Farewell Photos, Part 2

And now, part 2, in case you couldn’t read the title above…

ESDA (Emergency Services Disaster Agency) Director Steve Lewis. Steve’s a good guy. Always willing to take a few minutes to chat, even when he’s busy. And whooo-boy is he busy. In addition to a day job as a 911 operator, Steve directs this all-volunteer agency which despite the name, handles a lot more than weather. ESDA has storm spotters, reserve policemen, first responders, rescue crews and much more. Lewis organizes this stuff, plans exercises, and just kind of keeps tabs on it all.

Librarians of the Flora Public Library. From Left, Angela Garrett, Tina McCormack, Lindsey West, Joyce Denoncour, Donna Corry, and Deirde Klein. I’ve done numerous stories for the library. Every summer I can count on their summer reading program giving me shots of kids enjoying the cool performers and educators that come there. They continually try to do more with Flora’s Library than I think anyone expects in this size of town. That’s the other reason I’ll miss them though. This is my library! They’ve made it great and I love getting books or movies here, or just taking a walk in and browsing. And always friendly, oh yeah. Nashville’s Public Library has some pretty big shoes to fill.

Bill Atwood. He owns North Wayne Insurance Agency, but more importantly to me, he’s the President of the Flora Academic Foundation, which is a non-profit that gets things for the schools (to grossly oversimplify). Bill is a pretty patriotic fellow, and when I thought of these pictures, Bill’s had to be by the American Flag he puts out in front of his business everyday. Putting it out is, “The first thing we do here every morning,” he says. Bill is a great talker. I don’t mean that as an insult. I generally think of myself as a talker. I can always call him up about something having to do with the FAF and get an eloquent quote that feels more like something someone would think about and write, rather than just blurt out.

Deena Mosbarger. Deena is a project coordinator (I believe) with the Clay County Health Department. She is the one I’m talking to if I need a comment, and come flu season, when I start hearing superstitious nonsense about vaccines causing elephantitis or whatever, she’s the one I call to help me debunk it. Deena has always been a joy to talk to and to be around. Even when it’s not for a story, she lends me a hand, like sending me in the direction of the Hot Biscuit. Thanks Deena!

Oh yeah, there’s a part 3 too. Coming soon…

 

 

Farewell Photos, Part 1

I got a new job. Soon, I’ll be working in and moving to Nashville, Ill., where I’ll be taking over as the Managing Editor of the Nashville News. I am, of course, extremely excited.

Flora, where I live now, has been good to me though. I’ve met a lot of folks I’ve liked, mostly through work. I even met my wife here, but she doesn’t count for this, because I’m taking her with me. Sorry Clay County.

Anyways, I decided to do “Farewell Photos” images of some of those folks who I’ve really enjoyed working with and knowing around here. I’ll try to say a bit about each person or group, but who knows where this will go. The only real prerequisite here is that I like this person or group. That said, not everyone I’ve liked is here, so if you aren’t, don’t be offended. Also, this is just the first post, so there’s more to come. Here we go:

Here’s Flora’s Mayor, Bob Tackitt (Right), and Flora’s Economic Development Director Dan Sulsberger (Left). I had a story about these two I always wanted to get into the paper and never really did. Both of these guys are from Flora originally and both of them found themselves serving their country in a small Southeast Asian nation that was most certainly not Flora, around 40 years ago or so. Well, I don’t know if they met up there, how well they knew each other back here at that point or what, but they ended up having serial numbers just one digit apart. Big coincidence in a small world.

Robert Ferguson here. Also known as “Bob” and “Fergy.” Bob always comes into the office to talk to us, B.S., and tell us, literally, about how awesome he is. He got the post office building in town named for him, is a Mason and a Shriner, a member of the DAV, a WWII Navy vet and a whole lot more, which he’d love to tell you about. He’s here because I like chatting with him and because now he can say he’s on the Internet, which I’m guessing he’d love.

Here’s Dave Lewis, or “Buddy” Dave. He’s called that because he calls everyone ‘buddy.’ A lot. If you move to Flora and you don’t have a friend, relax, you’ve got one automatically with Dave. He cruises around town in a cherry Red Ford Mustang with license plates that say “HI UALL,” and he does tons of volunteer work, from what I can see, pretty much all the time. When I took this photo, he was painting fire hydrants. One morning I got up and came out on my front porch to get a “Hey Buddy” from Dave as he was out mowing an elderly neighbors lawn. It’s not to much of a stretch to say that if there were more Dave Lewises, we could do away with things like war and hatred and probably anger. The word ‘buddy’ would get used more than the word ”snow’ by Eskimos though…

Mary Anne and Ron Ayers. These folks are retired but spend much of their time on charitable projects and organizations. Mary Anne is heavily involved with NSDAR, especially with Constitution education (She was a teacher). They both have done a huge amount for the Flora Depot, an old railroad building that renovation has occurred mostly during the time I’ve been in town. Here, they’re standing in the Depot’s museum in front of Hobo Barn Boards, which display carvings hobos would make to let others know whether a town or residence was a good place to stop or not. They also are familiar with my friend Don Morris, whose statue of George Rogers Clark is in front of the Depot.

The Flora Kiwanis include, front row: Dave Barnes, Gerald Klein, and Chuck Schryer. Back row: Jan Phillips, Ted Richardson, Jackie Richardson, and Jill Lewis. Not pictured are Dave and Sarah Hudson. These guys are a relatively small group, as the local non-profits go, who do a lot of different stuff here in town. Kid’s Day Parade, Spring Fling, Flora’s 4th of July Celebration, and they even have a park in Flora they manage and take care of known as “The Rocket Park” by excited children who come from neighboring towns and counties to play there. It’s called that because of a slide shaped like a rocket ship. They do a lot and if you’re volunteer-minded and living in Clay County, I beg you, give these folks a call. They could use a hand, and they are nice folks to be around too.

George Dickinson and Tom Barbee, leaders of Clay County Scout Troop 282. George is the Scoutmaster and Tom is the assistant, but they both are pretty ever-present in the running of the troop. I volunteered for these guys for a while. I got a little disillusioned when I realized being an adult leader in a scout troop is not the same as being a scout. You’re supposed to be responsible for all these 11-18 year-olds who would like nothing better than to see how flammable the woods really are. These guys are great though. When I told him I was leaving town, George looked pretty sad, but gave me the name of a Scout leader in Nashville. “You really ought to get back with the scouts.” I chuckled and said, “Well George, I was kind of thinking Meghan and I might try and make some.” He liked that.

Shakshouka

So I made some Shakshouka

Awww yeah….

Basically, it’s a eggs poached in a fiery tomato and pepper sauce. But let’s hear about the dish from the always-reputable Wikipedia:

From Wikipedia:

“Shakshouka (Arabic: شكشوكة‎; Hebrew: שקשוקה‎) (also shakshuka) is a dish of eggs poached in a sauce of tomatoes, chili peppers, onions, often spiced with cumin.[1] It is believed to have Algerian and Tunisian origins

Shakshouka is a staple of Tunisian, Libyan, Algerian, and Moroccan cuisines traditionally served up in a cast iron pan with bread to mop up the sauce. It is also popular in Israel, where it was introduced by Tunisian Jews.[3] In Libya, Shakshouka is a traditional breakfast meal.[citation needed]

In Israel, the dish has been said to challenge hummus and falafel as a national favourite, especially in the winter.[4] According to some food historians, the dish was invented in the Ottoman Empire, spreading throughout the Middle East and Spain, where it is often served with spicy sausage. Another belief is that it hails from Yemen, where it is served with zhug, a hot green paste.”

Anyways, I basically adapted my recipe from Smitten Kitchen’s. Perhaps I ought to say, I used it as a guideline, because as usual, once I start cooking, I do what I want (Meghan hates that.)

Start by mincing your garlic and dicing your onions and peppers. 1/2 an onion, three to four jalapenos or five to six anaheims, seeded. Don’t skimp. I used 2 jalapenos (It was all I had. Thanks Gena!) and it definitely could have been hotter. They’ll mellow in the pot. Brown all this up with two TB or so of olive oil.

Next, and yes, I’m doing this step-by-step…

Add a bit of tomato paste. I don’t remember if Smitten’s recipe had this, but the aromatics seemed lonely…

Then…

Then add your freshly diced and seeded ‘maters.

Simmer.

Simmer damn you! Once it looks nice and saucy….

Add Dem Eggs!

Dem Eggs. Or one a dem, anyway.

Use your spoon or what-have-you to create a little hollow for each egg, then gently crack into the sauce, and cover, simmering gently.

Dem Eggs! Again!

You’ll simmer ’til the whites harden up. While you wait, toast your pita. Or in my case, miniature pizza crusts that are the closest thing you have to pitas…

MMMM-Mmmmmhh! So close to a pita, I can’t tell the difference.

Ahh, and your eggs should be set…

Lookee– They are set!

Now, spoon some of that sauce over the whites and carefully scoop your eggs out with a slotted spoon. Or a non-slotted one, if you like. I don’t care what you do, they’re your eggs. Then, to serve, place them on a plate and surround with more of that wonderful sauce. Finally, add diced parsley and crumbled feta cheese to garnish. The feta doesn’t taste all ridiculously strong in this dish, so feel free to go to town. It should look like the first photo.

Yep, this one.

Eat immediately, sopping up excess sauce and unset egg yolks with the pita. You could cook your egg yolks until set if you want, but why? Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

Meet the family

So this weekend, we bought the dogs a gigantic bone to watch them play with it, for our own entertainment. After a while we had some good photos and I thought, “Nuts to just the bone pictures, we should put all sorts of stuff on there and introduce the whole family.”

You’ve already met me, I’m Alex. Here I am testing out a motel bed on a recent trip to Evansville.

I had to do this like 6 times before we got a good shot of me in mid air.

Here’s my lovely wife, partner, and accomplice at international jewel thieving, Meghan.

“What’s Alex doing in the photo above me? It’s not something embarrassing is it?” asks Meghan, “He put the bed bouncing photo on the Internet? Again!?”

Here’s Sookie. She was my dog for my lonely years before meeting Meghan, and now she’s our dog. She’s a bit hyper and is the “Alpha”, if you can call a 20-pound dog that.

Yep. Hyper. Bet you’d never guess with a photo like that.

And why is Sookie so happy in the above pic? The giant bone of course. Here’s her alternating between trying to figure the bone out and trying figure out how to get it, in its entirety, into her stomach.

“I don’t know what to do, but at least it’s mine.”

It always scares me when she uses her paws to do things because it’s just that much closer to her having hands.

The other animal I had before meeting Meghan, though not for as long as Sookie, is Edward, who we all have met time and again here on the ‘ole Blog. But here’s a new photo of my stunningly photogenic kitty.

That’s some other person’s messy table. In fact, we brought Eddy to a different house entirely for this picture.

Meghan’s little buddy before meeting me was the princess here, Laylah. She’s as sweet as a button, unless of course, you’re Bear, who will follow, then she’s kind of a B.

Laylah has just been woken from a nap by me. She’s a bit bleary-eyed.

And now, Bear, as promised. We got Bear together. He was Meghan’s parents’ dog, but they had to move for a new job and Bear would not have done well in an entirely new surrounding, so we adopted him. He’s an entertaining pup, that’s for sure.

This is my favorite photo of Bear, and is not exactly current. But then, the pictures of him with the bone make it hard to make him out really well…you’ll see.

Black fur does not make for the best exposure in poor lighting, especially not while he’s getting defensive about “his” bone.

– CHOMP! –

Finally, we have Sylvia, who Meghan and I adopted last summer, about this time. She’s “all growed up” now, but honestly, she’s still a very little cat. She’s a cutie though, affectionate, entertainingly vocal and gentle, so long as you’re not a fly.

She may have been a touch dazzled by my strobe. Which is pretty cute in and of itself. She is a strange one.

So there’s the mob. Thank you, Internet, for giving me my soapbox to write about ’em. And I hope the rest of you like my pictures of my fam.

Hummus, Haggle-style

I’ve been meaning to make some homemade hummus for a while now, but I just hadn’t gotten around to doing it. But this Sunday, I was bored and I had all these pita chips and nothing to dip them in…..

Stop – hummu-time!
Sheesh let’s see you make a hummus-based pun…

So anyways, we got ourselves two cans of chickpeas (one labeled chickpeas, the other labeled garbanzos), warmed over the stove, with their liquid. Added to that is a half cup of tahini, juice of one lemon, half cup of olive oil, and salt, pepper and garlic to taste. The topping is cayenne pepper, chopped parsley, and more lemon and olive oil.

It was pretty awesome, BUT, it could be smoother. I don’t have an actual food processor. I used my chef’s pal (or some similar brand name) and there’s only so long my arms could crank the bugger. Still, the flavor was spot on, and much better than store bought. Also, warmed chickpeas = warm hummus, which is awesome.

My friend Michael just published a post on his blog…about me. I’m honored by him seeing me as an “Influencer” and I hope I can keep some good work and good thoughts out there to live up to it. Also, I tried to give props to just a few of those who influenced me.

Get Light Scribed: The Blog

Every artist is influenced by the world around them. The people, places and things that define my work are what the Influencers post is all about. I hope you find inspiration from what you read/view.

Shortly after moving to Flora is when I seriously took an interest in photography. Searching for photography programs is what led me to connect with Alex Haglund on Facebook. He struck me as a real laid back fellow with a true passion for photography and over the past two years he’s be an awesome inspiration to my growth as a photographer. This is what he had to say about his life as a photographer (unscripted and unedited; it’s a long post but worth the read!).

How did you get into photography (or a specific genre of photography)?

I’ve always thought photography and photographers were cool, but I got into it, I think, because of my…

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Cornman corn, sorta

Cornman Chicago/Mexican style corn, with oven fries and braised chuck steak marinated in lime, garlic and soy.

So 4th of July happened recently, and that means a lot of corn on the cob for BBQs and picnics. Our local Wally-World had it on sale for a quarter an ear, so even though we were a little broke right around then, we could get some awesome corn on the cob.

But how to serve it?

For that, let me take you back. It was probably close to 20 years ago, and I was at my Aunt Karen’s house in Atlanta. Visiting with me was my cousin Leonor. Leonor is half Honduran and half of the Polish/Italian mix I am on my Mom’s side. She always lived in the city of Chicago proper while when I was up there, I lived in Oak Park, a suburb. Close to the city (At the end of the block, actually), but still a suburb.

We were in my Aunt’s kitchen and I was going to have some corn on the cob.

“Wait, you should have that like the Mexicans make it,” said Leonor.

I already had margarine out, but when Leonor prompted me to get mayonnaise and Parmesan cheese, I was pretty highly suspicious.

“Put the butter on, then the salt and pepper, then the mayonnaise, then the Parmesan.”

“Bullshit!” I thought, or some less eloquent 12-year-old equivalent. “Mayonnaise on corn? Madness!” (I’m gonna hear it for that…Wife hates it when I curse on the blog)

Still, I trusted my cousin and hoped to high heaven she wasn’t just screwing with me. What do you know? The stuff was great! Later on, when I made my own friends on the Northwest side, I encountered the cornman, a guy with a food cart that served corn nearly how Leonor described it.

Give the cornman a dollar, though it’s probably more now, and he reaches into the steamer portion of his cart, comes out with an ear of sweetcorn, shoves it on a skewer and then proceeds to dress it with margarine, mayonesa, cotija cheese, lime, and chili powder. It’s completely and totally amazing.

Of course, if cornman corn flew under my radar in Oak Park, it’s completely wild here in the country, where people probably just think it’s weird, I know Meghan does, but then, she thinks ketchup is a vegetable.

My homemade version, which I made Sunday evening,  uses the Parmesan because good luck finding cotija near here. I used Miracle Whip style “dressing” instead of mayonesa. I know there’s a difference, I’m not stupid, but I am, as I said, broke. This was probably the part about this that worked the least, and it was still pretty damn good. I also added ground cayenne pepper instead of sweet chili powder because I like setting my tongue on fire, and omitted the lime because I forgot. It’s a lot of different flavors that come together in an amazing way.

In the future, I’ll be trying this with real butter, because y’know, it’s already kind of a heart attack on a stick; then salt, fresh ground pepper and a bit of garlic, Duke’s Mayo (“The secret of Southern Chefs” and really great stuff compared to just about anything but homemade), followed by the cotija cheese, then good chili powder possibly spiked with chipoltle or something like that for heat, and finally, that forgotten squirt of lime.

Oh! I nearly forgot…easy way to cook corn for one: chop both ends off the ear but leave it in the husk. Toss it in the microwave for 5 minutes and it steams in the husk. No weird texture, just grab it with an oven mitt and give it a shake. The ear will fall out and will (ideally) leave all of the silk still in the husk. Try it out, I swear I wouldn’t lead you astray.