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Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Grand Marais, MN (part 2)

With Friday nights culinary adventures nicely digested, our minds turned toward Saturday's much anticipated hike. The Guide to the Superior Hiking Trail (2004 ed.) was carefully analyzed, miles measured, routes negotiated and hiking times calculated. We quickly settled on Kadunce River Wayside to Magney State Park. Lunches were packed the evening before to allow for a quick and hearty breakfast of eggs, bacon, fruit and yogurt, and English muffins. Then it was trail time!

Here are some shots along the route:

We actually hiked the trail from east to west (Magney to Kadunce R.). This was a really nice segement of trail that had a bit of everything. It was long inclines and declines, with a mixture of mature and younger forest which made for varied and delightful walking. The hiker passes through 30 year old upland black spruce plantation, crosses a dry stream bed, over a couple of bridges and there is even one small overlook of Lake Superior. There are some neat streams to cross and the main feature - the lake walk! This isn't as impressive as it sounds as by the time you hit the "lakewalk" you've done 5.2 miles and walking on rocks for 1.5 miles isn't as neat as it sounds. As we came down the Kadunce River, it started to sprinkle and by the time we hit the car, it was seriously raining. Luckily the car was only a dash across the highway.

Trail stats:
10 miles
6.5 hours
good segment for dogs
passed 4 hikers all after lunch
5/26/07 - 58*, overcast, cool until the afternoon. Then a tich muggy with rain at 3:30.
Lunch was on the lake

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Grand Marais, MN 2007 (Part 1)

For the last 4 years, I have met my folks up the North Shore for a bit of hiking. For the last 2 we've gone to Grand Marais over Memorial Day weekend - it helps that they bought a camper trailer and they bring it up to the Municipal Campground. Our weekends include hiking another segment of the Superior Hiking Trail, eating, and bumming around. This year was no exception.

I drove up on Friday and met them at noon. It was sunny but chilly (48*) with a light lake wind. We had a light meal of chef salads then went for a walk around town - this is one of the nice things about Grand Marais, everything is within walking distance. Dinner was at Chez Jude on Friday night.

We had reservations for 5:30p, a bit early perhaps as we did have the restaurant to ourselves. However, that didn't stop us from being our usual selves.

We each ordered something different, except the Father wouldn't let the Mother nor I touch his ribs so we have to take his word for it that they were good, and seeing as he cleaned his plate, I don't doubt that they were. But the mustard that came with his dish was fantastic and I had to sample several bites with stolen french fries.

Apple with whitefish salad, balsamic syrup and herring roe

Superior Whitefish en Papillote w/Meyer Lemon Parsley Butter Sauce

Wood Roasted Ancho Maple BBQ Glazed Pork Ribs

Wood Roasted Cedar Planked
Wild Sockeye Salmon
Lemon Curd Creme Brulee

Chocolate Decadence

French Apple Frangipane Tart

We concluded our meal with a walk down to the harbor to allow such delectables a chance to settle on the stomach before retiring for the evening.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Nebula Awards 2007 ed Mike Resnick

Somehow, somewhere along the line, this has become a yearly book group selection. I think it initially grabbed our fancy in 2003 and we've been reading them ever since. Some years are better than others, but that's how it goes.

This year's selection contained a decent but not outstanding variety. Since these are all short stories I shan't summarize much, but mostly just offer my opinion.
Magic for Beginners and The Faery Handbag by Kelly Link. Magic for Beginners was just okay. I thought it was simplistic and incomplete and could have been better as a longer piece of work. The Faery Handbag was rather well done and contained some nice little twists for a short story.

The End of the World as We Know It by Dale Bailey. This was a really cool short story. Initially I found the fragmented writing style a bit annoying: the author would digress into historical bits about other end of the world events then jump back into the main story. However, as the story progressed the end of the world bits began to make more sense and I found myself looking forward to them. This story also had overtones of realism that I found to my liking.

Still Life with Boobs by Anne Harris was...well, I didn't like it. The premise of this story was this woman's boobs detach themselves and go off on their own, often at embarrassing moments. I found nothing interesting or funny about this story. It was discussed at book group that this story was a metaphor for embarassing moments women have. It still wasn't interesting or funny.

Men are Trouble by James Patrick Kelly. This was just okay. Future world where the 'devils' took away all the men and somehow impregnate the women to propegate the race. The heroine is hired by a devil to solve a mystery of a suicide and as the reader follows her they find out some rather dark aspects of this all female world. Rather feminist from a male author.

Identity Theft by Robert Sawyer was tedious at best. A private investigator novel set in the future on Mars, but with an 1940's flair. The story just didn't work - to many poorly done cliques.

I Live With You by Carol Emshwiller. Was kinda creepy-odd. A person? Shadow? Other being? Slinks around and takes up residence in peoples houses and does stuff. And then eventually goes away. Speculation was this was a metaphor for a shy person coming out of thier shell.

Camouflage by Joe Haldeman. This is the novel excerpt the nebula awards always put in. We read it for book group last year and enjoyed it as we do most of Haldeman's works.

The Resurgence of Miss Ankle-Strap Wedgie by Harlan Ellison. This was not sci fi or fantasy and was written ages ago while Harlan worked in Hollywood. It is set in early Hollywood where a producer and his cronies find an old film star waitressing in a diner and decide to bring her back to the big screen. It's a fascinating look at people and personalities. While I really didn't care for the story itself, the writing was absolutely amazing. I kept reading for that reason alone.

In between all the stories various authors discuss a variety of topics in the sf&f world, such as small publishing houses, past Nebula awards, where the field is going, artwork in sf&f, and so on. I usually skip most of these and did so again in this volume. Except for the blurb on Harlan, that was interesting. So for 2007, this was a mediocre selection with only a couple stories really worth reading.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Pantry Reduction Month, Week 2

So the quest to reduce the food in the pantry and freezer continues! As I mentioned in my previous post, it isn't about baring my cupboards so much as just cleaning things out a bit. I'm also finding it's going a bit slow...but that could be because of my odd work schedule right now. Still, it's been fun to find a recipe to use up a very particular ingredient rather than just choosing a completely new recipe.

This past week we pulled out and ate (see, I'm even squeezing in a couple of new recipes!):

1/4 box rotini became - Bob Barkers Summertime Salad (Rachel Ray Every Day, June pg 131) This made a lot and would be great for a summer potluck for people with non-adventurous taste buds. I found it lacking a bit in the seasoning department. It could have used just a bit of...something. Feta cheese perhaps? Provolone? Pepperoni? The visual appeal of this salad was delightful: red, orange and yellow peppers, red cherry tomatoes, bright green basil, dark purple kalmata olives. I did make one substitution: the recipe called for tri-color rotini, but I used whole wheat.

1 tub Marinara sauce - which will go on the linguine or my homemade ravioli or both.

1 tub Corn and Salmon Chowder

2 frozen bananas became - Tropical Banana Cream Muffins (Culinary in the Desert Blog) I haven't tried one of these yet because they are for book group tonight. A banana muffin is transformed from ordinary into tropical with the addition of cinnamon, ginger, lime, sour cream and coconut. I didn't have lime zest so I obviously skipped that bit, and I omitted the coconut because people are just funny about it. Instead, I added some lemon zest to some sugar and sprinkled it over the top of half the muffins. Oops, forgot to snap a picture, I'll have to add one later.
I have just been reminded to come back and review the muffins! They were just okay. The lime juice didn't really come through and they turned out a bit on the dry side. Perhaps if I had added the lime zest and some toasted coconut they would have been more "tropical", but I wasn't overly impressed as it was. They also weren't as enthusiastically recieved at book group as other treats I have brought, if I am to judge from thier eager taste buds. I think my group prefers chocolate, carrot cake and cheesecake...

I also used up some: walnuts, sunflower seeds, and honey while making granola, and some packets of yogurt culture while making yogurt. Bit by bit I am making progress!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Knitting, Project #2, Sister's Scarf

Round about Minicon weekend, I joined up with my friend and our adventures took us all around St. Paul and Mpls. One place we visited was the Yarnery on Grand Ave where I purchased some yarn for projects for both my sisters (K2 and K4). K2 requested a scarf in antique pinks and I found a blended yarn in a lovely dusty pink in just the weight I wanted. I also bought yarn for K4's scarf and hat - she requested blue-reds. And I just had to buy a nifty pair of birch needles (in picture below). And I needed some circular needles. And I needed some double point needles...

Anyway, I decided to start K2's scarf as I had a teacher handy over the Minicon weekend. She showed me how to purl and knit in the round. The purling was a necessary lesson as K2's scarf pattern was a ribbed scarf where I would be knitting two, purling two. The knitting in the round would be for K4's hat but I will be posting on that later.

This was a delightful and quick project. I did have to make a quick run back to the Yarnery the weekend following Minicon (I was down for a yoga workshop) as I realized I didn't have enough yarn to complete my project. One skein only gave me 2'. Eeep! I had also modified the pattern so her scarf would be 6" wide rather than 5". 5" was just a bit to narrow given the length of the overall scarf. Final length was about 5.5'.

Pattern: Knitting by Jennifer Worik, Taking a Ribbing Scarf, pg 40
Yarn: Plymouth Yarn, Encore Chunky, 75% acrylic/25% wool. 143 yds.
Store: The Yarnery, Grand Ave, St. Paul
Needle Size: #10

Monday, May 14, 2007

A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle

The Englishman Peter Mayle and his wife decide to move from foggy England to sunny Provence, France, purchasing a 200 year old farmhouse on the edge of one of France’s national parks. They happen to move in January and first thing they experience is the natural wonder know as a Mistral - cold blasting winds that roar down from the mountains and blow through every crack and seam in the house.

Each month Peter describes what it’s like to live in Provence, what the country is like, the season, the restaurants, the holidays, and the food. He talks about driving around to buy cases of wine for their wine cellar. He describes each little towns restaurants. Peter talks about discovering where to by bread, who has the best olive oil, which baker makes the best pastries, what butcher takes the most care with his cuts of meat.

And mixed in are the Mayle’s adventures with the construction workers over 9 months. After that first Mistral Peter and his wife decide to put in central heat and between their poor but improving French and the growing understanding on how quickly things get done in France we follow the monthly construction progress.

This was a nice book that highlights the beauty of Provence and the attitudes of the people who live there. I loved reading about restaurants who serve one thing a day and if you go that’s what you get. I enjoyed reading about mushroom hunting and poisonous snakes. I empathized with the Mayle’s as they contemplated in Nov whether their heat would ever be installed. This wasn't a gripping page turner, but rather like a lazy summer's evening with the sun slanting through the trees as bits of cottonwood fluff float lazily through the air while dragonfly's dart hither and yon. It was kinda like that.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Knitting, Project #1, My Scarf

Way back in March...well, earlier than that actually, but March was when I went and did something about it, I became fascinated with knitting and taught myself how to knit. I was going to take a class back in January and February from one of my local yarn stores, but a 6 week class and a $60.00 price tag was more than I wanted to commit to. Besides, I didn’t think I needed such an in depth class for something that nearly everyone is doing.

So with some on-line guidance from a friend and a small shopping list, I grabbed a local friend and we checked out the Yarn Harbor in Duluth. I dutifully bought the appropriate weight yarn and the corresponding needles and a book. A very handy book as I will discover over the coming months.

Thus on a quiet evening (remember this was March) I sat myself down and figured out how to cast on, how to hold the needles (very important), how to hold the yarn (even more important) and how to do the basic knit or garter stitch. Before long I was knitting a scarf! Now this wasn’t with out some lessons...I had to rip my project apart no less than three times to get the width right. Attempt #1 had me making a 5" wide scarf. Attempt #2 had it at 12". Attempt #3 I think I had the cast on count correct. Other lessons learned were to periodically check your stitch count lest you some how end up adding on 10 extra stitches somewhere. More ripping out involved but I learned how to do so and then get the needles back on the project.

So by April I finished my first project. I was going to block it before I posted this but I seem to be dragging my feet. I may not block it either. We'll see.

Pattern: Knitting by Jennifer Worick, The Starter Scarf, pg 32.
Yarn: Cascade Farms Ecological Wool, 100% Puruvian Highland Wool, 478 yards
Store: The Yarn Harbor, Duluth, MN
Needle size: #10

Kia's not so sure she wants to be a model...

Monday, May 7, 2007

Pantry Reduction Month

It has been nagging at me for quite some time...I open the upstairs freezer and I am confronted by tidy buckets of food set aside for Special Occasions. Or I find myself rooting around in my chest freezer in the basement, moving aside frozen packages of samosas, vegetable pot stickers, and ravioli's or the pureed pumpkin and blanched green beans, all carefully packaged and set aside for some Special Occasion.

I recall making most of them. I even recall what most of the tubs are - there are only a couple mystery tubs. I think one is the spicy enchilada sauce from 2005. Not sure though. It could be the homemade marinara sauce. And the green beans should really be used up as I think they are from garden year 2004. And heavens! How did I accumulate so many frozen bananas?

So what, pray tell, are these "Special Occasion's" that I have so carefully stockpiled food for? Well...there is the imminent "planting season" at work, where I put in long hours several days a week and have no time to cook meals or grocery shop. And there is the imminent, "Monday after a Cities run" where I don't always have time to get to the grocery store for lunch or supper fixin's. And...I guess I don't know what else. I just know that having some meals on hand is always a good idea. Until...I find have too much.

So! I have decided to declare May my Pantry Reduction Month! For the month of May (and maybe June) I am going to clean out my freezer and cupboards. I've included my cupboards as well because sometimes I just need to pare things down a bit.

Week 1 results:
Wheat Berry Chili (Eating Well)
Corn muffins (Cooking Light)
Butternut Squash and Pinto Bean Stew (Cooking Light)
barley (used 1 uncooked cup for Bean and Barley Burritos)
used up the last of my pepitas for the squash stew
1 pkg chocolate chips (chocolate chip cookies)

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Bricks, Hudson, WI

Bricks is a Neapolitan Pizza restaurant in the traditional Italian style and has been receiving Cities wide acclaim for their pizzas. I wanted to take the Folks out as a thank you for watching my hounds two weekends in a row while I went and played and we selected Bricks - since none of us had been there yet.

The restaurant is small and simply done. I think there were only about 12 tables total in the whole place. There were only a handful of pictures on the walls, and the tables unadorned. The large glass window on the front of the building allows for a nice view of the street and pedestrians - great for a spring evening. However, the inside was very humid and the bare floors made for a noisy ambiance.

The waiter arrived promptly and we ordered a variety of drinks - the Father had ice tea, the Mother ordered a White Zin from California, and I had a Kristian Regale on ice (sparkling apple beverage). The menus were these long rectangular things that were a bit hard to open since you had to be cognizant of the people sitting on the opposite side of the table. First listed were the antipasto's and the salads. The variety of salads grabbed my fancy and I ordered a "Mista" - spring greens, bacon crumbles, Parmesan, kalmata olives, artichoke hearts and grape tomatoes in a red wine vinaigrette dressing.

The pizza's we ordered were the Siciliana and Pizza di Bricks. The Siciliana was artichoke hearts, prosciuttio, kalmata olives and basil; the Pizza di Bricks was mushrooms, roasted red peppers, Italian sausage, basil, red onion with the addition of pepperoni.

The salad was fantastic. The bacon really added a nice salty background to the vinaigrette and the two slices of "bread" (lightly salted pizza wedges) were warm and delicious. The pizza's were very good - the crusts just perfect and the toppings didn't overwhelm the delicate crust. I would definately eat here again.

Best of all, the price was right:
Mista salad - (small) 4.79
Siciliana - 10.95
Pizza di Bricks - 10.79
White Zin - 4.50
Ice Tea - 1.85
Kristian Regal - 2.35

Total (+tax) = 39.00

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