2019 was awful for various reasons… some global, some personal. Some ongoing, so TBH I’m not really doing very well at the moment. I’m not typically one for NY resolutions, but feeling a little thoughtful, so here goes:
Avoid distractions and sit down to do hobby stuff at least once a week
Less podcasts and screens, more reading
Shrink my gut: eat less, eat less crap, and hit the treadmill often
Don’t get taken advantage of
Get out of the house more (working from home is great, but you gotta get a change of scenery and socialize once in a while)
Not particularly complex, unique, or detailed, but maybe the action of taking it out of my head and writing it down might make it happen. HNY all.
There are a few things that I’m pretty good at cooking, but this is my “party piece”. It’s got a fairly involved prep (due to the number of ingredients [and having a Korean grocery nearby is very helpful]), but the cook time is only about 10 minutes.
(serves 3-4) Sauce:
2 tablespoons gochujang*
2 tablespoons mirin
1-2 tablespoons gochugaru*
1 curry bouillion cube
1 tablespoon yellow curry powder
(or 2.5 tablespoons if not using curry bouillion cube)
1/2 cup boiling water
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 teaspoon grated ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2-3 chicken breasts (I use equivalent vegetarian “chicken”)
2 cups napa cabbage roughly chopped
1.5 cups green onions (about a bunch and a half) diced
1 small sweet potato
1 small package enokki mushrooms (cut the bottom off and wash)
6 perilla/sesame leaves chopped
8-10 basil leaves chopped
1 cup ddeok (rice cakes [I prefer the disc shapes])
Small amount of shredded, meltable cheese (mozza, cheddar, etc.)
Sesame seeds (garnish)
*There are varying heat levels of gochujang and gochugaru available. You may need to fiddle with the types you use and/or the amounts to find a spice level you’re comfortable with.
Note: There are a lot of ingredients and fairly quick cooking time. It’s a really good idea to prep all the ingredients before you start cooking. Ddeok are usually sold frozen, so thaw (overnight) in the fridge beforehand and then soak in hot water for at least half an hour before you get started.
Step One: Combine all sauce ingredients into a large bowl and mix well. If you’re using the curry bouillion cube, then soften it first by adding it to the boiling water and stirring until smooth.
Step Two: Slice the chicken/protein into strips and add it to the sauce. Stir to coat thoroughly.
Step Three: Roughly chop the cabbage and slice the sweet potato into thin circles. Add a little olive oil to a large skillet/wok, set to medium-low heat and add the sweet potatoes with just a handful of cabbage (for moisture). Cover andlet the potatoes soften for about three minutes; stir to ensure they don’t burn.
Step Four: Add the green onions (I keep a little aside for garnish) and the rest of the cabbage to the now softened potatoes. Stir. Add the chicken/protein and the sauce mixture. Stir to coat everything. Cover and continue cooking over medium-low for five minutes. Sir occasionally.
Step Five: If it looks a bit dry (i.e., starting to stick to pan), then add 1/4-1/2 cup water. Stir.
Step Six: Drain the ddeok, add it to the mixture and stir to coat thoroughly. The sauce should cover the ddeok. Add the mushrooms. Stir. Cover and cook for three to five minutes.
Step Seven: Stir. It should be saucy and thick. If the ddeok is soft (i.e., you can cut it in half with the side of a spoon), then remove from heat. If the ddeok isn’t soft, then cook for another minute or two, then remove from heat. The ddeok should be chewy, not mushy.
Step Eight: Stir in the perilla and basil leaves. Sprinkle with the cheese, the reserved green onions, and the sesame seeds. Cover.
Once the cheese is melted, it’s ready to serve. Use lettuce or cabbage leaves to make a wrap, or serve as is.
(the title is due to the fact that I’m ace at cooking things that use one pot and are brown–chili, curries, etc.)
Sue and I just finished up a two-week road trip, from Winnipeg to New Orleans and back. The total was 7257 km; we essentially followed Hwy 61 (the “blues trail”) down with several stops along the way.
Unusually for me, we didn’t plan a lot of the stops in advance, and tended to book lodging the day before we needed it to have the most flexibility. I did a little research beforehand, just to ensure we had a list of veg/veg-friendly places to eat, as well as some landmarks and attractions to pick from.
I’m including links to places we ate because I know some folks are particularly interested in that, it’s a good reminder for me, and in case any other vegetarians are looking for veg-friendly places in the south. Ditto for places we stayed.
You can probably tell from the descriptions which days had the heavier driving; they tended to consist of just driving and stopping for meals, then crashing at the end of the day. We managed to avoid that being the norm, but there were certainly days like that-especially on the return journey. I know it makes it sound like all we did was eat, but such is the nature of road trips… 🙂
Day 1: Winnipeg to Cedar Rapids
(Manitoba, North Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa)
Got up early and hit the road (4am). This was going to be the toughest day of driving (turned out to be 14 hours), so I wanted to get an early start. I’d rather avoid driving in the dark and rolling in late at night, so it’s worth it to start early.
As is traditional, we got McDonalds drive-thru for road trip breakfast. Then we stopped for the hobbit second breakfast at Randy’s University Diner in Fargo. They serve coffee cake as a breakfast side; can’t say no to that…
Got to Cedar Rapids at around supper time (had dinner at the Black Sheep Social Club). We stayed in an AirBnB in Cedar Rapids. Room in a big, old house—the owner worked nights, so we were pretty much left to ourselves. A big thunderstorm woke us up at 4am. Good job we had turned in at 8:30 (after 14 hours on the road).
Day 2: Cedar Rapids to Memphis
(Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas, Tennessee)
Had breakfast at a trendy coffeeshop Brewhemia, in what looked to be a hipster-ish neighbourhood. The impression we got was that Cedar Rapids was a charming place all-in-all.
Back on the road. Lunch at a food court in an outlet mall outside St. Louis, Missouri. The height of glamour! Dipped into Arkansas for a short while on the way to Memphis, Tennessee.
Rolled into Memphis, and checked in to our AirBnB. This was a one bedroom duplex we had to ourselves. Probably the place we liked the most, out of all the lodgings on the trip. Great neighbourhood, right by the park/zoo, and very handy for getting around.
Went to Central BBQ for dinner. I had a portobello mushroom BBQ sandwich, with coleslaw on the sandwich, which is a Memphis thing, apparently. It was my favourite meal on the trip. So good! Potato salad on the side and the obligatory sweet tea. Sue had mac & cheese, and sweet tea. We must have had gallons of the stuff by the time the trip was done. Sat outside and made friends with a couple of doggos that other customers had.
It was getting hotter the further south we got (surprising nobody); probably in the mid to high 30’s and blue skies the whole time we were in Memphis.
Day 3: Memphis
Crazy hot day – high 30’s, blue skies, bright sunshine.
We went to the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel. From their site: “The museum offers 260 artifacts, more than 40 new films, oral histories, interactive media and external listening posts that guide visitors through five centuries of history—from the beginning of the resistance during slavery, through the Civil War and Reconstruction, the rise of Jim Crow, and the seminal events of the late 20th century that inspired people around the world to stand up for equality.”
It was heavy, and as humbling and emotional as it should be. I did not expect to get as close as we did–inside and outside–to the preserved rooms 306 and 307 and the balcony where MLK Jr. was assassinated. First time on this trip where the hairs on my arms stood on end.
We went for lunch at a vegan restaurant, Imagine Cafe, then to Sun Studio. I’ve never been a big Elvis fan, but you have to recognize his impact, as well as the other artists who recorded here. And I am VERY interested in music history, so this was a must see.
The tour was really good, with the guide obviously enthusiastic about the place and the music of the 50’s and 60’s. Here’s our tour guide playing the piano in the studio:
The studio had changed hands several times since Sam Phillips established it, including at one point being a scuba shop. None of the other businesses had made any changes to the physical space in the studio. In addition to the tiles I noted in the MDQ picture above, the hole in the floor from Bill Black’s double bass is still there, for example.
We headed to Beale Street via Uber (anticipating some drinks and live music), but we didn’t stick around long. Like these popular places can be, it was mostly just kitsch to separate tourists from their money. Bit disappointing.
Was also very hard to find anything to eat for vegetarians. We wound up settling for dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe in desperation (blech!), but in retrospect I wish we’d have gone back to Central BBQ for another mushroom sandwich.
Then we hit the road again. First stop, the Blue and White Restaurant on Highway 61 in Tunica, Mississippi, for lunch. Great food, lovely people (lot’s of “y’all”), but sadly they had just sold out of peach cobbler.
As vegetarians, we generally had no trouble staying fed on the trip. In any larger town/city there are always veg options on menus, if not vegetarian restaurants. In smaller towns, the south has a ton of sides to choose from. Lunch might be Mac & Cheese (a vegetable in the south, apparently) with Turnip Greens and Mexican Corn (which is what I had for lunch at the Blue and White, along with Sweet Tea [natch]).
Then we got to Clarksdale… Famous for being included in the lyrics of many blues standards, having several juke joints, and for being the home of the crossroads where Robert Johnson legendarily sold his soul to the devil. Ostensibly the home of delta blues.
We wandered around town a bit. It’s a very small town, and is feeling the economic hit that lots of small towns are suffering from; many empty storefronts. It also has that quirky, creative feel; it’s home to many artists, musicians, craftspeople, etc. and it shows in its character.
We booked in to our hotel, the Shack Up Inn. Interesting place, as it’s made up of restored shacks, farm outbuildings, and cotton production buildings. Looks like a wreck from the outside, but the lobby, bar/music venue, and rooms have a rustic charm (along with Air Conditioning, Wi-Fi, and other mod cons). The AC was important, as it was 41C when we arrived.
Because we arrived on a Wednesday, there weren’t many options for live music. There are two main clubs in Clarksdale, Red’s Lounge and the Ground Zero Blues Club (owned by Morgan Freeman). Neither had live music, so we opted for Stan Street’s Hambone Art Gallery and Music Venue. It’s a quirky spot, located in a storefront, with a small stage and smaller bar. Stan introduced himself when I bought a beer: “I’m Stan, and this is my joint”.
The music was from Danny Brooks and Lil’ Debi, Torontonians now living in Texas. All this way to the home of the blues, and the music was from Toronto. 🙂
When we got back to the Shack Up Inn, there were about 4-5 frogs on the doorstep.
Day 5: Clarksdale to Vicksburg
History day! Both blues and ACW…
After breakfast at the Rest Haven diner (full of shit talking old guys, like every diner everywhere), we spent most of the day zig-zagging around the back roads of Mississippi, visiting small towns with a mix of blues landmarks and filming locations from O Brother Where Art Thou?. The weather was amazing, blue skies and hot.
Alligator Lake, near the town of Alligator, was where the baptism scene in OBWAT was filmed.
As in “going down to”. Beyond famous in delta blues, as well as the later British blues revival(s).
Little Zion Missionary Baptist Church, Greenwood
The exact location of Robert Johnson’s grave is officially unknown, with at least three grave markers established. This is the most likely, according to recent research.
Just passing through… Although nothing was filmed here, the bank robbery by Babyface Nelson in OBWAT was meant to take place at the Bank of Itta Bena.
Apart from its blues connections, Leland is also the birthplace of Kermit the Frog. Jim Henson went to school in Leland, and there’s a small museum here dedicated to him and the Muppets.
The woman who ran the museum was enthusiastic (and I think a bit lonely; can’t get too many visitors out in rural Mississippi). She seemed to have a deep, and possibly a little disturbing, love for Jim H.
We visited the Vicksburg National Military Park. The battlefields, monuments, and exhibits regarding the Siege of Vicksburg in 1863, as part of the American Civil War.
The high point, and another time when the hair on my arms stood on end, was seeing the USS Cairo up close, What a privilege!
Stopped for lunch at the Cotton Alley Cafe, and wandered over to take a couple of snaps of the Mississippi River (Louisiana on the other side).
…and then crossed over into Louisiana.
Arrived in NOLA. Absolutely crazy drive in, as we managed to hit rush hour and the GPS wanted me to make all kinds of u-turns and freeway changes. We joked that if we had to rely on Sue and a map to navigate with that kind of stress, that would have been it for our marriage. Thanks, GPS!
Made our way over to Gretna, across the river, and checked in to our AirBnB. Bit funny, though. We drove up and said “is this it?”, since it was a garage; which hadn’t been evident from the pictures on the booking. Inside, though, it was great – really high end. Got unpacked and sorted, then headed out by Uber to see the sights.
First stop was Bennachin for dinner. We’d never had West African food before, but this place had great reviews and was veg-friendly, so we gave it a whirl. Nice little place full of African art, and good service. I had Bikai ni Curry (curried eggplant and mushrooms) and Sue had Kone ni Makondo (black-eyed peas with tomatoes and plantains). Good stuff!
Then the bucket list stuff – live jazz! We hit The Maison, on Frenchmen Street (Bourbon St. is, much like Beale St. in Memphis, a tourist trap) for drinks and music.
There was also a small street market on Frenchman that was a bit like Old Market Square in Winnipeg…
Day 7: New Orleans
Breakfast at Tout de Suite Cafe (recommended by our AirBnB host). By this point, Sue was having grits with every breakfast.
We headed out to the Barataria Preserve in the Jean Lafitte National Park for the guided swamp tour. You can pay for swamp tours via private operators, but this one was free through the National Park Service (thanks American taxpayers!) and had good reviews.
After the swamp tour we headed to the French Quarter to check out the market.
Stopped in at Cafe du Monde for beignets (NOLA doughnuts, with icing sugar). I only ate one, someone ate four. Just saying…
but I did have a nice vegan gumbo from Meals from the Heart Cafe in the market. We hung around the market a bit, did some shopping (mostly for the kids), and then headed back to the AirBnB to take it easy.
Went out for Thai food in the evening at a place in Gretna called Banana Blossom. Second best meal of the trip, after the BBQ in Memphis.
Day 8: New Orleans to Grand Isle
Took a trip to the coast at the gulf – if you’re going to go south, then you may as well go all the way south – unfortunately, the weather wasn’t on our side and it rained hard. The drive was interesting, what we could see through the rain, since it’s a series of causeways that connect across the delta.
Once we got to Grand Isle, we were surprised – never seen anything like it before; every house was up on stilts. Like a combination of Canadian cottage country and Thailand.
We made it to the observation deck at the beach in Grand Isle State Park when the skies opened up and we got totally drenched (could have used my $3 poncho!).
Stopped for lunch at a beach restaurant and dried out. On the drive back to NOLA, we stopped at a roadside market and picked up some more gifts for the kids (and I tried boiled peanuts for the first time). Hit up a Mexican restaurant, La Providencia, for dinner.
Day 9: New Orleans to Birmingham
(Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama)
Breakfast at Waffle House. Headed out of New Orleans via the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway, the longest continuous bridge over water in the world (23.8mi/38.4km). Apparently it’s long enough to demonstrate the curvature of the Earth. Take that flat-earthers!
Unfortunately I mucked something up on my dashcam and didn’t manage to capture the video I wanted of it. Ah well.
From Louisiana we travelled back through Mississippi for a while, then into Alabama.
Got into Birmingham a bit too late to try one of the highly-recommended restaurants I wanted to hit, so we made do with pizza from Mellow Mushroom for lunch. Headed to our AirBnB, checked in, and hung out with their doggos. We weren’t really hungry for dinner, so we wound up going out for cake and coffee at Cheesecake Factory. We’d been feeling like we just hadn’t been getting enough pie on this southern tour. 🙂
Day 10: Birmingham to Nashville
We found the Platonic ideal diner in Birmingham. Absolutely the apex of greasy diners like I love. Wound up chatting with folks at the next table and the owner’s father used to play pro football in Montreal, which he told me repeatedly once he found out we were Canadian. Wonderful place!
Didn’t stop, since the time/weather wasn’t on our side, but we drove past the US Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama. From the highway, we could see the Saturn V rocket and the Pathfinder Space Shuttle simulator.
Got into Lynchburg, Tennessee, in the early afternoon for a tour of the Jack Daniel’s distillery. I wasn’t sure how this was going to go, since I’ve had an aversion to JD for the last 30 years, due to a terrible mistake I made. Even their logo made me queasy. The tour was excellent. Lots of humour and pride in what they’re doing, as well as a little bit of pulling aside the curtain. Our guide was great and I didn’t have any issues with the tasting.
Oddly enough, Lynchburg is in a dry county, so the tasting had to be presented as an educational event and there were a lot of strict rules around it.
From Lynchburg we headed to Nashville. Sue and I aren’t particularly fans of country music, and we had already had a pretty full day, so we had dinner at the Sunflower Cafe, which was fantastic, and then checked into our hotel (Candlewood again).
Day 11: NASHVILLE TO TEUTOPOLIS
(Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois)
Breakfast at Waffle House. Spent some time at the Nashville Farmer’s Market (better to go on a weekend, I think). Hit the road again, and briefly passed through Kentucky and then into Illinois.
My original plan was to drive for at least 7-8 hours, but I was starting to feel the strain of all the driving and Sue suggested we break it down and stay away an extra night. We wound up booking a place in a tiny town in Illinois, Teutopolis. The AirBnB was unique, and the host had provided a ton of history on the location and the town – apparently at one time a centre of wooden shoe (clog) production.
The town was beyond charming. Very small and friendly, and with golf carts allowed in town limits – we saw folks with little dogs buzzing around on carts. Too funny.
There was another town “next door”, Effingham, that was a bit bigger and more developed. We stopped for a drink and wandered around a bit. Found an abandoned movie theatre that made me want to move to Effingham and buy it.
Basically a day of driving. Got into the AirBnB in West Salem, nice couple with a couple of dogs (Bull, a huge American Bulldog who just wanted belly rubs, and Zoey, a nervous labradoodle) that we paid a lot of attention to – missing our dogs, for sure.
For dinner I had the best veggie burger I’ve had in ages – usually try to avoid them, since they’re typically the only option at a lot of places and you get tired of ’em.
Day 13: West Salem to Minneapolis
Just a short drive to Minneapolis (2.5 hours), since we figured we’d spend the day shopping before heading home. We hit up the Albertville Outlet Mall to get some cheap(er) Converse shoes for the kids and a few other places. The exchange rate isn’t great, so we showed restraint. 🙂
I did go to Fifth Element, though. Which is the storefront for Rhymesayers, a record label that releases music from Atmosphere and other hip hop I like. Needed some new Atmosphere T-shirts… Also found a Blick’s Art Supplies shop and grabbed some funky Montana Gold marble spray paint you can’t get here.
Stayed in a hotel in Minneapolis. Got a bit lazy with looking for somewhere to eat, so wound up at a nearby PF Chang’s for dinner. Wasn’t bad (wasn’t Chinese food, but wasn’t bad).
Day 14: Minneapolis to Winnipeg
(Minnesota, North Dakota, Manitoba)
The final stretch – about 8 hours drive, and no issues at the border. And… home!
Random Thoughts and Comments
Took me a while to pronounce it Birming-HAM instead of Birming-UM.
Coffee in the states is generally no longer horrible. Must be the influence of Starbucks, hipster culture, etc. that has led them to improve.
The stereotypical polite and friendly south reputation was proved out. People everywhere (esp. in Tennessee, Mississippi, and Alabama) were very friendly, helpful, polite, and pleasant. This was evident in the driving as well; further south you go, the more likely people were to let you merge, etc.
Roadkill count: At least 40-50 racoons, 2-3 deer, and 1 armadillo. 😦
A swamp is a flooded forest. If there are no trees, then it’s a marsh.
Despite stopping at three gaming stores (The Source and Fantasy Flight Games Center in Minneapolis, and the one I can’t remember the name of in Grand Forks), the only gaming stuff I bought was a couple of Barnes & Noble exclusive GW boardgames in Memphis.
The core (100 points) Adeptus Astartes Exorcists Kill Team is done:
Leader: Intercessor Sgt. with Bolt Rifle, Bolt Pistol, Power Sword, Grenades
Comms: Tactical Marine with Boltgun, Bolt Pistol, Grenades
Heavy: Tactical Marine Gunner with Heavy Bolter, Grenades
Sniper: Tactical Sgt. with Combi-Boltgun/Plasma, Grenades
Scout with Boltgun, Bolt Pistol, Grenades
Scout Gunner with Heavy Bolter, Bolt Pistol, Grenades
Scout Sgt. with Sniper Rifle, Bolt Pistol, Camo Cloak, Grenades
I tried a varnish I haven’t used before, and it flattened out a lot of the highlights and shadows, so I’m not too pleased about that–but, it’s good to get ’em done and they’re looking pretty good despite that (IMHO), so there you go.
Apart from Kill Team, some of these will be used for the Wrath and Glory 40K RPG, which we’re playing at Tim’s wargaming weekend in Saskatoon next month. I also plan on getting a lone guardsman and Eldar ranger done for that, too.
Just need the basing material to dry so I can prime ’em. Stay tuned…
Just need to crank out a few character sheets for this weekend, now.