TFAL Grinder

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I'm sure this was a wedding gift, like people who get married request this right, people with money; or for that matter, people without money.

When I had a chance to buy one though I did, it was $2.50, it's so worth it. It's one of those things that if I find another one I'll buy that one to.

It's ability to grind through raw nuts is totally graceful, and it puts a feather texture on raw almonds

It turns cheese into parchment.

It breaks down like a boat action rifle.

I've machine washed it, but recently I realized it was a score, now I break it down and hand clean it. It feels solid, but plastic just gives up one day. So I limit UV exposure and just use hot water.

Tefal Cheese, Nut & Seasonings Grinder. from Paul Sibley on Vimeo.

If you have problems with the video loading on the page, click on Tefal Cheese, Nut & Seasonings Grinder.  and try it from the vimeo page.

E tu Graffiti?

I'm on this new writing jag, where I take a picture and use it for the basis of writing. This morning I was going through my pictures of the East Atlanta Beltline Parade and I came across this building shot. I had pulled over to turn on my GPS and I decided to take a quick picture. After taking in the legible text of "The Shining" and "Provoking" I'm not sure what it is saying or trying to convey. Me and my mad skillz on bubble words are a little lacking.

The shot is a bit of a "I was here" b-roll for being at the East Atlanta Beltline parade. Later I was going through some work and started adjusting the color on the shot. This isn't my typical style of graffiti, there are some interesting things here though. Using the arch for "The Shining" is pretty cool. Presenting red as the canvas and the grey color of the building exterior like a matte, also very conscientious. Really the presentation is far more interesting then the actual central point of the piece; It feels labored, one artist talking to his community, not so much to us.

I thought to delete the shot, the two hooks are great but they draw my eyes to nothing. I don't want to impugn the artistic integrity of the guy who did the work. I should say also concede that I didn't frame this piece for narrative. I didn't wind back, or position my camera from the street, so there was a little more room for it to express itself, the work didn't say "Remember me, Paul."

Today though I kept staring, and I finally started to see the building; now there is something interesting. Buildings as residential, I always mention that it goes back to the movie Running Scared with Billy Crystal and Gregory Hines. I saw the oddly paired duo do their buddy cop film when I was a kid. Before then I used to always draw buildings where me and my stuff lived. I'm not sure, why it wasn't a house. As a kid we lived in apartment buildings, not houses. But still, I knew what a house looked like, I just didn't imagine living in one. When I walked around my neighborhood though, always right on the edge of houses and apartments there would be an old building or two and they were quite interesting. Running Scared cinched the deal, big garage door, motorcycle in the living room, I was already sold, but now I saw someone doing my idea, wow. Most folks have no interest living in a building, some folks want to do "loft living" and I get that segment, it's not what I'm saying. I want an airstream trailer parked in the middle of a building that doesn't have a roof, might be missing a wall.

Let's talk about the current housing market. I can buy a second house tomorrow. Yep. If I want another mortgage and some major financial overlap taking on a new residential project the world is my oyster. If I want to buy a lot and just build from scratch, the bank wants me to front 40 percent of my total budget; they want major skin in the game. If I want a building, if it's commercial I'm sure it's the same circumstances. If it is mixed used, I have a chance. But the market is indifferent to the success I've had with my last two project houses. No to the multiple house deal though; I can survive it, but do I want to?

I really want a building. I really want a commercial kitchen. I really don't like to talk about my dreams or desires, but I'm trying to change my ways. In the end though I have to flow with what nature brings me. I'm willing and excited to work on any of those projects, I just have no interest in finding a house that doesn't require work and tear away. It's gotta look like the building above, or the before on my current house. The worse the better, the chance to partner with a team of people and collaborate, it's amazing. The whole ability to take a ruin and make something of it, but then enhance it and bring it to some realization that no one else considered…it is the act of wrestling success from great failure, when no one thought it possible, when few would even support you.

Resurfacing begins

Oh how carpentry projects begin with learning by doing badly the first time and refusing to say "Good enough."

I didn't plan on stripping our –air quotes- dining room table this weekend. Tearing the polymer based stain off our adjoined dining surface was strictly a cathartic exercise, like I experienced catharsis and it was a lot of exercise. The original table is actually forty year old bowling ball lane that was salvaged from our local bowling alley. How I came to have a piece of bowling alley lane is just one of those "stranger than truth" stories that happen when you build your own house. How it came to then be my dining room table… Well, the air quotes have nothing to do with our "dining room table" being part of a bowling alley, it's cause our kitchen island is a continent and our dining room table is 50s kitchenette sized.

The original struggle with the table is that I have these restored floors and they are my wood focus in the house. The dining room table would have been easier if it'd just been actually finished with lane markings and still had it's glaze, but it didn't. The table came to us naked, really just an amazingly large piece of butchers block. It also has a blemish in it-a long jagged line that goes the length of the table, which I find distracting & things that distract me really upset me. So I didn't want to "stain" it in a way that would show off the grain and the flaw. A poly coat stain works great for over coating, when you want to cover up the grain and really maximize protection. It was a sin that I even considered it, but I justified that it would then be covered in bartop.

And we could have "bought", but you "use" when you can. The whole practice of sustainability is about whether or not your conscious actions take you into a territory where you try to work with preexisting and renewable substances. If you have a bowling alley why not cut it up instead of just tearing it to pieces and sending the debris to the dumpster. And then why not use that piece when you're making your house. Why would you get some shitty pressboard with a pretty veneer over it. Why buy anything at all, unless it's cheaper and easier… your weighted question constantly go back and forth. "Can I use it and will implementing it be a huge headache?" Thus the free bowling alley scrap was incorporated into our dining experience. It was also an interesting struggle. Have it be wood grain and contrast with the floor… Or have it be white and overwhelm with the walls. Many times in the final lap of decisions I found myself struggling with so much of the big stuff that the little stuff really just got to be too much. Shit! Now I'm thinking it'd be nice if it was blue.

Epilogue:

Back to the "good enough" We've tried to live with the black polycoat for a few months. All I could do while eating dinner though would be to stare at the lost detail, so I resigned myself not to resin over the mistake. Once the bartop is on, it'll also take away detail, but i've come to imagine the table will look really good if maybe we did see the grain. I just have to keep playing with the finish that will work to compliment the house. You have to be willing to change and undo a project. Preparing my older house everyone kept telling me to accept the shitty work they were doing. They said "You could spend so much money doing it right." The only people who are really big into the "Good enough" and "If you want to spend more money we can do it better" are the people you don't want to work with. I want to eat from that table. I don't want my lousy work to eat at me.

The truth, my wife is in the background of this picture, she isn't in focus, I'm obsessed with the table and it's flaw. I lose moments when I think of what is wrong with stuff; that's not good enough.

Thus Sunday found me with a sanding sponge (it was no contender,) then sand paper-it was a little better, finally the inappropriate tool, a fifty year old wire brush. This brush came from my step dad's tool collection and it was terrifying to even look at. The bristles do not move and it literally wrought a new detail into the wood, but it made short order of the polycoat and didn't not aerate the particles, so, not bad. I'll sand it down next and apply a new finish, we'll see what happens.

Seared Shitake sandwich with goat cheese-garlic relish /Wasabe Glazed Okra/Sweetened Pickles

 

We continue to suffer our local food dilemma. I'm a good cook but I'll probably never be a baker. It's taken me years to understand that I while I do write recipes, I have the knack for taking the components we have on standby and paring them up for a great dish or meal. This gets easier though when you have great ingredients. People will ask "Do you taste the difference? Is your melon or Japanese eggplant really so much better tasting…" They are. It's not so much an organic thing, it's more that on Wednesday we drive up the street and pickup food that was recently picked from the ground; they are bursting with flavor. It didn't travel from some hot house, it wasn't stored in a cargo container and gently frozen for its trip from New Zealand. No, a guy named Joe tended to it on his little farm Love is Love.

The dilemma we suffer is that we don't go to our mega farmers market anymore. So we don't "fill in the holes" that our two community supported agriculture providers leave us with. I'm not saying-nor am I implying that we never buy vegetables from anywhere else anymore. I'm saying that in the last year or so we've stopped also going and getting the other half of our food from the market. And when we do supplement our CSA garden it's as close to 100 mile that we can make it. We still go to Kroger for dairy, we'll stop by the market for grains, we make our own bread, but last week for example we got tomatoes, okra, eggplant and mushrooms from our CSA, there was other stuff, but by Saturday not much was left. The trick is making exciting food when you have ingredients that aren't necessarily singing to you on Saturday morning, when you just want to eat something.

And I don't walk into the kitchen thinking "Do a reduction, fire roast the shitakes, then sear and glaze the okra. Oh yeah, I hate goat cheese, but I'll work that in somehow; that's the ticket!" As a matter of fact I just start working on one vegetable and then the music montage takes place, and I dance violently around the kitchen with my headphones in and my knife waving around. There is no premeditation other than to create companion flavors that pair well. This isn't just in my mind. A lot of spoons are exhausted in the process, as I will meet with the components in the conference room that is my mouth.

So this isn't a recipe, this is a reflection of what I ended up with and how I went about it getting there. Everything was built around the Shitake mushrooms. They were easy to start with; there is so much flavor in the shitake mushroom, if you just tease it out a bit. I simmered them in stock and garlic, till they absorbed all the stock, then I seared them with a little oil and garlic. Everything was about celebrating the real smoky flavor. The Okra which I roast all the time and usually only season with salt and pepper was punched up with a bit more zing. The red chili sauce was an easy win, but it wasn't till I decided to add spicy homemade mustard and wasabi powder that it really sang. The oven was already hot, shitake mushrooms don't mind sitting around being subjected to heat. The relish was an easy play, as I had sweet and savory, but rich was still lacking and I knew the minced onions, which were a little hot in their raw state would mild out and give some complexity to the goat cheese. And frankly, if you don't have minced onions and garlic ready while cooking, no wonder you're so disappointed in the stuff you're doing in the kitchen.

Everything was prepared in one large skillet in phases. I went from simmering on the stove stop, to baking, to broiling, back to baking. I patiently cooked everything while trying to figure out what I was actually going to be serving. Halfway in I decided it would be sandwiches with okra fries. But you could just as easily take a shallow bowl, mince lettuce, tomatoes, onion and garlic and then chop the okra and shitake. Working with components becomes less about cooking a meal and more celebrating the vegetables; the meal will come.

Pickles & Bread

The sweetened pickles were made at 1470 a few months ago. I've been forbid to refer to them as bread and butter pickles, as they are not sweet enough to qualify as that. I can't say I'm mad, I've seen diabetics dial in higher insulin shots for some bread and butter pickles. The rolls that made the sandwiches with are also homemade, a quick recipe that my wife makes when she can't make our standard bread.

Shitake

The shitake mushrooms were julienned then simmered over a ½ cup of vegetarian stock, with three cloves of minced garlic and a teaspoon of canola. Once the stock was reduced the shitake were tossed in a half teaspoon of canola and then baked in the oven @ 450 for five minutes.

The shitake mushrooms were then isolated in the skillet and the okra was added

Okra

The Okra cooked in the same skillet that the shitake mushrooms were reduced and roasted in. I left the mushrooms to continue cooking in one corner of the skillet. The Okra was rubbed in canola, light salt and pepper and then roasted at broiler setting for 8 minutes-turned once.

Meanwhile, red chili sauce, wasabi powder & homemade mustard were combined, ratios 2 to 1 to 1-adjust for flavor. Sauce was then added to the cooked okra and the oven was then set to bake @ 450 degrees, cook five minutes longer.

Between broiling and then glazing with a sweet sauce the okra was fork tender but still had some texture to it.

Goat Cheese Relish

Admittedly, I'm no fan of goat cheese. I like goats. Bahhhhh. But the goat cheese, at least just the regular old white stuff, y'know the stuff that taste like gritty cream cheese, I'm not much into it. I'm just coming clean on that one. This recipe is served by using goat cheese and cream cheese in a 50/50 combination. Ingredients include a heaping tablespoon of goat cheese with a heaping tablespoon of cream cheese turned with a raw relish consisting of half an onion, half a head of garlic, ½ teaspoon of oil, salt and pepper, all finely minced. Vegetable and cheese ingredients are then spoon turned.

Some assembly required…

Spicy mustard was applied to the bottom of the bread, thin sliced tomatoes were then added. The relish was generously spooned over the red discs, followed by the roasted julienned shitake mushrooms. Thin sliced romaine and a leftover red chili/wasabi sauce finished the sandwich. I won't lie, lately I've been warming my plates before serving meals, I've felt a cold plate ruin my timed presentation.

 

My curious wife

Night shooting is a beast. Do you use natural light. Do you flash and fix it in post. Will it be possible to convince the person to freeze? Monopod, tripod, bracing off of natural objects, all a distraction to the documentary style of shooting; where you should run and gun, hammering shots as they come, hoping for magic to happen in one of those pictures.

Photographing a hula hooper is hard, shooting them at night is even harder, even shooting them standing still is a great ordeal. My lover only holds steady for a short period of time, much like photographing a cat, her mind wonders to something else and she starts to shift.

Don't even get me started on how this was taken with the Canon g12, not my trusty 50D, which I was wary to bring, under threat of rain and wanting to get time with the more compact G12.

This shot has a lot of magic in it, so I can't complain too much.

The only post production used in the shot was shading to address softening on the subject.

The hula hoop is a custom illuminated incandescent rig.

The scene was taken on 9.8.12, it was the Beltline parade, this leg of the belt line was near Piedmont park.

 

White house.

I grew up to beige. Everywhere my mother and I went in our sojourn of shelter was beige. Chicago was beige. Atlanta was beige, when I travel it’s always been beige.* Lead beige, latex beige, low emission beige, cheap beige, always beige, beige painted on top of beige. A color so prevalent that institutions and residences alike use the color; it’s neutral, have them tell you.

I should have known something was wrong with my first marriage when She Who Still Has My Last Name (Why I don’t know?) said “We need to repaint the living room.” So we went and got paint samples, she deliberated for two weeks and then picked the color. Another week passed by, and then we prepped the room and began painting. Soon after starting She Who Still Has My Last Name (Why I don’t know?) feigned an injury, left me to do the work on my own and when the paint dried we realized it was the exact same color; no shit. Who repaints beige to beige?

Beige has always left me wanting…

Anytime I’ve ever suggested white to people they’ve recoiled. The only time I’ve been inside of houses that were painted white,I could best be described as being in the role of “The help.” White is an absence of color that I have always associated with peacefulness, wealth, art & museums. I was a little black kid raised on the south side of Chicago; my mom wouldn’t even let me have white tennis shoes “You’ll dirty them up” she’d say. White makes me feel at peace, but it also makes me obsess over dirt. When i'm relaxed though I somehow feel a stillness that I’ve never felt in beige surroundings.

*When I spoke to the love of my life about painting our house white, she politely reminded me that we have two kids.

White can admittedly feel unsettling and stark. You can’t live in white, you must live with white, there is a difference.

wrong side...

I woke up a little anxious a few mornings ago. Usually waking up to stress means that I have something unresolved or it’s a money issue. I sometimes associate the anxiety about work, by default. Like I’ll literally wake up and think “Is this it? Is this my life, just doing this job thing to exist, so I can wake up to do it again?” It’s a weird question and it’s never been settled or muddied with the thought that if I could just find something I love, then I’d be ok. It’s a prevailing theory I hear from people though, not people who love their work btw. People who love their work usually say “I love my job.” They never say to me “You gotta find something you love.” In the magazine articles and in the culture of content consumption we hear that is the trick, you gotta find the thing you love. The “He was a wall street banker/now owns a dairy farm and is ecstatic about his 18 hour day; he loves what he does.” stories are less about love and more about meeting people who found a way to monetize their obsessive traits with a very niche hobby or singular interest that they excel at; more on that later.

This could all be about me waking up and realizing I wasn’t loved enough as a child. But I think that probably could have been resolved with either owning a dog or having a sibling. I was left to fend for my own when I was a kid. My parents were doing their thing and I was along for the ride; their life didn’t stop when I came around, I might have slowed them down a bit, in truth though, my mom probably didn’t crash and burn cause I was there to slow her down, unlike my duty shirking father, he died on the vine that was heroin, a speed ball to be precise.

And let me be clear, it’s not that chickenshit wake up either, the one where you’re paralyzed and don’t want to get out of bed. My anxiety has me hopping out of bed and wondering through my day, searching about for my place in the scheme of things. I don’t find the answer usually (ever) I usually just try to assign myself some duties and I look for things that might be bothering me.

I don’t really know what else to do. God has never answered my call in a literal sense and my boyhood side still holds some resentment about that. Therapy seems odd, I should pay to talk, really many would say I talk too much already. And I have just enough talk-to-myself juice that I ask myself the same questions. I sometimes think about a support group, guys in a circle, we’re not alone, coffee at night, some smoking, hugs for sure; uhm…

I am resigned to finish my ten year goals and then I think I’ll be just fine, my Poe character uneasy will tick no longer, but until then, I think I will continue to have some restless nights and uneasy mornings and maybe that’s how it should be. I never got anything but fat when I was comfortable.

Is this the new me?

Tryouts

It feels weird to imagine that I’m doing this wave of writing, where I work on a piece, post it, then I make it dormant. I feel like that session player trying to come in on a free form jazz group, I want to catch their groove, I try a few licks, strum a few notes (my music analogies are maybe one notch better than my sports metaphors) but I know that’s not quite it.