you know that there are fish shows? They’re similar to cat- and dog-shows and give owners, fanciers, and breeders a chance to get ideas for their wet friends and encounter new products. If you’ve got the time, money, and inclination, you can also try breeding your fish. This is something I’d like to try down the road, but it’s a pretty intense process that takes more skill than I’ve got.

Reading material: Freshwater Aquariums for Dummies and Animal Planet's Aquarium Care of Bettas

So there’s some basic information for all you potential fish owners. I’ve really enjoyed having Raymond around, and taking care of him is one chore that I don’t mind. Before you adopt a little aquatic buddy, please do some research and discover what’s best for you. Readers: do you have a pet? What advice do you have about a non-human roommate?

feed a fever, starve a cold

Or is it the other way around? Greetings from my sickbed! It all started with a very painful sore throat Saturday; I’ll spare you some of the worse details, but let’s just say that life is very messy these days. We all know that time is the only thing that can actually cure a cold; however, everyone seems to have a favorite remedy to make things feel a little less yucky. This episode is dedicated to a few things I’ve been trying lately, and some things that are “supposed” to work…but kind of don’t.

1. Drink hot liquids. I feel like I’ve been living on hot water with lemon and honey. The lemon and honey soothe a sore throat and ease the obnoxious tickle. The hot liquid and the steam from the mug feel really good on nasal congestion. Bonus: water, tea, chicken soup, whatever, keep dehydration at bay.

2. Antibiotics. Mayo Clinic reminds us that a cold comes from a virus, so antibiotics that fight bacteria don’t do any good. Inappropriate or excessive use of antibiotics can also contribute to development of medication-resistant strains (aka the Superbug).

Table of illness accessories: tissues, DayQuil, tea, etc.

3. Chicken soup. It is warm and tasty and mild enough to soothe a tender tummy. WebMD tells me that it’s also an anti-inflammatory that relieves respiratory issues and (look away, squeamish readers) moves mucus through the sinuses faster. Mm mm good!

4. Herbal and mineral supplements. A lot of people take things like zinc, echinacea, or other substances from traditional Chinese medicine to prevent or treat colds. Studies show that, while most of these don’t harm, neither do they really do any good. In fact, some may interact pretty badly with other medicines (including aspirin and some kinds of birth control). Sounds like you should do your research and consult a doctor before you try supplements.

Incidentally, the title phrase is actually “starve a fever, feed a cold,” and it comes from Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales (holla, AP English!). I guess it originated out of some (totally incorrect) medieval folk medicine. The good folks at Mayo say that no matter what your illness, unless your doctor specifically tells you not to, you should eat at least a little to keep your strength up.

Friends, what do you think? What do you do when you are feeling poorly? Do you have any fun bits of wisdom from folk medicine or your mom/grandma/Chinese herbalist?

a word on public transportation

I should start by saying that I am indeed grateful to live in a city with a semi-functional public transit system. I have no intention of getting a car any time soon, for a variety of reasons, so it’s wonderful to have a rail and bus system that can get me all over the metro. It’s also nice that pretty much anybody can be found on the train or the circulator: tourists, schoolkids, summer interns, and regular working folk. WMATA has had some serious safety and efficiency issues lately, including a horrible crash last summer that killed 9, mysterious delays and stoppages, nasty burny smells, and seemingly endless weekend trackwork that forces station closures or track-sharing. But still, SmarTrip cards don’t expire and the system is generally cleaner than other subways (I’m looking at you, El).

The escalators at Rosslyn. I think walking up this beast equals a workout, don't you?

And now, for your edification, I present some useful information for a safe, efficient, and semi-less-stressful Trip On The Washington DC Metro.

1. Figure out where you need to go before you get to the station. Seriously, your life will be so much easier if you can say with confidence, “I’m taking the Red Line in the direction of Glenmont and I’m getting off at Union Station.” Or something. Know your transfers and which side of the platform you need to be on.

Hey, we could live in Osaka...

2. Pay attention to the turnstiles in the station. If you’re using a paper farecard (which I don’t recommend because they cost much more and they get lost and/or destroyed easily), don’t try to use a SmarTrip express lane and hold up the crowd behind you. Even those pesky summer interns have to get to their cubicles on time.

3. Walk on the left, stand on the right. Learn it and live it.

Don't act like this clown from unsuckdcmetro.blogspot.com (on the Yellow Line).

4. If it’s rainy or cold, buses and trains WILL be more crowded. There will be many more passengers and we will all be carrying umbrellas, boots, lunch totes, messenger bags, and the Express. Never put your wet umbrella or shopping bag on the seat next to you, and don’t be afraid to get a little cozy. Just, you know, have a mint.

So those are the major survival tips for Washington’s Metro. If you get totally lost and confused, you can always ask a local for help; we want you to enjoy your visit, and if you’re polite and not too stupid, we don’t mind pointing you in the right direction. And now, just a little ditty to celebrate the Metro! (Check out GoRemy’s stuff, he’s pretty talented.)