Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A Simple Soup

I like to think of this soup as a minestrone but I actually don't have any idea what defines minestrone soup. When I looked it up I found out that minestrone actually means "hodgepodge" and it is generally a vegetable soup often with rice or pasta, can be vegetarian or not, contain meat or not, and can be made from different types of stock. So I feel somewhat comfortable calling this soup a minestrone.

Its a simple recipe that can be made from what ever you have in the house or a trip to your pantry with a few fresh ingredients thrown in. I should do another post on what I consider to be a proper pantry but that's another post. The reason I like making soups is that they are almost entirely improvization. To me soup is anything that you add to broth. My dad used to make us tortilini soup and just added store bought pasta to canned chicken broth and some spices. You really can't go wrong with soup unless you add a really fatty meat to a broth soup. I don't do cream based soups so that's probably why I can say that.

A Hodgepodge Soup
Serves 4-6 people
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour

1 tbs olive oil
2 large containers chicken stock (can be veggie stock)
3 cups fresh or frozen veggies like carrots, celery, peas, or other traditional soup veggies
1 small onion
3 large cloves garlic
2 large cans kidney beans
1 bunch of kale (washed and cut into small pieces)
1 large can diced tomatoes
1 cup small pasta (like elbows)
1 egg for each serving
Salt, Pepper, and dried basil to taste

Saute your onions in a large dutch oven in the olive oil. Add the garlic when the onions are soft. Add the remain ingredients and simmer over a low flame until the pasta is cooked and the kale is wilted and incorporated into the soup. Add spices to taste.

When you are ready to serve, crack an egg in the bottom of the serving bowl and add the soup on top. Add more stock or water if necessary. Still around to cook the egg.

If you want to make this vegetarian or vegan, use vegetable broth, add more beans, and you could probably throw in tofu. You can also add left over chicken if you want meat.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

A Windy Saturday

Yesterday's weather was wonderfully windy. We're pretty high up so the wind howled all Friday night through Saturday. We woke up today and it is clear and sunny. It was also about 65 so surprisingly warm. I was in bed with a cold but my husband suggested that we drive to Coney Island. He always knows when I should probably get up and do something and suggests and activity that is the exact right speed.

We grabbed the camera, our rain gear and headed out. By that point is was really windy and rainy but there were people out, mostly people like us just out checking it out but there were some groups of tourists! The water was really rough and the sand was snaking its way along the boardwalk beginning to form dunes. We were pretty quickly soaked and covered in a fine layer of sand. We also snapped a bunch of shots but given the rain we didn't want to get the D70 too wet.

While the visual was great it was the sound of Coney Island in a storm that was the most interesting. There was a pervasive, eerie howl of the wind through the cyclone and wonder wheel and a clacking of old metal signs beginning to tear loose. The wind was so strong we had a hard time walking and I began to worry a bit about those old metal signs flying through the air.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Suspending the Work Day, Dinos on the Loose

I am incredibly lucky to work in a very cool place. While my job has nothing to do with dinosaurs they live very close to my office and I often go out of my way to walk through their gallery. The galleries were redone recently and are both archetecturally and curatorially beautiful.

I brought my camera with me on Friday and took some quick shots on my lunch break. Its a crazy place to take pictures. One: It's filled with tourists taking pictures. Two: The sunlight that does come in is very angled and you get highly contrasted pictures. Three: There is glass everywhere and only a few areas have both natural sunlight and no glass. All of these mean that I found it challenging to take pictures until I started to play with the glass. They're not great but they were fun.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

A Tempting Rumor

In early July the coffee shop across the street closed its doors and its been vacant ever since. Since then there has been much speculation on the Brooklyn blogs and in our building as to what would come and we were all very excited to hear that a Vietnamese sandwich shop would open. You, like me, may ask "What is a Vietnamese sandwich?"

A ton of friends expressed their deep and undying love for these tasty morsels and recommended many different places around the city to test them out.

Then we heard that it would be a real estate office and basically forgot about the whole thing. Yesterday a Brooklyn blog, brought up the rumor again and I quickly squeaked "Stop teasing me". Today a number of blogs ran the story and there seems to be more and more support for the idea.

I quickly emailed our neighborhood friends and one of them suggested I try Sidecar on 15th and 5th since they had a Banh - D sandwich. I grabbed the latest issue of the New Yorker (a must for any dinner on one's own) and headed down there. I should start by saying I rarely head south and there are tons of restaurants that looked great and I hope to hit a few more in the coming weeks.

Okay the sandwich. It has a weird list of ingredients: pate, mayo, marinated pork, carrots, cilantro, cucumber, and jalapenos. They put it on ciabatta bread and it comes with a small shot of cucumber juice and its totally delicious. It was a bit clumsy and needed a lighter bread and tangier marinate on the pork but even this admitted imitation of the sandwich left me hoping the latest rumor of a Vietnamese sandwich shop was true.
Link to a review of a Lower East Side Vietnamese Sandwich shop

A Not Surpising Observation

I bill this blog as being about gardening, food, photography and there are many other people out there that write these types of things. When the election heated up many of us wrote not about food but about politics and this was probably an affront to the 50% of the population who do not share our political views. Gardening, food, photography etc are not partisan issues but politics is an area of great divide and disagreement.

In the past few weeks I've noticed some of my favorite non-political bloggers write about losing loyal readers because of their political posts and I too have felt that. I wish that there was a way to tag those political posts and to say "Politically Sensitive Material- Skip if you don't agree with me".

The reality is that most people agree a lot more than disagree and that it's only a few key issues that rile us up and I wish we had a political system where a pro-life and pro-choice person weren't forced to take the good and the bad with their candidate. Do gun owners have to be R's? Do pro-choicers have to be D's? My guess is that on a local level most of us who live the same area agree on just about everything. I'll blame the feds, as usual.

Left, Right, Up, Down

In times of political chaos and confusion I have always relied on my Uncle PG. When Bush was elected I asked what he, being 92 or so, thought about it. I asked him because he'd lived through everything, was a world traveler, and a master of history and geneology, and he could provide some wisdom in the face of chaos. When I asked him about Bush he said "Meg, I just got over FDR."

At the time I intrepreted his remark to mean that a single election was minor in the face of history. If I were to ask him now, after the recent semi- nationalization of the banks, I wonder if he would bring up FDR again. Sadly, I can't ask him as he died a few years ago, weeks after finishing his last book at the age of 100.

The reason I bring up FDR is that his policies changed the relationship of the American government to the people. His new deal solidified the government as inherently Democratic with entrenched ideals of social safety nets and expanded the reach of the government well beyond helping people at crisis points. For PG, this infusion of his tax dollars going to give someone else a job ran against his view of a small federal government and listed us heavily towards socialism.

When Bush was elected, his presidency was sold as a return to small government. What we've experienced is an expansion of the federal government unrivaled in recent history that hits at many different levels of life. The federal bailout of companies and an injection of capital into banks is not unprecended in American history but it runs directly counter to Republican, small government principals. The explosion of the federal department of education and the regulation of individual schools through No Child Left Behind is another example of direct contradiction with Conservatives who call for dismantling of the USDOE. Even the expansion of government powers over women's rights seems to fly in the face of small government.

It feels like the compasionate conservatives are currently socialists and its very confusing. It was a bipartisan effort to get us into the current mess and I think we're all going to come out as leftists in the end.

I wish Uncle PG was here but I have a pretty good sense of what he would say. When the Republicans allied themselves with the Religious conservatives they created the biggest mission creep imaginable. Religious conservatives and Republican conservatives are only really linked by the word conservative and I've never understood why small government proponents link with religious people. We're now at a point of giving federal money to religious groups when religous groups were filling the private niche that old school republicans relied on to provide social services.

So while Republicans may have the rhetoric of small government they have constantly expanded the federal government.

So what distingishes an R from a D? Aside from these social issues it's really hard to tell. I think what I want is a new political party based upon effeciency. What ever is the most cost effective solution to the problem should be chosen. In my mind this would be privitazion of many services, a nationalized health care system (because those are consistantly cheaper with better levels of care), a reduction in federal intrusion into uteruses and marriage ceremonies, increased levels of investment in education especially at the early childhood level, and perhaps a shift to worship the gods of end justifies the means. I'm pretty sure it wouldn't lower the tax burdon but it may shift it to consumption taxes but it would provide more services.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Banking Time

Okay, I admit it. I'm blogging to kill time. I'm not only trying to kill time, I'm trying to bank time. Why? Because it's the finale of Project Runway and despite my complaints that I hate this season, I am still very excited to see who wins. But I can't stand to watch commercials and the debate is on every other channel so I'm blogging.

So to kill time I thought I would tell a little story. I was coming home from a meeting with the head of my organization and she mentioned an episode of Monk. In this episode, Monk is climbing a bookcase to get away from a snake. His assistant points out that he's afraid of heights and he replies "Snakes trump heights" and further explains his heirarchy of fears. Just for context his list goes like this: "germs, needles, milk, death, snakes, mushrooms, heights, crowds, elevators". They all make sense but the true comic genius of the show is revealed in his fear of milk. Who is afraid of milk?

This got me thinking, what is my milk? Most of his list are not irrational fears but milk is totally irrational (now I'm not a loyal fan so maybe this is rational and I just haven't see that episode). So what is my list.

1) The dark- this trumps all fears and is inclusive of all things that thrive in the dark like ghosts, zombies, monsters, boogie man/woman, etc. I have a very active imagination and I have a vivid dream and sleepwalking combo so you could imagine why I slept with the lights on until...well sometimes even now when I'm by myself. I should also note, to make this more irrational that it's not the idea of criminals that makes me scared of the dark, it's unreal things like zombies.

2) Dark Water- This is really a subcategory of the dark and includes all of the scary things of the dark plus the fear of drowning. You can get me to go in the dark but you'll have a really hard time getting me to go in dark water (unless you dare me and then I'll do just about anything to prove a point).

3) Snakes that live in the water- Just the thought of them made my blood pressure skyrocket. I think a fear of snakes is normal but I'm not afraid of most snakes, only snakes in the water. Just the thought of them wriggling through the water...

So there is my milk. The dark, dark water, and snakes. I also don't like watching people kiss on TV, is makes me all grossed out inside.

A Cruel Sick Joke

Despite the fact that it's firmly mid-October it still feels like summer here. Sure the mornings are chilly but the sunlight still warms everything right up and it's been that perfect mid-70s weather for 2 weeks or so. We did have a cold spell and I'm pretty sure we got close to a frost a few weeks ago. Still, STILL, certain plants in my garden are still doing really well.

And do you know what plants continue to do well? Let me assure you that it's not the ones that I like to eat like the green beans or peppers but its the foul and vile tomatoes that continue to plague my window boxes. 1) I have more ripe tomatoes now than I did all summer 2) Most of my tomato plants are dead and have been dead for weeks but the fruit on them continued to ripen and now I'm swamped with them 3) I had a tomato plant come back from the dead. It was not only dead but infested with spider mites and now its all leafy and tall and has the audacity to put out flowers!

In case you don't know, I hate tomatoes. I will eat tomato sauce, salsa, etc but I hate tomatoes when they are at their very height of flavor. I don't know why but I just hate the way they taste. As a very picky child I had a long list of things I wouldn't eat: sloppy joes, tomatoes, avocado, shrimp, cheese, mayo, egg salad, fish, tuna fish especially, and the list goes on and on. The only thing that remains on my list is tomatoes. To my credit, I do try them every year when my husband lovingly prepares them in some way that promises to show them off in their full glory (this year is was with fresh mozzarella and basil from our garden) and every year I make a face, retch, and try to be brave by swallowing them. And every year I hope that something will switch and I'll love them as much as everyone else.

So sure, our garden is mostly done but the tomatoes, they keep coming back from the dead!

Goodbye Blueberry!

On Monday I parted ways with my beloved Blueberry. I got the car right after college and it served me so well. We had been through bad times (and it still smelled like swamp), I became mildly allergic to it due to an incident with an open sunroof and many good times. I often found myself driving down an open stretch of highway, blaring music, singing at the top of my lungs in my shiny electric blue car. During these moments I would reflect on the different phases of my life that the car saw: driving back and forth to my summer internship at the Textile Conservation Shop, the long drive between the UWS and Paterson, not being able to drive the blue car to work on certain Tuesdays because it was gang initiation day and blue was the wrong neighborhood color, driving my new boyfriend down to the beach on the coldest day of the year and watching him demonstrate his lack of stick shift grace, and driving down to DC with the car stuffed full of wedding presents.

When we got the new car, the contrast make me feel like a sophisticated version of myself, with the Blueberry representing the young me and the Grey Streak representing the old me. We kept the Blueberry at my Dad's and it lived there under a big, sappy tree all summer. The battery was dead and it was home to a wide variety of bugs. In the end, it was kind of a mess with no license plates and a very disreptuable patina of summer ook.

On Monday, my day started with my step-brother kindly jump starting the car at 7am and warning me not to turn it off. Then we were off to the car wash where it took them about an hour to scrub the car. They shampooed the carpets but left them soaking so I had to find new carpets since it smelled quite terrible. Then up for an inspection, back to brooklyn to get the extra keys and owner's Manuel, and up to New Haven to be sold. The problem was the traffic. It took me almost four hours to get from NYC to New Haven and by the time I got up there I just wanted to get rid of the car and get my butt on the train.

The nice guy at the dealer took me to the train and I was sailing back to NYC in a hour. In the end I wasn't too sad to say goodbye to the car since it had served me so well. I hope someone (who isn't too allergic to it) enjoys it as much as I did.

Friday, October 10, 2008

My Commute

My commute is pretty easy. Either I walk about a mile to an express train that takes me right to work or walk around the corner and hop on the F Train. I prefer the walk but the F, even with the addition of the A and the B, takes less time. During the past few days I've come home in perfect light and kicked myself for not having my camera. Today, I brought my camera and took some shots. The first one is outside the museum. While the picture is focused on the tree, my office, sheathed in construction netting, is in the back. AMNH is a very old museum and has tons of catacombs and nooks but most of the offices are on the outside with beautiful, huge windows and a view of our park-like surroundings.

Because the weather has been so nice I've been walking down to 59th Street. I took the fire escape picture on Columbus and 76th (right next to the much beloved Isabella's). I thought the pattern of the brick and strong shadows were a nice play. Yesterday at this time, Columbus Circle was bathed in an incredible light and I was hoping to capture that today. Alas there was no nice light and most of my pictures of that area are not worth sharing.

So I headed underground. I transferred from the B to the F so that I could get some shots where the train comes above ground after Carroll Street. When we came out the light was beautiful so I hopped off at the above ground subway stops and took some pictures. At this point I'm close enough to just walk home so after the 4th and 9th Street Stop I head downstairs and catch one last shot of the green subway globe against the fading blue sky.

After such a strenuous day, I headed over to Five Guys to enjoy a little hamburger with extra pickles. MMMM pickles...

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Feeling Freaked Out?

Economically things look pretty bad right now. Add on top of that the beloved Yankees not making the post-season in 17- something years and a series of charley horses in my upper back and calves throughout the night and I'm feeling a little frazzled. I don't know about you but it makes me feel better to try and understand the things that stress me out so I ate a banana, ranted about the Yankees spending too much money on over the hill talent that ruins whatever chemistry the team has built, and sat down to try and find some good sources of information about the economic melt down.

We're at a point in the meltdown where politics and blame have tinged the experts opinion but, like in academics, once you acknowledge the bias, you can get some good information. I have two sources that I found to be helpful. The first is an article from about the idea that giving mortgages to poor people and people of color is to blame for this mess. Specifically, people point to the Community Redevelopment Act. You can take the findings of the article for what they are but the article gives some good history of the CRA and its place in this mess.

Link to Slate article on CRA

The second is another installment of This American Life. They have done a second, hour-long piece on the problem. This goes into much more depth about the problem, specifically the commercial paper market and the credit swap deals. I had no idea what those meant either but my ignorance was quickly remedied.
This American Life Episode

Wednesday, October 8, 2008


So I managed to change how the blog looked. I only partially meant to do that. I wanted to change the picture but then I changed the template and now I'm stuck with the old picture, in the wrong size, in a template that I don't really like. If anyone has any suggestions for how to get back to the old set up that would be great...

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

A Nice Way to Relax

I think the best way to relieve some stress is to do something active that you love. For me that might be a dance class, dinner with friends, or a long walk in the park. Better than just a long walk in the park? A long walk in the park on a beautiful fall day right as the light is perfect and I happen to have brought my camera to work.

I find photography requires just the right level of concentration, not too much that I get a headache trying to focus but not too little that I'm distracted by shiny stuff. Central park is oddly enough not a great place to shoot. I was in the heavily wooded and touristed Ramble I didn't have the right lens to take the really detailed shots that I often take in nature. But I did discover that taking pictures of statues in great afternoon sunlight, as opposed to people playing soccer or rollerblading, is an easy, almost sure thing on a frazzeled afternoon.

I've very much enjoyed taking pictures. I almost feel ready to take the camera beyond auto and maybe experiment with a flash. I think I just need to read the manual or perhaps I can find a Nikon D70 for dummies book. I did discover that iPhoto has some basic editing features that allow me to play with color balance and what not and I've managed to fix a few photos which were too dark.

I'm also thinking of participating in a photo scavenger hunt which I'm sure will make fascinating blog posts now that the growing season in Brooklyn is basically done!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Eat Local Challenge

We're six days into the October Eat Local Challenge and I done an alright job. I have been eating one, sometimes two local meals a day but I have not increased my recipe diversity like I've wanted to.

I eat basically the same thing everyday. Soft boiled eggs for breakfast and a salad with veggies and chicken for lunch. I go out of my way to find local eggs and veggies at the food co-op and can easily find Murray's chicken. The eggs and chicken come from PA and the veggies are still coming from Jersey and NY.

I also went out of my way to choose recipes for our huge open house this weekend that could be made with local products. I made a feast and then at the last minute remembered to include some munchies. The local menu this weekend was:
- Asian Sliced Steak Salad
- BLT salad
- Turkey Chili
- Turkey and Tomato Fritatta
- Black beans, Corn, and Salsa Fritatta
- Tomatoes, Basil, and Mozzarella
- Hoisin and Chinese 5-Spice Chicken Legs

I'm sure there was more but the ingredients for those dishes were locally sourced. I was really hoping for more left overs but a hungry group of I-Bankers showed up around 9 and ate everything in sight.

Unfortunately, we left a few bits of cheese out and when we woke up the next morning the smell of cheese filled out apartment like a fog bank. It was only after opening every window, double bagging the cheese, and thorough dousing with Lysol that we could go out of our cozy, cheesefree bedroom.

Turkey Chili recipe to come!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Red Hook At Sunset

As I was running around last night I took some shots right at the tailend of the sunset. These are of some old train cars that are just sitting on a dock in Red Hook.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Doing My Part

What's a girl to do when looking at pictures of puppies and kittens fails to distract her from the reality around her? When she's given up the sauce for medical science? and Can't eat her beloved Nan bread or bite size Snickers that someone evilly keeps around the office?

Aside from Hari-Kari, the only sensible answer is to go buy shoes. Buying shoes accomplishes two tasks. First it helps to keep the economy afloat by conspicuously consuming and consumer debt (though I used my debit card). Second, it gives me a sense of comfort knowing that people around me have fabulous shoes, or more specifically knee-high boots with a 2 inch heel to look at during their dreary, downward spiral of service that is now the subway system (I want the MTA to know that I, and everyone else who rides the subway, noticed a distinct downtick in service over the past few weeks and cynically expect them to come forward crying poor any day now). It's actually just about retail therapy.

I try really hard not to rely on retail therapy given that psychotherapy, even the kind with electric shocks, is so much cheaper. I often find myself mindlessly wandering stores across Manhattan, carrying around the perfect sweater, dress, bag, only to talk myself out of it usually due to my inability to wait on a line or lack of mental stability to remove my clothing in front of a 180 degree panorama of well lit mirrors. Occasionally though I buy stuff.

Seeking comfort in shopping is deeply ingrained in my soul. I grew up in New Jersey and not just any part of New Jersey, but the land where two major highways connect and malls are born like bunnies in the spring. I once counted and there are six major malls in the 25 minute drive from NYC to my house. Shopping, like Bon Jovi or the rush of cars on the highway, wraps me in the comforts of childhood and I can, for a brief moment in time, find inner peace.

But yesterday, when I set out from work on a mission to find the perfect pair of black, knee-high boots with a pointy toe, fashionable but not trendy, and thoroughly unpractical, I hadn't really anticipated the feeding frenzy that was the shoe store.

I headed out to J.Crew, all ready to pay $300 for the perfect pair of boots. An enabler at the office assured me that $300 for a good pair of boots was a bargain and I believed her because I know that with shoes you get what you pay for. I decided to stop at DSW just to see if they had anything.

I should have suspected from the look of the frazzled security guards that something was up. There were shoe boxes on the floor, people being taken away in handcuffs, and cashiers that looked like they were being force fed Benzedrine.

Oh God, its their annual fall boot sale.

The scene was as vicious as any mall at Christmas time, women grabbing 5-6 boxes at a time, fashionably dressed ladies sitting on the floor yanking up thigh high hooker boots without regard for their exposed crotchal area, and some sad sad sobbing from people without size 5 or 11 feet realized it was just too late for their kind.

But there they were, the perfect boot. In my size. The box just sitting there alone on the shelf. They were lovely and I grabbed the box and clutched it to my chest thinking "These must be really hideous if no one wants them, but I love them." I tried on the 9 and it fit like a glove and I didn't have to grease up my calves or anything to get them zippered.

Now I don't believe in love at first sight or soul mates but yesterday I truly believed that some higher power had not only placed these boots in my path but had built a protective force field, perhaps some sort of Vulcan Kloacking device, to ensure that they were mine.

But then I noticed the brand and it was one of the most expensive brands that they carry. How much was I willing to pay for these perfect boots? I needed to pay my bills but who needs electricity, TV, a car, or maintenance on their co-op when they have the perfect boots?

I've seen a lot of movies where a character's faith is tested and they choose. I was ready. I slowly turned the box over in my hands and the price revealed itself. $120 and I thought, "I should buy these in brown."

But I didn't because the economy is in the toilet.