Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Apple Pie

Nearly organic apple pie......

6 or so smallish organic apples (from the St. Paul Farmer's Market)
somewhere between 1/3 and 1/2 cup organic sugar
1-2 tbsp organic flour (Daniela added the sugar and flour, and she often doesn't use measuring spoons!)
Several sprinkles of Cassia cinnamon

And 1 double crust, made by Eric (organic flour, sea salt, non-organic shortening-- one of these days!).

Here's a picture of the blueberry pie from last time....

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The further (mis)adventures of Vasco the Kitten

We were struck by how much Vasco had grown while we were in Maine. But he still is a little guy, not that that stops him from tormenting the larger and much older Lucy. He chases her, pounces on her back, bites her legs, and generally makes her life difficult. Lucy, unlike Moose, has not yet really fought back (Moose will growl, snarl, and snap when he's had enough of kitten shenanigans). But when Vasco is not being difficult (by attacking Lucy, or us-- I can't tell you how many cuts and scratches there are right now on my hands) he is a very cuddly kitty. He loves to sit on the windowsill on the porch and soak up sun. And he always snuggles up next to me (Eric) at night. Here are a few photos of the little guy...

Curled up in Lucy's bed (Lucy was probably stealing Moose's bed, since Moose will not stand up for his right to sleep in his own bed...).

Playing with one of his toys.. he's quite the acrobat.

New camera!

We finally got a new camera to replace the one which was stolen from Daniela in Portugal.

It's a Sony Cyber-shot DSC W-80, if you're curious about such things, and it seems to work nicely. We'll be really giving it a workout this weekend up at Madeleine Island (in Lake Superior), but we have used it a little bit already.

I thought it should be inaugurated with a few pictures of the Menagerie.

So here's Lucy:


And Vasco the kitten:

And a bonus picture of Moose and Vasco, both searching for a cooler spot in the house...

One of the things that's made this hot summer bearable, by the way, is the near-miraculous appearance in our side yard of....

Not one, but TWO healthy blueberry bushes! We've been enjoying the occasional handful of berries as we pass by. I have to say, my esteem for the previous owners of our house just keeps growing...

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Best of 80s Music

Another music post. Sorry.

I'm working on a mix album of the best 1980s songs. I'd appreciate your input. I have so far found a dozen or so songs which I believe represent the best of the 80s, but it's possible I've missed some.

Here are my criteria:

Mainly, the song has to represent the 80s. When the song begins, one immediately thinks of Ronald Reagan, bad fashion, etc.

The song cannot just be a good song that happened to be made in the 80s. A general rule of thumb: if you still really like the song, it doesn't qualify.

The song must evoke the era, not a specific performer from that era. Thus, no Madonna. No Prince. Hey, it's my list....

I think there may end up being a second list for "80s Metal," since that's what I spent most of the decade listening to... The stuff on this list is what I spent the decade despising. Only now, through the strange laws of nostalgia, do I enjoy it.

I don't want to contaminate your ideas with what I already have, though I'd be happy to send you the list upon request. I'll also send CD copies of the mix to anyone who asks...

So reach back into the mists of time and recommend away.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Summer produce

The zucchini in the middle isn't from our garden, but from our CSA box (Philadelphia Farm), but I had to include as it is SO pretty! First tomatoes, cherry and 1 genovese...YUM.

My first few tomatoes (1 genovese, 1 caro rich, and 1 plum) were no good- I've learned about blossom end rot. Now I obsessively water the tomato plants! And I think this latest set is good too because I decided to mulch the plants a month ago or so. Several squashes are ripening, soon we will be overrun with squash!

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Blueberry Pie

We picked some blueberries this week at this farm, located about 30 minutes north of us. We also picked some while we were in Maine, the main difference being that the Maine ones were free (being on my parents' property or in the national park). With the ones in Maine, we made blueberry sauce to put atop blueberry pancakes. And we ate them for dinner. What decadence.

With these berries, a pie was in order. I've only made a couple of blueberry pies in my piemaking career-- I've made many more apple and cherry pies than anything else. And the blueberry pies I've made have been made using frozen berries. These were fresh, hand-picked by us.

I followed the filling recipe in the latest edition of the Joy of Cooking. In addition to my homemade crust, it called for:

5 cups of blueberries
3/4 to 1 cup of sugar (I used only 1/2 cup, since I usually prefer my pies to be less sweet than most)
1 tblsp fresh lemon juice
3 1/2 to 4 tbsp cornstarch (I used about 3 1/2, with the larger amount being for a lattice crust)

I'm baking it right now at 425 for 15 minutes, then I'll turn it down to 350 for another 35-45 until done.

I apologize for the series of non-pet related posts. I decided that I needed to keep track of my pie-making (so I can keep tabs on how recipes work out, how to improve them, etc.) and this seemed like an easy way.

And if you haven't picked any blueberries yet this season, get to it! The farm we went to is done already!

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Thursday, July 19, 2007

Music Reviews

We recently went to see The Police here in St. Paul. It was a good show (quick video clip above, though you can't see anything... we weren't that close to the stage, it was dark, and it's a lousy cameraphone video). The Police were the first rock-and-roll band I ever liked (and likely, had ever heard of). You see, I grew up in a classical music household. We went to Tanglewood once a year and to Handel's Messiah most Decembers. My idea of "new music" was Stravinsky. I have no recollection of Elvis' death (I was 5 years old) because I'm sure I had never heard of him. Ditto John Lennon (I was 8 then). To this day, I know few Beatles songs and have never owned one of their albums.

So it was only when I switched schools in 5th grade and made friends with one Derek Sperry that I was introduced to non-classical music. Derek loved The Police, and Derek was my hero, so I liked them too. Synchronicity was the first non-classical album I ever bought (on cassette tape, natch). I still think it's a great album...

The Police also held significance for me in high school, though for a rather odd reason. I joined the marching band during my sophomore year of high school, having been recruited by other friends. The band needed people to join the percussion section, specifically what's called "sideline percussion." That is, things like xylophone, marimba, timpani-- instruments that are too big to march with the band. Since I had played piano for many years, I could play the keyboard instruments-- substituting mallets for fingers, it's really about the same.

So I joined the band and had a great time. The percussion section (or drum line)'s instructor was a crazy man named Bob Rush. Bob was very good at motivating us, particularly by inculcating the belief that we were better than everyone else in the band. This occurred primarily by making us work harder than all the other sections. If the band was required to be at practice at 8:00 AM (as we frequently were, on Saturday mornings during band season), the drum line had to be there at 7. We took great pleasure (in between groaning about it) in being out on the field marching, in full uniform, as the rest of the band yawned their way into the parking lot. (It may add a bit more coherence to this rather incoherent story to mention that Derek Sperry, my 5th grade friend, was the drum line's section leader...)

Bob was also very good at motivational speeches. One of his favorites involved drawing a contrast between Stewart Copeland (The Police's amazing drummer) and Ringo Starr (who I eventually figured out had been the drummer for the Beatles, but you already knew that). "Do you want to be Stewart Copeland or do you want to be Ringo?" Bob would ask, as we reluctantly played a part for the 50th time. "If you're content to be Ringo, then we can quit now and go home. But if you want to be Stewart Copeland..." Needless to say, we all wanted to be Stewart Copeland.

So while I've never been a fanatical Police fan (there's an etymological contradiction there, but you know what I mean), they have always held a special place in my musical heart.

Speaking of fanatical fans, I am beginning to get geared up to go see Rush in September. Yes, Rush. Yes, I know it's a bit geeky, but what would you really expect from me? I've been a fan since high school and have been to more Rush concerts than I can count (though not as many as the Bela Fleck and the Flecktones concerts-- seeing them in August!). Rush's new album (their 18th studio release), Snakes and Arrows, has received a good deal of acclaim (though I think I like the one before a bit better). They've been making music and touring for more than 30 years, and I can't wait to see them once again. So I've been listening to old and new material on my iPod (Daniela, not surprisingly, is not a fan) and while alone in the car....

Anyone else been to any good summer concerts?

Monday, July 16, 2007

Maine reviewed

As ever, we had lovely time in Bar Harbor, Maine... here are some highlights,

Got mobbed by greedy seagulls at Schoodic Point,

Enjoyed sea-kayaking on the western side of MDI (we saw 5 loons, a seal- plus we heard several seals barking away, as well as various cormorants and terns)

We did a new (to Daniela) mountain, Dorr, which kicked our butts up and down again!

In what is fast becoming tradition we hiked Cadillac Mtn on Eric's birthday,

(that second photo is a view from the South Ridge Trail- you literally walk into the view for much of the 4.2 hike down the mountain)

Walked across to Bar Island in the low tide to get a whole new view of Bar Harbor,

Hiked Gorham (one of our favorites - and easy!) to get views of the fog slowly burning off,

Biggest zucchini ever?

We're just back from Maine (photos to come) and we found this ENORMOUS zucchini in our garden. It's just massive! Gigglygirl (aka my friend Jenny) didn't notice it until Thursday by which time it was already huge and she decided it would be fun for us to see it!

Here it is next to the normal-sized zucchini from our CSA box (but doesn't that one look rather wimpy now?),

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Destination Bangor Maine

If any Menagerie readers can name the famous song from which this post's title comes, Vasco the kitten will give them a special nose-licking.

Yep, we're off to Maine tomorrow for a week or so. We'll see my parents for the last day of their 4th of July vacation, then be on our own for a while. The weather promises to me much cooler than it's been here lately. And we're hoping to pick a few mountain blueberries (though it may be too early). And hike, canoe, and kayak.

By the way, I finally finished my beer journal entries from the trip to Portland. If you're a beer nerd, you can read all about it over at my beer blog.

And would anyone like to comment on this dog which we saw at the Pride Parade?

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

If you're so inclined,

(and I don't know why you would be) here is a link to a post I wrote today on DailyKos, the foremost political blog, about Barack Obama. It has gotten around 150 comments so far, making it by far the most successful post I've written...

Boulevard garden keeps on blooming

The latest things to bloom are scarlet flax, cosmos, blue vervain, and evening sun sunflower....

The first evening sun sunflower:

Scarlet flax is a very deep purpley pink (scarlet I guess!):

The bachelor buttons are really going for broke in terms of flowers:

The blue vervain with cosmos in the back,

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Happy Lazy Sunday

...from Vasco, the cuddly kitten