Monday, December 30, 2013

Christmas Cassettes

My mom recently purchased a lightly used vehicle previously owned by an elderly couple. Looking to bridge the gap between analog and digital, they had both a tape deck and CD player installed. Although our modern family has wholeheartedly adopted the use of CD's, why not take advantage of a tape deck? It's fun! It's nostalgic!

So I bought my mom six cassettes for Christmas.

The selection of music at the tiny local record store was pretty sweet, and I walked out of the shop with some Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Rush, Eric Clapton, Motley Crue, Cheap Trick and James Taylor. After mom unwrapped her gift with a laugh, I had to make it clear the gift was meant to be functional. I made sure to go the extra mile to personally fill her center console with the tapes so they would be located a forearm's reach away. A storage area that probably could have housed ten CD's is now crowded with the six cassettes I purchased for a buck each. Was I having too much fun with this?


I had a feeling the cassettes would only get played if I initiated the their use with my mom in the car. So this morning when I drove her to work, I excitedly asked if she wanted to listen to a cassette. She smiled and selected the Cheap Trick "One on One" album. After a few moments of no sound, we both realized with a giggle: the tape needed to be rewound. So mom hit the "Rev" button, and we wistfully listened to that familiar whirring sound before the tape finally played from the beginning. We sampled each of the songs before skipping to the next track, laughing in between songs as the tape wound around and the musical silence stagnated. Skipping songs on a tape takes what feels like a millenium compared to how swift this function is on a CD. Playing music on a cassette is an enthralling experience, building suspense as we wait, feeling like our hair has grown an inch before the next song finally plays. But it's all part of the charm.

The tricked out control center

Forget CD's, play the tapes!

Uncontrollably Laugh Your Way to Medical Attention

I was watching TV with my grandma this morning when a commercial came on that triggered bouts of laughter from both of us. The irony is, the commercial was explaining the pseudobulbar affect, which is a medical condition characterized by episodes of uncontrollable laughing or crying, also referred to as "emotional incontinence." The ad seemed like a cheesy fake commercial in a Saturday Night Live episode, except this commercial was no laughing matter. The pseudobulbar affect is listed and explained on the National Stroke Association website.

But isn't it kind of cruel to create a commercial identifying this condition in such a comical way? Maybe a little, but it certainly got my attention. So if you have recently had a stroke or some other brain related incident or illness and you are experiencing emotional incontinence, you're not alone. Get your PBA pamphlet today!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Forest Graffiti

Washington Grove is a popular 100 acre forested area in the ROC, and features a unique artistic attraction. Graffiti smothered water towers rest on a hill surrounded by hiking trails, and no hike is complete without taking a spin around the two water towers to view the most current images. The artwork is constantly changing, so if you see something you like, you better snap a photo. Chances are it won't be there next time you visit. A recent adventure to the towers left me stopping every few feet to photograph my favorite creations before dashing to catch up to my two hiking companions. One of my friends was visiting from Brooklyn, and I may have missed out on some important conversation, but the impressive graffiti kept drawing my camera phone out of my pocket.

Gary the ubiquitous cartoon snail

After reviewing my picture plunder, I noticed floating animal heads were a recurring theme. I was also amused by one particular artwork that took me by surprise with it's simple execution. I couldn't help but take a photograph to contrast the demented creature donning a bubble gum pink sweater vest with the more elegant and sophisticated work that dominates the water tower walls.

"I'm special."
The water towers provide a creative outlet for artists of all aesthetics and levels of experience. Hopefully this artistic gem can continue to provide a vast canvas for graffiti artists. With the recent loss of 5 Pointz in Queens, we can be glad no one seems too interested in converting rusty old water towers into ritzy condos. Of course, no one is about to develop land in the middle of a park either, so the water towers hopefully have some added immunity.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Sidewalk Garnish

Leaving Jeremiah's Tavern on Monroe Ave today after a tasty lunch with the family, I noticed a peculiar growth by the edge of the sidewalk. As I inched closer, it was impossible to ignore how eerily similar the lettuce-like foliage looked to the lettuce garnishes that often accompany a restaurant meal. The rich purple and green hues of the leafy growth tempted me to take a little taste, but the thought of eating street lettuce stopped me in my tracks. My uncle noticed the vegetation and jokingly exclaimed, "fertilized with cigarettes!" I'll keep wondering how that strange lettuce specimen managed to sprout and thrive in a tiny dirt patch by the edge of a grimy, well-traveled road. I hope Jeremiah's acquires their garnishes elsewhere.

Lookin' pretty good considering the cold and salt and all

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Communication Breakdown

Ahhh the holidays, a time when doting grandparents can finally reunite with the beloved grandchildren they are lucky enough to see but a few times a year. I can't help but chuckle as I observe the interactions between my grandmother and her toddler granddaughter. They sit at the dining room table together, making art from a pile of yellow construction paper, crayons and craft scissors.

The young girl mouths of wordy, half coherent sentences while Grandma attempts to translate and respond accordingly. The pile of once whole sheets of yellow paper is slowly but surely being transformed into a heap of dissected squiggly strips.

Markers with missing caps littler the tables, and other young children join in the fun, adding to the squiggly paper mayhem.

Little girl: (proudly holding up a shape she just cut) "That's a guy. I love it."

Younger boy: (planning to cut out a boat from some black construction paper) "I was thinking one with a banana end and one with a dragon tail end"

Younger boy:
"Does that look like a butterfly to you?"
"That looks like a dragon."
"My mom used to eat snails. I never want to eat snails in my life."
"Cranberry sauce tastes bitter to me."

Grandma talking to little girl: "Do we have glue on the scissors by any chance? It looks like we might... Nope you're good, keep cutting."

One older little boy chimes in, "The great thing about these scissors is it's not really messy." And he's absolutely right. Even a three year old just learning to refine her crafting abilities can cut artistic squiggly lines without having to worry about making them too straight.

And it doesn't really matter if Grandma can linearly translate what her adorable granddaughter is trying to tell her. They're conversations are as squiggly and haphazard as the paper shapes that litter the table and floor. As long as they're making art and spending time together, that's all that matters.

Younger boy on the left, little girl in the middle
holding the magical craft scissors, and Grandma
on the right facilitating the discussion

Thursday, November 28, 2013

National Lampoon's Thanksgiving Odyssey

Most of us have seen those ridiculously over the top slap stick holiday movies featuring Chevy Chase and his neurotically abnormal family members. It is with a combination of bitter remorse and bewildered amusement I must admit  those movies evoke all too accurately the daily operations of my own crazy family.

This Thanksgiving the insanity erupted in a last minute volcano of vacation mayhem as we rushed to get on the road in time to beat the atrocious snowy weather pelting the northeast on one of the busiest travel days of the year.

Having neglected to vet Shaggy, my grandma's enormous Old English Sheepdog, we couldn't kennel him anywhere. We had no choice but to make space for him in the back of the station wagon and haul him along with us for the six hour drive to our relative's house. Have you ever tried to fall asleep while a slimy dog tongue exuding a strong fishy stench drools saliva on your shoulder? It's a fun challenge. Not only was Shaggy basking in his normal dirty dog aromas, he'd also snatched a juicy Burger King cheeseburger my grandma had left too close to the edge of the counter earlier that day. Between the existing smells and the threat of a dog diarrhea explosion, the car ride was a little tense.

Oh and the looming threat of blizzard conditions and icy roads didn't help the tension. Despite repeated travel advisory warnings, my family was dead set on making the half day drive through the snow and ice. As we nervously rolled past eighteen wheelers veering dangerously close to our car, I was envisioning a perfectly browned, juicy turkey floating in front of a distinctly pearly gate.

Despite the obvious danger, there were also the haphazardly packed bags crammed between my sister and I in the back seat. The precariously perched glass bowl of gluten free stuffing threatened to crash to the floor and ruin the pathetic mush my sister insisted on having. But there's really nothing like a glass dish of stuffing periodically rolling into your lap to get you excited for the Thanksgiving feast.

Luckily we made it to the relative's house unscathed and stuffing intact, and it wasn't until the next morning that Shaggy's cheeseburger bender came back to bite him in the you know what.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Fond Fang Memories

As the holiday season looms in the chilly November future, nostalgia inevitably draws people to bust out the homemade decorations and family photos from years past. I was recently combing through my mom's jewelry collection stored in the top drawer of her dresser. The collection is chock full of old pairs of earrings and some of the first jewelry my sister and I were ever given. As I inspected the contents of tiny boxes and silk bags I couldn't help but mourn the countless broken gold chains and earrings missing their matching counterparts. The numerous pairs of dolphin-shaped earrings made me question whether I had a forgotten obsession with dolphins as a young girl. No such obsession came to mind, which left me wondering why my mother repeatedly chose dolphin themed earrings for my sister and I.

As I continued examining the jewelry collection, my mind wandered to other childhood collections. It was at this point I started searching for my baby teeth, hoping my mom had not thrown them out. As it turns out, the tooth collection was being safely stored in a jewelry box in a loose drawer on top of the refrigerator in the garage. Though smaller than I remember, the teeth made the familiar clattering sound as I pushed them around the box with my finger. They sounded like tiny seashells bumping into each other when I closed my eyes.

I brought my collection back inside and gingerly selected my favorite tooth. Ah, but it was no ordinary tooth. Have you ever had a tooth grow from the roof of your mouth? Well I have, and for the duration of it's lifetime, I had no idea it was not normal to have a tooth growing up there. Growing singularly behind my two front teeth, the rogue tooth had a mind of its own, growing in a rather conical shape with a pointed, fang-like tip. I don't even remember what it was like to have a tooth growing where it shouldn't, but I wouldn't make this up.

I DO remember the terrifying experience of getting the tooth removed, as the tooth-extracting-people realized with a shock how well my crazy fang tooth had rooted itself. Oh yes, being held down by two technicians and injected with repeated doses of numbing agent was an unforgettable event. And the gap, oooh the glorious gap I couldn't stop feeling with my tongue after the horrifying procedure was over. Despite the terrifying extraction process, I am still very fond of my fang. It is doubtful I will ever produce another fang in my lifetime, but I can't help but wonder if I have some secret mystical power not yet known to me. I've always been fond of the woods. Perhaps one day the rest of my fangs will finally grow in and I can run with the other wolves and howl at the full moon.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Trick or Cheat

It's sad to admit, but now that I am a senior in college, I'm fairly certain I have just completed my final trick-or-treating escapade. It's true, most trick-or-treaters lose sight of the magic of taking candy from strangers long before college, but I have persisted, with the help of the two young girls I babysit.

This year it was unseasonably warm, yet rainy and muddy. In anticipation of this weather, my friend and I prepared detective costumes incorporating black rain coats to shield us from the unfortunate weather. The only actual detective garb consisted of handmade paper badges safety pinned to our jackets, along with notebooks and pens we kept in our pockets to record evidence. Our costumes did look rather lame on the outside, and the mother of the girls we escorted offered to let us borrow two brief case-type bags to make our costumes more legit. The detective bag I used was a red leather purse with shoulder straps, but I think it actually may have worked against me. Since it looked purse-like, a lot of adults thought I was just carrying it to carry it. As one adult passionately commented however, "people should expect any bag at the door at Halloween is for candy." Amen. Still, my friend and I left many candy-giver-outers wondering if we were just accompanying the girls or if we were also trick-or-treaters.

On this gloomy Halloween evening, several cars were seen slowly rolling down the streets, carrying the lazy "trick-or-treater cheaters" who refused to walk from house to house, or whose parents wanted to shield them from the treacherous sprinkling of rain and occasional puddle. The girls laughed at them as we trudged up and down driveways on foot. The youngest girl in our group had decided to wear high heels as part of her drama queen costume. I knew she would suffer, but there was no talking her out of it. Halfway through the candy route she started giving in, huffing and puffing, but relentlessly exclaiming, "If I don't get more candy I'll die." And in her next breath she admitted, "I wish I had my power scooter." Instead of stooping down to trick-or-treater cheater level, we cut our losses and went home early. There was still plenty of candy to go around.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Puppy Love

I always love having a reason to get up and relish in the refreshing atmosphere of early morning before sliding into the regular grind of school life. Having recently acquired a puppy, daily walks at four o'clock in the morning have completely redefined what constitutes "early" for my boyfriend and I.

Our precious bundle of joy blissfully ignores wistful calls of "Cora," we project in her direction. Her name is inspired by the Italian word for brave: coraggiosi. And brave she is. She can ascend and descend whole flights of stairs, climb over tree stumps and chases butterflies, dashing at a full prance.

She also has daggers for teeth, and she loves getting them caught on any type of fabric within reach. Sweatpants? Yes. The couch? Heck yes! The carpet? Oh man, you have no idea!! At least the scraping of tiny puppy teeth makes an unmistakable scratching noise on the carpet, so we can catch her in the act before serious damage is done. She also loves chomping on the chair and table legs... (by the way, don't tell my landlord) and they have become among her favorite chew toys. These again make a characteristic crunching noise when teeth dig into wood, so her naughty habit rarely flies under the radar.

One of Cora's best attributes is her willingness to snuggle. This is of course after we've tired her out so much that she no longer has energy to paw at our faces with her wolverine claws or chomp on our hair, or ears, or faces in general. They're all love bites, at least that's what we keep telling ourselves. As I type on this keyboard, I am glancing down at my pinkened wrist, speckled with red bite marks from the wild baby animal that thinks my hand is a chew toy.

But godamn I love her. I love her so much I dream about her even when she's sleeping in her crate right next to my bed. I think about her during the day and fantasize about the moment I come home and she scampers towards me, shaking in excitement. I wish we had our own secret language so I could tell her exactly how special she is and so she could ask me all of her pressing questions about puppy life.

Things like:

"How come I fall asleep on the couch and wake up in my crate? Is it magic?"
"Why do you pick up my poop? I can never find it the next day."
"Why do some people walk by me and not want to pet me? Am I invisible?"
"What's in that giant ceramic bowl you sit on sometimes? I really want to know."

Maybe one day she will learn the answers to these questions, but for now she is simply my little snuggle muffin.

The lovely lady Cora

Friday, October 18, 2013

Spirit Hawk

The gorgeous 160 acre rural cemetery adjacent to the SUNY ESF campus is often used for outdoor lab sessions. Though it may sound like a creepy outdoor classroom, it provides a beautiful and relaxing atmosphere with endless educational opportunities.

Just last week I was winding my way through tombstones colonized by moss and old growth oaks and norway spruce trees. A few fellow classmates and I were conducting a mycology lab to analyze lichen growth patterns on various substrates. While it was just as boring as it sounds, we experienced a few brief moments of wonder when a hawk swooped down in front of us and landed on a large headstone. Here is our encounter through photographs:

(By the way, the best way to view this series of photographs is to click on the first one and then move through them in rapid succession when they are enlarged. It makes it look like a stop-motion movie or a flip book. It makes way more sense than scrolling through the photos and looks a lot cooler.)

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Starving Student Meal Deal

Of the two main Syracuse grocery stores I frequent, the closer, more convenient option is my least favorite. However, my opinion was slightly changed last night after a particularly fruitful shopping experience. Tops offers these "Family Meal Deals" where you buy one relatively large ticket item and receive all of the meal fixings that go along with it for free. This week's deal featured a chuck roast with an assortment of veggies, dinner rolls, cupcakes, and a two liter of soda.

The nice thing about this meal deal is the consumer has some choice in the ultimate cost of the meal. My boyfriend and I swung for the least expensive chuck roast at $22.62. But the Family Meal Deal could also be a good excuse for a shopper to splurge a little and purchase a larger portion of meat thanks to all of the savings from the "free" grocery items. Instead of spending $38.87 on a nice pot roast dinner, we only paid the cost of the meat.

The Deal
It's a great deal not only for families pinching pennies but also all of us poor college kids out there who deserve a nice meal every once in a while. It's enough food to split with a whole group of friends so if you ever want to have a family meal with your buddies, have everyone pitch in a few dollars and you'll all be eating like kings even if you're broke.
Our haul - someone may have snatched
 a cupcake before I snapped the photo
(2 liter bottle of soda not pictured)
Don't you love seeing the word FREE

Monday, September 23, 2013

Frozen Food Tasting

My sister works at a trendy chain grocery store whose products she worships even though most of them are mass-produced in facilities at the opposite end of the country. The other day I went to pick her up from work but arrived a few minutes early. While she was in the break room retrieving her things, another employee was preparing an array of new products for the employees to sample. Each of the three products was a frozen meal that had been heated and portioned into small sample cups for everyone to try. Since I'm not one to pass on free food, I examined the three different options: a salmon noodle casserole, some sort of beef stroganoff concoction, and chicken in gravy sauce or something.

I stood behind a flock of contemplative employees, carefully reading each of the food descriptions. I then glanced up to see an older man with a goatee stroke his chin, deeply considering the flavor profiles of the no doubt lukewarm, rubbery beef bits he was chewing. I had originally intended to sample the food item that I believed could best retain its flavor and texture after being manufactured, frozen and microwaved. In the end I opted for the most exotic sounding fare: the salmon noodle thing. It was only a few bites worth of food so what could it possibly do to me?

As I brought the first forkful to my lips, the fickle smell of poorly prepared salmon wafted up my nose and I immediately second guess my choice. I love salmon, but somehow I felt as though this noodle mixture was degrading to salmon everywhere. I shrugged and took the first bite. There was no second bite. It was wonderfully flavorless and boring just like something manufactured with as little care or culinary effort should. It tasted like a day old tuna sandwich that had been forgotten in a school backpack. I had to stifle a laugh as my sister asked me what I thought:

"Meh, it's frozen food."

I couldn't lie, but will the employees have to?

Weird Fungus

I'm sorry to resume my blog with a less than profound post. I wish I could say my online absence has been due to an intense intellectual awakening that I could not fully articulate in a blog post until now. Sadly, I have nothing philosophical or mind-blowing to say, but I have some cool pictures of fungus!

I am working on a collection project for my mycology class and the coolest thing I've found so far reminded me an awful lot of tripe a.k.a. the stomach lining of various farm animals. Tripe is actually considered a delicacy but I don't think I could ever stomach that stuff (see what I did there??) This white jelly fungus I found was growing on a decaying tree. After drying it in the oven it turned a dark brown color. Pretty neat! Hope the fumes aren't slowly poisoning myself and my roommates.

Before drying

After Drying

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Envelope Art

I've never been good at drawing, so I've had to hone in on other talents. I love writing letters to friends and family since it's a very personal and meaningful way of staying in touch. Probably about seventy percent of the things I say are meant with a sarcastic or comical overtone, and I have started channeling that into how I decorate the envelopes. It's fun and easy and if I run out of stuff to say in a letter I just put more stickers on the envelope so the recipient has more to look at. It's really worked out quite well and it makes writing letters even more fun!

Possible Demon Sighting

It seemed liked another cheerful summer's day. The birds were chirping, the sun was shining, and many neighborhood residents were enjoying a casual stroll or leisurely bike ride. I might have even had a little extra pep in my step as I breathed in the warm air, anticipating a delicious lunch as I approached my apartment. Just then, as I turned at the corner of Euclid and Ackerman, I saw a ghastly sight. What was clearly a shriveled, mummified hand was strewn across the sidewalk as if someone had carelessly dropped it on their way to the grocery store. Obviously my first questions were what supernatural being that hand belonged to and if it had crawled here on its own. If the hand was still living apart from its demon body, was I at risk of being suddenly attacked and sacrificed to the demon overlord? I started to panic and snapped a quick photo as proof before crossing the street and hastily continuing my journey home. I peered back for a quick second and I could have sworn I saw those gnarled black fingers twitch.

A Proper Breakfast

Sometimes I have to be creative with my omelette making when I forget to add vegetables until after I've folded the omelette over. Spinach and cheese omelettes are my go-to, and more often than not the spinach ends up on the side as a garnish. No matter, I just call it a deconstructed omelette and carry on like nothing went wrong. Added bonus, the plops of sauteed spinach and salsa on the plate make for a nice presentation.

The Presentation

The Assembly

Monday, July 15, 2013

Zucchini Snack

I'm not a chef, but sometimes it's fun to pretend. The other night I made this tasty dish with a zucchini purchased from a small farmer's market down the street. All I did was cut it in slices and sauteed it with some olive oil. In another pan I sauteed chopped onion and garlic to garnish the zucchini. I added a sprinkle of parmesan cheese for a savory flare and voila!

Have it as a side or as the main course!
Depends on how hungry you are...

Sensational Sangria

Several years ago I had my first taste of sangria at a Peruvian restaurant in New York City. I immediately fell in love with this dangerously delightful fruity beverage. It was a spicy and sweet concoction that mesmerized me with a secret potency I could not detect until I was falling sideways in the restaurant booth. Over a week ago I decided to make my own sangria with a very simple recipe since I only had a few ingredients on hand:

1/4 cup Sugar
1/2 Thinly Sliced Orange
1 bottle 750-ml Red Wine
A splash of brandy

Make the sangria on a night you're making red sauce. Pour some of the wine into the sauce. Pour the rest into a mason jar and add remaining ingredients. Shake it up to combine ingredients. Forget about it and leave it sitting in the fridge for a week. Open it up and pour yourself a refreshing glass of fruity deliciousness.

Side note: My version is pretty potent. Add water if needed. The key thing is to let it sit at least over night whenever possible. If you give the flavors some time to merry, you will be rewarded with a phenomenal batch of sangria.

The jar was full before pouring two glasses

Animal Cruelty on Corn Hill

Yesterday marked the final day of the Corn Hill Arts Festival in Rochester. This mid-July festival draws thousands to explore the artistic wares, funky food and thirst quenching drinks largely produced by locals artisans and small businesses. This festival often takes place in some of the hottest weather experienced in Upstate New York, and this year was no exception. Sunday produced temperatures in the mid-nineties. One-dollar bottles of water flew off the tables at church fundraisers and lemonade stands. Grey-bearded biker dudes donning black t-shirts quietly praised their death metal gods for their outfit choices which shielded their grotesquely sweaty shirts clinging to round beer bellies protruding from fitted leather vests (sorry I couldn't snag a picture of THAT).

My grandma worked at the festival this year. More than trying to persuade passersby to sign up for free home energy audits, she encouraged them to enjoy the sprinkler system set up in the tent next door to us. I watched miserable, red-faced children as their eyes lit up after passing through the sprinklers. It's amazing how a little water can create a huge attitude adjustment on such a hot, sticky day.

I also had the misfortune to watch festival goers drag their over-heated, dehydrated dogs through the screaming hot paved streets. My jaw hung to the ground as a small chihuahua mix frantically danced from foot to foot to keep his feet from burning as his oblivious owner chatted casually with friends. An Irish Wolfhound walked by our tent and I was so happy to see his owner lead him beneath the sprinklers to help him cool down. As soon as they returned to the dry pavement, however, the owner stopped to make small-talk with strangers and the wolfhound methodically shifted his weight off each of his feet to give them each a chance to cool. The icing on the cake had to be the labrador mix who limped beneath the sprinklers and immediately collapsed to the cool, wet ground and rolled around to coat his fur. After a few minutes of relaxation the owner tried to coax the dog from beneath the tent, but the dog wouldn't budge.

There are plenty of compassionate and well-meaning dog owners who sometimes overlook the fact that dogs don't wear shoes. Humans have protection from the hot summer sidewalks because we wear protective footwear. When I say it like that it seems like a no-brainer, yet I watched countless dog owners ignore that simple fact. So here is a simple message to all of you who love your dogs and want to keep their interests at heart. Leave them at home when the weather is too hot for you to walk down a paved road without shoes. That way your dogs won't have to suffer.

"Now that I'm here, I"M NOT LEAVING!"

Panting pup back for round two

Stepping on the pavement to see how it feels.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Alcohol Experiments

One of the privileges I have looked forward to most with turning twenty-one is my new and exciting ability to go out for drinks with friends. As enthralling as this new experience will surely be in the many late nights to come, it is also quite enjoyable to experiment making my own crazy cocktails at home. It definitely helps to have a mixing guide, which my boyfriend wisely chose to give me. Below are the first few cocktails we attempted to make. If any of them sound like the perfect drink to wet your whistle, try making them at home. Since we were working with limited supplies and artistic talent, our creations aren't exactly picture perfect, but it's the taste that counts.

Alexander No. 1
1 oz. Gin
1 oz. Creme de Cacao (White)
1 oz. Light Cream

Shake with ice and strain into chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with fresh grated nutmeg on top.

Notes: Drinking this is like swallowing a mouthful of Christmas! Then again, I think any gin drink reminds me of the holidays with that distinct conifer taste. That piney aroma combined with the sweet, chocolate taste of Creme de Cacao is a unique but delicious combination. We also didn't have light cream on hand so we used skim milk instead.

Banana Cow
1 oz. Light Rum
1 oz. Creme de Banana
1 1/2 oz. Cream
1 dash Grenadine

Shake ingredients with crushed ice and strain into chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a banana slice and fresh-grated nutmeg on top.

Notes: This drink has a much more mellow taste than the Alexander No. 1 cocktail. I didn't have grenadine so I replaced it with triple sec since both ingredients possess fruity characteristics.

Alexander No. 1 on the left, Bana Cow
on the right, The Rolling Stones in the back

Alexander No. 2
1 oz. Creme de Cacao (White)
1 oz. Brandy
1 0z. Light Cream

Shake with ice and strain into chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with fresh-grated nutmeg on top.

Notes: Although this drink is similar to Alexander No. 1, swapping gin for brandy makes all the difference in the world. The brandy pairs more nicely with the Creme de Cacao.

2 oz. Vodka
1 oz. Light Rum
1/2 oz. Milk
1 tsp. Sugar
1 oz. Lemon Juice

Shake with ice and strain into chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a twist of lemon peel

Notes: This drink is very tart! It is lemonade with a serious kick, somewhat reminiscent of an astringent. The sugar doesn't add much sweetness so you might want to add a little more.

Alexander No. 2 on the right, Bikini
on the left, U2 poster in the back

Bikini with a lemon garnish

The most important thing we've learned so far is when it comes to making cocktails, experimenting is half the fun! So what if you don't have every single ingredient for a certain recipe. Try substituting something else or see if you can get by without it. We didn't garnish any of our drinks with nutmeg because we just didn't have it, but still managed to concoct some tasty beverages.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Carrot Hairdo

Baby carrots these days find it very difficult to stand out when they're all uniformly trimmed and shaved. Every once in a while, one brave little carrot will make it through processing and packaging and end up on a kitchen cutting board. On these rare occasions, carrot connoisseurs are often faced with the dilemma of either preserving the orange oddity or tossing it into a chopped salad with all of the other average looking veggies.

I encountered such a carrot once. He'd probably always wanted to grow up and be in a punk band, with his green spiked hair. But what do I know? I don't speak carrot. I eat a lot of salad though, and boy was that baby carrot sweet and crunchy.

"Stop staring at me like that!
What are you doing with that knife??
No! NOOOOOooo!"


This year the official start of summer was June twenty-first, also known as the summer solstice. Summer is my favorite season. It always has been. I love the heat, I love feeling like I'm in an oven even if it means feeling hot and sticky. It is somehow soothing and comforting not needing to pile wool blankets over me just to stay warm at night.

I also love summer because it means more time to spend outside being active. As kids, my sister and I could always be found outside running around my grandma's yard, relishing the extra playtime until the mosquitos forced us inside. It's a wonderful thing to not have to cut playtime short because it's getting too dark. In those childhood summers, we had so much time at our disposal, we would burn up all of our fuel from dinner and run back inside to chow on some leftover chicken or boiled potatoes before rushing back outside to keep playing. Those were the good days.

This year I wanted to honor those cherished memories by paying homage to the sun and all of its burning glory. That is why I set my alarm for 5:20 am so I could wake up with the early birds and catch the sunrise on the longest day of the year.

It wasn't the most spectacular sunrise I've ever seen, in fact I didn't even glimpse the sun until 6:05 because I had failed to account for the houses and trees blocking my view. It was still a delightful experience. Although I didn't spend those extra morning hours running around my lawn pretending to be a horse, I did get a lot of tasks accomplished that would have gone undone had I snoozed until it was time to get ready for work. At least I've grown up a little.

I also made sure to catch the sunset at Westminster Park with my boyfriend who didn't have the drive to wake up and watch the sunrise with me that morning. I couldn't blame him. It was ridiculously early. Viewing the sunrise and sunset for the summer solstice was my small way of giving thanks for the bright, warm sun that makes summer such a special time of the year.