Friday, June 24, 2022


We spent a day in Atlanta on our way north this summer. I’d been meaning to visit for a long time, and I’m glad I had my family with me! 

Our first stop was the Georgia Aquarium. We were blown away! In addition to all the exhibits, we caught the sea lion show and the 4D movie (4D means that there are 3D glasses as well as physical interventions like bubbles, wind, and sprays of water, to make the experience more immersive). We also saw the dolphins and belugas and sea dragons and more fish that I could possibly name or count. Many of the tanks have special viewing stations for kids built right in – we’re talking tunnels and acrylic domes leading right into the tank! 

The absolute best part for me was the huge tank with whale sharks. It starts with a tunnel into a tank that has huge rays, sea turtles, sharks and other fish, and every once in a while, you can see a whale shark in the distance. These are the biggest fish in the world! I remember seeing them in National Geographic magazines when I was a kid, but I never thought I’d get to see a real live one! I felt like the paleontologists from Jurassic Park when they first see the live dinosaurs! Eventually, you make your way around to a huge acrylic wall, at least two stories high, and then you can observe the pair of whale sharks in all their glory (along with a hundred other fish). It was absolutely stunning! I think if I lived in Atlanta, I’d get an annual pass and come here first thing in the morning once in a while, before the crowds. 

There was another tank with white-tipped sharks and hammerhead sharks swimming alongside a school of fish, and that was also very impressive (pardon the ambient noise). 

Then, we went to the World of Coca-Cola, which is right next door. I used to have a collection of Coca-Cola items (I technically still do, but it’s been whittled down a lot) and I had been meaning to visit this place for years and years, so I couldn’t miss it. That being said, if you are not in that situation, I have to admit that the visit might not be worth it for you. In a nutshell, there are some Coca-Cola artefacts, exhibits about the history and fabrication, more interactive exhibits about the art and honing your sense of smell… The highlight is that tasting room at the end of the tour: there are several soda fountain stations, each with ten or so drinks that Coca-Cola makes in various countries, and you get to walk around and taste as many as you want! I really enjoyed the red punch from Korea (the blackberry soda from Malawi deserves a special mention too), but was less keen on the apple soda from Germany and the Beverly soda from Italy. 

I also walked around a bit in Centennial Olympic Park, which was beautiful, albeit not peaceful like Discovery Green. It was mid- to late-afternoon by then, and there were a *lot* of people carrying clipboards and asking for donations for various organizations, with such insistence that it felt a bit aggressive. So I’m aware that I only saw a very small sliver of Atlanta, but overall, I loved it!

Thursday, June 23, 2022

Dark Chocolate Swirl Banana Tahini Muffins


I got this recipe from Soom and made it when we had half a jar of their (delicious!) dark chocolate tahini with sea salt to use up, and we were trying to get rid of the last of the frozen bananas as well. I really like banana muffins, tahini, and chocolate, so obviously this was up my alley! 

If you can’t get your hands on Soom Dark Chocolate Tahini with Sea Salt, you can replace it with your chocolate spread of choice, and fine sea salt to taste. 

1 ½ cups oat flour 
¼ cup instant oats 
1 tsp. baking soda 
1 tsp. cinnamon sea salt, to taste 
3 large overripe bananas, mashed 
1 large egg 
½ cup tahini 
¼ cup maple syrup 
¼ cup melted lactose-free butter (vegan if needed) 
½ cup Soom Dark Chocolate Tahini with Sea Salt, to swirl 

Preheat oven to 350 °F; line a muffin tin with 12 liners. 

In a small bowl, which together the oat flour, instant oats, baking soda, cinnamon, and sea salt. Set aside. 

Place bananas, egg, tahini, maple syrup, and melted butter in a large bowl. Using a hand blender, blend the wet ingredients until smooth. Using a large spoon, mix in dry ingredients until a batter forms. 

Scoop the batter evenly into muffin tins. Then, take a small spoonful of dark chocolate tahini and place it on top of each muffin. Swirl the chocolate into the batter using a butter knife to create a marbled look. 

Bake the muffins for 22-25 minutes until a knife comes out clean. Be careful not to overbake! Allow the muffins to cool for 5 minutes before placing on a cooling rack. Enjoy with extra Dark Chocolate Tahini with Sea Salt if you wish!

Friday, June 17, 2022


On our way up this year (our first time driving back to Canada since the onset of the pandemic), we made a first stop in Houston. I’ve always wanted to visit, but it still hadn’t happened after over 10 years in Texas! I kept thinking that we could just go on a long weekend, but this year I was forced to admit that the Engineer’s long weekends somehow never coincided with the kids’ long weekends, so if we wanted to visit, we had to make it happen in the summer. 

Our first stop, immediately following a nice lunch at nearby London Cafe, was Seismique, an immersive experience with light and sound. (To be honest, we also considered Candytopia, but decided that only one of the two was in our budget. Luckily, the Engineer had the brilliant idea to look up detailed YouTube videos of both visits, and Seismique was more up our alley.) Let’s get the downsides out of the way: first, it’s expensive. Second, it isn’t built with a logical path in mind, meaning that in order to see the whole thing, you’ll have to pay attention, double back, and follow along on a map. Except they don’t give you a map, they instead rely on you to download their app and use their cartoon map – the app is also necessary to interact with some displays, but others can be activated physically. Third, no backpacks or large bags are allowed, so plan accordingly. 

That being said, we really enjoyed our visit! The kids AND grownups enjoyed interacting with the lights and various exhibits. We loved the huge crocheted play structure, even though only the kids could use its full potential (and the Fox predictably got stuck at the top at some point, but we managed to coax him down). Really, apart from a few exhibits that were either hard to operate or not working well, everything was fun! 

We then ended the day by walking around Discovery Green, a large park downtown. There are green spaces, a pond, a playground, a splash pad, small cafés, sculptures, etc. It was a really pleasant way to unwind! Note that if budget had allowed, we would have booked a room at the adjacent Mariott Marquis Houston, which has a rooftop lazy river shaped like Texas! We then had dinner at nearby The Rustic. The openness and fans made us comfortable, and given that we had reached our noise quota for the day, we were glad there were no live performances that night. The food was good, albeit spicy. 

We started off the next day killing some time at the McGovern Centennial Gardens, which were really beautiful, especially the knoll with the spiral path! We then walked to the Children’s Museum Houston when it opened. The Engineer had suggested it the day before, so it wasn’t part of our original plan, but it’s a really nice museum, and I’m glad we went! We also had lunch there before walking back to the car. There were many other museums in the area that looked interesting and inviting! 

We then made a pit stop at the Rothko Chapel, a non-denominational place of worship and contemplation. The grounds are beautiful, and the inside of the chapel was more like a room in a modern art museum than any church I’ve been to. There is a skylight, and benches are arranged in concentric circles in an octagonal room. The white walls are decorated with what, at first glance, look like large rectangular canvasses painted black, but when you look more closely, you realize that one of them is actually purplish and has lighter brushstrokes, one is actually a burgundy rectangle on a dark grey background, etc. We walked around outside, but sadly, the adjacent Menil Collection was closed that day. 

Finally, we drove to the main event: the Space Center. I’m not a NASA buff, more of a casual fan, but this was really interesting to me. You can visit Space Shuttle Independence, a high-fidelity replica of shuttles used by NASA in previous programs. You’ll learn a lot about previous missions as well as current conditions on the International Space Station, about space and the NASA in general… You can even touch a rock from the Moon! We didn’t take the tours of the grounds because by then, we were all tired (especially the kids), so we went back to the hotel for a swim before dinner. I really liked Houston!

Thursday, June 16, 2022

Pizza with Cheddar, Caramelized Onions, and Eggs


This recipe is from The Weekday Vegetarians, Jenny Rosenstrach’s latest cookbook. It’s an easy recipe, though it should be said that even though it’s vegetarian, it doesn’t really have any vegetables. (I mean, technically there’s onion, but from a nutritional standpoint, does it really count?) It would be a good idea to pair it with a green salad. I really liked the addition of garlic powder to the crust edges, and the combination of flavors was really doing it for me. Both the Engineer and I liked this, but sadly, the kids did not. 

I did not stretch out the dough as required – I only had 13 ounces instead of 16, but even then, I don’t see a pound of dough stretched out that thinly! I used a smaller baking sheet and stretched the dough as much as I could. Finally, I had some trouble with the baking times. The eggs weren’t nearly done after 5 minutes! I tried baking the dough and cheese 5 minutes, adding the eggs and baking for 8 minutes and then leaving the pizza in the oven (turned off) for another 10 minutes, but that didn’t quite do it. For the second batch, I tried just putting them on the pizza right from the beginning and baking it 12 minutes total, but even then, the crust was too dark while the egg whites were not quite done. I guess the recipe still needs some tweaking. 

5 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided 
3 large yellow onions, roughly chopped 
1 lb. pizza dough (storebought is fine), at room temperature 
¼ tsp. garlic powder 
6 oz. lactose-free sharp cheddar, grated (about 1 ½ cups) 
4 large eggs 
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste 
chopped flat-leaf parsley, for garnish 

Preheat oven to 450 °F. Arrange an oven rack in the middle position. 

As the oven heats, combine 3 tablespoons of the olive oil and the onions in a large skillet set over medium-low heat. Stir every few minutes, making sure they are getting soft and golden but not blackened or burned, until caramel colored and slightly jammy, 20 to 25 minutes (I’m more of a realist and will tell you that it takes longer to caramelize onions). 

While the onions are cooking, brush an 18x13-inch sheet pan (see note above) with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Drop the dough in the center of the pan and, using your fingers, press and stretch out the dough to the sides and into corners of the pan. The goal is to get the crust as thin as possible. Mix together the garlic powder and the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and brush the perimeter of the dough. 

Top the dough with an even layer of the cheddar, leaving a 1-inch cheese-free border, and bake for 8 minutes (see note above). Remove from the oven and top with the caramelized onions, shaping them into 4 little “nests” for the eggs (one in each corner). Carefully crack 1 egg in each nest. Bake until the whites are cooked, the yolks are still slightly runny, and the crust is golden, about 5 minutes. Top with salt, pepper, and parsley.