Adventure Sunday: Dinosaur World

We decided to take a little road trip today, heading east, then north to Lakeland. We didn’t stop much. It was a beautiful day for driving. As we were leaving Lakeland and headed into Plant City, we saw a sign we could not resist: Dinosaur World.

We arrived 45 minutes from closing, so we marched through, snapping photos like mad. We had a blast.

Here is the rest of the photoset on Flickr.

Breakfast Loaf

breakfast loafThis is moist and yummy, and with all the nutritious things in it, makes a good addition to breakfast. If you won’t be eating both loaves quickly, be sure to freeze one–I found out the hard way that a week in the cupboard is too long!

Dry ingredients

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 2-1/2 cups bread or all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon cinammon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

Everything else

  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup cream
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • Generous 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 pears, peeled and cored
  • 1 medium zucchini
  • 2 medium carrots
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease 2 9-/12 inch loaf pans.
  2. Sift together the dry ingredients (who am I kidding? I just dump ‘em in and stir a bit).
  3. Process the pears, zucchini, and carrots together to a very rough puree.
  4. Combine the eggs, cream, milk, and butter in a large bowl. Mix in the brown sugar and honey. Stir in the pureed mixture and lemon zest.
  5. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and stir until just mixed. Fold in the almonds and raisins.
  6. Bake for about 75 minutes (though check at 60). Test with a toothpick or sharp knife. This bread is very moist, so your tester will only come out mostly clean.

 

Budget on A Chalkboard

We’ve tried all sorts of things to get us to stick to a budget. It isn’t so much about controlling our spending–though that’s part of it–but rather about knowing exactly where everything is going. It’s a very good feeling to know what’s in your bank account without looking.

Bills are done monthly, and don’t factor in to this trick. Gas is also part of those bills; to make that clear we use one credit card for gas only, and pay it off monthly. Our daily expenses include food, art supplies, home supplies, movies–basically anything that isn’t a bill. If we have something huge, like a car repair, that is handled separately. You’ll see why.

On the top door of our refrigerator, we’ve affixed a rectangle of Wallcandy Chalkboard Panels. I love these things–the canister the Spousal Unit bought me three years ago is just about gone. We’ve used it for tons of stuff. But you don’t need it–there are all sorts of ways to set this up. Maybe you have a whiteboard you aren’t fully utilizing, or a magnetic notepad that never quite gets used for grocery lists.

On our chalkboard we have to-do lists and shopping lists, but this is the big one:

chalkboardbudget

We have a daily budget that we set, sometimes changing it depending upon circumstances (that’s another story). That daily number will be different for everyone. For us, it’s net income – bills – savings – some extra for breathing room / 30. About once a week, I draw a new grid that includes the weekday abbreviation and date (DAY), amount spent that day ($), and the remainder, or what’s left over afterwards (REM) . If we go over our budget, REM is put in parentheses. REM carries over. In other words, if we overspent by $10 on Monday, then $15 again on Tuesday, REM is going to be ($35). Conversely, if we are under budget, REM builds up. We can decide to be extra careful to save up for a splurge.

Caution on REM, though. Getting too far behind can be demoralizing. This is why something like a car repair is handled outside the daily budget. We do two things when REM goes bad: sometimes we reset REM on payday, because we have our full daily budget in the bank anyway; if it happens frequently, we realize we need to adjust either our budget or our habits.

These are a lot of words to explain a very simple trick. What makes it so valuable? It’s visible. At the end of every day, there is an accounting. Where we stand is always right in front of us. We don’t let it get us down–it’s an awareness tool, not a guilt weasel (hat tip to Kevin Hearne). We’ve been doing this for several months, and it’s worked better than anything we’ve ever tried. While it’s best to keep the chart out in the open, if you have thundering herds of strangers in your house all the time, you may want to be more discreet. I’m honestly not sure how that would work. Out of sight can mean out of mind. But it’s still definitely worth trying if daily budget is something you struggle with. I don’t have children, but I wish my parents had done something like this when I was a kid. I would have learned so much!

Falafel Burgers with Teriyaki Slaw

falafel and slaw

Dinner tonight had a very different flavor profile from my usual. But that’s why I explore recipes–to expand my horizons. I modified both recipes, because that’s what I do.

Falafel
(modified from this recipe by Shiksa in The Kitchen)

Ingredients

  • 2 cups garbanzo beans, soaked overnight
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1/4 cup Italian parsley
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 eggs  (I confess, I used one, but the patties didn’t stay together well, so I’d add another)
  • 1-3/4 tsp salt
  • 1-1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • Olive oil for frying

Put everything except the oil in a food processor and pulse until you get a coarse meal texture. Do not over-blend or you get hummus. Not that there’s anything wrong with hummus.

Cover and chill for at least 2 hours in the refrigerator.

Heat oil in pan over medium heat. Form patties, and fry for about 3 minutes on each side.

Teriyaki Sauce
(modified from this Food Network recipe)

  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 tsp white vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon plus 2 tsp brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1-1/2 tsp garlic, finely minced

Put ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat until sugar is dissolved

Bring it all together:

Finely slice and lightly stir-fry veggies of choice. I used about a cup of broccoli/carrot slaw. Add teriyaki to taste, and cook a little longer.

Transfer patty to bun, then lift out some veggie slaw with tongs, to avoid a ton of teriyaki on your burger.

Om nom nom.

Sarasota Medieval Fair

Spent Adventure Saturday at the Sarasota Fairgrounds, ogling some wonderful costumes and enjoying fine, ancient entertainment.

Marietta Museum of Art and Whimsy

piggy

Marietta Lee does what I think many artists would love to do–she curates her own museum. Each year she puts up a different show and opens the Marietta Museum of Art and Whimsy in late October.  It’s open for three hours a day, three days a week through tourist season.

elephant

The collection runs hot and cold, but what is good is very, very good. She has an eye for watercolor, a bit of nice pottery, and yes, lots and lots of whimsy. One of the best pieces is a large fused glass cat carnival–but girls only–it’s in the ladies’ rest room.

flowers

The sculpture garden is a real treat, with delightful bits around every corner. There were unlit fairy lights everywhere, so I’m guessing it’s extra special at night.

Admission is free, though there’s a donation bowl by a particularly eerie cop sculpture.

Welcome to The Internet

You wake up on damp leaves, surrounded by a dark jungle. Nearby, you hear gunfire, and shouting in a foreign language. Above you, venomous snakes lounge in the trees, and you begin to itch where something crawly has bitten you. Welcome to the World Wide Web*, my friend. I will be your guide.

I’m writing this for my brother, Lane, who is becoming a netizen today. You’ll see occasional asides for him. Note to Lane: the links on my site are a little weird. Usually, links are underlined. Here, they’re white instead of gray. Always single-click on links, don’t double-click.

This is going to be long. Trust me when I say I’m only scratching the surface. You will learn much as you go along. Trust me again when I ask you to read all of this carefully. I will attempt to give you the basics to prevent your computer from becoming a doorstop, to keep you from embarrassment, and finally, to introduce you to some true wonders.

Part I: Keeping Safe

It’s shockingly easy to compromise your computer when you are connected to the Internet. Viruses can shut you down, hackers can make your computer into a slave, and thieves can steal your information. It can happen to anyone, but the chances go way, way down if you just take a few simple steps.

1. Always let Windows update.

2. Always let your antivirus update. (Lane, I believe I set you up with AVG. It will probably need to update when you connect. It may take a while.) I recommend AVG or Avast if you don’t have anti-virus on your computer. Norton probably came with your computer. They will charge you lots later, but they are reliable if you wish to keep them out of convenience.

3. Anti-spyware is an excellent thing to have (Lane, you have this).  Spyware or Adware is often installed without your permission with games and other small downloads. I recommend Malwarebytes. Again, always let it update.

4. Don’t use the email address the internet company gives you. It will go defunct every time you change services, and you will change services. Use Yahoo or Gmail, or something similar. This is a security issue because you are sometimes expected to use a separate email program to get to your mail. Don’t do this. Email programs are notoriously vulnerable. Just get your email on the Web.

5. Don’t open email from anyone you don’t know. If you are invited to check out the latest pharmaceuticals, someone’s hottt! pictures, or an improbable offer of cash, just delete the email. Do not open any attachments or follow any links from anyone you haven’t shaken hands with. And sometimes not even then. If you get something questionable from someone you know, write them an email and ask them about it.

6. As you surf the Web, you will get flashing ads and popups, some of them saying alarming things like YOUR COMPUTER IS INFECTED! Don’t fall for it, and don’t click. They will turn your computer into a paperweight. If you’re nervous about the warning, open up your anti-virus program and run a check.

7. Don’t click ads, period. They are shifty.

8. Lane, I know you’re going to want to look at lyric sites. Don’t just search for them–they are the worst for malware! See Part III.

9. Not sure if a site is safe? You can check it at Norton Safe Web by typing the URL (the part that starts with HTTP or WWW) in the box.

 

Part II: Etiquette

There are lots of ways to look like a damned fool on the Web. People will cut you a lot of slack at first, but why not look savvy right away?

1. Don’t forward emails, unless it’s something you actually wrote. Funny things, alarming things, things that say you’ll have seven years of bad luck if you don’t forward to 20 people: don’t do it. Everyone has already seen it, and will be greatly annoyed. Email is great for communicating directly with friends and businesses, and for getting newsletters about stuff you’re interested in. Back away from the Forward button.

2. Get very friendly with the amazing Snopes.com. They are the debunkers of the Internet–though again, don’t click on their popups or ads! Just because a site is trustworthy, doesn’t mean their ads are (I know, it’s weird, but true). Check out their Top Scams to get familiar with some of the crazy stuff you may see. Much of the stuff you’re going to see posted on, say, Facebook, is utter bullshit. If you see a quote by a famous person, it’s probably mis-credited. If you see a dire warning about the newest way people are targeted by thieves and killers, it’s probably a hoax. If you see a story about a child needing donations for medical treatment–nope, hoax. Develop a cynical eye. It’s very easy to type a bit of the article + “snopes” into Google, and find out if it’s for real.

3. Facebook has wondrous games. Most of them encourage you to invite all your friends to play. Unless you know they want to, don’t. This applies for any site that asks you to put in friends’ emails. Never do that.

Part III: Wonders

So if it’s so difficult and dangerous, why do we do it at all? Because it’s bloody amazing. Here are a few basic things you will want to explore.

Google
So unassuming. Just a logo and a box. That box is the gateway to the Web. Google is the web’s premiere search engine. Type in anything you like. You can ask questions in natural language. You can even ask something like “how many cups are in a gallon.” Ignore the first couple links, as they are usually ads (and we don’t click on ads, right?), and explore the rest. You still need to be careful sometimes where you click. I repeat, make good use of Norton Safe Web.

Wikipedia
Remember Foundation by Isaac Asimov, and his Encyclopedia Galactica? Wikipedia is better. Just go and get lost there, it’s all free, and it’s all safe.

Youtube
Imagine a place where you can type in a band name, and dozens of videos and live performances come up. And that’s just the beginning. Youtube is used to teach, to post funny stuff, to post, well, anything in video format.

Allmusic
This is like Wikipedia for music. Search for anything music related, and get boatloads of information.

Metrolyrics
One of the few safe lyric sites out there.

Pandora
Free internet radio, based on your taste. A great way to find new music.

Project Gutenberg
Free books! Anything in public domain, they’ll have it. Catch up on your classics.

Weather.com
You can see if anything dangerous is heading for your sister in Florida.

Metafilter
People point out interesting things, and then they talk about them. This is a smart group, they’ve been around a long time, and I bet you’ll get addicted to the fascinating things they find.

Pogo
I’m not much of a gamer, but I did my best to find a place where you could play free chess online against other opponents. Plus a ton of other games. Looks safe, and is well rated. Just don’t click on the ads–but you knew that!

 

Okay, that’s all I have for you right now. It’s a good start. Have fun exploring!

 

*The WWW is actually built on the Internet, which came first, but that’s technical, and most folks use them interchangeably these days.

Carmel Cafe and Wine Bar

Carmel Cafe and Wine Bar served us one of the best meals we’ve had so far in Florida. And with all the good food we’ve been finding, that’s saying something.

The atmosphere is modern and relaxed, with colorful abstract art on the walls. Ordering can be done with your server, or you can use the provided iPad. The iPad system is very well designed, with bright pictures that do, indeed, look like the meal you are served. Each item includes a helpful wine pairing tab.

Spinach Gnocchi

Our appetizer was Chickpea Fries, served with two sauces: a savory tomato jam and a tangy curry aoli.  The fries were a little plain on their own, but they are meant to deliver these fantastic sauces. I honestly couldn’t decide which I liked better. I could have made a meal of this alone.

My entree was the Ravioli Verde. The vegetables were a perfectly-prepared textual foil for the creamy pasta and deeply flavorful buerre blanc. He had the Spinach Gnocchi, and though the sauces were similar, there were subtle differences. I honestly couldn’t tell you which dish I liked better. His gnocchi had a not-too-soft bite and rich flavor. The only missed note was the caramelized brussels sprouts we ordered to share. They weren’t actually caramelized, as far as I could tell, but rather very heavily smoked. The smoke flavor overwhelmed the poor sprouts, and the bacon were just tasteless, tough bits.

Dessert Trio

Dessert Trio

We also went for dessert. I had the cannoli, and the seasonal filling was Nutella-based. I’d never had Nutella, and I’m a new fan! Bill had the dessert trio (pictured). The truffles were mocha and almond-coffee, and in the middle was amaretto cherries and cherry custard. He was in heaven.

The sprouts won’t keep us away from this wonderful place. It’s too spendy to visit all the time, but we’ll be there as often as we can manage.

Poblanos

You call these enchiladas?

You call these enchiladas?

After we came home, I looked up reviews for Poblanos Mexican Grill. One of them said “you’re an idiot if you eat here.” Well, an idiot if you eat there more than once. I liked the pretty tile work all over the restaurant. I liked the waiter who looked a little like Peter Frampton. If we’d been served food, I might have liked it, but I don’t believe what we had qualifies.

Vegetarian burrito with mushroom gravy

Vegetarian burrito with mushroom gravy

He had a vegetarian style burrito. He found it edible. The sauce was this bizarre, salty, mushroom gravy that would be more at home on a trailer-park Thanksgiving table than in a Mexican restaurant. The tortilla was stuffed with a variety of vegetables, but oddly, neither beans nor rice were present, not even as a side.

I had the Enchiladas Suprema, which was one each of their enchilada offerings. One was filled with plain melted cheddar, the second with canned refried beans, the third with barely seasoned taco meat, and the fourth with dry chicken. There was no enchilada sauce, just a dollop of sour cream and a tiny bit of canned tomatoes on the top, so the entire dish was dry and there was nothing to hide how unappetizing the enchiladas were.

I have no idea why we dared order dessert. My rationalization was that we had a weird sopapilla at another local restaurant, and I wanted to see if it was a Florida thing. Well, this sopapilla was certainly not the same as the other place. Nor was it anything I would identify as a sopapilla. There was a fried tortilla with wedges of ice cream on top. There was plain cinnamon (no sugar) dumped on some bits of the tortilla. The whole thing was drizzled with what tasted like Hershey’s syrup and–get this–squeeze butter. Go have some ice cream with butter and tell me if you like it. I’ll wait.

Wasn’t very good, was it?

So yes, Poblanos: you’re an idiot if you eat here.

 

Mami Carmen’s

mamicarmens

Don’t be fooled by the mild-mannered exterior.

\We found pupusas!

This little shop is on 15th street in Bradenton, just south of SR70. We got hooked on Salvadoran food at La Guanacita back in Beaverton.  As a test dish, Bill decided to order the same thing he used to: pupusas queso con loroco.

pupusasquesoconloroco

Pupusas, queso con loroco

They were a bit bigger, and he liked both the pupusa and the curtido better.  A wonderful, filling meal.

chuletascontajedas

Chuletas con Tajedas

I had Chuletas con Tajedas, “chuletas” being pork chops (they’re under there!) and “tajedas” being fried green banana slices. The pork chops were smothered in a layer of tajedas–which taste a bit like french fries–cabbage, tomatoes, and a light mustard sauce. While the chops were neither tender nor moist, I don’t think they were meant to be. The flavor was fantastic, and getting a bite with everything was an eye-roller. So. Good.

Service was excellent, and the interior was charming and comfy. I look forward to working my way through the menu.