Renfest 1 2014

Arrr Matey, Time to Plunder Treasure at the RenFest!

For our second venture to the Texas RenFest we chose the Pirate Weekend and what fun it was!  And in picking an earlier weekend we had our fingers crossed it wouldn’t be as cold as the first time we went.  We still had the set up with the tent, air mattress and electric blanket.  I’m a high end camper.  Then we lucked out the second night as friends who joined us then had a heater safe for tents.  Score!

I had fun picking out my costumes.  How often do you have the chance to be a saucy pirate?  Without getting strange looks?  This was my costume on the first day.

Renfest 1 2014

It is so fun wandering round people watching.  For the most part the costumes are great.  Though this year it seemed that Games of Thrones was popular.  Unfortunately some thought dressing like the unsullied was a good idea.  Just the leather loin clothe and face mask.  Um, no.  Not a good idea!  Saturday was the best for costumes.  For some reason, a lot of people who went on Sunday were in modern clothes.  No fun!

Renfest 2 2014

Aside from food served on sticks and decent beer we go for the shows.  Tartanic is a great one of bagpipes and drums.  I dare you to sit still through that show.  Fabulous music.

Renfest 3 2014

We see Iris and Rose twice when we go to RenFest.  First their regular bawdy show then we go to the last on on Sunday as it is interactive with people contributing jokes, limericks, and the sort.  Here is the thing, I am always amazed at how many people bring their kids to the RenFest.  They do have things for kids but most adults are there to let their hair down which means some costumes are holy moly, and many of the shows are adult themed.  This doesn’t stop some parents though.  All the shows that are not kid friendly will remind the audience of this.  They say this is not for kids.  I have lost count of how many parents just sit there.  And you’ll see some kids just squirm.  I believe that kids need sex education but this is not the way to go about doing it!  But Iris and Rose, if you are old enough, is a must see.  They make your sides hurt.  :)

Renfest 5 2014

The second day of pirating was a bit warmer so that was the corset day!  Our friends were concerned with my Casper the Ghost skin so I got sprayed with very cold sunscreen.  But it did the trick.

Renfest 6 2014

Adam Crack is another fun show.  They added some things to the show so it’s not all whip cracking but still fun.  I would not want to be the assistant because she would hold things in her mouth that he would split with the whip.  No thank you!

Renfest 4 2014

Fireworks are always a big draw.  The first night we sat in the cold to watch them.  The second night we sat by our campfire and looked on from a distant with all our layers on.  The days were warm but once that sun went down, brrr.

One show I didn’t get a picture of was Arsene Dupin.  He is a silent juggler, comedian, and magician from Paris.  He’s genius and always makes us laugh when we go see him.  He doesn’t speak until the end when he introduces himself.  Just an amazing talent.

We’ll be going in a few years again, it’s always a blast.  And I’ll admit, I love dressing up!

Texas Fun 5 2014

Having Fun Deep in the Heart of Texas

My husband and I had a much needed getaway to Texas for the Texas RenFest this past week.  We’re exhausted after it all but it was good to have some fun and let our hair down.  It was also nice to catch up with friends.

Our friends have three horses and a pony and they are characters.  The funniest thing to discover was that there is a 1000lb horse who is an overgrown Murphy.  It’s one thing to see the antics in a 50lb dog but quite another to see it in a horse!

Texas Fun 7 2014

You have to be careful because he’ll leap about with all four hoofs off the ground.  But he is really sweet and like Murphy he just wants to be loved.  Once he is comfortable with you he loves his face rubbed.  I was doing that and he slipped into neutral with just enough energy to try to nibble my ear.  Just like Murphy!

Texas Fun 5 2014

These horses will do anything for a treat, especially carrots.  They see the orange sticks and it doesn’t take long for them to circle round.  At one point Major had carrot orange lips that matched his coat!

Texas Fun 1 2014

There is all sorts of wildlife including this road runner.  Of course my husband quipped it was running from the Wiley Coyote.  Sad to say it took me a second to cotton on.  I must be slipping!

There are bits of Texas that show a kind of raw rough beauty.  I can’t lie, I prefer the rolling hills of the UK or the gorgeous colours of autumn in New England, the lush green, and the four seasons.  The crsipiness of the landscape I find harsh but it gives rise to spots of stark beauty.  This tree was about 200 years old when the drought killed it.

Texas Fun 4 2014

Fortunately most survive and provide small canopies here and there, shelter from the harsh sun.

Texas Fun 2 2014

One spot on their property I’ve never really noticed but should have is under the canopy of a very old and large live oak.  They set up a cosy area for relaxing and grilling.  It’s fabulous!  It’s like an adult fort to hide out in.  I want one.  :)

Texas Fun 6 2014

Of course we found time for good drink and food.  One restaurant we went to is called Sway in Ausin and it’s a modern Thai restaurant.  The food was out of this world amazing.  I had raw oysters for the first time and it had a spicy citrus cold “broth” with crispy shallots and micro greens.  I couldn’t get enough.  And their curries were very spicy but absolutely balanced in their flavour.  I will be trying to recreate some of the dishes.  I didn’t get any photos because I spaced but the lighting wasn’t good enough and they would have been washed out with the flash.

Texas Fun 8 2014

As icing on the cake on a great trip we enjoyed this excellent French hard cider to finish our holiday.  I’ll have to see if we can get it here in NH at our liquor store.

We got back very late Tuesday night and it was back to reality yesterday but it was great to see the kids and now it’s back to the everyday routine.  Until our next adventure.  :)

Eggplant oven roasted tomato sauce 5 2014

Aubergine with Oven Roasted Tomatoes and Steak

I found myself in a bit of a produce pickle the other day.  I went slightly overboard in buying produce forgetting that the kids would be off camping for the weekend.  So I was faced with the task to get rid of the produce in meals so it wouldn’t go bad.

My son loves the zucchini/courgette flans so I thought it would be great to do a zucchini/courgette side as a treat for him.  And I bought an aubergine as the kids requested an Italian meal.

For the zucchini/courgette side I used the spiral cutter again.  So much easier with the softer produce!  Very quick.  :)

Eggplant oven roasted tomato sauce 1 2014

Set that aside and chop up some aubergine.

Eggplant oven roasted tomato sauce 2 2014

In a skillet melt some butter and sear the steak to brown on both sides then finish off in the oven to the desired doneness.  In the skillet add some avocado oil.  Once heated add the aubergine and saute for a few minutes.  Then add some oven roasted tomatoes and a few cloves of chopped garlic.  Add a bit of white balsamic vinegar.

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While the sauce cooks set up another skillet and heat up some more avocado oil.  Toss in the zucchini/courgette spirals.  Season with sea salt, pepper, and a few splashes of white balsamic vinegar.

Eggplant oven roasted tomato sauce 4 2014

Slice the steak and stop with the aubergine sauce.  Grate fresh parmesan cheese and serve.

Eggplant oven roasted tomato sauce 5 2014

I even liked the zucchini/courgette which is unheard of!  But I noticed my son wasn’t touching the zucchini/courgette.  Apparently the only way he likes it is in the flan.  Sigh.  Fortunately my daughter couldn’t get enough so it didn’t go to waste. Sometimes it is hard to keep up!

Sweet potato pasta 6 2014

Sweet Potato “Pasta”

There are so many food fads swirling round, one of which is to use veg as a pasta substitution.  As I’m in the middle of a gluten free month it made sense to hop on this particular bandwagon.  Not sure how this experiment is going.  The initial pain free days have started to slide back.  And I did trip up here and there because there are hidden sources of wheat seemingly everywhere.  Including vodka!  I knew most vodka was grain distilled but I spaced it.  Now I’ve switched to potato vodka but they don’t really have flavoured potato vodka so the next step is to figure out how to flavour my own.

My sister gave me a spiral cutter for veg this year.  It’s a fun gadget for things like curly fries.  And it’s perfect to make “pasta” with the sweet potato.

Sweet potato pasta 1 2014

There is a bit of elbow grease needed to do this with sweet potato as it is pretty firm.  Actually my husband helped me out with this bit.  :)

Sweet potato pasta 2 2014

In the skillet heat up some olive oil and soften a small chopped onion and a few cloves of garlic.

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Add in chopped pepper and mushrooms.  After a couple of minutes add the sweet potato.

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Add a cup of chicken stock and a cup of tomato sauce of your choice.  We had some arrabiata sauce to use up.  Stir well and cover to cook the potato.

Sweet potato pasta 5 2014

While this was cooking I did up some chicken for the non seafood lovers and some salmon for the rest of us.  I kept it simple and baked the salmon.  I also roasted potatoes as a side dish.

Sweet potato pasta 6 2014

I got a thumbs up all round even from my daughter’s friend who isn’t a fan, like me, of sweet potato.  :)  And I have to say this was even better after a day or so for leftovers.  The flavours really came together.

Butternut squash 3 2014

Roasted Butternut Squash Curry Soup

Squash is another group of food I don’t like.  I know, I have a long list!  But a few weeks ago we had a family get together and my sister made a curry squash soup.  I tried  it and liked it!  But she didn’t really have a recipe.  I swear it’s genetic.  We are lucky my Grammy wrote her recipes down because the rest of us have trouble making the same thing twice.  In fact my blog has ended up being a great thing for me.  When my family asks me to make something I’ve made before I bring it up on my iPad and away I go.

I know the soup I made is different from my sister’s because the soup she made was green and mine isn’t.  So I used hers as an inspiration.

Butternut squash soup 1 2014

I thought roasting it would be fabulous so I sliced it in half, drizzled it with olive oil, and seasoned it with sea salt and pepper.

Butternut squash soup 2 2014

Roast in the oven at 350F/175C until it has softened and turned a nice golden colour.

Butternut squash 3 2014

In a saucepan saute finely chopped garlic and scallions in olive oil.  I used about 3 large garlic cloves and a cup or so of the scallion.

Butternut squash soup 3 2014

Once the garlic and scallions have softened scoop out the squash and add it to the saucepan.

Butternut squash soup 4 2014

I added 2 cups of chicken stock.  Add more or less depending on the consistency you prefer.  Add 6-8 ounces of coconut milk. The rest of this recipe completely depends on the taste you want.  Some prefer to have a lot of squash flavour.  Me?  Not so much.  :)  We really enjoy red thai curry flavour so I added several spoonfuls as a start.

Butternut squash soup 6 2014

I continued by adding a few sprinkles of red pepper flakes, a couple of teaspoons of cumin, and a healthy portion of hot curry powder.  Season with sea salt and pepper to taste.  I wanted to keep this rustic so I didn’t blend the soup.

Butternut squash 7 2014

It was very warming and now I can say I have one squash dish I like!  Question is, am I bold enough to try another?  :)

Good Cop Bad Cop…

It’s truly been eye opening the past few days in the aftermath of the KSC rioting.  Not the pumpkinfest rioting as that didn’t happen but because the students participating have hijacked #pumpkinfest people nationwide have connected the two.  Including the media.  Good Morning America is one example of the outlets continually saying that Keene State College had the pumpkinfest.  They didn’t.  I did tweet @GMA saying they need to get their facts straight but no response.

I also tweeted @drgoddess randomly.  I was just trying to clarify that they were two separate events and how I found it upsetting that #pumpkinfest was turning negative.  It led to a very interesting exchange.  Which is extremely difficult to do on Twitter when you are limited to 140 characters and when you add in tag names it gets limited even more.

I was coming from the point of view that the cops did a fabulous job stopping the riot from spilling into the festival.  I didn’t realise until the middle of the exchange that people are comparing this with Ferguson and the police response there.  It was basically if white kids riot they get tear gassed, if black kids riot they get killed.  This rocked me back.

As a disclaimer, I don’t have much faith in police as a general rule.  My experiences with them have not been positive.  Ranging from them royally screwing up my Grammy’s murder investigation, to not caring that my car along with several others got broken in, to here in Keene when one cop stood with me in my front garden with my kids looking on and basically saying it was on me to come up with solutions against those breaking the law, not him.  I’ve seen two incidences where cops stepped up.  The first was again in our front garden in the middle of the night when a drunk guy was beating his girlfriend.  They came quickly and dealt with it.  The second time was this past weekend.

This is a video taken by, I think, a student.  There are a few examples of why this is different from Ferguson.

First, in this country there is a gross disparity between how blacks are treated and how whites are treated.  This is a valid argument that needs to desperately be resolved.  Stealing cigarettes and causing trouble by walking down the street should never end in a death sentence.  And if a young man is put into the back of a cruiser and for some reason does go crazy, instead of shooting him, leave the cruiser.  And the Ferguson police lost further credibility by trying to arrest journalists for reporting on the story.  Sadly this scenario happens too often in our big cities.

However, I honestly don’t see that happening here.  Even though we are a very small city we are quite diverse.  Not only do we have whites and African Americans we also have Indian, Asian, African, and European.  We have poor and rich folk going about our business without too many incidences.  The vast majority of us look at character and how you treat others rather than what you are wearing or what you look at.

In the video the cameraman seemed to start off by trying to show that the police were being excessive as the police were lined up in riot gear.  He asked one student about it and the guy said no there were people throwing things which is why the police were there.

Then it shows an African American man approach the police.  He did put his hands up briefly which is smart for anyone approaching riot police.  He went up to the police, spoke then shook hands with one of the cops.  He turned round and said that the cops need people to leave the street.

There are a few minutes when the cops went and shot off some tear gas and pepper balls.  There was a white guy taken down, then a bunch of drunk kids bemoaning the abuse.  Honestly these kids wouldn’t know reality if it hit them.  Then you see some of the cops taking the time to talk to those who asked them questions about why they are doing what they are doing and what they are using.

This is hardly an over the top abuse of power.  In fact, they did an awesome job keeping the injuries to a minimum and preventing a bigger disaster that would have happened if the riots spilled into Main St.

This has provided many teachable moments to our children as well.  I was talking about my twitter exchange at dinner with the kids.  My 10 year old son was confused.  He couldn’t understand why blacks would be treated so differently than whites.  In our household we don’t tolerate racism or bigotry against anyone who is different than we are.  And at school he has friends of all colours and a few different countries.  So we had an interesting conversation that has continued since with him trying to wrap his head around the fact we aren’t all treated the same.  A lot of adults wonder the same thing.

Pumpkinfest 3 2014

Keene PumpkinFest vs Keene State Rioting

It was a tough weekend in our town and many of us are very upset and hopped up as they say.  We host the annual Pumpkinfest on Main St.  Many people put in long hours to make this work and there have been several world records for the number of lit pumpkins including last year with a count of 30581.  It’s a point of pride.  Two years ago we had HGTV in town and the world got to see what a fabulous community event it is.

Pumpkinfest 2 2014

Every year the school kids carve pumpkins at school as well as home, local businesses donate pumpkins as well as carve their own, and families wheel their pumpkins downtown and find good spots for them.  Friday there were good spirits as we set up our creations.  I found a good spot for ours.

Pumpkinfest 3 2014

They set up the student pumpkins in Central Square.  Of all the places that you don’t mess with, that is the spot.  Problem is there has been a growing problem with the college kids in town.  Please understand when I talk about the college students I do not mean all of them, in fact, some were hunkered down in their rooms too scared to leave.  But there is a growing faction of those that think it’s fun to cause trouble.  It started Friday night with drunks smashing pumpkins.

We like to take the dogs down the morning of when the streets are blocked off and it’s quiet.  We noticed a few pumpkins here and there smashed.  Even the top of my husband’s pumpkin was missing.  One woman was very upset because she saw that her 5 year old grandson’s pumpkin was destroyed in Central Square.  It didn’t bode well.

Pumpkinfest 1 2014

The best that I can see the perfect storm happened this way.  First, the college is spineless in holding the students accountable for their actions.  I’m not surprised at how bad it got.  They set up a town-gown committee after incidences last year and all that is happened is the decision to take another year to work on this before deciding what to do.

Second, there is a company in Boston that searches out colleges to bring people in to rave.  It’s called FinnaRage that sets up concerts and parties at colleges.  There are videos showing things getting out of control at previous events but the CEO insists that is not what they are about.  For me the proof is in the pudding.

Third, our town councillors knew they were coming but didn’t prevent it.  They were pretty toothless to be honest.

By 3pm the police had to be in riot gear and had the tear gas out as the students and their out of town guests were drunk and throwing cans and bottles at people.  By the end of the night there was a helicopter, swat teams, and responders from 3 states up against the mob raging, smashing pumpkins, destroying cars including flipping one over.

Pumpkinfest 4 2014

Here are a few things I want to clear up because social media, the national news, and yes the international news have the facts wrong.

First of all Keene State College does not host the PumpkinFest.  The town of Keene does and many hours of hard work are put into making it safe. And it was safe, there wasn’t any rioting during PumpkinFest.  In fact I was downtown at 3pm and none of us knew what was happening a few blocks away.  The police and fire departments kept them away from the families and visitors.  The kids got to check out the pumpkins in their costumes and have their fill of cotten candy and fried dough.

Second, Keene State has a lot to answer for.  Their first response was that it was out of towners.  Yes there were a lot of out of towners but they were invited by the students.  The college is trying to say it wasn’t on campus.  The streets that this happened on included the campus.  It’s time this stops, it gets worse each year.  Not only is it unfair to the residents of our town but unfair to the students that are actually there to learn.

Third, no it is not cool to flip cars and rage.  However, it is cool the idiots keep posting with their names fessing up to what they did.  Will make it easy to catch them and hopefully get them charged? I hope so. I mean really, how did these people get into college?

Pumpkinfest 5 2014

It upsets me that these hooligans highjacked the #pumpkinfest to use on the social media as it sullies all the good that happens.

While we didn’t get a new world record this year I would call the festival a success.  There were fabulous and creative pumpkins, adorable costumes on the kids and some scary ones on adults, and loads of volunteers who love our community.  That’s what I want #pumpkinfest to be full of.

Roasted bananas 2 2014

Roasted Bananas With Caramel and Chocolate

We still have a crazy amount the salted spiced rum caramel that I used for the apple bars.  So I have to either freeze it or use it.  The kids would of course vote to use it up as quickly as possible then have me make more.  :)

While watching an old season of Top Chef last week I saw that one of the chefs did a dessert that had roasted bananas.  I was sucked in with my iPad so I was playing games at the time and didn’t really get what they made but the roasted bananas stuck with me.

I don’t eat bananas because of the texture.  It makes me gag but I like the flavour of bananas in things such as banana bread.  My family likes bananas so I thought it would be fun to try something new.

This dessert was super easy because the caramel was already made.  Preheat the oven to 350F/175C.

Slice the bananas and brush with peanut oil and top with brown sugar.

Roasted bananas 1 2014

While these are roasting heat up the caramel and melt some chocolate.  When the bananas have softened and the brown sugar has caramelised a bit remove from the oven.  Drizzle caramel on the dish and place the bananas on top.  Drizzle the chocolate and some more caramel over the bananas.  Sprinkle chopped peanuts and top with whipped cream.

Roasted bananas 2 2014

This was a huge hit with the kids.  And then I put them over the top by giving them some more caramel straight up.  I loved the flavour but I can’t get round the texture of the banana.  Sigh.

Roasted mushroom and parsnip soup 5 2014

Roasted Mushroom and Parsnip Soup

The gluten free experiment is going well.  I’m starting to feel better with a few bumps along the way but I figure that is normal.  I am discovering there are some missed opportunities  when searching out gluten free snacks and the like.  It is not a guarantee that you will get something that tastes good.  I tried a breakfast wrap at a local bagel place and the gluten free wrap could be best described as wet cardboard.  Some of the tortilla chips aren’t much better.  I tried one type of cracker that said right on the box how important taste was.  My husband said I made quite the face trying to eat those!

I have found a couple of things I like and fortunately we’re having success at home.  Otherwise I’d starve or at the very least be very cranky.  And that just won’t do!

With the cooler weather settling in I was in the mood for a quick soup with a lot of flavour.  Roasted mushrooms and parsnips fit the bill.

Roasted mushroom and parsnip soup 1 2014

Slice up mushrooms of your choice and a few parsnips, drizzle with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper.  Roast in an oven at 350F/175C until parsnips are cooked and golden.

Roasted mushroom and parsnip soup 2 2014

Melt 1-2 tablespoons of butter in a saucepan and add 3-5 cloves of garlic chopped and some fresh thyme.

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Once the garlic has softened add the mushrooms and parsnips.

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As I was only making this for two I added 2 cups of veg bouillon and 1/2 cup of dry white wine.  Bring to a simmer.  Add salt and pepper if needed.  Serve with fresh grated parmesan cheese.

Roasted mushroom and parsnip soup 5 2014

Of course if you aren’t doing gluten free then cheesy toast would be perfect with this.  :)


Sweet potato apple puree 3 2014

Sweet Potato, Apple, and Pork

With trying to branch out in our cooking and the gluten free experiment I have to get creative in how I use the ingredients.  That includes trying to use veg that I really don’t like.  Being a supertaster I’ve been limited because things like squash, sweet potato, zucchini, etc can be bitter to me.  Fortunately I’m having success in making these ingredients palatable for me but still letting some of that flavour that my family likes through.  Which is great because I’d love to be more seasonal with the local foods.  Kind of makes me wish I tried this before!

There was some sweet potato and rutabaga in the fridge that needed to be used up plus a bin full of apples.  I chopped up the sweet potato and rutabaga and covered with two cups chicken stock and 1 cup water.  Cook on a high simmer until they are about half cooked.

Sweet potato apple puree 1 2014

Add some sage and lemon thyme and one chopped apple.  Finish cooking the sweet potato and rutabaga.

Sweet potato apple puree 2 2014

While this is cooking, brown the pork in a skillet and finish it by baking.  Mix some olive oil, lemon juice, and salt and pepper.  Set aside and chop up some mustard greens.  In a food processor spoon in the sweet potato, rutabaga, and apple leaving the liquid in reserve.  Add 1/4 cup of dry white wine.  Pulse while adding the cooking liquid a bit at a time until you get the consistency you want.   Layer the pork over the puree and top with the mustard greens.  Dress with the olive oil and lemon.

Sweet potato apple puree 3 2014

Next time I would use a little less rutabaga but we had to use it up.  Other than that I can say I like sweet potato.  In some things.  ;)