Saturday, October 27, 2007

The Halloween Table

Originally uploaded by Food Fanatic
On Halloween night kids of all ages (and many adults) go around from door to door, collecting enough sugary treats to rot out their teeth. Parents will beg them not to eat any of their booty until it’s been inspected carefully at the end of the evening. And truly most of the stuff will get home for the grand sort-out and trade-a-thon. But no one should ever think that a kid is going to resist eating at least a few pieces before the trudging and doorbell ringing is over. And if those few treats are consumed on an empty stomach, the prospect of sugar shock looms large and can threaten the trick-or-treater’s (and their parent’s) bedtime.
The solution? Well, maybe a partial solution anyway? Feed them a nice, healthy meal before they hit the streets. Yes, that seems like it could be hard when darkness falls just a few minutes after 6 o’clock, but with a little advanced preparation and a slow cooker, you could have a filling meal ready in just a few minutes. Dress it up in Halloween garb, and your kids might be willing to stick around for supper.
Beef stew has got to be one of the simplest and most common slow cooker meals. Simply toss the meat, any root vegetables you might like, and the liquids into the pot at the beginning of the day, turn it to low, and go off to work. When you arrive home, crank it up to high, drop in the softer veggies and you have a meal ready in less than 30 minutes. The recipe below can be easily adapted to a slow cooker. Just remember to keep out anything that might turn mushy with long cooking (in this case the zucchini, tomatoes and olives) and add them just before serving. Use your judgment about thickening the broth. If you like it runnier, leave it like it is. There’s more to mop up with your favorite crusty bread that way anyway.
Many folks like to do up Halloween proud and have a big party. Finger foods are the order of the day when you go with something like that. Here are a few ideas for party snacks:
• Hairball Salad with Saliva Dressing-recipe below. This seemed a little bland. You might want to consider making your favorite guacamole recipe and mashing the sprouts in with that.
• Fried Spiders-made with jalapeno poppers and onion rings, this tasty treat is easy to make, but very hard to keep the spiders intact. They tend to fall apart in the oven. Reassembling them on the serving plate, while yielding a rather flat bug, is still a fairly effective presentation.
• Punch-Green. It has to be green. Mountain Dew is a good choice for the main liquid. There is no other beverage that yields that special yellow-green glow. Float a frozen red hand in it. Beware, however, as the hand thaws fingers tend to fall off and one can not control which fingers will go first!
Whether you are talking about the last supper before trick-or-treating or a big, bang-up party for all your friends, Halloween food definitely needs to have two main components: quick & creepy. Search the internet, magazines (and newspapers) for ideas and start shopping!

Friday, October 26, 2007

My Favorite So Far

Originally uploaded by Food Fanatic
This self-portrait project can be fun and stressful. There are days when I get a scathingly brilliant idea and manage to pull it off, and then other days that are terribly uninspired.

I'm particularly proud of this photo I took several days ago. I had the idea in my head for a few days, and really puzzled over how to do it without getting the camera in the photo. But once I scrapped that notion, I had a good time with it.

It's RAINING!!! Woo Hoo! It's been raining pretty much solid since Wednesday afternoon and we've gotten a little over an inch. Of course we could really use 38 more days and nights of it. I ordered around $200 worth of plants for the back garden the other day and they are on their way. I sure do hope we don't go to stage 4 water restrictions, which would mean no watering of any kind.

I had to take my camera to the shop yesterday for cleaning and repair. I have a service contract on it, which permits 2 cleanings per year, but the prospect of having it gone for 6-8 weeks seemed daunting. Then the other day the little latch that holds the on-board flash broke. It's particularly ironic because I don't really use that flash. I bet I've only used it 2 dozen times. I rarely use a flash at all. I think this photo was the first time in 4 or 5 months that I had the speedlight on.

Anyway, I took the camera, kit lens, and zoom up to Wolf Camera and dropped it off for that. Then I talked to them about a small point & shoot. I'm coming into the busiest season for writing and photography, and I can't be without a camera. I had picked up an HP Photosmart camera at Best Buy on Wednesday and it REALLY BITES! What a hideous little camera! It has NO user controls whatsoever...just scene modes and auto, and any little thing you set it up for goes back to default when you turn it on.

So I ended up buying a Canon PowerShot A560 for about the same price I paid for the HP. I'll run the HP back today. I'll have to spend some time with this one to see how to use it best, but I think it'll be okay. I still miss my Fuji Finepix F10.

Today I work hard and heavy at insurance work in the morning, and then this afternoon it's all domestic chores.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Canine Communications

I think my puppy is into instant messaging.

Pretty much, if he yips at you, you'd better get him outside. NOW. Or else. Tootsie rolls on the carpet.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

One Cool Thing

Originally uploaded by Food Fanatic
on my husband's ibook: Photo Booth
Wednesday, October 17 was a big day for our community. That afternoon I went to the bid opening for our new library. We were very pleased with the results: 11 bidders came in and the lowest was only $9,000 over our cost projections from a year ago! Amazing when you consider inflation, gas prices, etc. And it was a local contractor, to boot. A nice bonus. I always like to do business locally.

Thursday and Friday I pretty much spent working on my continuing computer problems. The short story is, consider carefully before upgrading to Office 2007. My computer has been restarting unexpectedly since installing the suite. And I'm still not sure I can run MS Access at all. I had quite a few photos to run through and some writing to do, so it did make things rather slow going. But thanks to "autosave" I never lost anything.

On Saturday afternoon we had a picnic at Landsford Canal State Park. It was pretty much a spur-of-the-moment thing. It turns out that our guys don't mind hiking at all, so that morning after Jazz I proposed we go. We did some work around the house and then found out the park closes at 6. So we put together a quick burger picnic at Food Lion and headed out.

It was a beautiful afternoon! And fun! I have been wanting to shoot a family photo for Christmas cards, so I set up the tripod and we played around:




Yup. He threw up on my leg. Paulsons reading this will remember the time Nate threw up on my head at a family reunion. If someone is going to throw up on me, I guess I'd prefer the leg.

Monday, October 22, 2007

What a Week!

So much to blog about, so little time! Last Tuesday I went downtown with buddies Sarah and Debbie to shoot the Jazzercise demo classes they held on the corner of Trade of Tryon. It was really fun for me! With the shoulder thing, I wasn't able to carry a bunch of stuff or set up anything, so I basically wandered around and played with my camera all morning. They did two 30-minute classes (without weights) on the street corner. The idea was to promote Jazzercise, the Charlotte Checkers hockey team, and the special Ronald McDonald House fund raising they did at their game on Saturday, Oct. 20.

The classes were a big hit, garner attention of the downtown lunch crowd. Some folks stopped to watch, others just steamed on full ahead with their lunch plans.

After that was all over, the three of us hit lunch at Baxter's Liu Liu's, a chinese restaurant that has a very nice outdoor covered patio. And a decent wine list. I had an Italian Pinot Grigio I wasn't that crazy about, but it was okay.

That afternoon I hit the last home meet for our high school's cross country team. As I rolled up and was prepping my equipment, the newspaper's staff photographer appeared at my elbow. Neither of us knew the other was coming, of course. Since I am the reporter for the team, I've been shooting them whenever I can, but I hadn't told my editor I was going to be at that one. She sent Aaron up. I was so pleased with my jazz photos from the morning, that I decided to stay and practice shooting some more. Aaron graciously hung by me and we talked photography, me peppering him with questions, and he offering me some sage advice. Since another county high school was in the meet, I felt fairly certain that the editor would be willing to use a photo or two of mine for our team and then use Aaron's photos for the other. I'll find out on Wednesday when the paper comes out. Anyway, here is a photo I shot of what I consider to be the most inspirational runner on our team:
I took this photo in early October. Got a lot of great photos at that meet, but my exposure was terrible. The photos came out dark and grainy. Since then I've learned a lot about the metering my camera does and how to use that information. I went back last week to see if I could get this shot again with a better exposure. With Aaron's help, I was able to improve the exposure and reduce the noise, but then they had a slight blur! My panning really needs some serious work.

On Wednesday I shot a flower and some shoes. I wrote about the shoes and posted one photo. But I really feel the need to share this one:
Did I mention she has 113 pair? But go check out her blog.