Thursday, August 28, 2014

CHARLESTON, HERE WE COME!


Well, tomorrow's the big day -- the day when Lexie and I head off on our Mother-Daughter-Pre-Wedding-Adventure! As you can see, I've been doing my homework.


I've been making my lists, and checking 'em twice!


Also, I've been marking all the best spots on the map, so we don't waste any steps.


 Throughout the process, one thing has become painfully clear. One long weekend just isn't enough!
 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

MASON JARS, MARKETS, AND CHALK. OH MY!


This is a work in progress -- one of the final projects in Junelle Jacobsen's Farmers Market class. Which doesn't mean it's too late for you to take it. That's the great thing about these on-line classes. You can sign up for them whenever or wherever. Plus, you usually have access to the tutorials and videos for at least a year, so you can do the projects at your own pace. I will be sad for this class to end.


This project is almost like doing a mosaic, only we're using tiny bits of colored paper and photographs from farmers' markets to fill our canning jars.


I started with a layer of black gesso this time, rather than the usual white, so I could come back later with a white pen and do some "chalkwork" writing and scribbling.

Speaking of farmers' markets and canning jars and chalkboard signs, have you noticed how those three things are everywhere you look these days? Have you seen all the posts on facebook lately about people who are growing their own vegetables, raising goats and chickens, canning and preserving and baking? Do you realize that just ten short years ago, this was almost unheard of? For anyone under 80, that is! Small family farms, and thus farmers' markets, were a dying breed. The only canning equipment to be found was in antique stores, and the only chalkboard easels were outside of French cafes.

What launched such a dramatic change, do you suppose? Well, I suspect a couple of books by Michael Pollan might have had something to do with it. For me, it was reading this book by Barbara Kingsolver, when it came out in 2007.


Yet another "foodie memoir" that helped launch a revolution!
 

Monday, August 25, 2014

BACHELORETTE #1


Daughter Lex is past the age where hanging out on 6th Street getting plastered is her idea of a great night with friends. In fact, she may have skipped that stage altogether. (I have no idea where she gets that!) Therefore, she decided not to leave her bachelorette party completely up to chance. Fortunately, her bridesmaids jumped on board with her suggestions and ran with them!


Cupcakes were provided by master-baker Stefanie, who taught them an amazing life lesson that will have you slapping your forehead and saying "DOH!" Turns out, we've been eating cupcakes completely wrong our whole lives.


The trick is to break off the bottom part, then flip it over and squish it down on top of the icing, so you can eat it sandwich style. Kinda like a Whoopie Pie! Bridesmaid Jessie, in the striped shirt, will be right at 9 mos. pregnant when she walks down the aisle with Lex. Fortunately our good buddy Tim, a former paramedic, says he still remembers how to deliver babies just fine!

Future Daughter-in-Law Areeg
Bridesmaid Carrie (the one with sunglasses atop her head) brought along a friend who is a professional henna tattoo artist.


Joelle, who went with us to pick out the wedding dress, was the hostess with the mostest!


And then there were the games, including Cards Against Humanity and Pin The Tail On The... well, whatever.


I'm not sure who to blame for those!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

THE SEASONAL SUNDAY DINNER

I got a couple of gorgeous pastured pork chops from local producer Richardson Farms this week -- an occasional splurge that makes my hubby quite giddy.


Before deciding what to do with them, I made a mental list of the fresh ingredients that had come in my Bountiful Sprout basket on Wednesday and needed to be used up.


Then it became perfectly obvious that what I needed to prepare was our all time family favorite from back in our Indo-days...

ASNAH'S PORK CHOPS
(serves four)

4 one-inch pork chops
4 cloves garlic, minced
freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 onion, in thick slices
2 carrots, in chunks
2 potatoes, in chunks


Preheat oven to 350 F. Place pork chops in a large baking dish and pierce with fork. Add minced garlic, freshly ground black pepper and soy sauce. Turn chops several times until well coated on both sides. Top with thick onion slices.


Bake pork chops in oven at 350 for 30 - 45 minutes, depending on how thick they are. Meanwhile, cut the carrots and potatoes into largish chunks and boil until almost done (about 10 minutes?).  When meat has cooked for 30 - 45 minutes, add the veggies to the baking dish, turning them to coat in the accumulated sauce on the bottom of the dish. Return dish to oven and cook 15 minutes longer.


Since two pork chops came in the package, and one was more than enough for the two of us, I'm thinking I just might use the other one to make this other seasonal delight later in the week, provided I can still get my hands on some decent blackberries.

Bon Appetit!

Friday, August 22, 2014

A PLACE WITH NO SEASONS

The View From Our Porch As Newlyweds
Every August I ask myself why we still live in Texas. However, as soon as we get that first tiny hint of cool weather in September, I find myself thinking "Ah yes, that's why. If August hadn't sucked so badly, I wouldn't be nearly so euphoric over this tiny bit of cool breeze!"  As they say, you've got to experience the bad to fully appreciate the good. You can trust me on that. After all, I did live in paradise for many years.

When we lived in Indonesia, the sun came up every morning at 6:00 AM. The sun set every evening at 6:00 PM. Every afternoon we had a brief rain shower. The high and low temps stayed pretty much the same year round -- never too hot, never too cold. Know what? You can get really, really bored in paradise. Which is why, come Christmastime, we'd usually find ourselves cranking up the AC as high as it would go, just so we could put on a sweater and pretend it was winter.

And, no, I'm not a huge fan of the periodic ice storms that paralyze this whole area, or the flash flooding and gale force winds that can pick your entire roof right up off of your house. But one thing I gotta say for them -- they sure have a way of reminding you just how great it is to be alive! 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

A BRILLIANT HOUSING OPTION

You'll never guess where I went yesterday. Again.


Same place, different companions. This time, however, the Muses made sure I forked over the moolah to get into the Matisse exhibit. Worth every penny! The lady with the cast on her leg is Outdoor Woman's friend Helen, who had a bad fall a month ago and has been pretty much housebound ever since. She was so excited to be off on an adventure! Fiber Woman was there as well, but she tends to get lost in her own little world as soon as she enters an art museum, and we were unable to round her up at photo time.


Fortunately, we managed to find her in time for dinner at, you guessed it, Luxury!


I passed up the Mexican Dog this time and went for the Chicken Curry. Excellent!

On the way home we just happened to pass a Trader Joe's, which is why I didn't make it home until almost 10:00 PM. But, my-oh-my, what a day it was!

The highlight of the day?  This:


This is where Helen lives, out on Fischer Store Road, but there's more to this house than meets the eye. If you've been reading this blog for long, you've probably heard me mention cohousing communities more than once. That was my original plan for how we would live once we finally moved to the Hill Country. We did find a group who had actually bought property between Wimberley and San Marcos but, for some reason, their project never got off the ground, nor did I find any others in the area. So, imagine my surprise when I discovered that Helen and two other couples had built their own tiny cohousing community!


She and these friends from church -- all living in San Antonio at the time, but all wishing to retire to Wimberley -- bought about five acres and designed this complex of three individual apartments connected by a large central screened in common area, sort of dog-trot style.


You enter through these double screen doors to find lots of comfy chairs, a large shared dining table, and a backyard terrace overlooking a gorgeous view.


On the downside, Helen's apartment happens to be the one at the top of those stairs, which has been a major ordeal since her accident, despite the chair-lift her son installed. On the plus side, she has oodles of help close at hand, whenever it is needed.


I'm thinking, perhaps, it's time to revisit this idea -- just in case there have been any new developments here in the area since last I checked.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

IT'S ABOUT TIME

I say it's time for the publishing industry to create a new book category -- one for Foodie Memoirs. The books are definitely out there, and are some of the most influential books there are, yet I have never seen that section in any library or bookstore. Don't believe me when I speak of their power and influence? Well, think about this. When did you start thinking that Tuscany might be a nice place to visit? When did you start seeing houses and condos popping up everywhere, built to look like Italian villas? When did you start eating Tuscan food in restaurants, and filling your shelves with Tuscan cookbooks? When did you start buying so much olive oil, and spending big bucks to get one with superior flavor? When did mass-produced paintings of Tuscan hillsides become ubiquitous?


I'm guessing it was shortly after this book came out.

And, what did we eat and decorate with and book our vacations abroad around before that time? Why, all things "Country French", n'est pas? And why do you suppose that was? Well, it was because a guy named Peter Mayle wrote a book called A Year in Provence.


I'm tellin' ya, these books are revolutionary! Don't believe me? Well think on this. Think about this whole farm-to-table movement that has swept our country and changed the way we eat, shop, and think. Where do you think that got started? Why, in a little cafe called Chez Panisse in Berkley, California, which was opened by a young woman named Alice Waters.


Why do you suppose she was inspired to open this restaurant and concentrate on using only the freshest, most local ingredients she could find or forage? Well, for some reason, she had decided to take time out from her studies and career plans, to go off and spend "a year in Provence." It changed her life. And ours, too.


Revolutionary, I tell ya.

Eventually the furor over Tuscany began to fade, but my interest in Italian travel never did, thanks to the discovery of a whole slew of foodie memoirs by Marlena de Blasi. No other books have ever made me salivate the way these did.


Her book The Lady in the Palazzo got me curious about the town of Orvieto, in Umbria, which led me to this couple, who launched their travel business by inviting people to "Discover Orvieto", and travel in the footsteps of Marlena de Blasi. Know what's really cool? After a while they started bringing in different artists to conduct workshops in conjunction with these tours, including personal favorites like Jacqueline Neubold, Joanne Sharpe, and Tracy Verdugo. Definitely on my bucket list!

Come to think of it, perhaps they need, not one, but two new genre categories -- one for foodie memoirs, and another for foodie fiction. As it turns out, most of my favorite memoir writers eventually turned to writing fiction, and once a foodie, always a foodie.


After all, was not this delightful little mystery responsible for the most memorable meal in an absolutely epic visit to Marseilles?


A little cafe hidden behind a butcher''s shop.
Beef Cheeks with Foie Gras
If only they made it easier to find these sorts of books. We probably would have journeyed to Montreal and Quebec City long ago, if only we could have found just the right books to read. The Louise Penny mystery series is great but, alas, that poor woman must not give a fig about food!

Fortunately, I hit the jackpot when I googled "books set in Charleston" for our upcoming Mother-Daughter adventure. By the time I finished The House on Tradd Street, by Karen White (about a realtor who sees dead people) I not only had an entire page full of places to eat and things to see and do, I knew exactly what to order at each of them!