May 30, 2010

The Cheese Mongrel: Cheddar

So, my sister has jumped on board with the whole "cheese exploration" thing whole-heartedly; she had some great suggestions, including eating every cheese from every village of every type in a particular area of a particular country (like, I enjoy mountain sheep / goat cheeses from southern France, so I should start there and sort of spiral out), and I think she even suggested going there.

Now, this is a great idea. Sadly, I'm not independently wealthy nor do I have that kind of time - so you're subjected instead to another entry about cheese purchased in Philadelphia. Maybe when we travel on vacation we'll try to sample local cheeses, and build from there. Philly has some wonderful local-ish cheeses, and I tried this great mountain cheese from Vermont this past week. You'll hear about that soon(ish).

My mother has also supported the cheesings, and when she came for Jakey's birthday she brought a very different, very tasty, aromatic cheese with her. I'll get to that one next time.

For now, I was going to talk about a really good cheddar. I figure it's best to talk about a variety of cheeses, and not just share the slight nuances of cheeses that are similar to others I've already discussed. Cheddars have a distinct flavor, and you probably all know what cheddar tastes like. Now, there are some award winning English cheddars that run >$35/lb (or 24 pounds/lb, if you're buying it in London). Apparently America has a sort of bad reputation worldwide in terms of the quality of its cheese. Maybe this just needs a sort of blind-taste test, a la the Judgment of Paris (we enjoyed the recent movie, Bottle Shock. Regardless of reputation, there is a cheddar, made here in America, that is considered America's best cheese, and the World's best cheddar.

Cabot's Clothbound Cheddar ($25/lb) - from Vermont (Awards page).

I think this slightly crumbly, pale orange/yellow chunk of cheese is simply heaven - it has flavor, but not too much, and just lingers and lasts and really was a wonderful treat this morning. I realize that long blocks of words aren't as interesting as photos, but cheese doesn't tend to last too long around here; I snapped this pic w/ my iPhone this morning, then promptly devoured the plate. And then fled indoors as my allergies apparently decided I shouldn't enjoy Memorial Day Weekend!

Happy holidays, all.

May 28, 2010

Where Lara Makes Art

A few images of the house we are renting. It's an amazing Victorian, incredibly well preserved and beautifully cared for and maintained. Our jaws dropped when we walked in for the first time.

This is the library. Also, it is my dream room, with built-in bookcases all the way to the 14-foot ceiling.

The view from the library back into the living room. All the doorways are arches with giant pocket doors. There is gorgeous, detailed plasterwork all over the place. They really don't build them like the used to.

Lara's Art

Self-portrait in a pink dress, with friends from the Rockets Room, and a pink cut-paper frame.

I love watching Lara's drawings evolve and change. After she first started drawing people, she moved on to a kind of non-figurative colorful-blobby artwork where she would first draw a series of amorphous shapes and then fill them in with different colors. Now we're back to people and animals, and somehow magically they've become far more complex and expressive. It's amazing how it just happens - no practice, no determined effort, just simple progression and development. It's been the same way with her writing too. If only learning could keep being this fluid throughout life!

Friends for Jakey's birthday party. Everyone is holding hands, and Peter is saying "Stop It!" because Lara is trying to blow out the birthday candle too early. (There is actually another section of this picture that shows the cake, candle, and Lara blowing it out, but I couldn't get a good photo of it.)

This kind of narrative-picture reminds me of that great Just-So Story, "How the First Letter was Written," where the little girl tries to tell a story through drawings, and it doesn't really work out that well without explanatory words to go with it.

Yellow fish.

May 24, 2010

And Now We Are 1 (Part the Second)

On Sunday, Jakey got a full-on party with family and almost-family. After all, as his grandma Nancy pointed out, turning 1 is the highest yield birthday - a 100% increase! After that, the growth rate just keeps slowing.

I whipped up a poster of the ages of Jakey (through Shutterfly):

There was a crazy amount of food - bagels and things from Dadie and Norman, burgers and hot dogs and chicken expertly grilled on our new grill by Avi, and an amazing panoply of desserts from grandma Marina, great-grandma Lena, Avi and Yoo-Mee, and yours truly. We have a fridge full of leftovers now, and that is always a good thing.

Even the weather totally cooperated despite the threats of rain from the forecast. Lara, Mikey, and Benji busted out the lawn car, which got a good wipe down (that's what they're doing in that first photo), and then was ridden around in every possible combination.

Then, cupcakes. The decor? Green icing and lots and lots of letter J's...

...which, incidentally was the only part of his cupcake that Jakey enjoyed. Seriously. He refused to take a single bite of either icing or cake, and when I finally just shoved some in his mouth, he tasted it, looked at me, heaved a big sigh, and then spat it out.

But, they went over just fine with the rest of the crew.

May 23, 2010

And Now We Are 1 (Part the First)

I can't believe our little tiny baby has turned into a toddler! How did that happen? A whole year somehow went by already?

We had a double party. First, a small cake eating on the deck of our new house (yay! we moved!).

Jakey? Not such a huge cake fan, it turns out. No problem, though, there's three others here who have no such issues.

Stay tuned - tomorrow, pictures of the actual shindig!

May 14, 2010

New Stencil Portrait

Anne's son

A very nice one of Anne's son in his football helmet - I really like how his arm holding the helmet side came out.

The Cheese Mongrel Returns

First, corrections from the last entry… according to my mother, who should know, and apparently has better Google-fu than I do, La Chevre d’Or is actually in Eze, France… but we went there like the night we left Cinque Terre, and I’m ok with publishing this as errata.

It figures that my formative fromagering experience was in France, actually, since this week’s selection comes from Savoie, which is not terribly far from Eze, both being in the south-eastern part of the country.

Tomme de Savoie

This cheese tastes, to me… well, simple phenomenal. I guess I should try to use words besides “yummy.” I don’t know the vocabulary, honestly. It’s a little… fresh, outdoors-y, with some herby-nutty-creaminess to it. It has a mold-rind, and, per the professional cheese-peeps, some people choose to eat the rinds and some people don’t; apparently if you really like the flavor, the rind (in some cases) has a richer blast of some of the more potent flavors. I’m not a rind eater.

Regardless of what I thought of this cheese, I think Anna summed it up best: “It tastes like if Brie and Swiss had a baby, and it was the best of both parts!”

I will share one more cheese-thought, and then leave you to the choice of whether you’re going to fork over the $17/lb (well worth it, in my inexpert opinion) to sample some Tomme de Savoie.

The cheese-counter guy at Di Bruno was talking about when he has people over, how he serves cheese. He disdains using crackers, breads, or anything to actually put the cheese on – “Cheese is meant to be savored. I would never confuse and confound its flavor with that of a cracker… Sometimes, when I invite people over for wine and cheese, I leave out some breads and crackers. I watch who despoils the cheese flavors, and make sure not to serve my nice cheeses when they come back.” Now, we’re not quite at that level of arrogance and snootiness, but I will say it is, in my humble opinion, worth at least tasting cheeses on their own, to decide if they’re for you or not.

...also, we're moving this week, so Ms. Forty-Two Roads is quite busy. Forgive any posting pauses, and go enjoy some cheese.

May 9, 2010

Yay for Moms!

Happy Mother's Day, everyone!

Ocean Flow by Ali Herrmann

My lovely family gave me this extraordinary encaustic by Ali Herrmann. It is simply gorgeous - a collage of paper and lunaria seeds, staggered throughout several layers of wax. So pretty on the wall.

Mother's Day is one of the strange holidays that celebrates something that seemingly should be celebrated daily - in this case, motherhood. It's not like a birthday or some other commemoration of a specific day in history, where it matters to get your congrats in on time. Today this odd quality was brought home to me by an email ad that announced that there were still a few hours of daylight left to order a gift certificate for your mom. Which is funny because - well, she'll still be your mom tomorrow, right?

But still, it's nice to be acknowledged. After she saw all the fuss this morning, Lara asked "And will it be Sister's Day tomorrow?"

May 8, 2010

New Feature?

Hi all. Doctor-Professor (which has less weight around here, since the Diss was finished) / Mr. Forty-two Roads here. Anna's little X-wing is keeping me company, while she and the kiddos are off and away. I'm supposed to be getting work done; instead, I'm announcing a new, hopefully recurring feature of this little corner of the interwebs, "Cheese Log" (which needs a better name - I am now taking suggestions :) ).

I like cheese. A lot; all kinds. I'm really not picky, and I'm hardly any sort of expert or connoisseur (other names that come up if you google cheese expert [the fact that I did that clearly show's I'm nothing of the sort] are Affineur, Cheese Monger, and Fromager. Maybe I should call this "Cheese Mongrel"). Anyway, I'm no expert - I just like eating it, and there's this great cheese place here in Philly, the cheese counter at Di Bruno Brothers.

Before I begin with the actual cheese-talk, first, a diversion. I will say that I think part of my interest in cheese comes from a trip my parents took me on when I was little (maybe 10? 12?), to a place called Cinque Terre (see below for a scenic picture, courtesy of Google Images. What was life like before Google?), in Northwest Italy (near Milan & Pisa). They took us to this ridiculously nice restaurant, "La Chevre D'Or." That was the first time that I remember eating at a restaurant that, between dinner and dessert, they rolled out a cheese cart. Now, I'm not going to check this, but I distinctly remember they had 197 cheeses. And you could pick however many you wanted. I was a kid, so I picked all sorts of wacky ones, and I have no idea what they tasted like, but I remember liking the concept of "lots of fancy cheeses."

So that brings us here. I actually like all sorts of cheese; I mean, it's like, delicious, right? Who doesn't like cheese, really? Recently, my awesome sister took me to a restaurant here in Philly called Le Bec Fin, where, to my luck, she was friends with the chef. We had an awesome meal, and I got to spend a lot of time talking to the Maitre Fromager (yet another variant name for "cheese expert"). We discussed all the cheeses, and what features I was partial to, and he helped cure my fear of walking up to a fancy cheese counter and chatting with the cheese-guys.

So, armed with some fancier words and more clarity I approached the Di Bruno Brothers cheese counter. I will start off this Cheese Blog with my current favorite, and the cheese off of which I base my forays into other styles:

Tome d'Aydius

This is best described as a mountain goat cheese, from the Pyrenees in France, near the Spanish border. Click on the link for more details, if you're interested. This cheese is delicious, it's light and full of flavor, and knowing the features I like about it lets me venture off from that base to discover new wonderful cheeses. (Key features that I like: mountain, goat, southern France. Also, apparently, "expensive." Tome is not for the faint-of-pocket; it runs $27/lb, which is why I am now happy that I know about it, and can say "What do you have that tastes like Tome d'Aydius, mountain goat or sheep, but is not nearly that expensive?")

Amusing highlights from my experiences over the past few months talking to the cheese people, was when I was trying to find a cheese for Anna, and I asked the Fromager for something she'd like, and told him what she ate. He said "Oh, she eats wall cheeses?" with utter disdain and disgust, gesturing towards the pre-packaged cheese chunks off to the side, out of the main display. (I was shamed, as I, too, eat wall cheeses. Like I said, I'm not too picky).

Today, however, was a new achievement; I feel like I passed a level or something. I was chatting with the fromager about cheeses and trying to select a few (ostensibly for mother's day breakfast, but really, they'll be lucky to last that long). He was helping another customer, and we all started chatting, and he was so impressed with my suggestions and dialogue that he said "you should put on an apron and come back here!" And I'm 52% sure he actually meant it!

So, this is entry #1 into the Cheese Blogosphere. There are other fancier cheese blogs. And I may have a hard time keeping this regular, but I hope to go to Di Bruno every Saturday, and report back once a week. If you enjoy reading about this, or have any comments, or, especially, cheese thoughts or suggestions, please let me know.

May 7, 2010

Happy Star Wars Day!

Which apparently was on May 4th, since "May the Force be with you" sounds a lot like "May the fourth be with you." No, seriously, it's on Wikipedia and everything.

So in honor of our own resident fan, I followed these brilliant instructions to make an origami X-Wing:

Origami X-Wing for Star Wars Day

It's kind of awesome. Though I do wish I could have put a tiny Wedge Antilles in the cockpit. And then an even tinier balloon coming out of his mouth saying "Copy, Rogue Leader."

May 6, 2010

J is for Jakey

You know what has flown by? This past year. I can't believe Jakey is almost 1! When I realized that the big day was coming up, I quickly rustled up some felt to make another one of these. So, here we are - a name book for the little boy:

Page 1 - Cover

J for Jellyfish, with curled ribbon and yarn tendrils:

Page 2 - J for Jellyfish

A for Arrow, with wire and foam arrows and elastic bowstring:

Page 3 - A for Arrow

C for Car, with clouded plastic windows and button wheels:

Page 4 - C for Car

O for Octopus:

Page 5 - O for Octopus

B for Boat, with tree branch mast:

Page 6 - B for Boat

N for Needle, with wire needles and embroidery floss threads:

Page 7 - N for Needle

O for Oven, with braided wire handle:

Page 8 - O for Oven

A for Ant, with fuzzball body segments:

Page 9 - A for Ant

H for House, with foam and button flowers:

Page 10 - H for House

Whew! Now to wrap it in the paper he will undoubtedly enjoy playing with more for a little while!

May 2, 2010

Yesterday's Doings

Yesterday rocked. Totally rocked, to the super-awesome nth degree of fantastical dayness.

We pancaked it up for breakfast, with Lara getting in on the feeding tiny pancake bits to Jakey action:

How cute? So very ridiculously cute:

Then we hit the town, zoo-style:

Jakey buzzed the tower while Lara rode the little train:

Jakey's frequent arm-out gesture - "Excelsior!" or Lenin statue?

We saddled up Boo and went for a ride. We were actually surrounded by about four handlers... but with the handy crop feature we look so rugged!