What shall I do?

I know I want to run a 5k and half marathon. Okay, so I want to run, but I will end up power walking instead. Maybe try out some new ethnic cuisines. Travel to some new spots. Try some new classes. Support a new charity. Some may be exciting adventures, some may be boring. I welcome your suggestions for something new to try.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

#17 The Bluebird...

When we moved to Utah 16 years ago, I was amazed at the amount of people willing to sit out in the summer weather and listen to a plethora of outdoor concerts.  Don't get me wrong, the evening weather is cooler and I sit on my patio often at that time of night.  However, the weather is also fickle here.  Far less predictable than the temperate California climate I was raised in.  An evening thunderstorm can pop up at any moment and send me scurrying indoors.  Native Utahns aren't afraid of lightning like this California girl is.  They didn't even used to call the kids in from recess during a storm until a student was struck by lightning a few years ago (and thankfully was fine). Their non-chalance results in several people being struck by lightning each summer, which does nothing to allay my fears.

There are at least 10 amphitheaters in the Salt Lake Valley and the surrounding ski resorts.  All have a summer concert series.  Some have had terrific bands I have wanted to see, but never enough to pay actual cash to risk braving the unpredictable elements.  But that all changed last weekend due to my more adventurous spouse.

Tim was in town for the weekend and one of his favorite artists, Lori McKenna, was doing a concert at the Sundance Resort amphitheater.  It is part of their Bluebird Cafe concert series.  The Bluebird Cafe is a famous venue in Nashville, where songwriters perform their works of art.  Sundance is a ski resort best known as owned by Robert Redford and the home of the Sundance Institute which hosts the Sundance Film Festival every year.  They have deep roots in the entertainment industry.  They have partnered with the Bluebird Cafe in Nashville to bring their artists to Utah to perform.  In addition to McKenna, Tom Douglas and Allen Shamblin shared the stage with her.

The concert itself was delightful.  The narratives between songs were informative and funny.  Songwriters are storytellers and they did a good job entertaining the crowd of 700+.  Many of their songs were well known as they had been performed by famous artists and a few were songs that are just near and dear to them, but never made it high on the charts.  They are country artists, which is NOT my thing, but these were mellow songs.  More like gentle folk music.  Nothing like Take Your Cat and Leave My Sweater.  I don't think a pick-up truck was ever mentioned.  So it was very enjoyable.

The views were stunning.  The river was still raging from the snowmelt seeming more like May than July.  The weather remained cloudless and clear.  However, we were in the mountains.  When we arrived, it was 85 degrees and taking the sweatshirt and blanket from the car seemed silly, but once the sun went down I was so glad we had them.  The sandals were a mistake, both for the cold night air and the hike to the amphitheater and back to the parking lot.  But it was a great evening.  I certainly enjoyed myself enough to give it another try.  I've learned the rewards outweigh the risks when it comes to the summer weather for these outdoor concerts.  I guess an old dog can learn new tricks...

Monday, July 25, 2011

#16...A tradition continued?

Traditions are important to us as they help us feel connected to the past and provide memories for the future.  When Tim and I first married we made an effort to combine our families traditions as well as start some new ones.  One of those traditions was partaking of Baskin Robbins custom ice cream sandwiches over the Christmas holiday, which came from the Lyon family.  As the years progressed, finding a store who would make the custom sandwiches got harder and harder and we adapted to just having our favorite BR ice cream flavors instead.

A few years back I found an ice cream sandwich kit and purchased it.  Thoughts of rekindling the ice cream sandwich tradition danced in my head.  But the holidays got busy and I never got around to making them.  In fact I totally forgot about them until I found the kit this past week.  While I prefer the traditional chocolate cookie, I used store bought chocolate chip cookie dough as suggested in the brochure.  I let it soften and spread it in the pan as directed.  I cooked it for the suggested time.  It was one giant raw cookie.  Don't get me wrong...I LOVE my cookies soft and undercooked.  So when I say raw, it is not even close to undercooked.  Back into the oven it went and was cooked for almost double the suggested time.  It still wasn't perfect, but as an impatient person I was willing to accept imperfection.

The kit includes three different shaped sandwich makers; a star, heart and fancy square.  They come in three parts.  You pop off the bottom and use the main body to cut your cookies shapes.  Pop the bottom back on and layer a cookie in the main body, then a scoop of ice cream, then top with a cookie and use the cookie press that goes on top to squish it all together.  Pop off the bottom again and use the press to push the newly formed ice cream sandwich out.

With practice you could possibly make an ice cream sandwich to rival the photo on the box.  Mine looked NOTHING like that.  My corners weren't crisp and the ice cream was melting over the bottom.  I probably should have cooked the cookies a bit longer, but you want a soft cookie in your sandwich so it is a fine line there.  I also should have used rock hard ice cream although not sure how easy that would be to press.  It looked a mess, but tasted pretty good.

Will I make these again?  I doubt it.  But I did learn a valuable lesson.  If I want to carry on the tradition I will just go to BR and buy their damn cookies and make my own custom sandwiches.

Monday, July 11, 2011

#15 - The Baskin Robbins Challenge

OK...so this may have been motivated by my intense love affair with ice cream, but these two sundaes are new and only available for a limited time.  It seemed only reasonable that this would make a very tasty and enjoyable new experience.

I hit Baskin Robbins a few weeks back for a mint & chip shake and the flavor of the month, Super Soldier Swirl, caught my eye.  I asked for a sample and was pleasantly surprised that the vanilla ice cream with blue chips and a cherry swirl was delicious. Even more appealing was the signage showing two new limited time sundaes available as part of the upcoming Captain America movie promotion.  While it looked good, I was craving that mint & chip shake and that was what I ordered.

Perhaps it was fate that later that week the BR facebook page had a link for a Captain America game.  While I was not an instant winner, the losers get a coupon.  That days coupon was a BOGO for 99 cents on the promotional sundaes.  Now my plan was forming.  Tim was in town and I suggested a trip to BR for dessert.  I was going to use a tactic he often employs when we eat out.  He asks what I am having and then orders something else so he can eat two dinners.  This would work rather well for him, except I am one of the most indecisive people on this planet when faced with food choices and usually do not make a choice until forced to do so by the wait staff.

I knew that Tim would go for the chocolate Hydra Force Sundae, leaving me the freedom to choose the Super-Soldier Sundae and have a sample of them both.  Wrong. He asked if you could use it on another sundae.  You could and he ordered something else.  I opted for the Hydra Force, but asked for chocolate syrup instead of hot fudge. It had chocolate mousse ice cream, brownie bits and chocolate chips in addition to the syrup.  It was 1010 calories of pure heaven and so rich I couldn't even finish it.  But the challenge would not be complete without tasting the Super Soldier Sundae for comparison.  Even though it was only 560 calories, I still needed a weeks time between to justify adding it to my diet, which I did on Saturday.  The Super Soldier Sundae was made from Super Soldier Swirl ice cream, with cake bits and strawberry topping.

In between the consumption of each sundae, I did some research.  I'm not a Marvel Comics fan and while I vaguely remember Captain America as a cartoon character, I was totally unfamiliar with him.  It was obvious he was a superhero, but I had no idea to what the Hydra Force referred to.  Hydra, I learned, is the evil organization bent on world domination.   I gather from the comics that it does not do too well as good always triumphs over evil.  I think they have been using the wrong tactics.  They could easily obtain world domination just through the Hydra Force Sundae.  And while the Super Soldier Sundae was good, for this challenge I would say that evil triumphs over good big-time in a sinfully chocolate treat as the Hydra Force Sundae totally dominated my world.  But in the interest of patriotism, I may need to sample one more before they are no longer available just to be sure...

Saturday, July 9, 2011

#14 - Formerly Illegal Fireworks...

Utah is a state that loves fireworks almost as much as guns.  It must have something to do with the similar sound.  Like most states we had the usual array of safe and sane fireworks, fountains and sparklers mostly.  But just a short drive into Wyoming was a wonderful world of illegal fireworks that shot into the air and burst into a variety of colors.  Just like the lottery in Idaho, Wyoming's tax coffers are filled with the purchases from Utah residents.  The Utah Highway Patrol would sit on the state line with their high powered binoculars looking for those cars parked at the fireworks store and making their way back to Utah with their contraband and hit them with a fine (and amass a kick ass collection of fireworks I always suspected they used at their own home displays).

Sometimes the economic crisis works to an advantage.  Our narrow minded state legislators usually waste their time making the most ridiculous laws (like having to put a barrier, nicknamed the Zion Curtain, in a restaurant bar so young children would not be corrupted by the pretty bottles and colors of people pouring and mixing alcohol). This year they decided to allow some formerly illegal fireworks to be sold in the state and keep our tax dollars at home.  With a few tweaks to our law, you can purchase cake aerials that look like a fountain, but shoot up into the air before exploding and are almost as good as a professional display.   From June 26th to July 26th (July 24th is a state holiday here) you can purchase and set these off according to your local municipalities rules.

Now I am not always a good citizen, but I was not one of those who would drive to buy the illegal fireworks.  I was content with our safe and sane display each year while admiring those shot off in the neighborhood from the neighbors who had the guts to go and get the illegal ones.  But now that these were legal I was very excited to try them for myself.  I couldn't wait to give the formerly illegal fireworks a shot (no pun intended).

The bad side to the economic crisis was that I no longer had a fireworks budget.  So I decided I would not buy groceries the rest of July and have a little fun with the family.  I would have loved the $129 finale that had 42 shots, but I was frugal.  We found a couple of decent ones for $10 and spent $20 on a "finale".  The finale was really no better than the $10 cakes.  And the $10 red, white and blue aerials were pretty awesome.  When these things are popping off right over your head you can't help but be wowed.

All in all there were less fires and firework accidents in the state this year.  I imagine by allowing some fireworks to be sold here, it kept enough people at home and not buying the bottle rockets and m-80's from Wyoming that seem to cause most of the problems. The 4th was the loudest I ever heard it here and the pollution levels were way up, but it was an awesome display all across this valley.  God Bless America, I am hooked on these!  If I hit the lottery (in Idaho) you're all invited to the mother of all home fireworks displays next year!