(before) on the verge of summer
with the Yashica Mat 124 | Tri-X 400
I’m typing this note with one hand, cradling my sleeping babe with the other. Summer vacation begins soon, which means picnics, novels, sandcastles, afternoons at the lake. A night at the drive-in. Whoopee!
still life of tea | Polaroid Spectra | Impossible Color Film
Off to it, ready for summer to begin and to wrap up projects in the making. Plus a few photos from a new series: still life of…
(read more about my inspiration for the photos at Mortal Muses.)
still life of fruit (close) | Polaroid Spectra | Impossible Color Film
still life of fruit | Polaroid Spectra | Impossible Color Film
I started a recipe journal several years ago. It’s more of a sketchbook than a journal though since most of it is written in code: ingredients list, notes, scratch outs, rewrites, coffee stains, musings. Months go by without pulling it off the kitchen shelf, until the day comes along when I need to make granola bars, stat as the boxed variety just won’t do.
I tested a cookie-like bar and wrote something about those cherry almond bars. Yep. Here they are. Butter toasted oats, almonds, and cherries dunked in a maple brown sugar caramel-y syrup. The little one approves and can’t wait to get his face into these. A few more months I tell him, he has to work the pancake angle first, I say. Not a bad place to be, not at all.
Cherry-Almond Granola Bars
makes 16 square bars
1/4 cup vegan butter
2 cups gluten-free rolled oats
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon flaxseed meal
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup dried cherries
1/2 cup toasted almonds
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
Preheat the oven to 325F. Line a 9-inch square baking pan with aluminum foil. Leave a 1-inch overhang around the sides of the pan to help remove the granola bars.
Melt the vegan butter in a wide sturdy-bottomed pot or cast iron skillet. Turn the heat to medium, add the oats, and cook for 6 minutes or so, stirring frequently. The oats should be evenly toasted with a nice golden brown hue to them.
Empty the toasted oats into a large mixing bowl. Wipe down the pot or skillet and set aside to use again for the syrup. Add 1/2 cup of flaxseed meal and the cinnamon to the bowl. Mix the dried cherries and toasted almonds with the remaining tablespoon of flaxseed meal and chop finely (the flaxseed meal prevents the cherries from clinging to the knife as you chop). Scrape them into to the oat mixture.
Pour the maple syrup, sugar, vanilla, and salt into the reserved pot. Stir to combine then cook the syrup over medium heat until gently boiling throughout, about 6 minutes.
Add the cooked syrup to the oat mixture, using a spatula to scrape out all the syrup from the pot, and stir well. Be sure to coat all the oats with syrup.
Turn the oat mixture out into the prepared pan. Add a bit of butter to your hands and press the oats evenly into the pan to form the bars.
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking time. The bars should have a shiny coating with the edges slightly darker than the middle. Remove from the oven and cool or 10 minutes before cutting into squares. Store in an airtight container.
(Inspired by Kim Boyce’s Granola Bars from “Good to the Grain”.)
Hanging out at Mortal Muses today with Holga shots of last summer. Come on over.
Words between the hours,
morning. Novels read slower than slow. Letter
by letter we advance. Eight and a half months and counting.
Read out loud, Montana 1948. Recommended twice. Some nights
the story gets tangled in sheets, pressed into
paper and bound with glue. Something I wanted to tell you, lost
between coffee and diapers.
The camera remembers our untouchables
Look back, it’s all here.
Hasselblad 500cm | Kodak Portra 800
p.s. Though you might enjoy this list: Top ten food artists who turn edibles into elaborate art. I’m rather fond of Julie Lee’s food collages as well as Sarah Illenberger’s witty and clever food creations.
Today is the last day of ‘Roid Week 2014 (round one) on Flickr. Polaroid Week dates back to 2006 as a place to celebrate instant film, push the boundaries of Polaroid images, and make some great work in the process. For a quick shot of Friday film inspiration, check out the talent from ‘Roid Week.
A few images I shot this week as part of a new black and white instant film project titled, Fleeting.
You may remember Favreau from “Swingers,” the hit indie comedy-drama he produced, wrote, and starred in back in 1996. Since then, he shifted to big budget films including “Elf,” the “Iron Man” series, and “The Avengers.” With “Chef”, he returns to fast-paced small budget filmmaking — the film was shot in a month — and a subject he’s passionate about, food.
In his new film, Favreau plays chef Carl Casper, once infamous for his soulful cuisine, turns out food to please the restaurant he’s worked in for the past ten years. He caves under pressure from his boss to serve the kind of banal restaurant food regular clientele expect: undistinguished French fare. Carl suffers from his mediocre routine, both professionally and personally, until food critic/blogger extraordinaire (Oliver Platt) reserves a seat for dinner. His boss (Dustin Hoffman) demands Carl prepare the regular menu, without flair. He plays it safe, dinner flops, and life tailspins from there. What follows is a trip with his ex-wife (Sofía Vergara) and son (Emjay Anthony), food truck, road trip, and reconciliation with his past. “Chef” is heartwarming and funny and takes us along on Carl’s noble albeit feel-good journey.
It’s the kind of film strangers bond over. After the credits rolled, I stood in line in the Ladies’ room. A woman struck up conversation with five of us waited near the door. “Did anyone see Chef?” The others replied no. “I did,” I said. “Didn’t you just love the film? It was so enjoyable to watch,” she said. “Yes and funny and well written. Plus Jon Favreau worked the line in Chef Roy Choi’s (Koji BBQ) food trucks and restaurants to get the life of a chef right.” She dried her hands and waved.
I left the theater thinking about beignets and barbecue.
p.s. To learn more about the making of “Chef,” Jon Favreau talks food, family, and filmmaking in this interview at CNN’s Eatocracy.
Hanging out over at Mortal Muses today with Black & White Impossible Film. Stop by if you like.
It’s 9:30 a.m. Coffee and water are on the kitchen table along with an empty baby bottle. Last week’s flowers wilt at the stems as pink petals turn pale. High flute notes play from a radio shelved almost out of arms reach. The little one is off for a walk with David, Luke is off at school likely belting out “White and Nerdy” from Weird Al on the playground (or at least I hope that’s the version he’s singing, earlier it was “white and dirty,” and I’m left with an unsettled quiet.
Through the curtain slips, clouds pull across the sun like taut silver balloons. They swell with gold confetti that will shower us on a whim. I fall in and out of daydreams easily given my seven plus months of interrupted sleep. We remind ourselves how temporary it is and well, coffee is a fine antidote to parental “spaciness”.
We drove to southern New Hampshire last weekend for a short getaway and spent the entire time indoors. Both kids were under the weather (one with a head cold, the other with newly sprouted teeth) so we ordered movies and Chinese food in and camped on the couch between naps. The basement double feature was American Hustle (directed by David O. Russell) and Finding Vivian Maier (directed by John Maloof). I liked the story premise and cast of American Hustle, a crime comedy-drama set in the late 1970s about two con-artists who in the course of reinventing themselves, they wind up involved in an FBI sting operation on corrupt politicians including the Mayor of New Jersey. Slow and confusing at times, American Hustle is still a smart homage to American film, you just have to wade through the sluggish plot points to uncover the truth in the end.
With all the buzz around Vivian Maier’s work over the past few years, I couldn’t wait to see this telling film. Finding Vivian Maier is a documentary about a career nanny whose previously unknown stock of 100,000 photographs has earned her the reputation as one of America’s most insightful street photographers. Filmmaker John Maloof traces the story of her secret photographs, homemade films, recordings and collections that were hidden away in storage lockers, and discovered decades later when he purchased an unmarked box of 40,000 negatives at a Chicago auction house in 2007. Since then, Maloof has tried to piece together the mystery of Maier, a woman who spent five decades taking photos that she kept private from the world, through her artifacts and stories told by those who knew her, marginally or more intimately. Maier’s story is undoubtedly difficult to tell and while the film falls prey to mythmaking at times, it succeeds in creating a portrait of an enigmatic figure who escapes anonymity by chance.
The next morning we packed our bags and drove back to Massachusetts, still thinking about the films. This morning, sun broke through without an afterthought. The little one returns. Soon enough the school bell will ring and our house will be filled with the call of the wild.
Hello, Friends. On Sunday we drove to Vermont for Easter brunch, an egg hunt, and a stroll up a wooded mountain road. Sun poured in through the cars windows. I wrote two sentences before David turned onto the highway. In the backseat, Luke sounded out “huh-oh-emm-ee” (home) while reading a train book, and Cody sputtered “eehmmmeun” from his chair. I forgot to pack the kombucha (a fermented sweet tea drink) and a jacket for the day. All normal stuff here.
Except forgetting the kombucha wasn’t as flippant as leaving behind a jacket on a warmer day. A few ounces a day is a new average for me and not having that smoky sweet tea on the ride to counter many sleepless nights meant a sluggish and possibly allergy riddled day ahead. A few weeks ago I decided to solidify my kombucha habit and make it from scratch. Two cookbooks suggested I needed to purchase or inherit a special SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast, aka “mother” or “mushroom”) to brew the tea. Yet I wanted a simpler process. I had read somewhere online about growing a scoby from a bottle of raw organic kombucha you can find at the store. I also wanted the scoop on the effervescent tea and to answer my list of questions. One, what’s the history of kombucha; Two, what are the benefits and risks of brewing it at home; Three, can I grow my own scoby?
I turned to the interwebs for answers. Normally I begin with a Google search to get background details on a story subject. Since I recently discovered Bing, I switched. Type in “History of Kombucha” in both search engines and you’ll find the results are similar. What I like about Bing is the clean interface and design; simplified option to view web, image, and video searches; and credits earned through Bing Rewards, a program that gives Bing users credits for each search (think frequent flyer points for the interwebs). Credits can be redeemed for gift cards to Amazon, Sephora, Starbucks, and more or donated to a charity of your choice. Available for both Android and iOS, Bing Rewards lets you search across platforms and on the go. Which is where I find myself most often.
Kombucha is traditionally made with a brew of black tea and cane sugar and then fermented with a SCOBY. Its exact origins are unknown but most speculate the tea dates back to the Qin Dynasty (220BC) in China where it was known as the “tea of immortality” although a number of cultures around the world have a similar fermented drink. Over time, the tea made its way into Russia, Germany, India, and beyond.
According to online sources, the benefits of drinking the tea have long outweighed the risks. Kombucha has a rich history of health benefits that claim to prevent and fight cancer, arthritis, and other degenerative diseases. Other benefits include detoxification, joint support, digestive support, and immune booster. The tea is packed with B-vitamins, antioxidants, and glucaric acids as well.
To date, there isn’t conclusive medical evidence supporting the health benefits of drinking kombucha tea in US. I suppose like most food and drink, moderation is key.
Brewing kombucha at home was once the only way to sample the drink. Now major supermarkets and health food stores carry it. A homemade supply means you choose your own flavor options according to taste. I prefer a smoky kombucha made from Lapsang Souchong tea but you can choose your black tea of choice and add raw juices, extracts, herbs, and spices. It also means a watchful eye on the fermentation process to keep your brew clean and safe.
Here’s the method I followed to grow a SCOBY:
1. buy a bottle of organic raw kombucha
2. pour contents of the bottle into a quart-size wide-mouth glass jar (SCOBY will grow to the diameter of the jar)
3. cover the jar with a clean tea towel and secure with a rubber band to keep unwanted pests and debris out
4. store at room temperature until the SCOBY grows to 1/4″ thick
In a week or so I should have my own brew to report back to you on plus a few extra rewards points from all my research. Have you made kombucha at home? Any tips to share?
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My name is Nikki. I'm a writer and photographer. I share stories, pieces of everyday life, and the occasional recipe here. I teach an e-course on Developing Your Photo Habit & Style and sell an ebook on how to create an iPhone photo project. If you're new to my site, I invite you to check out the photography and cooking tutorials in the archives. I'm glad you stopped by!