Monday, July 30, 2012

All New Nothing

What's the deal with car ads using the phrase "All New?" You know like, "Get a great deal on the all new Ford Freestyle!" You better hope when you drive out of the parking lot in a "new" car that all of the parts are shiny and new. Don't go to one of those dealerships that sells cars made of some new parts and some old rusty parts recycled from the Model T...

Toaster Trash

Biking around my neighborhood today, I noticed a lone toaster sitting at the end of someone's driveway, ready to be picked up by anyone lacking a way to make toast. As a college student looking to furnish an apartment for the year, I pondered the possibility of picking up that toaster. I began to wonder if it was a working toaster, or if it had been tossed away after unrepairable malfunctions. I wondered how strange it would be if I went up to the residence to inquire about the discarded appliance. I also wondered how many people pass by curb items and try to talk to the previous owners to inquire about the item before deciding whether or not to take them.

Leaving an item by the curb is like a no questions asked method of getting rid of something you no longer want. If you want it, you can have it, but you take it as is. Is it out of line to want to know more about an item that you get for free?

After all the wondering I did, I left the toaster where I found it. I don't think I'll take my chances just yet.

Missing Maple

At an early dinner with my grandma and papa, my papa glared at my plate of strawberry french toast, something obviously weighing heavily on his mind.

He says, "You know, they don't have real maple syrup anymore at these restaurants."

I knew exactly how he felt.

My family has grown up spoiled, always keeping pure maple syrup stashed in the house. It has such a wonderful sweetness and texture that can not be replicated by all those imitation syrups out there.

I jokingly told him he should bring his own syrup next time he eats out, but then I got to thinking. How improper would it be to bring my own maple syrup to a restaurant? I'd still have to order whatever dish I planned on pouring it over so it's not like the restaurant would lose money. If anything they would be saving money since I wouldn't be using their crappy imitation syrup.

If I were bringing my own alcohol to a bar that would be one thing because I would be robbing the bar of any possible profit. But there aren't any diners I have ever been to that make all the money on their imitation syrup consumption.

And for my final argument I say this: Buddy the Elf always carries a stash of syrup with him. If a Christmas elf can do it, why can't I?

This is not real maple syrup

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Rabbit Stew

Remember the rabbit we got at the market yesterday? For Sunday dinner my mom transformed it into a delicious, rustic summer meal. It was served with caramelized onions along with a vegetable medley including asparagus, green beans, onion skates, and tomatoes. It was divine.
Old Fashion Rabbit Stew

Busy Beach

When my grandma and I want to get out of the house and do something fun, the beach is always our first idea. After all, it is my grandma's favorite place in the whole wide world. Today was a typical, warm July day at Durand, and the beach hosted the regular flurry of summer activity.

We sometimes go for walks in the surf, taking in all the sights and sounds along our stroll. We were on such a stroll today, walking west when we noticed a large group of people gathered farther down the shore. We could tell that they were dressed up, and thought perhaps a wedding party was being photographed. As we got closer, we realized that this group of people was actually about two hundred heads strong. Their attention seemed to be focused out on the water, where a group of adults was standing chest deep in the lake, fully clothed in white garments. It appeared that this was some sort of mass baptism. Although we obviously weren't invited, this was still a public beach, so my grandma and I made no moves to turn around. We kept walking right past the onlookers, wearing only our bathing suits.

A few minutes later, we chuckled  as we watched an older, deeply tan gentleman scrubbing his hair, covered in suds, and rinsing off in the lake water. Maybe he was trying to save money on his water bill.

Not long after that, we happened upon a group of individuals all suited up in karate uniforms, performing some sort of routine. We stopped to watch, as they yelled and stepped into different poses in unison. Only a moment after we'd stopped, the group disbanded and the younger members ran down towards the water to get their feet wet. We continued walking until the public beach ended and became private property. Even then we continued a bit further along a private beach to catch a glimpse of an extravagant waterfront property. We are such rebels.

We then turned around to make the voyage back across the beach. Having walked for a half hour before turning around. Both of us would certainly be a shade darker when we made it back to our towels. I started scanning the sand for beach glass since my sister loves to collect it. That's when I noticed a Monarch butterfly resting delicately on the sand. I thought maybe it was injured since it willingly climbed onto my finger and didn't attempt an escape. Not sure what to do with the little guy, I just held it and kept on walking. Twenty minutes later when we finally made it back to our beach blanket, I had just enough time to snap a photo of the butterfly before it flittered off into the breeze. I guess he just likes people.

I am nearly finished describing all of the things my grandma and I saw during our beach day, but I have one last thing to tell. As the two of us were lying on our blanket, gazing off into the small waves, we watched as a woman and her dog walked past. The woman walked along like any other two legged human, but the dog had more of a bounce to his step, because he only had three legs. We both gasped a little as our hearts sank for this poor animal, and then we watched him run.

He flew!

He jumped into the water and played fetch like any other happy dog. It could be that he was born with only three legs and he never even noticed. It was an amazing sight to behold.

With all of the interesting things my grandma and I got to see today, we realized we have way more options for possible beach activities. It is clearly not just for swimming and sun bathing, which is all we have used it for. Until now.
Butterfly friend

The miraculous three legged canine

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Bad Day for Gulf

It's not everyday you see a gas station awning fall over. We have been experiencing some intense winds the past few days, but no tornadoes I can recall. Hopefully no one was fueling up when this giant structure crashed to the ground.

Saturday at the Market

On a fine Saturday morning, the Rochester Public Market is a great place to be. The variety of fresh fruits and veggies, handmade pastas, cheeses, breads and other treats can make it difficult to decide what to buy. Many farmers offer samples of their sweetest fruits to encourage patrons to buy from them.

Walking with my mom and sister, we passed by a booth that was selling rabbit meat. We are all curious eaters, always willing to try something new, so we picked up a whole frozen rabbit to prepare for dinner tomorrow. Live chickens, rabbits, and geese were also for sale, but a dinner that is still breathing is meant for a braver bunch than us.
Skinned and ready to cook

Gotta pick up some green leafy stuff

Even on a rainy day the market still rambles on

Honey sticks! A favorite of mine and my sister's since childhood

Losers Weepers

Yesterday I went for a bike ride around the city. The route I take is a good hour long workout. It's a pretty scenic ride, as I pass by iconic Rochester buildings, parks, and festival sites. I was about to cross Court Street  and continue on the Genessee River bike path when I noticed a small navy blue bag on a stone ledge to my right. It looked like it might be an iPad case, and I was guessing that someone would probably be sick about losing such a gadget. I went over to examine the bag, and upon opening it saw that it was full of Christian literature. There was no contact info to be found, but I probably would have left it there anyway.

I'm no faithful Christian, and I can't stand those super religious nut cases who plant themselves on street corners at Rochester festivals and jabber on about how we're all going to hell unless we let Jesus save us. Sometimes if you brush past them, they will trail behind you for a few yards and yell their speeches at an increased volume, as if THAT would change your mind and make you want to come talk to them.

I don't know who owned that small blue case, and I'm sorry if they're missing it, but I would not go out of my way to give it back for fear of some unwanted interaction with one of those overzealous festival crazies. Someone who is a better Christian than I will surely try harder to return the bag to its rightful owner.

They Put the Dap in Dapper

Party in the Park has been the stage for some good entertainment this summer, but the paramount of musical talent so far performed Thursday night at the Main Street Armory. Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings are bringing sexy back. Stepping on stage all suited up, not only can they play well, but they looked damn good doing it. Jones is a soul sister bringing back the old school rhythms that she grew up on. Emulating the charisma of past female greats, watching Jones perform is like a step back through time.

Wailing into the mic and showing off any number of old school dance moves including the chicken and the twist, Jones exclaimed, "I just can't help myself!" Her love of performing is so plain to see, and she is so thankful for the people that come out to see her on stage.

Jones was more than willing to share the spotlight as well, and invited a spunky young girl to dance up on stage with her during one of her songs. Soon after Jones outdid herself by inviting a group of break dancers from the crowd to come up and perform while she vamped by the side of the stage. The whole performance felt like a giant party, where if you weren't dancing, something was probably wrong with you.
Joe Crispiano (left) and Binky Griptite [Photo: Tim Castelein]

Sharon Jones gettin' groovy [Photo: Tim Castelein]

Sharon Jones, the Dap Kings, and the Dapettes (back-up vocals) [Photo: Tim Castelein]

Who's Excited

I don't watch a lot of TV, especially in the summer. I prefer to fill my days with outdoor activities and spending time with friends. There are few occasions when I can plant myself in front of the boob tube for hours on end with no feelings of guilt. The Olympics are one of those few exceptions. The excitement, the anticipation, and the incredible talent make it difficult to tear my eyes from the screen, even for sports that I know little about or never cared about in gym class.

You hear names you've never heard before, and root for people that you have no personal connection with, other than they are from your country. The Olympics bring a sense of not only national pride, but a sense of global unity as athletes from all corners of the world compete for the same titles and the same medals. Where religion and culture differences matter less, and muscle power and determination make the difference between winning gold and going home.

If you aren't watching the Olympics this summer, what the hell are you watching?

Crystal Clear

This past weekend, my roommate from freshman year at Syracuse came to pay a visit. My family decided we should take her to the lake, which sounds like a nice idea. Durand Beach is our lakeside destination of choice, but the sandy shore is frequently infected with a green, smelly infusion of toxic algae. I want my visiting friend to leave with a favorable impression of Rochester, but taking her to a dirtied body of water is not exactly what I had in mind.  Low and behold we get to the beach and none of us can remember the last time the water looked this clear. What a perfect send off for a very dear friend.
Looks clean enough to drink!

Enjoying the view

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Dog Day Afternoon

It's mid July and it is hot out. The Cicadas are on full alert. They sound like some sort of high pitched electrical malfunction. The grass is yellow-ish brown and crunchy under foot. On any given day my two dogs can be seen running the full length of the yard and beating up on each other. Today they are smart enough to stay in the shade. They can still fight while laying down...

Max goin' for the jugular. Mason doesn't have a chance

Mountain Excursion

This past week I spent an amazing five days in the Adirondack mountains soaking in the sun and breathing in the fresh mountain air. Staying in a house with water access allowed myself and the other ten people I was with to go canoeing on a whim, whenever we felt like paddling. We were situated on a channel that connects Third and Fourth lake, so there was no shortage of places to explore in the canoe. The weather stayed a good ten degrees cooler than back home in Rochester, making it a comfortable mid seventies for the duration of our stay.

We were spoiled with an array of outdoor excursions to take part in, but hiking and paddling were the activities of choice. The water up there is so clear and calm, sometimes the surface appears to be made of glass. The loons utter the most beautiful calls that echo across the lake. The sound urges you to look out onto the water to see if you can spot them floating casually about.

The sights and sounds of the Adirondack region give you the reassuring sense that this wilderness is very much alive and isn't going away anytime soon.

There is not better place to be in the summer time.

A loon bathing in the lake [Photo: Laura Castelein]

The sunrise from our house [Photo: Laura Castelein]

A view of Big Moose from Billy's Bald Spot [Photo: Timothy Castelein]

Monday, July 16, 2012

Caterpillar Whisperer

I tend to make friends wherever I go, just usually not with humans. When I was little it was always entertaining to sit in the driveway and stare at a pile of ants or watch a buzzing bee hop from flower to flower. Little has changed over the years; I am still captivated by the fuzzy yellow caterpillar I see inching its way across the back patio.

Of course I had to get closer to examine its movements. Placing a small twig in front of it, I had hoped the caterpillar would crawl onto it so I could get a closer look. As soon as its little jaws touched the twig, the caterpillar immediately recoiled into a defensive position, clinging desperately to the ugly blue carpet that covers the patio. Expert that I am, I waited patiently until the caterpillar came out of its pose, and this time slyly stuck a piece of paper underneath it as it wriggled behind a lounge chair. I had to move quickly because my puppy Max had taken an interest in what I was doing, and seemed to be as eager as I was to get his paws on this carpet crawler.

I carried the fuzzy little guy to the patio table and let it crawl around while I snapped some photos. The note card seemed to be its favorite resting place, because it clung firmly to paper when I tried to transfer it to a tree in the backyard. After several attempts the caterpillar finally got the hint and wriggled onto the bark. I made sure he was up high enough so Max wouldn't get any ideas. Now it is up to the caterpillar to decide its next adventure.

Loungin' on a note card

It really does have suction cup feet!

It's scaling the Times Square Building! Run for your liiiiife!

Climbing a nearby tree, hopefully out of harm's way

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Gig of Champions

There are some jobs people couldn't be paid to do. There are other jobs that people would pay to be able to do. For me, volunteering at the Stuart Horse Trials feels more like a privilege than a chore.

Every year I show up and the officials have a t-shirt and a boxed lunch waiting for me early Saturday morning. The fences I will be judging for the cross country event have already been decided. All I have to do is bring a chair and my love for this sport. With this volunteer position comes the opportunity to see some Olympic level riders gallop five feet away from me and leap over some impressive obstacles on their noble steeds. This is one of the best gigs ever. Thank goodness someone has to do it.
#84 Drew Keller riding Detailed Just Right

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Sour to Sweet

"We need more berries already," says my sweet tooth grandma. She can't get enough of the sun ripened blueberries we handpicked in the hot sun yesterday afternoon. They weren't always this sweet.

It was in the mid-nineties yesterday on the fourth of July, and we were in desperate need of some refreshment. We were driving home after a fruitless escapade around Lake Ontario to find a speck of beach that wasn't infected with algae. We had stopped at four separate beach locations, each reeking more of the slimy green goo than the last.

Driving home feeling defeated, my mom pointed out a sign exclaiming "Pick-Your-Own Blueberries," and both my grandma and I became excited with the prospect of fresh fruit to munch on. We followed the signs and found ourselves driving down a dirt driveway past a private residence to get to the rows of blueberry bushes. An older man pulled up on his four wheeler and instructed us to follow him down the driveway where we could pick up baskets to collect the berries. Before heading off into the bushes, he made one final remark: "One lady just left because she said it was too hot out here. The sun is brutal..."

We expected to be picking berries for about twenty minutes before filling up a plastic bucket for fifteen dollars. Between us three females we figured we would be done in no time. Forty-five minutes later the bucket was finally getting close to full, but we were all close to having a heat stroke. There was no quitting until we got our money's worth, but by that point we were drenched in sweat and ready for a nap.

Piling back into the car after paying for our harvest, I set a grocery bag full of blueberries in the seat next to me. Gingerly selecting a plump berry from the bag, I popped it into my mouth to savor the delicious sweetness of summer.


I tried another one.

Also sour!

I had to rinse my mouth with water after that one. A wave of disappointment spread through the car as we realized our hard work out in the sun may have been for naught. As soon as we got back to my grandma's house, she rinsed a small bowl of the berries and mixed in a heaping spoonful of sugar. Although the taste was greatly improved, I couldn't help but feel like I was munching on sand when I sampled the sweetened berries.

The next morning I was looking for breakfast at grandma's and I found some blueberries in a plastic container that didn't appear to have any sugar on them. I was going to mix them with some cool whip to sweeten them without adding a sandy texture. As I poured some berries into a dish, I realized that they felt  unusually sticky. Tasting one for good measure, the berry was perfectly sweet and juicy with no crunch.

The moral of this story is don't let a bag of sour blueberries get you down. Rinse them, let them sit over night in a sugary mix, and you will have perfectly sweet berries to enjoy the next day.

Our handpicked blueberries sitting in a delicious sugary sauce with raspberries and blackberries