Archive | May, 2012

More Errant Photos

30 May

From God knows when.  Let’s see what we’ve got this time.

A couple of weeks ago I started going back down to the lake more often.  I was there this weekend as well, when it was 90 degrees.  I guess I’ve been there more often in the winter and in the middle of the night, so I wasn’t expecting the swathes of people littering the sand at all.  I left quickly.

This was when it was still pretty quiet.  The weather was not too bad, but since Lake Michigan is, evidently, perpetually freezing, there weren’t many people out.  That day was a little on the stormy side, as well.

It’s probably my favorite kind of weather, because the light on just-a-bit-stormy days is generally stunning, and this day was no exception.

The movement of the waves absolutely enchanted me.  Particularly standing on this part of a cement pier, watching the water crest and break, the undercurrent pulling strands back into the lake like hair blowing back in the wind.

I’m fascinated by large bodies of water, and sort of terrified of them as well.  There’s just so much potential in them, you know, especially in the ocean.  I can be floating on the surface in a boat, large or small, thinking about how, just below, beyond sight, is an entire universe of creatures.  Fish at the surface, and maybe sharks.  Then, deeper down… who knows.  There’s just a macrocosm of life hidden in the shadows of the Earth’s oceans, living lives unimaginable to us.  We see what we fancy to be vaguely human behavior in cats, monkeys, sloths, even birds.  But deep in the ocean?  No one knows what’s down there.  Not everything, anyway.

Potentiality is a very scary subject, okay.  And on large bodies of water, it’s made physical, unlike the potentiality in our every day lives.  That can be scary, too, but it’s so abstract that it’s easy to forget about.

Ocean myths are very interesting, too.  And then there’s that song, Lull, which is oddly riveting.  I can play some of it on violin.  Whenever I hear it, it absolutely enchants me.

I write a lot about lakes and oceans, too.

Hmm…. This is more pervasive than I had initially thought.

You know, it’s like one of my favorite books, The Log of the SS the Mrs. Unguentine.  It’s super hard to find, and I acquired the last copy on Abe books, so that should tell you something.  It’s about a couple who live on a barge that sails the oceans.  They never disembark.  It’s largely about their marriage but… I don’t know, it’s an amazing book.  And it’s utterly hopeless to try and summarize it.  But if you can find a copy, read it.

I think maybe part of the fascination also is that the ocean is so lonely.  It’s like space.  And space and the ocean are so intimately tied together…

It’s appropriate, then, that I kept taking pictures of people from very far away, all alone on the shores.

M&M Sugar Cookies

27 May

I haven’t forgotten about the rest of Milwaukee.  Fear not.

But yesterday, my roommate and I made M&M sugar cookies, and I wanted to share them with you all.

Be warned: these cookies are pretty much just butter.  It’s a little disgusting, and you will fully nauseate yourself after only a couple of them.  But they are so worth it.  (Come on, I know you’re sitting there making faces at the idea, but secretly you want this.  You know you do.)

The recipe comes from one of my favorite bakeries in New York, Milk and Cookies.  It’s a very small place, and we found it by accident wandering around one day.  The cookies, however, are famous enough that the bakery merits a place on tours of the city.  Annoying when you’re sitting in there trying to enjoy your cookies, but it’s awesome that they are so well-loved.  Also, it is located on a street called–I kid you not-Cherry Lane.  Yes really.

So here we go:

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 cups butter (oh yeah, there it is)
  • 1/4 cups (super)fine sugar (we just used regular old organic cane)
  • 2 large egg yolks (okay.  okay.  The moment I typed that was the moment I realized it only said “yolks”.  Shit.  Okay.  That explains a lot).
  • 2 tsp vanilla (skipped that, as usual)
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • Handful of sugar, mixed with cinnamon and nutmeg
  • 1 metric fuck ton of M&Ms, or your candy of choice

As I opened my recipe book to the right page, I flipped past pages caked with flour, thumbing a smear of sugar and butter mixture that found its way onto the edge of the pages. Far from being upset about messing up my book, I’m delighted that I’m finding the opportunities to use it.  Gross stains a mark of achievement in baking.  (And possibly other things, but you know what, don’t think about that.)

Recipe:

Combine flour, baking soda, and salt and set aside.

Beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Try to contain yourself and eat only a little of this.  If you do indulge, try not to hate yourself afterwards.

Add the yolks (ah, key word, oops) one at a time, making sure each addition is thoroughly combined.  At the vanilla and beat for a while longer.

Add half the flour, then the milk, and then the rest of the flour.  Beat until the ingredients are just combined, and while the dough is still streaky, stir in the M&Ms and lick the beaters thoroughly.

Et voilà:

Cover the dough tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour.  The book says you can refrigerate it for up to three days, but why wait that long?

When ready to bake, break out the delicious sugar and spice mixture.

Form the dough into small-ish balls (the book says 1 1/2 in diameter) and roll them around in the sugary goodness.

Bake for about ten minutes, or until golden brown around the edges.

Sorry, no picture of the finished product!  But trust me, these are delicious cookies.  Anything that can claim origins in Milk and Cookies is going to overwhelm you in sugary goodness.  Trust me.  And if worst comes to worst, foist them onto other people so you feel less guilty about consuming what is essentially, as Haley put it, a mountain of butter and M&Ms.  (That’s what we did, and it sort of worked.)

This coming weekend: you wouldn’t even believe what we’re planning for this weekend, so I’ll just let it be the Surprise That Rocks Your Face Off.

Errant Photos Floating on My Desktop

22 May

I have a large backlog of photos I’ve been meaning to post here that have blended in with my desktop and my enormous collection of files thereon.  So I will finally post them.  What are they?  It’s a surprise!  (To you and to me…)

Socks.  I wear Happy Socks almost exclusively now, because they are super cool.  They’re a Swedish company.

My shoes with new laces, also Swedish.  These are Tretorn, as is my winter coat.  I am a big fan of Swedish clothing.  And music, actually.  Have you even heard Movits!?  Because man, you are missing out.  Movits! rocks my face off.  For real.

I love seeing hordes of bikers.  My heart always goes out to them in solidarity.

I love this, but I’m afraid I’m not sure where it’s from…

I biked into the Loop in the morning, around 8, to crash a political science conference at which my favorite writer was speaking on a panel.

Cluster of lights on Wacker.

I wish I’d had my telephoto lens for this shot, because it could have been truly stunning.  I need to carry that lens around more often…

I really love this picture.  It’s an angle/frame I’ve been using a lot more lately, but it never gets old for me.  Especially with this building.  Hot damn, I love this building.

In case you thought I was kidding about my love for this building.

See?

On Armitage.  No idea what happened here.

You know what’s strange… I’ve been reading a lot of things in French today because I’m doing a paper on Guy Delisle’s travel comics and I have the French editions.  So I’ve been thinking half in French, half in English, and trying to write messages to people in French.  Very strange.  It was also making translating Latin today kind of difficult.

Conversely, I was trying to think of the word for “through” in French, and could only come up with the Latin.  My brain is a soup of language.

The building to which this belongs quite suddenly enchanted me on my way to violin one day.  It happens, you know.

 

Leaves.  Leaves, everywhere.

I took so many shots of this, trying to get it Just Right, and I don’t think I succeeded.

I love the lighting here.

Here, also.  It looked like the leaves were bleeding, which I found very romantic for some reason.

Sitting on my skateboard, talking to my dad.  Again, I love the lighting. I am easily wooed by lighting, what can I say.

Haha, I don’t know.  We found this immensely funny at the time.  That is Haley’s hand and sunglasses.  We are so.  Cool.

No. 59 – Photoset Challenge – The Milwaukee Edition!

22 May

I went to Milwaukee this weekend for a day trip, just to travel somewhere.  It was… nice.  Milwaukee just felt like a very large town, to me.  It was very nice, don’t get more wrong.  The lakefront is beautiful, and I really enjoyed the historic district by the lakefront.  Standing on the Holton-Kinnicinnick (how the fuck do you spell that) bridge looking back at the city, I could really see its history…  The new skyscrapers, the flatter parts next to the river, the industrial parks in the west.  It was a good trip.  Maybe it would have been more memorable if I had gone with someone, but I don’t really like to travel with people…

Let me tell you, I was totally thrilled by the architecture.  I mean, holy shit Milwaukee has some GORGEOUS architecture.  And I love to photograph architecture…

Like this?  What the fuck is this?  It is an amazing building.  I have so many photos of it from so many angles, and none of them quite captured the stunning detail.  This building is decadent okay.  Wow.

I really enjoyed this building.

Okay oh my God I’m listening to Asian hip hop right now, because someone whose blog I adore loves this guy, Jin.  Wow.  I don’t actually listen to hip hop right so this is just weird.  But I really liked on of his albums.  It’s just that I switched to another one, and it’s more traditional hip hop-y.  So.  Yeah.

Also I’m supposed to be reading about North Korea right now.

Haha.

Ha.

Do you know how much I’ve read about North Korea this quarter?  It is RIDICULOUS.

I liked the shadows here, and that weird grime trail coming out of his mouth.  It reminds me of this line in the Aeneid about this guy, Madness (or Fury or something?) and his bloody mouth as he sits in the temple of Janus with his hands bound behind his back with 100 knots.

Goddamn I love that book.

Portrait of a local.

Next to the PNC building.

Oh dude, he is rapping in Cantonese, okay that is cool.

So Milwaukee’s got it covered.  It’s got gorgeous classical architecture and kick-ass modern buildings, too.  And I loved them both very much.

Like this one?  Check this the fuck out, okay.  Check it.

The art museum.  I didn’t go in because I was too lazy and I have this aversion to museums when it’s my first time in a city.  For example, I refused to go to the Louvre when I was in Paris the first time.  The second time I went under duress, and I liked it.

Actually, I was first forced to go to the Musée d’Orsay on my second trip, where I first saw the impressionists.  Before Paris, I really didn’t like art museums.  I thought they were boring and a waste of time when I could be out in the city, living the culture, rather than looking at its revered relics.  I thought, why look at the carefully framed and plexiglassed past when you could go out and trip on the cobblestones and feel the stone bridges cool beneath your hands.

And then we went to the Musée d’Orsay and I’m not sure what happened.  I looked at the Impressionist paintings, at the ridges of paint from their brushes, at the crazy detail and emotional images they could make with daubs of paint, at the reverently uncareful brushstrokes… And I suppose I fell in love with them.  I suppose I fell in love with how much they loved their subjects, which were just ordinary folks and haystacks for fuck’s sake.  I fell in love how they painted them in a seemingly slapdash way that belief how much they treasured the quotidian and the mundane.

But yes, I did not go in, although the museum had an exhibit on French posters, like the ones by Toulouse-Lautrec.

The little fountain thing outside of the museum.  Did I post that photoset with the people dancing in the park here in Chicago?  I need to, if I didn’t, because it was beautiful.  But that was when I first photographed falling water.  And I think maybe it’s going to become a bit of an obsession.

A closer shot of the museum.

Folks before the lake.  I was sitting on a bench when I took this, and there I promptly fell asleep for about half an hour.  I don’t sleep much…

Continued into another post because damn I took a lot of pictures.

The Most Epic Fried Rice Ever

13 May

You think I’m kidding?  You think I’m exaggerating?  You don’t even know what’s about to hit you.

Yesterday Haley and I tried this crazy think called cooking, rather than doing our usual baking thing.  We were inspired by the crates of rice at Whole Foods that we admired last week and that I like to stick my hands into (like Amélie).  So we knew we wanted to make rice, and thusly consulted Pitchfork.  Haley found this recipe, which we adapted the hell out of.  According to the recipe, the rice should look like this:

 (image from the site linked above)

Wait until you sees ours.  Just wait.  Maybe you think I’m hyping this up too much, but you weren’te there for the making of this rice, so I see why you wouldn’t quite understand.

It’s okay.  You will.

Ingredients:

  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 of tofu (which I just saw.  We use the whole block. Haha… oops.)
  • 1 cup of white rice (we used Basmati), cooked
  • 1 cup of black rice (we used Chinese), cooked
  • 2 handfuls of bok choy (or baby bok if you are so inclined (we were)), stems and leaves sliced thinly
  • 4-5 spring onions or whatever onions you like/can find, since Whole Foods had a dearth of spring onions, diced into little rounds
  • 2-3 Tablespoons of Soy sauce or more if you are a sodium fiend
  • 1-2 Tablespoons of Rice Vinegar
  • Garlic paste, add to taste
  • One packet of Gobi Aloo seasoning mix (whatever that’s called… you can find it in the international aisle in Whole Foods)

Here’s how you do it:

Press the tofu.  I mean, press it.  A lot.  We had no idea what this meant, having never used tofu before.  The guy at the cash register told us that we really had to press it dry, or the outside would cook well and the inside would just taste like mushy tofu.  Which is true!  Oops.  You can google how to press tofu like we did.  What a pain.

This is how Haley feels about raw tofu.

This is not how press tofu by the way.

I was fascinated by this thing, so I took a lot of pictures.

While you’re pressing that, scramble the eggs.  When they’re just barely cooked, put them into a small dish and set aside.

In as much oil as you like, sear the tofu on all sides on medium-high heat.  While it’s searing, add the curry powder and salt to taste.  Once the tofu has browned, put that in a small dish also and set it aside.

Then fry the rice on medium-high heat.

This was before we cooked it, right after straining.  Isn’t it gorgeous?

Spread it around until it coats the bottom of the pan, making sure all the rice is soaked in oil.  (If you’re frying without oil… what are you doing.)  Wait for a few minutes and then scrape it all into the middle, mixing it well.  Spread it back out and wait for another few minutes.  Do this until it’s browned.

The rice actually was more purple than this, by the way.  I don’t know what happened to the picture.

Add the soy sauce, rice vinegar, and garlic paste.  You could use real garlic if you wanted to. It doesn’t really matter.  Anyway, mix that around.  Add the bok choy and cook until the leaves are a bit wilted.

Add in the tofu, eggs, and spring onions.

Onions.

Didn’t I tell you it waas epic?  This rice.  This rice.

Is purple.  And tastes like soy sauce and curry.  The greens are perfect, also, because they really offset the strong, salty flavors of the shit ton of spices we used.

Yes.

St. Vincent Should Come With a Warning Label (Concert Review, 11/5/12)

13 May

Because damn.  Her concert last night at the Vic utterly destroyed me.

The set list as I remember it:

  • Marrow
  • Cheerleader
  • Chloe in the Afternoon
  • Save Me From What I Want
  • Black Rainbow
  • Surgeon
  • Actor Out of Work
  • Cruel
  • A cover of The Pop Group
  • Champagne Year
  • Northern Lights
  • Year of the Tiger

And Your Lips Are Red for the encore.

This was my first time seeing St. Vincent, and it was a terrifying experience.  She absolutely lost her shit up there, playing with an almost violent ferocity that definitely doesn’t come through on the records.  Even her old, softer song had a sharp, vicious twist to them.  Actor Out of Work, for example, is a song that I always considered to be firmly pop, and I listen to it when I’m looking for something more upbeat.

She shredded that song.  She tore the shit out of that song.  It was amazing.  I am totally in love with her.

The lighting was completely epic, and definitely added to the performance far more than the lighting in most concerts I’ve been to.  If you have PTSD or epilepsy, do not go to one of her shows.  For real.  A lot of the lights were white or red, sometimes blazing from behind her, burning this black silhouette of a guitar, wild skinny arms, and a tangle of hair into the background.  Sometimes the lights flashed rapidly, and it looked like she was winking in and out od existence as she staggered around the stage, attacking her guitar with a vigor that produced a powerful, ear-ringing sound.

It was weird during the breaks, because she would talk about the songs or about whatever, and her voice was so soft and sweet, and she was very quiet… And then she’d start playing again, and sometimes she would yowl the lyrics into the mic, or open her mouth wide and sing as loudly and fully as possible.  During the guitar solos, she looked like she was ripping the guts out of something–her right hand would jab at the strings faster than you can believe, darting below the bridge and back up in a swift U-shape to change the pitch of the chord.  It legitimately looked like she was attacking something when she played.

Then, of course, she crowd surfed.  She started out standing on a bunch of people with a tech guy supporting her, swaying back and forth, almost spineless, like she was possessed. And then she hurled herself down into the expectant bed of hands, rolling across the crowd and screaming the lyrics to whatever song she was doing.  A lot of times, the only thing I saw of her was one fabulous shoe rising above the crowd.  She finished by laying across a bunch of people, convulsing as she sang, before floating back to the stage and walking calmly to her mic.

Going into a couple of the songs specifically:

Champagne Year started as a slow choral build-up, and I actually thought it was a filler track until another instrument came in.  Talk about apotheosis, man.  Wow.  It was a very slow build-up indeed, voices layering and layering, creating this thick wash of sound, accompanied by the morphing colors of the lights.  And then she sang on top of it, and it was so beautiful and slow.  This song, which isn’t even one of my favorites, is what proves to me that she has massive talent.  Because anyone can freak out on stage, but it takes a hell of a lot more effort and skill to control that wild energy and distill it into slower, more careful music.

Then, in Northern Lights, at the build-up in the end (which, okay, side note: I’ve been listening to this song for the past few days thinking”if she plays this I will lose mys shit”.  Consider it lost.), she started messing with this white box that had an antenna coming out of it.  Every time she brought her hand close to it, it would start to wail.  So she played the antenna.  It was kind of like sliding your hand up the strings on a violin, where when you get close to the body you get a higher sound.  At the very end, she got right up against it and it shrieked.  Again, amazing, awesome, wow.

St. Vincent is terrifying and beautiful.  She’s insanely talented and absolutely ruthless with her talent.  Being in the crowd at one of hers concerts is a unique experience, fraught with a soul-chilling ruinenlust.  Her music makes me want to smash in windows and rob banks, drive across country in the desert with the money in the trunk, wearing expensive fucking shoes.  It is amazing to go from Marry Me to this concert.  Amazing.

Next concert review: Andrew Bird.

Chocolate Chip Poppy Seed Cookies

6 May

I woke up to a mild thunderstorm today.  It’s a nice way to wake up, even though I usually hate rainy days.  But then I skateboarded the library, and it’s just warm and humid enough that I feel utterly disgusting.  I did see some streets I’d never been down before, though.

So yesterday, continuing our efforts to fight weekend lethargy, me and Haley made Chocolate Chip Poppy Seed Cookies, adapted from this Joy the Baker recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • A couple of spoons of chocolate peanut butter (we decided to put this in absolutely everything we bake) (optional)
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3/4 to 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons poppy seeds
  • 1 cup dark chocolate chips
  • about 1/4 cup poppy seeds for rolling and coarse sea salt for topping

Directions:

Mix the dry ingredients together in a large bowl.  Then add the softened butter and mix until well-combined.

This is not an example until well-combined, so mix until it looks better than this.  (I took a picture halfway through the mixing, okay.)  You could use an electric mixer if you want.  I was actually writing up the yesterday’s post while Haley was doing all of this, but she tends to ignore recipes and mix things together as she sees fit.

Add the egg and egg yolk and mix until well-combined.  Then add the vanilla and soy sauce.  Again, we skipped the vanilla.  Mix in the peanut butter if that’s what you want to do.  We found that it adds an extra kick to the flavor, making the cookies just a little more rich.

Then, add the sesame seeds and chocolate chips.  I should mention that we added both chocolate chunks and mini chocolate chips, and way more than the recipe called for.

It should look like this:

Form the dough into balls and coat evenly in a layer of poppy seeds.

Place on a cookie sheet and bake for about 10-15 minutes at 350 degrees.

Even when you make slightly bigger cookies like we did, the recipe should yield about 20-24 cookies.

Ready for the oven.

And done!  And delicious!  Seriously, these cookies, odd though they may be, will rock your face off.  They’re also very easy to make.  Warning: you will get poppy seeds stuck in your teeth, and it will be weird.  But damn, these are good cookies.