Friday, February 29, 2008

1,000 Photos on Flickr!!!

Well I now officially have over 1,000 photos on my flickr photostream. And what was the 1,000th photo?


Not sure why this excited me so much as to warrant a post. I guess I'm just weird that way. :)

Graffiti / Street Art

graf·fi·ti /grəˈfiti/ [gruh-fee-tee] –noun

2. (used with a plural verb) markings, as initials, slogans, or drawings, written, spray-painted, or sketched on a sidewalk, wall of a building or public restroom, or the like: These graffiti are evidence of the neighborhood's decline.


Graffiti is one of those things that either you love or you hate. Here in Little Town Arizona it isn't something that you see often. Most of the time when you do see it, it isn't pretty. Some kid stops with one color of paint for 10 seconds in an alley to write "(Insert Name) sucks c*ck." Within a week it is painted over and forgotten. Rarely is there any 'art' aspect to the spray paint.


Personally, I am one of the people that enjoys graffiti (when there is more to it than the above), so whenever I find it in 'Everybody's Hometown' I try to capture it. Sometimes it is something fairly basic like a stencil of a flower on the wall:



And once in a blue moon you will see OLD graffiti around town. Like this face that has been around since I was a little kid:



Every now and then somebody just decides to make something prettier:



Sometimes people go to great lengths to put their mark on the world, like on the backside of Watson Lake Dam:



The only place in town that I know of, which shows off its graffiti is a house on south montezuma street, which is now going to be blocked from view by a house going up in front of it:



I've only ever known one person who actually 'did' graffiti, and that was my sister Nikki the artist. She explained to me where it was, and took pictures, but I never went looking for it. A little different from your average graffiti, she did it with acrylic paint in the drainage system of Prescott. She did a flower:



And a butterfly coming out of it's cocoon:



Now, years later I stumbled upon where her painting was during a lunch time walk! The entrance is the type of tunnel that seriously makes you question your decision-making-paradigm. It's dark, there is an unknown liquid underfoot, and it is exactly the type of place you would expect to find crazy homeless people ready to kill for a nickel. Yep, this seems like something my sister would do.


Of course one of the first things I find is some homeless person's belongings!! At least they are out killing somebody else for a nickel and not me! After I got over the fear of being in a small, subterranean, enclosed space I began snapping pictures. Wow was there a lot to see. The space where Nikki's art used to be has been covered over many times:


There was a supporting pillar covered in tags. And yeah, on the left there? Homeless person stuff! Don't believe me? Check out the large version!:


Somebody got creative and put an octopus around a drain pipe:



And my favorite picture, "Prescott Rocks":



And the only thing you see from the street level is this innocuous grating:



After seeing all this good picture-worthy goodness, I am now on a mission to find more of these little hidey-holes of paint. Hopefully the homeless folks don't find me before I can take some more pictures.


So what are your thoughts on Graffiti? Pointless vandalism, valid street art, or somewhere in between?

11 photos from the walk are in the alley walking PHOTOSET

Fajita Friday

Well, to be technical it was fajita Thursday, but Fajita Friday just sounds better.


So after my nice walk with the dog last night it was time for dinner. DaNece was still out shopping so I was on my own. I had some defrosted chicken breasts and a belly screaming for sustenance. A situation like this requires something that can be thrown together quickly and efficiently. It also requires having some other stuff on hand like bell pepper and onion, which I thankfully did have hidden away.


The big trick to fajitas is to get some nice carmelization while still keeping it moist enough to enjoy. Sometimes this can be tricky but thankfully last night it came through perfectly.


To start: Preheat 2 pans on MEDIUM heat - this is important. One for chicken and one for all the veggies:




Slice all your veggies and chicken into the size chunks you want to eat and season them. Tonight I happened to have onion, orange bell pepper, green bell pepper, and mushrooms. I kept the onions separate since they need to cook first to soften up. The remaineder of the veggies get: Fresh garlic, cumin, salt, pepper, a touch of cumin, and a healthy pinch of sugar. Generally I go pretty light on the spices for the veggies since I really like to taste them in the final product.


My (3) Chicken (breasts) receives what we call 'the Devil Spice'. We call it this because whenever you stick your nose into the bag to get a whiff you end up getting something in your sinuses and coughing and sneezing for the next ten minutes. The devil spice includes the following (but may not be limited to): Lots of Cumin, rosemary, garlic salt, black pepper, paprika, and cayenne. In addition to the devil spice, I added about 2 teaspoons of sugar (helps mellow out the spice, and punches up the flavor a bit) and some onion powder. Toss the meat and veggies with their respective spices. to coat.


Once you finish slicing and spicing your pans should be nice and warm, so toss your onions into the veggie pan with a little olive oil, and let them go until they start to go translucent. Then add the rest of your veggies. At about the same time you can add your chicken to it's pan with a small amount of oil as well:



If either of the pans starts looking too dry (nobody likes dry fajitas) put a lid on it for a few minutes until there is some water in the bottom of the pan when you take the lid off. Repeat as necessary. Keep cooking both over medium (or medium high if you one starts lagging behind) until the chicken is done. Cut a piece in half and, if it is done, shove it in your mouth (don't worry about those silly tastebuds getting burned to a crisp). You don't actually have to do this, but I do because it is fun. :)



Then throw it all into a heated tortilla with some sour cream and cheese, and you got yourself a darn good meal pretty quick!

Now, I did mention that I was hungry right? Good, because as soon as food hit tortilla it went directly into my oral cavity and promptly disappeared. About halfway through my third one I realized that I hadn't taken any pictures, so here is a tasty, half-eaten fajita. I'm sorry, I'm weak and easily distracted:




And on a (mostly) totally un-related subject: My roomate showed me a magical tool for cleaning pans. I am the type of guy who calls all that black death that builds up on the bottom of a pan 'character' so that I don't have to spend hours with steel wool getting my pans back to that shiny steel color, so I wasn't buying his 'gotta keep your kitchen spotless' attitude. But he has convinced me. And what did it take? 3M Scotchbrite Scour Pads. They seriously work miracles. I not only cleaned my stove of all the grease burns and stains that have made it ugly, but managed to work a little magic on my fajita pan.


Here is a pan that had fajita AND black death built up from a year of cooking.







And with no more than a few minutes of elbow grease! Simply amazing. Go and get some and make your clean-up life WAY easier! Of course, if you have Teflon pans then you don't want to use these, as they will probably scour most of your Teflon caoting off as well. :)

If you cook it, they will come

Well it's officiall:
1/4 of the people who find my blog through search engines, are looking for tips on Beef Tongue. So for all of those who made faces when you saw my post and thought 'eeewww, nobody eat's beef tongue'; you were wrong! And therefore: you should go buy a beef tongue and cook it tonight! :)

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Trying to have an un-boring evening.

Well after the boring day at work, I decided that the evening was absolutely not going to be boring. Something would be interesting. Of course DaNece going out shopping without me (thank you!) meant that I could do ANYTHING. So instead of throwing the tennis ball around with the dog like usual, I opted to take him for a good walk.


The funny thing about it is, normally I have a pretty set route that I walk the dog. It is a little loop that I found a few months after we moved into this house, about 4 miles long with some hills and whatnot mixed in. Generally I really enjoy this walk, but tonight I didn't believe that I was capable of dealing with the inevitable dog-who-can-jump-over-its-gate scenario, so I opted to go the opposite direction from my loop. A direction I have never gone before...


The direction we headed lead to a piece of state trust land, where I could blissfully let scrappy off of his leash, and just enjoy meandering around. It was one of those great walks where you just keep going to see what is over the next hill, until suddenly you realize that the sun is almost gone, and you now have a 45 minute walk back to the house. The land is currently 'closed' to motorized vehicles due to all the kids tearing up the soil with their quads. Thankfully foot traffic is still allowed, so I wasn't even breaking any laws to take my walk!! :)



In one direction I could see the San Francisco Peaks, and in the other: Granite Mountain.



The weather was just right to keep me comfortable, and I watched as the sun slowly descended to the horizon:

image :



And about this time I realized that I should turn around and head back to avoid walking in the dark. The show continued on the path home, with the eastward sky turning bright pink:



2 blocks from the house, and the sky lit on fire:



So not only did I get a very enjoyable 90 minute walk in blessed silence, but I also get a very un-boring light show to accompany it. Not too shabby.


Boring Days

Well, I don't really have anything to post today. Work is boring, I'm toying with the camera, and the weather is so nice outside that I sincerely which that I was un-employed (almost 70 degrees F!!!!).


I did learn a few interesting features of the camera today:

1. If you put a cover over your hotshoe, the camera assumes that you have a flash on there, which disables the onboard flash. This also disables the next feature, which took me a while to figure out.

2. Auto Exposure Bracketing. While this doesn't really work for moving subjects (since the camera has to take three separate pictures), it is great for stationary objects. Normally I would do this manually, but to have it do it automatically is way faster, and involves less thinking (because thinking is way over-rated!). This is great if you are in a situation where there is lot of highlights AND shadows, because you can later merge the three together using Photoshop (or any number of photo programs).

3. Even though the LCD is bigger than my SD800, pictures look worse on it. I'm guessing that this is due to the zoom that fits the new bigger screen (for those with photoshop, zoom into an image at 66.7% and then at 50% and see which one looks better. That's what I mean). Something I am sure I will adjust to.


After having lunch with Chris over at Sweet Tarts I had ten minutes before I was due back at work, so I poked around and took some photos that every tourist inevitably takes:

The County Court House, which is one of the major icons of Prescott (along with whiskey row and thumb butte):



And the 'Old Post Office':


See, I said you would bear the brunt of my learning woes. Hopefully some time this weekend for lots of photos. :)

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

An alley walk.

Another day, another walk through some alleyways in Prescott:


A HUGE antenna. I'm betting this guy is getting ALL the channels:


A random shed that is protected by not only video, AND alarm, but ALSO a 9mm!:



Somebody had a wild night, and didn't clean up after themselves:


And of course you always have those brokedown vehicles:






The new goodness!


The new G9 is here. Be still my beating heart. I haven't had the opportunity to play with it much yet, but I can say that so far; so good! And my favorite feature so far? The manual focus capability!! Something I have dreamed about for doing macros!


Now, after taking 2,506 photos with my SD800, DaNece will be taking over stewardship of this guy:


It's a little bruised and battered, but I think she will have a blast with it (even if she does give me grief for the hand-me-down status of her new toy).


So, what did I take my first few pictures of (other than my old camera of course)?? Scrappy-Doo, after a good bout of ball chasing!



Aah, the beginning of a whole new adventure in photography. And I'm afraid that you, my readers, will be the ones to suffer the brunt of my learning woes during this exploration. I apologize in advance.


Wow, I get upset when I accidentally drop a $300 digital camera. I can't imagine how bad this guy felt.


Virtuoso musician David Garrett smashed a $1 million (£540,000) violin when he fell over after a concert in London over Christmas.

Apparently, David fell down a flight of stairs (due to some very spiffy-looking performance shoes). Fortunately; he is all right, as his violin case broke his fall.  Unfortunately; the violin was crushed in several places. Estimated repair costs? Over $100,000 dollars!!! Ouch!

Dinner with mum.

Normally mom comes over to our house once a week for dinner and to watch 'The Biggest Loser'. Due to some scheduling issues on both sides this hasn't happened in almost a month!! So it was a real pleasure to have her come over last night and resume the usual festivities:


The menu was simple: Rosemary Porkchops, sauteed pears, mashed potatoes, and a nice desert of pudding and strawberries.


This was kind of a no-brainer since we recently were given 3 pork loin sections from a friend for free (my favorite price!).


So I took one of the sections and cut out 8 thin (1/2 inch) boneless chops from it.

From there I just spiced them with what I had on hand: lots of fresh rosemary, black pepper, salt, garlic and onion powders, and some bread crumbs.


After getting to room temperature they went into the heat:



A few minutes on each side and they are done. Add some pears cooked over low heat with butter (for that rich texture). Prepare mashed potatoes however you normally do so (apparently I like under-cooked potatoes, because I always end up pulling them out of the water too soon, causing lumpy potatoes. Yeah I actually do like them that way).  Battabing: Dinner is ready!


Desert was something new for me. Normally I leave the sweet side of things to DaNece (because she is so sweet, get it?) But this time i ventured into the land of sugar, and made my very own strawberry syrup to go over some vanilla pudding.

How you wonder? Really easily actually!:


First you have to cut up your strawberries into smallish pieces:



Then toss them with some sugar.  Now, a basic simple syrup calls for 2 parts sugar for 1 part water, which is what I used (1 1/2cups of sugar, 3/4 cup water, and about 8 large strawberries). If you are pairing your syrup with anything else sweet through, use slightly less sugar, as it can be a bit overwhelming. My syrup would be well suited to pound cake or waffles:



Add your water, stir it around a bit and set on the stove on medium high (stirring occasionally):



Cook until reduced to a consistency that you like. You may have to turn it down if it starts to look like it will boil over. I had this going on the stove on a back burner while everything else was working so it was pretty easy to monitor.


Combine it with some already made vanilla pudding (if you need help making pudding from a box, I'm afraid that I can't help you), and top with some freshly sliced strawberries. And there you have it, a dessert that turned out a bit too sweet for the pudding, but still very tasty:


Monday, February 25, 2008

The Gnocchi gods...

Well, since Chris had me over to his house for sushi I figured that turn-about was fair play, and so invited him over for some gnocchi:


Some info about gnocchi:

- Generally when us americans think about gnocchi we think about potato gnocchi, but this is not the only type out there. They can be made from semolina, wheat flour, or even bread crumbs.

- no recipe that you read for gnocchi is correct. No matter how closely you follow it it will not turn out as expected. The basic problem is this:

To make a cohesive dough you need to add eggs and flour. How much eggs and flour depends on a lot of factors that cannot be expected beforehand. Factors like how dry the potatoes are, the humidity in the air, and the size of the eggs.

If you use too much flour or egg then you will get very heavy gnocchi that are not as tasty as they could be.

If you don't use enough flour and egg then your gnocchi will come apart when you boil them, leaving you with a messy pot, and empty plates.


If you make dough for breads and what-not then you will probably make a good gnocchi dough.


If, however, you are like me then you just have to pray to the gnocchi gods to help fill your guest's bowls. Even with lots of praying sometimes things go wrong.


So, this is how I made my gnocchi after lots of prayer:

- Take some really starchy potatoes (idaho are what I used) and either bake (what I did) or boil them for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until they are easily pierced with a fork.


- After allowing them to cool, run them through a potato ricer. What do you mean 'what is a potato ricer?'? Seriously, you have to have one of these, but you should have one anyway because they make REALLY soft and fluffy mashed potatoes too:


- Now you have a lot of potato, but no dough yet. For that you need to add flour. This time around I tried to make some nice light fluffy gnocchi since my last attempt turned into glorified lead weights. So to my 2 lbs of potato I added about 1 cup of flour and 1 egg. For taste I also added a healthy pinch of salt and pepper, some cumin, and a few cloves of roasted garlic.


- I worked it into a dough (since my hands were covered in potato and I was under time constraints, I did not take pictures), and rolled it into a log about the width of my finger. Then I cut it down into 1/2 inch wide pieces and made an indent with my finger in each one to help hold onto the sauce later.

If you wanted to save the gnocchi for to cook later in the week, dust it with flour and lay it out in a single layer on a cookie pan and set it in the freezer. Once they harden you can throw them in a ziploc baggie and simply cook them another day


- Throw your gnocchi into a large pot of salted boiling water about 20 at a time. Cooking these little guys is a breeze. Once they float they are done! Remove with a slotted spoon.


- At this point if you like the consistency you can add sauce and serve. I generally like mine to have a bit of a crust on them though so I opt to fry them after boiling. To do this just heat some butter in a pan and toss in your gnocchi. Once you have the desired consistency throw it in a bowl with some sauce and you are good to go.


And the sauce? Well it is the same basic sauce that I made last time, but this time I took the bell pepper out, added some leftover lamb roast (gotta have your protein!!) and set it to low heat while cooking the gnocchi. Add some mushrooms that are cooked with butter and a splash of white wine and you got yourself a right fine meal.


I have to say that this batch of gnocchi turned out simply OK. The flavor was great but they weren't dense enough and didn't hold up all that great to the water. Definitely edible, but not ideal. We also just cooked the frozen extra this evening for dinner, and they fell apart pretty quickly in the water.


I would definitely add more flour next time, and leave the rest as is. I think Chris enjoyed the meal, even if it wasn't as fancy as the sushi... :)


Other Gnocchi sites recipes for reference:

A weekend review

A slow weekend.


Bright and sunny Saturday was spent cleaning house, and cooking a gnocchi dinner for a friend (post later this week on that).


Sunday was supposed to be a hike day after having breakfast at a friends house, but rainy weather prevented that from happening.


We did get to see some wildlife outside of our friend's window though, which DaNece was thrilled about. Just some simple squirrels eating breakfast with us:



Other than that, it was a trip to Manzanita Outdoor to get some gear, and get DaNece fitted for shoes. Apparently the whole staff got trained on professional footwear fitting, and they spent about an hour getting measurements and having DaNece try on different pairs of shoes to see what she would like.


We didn't get the shoes that day (she wanted to think about 2 different pairs before laying down the dough), but we still managed to spend over $300 there. It's scary; they know me by name now. :)


A few movies were rented; Layer Cake, Family Guy: Blue Harvest, and Martian Child.

-The family guy is a must-see for any star wars geek who doesn't take things too seriously. Quagmire as C-3P0? Priceless

-Layer Cake was exactly my kind of movie! Done by the producer of Snatch and Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. If you liked those movies you will like this one, though it is not written buy Guy Ritche.

-Martian Child not yet watched, but the previews looked good even though I don't generally like John Cusack.


One great thing that happened was that I was running about 1/2 hour late for work this morning. Normally this would be a bad thing, right? Well today it meant I got to enjoy a sunrise while driving in. I can't wait till I can see this every morning while on my way to work:


Definitely worth being late for that goodness.


And the box with all my camera accessories just came in! Case, spare battery, and memory card now in hand. Wednesday or Thursday the camera itself should be coming in. HOOOORAAAAYYYY!