Monday, August 31, 2009

Happy accidents in book arrangement

A couple weeks ago the weather turned unbearably hot and we decided to put a fan in the living room window to try to make things somewhat comfortable. But the books that were on the cabinet in front of the window seemed to be blocking the cool air, so Dave "temporarily" repositioned them so they were laying with their spines facing up.

Then I realized that they looked even better that way, so I decided to leave them. I like that now you can see the hand shape of the bookends, so that it looks like they are actually carrying the books.

Even more so, I love the colorful array of pages now on display.

Like vintage paper stripes. I wish they did this with books nowadays.

And you can still see the cool looking spines. It's a win-win, really.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Raspberry jam

After a few days of eating the raspberries with my granola for breakfast, I noticed they were starting to look a little less fresh. So I decided I needed to make some jam, stat.

I'd never done this before, and every recipe I found online was different from the last, which was a tad infuriating. I ended up going with a combination of the following two recipes:,1923,149161-244207,00.html

While the jars were boiling/sanitizing, I crushed the berries in a bowl, added sugar, boiled water and pectin, and added the berries and sugar (see the links for exact amounts). The recipe that used pectin only mentioned adding the berries to the boiled pectin/water, with no cooking afterward.

The next two days I waited for the watery jam to set, with seemingly no change. Then I got impatient, convinced that the recipe was wrong, and that I should have continued cooking the berries in the pot for awhile longer. So I went through the whole jar sanitizing process again and started boiling the jam.

Turns out I was right! After putting the jam back in the jar, I scraped this off the bottom of the pot--already starting to thicken.

So, this was a bit of a learning process, but I might just have to try it again. I realized after doing this that you're supposed to always use new lids, but this one sealed just fine twice in a row. I'm also not planning on storing this thing in a closet for a year. In fact, I went out and bought some fresh bread to accompany it for breakfast tomorrow. I don't think it's going to last too long.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Pencil carvings by Dalton M. Ghetti

One of the most memorable parts of my recent visit to the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore was a collection of carved pencils by Dalton M. Ghetti. Using only a razor blade and sewing needle (i.e. no magnifying glass), Ghetti creates incredibly detailed carvings out of the graphite at the end of No. 2 pencils. Some of his pieces have taken years to complete.

One of my favorites was the alphabet, a series of colorful pencil stubs lined up in a row, each with a letter of the alphabet at the end.

But most impressive might be this one, a carved chain linking the two ends of a pencil together.

Other carved objects include a boot (pictured above), a giraffe, a church, the Twin Towers, and so on. Funny enough, the museum provides magnifying glasses for viewing, though they weren't needed for the creation of the work.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Raspberry pancakes

The first dish I made using the freshly picked raspberries was raspberry pancakes.

I probably don't have to say it, but they were delicious. The recipe is from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone.

1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
2 eggs
3 tablespoons melted butter or oil
1-1/2 cups milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

In a large bowl, measure dry ingredients and whisk together. In a small bowl, beat eggs, then blend in the other wet ingredients. Pour the wet into the dry and stir until just combined.

Heat a frying pan over medium heat and melt a little bit of butter in it. Pour 1/4 cup batter per pancake and add 1/2 cup chopped raspberries while the first side is cooking. When fine bubbles start to form, flip the pancake and cook another minute or so.

Thursday, August 20, 2009


Last weekend, upon the suggestion of my friend Jess (she's the one who gave me that awesome haircut), I went berry picking at Secor Farms in Mahwah.

It was the first day of raspberry picking at the farm this season.

We passed by some greenhouses on the way to the berry fields.

The fields off in the distance. The first 5 or so rows are off limits to customers, but the rest of it is up for the taking.

You wouldn't think so, but plucking raspberries from branches is hard work! Maybe it was the 90 degree heat, but I was exhausted after about an hour. But it was nonetheless a good time--kind of like a treasure hunt! (A lot of the berries weren't ready to go yet, so finding some nice ripe ones was sometimes a little tricky. You really have to look carefully.)

This branch was a particularly good find--lots of berries ready for picking.

It's a 2-pint per person minimum at Secor Farms, so we have 3 pints (I gave one to my mom) to use up. I think my future holds a lot of raspberry pancakes, muffins, jam, fresh raspberries in my yogurt...

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Garden update: Harvest!

I'm happy to report that despite the terrible weather this summer, I have actually been able to eat some of what I planted.

Behold the first picked tomato, along with some basil leaves. All that's missing is some fresh mozzarella and balsamic (which was added a few minutes later).

We've actually since picked the large one in the foreground too. After a long period of relative inactivity, they finally started ripening, with tons more little ones sprouting up. Very exciting.

The peppers that we were so excited about (it was the first vegetable to sprout) stopped growing one day. Then not too long ago, they both turned yellow.

And then two of the other peppers turned red. Strange things are happening in the garden!

The cucumbers, however, are pretty much dead, and nothing much is happening with the eggplants at all. But it seems that under the circumstances (i.e. ridiculous amounts of rainfall, hardly any sun) I did pretty well for a first time gardener.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Baltimore haul

I came back from Baltimore with a pretty good treasure trove of stuff.

The American Visionary Art Museum has a great gift shop called Sideshow--it'd probably be worth a visit even if you weren't going to the museum. Their wares include original folk art (such as this adorable little robot made of wood, bolts, keys, and the like), books, vintage ephemera, toys, and other weird little tchotchkes that you never knew you needed.

I also picked up this plastic TV that, when you look into the viewer, shows you images from the museum. And the promotional barf bag from the 1970 film Mark of the Devil...well, who could resist that? I like how it's the first film rated V for violence. (Funny enough, one of the last times I was in Baltimore, for the Rolling Roadshow's John Waters marathon, I came away with a promotional barf bag too. It's become a bit of a tradition.)

I also bought this vintage notebook. (If Dave hadn't dragged me away when he did, who knows what I might have added to the already substantial pile of random stuff that grew with every step around the store.) Each page is lined and numbered, I guess to help you test your spelling skills. Not sure what I'm going to use it for, but I'll think of something.

At Housewerks I bought these antique type blocks. I like the abstract quality of the one on the right, which is half of an "R". I also should mention how insanely heavy these things are. They could double as weapons in a pinch.

There's more about my visit to the shop

On Sunday we went to the the Fells Point Second Sunday flea market. While it's certainly no Elephant's Trunk, I did find this great tablecloth. Not that I've ever used a tablecloth before, but I love the colors and the pattern. At first I thought maybe I'd use it as fabric to make pillows or something along those lines, but I'm not sure I can bring myself to cut it up. Maybe I'll start using a tablecloth now.

Monday was the big shopping day on "The Avenue" in Hampden. The first stop was Atomic Books, where I bought two great comics. Later on at Normals I found a used copy of another book by Lilli Carre for $3.

At Red Tree I wanted to buy half the store (as usual), but limited myself to two of these awesome glasses. Not that I even needed any more glasses. know.

At Shine Collective I was pleasantly surprised, as for some reason I remembered them being kind of expensive. But this vintage leather bag was priced pretty reasonably, I think. I was excited enough about having a bag with actual pockets (maybe now I'll actually be able to find my cell phone when it rings).

But then I got home and inspected it further to find these next-level organization options. There's even a place for pens and my train tickets. They're a little hard to pull out so I turned them up for easier access. But it's still pretty handy. This was probably the best thing I bought on vacation.

And finally, I stopped at my favorite clothing store in Baltimore (and maybe one of my favorites in general), Double Dutch. They have a great selection of clothes and accessories from indie labels, and pretty reasonable prices. I of course managed to pick out one of the only dresses in the store that wasn't on sale, but that's all right. It's called vacation! I tried taking a picture of me wearing it but I really just don't photograph well. So I found a picture of the dress online, if you really want to see it.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Trip to Baltimore: Camden Yards

Before I get to Camden Yards, I feel the need to mention this man, who I first saw chatting with an employee at In Watermelon Sugar, a gift shop in Hampden. I wasn't paying too much attention but he seemed like a bit of a character. Not long afterwards, we saw him entering his home, pictured here. Yes, he has a giant photograph of himself in his window. The figurines of kitties and bunnies make it even better. Ah, Baltimore--what a great city.

Dave is a big baseball fan so Monday night we went to an Orioles game. They definitely have the best logo/mascot.

Whenever a player hits a home run out of the park they mark the spot where the ball landed with a bronze plaque. The street is scattered with dozens of these.

Here's one from Jason Giambi. You may remember his mustache from last season.

After only going to Yankee games it was a strange experience to see most of the seats empty. But apparently this is the norm at most stadiums.

Rows upon rows of empty seats. At least you can put your feet up!

Overall it's a pretty nice park. They close off the street to non ticket holders during home games and the walkway is lined with restaurants (one of which serves veggie dogs, supposedly), stands, and gift shops.

The sun sets over the stadium.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Trip to Baltimore: Mount Vernon

This year we stayed in the neighborhood of Mount Vernon, home to the original Washington Monument. The monument, surrounded by a cobblestone circle, sits in the center of Mount Vernon Park, which is essentially four grassy lawns with some fountains and statues. Not exactly the most spectacularly designed park I've ever seen but it's a nice, tranquil place to sit down on a bench and mull over the day.

I really liked this old sign on the side of a building, though I wish I'd gotten closer.

I was attempting to photograph the strange interior of this empty apartment that I encountered on a walk through the neighborhood (well, empty except for the row of heads on the mantel and crown shapes on the wall) but should have known that the reflection and the flash would not yield the results I wanted--but I kind of like it anyway.

Also in Mount Vernon are a variety of museums, shops, and restaurants, such as Red Emma's and the Woman's Industrial Exchange (at least, those are two that I visited). I briefly checked out the Walters Art Museum since admission is free and it was around the corner from our hotel, but the mostly ancient and 19th century art just isn't my thing. The Chamber of Wonders is pretty great though.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Trip to Baltimore: Current Space

Saturday night, our first night in Baltimore, happened to be the closing reception for the last exhibit at a gallery called Current Space, as the building it currently occupies is scheduled for imminent demolition. The gallery was about a 15 minute walk from our hotel, so we figured we might as well check it out, since it would be our last opportunity to go. Ever.

We could spot it from about a block away, as it was the only building with cute animals painted on the outside.

It's hard to see, but the construction in the window is an elaborate system of drinking straws that connect from a funnel outside the building and into a variety of potted plants, the idea being to water the plants by diverting rain. It would have been kind of amazing had it worked, but the state of the plants (shriveled and brown) leads me to think otherwise.

Other than that there was a lot of so-so stuff. I liked the large embroidered tapestry of a building (perhaps this one). We left long before the performance piece on teen angst that was scheduled for later on, and instead ate delicious vegetarian food. But I'm glad we stopped by.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Trip to Baltimore: Housewerks

Before heading to our hotel we stopped at Housewerks, a curated architectural and industrial salvage shop in an incredible building that is the former site of the Chesapeake Gas Works, as it was called upon its opening in 1885 (and which I somehow managed not to photograph).

The parking lot is littered with rusting treasures, such as these wire baskets that I toyed with inquiring about (I did not, in the end).

Some extremely rusty outdoor chairs lined up against the fence. I really want a pair of these but until I know I'll have a space for them I'm not too keen on undertaking a serious de-rusting project.

Note the barbed wire behind them--it seems this place gets broken into regularly. The drive through the neighborhood after leaving was kind of surreal, with bombed out buildings, gangs of children on bicycles riding out in front of the car, and a horse-drawn cart (think the "junk man" from
The Wire). So I guess keep that in mind when visiting the shop, though I didn't encounter any problems.