Tag Archives: photography

Photo Friday: Lucky 13

In the words of my Dad, I’ve been “steady busy.” I’ve been planning a new ice cream blog. Because when you can’t find the time or energy to update your first blog, why not start another one?  I’ve also been: making ice cream, taking a small business workshop (see also: ice cream), worrying about my dog (he’s fine, don’t worry, but there’s been stuff), basking in the glow of my Craft Whores win, and celebrating anniversaries.

Last Wednesday was my 13th wedding anniversary. Dave had his usual Wednesday night jam class thing, and that means on Wednesdays, Dave is gone before I get home. This means that Wednesday is not the night we make sweet weekly love, but rather Wednesday nights I have to not only walk the dog, but also provide my own dinner (my life is hard).

But I found these on the counter when I got home.

I assumed there were 12, because a dozen roses is a thing, right? Later Dave told me there were 13 because we’ve been married 13 years and I was touched in my cold black heart by his  uncharacteristic romantic symbolism. But the best part of my anniversary present was the note on the counter saying “Chuck walk: check.” When I realized I could report directly to the couch, plant my ass there and watch TV, my eyes welled up with tears of joy. ‘Twas a happy anniversary indeed!

Last week was also our 20-year dating anniversary which, holy crap, is a long time, no? We celebrated by seeing Peter Gabriel on his last “Back to Front” tour stop. He performed the album “So” in its entirety in honor of the 25th anniversary of its release. Which occurred when I was FOURTEEN years old and Peter Gabriel didn’t look like an elderly Druid. But he sounded awesome. He also played two other non-“So” sets, including songs from the album “Us” that came out the month I met Dave (11 days before we officially started dating, not that I looked it up and counted). I assume he played “Come Talk to Me” in honor of our 20th anniversary, right?

As I rested my head on Dave’s shoulder and listened to the song, memories of that CD playing over and over as we fell in love came flooding back to me like 20 years hadn’t passed. How the hell did 20 years pass so quickly? Add Peter Gabriel to the growing list of bastards who made me cry at a concert.

Please to enjoy this video (this wasn’t our show, but the only video from our show on YouTube gave me vertigo). Song starts around 2:15:

Ice Cream Social

I ended up taking a little more time off from blogging than I’d anticipated at the time of this post. But I managed to make 33 pints of ice cream for my Ice Cream Social, have 20 people over to eat ice cream in a social manner, and live to tell the tale (four weeks after the fact).

I didn’t take a single picture during the actual party, so on the point of knowing 20 people willing to come to my house, you will just have to take my word for it.

I like to call myself a “recovering perfectionist,” but this party proved the falsehood of that term as a description of me.

During the planning, I found this ice cream social party planner on Epicurious. They suggested making 3/4 of a pint for each guest, and having “a few extras” to avoid running short. That suggested making about 20 pints for my party. Being certifiably insane, I decided to make more. Being as anal-retentive as the day is long, I also created an online poll of my guests to help me calculate the appropriate amount overall as well as by flavor. I was prepared, y’all.

Check out our brand new second freezer in the basement, stocked with 33 pints of delicious homemade ice cream:

If I don’t keep up the ice cream hobby, this will be one of the silliest purchases ever.

What was the menu, you ask?

I also made: hot fudge, salted butter caramel sauce, raspberry coulis, and served extra marshmallow sauce, strawberry sauce, pretzel crust, crushed chocolate cookie, and chocolate chips.

What did the ice cream look like, you ask?

Atlantean Vanilla Bean

As someone thinking about starting a business, I’m getting increasingly frustrated with the pretentiousness permeating food service today. Even with something as simple as  ice cream, it seems you have to be able to use words like “gourmet” and “artisan” and “organic” to get consumers interested in buying it. It used to be that “Madagascar bourbon” vanilla was exotic enough. But not anymore. One of the books I’ve used for inspiration while developing my recipes uses vanilla beans from Uganda. Why? My guess: because they were super hard to import, and sound very exotic, and justify charging more. Since I don’t want to be outdone, I’m just asserting that my vanilla beans come from the lost city of Atlantis.

Spicy Chocolate

Almost everyone I’ve shared this flavor with (OK, everyone except Dave) loves it. It is lovable. It’s creamy and rich, but refreshing at the same time, with just a hint of heat from cayenne. And a good hit of cinnamon too (100% certified organic from Mars).

Toll House

I got the idea for and name of this ice cream from my favorite ice cream shop, Gannon’s Isle in Syracuse, NY. The idea behind it is that the ice cream itself tastes like chocolate chip cookie dough (rather than having chunks of cookie dough in it). I’ve been working on perfecting this flavor for months (see an earlier version here). I’m 90% pleased with this version. There is disagreement among those who have tasted it on whether it should contain walnuts (the version pictured does). Any thoughts, dear readers?

Peanut Butter Chocolate Cookie Crunch

My favorite Dairy Queen Blizzard flavor is Peanut Butter Crunch. It’s vanilla soft serve mixed with peanut butter topping and the crushed chocolate cookies DQ puts in the middle of their ice cream cakes. There’s only one DQ in my area that still makes this flavor because most locations now use a pre-packaged solid disk of cookie in their cakes. I wanted to make ice cream that tastes like the Peanut Butter Crunch Blizzard. The flavor of this ice cream is right, but the texture needs tweaking. The extra protein of the peanut butter makes the ice cream too thick, with a “foamy” melt.

Lemon Meringue Pie

I worked on a perfect lemon custard for weeks this spring. It took several tries, but I finally did it. It’s creamy, not too tart, not too sweet, and thoroughly lemon-flavored. I add some homemade marshmallow sauce (it turns out more like Fluff, so I don’t think anyone believes I make it myself) and crushed homemade spice cookie and call it lemon meringue pie.

Strawberry Pretzel Salad

You all remember Strawberry Pretzel Salad, no? I worked for weeks on strawberry ice cream without much success. A tweaked version of the recipe from Cook’s Illustrated came out OK, but the strawberry pieces still froze. Yuck. My compromise is to thicken strawberry puree with sugar and swirl it into cream cheese ice cream with a crushed pretzel crust (baked with sugar and butter).

Peach Lambic Sorbet

I ran out of time to develop sorbet recipes. So I just made peach lambic sorbet from Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home (Jeni of the Ugandan vanilla) and called it a menu. I’m not a big sorbet fan, but I wanted at least one non-dairy option. This was really tasty, very intensely peach-flavored, and the alcohol wasn’t overpowering.

Since I had 3,000 tasting spoons, I made a little game out of some of them.

Take a guess!

Per Jill‘s suggestion, I also made cards for people to make tasting notes and received really nice compliments and helpful constructive feedback, and no one complained about the lack of exotic-ness of my vanilla beans.

So how much ice cream did 22 people eat? Remember, Epicurious said 3/4 of a pint per person…

When the dust settled, people had only eaten about seven pints. Have you ever laughed at the serving size listed on a pint of Ben and Jerry’s? Well, that’s basically all people ate. I was flabbergasted. Obesity epidemic, my ass!

I would have easily eaten 3/4 of a pint or more had I been an attendee at a party like this. I think I’m learning why I’m overweight.

People are pretty health conscious around here. Frozen yogurt places are all the rage (yuck). If I really want to sell ice cream, I probably need to move somewhere with more fat people. Suggestions?

How much ice cream would you have eaten? How many spoons were in the container? Do you think you would be able to tell the difference between a grocery store vanilla bean and one imported straight from the producers in Uganda? Where do all the ice cream lovers live?

Photo Friday: Harvey Wallbanger

My birthday was Wednesday. Dave and I always make each other a birthday cake.

My favorite cake is Harvey Wallbanger. This cake (boxed yellow mix doctored with vanilla pudding and the ingredients of the Harvey Wallbanger drink–vodka, Galliano, and orange juice) was a childhood favorite. In my family, there were two schools: cream cheese frosting/normal cake pan (my Gram) and powdered sugar glaze/bundt (my Great Aunt Gert…and apparently everyone else in the U.S., as evidenced by my futile search for an online recipe that matches mine–this is the closest I could find.). While I’m not going to turn down a slice of Harvey Wallbanger bundt cake with glaze on top, I’m on Team Cream Cheese (yea, Gram!). Everything tastes better with cream cheese frosting.

Bundt??? It’s a cake!

Here is Dave’s handiwork this year:

Here is some physics humor:

ME: Is the pattern on the top some sort of scientific notation?

DAVE: It’s the signature of the Higgs boson.

ME: Really?!?



This year’s worst birthday present: Timeline, thanks Facebook!

This year’s age: 39.

I have some thoughts about turning 39, or more accurately, being 363 days away from 40, mostly along the lines of, “fuck!”

But since my period will start anytime in the next 0 to 14 days, (it’s like broken-clockwork) perhaps I’m just generally cranky, not age-specifically cranky. So I think I’ll mull it over more before sharing my deep and meaningful and bitchy feelings.

Hey, speaking of broken clocks…did anyone else find Ato Boldon’s Olympic sprint commentary sort of bizarre? It’s like he talked until he stopped making sense. He’d just throw random shit out that sounded like it could be relevant, such as: “Even a broken clock is right twice a day.” Um, right. Wait, what? Hey, a stitch in time saves nine! He who fights and runs away, may live to fight another day! Insert random saying mentioning time or running here!

I’m going to eat more cake now.

Photo Friday: Obsolete

I’d say I’ve been phoning it in recently, but it’s more like calling in sick. All my blog energy went into finalizing the redesign, and now I’m left with a backlog of five dozen post ideas and no idea where to start. How about more crap I found when cleaning my office?

Please don’t tell me you can’t recognize these, it will make me feel old:

This one reminds me of those “Eyeball Bender” puzzles from Games Magazine.

I can sort of forgive myself for keeping the couple dozen floppy disks with stuff from grad school on them. But 10 blank disks? Seriously? Why was I keeping these?

If you think I didn’t color code by course, you don’t know me very well.

I still haven’t thrown out the disks with stuff on them. The hoarder in me wanted to clarify what was on them first. But then I remembered I have no way to read them. So I put them on the trash pile, only to grab for them to check what was on them before throwing them in the trash can…only to remember I can’t read them. Repeat futile cycle of hoarding obsolete technology until exhausted.

I asked Dave how to dispose of them and he laughed at me. He says I should just toss them…no one can read them (duh, including me!). God bless anyone who still has the means to read a floppy disk and who would be willing to rummage through trash to dig these out. Your reward…the results of the survey I fielded about Niagara Mohawk’s energy saving light bulb program? My thesis? My resume circa 1996? Enjoy!

Maybe I’ll hang onto this green one, it’s so pretty.

I stumbled upon an out-of-the-way deserted little filing room at work a few weeks ago. I’d never been back in that suite of offices before and I was curious (and on the prowl for my favorite size post-it notes that our division never seems to order anymore–shh!). I wandered back there on my way out one evening and got thoroughly creeped out. There were 5 1/4 inch floppy disks back there! And a word processor. And an ashtray. I was afraid I’d accidentally entered the early 90s. Luckily I made my way safely back to 2012. That experience actually helped light the fire under my ass to clean my own hellhole of an office.

Do you have any unusable media lying around? Do you think it’s weird that I brought blank floppy disks home so I could take photos? Have you ever felt like you’d gone back in time?

Merry Berry Month of May

I’ve never been a big fan of strawberry ice cream, especially when it includes pieces of strawberry. They freeze and provide a grating, icy mouth feel to something that’s supposed to be smooth and creamy.

My Ice Cream 101 professor mentioned the difficulty of adding fruit to ice cream due to its high water content, and my mind started racing about ways to tackle the problem. Ever since the class, I waited for strawberry season. For the past two weeks, I’ve been up to my eyeballs in strawberries. After washing, hulling, and eating many quarts of strawberries, I’m over strawberry season.

The recipe I used as a starting point (Jeni’s Splendid Roasted Strawberry and Buttermilk Ice Cream) used only one half-cup of roasted strawberry puree per quart of finished ice cream. Two weeks ago, I made that recipe as well as two variations. Why did I make the variations? Because I like to make things difficult and I want to create something of my own. Irritatingly, we liked Jeni’s recipe the best of the three. But none of them (all made with just a half-cup of strawberry puree) bowled us over with strawberry flavor.

In case you didn’t believe I made three versions of strawberry ice cream in one weekend.

I’m a bit on the lazy (logy!) side. So given all the work involved in this endeavor (hauling our asses to a farm in Maryland to get the strawberries, then washing, hulling, slicing, roasting, and pureeing them), I wanted more berry flavor. I’m demanding like that. The ice cream sort of tasted like a strawberry yogurt popsicle. 

Not being such a huge strawberry ice cream fan to begin with, I decided to try making one of my favorite strawberry desserts into an ice cream flavor. Enter strawberry pretzel salad ice cream:

Strawberry Pretzel Salad Ice Cream

I took some of the leftover roasted strawberry puree and boiled it with more sugar until it became syrupy and thick (so it wouldn’t freeze). Then I swirled the strawberry sauce into cream cheese ice cream. I baked up a small amount of sweetened crushed pretzel crust and threw that in as well.

I loved it. It tasted almost exactly like strawberry pretzel salad and the strawberry swirl had much more berry flavor than any of the dedicated strawberry ice creams. The pretzels started getting soggy after a couple of days though. And Dave didn’t like it, totally bursting my “I’m a brilliant ice cream flavor creator” bubble.

Over Memorial Day, I tested another variation of strawberry ice cream, doubling the amount of strawberry puree. We liked it marginally better than the original three versions. Economically speaking, I’m not sure the flavor boost was worth adding an extra half-cup of puree. The dairy just seems to dilute the flavor either way.

Gold star for anyone who correctly guesses which of these contains double the amount of strawberry.

I don’t know if I have a future in the ice cream business, or food service more generally. It seems that “artisan” and fresh, local ingredients are all the rage. That’s all well and good, and I would want to make homemade ice cream with high-quality ingredients if I opened a store, but some of the effort (and more importantly, expense) seems silly. Maybe I’m just disgruntled from all that washing and hulling and slicing and roasting, but I find it really hard to believe that most people would notice a difference between fresh farm strawberries and store-bought frozen strawberries after adding sugar, pureeing the crap out of them, and then diluting the puree with more than 3 cups of dairy. I see a test of this in my future, but not anytime soon, because I’m sick with this.

After all of this, we simply hadn’t eaten enough strawberry dessert. So I did what anyone who had already made five batches of ice cream in two weeks would do…I made another dessert. A testament to the lack of excitement in my life, this extra dessert-making was due in large part because I wanted to take a picture of a piece of actual strawberry pretzel salad next to my ice cream version.

Variations on a theme of strawberry pretzel salad.

Since strawberry season is almost over here, I also made extra strawberry puree to freeze so that I have it on hand to make strawberry ice cream for my summer ice cream social. I didn’t make quite as much puree as I’d hoped since I overfilled the food processor, causing puree to ooze out everywhere, but that’s a bitch-fest for another day.

NOTE: Photo of the puree made with my blood, sweat, and tears from $5.49/quart strawberries running all over my kitchen counter and down my kitchen sink drain is not available.

Please to enjoy one of my favorite commercial ear worms ever, from my hometown joint Eat’n Park. I make better strawberry pie, by the way.

Basic Needs of a Wife

Recently I wrote a post on what I learned from the Duggars about the basic needs of a husband. The source of this knowledge, the Institute in Basic Life Principles, sells the “Seven Basic Needs of a Husband” eight-page pamphlet for two bucks.

But what of a wife’s needs? Well, they have that covered too! Only wives must be a little more high maintenance, because the “Seven Basic Needs of a Wife” take 80 pages to explain and cost $12.99 to receive.

But hey, I’m a wife and I know a little something about my needs. Let me share some of them with you now. I need a husband who will:

1.) Check his damn pockets before throwing shit in the laundry. On the plus side, our guitar picks and loose change (and cell phones) are impeccably clean around here.

I'm keeping everything I find in the dryer. I'm hoping he'll run out of guitar picks.

2.) Not leave peanut butter on the side of the jar. And/or fix the ant problem. I’d be happy with either really. The peanut butter is unfortunately not pictured, because I wiped it off in a huff before remembering this photo project. And even though I haven’t made a peep to Dave about documenting his failure to meet my needs, he’s miraculously stopped leaving peanut butter on the jar. I do have a photo of an ant that got stuck inside our frigging salt shaker last year, if anyone’s interested in that.

3.) Run agreed-to errands in my lifetime. We’ve been paying the fee for this brand new, yet faulty DVR for months. I even placed it near the front door for easier recall. No dice.

4.) Wait for me to actually finish what I’m saying before absent-mindedly asking, “what?” Here’s a charming story: Dave received a pair of ear plugs from our friend JohnBoy at his bachelor party along with the advice, “Sometimes Tracy is going to want to talk to you and sometimes you aren’t going to want to listen.”

5.) Close things he’s opened. The regularly open dishwasher door is a shin-busting accident waiting to happen. I probably should have done a video for this one because there’s no way to capture the majesty of how many doors and drawers Dave can leave open at a time in one picture.

Also, we could never have glass-front cabinets.

6.) Sit on the furniture without deforming it. Seriously, the power of Dave’s ass is beyond my understanding. I have no idea how he makes the cushions do that.

7.) Learn how to distinguish times when I might be receptive to him grabbing my boobs. Or at least won’t try to turn every dish washing experience into a Cialis moment.

Well, that’s seven. So I won’t mention “allowing me to be financially dependent” again. There you go, I’ve just saved you guys $12.99.

Did I miss anything?

Supermoon, My Ass

Last year, I missed the supermoon. Meaning I had no idea what a supermoon was or why I should give a shit. Then in the days that followed, I saw the pictures. And regretted missing it. 

This time, I was ready. I planned my whole day around seeing the supermoon in its rising glory and getting a great picture. Of course, with my photo shoot luck, the weather had other plans. Clouds completely covered the sky all evening. But we stuck with the original plan, to head into the city (to get a photo of the supermoon with D.C. stuff in the foreground), in case the sky cleared.

We arrived early and headed to the WWII Memorial to wait. This was one of the earlier photos of the evening, but already Dave was losing patience with having his picture taken.

No supermoon for you.

The clouds were stubborn but so was I. While I waited for supermoon rising time, I messed around taking fountain pictures.

Every so often, we’d check the sky for the supermoon, but nada. But the weather was pleasant, so we sat at the Memorial even after giving up on the fucking supermoon (not that I was bitter or anything). We sat and talked and watched the fountains. It felt indulgent and relaxing to just hang out there, like we were on vacation and visiting the Trevi Fountain. I guess when a boring old suburban married couple like us bothers to trek 6 long miles into the big bad city and actually finds good parking, well, let’s just say I wanted to make an evening out of it. So we visited my favorite statue before going home.

F.D.R., ShmF.D.R., I’m here for the dog.

When we went out for Chuck’s late night walk, the clouds finally moved enough for us to catch a glimpse of the now-too-high-in-the-sky-to-be-noticeably-super moon. Before I could finish saying, “should I go get the camera,” another cloud blocked it again. Maybe next year.

How was supermoon viewing where you live? Did you get any pictures? I think I’m finally over my disappointment and ready to see some supermoon photos. 

Photo Friday: Miss (Lil’) Kim Lilac

A few years ago, I got a bee in my bonnet about beautifying our landscaping. I couldn’t just choose a few plants, oh no. I bought books, cross-referenced them, and drew plans to scale on graph paper. I did everything “right,” including planning the beds for the mature size of the plants I’d chosen, not the size at the time of planting. Somehow the bed on the side still ended up an overgrown jungle within three years and every single perennial in the front bed died, leaving it pretty sparse.

The best thing I did was select a Miss Kim Lilac for the corner of the front bed by the porch. Lilacs remind me of home, but aren’t very prevalent here in the…South (I live in the South–eek!). The Miss Kim was billed as a lilac for more southern zones. And it’s super fragrant, so when I sit on my porch while it’s in bloom (now!), the breeze brings the scent to me and makes me feel happy. This variety also stays relatively small, so I like to call it Miss Lil’ Kim, but it doesn’t look like this:

Pink buds open to very fragrant flowers...what?

No, this is the Miss (Lil’) Kim of which type:

This picture is a love letter to my porch.

Marshmallow Peep Ice Cream

I’ve always liked Marshmallow Peeps. I’m a sugar junkie, so what’s not to like? I’m partial to the bunnies because I like biting their ears off.

The Washington Post’s Peeps diorama contest is now one of my favorite parts of Easter. While I’d love to create a diorama made of Peeps, I’m not that crafty. Plus, I’d rather just eat them. So, I created my own edible art this year. I am the artist…and ice cream is my canvas.

In honor of Easter, I made Marshmallow Peep ice cream, my first real attempt at ice cream recipe development. It turned out pretty well. The texture of the ice cream is nice and smooth and the chunks of Peeps added at the end provide a little more visual interest and extra marshmallow flavor. Yes, Peeps were hurt in the making of this ice cream.

I'm a sick bastard.

I was a little underwhelmed by the marshmallow flavor, sort of reminiscent of marshmallow, but maybe a sweeter version of vanilla if you didn’t know the flavor before eating. It’s tasting more like marshmallow as the extra Peeps start to melt into the ice cream. I’d like to experiment with adding more marshmallow and maybe toasting it to enhance the flavor.

Marshmallow Peep Ice Cream

NOTE: I do everything by weight, so “ounces” refer to weight measurement, not volume (fluid ounces)

Makes about 1 quart


10 ounces heavy cream

11 ounces whole milk (meant to do 10 but forgot I needed to use milk to make a cornstarch slurry,  11 oz. worked fine)

6 ounces evaporated milk

1.5 ounces sugar

6 ounces Peeps

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

chopped Peeps to mix in (I chopped one “row” each: yellow bunnies, green chicks, and orange chicks, which yielded more than enough)

  1. Combine 1 ounce of the milk with the cornstarch until blended and set aside.
  2. Heat heavy cream, the remaining milk, evaporated milk, and the sugar over medium heat in a heavy saucepan until it starts to gently boil. Gently boil for about 4 minutes.
  3. Turn off the heat and mix in the Peeps until they melt (laugh maniacally).
  4. Slowly whisk in the cornstarch mixture.
  5. Return the mixture to a boil over medium heat, boil for 1 minute while stirring.
  6. Strain the mixture into a gallon size freezer bag, seal, and submerge into an ice bath until about 40 degrees (about 30 minutes).
  7. Add vanilla to the ice cream mix, then freeze in an ice cream maker.
  8. Forget to chop extra Peeps until five minutes before ice cream is done freezing. Hack at Peeps in a blind fury.
  9. Mix chopped Peeps into the ice cream (doing this in a pre-chilled bowl helps keep the freshly made ice cream from getting too melty) and then pack into a freezer container and freeze for several hours.

FYI: While it might be tempting to use regular marshmallows for the mix instead of Peeps, don’t do this. Store-bought marshmallows contain a shitload (technical term) of cornstarch. While a little cornstarch in ice cream is good (it reduces iciness), the amount of cornstarch in a 10 oz bag of marshmallows produces a glue-like mix and a congealed, rubbery mass of frozen “ice cream.” Not that I would know that first hand or anything. Let’s just say I have discovered the perfect “prop” ice cream – useful for photography and TV and film. It looks like ice cream, but doesn’t melt — ever. If you don’t want to use Peeps, you could always make homemade marshmallows to avoid the cornstarch problem, or try Marshmallow Fluff.