Saturday, September 9, 2017

the way i remember key west

On the eve Key West is pounded by Hurricane Irma, I finally pull myself together to go through all the pictures I have of this lovely town. I had thought of visiting Key West for a long time. One day earlier this year, the idea was nagging me again. This time I took action, book the hotels and started the long drive. Am I glad I did. After tonight and the expected storm surge in the area, it is unknown what the town will look like. This is a clear reminder for me to always act on my thoughts and intuitions so I won't have any regrets.

Key West is a town full of character. Duval street is known for its many bars, restaurants, street performers and unique shops. It is surrounded by quieter streets of quaint Victorian architecture and gardens. A town full of life from cruise ships, tourists and locals. Mallory Square is often packed at sunset. Fort Taylor Historic State Park boasts a gorgeous beach and scenic views. We visited the Southernest Point in the Continental US, rode the Conch Trolley and lunched at the beach side cafe at Casa Marina Resort. Here are some of my fond memories. Thinking of Key West tonight...

Hemingway lived here once.
Mallory Square
One of many Victorian Homes
Lunch at Casa Marina Resort.
Light house overlooking the town.
My husband escorted this family across the street.
Conch Express 
Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park.
Once calm water.

Friday, July 28, 2017

basil pineapple granita

Perhaps one of the advantages of living in Florida is its proximity to the tropics and the bounty it offers. Watermelon, pineapple, mango, passion fruit, lychee, papaya and passion fruit are just a few of the stars. Our fruit bowl tends to overflow with more than we can consume. Different ways to utilize all the extras have been employed as we always end up buying buckets for some reason. Maybe because they are so fresh and too tempting to walk away empty handed.

With the heat of the Florida summer, anything cold is a sure way to go. It is hot here. Really, really hot here ... It is our first full summer in Florida in its entirety. The heat index has been about 100 degrees F just about everyday for some 4 weeks. The only saving grace is the afternoon thunderstorms. Everything cools down with the clouds and the rain leaves us with clean fresh air for the evening; which heats up again with the rising sun the next day. The distinguishing humdity here is hard to ignore. Just ask my hair. Hahaha.

With an abundance of basil from the plant I brought home from Publix last week, I decided on making something with basil. I bought a pineapple just yesterday and somehow it turned golden overnight. I need to use it before it turns bad. Basil and pineapple is a marriage made in heaven. Maybe a basil pineapple granita? 1/2 of the pineapple now nicely chunked in a container chilling in the fridge. The rest blended with sugar, basil and a dash of salt. A few hours in the freezer plus some fork action, voila!

Basil Pineapple Granita


* 3 cups pineapple chunks
* 5 to 6 basil leaves ( more or less to your liking)
* 1/4 cup sugar
* 1 cup of water
* dash of salt

Liquify all ingredients in a blender and pour in a freezer safe container. Put the container in the freezer for 2 to 3 hours. After the first hour, remove from freezer every half hour or so and scrape the surface with a fork. The texture should resemble large granules of sea salt. Keep in freezer covered until ready to serve.

I did struggle with my shots and the granita started to melt a bit. Even the basil began to wilt! My photography challenges continue to make life very interesting!!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

warm smoked salmon ... and bike riding on sanibel island

As a foodie, I always bring back ideas from our favorite dishes while away into our daily meal plans.  This time, I wanted to feature this amazing warm smoked salmon that we had while on Sanibel Island, Florida. It was dinner at Timber's Restaurant and Fish Market. The seafood was fresh and deliciously prepared.  The star that night was their Squaw Candy Smoked Salman appetizer. It was to die for. 

We were able to recreat it after coming home. Without a smoker, Mr. worked hard at creating a smoky environment for the salmon so we can smoke it on a charcoal grill in the park. Yeah. In the park! Check out his home made gadget!! 

The salmon was marinated overnight in lemon juice, salt, brown sugar and black peppercorn. The fillets were then placed on top of the "rack" Mr. created and covered in foil. We placed the covered container on the cool side of the grill for about 45 minutes. The cool side had a thin layer of charcoal that kept it warm and smoky but not too hot. The container was moved to the warm side for about 20 minutes before we left. The result was amazing. 

Moist, tender, sweet, salty and smoky. It can be served as an entree. But it is just as divine with crackers; perfect for a snack.  

Sanibel Island was recommended to me by a friend on Instagram. Wanderer by nature, I often find myself antsy after a couple of months of staying put. It was time to move again and I decided to take up her recommendation for some shelling at Sanibel.  Finally we arrived after driving some 140 miles and paid extra to stay next to the beach. We enjoyed a delicious dinner at Timber's Restaurant and Fish Market before dozing off soundly in rhythm with the crashing waves against the beach. 

Beyond ecstatic, I woke up the next day before dawn, ready with a bucket and shovel. I had dreamed of swimming in shells every night since learning about the abundance of them deposited from the Gulf on Sanibel and Captival Barrier Islands. Ponderous ark, dusty cone, fighting conch here I come!! I was not alone at dawn. Dozens had been combing through the beach already with flash lights. But there were still plenty left and my bucket was filling up quickly. 

Our day continued with a leisure bike ride along a nice wide path that meandered through the entire island. We stopped at the lighthouse for some photos and then for a cuppas at a cafe. We even found Mr's favorite golden kiwi at Bailey's General Store which was filled with fresh foods and yummy snacks.

We drove to Captiva Island via the Blind Pass Bridge in the afternoon. It turned out to be intensely foggy for some reason.  We were not able to catch any sunset at all.  But the fog created a certain mystery to the waterfront scene and made us wanting for more as another memorable day came to an end.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

vegan chocolate mousse (with aquafaba) - a food photography documentary

Recently I used a can of chickpeas and decided to try out a recipe I found that uses aquafaba (chickpea water) as the basis for a vegan chocolate mousse. I did not quite believe that whipping the liquid chickpea was cooked in will create foam. I was on a quest to be a myth buster! I continued my struggle with photography as I attempted to document the process.  Since writing in March about Barb's (@keepingwiththetimes) inspiring blog post on showing up more for success, I have worked hard to step up my game on photography. But it really does not come easy for me. 

The recipe called for whipping 1 cup of the chickpea liquid for about 15 minutes until it reaches stiff peak. I could not believe it but it actually happened. And it sure took a while. At this time, I wanted to capture the whipping of the aquafaba (chickpea water) into fluffy white clouds, the melting of the chocolate into syrup and the freshest raspberries in my first shot.  After some 30 shots of slight variations, I finally settled on this one. I was dying to move on at this point. Frustration level high😆 I had issues with styling, size proportions and my fluffing cloud deflating as I was taking too long to set up with different arrangements. 

The best thing to do when I'm frustrated is to walk away. Which I did and continued with the recipe. I folded the chocolate syrup with the foam in a separate container, then carefully scooped the "mousse" into ramekins. The mousse needs firming so all 4 ramekins went in the fridge. While I waited, I  thought I will try a different way of capturing the prep work involved.  I already cleaned up a bit so there was no fluffy foamy goodness to show. Only the chocolate syrup and raspberries were left and there they go on the backdrop. And the roses. Somehow the flowers always end up center stage in my shots. Is this food photography or floral photography?  I digress... The scene looked naked so I added the napkin. Kind of interesting. But no food shown really. So it's a still life 😄 The appearance of the chocolate syrup is kind of messed up but i don't know how to fix it.  

Monday, June 12, 2017

without change, there would be no butterflies

Without change, there would be no butterflies.
Motivational quotes inspire me. I often wondered why. Mere words. Often simple. Yet resonate so strongly, calling out to me and pulling at my heart strings. It could be a line spoken by actors in a movie scene. It could be quotes I find while researching a subject. Or a short passage in a book.

It must be my inate desire to do better. To be more than mere mortals. An aspect of me that is like a shy child hiding behind the grownups, yearing to be noticed.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

must dos at tongariro national park, new zealand

Mt Tongariro, Mt Ngauruhoe, Mt Ruapehu. Magestic peaks in Tongariro National Park on the beautiful North Island, New Zealand. Whether you are a Lord of Ring fan or not, visiting Mt Doom is a must. What are other must dos in the area?

Saturday, April 1, 2017

velvety herb scrambled eggs

Eggs, eggs, eggs. Each year as Easter approaches, I find myself buying a lot of eggs for coloring. Easter eggs in all shades of the rainbow are fun and festive. I just could not resist coloring them and displaying them throughout this season. Yes. We eat a lot of eggs as a result using all kinds of recipes calling for eggs.

Monday, March 27, 2017

massaman curry

Cooking for two and cooking for 2+ is so very different. Now that my son is home this week, I find myself buying bigger packages of meat, extra vegetables and taking out bigger pans for sauteeing. The fridge is totally packed for just 2 days of meals!! Breakfast, lunch, dinner. You don't get to 6 feet with an empty stomach right? The stove is always hot and the sink always has dishes in it. It's a good kind of busy.

Cooking clean at home is easy. I can be selective of the ingredients and adjust the amount of oil. Tonight we are eating well with Massaman Curry Chicken.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

the perfect 1 day itinerary: south beach, miami beach, Florida

Our Florida adventure took us to South Beach, Miami Beach last month. It is a place to see and be seen. And there were lots to see. Here is an outline of some of the interesting sights and sounds for your 1 day in South Beach.

Start the morning on Ocean Drive. In addition to fitness gurus warming up along the beach, there are plenty of coffee shops and watering holes to quench your thirst while people watching. Join the walking tour for an intro to Art Deco, Mediterranean Revival and Miami Modern from the Art Deco Welcome Center.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

fragrant blooms, tea sandwiches ... Philadelphia Flower Show

If you live in the Northeast, you would have heard of the Philadelphia Flower Show. This is where many escape after several months of blustering cold. I just came across these pictures from the show that I took a couple of years back. They absolutely do not do justice for the phenomenal set up that takes up the entire convention hall in Philadelphia. But I decided to post them any way to give you a glympse of what the fuss is all about.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

swimming with manatees

OK. OK. I lied. We did not get to swim with manatees. The swimming area was closed on the day of our visit. However we did get up close and personal with them at Blue Spring State Park in Orange City, Florida.

What are manatees anyway, you ask. Adorable, with a stubby nose, manatees are peaceful marine mammals that graze mainly on water plants. They often swim upstream to warm Florida spring waters during the winter. We have only seen them in Florida. But supposedly they are also found in the Caribbean and parts of South America. Some eighty plus manatees were sighted on the day of our visit.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

a citrus note ... cheesecake and monster trucks

I made all things citrus today. My son visited us earlier in the week.  In lieu of taking him to famous Orlando sites, I requested that he accompany us to what Orlando was known before Walt Disney bought land here, a U-Pick Citrus Grove! Mind you, he is over 6', almost 30 and is no longer into childish endeavors. Oh the things my family puts up with me and my sense of adventure.

Florida Citrus

When we first moved to Florida, I looked for a place that sells locally grown oranges. Sadly, there aren't many orange groves operating any more. With more and more developments being built, many citrus farmers have moved out of central Florida; with large profits from the sale of their land.

Friday, December 16, 2016

10 dos and don'ts with photobooks

Whenever poinsettias appear in the store windows, I know it is time to start work on my family photo book. Creating a family album each year has become a ritual. It enables me to relive all the fond memories and ensures that all the highlights of the year are captured. I fumbled and stumbled with my first "production" many years back but have since gotten much better at it. Today I am sharing some of the dos and dont's that I learned along the way.