Friday, January 25, 2013

24. Stripes

There are actually 24 stripes in this photo.

Fashion was my first thought when reading today's photo-a-day challenge, of course.  Stripes are difficult to wear as a female with super short hair, especially bold horizontal stripes.  The two sweaters at the sides are sleeveless with cowl necks, two feminine details; the dark sweater second from the left is a 3/4 sleeve belted cardigan, again two feminine details.  Coincidentally, the sweater with the tan stripe is a simple tank style with thicker straps and is somewhat boxy in fit which is not very feminine, I have never worn it.  I have tried it on with various skinny jeans, capris, boots and heels yet have never been pleased.  The weight and feel of the cashmere blend is quite luxe so I hold out hope that I will eventually make it work.

[Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM]

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

21. What you do

Today was my first day off work since enduring a nasty cold and ignoring household chores for the past week.  Less medicated and more motivated, I had a long list to tackle.  I allowed junk mail, cardboard boxes, receipts and tea mugs rest in unsuitable places.  Knowing our rental company practices unannounced bi-annual inspections was incentive enough to at least make the place presentable, and if I worked to make the house nice why shouldn't I be presentable as well?

As an early birthday gift my Mom sent me an incredible gift box from her favorite coffee shop, Espresso Elevado.  Due to extreme sinus congestion I had not had any coffee drink for over a week, why waste deliciousness on a muted palette?  Since I can once again taste I used my french press to brew an incredible cup of Ethiopian Sidamo light roast coffee and it was divine, especially with the lemon biscotti from The Biscotti Bar, included in the gift box.

I was ready to begin my day of housework... almost.  The pair of Summertime Moonbeams by John Fluevog that I had so fortunately found have gone unworn.  Sacrebleu!  The only answer was to wear them.  Today.  So the subject of my photo-a-day, "What I do", is what I did -- housework in Fluevogs.

Clearing the kitchen table
Recycling/shredding junk mail
Breaking down boxes
Recycling packing material
Five loads of laundry
Changing bedding
Sweeping the kitchen floor
Scooping the litter box
Hosing out the garbage can
Taking out the trash and recycling
Hand-washing fragile glassware
Scrubbing the hallway bathroom
Vacuuming the entire house

All this and some incidentals were performed while wearing my gorgeous and comfortable Fluevogs.  I may not have put on makeup or deodorant (oops) but I wore fabulous footwear.

Oh yeah, I also got my much-anticipated rental lens this morning, the Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM.

[Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM]

Monday, January 21, 2013

"Suspend Disbelief"

Current thought to ponder:

"I think there’s one rule of thumb in creativity: when you’re brainstorming, you have to suspend disbelief. That’s a key ingredient. There’s time enough to challenge it and poke holes, but not at the time of generation"

 Kon Leong, co-founder, president and chief executive of ZL Technologies, from The New York Times Business Day article, The First Rule of Brainstorming: Suspend Disbelief, by Adam Bryant


Wednesday, January 16, 2013

15. An ordinary moment

Lousy cold, lousy photo.

Waiting for water to boil.
Too tired, too medicated to set anything up, what you see is what you get.

[Canon EF 50mm f1.4 USM]

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

14. Something yellow

After receiving my late-in-the-season flu vaccine I began experiencing cold-like symptoms and, afraid of reducing the vaccine's effectiveness, I did not begin an Oscillicocum regimen.  Now I am in full-on head cold discomfort -- severe nasal congestion and horrid sinus pressure.

Last night it became evident that store brand DayQuil was not going to cut it and the only other medicine I had to supplement was store brand TheraFlu and store brand Sudafed.  Don't judge me, but I topped off that pill cocktail with a sleep aid for a fitful night of light sleep knowing that I would have to brave a shopping trip the next morning.

Doing something I never do, I left without makeup, my hair in it's natural, fuzzy state, braced myself for the 37 degree cold and icy wind and headed to Walmart.  First stop, pharmacy for pseudoephedrine, the only decongestant worth taking I believe.  I paid for it, immediately took one and quickly gathered the other items on my mental list such as Puffs Plus with Lotion (the four pack), nighttime cold medicine, nasal spray and zinc.  I do not handle colds well.  Finally at the front of the store, I spotted the rotisserie chickens and got the first one of the day fresh off the spit.  Time to go home and make soup.

I pulled an 8-cup container of homemade chicken stock from the freezer and began melting it in a medium sauce pan while starting water for noodles in a larger pot.  I used about 6 oz. of whole wheat, wide noodles.  While the noodles cooked I began pulling thigh meat off the chicken in small pieces, saving the white meat for something else and the bones for stock.  Before the noodles were fully cooked I scooped them into the heated stock, adding some pasta water to thin the richness a bit, then added the chicken pieces and let it simmer for about 20 minutes.

Voila!  Homemade cold relief.  Had I been feeling better I would have added celery, onions, carrots and some extra garlic, but I wanted simple.  Had I been bedridden and unable to get to the store I would have simply warmed up the stock and sipped it alone.  This is exactly why I always try to keep stock in the freezer.  With this new rotisserie chicken I will begin the process again.  When I am feeling better.

With a sneeze and a sniffle, I bid adieu.

[Canon EF 50mm f1.4 USM]

Saturday, January 12, 2013

11. Water

Or what my brother would describe as "dirty water".

Knowing the side affects of the flu mist vaccine, waking up this morning (well before my alarm) with a sore throat was no surprise.  I opted for hot oatmeal instead of my usual cold cereal as to avoid dairy, whether that is beneficial or not I am unsure, and made hot black tea instead of my usual espresso or americano as I prefer it as a warm carrier for honey and lemon.   After two mugs and two acetaminophen my throat is soothed and I am again prepared to proceed with my afternoon pre-work ritual for another closing shift.  Today is a new moon which can make for a challenging night, something most service industry workers know well.

[Canon EF 50mm f1.4 USM]

10. One o’clock

On this particular day at this exact time I took a minute (literally) to take a photograph.  I was getting myself together for a 1:30 pm closing shift and noticed the time just as I was selecting my shoes.  My phone and iPod are usually set on the bed like this while I am dressing and I check the time frequently to ensure I am on schedule.

[Canon EF 50mm f1.4 USM]

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Spicy Sweet Pepper Bites

Spicy Sweet Pepper Bites

During a recent grocery store visit I was wandering the produce section, iPod in hand with ListOmni neatly organizing my list, looking for fresh ginger.  Confused, I stood where I swore it should be but in its place, under its missing sign, were stacks of rectangular plastic packs of fresh black eyed peas.  Having never seen fresh beans like that before I took it as a sign and placed one in my cart.

Today, with time on my hands and a slightly past “use by” date I knew I had to get creative.  I already planned the evening’s main course as Ginger Salmon and knew the leftover roasted garlic mashed potatoes would not pair well.  Most starches I see as “filler” and try to avoid them for myself but I also understand that my spouse’s job is physically demanding and the carbohydrates are necessary.  Therefore, replacing starchy side dishes with vegetables is a difficult endeavor in this household but I continue to try with insignificant success.

Tonight, however, I succeeded!

It began when I realized I had no idea how I would use the beans, so I read the bottom of the package and loosely followed the instructions.  I dumped the 12 ounces of beans into my small slow cooker with 4 cups of water, a small chopped onion and some salt & pepper at a low heat.  In hindsight, I should probably have used 2 hours high and two hours low.  Nonetheless, the beans were cooking and I had time to think.

In my produce drawer was a bag a sweet mini peppers which I found at an unusually low price, purchased to eat with hummus – a combo I love.  I dug through and pulled out all the round-bodied ones suitable for cutting in half length-wise, forming perfect little buckets for stuffing with… something.

A quick Google search for Asian stuffed peppers resulted in pretty basic rice-mixture stuffed peppers, not my interest.  But in skimming the recipes I did learn that the peppers needed to be par-boiled and the time and temp they should cook when filled.  So I took the cut peppers and added them to the already hot water in the slow cooker for a few minutes until they were less crisp yet still firm.

After I prepared the salmon marinade and bagged the fillets to soak it up it was time to experiment.  In my glass measuring cup I stirred together some hoisin sauce, reduced sodium soy sauce and Tabasco soy sauce (most excellent when you can find it!)  Disappointed that I didn't have fresh ingredients, I used dried ground ginger and a touch of dried cilantro.

When I tested the beans from the slow cooker they were not as tender as I hoped, so I heated a small fry pan with a touch of grapeseed oil and sautéed a few scoops of the bean/onion mixture for about 5 minutes.   I then added a pressed garlic clove and a splash of sesame oil after removing the pan from the burner (garlic and sesame oil burn easily and lose their fresh qualities).

I combined the bean mixture and the soy sauce mixture into my little food processor, adding some rice vinegar to reach the right consistency.  The results looked surprisingly like taco meat with a hearty texture I credit to the somewhat under-cooked beans; If I used canned beans it would certainly turn mushy.   At this time I also added another crushed garlic clove that I left out earlier, next time I will just add two at the same time with the sesame oil.  This is a great example of why I love the loose art of cooking – experimenting a little bit at a time, making it up as you go.

Now it was time to stuff the peppers and put them in the pre-heated toaster oven at 400 for 15 minutes.  When I took them out, I switched the oven to broil, added the salmon and taste-tested the peppers.  Yum!  The spiciness was perfect – just when I thought they may have been too spicy, the flavor and soft heat came through without burning my taste buds off.  It took me to the edge to enjoy the view without pushing me over to endure the pain.  To my relief, my husband felt the same.

The following recipe is an estimation and altered a bit for simplicity.  Obviously, if you've read this far you know what I actually did and where artistic license was practiced.

Spicy Sweet Pepper Bites

8 (or so) sweet mini peppers
4 ounces black eyed peas (cooked, firm)
1/4 cup chopped onion
2 garlic cloves (crushed or minced)
1-2 tsp. oil (vegetable, grapeseed, light olive)
1 tbsp. sesame oil
2 oz. hoisin sauce
2 oz. soy sauce
1 oz. Tabasco soy sauce
2 tsp. ground ginger
2 tsp. dried cilantro
1-2 tbsp. rice vinegar

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.

Slice peppers length-wise, removing stems and seeds; Par-boil in hot water a few minutes until crisp-tender.

For sauce stir together hoisin sauce, soy sauce and Tabasco soy sauce; stir in ginger and cilantro.

In fry pan with oil over medium heat, gently sauté beans and onion until warmed through.  Remove from heat and stir in sesame oil and garlic until combined.

In food processor combine bean mixture and sauce mixture, pulse until chopped thoroughly, adding rice vinegar until reaching desired consistency.

Fill pepper halves with mixture, place on baking sheet (lined with non-stick cooking sprayed foil, optional) and cook for 15-20 minutes.

[Canon EF 50mm f1.4 USM]

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

08. Something Beginning with 'T'


For the first time in months I have two consecutive days off work with no obligations to fulfill or any real plans.  My camera has sat unused since the 27th of December, as has my creativity.  My job has drained me completely, or as Brandi Carlile more eloquently states, " soul was worn right through."

Two days of cold, Texas rain is appropriate.

Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4.0-5.6 IS II