Rock Paper Scissors describes itself as an “art supply and local music retail store” in the “Gateway District,” the southern section of Over the Rhine in Cincinnati. They are the primary Cincinnati area retailer of Field Notes notebooks, and a variety of other things, including many locally produced supplies. They also carry a selection of music from local artists. They are about a half-mile walk from my office, so I have been known to hike there at lunch, if only to get a break from Information Technology.
On their Facebook page, they announced they were carrying some locally produced ink. This ink was made using an old recipe from the outer husks of walnuts. This produced a brown ink. Local, made in a small batch, and kinda green (in the environmental sense)–it ticks off all the marks on the hipster* checklist. Still, as a fountain pen geek, seeing something unique like this merited a walk up to check it out.
I was a bit nervous about putting it in my pens. Basically, with home brewed inks, you don’t know what you get. I’ve only tried it, so far, in pens that are less expensive and rare, and ones I’m pretty confident I could clean out well or repair myself. I’ve generally made a point of dumping and flushing the pen after using it, just to make extra sure.
The ink came in what appears to be a repurposed jar of jelly, and has a slight smell of alcohol. The ink is very thin, creating very wet lines from a dip pen, my first test. In all, I tried four different fountain pens with it: a Parker 45 that is missing a few cosmetic parts, a rotring 600, a Retro 1951 Tornado, and a Parker 51. The results were inconsistent.
The rotring had the widest line, with a nib on the broad end of medium. This varied from not-bad to a look which made me think I filled my pen with dirty water. I flushed the ink before capturing a sample. The Parker 51 and Frontier had a similar look–a flat brown. It went down making me think it would be near-invisible, but dried to a decent brown. No feathering, bleed-through, or show-through with most paper. To get the best results, I wanted to flush the pen until it was totally clean, and let the pen dry out before attempting to fill. This may well be best practice, but know I’m guilty of filling right after flushing. With this ink, like a few others, the pen needs to be clean.
The Parker 45 is the most frustrating. It seems to get a rick, dark brown that I really like. I can’t seem to replicate this with any other pen I’ve tried it with. As it is a quasi-parts pen, it’s not one I can readily take out with me.
As I said, it’s a generally well-behaved ink, though it appears to be inconsistent coming out of the pen. Since the ink is locally produced, I am concerned about what pens I put it in, as it may not be as pure as commercial inks. I’m going to continue to play with it in other pens and other paper, and provide an update.
*I don’t regard myself as a hipster–I’d probably cringe at being described as such. Just what the ink makes me think of.
Walnut image from Wikimedia Commons. This is by Böhringer Friedrich, released under the Creative Commons license.
This is the latest round of Quotes from My Journal, finishing my second Webbie. As always, I found them are either somewhat inspiring, amusing, or simply make me smile.
“The standadrd you walk past is the standard you accept.” General David Morrison, Australian Army (though it was an established saying)
“The future is already here–it’s just not evenly distributed.”–William Gibson
“Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.”–Anatole France
“There is no ‘us’ in team, either.”–@VioletThunk
“Lots of people talk to animals…not very many listen…that’s the problem.”–Benjamin Hoff
“Anticipating probems and figuring out how to solve them is actually the opposite of worrying; it’s productive.”–Chris Hadfield
“There is no bad weather–only bad clothing.”–@bicycleindiana
Food fried in oil is traditional for Hannukah. In my family, we mark the holiday by making beignets. While not a traditional jelly donut, it works in my family, by bringing some Louisiana culture to the occasion.
What is traditional is a latke, a potato pancake. I read several recipes, and figured out how to make my own. I’m really pleased with the outcome, and have even made them at my mother-in-law’s.
A few years ago, my wife came home from a Hannukah event, and told me about how she had some sweet potato latkes, and really liked them. I decided to take a crack at them, and got good results. It may not be as traditional, but it is a fun treat. Even the ones that didn’t come out quite right seem to get picked at.
The basis of a latke is grated potato (or sweet potato). I use the second smallest holes on my greater (the smallest are almost a microplane grater), resulting in shreds about a milimeter or two wide. I’ve been known to use the food processor, but the shreds are double or more in size, and don’t create the tight pancakes one would expect. I like to let them sit in a bowl after salting them a bit, then drain them of any fluid that has been drawn out.
Ingredients for Standard Latkes
- 900g shredded potatos
- 150g finely diced onions
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 eggs
- 100g all purpose flour
Ingredients for Sweet Potato Latkes
- 450g shredded sweet potatos
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 eggs
- 75g brown sugar
- 70g all purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
Making the Latkes
- Mix the ingredients, save for the eggs, in a bowl.
- Heat 2-3 inches of canola oil in a broad skillet to 350 degrees.
- Beat the eggs, and mix into the other ingredients. Wait until just beore ready to make the latkes.
- Take a healthy handful of the potato mixture, and form into a patty about 2-3 cm thick I like to make them about the size of the palm of my hand.
- Fry each side for 2-3 minutes, until bubbling in oil dies down and the latke is golden brown and delicious. I like to cut open one of the first ones in half to ensure it’s cooked through to gauge how long it should take, and what “done” looks like.
- Set on a cookie sheet lined with paper towels. Salt to taste.
As always, be careful when frying to not splash on youself, or allow the oil to smoke.
Like last year, Flickr has a group where you post your best photo of the year. They just announced it. I like to submit a picture to this group, as it’s a good time to look back at all the photos I’ve taken over the course of the year (as well as show off a bit).
“Miss Lop-Ears,” as my friends at ISEC call her, is a favorite cat at the Cincinnati zoo.
I often get good shots of my daughter. I dig the bokah I got in this one.
In April, we got the cats a new toy.
Renji and Nubo played tag.
Gladys was an orphaned gorilla brought to the Cincinnati Zoo from Texas. She spent some time with humans performing “gorillafication” until she was big enough for surrogate gorilla moms to take over.
We took a Duck ride, and got great views of the Roebling bridge.
The butterfly show had some amazing colors.
On June 14, we were visited by Solar Impulse a solar powered airplane. This was also one of my first shots with an external flash, used as fill flash. I like how I captured both the plane and the setting sun.
Spontaneous shots often produce cool results. I was packing up my camera at the Neil Armstrong Air and Space museum, after taking a family shot. My daughter stretched out in the grass, and wrote in her journal. I couldn’t have asked for a better composition.
We got an opportunity to see the RCMP Musical Ride perform. I call this the “recruiting poster” shot.
My daughter got into the spirit of Canada Day.
At the Canadian Aviation and Space Museum, I walked up, and saw my daughter putting on a flight helmet in a kids area over the goggles. I told her to take it all off. It was clear she was about to protest that she was allowed. Then, she realized I was going to help her do it right: helmet first, then goggles. This may be the top contendor for best shot: good composition, good color, and I like the bokah.
Saint Joseph’s Oratory in Montreal was impressive.
As is Notre Dame Cathedreal in Old Montreal.
A cheetah at the Toronto Zoo plays peek-a-boo.
The white lions at the Toronto Zoo were spectacular.
I’m not a giant panda fan, but I’m pleased with this shot.
When there is a good opportunity (and I remember my Gorilla-Pod), I like to try to get a good family shot. This one, at the Cincinnati Zoo’s new Africa exhibit, is probably my best of 2013.
Beso prefers to sleep on his back.
Summer means festivals…and roasted corn.
We went to the Columbus Zoo to see Amur tiger cubs. However, they were a bit shy.
Saber the clouded leopard taking a nap. Gotta love the cloudies.
Elephants throw dust on their backs to protect themselves from the sun.
Savanna was just a wee cub last year. This year, she showed us she can fly!
I was amazed this bee was patient enough for me to futz with my macro lens. You can even see pollen on her legs.
I’m a fan of Gizmo the owl.
John the Lion looks so regal!
So love our heart-shaped snow leopards, Renji and Nubo.
A pallas cat kitten considers jumping.
Luna is getting the hang of the halloween cat tradition…
…however, Eddy looked more intimidating with the pumpkins.
Nubo the snow leopard is my favorite zoo animal.
Red pandas are among my favorite non-cat animals.
Santos the ocelittle came to join us in November, and among the cutest things I’ve seen in 2013.
As I said, it’s fun to look back at a year of adventures and memories. Even in terms of the quality of photography, I can tell I’m making improvements–there are three or four in this that really stand out to me. What do you think?
The zoo levee passed! I had been volunteering as a social media ambassador. Good to see that voters in Hamilton County passed it with 80% of the vote.
I submitted a profile to the Cincinnati Metro‘s November, 2013, newsletter.
In my post about “The Day After,” I mention Able Archer 83. On You Tube, I found a great documentary about it, “1983: The Brink of Apocalypse,” which shows just how dangerous that time was. It is definitely worth the watch–you really get the sense that that was truly the closest we came to the Cold War going hot.
eHarmony for Bananas
Buzzfeed used one of my fennec fox pictures in their post, “10 Animals That Will Always Be Fun-Sized”
A leaf on the skylight can be a cause for concern.
I made a lot of good stuff for our contribution to Thanksgiving. As I usually do, I made pecan pie.
My challah is always popular.
This year, I made a roll version of the Hawaiian honey bread. Our test roll was excellent!
The World War Two Oatmeal Molasses Cookies really feel like a fall treat.
I made cocoa brownie bites with peanut butter buttercream. In honor of the overlap between Thanksgiving and Hanukkah, I decorated them with turkeys and dreidels.
After all this baking, I had to give my mixer a break.
Santos, the ocelot cub (“ocelittle”) at the Cincinnati Zoo is about the size of Eddy when I first met him. I have to remind myself that he was only two weeks old, and will sleep a lot more than he plays. I decided to check on him today, at the three-week mark. He was still a sleepily little boy.
Love the chin!
But he did start to wake up a bit. I got to see his eyes!
Clearly, he’s more capable. I got to see him walk around a bit…
And even play with a keeper, and the plush animals in his enclosure.
I was a bit crazy going out to the zoo–the temperature never saw above thirty. I stopped into Night Hunters, in part to warm up. A black footed cat was in plain sight.
And a sand cat fell asleep on top of his hill.
The bobcat looked like he had some news for me…
Miss Caracal was back!
I hadn’t seen her since at least the spring. I don’t know where she was, but I was getting a bit worried. It was really good to see her again!
While humans weren’t fond of the cold day, snow leopards live for it. Renji and Nubo were up front, and happy to have a chat.
Nubo was a bit of a show-off.
Renji maintained her mysterious composure.
While there are plenty of unusual animals in the official collection, there are “wild” animals that pass through. The problems squirrels were causing made news lately. Today, I saw a domesticated cat, probably a stray, on the grounds.
I had mentioned I didn’t get to see puffins too often. My wife pointed out the Cincinnati Zoo had them, we just don’t go in the exhibit that often. I was passing it, it looked warm, so I popped in.
I also got a family picture of all three red pandas!
While cold, it was a good day to see the zoo, and I am glad to see little Santos growing up.
A it chilly…and windy.
I’ve been wanting to write up my gumbo recipe for a while now. In part, to document it, but also to share it. I’ve never been big on “secret family recipes.” My recipe is one of my own devising, taking influences from a number of sources, including my mom, as well as a few other blogs.
The catch is, I’m not entirely sure I have a recipe. I put more or less the same stuff in my gumbo, and the process is more or less the same, but the recipe is very tolerant–I can add more of one thing one day, and less of it the next.
However, as my wife and I have been tracking what we eat, I was able to get a good feel for a baseline.
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 3-4 bay leaves
- 61 ounces chicken broth (I use Swanson’s 99% fat free)1
- 1 pound chicken breast
- 1/2 pound sausage (I use a light turkey sausage)
- 1 bell pepper (approximately a half-pound)2
- 3/4 small onion (four-tenths of a pound)
- 4-5 celery stalks (a third of a pound)
- Filé to taste3
Making the Gumbo
- Pour the broth into a large pot, along with the bay leaves. Bring to boil. Add some filé.
- Make a roux with the flour and olive oil. Basically, you are slowly browning the flour in the oil. I like to use a cast iron skillet over medium heat, whisking it in until it turns a brown about like milk chocolate. A good write-up on making a roux is here. Bottom line: it will take time to get it there. Add this to the broth.
- Cut the chicken into bites. Add to broth. It will be in there for at least an hour, so it will be fully cooked by the time you eat it.
- Dice the bell pepper, celery, and onion, and place in a mixing bowl.
- Slice the sausage, and place in skillet. Brown one side, then flip over and add the vegetables. Cook (stirring as needed) until onions turn translucent. Add to broth.
- Bring everything to a boil, add some water, then reduce heat to medium.
- Cook for sixty to ninety minutes, adding water and filé as needed. You’ll want a slightly thick liquid. Total volume should be around 16-20 cups.
- Serve over rice.4
1This works out to a 32 ounce “box”, plus two 14.5 ounce cans. Varying the amount to be two 32 ounce boxes (64 ounces total), or four 14.5 ounce cans (58 ounces total) would likely work well.
2Bell pepper, onion, and celery are called “trinity” in Cajun cooking. I’ve been known to dial up some of this, particularly the bell pepper, a bit. Green bell pepper is traditional, though I like to use red. It’s both visual interesting, and brings good flavor. Yellow works. Orange does, too, but looks funny (makes me think someone put carrots in my pot!)
3If I had to guess, I’d say I use 1-2 tablespoons of filé (pronounced fee-lay) over the course of the cooking, delivered a quarter-teaspoon at a time. No, I don’t actually measure it.
4This is not rice. DO NOT put my gumbo on that. Make some real rice. It is not that hard, and tastes so much better.
This month, scientists announced the discovery Panthera blytheae, the oldest member of the big cat family. The modern big cats include tigers, lions, jaguars, leopards, and, by most accounts, snow leopards. It is snow leopards that Blythe’s panther, as it is know, is most closely related to. As you may recall, snow leopards make their home in Asia, which is where Blythe’s panther was discovered (Tibet, to be exact). This puts the origin of modern big cats in Asia, rather than Africa, as was previously thought.
Fossils of seven individuals have been found, dating back to around five million years ago. In contrast, saber-toothed cats such as smilodon, go back around two-and-a-half million years ago.
This is a fascinating find, and helps clarify how the cat family evolved. I’m particularly interested, as it now shows a relative of one of my favorite cats, the snow leopard.