Monday, December 24, 2007
Sparkling Wine, Pink and Rodents have been very successful resolutions. Fruit and spices much less so (although we did drink some awful cordials for each). So, the basic requirements of the year's big resolution (I do have more mundane resolutions such as reading books and exercising) are that it must be something that I can share with the Mister and friends (no resolving to lower my cholesterol), something that can be spread out over the whole year and done in small increments (no resolving to go to Fiji) and something fun.
Sunday, December 16, 2007
While Templeton's role in the story is comic relief, his development of compassion is one of the great transformations of the book. They tried to force this in the movie, but it didn't work and I ended up just feeling sorry for the poor rat, whose book character is one of my all time favorite rodent side-kicks.
Despite numerous problems, I'm glad we watched Charlotte's Web. I am prone to crying at no provocation these days (see reason in ROUS post), but would have wept profusely at the end of the story regardless. It's not Charlotte's death that usually gets me, it's Wilbur's abandonment by her children and then, when it looks like a few are going to stay and be friends, E.B. White goes and points out how none could possibly replace Charlotte (the movie thankfully leaves out that tear-jerking line, but I know the book well enough to know that it accompanies the "It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer. Charlotte was both." line that was included).
I'm pretty sure I didn't think the book was terribly sad as a child, but as a teenager and later, the truth that friends come and go but are irreplaceable has struck me as incredibly sad.
Summary Recommendation: Read the fabulous book. Skip the movie. Babe is a better pig movie. Ratatouille a better rat movie.
* The movie Joy Luck Club truly enhanced Amy Tan's book I adored. The BBC version of Pride and Prejudice, most of the Harry Potter movies and The Lord of the Rings all do honor to the great books they are made from, if, of course, not as great.
Saturday, December 15, 2007
The Princess Bride is one of my all-time favorite movies and the one to which I know almost every line. Its not a great movie by any account, but I love it. Sometimes one needs funny comfortable movies. Last night was one such night in our house. Our much anticipated reason for not drinking is no more and will not be arriving in July. We found out she/he wasn't alive on Thursday and I had surgery yesterday. It's devastating and horrible (and I'm not intending to make light of it by talking about it in a rodent movie post, but I don't want to talk about it at all, yet think that my friends need to know) but there really isn't anything to be done except grade the finals and curl up with the Mister and watch silly movies.
What are your favorite rodent minor characters? ROUS in Princess Bride? Templeton in Charlotte's Web? The beaver in Lady and the Tramp?
I haven't fully inspected the Rodents of Unusual Sweetness webpage, but I am terribly amused just by the link to "What to expect when your rat is expecting"
The ROUS T-shirt pictured above is available from 80stees.com.
*How does one properly make a plural of an anacronym that ends with S?
Friday, December 14, 2007
Tuesday, December 4, 2007
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
However, to celebrate being with family and to announce our reason not to drink sparkling wine, the Mister and I did toast with some fine vintages recently. With The Mister's parents we had Jansz Tasmania, a mysterious (as to varietal) Tasmanian premium non-vintage cuvee, which I really liked for what little I sampled, and the crowd did not. We also opened a Biltmore Estates Chateau Reserve 2003 Blanc de Blanc, much preferred by Prairie Quilter, but which reminded me that chardonnay based Blanc de Blancs are not my thing.
In Colorado we drank the last (?) of our wedding sparkling (Korbel Blanc de Noir) and a bottle of true champagne, a grand cuvee purchased simply because it was relatively inexpensive. Both were good, but the later certainly not twice as good as the former, as the price might suggest.
Find a reason and drink some sparkling wine, or whatever makes you feel festive, and keep celebrating.
Friday, November 9, 2007
The Mister had no idea if he liked parsnips when I first met him. I served him parsnips and carrots one winter night early in our relationship and he ate three large helpings, ruining my leftover stash for the week but endearing him to me forever.*
Parsnip and Carrots
Julienne equal quantities of parsnips and carrots. The Mister bought me a special attachment for our food processor just for this, but grating does work, as does hand chopping. Toss the carrots and parsnips into a saute pan, with a little olive oil if it is not non-stick. Cover and cook for a while, adding a little (1/4 cup or less) juice or port if you want a little added flavor, water otherwise. When your other food items are nearing ready, take the lid off add some butter and brown the vegetables a bit.
While this recipe is very very tasty if you are constantly adding butter (making, in essence buttery parsnip and carrot hash browns). The vegetables can do most of their cooking by steaming and only need a small quantity of butter at the end for a few nice browned bits. The dish is, in fact, still quite tasty without any butter.
*Among many many other things.
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Saturday, October 27, 2007
The forecast suggests that temperatures could drop tonight (it hasn't frosted yet), and as I looked out at the muted autumnal hillsides this afternoon, I decided to harvest the volunteer mystery squash.
some chili peppers
Sunday, October 21, 2007
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
Saturday, October 13, 2007
Chipmunks were on high alert. Around the Civil War graves at Droop Knob State Park, Eastern Grey Squirrels were chasing walnuts and each other. At Bear Town State Park,
the Red Squirrels stashing acorns and conifer cones wouldn't stop long enough for us to take a clear photo.
The trees were reabsorbing their chlorophyll.
And, at least one bear at Droop Mountain was eating large quantities. Whether he (or she) was absorbing any of the nutrients I have no idea, because he (or she) was certainly piling up the scat on along the trail. We encountered at least 6 large plops in less than a fourth mile of trail. Two were still glistening fresh, two appeared to be the previous day's, and two were still very squishy but growing mold.
Back at home our chipmunks seem especially excitable, our marmot (the local groundhog) is very fat, apparently feasting on chestnuts, and two beaver are building a lodge in the river which is visible from the bridge we cross on the way to work. Winter's coming!
Tuesday, October 2, 2007
Saturday, September 29, 2007
The Mister has lots of rules regarding living in our house: no harassing the chipmunks, humingbirds or finches; no clawing clothes; no pawing pens as we write; if you stay here you can't have kittens.
The plain weird thing is that these rules are being expounded to a small cat who may have a home with one of our neighbors, does not have a name, and clearly makes both of us itchy-eyed.
While she may not look like a terrorizer of chipmunks, that is the Mister's midsection she is napping upon. Her winsome ways and loud and hearty purring have clearly bewitched the humans of this household. Who knows what she might do to its rodents?
Monday, September 24, 2007
- chicken of the woods (a.k.a. "sulfur shelf) a super-tasty mushroom sauteed and folded into a fritatta.
- chestnuts roasted in the oven
- paw-paws picked by a student. I love the custardy fruitiness of a paw-paw
- apples from the vacant lot peeled (because they are incredibly scabby) and baked into a pie and then others cooked with a little port and sorghum (hand-milled in Eastern Kentucky) until soft
- tomatoes, squash, okra and herbs from our garden
- habeneros from a student's garden
Of course, there are deer, squirrels, pigeons, Canada geese and ground hogs in the vicinity, but we've abstained from eating our rodent friends and their friends.
Sunday, September 16, 2007
Butter Tarts in Ontario: a tart somewhere between shoofly pie and a pecan-less pecan pie, but buttery-er. One had raisins in it.
Pasties in the UP: labeled as both Cornish and Finnish, depending on where you buy them, we had both traditional pasties (with rhutabaga, beef and potato) and some newer variants (with carrots in one and with egg and cheese in another).
Indian Tacos at Crow, MT, Wall SD and in the Badlands. Since the stand in Interior, S.D. that used prairie turnip flour in their Indian Tacos closed, I think that the Trading Post across from the Little Big Horn Battlefield Site has the best Indian Tacos available.
Caramel Rolls (both with and without nuts) in South Dakota. They are certainly not unique to South Dakota, but there were unusual quantities of them available and almost nothing labeled as a "Cinnamon Roll".
Grape Pie in Naples, NY. Naples was a bit out of our way, but if we couldn't make a long detour for grape pie, what sort of grand road trip were we on? We ended up buying a set of four small tartlets from Cynthia, who was selling them out of her front door. We should have purchased a pie, to better see how the grapes work as a filling, but the tartlets were definitely yummy.
We also sampled non-regional baked goods made with regional fresh produce: our mothers' apple crisps, peach tart from an orchard stand on the Niagira penninsula, tart cherry gallette on Door County and, while not on our road trip, Imitation Ice Queen (who was in town for the weekend from Philadelphia) and I baked a very tasty apple pie using mostly scabby apples from our very own vacant lot apple tree yesterday.
Wednesday, September 5, 2007
Monday, September 3, 2007
If I thought this was entirely true, I wouldn't promote Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable Miracle about a year of eating locally, so heartily. My experience, however, is that my friends and family are a pretty non-random sample of the American population (I believe the most recent studies suggest that the median number of books read last year was 1 and the mean 4 for adult Americans. This is not true of my friends and family). Beyond that, people of my acquaintance may talk about eating locally but I'm not sure how much we do it. The Mister and I, for instance, have bagged spinach from California in our refrigerator, bananas on the counter and coffee in the pot as we speak. So, while Barbara and I may be preaching to the choir, the choir still needs the message, not just to hear their voices.
As previously mentioned, like every other biologist wanna-be novelist I know, I want to be Barbara Kingsolver. I could do without the failed marriage and horrible insomnia that led to her earlier novels, but still I want to be her. So this is not an objective review, but I suppose it says something that after writing my book, (food, family and environment being my domain [Barbara can have single motherhood, Arizona and African missionaries in the '60s]) I still want to be her, because she wrote my book as well as I would have, perhaps better, because I don't think that there is anyway I'd venture into turkey sex.
Whether Barbara, myself, or many other authors write it*, the case for eating locally is strong. I was planning on expounding on the many benefits, but I find that my blogging time is well-past used up, and I am interfering with far too much of my entomology learning time as I write. So I will limit myself to two points. One: there are compelling environmental, social, and taste benefits from eating locally in season. If you cannot think of them, I would be happy to expound in conversation (or would direct you to the 100 mile diet web site if you don't want to read Barbara's book). Two: I know that vegetables at the farmers market cost more (at least sometimes), that most of us don't live near any source of chocolate, coffee, or tea and might not make it without them, that your local grocery store is hideous (couldn't be much worse than ours as far as local produce goes), that you don't have space for a garden, that convenience foods are convenient . . . I know and I'm not asking you to become an exclusive locavore.
I am asking that you
- buy (or grow) more locally in season
- "put away" some local produce for the winter. Among people I know this ranges from drying apples to canning tomato sauce. Like many of you, I am not up for canning, but I am going to buy a bushel of chili peppers at the market next week and freeze most of them (sticking them in the freezer whole because the mister and I are too lazy to prep them). I am going out this afternoon to pick basil to make pesto to freeze and I hope to dry some tomatoes.
- If you live anywhere where you can purchase a large box of good Colorado peaches, do it now. Eat them, two a day and think of me. Or make a cobbler or a pie. Or freeze some.
- find local apples this fall. I have been shocked to find WV apples are as much better than grocery stores (WA and New Zealand) apples as garden tomatoes are from store tomatoes. Scrumptious.
Thanks*One criticism I've heard of Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is that the idea is not novel. This is definitely true. Ethnobotanist Gary Paul Nabhan writes regularly on the subject, most notably with his 2001 Coming Home to Eat chronicling a year of eating locally (moderately recommended; good points, tiresome reading). His involvement with RAFT (Renewing America's Food Traditions) helps ensure that Slow Food USA is an ecological as well as gastronomic movement, and I can support his Buffalo Nation treatise because it cites two of my local eating mentors, Kelly Kindscher and Alma Hogan Snell. Without at any point telling readers they should eat locally, Michael Pollan does an excellent job of explaining where our food does (and can) come from in Omnivore's Dilemma (very highly recommended). Jay Weinstein takes the opposite approach: little explanation, many directives, in The Ethical Gourmet (mildly recommended, a bit too much "Tell your cook not to buy bottled water" and "here's how to source coffee at high end stores in Manhattan" for my budget or location, but very clear priority lists for eating ethically). Vandana Shiva, Wendell Berry and to a lesser extent Wes Jackson have all written about the social and economic consequences of different agricultural systems. I haven't read the 100-Mile Diet (Plenty is the American title) yet. I will someday, but when I picked it up in Toronto, I was a bit displeased with the commentary on the back stating that Smith and McKinnon were introducing us to the idea of a food shed. It's petty on my part, since the authors themselves didn't make this claim, but as I have been reading and discussing foodsheds since my fabulous 2000 Geography of American Foodways class (and then it wasn't a new concept, just new to me), I was annoyed at anyone so disrespecting the vast foodshed literature : - )
While that assessment does not demonstrate that I am not romantically nostalgic about it*, as I know I am, I feel I am unbiased enough to proclaim:
Book ---very good, stands the test of time well (and portrays lab science reasonably accurately)
Movie--- bad, and much worse for having been made from a great book.
One thing I think that Robert C. O'Brien does very well is to promote the value of human intelligence (reading and creating things) while portraying animals without such intelligence as smart, capable and compassionate creatures in their own right.
An interesting concept suggested by the books which underscores the debates among the rats is the idea that agriculture makes creatures civilized. This is not in the standard historical sense, that agriculture led people to living in one place, led to food to supply cities, led to civilization, but rather that, however ornamented their habitations may be (the rats have stained glass windows, elevators and libraries), creatures are uncivilized thieves until they grow their own food.
*My fifth grade year was, for the most part, a disasterous failure of a social experiment. My elementary school, built in the early 70s, had open classrooms called pods. K + 1 in red pod, 2 +3 in white pod, 4 and most of 5 in blue pod, and a few fifth graders and the 6th graders were in gold pod. Pods had 5 teachers, mixed grade home rooms (called "record group", not home room) and tracked language arts and math classes. Except the year I was in 5th grade in gold pod. Instead of mixing us in with the 6th graders, the 5th graders in gold pod were entirely isolated with one teacher in the one closed classroom in the building all day. We didn't interact with other fifth graders (blue and gold pod were on entirely different schedules), we were scorned by the sixth graders (with whom we never officially interacted, but had lunch and recess), and our teacher wearied of us very quickly. As far as we could tell, the 28 of us were equally divided between those who were "academically ready" for gold pod (i.e. had been in the advanced math class with mostly 5th graders when we were in 4th grade) and those who the blue pod teachers wanted most to get rid of. It was a truly crazy year in that classroom, but I'm not sure if there have been 28 people I've had such strong reactions to ever since.
The one thing our teacher did very well, however, was read to us. He chose excellent books and knew a good stopping point when he it. As he read Bridge to Terabithia to us we left one Thursday thinking, "Leslie can't be dead," then Friday "Can it really be all a dream?". Mrs. Frisby was a shockingly suspenseful book the way Mr. Rivet read it to us, and if he's out there I'd like to thank him for it.
Saturday, August 18, 2007
Sunday, August 12, 2007
Marmie is a stuffed* European marmot I acquired in Zermatt, Switzerland in 1984. Not only has Marmie been a dear companion for over 20 years, he has also served in the important role of groundhog to determine the winner of the "pin the shadow on the groundhog" game at Groundhog parties, and is rather cute, if I say so myself.
A mermet is like an marmot, only invisibler. Mermie is a mermet that my brother acquired at the same time I acquired marmie. Mermie has long been known to lead Marmie into mischief.** The Mister thinks that Marmie is on vacation in Europe visiting relatives. I think that Marmie may have become a mermot. And there is that dreadful third possibility: there is another box somewhere still to be unpacked.
*stuffed toy, not taxidermy
**while a mischievous member of a fictitious species that is invisible-er than the real species sounds like something that the Mister would come up with, this was entirely the doing of my brother.
Wednesday, August 8, 2007
Tuesday, August 7, 2007
Less than a week after the woodland party in Lawrence, we threw the almost-annual croquet tournament (16th, I believe, first one in 1988) and drank good sparkling wine with good friends: Hungarian, our "house" sparkler (Domaine Ste. Michelle Blanc de Noir[DSM]) and a fair pink cava (Cristalano). With my partner Moonbeam, I won the croquet tournament for the second time in 16 attempts, but only because Principal T and Bass Masseur, who were way ahead, threw it. Distinguished Diplomat and her Handsome Husband arrived, but didn't stay, as they were on their way to the hospital for sprog induction (I'd never seen anyone nine and a half months pregnant perform croquet yoga before; it is an unusual sight). Like the Woodland Evening in Lawrence, the croquet tourney reminded me how much I adore and miss my friends. Although, unlike the woodland evening, it was not twinged with "this will never happen again" sadness. My "gang" in Lawrence largely dispersed last summer, with another significant contingent leaving this year, and it will take significant work to meet up again. The Colorado group, however, is a tribute to the lasting power of friendship and tradition-- we have a great time regardless of how long it has been since we've seen each other.
While still in Colorado, we also drank to my mother's birthday (the Korbel Blanc de Noir from our wedding-- very good stuff), Father's Day (a good Spanish red, along with some DSM), my mother's real retirement and Elaine's Birthday (a slightly effervescent Vino Verdi).
Later in Madison, we drank a New Ulm Cherry Lambic with great friends from high school. Technically not wine (although it is sparkling), the is the best made in the US Lambic I've had, and really very good. I also bring it up as an excuse to mention the dear friends, neither of whom I have seen in years, whom I love. I reveled in the chance to introduce my Mars geologist friend to my chemical archaeologist friend because everybody needs a to know that there are people as nerdy, or perhaps nerdier, than they are in the world.
Speaking of people nerdier than we are, back in Chicago we attended a wedding that included rings in Elvish, menus with Latin names, diver's during dinner (reception at the aquarium) and the Dungeons and Dragons players guide. We celebrated by drinking DSM Blanc de Blanc (a great choice, I might add, even if I prefer the Blanc de Noir) and enjoying the company of friends now living in PA, TX, IA, KS, MO and IL.
Before we left the sibling's-in-law place the next morning, we drank a bottle of a cava with red and black raspberries from the farmer's market, specifically labeled as "for champagne." While our primary motivation was to try beautiful berries in sparkling wine, we could have been celebrating Sibling-In-Law's new professor job in St. Louis or the other Sibling's-in-Law signing off on his dissertation (rounding out the topics of obscure advanced degrees in my generation of sib, Mister and sibs-in-law to genetic algorithms, effect of internet on German news communication, the 660 discontinuity in the earth's mantle, economic history of San Fransisco (?) during a specific time period, 15th century (?) German Lit., and population ecology of prairie turnips).
We drank a nice bottle of Door County Winery Sparkling Wine (Wisconsin wine made from California grapes, $20 at a restaurant) just 'cause, which impressed our waitress. It's one of the better small state sparklers we've had, but then the juice wasn't local. To celebrate our second anniversary, we drank a bottle of Bollinger Special Cuvee over a leisurely dinner at the Old Rittenhouse Inn in Bayfield, Wisconsin. While it wasn't as good as the Charles Heidsieck we drank for our first anniversary, there is something about a nice bottle of true champagne which makes it better than other sparkling wines (including non-Champagne French wines).
At a Portuguese restaurant in Toronto (I had no idea that Toronto has a strong Portuguese community, but then I had really no idea about how large, urban and cosmopolitan Toronto is until I tried to navigate The Mister downtown into the city), we had a bottle of Portuguese sparkling that was a good accompaniment to the grilled octopus, raw oysters and fabulous seafood risotto. In absentia, we may have been celebrating my good friend and former roommate Tuscon Trekker defending her dissertation.
We sampled several Ontario Sparkling wines at the Niagara Pennisula wineries because we could. Three of them very good (two from Reisling and one from Vidal Blanc grapes, I believe), and the two very cheap peach and "sweet brunch" sparklers were, well, cheap and sweet.
Since returning home, we drank the Niagara sparklers to celebrate being home, a DSM bottle to celebrate living here one year, a Cristalano bottle to celebrate almost being unpacked, and I'm not sure what all else.
On the trip we also celebrated the Mister's Grandfather's 80th birthday and actual birth of Kaliel to Distinguished Dip. and her HH. Both were certainly sparkling wine worthy occasions, if we didn't actually drink it at the moment. Cheers!
Tuesday, July 31, 2007
Monday, July 30, 2007
I bought my mother Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle for her birthday. I then decided that, even though the book was for my mother, and I wasn't reading food books, I needed to read it before handing it over. After all, it isn't every day that one of my favorite novelists writes a book on my favorite subject. Like many such books, it dismayed me, "This is the book that I was supposed to write," yet I still very highly recommend it. It will receive a complete review and discussion of ideas here one of these times.
While still in Canada, I scored a Canadian copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I read it completely as a fan and not a critic, and, not surprisingly, adored it. I was actually overall very impressed with some characters ended, and look forward to discussing with other fans. The Canadian, lay-out, by the way, is not as nice as the American.
Last week I hit the library looking for the two of the seven Harry Potter books I don't own so I could sit down to a true H.P. marathon. Instead of H.P., I decided to pick some featured unheard-of-by-me new novels. From the juvenile fiction section, I pulled Before the Lark by Irene Bennet Brown. The heroine is a 12-year-old in Kansas City with a harelip who decides to take on farming in Kansas in 1888. Despite a conclusion that is far too tidy, I enjoyed it and would lightly recommend it for Prairie Quilter, Sunflower Spinner, Lindsey, and others who liked young-adult prairie fiction. If you happen to read it and find the same version I had, do not be turned off by the glaring error in the book jacket: "It is 1888, and Kansas, just to the north of them, is still pioneer country" (my emphasis). The author's geography is very detailed (and they clearly head west from Kansas City), and given that I felt a flaw of the book was how much the author wanted to inform readers, including characters thrown in just to inform about immigration or Kaw people or cleft-palate surgery, I assume the glaring error is from someone at the publishing house.
In the adult section I found Twentieth Wife by Indu Sundaresan. Like most good historical fiction, this book left me feeling completely ignorant and amazed. I began the book knowing absolutely nothing about the Mughal Empire. Upon completion, I looked up a few characters (on wikipedia, of course) and found that the characters were real people and the major events have been well-recorded. I know more for having read the book, and I want to know more: Sundaresan was definitely successful. Given an outline of recorded history, the story is the motivation: how and why these characters behaved this way. I think it is here that Sundaresan shines. She did make the characters believable with plausible motivations for irrational acts. The book is not perfect-- something is amiss with the pacing, and there is an issue that the hero and heroine are not particularly sympathetic. Still I would highly recommend it for Moonbeam, Janet, Sunflower Spinner and those fond of novels like The Red Tent. If I owned my own copy I would give it to my seattle-sister-in-law for her birthday.
Friday, July 27, 2007
Since first alerted to it by Hellx back in April, I have been looking forward to Ratatouille. Not surprisingly, I adored it, and would have to list it at the top of the animated rodent pieces I have seen this year. I'm not sure if it will lead to more rodents with discriminating palates as a sib-in-law suggests, but I really do hope it will lead to greater appreciation of food among humans, for after, all, I agree with the dead chef . . . anyone can cook.
Between Ecuador and the Road Trip, I read Dominique Browning's, Paths of Desire. I loved the concept of a path of desire (apparently a landscape arcitecture term for the places where people actually walk instead of using the paths laid for them) as a driving force in both garden maintenance and life. However, the book overall disappointed me. Perhaps it was because the story wasn't all that great and I was really craving good fiction rather than home (and life) improvement woes. Perhaps I could never get past the idea that Browning, an editor at Home and Garden, actually felt that she was speaking to the challenges that face suburban gardeners everywhere. As her Long Island acre with a dense woods of 100 year old trees, ability hire arborists and other "helpful men" as necessary and attitude of "why do all of the neighbors need their own swing sets?" were well outside my suburban gardening experience, I just couldn't swallow that she was representing "the passions of a suburban gardener" as the subtitle suggests.
Image from Amazon, which you can link to here.
Thursday, July 26, 2007
The runner-up prize, awarded jointly to Prairie Quilter and Glenn (at 8,431 Glenn was technically closer than Prairie Quilter at 8,888, but I like P.Q.'s guess better) is a great meal at our place at West Virginia.
Janet, Irene and the siblings-in-law are all awarded consolation prizes of tasty meals in West Virginia. Prizes must be redeemed in person.
So where did we go on this great adventure? Essays to come, but for those of you who are list readers:
Economic Botany Conference (Chicago), Cousin Wedding (KS), 80th birthday celebrations (central Kansas), Woodland Evening (Lawrence KS), rhubarb crisp with the Mister's parents (central Kansas), rhubarb crisp with my parents (CO), croquet tournament (CO), hospital to see brand new baby, Rocky Mtn. National Park, prairie dogs of Wyoming, Big Horns, visiting Crow Elder friends (Crow Res, MT), Little Bighorn Battlefield, Devil's Tower (WY), Black Hills, SD (Custer State Park in Particular), Wind Cave, Badlands National Park, Wall Drug, Minuteman Missile Site, Corn Palace, Pipestone National Park (MN), good friends in Madison, Wisconsin State Capitol, Chicago (Siblings-in-law), Crazy Friend Wedding, relatives (small town IL).
Kettle Moraine State Forest (WI), Milwaukee, Sheboygan, Green Bay (4th of July), Door County, Northwoods, Apostle Islands and Bayfield, Canoeing on the Manotowish, Porcupine Mountain Wilderness (MI), Keweenaw Peninsula, Painted Rocks National Lakeshore, Soo Locks in Sault Ste. Marie, Agawa Canyon Train (Ontario), Toronto, Canada's Wonderland (crazy roller coasters), Niagara wine region, Niagara Falls, Finger Lakes (NY), Corning Museum of Glass, Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania, home.
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
Monday, July 16, 2007
Thursday, July 12, 2007
A great end to a great day (although I notice that darkness and Michigan wine are not enhancing my typing skills).
Monday, July 9, 2007
So, after seeing three dead on the roads of Wyoming and Montana, we started looking for live ones at Devil's Tower.
The Mister has a rather magical way with wildlife. I've seen more animals with him than in all of my life previous. If anyone could see a porcupine by force of will, it would be the Mister and it would have been at Devil's Tower, where we hiked late into the evening and every pine made sounds (bark beetles?). But no.
So we still haven't seen one of the second largest rodents in North America alive, but two people yesterday mentioned seeing live ones recently and tomorrow we are headed to the Porcupine Wilderness, so we'll see.
Completely unrelated, we have a new mystery animal. Over near the Michigan border yesterday, a mammal bounded across the road. While unlike the teaser animal (answer to the teaser in the comments below), this animal we had seen in zoos. It's larger than a white tailed prairie dog, smaller than a moose, faster than a golden mantled ground squirrel and slower than the a pronghorn antelope.
Useful information: today marks 5 weeks into our trip, which will likely be about 8 weeks.
We hit 5,000 miles last weekend at Chicago.
While that was halfway time-wise into our trip, we intend for it to be less than halfway, distance-wise.
According to mapquest, we are 994 miles from home by the shortest driving route.
We are not taking that route.
We have campground reservations for the next two nights in the Porcupine Wilderness and no definitive plans beyond that, other than taking prairie dog to Canada. We may try to hit the U20 Wold Cup finals in Toronto, we'll definitely sample Ontario wine.
Sunday, July 1, 2007
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
From his rock in Custer State Park, this yellow-bellied marmot seemed fairly unphased by his view. We'd driven by the area at noon and it wasn't burning. Coming back from Wind Cave at 3:30, it was impressive. Recent reports suggest the fire has consumed 22,000 acres and is half contained.
In any case, I left this meal thinking about the wonders of kale and lucky siblings-in-law. I didn't note the name of the wine, the price, or anything about it. I recall it being slightly pink, tasty, and not a great accompaniment to the hearty soup. Too many thoughts of friends and family and no thoughts of wine. Poor critic skills.
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
However, relative to the expected quantities of each, the reptiles are surprisingly abundant. More turtles than squirrels were trying to cross Kansas backroads. Rain on the prairie and foothills has apparently led to a bumper crop of small lizards both in Central Kansas and Roxborough State Park. Snakes at both sets of parents' places and warnings of many more. Good year for reptiles. And, thus far, not a ground squirrel (thirteen-lined, golden-mantle or otherwise) in view.
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
The Swiss sparkling was unexpectedly red and advertised as having hints of strawberry. It was definitely fruity, and the strawberry hint was the overwhelming smell of over-ripe (read rotten) fruit.
The Michigan blanc de blanc was dry and yeasty with an off-smell.
The Lambrusco was dark red and overtly grapey-- similar to sparkling communion wine or Andre cold duck done better.
Three bad sparkling wines in one evening, a total bust, except we were there to see friends, so it was wonderful.
Saturday, June 9, 2007
This perhaps explains why I was so astounded by the number of chipmunks running around the Chicago Botanic Gardens looking very fat and very happy.
The gardens, by the way, are large and grand, and worth visiting, but not worth a large detour.
Thursday, June 7, 2007
It is immediately clear to me that I am not home in small town West Virginia, where apertifs are not part of our regular routine, mores the pity.
Apertifs represent the transition to my siblings-in-law world, which, to me, represents all that is cool about big city life. Their apartment is crammed with books and original artwork and not in the least bit cluttered. They have Gastronomica, The Journal of Food and Culture, sitting next to the guest bed. They discuss foreign films (and see most of them too.) And they have apertifs.
We've just arrived on a long road trip. Apertifs are served. Maybe it's all an act. I eat it up, and in the case of my sparkling apertif, drink it down.
Saturday, June 2, 2007
Please comment, too.
Outside of the food market in Baños, I had my chance.
The Mister and I selected our purveyor of cuy based on three attributes: the meat smelled tantalizing while roasting, the place was packed with locals, and the window listed "cuy con papas" (with potatoes) so we knew we could order a plate meal rather than a whole pig.
It was tasty.
The next day we were at the Saturday market in Riobamba, an extraordinary affair that spills from the permanent food stalls, through blocks and blocks of specialty merchandise (one street all potato sellers, another all things made from used tires), and covering at least three other plazas. At what is the bus station on non-market days, we hit the live animal vendors. One could purchase a chicken at any stage of development, a rabbit literally pulled from a gunny sack, and adorable young guinea pigs. Unlike the bunnies and the chickens, who seemed oblivious to their fate, the guinea pigs all huddled in the corners of the cages, pretending that they couldn't be seen and whimpering in that rodent snort-whimper-squeal sort of way. I'm not totally sure I could have eaten one had I seen the market first.
Oh, yes, it did taste like chicken. Dark meat.