Saturday, April 26, 2014

Run, Don't Walk, to Your Local Farm Breakfast

These little kids are long-eared Nubians.
That's right: it's time for goat breakfasts again! (Click for last year's post.) I was able to dodge the marathon foot traffic and traffic blocks to pick up a friend and drive to the far edge of town for what has rapidly become a local institution. There we bumped into some acquaintances and had a delicious meal together. We couldn't have picked better weather.

This is the simplified menu for the month. I eat a lot of oatmeal, yogurt, and pancakes, so I chose the sandwich, which was stuffed with flavors. And messy. Which we decided any really quality sandwich should be.

The buzz in the line was about the "gougeres" listed on the menu: it turns out these are puff balls filled with (goat) cheese instead of cream or pudding. Like the goat's milk hot chocolate, they are better warm than cold. The drinks this morning were waaay strong and required a cup of water to chase down all that chocolate.

A.S. opted for the quiche, which was gooey and delicious once they finally served it. Due to technical difficulties orders from the front of the house for quiche weren't printing in the kitchen. Apparently it was worth the wait!

Friday, April 25, 2014

Fer Shizzle!

In the last post about my dissertation, I used a Wordle to represent the terms that appear most often in the text. After a conversation online, I then got the idea to create magnets with two different images at Zazzle. They arrived just two days later and are currently decorating our stove.

If for some reason you would like a little dissertation swag, just let me know. More can be ordered; they're $5 each.

Editor's Note: Dear Husband told me I had spelled "fo' shizzle" incorrectly, so I looked it up. Urban Dictionary and Slang Words Dictionary tell me that "fer shizzle" is the preppy, suburban corruption of the stylized urban bad!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Introducing: Dissertation 3.0!

Copyright + Title Page + Abstract + Table of Contents + Preface + Introduction + 5 Chapters + 2 Introductory Essays + Conclusion + Appendix + Bibliography = 1 Dissertation

Pages: ix + 363 (323 pages of text in the main body)

Words: 141,528

Footnotes: 1,022

Illustrations: 26

Tables: 9

Recipes: 15

164 Primary Sources + 399 Secondary Sources + 29 Periodicals + 6 Online Resources = 598 Total Sources

7 Archives + 9 Libraries in 7 Cities

And it can all be reduced to a potato-shaped Wordle that shows I use the word "like" more often than "Dresden," less often than "food," and about as often as the word "body." Fabulous. German history written by the Valley girl I never was! (Click to enlarge.)

Wordle: The Telescopic Body

You may also be interested in Dissertation 3.0, Dissertation 2.0 or Dissertation 1.0.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Happy Easter 2014!

Jeff Wunrow, a liturgical artist in St. Louis, made
both my stole and the one we gave as a gift.
Rather than being the highlight of my spring, this year's Easter was almost just one more thing to get through. Dear Husband had generously shared his head cold with me the week before, and I was in the middle of trying to meet the formatting edits required for the formal deposit of my dissertation. It was distribution week at the food pantry, I was giving a research talk at the College of Medicine's annual research symposium, and I had agreed to perform at multiple services (= multiple rehearsals). Oy veh. Although Holy Week was incredibly busy, I am glad I did all those things--even staying up late one night to watch CLUE at the local cinema co-op with some friends. Good Friday I joined a group of students pantomiming the Gospel, and Easter morning I danced in the light of Christ (left). At the last service, two months of ::cough:: plotting came to fruition as we presented our senior pastor with a love offering and a new green stole to replace the old frayed one he's been wearing for Ordinary Time since he started ministry three decades ago. We had managed to keep it a secret from him, so he was well and truly surprised, and we were all immensely pleased with ourselves.

Easter dinner was a smaller affair than usual, with only two guests besides ourselves. I prefer to have a full house on the holidays, but friends at Bible Study consoled me later that the other two seats at the table were for Elijah and Jesus! I cooked what I think was my first ham (surprisingly delicious) and asparagus with white sauce; our guests brought kale salad and twice-baked potatoes. DH had a rehearsal, so after cleaning up, I sent the girls off around the house to hunt for the plastic Easter eggs I had hidden. Same jokes and quotations as last year, but jelly beans instead of chocolates. We had a good laugh reading them around the table. Then we watched Frozen (surprisingly good). It was a happy Easter after all.

Easter table with DH's basket.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Day Trippers (Peoria, IL)

Wurlitzer Music clock +
House Rules at the Adams
Street Cafe: no fussin', no
whinin', no back talkin'.
Recently Dear Husband and I took a day trip with another couple to Peoria, Illinois. Our destination was the Peoria Riverfront Museum for "Chihuly and Friends," an exhibition of art glass by Dale Chihuly, Lino Tagliapietra, and Vittorio Costantini. The exhibit has run all winter, but we were hoping for a nice spring day for the drive over. No so luck: it was maybe 40 degrees, gray, and blustery. Thankfully there was plenty to do inside.

Peoria Riverfront Museum

Before diving into the museum, however, we needed some lunch. Abe's Deli got great reviews online, but when we had finally braved the wind up the hill to the Chase Bank building, the security guard inside said it had closed before the winter holidays! Hoping for a local's recommendation, I asked where else we could eat, but he claimed to have no idea. This despite the fact that we had plainly seen there were two restaurants across the street from the bank. It turned out that Sully's Irish Pub had closed about the same time, but the Adam's Street Cafe was open and hopping.

N. and I ordered paninis with homemade chips while the menfolk tried the Cheesy Cheeseburger Soup. Our orders were ready in the time it took to make a pit stop and wash our hands. The paninis were good, although not really large enough to share, as the cashier had suggested when we asked. The chips were acceptable, but I'm not sure the plates were worth $8 each. The unusual soup was indeed cheesy (and had red bell peppers in it), but the guys were unimpressed with what they described as its "homeopathic amounts of meat." We split that hulking cinnamon bun in the center for dessert.

Once at the museum, we started with the art-glass exhibition. All of the pieces come from the private collection of American businessman George R. Stroemple, and you can see many of them on the collection's website. Since several accidents back in the 1970s weakened Dale Chihuly and blinded him in the left eye, he has always worked with other artists to realize his ideas. For display at the Riverfront were samples from two different collaborative series. The Macchia are a series of "spotted" bowls and vases with solid interiors and mottled exteriors for which Chihuly wants to use all 300 colors of glass. This is tricky, because the different inclusions that lend the silica its color also change its melting point, but somehow it manages to all work together. You can see below that some of the Maccia look a little like the mollusks we saw in the IMAX show later.

These were on display in the lobby. Upon inquiry in the Gift Shop, we learned
that they are available for purchase to the tune of $7,000 and $8,000, respectively.
You know what they say: If you have to ask, then you can't afford it!
The Venetian series, created in that city in the late 1980s and early 1990s, consists of vases with wild color combinations, painted sketches, and my favorites, large glass "bottlestoppers" with putti (secular cherubs without wings). The putti were sculpted from hot glass with flecks of gold in it. Part of this series is an enormous "chandelier"--really five pieces in one. You really should click to see photos of the Laguna Murano Chandelier. With milky white sea creatures nestled among snaky arms of "seaweed," it is the masterpiece of a public art display Chihuly did in the mid-1990s, of chandeliers hung around Venice. S. and N. saw some of them in person while they were vacationing there.

Clock from the 1876
courthouse, torn down
in 1962 to make way for a
modern limestone building
with all of the ... character
you can imagine in an
edifice from that era.
There was also S.'s favorites, the Tagliapietra goblets with all manner of stems and bowls, and an entomologist's case of Costantini's glass insects, including praying mantises, a bunch of different kinds of beetles, and a swarm of delicate little bees.

Next door was a room devoted to origami. In addition to some impressive animal figures, there were abstract pieces of paper art, including tessallations, intricately pleated or coiled shapes, and modular sculptures. The display was rounded out by examples of folding in fashion, architecture, and technology. Origami has inspired engineers trying to fold things into smaller packages, such as coronary artery stents, vehicle airbags, and telescope lenses for transport into outer space.

We walked through "The Street," dedicated to the history of Peoria; sat in on a good planetarium show about constellations ("Stars over Peoria"); and ended with a 3D "giant screen" viewing of The Last Reef, a documentary about coral reefs. The videography was gorgeous--the sea slugs were my favorite--but we agreed afterward that the editing was muddled. The film began with the astonishing fact that the coral reef around Bikini Atoll has (mostly) regenerated in the half century since atomic bomb testing ended in 1958, then it warned that reefs are bleaching and dying because modern cities and energy use acidify the water--but maybe the coral are adaptive and will outlast us anyway. It was as if the writers couldn't decide whether to chastise or encourage viewers.

Old Abe the War Eagle,
mascot of the 8th Wisconsin
Volunteer Infantry Regiment
during the American Civil War.
They never lost a battle with
him; he visited Peoria in 1866.
While researching what to do in Peoria, I had downloaded what turned out to be a 1-hour, 2.5-mile walking tour around the downtown, which we decided to do after finishing at the museum. Thankfully the weather was so poor that we didn't attempt to walk it but rather drove around (and around) while I narrated from the backseat. Who knew that Peoria had such interesting architecture? For instance, Horace Trumbauer of Philadelphia designed the Hotel Pere Marquette in 1927 and hired George Mathews Harding--only the most famous muralist in the country at the time--to paint murals of various Europeans interacting with Native Americans. One of the last buildings made by Chicago architect William Lebaron Jenney--"the Father of the Skyscraper"--was the Jefferson Building, billed as "Peoria's first fireproof building" when it was built with a steel frame in 1910. And the next time you're there, look for the half-naked female postal worker on the side of the 1937 Post Office & Federal Courthouse, courtesy of Chicago-based WPA sculptor Freeman Schoolcraft. Finally, Philip Johnson designed the glass-fronted Peoria Civic Center as "a necklace of jewels." It opened in 1982 with an arena, exhibit hall, and theater. After about half an hour we were satiated, and it was time to head north for dinner anyway.

Dinner was a jolly affair at the Lindenhof, where the German-American Central Society hosts a weekly dinner on Friday nights, complete with live accordion entertainment and German beers on tap. On the menu that night was fried fish, breaded chicken, roast beef, green beans, red cabbage, spaetzle, mashed potatoes, gravy, green salad, and rye bread. For an extra donation you could get a soup and/or dessert. It was the perfect mix of German (three meats!) and American. The walls are decorated with flags, coats of arms, other kitsch. On the wall behind us hung a sign with the German adage "Food and drink keep body and soul together" (Essen und Trinken hält Leib und Seele zusammen).

Food, drink--and conversation. For dinner we met an old friend of DH's and mine from Baltimore, MN, who has come back to Central Illinois. It was really good to share her company again. After much food, drink, and conviviality we all piled in the car. DH drove, and I fell asleep. Day trippers indeed.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Thank Goodness for Husbands and Dishwashers

This evening I made a vegetarian pastitsio for dinner, with kidney beans instead of the usual ground meat.* I got the recipe out of my Better Homes and Gardens One Dish Dinners, a gift from My Awesome Parents (MAP) and my favorite cookbook. It listed 17 ingredients, 45 minutes of prep time (accurate), and 35 minutes to bake (a touch long). I knew the casserole would yield more than the 6 servings indicated, because we tend not to eat such large portions. I fudged on some of the measurements as I always do, but you can be sure there was at least 2 cups of fresh spinach. What the recipe with all its numbers and instructions failed to do, however, was to warn me that I would have to use every clean pot in my kitchen and a number of bowls and utensils to make one steaming pan of delicious cheesy goodness. "One-dish dinner," indeed!

* Actually, the beans were my idea, because I didn't think the recipe has enough protein. I also swapped out the "refrigerated egg product" for whole eggs, because I want to eat real food, thank you very much.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Tastes of Baltimore II

This is the second of two posts about eating out during my recent visit to Small-timore. You can find its companion post here: Tastes of Baltimore I.

Oh My Darling...
Lunch on Sunday was a raucous affair with 4 best buds from high school at Clementine. I never thought Hamilton could support such a chi-chi restaurant, but this mom-and-pop affair has done so well that pop opened a charcuterie and deli just up the street (below). They also own the next-door-but-one Hamilton Bakery. I'd been to the restaurant for Tuesday Taco Night and a Saturday lunch before and happily scoped out the menu beforehand. I had my stomach set on the fried catfish with corn and cheese grits (right). The fish was light and delicious, but I found the grits under-seasoned. Some salt and the juice of AP's lemon improved the flavor greatly.

The real buzz was caused by our waitress, a middle-aged blonde woman. My four friends were finally seated 20 minutes after our reservation; I showed up about 20 minutes after that, as our return from the camping trip had been delayed by almost an hour, and I needed to shower and change before entering polite company. In the meantime, the waitress (who never introduced herself, so I couldn’t publicly shame her even if I wanted to) tried to remove the extra chair set up for me, while the group was in the process of explaining that I was coming. “Is she really?” she retorted in an incredulous voice. When they then tried to order (I’d called to say what I wanted) she walked away, saying, “I’ve got other things to do.” Really. You have Very Important Things to Do besides taking an order from a table in your service? Please excuse us for asking you to do your job. The piece d’resistance was when she brought SB’s drink, and SB pointed out that there was lipstick on the glass. “Yes?” “It’s not my lipstick!” “Well I’ll bring you another one.” No apology, just indifference. Of course all this was related with much gusto once I had arrived and wound my way through the tables to the booth in the back. The waitress never did give us very much attention, but her attitude became noticeably nicer as tipping time drew nearer. We left the minimum and then scoped out the delicious baked goodies at the Bakery. (I can recommend the scones.)

My parents say they don’t go to Clementine on the weekends any more because the service is so slow; apparently the chef apparently has a hard time delegating and wants to have his hands in every plate. Next time I’m back in town we’ll go to Maggie’s Farm if we can get a table, or maybe Los Amigos. AM says they know how to get an order right there, like making sure the dish doesn't have onions if the customer has an allergy to them (::cough::).

There are tons of period decorations on the walls of the diner, like old street signs,
and photographs of Hamilton back in the day. This clock hangs above the door.

Now we're cookin'!
On my last day in town, I wanted to treat my youngest brother to a famous hamburger at Hamilton Tavern, but they're not open for lunch, and I had to brave Opening Day and rush-hour traffic to get to the airport to fly home, so we compromised on the Lost in the '50s Diner across the street. (Their website is lost in the '90s.) The joint comes complete with bar stools at a bright red counter and vinyl booths with vintage table-top juke boxes that sadly no longer work. N. said he wasn't planning on eating his entire Philly Cheese Steak (with chips), but I guess it was so good that he polished it right off. I sampled the Teeny Boppers with fries (below). You can see the buns were kind of squishy, but in all they were good. I even ate most of the fries. I wish I had had room for a chocolate milk shake. The place was empty in the middle of the lunch hour, so I would go back, if only to try to keep a locally owned business open. (I haven't heard any negative stories about them that would suggest they're struggling for legitimate reasons like bad food or service.)