Pork-Kimchi rice bowl / 豚キムチ丼

I’ve been reading a few Japanese and Korean food blogs lately, and I realized I haven’t shared much of that type of cooking with you. When I can get the ingredients (most of them are pretty easily accessible), I really like to cook these cuisines — and have been meaning to add Chinese to the repertoire, but it’s so overwhelmingly vast I usually get a little intimidated.

I have studied Japanese a little bit, and used to maintain a food blog in Japanese. I’ve been meaning to brush up my language skills again and perhaps I should do a little of what I used to, which mostly involved buying Orange Page magazines at the Japanese grocery store and then spending several hours translating recipes. Of course, I was also in a Japanese immersion class, so that helped too, I imagine.

The first recipe I translated is one I still love, because it’s very simple and incredibly delicious. I think it tastes good at room temperature, so I used to take it for lunch a lot. The Japanese name given in the magazine was “buta kimuchi don,” or pork and kimchi rice bowl. The only thing you might have trouble finding is the kochujang, but it’s worth hunting down, because it’s good on nearly everything anyway. Especially hard-boiled eggs, or steak sandwiches.

Anyway, a few years ago I was very proud of this translation. It took me longer than any that followed, because I had no idea about the sentence structure or vocabulary used in Japanese recipes. And it’s still probably my favorite. I hope you’ll give it a shot, and I’ll try to remember to share more of these kinds of recipes. I find Japanese and Korean cuisines both to be healthy and budget friendly, and they’re more accessible than most people think.

Pork-Kimchi Donburi

Pork-Kimchi Donburi

Pork-Kimchi Rice Bowl (2 servings)

  • 1/3lb. pork, sliced thin. The original recipe calls for pork belly, which is uncured bacon, basically, but you can use tenderloin. If you can find the pork belly, try it.
  • 1/2c cabbage kimchi
  • 1/4 onion, sliced (I’ll try to do a photo tutorial on standard Japanese slicing direction for an onion, but basically: go from pole to pole; this avoids having “wormy” looking slices and gives a nicer texture)
  • sliced green onions
  • 1 1/2T mirin
  • 1T soy sauce
  • 1T kochujang, a red fermented Korean pepper paste that is so freaking unbelievably good
  • 1 1/2t sugar
  • 1 1/2t sesame oil
  • 1t grated garlic (you can mince, but if you have a ceramic grater like for ginger, use it)
  • 1 1/2t dried red chiles (I buy big bags at the Korean grocery but have also made do with the kind you get in packets from a pizza place)
  • a pinch of white sesame seeds

Roughly chop the kimchi into bite-sized pieces. The original recipe calls for squeezing some of the juice out with a paper towel but I believe this is heresy. Place the pork in a frying pan, but don’t turn the heat on yet. The original recipe calls for adding each ingredient from mirin on down, in order, and massaging each into the pork as you go. I admit I tend to just put it all in at once and then work it in nicely with my fingers. I sometimes do this ahead of time in a Ziploc and let it marinate for half an hour or so.

Put the pan on the stove, turn the burner up to medium heat, and add another teaspoon or two of sesame oil to the pan. When the pork starts to brown, add the onions and green onions, and fry for a few minutes until the pork is cooked through.

Serve on top of a bowl of hot white rice and you’re done.

Switch Witch Halp!

As you are probably already aware, I have a slight (ever so slight) addiction to BPAL perfumes. There’s a really great fan forum for them, and one thing we do on there is a seasonal Switch Witch round — sort of like secret pals. Last round was a short one, but I still had a lot of fun getting to know my Witchee and sending her a package. I still have some more things to go to her, but I’m working on finishing up a secret item to include. AHEM.

Anyway, part of playing SW is answering many, many questions, so that your Witch can better stalk you and thereby send awesome gifts. Lots of these are just good, general, get-to-know-you questions, which is why I thought I’d make it a blog post here at the Birdhouse. Well, that and I’ve been lazy about blogging lately, so maybe this will give you something to read.

To my Future Witch: I hope this is helpful! I’ll come back and update this as more questions are added.

  • Anyone reading an amazing book right now? Hm. Usually it’s best to check my Goodreads page. I haven’t read anything very lately that just screams “RECOMMEND ME!” although Beasts of New York was really cute and enjoyable, and I dig the Temeraire series if you haven’t read it yet.
  • What socially respsonsible site would you recommend to ALL Witches? Well, everyone has pretty different ideas of what is important, but as far as charities go, I usually contribute to Feeding America, Doctors Without Borders, and Animal Friends. Also, in my sidebar you should see a banner for the Animal Rescue Site at the top — I click there daily.
  • What is your favorite anime, or if you don’t like that what is your favorite animated series? Do you like villains that are funny because they are meant to be, or are you like me and love the villain that just can’t seem to get his evil schemes to work? I haven’t watched that much anime lately, but I loved: Ceres, Celestial Goddess; Ranma 1/2 (of course); Urusei Yatsura; El Hazard; Tenchi Muyo. I also love the Ghibli films, especially Totoro and Princess Mononoke. Oh, and Spirited Away. I think I enjoy the intentionally hilarious villain most.
  • Tea. How do you feel about it? I feel like I burned my mouth on some tea really badly the other night, but besides that, I adore it. Really I love almost all tea, but jasmine is not my favorite. I drink A LOT of it, too. A lot.
  • would my future witchee like to receive steampunk style jewelry? It really depends on the piece, but there are a lot of steampunk style necklaces/pendants and bracelets I like. And rings.
  • Does your feline like catnip? Yes. I often catch them sneaking out to buy some on the street corner.
  • Salt soap bars (soap made with a large quantity of salt, like salt-scrub-in-a-bar)? Yes please! I’ve been dying to try one of these.
  • How would you feel about homemade jelly/jam from home-grown berries? Yes x10000. Yes. Yes yes yes. Especially jam.
  • Homemade dill pickles? Made from cukes, beans, snap peas, baby zucchini? Another big huge yes, although I do not like super-vinegary pickles — other than that, it’s all good. Please don’t send botulism though 😉
  • Based on Prior Carnivale act prototypes…which one are you truly excited about? I love the CD scents I’ve tried but I don’t know enough about the prototypes to really answer this.
  • Would it bother you if you are not the first person to receive the same gift? Imagine a Witch who always sends her favourite book, for example. Not at all — I would think that was pretty cool.
  • Pets: What do you have, and do they need/want anything? I have three cats: Audrey, Isabella, and Noodle. They claim to want dehydrated kitty treats, Wellness canned grain-free food, and some window perches and other cat furniture.
  • Does anyone play video games? What platform(s)? Are there any new or vintage games you would like? Ha. Yes. We have: DS, GameCube, Wii, PS2, Xbox, PSP, and PCs for gaming. Used games are fine; WoW timecards always welcome. And LotRO time, too. I never get to play it because of financial constraints. Games I’d like include: The Dark Spire (DS); The World Ends with You (DS); Knights in the Nightmare (DS); FFTA2 (DS).
  • Twilight fans, would you be interested in any products from this Etsy seller? I’m not a Twilight fan, at least not yet.
  • Are you in need of decanting supplies, wand caps, or other scent-related paraphernalia? Yes please! I can always use nice vials (i.e. NOT from Madina), pipets, wand caps, address labels (both 1/2 sheet and the little 8160 size for imp labeling). And bubble mailers.
  • Are there any single notes (likely non bpal) that anyone is dying to have/try? I would really like to sniff various ambers.
  • net flick or the likes gift subscriptions? A month of Netflicks vs a DvD? I’d love a month or two of Netflix, I like to watch all the documentaries online.
  • Adorable Japanese characters? Yes please! I love Nyanko and Kogepan (from San-X) best, oh, and Rilakkuma (Relax Bear). I also like Chococat, and Mixed Cats. I adore the little notepads that come with stickers, the bizarre portfolio holders, stationery sets, miniatures, small plushes.
  • My fiance sent me an early dvd rip of Coraline that he was given (pretty sure it’s not been released yet, but I sometimes have a hard time keeping up) and I was wondering if anyone would like a copy of it? Sure.
  • Do you collect dolls or miniatures? What kind? Do you like to get new clothes or items for them? Yes! Blythe dolls and Sylvanian Family/Calico Corners. I like to get Re-Ment miniatures mostly. I don’t have many so any will be appreciated.
  • If you were to make a seasonal mix CD for this summer, what would you name it? God I Suck at Making Mix Names
  • Would you like any recycle/upcycle supplies for your crafting? Definitely. Yarn is good, salvaged linen for embroidery is good, neat fabrics….
  • Is there a program you might have missed or show you love which is gone from the airwaves which might be found (or burned) for you by a Witch? Hm. I forget how I answered this. Square One Television is one example.
  • Do you play any online games, like World of Warcraft? If so, what server do you play on, what’s your character’s name, etc.? Yes. On Dark Iron, Alliance side, Akatia, Aerandil, and Plotz. On Argent Dawn, Hordeside, Makuahine and Taeriel.
  • Would anyone like bath bombs or bath melts scented with one of their favorite Bpal scents? YES! Please.
  • Would you like homemade cinnamon buns or sticky buns? I would adore them, although I don’t know about shipping in the summer. :\
  • Is there anyone here that likes Hello Kitty or any other Sanrio Characters? Yup, mostly Chococat and Badtz-Maru, but I like some of the San-X better.
  • Any non NZ or Aus witchee that I get gets Tim Tams, OK? I would love Tim Tams
  • For non-US witches: is there anything from the US you’d love that you can’t get where you live now? Well, I’m in the US but if you’re not chances are I want your chocolate and any neat condiments you might have.
  • How many potential witchees have an iPod, or download MP3s? I do, I do! I like iTunes store credits. I have an iPod Touch.
  • Are there any of the BPTP bath oils you adore (particularly ones that you cannot get anymore). What about the room sprays? I am dying for the Tomoe Gozen Warrior Queen set, and I really like Templum Victoriae. I enjoy the Yuletide Goblins, too.
  • How would you feel about an ultra-girlie shawl or wrap in summer-weight (lace)? Yes please, but no pink 😀
  • What would you think of hand-dyed items? I like the low-water immersion dyed things a lot. I am not opposed to tie-dyed PJs, pillowcases, or hankies.
  • So, I hear you don’t like lacy wraps! How do you feel about hand-knit socks? I love them. I have big feet though: Women’s US 11/EU42, and wide.
  • What kinds of crafts does everyone either enjoy making or enjoy getting? Do you have a certain type of handmade item that you love to collect? Socks, boxes, jewelry, dolls etc? I love pretty much anything handmade, maybe a weakness for jewelry, prints, and dolls.
  • Clearly, vegans are not into soaps with honey or milk, etc. But, if you’re NOT a vegan how would you feel about soaps made with emu oil? Squicked out/concerned about animal cruelty, or willing to try them? I would love to try some!
  • Do you like coconut? I love it. To eat, to smell, to drink. Love.
  • Puddin’ posts ebay sales of older stuff every now and then – what of the current lot are you dying for? Honestly I don’t know enough about the older perfumes to really covet any of them, though I would love bottles of Taurus, Capricorn, or Leo, or any of the Tarot oils especially.
  • Do you tweet? I do. Chirp! jenniedee.
  • What kind of mythology are you interested in? All kinds, probably most especially Norse and Celtic, but also Greek, Roman, Egyptian, all your standard mythologies. I find them really really fascinating so books on mythology are favored heavily here.

  • Which flavors are you interested to try from the Chocolate Research Facility? Oh my dear sweet Lord. All of them? Honey melon with cassia; Cardamon with almond; Yam with almond; Red bean; Sichuan pepper; Cheese (CHEESE?!); Wafer crunch; Mango with dried mango; Longan with pumpkin seed; Lychee; Sweetened plum; Lavender; Bergamot; Darjeeling; Cafe mocha. Any of them, really.
  • Do you wear makeup or nail polish? Need brushes, containers, storage, mani/pedi supplies? What colors and brands do you like? Sure! I could use a few brushes, a Caboodle, things like that. I love MAC, almost any of their eyeshadows although my favorite is Trax. And I like China Glaze and Rimmel 60 second nail polish, and Seche Vite.
  • Do you like shiney hanging porch decorations like windchimes or those things that spin and swirl in the wind? Yes I do, but I may have nowhere to put any for a while 😦 so better to skip them this round.
  • Hair adornments? Yes! I would like decorated clips or even plain ponytail holders. Hair sticks do not work well for me because they fall out of my fine hair.
  • Is there any infomercial product you’re dying to try even though you know it probably sucks? RIP, Billy Mays. Mighty Putty, the ShamWow, and… I think there was another one. NOT the TotalGym 😉
  • What are your favorite websites (besides this one, and the online shops you listed in your questionnaire)? Gah. Tastespotting, most of the things linked in my links here, Goodreads, Flickr.
  • We have so many talented witches and they really need to promote themselves more so, if you made something by hand for a previous witchee or have an etsy store or some other outlet for hand made goods, will you post it here with pictures or links? Or, if you want to brag on a previous witch’s talent, this is the place for that as well. I haz Etsy and Artfire! http://binkin.etsy.com and http://binky-bird.artfire.com. Please see my sales section on Etsy; the shop is empty right now because I have too many customs though.
  • If you could make your perfect scent (or at least most desired at the moment!) what would be in it? Amber, vanilla, cardamom, and orange blossom.
  • So I have a question for the witchees, and hopefully mine will answer as well…In trying to decide what to fix for dinner, I thought that I’ve received some great recipes from friends (particularly the culinary mastermind that is scotchgrrl). I also have a few great recipes of my own. So would anyone like to receive some original, or very much loved recipes from his/her witch? Absofreakinglutely yes I would.
  • List things you DO NOT need any more of: Cats. Cardboard boxes. Defunct computer parts.

  • Is there something that would offend you if you received it in your mail/gift/email)? (as in profanity, a bad words in an email/card/music … or a card or something with a scantily dressed man/woman pictured on it, crude/immature humor tshirts, etc …) It’s hard to actually offend me but if it’s offensive humor on a tshirt, I probably don’t want it. A card, maybe. I actually like some off-color humor, and I swear like a sailor, so that doesn’t bother me, but there are some areas that I just don’t find funny so better safe than sorry, right?
  • What do you like to snack on? I like to balance out my snacks by having salty, sweet, sour, crunchy, soft, etc. I love: Chocolate, gummis, fruit, chips/crisps, dried fruit, almonds, pistachios….
  • What is the color scheme you use most when you decorate? Brown and blue; wood grains. Sometimes green.
  • If you have music or DVD’s on your wishlist, do you mind getting a burned copy? How about if it is original packaging but previously used? Or do you only want it new? Used, etc. is fine. I don’t need packaging either.
  • Who is your favorite artist? What are some of your favorite pieces of their work? Ayiyi. I may have to do a separate post on this. But, I like most of the pre-Raphaelites, Mark Ryden, Dan Danger, Jay Ryan, Mike Budai, Emily Balivet to name a few.
  • Are you a candles person, incense person, or just a BPTP spritzer for room scents? Any and all.
  • What is your favorite latin or faux latiny phrase? Si Hoc Legere Scis Nimium Eruditionis Habes

    How are you doing for BPAL storage? Need any boxes?

    Is there any place you’ve visited where you feel like you left your heart there?

    What one item would you just love to have that is made by a Switch Witch?

    Is your abode a palace covered in fur, a disaster area ,or a neat freaks delight?

    Are there any phobias you have that you absolutely, positively, do NOT want anything from your witch referencing?

    Are you a good witch or a bad witch?

    What kind of a car do you drive and would you want something you could use in your car? Rear view mirror charms, steering wheel covers (a new thinkg for the knitters ), car blessing medicine bags

    Do you want to know when you have something coming in the mail, or would you rather it be a complete surprise?

    What is your mailbox situation?

    ***6/25***

    Are you interested in Tarot or Tarot art?

    What would you think of soap samples/shampoo bar samples? (I believe the latter can be used as soap if you are not shampoo bar inclined). Or other sample sized bath/beauty products, for that matter?

    What about burnables as in candles, tarts and/or incense?

    Who knits? Do you also spin and dye? What supplies, that you wouldn’t buy for yourself, would you just love to have for that activity?

    Do you like coffee? Whole bean or ground? Bold/Medium/Mild roast?

    So you have enough socks and wraps… (shush, VCW!) Are there any other knitted goods you might like? Lap blanket? Fingerless gloves? Arm warmers? Little knitted animals? Silk scarf? Head band? Wrist cuff? Dish clothes?

    ***6/24***

    Are you obsessed with honey? If so, is there a particular kind you like best? Spun honey, flavored honeys, certain types of honey….etc.

    What are your favorite materials? Or material things? Some people like jewelry, some like woods, some plants…

    Is there anything you’ve been wanting to learn that your witch might be able to help you with?

    Posters, yes or no?

    What are your favorite animals? Or, what animals resonate strongly with you?

    Are there any historical figures you are particularly interested in – say, that you’d enjoy reading about, or movies, etc.?

    What, if anything, are you earwormed with right now?

    What scent are you wearing right now, if any?

Crockpot Carnitas: My Variation

A friend and I were tweeting today about avocados, which naturally led into a discussion of delicious carnitas. You guys may have noticed “chili roasted pork” or whatever I’ve decided to call it that week making a frequent appearance on my menus, which is for several reasons:

  1. I love pork.
  2. Pork is cheap.
  3. I love pork.
  4. Also, it’s cheap. And tasty!
Smoked Butt

Smoked Butt

Our usual cut is the shoulder, or Boston Butt, because it can be got for as low as 89c a pound here if you catch a good sale. I do enjoy smoking it in the Traditional Way of Barbeque — something I actually need to do again soon, and provide a pictorial step-by-step. We use our Weber kettle grill, a foil roasting pan, charcoal, woodchips, and a thermometer, which does require more outdoor tinkering, but also gives a good excuse to drink plenty of beer while you work.

Because the butts sometimes weigh 8 pounds or more, this results in many leftovers. Fortunately smoked pork freezes well, and we tend to vacuum seal little packets and reheat them to eat as sandwiches, to mix in with Zatarain’s, or — and this was a long-time favorite of mine — to put in corn tortillas and eat as tacos.

Sadly, I can’t always find the time to go through the entire butt-smoking process (yes, I’m laughing every time I write something like that), but I want pork tacos anyway. That’s where the crockpot carnitas come in. They are like the antithesis of barbequed pork, at least in terms of work done and all-day involvement. They are delicious in their own way, and are good for all the same things. Well, most of them. They don’t really make a great North Carolina-style pulled pork sandwich. But hey, it’s hard to be all porks to all people, right?

Crockpot Carnitas and/or Chili Roasted/Braised Pork Stuff

  • One pork shoulder/butt, sized to fit in your crockpot. You can trim any extra fat cap off, if you like; I usually do. My crockpot is oval and will hold about 4lb. Around here they also sell “country style bone-in ribs” which are not ribs at all but cut up pork shoulder, and that can help with the logistics.
  • 1/4c water
  • 1/4c chili powder (I use Penzey’s, because it is Teh Good)
  • 3T ground chipotle (in a pinch, smoked Spanish paprika is OK, though it’s not the same)
  • 1T ground cumin
  • 1/4c apple cider vinegar
  • 5-6 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • salt

So this is really easy, right? If you’ve thought ahead, you can mix up the chili powder, chipotle, and cumin, and maybe a little garlic powder and salt, and rub that on the pork butt, allowing it to sit overnight in the fridge. If you haven’t, don’t worry; you can just add the spices when you’re putting everything in the crockpot.

Fit the pork shoulder in there first, then add the water and vinegar. Strew the garlic cloves around, and then (if you didn’t manage to plan ahead and use it as a rub) add the spices. Mostly I sprinkle these directly on the butt, which causes a decent crust to form in the process of cooking, although it tastes “burned” to some people. I like it that way. If you don’t, feel free to turn the butt and distribute the spices more evenly. I am liberal with my salting and probably use (gasp) 1T or so.

Ready for the hard part? Put the crock pot on low and leave it there for 8-10 hours, after which time you may shred the pork with a fork (or, more accurately, a pair of forks) and nom it down. The pork will release a lot of liquid as it cooks, and pork butts are naturally filled with connective tissues and fat (I know, right?) that essentially baste from the inside, keeping it nice and tender.

I really like to put this into freshly steamed corn tortillas (a comparison of supermarket brands coming… sometime when I remember) with a lot of cilantro, chopped onion, and lime juice. I haven’t tried it with avocado — God only knows why — but that’ll definitely be on next week’s menu.

Kitty Kangaroo

By now, everyone probably knows about baby slings, and how people carry cute small humans around in little pieces of fabric, right?  It’s hands-free, it’s convenient, and it keeps the small human in contact with a large human. Well, I have two cats who very much like to snuggle, one of whom — Noodle — is um, rather insistent about it. Usually when I’m trying to work at the computer, she claws her way up onto my leg and then up towards the shoulder, where she tries to cling and sleep, gradually sliding down. This is inconvenient at best and slightly painful at worst, so for months I’ve been saying I’m just going to put her in a baby sling and carry her around. I said it before about Audrey, too, but she’s not nearly as annoying, being happy to sleep on my foot so long as I don’t move said foot.

So anyway, last night Noodle was doing her usual claw-sleep-slide, so I grabbed a sheet I got at the thrift store to cut up for fabric and tied it like a sling and stuck her in it. She slept in there for almost an hour and a half. Today I waited until kitty naptime and tossed her in the sling again, where she has now been sitting for about half an hour already, snoring and purring. I could die of (a) hilarity and (b) teh cute. I had Zack take some pictures; unfortunately these were all taken prior to my tightening the sling up so that she’s located more on my chest and less on my hip. Still, I think this is the best idea evar. Baby sling makers, take note. Catwearing: It’s the new hotness. (I posted about it in guild chat on WoW last night and I know at least one other person has already tried and loved it.)

Please excuse my dishelved appearance

Please excuse my dishelved appearance

Cuddle-exploring

Cuddle-exploring

There’s an App for That

Sadly, none of the Apps for That are exactly what I want. I’ve had the iTouch now for… oh… three or four months? Something along those lines. Ever since I got it, I’ve been looking for my very own personal Killer Shopping List Application because, if such existed, my life would become many times easier. I’ve downloaded and tried lots of them, but they’re all clunkier than they need to be, and don’t work if you shop the way I do.

First and foremost, I do. not. want. to type in my whole shopping list on the iTouch, no matter how nifty it is. I don’t like scrolling through 14 menus to say yes, I do in fact want to buy a canteloupe! And, since I shop sales, I have to go in separately and update the price every time canteloupe shows up on the list. Can you say pain in the rear? I thought you could. Up until now I’ve been happily making my shopping lists as spreadsheets: Store, category, item description, qty, price, coupon qty, coupon value, line item total. If I could take that spreadsheet and import it onto the iPod into a nifty application — all it would need to do would be to parse a CSV and place the data into its own tables! — see, then I would be really happy.

So far the best application I’ve found is Shopper, by MidCentury Software. It has a nice UI, but suffers from menuitis. It would perhaps be best to admit that I’m not a fan of using GUIs to do stuff. I am a Unix girl at heart and if I can type something using the keyboard, I’d rather do it that way. I’ve submitted some of my ideas, and they have improved the application lots since I first bought it (not as a result of my suggestions; I’m not that much of an egomaniac), but it’s still NOT WHAT I WANT! Insert sound of frustrated crying.

So why not just code my own? Well, I thought of that, see, but it turns out that to use the development kit for iPhone apps, you have to have a Mac. Which I do. But you also have to have a Mac capable of running one of the more recent versions of OS X. Sadly, my years-old PowerBook does not fit this description. What I want would be simple, and I feel like it would be useful to many people. An OpenOffice/Excel spreadsheet into which you type your shopping list while at your computer, viewing the weekly ads online. It keeps a price history, of sorts — saving only the lowest price you’ve paid so far for any single item, not including coupons. That way you can figure out fairly easily where you could save more money by waiting for the next sale cycle. It would allow you to enter lists per store, whether the store doubles coupons, and all manner of Other Useful Information, and then present you with one neat, tagged up, very web 2.0 or whatever list while you’re at the store.

But until I get a Mac that’s not old and decrepit (and with a cracked screen — did I mention that part?), I’ll just stick with Shopper. I’m still trying to bend it to my will, and once I figure it out a little better, I’ll try to offer a post explaining how I use it. Right now, how I use it is best described as “in a fashion that annoys me.”

Mackinac Island

VACATION! Yes, I have returned, with sunglass-induced raccoon sunburn and also a small quantity of fudge. My friends arrived last Thursday, and we laughed ourselves nearly to death over the purported Minnesota slang for doing donuts in a parking lot; to wit, “whipping shitties.” Fortunately we survived, and on Friday left for Frankenmuth, home of Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland.

There was also a Bavarian Festival ongoing while we were there, although to be perfectly honest it didn’t quite scream BAVARIA!!! to me; for one thing, there wasn’t nearly enough beer for that. The town itself, though, was fun to walk around and quite lovely, and it struck me that it was probably one of the few areas left in Michigan with high property values. We browsed the shops and went for a swim in the hotel pool, and woke up early the next morning for a trip to the Cheese Haus. Sadly, I really didn’t take many pictures in Frankenmuth, aside from those of hilarious license plates, which I don’t think you’re supposed to post online. Hmph. But really: SAD MOM? On a bitty convertible sportscar? What are you so sad about, SAD MOM?

We ate lunch at Zehnder’s, home of the Famous Frankenmuth Family-style Chicken Dinner. As J and A said, it’s probably famous just for being famous; none of the food was bad, but none of it was omgawesome, either. After a stop at the aforementioned Christmas Wonderland, we hopped back on I-75 to go Up North.

This would be a good time to discuss the audiobook we listened to on the trip, a truly unfortunate work called Ice Run by Steve Hamilton. Chosen for its setting (i.e. the places we were visiting), and certainly not for its quality narration or plot development, it was… well, just read my review there. It was probably a much better choice than something actually good, because it provided us with endless opportunities to shout things like “THOSE EYES!” and “Oh, my, GOD.”

At any rate, we arrived in Mackinaw City in the evening, and spent some confused moments searching for the hotel; Google’s directions were not, in this case, particularly useful. We did find it, and it was more like… a summer dorm than a hotel, but right on the shore of Lake Huron. We meandered around the Village of Mackinaw City (har har), which was overpriced and kind of meh. I think our judgment on the meh-ity of it all was pretty unanimous, though Anna’s Buffet-slash-gift-shop was sort of fun, as was the furniture store where everything was made of fur, antlers, and driftwood. We asked our waitress if she lived in the city, and her response was something like “Jesus, no, I live in Cheboygan.”

Mackinac Bridge

Mackinac Bridge

On Sunday morning we woke up and hopped on a ferry to Mackinac Island, whereupon we encountered an actor (Edward Herrmann, though none of us could place him, at the time). We also got a good long look at the Mackinac Bridge, which kind of gives me the willies; I’m glad I don’t have to walk across it. It’s the 3rd longest suspension bridge in the US, after the Verrazzano Narrows and Golden Gate bridges. Five miles long, people. Five miles! It divides Lake Huron from Lake Michigan, and is snazzily painted in green and cream colors. Happily, there’s a free service; if you’re too scared to drive your own car all the way from the mitten up into the UP (or vice versa), someone else will do it for you.

Round Island Lighthouse

Round Island Lighthouse

Between the mainland and Mackinac Island is Round Island, home to a now-abandoned lighthouse (its operation stopped… sometime in the 1950s, I think, when it was replaced with an automated beacon). The rest of Round Island appeared to be populated entirely by trees. J remarked that it must have been horribly lonely to have lived there, all alone with no access to anything save by boat. It’s probably a sign that I’ve been living in Boringdrian, Michigan for too long, but I thought in some ways it might not be so bad — at least, not now, in the age of the Interwebs. Must’ve been scary in a storm, though.

Fort Mackinac

Fort Mackinac

We didn’t have much time on the Island, sadly; I’d like to go back sometime and visit Fort Mackinac, and rent a bike and ride the entire island loop. It’s very pretty, and the food on the island was much better than what we had in Mackinaw City. I found myself thinking about getting a summer job up there, next year, if I still haven’t managed to turn my freelancing into something more full-time. I’m not sure I’d fit in with all the college kids, alas. I would probably also gain about seventy pounds due to the constant consumption of fudge.

Cherry Blossoms and Lake Huron

Cherry Blossoms and Lake Huron

Being Up North, most of the lilacs were still in bloom or just getting there (whereas, here, they’re spent for the summer already), as were the cherry trees. Actually, it was the Lilac Festival, though most of the activities were based more around kilt-wearing pipe and drum bands and historical reenactors (always fine in my book) than around the blooms themselves. We missed the Dog and Pony Show by a day, much to our sadness, but some of the greyhound rescue groups were still on the Island so I did get to meet a few new doggies and say hello. And there are certainly lots of horses working to pull around the surreys. It was so nice not to have to worry about traffic lights or cars, and to be without the noise. I’d love to stay overnight sometime when we can afford it, because I bet it’s quiet and dark enough to see lots of stars. Zack and I are already sort of plotting a trip for next year.

Seagull on Lake Huron

Seagull on Lake Huron

Sadly, as we were waiting for the ferry back to the mainland, I discovered that once again (and this is really irrelevant to the trip, as such) that I’m not pregnant. Joy, right? I sort of bawled in the bathroom for ten minutes and hoped I didn’t look too much like a party pooper when I walked back out into the crowds. I apologize to my travel companions if I turned a little spacey and less-fun after that point; I’d been SO SURE about this month, and then, you know, the usual kick to the heart. But that’s no fun to hear about in a vacation post, so I’ll leave you instead with this seagull, and head off to eat my Midnight Mocha fudge. Thanks to J and A for having me along, and for not mocking me too heartily when my foot gave out early each day.

Menu Plan Monday: This Time, with a Vacation Interlude

Another week, another menu. This week’s a little different; I’ve got friends coming into town on Thursday night, and we’ll be road tripping together to Mackinac Island. Woo hoo! So I’m leaving the husband at home with frozen pizza and Hot Pockets and taking myself off to the Land of Fudge.

Tomorrow we’ll be in Ann Arbor anyway, so most likely we’ll nab lunch up there since it’s a rare treat to have options that aren’t hamburgers, hamburgers, or hamburgers. Also, Ann Arbor is where the Trader Joe’s lives, and I’ll be stopping there. I asked some friends for new ideas of things to pick up, since I’ve gotten into a sort of TJ’s rut, and they had lots of good suggestions. I think I said a while ago I’d do a post on Trader Joe’s, especially with respect to Weight Watchers, so depending on how much we buy tomorrow, look for that later in the week. With photos! Wow! I’ve been doing fairly well on Weight Watchers for the past two weeks; I can also feel the shift that helped me to lose weight last time on WW, which is sort of internalizing point values. Even when I forget to track a meal, I’m less likely to overeat or snack all day long because the points are at the back of my mind. I swear they must hire hypnotists to help with their program or something, because this never works for me with just straight calorie counting.

Monday

  • Breakfast: Toast and marmalade!, milk tea, and fruit.

  • Lunch: Chipotle or Thai (we’ll be in Ann Arbor for appointments).

  • Dinner: Chili pork tacos, rice, beans, and salad.

  • Snacks: Lemon-Tabasco almonds; hummus with pita chips. Note: WW is pretty much out the window today, between the Chipotle and the snacks and the this that and the other.

Tuesday

  • Breakfast: Oatmeal with honey and fruit; milk.

  • Lunch: Club sandwich on spelt toast; potato chips; carrots and celery.

  • Dinner: That chili pork? Reappearance, this time as enchiladas! With salad, and guacamole if the avocados I’m buying tomorrow ripen, which is probably unlikely.

  • Snacks: More almonds; celery with peanut or almond butter and raisins.

Wednesday

  • Breakfast: Smoked salmon, bagel with cream cheese, and fruit.

  • Lunch: Gyoza with dipping sauce; steamed vegetables; maybe some rice.

  • Dinner: Salmon and potato chowder; bread; lots and lots of salad. I’m hoping the garden lettuce gets bigger this week; it’s going to start bolting soon, and it really hasn’t produced much.

  • Snacks: Guess what? Almonds! Hummus, pita, and celery, too.

Thursday

  • Breakfast: Leftover salmon chowder; fruit.

  • Lunch: Egg salad on spelt toast; pickles, chips, and carrots.

  • Dinner: I’m not sure yet – we may be eating with my friends, depending on when they arrive, which requires going out since, like, there isn’t enough seating and Noodle tries to jump on your dinner plate, which could be annoying for guests. Chinese buffet, perhaps?

  • Snacks: Almonds encore; celery with hummus and peanut butter (on separate sticks, eh?)

Friday

  • Breakfast: Croissants with Nutella or jam; fruit; coffee or tea.

  • Lunch: On the road again…

  • Dinner: Something Christmasy in Frankenmuth!

  • Snacks: I’m planning to take almonds, rice snacks, cheese, peanut or almond butter, and sesame crackers along on the trip, in the hopes of spending less money on food. Also any leftover croissants.

And then I won’t be home again until Sunday night, at which point it’s time for a new menu! Good deals, this week – Meijer in Southeast Michigan is featuring the 11 for $10 sale which, used wisely, can net you some very nice bargains.