May 15, 2010

A walk in the park

Filed under: nature,Uncategorized — Nick @ 10:30 pm

This post is also a little late, but I had some pictures on a digital camera I needed to download (see previous post).

I went for a walk in a local park not too far from my house (Heritage Park in Fishers, IN). I usually look around at the scenery when I go, and sometimes I think, “I wish I had a camera with me.” This time I actually took one, so here a few pictures that I thought were ok.

These (see image to the right; clicking on it will also load a larger version) were some mushrooms that were growing in the mulch alongside a path on the way. I’m not sure what kind they are. The one in the foreground is about three inches tall. There were others that I took pictures of, but they didn’t come out as good.

Along the path deeper in the wooded part of the park were some very large fungus (about the size of dinner plates) growing atop a fallen tree (see image at left). They had actually been there for a couple of weeks, and I meant to take a picture earlier. By now they are partially obscured by the vegetation growing nearby, but I was able to get some shots by crowding in close and sweeping some of the brush aside.

I also snapped some pictures of some vegetation patterns that I thought looked interesting:

Heritage Park in Fishers, IN Heritage Park in Fishers, IN Heritage Park in Fishers, IN

The park abuts the White River, which flows through Indianapolis before making its way downstate before emptying into the Wabash River at the Indiana-Illinois border.

Heritage Park in Fishers, IN Heritage Park in Fishers, IN

May 13, 2010

Easter dinner 2010

Filed under: food — Nick @ 12:11 am

I realize this post is over a month late, but I finally downloaded the pictures off the digital camera (the card reader I usually use doesn’t seem to be working and I had to find a different way). Anyway, back in April I made my usual too-much-food Paschal dinner. Since it was just us this year, we were eating leftovers for awhile (we did freeze some).

We started with an appetizer plate to keep us fed while I finished cooking dinner. I put together a plate with some red-dyed boiled eggs (a traditional Greek Easter item), prosciutto, salami, provolone, and few other cheeses: Bulgarian feta, Brie (a favorite of one of my daughter’s), and some kashkaval (a yellow sheep’s milk cheese). A couple of different kinds of olives (Kalamata and feta-stuffed Haldiki) rounded out the plate. I actually made too many eggs this year. I made an extra dozen because I meant to take some to church to pass out, but forgot to bring them.

Easter dinner: lamb with orzo, pastitsio, and other food

Easter dinner. Clockwise from top: carrots and onions (cooked with the lamb), stewed green beans, pastitsio, lamb gravy, lamb, spanakopita, roasted potatoes. Orzo is in the middle.

I spent about two days making dinner. I made the pastitisio and dyed the eggs the day before. I started cooking the rest of the dinner on Sunday (getting up a little late because our Paschal Church service is around midnight): roast leg of lamb with orzo, spanakopita, roasted potatoes, and stewed green beans. Afterward, I realized I forgot to make a salad, but hey, I guess I didn’t want to overdo it.

I “cheated” a little bit on the spanakopita. I used crumbled domestic cow’s milk feta, but I did save the imported sheep’s milk feta for the appetizer. However, I do like to use good phyllo dough, which makes it so much easier. I buy phyllo from Khoury’s Mediterranean Island in Broad Ripple in Indianapolis. I don’t where they get it from, but it seems that it is never frozen, and every sheet is perfect—not sticky, not crumbly, and not torn. If you like to cook with phyllo, I recommend finding a good source, because ordinary frozen grocery-store phyllo can be a pain to use.

We had enough leftovers to give away some to the neighbors later. We also froze some of the pastitsio and spanakopita for later (they freeze ok, but the spanakopita gets a little soggy), but it did take about a week to finish off the lamb and other food we did not freeze.

April 4, 2010

Paschal Greetings 2010

Filed under: faith and religion,Uncategorized — Nick @ 1:59 pm

Christ is risen! Truly He is risen!

Icon of the Descent Into Hell

Wishing everyone a blessed feast of Christ’s resurrection.

The Paschal Sermon of St. John Chrysostom (ca. 347–407 AD):

If anyone is devout and a lover of God, let him enjoy this beautiful and radiant festival.

If anyone is a wise servant, let him, rejoicing, enter into the joy of his Lord.

If anyone has wearied himself in fasting, let him now receive his recompense.

If anyone has labored from the first hour, let him today receive his just reward. If anyone has come at the third hour, with thanksgiving let him keep the feast. If anyone has arrived at the sixth hour, let him have no misgivings; for he shall suffer no loss. If anyone has delayed until the ninth hour, let him draw near without hesitation. If anyone has arrived even at the eleventh hour, let him not fear on account of his delay. For the Master is gracious and receives the last, even as the first; he gives rest to him that comes at the eleventh hour, just as to him who has labored from the first. He has mercy upon the last and cares for the first; to the one he gives, and to the other he is gracious. He both honors the work and praises the intention.

Enter all of you, therefore, into the joy of our Lord, and, whether first or last, receive your reward. O rich and poor, one with another, dance for joy! O you ascetics and you negligent, celebrate the day! You that have fasted and you that have disregarded the fast, rejoice today! The table is rich-laden; feast royally, all of you! The calf is fatted; let no one go forth hungry!

Let all partake of the feast of faith. Let all receive the riches of goodness.

Let no one lament his poverty, for the universal kingdom has been revealed.

Let no one mourn his transgressions, for pardon has dawned from the grave.

Let no one fear death, for the Saviour’s death has set us free.

He that was taken by death has annihilated it! He descended into hades and took hades captive! He embittered it when it tasted his flesh! And anticipating this Isaiah exclaimed, “Hades was embittered when it encountered thee in the lower regions.” It was embittered, for it was abolished! It was embittered, for it was mocked! It was embittered, for it was purged! It was embittered, for it was despoiled! It was embittered, for it was bound in chains!

It took a body and, face to face, met God! It took earth and encountered heaven! It took what it saw but crumbled before what it had not seen!

“O death, where is thy sting? O hades, where is thy victory?”

Christ is risen, and you are overthrown!

Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen!

Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice!

Christ is risen, and life reigns!

Christ is risen, and not one dead remains in a tomb!

For Christ, being raised from the dead, has become the First-fruits of them that slept.

To him be glory and might unto ages of ages. Amen.

(Text taken from Orthodox wiki entry of the Paschal Homily of St. John Chrysostom.)

February 1, 2010

New Recipes

Filed under: food,what's new — Nick @ 12:40 pm

I added three more recipes to my recipes page: baked macaroni and cheese, spinach soufflé, and an easy fudge recipe.

My kids seem pretty fond of the boxed macaroni and cheese dinners, so I thought I would try some “real” mac and cheese on them. I made Alton Brown’s macaroni and cheese a couple of times. I thought it was pretty good, but the kids were rather nonplussed; they still like the boxed mix better. After some experimentation, I was able to simplify the recipe and change some of the proportions to come up with something that was still home-made but had greater kid appeal.

As for the soufflé: I am fond of spinach, and had been looking for a soufflé recipe that was not too difficult but still tasty. I tried this “easy spinach soufflé” but it wasn’t what I was looking for. It tasted fine, but it was basically just a block of spinach glued together by a little milk, eggs, and cheese. If I want to eat plain spinach, I would just steam it and add a little lemon and olive oil. So played around with it, mostly by increasing the amount of ingredients that make it seem like a soufflé. I also substituted green onion for the garlic, because I thought that goes better with spinach (even thought I am quite fond of garlic).

The fudge recipe is the one my wife likes to use at holidays these days. It’s much easier than some traditional ones, but still seems to taste like fudge. This one is not original with us, but is taken straight from a recipe pamphlet by Eagle Brand® (so of course it must use a canned milk product).

January 11, 2010

Book review: Beauty in Experimentation

Filed under: books,science — Nick @ 2:50 pm

The Ten Most Beautiful Experiments, by George Johnson (Alfred A. Knopf)

In the lab it is sometimes necessary to do an experiment or other procedure in which cleverness of thinking or dexterity in procedure is not required, but rather mindless application of time, effort, or even money. We used to call this the “brute force method” of doing science. Other times a researcher may do an experiment that yields a clear answer not through raw application of effort, but rather through clever tricks in which it seems that nature herself is doing the experiment for you; the latter kind of experiments are sometimes labeled as “elegant.” Although the brute force approach is sometimes necessary, elegance in experiments (like pornography to Justice Potter Stewart) is a quality that is hard to define although is apparent when seen, and is always greatly appreciated as being part of the art of science when an experiment is called “beautiful.”

George Johnson, a science writer, columnist, and sometimes TV personality, gives readers a flavor of this type of beauty in science in his latest book, The Ten Most Beautiful Experiments. This rather slim volume has a form factor that is somewhat reminiscent of the many inspirational volumes that fill the tables of booksellers, but it is both readable and informational as well as being inspiring to those who love or do science. One may quibble over which experiments deserve to be called the “most beautiful (and even Johnson acknowledges that the book might just have well been called simply Ten Beautiful Experiments);” he seems to choose experiments that represent the span of experimental science in various ages and scientific fields, from Galileo’s experiments of falling bodies (not, as a reader might assume, Galileo’s observation of heavenly bodies, which are discoveries rather than experiments) to Millikan’s experiments on charged oil drops that determined the charge of a single electron. In the latter case, Johnson even goes so far as to scrounge up enough surplussed equipment to repeat the famous oil drop experiment himself; the description of his efforts gives us vivid feel of what Millikan must gave seen and felt when doing the experiments himself.

In some cases Johnson gives some historical or biographical background to the scientists he writes about; in others (particularly if they are well known such as Galileo) he lets the experiments speak for themselves. In any case, enough detail about the experiments is presented such that the reader has a good appreciation for what has been accomplished without so much detail as to intimidate the non-scientific reader. The result is a book that is easy, entertaining, and informative.

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