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This is My City

And I love it.

Yesterday, I took my fam to the coolest thing. We got to walk the deck under the Detroit-Superior Bridge. The deck used to house the “subway” portion of the old streetcar line. According to the tiny little “article” in the Plain Dealer two days prior, Cuyahoga County Department of Public Works has been opening this deck once a year, usually on the fourth of July weekend, for about 10 years.

This was my first visit. I never heard of the type of opening like they had yesterday. However, I knew that a few Ingenuity Fests were held on this deck. I wasn’t able to make those Ingenuity Fests and the current year’s site is the lakefront. I heard a lot of noise about possibly opening up the deck to bikers and pedestrians. I don’t see that as a doable task. The security and safety issues are huge. Therefore, I didn’t think I’d ever get to explore this area. So when I saw the tiny little article about this being open, I was so excited. And thankfully, my family’s Saturday morning was baseball and softball game free. That is super rare for a Saturday in July, so I figure this was meant to be.

The “open house” started at 9 am and we showed up at 11. It was packed. Everyone was sporting at least a cell phone camera, and many people had tripods and massive camera bags. The views from the bridge were amazing. And the views of the underbelly of the bridge were equally so.

There was an old streetcar, appropriately named Desire. People weren’t allowed in this but there was an old engine car and a cut-open passenger car that were open for people to crawl around in.

Most of the tracks have long been removed. The wire grid, of which most of the “floor” of the bridge is composed, is covered with sheets of plywood. It was disconcerting for my children to walk out on these plywood sheets as one could clearly see how far below the river is when one got to the joins of the sheets. Heck, it was a bit scary for me also. The rumbling of the traffic overhead and the flimsy nature of plywood sheets can certainly make one feel vulnerable.

We spent about 2 hours walking the span. We went east on the lower deck but walked on the sidewalk on our way back west.

In two hours, we took over 200 pictures. I have some great shots of the sailboats framed under stunning, arching bridges in the mouth of the Cuyahoga. I have amazing pictures of the structure of the bridge itself.

My kids don’t appreciate it now, but once day they will. Hopefully they’ll continue this tradition because I want to go back. I absolutely have to bring a better camera next time.

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Public Art: Year of the Snake 2013

Every year in the St. Clair – Superior neighborhood, also called Asiatown (both of which are part of the larger Midtown section of Cleveland), twenty some Chinese zodiac sculptures are erected for a few short months. This year, is the Year of the Snake. As one of my immediate family members is a snake, we made sure go on a scavenger hunt to see all the sculptures.

I tried to find some history on this annual occurrence but have come up empty. The oldest sculptures I’ve seen are from the Year of the Dog in 2006. I have never seen any sculptures from the Year of the Pig, 2007 in person but one can still find many sculptures from Year of the Rat 2008 on display. My family did scavenger hunts for the Year of the Ox 2009 and the Year of the Tiger 2010. We completely missed the Year of the Rabbit 2011 and the Year of the Dragon 2012 but I found great pictures. I wish the sculptures were up longer.

If you would like to go on your own scavenger hunt, you get the list of sites here. It’s so worth it. When we went today, I included photographed and Dragons and Rabbits I found. If you only have time to make one or two stops, the best place to go is Technical College. There are a couple tigers, a couple rabbits, a dog, an ox, a snake and there is another snake right around the corner at Horsbough and Scott. It’s fantastic. The best place to see a bunch of snakes all in one stop is Asia Plaza, of course, as there are 5 displayed together.

I hope you enjoy my pictures.

The Feathered Serpeant

601 Lakeside Ave E

Golden Tut
1900 Superior Ave

Unexpected Stitch

East 30th Street, outside of Asia Plaza

Cloisonnake
East 30th Street, outside of Asia Plaza

Python reticulatus
East 30th Street, outside of Asia Plaza

Naga; Sagacity Snake
East 30th Street, outside of Asia Plaza

Rocky B. Boa
East 30th Street, outside of Asia Plaza

Madame White Snake
3615 Superior Ave

Serpentes the Sorcerer
3820 Superior Ave

Technicolor Serpeant
3951 St. Clair Ave

Painterly Post Modern Dragon
3951 St. Clair Ave

Golden Heart Rabbit
3951 St. Clair Ave

Blossom
4058 St. Clair

Dragon Pillar

4058 St. Clair – so sad to see this sculpture so ill used

Zig Zag
4515 St. Clair Ave

Copperhead
St. Clair between E 49th and E 53rd

Aqua Snake

1419 E. 40th St

The Guardian

1614 E. 40th St

Treasured Snake

3601 Chester Ave

Blue Racer
3711 Chester Ave

Foo Guard – The Blessing Guard

4005 Chester Ave

Don’t Tread on Me

1374 E. 51st St

Jack Rabbit

1374 E. 51st St

Quick Vic

1374 E. 51st St

The Great Lake Snake
1201 E. 55th St

Nuwa, the Snake Goddess
1274 E. 55th St

Coiffured Cobra
6016 St. Clair Ave

Transformation

6025 St. Clair Ave

Name Your Poison
6409 St. Clair Ave

Look Before You Leap
6111 Lausche Ave

It Finally Happened

My little lovey son is now too big to allow me to kiss him in front of his classmates.

I went to kiss him, as I picked him up from after school care, he stopped me. He made me wait until we got into the hallway. Very quietly he told me “ok, now you can”. Previously, when I got to the childcare center he would jump up into my arms and I’d give him a big kiss. Then he would grab his backpack and his coat and we would hold hands.

Today, we were holding hands and then he caught himself. He told me, again very quietly, that we could hold hands once we were outside. He said that “they” would make fun of him. I asked who “they” were and he just said “they”.

I’m so sad. My baby is growing up. I’m not ready.

Money – That’s What I Want

I am not big on budgeting.  I make, or made, a decent wage so I assumed that as long as I wasn’t extravagant, I should be able to cover expenses. We don’t have fancy cars, we don’t go to fancy restaurants, we don’t travel much.  We have a middle class standard of living.

Unfortunately, over the past 7 years or so, our buying power has decreased so much that even our modest lifestyle is now above our means.  And with the oldest starting college this year, I have started budgeting.  I’m in my first full month so it’s all new.  It’s going to be frustrating, I see that already.  There were so many things I already neglected to include in my budget: car license plate renewals, haircuts, pet food.  I figure that the first couple of months will be just getting to know where our money goes.  I never thought about buying whatever fundraising thing someones brings around, or going out to eat at a middle-of-the-road restaurant once every week or two.  I never minded treating a friend to lunch or spending $7 on a fancy greeting card.  If I wanted the latest book by whoever, I just bought it.  Now I have to consider all of that.

Already, this exercise has made me realize that there are things for which I am really loathe to pay.  I don’t begrudge having to pay for the license plate renewals, haircuts, or pet food.  But I hate having to pay for Subway.  My in-laws used to own one so we could just pop in, when we weren’t working there, and grab a sandwich on occasion – or for every meal if one was as big of a mooch as one of my brother-in-laws.  So, Subway does not figure into any budget.

I also detest paying for bandaids.  My kids use them almost like stickers.  It’s irritating to go buy the jumbo box of bandaids and, when I honestly need one, find it completely empty and the box still in the medicine cabinet.

I hate paying for cable, but our phone and internet are wrapped into that price.  I think I need to evaluate that more closely.  And I hate my huge cell phone bill.  We have 5 phones with unlimited data and shared minutes on a family plan.  The kids might be down graded to dumb phones like mere mortals.  Maybe my husband too because he can get his data through his work phone.  Who really needs 2 smart phones?

We’re not renewing any of our magazine subscriptions.  If I can’t read it for free through my library’s Zinio subscriptions or online, then I’m not going to read it.  And, as my local newspaper is cutting back to only 3 days of home delivery, I’ll cancel that except on Sundays.

I hate paying for car repairs.  I miss when cars were simple enough that most repairs could be done in the driveway.  We still do our own oil changes.  Most other things are too complicated anymore.  Home appliance repairs is another category of things for which I hate paying.  But more than disliking paying for repairs, I hate that even expensive appliances are made to be disposable.  How wasteful.  So, we’re going to continue to do as many repairs as we can on our own.  The internet is such an awesome resource for this.  It allows me to be much more ambitious in the repairs we attempt.  So, we’re going to repair things that we may have simply replaced preciously.

Fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs are expensive.  We have a garden every year, but I want to expand our garden this year.  I’m not into canning, but I will try it this year.  And I did blanche and freeze excess before anyway.  I really got into pickling last summer and that will continue.

I’ve been reading blogs that help me with my resolve to be more attentive to my spending.  Wise Bread’s Frugal Living is a good start.  I’ve also been reading tips from anti-consumerism groups.  I try to read one thing (article, tip, blog post) every day for encouragement.  This is going to be an interesting journey.  I expect to learn a lot about myself.  And I hope my kids learn some lessons also.

International Day of Awesomeness

Every one of my days is filled with awesomeness ‘cuz that’s just how I roll.

But in honor of this day, I figured I should up the awesome, through cooking.  I started by breaking out the dehydrator to dry some lovely london broil that I marinaded yesterday afternoon.  I used to make jerky every time I went on vacation as it’s such a great snack for in the car.  I’m leaving on a business trip this Friday, so I decided I would make myself some.

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I’ve had this dehydrator forever.  I have no idea if they even make these anymore.

1362937577460I’m making 2 kinds of jerky: “regular” teriyaki jerky and a spicy version.  I can’t wait to try the spicy.  I used the recipe in my dehydrator for the “regular” jerky and added cayenne, red pepper flakes, chili powder, and Trappey’s Red Devil Hot sauce to this recipe to make the spicy jerky.  I adore Trappey’s Red Devil Hot Sauce.  I can almost drink this straight out of the bottle.  I buy it in the quart container.  I once found it in a gallon jug; I was in love.

Next, I made bread.  I make a variation on traditional french bread with wheat bran and whole wheat white flour only, no all-purpose or bread flour.  It’s still lovely and crusty but not so light and fluffy inside.

1362937543611Then it was on to pizza.  I made 6 pizzas today.  They are not perfectly round or perfectly anything as I make them all by hand.  I’m not skilled enough for them to be a uniform shape.  They taste amazing though, and that’s what counts.  I made 3 pepperoni, 1 cheese, and 2 mexican (carmelized onions and peppers, smoky salsa, jalapenos, shredded mexican cheese, and ground chicken with taco seasonings).  Yum.  My kids devoured the first pizza before the second one was even assembled and in the oven!

13629540197231362955934435I must have neglected to take a picture of one of the Mexican pizzas and I’m too lazy to get up and take one now.  If you’d like to try these, I use a variation on Alton Brown’s pizza dough.  I use Trader Joe’s whole wheat white flour and add 2 Tablespoons of gluten instead of using bread flour.  You will need to watch and perhaps add a little extra water, but not much.  It’s a bit denser dough, but I feel less guilty eating it.

Sometime in here, I took the kids to the library where I found the first 2 volumes of Astro Boy, the original by Osamu Tezuka, not that awful live action piece of crap.  My husband loves Astro Boy (and Ultraman and Johnny Sokko – both of which I found on DVD for him), so I checked this out for him, because that’s the kind of awesome I bring to our marriage.  I also found a book of zombie origami!  That is so going to be an evening of fun for me and my little son.

I then made shepherd’s pie:

1362937555038 I went a little heavy on the peas because I LOVE PEAS!  And I’m trying to eat more veg and less meat.

I made blueberry ricotta cheese pancakes:

1362937533293Just to change things up, I used a variation of this recipe from Food Network.

Then I used the rest of my quart of blueberries to make these awesome muffins:

1362951405067using  recipe from Beth Hensperger’s The Bread Bible.  I wish it made more than 6 muffins though.

One night this week will be breakfast for dinner and we’ll have ricotta cheese-stuffed crepes.  So I made the crepes.  I used a recipe online that resulted in lumpy crepes.  I’ll go back to using my beloved Betty Crocker Cookbook recipe from now on.

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I thought it was silly when my grandmother bought me this cookbook, but I’m still using it 20 years later.

I purposely made a large batch of the carmelized onions and peppers and the taco meat (ground chicken) that I used for the mexican pizzas.  I will be using these, some small corn tortillas, guacamole,

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and this lovely Chipotle-style rice to have a mexican fiesta night.

1362951421352Mexican fiesta night is one of my kids’ favorite dinner themes.  It’s so easy to make but varies based on what ingredients we have in the house.  I prefer brown rice, but I was out today so I used Japanese sticky rice.  In order to make the rice less sticky, I used less water during cooking.  Because no one wants sticky tortilla rice.  Ew!

To finish off the day of awesomeness, I broke out the entire series of Thundarr the Barbarian on DVD.

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And I let my kids eat pizza in the family room while watching it.  Because I’m cool like that.

I loved this show as a little girl.  I didn’t realize that it only ran for 2 seasons.  The intro, in case you’ve forgotten talks about how in the year 1994, a comet hurls to earth.  Hahahaha!  My kids asked me if this really happened in 1994 and we’ve recovered since then.  See, 1994 is before they were born.  They thought it was funny that, when this cartoon was made, 1994 was in the future.

They wanted to know if Thundarr was He-man.  I didn’t realize how badly He-man had ripped off Thundarr.  I was not a He-man fan.  How could He-man compete with Ookla?

How could this day be any more awesome?  Tons of cooking and Thundarr.  Hope your day was just as awesome.

For the Love of the Bacon

My family is a family of bacon lovers.

I kept seeing recipes for bacon brittle and candied bacon and other bacon-themed goodies and I really wanted to try them.  My husband and I both lost lots of weight and he has put bacon on the “do not buy” list.  I try to eat sensibly, but I love bacon and I’m willing to skip other things so that I may have bacon. – Lately, I haven’t been skipping enough things, but that is another story.

While looking at lovely things on the internet, I saw a recipe for bacon roses.  As we were nearing Valentines Day I decided that I now had my excuse to make some bacon-y goodness.

First I decided that if one could make candied bacon and bacon roses why not combine the 2?  And I did.

Here’s where I got my inspiration for the Bacon Roses.

Candied Bacon Roses

  • bacon
  • brown sugar
  • skewers
  • baby leaf lettuce
  • mini muffin pan
  • toothpicks, lots and lots of toothpicks
  • Wax paper
  • Ribbon
  • empty metal can (for bacon fat)
  1. Dry your bacon on a paper towel.  I used slightly more than 2 – 1 pound backs of bacon for my roses.
  2. SAMSUNGCoat the individual strips with brown sugar.  I took a big Rubbermaid container and threw a bunch of brown sugar in the bottom.  I didn’t measure.  – Helpful hint, the coating shouldn’t be overly thick as much of it will kind of “melt” off during the cooking.  Also, my bacon was rather fatty.  I couldn’t find any leaner bacon than this.  Leaner bacon would have made nicer roses.
  3. SAMSUNGUse the fatty edge as the top of the rose.  Roll up the strip, roll each “layer” slightly lower on the outside of the rose so that the center is the highest part.  Remember however, not to allow the rose to get too tall as it becomes hard to balance it upright during cooking.  A tall thin rose will not stand up nicely.
  4. SAMSUNGInsert toothpicks near the bottom of the rose to a) hold the rose together and b) create a stand for the rose so it doesn’t sit in the bottom of the muffin tin.  As I made so many roses, I used two muffin pans.  The mini muffin pan was great because I could use only 2 toothpicks and nicely balance the roses.  For the second muffin pan, a regular size pan, I needed 3 and made a sort of tripod to balance the roses.  It was a little awkward and toothpick placement was very important.
  5. Bake at 350 F for 30-40 minutes.
  6. Remove roses to a paper towel or cooling rack and, working quickly, pour the hot bacon fat/brown sugar mixture to an empty coffee can or other suitable metal waste container.  If you let this get hard, it is very difficult to remove.  And you certainly don’t want to pour this down your kitchen drain as it WILL clog.
  7. Lie a large piece of wax paper on a flat surface.
  8. Take a washed piece of baby leaf lettuce and impale it upon a skewer so that the point of the skewer is on the “inside” of the lettuce (the lettuce leaf curves toward the tip of the skewer).
  9. Add the rose to the top of the skewer and lay the rose on the wax paper at the top of a corner.
  10. Repeat step 8 and continue placing completed roses to make a bouquet – I only added lettuce to a third of the skewers.
  11. Neatly wrap the wax paper around the roses and tie with the ribbon.

SAMSUNGAfter talking about my roses to a friend, I am convinced that had I poured the bacon fat/brown sugar into a prepared cookie sheet that it would have made a delicious and heart-stoppingly deadly brittle.  I guarantee I could have sold that.

Next, I made a batch of Bacon Almond Brittle.  You can follow the recipe here.  Mine didn’t turn out the best because I cut all the fat off of the bacon first.  As my bacon was very fatty, this left me with relatively little bacon in the brittle.  It is still very tasty, but not very bacon-y.  Good bacon is the key to both of these dishes (and really, any bacon dish).  All the bacon I found was extremely fatty and I went looking at 3 different stores.

Last, I made some bacon-wrapped scallops.  I don’t have pictures for the brittle or scallops.  Mostly because I’m being lazy.

The recipe for the scallops is from a very old cookbook I have.  Actually, these scallops are part of the first meal I ever cooked for my husband back when we first started dating.  The entire meal consisted of Bacon-wrapped Bay Scallops, Artichoke Pesto Pasta Salad, some entree (that neither one of us can recall), and Boston Cream Pie.

For Valentine’s Day, I made the scallops and the Boston Cream Pie.  The recipe is:

  • 2 pounds of bay scallops (I used one pound of wild-caught sea scallops)
  • 1 pound of bacon cut in half width-wise
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder
  • 1/4 cup vermouth (I used a semi-sweet white wine – I keep a jug for cooking)
  1. Wrap each scallop with a 1/2 strip of bacon
  2. Mix the seasonings with the vermouth
  3. Marinate the scallops in the vermouth/seasonings mixture for at least a 1/2 hour
  4. Drain the scallops and place on broiler pan
  5. Broil 4″ from heat source for 10 minutes
  6. Turn the scallops and broil for an additional 5-7 minutes

My husband told me that instead of making candied bacon roses for the kids, I should just kill them outright.  But he didn’t complain at all about the bacon-wrapped scallops.  He was very happy about the scallops.  He has been bugging me to make them since the last time, 20 years ago.  I think the scallops are good, but although I love bacon, I prefer the scallops without the bacon.

Hope you had a lovely Valentine’s Day!  My was bacon-licious

 

 

Bad Santa

Because I am sometimes I’m a very bad mom….

I left my kids a note from Santa on Christmas Day.  They forgot to leave milk and cookies.  So I thought I’d bust their chops just a little.

It said:

Kids- 

You forgot my cookies and milk.  So I helped myself to one of your dad’s beers.

Santa

I don’t care if they think it’s funny or not.  I think it’s hilarious.