Monday, January 24, 2011

On Challah, fun with friends and cameras, and being Jewish

I present to you these completely unedited photos, interwebs, because sometimes I think it's important to see how things look straight out of the camera. I took these with my point and shoot camera, a Canon S90. Andrew and Chad came to visit this weekend, and we all had a great discussion about how many cameras one should have. Steph doesn't understand why I NEED multiple cameras and lenses. Andrew and Chad understand that it's necessary to have at least one point and shoot, at least one DSLR, and a variety of different lenses for different shooting situations. And this is why we are friends.

Having Andrew and Chad here was wonderful. It made me so happy to be with them. Last week was a particularly difficult one, and it felt good to relax, eat, and laugh a lot. I made a challah to have with our roast chicken on Friday night, and it turned out great. I used my mom's recipe, which was very easy to follow. As I was kneading my dough, I felt very connected to my mother, my grandmother, and my great-grandmother, all expert challah makers in their own right.

I'm reading a book right now called Living A Jewish Life, because I feel very disconnected from my Judaism and I want to think about ways in which I can incorporate Jewish customs and rituals into my daily life. I watched Shoah, a 9 hour documentary about the Holocaust, over MLK weekend and it got me thinking about how important it is, on both a personal and historical level, to carry on Jewish living and traditions. Most of the people interviewed in Shoah have already passed away and soon the last living Holocaust survivors will be gone as well-- a frightening thought. I think about how important Judaism was to those in the Holocaust and now, only 2-3 generations later, for most Jews who are not Orthodox, Jewish living is not a priority or even something that we think about. So yeah, connecting with my religion and heritage is something that I am exploring right now.

The other photos are of flowers Steph got for me as an early birthday present and to cheer me up. I am especially enamored with the white flowers pictured. I'm not sure what they are, but they are very unique and beautiful.

Wow, this post is all over the place. Oh well, my blog-- I do what I want!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Reality Check

I've been taking and editing a lot of photos with my iPhone lately because I don't have a decent camera bag and so it's annoying to lug around my DSLR. I am hoping to get this bag, the delicious navy striped one, for my birthday. There are so many great iPhone camera and editing apps out there, but I find that I usually stick with Camera+.

Here are some recent iPhone photos. The cocktail photo is an Old-Fashioned I had at Woodberry Kitchen last week. It was supposed to be made with Rye, but I requested Woodford Reserve instead because I'm on a total bourbon kick right now. For the arrow sign, I was playing around with depth of field. I took that one at Red Tree in Hampden. A photo of Louis napping was, of course, necessary to include. He's so cute it's unbearable.

Remember yesterday when I said my plants were living but not thriving? Yeah, well I kind of feel that's an accurate description of me right now too. I think I, along with many other people from what I can tell, am experiencing some sort of post-Holiday winter slump. It feels like Spring is so far away. I want to spend more time outside, but the wind and cold bite at my face. I constantly daydream about camping and kayaking. I have a lot of work to do, but I am having trouble finding the motivation to do it. I need to work on building a site for my photography, but I feel completely overwhelmed by the task. Jess lent me a book months ago and I haven't even read the first page. I haven't been sleeping well.

But I also feel guilty about feeling crappy. I have a good life, I can't control the seasons, so I should just muddle through. Apparently children get shot outside of grocery stores now, so part of me feels like I have no right to complain . Of course, I know that's silly. Life is about balance and everyone has positive and negative thoughts. Not every day, week, or season is going to be fabulous.

I just want to put this out there into the web world: I read a lot of blogs, and no one wants to be negative, and so it's easy to fall into the trap of thinking that everyone is living the good life but you. These people are going places! They have nice things! Everything they cook is perfection! I know that my blog can seem that way too sometimes. Well, right now I feel pretty shitty and last night I had a major poached egg fail while making dinner. This morning I woke up to cat vomit on the stairs. That's day-to-day reality. People aren't looking for reality. That's why we watch TV, read books, and surf the web incessantly. We're looking for something to aspire to, to take us out of what we feel is the monotony of our lives. Days and weeks pass and sometimes nothing exciting happens. We all want to put our best foot forward, and cat vomit is no one's best foot.

I am a happy person; I am a positive person. I look at things carefully and often and I usually find a lot of joy in them. I think that's why I love photography so much. I enjoy recording the world as I see it. There is a negative, darker side to that aspect of myself though. It means that I am constantly cleaning because I see every little speck of dust. Sometimes I get a sort of stimulus overload and need to spend an entire day doing nothing because I've overwhelmed myself by looking at and thinking about my personal environment so much.

I guess sometimes in order to see the good in the world that you want to see, you need to step back, close your eyes, and take a nap from it all, give your eyes and brain a break. I think animals that hibernate in the winter have the right idea.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The one where I get a new winter hat

We got our first real snowfall last night, so I thought I'd post an appropriately winter-themed photo.

Steph knit me this hat as a Christmas present. It has owls on it! She used this pattern, free on Ravelry. The yarn came from our trip to Boston last year for my birthday, I believe from Newbury Yarns.

Let's see, what else...

1) Check out Chad's blog, full of his iPhone photography. Inspiring stuff.

2) I hate snow and I'm starting to hate winter too. You can't really camp in the winter and that makes me sad. My skin is dry and it gets dark too early. Snow is not fun as an adult. It equals mess and work. It's pretty when it's falling, but then it becomes ugly and needs to be removed. Those are my complaints of the day.

3) On the positive side, I received a TON of cookbooks for Christmas, both from my mom and Steph's mom, and I am super excited to start trying out new recipes. My goal is to cook at least 2 new recipes a month.

4) I want this, like BAAAAD.

5) I think I want to start a Tumblr page, because all the cool kids are doing it. It would mostly be an outlet for me to post photos of cats and goats. You may think that's sad, but I think it's AWESOME and you can't convince me otherwise.

6) I've given some serious thought to my love for owls, and I think the root of it is The Labyrinth. I loves me some David Bowie in that movie. As a child, I rented The Labyrinth on a weekly basis. Remember when you had to actually GO to the VIDEO STORE to rent movies? And you HAD to return them within 2-3 days?! CRAZY TIMES!

7) I have over 600 photos to look through and edit, so thus ends this blog post.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

First visit to Terrain at Styer's in 2011

Happy New Year!

My goal for this blog in 2011 is to continue posting on a regular basis and to switch over to Wordpress so I'll have more artistic control over the layout of the site.

Steph's sister came to visit us for a week and was with us on New Year's Eve. I made paella, Jess and Mike came over, and we ate a lot of food and all played Wii karaoke. Danika left to go back to the Cape last Friday and the house is quiet now without her. I miss her, but I enjoy having my study back. We spent the weekend putting away our holiday decorations and cleaning.

I haven't had any coffee in two days and my brain feels all fuzzy. Argh...

While Danika was visiting, we took her to Terrain at Styer's. I know I post about Terrain every few months or so, but it's just such a beautiful and special place. I love visiting at least once each season. I always leave wanting to fill our house with plants, but then I remember that the cats destroy every plant we bring into the house. I am currently working on keeping a few ferns and a hibiscus alive(brought in from the porch, where they lived during the summer), and am having mediocre results. They are living, but not thriving. The cats have only knocked them over twice, so I suppose that's a plus.

A few photos from our day trip to Terrain. Even in winter, lots of plants-- Amaryllis, Paperwhites, and terrariums filled with gorgeous baby Begonias and African Violets.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Pear Dutch Baby Pancake

We had this for breakfast on Christmas morning. I like to make it for special occasion breakfasts because it's Steph's favorite. It is perfect for 2-4 people. Any more than that and you'll need to start using multiple pans, which is a total pain. Here is the recipe I use, which I adapted from Martha Stewart.

Pear Dutch Baby (adapted from Martha Stewart)

Serves 2-4

* 1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
* 1 Bosc pear, peeled and cut into thin slices
* 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom (or cinnamon, in a pinch)
* 3 large eggs
* 3/4 cup milk
* 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
* 1/4 teaspoon salt
* 1 tablespoon confectioners' sugar


1. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Heat a well-seasoned 10-inch cast-iron skillet (or oven-safe pan) over high heat. Add butter. When melted, add pear slices. Cook until softened and lightly golden, about 2 minutes. Stir in cardamom, and remove skillet from heat.
2. In a separate bowl, whisk together remaining ingredients, except confectioners’ sugar, until smooth. Pour over pear mixture. Bake until puffed and brown, about 20 minutes. Slide pancake onto a serving platter. Serve immediately, cut into wedges, with confectioners’ sugar sifted over the top.

The pancake sort of deflates the longer it's out of the oven (this photo was taken moments after I took the pan out of the oven). Don't be concerned-- that's totally normal. Experiment with different fruits and spices!