Thursday, November 29, 2012

22. grateful

The time surrounding Thanksgiving is very busy and tiring for me, as my day job in retail management keeps me running (literally) up to 12 hours a day this time of year.  On Thanksgiving day I am simply grateful for a day off.

This year I decided to cook a Thanksgiving meal for the first time on my own.  As good fortune winked my way a couple-friend of ours found an airline flight deal and came down to visit.  In hindsight I now know that a rookie Thanksgiving-day-meal-cooker should always have a veteran by their side.  As a team we successfully pulled it off.

Turkey:  I ordered a fresh heritage turkey, the farm recommended cooking it like this, Heritage Turkey Recipe.  The almost ten-pound turkey fit in my large Pyrex dish so I was not forced to purchase a roasting pan.  (I love Pyrex, another post altogether.)  I also successfully made gravy last minute without a recipe, I remembered the method for roux and tried to follow it as best as I could remember.

[Canon EF 50mm f1.4 USM]

Stuffing:  Since the turkey farm recommends not stuffing a heritage turkey I tried this Ciabatta Stuffing with Chestnuts and Pancetta Recipe which was incredible.  I am not sure if I will ever try another stuffing recipe and will likely make it again throughout the year.

Mashed Potatoes:  no recipe needed, of course.  I used redskin potatoes (leaving the skins on) and roughly mashed them (leaving good chunks) with real butter, sour cream, milk, salt and white pepper.  I love rustic mashed potatoes and white pepper blends much better than black.

Vegetable: I've never liked traditional green been casserole, but a number of years ago my newest sister-in-law made Alton Brown's Best Ever Green Bean Casserole and it really was the best ever.  His recipes are notoriously laborious and this one indeed had a number of steps but ended up wonderful.  The leftovers only re-heated well for a couple days though so it's best to consume quickly.

Pie: Thank you Whole Foods for a delicious pecan pie, a.k.a. "candy in a crust" -- I enjoy the art of cooking more than the science of baking.

[Canon EF 50mm f1.4 USM]

Wine: lots.  Due to my work schedule I could not enjoy a glass of wine with each dish as I was hoping.  I did open a dry Riesling, a Beaujolais Nouveau (of course) and something else I don't remember.  In hindsight I should have taken some tasting notes.

The day was not without it's snafus of course.  I left the thermometer in the turkey only to find out an hour later that it was not a leave-in thermometer.  Then as I was basting the turkey I tapped the end of the glass baster against the side of the Pyrex dish and the tip broke off.

[Canon EF 50mm f1.4 USM]

As a whole, Thanksgiving Day this year was fantastic -- a day spent with friends being grateful for what we have and, more importantly, who we have.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

16. the view from your window

What I see when I'm sitting at my computer, not looking at the monitor:

About an hour later, while gazing through the window I saw the sun just setting behind the houses and took my camera out to photograph this:

[Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS UD]

15. in your bag

On the 15th I drove down to my nearest metropolitan area and visited the closest locations of two stores I don't get to very often, Whole Foods Market and World Market.  I make this trip about once a month, it aids in maintaining my sanity while living in a small (by my standards) town.  My excuse was Thanksgiving preparation, but any reason would suffice really.

I keep a running list of Whole Foods items so when I get there I can keep focus, otherwise my pocketbook suffers dearly.  Generally there are always a number of bulk food items needing replenishment in my pantry, this time they included botanical (naturally caffeine-free) tea and salt and pepper for my grinders.  Bulk herbs and spices are very well-priced at Whole Foods so when my small jars empty I refill them from there -- I love it!  I have discovered many styles of spices I never knew existed and I love experimenting with them, one being Spanish sweet paprika and Chipotle chili pepper powder.

Coarse salt and peppercorns were a priority because my grinders emptied a couple weeks ago and I was using my backup McCormick grinders I had saved from when we moved and hadn't received our household goods yet.  I selected pink Himalayan salt and a smoked peppercorn blend.  Honestly, I have no idea the difference between those and conventional table salt and pepper but I will soon learn.

For the photo of the (yester)day I am showing you what's in my bag, my spice bag.

[Canon EF 50mm f1.4 USM]

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

13. where you slept

A cold front slipped in bringing last night's temperature below 30 degrees.  I spread the blanket over the bed and set up the space heater just in case.

[Canon EF 50mm f1.4 USM]

Sunday, November 11, 2012

9. small

Keeping the original intent of this blog, today's photo from yesterday's challenge displays a creative example of a small change making a big difference.

For the past 6 years I have worked for the same company which requires it's employees to wear name badges on a company-issued lanyard.  As I am very active at work this lanyard is constantly flapping around getting caught on objects and is a general nuisance.  The standard clip that attaches the name badge is the worst offender due to the metal tabs you pinch together to open it (I have no idea what the technical term is).  After years of frustration I finally had the idea to do something about it.  I changed the clip --  a super simple solution that I embarrassingly never thought of previously, of course neither had any other of my co-workers.

During November and December we wear holiday lanyards so I had to switch that clip as well, which is the  one photographed.  I also adjusted it's length by taking apart the safety release, trimming the fabric and putting it back together.

My photo of the day shows my replacement clip attached to the lanyard next to the original one removed.  I did some rough cloning to remove the company name.  I am proud of my easy fixes and it makes a significant difference in my daily performance.

[Canon EF 50mm f1.4 USM]

Friday, November 9, 2012

8. something you do everyday


This evening I enjoyed the best grilled cheese sandwich ever.  "Enjoyed" is an understatement; it was divine.

When visiting friends in San Francisco we drove into the Sonoma Valley to the tasting room at Gloria Ferrer Winery where we tried their Blanc de Blanc Carneros Sparkling Wine.  I am very, very particular with Chardonnay and this selection earned my firm approval.  Because Spec's truly cares for my well-being, I am able to find this wine here in the depths of central Texas and I purchased a bottle this evening.

Am I the only one who makes a dinner selection based on wine preference?  Good.

Rudi's Organic Bakery makes a Rosemary and Olive Oil Bread that is incredible!  Due to blind luck I am able to find it here and buy it periodically.  Grilled cheese sandwiches seemed a reasonable pairing with the Blanc de Blanc so I assembled them -- 1 1/2 pieces each of muenster and provolone cheeses and 4 or so thin slices of black forest ham on the rosemary bread which I (real) buttered on both outside pieces and pan-grilled until crispy.  Sometimes it really is only a few select ingredients that compose delicious combinations.

[Canon EF 50mm f1.4 USM]

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

6. a favourite thing

Some time around 1993 I went to the Gross Pointe Garage Sale with my friend Dave.  It was held in a parking garage and was really more a flea market/craft fair than a traditional garage sale.  My memory is embarrassingly poor and the only reason I recall the event at all is because of this charm which originally came on a black cord as a long necklace.  There must have been a two-for deal because I also bought another very dated piece that is hidden away in a box somewhere.

When unpacking after moving in 2005 I found the charm again, took it off it's cord and attached it to my keys.  My key chain always contains the fewest amount of keys necessary to leave the house and only one adornment.

I removed the other three keys for this photo's purpose but left my car key because it too is most certainly a favourite thing.  I purchased it brand new right after college and 12 years later I love it as I did when driving off the lot for the first time.

[Canon EF 50mm f1.4 USM]

** edit addition **
The New York Times recently published an article on key chains with a number of interesting clip styles shown.  You Don’t Need a Lot of Brass (By DAVID COLMAN Published: November 14, 2012)

I have a point here somewhere.

Creativity is seemingly never constant.
Is creativity like a muscle, weakening when not exercised?
Creativity.  You have it or you don't.

Whatever.  I can't seem find the best words to begin.  Probably because I'm not in the shower, which somehow transforms me into a philosophical and literary phenom.  I try to remember my brilliant phrasing and write it down as soon as I can reach pen and paper with a dry hand but usually only end up with a few words scrawled before every thought escapes me.  

A few nights ago I was trying to understand why I wasn't writing anymore.  Could I blame my anti-Facebook movement?  Did I feel I lost my audience?  Did I ever have an audience?  At some point (while loofah-ing?) I decided it was due to my perfectionist tendencies but all I was able to write down was, "convincing a perfectionist that it's all just a rough draft".

While writing I re-read, edit, re-word, re-edit then repeat repeatedly.  It is very time-consuming and I am rarely truly satisfied with the outcome.  I must remember that blogging is not akin to an article or study published in a professional journal.  It's the internet.  Just like the song that regularly plays at work (and has earned a spot on my Playlist in My Personal Hell, "Have you read my blog today, 300 million little USA's".  Now I can't think because it's re-playing in my head.


Soon after I began using my DSLR camera I discovered the trend of 365 and 52 projects, where you take one photo a day or per week.  The variation and personalizing of these projects is endless.  I have never participated because I had my own almost daily rhythm of photography that I was satisfied with.  Well, now I am not satisfied with my paltry rhythm and after finding this particular photo-a-day challenge while reading this blog I decided to try it.  I began today and will do my best to flex my creative muscle daily.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012


I love clothes.

From my earliest memories I recall standing before my side of the yellow dresser I shared with my older sister.  I had to stand tip-toe to reach into the top drawers.  It would be mid-day and I would want to change outfits into something more appropriate for my next activity.  Or I was bored.

Today I stand at my open-faced shelving or in my very first walk-in closet where I stand tip-toe to reach my neatly stacked shoe boxes.  I decide what to wear based not just on my plans but for the weather.  And I am bored.

November is designed for layers of knits, sharp jackets and soft scarves.  I desperately want to play with new colors and mix textures and I especially want to open boxes of leather boots to smell the grain, feel the weight and dream of all the wonderful places I will walk in them.


I dream of walking city streets, smelling the restaurants and cafes as I pass, hearing pieces of conversations I don’t understand.  I want to pretend I’m reading but secretly people-watch, making up stories for strangers based on their shoes.   I want to meet friends for cocktails and my sisters for a stroll in the park.

In this fantasy world I am always impeccably yet creatively dressed.  I wear the same clothing repeatedly, though never looking the same, because I choose quality pieces and care for them well.  People compliment my footwear.  I smile and say “Thank you.”


I live in Texas.  It is November and 83 degrees.  My favorite sandals saw another day paired with my one and only beloved pair of denim capris.  Attempting to feel more “autumn” I wore an open-knit sweater though the heat inevitably forced it’s removal.  I drove an hour to the nearest two-story mall and bought a new pair of low-calf, leather boots.  I smelled them and dreamed of all the wonderful places I would walk in them.

Thursday, November 1, 2012


''October is reliably a good month. I'm waking up, and I feel like I'm being released from my summer, what I would call, jail cell.'' 

Growing up in the Great Lakes region the long, lolling days of summer was the reward you reaped for enduring the dark, endlessly cold winter.  My love for summer sunshine even drew me to Arizona for a couple years in young adulthood.  Moving to Texas then should have been a breeze, falling back into the glorious warmth of the south.

“Glorious warmth” is a grossly incorrect term for a Texas summer.  Just as the north provides a bitter, skin-biting, nose-hair-freezing cold wind, the south performs an equally horrific and opposite production rivaling the blistering, relentless heat blasting from a jet engine.  Periodic mirror checks are required simply to verify your face has not indeed melted away.  Due to a lack of sensational adjectives to describe the summer down here I will simply refer to it as “Texas summer”.

Just as a Michigan winter forces you indoors a Texas summer holds you captive as well.  You run between climate controlled areas (home to car, car to work, work to store) shaking off dripping sweat from your forehead as you would shake clumps of snow from your scarf.  The Michigan winter fogs your glasses indoors when entering the cold just as your Texas sunglasses fog when exiting the air-conditioned chill.

Air-conditioning -- I struggle to talk about it without resorting to whining and complaining.  I programmed our home air-conditioner to 84 degrees for two reasons, to control the cost of energy use and because I like to lounge in shorts and a tank top.  If it was too warm we clicked it cooler by a few degrees but eventually the system would kick it back up to 84 again just in case we forgot.  How some people can live with 72 degrees inside their house baffles me; I am in long pants and sleeves at that temperature and I cannot imagine the bill each month.

At home I am in command of the climate control, in commercial buildings I am not which is a large issue for me.  I drive to work in a tank top and shortly after I arrive must pull on one (or two) of the sweaters I keep on hand simply to stay warm.  When my fingertips begin to tingle and my hands lose strength I don my "old lady knitting gloves" in order to continue working.  Later in the day before I leave I peel off the layers and walk out the doors into the wall of Texas summer where for one small moment I wish that I loved it.

I love the warmth of sunshine, loathe extreme heat and hate excessive cold.  Where on the Seasonal Affective Disorder spectrum does that put me?  Or is it simply another cycle of Major Depressive Disorder that I've struggled to control my entire life?

According to the National Library of Medicine, “People who live in places with long winter nights are at greater risk for SAD.  A less common form of the disorder involves depression during the summer months.”  Is this where the phrase, “can’t win for losing” comes into play?  SAD in Michigan winter or SAD in Texas summer?  Or is it MDD year-round and the search for a perfect climate is futile?  Or is weather simply an easy excuse?

Ignoring the questions I am simply thankful that “Spring” is here, that I can open the windows to allow the soft warmth to rinse out the stale air indoors.  I can read on my front porch, smell the fresh air and listen to the children play outside after the long, couped-up season indoors.  For the first time in months I am thinking of a camera outing outside.

Finally, finally “I’m waking up, and I feel like I’m being released.”