Saturday, January 31, 2015

Baking 2015: Orange cake

Orange cake!

This week's baking project was a seasonal Orange Cake. The cake itself was fantastic- fluffy and moist with a lovely citrus flavor. The glaze and candied fruit topping, however, didn't work out as well. The recipe called for making candied orange peels, which were too sticky for my taste. They looked neat as a topping, but the texture didn't please the palette. The glazed topping was similarly too sticky, to the point where it was hard to slice. So, I peeled off the topping and candies and we ate the cake with a bit of whipped cream instead- this was actually quite tasty. I tried this cake because I wanted to make something seasonal for January, and I would try a different recipe next time. Part of the baking challenge is to try new things, and this type of cake was new to me. I learned that candied fruits aren't my thing (though I might try them in making a panettone next holiday season), that glazes are finicky, and that orange cake is delicious.
Making candied fruit- pretty and a lovely flavor, but not so great in the texture department.
Cake in the oven.
The altered, improved orange cake. 

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Books: The Worst Hard Time

This week I received an e-mail announcing the KU Common Book for the next academic year. Even though I'm rarely on campus, I still like to use the Common Book as a motivator to get me to read something new and different, or something that I otherwise would not have known about. Last year the book was The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan. This book was a gut wrenching retelling of the horrors of the Dust Bowl years, and really drove home the importance of environmental stewardship. Yesterday, on a 70 degree January day (record-breaking), I couldn't help but think about the extreme environmental damage that we are doing to our planet, and to think of the terror that people experienced during the Dust Bowl. Reading the book also made me so very grateful for all that I have in my life today- any small hardships that I have experienced can't compare in any way to what people went through on the High Plains in the 1930s. The experiences chronicled in The Worst Hard Time are so recent, and so memorable, yet we as a nation continue to stand by and do nothing in the face of climate change. The book detailed how the changes of the Dust Bowl happened so quickly, and we fully know how quickly climate change is happening today, so why are we so passive, especially when small changes in habits, such as using bar soap, not using K-Cup coffees, eating less meat, or composting food trash can make a significant change in one's carbon footprint? We can only hope that more people will become aware of the small changes they can make and that we as a nation can start to reverse some of our environmental damage in the coming years before something monumental occurs again.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Kansas City: Airport art vending machine

I'm going to go ahead and say it- Kansas City is a very underrated place. There are many things to love about the city that I currently call home, and I'd like to use a bit of this space to document some of the greater things about KC. First up- the Souvenear vending machine that sits at Kansas City International Airport. The machine, which has apparently has high sales, sits in Terminal B near Southwest Airlines. It offers locally made products like screen printed t-shirts, limited edition prints, and jewelry. KC has a fantastic art community, so it only makes sense to extend this to the airport. How great that while most places offer cheesy mass produced souvenirs (of course we have those too), you can wait for your flight out of KC with a local beer and some local art?

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Baking 2015: Baguettes

Oh la la!

 I made baguettes! 

The ease of baking these little beauties was quite a surprise. It took very little time and very little effort, but the results were fabulous. I used a recipe found on Food 52- all told, while there is a great deal of waiting time, I probably put about 20 minutes of work into making these. There was the initial ten-minute kneading, and after that not much else. They were fluffy on the inside and crusty on the outside, which I learned is possible due to the steam from ice that I included in the oven. The ingredients were simple and on hand. As part of my baking challenge I wanted to try more yeasted baked goods, and the simplicity of these has inspired me to try more as the year goes on. If you've never tried to bake bread, this is a great recipe to start with, and a new staple in our house.
Fluffy, delicious, and shockingly easy. Perfect as a snack or with soup. NOMZ. 

Friday, January 23, 2015

On Selfies

Post-haircut city street selfie.

Selfies: love or hate? 

This semester I'm teaching a course (Selfie and Other) that will address the selfie, self-representation in contemporary visual media, various types of portraiture, and the visual representation of self as Other (as in other cultures/groups that one considers othered/different), among other topics. As I plan for the semester, it has me thinking a good deal about selfies. I tend to fall in the love them camp. Some will argue for their narcissism, but I think they are a nice way to capture a moment in the way that you want to remember it- and to put yourself in the photo (click here for a great essay about the positives of family selfies). Plus, handing your camera over to strangers is always a little sketchy, and never results in the photo that you want, or is sometimes not possible. I present evidence of my love of the selfie here with these images, and I challenge folks to re-think their classification of selfies as just shallow narcissistic vanity. Sure, they aren't the most aesthetic photos I've ever taken, but they do capture the moment in a distinctive way
Holiday selfie at Crown Center.
Ready to tackle the day game-face selfie.
Family selfie. 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Baking 2015: Oatmeal Rasin Cookies

Baking challenge 2015 continues- this time with Oatmeal Raisin Cookies from the Martha Stewart Baking Handbook. They were chewy and hearty, and as per usual, I cut the sugar down from what was called for. I liked that the recipe didn't call for refined sugar (just brown sugar), but I still think most American recipes are too sweet. These cookies were also quite heavy on oats and raisins, really being barely held together by the other ingredients, making them feel less indulgent than other desserts.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Travel: Colorado

After a long journey we made it to the museum!

In early January we took the opportunity to head out to Colorado for a few days of skiing and outdoor activities in the mountains. Little dude and I left early and high tailed it to Denver to visit the Denver Museum of Nature and Science.  The museum has wonderful exhibits on space, dinosaurs, and the natural environment. Our two and a half hour visit was definitely not enough time.
Moose. They also had a great exhibition on the work that goes into creating the nature dioramas.

We learned that a T Rex would replace all their teeth every four years, and constantly replaced their teeth throughout their lives. Little dude also got to hold a T Rex tooth- it was huge! The educational components of the exhibitions were truly fantastic, and there were lots of volunteers and interactive stations to provide more information.
The view of Denver and the Rockies from the museum.
Super moon in the dawn's light.

After meeting up with Joe in Denver, we headed up to the mountains, where we stayed with Joe's Aunt and Uncle. They are always so hospitable, great to ski with, and have a lovely log home. Enjoying their company is definitely a plus of visiting the Rockies. We spent the next two days skiing at Copper Mountain, with little dude in ski school and us on the slopes.
Ski selfie.
Top of Super Bee.
Little dude- pro skiier in training.
Ready for the mountain.
The village at Copper- I love the festive feel.
Ski scenery.

Blue run.

Back up at the top.


The last day of our visit we went up to Rocky Mountain National Park to snowshoe. The park turns 100 years old this year, and is always a treat for us, no matter the season. We visited the west side of the park, which has far fewer visitors than the east side- in a given year park attendance is 3.5 million, but only 300,000 people make it to the west side. In winter it is very quiet- we only saw a handful of other people during our visit, but we did see a moose up close!   



More snowshoeing.

This was little dude's first snowshoe on his own (he was carried on past trips), and he loved it. For us it was a short trip (just over a mile), but for him I imagine it felt quite long.

Park scenery.

More park scenery.

Before we left for the day, the munchkin completed the Park's Junior Ranger program- he was so thrilled to get a badge and try on the ranger hat! 

RMNP's newest junior ranger.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Home: Post-holiday

  Each year when we put up the Christmas tree and the holiday decorations, the house feels so cozy and warm. With parties and plenty of egg nog and cookies, as well as all the lights and busyness of December, it seems like there isn't time to notice the colder temperatures and longer nights. A few days into January though, and the tree starts to feel claustrophobic and the decorations begin to get on my nerves. Putting away Christmas certainly isn't as much fun as getting all the decor out, but the clean, open feel to the house is always welcome. With less things surrounding us the house feels lighter and airier, and much more tidy. Generally, I like to purchase white flowers in January to ease the transition. These white roses have graced our mantle this week and have definitely brightened up the mid-winter days.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Baking 2015: Banana Bread

Baking project 2015 continues! The second week of the year brought travel, so I whipped up a quick Banana Bread for the road. I reduced the sugar and added some shredded coconut, and for fun dropped in a quarter cup of chocolate chips. A perfect road trip and pre-skiing snack!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Travel: Chicago during the holidays

The clock at Macy's (Marshall Fields) on State Street.

In the days between Christmas and New Year's, we took a short trip up to Chicago. The purpose of our trip was mostly to visit family and friends, which we did for the first three days. After all the visiting and merriment, we took some time to head downtown and enjoy the city on our own. We started at Macy's on State Street (which I will forever call Marshall Fields), where we had lunch at the Walnut Room. This was something that my family did yearly when I was growing up, and a holiday tradition that I want our little guy to cherish as well.

On the eighth floor, the Walnut Room and the Great Tree in the background.

Wishes being granted.

Desserts- Frango Ice Cream Pie, Toffee Pie, and the traditional Ice Cream Snowman for the kiddo.

Our next stop was the Art Institute, where we spent the afternoon cruising the galleries. As per usual, little dude was a huge fan of Minimalism. Since he was about a year and a half, this has been his favorite. Even before he could verbally describe his love, he would clap his hands upon entering the Minimalist galleries at the Nelson Atkins. For me it was nice to see the Impressionist works that I loved as a child, and to view the Asian galleries.  

Seurat. Nostalgia for me, mediocre for little dude.

Penetrable de Chicago was a huge hit for all of us, and little dude befriended a guard.

Ellsworth Kelly- so exciting that he jumped out of the stroller.

And Miro, which he remembered seeing in Tokyo (!), and requested a photo of. 

Our final stop in the museum was the Thorne Miniature Rooms. This gallery is so magical, and captured all of our imaginations.

A great afternoon was had by all.

Another highlight of the day was riding the El, even though it was just a short trip around the Loop.

We finished our evening by relaxing at our hotel, which had a great view of Streeterville, the Chicago River, and the Hancock Building, walking down Michigan Avenue (with a stop at Dylan's Candy Bar), and having a great dinner at Volare.

Hotel view.

The next day started (for me) with a 16 degree jog along the river, lakefront, and through Millennium Park.

Funny, where are the other joggers?

Jogging selfie half way through a 3 mile run. The wind was tough at this point (near Buckingham Fountain), thus the face.

Post-run coffee back at the hotel. Joe went to the indoor fitness center, as he isn't as crazy as I am.

We finished out our trip with a late morning brunch at Yolk and a cold-weather walk through Millennium Park to see Cloud Gate (the Bean). It was such a great trip, and such fun to see our hometown in sparkling holiday splendor.
Cloud Gate.