Cherry chicken.

This is just worth mentioning because it's super yummy, even though it's not exactly a
recipe. At the grocery store the other day, on a whim, I bought chicken breast that had been seasoned with a Door County cherry rub. Normally, I don't buy pre-seasoned things, and I'll admit that I thought it was a little bit salty. But, hey, not everything can be perfect, right? I did like a little bit of salt with the sweet/tart taste of the cherries, but not too much.

Anyway, my favorite way to have chicken breast is to pan-fry on medium heat so that it cooks kind of slowly and stays really, really juicy inside. Then, since I have a big bowl of tart cherries sitting here waiting to be put into a pie, I decided to sprinkle some over the chicken. No sauce required -- these little cherries are usually pretty juicy, so they're good to kind of mash up a little bit and spread on the chicken.

Anyway. It was delicious. I had to share. :)


I was going to go blueberry picking today, but plans fell through -- it is also HOT OUT THERE. Although the heat is not going to keep me from heading over to the local annual art fair, where my dad is displaying his paintings again this year. Going to art shows always brings me back to teenage summers when I used to accompany my dad to art fairs around the state and the midwest -- the most fun were always the furthest away. ;)


Back on track.

So, where have I been the last week?

Where haven't I been?

Well, blogging. (Sorry!) :)

But here I am! It's Friday, it's a gorgeous, warm, end-of-July day and I'm listening to James Newton Howard's original score for the film The Village, and loving this afternoon. In fact, the last few days have been simply lovely.

It starts with friends, and goes on with family, and even further with the prospect of new and exciting things to come. As I mentioned, South Korea is definitely on the docket. I've been putting in my resume where I can, and keeping my eye out for positions once they start opening up for February. I'm in no position to go on any emergency-hire expediency-required last-minute escapes to the other side of the globe, but I'm hoping not to wait longer than February. Until then, there's plenty of other applications, interviews, and paperwork to do before any packing/moving/traveling happens. Of course, updates galore to come where all that's concerned! Right now, it's a waiting game and not much more.

Over the past couple of weeks, I've had some really good times with some of my greatest friends. One really fantastic friend is working his last day at the bookstore
tomorrow, so it has been bittersweet lately. It's so hard to see people go that I get along with so well -- it makes such a huge impact on daily goings-on, even (especially?) at work when you are with them many hours every day, every week. It's interesting to, for once, experience the feeling of being left. Historically, I never stuck around any one place as long as I've been here again, and I became accustomed to being the one who gave everyone else the news that I was leaving. I was the leaver, always. Now... I'm being left. It's an interesting sensation to finally catch up with how that feels on the other end.

The beauty of distance is the ability to communicate through letters.

Earlier on in the week, I got my hands on my first real cataloging project at the museum, which entailed a collection of 1940s dental hygiene and food values posters. Weird! But really funky -- and kind of disturbing in a going-to-the-dentist-makes-me-cringe sort of way. So the culmination of all of my "training" there has come down to this one first all-me project that includes cleaning, writing up condition reports and informational worksheets, photographing, and entering data into the computerized database. It's all very nice, actually. I'm convinced I couldn't do this sort of solitary work full time, but it's nice to have a chunk of time on Monday mornings to put toward something like this. And the whole point of the museum volunteering stint was to figure out if I loved it anyway, so... question answered. ;)

Anyway. Yesterday, my mom, sister and grandmother drove the couple hours northeast to Door County to check out an antique store. However, due to:

...I was running on fumes and could hardly stay awake for more than ten consecutive minutes in the car, or walking around an antique mall, for that matter. I had my camera with me, but was in no mood to be much of an imagist. Possibly, the one benefit of being terribly hungover and running on literally a half hour of sleep (at 8am), was that absolutely nothing was interesting enough to want to buy. However, I came away with some spoils! They were one major reason for going in the first place. Little red glories, that Door County is famous for:

Both sweet and tart cherries, the tart ones are best for pie, which I'll make soon. And the sweet ones are just for snacking, or adding to the pie for extra filler. So excited! So yummy.

We had lunch at a little place in Sister Bay, WI called the Mission Grille where I had a grilled cheese with tomato and pesto. I've been there once before and it's been delicious both times. It was a beautiful day to be by the lake yesterday.

Tonight, a ladies' night ensues for a majority of the girls at the bookstore. One of them is leaving us very soon to go back to college, so we're out to a local Irish pub for some yummy ale... or whatever. ;)

Happy summer! We're in the thick of it now.


25th Annual Best Friends Gourmet Bike Tour

We (mom and I) were probably 75% sure we weren't going to go biking today, because the weather was supposed to be really crappy. Isolated thunderstorms and humidity... ick. But then it turned out to be a lovely morning, and we geared up and went after all. 25 miles through rural Wisconsin for the 25th annual Best Friends Gourmet Bike Tour, which benefits the Best Friends mentoring organization. We did it last year, too, but we definitely made better time this year, even though it was hot. The sun and heat wiped us right out!

Check out my newly-taped handlebars. I love the red. ;)

We're really glad we went. And of course, it's always great to look forward to a big meal afterwards!

And on the topic of food, I had my very first ripe tomato to pluck today:

The flesh was sweet, but the seeds were a little sour. This might be a good sauce tomato. A bunch more are about to turn, so I'd better start preparing some good tomato recipes! ;D


Desperate snack solution: crêpes!

I'll never get over the wonder that are crepes. Seriously, I think they're amazing. One of those beautifully simple throw-it-together recipes that is so versatile, it can be used for a meal, snack, or dessert, depending on what's put with it. They're thin, dense little pancakes, perfect with just about anything! My favorite, and the one I'll share, is with the famous chocolate-hazelnut spread, Nutella.

Good old flour and eggs, I love you.

And it's more exciting for me because I just bought a new blender and this is the first time I've used it!



I've tried a few variations of the same recipe, the main difference being whether to use oil or butter, and whether or not there is water. It turns out that I like this version the best, which, as are most of the things I end up with, composites of recipes I've used in the past. Because this one uses butter, it's a little richer, and browns beautifully in the pan. Either make them all at once (they should be served hot) or make one or two and then refrigerate the batter, covered, for up to 24 hours.

All you need is a blender and a frying pan.

Makes 4.

1 cup all-purpose flour
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons butter, melted
a pinch of salt
vegetable or canola oil for the pan -- not too much; the crepes will swim in oil, otherwise.

In a blender, combine flour, eggs, milk, water, and salt. Add butter and continue to blend until combined and smooth. Heat a frying pan over medium-high heat, brush with vegetable oil, and make sure it's good and hot. Pour about 1/4 of the batter into the pan and swirl the pan a bit to coat the bottom with the batter. Let the crepe sit for about 2 - 3 minutes or until golden brown, and then flip and do the same to the other side. Serve hot, filled with favorite filling -- Nutella, jam, fruit, eggs, veggies, you name it.

It's like a blank canvas. ;)


Word's out: South Korea.

I'm no good at keeping exciting things to myself. Every time, I tell myself to just shut up (for once!) and wait to say something when things are more certain, but I can't help myself. I just have to share! It is a fault. ...I inadvertently let it slip to a coworker that I was thinking about pursuing something new. All it took was a sarcastic laugh in response to "You're going to be leaving next!" ...and the cat was out of the bag. Of course I had to tell my boss to make sure he didn't hear it through the grapevine, even though nothing is certain, and hardly even begun, and then everyone else inevitably found out some way or another. What am I doing? --or, I should say, what am I going to try to do?

Teaching English as a foreign language in South Korea!

I found myself at the local public library last week, trying in vain to find an adult nonfiction book or guide to South Korea -- or even just Korea -- that wasn't primarily about the Korean War. No such luck. So I left with a handful of children's geography books, which, as it turns out, where perfect for what I was after -- a basic overview (with pictures!) of South Korea.

I've typed up a resume and I'm beginning to search for positions in South Korea, probably Seoul, but possibly elsewhere. It seems to have come on suddenly, but the truth is that it's something that's crossed my mind occasionally for years -- I've been acquainted with a few people who have taught, or know people who have taught, and although I thought it was pretty cool and exciting, I never really thought it was for me.

After talking it over with one friend, and hearing tales of others who have had good experiences and had advice to impart, I pretty much decided that there were fewer reasons not to do it than to just go ahead with it.

So there's obviously a lot more where this came from. I'm diligently researching the country and the programs/education system there, and there's a lot to learn. Of course, there's no guarantee that I get a job, but I think my chances are good. And if all goes accordingly, I'd be en route to eastern Asia probably in February sometime for the beginning of their school year in the spring.

So, barring any unforeseen hangups or other opportunities... there's a big adventure ahead. :)


Take-two tiramisu.

I did it! I did it!

It took me a while to round up the ingredients again. I'm constantly weighing in mind the benefits of organic/humane food and the monetary cost (which on my budget is sometimes near-impossible), and tiramisu is not something to take lightly... six eggs, mascarpone (prices vary wildly for some reason) and ladyfingers...

Anyway. I had purchased all the ingredients except the mascarpone the other day because an 8oz. container was
four dollars!! So I waited until I was across town to stop into another grocery store where I knew the same exact product was only $2.29. Because I needed two, I couldn't justify paying practically double. No way.

Ladyfingers can be hard to find -- at least the ones that are necessary for this recipe. They need to be the dry, sugary ones as opposed to the refrigerated moist ones. I tried that kind once, and they ended up getting soggy and breaking apart because they were already moist. The brand I usually find around here, if the store carries them, is Alessi.

Because they get dipped in coffee, they have to be pretty dry to start. And then they get arranged and poured over with the mascarpone mixture.

And then there's the coffee. Yum, coffee.

I use a French press for the coffee -- it's quick and I can make however much I want. I used Alterra Coffee Roaster's Black Earth dark roast (yum!) ...and I would like to take this opportunity to share how cute my little tin coffee canister is! I found this and a matching flour one (missing the sugar and tea, unfortunately) at a thrift shop in Park Falls, WI a couple of years ago... It's darling, and so retro.

Citrus makes a big difference -- it adds a brightness to the whole thing. And better to use a fresh orange than orange juice from a carton; it's lighter and usually a little sweeter.

Finally, all the ingredients on hand today, I put a tiramisu together which rivals any I've made thus far. I paid close-close-close attention to the egg-sugar-mascarpone mixing, because, need I remind you, it was a massive, massive failure last time.

Also, I remedied the soppy ladyfingers by dipping them very, very swiftly in the coffee and not allowing nearly as much to soak into the cookies. That made a huge difference. So. Here's the love. Just keep in mind: there is no baking involved, and these egg yolks are raw. Tiramisu isn't really tiramisu without the raw eggs. ;)


1-2 cups espresso/strong coffee

2 tablespoons rum or vanilla rum, divided
1/2 cup granulated sugar
6 large egg yolks at room temperature

16oz. mascarpone (2 containers)
1/4 cup orange juice, divided (1 fresh orange)

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
24+ ladyfingers (one single package is 24, but a few extra are nice)
shaved semi-sweet chocolate for garnish

Beat egg yolks and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on high for about three to four minutes, or until thick and light yellow. Lower the speed to low and mix in the mascarpone until smooth. With mixer still on low, add 1 tablespoon of the rum and the vanilla. Stir until combined.

Pour coffee, the remaining rum, and the orange juice in a shallow bowl. Dip each ladyfinger quickly into the mixture, evenly coating with coffee, but not allowing the cookie to soak through. Arrange ladyfingers in the bottom of a pan (I used an 8.5x11x2" oval pan), and fill spaces with pieces. Pour half the mascarpone mixture over the ladyfinger layer and spread evenly. Add second layer of ladyfingers and mascarpone mixture.

Smooth the top, cover, and refrigerate for at least 6 hours, preferably overnight.
Sprinkle the top with shaved chocolate and serve cold. Serves 6-8.

Jelly slugs and no spoilers. ;)

I don't really fall in the Harry Potter target age group, although I'm sure people of all ages would debate that there even is a target age group. I read all the books, but not with any sort of rhythm or intense longing to read the next. But a lot of people I know did, and have gone through the years reading all the books and seeing all the movies religiously. I remember my little sister going from basic that's-pretty-cool enthusiasm to full-fledged waiting-outside-Barnes-and-Noble-at-midnight-for-the-new-book fandom. A younger cousin of mine spent his entire weekend vacation up north at the cottage reading the first book when it came out, unable to put it down for water sports or nerf gun fights -- that's kind of when I realized it was a big deal.

For my little sister, her interest waned a little bit over the years. On the other hand, I work with a lovely lady who is the same age as my little sister, and is so fantastically in love with the series that she not only knows just about every trivia fact there is to know, she has not one, but
two Harry Potter-inspired tattoos (and where those could easily have gone wrong, they are actually really great; one is the symbol of the Deathly Hallows, the other the last line of the last book).

I thought the last film felt almost like a meditative reflection on the whole series. Granted, there's so much going on, so much to have to know for any of it to make any sense whatsoever -- but I think I appreciated this one the best of any. Of course I won't give anything away.

My beautiful sister and I got "stylized" versions of Harry's glasses at a face-painting table that gave you a choice between the glasses or a lightning bolt. I'm sure I didn't see a single other person with glasses. ;)

A couple girls I know are die-hard fans, so they had a movie marathon that spanned from 11am to around 8pm (I joined in around 6:30), when they packed up their laptop with the HP7P1 (the code, I learned), and took off to the theatre to save seats. 8:30pm and we were saving seats for a movie that began at 12:02am! That was a first for me... even for last year's midnight showing I didn't sit around quite that long.

It seemed a more subdued atmosphere this time. There were plenty of people in Hogwarts costumes, and a pretty impressive Voldemort running around. I even spotted a Whomping Willow. Last year, the place was like a pep rally -- everyone was dressed up, but the excitement was almost palpable. It was loud; kids were chanting and singing. There was a little bit of chanting this time, but nothing like last fall. And I wondered if it was due to the overbearing knowledge that this was the last of them all; it was the end.

And it's funny how even me, the "relatively interested, I liked the books alright" kind of Harry Potter enthusiast, felt the real weight of The End upon its arrival. The phenomenon is so huge, it would feel like being left out if I weren't a part of it.


Apple-marinated pork chops.

Sooo, new cookbook? New recipes! A particularly good cookbook it is: The Commonsense Kitchen: 500 recipes + Lessons for a Handcrafted Life by Tom Hudgens (Chronicle Books, 2010). A beautifully pictureless thick brick of a cookbook -- I LOVE IT! Bibliophile Friday just turned into Bibliophile-any-day-of-the-week-I-darn-well-please... And my first recipe attempt out of it was a huge success, so I am going to share it with you. !

Apple-Marinated Pork Chops
adapted from The Commonsense Kitchen -- prepare 1 day ahead, serves 3

3 center-cut pork chops, about 1-in thick, a little fat left on
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/2 flavorful apple (I used Gala), unpeeled, thinly sliced
1/4 small red onion (sweet, or go for yellow), thinly sliced
1 cup apple cider

Rub the pork chops with salt and pepper. Place the apple slices over the top and the bottom surfaces of each chop, put the chops in a shallow bowl, and scatter the onion over them. Cover tightly with plastic wrap, pressing the wrap down on the surface of the chops, and refrigerate overnight.

Set them out at room temperature about an hour before cooking. Remove and reserve the apples and onions. Pat the chops dry with a paper towel.

Heat the olive oil in a wide skillet over medium-high heart and brown the chops for about 4 minutes on each side, or just until they feel firm when pressed with a finger (the ones I got were even thicker than an inch, so they took quite a bit longer. Just keep an eye, don't get impatient and turn the heat up). If they don't seem cooked, continue cooking for a few minutes more on lower heat. They are thoroughly cooked, but still juicy, when they have reached an internal temperature of 150 degrees F. Remove the chops to a clean plate.

Get the skillet heated back up on medium-high heat, and pour off any fat left in the skillet. Add the apples and onions and pour in the apple cider. Bring to a boil, scraping the browned, flavorful bits from the bottom of the skillet with a wooden spoon and letting them dissolve in the cider (I used a nonstick skillet and there wasn't much of this to be had). After everything has boiled for about a minute, strain out the apples and onions if desired -- but they're good in too! Boil until the liquid is reduced to a thin syrup, just a few tablespoons. Pour over the warm chops and serve.

I like to use the paper they wrap the meat in at the counter as a work surface. Rub in the salt and pepper; use a chopping board to cut up all the apples and onions.

Layer thin slices of a sweet, crispy apple over the top and bottom surfaces... I chose a Gala apple because it's super sweet.

The Commonsense Kitchen calls for yellow onions, but I'm a through-and-through red onion fan. I love how sweet they are, and I was looking for sweet pork chops. Plus, they're just nice to look at. ;)

Brown the pork chops in a pan -- these chops were really hefty, so they took a bit of time to cook, but the heat was low and they remained juicy inside.

Boiling the apple cider with the apple and onion made a marvelous, thin syrup. I didn't want to throw any of the apple or onions out -- I thought it would be even better to pair with the pork than just the syrup alone. I wasn't disappointed.

Yum-yummy. :D Enjoy!

...I'm off to the midnight showing of the very. last. Harry Potter movie. There are some pretty die-hard fans I'm going with -- Should be a fun (long..) night. Much to report, I'm sure. ;)


Sunrise, 13 July 2011.

This morning's sunrise was lovely. And not that I actually watched the sun, but I witnessed the sky lighten and the cool evening air begin to warm. Sunrise has a magical quality in it that I've never been able to find in sunsets, and though it may be because I see sunrises so much less frequently, they never cease to put me in a place I am happy enough to be.

This morning's was no exception; I wandered around one of my favorite neighborhoods in the area, where I've been known to go on my bike in the past to check out the unassuming yet well-to-do old houses along these narrow, winding streets with their awesomely imperfect landscaping -- so imperfect that it is perfect in every way. Some of the residents use the bit of lawn between the sidewalk and the street curb to plant vegetables -- numerous houses had gigantic tomato plants growing just off the street. Some of the flowers were just astounding in the dewy morning light, and everything felt bright and optimistic today. Some of the houses sported lackluster paint jobs while others were kept up extraordinarily well. Ancient coniferous trees hovered over some of the houses' petite matching garages and narrow driveways, and I wanted to crawl through all of their yards and the ravines behind and see what there was to find.

Alas, that would have been trespassing. ;)

I am sleepy, but today did me good.


All at once.

I suppose, strictly, a sense of desperation propels us to do a lot of things we'd normally feel too comfortable in our current circumstances to do. I find this to be true of almost all the major decisions I've ever made -- mostly about moving somewhere or deciding what to study in college -- or where to go to college. Or where to work.

We want to do things -- we want to build a house or travel to Spain or take up basket weaving... but we've just got so much other normal, everyday-life stuff going on that it gets pushed further and further down the road, and sometimes we never reach those places since we're too busy thinking that we're too busy to get there.

When I was a teenager, I travelled with my dad a lot around the Great Lakes states, and occasionally further -- down to Oklahoma, the west coast -- to help him with art fairs that he used to do regularly in the summer. As a full-time painter, summers were big business for him then. Times have changed a bit and art festivals aren't what they once were, but those formative years of summer travel for me put an indelible mark on me, and how I perceived the world. I may not have jetted off to Europe or Asia as a kid, but I got to road trip around the U.S. and that was pretty awesome.

What it did was give me a sense of space, a sense of distance, and a sense of where I was and what else the world had to offer. Because if San Francisco could be so exciting, then ultimately one could expect New York City, Paris, Moscow, Athens, Tokyo, or Sydney to excite the same sense of wonder and amazement.

Ultimately, what happened, was when I graduated from high school, I applied to one college, and one college only, wayyyyy over on the northern coast of California, practically the western-most tip of the contiguous states. I thought a change of scenery and geography might be the key to erasing my boredom and taking the world by storm. Alas, I lasted one semester. It was far from boring, but for numerous reasons, financial not being the least of them, I was back home in Wisconsin. Aaaand miserable.

So I struck out aaallll the way to Stevens Point, Wisconsin, which is merely an hour+ drive from home. There, I lived on campus for about a year, then studied abroad in London. And that trip changed my life. It changed the way I perceived not only Europe, and the world, but my home itself. And when I returned to Wisconsin, I was saddened to have left such an exciting city, but glad to have a newfound sense of home, and a new understanding of myself and what I was capable of.

I finished up school in Madison, WI with an art history degree, but was embittered with institutionalized education before I even had my degree in hand -- that a bachelors degree in art history was pretty much a pass to nowhere without a concrete career idea or a plan for further schooling -- which I just didn't have. I just wasn't sure. I liked art history, but did I want to invest tens of thousands dollars more in order to, what, be a professor? a curator? a gallery owner? I just didn't -- and still don't -- have the answer to that. I was afraid of getting stuck on one path, and becoming obligated to continue on that path because I had invested such-and-such an amount of money on education. I'm no stranger to the pains of student loans.

So I moved back home. And then lost my job, which at the time was at Starbucks during their company-wide closure of some 600+ shops. There again, I found myself in dire straits, living at my parents' house, a college graduate, without a job... wondering how I'd support myself. Would I move? Could I even afford to move? Where could I work? What could I do? What did I want to do? That has always been a giant decision point -- I'd prefer to make a little less money and do something I actually enjoy vs. the alternative.

Lo! I happened to find out that a used bookstore was opening up in the area and happened to be hiring, and I leapt on that boat so fast, I hardly saw it happen myself. And there I am, at the bookstore. Not necessarily my career of choice, and definitely not a place I ever envisioned working -- but who ever knows these things? It was sheer desperation that led me to it, and in the end, only good things came of it. Turned out that I loved it, and loved the people, and it worked for me.

...for a while. Because my nature is such that after a couple years I get bored. And I get tired. It might be too early to call myself a spinster, but I'm 26 and I live alone in a tiny town in Wisconsin with my cat. And though I've got creative outlets and good friends, I've become too comfortable. Read: stagnant. It's become clear to me that this summer -- or this year at least -- has become the year to make a change. A change that is again my choice, and although I'm not totally certain what it will be, it will occur. And simply making the decision to make a decision has the optimistic, adventurous side of me flaring right up. More than anything, perhaps I think that as the years pass, that side of me starts to quell, and that is the most frightening thing I can imagine.

In the next few months, we'll see what comes about. They don't call this a quarter-life crisis for nothing!


When disaster strikes the tiramisu...

...you still share on it on your blog. Ah, for shame, trying to hastily prepare something that should be put together with the utmost attention. I promise I'll share the recipe (a good one) when I get it down right next time. There are so many little persnickety things that can go wrong with tiramisu -- all those raw egg yolks, cheese, acidic citrus, and so on. Not to mention ladyfingers that either soak too much or not enough coffee and then you've either got mushy or crunchy tiramisu, and nobody wants that. :(

This is what it should look like (mostly successful previous attempt):

...and this is what the latest attempt actually looks like:

BLUH. How does one manage to make a dessert that looks SO TERRIBLE? A curdled, soppy mess. It doesn't taste half bad, but it's nothing to be proud of. And I'm only sharing it because it should be well-known that tiramisu is not a dessert to be trifled with! ;)

So... here's to getting a ton more eggs and mascarpone and hoping attempt number 2 works a little more in my favor. I'll make sure not to walk away from the mixer this time. For any reason whatsoever!

Soundtrack to this dessert-making adventure: I Am Kloot's album
Sky at Night.

Midsummer blooms.

The other day I was watering my tomatoes, which are just ridiculously hard to please now that they're massive, and realized there are so. many. tomatoes!!! I realized that now that we're coming up on mid-July, my deck garden has really changed shape -- and size -- with all my work keeping everything healthy. The geraniums are full-bloom (I let them hibernate over the winter, and in the summer they get tall and lean, which is the way I like them -- wild-looking), the hosta just blossomed, and the tomatoes, like I mentioned, are well on their way to giving me too many tomatoes to know what to do with. So I decided to snap just a couple photos of le jardin. Just to feel happy about it. :D

Look at this monster!! One of the Black Pineapple variety -- the kind of tomato that I always think of when I think of the word 'heirloom.'

Dr. Wyche's Yellow... this is the plant that is going to give the most, I can tell. The third, Thai Pink Egg, has not produced anything yet. It was the weakest plant from the start, so we'll see if it's late, or if nothing will happen at all.

The hosta blossom just sprang up the other day -- hosta flowers are never my favorite, but it's still gratifying to see them. This one is pretty healthy, although some of the leaves on the plant were a little burnt in the sun this summer. Otherwise, the plant likes it there, so I'll have to give it a little bit of shade for next year.

And my very favorite mini success: the colander with a menagerie of succulents. Succulents are perfect for a container that is, by its very nature, filled with holes. Succulents in general are really hardy; they can stand not being watered, or even being in dirt, for a long time, and take root practically anywhere. The colander I filled with sandy dirt, and I wondered for a little while if these little guys were going to like it there, but they appear to be happy as can be. I've started a couple of others now, even one commissioned from my grandmother who liked the idea so much! I'm beginning to amass such a collection of unidentified succulents that I'm going to have to start doing some research. Regardless, hens and chicks remain one of my favorite kinds. ;)

...and I'm on my way to the store this afternoon to pick up ingredients for one of my favorite desserts eveerrrrrrrrr... ;D


MKE in five hours.

Summerfest, Wisconsin's major music festival in mid-summer, annually draws some of the best artists to its -- 12? -- stages. Every night for 11 days, a major headliner plays at Marcus Amphitheater and other artists are on other stages throughout the night, so one only hopes there aren't two bands playing at once that you'd like to see. In all the years it's been on, I've never once gone. Honestly, the crazy festival atmosphere always makes me a little tense. Crowds -- especially tightly packed ones -- are not generally my thing. But last night my sister and I made an exception to go see Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros (their most popular song, "Home," here although my favorites on their album Up from Below are "Desert Song" and "Kisses Over Babylon"). There's a good story about how this band came about.

But first! --I worked until 4pm, so as soon as I could afterward, I picked Ali up and we drove the two hours to Milwaukee, getting pseudo-lost as usually happens when we try to navigate that city, and finally making it to my other sister Maddy's new apartment. It was a perfect evening... 67 degrees, clear and dry, and driving around the east side of town around dinner time was wonderful because everyone was sitting outside, enjoying the sunshine and all their company.

We were looking for dinner before heading over to the Summerfest grounds, so we walked to Alterra, the local Milwaukee coffee shop of choice, but they were out of many of their daily food items, so we decided to go around the block to Ma Fischer's, one of those 24-hour fam-resties that serves the most food for your buck. I had a Super Duper Family Restaurant Moment when I decided to order one of the most heartily American things on the menu: chicken strips -- with ranch sauce, french fries, the biggest dinner roll I've ever seen, cheese tortellini soup, a side of veggies, and rice pudding for dessert. And a gigantic chocolate milk. All for about $12. Seriously. This might have been the most astounding part of the whole evening:

Anyway. We got to the festival a little later than we maybe would have liked. Typical hipster-kid kind of show. Everyone was in their early twenties and dressed to impress, or at least look like they didn't care, but really did. The sound quality left a little to be a desired, and we had to stand quite uncomfortably packed like sardines on bleacher seats (bleacher seats, really?)... I love Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes. LOVE THEM. Their one album
is one of my all-time favorite albums. It's amazing. But the show was a typical festival show, and it was a little uncomfortable and not exactly super.

I would love to see them again, but maybe after another album is released... ;)

Regardless, we had a great time in MKE, and now that Maddy lives there, I look forward to more frequent trips to visit and check out the restaurants and such nearby. She keeps reminding me that there's a fab sushi place I've got to check out. ;D


The little things.

Not very often, but occasionally, I like to go to antique malls and just wander. Never with the intention of finding anything specific -- how can one expect that in those places, really? There's always so much stuff, ranging from what is essentially junk to high-end furniture and jewelry. It's cathartic in a way, and if you go in without any expectations, anything you find can feel like a treasure.

The other day I went out to a couple local antique places with mom, and I managed to find a few things, among them being simply the most gorgeous periwinkle glass teacup and saucer. It's square! It's such an amazing color, and the glass is so milky, that when it sits on my window sill, it nearly glows.

I love it. It was $4. I'm sure I've never loved a teacup so much in my life. ;)


Cy Twombly 25.04.1928 - 05.07.2011

True artistic greatness -- so, so few reach that pinnacle of genius -- even if only for a short time, or with a particular series. It's an astounding achievement to have an entire career that could be considered "greatness." One of my all-time favorite artists passed away today. His work is some of the best I've ever admired; every time I saw one of his pieces, I knew instinctively that it was his. He was a bona fide genius, a titan of modern art. He took directions no one else could conceive of; he is absolutely singular, and his legacy is sure to endure. Mr. Cy Twombly was 83.


Scottish Blueberry Dessert with English Custard

I should just preface this whole entry with the comment that this is a weird dessert, and I was surprised how much I liked it. I made it the authentic Scottish way (or so the book said), using bread, butter, berries, and sugar -- and that's it. Having tested it, it would be awesome with an angelfood or a biscuit layer instead of bread. But as with anything, I had to try it the correct way first! And I'm really not disappointed... it's just different. If you want something that's a cross between a no-bake cake and bread pudding with berries, here's where it's at -- adapted from The Highlander's Cookbook by Sheila MacNiven Cameron.

I found some white bread and blueberries at the farmers market on Saturday, so I definitely had to use those for this recipe. It would just as easily go with blackberries, raspberries, etc.


1qt. fresh berries, stewed with 1/4 cup granulated sugar & 1/3 cup water
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 lb. loaf of firm, dense white bread
1/4 to 1/3 cup soft butter

Drain juice from berries and set aside. Remove crusts from the bread and slice into thin slices, then butter both sides and line a loaf pan completely with the bread to make a complete shell. Fill the shell with the drained fruit and press down firmly. Cover the fruit with a lid of buttered bread. Mix reserved berry juice with the lemon juice and pour evenly over all. Weight down a lid or a plate on top of the pan and set in refrigerator overnight for at least 24 hours. Unmold very carefully and serve cold with cream or custard sauce. Serves 6-8.

Lessons learned: all that butter doesn't do much to loosen up the entire dessert from the pan, so in future I would put a piece of parchment paper down first in the pan before lining it with bread.

As for the custard...

I scoured the internet for a good English custard recipe. They're all similar, some varying in kinds of sugar or amounts of egg yolks, so I settled on something along these lines after combining elements from a few:


8 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup half and half
2 cups whole milk
6 tablespoons granulated sugar

Pour the cream, milk, and 4 tablespoons of sugar into a pot and heat on medium heat until simmering, but not boiling. Add vanilla extract and stir.

In a separate bowl, combine 8 egg yolks and 2 tablespoons of sugar. Whisk until light yellow.

Pour a little bit of heated cream mixture into the egg mixture bowl while whisking constantly. Add a little bit more, still whisking, then return the egg mixture to the cream mixture on the stove and stir. Stir for several minutes until custard begins to thicken. It is ready when it coats the back of a wooden spoon, and can be served hot or cold, with dessert or plain.

Beautiful eggies.

Yummy! :D