Ice Sculpture

I'm not sure how this happened, but over the course of 2 weeks, our garbage can somehow completely filled up with water and then froze solid into a giant garbage-can-shaped ice sculpture:

Hogan's Alley

I was walking through Troy today and I found myself walking down a classic 8-bit video game alleyway like none other:

(Check it out in Google Street View). I thought that at any moment one of those second story doors would open up and some dude dressed like a bird would poke his head out and drop sticks of dynamite on me like in Trojan on the Nintendo (Which is a fitting title since the picture was taken in Troy, NY):

If anything happened I felt secure knowing that one of the garage doors would open and the Double Dragons would come and help me out:

Kitchen Microscope

I've been thinking about adding a microscope to my list of must-have kitchen appliances. I now have a basic one to play with. The idea is that maybe I can see something useful while making dough, cheese, meat, (etc.) under the microscope that I couldn't see otherwise. It has yet to be seen if I can view anything valuable under it, but I will keep trying. Here's a picture of milk under the microscope, taken with my cell phone camera through the microscope's eyepiece:

If nothing else, it looks like a cartoon dragon if you use your imagination:

Thanksgiving

We did Thanksgiving dinner here for the first time. Mmm! The turkey was delicious. The recipe came from here. One of the big tricks with this recipe is to cook the recipe breast-side down so that when the juices run down the turkey, they collect in the breast making for very juicy and delicious white meat.

The only panic moment was when I took the turkey's temperature an hour before it was supposed to be completed. The turkey was done already, and I hadn't started any of the other food yet. I just covered the turkey and let it sit for an hour while I prepared the rest of the food. The turkey was luckily still warm when it dinner was served.

Homemade Cheddar Cheese

This weekend, we ate the wheel of cheddar cheese that we made in April. It has been aging in the basement for 6 months or so. The wax had a small crack in it, and some mold appeared on the surface, but it was easily shaved off. I expected the cheese to taste either bad, or mediocre at best. However, much to our surprise, it was absolutely fantastic! It may have been the best cheddar I've ever tasted. It was very sharp. We made it from unpasteurized milk, which they say is the best way to make cheese. I have larger wheel of cheese aging in the basement right now that was made from ordinary milk from Stewart's. I'm curious to see how these cheeses will compare.

Frankentree

I came across a frankentree very close to my house:

This frankentree looks a lot more tree-like than other frankentrees I have seen, it's even normal tree size. That's my big story for the day.

Capital Hills Golf Course

I discovered a nice 6 mile hike loop from my house in Albany. There is a nature trail that I never knew about at the nearby Capital Hills Golf Course. It is called Albany's Normanskill Hiking Trail. Just follow the blue line:

It's a very hilly trail:

At the end of the trail, I could tell that there was more trail on the other side of the Norman's Kill Creek, but it was starting to rain, and I had walked far enough. Next time I need to check this out:

2011 Update

The golf course has been expanded as a Winter Use Facility. It is a great place for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, sledding, running, and hiking in the wintertime.

Click on the following cross-country ski map for a close-up view:

New Copper Bowl

I have been on the lookout for a copper bowl for the last couple of years. It started with our waffle recipe that says to "beat egg whiles until stiff peaks form". Years ago I would whisk the egg whites in a glass bowl for 20 minutes until I was ready to collapse, and still the egg whites would never form stiff peaks. Later, I started watching the old Julia Child show, "The French Chef", and reading her book, "Mastering the Art of French Cooking". She goes through an exhausting explanation of how to whisk your egg whites such that stiff peaks form:

1) The egg whites will fluff best if they are at room temperature. I usually put the egg whites in the bowl, and I put the bowl in tepid water for a few minutes to bring up the temperature of the eggs.

2) Any traces of oil will prevent the egg whites from fluffing properly, so be sure that the whisk and bowl are "impeccably clean". Traces of egg yolk in the egg white will have a similar effect, to be sure not to let any egg yolk (or shells) find their way into the egg whites.

3) The type of bowl is important. People that need to fluff egg whites know the mysterious secret. A copper bowl fluffs egg whites better than anything else. A copper bowl tends to be prohibitively expensive ($100 or more at Williams Sonoma), so a stainless steel bowl is the poor man's alternative. A glass bowl is particularly bad, because it is too slick and as you try to whisk the egg whites, the whisk pushes the eggs around the bowl instead of chopping through the egg whites.

For the last few years I have been making waffles using a stainless steel bowl to whisk the egg whites. Stiff peaks always form, but just barely. It has worked pretty well for me, and the resulting waffles are light and fluffy. Yesterday I found the copper bowl I've been looking for at T.J. Maxx. It's a little on the small side, but it works. I beat an egg white, and perfect stiff peaks formed, in fact it quickly went beyond stiff peaks so that the egg whites almost looked like Styrofoam. It quickly confirmed that copper bowls are, in fact, a critical factor in beating egg whites.

Barefoot Running

I have always enjoyed running. A year ago, someone at work showed me an article from a running magazine that talked about the possible benefits of running on the balls of my feet (landing near the front of your foot) instead landing on my heels like I ordinarily do. I tried running on the balls of my feet, and it felt really awkward at first.

Listening to Records

Recently a friend purchased a record player and a small collection of records, and asked me to pick up some records if I happened to find any. I came across a really nice pile of records including some Led Zeppelin, Frank Zappa, King Crimson, and much more. A friend at work loaned me a record player for a little while, and I've been listening to all the records one-by-one. I'm amazed at how cool it is to listen to records compared with listening to cd's. First of all, the artwork on the records is incredible. It's very large, and accessible. Typically, there is a large image on the front and back, and when you open up the record, there might be additional artwork inside. For whatever reason, the artwork that comes with CD's and tapes completely lacks the impact that a record provides. The other noticeable thing is that listening to records is an activity. You can't really put on a record and get distracted, because in fifteen or twenty minutes, you are going to have to flip the record or put on a new one. It keeps me involved in the music, and prevents me from getting distracted and running off to do something else. It makes it easy to focus on the music, and really get into it. Another great thing is that records hit their peak at the same time that rock and roll did. Most of the good music that is out there was originally produced on records, so it feels like you're listening to the real thing on records. It has been a lot of fun listening through all of the records even if it's only temporary.