It seems as though the minute I landed in Philadelphia, it was Spring. The past few days have been unseasonably warm. I ate a Geno’s cheese steak in 70+ degree weather! The outdoor basketball courts and city playgrounds were packed. Fruit lined the narrow city streets of the Italian Market. On a conference break, I had Chocolate Peanut Butter Ripple ice cream in a pretzel cone. Pretzel cone, more on that later. Spring bulbs were in bloom by Independence Hall, Rocky and “The Thinker.” All pleasant Philadelphia Spring surprises.
Isn’t it the best to see something in the mailbox other than a doctor bill or credit card application? A few weeks back I received a handwritten cardboard apple postcard in the mail, and it has been cheering me up ever since. It was from the artful and thoughtful Katie, who took on the month of letters challenge and mailed at least one item through the post every day last month.
It was my turn to write, so I leafed through scraps of old end papers from bookmaking projects and sorted out all of the floral patterns (because SPRING is coming, you know!). This year I am trying not to buy any new paper or fabric until I use up what I already have. I cropped them into postcard size and sewed them onto cotton paper and the backs of old stationery. The zig-zag stitch reminds me of a postage stamp. Sewing paper always takes me back to practicing steady machine sewing in Mrs. Dafforn’s middle school Home Ec. class (we were allowed to start work on our fabric ”Super Pockets” once we acheived a certain amount of control and straightness in our paper stitching).
Since I can never do just one of anything, I now have a pile of stitched postcards. The timing is perfect, because I will be traveling for a few days this week to attend a library conference in Philadelphia. When I am away I like to write cards, either at breakfast or before bed at night. For me, it is important to share a bit of the experience I’ve been granted.
If you would like to see something in your mailbox from me, email your postal address to email@example.com I have seven postcards unaccounted for, and I would love to write to the first responders. Oh! And this will be my first time in Philadelphia, so I would be grateful for any tips you may have to share.
Anyone remember the marshmallows in Voguemallow Grilled Sandwich? This weekend I took a quick trip with my friend Courtney to the source, where we learned from the mellifluent marshmallow makers at 240sweet. Chef Alexa and Co. were generous and funny (as we all hope good confectioners to be). While the mega batch of mallows were mixing, we were treated to samples of artisan marshmallows that were skewered and toasted on the spot. Flavors like Banana Split, Elephant Ear, and Salty Caramel Swirl = pillowy roasted gooey bliss. We all got to taste spoons of the fresh mango mallows right off the beater, then we put on plastic aprons and shaped up our own vanilla bean mallows with powder and pizza cutters (Courtney snapped my picture in action!). Hers were wedges that looked like a wheel of brie and mine were something like abstract picket fences and piano keys. I wanted to buy all available flavors, but I had to limit myself to two pouches. I chose the Hoosier Strawberry and March’s Flavor of the Month: Dirty Leprechaun (creation forthcoming). Thanks, 240sweet for a good time, and Happy March, All.
I always say that my first college roommate was a saint, and she still is. When I visited her last week, she treated me to a super brunch in Grand Rapids at Marie Catrib’s. I loved everything about this place from the people to the flowers to the font all over the restaurant. Not to mention the food! We split two dishes: Marie’s own gluten-free pancakes made with sweet potato and cranberries, served with real maple syrup and honey butter & Esperanza’s Omelette with Marie’s seasoned potatoes. I was having such a good time I had to cut myself off from my fourth coffee refill. Sharing joys and sorrows of the past year goes best with brunch.
Just a few of my favorite things! I met up with my old college roommates and summer camp counselor friends in Grand Rapids Friday. It was the last weekend of ArtPrize 2011 filled with treats visually & gastronomically in good company. These desserts are from San Chez in downtown Grand Rapids, including Empanada de Chocolate (chocolate fudge filled pastry, dolce de leche ice cream, brandy caramel, raspberry sauce), Pastel de Queso de Cabra (vanilla goat cheese cheesecake with shortbread crust, lemon curd, blackberry caviar & pecan tuile), and Tarta de Chocolate al Whisky (whisky soaked cake, caramel pecan ice cream, brownie & white chocolate mousse), respectively. The dishroom didn’t have much work to do once we were finished.
It’s probably not a surprise that one of my favorite parts of camping is eating food made over the fire. Pinot Basil Pasta and Pecan Pancakes with Fruit Compote were two such meals enjoyed this weekend at Van Buren State Park with a dear old friend of mine. We chopped goodness from her garden and began cooking the thickest and hardest veggies first in a bit of olive oil. Afterwhile we added the softer veggies to the skillet along with some basil and Pinot Grigio. Once the wine reduces, everything is ready to mix in with the pasta and be consumed! The pancake combo was another winner from Backpacker Magazine. These pancakes did not miss usual syrup. The woodsy cinnamon and smoky dark cherry was my favorite flavor combination, but since I cannot resist a toasted marshmallow at any given opportunity, I topped off my pancakes with one goldened from the embers. Corn syrup made it on the pancakes after all.
Biking through cornfields, blueberry farms and forests was a weekend highlight. The air seemed so clean and oftentimes smelled like Welch’s Grape Juice. We did about 15 miles on the bike, which is probably why I thought a pre-ride double coffee cinnamon roll from Julia’s and post-ride kettle chips and raspberry stout from Round Barn were acceptable. Other indulgent sustenance included a packable tasty Chicken Curry lunch recipe courtesy of Backpacker Magazine and fresh apple cider from Paul & Ethel’s Farm. I really should find myself a good used bike.
Before hopping on the Kal-Haven bike trail Saturday morning, I got to enjoy the South Haven Farmers Market. Kind and generous farmers and artisans were as abundant as the produce. There is still plenty of gorgeous fruit for picking up there, though the woolen mittens remind everyone that Southwestern Michigan fully embraces all of the seasons.
Sprinkles in Chicago this weekend: both the kind that come from the sky and the kind that come from the cupcake gods! When I realized that we were going to stay two blocks from the latest Sprinkles location, I flipped out. I have been following Candace Nelson since she first appeared on TV six years ago, and now her original gourmet cupcakes are baked fresh in the Midwest. So before we left I requested to make a cupcake stop during one of our days in the city, and my brother-in-law said, “why not both days!” And even though there was rain, we totally did stop both days (yes, one of the million examples of why I have the best bro-in-law ever). Of course I like the looks of the colored flavor-indicating sugar dots, but these cupcakes are about the ingredients. They are not too fussy and have proven to be a trendy classic. My top two were the carrot and the chocolate marshmallow. The ganache covering that cupcake will be on my mind for quite some time. I love the rain and fresh chocolate marshmallow cake.