Food and Drink

Kalamazoo . . . We've Got Falcons

Okay.  So, technically, I live in Portage, Michigan.  (That's where I pay taxes.  And my kids attended the Most Excellent Portage schools.)  But I'm only two blocks from the Portage/Kalamazoo border, and I've always more closely identified with Kalamazoo.  So I consider my community . . . Kalamazoo.


(Our meager skyline.)

Ten interesting things about Kalamazoo . . . 

1 - Home of Bell's Brewery and The Eccentric Cafe.  (Need I say more?) - And, really, that's just the tip of the iceberg.  There are many top-quality breweries in town.  Enough that Kalamazoo has it's own Beer Week in January every year.

2 - Kalamazoo is a college town, with both a major public school - Western Michigan University, and a highly-regarded private, liberal arts college - Kalamazoo College (or "K" as it's known locally) in the city.

3 - Kalamazoo has an interesting past . . . as the home of both Checker Cab and Gibson guitar.  (Although both companies are gone now, their legacies still show up in unique and interesting ways throughout the city.)


4 - Kalamazoo is located right on I-94, putting it in easy driving range of both Detroit and Chicago.  In fact, Kalamazoo is located pretty much half-way between the two cities, making day-trips easy.

5 - There are several Frank Lloyd Wright houses in Kalamazoo.  (Two separate neighborhoods.  One is quite close to mine - we've been to a party in one of those homes.  The other is a bit out of town, but still in the area.)


6 - The 90s band The Verve Pipe is from Kalamazoo.  (Even though the video clip I'm using says "from East Lansing."  It was really Kalamazoo.  They just went to school in East Lansing.)  Someone else you may recognize - Derek Jeter - is also from Kalamazoo.  He played baseball at Kalamazoo Central High School, and still does a lot of charitable work with kids in the community.  

7 - Kalamazoo is a relatively small town (4th largest city in Michigan) -- but we sure have a lot of top-notch arts and cultural organizations and opportunities.  (Theatre, music, visual arts.)  It's also a sort of literary hotspot -- many writers live and write here, including Jaimy Gordon, who won the National Book Award in 2010 for her novel Lord of Misrule.

8 -- Kalamazoo is also very science-based.  Formerly the home of Upjohn Pharmaceuticals (all but gutted now, thanks to layers of mergers and eventual decimation by Pfizer) (sorry;  just gonna say it), the community still values science and science education.  (Really -- there might be more scary smart science nerds here, per capita, than anywhere else in the world.)


9 - Kalamazoo has an INCREDIBLE farmer's market.  The community has totally embraced the farm-to-table concept, and supports "locavore" restaurants, grocery stores, a year-round food co-op, and this amazing farmer's market.  (The photo above only shows about a quarter of the market.)

10 - And . . . we've got peregrine falcons!  Tom's office window faces the building where the falcons hang out.  He can watch them fly!  (And once, he watched himself turn on the light in his office on the "falcon cam.")

I love living in Kalamazoo -- it's a pretty cool place.  What do YOU like about your community?


Join the fun and read all the other Ten on Tuesday posts here.

Best Things


November is over.  NaBloPoMo is over.  Thanksgiving is over.  Brian's wedding celebration is over.  I'm sort of feeling like crawling back into bed and covering my head today.   (No doubt about it . . . November was a busy month!)


Ten on Tuesday calls!


Today, Carole asks us about the Ten Best Things We Did in November. Here goes . . . 


1 - I saw/heard two fabulous speakers:  Ta-Nehisi Coates and Gloria Steinem.  (Yep. Right here in Kalamazoo.)

2 - My mom and I had a successful shopping trip to find her a fabulous outfit for Brian's wedding reception.  (Chicos to the rescue!)

3 - I completed a 6-week "Introduction to Lakes" course through MSU.  (Go ahead.  Ask me about phragmites, watersheds, or riparian rights.)


4 - I spent some time with my Uncle Tom, who was visiting my parents earlier this month.  (He's my dad's younger brother.)

5 - I finished a knitting project.  (To be blogged soon.)

6 - And went to two concerts, a play, and a movie.  (Symphony, chamber music, one-man show, and Suffragette.)


7 - I "directed" several home improvement projects.  (And moved back into my bathroom.)  (Another future blog post you can look forward to.)

8 - I had a mammogram.  (All clear.)

9 - And then planned - and carried out - a pretty darn wonderful Thanksgiving dinner.  (And gingerbread house decorating extravaganza.)   (More later.)


10 - But probably best of all -- I celebrated Brian and Lauren's wedding at a really fabulous reception.  (Very exciting.  And, again . . . more later.)

How about YOU?  What was the Best Thing YOU did this month?


Read what other bloggers have to say here.


Right Now - September 2015

I'm sort of wondering . . . what happened to September.  Because it seems to have just evaporated right before my very eyes! 



Here's what's happening for me . . . Right Now.


Watching . . . my bathroom be demolished right before my very eyes!  (Yes.  It will be worth it in the end.  For now?  Just a giant mess and a lot of hassle.)  (A Jacuzzi tub used to live there. . . )

Reading . . . Undermajordomo Minor.  (The title alone is click-bait, n'est-ce pas?)  (If you're a fan of Princess Bride, you might want to pick this one up.)  I'm also reading Girl on the Train for my book group.  (I know.  Late to this party.)  (Also - not really my style.  But reading anyway because book group.)


Knitting . . . a sweater.  This one.  As usual, with sweaters-in-pieces, I do the sleeves first.  It's slow going lately, as life has been busy and getting in the way of my knitting.


Listening to . . . Black Violin.  (Classical meets HipHop.  Really.  Check it out.)

Planning . . . where to plant my spring bulbs.  I have daffodil, crocus, allium, and grape hyacinth -- over 150 bulbs -- and I'll be so happy next spring!

Needing to . . . get on with my KonMari-ing, which has taken a backseat during gardening season.  Now that the garden is winding down, I'll have time to sort and toss and find joy again.


Drinking . . . our home-brewed IPA.  (Really, it's all Tom's doing -- but I assist with the transfers and bottling).  (And it's quite tasty, by the way!)

Itching to . . . head up north for a nice fall weekend.  I'm hoping the weather cooperates for a nice fall hike in the woods.  (Even though the leaves haven't really gotten going yet.)


Dreading . . . pumpkin spice everything!  At the grocery store on Monday - in just one aisle - I saw PS marmallows, PS Mini Wheats, PS granola bars, PS tea, PS coffee, and PS Pop-Tarts.  (Of course, I also discovered that one of seasonal flavors of Chobani - PS, of course - is really quite tasty!)

Wondering . . . how long it will really take before my bathroom is functional again?


Enjoying . . . the Drawing with Colored Pencils art class I'm taking this fall at the KIA.  Lots to learn; lots of fun.

Organizing . . .my time so much better these days.  How?  A good, old-school planner system that really works for me.*  (Digital, while cool, just does not.)

Delighted by . . . a new work table for my drawing and art projects.  My Dad built it for me - custom-sized.  I can't wait to get it!


Celebrating . . . the Super-Lunar-Blood-Moon-Eclipse.  We didn't think we'd get to see it at all - because clouds.  But then, just as the show started, the clouds parted and we had a perfect view from our patio.

How about YOU?  What's happening for you . . . right now?


* I've used Planner Pads almost exclusively since 1999.  Every once in a while, I try something digital.  But I always go back to the Planner Pad. 




Herb Harvest

I have a little workhorse herb garden next to my patio (and just outside my kitchen door).  I love being able to just run out and clip fresh herbs when I'm cooking.  So convenient.  So fresh.  So tasty.

But now that the nights are getting cooler, it's time to start harvesting some of those herbs for . . . using later.


I start by cutting herbs from the garden, washing them in the sink, and setting them out to dry on my counter.

Although I used to tie and hang my herbs to dry, this year I'm trying a dehydrator.  It's much quicker -- but it still takes a long time for those bigger, thicker leaves (sage and rosemary, for example).  (And for chili peppers, too.)


After the herbs are dry, I put them in little jars.  (I don't crush or crumble the leaves until I cook with them.)


I don't dry my basil, though.  


Instead, I make "basil bombs" -- and freeze to use later.

First, I wash the basil in the sink, and dry it on the counter.  Then, I chop it up and mix it with olive oil.


Then . . . I fill an ice cube tray with the basil/olive oil "paste" and stick it in the freezer.  Later, I'll pop the individual "basil bombs" from the trays and store them in a zip lock bag.  When I need some basil in a recipe, I can just add one of my "bombs" -- and I'll be all set with (nearly) fresh basil from my herb garden.


(Amazing . . . how all that basil in my sink . . . crushes down to fill just one little ice cube tray . . . )

I feel like I'm preserving a little bit of summer. . . when I harvest and preserve my herbs.  
Keep your fingers crossed that I can get one more harvest in before winter comes!


Be sure to stop by and wish Carole a very happy birthday today!  (And it's a biggie.)  (Just sayin.)



Weekending . . . Ten on Tuesday Style

We kept ourselves quite busy all through this long, hot Labor Day weekend.  It won't be any trouble at all for me to tell you Ten Things I Did This Weekend, à la Ten on Tuesday.


1 - On Friday, I helped Tom transfer his latest beer batch from one large container to another (which is trickier than it sounds).  The stuff in this photo is called the trub . . . or what's left in the bottom of the container after a successful "first stage fermentation." (And this means we're one week closer to our own IPA!)


2 - Then we headed for Meijer Gardens in Grand Rapids to see John Hiatt perform in the outdoor amphitheatre. I love sitting outside in my lawn chair, sipping a beer, watching the  geese and herons fly overhead, seeing the sun go down . . . all while enjoying a great concert.  (And it was great.)


3 - On Saturday morning, the dogs and I had a very exciting walk . . . where we discovered a (dead) snake in the road, a huge (very live) wasp nest in a tree, and a giant (also live) cicada in the grass (near the J-pups' favorite pee-corner).  So much to check out.


4 - On Saturday afternoon we headed up to the cottage for a quick overnight. . . and one last sit on the dock and (probably) the last swim for the dogs.  (We won't be back up until October.)


5 - Because then we took the docks out for the season.  (Always kind of sad; summer goes by too quickly, y'know?)


6 -- I knit almost all of one sleeve for this sweater.  I also taught myself to cable without a cable needle.  (I know.  I'm like the only knitter on the planet stubborn enough to continue with a cable needle.  So it was time.)  (Bonus:  I'll get plenty of practice on this sweater.)


7 - I re-did my front porch containers with more fall-ish flowers.  (The summer batch was looking really, really tired.)  (Maybe even dead.)


8 - I read a book  - Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal.  I highly recommend it!  Just delightful.


9 - We had a little cook-out, just Tom and I.


10 - And I spent plenty of time just kicking back with Tom and the dogs . . . enjoying a long, pleasant summer weekend.

How about YOU?  What did you do this weekend?


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Blueberries By the Handful


We're at the height of blueberry season here in Michigan*.  Everywhere you turn . . . blueberries!  U-pick fields.  Farm stands.  The farmer's market.  Grocery store.  All local.  All delicious!


Today, Carole asks us about our Ten Favorite Things to Do with Blueberries.  Now, I like blueberry pancakes and blueberry baked goods (of pretty much any kind) quite a lot.  But I haven't really made pancakes since Erin left home (Tom and Brian opt for eggs; they will ALWAYS opt for eggs), and I don't bake much (because if I bakes it, I eats it, and I've just decided to stay away from those calories).

But we do eat a lot of blueberries!  

Mostly, I just leave a bowl of blueberries on the counter . . . and here's what happens:

  1. We pop them in our mouths by the handful.  
  2. I mix them in my yogurt.
  3. I dump them in my cereal.
  4. I toss them in salads.
  5. I throw them on a pan and roast them with vegetables.
  6. I sprinkle them over ice cream.
  7. I stir them into a glass of lemonade.
  8. Or into a batch of summer sangria.
  9. Or even a glass of ice tea.
  10. And then I grab another handful!

How about YOU?  What's your favorite thing to do with blueberries?

* Did you know that Michigan is the nation's number one blueberry grower?  Yep.  One hundred million pounds of blueberries every year is big business in my neck of the woods!



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"Let Your Taste Decide"


When we were up north last week, we drove into town a couple of times for various errands (and to use the library's wifi).  Whenever we're in town, we stop at Jones Homemade Ice Cream for a treat.  They have great ice cream -- and long lines of happy ice cream patrons!


This week, Carole asks us about our favorite ice cream flavors.  Mine?

  1. Sea Salt Caramel
  2. Sea Salt Caramel with chocolate "bits" or "swirls"
  3. Mackinac Island Fudge (This is probably a regional flavor.) (Too bad for you.)
  4. Peppermint (Not mint chocolate chip; just peppermint.) (Which is hard to find.)
  5. Black Cherry
  6. Peach
  7. Black Raspberry
  8. Amaretto Cherry Fudge (Our local ice cream place has this flavor sometimes.)  (Mmmm.)
  9. Blue Moon (A Midwest tradition.)  (I hardly ever order it now, as a grown-up, because of the blue lips/blue tongue effect.)  (My kids ALWAYS got Blue Moon.  Or it's ready companion, Superman.)
  10. Almost any flavor of Jeni's Ice Cream.  (We can buy it locally.)

How about YOU?  What's your favorite ice cream?  (Or, as the Jones sign says . . . how do you "let YOUR taste decide?")


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Call it a WIN

Last month, when I was visiting Erin in Pittsburgh, we spent a day shopping.  As we often do when shopping together, Erin and I drifted into a Barnes & Noble.  And kind of got lost for awhile.  

In the cookbook section (one of my favorite areas, I must admit), this book caught my eye.

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Sheet Pan Suppers.

It was the photo on the front (salmon and asparagus and tomatoes and lemons) that first drew me in.  But once I peeked inside, every single recipe looked great.

So I bought it.

Oh. My.

Great decision.

This cookbook (from author Molly Gilbert of the Dunk & Crumble blog) features appetizers, dinners, and desserts ALL "roasted" on sheet pans.  Molly's concept:  Throw everything together on one sheet pan and cook it together.  So once you're set up, you're done.  You can clean up and set the table and enjoy a glass of wine . . . while the roasting magic happens.  And when you pop the sheet out of the oven . . . dinner is served!

The concept is brilliant.  The recipes are brilliant.  This cookbook is a TOTAL WIN!!!

(And, really.  How can ROASTING everything ever be wrong?  )

I've tried many of the recipes, beginning with the salmon featured on the cover.

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Every single thing I've tried   . . .  from vegetarian fare (loaded sweet potatoes here) . . . 

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and roasted beet salads . . . 

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to fajitas . . . 

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and chicken curry . . .


have been fabulous.

Like . . . really fabulous.

The recipes are incredibly tasty -- and simple.  Roasted goodness, easy prep, and super-convenient clean up.  

This cookbook is a huge WIN.

(I just wanted you to know.)