Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Beginning of the Rule Breaking

When I taught photography we had a couple rules about what our students (8-15 year olds) could choose as the subject of their summer photo essay project. They'd spend 5 weeks shooting, developing and printing a total of five black and white photographs which would then be arranged artfully on poster-board with double-stick tape and hung in the art gallery. Many of the kids took remarkably beautiful photographs, and it was always exciting to see how some of them progressed from the first roll of film through the last. Topics that usually produced dependably nice results were portraits, "Places Without People", "Shadows", and "Reflections". We also had rules about what students could not choose.

1. No pets. Too wiggly. Cute, but not artistic. William Wegman (I love you, but dogs are not a good topic for children)
2. No birds. Too small. To quick. Ho hum.
3. No sunsets. Sunsets are cliche, and they're really boring in black and white.

That said, my camera is still in the shop and while I've been busy with parties, movies, dinners, art projects, baking (please no more baking for a while), and meeting new relatives I don't have anything I particularly feel like writing about. I'm breaking my rules and posting a couple winter sunsets from the sun-room of my old apartment in Medford.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Happy Snowstorm!

Or at least it was until I wiped out on the sidewalk because I couldn't see the ice under the pretty fresh snow. If I had seen me fall (and chances more than a few people did because traffic was all backed up) I would have made that wincing "Oh I hope you're ok and I'm kind of embarrassed for you" face. I was ok, although I realized shortly when I felt an unusual draft that I had a quarter-sized hole in my brand new thick black tights, a messy messy knee, and blood on my favorite new skirt. I thought about taking a photo of my wounded knee and leaving it on the non-shoveler/sand/salter's door. But I can't because the LCD panel on my new camera broke last night and because looking at blood makes me giggly and I'm sure I couldn't stay still enough to focus. I think I slipped in the same place last year - maybe I'll walk on the other side of the street from now on. Hopefully I can get through the winter without breaking anything else.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Alba the Bioluminescent Bunny

Poor bunnies - I doubt this research is going to save any lives. Here's the article. A different kind of glowy in this glowy holiday season.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Strange Fruits

I love it when Trader Joe's has a variety of dried fruit that I've never had before. Last week I found dried persimmon:

And freeze-dried mangosteen:

I've had fresh persimmon before so that one wasn't much of a surprise. It's nice because it's not as sweet as some dried fruit. The mangosteen was pretty exciting. Although I'd heard of Mangosteen I've never eaten it or even seen it. Boston is not exactly a fresh tropical Asian fruit hub. I'm sure that fresh mangosteen is an entirely different experience, but freeze-dried mg. is REALLY GOOD! It's tangy and creamy (and crunchy due to it's current state) and the seeds have a mild nutty taste.

This is what the package looks like - notable because it shows what fresh mangosteen looks like:

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Nasturtiums and Machine Guns

I went to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum specifically to see a special exhibition and learned an exciting fact about the Museum. Isabella's favorite flowers were nasturtiums. So are mine! La la la. For one week before and one week after her birthday on April 14th, the museum hangs garlands of nasturtiums from the courtyard windows. They begin growing the flowers 10 months in advance - so somewhere there are 5 month old nasturtium garlands hanging out, hopefully aphid free. I'd better get started now for my birthday in May. Here's a photo of a nasturtium garland that I took in Spain:

and here's what they look like close up (from my 2004 garden, pre-aphid invasion):

The exhibition was impressive - creative and mesmerizing. The write-up on the postcard reads as follows:

Cliff Evans: Empyrean
November 9, 2007- January 12, 2008
This digital polyptych with photomontage animation recalls the form of
15th-century Northern European altar-pieces merged with contemporary
advertising narratives. Scene after scene of Evan's five-channel projection
creates an absurd spectacle around the subjects of power and social
control coded with interesting and often humorous subtexts.

The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum's Web site has more information as well as an image.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Tortellini (Tortelloni)

The day after Thanksgiving I got together with my mom, my sister, my aunt and my cousin to make tortellini. This is something we do periodically to keep in touch with our Northern Italian heritage. Every holiday my grandparents would cook them in chicken broth and then we'd heap grated parmesan (the kind in the green can, shame shame) on the top which would melt into a delightful cheesy ooze in the bottom of the bowl. When my mom and I visited our relatives outside of Bologna, they also served us bowls of tortellini as a first course, though the cheese was actual Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated from a giant chunk that lived in the corner.

The origin of tortellini is surrounded by several legends.

One says that this dish is born in Castelfranco Emilia (province of Modena). One night during a trip, Lucrezia Borgia checked into an inn in the small town. Over the course of the night the host became so captivated by Lucrezia's beauty that he couldn't resist the urge to peek into her room through the keyhole. The bedroom was only lit by a few candles, and so he could merely see her navel. This pure and innocent vision was enough to send him into an ecstasy that inspired him to create the tortellini that night.

Another separate but similar legend, originating in medieval Italy, tells how Venus and Jupiter (also known as Aphrodite and Zeus) arrived at a tavern on the outskirts of Bologna one night, weary from their involvement in a battle between Modena and Bologna. After much food and drink, they shared a room. The innkeeper, captivated by the two, followed them and peeked through the keyhole. All he could see was Venus's navel. Spellbound, he rushed to the kitchen and created tortellini in its image.

(Courtesy of Wikipedia)

Well, unless all of these ladies had abnormally large belly buttons our pasta was more like tortelloni, which are traditionally a wee bit bigger. Usually we fill them with cheese, though this year we also made a pumpkin filling which is traditional.

Step 1: Pasta is simply flour, eggs and salt if you wish. The amounts depend on the size of the eggs and the humidity. And of course how much you want to make. We made three small batches with an average of an egg per cup of flour. We began in a bowl, but if you're brave you can just make a mound of flour right on the counter and make a well for the eggs. I was feeling brave for the second batch but I actually spent a lot of time chasing runny eggs around the counter.

Step 2: Dump everything out onto the counter and squish it together until it's pliable. Add more eggs or flour as needed. Just when you think it will never work, it comes together as a smooth, yellow, pliable dough.

Step 3: Let machine ready balls sit to "relax" under a damp cloth, and put scraps back under the cloth to rejuvenate.

Step 4: Run balls through the pasta machine a few times until they're the correct thickness. While there are a lot of cooking projects that you can complete without fancy equipment, making flat pasta without a pasta machine would be a pain in the neck.

Step 5: Slice the pasta ovals into squares.

Step 6: Fill each square.

Step 7: Shape

Naval vista:

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Where's George?

I received my first "Where's George" bill as change the other day. At, you can enter the serial number of a registered bill and track its journey around the country (or beyond). I was only the second person to track my particular bill. The only remotely interesting detail about my bill's travels is that it originated from a bank15 miles away in the town where I was born.