Thursday, January 28, 2010

Officially Ready for SPRING

I don't know how the rest of Pennsylvania feels, but I'm COLD.  It was literally painful to get out of bed this morning.  The temp was in the low thirties today and tomorrow it is supposed to snow.  I can handle snow.  Snow brings smiles, but windy, freezing, frigid, frosty cold, nope I don't want you. In fact, go away.  Bring on the sun and more hours of daylight.  I'll take an entire February full of showers, I don't think I can wait until April.  I need sun and flowers and green grass and less clothing.  I want all of that now.  I think if I would have went to Jamaica over Christmas break as planned I would have been able to tolerate the cold for a few more months, but I didn't so I can't. If you can't tell, I'M SO OVER THE COLD.  Here are some pictures from a happier winter month, December.  That's when I could actually stand to be outside and smile.  From here on out I will be wrapped up in my coat, scarf, hat, gloves, face mask, etc.. with my head down until the sun visits my rosy cheeks.  If only it was socially acceptable for me to hibernate for awhile... actually, one would probably consider my winter break hibernation...does spending more time in your bed then out for 3 weeks count? 
Let me first introduce the stars of the show..Above is Miss Sophia, she is truly a princess.  Not the bitchy kind, the one you want to be friends with so you can play with her all day long.  She is absolutely a treat to be around.  When we hang I actually consider having offspring one day, but only if they are as cool as her. Which brings me to my next star, her momma, Nikki.  The picture above is actually a family portrait of sorts.  You can see Sophia in the foreground, and Nikki holding Sophia's little sis, Madeline in the background, the missing piece is George of course.  If you think these babes are cute, which I know you do, then you can see more of them on their crafty mom's blog.
Speaking of crafty, there is another reason these winter time pictures were posted and that is to show off the owl in the first couple of photos.  Madeline found the perfect little perch for her owl, in her little pocket.  The maker of these wise ones happens to be my big sis, Katie.  I was supposed to send her these photos, but I decided to steal her fame.  Don't worry Kate, I'll send you these and more over the weekend.  Anyway, if you think her knitted owl is nifty, or if you think it absolutely stinks and you can do better..then check out her blog before you try too hard, because its not gonna happen.  Katie has knitting needles for fingers, I'm not even kidding.  In a few days I plan on posting a super sweater filled post and just wait and see.
There is one more thing I must add; I just overheard a relevant conversation.  I just overheard my roomie opening the door for a friend and she exclaimed, "GEEZE, its cold out there!  Are you ok?" the friend answers, "Yea, I'm just overwhelmed by the cold."  Now, if you think I'm being ridiculous then you must know BOTH of the participants in that conversation have lived in Syracuse for the last four years.  If you don't know of Syracuse, its in New York and its a freakin' blizzard year round up there.  Main point: its cold. I would advise everyone to curl up with hot chocolate/coffee/tea/whiskey and keep watching for new posts to keep you warm.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Cookies, Cookies, Don't Forget Your Cookies!

If you have ever spent time at the Reading Terminal Market I'm sure you remember various ladies shouting in your face about cookies.  It just so happens that my favorite spot to eat is directly across from the freakin' cookie stand.  Don't get me wrong, they're really great cookies and no one should go home without one, but I don't want to hear "COOKIES, COOKIES, DON'T FORGET YOUR COOKIES!" every 7 seconds while I'm trying to eat crab bisque.  I was relieved that the cookie stand was packed today; the cookie ladies didn't have much time to corral more people over to their line of customers.  The cookies are a little pricey so I make sure to pick up ingredients to make my own cookies while I'm at RTM.  The sugar cookies seen below are pretty simple and most if not all of the ingredients are found in the standard kitchen.  I picked up some sparkly sprinkles and flax seed to make egg substitutes. 

I've given these to a number of friends and they all rave about them, so I recommend trying out this ridiculously easy recipe.  These are standard vegan sugar cookies that I decided to roll into balls and coat with sprinkles.  I also rolled some in a mix of cinnamon and sugar.  Sugar cookies are great to personalize for holidays, birthdays, special events or what not.  The dough's texture and consistancy is easy to work with so cookie cutters and sprinkles should definitely be involved to spice up your cookie life.  Onto the recipe..
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease two cookie sheets.
Combine in bowl:
1 1/2 c flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

Combine in separate bowl:
1/2 c sugar
1/2 c veggie oil
1 tbsp vanilla
1 tbsp maple syrup
1 egg substitute aka combine 1 tbsp of ground flax seed with 2 tbsp of water (whisk this mixture until it has the consistency of an egg)

Then add the wet mixture to the dry and begin mixing the dough until it is one solid lump that sort of resembles bread dough, if it is too wet add a little flour, if it needs moisture add a small amount of oil.

After the dough is mixed you can roll it flat and cut it with cookie cutters or simply break off pieces and roll them into balls and coat them with sprinkles. 

After about 7-9 minutes in the oven the cookies should be finished, check the bottom to make sure they're golden brown..then enjoy.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Funky Fisheye Photos

Instead of spending hundreds on a fisheye lens for my Nikon, I asked Santa instead.  On Christmas morning I received this fabulous, small, lightweight and super retro camera.  Here is the Lomography online shop, where you can read about and shop for various cameras with cool effects.  I suspect it was my brother who bought me the Fisheye, not only did he buy an upgrade of what I asked for, he also bought me a second camera, the Oktomat. 
Both styles are 35mm film cameras.  The Fisheye comes with a hotshoe and a built-in flash.  I have the option of taking multiple exposures and using a bulb setting. There is even a button to lock the shutter, which I find is very convenient on film cameras.  How many times have you gotten a roll of film developed from a disposable camera to find that half the pictures were taken in your backpack?  It is always to tempting to wind the dial or advance the film lever, even if you aren't sure when you'll take your next picture. If you can't tell, I'm pretty much in love with this camera at the moment. 
The Oktomat is also great; I must admit, I don't use it as frequently, but only because it doesn't have the convenience of a flash.  The Oktomat has a great effect though, it takes 8 pictures with one click of a button.  From the moment you press the shutter, it begins rapidly taking photos; 8 shots are split between one piece of film in a matter of 2.5 seconds.  I have already shot a few rolls of film with this camera, but I haven't had the time or money to get them developed.  I will have eternal anger towards Temple University for shutting down the darkroom.  Not only was it my place of employment, but I loved having access to such a rare commodity.  I would rather spend an hour developing my own film than trust it to a machine at CVS, but I digress.        
Now I skip around and play all day with my Fisheye and Oktomat taking a picture of anything I deem funky, cool, outrageous, memorable, noteworthy........ Even if I think something looks slightly plain, I'll snap a picture because I know it will develop into something unique and slightly transformed.  Here are the first few shots I took with my beloved Fisheye.  Thanks Jeff!

This is a multiple exposure of an enormous dog.  If you look closely at the center of the frame her teeth are revealed; I think it is quite terrifying. 

Monday, January 18, 2010

Future Plans

I often find myself contemplating my future homes.  Yes, homes.  I live pretty simply, but I love to change location often.  I plan on having several homes around the world.  They don't have to be lavish mansions, in fact I plan on living in a few houses that some would call shacks.  Did you ever play MASH? Well I always get shack and I finally realized that is all I'll need. 
At the moment, I plan on having an earth bag home in Jamaica.  This is a home that I could make pretty cheaply, but I will definitely need the help of a few friends.  I learned about this type of house at the Source Farm in Johnstown, Jamaica.  The house has a rounded top so it is perfect for mountain sides and areas with high winds.  It is simple and sustainable and most of the materials are already on site. 

I also want to find an old abandoned farmhouse somewhere in Pennsylvania.  Something with a sturdy foundation, other than that it can be completely torn up.  I want to find a house that is a really big project; I can hear my pop groaning now (he would probably have to come fix all my mistakes).  I think I have a romanticized picture in my head because of the movie It's A Wonderful Life, I'm sure Mary has my back on this issue.  Anyway, here are a few photos of a deserted but beautiful farm house I wandered around in not to far from my hometown of Shamokin, PA.

Saturday, January 16, 2010


Mount Blair is known for its hospitality and fresh baked goodies, so I thought I would allow others to peek into our kitchen to see what's cookin'.  I would love love LOVE to one day be a food critic, but for now I'll take pictures of my own food before woofin' it down.  Below is spaghetti with clam sauce.  This was a really simple, but delicious and fulfilling meal.  To add flavor to a boring jar of pasta sauce, I simply sauteed onions, green peppers and garlic and then added a jar of baby clams followed by the jar of sauce.  Having a hearty sauce adds texture and flavor to a dull pasta dish and it takes about five extra minutes.  Topping the dish off with fresh bread also makes the meal. I would love to say I baked the slice seen in the picture, but I didn't, so big up to  Super Fresh.

After dinner is desert; if you didn't know that, be ashamed.  My roomie Ginny is a desert queen.  She is constantly thinking about, cooking and eating desert.  We decided to combine our powers one night and make chocolate chip, walnut and oatmeal cookies.  I'm glad we did too, because shortly after the buzzer rang we found ourselves standing in the kitchen with about ten hungry men.  One great thing about company is they eat all your sweets so you don't have to.  I'm not sure if most people enjoy that benefit, but I do.  If I ate everything I cooked.....

This recipe is not only scrumptious, it is easy and vegan friendly-so everyone should give it a whirl.
Chocolate chip, walnut and oatmeal cookies:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease a few cookie sheets.
In a small bowl mix:
1 1/2 c flour
1 t baking soda
1 t salt
If you're a lucky duck, mix the following ingredients in your KitchenAid; if you don't own one, I'm sure your arm will be tired-but proceed with dignity..:
3/4 c vegetable oil
2 Tbs milk-I used Soy milk
1/2 c sugar (this is the bare minimum-you can add up to 1 1/3 c)
2 eggs or make egg substitutes like this: Mix 1 Tbs flax seed and 3 Tbs water (makes one egg)
1 1/2 Tbs vanilla extract
2 1/2 c oatmeal
12 oz chocolate chips
2 big handfuls of semi crushed walnuts
Mix all the dry ingredients then add them to the wet, then fold in the chocolate chips and walnuts.
Plop some spoonfuls onto a cookie sheet and slide them in the oven.  We make big cookies, so they baked for 17 minutes, but depending on the size you may need more or less time.  Your best bet is to time them for about 12 minutes and periodically check on them from there.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

So the new year has been a little fuzzy...

Don't fret about the complete lack of posts in twenty-ten, everything is about to change.  The transformation began last night when I installed and activated my new wireless card.  I know my way around any computer, but when it comes to fixing problems or installing an upgrade I let my brother or pop take over.  I was definitely intimidated and a little confused, but I pushed on and the operation was successful.  I have to admit, it was rewarding; now I get to surf the web, reunite with Pandora and blog like crazy.
The beginning of this year has been full of celebration, naps and new resolutions.  The roomies and I were determined to make 2010 different, new, and most of all adventurous.  Our first major goal was to get our asses out of bed and see the Mummers for once.  We rolled out of bed in need of fuel and hydration, so we made our way to Honey's sit 'n eat, a local breakfast eatery.  It is a small space that reminds you of a Southern country kitchen.  Everyone loves Honey's, everyone.  It is always packed and you are guaranteed to wait.  Steph and I reported our names and skipped away to a small place up the street, The Random Tea Room.  Once inside we shed our coats and browsed the menu for a solid ten minutes.  I couldn't concentrate on just one tea concoction, there were so many ingredients and the combinations were all tempting.  I woke up with quite the headache and although the selection offered a tea called the Hangover Tamer, I decided to go with the Red Berry Fruit Melange, a blend of hibiscus and other fruity flavors.  As we sipped our tea we made conversation with the gentleman behind the counter.  He was communicating via walkie talkie and we had a feeling he was talking to the waiter at Honey's.  It turns out William ( crafter of teas, conveyor of information and new friend) was speaking to the waiter at Honey's and the entire walkie talkie idea was his!  After William joined us at our table we lept into a conversation full of many adventurous subjects. We talked about bikram yoga, new years eve adventures, vegan pies and Yerba Mate for about an hour; we were even late to our table at Honey's .
After breakfast, Steph and I headed back to Mount Blair (our house) to bundle up in order to brave the cold afternoon.  We layered until we weighed ten pounds heavier, then we set out to spot some Mummers.  First we ran into a street vendor who let Steph pull his wares, then we wandered around Broad street looking for the best spot to Mummer watch.  After a few hours of moving from place to place we ended up with a front row seat; we're not even sure if we were allowed to be there, but we weren't complaining.  The only thing separating us from the Mummers was a metal divider, by the time we staked out the spot it was almost time to leave though, so we watched one more performance and then jetted to the El.  As we were climbing over a railing to leave, I heard someone complaining to the security guard about wanting to be where Steph and I just were, he told them you needed a ticket, hah!

Happy New Year!