Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Finger Food

Our sister department threw a Halloween breakfast this morning. I made lady finger cookies. Spooky! Crunchy! I wish I had taken photos of the vanilla fingers before I put them in the oven because they were much more life-like. Post baking they're kind of bloated.

October's calendar is oddly appropriate - I'll miss it! There was some debate as to whether I was a Viking or an opera singer. One of my colleagues (who was leaning towards Viking) had a funny story. He said that he encountered a very sturdy looking blond child on hotwheels. He asked what his name was, and the kid yelled, "THOR!!!. . . T-H-O-R!!!!" So apparently this kid's parents taught him to not only say his name with gusto when asked but spell it.

Gummy brains were handed out as prizes.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Brooklyn Part III

My weekend plans changed at the last minute and before I knew it I was in the car on the way to Williamsburg for a Halloween party. Held in a loft lodged among a neighborhood of hipsters and Hasids, it was one of the best Halloween parties I've been to; if nothing else it had the highest percentage of people in costume that I've ever seen. There were maybe oh, five people out of 75ish who weren't dressed up. Who was there? Let's see. Nefertiti, Smurfette & Gargamel, a pinata, Global Warming, the unicorns from Planet Unicorn, Waldo, a couple vikings (including me), a few zombies, a tiger, a guy with arrows sticking out of him, a Freudian slip and many more. I got a great idea for next year from someone on the street, but I'm not going to tell.

I also had a chance to visit with my sister as well as to see where she works, and we all had another brunch at Patois in Cobble Hill (Carroll Gardens?). It was good, but not as good as the first time when we were able to sit outside in the garden and were there right when they opened - before menu items were gone and the waitstaff was burned out.

CHOW has an article (and recipes) about making your own candy bars. I especially like that when you mouse over the recipes you can see photos of cross sections of mass produced candy bars next to the Chow versions.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Spike Lee was a Cute 5th Grader

I just saw his 5th grade school photo. My goodness he was cute - he had the best smile in the entire class of little Brooklynites and sharp glasses even then.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Return of the Turkeys

A couple years ago when I was living in Brookline I saw a turkey running down the sidewalk. I thought I was hallucinating at first, but it was definitely a turkey, bloop bloop bloop gobble gobble gobble. The turkey ran straight into Kenmore Square rush hour traffic and miraculously arrived safely on the other side of the intersection. I think he was heading to Fenway for a Red Sox game. I found out later that my turkey had escaped from a nearby church. Here's an article from yesterday's Boston Globe about the return of the turkeys.

Turkeys Take to Cities, Towns

A wild turkey strolled along a sidewalk on Beacon Street in Brookline. The birds can grow to weigh roughly 20 pounds and stand 4 feet tall. (Globe Staff Photo / Mark Wilson)

By Keith O'Brien, Globe Staff | October 23, 2007

BROOKLINE - On a recent afternoon, Kettly Jean-Felix parked her car on Beacon Street in Brookline, fed the parking meter, wheeled around to go to the optician and came face to face with a wild turkey.

The turkey eyed Jean-Felix. Jean-Felix eyed the turkey. It gobbled. She gasped. Then the turkey proceeded to follow the Dorchester woman over the Green Line train tracks, across the street, through traffic, and all the way down the block, pecking at her backside as she went.

"This is so scary," Jean-Felix said, finally taking refuge inside Cambridge Eye Doctors in Brookline's bustling Washington Square. "I cannot explain it."

Notify the neighbors: The turkeys are spreading through suburbia. Wild turkeys, once eliminated in Massachusetts, are flourishing from Plymouth to Concord and - to the surprise of some wildlife officials - making forays into densely populated suburban and urban areas, including parts of Boston, Cambridge and, most recently, Brookline.

Some Brookline residents have welcomed the birds, happy to see wildlife strolling amid the nannies with $300 strollers and Trader Joe's shoppers. But many others worry what the keen-eyed, sometimes ornery birds might do, prompting as many as a dozen calls to the police department every day.

"Some people are getting very upset," said Brookline police animal control officer Pierre Verrier. "One of the biggest things is, they're afraid. They don't want the turkeys to get hurt. And the other thing is, they're afraid of the turkeys around their children. They don't know what they'll do."

As such, Brookline police issued a statement last month, telling residents what they should - or should not - do if they meet a wild turkey in town. The basic advice: stay away from the turkeys. But still, people keep calling police headquarters to report the strangest sight: Turkeys in downtown Brookline.

* * *

July 20, 9:31 a.m., Rawson Road: Caller reports 18 turkeys in her backyard. "Something must be done," caller says. "It's just not right." Requests animal control officer.

* * *

Wild turkeys - the official game bird of Massachusetts - are impressive animals that can grow to be roughly 20 pounds and 4 feet tall. By 1851, they had been eliminated from Massachusetts, a victim of hunting.

"We were turkey-less for many years," said Wayne Petersen, director of the Massachusetts Audubon Society's Important Birds Area Program. "And then we decided it would be quite nice to get them back on the landscape."

Efforts to revitalize the state's turkey population between 1911 and 1967 failed. Then, in 1972 and 1973, the state Division of Fisheries and Wildlife released 37 turkeys in the Berkshires. These turkeys survived and bred. And between 1979 and 1996, wildlife officials trapped more than 500 turkeys in the Berkshires and released them elsewhere in the state.
Biologists were pleased; today's turkey population in Massachusetts lingers around 20,000. But Marion Larson, an information and education biologist at MassWildlife, said officials had not counted on the turkey's appetite for suburban - and even urban - living.
"That was something that surprised us," Larson said. "Who knew? The last time there were turkeys in Massachusetts there weren't a whole heck of a lot of suburbs."

This time around, of course, that is not the case, and turkeys have proven especially adaptable to residential living. By his last count, Verrier said, there are at least two dozen wild turkeys living in Brookline, feeding off everything from bird seed to gutter trash and, sometimes, scaring the wits out of the townspeople.

* * *

September 4, 11:01 a.m., Chatham Circle and Chatham Street: Caller - who had gone under some beech trees to take a picture of turkeys - reports four turkeys chasing him. Requests animal control officer.

* * *

The problem, according to some Brookline residents, is that the turkeys can be aggressive at times. Dr. Ruth Smith, an internist from New York City, was staying with a cousin in Brookline a couple of weeks ago when she was stalked by what she describes as a 3-foot-tall turkey.

"He came at me and, at first, I tried to shoo him away," Smith recalled. "I figured I'd just go 'Shoo!' and he'd go. But he was very aggressive."

Smith said she escaped by ducking into the Dunkin' Donuts on Beacon Street. But some of the hounded do not have the luxury of going inside. Brookline postal carrier Rosanne Lane said she has skipped houses on her mail route because turkeys dissuaded her from approaching.

"They make a lot of noise and I just take off," said Lane.

Under state law, an animal control officer can kill a turkey if it creates a public safety threat. In 2005, for example, Canton police killed three. But for now in Brookline, it has not come to that, said Verrier. When dispatched to the scene of a turkey, Verrier offers advice instead.

He tells people not to feed them, not to be intimidated by them, and to keep their distance. Still, some people cannot help themselves. They need to be near the turkeys.

* * *

September 7, 7:39 a.m., Druce Street: Two packs of turkeys (15) in the road . . . Two not getting along.

* * *

Over an eight-hour stretch last week in Brookline, a lone turkey walked Beacon Street, strutting at times, preening at others, and napping every now and again in the landscaping near the sidewalk.

Most people did not even notice. And those who did simply edged a few feet away from him and kept right on walking.

But as afternoon turned to dusk - and the turkey, a male, moved down Beacon Street into the heart of Washington Square - a crowd began to gather.

Some, like Jessica Dolber, snapped pictures. Others, like Kelly Stearn, called police.

But not Kettly Jean-Felix, the woman who had been followed by the turkey earlier that afternoon.

When she finally left the optician's office on the corner just an hour after being stalked by the turkey, she headed straight for her car. And this time the bird did not notice Jean-Felix. He was too busy eating peanut shells in front of the 7-Eleven and gobbling to the delight of the crowd.
© Copyright 2007 Globe Newspaper Company.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Pies & Giant Cupcakes

I went through startling amounts of butter, flour and sugar this weekend, all with stellar results. My last couple of cake projects didn't turn out as well as I had hoped, so I think I was due some good cake karma.

Project #1 - Giant Hostess Cupcake recipe from Baking Bites

Thank you Baking Bites, I love everything about this cake. It was extremely cooperative as well as quick and easy to make. All of the components worked as they were supposed to and I didn't run out of anything. The cake is unusual in that it contains no eggs or butter - a good last minute emergency cake because you probably already have all of the ingredients in your pantry. After mixing the flour, cocoa powder & baking soda you make three wells and add vanilla, oil, vinegar. Then all you do is pour cold water mixed with coffee powder over the top and stir until smooth. The last few chocolate cakes I've made have required a more laborious and scientific technique, and I can't say that they were any better than this one. This particular combination of chemical reactions creates an extremely chocolaty, moist and dense texture that's durable and easily manhandled.

The cream filling was a new technique for me too and was not a disappointment. It begins with a white sauce, or boiled flour, milk and salt. Once that cools (resist the temptation to add cheese and classy noodles), it's added to creamed butter, white granulated sugar and vanilla. The resulting filling is light and fluffy and much better than anything Hostess has ever made. The frosting was also easy to make, easy to work with, gave good coverage, and set well. Unlike an actual Hostess cupcake you probably couldn't have peeled it off the top of the cake. I cheated for the squiggle and bought a tube of frosting from the grocery store, though I did need to tape my own decorating tip to it to get a correctly proportioned squiggle.

Here it is all finished. The red Carnival glass platter is the only plate I have that was large enough. I usually tape the plate to the bottom of the cake carrier to keep it from sliding around. The blue tape takes away from the aesthetic but whatever.
I make sure to smile extra maniacally when I'm carrying that foot-long knife to the kitchen at work to wash it off. This was a gloriously gargantuan cake.

The last piece which more accurately shows the true ratio of cake to filling:

Project #2 - Secret Ingredient Apple Pie
I was invited to an apple pie bake-off contest. I get a little competitive about contests. I'm a member of the camp who prefers chocolaty desserts over fruity ones so I didn't have a favorite recipe and had no experience making pie crust. Apparently I did a good job because I won "Best Overall Pie". I chose a recipe from the King Arthur Flour Website that uses boiled apple cider in the filling. The combination of the boiled cider and a cooking time of 2 hours creates a caramelized, intensely flavorful filling. A few people asked if I used rhubarb, but no no of course I did not use rhubarb because this was an apple pie contest, not an apple-rhubarb contest. I play by the rules.

Here's a crappy picture of the finished pie. I don't have a photo of the filling because my camera has been acting flaky. I broke the cardinal rule of pie making and forgot to cut steam vents in the top. As a result my crust split while it was baking. Ooops. When this pie went into the oven it had flawless knuckle-sized flutes around the edges. However, once the crust heated up it got puffy and the flutes disappeared.

These are my fabulous prizes. Hmmm, did someone just return from Alaska? The stuff in the plastic is Squaw Candy or smoke cured salmon. It's REALLY good.

Project #3 - Butternut Squash & Caramelized Onion (and Goat Cheese) Galette adapted from Smitten Kitchen
This is one of my favorite combinations, though I used goat cheese instead of Smitten Kitchen's original fontina because I like it better and because I had three logs of goat cheese in my cheese drawer. Everything worked according to the recipe and I'd make it again. Thank you Pie Bake off guests for being my lab mice. This photo makes my galette looks gross - Smitten Kitchen's looks much more appetizing. Smellovision would be helpful, at least if you like squash, caramelized onions, goat cheese & sage.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Regina Spektor

I saw Regina Spektor last night at the Orpheum. She was charming and kooky and her vocal gymnastics were pretty darned spectacular. I had a stroke of luck regarding tickets. According to TicketMaster the show had been sold out for a couple weeks, but I guess they released tickets at the last minute because I was able to get a 9th row seat when I tried on a whim on Friday night. Yippee!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

East Boston Open Studios

I went to the East Boston Open Studios this afternoon. Embarrassingly, I've never been to East Boston except for the Airport shuttle T stop. I haven't even been to Santarpio's Pizza - shame!! The main venue was the Atlantic Works Building at 80 Border street, around the corner from this neat building:

There were 4 floors and about 40 artists representing just about every medium except um, glassblowing and coppersmithing. The Atlantic Works Building has just been remodeled, so they missed last year's open studios. Whether the building is better now or before the remodeling seems to be a hot topic among the artists - perhaps it lost some quirkiness and grit. In any case, it's a beautiful set of artists' lofts, and the space and natural light distribution seems to be fairer than in some other buildings I've seen. Here's a view from the stairwell (the view was more interesting in real life than in this photo):

It was a good mix of media. I especially liked Karen Kemp's lithographs, Lorin Hesse's paintings & collages, and Eric Hess's photographs.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Hikey Hikey - Mt. Monadnock and Mt. Wachusett

I climbed Mt. Wachusett today and Mt. Monadnock last Sunday! Mt. Monadnock is supposedly one of the most climbed mountains in the US, and true to its reputation it was crowded. But really only at the top and for part of the way down. On the way up we bypassed most of the crowd by taking the quieter Red Dot trail. Here are some pretty scenes.

Baby pine trees:

A tiny brown frog (about the size of a quarter):

A particularly pretty section of the trail, with the red leaves it was like walking on confetti:

The view from the summit:

And in the other direction, the misty summit:

A dead body. No wait, just kidding. My friend's brother used to run far ahead when they were hiking and then pose to make it look like he'd fallen out of a tree or impaled himself on a rock. It sounds kind of sick in the re-telling, but we practically peed our pants from laughing.

The way down (there's basically one suggested way down) was much more crowded, loud and annoying. It's also very rocky, which is wicked on my knees. The fact that I have a problem with bending my knees exacerbates the problem, and I was caught not a few times teetering on rocks like Frankenstein's Monster. Which made us laugh even more, which slowed things down.

Today we hiked up Mt. Wachusett. It's a little closer to home, and also close to my friend's brother's farmhouse, where we took a little pit stop to admire his decorating taste and pick up a massive amount of catnip that he picked for our kitties. It was a nice gentle hike, and it would be good for the directionally challenged because you're never too far from signs of civilization. (You can drive to the summit.) Not to mention some of these:

On the way home we stopped at the farm stand where I got my required apple cider donut of the year, a butternut squash, a bag of Macoun apples, garlic, and 5 stems of zinnias for 50 cents each.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Waiting for Ray

My downstairs neighbor called me last night to let me know that my side of the cellar was covered with water. Indeed - the hot water heater was emptying its contents onto the floor - an entire tanks worth by the look of the puddle. At least the puddle drains into the French drain at the front of the house - we're all in trouble if that stops working! Luckily I was able to get ahold of my plumber, Ray (we're on a first name basis) and he'll be bringing a new hot water heater by sometime today. But in the meantime, I'm at home with dirty hair and a sinkful of dishes watching Ellen.

Here's a photo of a wall in my cellar. I know, most exciting post ever!

Tuesday, October 2, 2007


My kitchen looked like a crime scene when I finished with the beets. My friend introduced me to two things I needed to know about at Trader Joe's; vacuum packed cooked lentils, and vacuum packed cooked beets. Lentils and beets are two of my favorite things - why didn't I ever notice them before? Probably because unless I go during lunch, Trader Joe's is so crowded that my brain shorts out and I just want to get the hell out of there and I hit the booze isle heavier than is necessary. Especially when there are baby carriages. My personal recommendation is frozen chimichurri rice. While it's not as good as homemade chimichurri sauce (which is well worth the work), it's a pretty good quick dinner with the addition of a chicken breast or a pork chop and a salad. Last week's revealed secrets included:

1. I can check magazines out of my tiny local library branch around the corner from me. Now I will never again be at the mercy of the recently small and dismal selection of magazines at the gym. Even if I'm desperate, I can't read Parenting of Golf.

2. I can access scholarly articles distributed by JSTOR through my online account at the Boston Public Library. Lucky me, able to read about Iron Age Phoenician pottery in the comfort of my own house!

Monday, October 1, 2007

Jamaica Plain Open Studios 2007

I really needed an intense injection of art, and the open studios are a good way to get it. I like the JP open studios more than the South End or Somerville open studios - I saw more artists that appealed to me for whatever reason, and I'm totally smitten with JP as a community. (Until it's time to go home, then I remember how far away it is from my usual stomping ground and why I don't live there). In addition to open studios I saw a number of open houses. All single family houses, with the exception of a conglomeration of unfinished multilevel loft condos that my friend, who graciously remembered my love of open houses and lofts, invited me to check out one with him. They were pretty dreamy, and I had no problem mentally replacing the model furniture with my own.

I'm eager to visit the Fort Point Open Studios on October 20 & 21st.