Saturday, October 29, 2011

Baking Through My Days

I recently purchased The Bread Baker's Apprentice and have been greatly inspired by it. I was going to get the hardback version but with the eBook I can read it on my Kindle or browse it through the computer which is very convenient. It's especially useful when searching for specific terms. I came across the book as I investigated recipes for bagels and other bread items. It seemed that many people had used the book to make delicious looking breads. Most of the time, however, the recipes weren't posted online. I finally broke down and paid for the book. I'm glad I did. Many people work through the recipes one by one. I'm going to do the same.

The first bread up was Anadama bread. I made this Thursday evening after school. It's a simple sandwich loaf type bread that makes use of a cornmeal soaker. You leave cornmeal in a water overnight and add it into the dough the following day. This gives the final bread a bit of grit to it.

Anadama Bread Loaves

I greatly appreciated the texture of the bread. It was how home made bread should be. Most of the bread loaves I buy at the store are very processed and soft white breads. I don't mind too much but having a real piece of bread was very satisfying. I wish my oven was a little better at browning things but I make do as best I can. The only thing missing from the recipe was molasses which I substituted with maple syrup. I'm not sure how much different it would end up with the former.

Anadama Bread Crumb

I ate both of those loaves already. It's very dangerous having bread around here. I can't stop eating it.

On Friday evening I prepared a poolish for a loaf of Greek Celebration bread. The poolish is a 107% hydrated flour and yeast combination that is left out for 3-4 hours. Then it is refrigerated until a hour before intended use. Bread baking is a relatively time consuming process. There is a lot of wait time involved for different variations. Yet, longer wait time usually leads to better developed flavors. The Greek Celebration bread is a large bread ball. It has nutmeg, allspice, and cinnamon in it that add to the end flavor. Here is the dough ball before baking.

Greek Celebration Dough

After baking for about 40 minutes (wish it was darker brown but oh well) I coated the outside with a water, sugar, and honey glaze. Some people online disliked this element but I think it compliments the the taste of the bread quite well.

Greek Celebration Bread

After a good 1 hour cooling period here is what the loaf looked like sliced.

Greek Celebration Bread Slice

This is a wonderful loaf of bread. I really like the spices in it. I'll make this again come Christmas time and incorporate in fruit pieces or nuts. There are a number of variations this bread could take so I will have to see what I feel like doing. I wish I could share it with you.

Somehow in the process of making bread I also made a cheesecake. I spent the better portion of the day messing around in the kitchen doing various things. A good 5 or 6 hours probably. I also made brownies last night. I think I've almost gotten close to a recipe that is similar to the Betty Crocker Fudge Brownie box mix. The the surface of the brownies weren't flaky or crispy which bothers me. That is the main thing preventing these from being a great success. Perhaps a slightly lower cook time is necessary. More experimenting to come.

I think I might make a good husband someday. Just maybe.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Last Week of October Coming Right Up

This weekend amounted to doing nothing creative. Usually I would motivate myself to make and bake but I had other things to do. Mainly finishing a game so I could see the real story. It was more like a labor of love to finish it and now I can just forget it. It hangs over my head that I never beat Twilight Princess. Someday I'll come back to that. Had dinner with an older couple who live near my house. I think the best part was talking about Clint Eastwood. No, the best part was when the husband brought out two giant pictures of Eastwood. We couldn't stop saying how 'kakoii' (cool) he was. If you hate on Clint Eastwood you probably are a terrible person.

Today I watched two football games. Oh how I love the wonders of streaming tv. People set up live streams of different programming on the internet, which is technically illegal, but makes it possible for me to enjoy some great college football. I didn't watch any football last fall and I missed it. While I'm not much of fan by any standard there is something intangibly enjoyable about watching a football game. Not to mention watching during the fall season. I just need some deciduous leaves to crunch around in. The Michigan State game was quite the match. I enjoyed some large pieces of french toast while I watched that.. I guess I did make something after all. I think I cleaned and made dinner somewhere in the rest of the day but it's all beyond me now.

It was much easier to post a video than put up pictures the other day but I'm back to add to the entire experience.

I almost went down a precarious slope but thought of the better of it. I was rewarded by coming to the base of this.

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I came upon this curious little fall. The boulders are what caught my eye more than anything. Makes want to see how they got there. Did they fall from above or was it during a massive flood?


A short way down from that boulder spot I stumbled upon this little vista to the pool below. I want to come spend an afternoon here in the summer time. Let it be done.


The water shooting out underneath comes from this multiple step fall.

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You have the perfect water hole hideout. Complete with sun lounging rocks, churning water, and probably jumps.

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This was an exception. Lately if I find myself raising the camera to shoot flowers I reprimand myself something terrible. Flowers are good and all but I need to focus on other things.

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There was a shallow pool of water filled with these salamanders. One was eating a moth but I couldn't get a shot quick enough.


I could have sat here and stared at the water falling. I could probably take a nap too. I imagined bringing a blanket and laying down by the falls in the sunshine. Me and my smile.

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Finding my way back could take awhile...

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Wednesdays Out Walking

Beautiful weather Wednesday afternoon. When the sun shines, there is time, I have to go for a drive. Not just any drive but I always have a location in mind. Taking a random drive might be okay for some individuals. I don't find that particularly interesting most of the time. I usually end up feeling like I should have researched a bit more before I headed out to find nothing. You can't necessarily find anything, though, unless you go look.

I went back to where I was last week with intentions of exploring the upper reaches of the valley. There was a dam that I had come to last Wednesday and I wanted to start from there. Unfortunately I was never able to see it as I was walking up the forest road. I ended up walking and walking for what seemed like far too long. I walked so far that I came to the waterfall I had been to several weeks ago for the very first time. This was well beyond the dam and the intended zone for exploration. Having gone too far I decided to take a look at the view from the top of the big waterfall nearby. There wasn't a clean view down to the bottom so I moved on rather quickly to get toward the bottom area of that fall.

At this point it's some luck and what looks good to get down the steep valley sides. If you go down you might not be able to proceed along the stream if there are giant rocks or ledges in the way. This might force you back up and around which is tiring and waste of time. I got pretty lucky because the location I chose to descend happened to be at the bottom of another fall but also allowed me to generally rock hop down the stream. It actually ended up being much better than I thought. I had intended to work my way up the stream, as that is usually easier, but descending was easier for a change. I was rather happy to find some nice rocky crags and other small water falls along the way. The best find of the afternoon was a rather large water hole. I'm going to come here next summer. I'm sure nobody knows of this place or would come here to swim. Not sure who I will share this with but I will keep it closely guarded as mine.

Enjoy some of the footage of the water. I love places like this so much. Be sure to watch in at least 720p (click where it says 360p at the bottom right of the video to change). I won't be happy if you don't.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Bakin' and Makin'

I'll take a time warp here and jump back to Saturday. I don't think it's particular necessary to write about my food making adventures after I've already discussed them in depth. However, I'll do it anyway because I have some close up pictures of the hamburgers I made. So self promoting, I know. I must be a really awful person somehow.

Pumpkin Puree

Most things I learn online so much of what follows can be credited to that. I picked up half a pumpkin at the store and baked it for about 35-40 minutes per the instructions for making a pumpkin puree. Then the skin is scraped off which is surprisingly tasty to eat. Then it's chopped into chunks and crushed with a potato smasher. Then I blended it as best as possible. It came out more like canned pumpkin consistency but truth be told I prefer the thickness. This made about 4 cups of pumpkin. 3 cups went into bags to stay in the freezer for future use.


After preparing the pumpkin I went on to make these pumpkin muffins with cream cheese frosting inside. I've never made muffins by myself but I don't let my inexperience stop me from trying. There was a butter/cinnamon/flour crumb on top which kind of melted into the batter during cooking. These were wonderful. I'll make these again for sure. Next time I need to leave the batter more lumpy. It's funny how after I bake something I go and look for pertinent information on the process only to find out I did things somewhat wrong. Regardless, most of what I make doesn't come out bad.


Somewhere between everything I had going on in the kitchen, I made up this batch of vanilla extract. It won't be ready for 2 months but I can wait. Essentially you take 8oz of cheap vodka and split about three vanilla beans. Then you combine the two in a jar, bottle, or container that is easily sealed tight. In the end you have a very lovely vanilla extract to use for baking, mixed drinks, or whatever else you can imagine. I loved the suggestion of having a vanilla infused glass of coke. That sounds great. I enjoyed vanilla coke back in the day and sometimes wish I still could have it. In 2 months I might just make it myself.

Kaiser Rolls

Kaiser rolls. I don't even know what a kaiser roll is. But they sure sounded and looked delicious. I've been on the hunt for a legit hamburger bun recipe and so far the two recipes I made were somewhat lacking. The first ones were too yeasty and dense. The second ones were too flat and the flavor wasn't impressive. I somehow stumbled upon a blog where the author was using kaiser rolls for burger buns. They looked wonderful paired together. Kaiser rolls are traditionally used on deli type sandwiches but they can be eaten alone or with anything. These were by far the most time consuming process of my baking over the weekend. I made an initial dough that was fermented one hour at room temperature, then was left overnight in the fridge. The following day during my other baking activities I let the dough come back to room temperature. I then took the fermented dough and added an entire new batch of dough to it that I had just made. The second recipe had a few extra ingredients but was relatively similar to the first batch of dough. The two doughs were then worked together and after kneading were left for about 2 hours to rise. Following that the dough was then weighed into equal size balls and formed into kaiser roll shapes. Then the rolls were sheeted and left to rise another 2 hours prior to baking. In the end these rolls came out better than I could imagine. Even today (Monday) the rolls still have great texture and flavor. Don't forget that I made these mostly for hamburgers so lets move on to that which was on Sunday.

Burger Makin' Station

Can't get much more typical American than this. I was grinning when I took this picture. My lovely burger making station. Perfectly laid out. Everything I need within an arms reach. Great for me. I'm enjoying the added flexibility of cooking options with the grill I bought. As Dad put it, nothing beats meat cooked over fire. I'll never disagree. Lets take a closer look at those toasted kaiser rolls that were the foundation for my burger patties.

Burgers n' Buns

That's what I'm talking about. THOSE are hamburger buns. I stepped into another level of burger making with these golden nuggets of starch and yeast.

The Blaine Burger

There is the assembled burger in all its glory. Next time I'll make my burgers a bit thinner to fit the kaiser rolls better. It might be a strange layering of toppings too. Oh well, I burger at my own discretion. I ate two of these along with a small side of french fries. Couldn't forget those now could we? Reminds me of many a meal back home. Typically delicious in the most basic of ways. Let people laugh at Americans all they want for their supposed burger and pizza culture. They don't know what they are missing.

Now if I can only manage to ration myself on those pumpkin muffins and remaining rolls...

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Yes a Waterfall, Where Else Would I Go?

Really there isn't much to be said of fall color right now in the lower elevation areas. It is just hitting the edge of turning. Up in the higher mountains the season will probably have run its course rather soon. After a ridiculous day of baking yesterday (which deserves a post in itself) I was going to take the day off and relax at home. As soon as I woke up and light was pouring through my curtains I knew that I couldn't waste the day without regretting it later. As of late I've developed a new mantra, when there is sunshine I have to go for a drive. This way I make the most of the prime weather and can't look back wishing I had done more. After I got my spare camera battery juiced up and after consuming a pumpkin muffin, I drove over to Yasui Valley.

I never seem to grow tired of going there. There is plenty there to keep myself happy and interested. I think most people who go there don't begin to understand what lies in the clefts of the valleys. Most go and look at one waterfall it seems. It's the most accessible. Always good for me as the rest of the places I have free to myself. It's actually hard sometimes to run into people. Sometimes if a car is parked at a remote spot I hope to meet someone. I'm sure they never conceived the notion that a foreigner might stare them in the face out in the middle of nowhere.

It took about 1 hour to get to the trail head. A good 15-20 minutes is probably spent driving along a forestry road. Oh how I love those. Surprisingly the road got better since last time I was on it. I think it was because of some construction they were doing 4km up the road. Large dump trucks and cement mixers were running on this road which pulverized the road flatter. The sign by the trail said 1.5km to the the waterfall. That is about 1 mile I guess?

Find the way!

The fall was somewhere back in there but one problem, just how do you get over there? I had seen pictures that were taken closer to the waterfall so I had to do a bit of exploring. I kind of dislike when the path isn't explicit but I also kind of like finding it as well. Just as long as it doesn't become an impossible task. Luckily the rock fall I decided to head up first brought me to a rope which in the middle of nowhere is usually a good indicator of where to head. Not always though but I'll get to that later.

This is for you Mom

I went up the small rope and it led to another smaller path with some ropes tied along side it. This took me around the upper edge of the rock face that is in the first photo. This is facing backwards on the path. If you look close you can see how narrow this little path section was. Notice the slight drop off to the right. At least there were ropes. No need to worry mom, just yet.

Getting a little closer now.

Above Otabi Shallows

Some more rope action.

Otabi Ropeway Lower

Finally made it to the base of the falls. At least you could call it that. There is no other way than swimming in order to get close to the literal base of the falls. But where is the waterfall you ask?

Opening from the fall

The waterfall is hidden in this cleft of rock. Makes viewing difficult but pretty nonetheless.

Otabi Half

If you adjust to the left 45 degrees you might see this...

The Crevice

As viewing angles were somewhat limited I wonder if it was possible to get to the top of the waterfall. I hadn't seen any pictures of video from that perspective. I soon would know why not. I headed back up the rope way and back across the bridge to get to another trail that went up to a meeting hall for a shrine. I had to walk past some buildings and found another trail. I wasn't specifically trying to get to the top of the waterfall but figured I would see what was around at least. I found some latrines and could only think where that sewage was going... I hope it wasn't connected to the river somehow... I found a new path and it started ascending up a little bit. My new plan was to take the path and hope it came out on the main road. Before I could get very far I found a path that descended down. I stopped for a minute and contemplated. "Well this might take me to the top of the fall," or "It might just go down to nowhere interesting." I also thought, "Oh you are tired, you can just explore another time." Screw all that nonsense. I was all the way out there. I was going to explore!

This trail wasn't the best but not too terrible. It slowly winded down and I could hear the roaring water. I knew I was headed in the right direction to see the falls. Then I came to the sort of thing I always hope to avoid. Steep slippery narrow paths with leaves and other debris. I almost turned back but carefully navigated down. The details... well... I'll just let you imagine what it took to get to here. It WAS NOT very easy. That's for sure.

Otabi Fall From Above

The view is obscured by some trees unfortunately. I don't mind. This view was great. 50 meters of water falling. I even climbed down farther to get out on the rocks by the fall. It was nice just sit there and look into the basin below. Oh look it's me and you can see down to where I was earlier. Pretty nifty right? Don't worry I was happy. I just had to look suave for the photo.

Always Another Way Up

On the way back toward the car I took a detour up some path by that shrine I had passed earlier. I thought it was a main route but it really didn't end up going anywhere. I went up some pretty treacherous terrain. Mostly wet rocks and things I didn't want to go back down. I thought I would end up on the main road. But as things got more precarious I just had to settle and go back down. I safely made it. That's great because I made some awesome hamburgers when I got home. Good for me, good for me.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Afternoon Boulder Hopping and Some Hoping

Had one class today. My life can't get much worse than that. But with a warm afternoon and sunshine there was no question where I was headed after I got home. I almost laid down for awhile after lunch but that is afternoon over territory. I wanted to go out anyway so it wasn't very difficult to push myself out the door.

I have had my mind set on a valley about 30km north from my house. After finding an obscure waterfall there with some guiding of a fellow enthusiast last month, I noticed the valley might hold some other secrets. I appreciate that the valley remains largely unnoticed. This means I can find things others may not have discovered. I'm still searching for a place off the beaten path that can be something of my own. I'm not sure this valley will be that as there is still a large amount to explore.

Valleys can be problematic to explore if there are waterfalls along the way with steep drop offs. This makes it next to impossible to continue up the valley along the water without taking a steep detour back up the valley sides. I thought I might run into this problem today as the stream area of the valley is almost entirely hidden by trees and foliage so I had no idea what I was getting in to. I stashed my car before the start of the forestry road and quickly found a somewhat dry stream of rocks and boulders I could descend. The elevation change is a couple hundred feet or more. From the forest road it is a long way down. When I got to the bottom I was pleased to see rocks and boulders of all sizes littered around the stream. Years of weathering and erosion has left very smooth and contoured rocks.

This is perfect for hiking up the valley. One can literally skip and jump from one rock to the next. You can make a path of your own choosing depending on what the rocks have laid out for you. I like this problem solving aspect. The best part is that there are so many boulders in this valley that it's rather easy to navigate without too many difficult situations. I'm constantly thinking in my mind that I need to be extra careful. I'm carrying my camera. Don't slip and fall off any rocks. I should really be thinking about not hurting myself though. Today nobody knew I was down there. That is a much worse thought. I imagined what would happen if I broke something and had to crawl to the top of the valley. Then somehow get back to the car and find help. Oh, I have a cell phone so I don't need to be that careful, right?

Dime A Dozen Water Hole

There are a number of such water holes along the route up the valley. This would make for a nice little swimming spot in the summer time. It isn't quite the swimming pool-esque spot like Niko but these are unknown places. Who knows when the last time a human actually swam in these water holes. I'm always on the lookout for these. I'm sure many that have been to Niko would rather go there than a place like this. However, Niko is too easy to access. I like some difficulty and secrecy with my waterfalls if I'm going to go swimming.

Walk of Faith

In the middle of my boulder hopping I came upon two very old bridges linked by one huge rock. I'm sure they were safe to cross but from the look of it I didn't want to try. It wasn't so surprising to see that someone had built this in such a place. After all there were signs of human activity along the valley from various tubing and pipes coming and going from unknown directions. These siphon off water for irrigation and such. It's fairly common to see black PVC tubing running along streams in the countryside for this purpose. Now that I got back home, though, I wonder where the western path from the bridge went. That picture is looking east and went back up the valley to the forestry road. The western direction had a path that went up into the hills. There is no telling what might be up that route. Gardens of produce from lost Eden, treasure, monkey experiments gone horribly wrong, a crazy old man thinking he will live forever.

The Pecrarious Path

As it was mentioned earlier, traversing valleys can lead to situations where one can no longer hop boulders to get to the next level so to speak. Maybe you can infer why I said "some hoping" in my blog post title. I was hoping not to reach a dead end. I came close to it though. There was literally nowhere to go to get up a narrow elevation change. A small ledge rested to my right and looked far too tight to be of any good. But not wanting to cut my hike short and hike through the hillsides I inched up to the ledge, got down on my hands and knees, and began to fell my way along. At one point I thought to leave my bag behind as it was getting in the way. I felt very vulnerable on this ledge. It was mossy and somewhat steep off the sides. It was the one time during the day (and a few minutes prior when I almost slipped trying to build a bridge of stones) that I felt a surge of adrenaline from my body asking itself why I was putting myself in danger. In the picture to the left you can see the ledge. This was looking back after having made it by safely and down to another rock. I then took this picture and thought, "All in a days work of Blaine hiking."

Upper Water Hole

Several minutes later I came to what was really a dead end. Not only was it impossible to get up the sides of this little cascade, there was a dam sitting 100 feet behind it. This was another pretty deep water hole. I would like to have a very warm day to leisurely walk and hop up the valley exploring the three or four water holes. This would require swimming in each of them. In fact this dead end seemed kind of nice because it was open with rocks you could sun bathe on. Not that I want to tan but after a cold dip in the mountain water hot rocks in the warm sun do wonders.

I reckon I explored less than 1/4 of the valley today. I'll be back to see what lies on the other side of the dam (just a large wall that retains rain during strong storms). Can I hope for a natural water slide somewhere? Yes I can.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

City Went, Stuff Get

On Thursday we made a batch of cookies at school. I was nervous to make them because working with an unknown oven is suspect. I think the ovens without heating elements (convection-esque) will bake a bit a differently. We loaded up the balls of cookie dough onto a baking sheet. At first I suggested only making 9 cookies because I knew they would spread around. However, I don't think I was clear enough on that aspect because my companions filled the tray full of dough globs. I figured the worst that could happen is it would turn into one big cookie. Well it was worse than that as the cookies didn't cook very well and came out like pancakes. I felt my reputation being rammed into a blast furnace. To salvage the failure I made two more trays of cookies which came out well. The 1st graders ate them all and it appeared everyone enjoyed them. Good for us!

I also happened to contract some sort of cold. I thought it was just allergies (which part of it is) but my nose has been dripping like crazy and I felt a bit sick on Saturday. I went down to the city anyway to see some middle school students play in a softball tournament. The team is comprised of students at the two schools I visit. One school is too small to have their own full team. I was rather excited to go and had been telling the students all week I was going. They were confused why I wanted to go. Uhh I don't even want to go there... (rolls eyes).

In the first inning they went down 0 to 4 and in the subsequent innings scored no runs while the other team hammered them into the ground like circus tent posts. One thing I found admirable about my schools' team is that they rotated players in and out so more people got turns to play. However, I was completely disgusted by some of the students/parents from my main middle school. They were laughing at one kid on the team because he missed a catch or let a ball get past him in the outfield. It was rather jarring and made me upset. They were literally jeering and cracking up at him. The kid who made the mistakes didn't deserve that. Others made mistakes but they didn't act like that toward them. But probably because they are friends with each other. The game ended at the fifth inning because the other team had scored too many points. I had wanted to see a whole game! I'll be sure to attend another soon.

As the game finished much earlier than I had planned for, I went to find a home store or some place I could buy some charcoal briquettes. I was rather agitated on Friday because I couldn't get the regular wood charcoal to ignite properly and therefore I couldn't cook my hamburgers properly. I had to resort to the stove to finish them off. I surely placed blame on the charcoal but maybe it was just my technique to get it started that failed. With charcoal and a gel lighter fluid paid for, I went over to used a bookstore next door to kill sometime before I could contact a friend. This ended up being one of the best parts of the day as I found a very recent guide to the 88 temple pilgrimage in English for half price. I debated a few moments but realized I would probably buy it later anyway. It gets me excited when I browse through it. If you are unfamiliar with what I'm talking about please look here.

The rest of the afternoon was rather nice. I took my friend to a bike shop, stopped in at Uniqlo, and visited a record shop. I enjoyed the company as most of my city excursions are alone. Plus, he was happy to be able to hit up those stores. We had talked about hanging out that evening but I was feeling sickly and wanted to get home. It was for the best. I somehow went to the grocery store and meandered around for what seemed like an eternity. Escaping before the doom of the dinner rush hour I was safely home once again. I had to force myself to bed, however, because my 2am departure for the mountains was looming closer and closer.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Existence at the Elementary Level

The first of the month brings the wonderful (depending on how you look at it) kindergarten lesson. At this age level it is difficult to do foreign language instruction because those kids think you are saying weird things incorrectly in Japanese. I do like how kids can think of the most random things unrelated to anything we are talking about.

I settled on a wonderful rock, paper, scissors battle for the beginning of class. During my brief explanation of the corresponding elements from Japanese to English one kid randomly interjected in Japanese, "What is kaizoku in English!?" Another two or three kids joined in with his question to which I could only but help chuckle to myself. Kaizoku is the word for pirate. Why were these kids asking me about the translation of pirate? But do we really need to care? Nope, pirates are sufficiently cool as long as you have were raised in the family of internet culture. I wonder how many Japanese kids favor ninjas over pirates merely for the fact one is native to their culture. This could be some interesting research!

Kids love rock, paper, scissors no matter the age. Japanese kids are no exception as it reigns supreme everywhere. It's even better when you get them to yell rock, paper, scissors vehemently in English. Well, until you have to tell them to tone it down a notch. The kindergarten kids were having a blast battling. I probably should have stopped there but I complicated the game times a billion by introducing bear, karate, gun as an alternative version. The kids had a hard time wrapping their minds around that one. The teachers couldn't understand why karate would beat the gun either. Yo, how does a freaking piece of paper beat a rock? I'm sure that rock could tear that paper back into shreds for pulp. So before you question watch some action movies and tell me how often hand combat allows someone to disarm a gun wielding foe. In fact I think karate beating a gun seems more logical than paper over rock. Oh such first world problems we deal with.

Lunch time was filled with the trials of female travel mistakes. I wouldn't say this is an isolated condition but why is it that the female species seems inclined to do some crazy stuff? Oh maybe they are just crazy. (just kidding you feminists out there)

During the 5th grade lesson they did a mock shopping activity as they have been learning colors and clothing. Their simple dialogue was to ask a fellow student if they had a certain color of clothing for sale to which the student would respond yes or no. This was a frantic barrage of kids handling money and little picture cards of clothing with sonic booms of volume. I could hardly hear myself think. I didn't have any money myself but I somehow managed to get a pink dress from one of the students. This was used wisely as a decoy for my ensuing shady practices. While asking if one girl had pink pants, I showed a picture of the pink dress I had to divert her attention. I then pilfered some money from her open stack of cash. She was oblivious to the whole charade. Sometimes I feel like a snake oil salesman at heart but that's only because I want to be called a charlatan and because that's a nice word. I think later on I tried to steal some cash from another student and was caught so I was branded a thief by several of the girls. To regain my legitimacy I made a transaction and used this girl to vouch for my honesty with those who threw allegations of theft at me. And you thought this was just English class, hah!

The secretary suggested I buy doughnuts when the bread salesman came around so I took her advice and got one lemon frosted doughnut. The most surprising part was when she also recommended I make the doughnut cold by placing it in the refrigerator. This sounded great as I believed myself when I thought I had never done this. Around 4pm we took part in the eating of cold doughnuts. After I took my first bite I realized I used to buy those chocolate gem doughnuts and put them in the refrigerator to keep them from getting gooey. Regardless, it was still tasty. I even learned that the secretary was quite the Uno player back in the day. My only quip with Uno is that it falls closely into the realm of uncontrolled strategy like board games with dice. Can someone really be good at Uno? Probably if you are lucky. I look forward to playing with her and some of the other teachers someday. But I'm not holding my breath for when that might happen.

To top things off, one teacher had a run in with a cockroach in the kitchen area. I thought a kid was running through the hall and fell down by the sounds I heard. No, it was just one of the teachers fleeing the kitchen and collapsing to the ground in terror from the unexpected emergence of that hideous creature. Another teacher came over and saved the day and killed it. She is a real champ. She's got the gall for many things. She even has delectable tooth paste flavors for after lunch teeth brushing. Japan cultural curiosity, lots of teeth brushing for lots of bad teeth. What gives? My most frightening memory was one kid at a kindergarten. He had black stubs of baby teeth in what looked like rotten gums. Must have been eating soft foods too early or something. Why didn't his parents DO something? It was harrowing to look at, much less think about it.

Time to look up how to make marshmallows. I think smores are calling my name this time of year.

Sunday, October 2, 2011


My living space fell into ruins the past couple of weeks. It's merely a monthly trend of mine. Things get really tidy and nice. Then they digress into stacks of papers, dirty dishes, clothes, and whatever else amasses. Some of the more disgusting parts of the day were finding some slices of cheese still in their packages beneath a table of mine. They didn't smell but didn't look very appetizing either.

I also happened to spill melted butter a few weeks back. Even though I cleaned it up, mostly, some areas where it had spilled were growing mold. There was also mold growing all over the table in many random areas. I don't know what it is about this place but mold grows so easily. Never seemed like that would happen back home. Maybe there is just a lot more nasty stuff stuff in the air or my place is ancient.

One thing that bothers me is when the kitchen becomes unusable due to stacks of unwashed dishes and general filth. Yet, I let it become like this so I'm living a paradox of sorts. The best part of watching dishes today was that I found a stream online of the Nebraska and Wisconsin football game. I haven't seen college football literally in over a year. While I wasn't watching that much it was still nice to hear the commentary and look over every now and then and enjoy some amazing plays.

I managed to get the whole house cleaned up and organized so that meant I could move on to my real goal for the day, making a cheesecake. I've never made cheesecake but for some reason I had the strongest urge to try. Well, I did see a picture of one on someone's facebook page and got to thinking it might be nice to make one so yeah... Before I could make the cheesecake I had to make the dulce de leche. This makes me think of Alli because of those cookies in Chile she likes. They have this in them. Now there is a lot of controversy on the proper way to make dulce de leche. I chose to stick to a relatively simple plan as I didn't want to spend 3 or 4 hours nursing a can of condensed milk on the stove. Rather I used the oven and a water bath for about an hour to make the dulce de leche. I then moved on to making the rest of the cheesecake.

I baked the graham cracker crust a little too long and almost started to burn. After cooling a bit the smell was better and I decided it might be okay. I then whipped up the cheesecake batter. I should have let the cream cheese become room temperature but I was impatient. I later looked up some tips for making cheesecake and it said over mixing the cream cheese because it's cold can make the cake lumpy. I'll remember that for next time. So I poured the batter into the pan and then added spoonfuls of dulce de leche randomly on the surface. I then swirled it into the batter with the spatula.

Cheesecake in the raw

As you can see it looks rather tasty as it is. I then baked it for about 45 minutes until the middle was still a little wobbly but the outer edges were more firm. I then shut the heat off and let it sit inside the oven for another hour to cool. I then wrapped it and put it in the refrigerator but soon realized moisture would condensate on the plastic wrap and drip down on the cake. I didn't want that so I uncovered it and used paper towels to blot any moisture off. I then returned it for a nice long sleep overnight. Tomorrow I shall sample the cheesecake and see how successful I was with no prior knowledge of cheesecake making.

I can't wait.