Saturday afternoon, I found myself sitting in a line of folding chairs, sandwiched between 3 little girls on one side and 2 little sisters on my other side. At the other end of the line sat a couple, smiling nervously at each other and quietly taking in the scene around them. We were sitting inside the mini amusement park inside Jordan's Furniture in Reading, MA, waiting for our trapeze class to start. The kids were mostly staring at the water show as streams of water swayed in time to the blaring music. I was staring at the rigging trying to assess how safe it looked. My first thought was that the safety nets down below looked really dinky. There were 2 pairs of swinging trapezes at the top. Below each pair was a narrow strip of netting. There was a partial GAP between the nets. The whole thing was supported by lots of cables and when you climbed up to the top, you realized that the platform sways around.
Once when my sister was visiting from out of town, B and I took her there to try out their trapeze with some trial swings. It was terrifying but kinda fun too. Afterwards we stuck around and watched others swinging back and forth and I thought I'd like to try again some day. Some day came over six years later. My friend had bought a class but her shoulder was injured and it was too late to cancel so I got to take her place.
After I signed in and signed the waiver forms, one of the staff members slapped a safety belt around my middle and tightened it as tight as it would go. Then she slipped a hand in between the belt and my back and tugged on it to test it. She tightened it up some more. I'm so glad we women don't have to wear corsets any more. Class started with some quick safety rules. Don't walk past the red tape because that's where the person holding the safety lines walks. Don't walk under the net because if someone lands in the net while you're under there, you could get bonked as the net sags to catch them. Asking if anyone's injured and maybe shouldn't participate in class today. (I think they ought to ask that question when you register for the class and save people the trip out if they have a bad back or shoulder.)
Then a verbal walk-through of what we're going to do. Walk up the stairs to the platform and they'll clip two safety lines to the belt cinched tightly around your waist. Every time they say, "Ready," then we're supposed to get ready to do something in the next moment. In this case, ready means to bend your knees and HUP means hop off the platform. It doesn't have to be a big jump. After all, we're just dropping into air. We all stand up, toes right up to a line on the floor. We reach out and grab and imaginary bar. One by one, he goes down the line saying, "Ready...HUP!" and we hop over the line. Simple enough.
We sit back down for more talking. Once we're hanging from the bar, they'll call out instructions and we'll hang from our knees and then go back to hanging from our arms before dropping into the net. "So...any questions?" And the kids had plenty. "What if I can't get my knees up over the bar?" "What if I fall off the platform?" "What if I can't hold onto the bar?" "What if I fall off while I'm hanging from my knees?" What if I'm too scared to jump off?" Basically every question I had but was too self-conscious to ask myself.
They they started sending us up to the top, one at a time. I was surprised that we were not trying things out on the low trapeze bar in the back. Instead it was right on up to the top. We walked up about 2 flights of stairs. The steps are slotted and my feet hurt a little walking on them. I wonder if the slots are put there intentionally to sharpen the awareness of how high you're going. If so, it's working. I'm feeling nervous.
looking down through the stairs to the top
When I get to the top, she clips the safety lines to my belt, one on each side. She tells me to rub some chalk on my hands if I need to. I'm about to decline until I realize my hands are indeed lightly sweating. I don't think I NEED the chalk but I rub some on just in case.
( Click to keep readingCollapse )
standing up on the platform, getting ready to jump
If you're in the Boston area and you'd like to see one of their free performances, they have one this Saturday night 7:30pm-8:30pm at Jordan's Furniture (the one in Reading, not Natick).( Click for addressCollapse )
This dish is so good that I've felt a little guilty for not posting this one sooner. My sister served this up once when she hosted dinner and I was enchanted by how pretty it looked and how yummy it tasted -- all while still being quite healthy. I think it's a great way to get more vegetables in your diet. I was surprised that the original recipe said kale's not just for braising since I've mostly used it in soups and pasta dishes. (Then again, once we had Crispy Kale Chips
, I was kind of reluctant to do anything else with kale.)
The active prep time is a bit longer if you're starting with just the butternut squash and need to peel and cube it yourself. (Or at least, it takes me longer.) To prep the butternut squash yourself, use a big knife to cut off the top and bottom of the squash. Now slice it lengthwise in half. Scoop out the seeds and save those for later to make Fried Squash Seeds
. Use a vegetable peeler to peel off the skin. Then cut it up into half-inch-sized cubes.
The last couple times I've made this, I've prepped the vegetables on the weekend (roasted the butternut squash, torn up the kale) and then assembled and heated it up on the stove top for a quick meal during the week. Don't cook the kale ahead of time since it loses a bit of its brightness upon reheating. If I'm doing it all at once, I'll get the butternut squash into the oven first, and then while that's roasting, I'll prep the kale and chop nuts.
Seems to hold up well to substitutions too. My sister doesn't like onions so we left out the shallots. Later when I made it, I substituted in onion since I didn't have any shallots. We used other squashes instead of butternut squash, different hard cheeses like pecorino and manchego instead of parmesan, and substituted various roasted seasoned nuts for the almonds. The most amazing nut we've used was garlic-seasoned macadamia nuts. All times, it's been scarfed down pretty happily. My boyfriend is generally indifferent to kale (except for kale chips) and butternut squash but he gobbled this up contentedly. Hope you like this too!( Read more...Collapse )
While lobster was so cheap in August (just $4/pound at the grocery store in the Boston/NH Seacoast region), we binged on lobster dishes for a week. Steamed lobsters with melted butter, lobster quiche
, and today's dish. Inspired by hearing canyoncat
mentioning he cooked up lobster mac-n-cheese a few years ago, I've been curious to try making that dish ever since. Yummy! Definitely hanging on to this recipe to make again some day. When I served this up, there were lots of contented mmmmms at the table. I felt lucky to be enjoying that meal together with both friends and family.
This summer, a friend invited me to her family's vacation home in Maine and made lunch reservations at Jordan Pond House
in Acadia National Park. The traditional thing to do there is have tea and popovers. But the highlight of the meal for me was a piece of lobster quiche. It was a small piece of quiche but it was so yummy that I immediately looked for recipes when I got home. Since lobster was on sale for $3.99/pound, it was even an affordable indulgence. Besides, making this at home gave me an entire quiche for the price of a single serving when eating out. I highly recommend giving this recipe a shot. The sweet lobster flavor comes through in every bite. Liked it so much we made it again when we had some friends over for dinner.
Stumbled across this project. Sadly, it looks like I missed it when it was installed in Boston in early September but what a cool idea! Candy Chang thought about death a lot after she lost someone close to her. This "Before I Die..." project came from thinking about what's important to her and the people around her. She turned the side of an abandoned house in her New Orleans neighborhood into a giant chalkboard asking people to share their hopes and dreams. And they did. Before I Die I Want To... see my daughter graduate, write a book, understand, be ok with not understanding, swim in a pool of golden retriever puppies, beat sense into you...
The project has spread to cities around the world and been translated into several languages. You can go to the project's website to buy a kit that helps you make your own wall. If you don't want to buy the kit, she's also given instructions on how to make your own kit.
Read more about it at the artist's page: http://candychang.com/before-i-die-in-nola/
I love this project. I love the photos of people standing in small clusters around the wall, reading what others have written, chatting with others. I love that her interactive art project coaxes people into interacting with each other as well as with the wall.
So....your turn to finish the prompt.
Before I die I want to....
Figured it was time to update this old post
. I love museums and I like it even more if I can visit for free. I've compiled a list of ways to get in to a bunch of museums around Boston for free so that you can also indulge without needing to pay admission. The first few on this list are available nationwide and you can look for museums near you at those websites. The rest are mostly around Boston and are behind an LJ-cut.
If you know of other ways and places to get in free, let me know and I'll add it to the list!
I also tried setting up this public Google Calendar. I started with tracking free museum times and then added other free events too.https://www.google.com/calendar/embed?src=70rv5sankat6r2i3mbre7rab8g%40group.calendar.google.com&ctz=America/New_YorkBank of America Museums On Us (nationwide)http://museums.bankofamerica.com/
Got a Bank of America ATM, credit, or check card? Each card holder can get into a bunch of museums free on the first full weekend of each month. Check website to find participating museums (or zoos and gardens) near you. In the Boston area, this deal gets you into:Target sponsored nights (nationwide)http://sites.target.com/site/en/corporate/page.jsp?contentId=PRD03-002065
Here's another deal where a big corporation sponsors a bunch of free or cheap admissions. Check website to find one near you. We went to the MoMA in NYC for their Target Free Thursday night and the line was so long we were tempted to give up. But we joined the line and it moved surprisingly quickly. Boston options are:
- Boston Children's Museum Target $1 Fridays 5-9pm (bostonkids.org
Discussion: http://forums.slickdeals.net/showthread.php?sduid=0&t=1328567Museum Day - courtesy Smithsonian Magazinehttp://www.smithsonianmag.com/museumday/
Go to the website and print out a coupon good for free admission for 2 people on Sept 29, 2012.National Parks Fee-Free Days
While many of our national parks never charge entrance fees, many others do. However, they will all waive entrance fees on these dates (3 other dates already passed)
- Sept 29, 2012 (National Public Lands Day)
- Nov 10-12, 2012 (Veterans Day weekend)http://www.nps.gov/findapark/feefreeparks.htmNational Parks Annual Passhttp://www.nps.gov/findapark/passes.htm You can get a free annual pass if you're in the U.S. Military:
Available to U.S. military members and dependents in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard and also, Reserve and National Guard members.
Only $10 for a lifetime pass if you're 62 years old and older.
( Click to see the rest of the listings for mostly Boston-area museumsCollapse )
"Um...are you sure those ingredients are going to taste good together?"
I was going to go grocery shopping with my sister and she had pulled up this recipe that mixed together watermelon, tomatoes, mint, and feta cheese. (We were going to omit the sweet onion because she avoids onions.) This didn't sound at all appetizing to me.
My sister insisted, "This is the perfect summer dish! It's delicious and refreshing and we're going to make it!"
So we made it and sure enough, it was a huge hit. I've made this dish four times now and it's been enjoyed every time. I've given some of it away to 2 sets of friends and they've all been excited about the dish too. It really is the perfect summer dish. No cooking required (so no added heat) and the mint-infused chilled watermelon tastes absolutely wonderful. One of the times, I added just a little diced red onion and liked that version too.
Most times we used regular red tomatoes since that's what we had available but if you can get your hands on any heirloom tomatoes of different colors (orange, yellow, green), then use those because it's so pretty that way! For the green tomatoes, make sure you're using green heirloom tomatoes that are still green when ripe. If you use the tomatoes that are green because they're not ripe, I think those taste tangier. The tomatoes that are green-when-ripe taste pretty much the same as the regular red tomatoes.
Seriously, go try this out!
Work's got me swamped again. Combine that with scheduling lots of social events and I'm yet again not getting to hang out here as much as I would like. So here are some tidbits from my f-list. Yes, some of these are old because I saved them a while back or I didn't get a chance to read them until recently.
I don't say this often enough but I really like you denizens of LJ-land. Enjoy your weekend!
- "We consider ourselves travelers, not tourists."
I also try not to look like a tourist; it just sounds so unsophisticated. But sometimes I'll revel in the role of tourist, I see, even in the city I consider home. It's nice to unabashedly delight in all I see. Read this post by tedwords for a reminder to not let your desire to be seen as worldly stomp all over your ability to share someone else's joys.
- In an f-locked post, someone posted a link to a video on what to do if you're caught in the middle of a mass shooting. Don't say the Department of Homeland Security never did anything for you. The advice actually sounds pretty good to me. "Run. Hide. Fight." I'm surprised that they advocated for fighting. Has the advice always been to devise a way to fight back? I took a model mugging class about 16 years ago and back then, the police instructors didn't push one way or the other for fighting or cooperating when attacked. Instead they laid out the pros and cons of both strategies and told us the decision was ours.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5VcSwejU2D0 (5:56 length)
- drjeff has a series of One Minute posts. He's been throwing his energy into his blogspot more than his LJ and sounds like he's an awesome therapist to see. For all the posts in the One Minute series, go to http://drjeffblog.blogspot.com/search/label/One%20minute
- One Minute Reboot
- One Minute of Gratitude
- One Minute of Forgiveness
- One Minute To Let Go Of Guilt
Growing up, our mom sometimes made congee (pronounced con-jee
) for breakfast, except she called it mwaye
(all one syllable sounding kinda like moow-eye
). I think that's the Taiwanese word for it. Each person had a bowl of watery soft rice. In the center of the table, there were a variety of small dishes to eat with the rice. Most often, we had sliced green onions, Chinese pickled cucumbers (in soy sauce?), eggs (tea-smoked or fried), and pork floss (a dried, shredded pork). Sometimes we'd also have whatever leftovers we had kicking around the fridge. Although we kids were finicky eaters, we all liked this meal. So much so, that when we were in Taiwan, we would request this dish even in restaurants. This embarrassed my parents a bit since apparently it was not really restaurant food. It's the sort of thing you have at home when you're sick and you want comfort food or if you're poor and don't have a lot to eat. It's not the sort of thing you order when you're out in a fancy restaurant celebrating gathering with your extended family for the first time in years. No matter. At least it wasn't as bad as when we demanded peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches.
I still love congee and made it on rare occasions. Last Christmas, B's dad and his wife gave us a fancy fuzzy-logic rice cooker. I've always pooh-poohed these things but I have to admit, they make perfect rice that doesn't stick to the pot or burn on the bottom. It even has a setting for porridge so it's easier than ever to have congee for breakfast. Awesome!
So on one hungry morning, I made this for breakfast. Starting from the egg and going clockwise, I piled on: fried egg (over medium with soy sauce drizzled on it), zucchini, Chinese watercress (from my parents' garden), green beans, and dried shredded salmon. That's right, now you can get dried shredded salmon! Mom brought some back from Taiwan for me on my last trip. Underneath that whole pile of stuff, the bowl is filled with soft rice porridge.
Apparently you CAN order it in restaurants. At least, I've seen it on menus in some of the places in Chinatown. I guess I've absorbed my parents' disdain for that as a restaurant dish though since I've never ordered it. Same way as I never order fried rice since that's made from old leftover rice. (And yet I make fried rice at home to use up my own rice leftovers.)
Sorry...no recipe since I'm just using a setting on my rice cooker. I think the basic idea is something like a cup of rice and lots of water (like 9 cups of water) and cook until the rice is really soft. But there should still be water. Add hot water as needed to keep it watery. Then season it and top with whatever you like.
Made this for first time because I had 2 small jalapeño peppers in the fridge and I wanted some cornbread to eat with the Succulent Braised Pork
leftovers I wanted to heat up. I ended up with a little more than 2 Tbsp of diced peppers (discarding seeds). Realized at the end of making the batter that I had only used 2 Tbsp butter, not 2 ounces (4 Tbsp). I didn't want to melt more butter and add it so I just buttered the 10-inch cast-iron skillet with almost 1 Tbsp butter and then added 2 ounces of shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese to the batter and luckily, that worked out. I used 1 cup of canned sweet white corn since that's what I had.
Yum! Gave a little hint of heat but not really spicy (which is just about right for me) and tasted good with the pork. B liked it so much he helped himself to a big big second slice. Baked for 30 minutes at 400F in the 10-inch cast-iron skillet. Came out a little thinner than I would've liked. I would've baked it in an 8-inch skillet if I had one. Maybe I'll try baking it in a cake pan next time.
I had high expectations for this recipe since it billed itself as Succulent Braised Pork. My oven was running a little on the cool side so I left it to braise for an extra hour. (Besides, I wanted to go for a run before dinner.) I did flip it once in the middle so that the top would have a chance to be submerged in liquid too. When I took it out of the oven, the meat was indeed meltingly tender. I was able to shred the meat with just a fork. At first, B felt the meat was very bland. I had added some potatoes to the recipe and maybe they had soaked up a lot of the salt of the original recipe. I had skipped the final tasting step so once I sprinkled on a dusting of salt, he agreed that it tasted wonderful. The first time I made it, I added the optional cup of water and the sauce came out very thin, more soupy than thick sauce. Second time, I added less liquid and a little more flour and tomato paste. That seemed to help. Either way, the broth is flavorful.
With lots of carrots, mushrooms, and potatoes, it made for a nice one-pot meal. We had the leftovers as shredded pork tacos. Another night had the leftovers with Jalapeño Cornbread
and roasted sweet potato wedges. Definitely keeping this recipe in our regular rotation since it's pretty easy to prepare and mostly requires patience while waiting for it to finish cooking.
I didn't follow the recipe particularly closely, instead opting to do a variation on this recipe. This led to less than stellar results.
I did start with throwing the cubed lamb pieces and bones from some lamb loin chops and the lamb shank into a pot, covering with cold water (should've at least used some kind of broth), and bringing that to a boil. Then lowered to a simmer, covered and simmered for 40 minutes to start the basis of the stock. After 40 minutes, I added two pinches of salt, about a 1/4 teaspoon of ground pepper. Laid down a layer of the chopped carrots and onion rings, and put some sweet potato chunks over that (since I didn't have any regular potatoes). I think the recipe was right...I should've waited 20-30 minutes and then added the potatoes on top. I also shouldn't have been cavalier and just mixed the potatoes into the soup. They got very very soft and mushy. I left it to simmer for another hour after the vegetables were added.
I liked the texture of the meat -- very tender and soft. Overall taste was pretty bland (which B notes is true to traditional Irish cooking). I still liked this but I think I was mostly liking the hot soup in cold winter comfort aspect of it. It's not too difficult though so I would make it again if I could remember to start it early enough. I served this over egg noodles. My boyfriend B liked it ok but didn't think it was all that memorable compared to many of the other recipes I've tried.
Got a bunch of old prescription medications kicking around your house? You can safely dispose of them at your local police station this Saturday (assuming they're participating). Before, I had been told to just flush or throw away old medications if they weren't on a small list of drugs that were handled differently. I had even been told to flush radioactive chemotherapy meds! Thankfully, I was able to turn them in during National Prescription Drug Take Back Day back in April. There's another one tomorrow. So clean out your medicine cabinets!
More details available in the link below. National Prescription Drug Take Back Day
Oct 29, 2011 10am-2pmhttp://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/drug_disposal/takeback/
Many many thanks to evilbeard
for leaving this comment
and giving me my new favorite cookie!
I made these as Crispy Salted Oatmeal Raisin Cookies. I didn't have any toffee or butterscotch chips so I used 1 cup raisins instead. My first dozen was perfect. The cookies oozed into each other but they were thin and crispy and B scarfed down 3 of them right out of the oven. Second dozen must've been a little thicker since it did not flatten down as thin as the first batch. That might be because the dough was colder for the second dozen since I had put the dough in the fridge while the first dozen baked. Also note that if you forget to press down on each ball in step 3, the cookies don't get as thin or crispy. Still tastes good but it changes the texture. I like the thin and crispy version so much that I must remember to flatten the cookies slightly! So first batch was in oven for 14 minutes (rotated after 6 minutes) and second batch was in oven an additional 4 minutes (rotated after 7 minutes). We loved these so much that when I wanted to make a food gift, I turned to these cookies.
I had roasted some sugar pumpkins
and now wanted to use my pumpkin puree. I threw this dish together after reading other pumpkin and pork chili recipes for ideas of possible ingredients to use. Quantities listed in the recipe are just guidelines. We basically started with most of the ingredients listed and then added a little more sugar, maple syrup, and lime juice until we liked how it tasted. Pretty tasty! Great way to stretch a single pound of ground pork into enough meat for several satisfying meals. This ended up being a pretty soupy chili with lots of liquid so we mixed in some cooked wild rice and it tasted great. By the last days, we had to add a little liquid when we reheated the chili. The pumpkin seems to add a bit of sweetness and a pleasing smooth texture to the chili.
I love that this is the time of year for pumpkins. Why don't groceries offer them year-round? Seems like we can get butternut and acorn squashes all winter long. Why not sugar pumpkins? Then I could have Kaddo Bourani
whenever I wanted (or whenever I could wait 3 hours for dinner to be ready anyhow). I don't have any ground lamb at the moment so I haven't made that dish yet this year. But I've been roasting pumpkins and using the mashed pumpkin in other dishes. Definitely enjoying it!
So here's a post telling you how to roast a pumpkin.
Chilly morning today. Frost tinged windows and just 35F outside. ugh. Oh the plus side, this means the heat from the oven is a welcomed additional source of heat!
Took me a while to gather all the ingredients for this one and even longer to cook but it was worth it to me! After reading the comments on the recipe, I decided to add extra vegetables. My hunk of leg of lamb had a bone in it so I cut around the bone and included the bone in the stew for the cooking portion. I let the lamb pieces marinate for about an hour and then ended up cooking for a lot longer (another 1-1.5 hours?) because I wanted the meat to be melting tender and I was working on something else anyways while the stew cooked. By the time I took it off the heat, the meat slipped right off the bone with just a prod from a wooden spatula. I'm really looking forward to making this dish again. Really nice to have the leftovers on hand for an easy meal to reheat.
I liked the different smoky flavors of this pasta sauce and thought it was a nice change of pace from our usual Italian pasta sauce. Meanwhile, my boyfriend B liked this sauce but says he never tires of tomatoes with basil so I'll probably stick to our usual tomato sauce most of the time and save the ground lamb for making another household favorite, Shepherd's Pie.
I changed a bunch of the ingredients slightly to match what we had in the house. I didn't like whole wheat pasta the first time I tried it but I think its heartier, nuttier flavor would stand up well to this sauce.
I picked up this book at a cookbook exchange. What a great idea! For a $5 donation/fee, you got to drop off any old cookbooks you didn't want anymore and walk out with as many of the books and magazines that you wanted. Any books left over were to be donated to a non-profit used bookstore and coffee shop More Than Words
that's run by teenagers.
Overall, this recipe was a hit and I wanted to make it again right away. It was a little difficult to roll after getting it out of the freezer because the butter was oozing from the seams and it seemed a bit messy to make. Still, the final product tasted great and my boyfriend ate 5 rolls with his dinner.
After putting the shaped dough into the muffin tins, I forgot to lightly coat tops of the dough slices with cooking spray. I don't know what affects it but the dough didn't rise evenly. Should've taken a photo. A few rose mostly evenly. Others would rise on one side but less on the other side of the roll. Maybe I needed to grease the muffin tins more. These rolls were pretty dry by the next day though so best eaten the same day. Leftover rolls probably would've tasted fine if we had eaten them with something with gravy or sauce to sop up.
Served this with Balsamic Chicken with Caramelized Onions
and also with Spicy Sesame Napa Cabbage and Carrot Salad