The Fourth Goes Boom!

On the Fourth of July, we had a very lovely time at a family’s house near Saratoga Lake.  The exciting events, however, happened not on the Fourth, but on the Sixth.  That’s when more family was present and we got to watch fireworks.  Yes, the "more family" also equaled "more chaos" from time to time and the fireworks meant that the boys were up WAY too late.  (They fell asleep in the car at around 10pm, though NHL had passed out much earlier and missed the entire fireworks show.)  Still, it all added up to a very fun day.

As we prepared for the fireworks, Aunt S broke out a series of glow sticks, hats, glasses and more that she had purchased at the Christmas Tree Shop.  Apparently, they stock many of these things for only a dollar each.  I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for these in the future.


We sat and waited on the porch and eventually it was time for the show.  The blasts came up into the sky and exploded with color.  Meanwhile, mosquitos defied the lit citronella candles and feasted on what they obviously saw as an all-you-can-eat human buffet.


I observed the fireworks the way I observe much of life, through the camera’s lens.  (I could launch into a detailed psycho-analytical self-study here about how I deal with Asperger’s and social situations by seeking the balance of social isolation and social participation one gets while taking photos nonstop, but that would be off topic.)  During the photos, someone asked me why I was taking so many.  I answered that I had to.  For every twenty that I took, only one was likely to be usable.  When asked for what, I replied "You never know when you might need fireworks photos for a blog post!"

Therefore, to keep myself from being a liar, here’s a selection of fireworks photos.  Feel free to add booming noises as you see the photos and/or say "Oooooh!  Aaaah!"  (Bonus points if you Vine or Instagram Video yourself doing this.)

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Photos From The One Voice United Rally

On Monday, I wrote about Common Core, the over-testing that is stressing our kids, and the emphasis on tests that is causing teachers to need to focus their lessons only on what will help their students fill in the right answers on a Scantron form.  We attended the One Voice United rally to help protest all of this.

When we arrived, there were already a lot of people gathering.  Buses had taken people from Long Island, Buffalo, and lots of places in between.  Everyone was converging on the Empire State Plaza in Albany, NY and many people were carrying some amazing signs.  It was quite a sight to behold.  I could use more words to describe it, but I think I’ll let these photos tell the story.

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Nana The Dandelion

We visited the Museum of Innovation and Science (aka MiSci) this past weekend.  While I’ll write more about that another day, I wanted to focus on their Bridge-Of-Fire electrostatic exhibit.


You walk onto the platform, put your hands over the metal tube, and wait.  Of course, DON’T TOUCH THE TUBE!


I did this without reading the instructions.  (ALWAYS READ THE INSTRUCTIONS!)  If you do touch the tube, you’ll get a very painful shock.

Anyway, while you are standing on the platform, the electrical charge will build inside you and eventually make your hair stand on end.


Ok, maybe not my hair.  How about B’s hair.


A little better.  JSL’s hair?


Now we’re talking, but for a real hair-on-end photo, we need to turn to B’s mother whom the boys call Nana.


Or who will, from now on, be known as Nana Dandelion.


See the resemblance?

Cooking With TechyDad: Quick Faux Pho

A few weeks ago, I got to try pho for the first time.  The first thing I thought about it was: I love this!  The second thing I thought was: I’m going to have to try to replicate this.  Unfortunately, all the pho recipes I found online were highly complex.  They required too much time and effort for me.  In addition, they required ingredients that would be difficult for me to find.  (Especially since I keep a kosher kitchen.)

Luckily, while browsing the supermarket shelves, I stumbled upon Pacific Foods’ mushroom broth.  Now pho isn’t usually made with a mushroom broth, but the vegetarian pho recipes I read mentioned cooking the broth with mushrooms before straining them (and some of the other ingredients) out.

I decided to come up with a quick and easy pho recipe.  Now, I know this isn’t traditional pho.  That’s why I like calling it Faux Pho.  (That and I’m a big fan of alliteration thanks to years of watching Good Eats with Alton Brown.)

First, we start with our ingredients:


For the record, that’s 1 package of broccoli florets (around 12 oz), 2 packages of mushroom broth (64 fluid oz total), rice noodles (16oz), snow peas (about a big handful), and onions.  (In my case, I selected 2 small Vidalia onions thinking they’re sweeter and my kids might be more likely to eat them.)

First, I cooked the rice noodles according to the package directions (boil water, toss in noodles, cook for 4-5 minutes, drain and rinse),


Next, I trimmed the snow peas, sliced the onions into rings, and then sliced those rings in half.  Quick tip: to avoid the "onion cry", freeze your onions for a bit before slicing.  Not so much that you’re trying to cut into a frozen-solid onion, mind you, but just enough that the enzymes that make you cry don’t get released as much.


After that, I sautéed the onions in a little olive oil.  (I remade this yesterday and added some garlic too just because everything tastes better when cooked with garlic.)


When the onions began to caramelize, I tossed in the broth and increased the heat.


After the broth began to boil, I turned the heat down and tossed in the broccoli.


Two minutes later, I tossed in the snow peas.


A minute later, I removed the soup from the heat entirely and pho was ready to be served.


To assemble the pho, first put some rice noodles in a bowl.


Next, add some veggies from the soup pot.


Finally, top off with broth.


Serve with hoisin sauce and/or Sriracha sauce or neither if you prefer.  You could also toss some bean sprouts and/or jalapenos in just before serving depending on how you like your pho.

So how does it taste?  Well, it won’t ever replace real pho, that’s for sure.  Don’t make this and expect that you’re going to get the same pho that you’d get in a good Vietnamese restaurant.  (If they made pho this way, they wouldn’t be a good Vietnamese restaurant.)  Still, it’s a decent facsimile especially if you only have a short time to prepare dinner, are craving some pho, and can’t go to a Vietnamese restaurant to get some.

Flowers, Up Close, and Personal

One of the things I like about spring is that I get to walk around with my camera taking photos of the flowers.  Another thing I like about spring is taking said photos of flowers and looking at them on my computer to see all the little details that you usually don’t see when you normally look at the flowers.

All of the shots below are just crops of the larger photo to highlight the smaller features.

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This last one isn’t a straight crop.  I took a macro shot of the flowers and cropped from there.  The first photo is a further-away shot to illustrate what these "heart-like" flowers looked like.

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Have you walked around to take photos of flowers?  Make sure you get in close to capture the details you would normally miss.

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