Toast Tuesday: It’s not a fail, it’s a pass-over

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This week I’m supposed to be telling you all about grappa, but a couple of things have stopped me. Number one of which is all the grappa I found locally was $60 a bottle. That just wasn’t in the budget this time, especially when our author states that the flavor profile can be somewhere between furniture polish and lighter fluid.  I may revisit this some day and if you have suggestions to offer, please post them below.

Our guide

Our guide

This week instead of following our guide, I have taken a hard left and then down a tree lined driveway.

Every family has its traditions and in my Portland family the tradition is I make the charoset. This week is the Jewish holiday of Passover and it usually kicks off with a big dinner with lots of wine, and instead of a song about a reindeer, we sing about a goat. The centerpiece of the dinner is a plate with an assortment of symbolic foods and charoset represents the mortar. The way I make charoset, it is a simple salad of apples, pecans, cinnamon, honey, and wine.  I even made a charoset inspired scone one year, you’ll find that here.

I threw out an idea to my ladies group, half joking, that this month’s happy hour at home would be during Passover and a challenge for them to make dishes that were kosher for Passover. They quickly picked up the gauntlet, and then almost as quickly went into a panic. I held their hand and posted some links for recipes, traditional and non. I’ll keep you posted on how they do.

Not only was this a challenge for them, it was a challenge for me. To come up with a cocktail menu that is kosher for Passover I had to put my thinking cap on.  This is what I’m serving: a white wine and peach sangria, a strawberry margarita, and an apple cinnamon martini.  I should stipulate at this point that I keep kosher during Passover in fairly loose terms. I follow the rules, but I do not feel the need to buy special ingredients that have been blessed by a rabbi just so I can pay twice as much for it. Agave is not a grain or flour, it does not rise; therefor let it be written, the margarita, if made with good simple ingredients, is kosher for Passover. More on the margarita next week.

I’ve told you before my ladies like their drinks sweet. So I always have to have at least one on the menu for them. That’s where the apple cinnamon martini comes in. I started with an idea, Google helped solidify it, and experimentation made it so.

Pass-Over the Martini

Pass-Over the Martini
2 ounces Chopin potato vodka
1/2 ounce apple cinnamon simple syrup*
Pour in a shaker, add ice, and shake hard for 10 seconds.

Pour into a martini glass and add a few drops of angostura bitters.

**Apple cinnamon simple syrup
1 cup Martinelli’s unfiltered apple juice or fresh cider if you can find it
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Heat in the microwave or stove stop and stir until combined. Allow to cool to room temperature before using.

This is certainly too sweet for my normal pallet and the bitters help cut the sweetness and bring out the spice of the cinnamon. I’m certain though my ladies are going to enjoy this.

Be sure to see what Meg drank this week.  I can only hope she drank grappa for the two of us.

Here’s to Tasting another Tuesday!

my green girl angst in a disposable city

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I hate to say there are a few un-green things I have embraced being back in the south. One of which is a styrofoam cup. The goal here is to have ice last as long as possible. In the winter, building are over heated.  In the summer, outdoors is over heated. I need ice year round. Which is funny because in Oregon I always ordered my water with no ice.

I’ve always been the person whose house you needed to bring a sweater to because they keep it cool in the winter.  Now I’m trying very hard not to become completely addicted to air conditioning.  I keep my windows and doors open as long as I can.  Right now I’m listening to the sound of rain floating in the open window.

I shake my head and fist at the people who throw their cigarettes out their car window or drop it on the ground as they walk back in the building.  Just about everyone in my office eats out and so few people here take their lunch.  Every day, someone at work has to comment on something I am eating like I am a polar bear at the zoo snacking on a fish head.  I make my iced tea at home and bring it in a mason jar.  Clearly I am that polar bear.

I’m certainly the only person I know here who has five different ways to make coffee at home.  I rotate.  Depends on the day, the weather, the time I have in the morning, and how many people am I making for.  I have become quite fond of Community Coffee.  Regular ol’ coffee from the grocery store.  $6.99 a pound is nicer on my budget than the $12+ I was paying when I lived in Portland.  I’d support locally roasted if it were conveniently located to me.  See, now I’ve become lazier too.

This wasn’t entirely what I was going to write about, but this is what came flying out of my fingertips.  So, back to my styrofoam cup.  I get one or two a week from the cafeteria and reuse them.  I bring them home and wash them.  See, there’s the green girl.  I wash them and reuse them in the morning for my smoothies, for ice water in the car, and for iced coffee on my dog walk.  If they get lost or broken, no loss.  For 32 cents, I’ll get a new one filled with ice tomorrow.

just enough

For those who doubted my Berry Coffee Smoothie, I’ve been searching for a coffee smoothie recipe, and so far this is my favorite.  The coffee flavor isn’t too strong and if you add a little honey or agave, I think you could almost hide it.

     Berry Coffee Smoothie
     1 banana
     1/3 cup milk of your choice
     1 cup double strength coffee
     2 cups frozen berries

Add everything to blender and blend away.  This makes about a 24-26 ounce smoothie.  I find the thing that impacts the size of this most is the banana.  Some days all they have at the grocery are these ginormous bananas.

This smoothie fills my cafeteria cup perfectly.  This is where I was headed when I sat down to write, I just took that left turn at Albuquerque and took the scenic route.

berry coffee smoothie

Toast Tuesday: Pruno

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Well, since I haven’t done anything too outlandish since that time I danced on the tabletop, got kicked out of the library for talking too loud, and squeezed every package of charmin on the toilet paper aisle, I do not have a prison pruno story to tell. Today, anyway…  No mother, I do not have any plans to get arrested or go to prison. Really. Ever.

Our guide

Our guide

Are you asking what pruno is and why I am, or am not, going to prison?  Pruno is the fermented alcohol concoction that prisoners make with what they can find to smuggle out of the cafeteria.

Sugar + yeast + water = alcohol, and in most cases is quite yummy, at least the ones we’ve tried thus far. How do you think you’d feel if you made a fermentation of grape jelly, ketchup, prunes, potatoes, and toilet water? Sick? You are probably right.

Not only does that above concoction sound awful, potatoes are a great safe have for botulism. Per our author, on two separate occasions at a correctional facility in Arizona, a bunch of prisoners ended up in the infirmary after getting food poisoning from their potato pruno. Potatoes have been banned in that prison. That’ll teach ’em.

Since I’m not going to prison, my chances of trying real pruno are slim. So today I’m going to tell you about another homemade concoction. I’ve been experimenting with a ginger bug to make homemade ginger beer. I tend to keep my house kinda cool in the winter, so I’m just entering the season when I’ll get good fermentation. I’ll keep you posted on how it progresses. Last summer I made a really nice grapefruit and thyme soda and a crazy kick-ass spicy ginger beer.

I’m far from perfecting these, and I’m not sure I can even say I’m getting closer. What I have perfected is experimenting. In the past I’ve had success with a lavender lemonade and a cucumber lime soda.

Want some other fun fermentables? Don’t forget our friend kombucha. I haven’t had a scoby for awhile, but when I did I posted some fun cocktails. It’s been awhile, maybe time to dust those off again.

Be sure to see what Meg drank this week.  I’m wishing you all a very terrific Tuesday!

it’s a new day

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It’s almost like a birthday.  I started this blog as a creative outlet, a place to store recipes, collaborate, and conspire with other creative folks.  Oh the people I’ve met and the places I’ve seen since coming here have been wonderful.  I’ve made some incredible friends.  The friends here inspire me to take better photos, write more words, and drink better booze. They laugh with me, they laugh at me, and they share my journey.

I’ve expressed my disdain and great mistrust for all things facebook.  I hate to admit it, but it seems to have some usefulness.  After the post about my wonderful PBS Bluegrass Underground weekend went up on facebook, I had my best day of traffic.

This is still my creative space, but Lula Harp is expanding; more of an addition, like adding an apartment above the garage.  I’m getting on facebook.  I still feel tremendous angst over this, but I hope you’ll be my friend there, as you have here.  I haven’t really posted anything yet, but maybe you’ll inspire me.

Another thing I am celebrating today is after almost five years on wordpress, this is my 300th post.  oh happy day!  I almost feel the need to bake a cake.

 

 

Bluegrass Underground PBS Weekend 2016

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Holy Moly!  What a weekend!  I don’t think I have caught up on sleep.  I know I have not come down from the high of the awesome music and energy of the weekend.  I’m just going to warn you, this post is pic heavy!

I’m not sure I can put into words what an incredible experience this was.  The energy of this weekend was vibrant and just buzzed in the air.

Bluegrass Underground is in Cumberland Caverns about 1.5 hours south of Nashville, TN.  You walk down a gentle sloping trail through the woods to enter the cave.

Cumberland Cavern entrance

There’s a short walk before you enter the Volcano Room.  The first time you enter the Volcano Room the sight is breath taking.  This is truly one of the most magical experiences ever.   This picture does not do justice to this experience at all!

The Volcano Room

 

My first visit was in January of this year to see The Secret Sisters with Mr & Mrs Normal.  They had asked for tickets for Christmas, and when I saw what this was, I informed them they had a third wheel.  We were all in awe of this amazing venue, the music, and the acoustics.  I invited a friend along who didn’t think she liked bluegrass, but left with a new cd, and her photo with the band.

Once they posted the lineup, we were sold on the PBS weekend event.  Sadly Brother Normal threw his back out three days before our weekend.  We brought him lots of treats from the weekend including a t-shirt, a bottle of personally engraved Gentleman Jack, and a candy apples.  I came home with new friends and a great desire to get a better camera.  Without further ado, here are some of the music highlights I captured.  Each one has the band name and you can click to see them bigger.

 

 

The sounds, vibrancy, and acoustics were truly inspiring.  Almost all of the musicians said something about their experience of coming into the cave or their view.  It was incredible to watch the steadycam guys and the professional photographer running about.  The only downside is we now have to wait for the show to air to see how it was edited.  I would have loved a PBS Q&A session about how it all works.

One of my favorite parts of the show was while The Suffers were playing.  They stopped her to fix her makeup.  She had the self assurance to make a joke about it, and kept singing while the makeup woman fixed her runny mascara.  St Paul & The Broken Bones gave the camera man, and the photographer, an incredible workout.  He was crazy!

I’m certain you will not be surprised when I tell you, I’ve already gotten my tickets for July to see Keller Williams at BGU.  I’m probably going to see SP&BB in a couple weeks.

Here are some more amazing (and professional) pictures from the Bluegrass Underground photographer Michael Weintrob PBS weekend. Check out my new buddy Reid of Here and There Photography,  Day 1, Day 2, and Day 3.  I’ll treat anyone who spots me in either Michael or Reid’s photos to a cocktail.  Michael’s photo will get you two cocktails because that one’s tougher.

 

As if that weren’t enough, we also went to Jack Daniels Distillery and Lynchburg Winery.  You know we didn’t come home empty handed.  Cheers Y’all!

 

The Cox Family, drivin’ n’ cryin’Sierra HullJason & the Scorchers, Frank Solivan and Dirty KitchenMac McAnally, Hurray for the Riff Raff, David Rawlings Machine (feat. Gillian Welch, Willie Watson,Brittany Haas & Paul Kowert), The Lone Bellow, The Suffers, JJ Grey & Mofro, St. Paul and The Broken Bones

Toast Tuesday: Soju

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I’ve been in the blogosphere for almost 5 years and today I present you a first.  My first guest post.  Brother C has been drinking along with Meg and I.  We’ve been comparing drinks and swapping cocktails for ages.  Now with my lack of supply, and truthfully, lack of energy or time, I’ve strong armed him into officially drinking in my place this week.

Our guide

Our guide

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Hey Lula, so’d you find you Soju?

A long, long time ago, as Lula and I had dinner with friends at a tapas joint in San Francisco, the conversation turned to “things people consume in other countries.” My guest that evening was J, an Air Force A1C recently back from Osan AB, Korea. They call that a hardship tour. Lula’s guests were horrified by what they heard J describe of the Korean cuisine. I think dinner might have ended prematurely. And we never even talked about soju.

Flashback to two days earlier…

I picked up J at the airport and brought him back to my apartment. Within minutes J’s duffel was open and he was in the kitchen making drinks. He called them “white dogs.” Apparently they are so popular amongst the troops that we keep sitting just south of the 38th Parallel, waiting for Kim-Il Somebody-or-Other to do something stupid. Wow, that was actually two whole Kims ago! How time flies.

Let’s be completely honest here. The basis for this chemistry experiment is the cheap local swill consumed to excess by off-duty twenty-something kids who miss their families and spend their time on duty facing down a cult of personality with nuclear weapons. You know, something just to take the edge off. For cheap. We are not drinking Gangnam-style here.

The ingredients in a white dog basically consist of soju, lemon-lime soda, and Korean yogurt beverage. The last item is probably unfamiliar to most Americans, but like soju, it is a wildly popular beverage in Korea. It is a dairy product, actually more milk than yogurt, commonly sold in packages of small plastic bottles each just 2 or 3 ounces. It is helpful to live near a Korean grocery.

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You’ll have to take my word for it, the yogurt tastes better than it looks. It is available in a number of different flavors, so whether lychee-mango is your style, or you’re a strict traditionalist, there is a breed of white dog just for you.

Any American lemon-lime soda is a perfectly reasonable choice, but while you’re at the Korean grocery picking up yogurt that you’ve never heard of before, you might as well try Chilsung Cider, a Korean lemon-lime soda that you’ve also never heard of before. With apologies to Psy, this is in fact K-Pop.

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The ratio of lemon-lime soda to yogurt is about 3:1, with soju basically added to taste (or effect, if you prefer). You can add a splash of orange juice if you like. Preparation does not necessarily require ice, particularly if the ingredients are pre-chilled. The mixing glass may double as drinkware if you assemble the ingredients in an empty plastic Coke bottle. White dogs are made to travel. Which brings me to first impressions. Many will say that the white dog doesn’t really taste like anything, but to my palate, it is reminiscent of a Creamsicle. Sweet and creamy with notes of citrus.

If you find a recipe for white dogs on the Internet, it is almost certainly (A) lacking in specifics, and (B) in a quantity serving 8. If you want to class it up and drink like an adult, here is how you can make a single serving at a reasonable strength:

White Dog (litter of one)
Stir together chilled ingredients in a double old-fashioned glass:

3 oz Jinro 24 soju
4 oz Chilsung Cider (or Sprite)
1.5 oz Korean yogurt
splash of orange juice (optional)

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Taste-Off: Jinro 24 vs Ty-Ku

Jinro 24 ($8.99/750 ml) is the best-selling spirit brand worldwide, outselling Smirnoff vodka by better than 2:1. Well chilled, as dictated by tradition, it is neutral and nearly flavorless. The nose is your alcohol evaporating. Drink up before it’s gone. 48 proof.

Ty-Ku ($27.99/750 ml) is a Japanese-made super-premium soju that I picked up because it comes in a pretty package that looks like a perfume bottle. (Alas, this is not blue glass, rather a blue plastic shrink-wrapped label on a clear glass bottle.) Unique and suitable for sipping, especially chilled. Just a tease of sweetness, and sake on the palate; the nose has hints of merlot. 40 proof.

 

Thanks for stepping up and carrying the torch for me this week! All I remember from that dinner, all those years ago, was that was my very first sangria.  It was clearly memorable!

Brother C threw in another bonus bit of reading for us.  An interesting article from Slate about Soju.  Worth a gander.    Let’s show him some props y’all.  Thanks for stepping up to the bar for your little sister.

A creamsicle cocktail to kick our week off!  Cheers and here’s another Toast to Tuesday!

Toast Tuesday: Shochu

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Surprisingly I found shochu in Memphis. I’ve taken to stopping and perusing almost every liquor store I pass in a decent neighborhood in hopes of finding hidden gems. I certainly did. I think the proprietor was wondering what in the hell I could be doing with the seemingly random assortment I left with. Just like buying those flattering pants in every color, when you find it, you buy it!

Shochu (sounds like show-chew) is a Japanese distilled spirit that has recently found Our guidefavor among the younger Japanese drinkers. Evidently, “not your father’s Buick” is a cross cultural thing. Once a low-brow beverage, younger consumers took to shochu because of its lower calorie content and mild flavors.

Shochu can be made from barley, rice, buckwheat, or sweet potatoes. There are about 50 different ingredients shochu can  be made from, but there’s even more it cannot be made from. Our author consulted with a shochu expert who said the uninitiated should start with rice shochu because it has a soft taste.  Followed by the barley variety because it would have flavors one would be more accustomed to. Lastly, he would have someone try shochu from sweet potato because it has an earthy component that our western pallets may not be fond of.  Wouldn’t you know, I’m never one to follow a recommendation.

The distillery I worked for was working on a project making shochu from sweet potatoes and I moved before I got to try any. That’ll have to be added to my list of things to try when I go back for a visit. The shochu I found was also made of sweet potatoes. I found it to be slightly sweet with a hint of sweet potatoes on the nose. Maybe that was the earthiness the expert was referring to? I found this to have a delicate flavor; really almost no flavor. There was a slight alcohol finish, but that dissipated quickly leaving a nice warmth. I was thinking this would certainly get lost in cocktails, but I was delightfully surprised otherwise.

I perused the google-box and came up with a suggestion for another mojito. Here’s what I did:

In a rocks glass, muddle
1/4 lime
some cilantro (don’t ask me to quantify)
1 sugar cube
Add 2 ounces shochu and fill glass with ice.
Top with about 2 ounces club soda.
Enjoy!

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I was quite amazed this delicate little spirit stood up to these flavors.  The cilantro was a nice compliment and the earthiness of shochu came through.  This is one worth making again and again.

Now that my toes have been pampered and my pallet satiated, all that’s left is to Toast another Tuesday!

p.s.  Be sure to check out what Meg drank… and if you need a good giggle, read this and this

My hiking boots 

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At one point, my ex-husband could tell you how many miles he had put on his hiking boots. I don’t know if this is still the case, since once the ink was dry, I said see-ya. I, on the other hand, can tell you my hiking boots have seen Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Alaska, British Columbia, Hawaii, Mississippi, Tennessee, Missouri, Illinois, and prob a few more I’m not recalling at the moment.

  
What I can also tell you definitively after this weekend, the days of 4 day hikes wearing the same pair of boots, is long gone.

The first backpacking trip I went on with ex, I am convinced, to this very day, was a test. He was adamant to the end it wasn’t. It was a 3 day backpacking trip in the Columbia River Gorge, up hill both ways. We camped among beautiful wild flowers, with Mt Adams in our view. Each day my feet hurt a little more and each time it got a little harder to put my boots back on. He kept saying “it can’t be that bad”. I kept saying something’s not right. The day after we got home the bruise showed up, in the coming weeks, my pinky toenail turned black. Over-share, I know. It never fell off, but it took awhile for me to put the boots back on. The ex listened to me a little closer the next time I told him a hike didn’t feel quite right. My toes know.

Don’t blame the boots. It’s really not their fault. I tried many boots before I settled on these and these boots were made for walking. Thank goodness for REI’s liberal return policy because I lost track of how many I returned. The issue is I am a delicate tenderfoot. Long gone are the toes that spent years walking on gravel and dirt, long days in soccer shoes, and cowboy boots. I now have the delicate toes of a woman, best spent in flip flops, running shoes, or barefoot on plush carpet.

  
Be assured, an amazing weekend was had! I’ve got pictures and stories to sort. Some of the most incredible music, great people watching, and sights like no other. But my next stop will be a pedicure for some pampering and much needed foot rubbing.

Edges and lighting

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I wish I could say there was edgy lighting.  Today for photo101 is edges.

 

 

Playing catch-up, here some shots playing with lighting.  I’ve been trying to get the creepy monster tree for awhile.  While I am not satisfied with how it looks, I’m getting closer.  At 5am, this tree really looks like it’s going to reach down, swoop me up, and devour me.

 

Cousin Milo catching some rays

Cousin Milo catching some rays

 

These cherry blossoms are right outside my front door and are an absolute delight this time of year.  There is a street light right behind the first shot.

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cherry blossoms at night

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cherry blossoms with morning light

 

May the sun be shining on you where ever you are enjoying this day!

Treasuring a sunny day gives you perspective

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I’m playing catch up on my photo workshop.  Life got in the way.  Actually the little monster featured in the photos got in the way.  

I don’t know what she did, or how she did it, but she got skewered by a stick.  I can only guess she fell, or jumped off, the balcony. I’m on the second floor.  She’s much better now, but she was confined to the bedroom all last week, so this is an indulgent treasure she has found.  If you have never seen a cat huff catnip, it’s pretty entertaining.  We are counting this as at least one life used.

 

 

Next up, I was playing with perspective.  I have to admit I’ve been having fun with little Lula Belle.  You may be seeing more of her.  I joined the Botanic Gardens and as we were walking around, one of my friends asked if she was like Flat Stanley.  I said no, but it may be a yes.

If you click on the photos below, you’ll go to a gallery to see the images larger.  I’d really like to know your thoughts on all of them, but especially on the top row, number 2 &3.

 

Catch up will continue.

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