Monday, October 25, 2010

Pumpkins as people and dogs as cops.

This weekend, in pictures:

This weekend finally felt like Fall.  We carved a pumpkin Friday night, and Saturday we drove upstate for some foliage and trail wandering at Bear Mountain Inn.  Unfortunately, the leaves don't really change colors here in NYC -- they just kind of stay green forever and then suddenly one day they all fall off the trees.  As a native New Englander, I miss vibrant foliage so, so much!  We originally went to Bear Mountain to partake of their Oktoberfest, but by the time we wandered around Hessian Lake (how badass, right?), the crowd had gotten pretty thick at the beer/food stands and I didn't feel like waiting an hour for an experience we could get at our friendly neighborhood Bohemian Hall & Beer Garden.

Sunday I made pumpkin pancakes and we made pizzas to try to use up the food in our freezer since it decided to stop working. All in all, even with the malfunctioning freezer (and possibly refrigerator, now, as well), it was a delightful weekend.  This weekend will likely be crazy with all that goes along with Halloween (though we still don't actually have costumes and we're attending a costume ball Thursday night), but I'm looking forward to it all the same.

Friday, October 22, 2010

My thesis, in one 3:46 clip

I'm in my last semester of graduate school, and I am writing my thesis about American history as it is portrayed in Disney theme parks.  Basically, within the parks, narratives of progress are translated into meticulously controlled physical space for consumption by millions of middle and upper class paying "citizens" of the Disney nation. 

In Epcot, Disney's "permanent World's Fair in Orlando, there is an "American Adventure" pavilion which includes a 45-minute show MC'ed by Ben Franklin and Mark Twain audio-animatronics (robots), that takes visitors on a whirlwind tour of exactly what Disney wants its visitors to know about American history.  The finale, shown in the video below, is basically a montage of 5-10 second video clips of What It Means to Be American.

It's pretty incredible. Louis Armstrong! JFK! JFK Jr.! MLK! Elvis! Gloria Steinem! 9/11! Eagles! Clouds! Soaring music!  AMERICA!!!!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Unfortunately, "taking walks" wasn't really something we could do together in our apartment.

I want so badly to post a few recipes I've made in the last few weeks, but this is turning into a straight up food blog, so instead of my usual recap, I will do a link-and-one-sentence-review for each:

  • Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins: I've been using this very recipe for a few years now, and they never fail to disappoint -- fool proof, and they always come out moist and dense -- just don't add more chocolate chips than it calls for (they just get too chocolatey, and I'm saying that as a chocolate fiend).
  • Split Pea Soup: Growing up, my mom always made split pea soup, so I was excited to see it is, as I assumed, very easy to make vegetarian. I added some peeled and diced potatoes, and a package of frozen petite peas, and I used vegetable stock instead of just water.
  • Ziti with Roasted Zucchini: Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm (used 2 shallots and 1 red onion instead of alllll those shallots... delicious. Never too much zucchini. Will add mushrooms next time. It will be amazing.).
In non-food news, the weather on Sunday was essentially perfect: around 70 degrees, light breeze. E and I grabbed lunch with a friend and her boyfriend after said friend photographed E and I engaged in every day activities for her summative project as a photography major. We had to do things around our apartment that we usually do together. After a lot of waffling about what we do together (in the apartment? Not much really -- usually E is working at the desk in the bedroom and I am cavorting in the kitchen/living room), we settled on two activities. First, we hung out at the table in our kitchen/living room, each of us on separate computers but chatting and sending each other cat macros and videos of Conan O'Brien washing his desk. Then, we prepped all the veggies for that ziti zucchini dish up there, since we cook together most days of the week and, if this blog's slow devolution into recipe folder is any indication, food is a major part of our lives. She took some great pictures, and made our apartment look much more... atmospheric... than it is in real life.

And then there was lunch and a long walk to the park. Astoria Park is pretty big, and is a really pretty park built around and between the foundations of the Triboro and Hell Gate Bridges. The city just built a new skate park beneath the Triboro, and so we watched people of all ages on wheels there for a few minutes. This summer we hung out there a bunch of times, having picnics or watching fireworks, but we never made it to the amazingly huge swimming pool! They held the 1936 Olympic trials there, and it is massive:

The pool is closed until next summer, but we checked out the preserved 1930's entrance to the pool:

Crappy iPhone photo, but you get the idea!

Maybe next summer we'll get our acts together and make it in time to actually take a swim!  If not, I'll be pretty okay with another fireworks show from the hill at the park.

Oh hey, another crappy photo!  Whatever, I'm too busy living to carry a camera around all the time, gosh.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Food Budgets

A couple days ago, after I whined on Twitter about my dwindling money supply, a friend of mine told me about Frutober, an initiative started by a blogger who decided to only spend 75$ on food and 25$ on fun for the month of October. I am intrigued by this idea, and want to try out a modified version of it, but probably not til November. So it'll be... Fruvember. It doesn't have quite the same ring to it, but it does have the added bonus of Thanksgiving leftovers, which I should be able to live off of for a few days, at least.

In general, we don't spend all that much on food. Our grocery bill probably totals a little over 200 dollars a month for 2 people, so we're not spending too far over 75 a month per person anyway. However, if we were more diligent in planning our meals and buying things in advance, we'd waste less and save some more money. Our refrigerator is small, but usually pretty packed full of produce, so it's not uncommon for a plate of leftovers or bag of grapes to disappear long enough that we have to pinch our noses and scurry to the garbage can with it when it resurfaces. It happened with some grapes this week. And with a container of Greek yogurt (mmm) this morning.

Another major budget buster for us are vegan alternatives for butter and cheese (and occasionally meat) for E. We bought 8 ounces of fake cheese made from tapioca rice today, and it was 5 bucks for the back! And we found a tub of fake butter for 3.50 and nearly shat ourselves because it was such a bargain. Also, since I have no trouble with dairy, we end up buying the alternatives for him and the regular stuff for me, so we double purchase a lot of items. It's cheaper overall, since the margarine I buy costs 89¢ instead of 3.50 (or, usually 5 bucks), but it is kind of lame.

The mind behind Frutober advocates for stockpiling necessities in September, but I found out about the initiative at about 10 pm on September 30th, at a real low point in our pantry supplies. We've been out of eggs, bread, grated cheese, vinegar, olive oil, and various other vital parts of our diet for a few days now, and if I had restocked the cabinets as part of my 75$ monthly budget, I would have only had enough money left over to eat ramen for the rest of the month. So, I'm not sticking to a 75$ budget this month, but I'm trying to stick to spending more than $6 on dinner every night (which will hopefully include leftovers). In general, this shouldn't be too hard -- tonight I plan to make a pot of lentil soup that will cost about 4 bucks total -- but it will require a bit more thought and frugality. No more wild mushroom agnolotti for us, I guess.