Wednesday, March 25, 2009

A Week Or Two In Pictures

The American Visionary Art Museum


Rowan Turns One

Zebulin Showing Rowan How It's Done

Ro Having None Of It

Federal Hill Park

Sonora's Favorite Game - Washing Dishes

Dinner for 13 (including the in utero Carroll Baby G. and the Shaffer Twins)

Perplexed and Horrified at The Claw (pictured above)

Baltimore's Inner Harbor

Kites On Federal Hill

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

It's been a doozy of a week, or two, or three. Some pleasant things like parties and visitors happened, then there were unpleasant things like more business trips (plural) and stressful deadlines and big decisions. I have pictures of the pleasant things. They might get edited and posted tomorrow. Tonight we're curling up with Sushi and The Wire and just each other. See ya later.

(Illustration by Kerri Smith)

Monday, March 16, 2009

Caring About The Environment

Somewhere on the web a while ago I ran across an article stressing the importance of an environment for the creative/inspirational process. It could be a coffee shop or it could be a desk and it could be with or without music but everyone does, or at least should, be able to define their optimum environment. I started to feel all weird and amateurish because I have not noticed that I'm more productive in one place than another. Is it true, does everyone else have a set place they work best in? I work on the couch, I work in bed, I work at the dining room table with Zeb and Valerie playing poker beside me, I work at the Irish pub down the street. I began to wonder how much more effective my efforts would be if I had my own defined environment. When I saw this little gem on Craigslist I knew I had found it - the key to productivity. The boy disagreed. He brought up several valid points, one being that I had decided my allowance this month would go to a breadmaker, not to an old cabinet. Also, the look did not match the antique/wood/warm thing we've got going as a general, haphazard style. I knew that underneath the reasoning he just thought, from the picture on Craigslist, that it was ugly. I disagreed back that warm/wood/antique might start to get a little fusty looking and we needed some chrome. Specifically, a 50's style medical desk in teal and black. When I brought it home that night Zeb took one look at it and informed me he was taking it over for his own. He likes it after all.

But it's mine, all mine, all set up exactly how I like it. When I look up, directly ahead, I see Marjoram. Which is always an inspiring thing. Some of you like to know prices and this is a deal I'm particularly proud of. I found it listed at $50 and did not even try to talk them down. Axon said she saw my desk's beat-up twin in an antique shop for $250 last week. I've spent a lot of time at this desk since I got it. I won't say whether that time has resulted in increased productivity or just reading the entire GFY archives. I'll just say I'm very happy with my environment.

P.S. In writing this post I became increasingly confused about the everyone/everybody they/him/her issue. I found this to be an interesting article on the ambiguous subject.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Love Your Liver

A Portrait: Liver and My Sister

Over at Prepare to Eat it is Love Your Liver Month. The challenge is three -tiered depending on your liver aversion/acceptance level and I highly suggest you check out her program.  Marianne gives reasons for eating liver that I support, but only vaguely remember. There are vitamins A-Z, antioxidants, copper and iron and etc. (remember in My Side of the Mountain where the boy living in the wild gets malnourished and he has the good sense to eat a rabbit liver and it saves his life? That might, deep down, be where it all started for me). But all ideology and nutrition aside, I just like the taste. If you have a strong aversion to the word 'liver' please stop reading. I understand; my dearly beloved and my co-worker Sarah both really do throw up a little in their mouths when I mention that I'm making it for dinner, so I get that there are physical reactions that trump reason. Maybe someday we can talk, when you're ready, but the following is really just for people who are game to try.
As a kid I had this uncanny knack for singling out both the most expensive and the most exotic thing on the menu without realizing it. Ostrich burger simply sounded better than Hamburger. I could be wrong (Mom, correct me) but I vividly remember my first encounter with liver at The Grand Canyon Lodge at the age of 8 or so.  The usual fare of chicken tenders and chicken pot pie was all running together before my eyes and then I saw Liver and Onions. I didn't know it was something only grandparents ate and everyone else thought was weird/disgusting, it just caught my attention so I ordered it, and I loved it. And I've loved it ever since. I have a recipe that I kind of swear by. It has converted a few agnostics (Reeds, Wierengas, Parkers, and you, hopefully, if you're still reading and you try it).  It comes from a fantastic cookbook that Melanie gave me for my wedding called The Ultimate 30 Minute Cookbook. I've made it with both calves and chicken livers. It's called Liver With Honey (though it's not sweet, there's plenty of vinegar bite). It goes like this:

1# Chicken or Calves Liver (I do recommend as natural/organic as you can get, we get ours through our CSA and since for some reason it's not in high demand and it's only $3.75 a pound.)
2 Tablespoons Butter
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
2 Tablespoons Sherry Vinegar or Red Wine Vinegar
2-3 Tablespoons Chicken Stock
1 Tablespoon Honey
Salt and Ground Black Pepper

Preheat the oven to a very low temp, 200 degrees or so. Rinse the livers and pat dry.  Season with salt and pepper.  Dust with flour.  Melt 1 T butter and all the olive oil in a skillet over high heat. When heated through add the liver  and cook for 1-2 minutes for the first side, until lightly browned, then turn over and cook for another 1 minute.  Transfer to an oven proof dish and put the liver in the oven just to keep warm. Stir the vinegar, stock, and honey into the same skillet.  Boil for about a minute stirring constantly then add the remaining 1 T butter and stir until it melts. Spoon over the liver slices and serve warm!

Do let me know if you try it and like it. Or if you don't like. I wanna know that too.  

Monday, March 9, 2009

CSA Time

I haven't talked as much about my CSA as I expected, and that is too bad because it is the best thing that has happened to my kitchen since wedding gifts. I really could go on an on about it, so I will. I bring it up because CSA's are taking new members right now, and the best ones will be full soon. We just renewed for this summer and I would hate to be the only one geekily gushing about gorgeous tomatoes for the next six months.

The most obvious reason to join is the quality of the produce. You might or might not care about the ethics of buying local, or believe that pesticides are any worse for you than the chlorine in the tap water, but when it comes down to taste (the only thing that might convince my father), this stuff is the real deal. Those carrots above taste more carroty than a carrot. And they are really really orange. They are gorgeous. I still can't believe I'm using words like that for vegetables. But really, they are striking, and because I hope you think so too, I will share a good number of the thirty pictures I took of them throughout this post.

Common objections to joining a CSA - you have to pay upfront, and all at once it's a big chunk of change. I maintain that the CSA is cheaper in the long run than going to the Farmer's Market every week and picking things out individually. In fact, for some reason, the $18 a week that the cost of the CSA breaks down to has somehow ended up dropping our grocery bill by about $30-$40 a week. We're eating much better for less. Of course there is no getting around the fact that organic and local will always be a bit more expensive than produce at Wal-Mart. I am encouraged though, that by cutting costs in other ways (less meat, more lentils) we can still afford the higher-quality, more nutrient dense produce (do I sound like Marianne or what? I basically just stole that from her blog). Another complaint leveled against CSA's is the lack of choice and variety. You get a bag of whatever the farmer has ready that week. I, for one, get easily overwhelmed if I have too many choices so this actually works out better for me. I love having a place to start when I begin menu planning each week. It's kind of like putting together a puzzle (I rely heavily on for this) trying to figure out what you can make with cauliflower, nasturtium blossoms, and the half tub of creme fraiche sitting in the fridge. You might get turnips three weeks in a row, but really there are a hundred different ways to fix them. I think we were stuck in a deeper rut pre-CSA, now we've tried vegetables we never even knew existed, much less would have picked out if we had a choice. We discovered we love rutabagas, a funny little root that we had never heard of six months ago!I glossed over it above, but to me the most significant reasons to join a CSA are political/ethical ones that I am very ill equipped to summarize. They have to do with the true cost of food vs. government subsidized food, it has to do with community and the commitment you make to the farmer who is (loosely) your neighbor. You're in it together - if his crop fails you don't get your food. You share the burden. But now my dad has stopped reading because he just wants to know where he can get the tastiest, cheapest steak. Which, actually, is probably through some kind of local buying club. And buying clubs are often attached to CSA's so...

If I sold you but you don't know where to sign up punch in your zip code here.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

The 50 States Project

I love projects like this that take the big mash-mash of being American and break it down. I'm constantly amazed that under one nationality life and people are so different coast to coast. Fifty photographers in fifty states, four projects stretched out over year. The first assignment - People - just went up. The ones that hit me hardest were, of course, the states I have lived in.



I did not understand how Maryland's  captured the essence of this great state I live in now. I feel misrepresented. 

Other favorites:



Wednesday, March 4, 2009

New Book: A Homemade Life by Orangette

I gobbled up this book over the weekend. I rave about it here.

Monday, March 2, 2009

One More Year

By Sana Krasikov.

Not exactly a new book, but one worth reading nonetheless. My thoughts on it over at Blogcritics.
Also, my new Tumblr.