Sunday, September 30, 2007

Goodbye Soundpost

Tonight we went to the almost-empty Soundpost, where I bought some Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera paper dolls for my dad's birthday present. (Hope he's not reading this!) We will miss the Sunday night shows where people actually listened to the music. I think my favorites were last week's show with Matt Rock (this is my favorite picture that Jon has taken of a musician) with Ben Russell (from New York), and Dylan from Groupo Esperanza; Jack Ohly, Jacob Mitas and Joshua Marcus (from Philly?), and Micah Blue Smalldone and Christopher Teret. There has been so much good music there and we will miss it a great deal.

On another note, isn't it funny how we sometimes feel shy around people, and so we never talk to them, and then right before they move away, we realize that they are quite nice and friendly actually?

best party ever:

Last night, at our semi-new place. I think it was one of the best parties I've ever had, and definitely the best in our new place. Lots of great people, NO SPILLS!, great music, great munchies (thanks to Peter Smith for the apple galette), and dancing. Well, at least I was dancing. I think Maggie took some very Maggie-like pictures, so I'll see if I can post them here when she puts them on her flickr.

1. At some age people start bringing their beer and immediately put it in the fridge (as opposed to keeping it near them in a bag or such). Our friends span an age of about 30 years, so this is very interesting to watch. I have not figured out the exact age yet, but I think it's around 26?
2. Apparently top-shelf liquor= no hangover, or so we hear-- we're not quite there yet! But our friend Alex brought over some Cold River Vodka, made here in Maine from Maine potatoes. I did not try it, as I had already mixed the grape and the grain, and did not want to throw root veggies in there as well! Alex had quite a bit of the potato, and was up kayaking this morning.
3. There are some people that you really want to like. And you do, so you invite them to a party. Then you meet them when they're drinking.
4. No one can really tell that you mopped your floor before they came over, and then, after the party, you have to mop it again.
5. If you are sick and trying to be a trooper and go out, people can still tell you're sick, and they will wonder why in the hell you are out.
6. Everybody likes The Cure
7. In a city like Portland, everyone really does know everyone else. (And you really have to watch what you say.) Everyone that showed up to the party seemed to know half the people there, and yet, I would say that I did not know half the people at the party. It's always interesting in a city this size to take note of how many women in your living room have dated the same men as you. Yikes! But I guess that's part of the charm of our lovely city.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Fall is the time for cozy, and cozy=homemade soup!

Once you learn how easy it is to make a good homemade soup, you will never buy another can of soup. (I'll bet it's been 5 years since I bought one!)

So, for a normal sized pot of soup, you start with a mixture the French call a mirepoix: a couple of onions, carrots and sticks of celery (formally a 2:1:1 ratio, but it all depends on size), and saute in butter or oil with some salt. There is no hard and fast rule here--it depends on what is in the fridge. Don't skip this step, though, because it really adds a lot o flavor to any soup. Throw in your bay leaf while you're doing this, as well.

Next, you need some broth. I am a vegetarian, so I use one of 2 things: for soups that would use a chicken broth, I use this vegan broth powder that my old roommate's sister would send her from Italy, called Brodo. It is delicious, and if I ever go there I am stocking up. Otherwise, use any broth powder, just watch out for sodium content and adjust your salt adding, as most broth powders and canned broths are very salty.

For soups that want a beefy broth, here is my little trick:
In my freezer lives a large zip-loc bag. In this bag go the parts and skins that we remove from onions, tomatoes, garlic, carrots, potatoes, beets, peppers, and other non-bitter vegetables. When the bag is full, dump it in a pot and cover with water. I usually throw in a handful of lentils and a splash of tamari, and if I happen to have it, a spoonful of tomato sauce or paste and a splash of red wine. Bring to a boil, then simmer for about 30 minutes to an hour or so. Strain well, and there is your broth. This goes very well with Moosewood's French Onion soup. I usually try to have some of this broth in the freezer in plastic containers.

With the combination of the mirepoix and the broth and a bay leaf, you are good to go--anything from here on out is easy as pie (that comes later). Search the internet for recipes, but usually with soups, I just put whatever stuff needs to be used up in the pot, then find some matching herbs to add just before serving, and it comes out lovely and cozy. Hopefully this is enough direction--I am just not a recipe follower when it comes to soup!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Global warming, eh?

Last week of Sept. and it was 90 degrees yesterday! Now, I work in the environmental field, and am totally concerned about global warming, and do what I can to try and reduce my carbon footprint. But, you gotta do what you gotta do. I rode my bike to my friend Jed's house and played in the sprinkler! And, I am a little bit excited about wearing my new summer dress before next year. (Maybe to the amazing Sontiago's new CD release party!) I got it for $10 at Marshall's on clearance, considering fall...was here.

Back to reality: I am also excited that in the past few weeks I have had more and more conversations with total strangers at the grocery store, farmers' market, coffee shop, etc, about our current administration, and it is giving me hope. Apparently George Bush doesn't need to be bothered with the UN workshops on global warming, or any binding international treaties. But, he'll make it to the dinner. Cause he really needs a free meal.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Fashion help wanted:

Jon and I are both in the market for a new pair of sneaks. I am needing some all-purpose sneakers, good for wearing to the gym, power walks, my ridiculous attempts at playing tennis, etc. The problem is, all I find are really dorky sneakers. The fashionable ones do not feel like they'd be very useful when I put them on. There is not much arch support, and I really would not want to bounce around a court on them.

These are nice:

or these, for that retro feel:

I have to say, I really can't get into that super-dorky early 80's thing too much, cause, well...I already lived through that.

Anyway, here is what I end up finding that is actually functional:

It seems that lately many things have bridged the gap between fashion and function, so I would assume that sneakers have, too, no? So, any suggestions?

Low-budget apartment decor

About a year ago, I decided that it was time to step up my apartment decor. Time to get a little hipper, and get rid of some of the old stuff still lingering from my hippie college days (not posting any of those pictures!) I looked for some nice decorative pillows and could not find anything I liked in my price range. Then I found these cloth napkins, bought some pillows at Pier One (it was summer, so they had these hideous Christmas pillows for $1 each), and with my meager sewing skills, created these:

I was pretty happy with them, and they ended up being about $8 each. I was quite happy when Jon and I happened to find this awesome couch (that matches the pillows!) in the "as is" room in Ikea for about $200 off because of a 2 inch tear in the back at the bottom.

Help wanted:

Jon and I are not allowed to paint in our new place. And everything is white, white, white. I feel like I am in a hospital. We are on a very low budget these days (until I find my dream job), but we desperately need to get some color in our lives. The bedroom is the worst. Jon, God love him, bought a BEIGE bedspread when he was single. And his incredible photos are mostly black and white. So, we need some color on our walls! Any suggestions are welcome.

Speaking of color, here are some collages I made in my old place that have brought some color to our living room:

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Gourmet Coleman Creations, part 2

Nothing beats fresh vegetables when camping, except maybe homemade pesto. (OK, a tray of hot homemade lasagna would be fantastic, but let's be realistic.) There are some vegetables that travel well and do not take a very long time to cook. Onions, zucchini, summer squash, and green beans keep well and are not easily smashed. Root vegetables fit into this category as well, but take an awful long time to cook on a camp stove.

Now for the homemade pesto part. Whip up a batch of pesto at home before you leave for your trip. You might even try freezing it in an ice cube tray and putting the cubes in a plastic zip-loc bag in your cooler, which will serve to keep everything else cool while adding to the life of the pesto.

Despite what many people think, pesto is very easy to make, and much cheaper and more delicious than store-bought pesto, no matter how fresh it claims to be. Plus, when you make it at home, you can make it just the way you like.

If you live in Portland, a stop at Micucci's is a necessity. There you can pick up huge bunches of basil for around $1.50, enough pine nuts to get the job done, and a variety of parmesan, reggianos, and other hard cheeses. If you do not have enough olive oil at home, you can get some here as well (please, use only the good stuff, it's not worth it t.o skimp on olive oil. Extra virgin only.) Heck, while you're here, you might as well take advantage of some of the best wine prices in town (two good extremely affordable, AKA cheap, wines that I love are Mommesin's Baton de Reglisse Syrah, which is about 4.99, and La Vielle Ferme, which is about 6.50 there compared to 7.50 or 8 bucks at Wild Oats.) Oh, and in case you haven't heard, the baker from Sophia's is there now. I have not been fortunate enough to actually get there in time to get some of his bread, but Sophia's had some of the best bread in town. One last Micucci's recommendation: their deli cheese is incredible, especially for the price. Whenever I pick up a half pound of mozzarella slices, only a quarter pound makes it home.

So, you get home with the Micucci's loot, get out your belnder (a food processor works even better) and get to work. You might want to put some Pavarotti on the CD player and pour yourself a glass of that wine. Wash the basil (my $5 Ikea salad spinner is great for this) and remove the stems. (Put those in the broth bag in the freezer that you will start after reading a future blog about homemade soups.) Put the basil in your blender, about halfway full, then pour in some olive oil. Toast about 1/4 cup of pine nuts on medium-low heat on the stove or in the microwave for about 45 seconds. Then dump these on top. You can start blending any time. Making pesto in a blender takes patience and is a bit messier than a food processor, but who can afford one of those?

Shred about 1/4 cup of the parmesan cheese (or reggiano, or whatever you bought in that realm of cheeses). Dump that in the blender, top with some salt, pepper, and a small sprinkling of crushed red pepper. You will probably need to keep adding more olive oil so it will blend. Also, helping things along with a spatula will be necessary, if you have a $2 yard sale blender like mine.

When things are all saucy, you're done. A hint: my pesto almost always needs more salt. I just taste it with a spoon until it's to my liking. When it is to my liking, I will want to eat it with a spoon.

And voila! You are done.

Now, for the camp meal:
can of white beans
some leftover whole-wheat (much more flavorful than white) couscous from the night before
some sauteed zucchini and onions

Cook this all up together, serve it to your buddy with a glass of that red (white wine doesn't stay cold when camping), and watch the sun set. Marvel at how life is good to you.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Gourmet Coleman Creations

I have discovered a new love: fancy camp cooking. An emergency trip to Target the day we left for our 12 day trip found me with a brand new Coleman stove , and it might just be my favorite purchase yet (in addition to the admitting-I'm-over-30 purchase of an air mattress).

Oh, the creations I made!

My favorite breakfast was a pan full of Migas, (Mexicali eggs) inspired by my favorite Louisville restaurant, the North End Cafe, which sprung up a few years ago back in my old neighborhood. The North End uses mostly local and organic ingredients to prepare delicious meals and great coffee, and serves it up with all the charm you would imagine of a southern neighborhood eatery. Of course, there was no restaurant like this in Clifton in the old days, but, like many old neighborhoods that your parents moved out of as they moved up in the world, it is now the hip place to live. I can't believe how that neighborhood has changed. (By the way, I have to note a place that has always been a Frankfort Ave. staple, Bussmann Bakery. The best place to go trick-or-treating on Halloween--every kid's dream. You should go there and support a long-time local business.)

Back to the camping trip: Groceries on Cape Breton Island, as I have noted before, are very expensive, so we brought some things with us, bought a few things there, and forgot some things. Eggs, when packed responsibly, travel quite well, as do chips and salsa, and, though Jon would never admit it, cheese. Oh yes, and cooking oil, which is indispensable when doing the Coleman Gourmet thing.

So, here is a step-by-step guide on preparing Migas at a tentsite:

1. Go ask some neighbor campers if they have some cooking oil you could use, as you forgot that. Choose the ones that look like they brought their whole house, as they will happily oblige, since they are probably embarrassed about their ridiculous amount of things.
2. Toast some cumin powder in the oil over, well, whatever heat you are able to maintain with the wind on the beach and the fact that you are using a small propane tank (preferably medium heat). The cumin toasting smells really good and makes all your camp neighbors really jealous, as they are all probably eating instant oatmeal.
3. Whisk some eggs with a quick pour of half-n-half and some salt and pepper. Cook the eggs, stirring often, although they will stick anyway, as you are going to be using some cheap-o aluminum camp frying pan which you will not be able to wash for a while. Eggs get their fluffiest when cooked slowly over low heat, but this is camping, you are hungry, and low heat is hard to maintain on a Coleman when it is windy.
4. When the eggs are about halfway done, add some tortilla chips, salsa, and cheese. Stir some more. This is a good way to use up tortilla chips that have been crushed in the bag that got stuck underneath your guitar and map and pound backpack.
5. Eat right out of the pan, sitting on top of the picnic table next to your buddy, and smile as you watch bald eagles soar and whales feed off in the distance. The outdoors is where it's at.

I recommend:
-the freshest farm-fresh eggs you can find
-Green Mountain Gringo Medium salsa (if you live up here in New England. It's more local than others and more affordable than the delicious Guzman's, made in Portland.)
-Garden of Eatin' Blue chips


Thursday, September 6, 2007

Cape Breton Island

Sorry, friends, the photography lessons have not happened yet, so I will postpone those blogs till later. In the meantime, check out Jon's flickr page for upcoming pics of our recent vacation to Cape Breton Island.

I will say this about Cape Breton folks: they are a bit hyper, which is hard to understand as they serve the weakest coffee I have ever had. They ask lots of questions, are friendly, and really want to please, about some stronger coffee?! Oh yeah, and the groceries are very expensive, but I can't imagine it's cheap to get anything all the way up there.

So we drove from Maine, through New Brunswick where we camped at the lovely Fundy National Park, where we will certainly go back someday (Grand Manaan has been calling me for years), and on up through Nova Scotia to Cape Breton Highlands National Park.

Cape Breton Island is maybe the most beautiful place I have ever been. Huge cliffs crumbling into the sea, pilot whales just offshore fishing for mackerel, snowshoe hares nibbling through your campsite, bull moose about to charge your boyfriend, and ocean sunsets! Us East Coasters don't get to see those very often. The redness of the soil contrasts with the blue water and sky and the green foliage in a way that an 8-pack of Crayola markers could never reproduce. Camping on the beach, falling asleep to the waves crashing, warm bay water, hidden waterfalls for those romantic moments...I think I am in love. Now if we can just do something about the coffee...