Little miss muffet…eating her curds and whey…


On April 16, 2015 the Barrington public library offered a free presentation to the public; “Cheese Making 101”, that both my wife and I were fortunate enough to attend. Matilda Coletta and Phil Griffith, two local chefs, conducted a great presentation on how anyone can make various types of cheese at home, with little experience and a minimal number of ingredients’.


Malinda completed her degree in home economics, and currently continues to inform folks about food science and nutrition. Phil Griffin her husband, attended Johnson and Wales and taught culinary studies there, and in addition spent a number of years as a chef.  They both enjoy cooking and on an ongoing basis share their knowledge with numerous groups throughout Rhode Island and nearby Massachusetts.  They also offer cooking classes through their website

Their presentation lasted approximately 60 minutes. They are both extremely energetic and fun, and in between their anecdotes, stories, and comic relief along with some fun bickering – they did a great job in entertaining the group, as well as informing them on the ease of cheese making.

With regards to making cheese, although the recipes can be rather simple, that is, they don’t require a lot of different ingredients, there are some critical elements that the chef needs to pay attention to. Temperature is one of those critical elements. For some people, temperature control can be one of the toughest operational processes to master. One of the suggestions that the presenters offered to help control temperature, was to bring the milk temperature up slowly. Heating the milk gradually, allows the chef to “approach” the desired temperature, but not exceed it. Heating it too quickly, and you could fly right past the desired temperature, and that could ruin the process. Another critical element is the ‘pans’ that are used. That said, the proper balance off acid and bases is the key to success as well. Aluminum pans are NOT good for cheese making as they will interfere with that balance of “acids and bases”. They recommend stainless steel pans.

They were able to share 3 different cheese recipes with the group – ricotta, yogurt, and mozzarella cheese. What was amazing to me was how simple many of these recipes were to follow. Depending on which type of cheese you were planning to make, was dependent on the types of ingredients that we needed for the recipe. In all types of cheese making, the one thing that remains consistent – the cheese maker’s goal is to try to “separate the curd from the whey”. The “curd” is the solid portion and the “whey” the liquid.

Some of the ingredients that are needed are milk, cream, salt, and citric acid. Interestingly they recommended using “raw milk” for the best and most consistent results. Raw Milk – this is milk straight from the source be it cow, goat, sheep or even buffalo. It is full of natural bacteria and organisms.  Pasteurized and ultra-pasteurized are sometimes used, however, not really recommend. Pasteurized Milk – this is milk which has been heat treated to up to 172 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 seconds or more in order to destroy any undesirable bacteria present. However, by heating the milk (or cream) during pasteurization it can affect the natural enzymes and proteins in the milk.  By heating it to such a high temperature, the whey proteins can be altered as part of the process. The curd you get tends to be slightly weaker. [Also, pasteurization definitely changes the flavor of milk].  One final ingredient is called “rennet” – available in tablet or liquid.  There are several types of rennet available, vegetable, animal and organic rennet and all work equally well.  Some people do use “junket” as a rennet substitute, but rennet is the best.

With regards to equipment, I mentioned earlier that a stainless steel pan is preferred.  A scoop-strainer helps scoop out curd like ricotta and other types of cheese. A strainer – plastic or stainless steel should be used to drain the curd. Cheese cloth or linen clothes are used for straining harder cheeses. A cooking thermometer. There are numerous types; some that can be hand-held, and others that have an insertable probe that drapes over the side of the pan.

When Malinda was making the mozzarella, it was interesting to see how the yield in the curd had changed.  She began by scooping the curd into the plastic strainer.  She rotated the strainer over and over, to drain as much whey out of the curd. She continuing to rotating, scooping out more curd, and it was surprising to see how much smaller the yield had gotten.  She then began to work the yield by hand continuing to extract as much liquid as she possible. Stopping to microwave it for 30 seconds and then continuing to work the curd.  She repeated this process several times, and after some rigorous kneading and stretching – the mozzarella was ready!

Our final treat, was to be able taste the fresh the yogurt and mozzarella cheese that they made for us. It was amazing to see the taste difference between this fresh cheese and the store bought. This was a great experience, and I would highly recommend that anyone who has the opportunity to try it, give it a whirl. It’s a great family experience for adults and kids to share. Recipes for making all types of cheeses are readily available on the internet. Many of these ingredients, additional suggestions, and equipment is available on line at

Please make sure to visit Malinda and Phil’s website.  As they like to say…”We teach you how to play with your food”.



“If the shoes fits”……repair it!!

101-2365_Shoe_Repair_George_20141108-38“Those were the days my friend, we thought they’d never end, we’d sing and dance forever and a day…” are just a couple of the chorus lines from the song that Mary Hopkins sung and made famous back in 1968. If we take a look back to 1968, it was such a different time and place in our society’s history. The unemployment rate was 3.8%, the cost of a gallon of gasoline was 34 cents, you could buy your favorite song on a 45 record from the corner drug store, and when the bottoms of people’s shoes wore out…almost everyone had them repaired! Since then, shoe repair businesses, as well as, many other traditional businesses slowly but surely have gone by the wayside.

‘Shoe-makers or cobblers’ as they would become better known, had been in the business of repairing, restoring, and reviving all kinds of men’s, women’s, and children’s shoes for years. Even prior to the 1960’s, these artisans actually created many peoples shoe’s hence, earning them a more common name – “shoe-makers’.

I was fortunate enough to visit one of these local businesses who continue to carry-on the tradition of repairing people’s shoes. As you walk into the store you’re, greeted by a chipper gentleman named George. George has a quick wit and a great personality. Your senses are immediately drawn to stores surroundings. The sights and smells of the leather mixed with the different type of adhesives and the various dyes that he uses in the repair process permeate the air.

His business continues to thrive, even though we live in such a disposable society. Many of today’s shoes, unfortunately he is unable to repair, mainly due to the materials they are made from and the type construction. Shoes that are made from rubber or canvas in most cases may not be repairable, or for that matter, it may be cost prohibitive for the repair. However, premium world grade leather shoes like, Salvatore Ferragamo, Santoni, Allen Edmonds, Gucci, Magli, Johnston & Murphy, and Alden are just some of the top brands that he might have come across from time to time. (Just to note, a men’s pair of Santoni’s can cost upwards of $850 a pair!) The more common and more mainstream types, which he might see for repair, are Florshien, Cole Han, and Prada. Interesting enough, he has many firefighters and police employees who bring their work shoes in for repair. This makes perfect sense, as they are quality made shoes as well.

As he continued to escort me though his store, we continued his tour, and he explained what many of the various machines were used for. As you might expect, he does have his standard workbench and hand tools used for most of his repairs. A shoe stand, used to prop the shoes in place, while he pries, cuts, glues, or hammers. On the right side of his workbench, I saw something that caught my eye. I noticed a small container oozing huge amounts of this stringy substance. After closer examination, I observed it was a bottle of adhesive. However, from removing and replacing the brush so frequently, over a period of time, it created something that had the appearance of mini ‘white-volcano’, spewing white lava. Next to his workbench, he has his inventory of various sized soles, heels, and leather pieces which he uses for most of his repairs.

There are other machines of various sizes, strategically placed throughout the store that are the additional tools of his trade. One particular machine was his “shoe press”. Once the soles (or heels) are glued into position, he places these inserts onto the arms of the shoe press. He then places these ‘arms’ into the shoes, then clamps the arms down, creating pressure until the glue dries overnight. He has some other vintage shoe presses that he no longer uses. These had the ability to connect to an electrical wall outlet, which would allow them to heat the shoes and the adhesive, while applying pressure as well. Next to these, were two other types of machines. Once the soles, leather pieces, or heels were glued into place and dried, any overlapping portion needs to be removed. The first machine was known as a ‘nubber’. This ‘nubber’ is used to remove the larger amount of excess material, then the shoes can be transferred to the second machine, the ‘trimmer’. This trimmer is used for the finer detail work and removal before the final sanding and buffing. This trimming, is not as easy as it looks. The shoes have to be held in the correct position on the machine at all times, otherwise too much material gets removed, or the shoes could get damaged. I watched as he continued to work on a few of these repairs, and how careful he was in removing the excess material. Behind his workbench, was a lighted heat-box that allowed him place a shoe onto a holder inside the box. He had 3-floodlight high intensity lights, to heat or softens the shoes to make them more pliable and easier to work with. These worked great for removing the rubber soles for repairing or replacement. There were also some upright heavy-duty stitching machines, for the larger boots and leather items.

There were two old fashioned Singer sewing machines for the more delicate items. We discussed what some of the more difficult challenges that he’s encounter. Many times he is asked to dye and match the bridesmaid shoes to their dresses-another difficult task. In most instances, the materials absorb the dyes differently, making it extremely difficult to match to the dresses.

One final piece of history that he shared with me was that he had two shelving racks that were salvaged from a Brockton shoe factory and given to him. These rack date back close to a 100 years! Ironically, during the roaring 20’s, Brockton became known as the shoe manufacturing capital of the world. I guess it’s fitting that such items should remain in business where they can continue to be used, appreciated, and keep the traditions intact.






Enter a doorway into the past…

Thumb_9916_Delektas_Pharmacy_20140701I’ve attend numerous photography seminars where I was encouraged by many professional photographers who lectured amateurs (like myself) and other professionals alike about “pre-visualizing” a scene or photo. That is, pre-planning in advance for capturing that special photo. Their lecture consisted of planning for the appropriate time of day or season, the type weather, as well as the nicest area or location to obtain the best composition. Ironically, I had been doing just that with respect to a particular location I’ve been eying to photograph for numerous years. I had driven by this particular location on numerous occasions, waiting patiently for the right moment to capture the photo.

This winter a group of us visited Newport for a social gathering and photography event. What we hadn’t planned on, was the amount of snow we were about to receive that day, but we still planned going. We arrived in Newport, settled in for a bite of lunch, and then ventured out to photograph. Needless to say, once we noticed how heavily the snow began to fall and that the roads were becoming dangerous we decided to cut the afternoon short and head home. The driving was extremely slow. However, as I proceeded home, I was treated to the scene that I had pre-visualized and desired for numerous years.

Many might remember “Gower’s Drug store” depicted in the classic film “It’s a Wonderful Life”. Or maybe “Vincent’s Drug Store” highlighted in the movie “The Sandlot”. Well we don’t have a town named Bedford Falls or Glendale located near us…but we do have a small community of Warren, Rhode Island, that has its own unique taste of nostalgia. The photo below is the exterior of Delekta’s pharmacy during that heavy snowfall that evening. Delekta’s is located on Main Street, in Warren. The lighting, the time of day, and the weather were perfect for me to acquire the photo I wanted. I titled the photo “Every time a bell rings”, because it reminded me so much of the drug store depicted in the film “It’s a Wonderful Life”, and was one of the classic lines from the film.

Delekta’s is a family owned pharmacy that still maintains the nostalgic look and feel both inside and outside. Several months later, through a mutual friend I was able to gain access to photograph the interior of the pharmacy. I met with the current owner Erik, who graciously allowed me to photograph the interior. The building that houses the pharmacy is over 150 years old. But as for the pharmacy itself little has changed. It truly is an amazing place. It’s like stepping back in time to a different era. The pharmacy at Delekta’s continues to fill prescriptions for its customers who remain loyal to the pharmacy and its longtime ownership. During my time photographing, several patrons came and went. I couldn’t help but observe how personal there service was. Each patron knew Erik, and most importantly, Erik knew them.

Very different from the big-box retailers that include pharmacy, not as profit center, but as a way of luring consumers into their stores in hopes that they purchase other items during their visit. And maybe, you might find the same pharmacist working there, the next time you visited. Delekta’s features an original tile floor, a vintage manual cash register (which includes a “5-cent” key on its keyboard). Still on display is much of the vintage glassware, apothecary items, and medicine bottles that one might expect to see in a pharmacy from the 1940’s. And for a treat, they have a vintage working soda fountain where you can several flavors of ice cream in a dish or a cone, or you can order one of their famous “cabinet’s”. Cabinets are a Rhode Island tradition – but Delekta’s makes theirs with their own secret syrup ingredients. (Cabinet’s – better known as a frappe or milk shake to non-Rhode Island folk). They even have some cute 2- seat booth for those who decide to have a seat and enjoy their ice cream and the view.

So if the fast-pace of your day-to-day life is stressing you out, pay a visit to Delekta’s. It’s like stepping back in time to a slower turn-of-the century lifestyle. Stop in for a “coffee-cabinet” and enjoy it the old fashioned way.

No-lights, camera, action, pumpkins, and more pumpkins…

6173_RWP_Pumpkins_201310018This fall my wife and I, along with some friends had the opportunity to visit the “2013 Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular – Pumpkinville” event at Roger Williams Park.

This was our first time visiting, and it truly was spectacular to say the least. It was awesome to be able to walk along and view the display of over 5,000 illuminated jack-o-lanterns representing various regions of the U.S.A.

It was very crowded that evening, but definitely worth the wait. After purchasing our tickets, we proceeded down the trail, and it took approximately 45 minutes before we arrived at the displays.

The carvers divided the displays of pumpkins into various vignettes within the walk. Some of these carvings were extremely intricate and the representations so realistic. They represented numerous dioramas from across America, cultural landmarks, history, fictional characters, cartoons, and many other childhood favorites.  Some of the regions that were included were, the Heartland of America, Pacific Coast, Mid-Atlantic, New England, and Appalachian Highlands.

We were informed that these carver-experts began working on these pumpkins in the middle of September.  They constantly continue to maintain the presentation and keep it fresh throughout the month of October.

As we experienced, weekends are extremely crowded so anyone planning to visit during those times, plan extra time.  Allow extra time for walking the trails into the displays, and with the crowd, it also does make for a difficult time in trying to take photographs.  But it is definitely an event that shouldn’t be missed.

Looff Carousel, Rhode Island – past meets present

In 1886, the shores of East Providence (i.e. Riverside), Rhode Island were fortunate to become the home of a very popular and luxurious waterfront destination. Along those shores, summer visitors were given an opportunity to enjoy numerous summer cottages, bath-houses, and a beautiful deluxe hotel. Labeled the “Coney Island of New England” visitors flocked to these shores and beaches to relax. Thus “Crescent Park Resort” was founded.

In effort to lure visitors off the beaches, and offer a different type of entertainment, the owner of the property at that time (Charles Boyden) came up with an interesting idea. He decided to build an amusement park on that Riverside waterfront section. A few years later, he hired a furniture maker/wood carver Charles I.D. Looff to build a carousel on the property. Looff’s carvings were different than most.  His animals and horse designs were creative, imaginative, unique, and stylish. Hence the Looff Carousel in Riverside was born.

During my youth in the 1960’s, I have strong memories of this very special place. It was one of my family’s and my favorite weekend destinations. During the summer months there was always something special happening there. The park catered to family members of all ages, young and old alike, On hand, was your typical theme park fair, awesome sea food, delicious all-you-can-eat clam cakes and chowder at the shore dinner hall, peanuts and cotton candy, among other usual amusement park snacks. There was even a special stand for popcorn and saltwater taffy-a seaside favorite.

Obviously one of the other major attractive features of the park were the notable rides and midway games. Many might remember, ‘Kiddy-land’,’Tumble Bug’, ‘the Flying Fish’ (a roller coaster style ride), ‘Go carts’, ‘The Fun House’, ‘The Showboat’, ‘The Whip’, ‘The Riverboat’, ‘Dodge Em’s’, “The Penny Arcade (with of course ‘Skeeball’), ‘Shooting Gallery’, and the “Ferris Wheel”. Many of these were riding-style attractions, while others were walk-through adventures.  Nonetheless, with the classic “in your face’ dayglow paint, their sights and sounds, offered us the fun times many of us remember.

Sundays were always a special day for me at the park.  On Sunday, they offered a lot of free entertainment. Many notable celebrities visited and performed for us.  Roy Rogers and Dale Evans (and Trigger of course), The Lone Ranger and Tonto, The Three Stooges, characters from TV’s Gunsmoke, were just a few of the entertainers that come to mind. When I think back, I still can’t believe I had the opportunity to see many of my TV idols (most of which I’d only seen in black and white!) appearing on that stage right in front of me in living color!  I remember what a thrill it was for me to actually shake hands and speak with “Festus” (Ken Curtis) from TV’s Gunsmoke. Those days, were happier days. People still had to deal with the challenges and strife of everyday life, but it seemed to be a lot easier to cope.

The park continued to thrive over the years, surviving tough economic times, as well as some pretty catastrophic weather, namely hurricanes. The Hurricane of 1938 caused significant damage, and Hurricane Carol, in 1954, which decimated a lot of the coast. Nonetheless, with a few repairs, and Crescent Park was back in business. Unfortunately, in the 1970’s, (along with many of its peers) the Crescent Park Amusement Park, ran into financial difficulty, and was forced into bankruptcy. A sad day for all of us who remembered the fun times we had experienced at their park over the years.

Luckily, the Looff Carousel has survived over time. A group of local citizens rescued the Carousel from being sold off. Shortly thereafter, it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976. In 1987, the United States Department of the Interior, National Park Service designated the carousel as a National Historic Landmark. The building is one of Looff’s classic circular buildings. From the exterior, the building appears to have three tiers.  The lower portion is the main entrance to the carousel ride itself.  The second tier provides additional interior lighting for the carousel. Finally, the topmost tier creates the “coppola or dome” shape that you can see.  The third tier, provides natural air circulation-a way to allow the heat to escape on those hot summer days.  Here are some photos that I’ve taken around the exterior of the carousel building.

In the summer of 2010, the Carousel was closed while they were conducting some major repairs. One of the main gears from the ride drive mechanism had to be replaced. It was not an easy job. The main center portion where the drive mechanism was located beneath the ride had to be exposed to gain access and replace the gear. There was no way of obtaining a replacement gear locally, so they had to have a company in some other area of the country, manufacturer and ship a replacement gear.

A “band organ” that was manufactured in Germany provides the “calliope” style music for the carousel. It utilizes a Wurlitzer 165 music roll system, to provide the music. [The Wurlitzer 165 replaced the original German cardboard book music system that was installed]. The carousel manager Ed, was nice enough to allow me to take some photos during its repair. I was fortunate enough to be able to see some of this equipment that normally is concealed while the ride is in operation. The music system, the drive mechanisms, the gears, etc. One note, the photos of the gear that needed to be replaced doesn’t really do justice to its size.  In person, its size is impressive.

During the repairs, I was fortunate to be able to get close and photograph many of the horses and animals in the carousel. Some of which were even mythical. The colors and designs were extremely vibrant, and they looked amazing. Many of the horses themselves were adorned with beautifully colored saddles. On some the harnesses and saddles they were decorated with gold and jewels. Some of the horses had smaller creatures and animals clinging to them. Rabbits, dragons, and serpents are just a few of the creature’s inhabiting the carousels domain. The following are some photos I took of the horses and animals in the structure.

In the building there are numerous other signs and artifacts from the original park.  There are vintage photos, original park game kiosks, sign’s, etc.  Many of which will bring back vivid memories of bygone era – an era that has not been forgotten.  Here are just a few of these images.

I’m very fortunate to live close to the carousel in Riverside.  I visit there numerous times in the summer. When I walk thru the carousel doors, I feel as though I’m stepping back in time. When you see the ride, hear the music, smell the popcorn, you are transported, to a different time and place. It really conveys a true vision of the past. Also, in today’s day age of video games, IPods, and computers, its’ really nice to see adults, children, and families spending quality time together enjoying each other’s company. I would strongly recommend to anyone, if you have an opportunity to see and experience the Looff Carousel, do it. It’s a fun filled afternoon with family and friends, both young and old.


Carousel motion video click to view















Fall Foliage – New England

The crisp air, apple picking time, pumpkins sold everywhere…a true indication that fall has arrived in New England.

This year seemed to be an extraordinary year to check out the changing leaves.  I’ve always felt so fortunate, living in New England to be able to see the leaves change almost every day.  As the temperatures dropped, more and more leaf colors continued to emerge.  I did utilize a great Android app called “Foliage Leaf Peepr”, which helped me find and report on the best and brightest colors this year.

Our New England cruise gave us a great opportunity to see the diverse range of color change from green, turning, moderate, etc.  The several photos that I’ve included with this post, were taken at Roger Williams Park, in Providence, Rhode Island.  Fortunately for me, I was able to take these shots the week prior to hurricane Sandy’s arrival.