Milwaukee!

I just got back from an amazing vacation.  DH is on block leave before things pick up for the fall, and we decided to take a much-needed vacation…to Milwaukee!  Our criteria was for the plane tickets to be reasonable and for the weather to be less hot than here.  Neither of us had ever been there before, and essentially we threw a dart and landed on Wisconsin.

We had an amazing time.  I love it there!!  I highly recommend visiting Milwaukee even if you’re not a Midwesterner.  The city is beautiful and old.  There’s tons and tons of stuff to do.  Culturally it’s super diverse and funky and traditional all at the same time.

Day one– We landed mid afternoon and found our hotel.  We stayed just outside the city itself, closer to the airport.  It was only about a fifteen to twenty minute drive into the city.  It was cheaper for us, but the city is super walkable and you can rent little Vespas if you stayed closer to downtown.  Anyway, we found a little gastropub downtown at a place that’s been in magazines (actually just Maxim…) for being bad ass and had real Milwaukee sausage.  I took a picture but it’s on DH’s phone.  I should have known I’d never get it off.  Anyway, after that we ended up at the big casino in town.  We had dessert and watched at sketch comedy bit before calling it a night.

Day two– We got an early start and spent the morning at the Harley Davidson museum.  They do the self-guided audio tours with the headphones, which I think is super cool.  More and more museums are going to them, and I think it’s great.  No one wants to listen to a boring docent while they lead you around.  It’s more fun to roam as you please and listen to only the parts that are of interest to you.  I took a ton of pictures and spent an obscene amount of money in the gift shop.

One of the oldest motorcycles in existence.

I thought this was so cute.  It is an early rain suit.  Anyone care for the smell of wet wool?

Evil Kenievel?


Elvis’ bike!

It was used for mining I think.  Anyway, it was cool.

After the HD museum, we stopped by the lakefront so I could put my feet in my third Great Lake.  We had lunch at a yummy Mexican restaurant that Diner, Drive-ins, and Dives has visited, although I haven’t looked up yet what they ate.  Probably their beans because they were out of this world.  We went back to casino (totally DH’s idea) until supper.  We walked around the historic Third Ward neighborhood downtown and ended up eating at the Benelux Cafe.  Oh. My. Gosh.  It had food from the Lowlands region of Europe and it was seriously some of the best food I’ve ever had.  It was totally authentic and exactly what I remember from visiting there.  They had a ton of local and European alcohols, although we didn’t try any.  Seriously, make it a stop on your bucket list.  We also stopped in the Public Market with tons of local, fresh products.

Day three– We started our third day by going a little south of Milwaukee to the Jelly Belly factory.

It was a cute little tour, and I again spent way, way too much in the gift shop.  We had to stop by the casino again after that (ugh), and then we went to German Fest.  Milwaukee has a huge German population, which is who brought over the beer and brewing culture that is so big there.  I heard that this fest was the largest German Fest in the US, and there were legit German acts from Europe performing.  Milwaukee has some great fests!!  They are festing all the time up there.  But yeah, more great food along the lakefront.

Day four–  We were starting to feel it on day four.  We spent the morning going through the city’s art museum because there was a big China exhibit I wanted to see.  That place is huge!  I was very surprised to find they had an extensive collection of pre-Renaissance art and sculpture.  Again, the gift shop was not my friend.

This was the view from the museum lobby.  It looked right out over the lake.  The modern architecture was breathtaking.  We left there and spend the afternoon on Brady Street at the local fest.  Brady Street is fun, young, and funky.  It has a lot of multi-cultural restaurants and weird, quirky shops.  The fest had so much food!  There was a lot of live music and local vendors.  I got cheese!!  DH and I got tattoos at a little shop there just because we could.  On the way home we swung by German Fest again to ride the gondolas and enjoy the night air.

Day five– Our last day in Milwaukee we spent on the lake.  We rented paddle boats and enjoyed the sunshine.  It was so gorgeous.  Milwaukee has a great park and trail system that runs along the lakefront.  We were so jealous of the people who where running along the beach… mostly because I think we were both feeling the large amount of food we had over the last few days.  We found the coolest local bookstore downtown and wandered through the dusty stacks for awhile after that.  We ended the day with some of Milwaukee’s famous frozen custard at Kopp’s.  It’s a bit outside the city itself, but it is totally worth the drive.

We got back yesterday evening, and I so didn’t want to resume my normal life.  My Milwaukee life was so much more glamorous.

Verdict on the Living Cooking

I’ve been playing around with my Living Cookbook software, and I wanted to share a few of my thoughts.

It is one serious program. I don’t know if I would recommend it for the hobby chef. It’s excellent, but unless you’ve got some major league recipes to keep track of, I don’t know if it’s worth the time. It costs about $30 (there is a discount if you buy multiple copies at once), so it’s not a bad option if you want a professional looking cookbook to sell at church or for a FRG.

Pros:

  • It does open and transfer into other programs like Word well.
  • Every aspect of the layout is customizable.
  • It is possible to insert pictures and even videos.
  • It has calendar, menu planning, and grocery list features, which make the program useful for more than publishing a cookbook.
  • The help and tutorials were obvious and thorough. More than a basic knowledge of computers was still needed however.

Cons:

  • It isn’t as easy as it looks into extract information from online recipes. It requires a lot of tweaking post transfer to get everything in the appropriate fields.
  • It has an extensive list of ingredients already inputted in the database, which is necessary if you want to utilize the nutrition panel it creates for you. I find it handy, but I have several Latin recipes, and those ingredients aren’t in the database. It is possible to input them yourself, but it requires going to the manufacturer’s website or food label and getting calorie counts and such.
  • The program works like a mixture of a web browser, Word, and Access database, which takes a bit to learn how to move in the program. I’m pretty computer savvy, and this really slowed me up.
  • The recipes you add automatically go into the provided recipe cookbooks until you create a separate one. Who wants Grammy’s holiday bunt cake mixed in with recipes you’ve never even tried before?

Here’s a screenshot of what the finished product looks like.

The Product Of A Foodie And A Geek

To make a long story short, I was looking into computer software for my mother-in-law, and  I found The Living Cookbook online.  It sounded so great, I bought a license for myself.  I’m so ridiculously excited!!

It just came in the mail today, so I can’t speak to exactly how much I like it yet, but it promises to do everything but cook for me.  It can organize recipes, give nutrition information, plan meals, create shopping lists, and even “capture” recipes that I find online.  It comes with some recipes, although I’m most excited about being able to input my own that I’ve collected from the far corners of the earth and organizing them.  Being able to search is going to be great.  And if you want, you can print out your own cookbook, and it will make a table of contents and organize the recipes by type.

I sit down every weekend and plan out a menu for the week before I go shopping.  It keeps me on a budget and keeps me from stockpiling items that don’t get used before they spoil.  Plus I’m horrible at shopping off the cuff and tend to come home with only half of my ingredients list.  I’m hoping this software will make that job super fast because I want to use it like an index for my regularly used recipes, especially the ones I gather online or from cookbooks at the library.

This is like a dream come true for totally weird, geeked-out foodies.  You know how easy it would be to make a family cookbook with this?!  I’ll try and remember to post an update once I have started using the software.

Sticky Weekend

I apologize for everyone who is still rejoicing at the mere sight of grass.  I was once one of you…but now I have moved on.

Three weeks ago (mid-April!) a friend and I went and picked strawberries.  They were delicioso!  Here’s before:


And here’s after:

Yay for jam!  I think we made three batches and ended up with close to 20 jars.  We sorta got carried away with the picking stage of this process and had to do something with all the berries.  Oops.

If you haven’t tried canning and making jam, it’s so easy and super fun.  It’s even better if you have a friend who’s interested too.  Kind of like a sticky girls day in.  I have this site bookmarked and rely on it all the time.  It has absolutely every piece of information you need to find local farmers markets and u-pick farms, recipes, step-by-step guidelines, and even where to buy canning kits and supplies.  It’s not that expensive to start, and most WalMarts have canning sections during the summer and fall.  Every year I try something different.  This year I’m thinking pickles, but I have no idea when cucumber season is down here.

Anywho…we also left the farm with one of these apiece.

I chose a small cabbage too.  We clearly got in over our heads.  But it was ah-mazing with onions and cheese.

A Weekend Thwarted

I was so excited to get in the yard and get gardening this weekend, but the weather turned cold and rainy.  Poo.  I got green beans in over a week ago.  Hopefully I get a longer season in than last year.  I didn’t account for the shift in growing seasons when you move farther south and a lot of my veggies fried in the sun by late July.  I’m going to get a few herbs going inside I think.  I want to try tomatoes again this year.  They never really produced for me last year, but my green peppers did really well albeit a little late.  I joked that I was going to do a couple rows of corn just to send DH over the edge.  He thinks I’m a natural plant killer.  I’ll show him.

I redirected my efforts to an amazing banana bread.  Tucker posted the recipe a few days ago and it got my taste buds working.  I love that it’s made without butter.  I need to find the charger for the camera so I can post pictures.

My lazy weekend is over too soon.  It’s back to work tomorrow.  I’ve been struggling a lot with work lately.  It deserves it’s own post, and I need some time to figure out what I want to say exactly.  I’ve been getting more and more frustrated with where I’m at, but it’s not the job in theory.  I say that, but last Friday I had to sit through someone clipping their toenails on the couch in the magazine area.  Party foul, People!  Anyway, on paper I love this job.  I love my regular patrons.  I love knowing what they like to read, having it ready for them, and our quick conversations once a week.  Sounds great…but so does communism on paper.  Ugh.

You know, what I really need is to win the millions.

Update

I indulged in a little emotional baking and chocolate chip therapy last night.  My uterus is temporarily distracted, but I don’t think my jeans can take many more surprise attacks like yesterday.

Mutant Fruit

I picked two big buckets of the biggest pears I’ve ever seen today.  Some were like softballs…especially the one that fell and almost cracked my sunglasses.  A black eye for DH’s homecoming would make for extra special memories I suppose.

The pears were warm from the sun and delicious right off the tree.  They’re going to make the yummiest canned pears and pear butter tomorrow.

The caramel pear strudel I made tonight isn’t half bad either!

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