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. 

Monday, May 22, 2017

Embossed Great Seal

The fifth graders and I are wrapping up our study of US history by looking at national symbols and icons. We examined money and noticed that the Great Seal appears on the reverse of a $1 bill. If you look carefully at the Seal, the number 13 is present over and over, representing the original 13 colonies. The eagle is clutching 13 arrows in his left talon and an olive branch with 13 leaves in his right. This eagle's head is turned toward the olive branch, showing that the US strongly prefers peace over war.

We made an embossed version of the Great Seal to take home.


Embossed Great Seal


  • scissors
  • printed copy of the Great Seal (4" diameter to fit the plates)
  • foam plate (we used 6" plates)
  • pencil or ballpoint pen
  • black paint
  • paper towel


1. Cut out the seal so that it fits in the center of the foam plate. 


2. Use the pen or pencil to trace over every part of the design. Press hard enough to leave a deep impression, but not so hard that you poke through the plate. 


3. Rub a small amount of black paint over the design, then wipe it away. The paint will stay in the embossed area, revealing the design. Add a solid coat of paint around the rim, or leave it plain. 


To see other patriotic crafts that are quick and easy to make, check out the May edition of Craft Lightning!