Friday, December 30, 2011

Kitchen Confidential

The elusive egg poachers.
I love kitchen stuff...any kind of kitchen stuff...but especially unique stuff. I can add the simplest item to my old kitchen and I feel like I've redecorated. So, this week, after the crowds subsided, I took a trip with a friend to a mall I rarely visit - first, to make an exchange and then, to visit stores I rarely if ever go in and, on the top of the list, those 'kitchen' stores. This shopping trip is brought to you by a gift card...yippee!

After taking care of that exchange and a visit to Bath & Body Works, it was onto the 'kitchen' stores...and I was on a mission.   I recently spotted these cool silicone egg poachers in a Solutions catalog and was hoping we would discover something similar.  We struck out at both the Pottery Barn and William Sonoma.  WS had the egg poachers but you had to purchase them with a pan and the entire setup amounted to over $100!  Yikes!   I know I had a gift card but I wanted to make it go a little further than just one pan!
Thermal glass mug, double-side coffee
measure and that crazy spoon that's
also a straw.

This disappointment left us hungry so we stopped at a really great restaurant... McCormick & Schmick's Seafood Restaurant - blackened catfish, steamed rice, broccoli, and curly onions for just $10.  Excellent!  Fortified, we continued our quest.

Bright Red!
Through a drenching rain, we made our way to an area adjacent to the main mall and found Crate & Barrel.  This was the first time I had been in this store (yes, I know, I've been sheltered!) and we went nuts.  Eureka!  They had two types of poachers - silicone and non-stick metal.  At $3.95 each I went for the non-stick.  With my gift card warmed up, I grabbed a shiny new coffee measure, two long-handled spoons that are also straws (wonderful for iced tea), a lidded basket for the bathroom vanity (to hide a ton of 'stuff'), a bright red thermal carafe (on sale!, for my Saturday morning coffee), a bright red tea pot (on sale!), a hand-blown glass mug (I think it goes well with my French press), and a new kitchen timer (with 3 settings!).

I suspect it will be quite sometime before I set foot in a mall again...I'm not thrilled with the crowds or the prices.  So, this adventure of sorts was just that, an adventure.

Tomorrow morning I will treat myself with two poached eggs and coffee in a new mug poured from a shiny red carafe.  It's a good thing to treat yourself well.  It keeps you happy, it keeps you sane, it gives you strength to carry on.  So, while you are treating everyone around you, make sure you don't forget you.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

What was I thinking?!

Nathaniel demonstrates the fine are of
unwrapping to Uncle Ken.
As we move toward the New Year, I'm thinking of resolutions.  Here is my first...do not go shopping the day after Thanksgiving or the day after Christmas.  For the past 20+ years, I have never gone shopping the day after Thanksgiving.  This day is reserved for putting up the tree, decorating the house, and just getting things in order so I can really enjoy 'the view' through December.  No problem.   So whatever possessed me to go to a store today, the day after Christmas?  Was it the ads and the subliminal message they were sending out in the Sunday papers?  Could it have been the traffic report that I only heard part of telling me that traffic was light.  Hmmmmm, I missed that part where they talked about what was happening around the malls.  Or was it that gift certificate from Santa that was calling out to me like a Siren....spend me, spend me, spend me NOW!
Gift wrap from.....Shop Rite!

Whatever it was, I found myself in the Target parking lot, making my way toward those front doors and the super, stupendous, magnificent bargains inside.  Well, those bargains applied, of course, only to the holiday items and some toys.  After picking up what I originally went in for (a coffee carafe and place mats at full price) I did manage to get into the seasonal section and pick out some really nice wrapping paper for next year.  Then onward to the toy area to grab something for a grandson's birthday next month - 30% off these items.  All in all, it was not such a bad excursion.  Not bad until someone grabbed my cart and everything in it while I wasn't looking!  This - after spending an hour gathering all those items.

Something to keep me warm...a beautiful
shawl from a dear friend.
Well, onward to Shop Rite.  Let the resolutions begin!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Waiting for the joy...

To Ron - Happy Birthday
(12/24/49 - 2/11/04)


There he sits, waiting....like all of us - waiting for Christmas, waiting for the joy, waiting for the peace.  I have faith we are not waiting in vane.  I'm looking forward to these next few days - to spend with family, to spend alone, to pray, to think.  I sincerely wish you all the best this season has to offer.  May you enjoy the warmth of your family or the kindness of a friend or the peace you may find in quiet solitude.


Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Dance fever...


My 40+ year old ballet slippers hang in the foyer.
If someone were to ask me what were the best memories of my childhood, I’d probably say they were the hours spent in dance class. In fact, thoughts of those classes come to mind at least three times a week – usually when I’m on my way home from work and pass by the ballet school across from the office or when I take a moment to glance out of my office window and catch a ballerina pirouetting across the school dance floor. When the trees are bare and the sun has gone down, you can see the ballet class practicing in the building across the street.

Not all the moments spent in class were joyful. There were those awkward painful years when the baby fat was holding on for dear life and I was well into my teens. Or those moments spent standing in the stage wings waiting to perform at the annual recital and you were sure the ribbon you had just sewn onto your ballet slippers was about to break...again.  But, for the most part, the 13 years spent in those slippers were loved and cherished.

All those afternoons when Miss Arlene kept nagging us to stand up straight, put your shoulders back and smile did not go to waste;  and the memorizing of routines and the endless practice was not for naught.  All of that did make a difference; it did have an effect.  I know all the dancers out there with 'dancer's feet' will agree with me.

And now that the ballet days are over, maybe I will take those piano lessons I so longed for as a child.

Monday, November 28, 2011

A Kosher Thanksgiving...

(Click on photos to enlarge)

Well, almost.  It all started in the meat department of the local Shop Rite about a week ago around 7 PM.  I thought, if I go do the holiday shopping on a Sunday night, most people would be home watching football and the trauma of the shopping ordeal would be lessened.  Wrong.

Oh, an empty seat at the big table.
Waiter, sparkling apple cider for everyone!





Having a ball, Emmett's hands
fly over the keys.
For the most part, the aisles were passable....until you got near those free birds.  You know what I'm talking about and it's got nothing to do with Lynyrd Skynyrd's Free Bird.  I think I saw several  older women of the gereatric set heaving those frozen winged creatures like  David heaved that stone that took down Goliath.  I was surprised the stock boys weren't armed with pepper spray.  As fast as they were filling the frozen bins, the birds were either being grabbed up or tossed about as customers sought the biggest and best they could find to grace their Thanksgiving table.







Wait a minute!  Is this the same
stuff everyone else had?
This year I was not going for the whole enchilada but was targeting a turkey breast.  Dinner was going to be small and this would cut back on roasting time and cleanup.  I spotted my  prey and swooped down on the biggest breast I could find in that deep frozen cavern and made my way to checkout .  So there I was, all set to bag (love doing my own bagging) when the teenaged checker asks "Is this the turkey you want?"   "No, of course not, I just put that there to take up space" I'm thinking but respond "Yes it is."  Simple, right?  No.
Lisa supervises a duet by Max and Emmett.



"That'll be $135.82."  I'm thinking, that's a little high.  But wait, "Did you take the (free) turkey off?"  "No, it's not free."  What?  Wait a minute!  I've met my requirements!  I have receipts to prove it!  Your honor, let the record show that I have spent at least $300 in grocery purchases prior to this transaction!  "What do you mean, it's not free?"  "It's Kosher.  Kosher turkeys are not free."  "Well, @&*%!"







Max serenades Nan, his great grandmother.
So, with about 10 people behind me, I have a decision to make.  Do I venture through the 'demiliterized zone' and enter the 'front line' to make an exchange while holding up a line of tired, ready-to-get-angry bird shoppers or pay my bill and calmly walk out of the store while the voice inside my head screams 'How could you be so stupid!  Didn't you read the fine print!'  I pay and walk.




Nate, a domino fan.  In the absence of
dominos, Jenga blocks will do.
Reviewing my receipt, I realize this special turkey breast has cost me $23.  I consult my Jewish friends..."So, what's so special about a Kosher turkey? "  They respond..."You'll see.  You're gonna love it."  They were right.  This was probably the best turkey I've ever had.  It was moist and really flavorful...the kind of turkey you imagine serving but have never come quite close to, the kind that you know tastes  as good as it looks in the Norman Rockwell drawings.
Uncle Ken goofs with Emmett.

I truly hope you had a wonderful, peaceful, and 'flavorful' Thanksgiving holiday.  Tomorrow, Kosher turkey on German pumpernickel for lunch!     And by the way, I went back on Monday night for the free turkey.  Hey, after all, it was FREE!

Friday, November 25, 2011

New England Revisit...


(Click photos to enlarge)

A friend recently posted a wonderful photo of a school bus on her blog 'Besoterio' and I immediately had a flashback to a photo I had taken following a week-long photography class in New Hampshire.

This 'school bus thing' got me paging through a number of photos I had taken that week and the beauty of autumn really hit me.











Route over the Squam River, Ashland, NH
View from the covered bridge.
As winter quickly approaches, I hope you enjoy my trip back in time and a last glimpse at colorful fall in an unbelievably beautiful part of our country.    


Make sure to listen for the loons.  Can you hear them?

                                              


                                                                                                         

Motorcycles use caution!





Old hitching post detail.







 





 

Monday, November 21, 2011

Solitaire

(Click on the photos to view large)

A popular fishing spot.

Last week I had the luxury of a few hours to myself. The question of what to do was partially answered by my car dealer.  My one-year old SUV needed a window replaced so that took 2 hours. But, not a total loss, since I was able to get some reading in and concentrate on cleaning my camera equipment.

Pond boat ramp...kept natural
 Then, just before a nice cold rain hit, I was able to head over to Davidson’s Mill Pond Park. It was perfect timing – there were few people there and the area where I’ve wanted to photograph was void of the usual fishermen. No offense to those who fish but I didn’t think they would appreciate my tripod in the middle of their fishing poles and tackle boxes.

Shoreline color.
The shoreline was so quiet, I searched the woods for deer, hoping they would not realize I was there and make a noon time appearance.   Maybe next time.
Quite

It was cold, it was cloudy, it was damp, it was wonderful. Sometimes you just need moments when you are solitary and feel totally alone in your surroundings. These moments help us rejuvenate and enable us to go back to the crazies that surround us; the crazies that too often try to devour us.

Two malard couples...a double date perhaps.
Take advantage, appreciate and enjoy your solitary moments and really see your surroundings.


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Only 5 minutes!?....I'm so there!


2 loaves - one to keep and one to give to mom
Growing up, I vividly recall the hours and great effort my mother put into baking bread - especially for the Easter holiday.  It wasn't just any bread, it was Russian Easter babka that would be blessed along with a number of other food items that were not to be eaten until after the Resurrection.  As the years have gone by, my mother is no longer able to create that wonderful bread; she is unable to read that old handed-down recipe because of failing eyes and her arthritic hands just can't manage to knead that great bowl of dough over and over again to get that just-right consistency.  It's a sad turn of events...bread is a staple in the Russian culture but especially important during the Easter holiday and she took great joy in it's creation.
Nooks and crannies





So, when I came across a reference to artisan bread in 5 minutes a day via a wonderful blog I follow (Chronicles of a Country Girl), I could not help but get excited.  You see, aside from the fact that my time is limited, I'm not one to stand over a kitchen counter, repeatedly kneading and pounding dough just to have it fall flat in the oven.   Artisan bread you can create in 5 minutes a day...too good to be true, right?  But, after taking a look at the cook book, I could not pass up giving this a try.




This project did not go without some effort.  I made sure I had fresh flour (yes, I haven't baked in some time) and fresh yeast and I was glad to find that old pizza stone hidden behind the cookie sheets.  The results were wonderful!  Aside from that heavenly smell of fresh baking bread throughout the house, the finished product was not just beautiful to look at but just so delicious.
Get the butter, quick!

With Thanksgiving dinner around the corner, maybe you'd like to give this a try but, be warned, the book specifically states you should not cut into the bread until it's thoroughly cooled.       I dare you not to!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

A moot point...


(Click photos to view larger)


The path around Bissetts Pond
South River, NJ

Lately I’ve been spending some of my free time hiking in a wooded area near home trying to capture some autumn color and just enjoying what so many of us often fail to notice…..mushrooms, beaver activity or a lone deer if you’re lucky, perfect acorns, sunlight filtering through the trees, peace and quiet….you get the picture.

Pine needs of gold and green sparkle in the sun.

















After reading the information the ranger provided for hikers, I realized I’ve been referring to the area as the ‘woods’ when, in fact, it’s noted as a ‘forest.’  This realization caused me to start questioning what is a ‘woods’ and what is a ‘forest.’  After looking it up on the Internet (Wow, remember encyclopedias!) I came up with about a half dozen different answers and finally considered it a moot point.  But, is it?



Golden leaves catch a spot of sun through the surrounding tall trees.

 When I think of ‘forest,’ I think of Robin Hood and Maid Marian, Bambi, The Black Forest, and that saying ‘You can’t see the forest for the trees.’  Mention the word ‘woods’ and I immediately have visions of Hansel & Gretel and the old witch, Red Riding Hood and the big bad wolf (the same guy that demolished the pigs’ houses), full moons and bats, and some mother shaking her finger at her child, admonishing him not to go into the ‘woods.’  I must confess, walking through the forest alone, I did have an inkling of these ‘woods’ visions for just a moment.




The back of a dying leaf shows
like a topical roadmap.

So maybe it is a moot point.  After all, whether you walk through the forest or the woods, you can still have the same thoughts, still have the same imaginations and still get the same results – beautiful surroundings and peace and quiet.  And if our paths should cross during your next hike, you’ll know me because I’ll be wearing a red hood and looking for Robin Hood.  Oh, I so hope Maid Marian is not around that day!
Silver grass along the shore of the pond.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A walk in the woods...




Location:  Davidson's Mill Pond Park
East Brunswick, NJ






The last time I walked through these woods was about a year ago and that was actually the first time I walked through these woods. Are you following me? Maybe you shouldn’t…you’ll only get lost!




                                                                                 Tall trees along the trail.....














 Life on the damp forest floor.....

I am not a hiker in any sense of the word…but I’m getting better. Last year I learned, AFTER my hike, that the trail is marked by posts with white tips. I also learned that the trail is covered with leaves in the fall making it really difficult to follow - especially if you can't find those posts.  You can imagine my confusion when I turned around after photographing something only to find that I could not find the trail and all the trees and leaves looked the same.

Kim and Joe were here.....

This year, the white-tipped posts are all gone. I didn’t realize this until I traveled a distance down the trail. Fortunately, a kind knowledgeable hiker explained that, for whatever reason, the posts had been removed and replaced by markings on the trees. Two markings, with one elevated to the right, indicates the trail bears off to the right; if elevated to the left, it bears off to the left. Three markings in the form of an inverted triangle indicate you’ve come to a fork in the trail and it’s decision time. And I also learned it gets pretty cool beneath the trees when the sun goes down…logical right? I told you I was not a hiker!

Colors along the shore line.....                                                                              





                                         

The fall colors have not really shown themselves much in central Jersey. I found a tree, here and there that stood out among the green and brown but, for the most part, we are still waiting. I suspect the erratic weather did a number on Jack Frost’s paint pallet and, if and when we do see the reds, oranges, and golds burst forth, it will be very short-lived. Most likely, the winter winds will make a surprise appearance one cold night and knock what color there is off the trees. It will either be that wind or that same person or thing that removed those posts along the trail.

Decisions, decisions....left or right?
When you take your walk in the woods, I hope you catch some warm autumn colors to brighten your cool days and, when you come to the fork in the trail, I hope you choose the path with the most sun. And don’t forget to take a sweater!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Talk, talk, talk, talk.....MUSIC!

I listen to a lot of talk radio.  It goes on at around 6 AM; it’s with me in the car on the way to work as well as through numerous errands.  I basically listen for traffic and weather during the week and then there’s the entertainment value during the weekends.  But sometimes I think there’s too much talk.  The VJs are bombarding you with political rants or sports chatter or some other drivel.  And then there are the social stations yakking it up about who is dating whom in Hollywood or who just got beat up or arrested.  This is followed closely by all those doctors who will take your call and help you solve all your most personal and life-altering problems in just 5 minutes.

Late yesterday realized I had not listened to my IPOD in ages so, during the morning commute, I hit the media button.  Suddenly I was surrounded by Trace Adkins, The Temptations, Lady Antebellum, Aerosmith, David Garrett, and Brooks & Dunn.  The commute magically changed.  It was no longer a traffic jam with cars vying for better positions but a dance…allemande left, grand right and left.  The highway became a black satin ribbon weaving its way past the college campus and along the river.  The storm clouds passing through took on a dramatic effect as the sun poked through.  Even the birds had a different attitude.


 
Music plays a big part in our lives.  It can alter our mood in a matter of seconds.  It can keep us in shape and get us through illness.  We fall in and out of love to its melody.  Its mathematical features can change our heart beat.  It’s the rhythm around our existence.  Don’t forget the music in your life!


Photos:  CB Radio at The Brook,
              Boundbrook, NJ
              www.cbrtruckstop.com

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Back to the garden...

A Macro Flowers Saturday entry...See: Macro Flowers Saturday AND
A Weekend Flowers entry...See: Tina's PicStory (please click on each photo to enlarge)

Well, I have been remiss. Earlier this year, in the spring, I told myself I’d get over to Rutgers Gardens at least once a week to photograph. Needless to say, this is a promise I failed to keep.  When I stopped by late last week, the fact that I had not been there really hit home and I realized how much I had missed as the gardens transformed themselves through the spring/summer seasons. Not only have the flowers, plants, trees, and shrubs gone through their growth spurts but the Garden crew has added a number of ornamental urns and fountains. I have missed so much!








               Green Jug....As shot 
vs.  Vintage...



But, when you go to the Gardens, it’s not just the scenery that’s interesting - there’s the people. Quite often I’ve had the pleasure of meeting photographers, students, gardeners, and just people taken with the beauty and interest of the Gardens. On this particular Thursday, I had the pleasure of meeting Victorio Loubriel (http://findarticles.com/p/news-articles/new-york-amsterdam-news/mi_8153/is_20090730/victorio-loubriel-proud-harlemite-dedicated/ai_n50910889/), a photographer, civil rights photo essayist, and documentarian – and it must have been fate.  I was at that point where I was becoming board photographing flowers; it was humid, the NJ State Bird (mosquito) was starting to make its presence known and I was ready to pack it in. Then he started to talk to me about ‘seeing’ – something I had completely lost touch with. ‘See’ things differently, look at an object from all angles, look for the ‘unique’ or ‘odd’ or unusual. Stop shooting the everyday, run-of-the-mill stuff that people expect you to shoot. Kick it up a notch, see it different, do it different!

So I didn’t leave the Gardens right then. I spent at least another hour there – an hour when I threw out the ordinary and began to view things differently. I forgot about the humidity, the mosquitoes, and my
back pain and I had fun.  The passion was revived. And, now that winter is approaching, I’m not too concerned about not having those beautiful flowers around to photograph. I’m going to make my best effort to look for the unique and out-of-the-ordinary stuff.  Hopefully, this will be a promise I do not break!
Under the orange umbrellas.








Friday, September 23, 2011

Stella!

A Macro Flowers Saturday entry...See: Macro Flowers Saturday    AND
A Weekend Flowers entry...See: WeekendFlowers           (please click on each photo to enlarge)


The garden is gone...tomato plants pulled, cucumbers pulled, flowers cut back.  As I went about my work this past weekend, I kept thinking that maybe, just maybe, it was way too early to get rid of everything.  However, when you work, you need to do things efficiently so I proceeded to cut.

 
But, as I rounded the corner of the garden with my new long-handled clippers, there stood one single Stella de Oro Daylily.  Pristine, no bugs, no marred petals - just perfect.  Out came the camera, the tripod, and my new macro lens and the clipping and cutting and pulling took a backseat for 45 minutes while I marveled over Mother Nature's beautiful work.
And then some clouds rolled in and evening came and that chill filled the air.  You know THAT chill...the one that says 'I'm here to stay for awhile' and 'You better think about bringing your sweaters down from the attic' and 'Do you have an extra blanket ready for tonight?'  The thought hit home that those days of ultra-warm sun, summer blue skies, and long hours of daylight were quickly coming to an end.  Sort of depressing, huh?  But aren't you glad we have photos to recall all this beauty!






Farewell mellow yellow, so long Stella...I will see you in the spring.....clip.