Journal Entries From Dakota

April 10, 2010

This morning we set off just a little after 7:00 am. We loaded my car so it was brimming. Our drive took roughly 14 hours – brutal. We headed up I-88 from Batavia and continued on through Wisconsin and Minnesota. On our way we happened to pass a car that was completely in flames. The family was sitting a few feet away from the car and were clearly distraught. Once we reached South Dakota we stopped at the Corn Palace which as you can imagine was thrilling.

The Corn Palace

When we were about 4 hours away from our destination we watched a bird swoop down and smack someone’s windshield – completely shattered. We eventually turned on to 83 or maybe it’s 38… one of these. Towns, lights, signs, and speed limits all disappeared. We thought at 80 mph most of the way we might make it by 8:30 pm, but to no avail. It was almost 10:30 pm when we arrived.

We met up with Jenny and headed to one of the only-two restaurants in town – Taco John’s. Jenny introduced us to her friends quickly and then we called it a night.

 

New Words We Learned – and yes, I am most likely misspelling these…

  • Wachichu (“wah-shee-chew”) ~ whitey, honky, what presumably is sort of a derogatory term for caucausians
  • Tatanka ~ Buffalo (Special thank you Kevin Costner and Dances with Wolves)
  • How kalo ~ Hello Friend
  • Kadoka ~ whole-in-the-ground also the name of a town

Enough learning for one night. Time to sleep.

 

April 11, 2010

We woke up and  headed to Big Bat’s Shell Station (and restaurant) which apparently the main hangout spot in Pine Ridge. One friendly, but possibly drunk guy approached our table and asked…

Random stranger – “Are you guys singers? Will you sing for me?”
Our table – “no, sorry.”
Random stranger – “Well you’ll be singing for me tomorrow because I’m putting ants in your pants, and you’ll be going ‘owwie! owwie! owwie!'”

After some brekkie we drove out to Mount Rushmore. There we hiked and got up close and personal with some wild mountain goats. After that we headed to Custer National Park where we saw Crazy Horse’s Memorial or what some have called the “middle finger” to Mount Rushmore :). It’s still in progress, but will eventually become America’s largest sculpture.

Crazy Horse

Afterwards, we headed through a wildlife loop. There we saw vultures, deer (so many), pronghorn sheep, antelope, and buffalo. We managed to get stuck in a heard of tatanka while we were driving through the park. It was sort of terrifying being so close to these guys. It didn’t help we started playing the “Hey Buffalo!” game (you get a point for every animal that turns their head in your direction when you yell out their species name). Antelope also response to “cantaloupe”  for your information 🙂

Tatanka

We eventually made our way to Rapid City and got some dinner and drinks at the Firehouse Brewery Company. We then headed home (it took about two hours…).

 

April 12, 2010

Hello again. We got up and met with Jenny. She gave us a tour of the school and the Heritage Center. We ate at the school cafeteria and played with the kiddliwinks. After that, we setoff to the Badlands. Last time I was in the Badlands I was probably about 7 years old, it was raining, and I managed to slip and fall into a giant puddle of mud. We took Notch Trail that led us deep into the Badlands. There were very few signs on the trail and we were led up some treacherous looking ladder that eventually ended at this awesome scenic view. Can you see the ladder we climbed?

Badlands

When we finished up there we drove out to an indoor waterpark in Rapid City (after stopping by Wall Drug of course). We downed some margaritas at a Mexican joint and then drove home and discussed what our animal-spirit would be. They chose a deer or a hawk for me (two very different creatures…). Jenny got mother hen, Mike got  a monkey, Joe a dog, and Amanda a panda (of course).


April 13, 2010

Matakiosa ~ “All my family & relatives”

Today we woke up bright and early and headed out at 9:30 am for horseback riding. We were supposed to be there at 11:00 am, but were unfortunately late. Although the address said it was in Interior it was actually sort of somewhere out in the middle of nowhere. I got a horse named Festus who was a little finicky. It was ridiculously windy that day. The view was quite lovely and the family that took us out riding was very nice. We were led by an old Lakota man named Greg. He was sort of your typical kind of grumpy, dry-humored old horse-guy. His son was managing the ranch and told us a little about tribal politics and how money is being misused on the reservation.

This is Greg

When we finished our ride it became pretty overcast. It rained heavily on our drive back. We stopped by Wounded Knee and nearly got my car stuck on the muddy hill. Some of the graves were surprisingly well kept while others were barely intact. Overall Wounded Knee looks like it needs some more attention.

Wounded Knee

The best part of the day was when we returned to the reservation and took part in a traditional sweat ceremony. It’s customary for women to wear skirts to this so I had to borrow one from Jenny. We waiting while the locals worked to build a huge fire over stones. A faculty member at the school named Philamene told us about her life when she was growing up. She told us about how an uncle had joined the military and returned home one time with sodas and hotdogs. She said at first taste she thought they were disgusting (with good reason right?). She described some of the traditional fare which included praire dog, skunk, beaver, and much more. There is also a traditional healing recipe (barely-if-ever made) which includes male puppy as an ingredient. I know your first though is probably “ew” and/or something judgmental, but please bear in mind that of course your social norms and traditions are no-doubt different from the Lakota.

Sweat Ceremony

When the rocks were ready we all piled into this small tent and began the process. As rocks were carried in the water-guy – a clown shaman of some kind – threw some sweet grass on the hot stones. You were required to say “matakiosa,” when entering and existing the tent. Once all of the stones were in place, the light holes covered, and people seated we began the ceremony. After the flap was closed the heat intensified. We listened to two sun dance songs and then opened the flap and drank some water. That was the end of Part I of IV. It felt like forever and the heat was shocking. I had to put a towel over my legs and hands to block some of the heat. In the second and third round we each made prayers for family & loved ones while more songs were song. In part IV they cracked out the peace pipe (no, it doesn’t have what you think it has in there). The peace pipe is called a “Chalupa” and includes some combinations of grasses and ragweed (watch out allergies!). When we finished up the men left first followed by the women. As you walk out everyone stands in line and shakes hands or hugs. By this time you’re drenched in quickly evaporating sweat which is followed by a chill. We wrapped up our time together with a bonfire and you guessed it… Philamene’s favorite – hot dogs.

The Tent

Overall, the experience was good. The heat was almost unbearable. I can’t even describe how my face felt when they threw water on the rocks. I’m glad I got to experience that; although, from what the elders had told us many Lakota youth aren’t continuing the tradition. Apparently due to some rules in the constitution the Lakota weren’t permitted to practice their religion and and would be jailed if found performing their ceremonies. How funny that Americans fled Europe because of religious persecution only to begin inflicting the same requirements.

And that my friends, is brief coverage of my adventure to South Dakota! Next up is another quick follow up on my time in Paris. I would love to start planning the next adventure, but I can’t settle on where or when to go. Suggestions?

Lakota in Dakota I’m Coming for You!

Hi there everyone! Long time, no-post and all that.

Jenny and the Gang
Jenny and the Gang

So I am just going to write a quick one here tonight to let you all know I am heading off into the great blue yonder to visit my friend Jenny who is currently working for AmeriCorps. Here’s their X-mas photo.

Don’t know about AmeriCorps? Read about it here: http://www.americorps.gov/

My dear friend Jenny is volunteering out in Pine Ridge, South Dakota at a Oglala Sioux Native American reservation. There she’s been driving a school bus and bringing kids to class, teaching them, as well as running their extra curriculars, and meanwhile has stayed in contact with our hometown in hopes of getting more volunteers and aid to the Lakota people. Currently amongst our churches Jenny’s family has collected over 100 boxes of books to be donated to the Pine Ridge schools and book fairs!

The Lakota of South Dakota
The Lakota of South Dakota

There is not too much I can tell you yet about Pine Ridge; although, from what I have heard thus far it is one of the poorest counties in the United States.  According to wikipedia.org (take it for what it’s worth an’ all that), “The median income for a household in the CDP was $21,089, and the median income for a family was $20,170.” Here’s another little excerpt from wikipedia.org you might like to know:

Although Pine Ridge is the eighth largest reservation in the United States, it is also the poorest. Unemployment on the reservation hovers around 80%, and 49% live below the Federal poverty level.[2] Adolescent suicide is four times the national average. Many of the families have no electricity, telephone, running water, or sewer. Many families use wood stoves to heat their homes. The population on Pine Ridge has among the shortest life expectancies of any group in the Western Hemisphere: approximately 47 years for males and in the low 50s for females. The infant mortality rate is five times the United States national average.

Famous Lakota Touch the Clouds
Famous Lakota Touch the Clouds

So although this may not be the happiest trip I have ever been on, I am sure it will be an insightful one. Depending on the availability of wi-fi and phone coverage (which I hear there is little), I would like to document some of my trip.

Oh Boy!
Oh Boy!

We’ll see how this goes. We have already made plans to visit some of the more tourist-y areas like Wall-Drug, the Corn Palace, Mount Rushmore, the Badlands, etc. I was hoping we might be able to attend a sweat ceremony, but unfortunately we are still sitting in the burbs for the time being.

Well I should get to sleep seeing as I have to get up at 6 am tomorrow and drive all day (15 hours! ugh).I will keep you all posted and hopefully I might convince you to either donate some goods or time to the Lakota. Otherwise, at least visit them and give them your business.

Good night everyone and merry travels!

Mieux Vaut en Paix un Oeuf qu’en Guerre un Boeuf

Better an Egg in peace than an ox in war

Cows
Silly Cows

– I found this French proverb and find it particularly suiting for my first cooking class. Today I attended a cooking class at Vie located in Western Springs, Illinois with my friend Mrs. Branda. This class featured gnocchi, which I have never tasted (as far as I can remember) and have certainly never made. It is quite possibly one of the best cooking experiences I have ever had.

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Me, Paul Virant, Mrs. Branda, Cenard
Me, Paul Virant, Mrs. Branda, Cenard

Firstly, let me introduce you to this restaurant and of course its chef: Paul Virant

Paul Virant currently has numerous awards for his outstanding menus. Below is a list of a few from Vie’s site now:

Iron Chef
Iron Chef
  • Best New Chef 2007, Food & Wine Magazine, July 2007

  • Awarded Three Stars by Phil Vettel, Chicago Tribune, March 2005
  • Named Best New Chef by Chicago Magazine, May 2005
  • Named 2005 Rising Star Chef by Restaurant Hospitality Magazine
  • Named 2005 Rising Star Chef by StarChefs.com
  • Named 2006 Jean Banchet Rising Star Chef
  • He also appeared on Iron Chef America

When I spent these few hours at Vie today, I found him genuinely amiable and very knowledgeable on locavore-ism, wine, and of course tips and tricks of his trade. His menus are designed to combine interesting pairings with locally acquired food – while also minimizing waste. All food waste is preserved and donated to local farms for composting, most vegetables are acquired through City Farm (see here: http://www.southsideclt.org/city), and most conserve-able food products are utilized in other menu items. It was truly a pleasure getting to experience this.

THE MENU

———

Ricotta gnocchi, braised t & d willey artichokes,

grilled meyer lemons, radishes, tarragon

accompanied with 08 Alois Lageder, Pinoit Grigio, Dolomitit, Alto Adige, Italy

———

Wood-grilled dietzler farm top sirloin steak, arugula salad,

potato gnocchi, city farm san marzano tomatoes, parmigiano reggiano

accompanied with 06 Maestro Sanguineti, Nessum Dorma, Super Tuscan Italy

———

Crispy semolina gnocchi, werp farm greens,

mushroom conserva, aged balsamic

– accompanied with 08 La Quercia, Montepulciano D’Abruzzo, Italy

———

Biscotti di prato, blood oranges, organic creme fraiche

– accompanied with 07 Domaine De La Pigeade, Muscat De Beumes De Venise, France

———

No GLANDS?
No GLANDS?

If you’re mouth isn’t watering yet then I don’t know what’s wrong with you (perhaps you lack salivary glands?).  If you’re tempted to go to this restaurant (I’ll post more info. further along in this entry) or if you’re just curious to know my favorites, I’ll be happy to tell you:  First and foremost, the semolina gnocchi is amazing. It’s practically a dessert it’s so creamy. Secondly the complete dessert pairing of almond biscotti, blood oranges, creme fraiche, and that lovely dessert wine. You can smell the citrus in the wine! They are perfectly suited for each other. The next runner up would be the ricotta gnocchi. Mrs. Branda had noticed a meaty flavor that she was not particularly fond of, but i found it more than appetizing – I might forgo the bacon next time. Of course we can’t forget the beef! I have always – and will most likely never stop – loving steak. I like it medium to rare – well, in fact the bloodier the better if it’s a nice cut. The salad included only a few small cuttings of meat which was perfectly fine by me, because the salad and gnocchi alone were more than filling.

Thumbs up!A marvelous meal!

All right so have I talked you into it yet? Deliciousness all around. The next class coming up is all about pasta. Learn to make it from scratch on April 19th. I would enjoy taking another class; however, they do cost a pretty penny (not exactly a penny – but well worth it!). Actually while I’m at it, I will list the other classes (taught by the Sous Chef Nathan Sears) available in the future as well.

Ready?

April 28th Quick MealsEasy meals that can be cooked fast for when no one has time

May 19th Pizza and FlatbreadsOne of my favorites, pizza, along with other similar breads

June 9th BarbequeThe essential backyard foods, sausages, cornbread and salad

June 30th Vegetarian Cooking Complete dishes focused around vegetables to ease any mind that we need meat

Here is the link in case you would like to read further about either Vie or Paul:

http://www.vierestaurant.com/index.html

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Ad Hoc
Ad Hoc

I will undoubtedly post more as I try these recipes out on my own. Also, I wanted to inform you kids about a book recommended to me called Ad Hoc by Thomas Keller – writer of The French Laundry Cookbook and Bouchon. To buy this book or view other listings of a similar category just click the pic and you will be routed to Amazon.com. Apparently Paul Virant has adapted a few of the recipes in these books into restaurant-grade goodness. Two such recipes that I am glad to have acquired are for a mushroom conserva and a lemon pickle. The mushroom conserva involves cooking up a huge batch of mushrooms in a large quantity of olive oil which can then be preserved for months – and the remaining olive oil is infused making yummy salad dressing. The pickle is produced by grilling lemons and yes, essentially pickling them. From what I understand it is best to purchase meyer lemons as these are entirely edible.

So there you have it: Gnocchi and then some. I have learned something new – hopefully you’ve learned something new.

Alice
Alice

Did I spark your interest? I have completed yet another of my adventure-a-week items. I hope you’ve enjoyed hearing about this restaurant and that you’ll consider visiting.

Merry cooking my bloggy friends!

Oh wait!

I also wanted to comment on Alice in Wonderland – since my blog title is based on Jabberwocky (by Lewis Carroll, of course). So I have seen the movie and well, it’s not amazing. The costumes of course are pretty fun. J.D. had a role that was considerably above and beyond the old hatter’s call, but that’s to be expected since Tim Burton and J.D. are besties. Okay, I am getting to a point here – yes. I read just recently that Tim Burton based his White Queen on a Nigella Lawson – a TV cook. Burton was quoted saying, “She’s really beautiful and she does all this cooking, but then there’s this glint in her eye and when you see it you go, ‘Oh, whoa, she’s like really … nuts.’ I mean in a good way. Well, maybe. I don’t know.”

Care to compare the resemblance? Check out the videos in the link below.

White Queen and Nigella Lawson
White Queen and Nigella Lawson

Click here: http://www.thefoodsection.com/foodsection/2010/02/alice-wonderland-white-queen-based-on-nigella-lawson.html

All right, that’s all folks.

Now who here can tell me why a raven is like a writing desk?

Old Family Favorites

So I was taking a break from my work and began digging through old photos my dad has only recently scanned on to our computer. Both my grandpa on my dad’s side and my grandmother on my mom’s side have past away during my lifetime, and now we have collected some of those old and precious photos. Like most families, there are just about a million miscellaneous photos, but I’ve chosen some out of those many that I think are pretty pleasing to the eye – okay well they also have some sentimental value for me; although, i wasn’t alive when these were taken. We have some photos as old as 1938.

Allow me to introduce you to my family

So there you go. Try holding on to those awesome family photos because maybe even if you think some of them are kind of weird or whatever someone else in your family might still want them. I love these pictures!

~ Laura

A Hodgepodge of Experiences

Costa Rica!
Costa Rica!

Adventure-a-week (it’s nerdy but fun!)

Okay well that’s Costa Rica on the hanging bridges… adventures each week aren’t that exciting or picturesque, but fun nonetheless!

So another fun little thing I have started in my life recently is – well the name is stupid – but it’s an adventure-a-week. My mom read about someone choosing to do this rather than setting your typical new years resolution. The idea is each week you do something you normally wouldn’t opt to do – or something you’ve been meaning to do but never get around to doing. I started my list off by cleaning and organizing one thing a day. Well, okay, I know that sounds really boring, but I organized my towel closet so now it’s easier to find what i need. I organized the laundry room so now my socks won’t get lost behind the machine.

What else have I accomplished so far? I went to a blues club (above), I’ve been to a heavy metal show, I have started learning to play the guitar, and I have also started crocheting. It’s just sort of a fun way of passing each week. There’s much more to come too. Here are a few I have in mind – feel free to tell me if you think of any others (my friends have: exhume a corpse, ride a mechanical bull, and stage dive…)

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  • Paintball
  • Laser tag
  • Cosmic bowling
  • Order seed catalogues and plant a garden
  • Visit a mosque/synagogue/church I have no affinity with
  • Throw a summer party in winter
  • Take a cooking/beverage class
  • Try going to a shooting range
  • and more…

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New Seed Catalogues!

Look how cute!
Look how cute!

I’m pretty excited about this one. So far I’ve ordered and received 3 catalogues! There are so many nice flowers and veggies available. It’s just hard to decide which ones to order. Most of these catalogues offer seeds in these absolutely adorable seed packets. I might save them and either enlarge and frame a few that I like or otherwise make them into tree ornaments for Christmas. They have very nice illustrations. If you’re interested in planning out your gardens for spring I suggest you check out this site: http://www.botanicalinterests.com

If you click on the photo above it will take you to The Kitchn which has quickly become one of my favorite websites in my Google Reader! There you’ll be linked to a bunch of great places to order seeds from. So far I am thinking our house needs some butterfly mix and maybe a hummingbird mix. Some of these seed places also offer awesome little gift boxes too that include for example: Cottage Garden Seed Collection, Fragrant Flower Seed Collection, and Sweetheart Seed Collection. In any case, I just wanted to share this fun little find with you all. I’m excited for spring!!!

This is My Second One!
This is My Second One!

I Just Learned How to Crochet!

Another one of my “adventures” here: my friend Shauna has just taught me how to crochet. Unfortunately as would be expected, I kept dropping stitches on my first attempt. My scarf had tapered into nothingness so I had to start over again. Thanks Shauna!

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Guitar Legend: I Think Not…

 

My Guitar

 

Okay, guitar I haven’t exactly been excelling. I know G. I could tell you there are 6 strings and there are a bunch of frets. So far my fingers are too weak to hold down the strings – specifically my pinky – baby! I’ve been trying to learn the Plain White T’s song “Hey There Delilah” which I happen to enjoy and which I’m also informed was written after:

“Higgenson met Delilah DiCrescenzo, a nationally ranked American steeplechase and cross country runner.”

Thank you wikipedia. You’re always there for me.

Any-who, so far no luck. I can play the very beginning of the song so long as I don’t have to move my left hand whatsoever. I did happen to stumble across this nice tabulator place that will play the music for you while also showing the leader bar moving through the tabulator.

Here check it out: http://www.songsterr.com/a/wa/song?id=133

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Alice in Wonderland

Oh my ears and whiskers, how late it’s getting!” – Rabbit

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Time to get back to work.  Happy adventures everyone!  Spring will be here soon. Get READY!

Why I love Kingston Mines!

My B'day InviteKingston Mines is a really fun blues club in Chicago.  So far it’s quite possibly my favorite. I hear that the Green Mill is also an awesome time, but I have yet to experience it. Anyways we (family and friends) met up at Kingston Mines for my birthday (23 so old!) and listened to Lindsey Alexander and Larry McCray. Here why don’t you listen to them right now whilst you read this post? Just click the two images below and you can start listening to some of their music (you maybe have to open them in another window). It’s pretty fun.

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at Kingston Mines
at Kingston Mines
Larry McCray
at Kingston Mines

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This place is so fun because they have two rooms for the performers that are attached. If you want you can grab a seat in one room, eat some jambalaya, and wait until the next performer comes on or you can get up and dance in the main room if you want. The first time I went there was a fella’ there that was so tall, slim and nicely dressed. He looked like he came out of a movie. He was quite the smooth dancer. He wore a fedora  which I was particularly fond of.  Anyways, if you live in the Chicagoland area I suggest you check this place out.  You can check out their schedule and buy tickets here: http://www.kingstonmines.com/

There’s still more to come! Until then here are some of my b’day pics!

Me & Jen
Me & Jen
Steph, Patrick & Rebs
Steph, Patrick & Rebs

Dearest Internet, How I Love You So

Yay Internet

Does anyone else think it’s funny that when I woke up this morning and my internet wasn’t working it felt as though i couldn’t do anything i had meant to do today? I mean seriously what has happened here? work – online, friends – online, blog – online, my precious google reader – online. Why without my internet I’d be forced to read something new (and I’m waiting on the next Charlaine Harris book to come out) or I would actually have to do… laundry. Dun dun dun! I have held off on doing laundry for far too long and I have essentially a clothing mountain in the side of my closet.

Anyways, I have a number of things rolling around in my head that I’ve been meaning to blog about. Lately I’ve been a little distracted by planning, reading, and arranging some part-time work. I’m sad to say that Louis was murdered (for those of you following). Perhaps Henry will take his place someday in the future. For now I’m just going to leave a list here of things I want to mention hopefully within the next few posts. Ready? Here we go!

  • My birthday at Kingston Mines!
  • The Evolution lecture at Fermilab (on my actual b’day – w00t!)
  • Adventure-a-week
  • Seed catalogues – spring is coming… eventually… i hope.
  • Guitar – so far I know G!
  • Clothing I’ve seen lately that I enjoy
  • Learning to Crochet – thanks Shauna!

Those are just a few. I have to do some work first, but never fear details will follow! Oh and for those of you who don’t know: lately I’ve fallen in love with the True Blood series – specifically the books. You should check them out if you know what’s good for ya. Here click on this lovely picture. I wish I had just bought the box set. I bought each of them individually. Gah.

Love it!
Love it!

Cheesy Chop – A Curdling Experience

So last night was my first attempt at making homemade mac and cheese (This was in December of ’09).  I am sad to admit that Kraft has bested me and France doesn’t sell Velveeta (lol). No, I can’t make mac and cheese on my own… wah wah. FAIL!

Someone Else's Mac & Cheese
Someone Else’s Mac & Cheese

I did a very rudimentary search online for the proper fixin’s for homemade mac and cheese.  From what I understand… homemade mac and cheese is made with:

  • Lots of butter
  • Milk
  • Flour
  • Pasta
  • Cheddar Cheese

Also from what I read you can just make up your pasta and then melt the butter and throw in some flour and milk. Let that thicken a little and eventually you can add the cheese in – preferably after it has been taken off the heat. If you add a little white wine it will prevent the cheese from curdling.

This is how my catastrophe occurred: I had the pasta right. Butter – yes, flour – no.  I assumed it would probably work just about the same.  I melted some butter and added milk.  It obviously didn’t really thicken.  I also didn’t have white wine but I figured red would work just as well. Everything was going fine until I threw the first half of the cheese in (shaved). I turned the heat down super low (as low as our bad induction stove would go) and within minutes the sauce just snapped into something sad.  Little ugly chunks appeared and i continued stirring vigorously and removed it from the heat before i threw the rest of the cheese in. It separated. The sad bits sank to the bottom and all I had left was a watery sauce on top.

We then attempted to bake it like as if we intended it to be a casserole. This ended up being an improvement but still pretty sad. The noodles tasted better and some of the cheese stuck. I basically just ate the noodles. By the end of this wonderful experiment we had a “cheese chop” sitting all lonely in a little dish on the counter.

I youtube’d after to try to figure out what the heck went wrong. I watched woman after woman cook cheese sauce like it was nothing! They didn’t take it off the heat or add wine or anything. I need to try this again and probably with flour.  Failure is one of the best ways to learn!

I did like that one woman -rather than adding typical cheddar – threw in gruyere, goat cheese, and a few other tasty ones.  It sounds delicious! When I discover how to do this properly I will let you know. I’m sure most of you who are taking the time to read this can probably make a cheese sauce already – if you can please share!

P.S.  I have yet to post the picture of my wonderful obomination but once I get it you will be sure to see it!

Paindemonium

Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day
Hello all!
I’m now back in Chicago.  My vacation has ended and unfortunately I am still suffering from a sinus infection.  At least now that I am home I can begin my job hunt.  In the meantime, I have begun making my own bread.  My sister-in-law showed me this great book called Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day that I have started producing bread with.
This is the easiest recipe that I tried out so far.  If you get the book it shows you how to make all of these great varieties of bread.  Definitely pick it up if you think bread-making is your hobby!
So the recipe is fairly simple. You just grab a 5-quart container, 1 1/2 packs of yeast or 1 1/2 tablespoons of active yeast, 3 cups of water, 1 1/2 tablespoons of salt, and 6 1/2 cups of plain ol’ flour.  According to their rules you don’t even need to knead it! You just mix everything together until it’s wet, and let it rise in a covered – non-airtight – container for 2 hours or more and then after that you can start baking.  I grabbed a grapefruit sized ball of dough, threw some flour on it, and then stretched it into a ball shape to rest.  After it rests for about a half hour you need to slice a few cuts in the top and scoot it onto a baking stone that has been preheating in an oven to 450° – along with this you also want to put a dish to steam 1 cup of water near a boiler.  Steaming the bread will apparently make the outside nice and crusty.  After another half hour your bread should be done!  My first one had some trouble – It looks like a volcano. The second one turned out much better!

 

Attempt #1

Once you make this batch of dough you can keep it for at least two weeks and the yeast will continue to work.  If you’re a dork like me you can give your dough a name (I read professional bakers often name their sourdough yeast).  I named mine Louis I in tribute to all those French leaders I have read about in the past month.  As you can imagine there are a few more to come soon.   So far it looks like my batch makes about 3 loaves, but I think it depends on how warm your house is while cooking because my dough didn’t rise as much as Amy’s.

Attempt #2
Attempt #2

So here’s my first food entry.  I have another that’s pending.  I attempted to make homemade mac and cheese with some epic failure.  Once I get that picture I will post for all of you mac and cheesers.  Good luck with your bread dearies!!!

Also, if you’re interested in going further with your bread making I discovered a wonderful article written at a site I like called Chocolate & Zucchini.  Here they go through how to create your own natural starter.  Check it out if you would like: http://chocolateandzucchini.com/archives/2009/07/natural_starter_bread.php

Dans la Nuit

Hello again ladies and gents!

Vivienne's Plane Meal
Vivienne's Plane Meal

This morning we woke up and went through our morning baby-breakfast routine and got ready for the day.  There is usually a small smiling face waking me up with some violently waving arms and legs.  After a little bit of preparation a delicious pot of mushy carrots or some sort of rice mix cereal comes flying towards the little hopper – which she’s not too quick to accept.  Vivienne has discovered how delicious “breakfast” cookies can be  especially with the addition of some youtube’d Elmo.  We have re-lived the yup-yup aliens of Sesame Street, danced with Feist in Yo Gabba Gabba, and unfortunately ended Lamb Chop’s “Song That Never Ends”.  So far my favorites have been clips from Disney’s Fanstasia.

Once we pulled the stroller down the stairs and strapped the little gal in, we headed over near the Pompidou (which has just recently opened back up) and did a little shopping.  I found these adorable leggings that were 30 euro at the BHV (similar to a Target or some well-known department store).  I thankfully bought my leggings for considerably cheaper.

Near Saint Eusteche
Near Saint Eusteche

We eventually made our way to this nice little brasserie.  I, of course, ordered steak with mushrooms and a delicious cheesy-potato mash combo (with Bearnaise sauce on the side – let’s not skimp on the tastiness).  This meal of course brought on the “meat-sleeps” and after a short nap, my brother and I headed off to the Louvre.

The Louvre!
The Louvre!

On Wednesday nights their hours are later (9:30pm), and we were able to cover most of the sections we were interested in.  We went through most of the Middle Ages, stopped by the Etruscans, sauntered through Napoleon’s apartment, and headed down to the Louvre’s original foundation.  Unfortunately I can’t find the cable for my camera otherwise I would be showing you all some very nice pictures… Instead I’ll show you some others from previous days.

Louvre Ceiling
Louvre Ceiling

It will probably sound ridiculous when I write this, but in Napoleon’s apartment I felt like most of my favorite pieces were sort of a challenge. I thought to myself  “I would like this in my home, but not that gawdy chandelier over there. I’ll bet I could make this ____.”  Of course, this is ridiculous – the man who created this ____ had years of practice and experience as well as having a country’s worth of resources to make this one silly little ____ (teapot, desk, lamp, you name it).   Like most art projects and grandiose plans, I make for myself I began thinking “ok. I could start by finding someone with a kiln or a metalworking shop and then just a few weeks of planning and gathering materials and easy peezy: here we have one perfectly rendered ____ (amazingly intricate silver water bowl covered in pearls and shells)…”

Louvre Dude
Louvre Dude

What’s the point in this story?  I ask myself…  It makes me happy that great pieces of work like these are treasured, saved and shared.  It makes me very happy to know that these pieces are available to the public and inspire people – even if they probably won’t hop right into a marble carving project. Oh lovely art.  How I love you so.

When we had finally exhausted our urge for art we hopped the metro and got off near Montmarte. We found another little brasserie right below Sacre Coeur. There I ordered a Croque Monsieur and a Pelforth Brune. It was pretty tastey; however, our service was awful. There was a soccer game on and a band playing downstairs so our server was completely distracted. Finally by about 11ish at night we reached Sacre Coeur and MAN is it BEAUTIFUL! I don’t mean just the building itself but the location. We were standing on the edge of this wonderful hill where you can see Paris’s entire skyline. We could see Notre Dame and our neighborhoodFrance! far off in the distance as well as the Eiffel Tower all lit up for the evening. It’s one of those views you just have to see atleast once during your lifetime. I am not even going to try to find a picture that will prove to you how nice this place is.

Now I have finally made it back home (home for now) and I am writing to you loverly friends and readers.  This was a very enjoyable day!

Vive La France!