Monday, May 29, 2017

Exploring Louisiana Through Little Passports

This post contains affiliate links. 

Time to share another of our adventures with Little Passports! This time we took a virtual trip to Louisiana. 

Trevor started by building the model of the paddle steamer. Then we did a wordsearch about the local lingo in Louisiana. Do you know what a fais-dodo, a shotgun house, or a faubourg are? I didn't! A fais-dodo is a dance party. A shotgun is a long, narrow house with all the rooms lined up and doors on the two ends. A faubourg is the French word for suburb. I always learn new things with Little Passports!

Next, we learned about the regions of Louisiana. We read about jazz music in New Orleans and were amazed to discover that brass bands parade in the streets every Sunday. We did an activity about the birds of Louisiana and learned how swamps' slow currents help filter water for Louisiana's plants and animals. 

We read about the connection between the fleur-de-lis and Louisiana with our next activity. The Boy Scouts of American use the fleur-de-lis as their symbol, so it's very familiar to Trevor. We were fascinated to learn that, despite its literal French translation as 'lily flower', there are historians who claim the fleur-de-lis was actually designed to look like an iris, not a lily. Others say it was originally designed after the head of a throwing spear or even from a honeybee, a symbol of French royalty. After reading all the explanations, Trevor thinks that the spear is the most likely. I'm voting for the bee. 

After reading about Oak Alley Plantation and famous events that happened in Louisiana, it was time for cooking. Louisiana is famous for a lot of amazing food, so it was fun to see which recipe they chose to include in the State Journal - jambalaya. Trevor started by chopping 'the trinity' of onions, celery, and bell peppers.

He followed the recipe exactly, with one exception. He reduced the amount of cayenne significantly. We don't like our food too spicy! 

Finally, we made mini mardi gras floats out of single-size cereal boxes. 


Mini Mardi Gras Float



Empty the cereal box and coat it with gesso. Let that dry. Glue the open end shut.

Paint the cereal box and let it dry. 

Decorate with feathers, sequins, flowers, or whatever else! 

What good is a float without people on it? Lego minifigs to the rescue! The jester fits right in...

Let's add the princess and the frog and Dr. Jekyll! This is Trevor's float.

This one is mine. 


We had such a fun time with our virtual trip to Louisiana! We hope to actually visit it in person soon. It seems like a wonderful place with so much to explore. Thanks to Little Passports for introducing us to the Pelican State!

Friday, May 26, 2017

Rhubarb Shrub

After making (and enjoying) blueberry shrub with the fifth graders, I was eager to try making rhubarb shrub. (I'm obsessed with rhubarb.)

I followed the same process I'd used with the blueberries. Combine equal amounts of fruit and sugar and let it sit at room temperature for 2 days, stirring each day. Strain that syrup from the pulp

Add an equal amount of apple cider vinegar to the syrup. At this point, I tasted my shrub. Yikes! Sticky-sweet blueberry syrup had been perfect with the tartness of the apple cider, but tart rhubarb syrup combined with apple cider tasted like the equivalent of being punched. Lesson learned - when using a sweet fruit, an equal amount of sugar to fruit will make an appropriate syrup for shrub. When using a tart fruit, add extra sugar so that you don't end up with something so tart it's undrinkable!

I added a bunch more sugar to the shrub and let it mellow in the refrigerator for a few days. Finally, I had a delicious drinking vinegar. There was a still a small amount of blueberry shrub left, so I poured each so I could compare their colors side by side. Beautiful. 

Come winter when our orange tree goes crazy and we have more oranges than we can use, remind me to try making orange shrub, OK? Thanks!

Thursday, May 25, 2017

40-4-Steve: Crown Grill

I went on my first cruise with my parents and sister in 1987 (age 15) and loved it. Since then, I've been on 19 cruises with my family. Steve has been along on the past 10 and Trevor on the past 9. Cruising has changed quite a bit from 1987. Ships have grown significantly in size and offer far more amenities and onboard activities than in the 80's. Many of the changes are for the better. 

One change that I do not like is the addition of pay-to-use amenities. On our first cruise, everything was included, with the exception of alcohol and gambling (which weren't relevant to me at age 15). The shows, the food, the activities, the contests - no cover charge. You could enjoy any public part of the ship. Now, it is common to see pay-to-use lounge areas, fees for special classes or activities, and specialty restaurants with a cover charge. This annoys me, so I opt not to support them in hopes that the industry will shift back towards all-inclusive instead of nickel-and-diming the passengers. 

Steve has no problem with the specialty restaurants requiring a cover charge and has wanted to try one out for a long time. As part of my 40-4-Steve project, we ate together at the Crown Grill aboard the Grand Princess. And it was delicious. 

Crown Grill (affiliate link)

To scrap the photo he took of one of his courses, I used a map paper by Pink Paislee. I circled the part of Alaska where we were headed as we were eating our meal. The layout is really simple, but I think it works. 

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

40-4-Steve: Computer History Museum

When putting together my list of 40 special activities for Steve during his year of being 40, there were a few that are so Steve that it seemed impossible that he'd never done them before. The #1 example? Visiting the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, CA. 

While Trevor and I went with Steve for most of the 40-4-Steve project, we knew he'd enjoy his time at the Computer History Museum with another computer fanatic who would want to carefully study each exhibit (instead of dealing with us being done after an hour of browsing). We bought tickets for Steve and his dad. Sure enough, they were there for the entire eight hours it was open and only saw half the museum. 

40-4-Steve: Computer History Museum (affiliate link)

For the layout, I actually used two photos, trimmed to fit together. By adhering them without any space between them, they read as one square picture rather than two rectangles.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Dinner with Exactly 17 Ingredients

If you've been thinking, "I bet Cindy did something weird for Mother's Day," then you know me pretty well. Because I decided that Mother's Day was the PERFECT time to challenge myself with another cooking competition.

It was actually something I'd planned to do on New Year's Eve. My concept was that I would give each of my guests a list of 100 foods. Each would veto two ingredients and vote for 17 ingredients (because of 2017). Whichever 17 foods got the most votes overall without being vetoed would be the 17 ingredients I could use for every single course and beverage (along with a few freebie pantry items, like salt, pepper, and oil). I wasn't able to do the challenge on New Year's Eve, but it was a great way to spend Mother's Day with Suzzi and Ronan, two friends who somehow always like what I cook, even when it is not good. They're great friends to have, for that reason and many others.

Here's the list of 100 foods. What would you have voted for and what would you have vetoed?

After I tallied the votes and removed the vetoes, my ingredient list included:

  • chicken
  • bacon
  • heavy cream
  • havarti
  • rhubarb
  • strawberry
  • pineapple
  • avocado
  • tomato
  • nutmeg
  • rosemary
  • vanilla
  • mustard
  • barley
  • sourdough
  • chocolate
  • wine

At first glance, I thought it would be really easy to pull together a tasty and logical meal with these ingredients, but it was harder than I thought! No matter what route I went, there was either a weird ingredient or two leftover, or an extra (and thus, contraband) ingredient I wanted to add. Where were the vegetables?! Egg would have been handy! But I did finally manage to put together a logical, if not particularly diet-friendly, menu.

We began with appetizers. I made two versions of toasted sourdough rounds. The one on the right had an oil and rosemary spread, then was topped with havarti. The one on the left had melted havarti and was topped with warm rhubarb sauce. I served them with slices of havarti and Boudin's twice-baked sourdough crackers.  

For dinner, we had chicken breast with melted havarti and a port wine mustard rosemary reduction. With it, a barley salad with avocado, tomato, and crumbled bacon. We drank pineapple-strawberry mocktails.  


For dessert, I made this delicious 3-ingredient chocolate mousse. I served it with chilled rhubarb sauce, strawberries I'd macerated in port wine, and vanilla whipped cream. I grated fresh nutmeg over the whole dish.

So how was it? Darn good, if I do say so myself! This was a really fun challenge and one that I'll definitely be doing again.