Friday, October 30, 2009

pumpkins!

we've had a few adventures lately, including last week's trip to southern arizona. see julie's post from earlier today. so tonight, since it was halloween eve, we decided it was time to carve pumpkins. julie's sister sarah and her boyfriend dustin joined us in the fun.


we thought it would only be fair for you to see what our pumpkins look like, as well as some pics from the work in progress.

digging the pumpkins out










our pumpkin










sarah's pumpkin










dustin's pumpkin (and julie's spaghetti squash with mr. potato head halloween decor, courtesy the creativity of sarah)

Southern Arizona

Last weekend we took a trip to the southern part of Arizona to see Kartchner Caverns, Willcox, AZ, Chiricahua National Monument, Tombstone, AZ and Auntie Annie's Apple Orchard.

It was a great trip with wonderful weather. Here are some highlights from our trip:

Kartchner Caverns - which had wonderful rock formations such as stalagmites, stalactites, turnip shields, and helictites. The story of how the cave was discovered is pretty cool as well! Unfortunately, we couldn't take any photos of the cave, however, the website has come cool video and photos.

Willcox, AZ
- this was my hometown when I was in the 1st-3rd grade. In that time, my dad was appointed to Willcox UMC and we "acquired" my two younger sibs, Matt and Sarah. When you're younger, the city seems large and cool. Upon our recent trip back, the reality of it being a small, run-down town set in. But at least they have recycling and Rex Allen Days.

Chiricahua National Monument - is a great mountain range with awesome rock formations to the south of Willcox.

Tombstone, AZ - the famous city that's "too tough to die" which has the OK Corral and many gunfights.


and finally, we paid a visit to Apple Annie's Orchard and picked some great granny smiths and red delicious. We also visited their produce orchard and picked yummy green beans and spaghetti squash. The apple crisp that we've made was DELISH!

Here are some pics from our trip!

Tombstone



one of my childhood homes



Willcox UMC



Willcox Hospital - where my sister Sarah was born



Chiricahua Nat'l Monument

Thursday, October 29, 2009

the end result


i randomly came across this article about what it really means to "go green" and what's really going on in the big picture of all the waste we create. while i don't expect too many people out there to do all this guy has, he really makes some good points.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Wildflower Bread Co. - The Food

The best part of our experience at Wildflower Bread Co. (WBC) last night was without a doubt the food. The atmosphere was good and with the hospitality that was shown to us, it did give that feeling of being at home, but the food will make you come back again.


WBC served a 5 course meal to us, in smaller portions to what they normally serve, to give us a sampling of their fall menu. Both Julie and I will review each course to give you a couple different perspectives.

Apple Streusel Pancakes


Brian: The caramel-praline syrup sold me on these. It was good enough to drink on it's own. It came delightfully warm with the buttermilk pancakes. It was the 1st example of the way WBC pays attention to the minor details. The currants and pecans in the soft pancakes added a nice crunchy texture. They could almost serve the pancakes and syrup as a desert, it's that decadent.

Julie: This was such a scrumptious "meal". The short stack of these pancakes include 3 - 2oz pancakes and the entree includes 3 - 3oz pancakes. We had 2 of the 2oz buttermilk based pancakes. The smell was heavenly! The pancakes had large chunks of apples, walnuts, topped with brown sugar and powdered sugar. The pancakes were light and flavorful on their own without the syrup and transformed into a fluffy caramel apple when dipped in the caramel praline syrup. The syrup was a bit sugar-y and I would be a little more cautious with it if I was actually eating this as my first meal of the day. I used a little bit of the butter on the pancakes but it didn't need it at all.

Fiery Butternut Squash Salad

Brian: This was my least favorite part of the meal, partially because I am normally not a big fan of squash. The squash itself was soft & moist, and the spice they added to the squash is a nice touch. It added that extra kick that can make food a bit more enjoyable. I thought there was a bit much of the cranberry-balsamic vinaigrette, so perhaps having it on the side might be better.

Julie: I like butternut squash and was looking forward to trying this salad. The salad had butternut squash that was roasted in maple syrup, sundried spicy corn and a great variety of greens. The salad comes with a great hunk of perfect sourdough bread. The squash had a nice "kick" to it becuase of the red pepper in the squash and it had a nice light texture. The gorgonzola added a nice tart balance to the bit of sweetness from the cranberry-basalmic vinaigrette dressing. I think though, if I ordered the salad again, I would get the dressing on the side.

Turkey & Cranberry Walnut Stuffing Sandwich


Brian: One of my favorite parts of the meal. A wonderfully thick sandwich that has every taste you could want out of one of these mini-meals. When the owner, Louis, was describing it my immediate comment was "You had me at bacon.". Yes, this Turkey Day inspired sandwich has bacon! Perfect. They also include a spiced mayo. Normally, I don't like mayo. On this sandwich...awesome. I already want another one.

Julie: The original size of this sandwich was enormous. One thing that Louis mentioned was the desire to reduce portion size and this, to me, would be one of the areas in which that could be applied. That said, the concept of this sandwich was really cool. The two thick slices of bread were really delicious and I love the concept of the Stuffing Loaf (made with carrots, celery, sage, and pecans - ready for the thanksgiving day turkey!). Then there were also small chunks of cranberry-walnut stuffing as the first layer on top of the herb mayo, which was not heavy nor overbearing. Then a few thin slices of turkey, then great quality medium sliced bacon slices, cranberry sauce and finally, another slice of stuffing loaf to top it off. I actually had to take the sandwich apart and slice off pieces of the sandwich and then eat it with a fork. The taste was a great blend of all of the tastes of a thanksgiving meal!

Butternut Squash Ravioli










Brian: I was surprised by how much I liked this dish. It's topped with a walnut cream sauce that is great for dipping the grilled garlic bread that comes with it. There's a wonderful warmth to the ravioli as well. I was impressed by how well the butternut squash worked with the cream sauce.

Julie: Again, as a fan of butternut squash, I was really looking forward to this dish as well. IT WAS HEAVENLY! The sweetness of the squash was enhanced by the nutmeg. The creamy texture of the ravioli went perfectly with the walnut cream sauce. I also appreciated the slight hint of red pepper to compliment the sweetness of the squash. I could definately eat the large portion of this dish! In addition, as a huge fan of garlic, the smell of the thick slice of garlic bread that accompanied this dish was enough to want to make me hang it from my rear view mirror. YUM!

Pumpkin Pie, Roasted Nut Pie and Pumpkin Cheesecake served with Mayan Chai Latte (Yes, they served us 3 deserts.)


Brian: It's hard for me to pick a favorite out of the deserts. Without a doubt, I loved the latte. It was another favorite out of the meal. It had cayenne pepper in it, and I felt it as the latte went down my throat. The pumpkin pie is super creamy and melts in your mouth. The roasted nut pie is great. Think pecan pie, just add 5 more nuts. Crunchy and melty at the same time. The pumpkin cheesecake is wonderful, too.

Julie: I was pleasantly surprised with the selection of desserts. I love pumpkin during this time of year and it's great when it's incorporated into any sort of dessert! The pumpkin pie could barely keep its shape because it was so creamy and fluffy. The texture was so good that it almost didn't need a crust. The Pumpkin Cheesecake was also a delight! The cheesecake was fluffy and light which I appreciated because I could have eaten the entire piece. As for the Roasted Nut Pie, I was a bit skeptical because I usually don't like pecan pie or other similar desserts. The blend of 6 nuts was nice and wasn't "sticky" like other pecan pies. I don't usually like Chai Lattes but they offered to make mine with soy milk. Besides the abundance of foam (I'm not really a coffee drinker either) the taste was good. It was a nice blend of spicy chocolate and warm goodness.

As we left, the staff of WBC gave each of us who participated in this Tastecasting event a bag with 3 loaves of freshly-baked bread: Pumpkin cinnamon, cranberry walnut and stuffing loaf as well as 3 potato rolls. From the smell, they promise to be just as good as what we've already eaten. I can't wait to go back to Wildflower Bread for another meal.



Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Wildflower Bread Co.

Recently, Brian and I joined a group called Tastecasting, which is a movement to help local restaurants gain publicity by word of mouth/blog/tweet/linked in. It is a great way spread the word about the great food that restaurants serve and also about a great experience with fun people! I found out about it from a friend's sister's blog and then discovered that there was one here in Phoenix. Both Brian and I joined and had a great time tonight at our first tasting. Check out the link to see if there is one in your city!

While I will post about my experience tomorrow, Brian will also post about his experience soon as well.

But first, I'd like to introduce you to the place we visited. It's Wildflower Bread Company (WBC) and they have several locations, mostly in the Phoenix area. Louis Basile, Jr. is the head honcho and is obviously quite proud of this company. It certainly shows in the big and little details.

These are just a few things that stuck out to me about his commitment and passion about creating this restaurant:

- WBC lives by the Golden Rule of serving others as you would want to be served;
- his goal was to provide a place where Phoencians could get some excellent bread and also to provide a unique, tasty, affordable meal;
- each WBC has an environment with it's own character;
- WBC is active in the community and donates all its baked goods at the end of the day to churches and charities (definately a plus for me!);
- WBC takes its perspective of abundance and uses it to help others;
- all items are baked on-site and each loaf of bread takes 3 days to fully leaven (I LOVE bread and this is really cool!)

This was our first visit to WBC and we were certainly impressed by the decor, ambiance and again, the little details that convey that they really care about their customers.

One little thing that I noticed before we dove into the gastronomic festivities, was the really nice bathroom. Now I realize that I am blogging about the food of the restaurant, but for me, an indicator of a restaurant's cleanliness and care is the condition of its restrooms.

The restroom at WBC was surprisingly nice. I expected a little, but felt as if I was walking into a restroom at a fancy place. The frosted glass doors and ceramic tile complimented the bright lighting and FREE Bath and Body Works lotion samples on the counter.

I was so impressed (or perhaps dorky enough) to take some photos of the restroom!

Each stall is behind a frosted glass door


View from the loo


FREE lotion samples (Bath and Body Works Coconut Lime Verbena)


They even have a courtesy phone in the hallway


I must say that this first impression was certainly a reflection of the standard of service from WBC.

I expected WBC to be similar to a Panera, Paradise Bakery or Atlanta Bread Co. I was pleasantly surprised to have my expectations exceeded!

Tomorrow: the feast!

intimacy on a grand scale












those were some of the words uttered by bono last night as U2 performed at the university of phoenix stadium here in phoenix as part of their 360 tour. intimacy on a grand scale in the midst of a spaceship-like stage as they performed some of their classics like "sunday, bloody sunday", "where the streets have no name", as well as songs off their new album "no line on the horizon".

bono, as part of his continued efforts to help the underprivileged, also brought to light the plights of people in africa, tehran and other countries. while they played "walk on", he dedicated the song to aung san suu kyi, a burmese woman who has been unjustly placed under house arrest because she was elected as prime minister of her country. not to mention the video they had of desmond tutu giving a speech in thanks of the help given to africa to combat the AIDS epidemic.

we took some pictures and videos of the show, and here are a few of them to help you enjoy the amazingness that is U2.

video
video

Wordless Wednesday - The Little Man



Sunday, October 18, 2009

new template

in honor of us moving to arizona, we decided to change the look of our blog. that, and brian was getting tired of the black template that we were using.

Joshua Bell

This is a very interesting experiment in sociology and context. Warning: it's a long but great story!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Interracial Marriage

It makes me speechless that this dumbf*** has such a narrow viewpoint. Has he never been to the west coast? BTW, it is SO TOTALLY racism.

a page from dutch history

last week julie & i made a trip to the phoenix library. mainly to get library cards, but also to browse their selection. my original intent was to look over the CDs & maybe borrow a few to expand my musical horizons. i've discovered that library collections are great for that.


as it turned out, i borrowed exactly zero CDs and borrowed some books instead. one of them is becoming quite fascinating to me. as you know, dutch history is an interest of mine, as well as social justice issues. the phoenix library had a book that covered both. it's called "Blacks in the Dutch World: The Evolution of Racial Imagery in a Modern Society" by Allison Blakely. it talks about how, even in the historically tolerant society of the dutch, racism still exists. the inside of the front cover has an interesting quote: ""Blacks in the Dutch World" confirms that the existence of color prejudice in a predominately "white" society does not depend on the presence of racial conflict or even a significant "colored" population."

i find this quote interesting, in some ways because it states the obvious. on a personal level, i have never intentionally done anything for or against someone because of the color of their skin, but i know those thoughts of prejudice are in my head. it's a question of what i do with those thoughts when they are there. but, what that quote comes down to is that racism is not something you necessarily see on the surface, but it usually exists underneath. and you don't need to see someone of another color or culture to have prejudiced thoughts/feelings against them. that's something that can be ingrained by the culture around you.

i just started reading this book a couple days ago. it starts out with some of the older dutch history and how they would treat blacks and asians differently than people of european descent, and specifically dutch-based companies & their involvement with the slave trade.

i just finished reading the 1st chapter, which talks about the dutch east indies. the east india company, which did a lot of the slave trade at that time, had some interesting policies regarding the behavior of their workers. the workers were often sent to live in the colonies created as a result of some of this "trade".

"East India Company policy for much of the period was to restrict immigration by Dutch women and to recruit bachelors from the Netherlands and have them marry or take Asian women concubines, who, if slave, were first freed, baptised, and given a Christian Dutch or Portuguese name. This pragmatic strategy, aimed at ensuring the most stable type of service force, is indicative of the pragmatic approach taken concerning racial mixing. A related further measure was restriction of admission into the Netherlands of Asian wives and children of Dutchmen. Meanwhile, within the Dutch East Indies the Eurasian offspring of the mixed marriages became the preferred marriage partners in the society which developed. One result of the combination of practices was that nearly all members of society were raised by Asian women. Moreover, the racially mixed society as a whole was matrilineal, with Asian-born Dutch sons usually sent to the Netherlands for careers and new bachelor recruits brought in for company manpower." page 15 of "Blacks in the Dutch World"

i found this quite fascinating, simply because i didn't know the asian culture played a strong role in dutch culture. i can't wait to get more into this book and find out more.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Social Networking and Social Status

It's kind of like "white flight" of social networking.

Interesting Take

Why Conservatives are Really Afraid of a Black President


Your thoughts?

Sunday, October 11, 2009

the saturday adventure


as it turned out, saturday turned out to be another one of those days that prove you never know what's going to happen. oh, please click on this --> pic. it's brilliant.


julie & i woke up early saturday morning to drive to buffalo wild wings (bww) to catch the cmu vs. emu game. we were hoping the cmu alumni group that would be there would be a decent amount of people. as it turned out, it wasn't. thanks to bww being a bit of a distance from anywhere and it being 9 a.m., the total that showed up were 4...including julie & i. doug and his son davis were there. doug graduated from cmu in '67. he was there before the malt shoppe. if you know cmu, you know the malt shoppe. i thought it had been there since the beginning of time. it's one of those places. the game turned out to be great. at half-time, the chippewas were up 35-0. we decided to leave, since cmu had the game decided by that point. i later found out they won 56-8. that's not a typo. it's nice to see the football program at cmu finally having some success. it's just sad that it's happening after i graduated. they were horrible then. i think they won a total of 4 games in the 4 years i was there.

as for the u.s. vs. honduras match...that was a different story. i rode the light rail into downtown phoenix to the george & dragon. met a few fellow soccer supporters there, along with the folks involved with phoenix rising. the surprising thing was the george & dragon never showed the game. what? you say. here's why. most bars that were showing it were asking a $20.00 cover to pay for the cost of piping the game in from honduras, because it cost them $1500 to do it. it's a copyright thing. the george & dragon asked for no cover and was going to show it via an underground internet stream. but, as it happened, the stream gave their computer a virus...which prevented us from viewing the game and killed the computer at the george & dragon. yes. sad and tragic. but, the u.s. won 3-2, which means they've qualified for the world cup next year! go yanks!

even though the plans called for seeing 2 football games, and i only saw half of one, it still was a good day. both my teams won. the u.s. has another match on wednesday, this one against costa rica. i plan on actually watching that one with the phoenix rising group, who seem to be a good batch of folks.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

football (both kinds)


i heart the interwebs. thanks to the wonderful connectivity it creates, this saturday looks to be pretty sweet.


i did a bit of cybersphere research and found out about the phoenix chapter of the central michigan university alumni group. occasionally, they have events. as alumni groups like to do. turns out, they organize places to watch cmu football games. that is, of course, the american meaning of "football". so, saturday morning julie & i are heading to buffalo wild wings to watch cmu take on eastern michigan university...and to hang out with fellow cmu alums. sweet. :)


then, that night, we're headed to a wonderful british pub downtown phoenix called the george & dragon to watch my favorite kind of football. the united states takes on honduras in a world cup qualifying match! woohoo! the game starts at 10pm eastern, so grab your mates & join the rest of us in watching this one. this shin-dig is being organized by phoenix rising, a group that is trying to bring a usl division 1 team to phoenix. usl (united soccer leagues) is a cool league that is set up much like the soccer leagues in other countries, with relegation and promotion models. if you don't know what i mean by that, ask me. i'm a fan of that way of doing professional sports. this, of course, will be a great way to meet fellow soccer fans here in the valley (a nickname for phoenix). since the game won't be shown on network tv or cable (a sarcastic "thanks" to the u.s. soccer federation for that one), here's a website that lists bars across the country that will be showing it

fire up chips! go usa!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Cats






One of the joys in Brian and I's life is our two cats, Panini and Squiggs. Here are some reasons why: