July 25, 2010 10:17 pm

IMGP3209_smallJess told me the other day she had never made any food that needed to rise. So I figured it was high time when said she wanted to make pretzels.

She found a recipe online which originally came from King Arthur Flour, and I think there's a very good chance it was the same recipe we used in 7th grade Home Ec. (except our school didn't call it "Home Ec" it was "Life Management" or something).

Anyway, it's an incredibly simple recipe: water, a bunch of flour, a little salt, a little sugar, and some rapid-rise yeast. We threw it all in the KitchenAid mixer and waited for it to do its thing. Then we put it in a bag to rise. After rising, Jess separated the dough into 8 pieces and let it rest for a few minutes. Then we rolled them out and pretzeled them up.

The first batch came out a little overdone, but the second batch was just about perfect.

IMGP3207_smallThat one in the bottom right was the last to be made; I decided to experiment with my knotting and dubbed it the "WonderKnot." It was the best of the entire bunch. Perfectly crisp on the outside with a soft, chewy center.

They were really quite good. And now Jess has made something that has to rise.

Death from the Ashes

July 24, 2010 10:39 am

For Valentine's Day, Kyle got me a potted rose bush.

6This was folly. I can't keep plants alive. I've told him this, but he's never seen it in action. But here's a good example of my previous work:

IMG_1033So yeah, I was worried about this rose bush. And was not at all surprised to see its steady decline over the following months. We've kept it outside, on the balcony, where it gets the most sunshine it possibly can. We water it. But once those rose buds it came with died (they didn't fully bloom, they just sort of fell off), it never bloomed again. It did get bigger, though, so we moved it to a larger pot. And then things got really bad. And now it looks like death. Parts of it are completely brown, and the best-looking parts are spotted. BUT it has a rose on it!

fleurIt makes no sense at all. And, like I said, the rest of the bush looks truly horrible. The good news is that we think the spiders all over it are eating the other bugs (?). I honestly don't know how this thing is still alive, let alone flowering. But we wanted to share this little miracle with you.

New Camera Equipment

9:52 pm

I finally got around to buying some more camera equipment. We have a tripod now! Nothing fancy; it was actually only $15 from B&H, but had great reviews (along the lines of great for the price, great for amateur photographers, etc). It actually is quite a decent piece of equipment for $15. I also bought a neutral density filter and a polarizer.

The neutral density filter is, essentially, a piece of uniformly darkened glass to reduce the amount of light coming into the camera. This allows you to have more control over your exposure when working in very bright lighting (like direct sunlight) when you would otherwise be forced into a very fast shutter speed.

The polarizer is, well, a polarizer. Like polarized sunglasses. It reduces the amount of light entering the camera by only allowing light with a specific polarization through. This lets you do things like minimize/remove reflections off of glass and water. It also tends to result in more vibrant skies.

Anyway, so those arrived on Friday and I wanted to play with them a little. So I thought it might be fun to go to a highway overpass to take some longer-exposure pictures where, though sunny, the cars mostly disappear. It was also blazing hot in the mid-to-upper 90s and Jess wasn't too excited at the prospect. I told her it would be interesting because I bet it wouldn't take long for the police to show up and bother us.

So we drove out to the overpass and I set up the camera and took some sample shots. After 10 minutes I was done and starting to pack up. It was then, while I was breaking down the tripod, that the police officer pulled up to ask us what we were doing. Luckily he was nice about it (probably partly due to clearly seeing that we weren't up to any trouble), and suggested we find another place to take pictures. Apparently they had received calls from concerned motorists. I guess someone on an overpass with a camera is just too strange for people to fathom and therefore it must be something suspicious.

Anyway, here are the pictures I took to give a basic idea of what we can do with these new fun tools.

Here's the base picture. ISO 100, f/22 aperture (quite small), 1/25 of a second shutter:

When we add the polarizer we see that the sky is richer. ISO 100, f/22, but the shutter time lengthened to 1/10 of a second (which is noticeable in the further blurring of the cars):

Next we add the neutral density filter (and the polarizer) to really cut down the light. Again ISO 100 and f/22 aperture. But now the shutter time is 1 full second. Notice how the cars are almost completely gone from the scene except as they become more distant (where they don't move very far per unit time in relation to the image).