Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Susan's Surprise

Today was the last of the surprise Cameras and Coffee days for Susan and me. We realize that it is going to be a challenge to take each other to places neither of us has been, so I was hoping this final "surprise" outing was indeed a surprise for Susan.

When you're living in a new place, everything is novel and exciting. I've only lived in the suburbs of Chicago for two and a half years, and I am constantly making new discoveries. My challenge this week was to come up with a surprise Cameras and Coffee adventure for my friend Susan who has lived in this part of Illinois ALL. HER. LIFE.

First of all, I knew where I wanted to take Susan for the photography portion of our morning; thanks to a tip from a friend. Once I knew where that was located, I Googled the locale for coffee shops, and found Bubo's Coffee, which has very high reviews on Yelp. 

We were not disappointed. It is a drive-through coffee shop that serves Intelligentsia coffee. There was no posted menu, but that posed no problem for us. We nearly always order the same thing: light roast coffee with cream. We are not heavy-weight coffee drinkers. 

Luckily, I had an "in" with a friend who works at a company that has a beautiful garden in West Chicago. Not many people know about their gardens, and it isn't always open for public use, but by calling ahead, I was able to make sure we could take a tour of the place with our cameras. Susan knew about the company, but had never been to the gardens. Score one for the Illinois transplant; I was able to show the native something new!

Everyone we met who worked there was so cheerful and welcoming. From the people in the main office building to the groundskeepers, all of the people seemed happy to be there. What a great place to work. The gardens cover seven acres, I believe they said. We were there for a couple of hours, and there is no way we saw all of the plants. 

There was everything from grasses to flowers to veggies in the gardens. Tomatoes and peppers were growing in cages. There were hanging baskets of flowers, and raised flower beds, and containers of plants placed on various levels of shelves. Ornamental grasses were interspersed with the flowers and vegetables. It was a photographer's paradise!

Kate, thank you for telling me about this West Chicago gem. We'll be back. We still have nooks and crannies to explore.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Cameras and Coffee in Wheaton

Ever since my camera and coffee compadre Susan surprised me with a trip to a marsh and a little coffee shop in Elburn, I knew I needed to up my game, and try to come up with a surprise for her. Susan presents a bit of a challenge for me because she grew up near Saint Charles, so it is harder to find places with which she isn't already very familiar.

LUCKILY, I chose to visit Wheaton, Chuck's home town, and even though Susan lived there as a young girl, there were still surprises for her as we walked around the blocks of downtown Wheaton. She'd never been to the famous Little Popcorn Shop, and she didn't realize that Cafe on the Park was the little coffee shop inside the Wheaton Library.

It is LITERALLY the LITTLE Popcorn Shop. Susan is standing
in front of the entire storefront. 

The library's cafe serves I Have a Bean coffee, which is a local roaster in Wheaton that gives people a second chance who may otherwise not be able to obtain a job. Chuck is friends with the owner, and we are so impressed with his ministry to people who are trying to enter the workforce after incarceration. Susan and I enjoyed iced tea and coffee at the shop, and then headed over to the I Have a Bean office to pick up some coffee beans for home. 

It was another great adventure with our Cameras and Coffee. This is a tradition I hope we will continue; it has been a great way to get to know each other better, and to practice our photography, while becoming more familiar with where we live. 

This is me in front of Chuck's favorite store. He thinks it is hilarious that I cannot remember
that is the WISE PENNY resale shop. I always think it is the Whistle Stop, or Penny Whistle. 
Popcorn shop address, 111 1/4  reminds me of Harry Potter's platform 9 3/4. 

Popcorn Shop's door

You just never know who you'll see in a store window.

Behind the windows of a winery.

Suzette's Creperie


Two weeks ago: I love my new waffle maker!

Four days later: I hate my cheap, piece of junk, waffle maker!

I guess you could say I'm waffling about my waffle maker. My previous post was about Kodiak Power Cakes, a wonderful pancake mix that has extra protein and fiber. The box advertises that it's a flapjack and waffle mix. I like flapjacks fine, but I just love me some waffles, and I couldn't wait to try some Kodiak ones.

One problem. My waffle maker is in Utah. Since I will eventually be living with that appliance again one day, I decided not to splurge, and just get the most basic, inexpensive model here in Saint Charles. That may have been my first mistake.

Lo, and behold, the first time I made waffles, they came out beautifully. Light golden nooks and crannies that held my syrup perfectly. I loved my Kodiak waffles, and my cute, little waffle maker. 

The next time I wanted waffles, I decided to make a big batch, and freeze them for quick breakfasts. I went the extra mile, and pulled out my hand mixer, beating the egg whites until stiff peaks formed. I gently folded the waffle batter into the egg whites. These waffles were going to be light and crispy, just the way I like them.

Except for one thing. The batter stuck to the waffle maker. I was reminded of Bridger and the AWFUL WAFFLE story. It's a sad story of a special waffle breakfast gone wrong, with very similar results. 

Ugh. I scraped and pulled and peeled, until all of the crispy bits were removed from the iron, and tried again. That waffle stuck, too. And the next batch, and the next. 

Hey, you have to admit I'm nothing, if not persistent. I finally gave up, and pulled out a frying pan, and poured some batter into it. While consulting with friends as to what I was doing wrong with my waffles, I even managed to burn the pancake.

It was suggested that the waffle maker needed to be seasoned. I knew about seasoning cast iron pots and pans, but Teflon? It was worth a shot. I removed all of the waffle crumbs, and wiped the Teflon surface with a dry paper towel. I coated the top and bottom griddles with oil. Then I heated up the waffle maker, and let the oil do its thing. Just for the heck of it, since I had a bit of batter left, I tried one more time, and just to be safe, I sprayed the iron with cooking oil before pouring the batter.

VOILA! Perfect waffles, once again.

I love my waffle maker once more. Yes, I waffled once again. I will just have to make sure I never use soap and water to clean it, and keep it well-oiled in between uses. 

Making awful waffles is hopefully a thing of the past. I'm looking forward to waffling on a regular basis now.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The Most Important Meal of the Day (Introducing Kodiak Power Cakes)

Okay, I can't have that many pancakes, and I skip the butter, but I am indulging
in a healthy pancake for breakfast these days.

I love food. At this time in my life, I'm especially grateful for yummy food that tastes good, has some health benefits, and doesn't break the calorie bank. When we were in Utah, I added a few fun items to my menu, thanks to my kids. I'll be sharing some of those things with you, but today, I'm going to introduce you to Sierra's favorite breakfast food: Kodiak Power Cakes.

They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It is also one of my favorites. If you're stuck in a rut of cereal or oatmeal, you might want to give Kodiak Power Cakes a try. They were a game changer for me. 

Sierra made the hearty pancakes for breakfast, adding eggs to increase the protein. They are a great whole grain way to start the day. The way we make them (1/4 c. mix, 1/4 c. egg whites, and a tablespoon of water) there are 95 calories, 1 gram of fat, 15 grams of carbs, 2 1/2 grams of fiber, and 12 grams of protein. 

Depending on your nutritional needs, and taste preferences, there are so many ways to top these power cakes. We use a sugar-free syrup, and sometimes, fruit. A nut butter would increase the fat content, and boost the flavor, too. I've spread Greek yogurt on top of them as a nice variation.

We could make three small cakes, but we make one as big as the pan,
which fits these plates beautifully!

There are several Kodiak pancake mixes, and if you are interested in having more protein and fiber, go for the Power Cake varieties. I've tried the crunchy peanut butter, which is delicious, but I'm not sure I'm ready for the dark chocolate cakes.

The peanut butter lover in me is thrilled about this flavor option.

When I came back to Illinois, I was determined to make waffles out of the pancake mix. It was one of those good news/bad news things. I'll be telling you about those next!

Nutritional Info:

We use half the amount of mix, and add egg whites. It is very filling,
and when I combine it with a protein/spinach smoothie, my total
breakfast is 280 calories, with 25 grams of carbs, 4 grams of fat,
 and 36 grams of protein. 

Thursday, June 8, 2017

The Human Kids Meet the Canine Kids

"Bristol is my spirit animal," Bridger said of my Sharpei mix puppy, "but Sami is the perfect puppy." Our youngest son spent a couple of weeks with us in March when the puppies were three months old. Bristol and Bridger love their sleep, and Sami loves to love people who pay attention to her. I think it's safe to say Bridger likes the puppies.

Bristol and Sam met the rest of my kids during our ROAD TRIP TO UTAH. We hoped the puppies would be well-received by their human siblings.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. I'll let the pictures speak for themselves. I'm pretty sure these wonderful humans like these adorable canines.

Dylan, my oldest, loves dogs. He does not love that three active dogs have the capability to
destroy newly laid sod at his new house. We have offered our sincerest apologies, and he seems to
have forgiven the offenders. We really are sorry about that, Dyls. 

Our lovely daughter-in-law with Sami and Bristol. (Photo credit: Chuck Bennorth)

Our only daughter Sierra. Sisi was pretty proud that you could hardly tell she was straining to lift this heavyweight for the photo. 

Even Bristol can appreciate an acoustic guitar session.

The perfect puppy seems to admire Bridger, too.

Sami and Bridger hiking up Bullion Falls canyon.

Sami loves Jamie.

Sisi loves Sami.