Friday, February 26, 2010

Open That Bottle Night

Living with someone's whose passion is food and wine means that I get to drink some really great wine. It kills me when I talk to people who tell me they were given a bottle of fancy pants bubbly for a wedding present, and it's been in their basement for 5 years, that they're saving it for a "special occasion." I believe a special occasion is already special, make a random Tuesday special by drinking that amazing Barolo you've been sitting on, or drink that bubbly together and reminisce about your wedding and your marriage. Things take on a life of their own, and suddenly no occasion seems worthy of that bottle. Even worse, the bottle could be held long past its prime, and you may miss out on just how good it is.

For those of you who need permission to open a special bottle, the authors of the Wall Street Journal Tastings column invented Open That Bottle Night, which is celebrated on the last Saturday of February. This is when "thousands of bottles all over the world are released from prison and enjoyed. With them come memories of great vacations, long-lost loved ones and bittersweet moments. The whole point of the weekly “Tastings” column is that wine is more than the liquid in the bottle. It’s about history, geography, relationships and all of the things that are really important in life." Click here for some ideas and tips on how to celebrate.

Even though we think we're pretty good at not procrastinating pleasure, we still think this is a good excuse to have something super tasty. We're getting together with good friends, and each couple is bringing a bottle we've been wanting to share with the other. 4 good friends + 2 good bottles = a really fun night. (and possibly some U2 concert dvds.)

Have a fun weekend, everyone!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Material Desires at Craftland

The Craftland Gallery is currently showing an exhibit perfect for rainy February, Material Desires. Curated by local artist Rebecca Siemering, it features the works of 6 artists: Jenine Bressner, Lynne Harlow, Peter Lutz, Jennifer Maestre, Barbara Owen, and Islay Taylor. Description from the Craftland Web site:
"Bright work for a dull season. At the tail-end of winter, we all get a little stir crazy, waiting for the colors of spring to pop again. Craftland Gallery will be filled with primary colors and patterns to thaw the mental freeze of winter. Colored pencils, fabric, glass and paint will fill the gallery with eye-popping warmth and wonder."
Enjoy the photos and be sure to come in before March 13 to see the work in person.

Monday, February 22, 2010

New Warp On

Thursday morning I went to a lecture in the fiber department at UMass, Dartmouth. My friend, and weaving professor from college, Bhakti Ziek, was speaking. I was so glad I was able to go. It was a good chance to be surrounded by other weavers and I needed a dose of inspiration.

Friday morning I thought I would act on the inspiration and get a warp on. I got it wound and threaded and on the loom. I had no time to weave all weekend, but it's ready to go now. It's an 8/2 Cotton warp, and I'm hoping to weave with a lot of different textured yarns. I threaded it in a pointed draw, so I can do some little diamonds.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Presidents Day

It's Presidents Day here in the US, so what better time to check out some presidential art, like these prints of Abe Lincoln by Maine artist Justin Richel. (Available at Craftland.) From Justin's website: "My paintings subvert the traditional genre of portraiture by approaching the subject with the sentiment of an Iconoclast. Yet my intention is to “rebuild” the image rather than destroy it. I take advantage of the cyclical nature of history and its unfailing tendency to repeat itself."

Friday, February 12, 2010

Vista Hermosa

One of my favorite photos from our trip. This was taken from Vista Hermosa, a restaurant near our hotel with a rooftop bar and a great view of the city. I have a thing for pattern and always love how roof tiles look. I won't take credit for this one, D took it, but I just love it so much I had to share. Have a good weekend!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Winter Farmers Market

I'm embarrassed to admit that it took me this long to go to the Winter Farmers Market. Last weekend we finally made it there, and came away with lots of great stuff. It's located just over the line in Pawtucket at the Hope Artiste Village and takes place every Saturday from 11:00 - 2:00. We bought some tasty potatoes, beets, apples, really good carrots that turned into a delicious carrot ginger soup, and some delicious and fresh leafy greens. We also picked up some granola (to hold us over until we get a new batch from Kara). The fact that it was about 20˚ that morning didn't keep anyone home, it was packed there!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Super Craft Sunday!

I don't usually post on weekends, but just realized that Ecuador week made me forget to blog about Super Craft Sunday! Straight from the Craftland newsletter, here's the description:

Do you even know who's playing?
This Sunday, February 7th, make something of yourself and hang out here during SuperCraft Sunday! From 2-5pm, we will host a relaxing crafternoon with snacks and drinks while the rest of the world watches a game that doesn't even have Tim Riggins on any of the teams. Bring a project! Stay for the halftime show from 3:15 - 3:45pm in which participants can swap no longer needed crafting materials and supplies! Bring your stash! This event is free though we will have the opportunity for you to donate to Partners in Health for their relief efforts in Haiti.

How can you miss this? Come on by, it'll be fun!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Food of Ecuador

Traveling with a foodie brings a whole new dimension to a trip. For starters, it means we take a lot of photos of what we're eating! It also means that local markets, stores and supermarkets are suddenly places we make a point of visiting. On this trip, we quickly realized we loved the food of Ecuador.

Their cuisine varies greatly by region. The food of the coast is very different from that of the jungle and both are very different from the highlands, where we were. In the highlands, one of the main staples of every meal were potatoes. Most people associate potatoes with Ireland, but their ancestral home is the Andes. They have countless varieties and come with every meal.
Delicious fresh fruits and juices are also everywhere. Breakfast was such a treat, to see what the fresh juice would be. One of our favorites was naranjilla, we wish we could get that here!
Some of our favorites: Llapingachos, potato pancakes with cheese and onions. Locro de papa, an amazing soup of potato and cheese. Empanadas were everywhere, in many shapes, sizes and fillings. Humitas, a kind of tamale is a common appetizer or snack. Mote a large corn kernel is often served with your fritada, or fried pork. My favorite of the trip was seco de chivo, a stew with braised lamb and D's favorite was a tripe soup with peanut broth and avocado. Avocado is a common side, and a slice is often added to soups. (I later was told it was thought to be orgasmic. No wonder they put it on everything!) I also had a delicious fresh heart of palm salad. Fresh heart of palm is pretty much impossible to get here. The canned is tasty, but having it fresh is such a treat!
The drinks of Ecuador were lots of freshly squeezed fruit juices. The wine was pretty expensive, about the same as it would be in the US, since they also were importing it from around the world. Wine lists were particularly heavy in Argentinian and Chilean wines. Since the wine was pricey, we drank a lot of their standard cerveza, Pilsener and Club. (If you have a little bit of a beer belly, they call it your Pilsener muscle.)
The most unique beverage was canelazo. This is a hot drink, perfect for a cool night, that tastes sort of like a mulled cider. I think it's actually cinnamon tea, with narajilla juice and some spices. The kick is the aguardiente, the local sugar cane hooch.
Another Ecuadorian staple was aji. This is on every table we ate at, their standard condiment. It reminded me of a salsa, and everyone has their own recipe for it. No two were alike anywhere we ate, and some had varying degrees of heat. Ecuadorian food is not hot, but people who like the extra kick, can add some of this. Also, most places also served bowls of corn to snack on while your food was being cooked. Again, this varied. Sometimes it was popcorn, and sometimes just corn kernels (big kernels) that I'm assuming were roasted. Tasty little snack.
D's only disappointment this trip was that he never got to try cuy, guinea pig. Until the Europeans arrived in Ecuador, this was the main source of protein in the Andes. These days it's reserved for special occasions. It was also hard to come by in the city and unfortunately, we were never able to arrange it. Bummer. Next time!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Mindo Cloud Forest

Our last full day in Ecuador we took a trip over the western ridge of the Andes to the Mindo Cloud Forest. We started with a hike in El Pahuma, an orchid reserve with 4000 varieties of orchids. We weren't there in peak orchid season, but there were still some interesting orchids to be seen, like this monkey face orchid, and the hike took us to 2 waterfalls. Located only an hour from Quito, it was a nice break from the city, and the hike was needed after all we'd been eating!
After the hike, we continued through Mindo to Mariposario, a butterfly farm. They have about 25 different types of butterflies, in different stages of life. I was blown away by the variety and all their crazy patterns. Cocoons that looked like a drop of water, or a bird poop to hide from predators and one species of butterfly that looked like an owl and whose tips also look like a snake's head (first photo). Crazy. One butterfly landed on my shoulder and stayed there for at least five minutes as I walked around. Supposedly it's good luck, I prefer to think it's because I'm so sweet ;)
We finished up with lunch at the Sachatamia Lodge. This lodge is known for its birdwatching. The dining room has windows on all sides and is surrounded by hummingbird feeders. The varieties of hummingbirds that come for a snack were incredible and mesmerizing to watch. Having a fresh heart of palm salad to go with it, perfection.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Otavalo Market

About 2 hours north of Quito is the Otavalo Market. The oldest, best-known and most important Indigenous market in all of South America, it has been conducted on this spot since pre-Inca times. Nestled in a valley, craftspeople from all over the region come to Otavalo to trade and sell their work. Otavaleños are known for their weavings and were exploited for their textile making skills by the Inca and more harshly by the Spanish. After the Agrarian Reform of 1964, otavaleños were allowed local land ownership, a long tradition of serfdom was abolished and the people were able to start making a living on their own work. While many indigenous groups still suffer to live well on their crafts, the otavaleños have become the wealthiest and most commercially successful indigenous group in Ecuador and many live in comfort from the local textile industry.

We began our visit to Otavalo in the food market. This was an overwhelming walk through smells, sights and sounds that I haven't experienced anywhere else. For these people, knowing where your food comes from it isn't a movement or a trend, it's a way of life. If I needed to buy a cow eyeball, that would have been an easy task. (I'll spare you the photo.) The fruit and spice stalls in particular were amazing, full of tropical fruits I had never seen or tasted and mountains of spices totally foreign to me.
We then walked over to Poncho Plaza, the main square of handcrafts. A maze of stalls full of shrewd salespeople is packed into a large plaza and easy to get lost in all their cloth walls. The colors and patterns were a feast for my eyes, and conducting business and discussing prices with these tiny indigenous women was so much fun. They can size you up upon first glance, and if they get your into their stall, it's really hard to leave without buying something. (Hopefully I picked up a few tips for this summer's Open Market season!)
It's important to point out that while the market conducts a lot of business between the indigenous and Ecuadorians, the main areas are definitely full of products made for the tourist industry. You have to be careful and picky if you want things that are actually handmade, or traditionally made. I did buy a few things that are cheap and fun, and participating in the market as a buyer was an experience not to be missed, but I saved buying the woven things for Peguche where I knew the pieces had been handwoven and quality materials had been used.