Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Mmmm... yeasty...

As a reward for suffering through my massive "must-read" list yesterday, I give you a recipe... and it's a good one.

For a while now, I've been looking for a good sandwich bread but every recipe comes out either too heavy (think almost quickbread-y) or too light (like a french baguette). They either don't toast or the jam on your pb&j leaks through the holes.

Ah, but this one. This one is good. Light but substantial. Perfect for your standard American breakfasts and lunches.

The recipe is not my own but I will gladly share it. My only word of caution is to make sure you don't let it rise for too long in the pan (as I did) - otherwise you'll end up with what Pete is calling "the horn", which is that little bit that flopped over the pan when it was rising and which prevents it from fitting in the toaster. Then again, our toaster is his older brother's that somehow survived the life of a male college student and therefore is certainly brave...

...but probably doesn't compare to the spiffy modern one that you may have that can toast bread, horns and all.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

A Tuesday night perusal...

Sorry. I can't help myself. I read all these food policy blogs and inevitably come across several articles that are particularly enlightening and then consequently feel the need to share them with you. Like I said, sorry, but-I-swear-these-are-really-good. I mean, I wouldn't just recommend that you read anything! So, without further ado, I give you tonight's line-up:

* Civil Eats, 13 November: great article on what consumers need to know about genetically engineered food.

* BBC, 2 November: reported on the link between depression and processed foods.

* Civil Eats, 3 November: reviewed the extent to which the Obama administration has followed through on campaign promises to improve the American food system.

* Eat. Drink. Better., 15 November: posted a follow-up article to the one they ran in early September - called "Diet Coke can kill you" - which examined the dangers of aspartame - a common ingredient in diet food and gum - in our food system.

Okay, just a couple more gratuitous links that have nothing to do with food policy. I like them because my brother went to school in Appalachia (check out the link! the new york times did a slide show on his college!) and mountaintop removal bites:

* Grist, 13 November: published a concise and well-written article explaining the history and dangers of mountaintop removal.

* will show you whether the electricity you use comes from coal from mountaintop removal sites.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Beard

Pete grew a beard earlier this year.

I loved it.

I mean, my heart just melted at the sight of it.

Unfortunately, his mother thought he looked like a hobo, so he ended up shaving it off.

Before he did though, I was able to snap these shots. (*PHEW*)

Oh how I miss the beard... please come back...

Monday, October 12, 2009

Apple Pickin'

I finally had a Monday off a couple weeks ago and Pete and I drove into the wilds of Virginia to go apple picking.

Our plans were grand, but in the end, we were overwhelmed by the sheer mass of apples before us as well as the gnats hovering over our heads (hopefully because of the warmth rather than the smell). I was somewhat disappointed when we left with only half a bushel but we simply could go no further.

For I have had too much
Of apple-picking: I am overtired
Of the great harvest I myself desired.
((Thank you Mr. Frost))

During the past two weeks, however, as I stared at the massive bag of apples in my refrigerator, I began to think that maybe we had outdone ourselves. By this weekend, the (relatively large) batch of apple sauce I'd cooked earlier had barely made a dent. So, I took it to the mattresses... well, the oven at least.

About 25 apples met their demise last night in a massive batch of cranberry applesauce, and another six or so were baked into a cake this morning. Both recipes turned out wonderful and warmed our tiny apartment with the smell of cinnamon, fighting back the autumn chill that is quickly overtaking the city.

Cranberry Applesauce
I used a recipe for applesauce once, about 2 years ago, but the process was so simple that I never bothered with one again.
  • Just peel your apples and cut them into small chunks (or larger ones if that's your thing... just don't halve the apples, that's probably going a bit too far),
  • throw them in a large pot (Pete has an enameled cast-iron one that I'm a big fan of),
  • squeeze half a lemon's worth of juice over them,
  • pour in about a cup of water (you may have to add more if you like your sauce on the liquid-y side),
  • add some cranberries (I added half a bag for my batch),
  • toss in 1-2 handfuls of sugar (just depends on how sweet you like your sauce - if you use raw sugar, you'll probably want to add a bit more since it's less sweet),
  • and sprinkle on the cinnamon, nutmeg or cloves to taste (personally, I go real heavy on the cinnamon - at least a tablespoon - and usually use no more than a quarter teaspoon for the nutmeg and cloves if the spices are fresh; if they're not, just add a bit more).
All you have to do after that is set the pot over a low flame, cover it, and stir your concoction every ten minutes so nothing sticks to the bottom. In no time, you'll be blissfully floating on waves of cinnamon-y goodness and after 45-60 minutes you'll hit your desired consistency... try to wait for it to cool a bit before digging in.

Apple Cake
Alright, I'll admit I got really lucky with this one. I've been looking for a good apple cake recipe
for a couple years now, and this one definitely fits the bill. I based it on Dorie Greenspan's recipe for Apple Nut Muffin Cake, but made a few changes since I was (a) missing a few ingredients, (b) felt like it, and (c) because Pete hates dried fruit and nuts.

1/2 c buttermilk
1/4 c milk (you should use whole, but I only had skim)
1/4 c orange juice (trust me)
1 egg
1 t vanilla
1/2 t almond extract
1/2 stick melted butter, cooled
1/2 c safflower oil, or other vegetable oil (olive oil works!)
1 3/4 c (or 7.1 oz) all-purpose flour
1/2 c sugar
3/4 c oats (if using steel-cut or oat bran, make sure to soak them until soft; if using rolled/breakfast oats, you're good - just pour them in)
1 T baking powder
1 t cinnamon
1/2 t ginger
1/4 t cloves
1/4 t nutmeg, freshly grated if possible
1/4 t salt
1/4 c packed light brown sugar
6 small apples, peeled and diced

Heat the oven to 400F and grease a 9 in. cake pan (I used a springform). Mix together dry ingredients (not including the apples). Mix together wet ingredients (also not including the apples). Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and mix as little as possible, while still thoroughly combining them. Fold in apple chunks and pour into the prepared pan. Now, this is where I'm not going to be too helpful (sorry!) - Dorrie's recipe says her cake should be ready in 30-35 minutes and I was expecting much the same for my own, but it took more like 45-50 minutes. I'm not sure if the was a result of (a) not properly pre-heating my oven, (b) building a different recipe, or (c) a combination of the two. So... if you bake this, let me know what works for you. basically, i would just keep testing until your toothpick/knife/whatever/comes out clean.

Good luck!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Some reading to get you through the week...

Hey there. I've been swamped, but I wanted to pass along some interesting articles that I've come across in the past week or so. Happy reading!

In Defense of Michael Pollan and a Civil, More Nuanced Food Debate: This issue completely slipped by me until I saw this article, but apparently the corporate food industry and their farmers are launching campaigns against the sustainable food movement. In many ways, this is probably deliberate, in others, it may just be a result of a major misunderstanding. This article lays out the case for the latter and what can be done to make the system more equitable for everyone involved - including the corporate guys.

The Farmworker Legacy In Your Fridge: One of the most frightening things when you start digging into America's food policy is not necessarily the pesticides used or the CAFOs or our over-processed diet, but the poor conditions some farmhands live and work in. This article lays out - better than any I've yet seen - the basics of this issue and what still needs to be done.

Big Food's 'Smart Choices' Label Raises Eyebrow at FDA: The 'Smart Choices' program was created by the corporate food industry (e.g. Conagra, Kraft, and Tyson's Food) and includes choices like fruitloops, lunchables, and mayonnaise. It seems to me that this is a clever way to take advantage of the public's newfound interest in healthy eating without making any substantial changes to existing products. Most of these products appear to have made the cut based on the number of calories or grams of fat - not the amount of sugar or sodium in them, and obviously without consideration for how processed the foods are or how the ingredients were produced.

Diet Coke Can Kill You: Melodramatic? Probably, but it's an interesting article that tracks with some other freaky stuff I've heard about artificial sweeteners.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

My backyard...

The bummer about apartments is not having a yard... fortunately, I can't really complain.

Hello, National Cathedral - you beautiful thing, you. Just across the street and full of beautiful gardens, a sequestered labyrinth of old brick buildings, and wide lawns - what more could you ask for?

It's so easy to forget that all this is hidden behind the cathedral's towering facade that I have to admit that I don't make it over there quite as often as I'd like. But it's a great place to read a book or take a stroll and it was truly a breath of fresh air this weekend.

To the last lingering days of summer...

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Caught by the wind...

I feel as if the earth is pulling me outside as DC's hot summer turns into a cool and beautiful fall. I always find the change of seasons to be an inspiring time and this poem wonderfully voices my sense of quiet elation as autumn presents a new beginning.


By Richard Wilbur

Treetops are not so high
Nor I so low
That I don't instinctively know
How it would be to fly

Through gaps that the wind makes, when
The leaves arouse
And there is a lifting of boughs
That settle and lift again.

Whatever my kind may be,
It is not absurd
To confuse myself with a bird
For the space of a reverie:

My species never flew,
But I somehow know
It is something that long ago
I almost adapted to.

Monday, July 27, 2009

A good excuse to use your oven in July...

I've returned!!

After several months of weddings, travels, and moving-out-of-my-house-and-then-into-a-new-apartment, I think I've finally caught my breath.

Actually, I can't wait to show you some pictures of my new neighborhood and Pete and I's apartment... I just haven't had a chance to take any pictures yet! Haha. Oh well - maybe this weekend... you're going to die when you see some of these houses...

I did manage to snap one shot in this past week though... this month's Daring Bakers challenge!!

The July Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Nicole at Sweet Tooth. She chose Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies and Milan Cookies from pastry chef Gale Gand of the Food Network.

One thing I have learned about my new apartment is that using the oven makes the kitchen unbearably hot, so I have to admit that I wasn't particularly thrilled about baking anything this month. The idea of drizzling hot chocolate over hot marshmallow goo quickly bit the dust. But while I'm pretty sure the temperature hit about 400 degrees, I have to admit that the Milan cookies were a pretty perfect summer treat. To keep the ganache on the wafers, I threw the cookies in the fridge, which cooled them off, held them together, and gave them a great texture.

Gale's recipe called for lemon and orange extracts, and I personally am not a huge fan of mixing fruit with chocolate, so I replace the lemon extract with one tablespoon of almond extract and put about a tablespoon of coffee grinds (instant coffee would be good too) in the ganache instead of the orange. (If you don't like coffee, I'd nix the grounds or add just a half teaspoon to enhance the chocolate without making it taste like a cuppa jo.)

The recipe for the Milans and the Marshmallow craziness can be found on Nicole's site or on the Food Network website.

If you summon the courage to brave the heat this summer, I would strongly recommend pouring yourself a glass of cold brew when you're done and kicking your feet up by the fan. (What? You have air conditioning? Well, aren't you just Mrs. Fancy-Pants...)

Monday, April 27, 2009

Tea and Cake...

I'm in! I've joined the Daring Bakers, a super-secret group that I've been wanting to be a member of since I first started reading blogs. Every month, members are assigned a recipe to bake - usually something difficult that we wouldn't try on our own or something fun that allows for a million different variations. The latter was the theme this month...

The April 2009 challenge was hosted by Jenny from Jenny Bakes. She chose Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake as the challenge.

Now, I am not a huge cheesecake fan - they're tasty, but I'm not sure I would ever order one at a restaurant. This one was fantastic though and I may just be a convert.

I modified Abbey's basic recipe to make an Earl Grey tea and lemon cheesecake with a ginger/honey crust. Love of loves. It is delicious. The filling is smooth and rich - sweet but not to sweet - and mellowed by the tea. I'm a fan of the crust too, which I made from Anna's Ginger Thins (a cookie I have a seriously unhealthy addiction to).

I strongly encourage you all to try your own hands at cheesecake making - it takes a bit of planning but is actually quite simple to make.

Earl Grey Cheesecake
(Modified from Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake)

Warning: This cake needs to be chilled overnight and it will need an hour for baking and another hour or two for cooling before refrigeration.

2 C (180g) Anna's Ginger Thins (or other crisp ginger cookie), crushed to crumbs
4 T butter, melted
2 T honey

3 sticks (24oz) cream cheese, room temperature
1 C sugar
3 large eggs
1 C heavy cream
5 bags Earl Grey tea
1 T lemon juice

Preheat over to 350 degrees F. Begin to boil a large pot of water on the stove for the water bath.

Heat heavy cream on the stove but don't boil. (I heated 2 cups of cream to avoid burning one cup and have set aside the extra cup for coffee or ice cream later this week.) When hot, pull off the burner and add the tea bags. Let cool. Wring out the tea bags into the cream (it's okay - probably preferable - if a little of the tea leaves fall into the cream) and strain. Store in the refrigerator.

Mix together the crust and press into the bottom of the pan.

Mix cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, fully incorporating each one and scraping down the bowl before adding the next. Add the cup of heavy cream and lemon juice and blend until smooth and creamy.

Pour batter into the crust. tap the pan on the counter a few times to bring all the air bubbles to the surface. Place the pan into a larger pan and pour boiling water into the larger pan until halfway up the side of the cheesecake pan. If the cheesecake pan is not airtight, cover bottom securely with foil before adding water.

Bake 45 to 55 minutes, until the cake holds together but still has a lot of jiggle in the center. It should be completely firm yet. Close the oven door; turn the heat off and let it cool for one hour. This lets the cake finish cooking and cool down gently enough so that it won't crack on the top. After one hour, remove the cheesecake from the oven and lift carefully out of the water bath. Let it finish cooling on the counter, then let it chill in the refrigerator overnight.

Pan note: The creator of this recipe used to use a springform pan, but water always seeped in and made the crust soggy (not so in my case). She now uses one of those one-use foil "casserole" shaped pans from the grocery store. When it comes time to serve, just cut the foil away. I've also seen folks use ramekins and muffin tins.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

One more quick update for you...

...remember when Michelle Obama's organic garden at the White House took me by surprise?

Well, you're not going to believe this.

Isn't he the sweetest?

Pete made me a cake yesterday for my birthday... from scratch... and... not only was it the first cake he'd ever frosted - it was the first cake he'd ever made! I swear you'd never know... it's delicious. :O)

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

A Whole Slew of Best Practices...

...and here I thought I was doing a good job of giving you one at a time.

Treehugger has put together the Best of Green Awards, recognizing the most eco-friendly companies, people, products, and practices in a number of categories:
The results are pretty fascinating and include best health legislation, best local food blog, best food movement, best practices by a big food brand, and many others.

What's more, you get to vote on the Best of the Best! So go check it out and weigh in on who's setting the best example.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Homesteaders, Sharecroppers, and a Barbecue...

...incredible pictures from the '40s, courtesy of the Library of Congress' Food Security Administration-Office of War Information Collection (via photo district news).

New Mexico Homesteader. October 1940.

Canned vegetables: yellow squash, peas, beets. Between 1941 and 1945.

Sharecroppers chopping cotton. June 1941.

Kitchen utensils and spices. Between 1941 and 1945.

New Mexico Homesteaders. October 1940.

Harvesting corn. October 1940.

Cutting pies and cakes at a barbecue. October 1940.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Best Practices: Ministry of Food

I'd like to start this post off by picking up on my last one, when I quoted Barbara Kingsolver's book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle:
Cooking good food is mostly a matter of having the palate and the skill.
A palate, I think, simply comes with time and a willingness to try a variety of foods. Take, for example, my beloved boyfriend - Pete:

Pete didn't eat vegetables for 25 years.


Probably not since he looked like this:

Pete's the crayon. Sorry, I couldn't resist.

He was raised on canned yams and microwaved broccoli, and when we met almost 6 years ago his philosophy was to avoid eating anything green.

I don't blame him.

Over time - after many trips to farmers markets and farms, after watching Jamie Oliver dig up and prepare veggies from his garden (god bless the Food Network), after buying and preparing fruits and vegetables in their natural state (brussel sprouts actually come on stalks and carrots more often resemble crooked crone's fingers than the symmetrical cones that Bugs Bunny munches) - Pete learned to love vegetables.

"I'll eat just about any vegetable now... as long as I respect where it came from," he comments from the other side of the room.

Skill is a little trickier.

Whatever skill Pete and I now have in the kitchen was accrued by trial and error over many home-cooked meals. I'm not sure I'll ever live down the time tried to cook chicken by mashing it into a frying pan with my spatula, burning it and the onions surrounding it and setting off the fire alarm in my apartment while my dinner guests asked if I needed any help. I wouldn't wish some of those experiences on anyone...

Fortunately, we have Jamie. Well... okay... we don't, but the Brits do. (Yes, I'm finally getting around to that "best practices" bit.) Jamie Oliver has set up Britain's first Ministry of Food. It's not actually an official ministry, but it is doing a bang-up job of getting people to cook their own meals and of educating the English on the origins of their ingredients. With this program, Jamie takes out a lot of the trial and error, imparting instantaneous skill and launching the participants directly into cooking tasty meals of their own.

How does he do it, you ask?

Simple: I know how to cook a few dishes (as messy as that learning process may have been) and I have at least two friends who don't know how to cook at all. It's simple arithmetic: if I host a dinner party and cook the meal with my two friends, teaching them how to make the dish in the process, then there are now 3 people who know how to cook a dish or two. His catch is that those two friends should then go and teach that dish to two of their friends, and so on... exponentially increasing the number of people who can cook.

Here's a promo for his program:

This video is a bit more informative, but they wouldn't let me embed it.

I just think the idea is genius in its simplicity - and who doesn't like to have a few friends over for wine and food? Brilliant.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

This just in...

Holy cow. They're actually going to do it.

Common Sense

I've started reading Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life (review to come later) and wanted to share a passage that struck a particular chord with me:
A handful of creative chefs have been working for years to establish this incipient notion of a positive American food culture - a cuisine based on our own ingredients... However, to the extent that it's even understood, this cuisine is widely assumed to be the property of the elite. Granted, in restaurants it can sometimes be pricey, but the do-it-yourself version is not. I am not sure how so many Americans came to believe only our wealthy are capable of honoring a food aesthetic. Anyone who thinks so should have a gander at the kitchens of working-class immigrants from India, Mexico, anywhere really. Cooking at home is cheaper than buying packaged foods or restaurant meals of comparable quality. Cooking good food is mostly a matter of having the palate and the skill.

The main barrier standing between ourselves and a local-food culture is not the price, but the attitude. The most difficult requirements are patience and a pinch of restraint - virtues that are hardly the property of the wealthy.
It's not common, but I certainly have been accused on multiple occasions of being a food snob, which is an offense that I take very personally. My frequent visits to the farmer's market (the one that sells local goods instead of the one with bananas and oranges and parmigiano-reggiano), my pursuit of organic food that is hormone/pesticide/fungicide-free and raised sustainably, my aversion to factory-made apple pies that can sit out for 2 months and not get moldy (true story)... I'm not doing this because I'm trying to keep up with the cool kids. I'm just trying to keep myself and my environment healthy.

It started in college when I was broke and trying to eat healthy. My boyfriend, Pete, and I watched a lot of Food Network between classes and it occurred to me that good food didn't have to be out of reach just because I had stooped to picking pennies out of the gutter (also a true story)... a few cheap ingredients (beans, pasta, tomatoes, etc.) thrown together with some spices (a bit more expensive, but worth it because of their shelf-life) can produce a really good meal.

As it happened, an appreciation for tasty food led to an appreciation for good ingredients, which naturally led to fresh ones... seasonal ones... ones that didn't have scary chemicals in them... and when I finally got out of college and got a job and could really afford to buy the food that fit my philosophy, I was disturbed that my new ingredients were oftentimes inaccessible to folks with less money - people like my former self - who neither have a garden nor the $5 for a gallon of organic milk. Before I knew it, I woke up one day with a strong bent toward food justice. Kingsolver seems to be down-playing the cost of food a bit too much for me... but that's precisely the problem... now that we know what good food is, we need to figure out a way of sharing the wealth.

Really, this is all to say: don't knock the sustainable, organic movement. Maybe it's a fad for some people, but for many it's just common sense. And, anyway, isn't a fad that promotes a healthier planet a good thing at its roots?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Cookbook Review: The Modern Baker

In January I discovered the DC Public Library. Of course I knew one existed and had even visited a time or two before, but when the cold weather hit down here (my Michigan friends and family are probably laughing at me now) I decided to burrow in and read. I've gone through an average of a book a week since then, but little did I realize that I would soon have to up the ante.

Libraries have cookbooks.

I was shocked. I don't know why I didn't come to this conclusion earlier, but it caught me by surprise as I was browsing the non-fiction aisles last weekend. There are so many baking books I've been wanting to try out, but cost is a bit of a hurdle... I mean, who really has $40 to throw at a new cookbook every few weeks??

So I pulled a stack off the shelf and launched into Nick Malgieri's The Modern Baker on Sunday afternoon.

I have to say that the most impressive thing about this book is that it shows you how to make croissants and puff pastry in about an hour... for those of you who aren't crazy enough to devote the better part of a Saturday to what is now apparently the old-fashioned way of making these basic pastries, let me assure you that Nick deserves all the good things coming to him for sharing these secrets with the public. His process is quick and sensible, and is definitely the next thing on my "to bake" list.

In fact, I would have made croissants on Sunday if his Chocolate Caramel Pecan Tartlets weren't so darn attractive. The little sweet tart shells filled with homemade caramel folded into dark chocolate were just to hard to pass up... and, trust me, the results were phenomenal. I wish I could post the recipe for you all, but I'm afraid you'll just have to waltz into your own public library to get the goods...

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Graham Crackers... who says they're just for kids?

I mean, really, graham crackers were invented as a means of incorporating whole grains into the average American's diet, which in the early 1800s (as now) leaned more towards refined white flour than rye or whole wheat. We'll just ignore the fact that Reverend Graham conceived them as part of the Graham Diet, which was supposed to curb "unhealthy carnal urges..." yeah... feel sorry for the students at Oberlin College, who were forced to endure his regimen for the better part of the 1830s.

Anyway, I love 'em and it occurred to me a couple weeks ago that it was probably possible to make them at home.

The recipe below doesn't taste like Nabisco, but - trust me - they are totally addictive... and I've somehow fooled myself into thinking that they're healthy to boot. I mean, they do have whole grains and I kept the refined sugar far away from this recipe.

Now all I need is a few marshmallows and an open fire...

Graham Crackers
1/2 c AP flour
1 1/4 c whole wheat flour
1/2 c rye flour
1/2 c raw sugar
1 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t sea salt
3/4 t cinnamon

Mix the above ingredients in a food processor. (You could do it with a regular mixer or by hand as well... the processor will just make this easier.)

1 stick unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch squares

Process or "cut in" the butter until mixture resembles a coarse meal. (Think pie dough.)

3 T molasses or honey
1 T maple syrup
1/4 c cold water
1 t vanilla

Add above ingredients and mix until the dough collects in a ball.

Roll out the dough until its about half an inch think, cover it in plastic wrap, and chill for at least a half hour. When it's ready, dust a workspace with flour (your choice) and roll the dough out to about an eighth of an inch thick... a bit on the thick-side for a cracker. Now you have a lot of options open to you - I cut my crackers into squares, but feel free to pull out your cookie cutters or use a glass to cut circles out of your dough. I ended up baking my scraps as they were, and they actually made for some of the better crackers. Oh, and if you want, you can use a fork to prick holes in yours or to spell out your roommates' names... it's really not necessary for the consistency of the cookie though.

Bake for about 13 minutes at 350 degrees on a greased/lined baking sheet... be mindful that they'll continue to cook a bit more after you pull them out of the oven.

Yield: Not enough.

At long last...

My apologies for my long absence... an especially rough work schedule and a week or two of some unknown illness kept me out of the blogosphere, but here I am - again - ready to get back to work.

To begin, I guess I should probably post my long-lost inauguration pictures. I actually would have put them up earlier, but I was trying to figure out how to do a montage, which - as you will see - didn't quite work out. Hopefully you'll appreciate them anyway.

We'll start with my favorites...

...I got such a kick out of watching my city become something like a scene from Titanic...
...people... masses of people... literally flooded Washington's streets on that January morning, trying to make it to one spot on the Mall or another...

...the District didn't plan all that well for the non-ticketed crowd and left us without a route past the reflecting pond in front of the Capitol Building. That's when everyone started jumping barriers and streaming over (and under) the commuter highways that run through the middle of the city. Those big orange dump trucks were originally intended to block the use of the roads from foot traffic... haha.

It was fun to see the city that way though... not a car moving, people shuffling along Independence Avenue or 6th Street SW - some half-awake, moving silently; most in a festive mood, singing "Kiss Him Goodbye" and proudly waving tiny American flags.

Despite the numbers (that was without a doubt the largest crowd any of us will ever be a part of as long as we live) everyone was friendly, helping each other over barriers, giving sporadic high-fives, holding up crowds so a family of five could weave its way across the street. I was only mildly surprised to find out later that no one was arrested that day in DC.

After about two and a half hours of walking, I ended up at the base of the Washington Monument - usually a 45 minute jaunt from my house. There was no way you could see the Capitol Building from there but off in the distance there was a Jumbo-Tron, and believe me... the crowd back there was as psyched as the folks in the front... if not more so. The crowd sang in unison, jeering at some officials as they made their way onto the stage and cheering for others... an air of triumph was impossible to ignore.

With all of the noise we were making, I was shocked when everything went absolutely silent... as the music played and Joe Biden took his oath, there wasn't a peep from the nearly 2 million standing in our nation's back yard. Cheers went up after Biden was finished, then all was still again. As Obama took his oath, some people cried and everyone cheered and we hugged our friends and family and the strangers next to us with equal vigor.

During his speech, there were loud affirmations from the crowd, and when he was done no one wanted to leave. People drifted from place to place, trying to get a better vantage for a photograph, heading off to watch the parade, giving interviews for the press. Some simply sat down, tired after a long morning of excitement.

And then Bush flew overhead...

...and we knew that it was finally over... everyone went over to skate on the reflecting pond.

The end. :O)