Saturday, April 26, 2008

Crazy times, Passover

Our seder plate.

One of the three tables we set for 23 guests.

This last week has included passover, is the last week of classes before exams, and Jazz fest starts this weekend. Needless to say, its been a bit crazy around here. Colin and I are both ridiculously busy right now, and the number and quality of our posts has reflected this. It will be bad for another week, but then this cycle of exams will be over and we will return to posting interesting New Orleans tidbits.

Briefly, a recap of our passover seder which was amazing and overwhelming all at once. We used all of our wedding china which was awesome, it was the first time we used all 16 place settings. In the end we had 23 people in our living room and were reduced to using buckets for chairs, even though many of our guests were gracious enough to have brought their own seats. We dined on roasted turkey, matzo ball soup, Friedman family haroset, matzo lasagna, and flour-less chocolate cake. We hosted seder the second night (last Sunday) and we are STILL doing dishes from it. I know passover is almost over, but in case you want to file some recipes away for next year, here are my two most requested kosher for passover dishes:

Matzo lasagne:
have on hand a box of matzos, pasta sauce (either pre-made or from scratch) light ricotta cheese, shredded mozzarella cheese, onions and garlic. You will also need an assortment of sliced veggies, I recommend; sliced mushrooms, zucchini or yellow squash, and baby eggplant.

Mix and saute: all veggies for a few minutes until they are mostly cooked.

Layering: start by putting a single layer of matzo in the baking dish (your normal glass or aluminum non lidded rectangular baking dish) cover with a layer of pasta sauce. sprinkle veggies on top of sauce, then dot liberally with small spoonfuls of ricotta (basically make a layer of ricotta, I can never get mine to be an even layer, so i just put down the spoonfuls until about 7/8 of the surface is covered). Pour more sauce on top of the ricotta and start the whole process over with another layer of Matzos. when the dish is almost full of lasagna, place down a final layer of matzo, sauce, ricotta and plenty of mozzarella cheese.

Bake for 30 minutes at 350 or until cheese melts and lasagna is nice and hot.

Friedman family haroset:
I wish I could give you the actual amounts, but the recipe goes by feel. Here are the ratios of the ingredients though: apples 1, almonds 1.5-2, sultanas + dates 1, splash of wine
and dash of cinnamon.

the most important thing is the texture, which should be moderately sticky and not too wet. The end result should be sweet, but not cloyingly so. The amounts of each ingredient depend on how much haroset you need to make. For this last seder I used 7 normal sized gala apples.

You will need: several apples, peeled. I like gala or fugi, sliced or whole almonds, sultana raisins (golden raisins), dates, sweet wine (I use kosher for passover concord grape wine which is really grossly sweet), cinnamon

1. Food process almonds until bread crumb size, place into a bowl
2. Food process apples until they are in small chunks. Do not make apple sauce! Place in a different bowl
3. In food proccesor, add some of the processed apples and almonds. Throw in raisins and dates , a splash of wine, and some cinnamon. blend well.
4. Sample the mixture and make sure the texture and flavor are
5. Repeat until desired amount is made. The final texture should be consistent enough to be sculpted and retain its shape. We always make little haroset pyramids and sphinxes of ours.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Friday cat blogging

I am Hodag. I am sleeping in the cat bed mommy made for me. I am so cute. Look at me, watch me be cute.

Stop doing your taxes, you jerks. Look at me instead!


Saturday, April 19, 2008

Friday Cat Blogging

Apologies to everyone who left a comment complaining about the lack of Friday Cat Blogging last week. We've been busy/sick, so it didn't happen. To make it up to everyone, here's more photos than usual of Hodag.

Nora's Public Health buddy Sammy came over one night to help make brownies. Hodag took advantage of the Kitchen Aid stand mixer's absence to steal its place on the shelf:

Hodag sometimes likes to nap in the door frame in front of the (very small) porch off of our bedroom. Last weekend, he napped with Nora while protecting her from the dogs that live a few houses away from us in that direction.

A few nights later, Hodag perched on top of Nora's desk. He looked very intimidating as he looked over the office...

...but he looked a bit less dignified a few moments earlier, when Jane Austin was grabbing his ass.


Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Tuesday Bike Blogging: River Flooding Edition

I rode down to the river levee on Saturday afternoon to see the flooding and take some pictures. On Friday, the Corps opened part of the Bonnet Carre Spillway because the height of the river at the Carrollton Gauge hit 17 feet. The Spillway was installed because, in the 1927 Flood, several levees were blown up between Baton Rouge and New Orleans to prevent the river from flooding New Orleans. Now, instead of blowing up levees, they open the Spillway, and water gets diverted into Lake Ponchartrain.

This is by far the highest I've seen the river is the last 10 months that we've been here. I typically see dry land for about ten yards past the chain-link fence.

As a comparison, in the photo below, I'm standing at about the level of the water, and the top of the levee is a bit above the height of my head. So the water level was something like 6 feet below the top of the levee at that point.

The Corps has a realtime chart of the river height at each location of measurement. One month is a good indication of how much the river has risen over its typical levels. The Carrollton Gauge is actually a little downriver of these photos. A river stage of 17 feet is considered flood stage, and the Corps claims that the river levee protects the city to 20 feet (ie, the lowest level of the levee in the city is 20 feet) It looks like the levee is at about 23 feet at this point.

The levee slopes right back down away from the river. Street level immediately behind the levee at that point is approximately six feet above sea level. I haven't actually stopped to think about that much, but it does drop off that quickly. Without the levee, we would be under water right now. They really weren't kidding when they blew up those levees in 1927.

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Thursday, April 10, 2008


So, ever since I have been balded, my head has been a bit chilly at night. The solution I came up with was to knit myself a very soft, machine washable hat. I got this Biberon baby yarn on sale and knit myself up a cap for evenings and sleeping. My hair is meanwhile growing out nicely. Here are some glamor shots of me with my new hat and demonstrating my hair growth.

Hat with and without me modeling it.

It is in fact, growing out!

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Spring Vacation Trip, Cajun Country

For our spring break we decided that we should go a few hours west into Cajun country Louisiana. The Acadians, a displaced group of Canadian French settlers were forcibly driven from their homes during a period of British ascendancy in Canada during the seven years war (The French and Indian war as it is called in North America). Eventualy many of them settled in the Bayous and Prairies of Louisiana. We spent four days traveling around seeing the unique culture that these French descendants created.

1. Laura Creole plantation
2. Tabasco co. Factory and Jungle Gardens

DAY TWO- St. Martinsville and Lafayette
1. Evangeline Oak
2. Longfellow-Evangeline state historic park
3. Jean Lafitte Acadian cultural center

1. Savoy Music center Saturday Jam
2. Jean Lafitte Prairie Acadian Cultural Center
3. Cajun Music History Museum
4. Rendezvous des Cajuns

DAY FOUR- Baton rouge
1. Mike the Tiger (see earlier Friday cat blogging post for photos)

A creole plantation which grew sugar cane. A slave cabin from that same plantation, which was inhabited until 1975 (without running water or electricity). This Plantation was where the American version of the Brear Rabbit stories were first written down in Creole French. Eventually the stories were translated into English and went through several incarnations.

The Certificate from the Colombians World fair stating that the Tabasco Co. has a booth in the industry and technology pavilion. Us in front of the Tabasco factory. The best thing about Avery island was that when you unrolled the windows you get this incredible vinegar pepper smell. If you have ever snorted an open Tabasco bottle then you will know what I mean.


Jungle Gardens Avery Island. A nature preserve on the same island that Tabasco factory is located, created by one of the Mcilhenny heirs. The egrets use this island to lay their eggs in the spring.

Jungle Gardens again, they had lots of baby alligators and TONS of signs warning us to not poke them.

the Evangeline oak in St. Martinsville. The building in the back of the tree is the Old Castillo Hotel that we spent the night in, a truly wonderful old fashioned school house turned bed and breakfast.

Our awesome guest lodge, the Blue Moon that we stayed at in Lafayette, complete with a live music saloon which played zydeco until 1am. We totally plan on staying here again to catch more fabulous live music.

Remember that line in Blues Brothers? Elwood:" What kind of music do you usually have here? "
Claire: "Oh, we got both kinds. We got country *and* western." It was like that, but with Cajun and Zydeco music instead. This is in Eunice, the Cajun Music capital of Louisiana. The first photo is of a Zydeco band, (you can tell because of the guitars and the washboard vest) the second is Cajun music. Both, as you can see involve accordions. The Liberty theater in Eunice hosts a live radio broadcast of Cajun music every Saturday evening. It is ENTIRELY in French, and all the little old French speaking Louisiana couples come to listen to it and dance the Cajun waltz.

I loved this sign. Clearly people were stealing the trash from this thrift store, although why they should care who roots through their toss-outs is beyond me. When we saw this sign Colin and I just looked at each other and laughed.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Friday cat blogging / bug blogging

Last night around nine thirty, Hodag began acting strangely. He began making a lot of plaintive Hodag noises (which had to mean something since he is normally not a meower) and running up and down the hallway. When Colin went to investigate he reported that the cat had caught a grasshopper and was chasing it around the hallway and stairwell. Hodag had apparently been trying to let us know that he had caught a bug for us. He played with the grasshopper for an hour or so before it died.

Hodag, mid pounce.

I have defeated the evil grasshopper!

Grasshopper, with paw for size comparison.

Then this morning as I was entering the Tropical Medicine building at school I saw a really cool looking bug on the glass of the revolving doors. I stared at it for a minute because it it was bright fire engine red and had iridescent blue spots on it. It was just about the coolest looking bug I had ever seen. I tried to take a photo of it, but seeing as how it was on a shiny glass door and all, I quickly gave up. Instead I decided to capture it and bring it over to the entomology lab in the building next door for identification. So, I grabbed a waxed cardboard soup container and lid from the cafe next to the entrance and carefully herded the insect into the container. I took the soup container over to the Entomology lab and there I was told we could freeze it to death and then examine it under a dissecting microscope later. So the container and insect were put in the freezer for the afternoon while I went to classes. After classes I opened back up the container and had a look at my capture. Everyone in the lab agreed that it was a pretty awesome looking bug (which made me feel less stupid for busting in on them with a soup container) and eventually my Entomology professor identified it as a "clear-wing" or "picture-wing" moth. Specifically I had caught a Scarlet bodied wasp moth, or Cosmosoma myrodora (I have also seen it identified at Cosmosoma auge). The larva feeds on hemp weed and the adult is a nectar feeder, none of which explains what it was doing on a revolving door in downtown New Orleans. When we learn how to pin specimens next week in Advanced Entomology, I am going to try my hand on this one.

Abortive photographic attempt of the cool bug.

A better image from an online source of the mystery bug.

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