Thursday, July 31, 2008

OLS Week 9

My local meal is coming really early this week because of our vacation. This week's meal was nothing special but its always nice to have an easy "go to" meal when you're running around crazy trying to pack for 58F degree weather.

This week's meal was a whole roasted chicken with balsamic eggplant and squash. The roasted chicken is my go to meal but the eggplants (all 1 pound of them), the rosemary, sage, basil, and thyme were from my garden. The fact that I'm pulling a pound plus of food out of my window boxes amazes me. The fact that I have some much more to look forward to in the coming weeks and months.

I'm getting called to dinner!

Such a Lady...

No, this isn't about my husband's desire to have "She's No Lady, She's My Wife" as our official wedding song... One of my favorite phrases is "Its time to pull on your big girl panties". This is not to be confused with "Satan's Panties" or "Did you hear that? It was my panties sliding to the ground". Nope, I reserve the big girl panties for when I really really really don't want to do something. I use it with no regard to how serious the deed is (ie taking the garbage out vs going to the lady-bits doctor) and it is often accompanied by a big sigh, a chin up, and a check of panty line, breath, and armpit moistness.

When I use it for other people, it is really more along the lines of "Seriously? Are you really such a baby? Are you wearing underroos with care bears on them? Alright, its time to pull on your big girl panties." It should also be used with no regard to gender since this is really about acting like an adult not like a big boned girl.

I've been using it around the office a lot lately because well, we haven't been getting a lot of good news on the government funding side (thanks wall street and market force "its not a bubble" assholes) and we're getting set to face another round of even more bad news. Since I've been using it so much I wanted to determine the provenance of the saying so I googled it.

Guess where it comes from? No, really guess. Mean Girls? Nope? Hannah Montana? Not even close... Super Nanny? Closer. It is what Margaret Spellings, sorry Secretary Spellings, said to Dana "What's the bay of pigs" Perino on her first day as WH press secretary. Part of me wants to respect that and part of me realizes, "Show some fucking adaptability" is also a great phrase.

So, show some fucking adaptability ladies.

Where Do Babies Come From?

So I'm feeling a little cutesie... We're just about set to leave for CA. I have a plant/house sitter all lined up and am looking forward to a few days away. I have two big questions though: why is it always so damn cold in San Francisco and should I bring the nice camera? I've been to SF 4-5 times and every time its freezing and raining. I really want to love that city but the weather just doesn't want to show me a good time. I am a very efficient packer and had this trip down to a backpack and my purse but then the weather turns our to be crappy. So now I have to bring a puffy coat, socks, and assorted long sleeved shirts. None of this fits with my plan and if there is anything that makes me cranky, its things no going according to plan. Given that we survived in Spain for 5 days with nothing but the clothes on back, I'm pretty confident that we'll do alright. Plus the weather looks great in Napa.

The second dileama is the camera. I'm totally spoiled by the nice digital camera (that brought you those lovely shots above) and the small camera just seems wrong. On the other hand traveling with a nice camera is like traveling with a toddler: it needs it own bag, special security protocol and you sometimes (alright most of the time) look like a total douche carrying it around. The other issue is that I only have one card that holds 72 pictures so I would probably need to load everything onto my computer to be able to shoot like I want (take 100 and one will come out). I think the best thing to do is to pack and see what my options are after that. I think I need to display a little adaptability and pull on the big girl panties.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Garden Update

It has been a busy week or so around here. I traveled last week and I'm getting ready to travel some more. Work has been a bit crazy and I had to perform emergency surgery last night on one of the tomato plants. I find myself getting back to normal routines and trying to incorporate new elements into my routine. Its good- less moping, less sleeping, less TV, more exercise, more reading, and more care and feeding of plants. I even got a haircut and pedicure after months of letting those things go (my sister would still consider my eyebrows a disturbing mess). In short, I'm trying to get back into life after a series of busy months and a really crappy few months. I have to admit, I still can't believe that my dad is dead.

Sorry, this was a garden update. Let's go round the apartment so that I have some notes for next year.
Box #1
The habanero pepper is really really hot. The warning on the plant label is no joke. I can't imagine what the "hotter than a habanero" pepper is going to be like. The geraniums are doing well but are spreading out and taking over the whole box. I need to take some cuttings and exchange them with my mom.

Box #2
Parsleys are not thriving. Cilantro is long dead. The thai basil has been blooming for months and attracts tons of pollinators. I love that the box is buzzing. The regular basil keeps going to flower and I am tempted to just let it go. The basil produces more than its potted counterpart but it a total PITA to pick. Next year, all the basil will be in pots.

Box #3
I harvested 2 tomatoes and 2 large eggplants. The sage and thyme are thriving and I still have some pansies. The peppers and eggplants have new fruit on them and the tomatoes are booming. I need to do a better job securing the food plants next year.

Fire Escape
Basil and Mint are going strong. The basil needs to be harvested about once a week and I'll need to find some time before I leave to make some more pesto. I'm getting sick of pesto so its nice that I can just freeze it. One of my patio tomatoes is definately not a patio tomato and is about 3 feet tall. It almost died but not because it was so tall. Despite the slow start it has lots of green tomatoes. The other tomato plant completely fell out of its pot and needed emergency surgery. The cause, a cache of tomatoes only on one side of it. I harvested the tomatoes, repotted it and staked it. The green beans are still winding their way around the dead bush that is up there but I haven't seen the blue flowers that my mom has talked about. I'm not worried about it and will wait and see what happens this summer.

The rest of the boxes are doing well and are largely ornamental. The succulents are doing well, the raspberry is mostly dead and I still have pansies!

That seems to be it. One of these days I will calculate my acreage to food production ratio just for fun!

Ice Creme and Other Assorted Frozen Delights

I love to bake but in the summer its usually too hot to turn the over on. Last year I bought an ice cream maker and it opened up a whole new world of experimentation with sorbets, frozen yogurts, and ice creams. I think the impetus for throwing random ingredients together is that you are simply matching things that may sound good without too much investment in terms of time, money, or learning a new technique. Once you know how to make a custard- based ice cream, the right mix of fat in yogurt, and how much alcohol you can put in a sorbet you don't change it too much around. Probably the biggest trick is learning what goes best with a yogert or milk base since something that tastes great with one doesn't necessarily taste great with the other (Beer Frozen Yogert anyone?

At dinner last night Adam and I began talking about new recipies and he got me thinking about my favorite old recipies and new ones to try.

Spicy Coffee Ice Cream- Make coffee out of milk and add cayanne pepper to the mix
Beer and Chocolate Ice Cream
Red Sangria Sorbet
Strawberry and Basil Frozen Yogert
Peach Pie with Balsamic Stripe Yogert
Mango Sorbet with Jalapeno
Spicy Chocolate
Chocolate Gelato
Chocolate Almond Ice Cream

I've never made "plain" or vanilla ice cream. It seems like a high degree of difficulty since the final flavor would really just be based on the quality of your vanilla bean.

Some to try
Sweet Tomato and Basil Sorbet
Rice Milk with Cucumber and toasted sesame seeds on top
Rosewater with salted pistacios (Thanks Splendid Table)
Mojito Sorbet (Thanks Adam)
Habenero Pepper Jam on a Goat Cheese Ice Cream
Corn, Cilantro, and Lime Sorbet
I want to play around with avocado and rice milk bases in the coming weeks.

David Liebovitz, who initially inspired me to buy the ice cream maker, has a list of new flavors to try.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

OLS Week 8?

On the balance its been a pretty bad week food wise. I had three wonderful local meals, two encounters with bad mexican food, and a whole lot of hotel/ road trip food. Let's skip over the bad conference/hotel/gas station food (though I had a great pulled pork sandwich at the Miller's Gas Station at the Coliseum in Hampton VA) and the bad Mexican (though I had a really good Cinnamon/blood orange margarita at Lobo in Park Slope with friends while watching the Yanks beat the pants off of the Red Sox- I love you Joba!) and head right into the local fare.

On Friday we had dinner at Applewood on 11th. It was my third meal and nothing has really lived up to my original meal with Abby around the 4th of July. C. Sharp had Bonito with scales, Peter's steak was alright, and I can't remember what Lorna had but none of us walked away raving. My scallops were alright and the house cured bacon went a long way in making up for the scales. It was good but I'm less enthusiastic about my initial raves. I also find their artwork (the ones of half naked preteens to be really creepy.

As usual, I had great local seafood down in LBI. Those Kelly Boys really know how to make seafood sing and of course the company can't be beat. This year we had a two- level house which meant that the adults could enjoy a raucous good time while the kids watched movies. When this group gets together we are pretty hard core New Jersians and that was clear when everyone showed up with local, Jersey Fresh produce, eggs, milk, etc in their grocery bags and talked about Jon Bon Jovi. I find it amusing that I can't really go out in the sun or on the beach due to propensity for skin cancer but I always fondly remember these trips for the great seafood and wonderful company.

I only cooked one meal this week but it was a local feast: sliced skirt steak salad with mint- blueberry cheesecake. I picked up the majority of the ingredients at the farmers' market (I rode my bike!) on Saturday. The market was booming with a few left over spring fruits and tons of mid-summer veggies and fruits. The apricots, peaches, and plums looked incredible but I ended up picking up blueberries, lettuce, tomatoes, green peppers, and a cucumber plus a few apple cider donuts for breakfast.

This difference this week was that I had tons of ingredients for this meal already growing in my garden. I harvested basil, mint, tomatoes, habenero peppers, sage, thyme, parsley, and TWO eggplants this week and have 15 or so tomatoes on the way. The peppers (hot and green) and eggplants are already starting new fruit and the basil and mint are still growing strong. The parsleys are not doing well and the chive plant (which had been infested with red aphids was totally dead when I got home.

Dinner Recipes
I've written about the sliced steak salad before. This time the mint, basil, and hot peppers came from my garden and the beef, peppers, and cucumbers were local. The fish sauce and lime were not local. This salad has become our comfort food and I encourage everyone to try it.

Blueberry- Mint Cheesecake

It is very easy for me to get local soft cheeses so I picked up goat and cream cheese at the market along with blueberries. The mint came from our garden. The butter, milk, eggs, and flour were local (I'm unsure of the walnuts) while the sugars were not local. I adapted this recipe from the August 2008 recipe in Gourmet from my favorite chef, Dan Barber.

1 large handful walnuts (or any nuts probably) pulverized in the mini food processor
1/2 stick butter (soft)
1/3 cup flour
1/4 cup brown sugar

I mixed everything together in a bowl, breaking the butter up like you would do for a pie crust. I put the over on 350F and put 1/4 inch in the bottom of my ramekins. I chose to use ramekins because I wanted to be able to freeze them. I packed it down, put it in the over and took them out when the were toasted and pulling away from the sides.

Blueberries and Mint

2 limes
1 pint blue berries
7-10 mint leaves
1 tbs sugar
The original recipe called for blackberries and lemon but I had blueberries and lime. Still turned out really well! I put everything in a bowl and put it on the side to macerate for 2 hours. I drained them and put the blueberries on top of the cheesecake. The juice went into a rum drink.

Serves 4

12 ozs goat and cream cheese
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tbs flour
splash of milk
2 large eggs

I improvised this one a bit but it turned out really well. Add the cheeses, sugar, and flour in the stand mixer and mix until smooth. Add the milk and one egg at a time, making sure to scrape the bowl. Once the crusted ramekins have cooled, add the filling and bake at 325F in a water bath until the centers just giggle. Top with the drained blueberries.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Dinner at Lost Pollitos II

Ab and I picked Los Pollitos II on a whim, I wanted a margarita and it was close. I walked away thinking "Eh" and hungry an hour later. I was glad that we got a seat in the window because even the first seat in felt like a dark cave. They have a fair amount of outdoor seating and the window was perfect for people and dog watching though that meant that we were sort of in the hot seat in terms of being watched.

The margarita (on the rocks with salt) was alright. I don't think it was made with fresh lime juice and I didn't get any hint of tequila, it was just sort of bland. The sangria was alright and didn't have the horrible old wine taste that so many have.

Our roasted corn was bland. It looked right but it wasn't fresh (like the fresh farm corn) and the flavors were dull. Ab's dinner was good but she wasn't overly excited about it. I had the octopus which was a mistake. Oddly enough the texture, the hardest part of the dish to get right, was good but it tasted fishy.

So go there if you want to eat a roasted chicken but I wouldn't stay for much else.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Virginia is for Weird Signs

I spent yesterday at Langley AFB at a NASA conference. I tagged along for the tour of the impact testing and saw the 200 ft gantry that they currently use to impact test space stuff and used to use to help the Apollo astronauts learn to land the lunar modules. I haven't really liked space science much but recently read "A Man on the Moon" which detailed the Apollo missions. It felt like reading chick lit with tons of details about the astronauts, NASA administrators, and politics behind the missions. The Apollo missions were probably the biggest engineering challenge of modern times and while they come off as such, they seem almost reckless. I was awfully glad to have read the book prior to my trip to NASA and felt less like a boob giving a presentation there. These pics are of the gantry and the latest testing on the air bags. The plane is stored off to the side and is apparently going to be used in a few years to test much higher impacts for commercial airplanes. I got the impression that they were sick of dropping stuff from 10 - 30' and just wanted to drop something big from the maximum height of 200'.

What's with the weird signs VA? Don't use the hook because it could steal your bag? and it strikes me as strange policy to have the department of visual and hearing impairments servicing your vending machines? VA is a state that I really like (love your gov and Sen. Webb), its very pretty, and you have a gourmet gas station but I have to be honest, you have some weird signs.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

A Few More Pics

Three Generations of Kelly Boys

Christmas Card Bound- This was the only one that they would pose for a luckily it worked!

These model cars provided hours of relatively quiet fun. They used the deck as a highway and build a town of knick knacks and movie boxes.

With the high waves, the surfers were out in huge numbers. I didn't have any other lenses with me so I couldn't get great shots but it was fun taking shots of people in motion and not flowers and sand.

John and Doug played horseshoes for hours last night and I managed to get this great shot (in my opinion) of the landing. It was really hard to time the shot but I'm quickly learning how to make it happen.

Hampton VA

I left relatively early this morning and drove down to Hampton VA to give a presentation at a conference tomorrow. I was encouraged to fly but the idea of flying (especially from LGA to ATL to Hampton) seemed like a form of torture that should be outlawed.

I also knew the drive would be a trip down memory lane since I've done this drive with both my mom and my dad. The ferry ride was uneventful but relaxing despite the best attempts by the dolphins to be adorable and distracting. I always appreciate long, scenic drives and wished that I had time to take pictures and visit with relatives along the way. I arrive in Norfolk around 3:30 only to find Route 64 had turned into a parking lot. Luckily I have a lot of experience getting lost and was able to find an alternate route across the bay to arrive at the hotel at 5:30. The organizer of the conference had graciously offered to take me out to dinner but was offered a ticket to Batman at the Imax so I'm going to enjoy a nice room service dinner, a glass of wine, and some basic cable. This will probably be the least local meal that I have eaten in weeks!

In case you're wondering what my presentation is about I will be talking about the history of STEM education reform in the US. The basic headlines: 1) We have an inherently screwed up system of local control and very little other than federal action will make the resistant nutjob schoolboards raise their standards and care about the underresourced kids (usually the ones who don't look like them) in their communities. 2) We're seriously screwed globally 3) The recommendations that every commission (including my own) has come to and has claimed to be innovative were initially recommended in 1983, so see #1.

It is kind of a daunting presentation challenge. It is inherently boring stuff that requires a lot of context to find interesting or to make jokes about. There is also a ton of information that I'm supposed to impart and I don't know most of it myself so I'm a bit nervous. Finally, its to an audience that has the potential to tell a lot of other people about it so if its good it could help to brand the Museum as a place of expertise. Oh, and my throat is pretty sore.

I'm off to a well deserved dinner and to try and cram more info into my head. I'll post some more pictures from LBI.

Monday, July 21, 2008

At The Beach

I have to say it feels a bit scitzophrenic down here at LBI. It is incredibly hot on the bay side (90F +) and freezing (60F) on the ocean side. We're pretty close to the water so our house has been shrouded in a cold, British mist most of the time. I never spend a lot of time at the beach but I sometimes will sit out under the tent, wearing 75 SPF, and sweats to hang out with everyone at the beach. This year I have the excuse of it being freezing and having work to do. I, of course, managed to burn my feet very badly yesterday and can't really wear shoes (other than flipflops).

This pictures kind of tell the story. Cold and misty on the beach, warm and sunny on the bay, four boys all under the age of 10, and a lot of chasing after then with the camera to get the perfect shot. I think we were all pretty tuckered out after their run (my chase) down to the next jetty.

I'm off to Langley tomorrow and am looking forward to the Cape May Ferry Ride in the new car. A 6 hour drive doesn't seem so bad if I get to take that car.

Accidental Local Meal- LBI Style

I'm down in LBI for our annual beach retreat. My mom and her boyfriend rent a house and everyone who is a little bit related come down and stay. Last night was my first at the house and I wasn't disappointed with the clambake. The men bought clams, mussels, and soft shell crabs (all local) and everyone brought the rest either from Jersey or PA farms. While it wasn't planned, local produce it pretty hard to avoid in NJ in the summer. Many of the herbs and greens came from individual gardens. The best part of the meal was the corn, boiled with a hint of butter. We even discussed the history of NJ as a farming colony of the Brits. It doesn't get much better than this!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Happy Birthday Josh!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

More Pictures from Mom's

Friday, July 18, 2008

There was Something About These...

I took some pictures at my dad's house this afternoon. Its weird to call it that but as I was wandering around through the back yard I just kept finding things that reminded me of him. He loved to practice his golf swing in the back yard and I found these two balls on the edge of the grass. They remind me of how quick everything happened and how there is so much of his stuff laying around almost dropped in midsentence. The tripod, his laundry, and these golf balls and the endless mail and telemarketers are almost too much when taken together.

He and my stepmom acquired "High Note" the statue a few years ago. We kids all thought it looked like Kenny from Southpark and there is a lot of photographic evidence of our dislike. Kenny might be the most teased statue on the planet. He looked a bit lonely in the sea of ferns this afternoon.

The hydrangias are just beautiful.

The bunny. The weekend my dad got his diagnosis the cats (pictured below) captured a baby bunny. I took it away from them and just held it in my T-Shirt for what seemed like hours. I just wanted to save it and nurse it back to health as I knew there was nothing I could do for my dad. I remember the phrase "there's no treatment" just running through my head. The bunny, a bit shaken and missing a bit of fur, represented everything to me in that moment. We let it go and like all bunnies I'm sure it was eaten by something though one survived and is pictured here. Its probably very hard to see but its the picture of the lawn, there's a bunny on the lawn and like a sentimental fool I took about 10 pictures of it.


I'm not sure if this one says "Hit Me Baby One More Time" or "F- Off".

Where to Start?

I took a ton of pictures today. I'll start with the ones from my mom's house. She has a beautiful garden and takes beautiful pictures with her own digital camera. I brought in the big guns and we took a bunch of pictures, watered, and ate a great dinner. I've posted a few of my favorites. My absolute favorite (maybe of the whole day is the bee taking off from the flower.

Many of the plants in her garden have been there since she first moved in (18 years?) ago so it was a bit of a trip down memory lane. We had a great dinner of bacon, spinach, bok choi, and squash blossoms with chicken, potatoes, and fresh herbs from the slow cooker. As always, the company was wonderful and I'm looking forward to the next couple of days at the beach (and hopefully a clam bake). Oh, I forgot the roasted asparagus.

All of the produce (except for the squash blossoms and herbs) were from a farmers' market that she created as head of our town's chamber of commerce. We've always shared a love of gardening but it is great fun to swap stories of our gardens, farmers' markets, and cooking adventures. I look forward to many more photography sessions and recipes.


Zelda, Leo, and Diego - all vicious, man-eating beasts.