Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Last Paddle of 2014

Not a whole lot to say here except it was a really nice paddle to see out the 2014 paddling year. Saturday was gorgeous but after several consecutive days of holiday running around I was feeling incredibly lazy and didn't do anything but sort through my holiday windows pictures, do laundry, and read the latest 3 books of Kazu Kibuishi's Amulet graphic novel series. Monday was almost as nice though, and TQ and I are both on vacation, and although we got a slow start, we still decided to go. Ended up being good timing because clubmate Derek had had the same idea, so the three of us ganged up for a shortish but satisfying paddle. We went around Canarsie Pol, with a bit of a jog out towards Elders Point Marsh and a stop near the Pol to do a few rolls to warm up for the Frostbite Regatta (still on at this point despite a small craft advisory tomorrow). Sunset was spectacular.

Small gallery on Flickr - photos with me in them are by Derek, who took the camera while TQ and I were rolling.

Click here for more pictures.

And since this is probably my last post for 2014 - Hau'oli Makahiki Hou! See you in 2015!

Sunday, December 28, 2014


This is going back a ways now but I'm on vacation, it's a good time to catch up, and since this was about the most complicated thing I'd ever cooked, and it came out just the way I'd imagined it, I have been meaning to post about it. It all started with our fundraising pig roast at Sebago way back in June - when our man Steve the Paddling Chef roasts a pig, he goes whole hog - literally. Here he is with his assistant chefs preparing the perfectly roasted pig for serving.

Now I like to make stews and soups and things with things I've roasted, and I'd heard that you can make some good stuff with a pig's head, so at the end of the event, when Steve didn't want it himself, I grabbed the head and brought it home. It had been picked over some by the cook squad, they'd grabbed the cheeks (some of the best meat on the pig) for themselves, but I still took it home and wrapped it up well and threw it in the freezer. I hit on the idea of making pozole almost immediately. I've made stuff that I referred to as pozole before, simmering a meaty pernil (roast pork shoulder) bone with hominy and throwing in a couple of dried peppers, and that had been good hearty winter food, but I'd had a feeling that I wasn't really doing it right, and I wanted to try making the real deal. I looked around on the internet for a recipe, finding one that looked doable on a site called From Belly to Bacon (that'll take you to the recipe).

The only tricky part was that from my first reading of the recipe, this was going to be a three-day event, with each day's piece being fairly lengthy (not requiring direct attention for the entire time, lots of simmering and soaking and stewing, but a bit much to try to squeeze in after a day in the office). The pig head sat in my freezer for a few months (TQ making cracks about The Lord of the Flies every time I mentioned it), gradually joined by a couple of pernil bones and some good pan drippings from those roasts to flavor the eventual broth. My window of pozole opportunity finally sprang wide open during Thanksgiving week, when I'd taken the entire week off from work and the first few days included some less than lovely weather. Don't think I've ever been so happy to see some cold and damp in the forecast - this time, that meant pozole time, no excuses!

I prepared by going and buying a pound of pig cheeks on the Friday before vacation, enough to replace the ones that Chef Steve and company had justly claimed as their chefly reward, plus some extras in case the pig head had gotten too freezer-burned. Got those at Pino's Prime Meats, a renowned old-school Italian butcher shop in SoHo -- there's a pretty good butcher shop on Cortelyou Road that I usually go to but I wasn't sure if they'd have pig cheeks; I was sure that they could get them for me but I wanted to have them in hand on Saturday, and with a lot of work to do before vacation I was tickled to find out that Pino's had 'em and I was able to run out and get them on my lunch hour. I was missing a few other items (giant white hominy, guajillo and ancho chiles, and cumin seeds) but there's a very good Mexican grocery, Los Jazmines, a couple of blocks from where I live and I was pretty sure they'd have all of that.

Cooking started on Saturday with a big roasting of vegetables. The recipe called for roasted onions and garlic, and I had an acorn squash that needed to be used that I figured would go fine with the pozole, and then I also had a mess o' beets from cleaning out the garden the weekend before (those weren't going in the pozole, but I figured I'd get them done at the same time).

The big Dutch oven TQ got me for Christmas a couple of years ago was crucial to this effort - I'm not sure how I could've done this without it! 

While the veggies were roasting, I ran out to Los Jazmines. Sure enough, they had a huge pile of giant white hominy corn right at the front of the store (phew - this is not something you see in every store, the pieces are about the size of those Corn Nut snacks) and then of course they had a million kinds of dried chiles, including the ones I was after. I forgot the cumin seeds but I was getting the leeks at my local C-town and they also have a good selection of Mexican ingredients. I had a fun exchange at Los Jazmines - one of the staff there saw the corn and the chiles (and maybe the big grin on my face) and knew exactly what I was up to - "Making pozole?" "Oh yeah!" 

With the veggies roasted and all ingredients in hand, it was time to get on with the official first step of the recipe, the making of the stock. Into the Dutch oven (with the nice caramelized roasted veggie juices in there) with the pig head, pernil bones, carrots, onions, garlic, and leeks, plus some pan juices from the earlier roasts that I'd frozen for this exact purpose. Filled the pot with water to cover, and then it went into the oven for long slow simmer #1.

Here it is after a couple of hours: 

A couple of hours later still, I browned the pork cheeks and threw those in, along with a box of Pomi tomatoes (again, not called for in the recipe but they'd been around  for a while and I figured I'd use 'em up) and a couple of chipotle peppers (ditto). 

It was already looking and smelling very good that point, a little before 5:00.

Shortly before 7, I couldn't resist any more and ladled some over leftover rice for dinner. It was already delicious just the the way it was. 

And that was it for Day 1. Somewhere in there I'd started the hominy soaking for Day 2. I let the pot cool down for a while and stashed it in the refrigerator for the night.

Day 2: It's interesting looking up the pictures and then looking back in my blog to confirm -- I'd originally thought the pozole production was an uninterrupted 3-day effort, but looking at the time stamps and November's blog posts, it looks like I actually fit Stage 2 in AFTER going and spending a fun day moving extremely heavy objects around aboard the Mary A. Whalen. What a productive day. I can't do it all the time (I wish I could, I would be a much more successful person if I could call up this particular genie at will) but on occasion, when there's a project I really want to get done, I can focus and get things done; this must have been one of those moments because there were a few things that had to happen on Day 2, and the last time stamp was about one o'clock in the morning on the 24th.

The hominy had to cook - that was the easy part, just had to throw it in a pot with some water for three or four hours.

While that was cooking, there was chile paste to make. This was supposed to include roasted onions and garlic but I'd accidentally thrown them in with the stock and at this point I wasn't going out for more, I just used what I had. Here's the mostly-cooked hominy, and in the pan on the left I'm roasting peppers and pine nuts. Once again, pine nuts aren't called for, but I had some left over from Pestofest 2014 and since they don't keep that long...maybe I should've called this pig head and kitchen sink pozole.
 Pulled out the pine nuts, threw in the cumin

 Reappearance of the giant pot. At some point I did get the bones and excess skin and fat out, now it was time to heat it back up again so I could mix in the evening's additions.

 Chiles, pine nuts and cumin all ground up - the actual grinding process was probably my most egregious departure from the recipe (although I also skipped the pig's ear garnish, I think those got eaten by the roasting squad too), as I did NOT have any of the Clash music recommended for timing purposes at hand and probably substituted some Talking Heads. TQ has London Calling but I totally forgot to borrow it. Shhh. 

 Aaaand all done with Day 2 - everything into the big pot and back into the fridge. 

And a little obsession with getting a project to a certain point is sometimes not such a bad thing - I'd wanted to get everything together in the pot on Day 2 so that the flavors could mingle overnight in the refrigerator (I learned from my mom that stews and soups are always better on Day 2 'cause of mingling time), which meant that all that was left for Day 3 was a few more hours of simmering. At the end of that, I had this:

And I served it with lime, cilantro (as suggested) and a little sour cream (not suggested but seemed like it would go well, which it did). And that was my great Pig Head Pozole adventure. Very good stuff - TQ had a cold when I made this and I took him a big container, it didn't quite cure his cold but he enjoyed it very much. If our Paddling Chef decides to roast another pig next year, maybe I can do it again - or I could try it with just pernil bones and some pork cheeks from Pino's, that would probably be pretty good too. 

Next big cooking project for a bad-weather weekend - I have got it in my head that I want to roast a goose. I'd sort of hoped to do that here over Christmas break but that's going to be a two-day event if I'm going to do it right, and there have been entirely too many holiday things to do for me to manage that.  

Saturday, December 27, 2014

NYC Holiday Windows 2: The Flickr Set

After sorting through the rest of the pix, I still ended up having a few more than I wanted for a blog post, so I just put up the full set on Flickr. If you already looked at the Bergdorf window post, you can just skip through those. We started there (well, actually we started at a gingerbread display at the Parker Meridien, but my pictures there didn't come out that well and we weren't that impressed anyways) and then we moved on to our other favorites -- Tiffany's, Saks Fifth Avenue, Rockefeller Center (oh my the crowds), and Lord and Taylor. We thought about Barney's but we were working our way north to south and by the time we thought of it it would've required a massive backtrack (plus the live figure skater - !!! - wouldn't have been on duty); we have finished with Macy's in the past but it was getting pretty late and we were ready to head for home after Lord and Taylor.

Click here for the Flickr set.

Blog bonus picture - this is the Palm Court Restaurant at the Plaza. Someday we are going to start our annual holiday window viewing with tea at the Plaza. It's wildly expensive, of course, and will probably require a little more advance planning than we usually do, but it would be fun to do at least once!

NYC Holiday Windows 2014 - Part 1

More to come, but my friend Mandy and I got together for our annual holiday ritual, and the hands-down winner of the coveted (well, not really, in fact I just made it up tonight and it's only me and whoever reads this that knows about it) Frogma NYC Holiday Window Wow Award this year was Bergdorf Goodman. Actually they usually are my favorites, they have great big display windows and they let some incredibly creative people (with maybe more than a smidgen of OCD, judging by the level of detail) run utterly amok with them for the holidays. It's almost hard to imagine how they put some of these assemblages together, they've got so many bits in 'em.
This year's theme was The Arts. The first window, which introduced the theme with a lady with a brilliant light bulb on over her head, was the simplest; the rest were...well, take a look at Literature, Architecture (I gave you a detail there, cut-paper lion sculpture, typical of the way these things are just done to the nines), Theater (which including an actual flashing neon display), Cartography (one of 2 smaller windows which were also done in keeping with the theme - this one had a particularly intricate cut-paper display that I liked), Painting, Music (a trumpeter with a dazzling backdrop of silver horns), Dance (with a spinning life-sized music box dancer), Sculpture, and Film.

More tomorrow or maybe Sunday, but I thought I'd start with this. Click on the first picture for a slideshow view, I did all the writing up here 'cause these have so much detail they really should be viewed in the larger versions.



Architecture (detail - cut-paper lion)

Theater - neon was an absolute light show

"Cartography" - small window but so much in there!


Music (note the backdrop of silver horns)

Dance (life-sized twirling music box dancer)


Film (backdrop scrolled past with Arctic scenery)

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Spammy Christmas To All (plus fun with gasket).

Spammy Christmas To All, 
And To All, MUSUBI!

TQ and I are having a nice staycation this year. I'm very excited because that means this year we get to attend the Mele Kalikimaka party hosted by an Iolani classmate of mine and his family. Malasadas and poke and Portuguese bean soup, oh my! And sometime in the last few days, I saw a Spam musubi tree posted somewhere on a Hawaiian Facebook group, and said I MUST DO THAT FOR THE PARTY!!!

So yesterday, after TQ and I got back from a nice dinner with his folks up in CT, I peeled off and came home and got the musubi factory going. I cut them in half, sounds like there is going to be plenty ono-kine grinds (lots of good food) there and a whole Spam musubi is a very filling thing, so mini ones seemed better - plus they stack up into a Christmas tree better. Mele Kalikimaka!

Rice and spam, ready to go!

Manufacturing the musubi (with a little help from Harpoon)

Ready to wrap - and of course the finished product is above. 

The party in a midafternoon thing so since I had the morning to myself, it was the perfect time to do something that had suddenly needed doing as of Monday afternoon - it wasn't the prettiest day but Tuesday was supposed to be worse (and it was, just drizzled all day) and with no other plans I decided to go for a paddle. The gaskets weren't looking ready to go, none of the stickiness or alligator cracks that are the usual signs that it's about to bust, but when I put my right hand through, it tore like wet paper. Maybe it had gotten nicked or something. Anyhow, I went paddling anyways, just velcro'd the cuff good and tight and stayed even closer to shore than I usually do when paddling solo (especially in the wintertime) and had a nice 9 miles (lots of birds, including a few talkative loons, always lovely to hear). Tuesday I made an emergency trip in to New York Kayak and picked up a replacement kit. Saturday looks like a possibly nice paddling day so with a free morning this morning, I decided to go ahead and get the sticky icky job done.

Things got a little messy as my upstairs neighbors, who seem to like to roll boulders around to amuse their baby, chose the exact moment that the aqua seal had come into play to start rolling their boulders (I have no actual idea what they do up there but boy, that's what it sounds like - I can't wait for the day when they outgrow that apartment), but in the end I think it'll do. I hope it does, I can't miss out on our New Year's Day rolling!

Bad gasket. Bad. 

Gasket repair kit. Comes with gasket, AquaSeal, sandpaper and 303. You supply rubbing alcohol and some sort of form (I found that a large Chinese food container, with the top cut off carefully so as not to have any pointy bits to snag the latex, was just the right size). 

Sleeve, turned inside out after cutting off the old gasket, with form inserted. You usually leave the attached part of the old gasket attached and the new gasket gets stuck to that. You clean the attached part of the old gasket and the large end of the new one with rubbing alcohol and then you sand them.
New gasket added to the setup. I think there may have been a little preliminary boulder roll here 'cause I think I've gotten it inside out - hopefully that doesn't make a big difference. 

Now things get messy (note that I've now put some some newspapers down over my nice wood floor). You fold the overlapping piece of the new gasket up. You run AquaSeal around the old gasket that you're using as an attachment base and the new gasket that you're attaching. You use something you can throw away to spread it around and then you roll the new gasket into place. This is a particularly fine time for your upstairs neighbors to launch into some extra-enthusiastic boulder activity, but it's OK, remember this is all on the inside of your suit and no one will ever know what you did (except maybe Kokatat - see below). yep. 
That's a wrap. It has to set for at least 8 hours, then I'll be ready to roll.

Nice little how-to video here - seriously, I usually send my suit back to Kokatat for gasket replacements during the warmer season because a) it's a smelly, messy job and b) they also check for leaks, and that's really important - but a busted gasket absolutely doesn't need to put much of a crimp in your winter paddling, this is a pretty simple repair. 

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Singing In the Solstice at the William Main Doerflinger Memorial Shanty Sing

Didn't take me long to return to the John A. Noble Maritime Collection at the Sailor's Snug Harbor Cultural Center on Staten Island - a little less than a month after TQ and I chose that as a nice quiet Escape from Black Friday location, I was back with some friends for their monthly William A. Doerflinger Shanty Sing, which runs from 2 pm to 5 pm on the third Sunday of each month. Blogging friend Rick Spilman over at The Old Salt Blog has a new book called The Shantyman coming out soon and in honor of that he'd given an excellent talk about shanties at the NY Ship Lore and Modelbuilding Society back in November; I'd mentioned it on Facebook, with some reference to the monthly sing, and a couple of friends perked up and said, "Let's go!".

I'd never been to a shanty sing before, but I enjoyed it and I think I'll be back. The group was friendly (there were a couple of instances where people spaced on words, and I didn't pick up any sense at all that anyone was looking down their noses at that, which is nice), the choruses were easy enough to sing along with, and although I'd told a clubmate that I wasn't sure that the harmonies would be quite as harmonic as this, there was some good singing. I was able to get a few licks on my tin whistle, and of course joined in enthusiastically on "Mele Kalikimaka" - not a traditional shanty but good grief how many times did I sing that song as a kid??? I was tempted to lead 'em through the Hawaiian Twelve Days of Christmas (Numba One Day of Christmas My Tutu Give To Me, One Mynah Bird in One Papaya Tree) but as a first-timer I felt like that might be a bit much. Maybe next year. Another singer sang The Parting Glass (the hearty version, not the plaintive one), which we sang back in Jerry Kerlin's Irish Song classes at the Irish Arts Center - there are actually a couple of songs I know from there that I wouldn't be surprised to hear at this session.

My friend Gail and I rode the ferry over and then walked up to Snug Harbor. I was a little disappointed in the weather, forecast had called for partly sunny and low 40's and instead it was slate-gray and hovering in the low 30's, but it was still fun walking along the Kill Van Kull and watching all the ships go by, plus we had to stop and smell the Christmas trees at Gerardi's Farmer's Market, which was right along the way. Actually you could see the container ships going by from the room where the session is held - that lent some atmosphere!

Victoria and Steve from the Long Island City Community Boathouse joined us there and had a very good time, and then the four of us ended up going out for a rather spontaneous dinner at Pasticceria Bruno on Forest Avenue, which turned out to be pretty darned good (lovely appetizers, unfortunately gone before I remembered to take pictures).

Photos from the day - click for slideshow view, this is the end of the write-up!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Ice Yacht Expo at the FDR Home, Library and Museum

I won't be able to make it up to Hyde Park for this but I did want to share it in case anyone who lives closer happens to read this! The lovely folks at the Hudson River Ice Yacht Club are putting on an Ice Yacht Expo at the FDR Presidential Home, Library and Museum, opening Sunday the 21st and running through January 3rd.

On the opening day, there will be a reception at 2:00pm at the Wallace Center Welcome by Lynn Bassanese, Library Director Brief remarks by Historian Wint Aldrich followed by refreshments and an informal introduction to the Hudson River tradition of sailing on ice.

An indoor / outdoor display of classic ice yachts will run Dec 21- Jan 3, including FDR’s ice yacht “Hawk” and examples of other historic and modern ice yachts from the Hudson River Ice Yacht Club.

Where: Wallace Visitor Center and Roosevelt Library Lawn, 

at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Home, Library and Museum. Click here for more details.

Donations of a former life.

31 degrees, no wind. Would've been a nice day for kayaking, but it's also the 3rd Saturday in December, and third Saturday means drop-off donation day at the NYC branch of Dress for Success, a not-for-profit that works to "promote the economic independence of disadvantaged women by providing professional attire, a network of support and the career development tools to help women thrive in work and in life" (lifted from their mission statement).

 I've had a closet full of business wear from my finance industry days for ages. I'm finally getting rid of them because a) I'm not expected to wear suits at my current place of employment and b) (more weight on this one, literally) somewhere in the decade-and-change that have passed since I last wore one of these, I stopped being a size 8 (go figure) and have no plans on torturing myself to get back down there.

They've just been gathering dust since 2002. Today I took a duster to the shoulders and packed 'em up in the dry cleaning bags I've been saving for the purpose. Off to Dress for Success - hope they can be of more use to someone else. They were pretty nice suits at the time, and since my tastes in business suits were far from flamboyant, I think they're still ok.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

More sad news - farewell, Half Moon

Not the same kind of sadness as yesterday, but I was still VERY disappointed to read that the Half Moon, a historical replica of the 17th-century ship that Henry Hudson sailed up the river that eventually came to bear his name, will be leaving us for the Netherlands in 2015. You can read more at the Working Harbor Committee's blog.

I suppose it's not truly bad news, at least not for the vessel herself. The report mentions financial difficulties and lack of a home port as reasons for the move, and perhaps she will fare better in the Netherlands. I'll miss her, though, her lines and cheerful paint always brought a smile to my face (and thoughts of Narnia to my mind) whenever I spotted her.

Photo above taken at a very drizzly NY Harbor Blessing of the Fleet in June 2009. Click here for more from that day.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Sad news from the world of children's publishing -

Sad news yesterday from Martha's Vineyard, which was just shared here at Scholatic via company email - Norman Bridwell, creator of everyone's favorite Big Red Dog, passed away at the age of 86. 

 Here's a link to a post that I did in 2013, when Scholastic celebrated Clifford's 50th birthday. That was an exciting time here; the official birthday was on Valentine's Day, which was when the original Clifford the Big Red Dog was published, but the celebration had actually begun the year before, because it was in 1962 that Mr. Bridwell had originally sent a set of drawings which included one of a little girl with a very big, bright red dog. Relinking today in honor of Clifford's creator.

 What a wonderful life to have lived.