Wildlife

On Wednesday I was in my backyard trying to get a closer look at the river otter that has returned to our little pond when I spotted a large bird perched at the top of an overhanging tree. AN OSPREY! I was stunned! We’re about 4 or 5 miles in from the coast, so I never expected one to venture so far inland. But alas! There it was!

Birds of Prey are wonderful because they sit still for extended periods of time. I booked it back up to the house and pulled out my telescope with my camera mount to snag a pic.

Osprey

In general, telescope pictures are hard to take. The focal length for most star related activities is infinity – so easy! But for close stuff the adjustment is coarse and the light balance is terrible. I spent a bit of time trying to get this one right, but it’s still whitewashed.

Still, I’m stoked about the bird. Such a treat!

The Cheese Files vol X

Italian Burrata Cheese.

This cheese came recommended by Michelle & Noah, two masterful foodies whose opinions carry more weight than most. Jen and I had been looking for a proper cheese for tomato caprese salad. During our trip through Italy we had the most amazing Caprese salads! But here at home, our attempts did little more than disappoint. Even the revered buffalo mozzarella felt like a cheap substitute.

Enter Burrata

The word “Burrata” means “Buttered” in Italian and, curiously, wikipedia reports that this cheese was originally a way to use up scraps of unused mozzaralla. Don’t be fooled, this is no left-over cheese. Burrata is a treasure chest of a cheese. It consists of a protective outside shell of mozzarella encasing a precious richness of cream inside. Like its mozzarella brethren, Burrata is sold in a salty brine. But unlike its inferior relatives, Burrata’s cream interior elevates the soft creamy texture to new levels. When you cut open the ball of Burrata, the thickened cream flows out. Quickly throwing on a caprese salad and topping with balsamic and basil? It’s perfect.

The faults of this cheese are very specific. The taste is off the charts, but use is limited and cost is high. Websites recommend it for salads and… well, that’s about it. It’s beyond perfect for Caprese but impossible with a cracker. The other downfall? Price = $5 per ball. This is an expensive luxury.

Like Heaven

Taste: 4/4
Price: $$$$
Independence: Low

*Fun fact: we made this amazingly perfect caprese salad with the WORST TOMATOES EVER GROWN. I am eager to see how memorable the salad is with fresh tomatoes and basil from the garden. I expect nothing less than nirvana.

Ravioli Apartment Complex

There are certain foodstuffs that require a very high time investment to make. In general, dinners that require me to schedule time on my calendar are less likely to happen. For example? Raviolis.

The solution: Economies of scale. If you make a HUGE HEAP of raviolis all at once it is entirely worth it. Jen and I have developed a good system: I make and roll the dough, Jen stuffs and seals the raviolis. We then lay the raviolis out in sheets and freeze for later. It’s perfect!

Except that freezer space becomes challenging when you have 200+ raviolis that need freezing because you can’t stack unfrozen raviolis; they stick together. A few weekends ago I built a ravioli apartment complex for the freezer. It accommodates up to 6 stories of raviolis, each of which holds approximately 62 raviolis.

Economies of scale has never been so delicious.

WOW.

WOW. I have been so bad at posting it is disgusting. I am appalled at myself.

Today’s Five Things:

1. I have about 4 cheese posts to update
2. Things in the office are slow, we’ve been granted furlough once a week. I’m taking advantage of the time to try and get yardwork and guitar practicing done
3. Part of #2’s yardwork is a garden that Jen and I built last weekend. We will grow tomatoes and other vegetables of justice.
4. Since my last post, I have eaten so many raviolis. Soooo many.
5. Tonight we go to a bird of prey presentation. I am stoked.

Nest

I’m pleased to report the addition of a Nest Thermostat to the DiDonato home! While perusing the local papers a few weeks ago, Jen found a remarkable deal to get a free Nest with any solar consultation. We’ve been thinking about solar anyway so it seemed like an obvious choice. We signed up, enjoyed our consultation, and waited patiently for the mail.

This week the Nest arrived. It’s sleek and sexy on the wall and so far? I can’t decide if it’s better art or thermostat.

Honestly, I love the idea of the Nest but I’m not entirely convinced that it is worth the high price-tag. It has some potentially awesome features which could certainly prove their value: auto-away, adjustment of temps according to local weather conditions, and the peace of mind of never forgetting to turn down the thermostat during a vacation. But $250 is a LOT to spend on a Thermostat, especially if you’re already pretty good about keeping an eye on your utilities. Perhaps the most notable thing about the Nest is that I’m excited about the Nest. The Robot-ification of any device in my home is bound to get me excited, but perhaps the elegance of this tool is really its greatest attribute.

I’ll keep tabs over these next weeks/months and provide continued feedback.

Hooded Merganser

Jen and I are up to our ears in bird feeders. The current collection includes:

Shucked Sunflower Seeds
Peanuts
Thistle
Suet
and a special Bluebird mix

Our five feeders reside just outside our breakfast nook window and we’ve taken great joy in our daily feathered visitors. For the most part, these visitors are recycled. We see the same seasonal birds over and over.

This past weekend, however, our eyes were diverted to an unexpected source: ducks.

I have never been interested in ducks. I think it’s because of their size. They don’t have the endearing smallness of a Pheobe and they don’t have the impressive grandeur of a heron or a hawk. Ducks are pretty middle of the road. This weekend that lackluster appeal took a dramatic turn.

Our backyard is framed by a large water hazard. It falls somewhere between the characterization of pond and marsh. On Saturday a flash of white coasting across the water caught my eye… it was a hooded merganser.

The hooded merganser has a giant bright white hooded head. It’s so odd-looking that it ignited in me an immediate deep interest in ducks. I pulled out my telescope, found my camera mount, and desperately tried to take pictures – but was grossly ineffective. Every evening since, I’ve been looking out trying to spot the return of the hooded merganser with no avail.

Even if it doesn’t return, I’m grateful that the hooded merganser has inspired me to delve into the ducks chapter of my Peterson’s Field Guide.

Dataless Day 25

On one of my carpool trips from work a few weeks back, Sander and I had a great idea. It’s an event that would occur once every few months – perhaps quarterly. The event’s title:

Interesting Evenings.

The idea came about we discussed Sander’s experiences with his debate team in high school. Then it dawned on me: we should have a debate! We could invite people over and have a formal debate with judging and the whole thing! Sander cleverly recommended that in order for it to succeed it would be best to mix seriousness and comedy. For example, we could have one debate on the death penalty and another on Miracle Whip vs. Cains.

Other ideas for interesting evenings? Perhaps a craft evening, an auction, or a series of lectures. Anyone else have a good recommendation?

Aside: Three days left of datelessness. Stay tuned for the March recaps.

Calligraphy

One of the products of no-technology February was a new interest in calligraphy. I took a book out from the library and started going through the exercises. It’s unexpectedly challenging. There are a lot of very subtle recommendations to go from terrible calligraphy to decent calligraphy. It’s much more than pen angle; it’s balance of white space, line width, crisp intersections and perfect consistency. To start, I made pencil guidelines and then struggled through the alphabet with a pen. Just trying to learn the proportions before even considering line width.

alphabet

Suddenly I made a beautifully proportioned g. The bowl and loop feel balanced. The width and height feel right. It’s a masterpiece.

I proudly showed Jen

“Jen! Look at this g!”
“oh, good for you!” she said, her voice tinged with the slightest thread of pitying endearment. She followed sharply with “but what’s wrong with your a?”

It’s occasionally hilarious to be struggling to write lowercase at 33 years old.