Monday, January 25, 2010

DBR & The Mission

I have hesitated writing about what is going on in Haiti because I think it's difficult from where I sit to have any idea just how great a tragedy this is. It's hard to know what to do when tragedies are affecting people so far away. At the same time, it's also hard to know what to do when tragedies are affecting people that live just across the street. It sometimes seems easier to close yourself off from it- pretend that it's not happening.

I received an email shortly after the earthquake from The Egg, our local venue for concerts and theatre. A composer and violinist, Daniel Bernard Roumain (DBR) was holding a benefit concert to help relief efforts in Haiti. I thought it sounded interesting and convinced my friends to join me. DBR is a Haitian-American and maybe one of the most talented musicians I have ever seen in concert.

We attended the concert on Friday night. It consisted of DBR, two other violinists, a man on the viola, and a woman playing the cello. The centerpiece for the concert was "A Civil Rights Reader." DBR started writing these quartets at age 23. As he said, instrumental music can be whatever you want it to be. There are no lyrics so it allows you to feel whatever you want/need to feel. His quartets moved from anger, to funky, to folksy, and then more reflective. He took breaks to discuss Haiti and also had some friends of his call in from Haiti to describe what was going on there. It was heartbreaking to hear them describe so much death. It also didn't help that I am 4 months pregnant and insanely hormonal. I immediately began crying. I must be having a girl. This baby makes me cry all the time- Folgers commercials, Friends episodes- it's out of control. Anyhow, that little side note was not meant to minimize the emotions that I was feeling at this concert because hormones or not, many people were crying because sometimes you don't know how else to react.

I am not a religious person in that I don't identify with a specific church. I would say that I am more of a spiritual person. In times of crisis or heartache, I may seek the quiet of the outdoors, the sense of empowerment I get from going for a run, or in this case, listening to beautiful, innovative, and emotionally charged music. Sorry for a somewhat downer post, I really don't know how to put a positive spin on such a horrific situation. The music is really incredible though and I felt it was worth sharing. Here is a link to DBRs website if you're interested.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Kaaterskill Falls- Catkills, NY

We had intended on taking a big snowshoe adventure through the Catskill Mountains on Saturday. However, the weather in New York turned suddenly warm and there actually wasn't a ton of snow. After last weekend's hike in 12 degree weather, we were treated to a sunny day and a temperature near 50 degrees! It was glorious! We decided to just do some exploring and have our snowshoes on hand if they were necessary. Our friends Jeff and Toyin needed to go to Catskill to pick up a treadmill they purchased so we decided to make a day out of it.

The northern part of the Catskills is only about 45 minutes from Albany. There are a lot of beautiful hiking trails, however many of them are closed during the months of January and February because many go along cliffs and are too treacherous. We stopped off at the Greene County Visitors Center for a suggestion of where to go for some light hiking with a 2 year old. The gal suggested Kaaterskill Falls, the tallest double-tiered waterfall in New York. There is a .50 mile hike from the base of the falls up to the top, however, it was really slippery and I climbed up about five rocks before realizing it was not a good idea for Gavin or his knocked up mama! Adam climbed up a ways to get a closer look at the frozen waterfalls while Gavin and I stayed down below and had a snowball fight. We will definitely return in the spring or summer to get a look at the falls when they are flowing.

After we spent time at the bottom of the falls, we drove up to the top and took a walk to see the falls from above. It was such a beautiful day to be in New York. Here are some photos of our day- I like showing you some of the scenic gems that you may not have heard about. I really had no idea how much this state had to offer outside of NYC before we moved here. Enjoy!

Lower part of Kaaterskill Falls

Adam and Gavin, before we realized the hike was much more treacherous than it appeared.

The top of Kaaterskill Falls

Adam enjoying the view from above the falls

Gavin looking at the frozen water and enjoying the occasional handful of snow

Now this is a great way to hike!

Toyin and me

Monday, January 11, 2010

Winter Fun

It has been dang cold here the last few weeks. Although, we haven't had as much snow as we had last year. This time last year, we were strategically shoveling snow piles to enable us to get out of our driveway. We've been getting a few inches of snow here and there and it's been pretty manageable. I like getting a fresh dusting a few times a week- it makes everything look so much prettier.

We've also started to embrace our climate and take advantage of winter hiking. I wrote about Thacher Park a month or so ago. It's been our winter playground the last couple of weeks. There are waterfalls and creeks that are absolutely stunning with the ice and snow. We also invested in snowshoes so we can better manage our hikes. Gavin did really well in his- the kid is awesome! We are hoping to get a hike in every weekend. This past weekend was extremely cold, 12 degrees and I don't know how much colder with the wind chill. Even so, we powered through. Once you get going, you warm up pretty well.

Next weekend we are venturing to the Catskills with our friends Jeff and Toyin. I found some great trails to explore so that should be a lot of fun. It's nice to get out in the fresh air and get some exercise. We spend most of the week cuddled up in our house so it's great to have something to look forward to. I think we all need a little adventure in our lives! Here are a few pictures of our winter exploring so far. Enjoy!

Little squirt ready to go!

Thacher Park, January 2010

Looking at the waterfalls

Gavin loves to shake the snow off the tree branches!

Little man on his new snowshoes- again, he's just awesome!

He gets tired out pretty quickly though and makes Adam carry him!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

PS My Fantasy Football Team Crashed and Burned

I had the best time playing fantasy football this season. My team did really well - up until the playoffs. I actually lost in the very first round! I'm so disappointed. I scored a lot of points, unfortunately, my opponent just scored more. That's the way it goes sometimes. Until next year, RIP Demarzzzarati!

On the major upside, I think I scored serious points on the wife-front. Adam was thrilled about my newfound interest in football. So, at least I have that going for me. Which is nice.

The quest for a satisfying Navy Bean Soup

One of my favorite soups is Navy Bean. It's funny to say it's one of my favorites because I really don't have it very often. It's not typically available on menus and not that many people make it. I found myself craving this early in the week and started looking online for recipes. Many people call this soup Senate Bean soup because it has been on the Senate's Restaurant menu since the early 20th century. I looked up this recipe and like the other few I found, I just wasn't too inspired by them.

Most bean soups have you simmer the beans with water and ham hocks, and maybe some sauteed onion. I just don't like ham hocks. They gross me out and I find the meat on them unappetizing. I would prefer to use a bone from a spiral ham but I also don't bake too many hams. So, without the main flavor component of the bone or the hock, I was left to create my own soup.

I started with a slice of bacon in my soup pot. I rendered the fat, removed the bacon, leaving the drippings in the bottom of the pan. From there, I added my aromatics: leeks, onion, carrot, celery, and garlic. Surely, bacon fat is less healthy than olive oil, but the flavor from the bacon is crucial. Once the vegetables were softened, I added the navy beans, 4 cups of chicken broth and 4 cups of water. I threw in some sprigs of thyme, a bay leaf, and some freshly ground pepper. From there, it simmered for about 3 hours. You have to keep an eye on it, making sure to add more water if necessary. After the beans were tender, I added some diced ham and a healthy squirt of ketchup. The ketchup is sort of random, but I remember my mom adding it to her bean soup that she'd make with a left-over ham bone from Easter. It gives the soup a little something- a complexity of flavor that ties it all together. The result was a bowl of soup that was soul-satisfying. The kind of meal that warms you up on the inside and leaves you feeling completely content. Adam had two big bowls and wanted to take the leftovers for lunch. I said, "Not this time buddy, Prego gets the soup!" Needless to say, this will be making a regular appearance in our winter meal planning. Here is the recipe in its entirety for you to enjoy. If you do try it out, please comment back any adjustments or feedback you have!

Navy Bean Soup with Ham

1 lb dried navy beans, soaked overnight, covering with 2 inches of water
1 Slice Bacon, for drippings
1 Large Carrot, diced
1 Medium Onion, diced
1 Leek, diced
2 Stalks Celery, diced
4 cups water
4 cups chicken stock
2 Sprigs Fresh Thyme
1 Bay Leaf
Freshly Ground Pepper
1-2 tsp Ketchup
2 Cups Diced Ham (I used a small ham steak... use as much or as little ham as you like)
Salt & Pepper to taste

Soak navy beans overnight, leaving two inches of water to cover

Drain and rinse navy beans.

In a stock pot, or dutch oven, cook one slice of bacon to render the fat. Remove the bacon from the pot, leaving the drippings. Add diced carrot, cooking for about 3 minutes. Add onion, leek, and celery and cook for 5 minutes. Add the garlic, cook for another minute. Add the beans, stock and water. Put the thyme sprigs in whole, along with the bay leaf. Give the pot a healthy dose of freshly ground pepper. Stir and bring the pot to a boil. Cover the pot, leaving the lid cracked, and simmer for 3 hours or until the beans are tender. Check on the soup occasionally, as the beans will absorb the liquid, add more water if necessary. Once the beans are tender, remove thyme and bay leaf. Add ketchup and diced ham. Stir and simmer until the ham is heated through. Salt & Pepper at this point. Ham can be salty, so you may not need any additional salt.