Weekend Events for the Basketball-Averse

Happy Hump Day!  We’re halfway through the week and just days away from the weekend!

It’s gearing up to be a big weekend here in the Lilac City, due, in no small part, to Hoopfest.  Are you playing this year?  If so, for fun or to win (or both)?  Either way, good luck!  If you’re not planning on joining the masses downtown, fear not, for there are so many other great events going on this weekend!  The forecast calls for beautiful weather, so this should be an excellent weekend to get out and see the sights!  Check out just a few events that are going on around the area this weekend:

  • Selkirk Abbey Brewing Company’s First Anniversary Party– Go wish a happy birthday to Post Falls’ Belgian-themed gem!  Selkirk Abbey specializes in Belgian-style ales, ranging from saisons to quads to IPAs and beyond.  The party takes place at the brewery (6180 E Seltice Way, Post Falls, ID) and will feature music, food, and two special release beers.  I had the pleasure of sampling one of these beers, St. Joseph, during my last visit to the brewery (read about it here), and, let me tell you, it’s amazing and will probably make all of your dreams come true.  Truly, it’s magical.  Bonus: St. Joseph in bottles is currently available for pre-sale and will also be available for sale at the party.  I cannot emphasize enough how strongly I encourage you to try it.
  • Bikes, Brews & BBQs– The Kootenai County Fairgrounds in Coeur d’Alene, ID will be taken over by Bikes, Brews & BBQs this Saturday.  The event is exactly what it the name implies: there will be motocross and BMX races, a beer garden featuring a number of local and regional breweries (they’ll have wine available, too), and a barbecue competition open to both professional and amateur grill-masters.  Entrance to the festival itself is free, tickets for the brewfest are $8, and there’s a brewfest/motocross combo ticket available for $18.  A full day of fun and entertainment await you just over the state line!
  • Spokane on the Rocks– Got an hour or two to kill between games at Hoopfest?  From 10am-8pm on Saturday, the Spokane Convention Center will be hosting Spokane on the Rocks, a festival featuring over 20 Northwest distilleries and breweries and their best products.  The event will also feature live music and air conditioning.  Tickets are $10 (available at the door and online) and include three samples of beer or spirits (or two non-alcoholic beverages).  Happy day drinking!
  • Strawberry Celebration– As indicated by the offerings at the farmers markets, fresh fruit season is upon us.  Might I add, it couldn’t come soon enough!  Both this weekend (June 29-30) and next weekend (July 6-7), Green Bluff is throwing its annual Strawberry Celebration, where citizens from across the land are invited to head up north and pick to their hearts’ content.  Before you head up there, be sure to check Green Bluff’s website to determine which farms you want to visit, and don’t forget to stop at the Harvest House on your way out for an ice cream cone!
  • Drift & Drags– Do you wanna go fast?  Would you settle for watching others go fast?  On Friday and Saturday (June 28-29), head on out to the Spokane County Raceway to watch some real-life Fast and Furious action and watch drivers test their skills on the drift course or test their speed on the drag strip.  The gates open at 6pm on Friday and at 2pm on Satuday, and spectator tickets are $12.
  • Old Time Farm Days Did you know that Spokane has a farm museum?  Yeah, it’s totally a thing!  From 9am-3pm on Saturday, June 29, the North Spokane Farm Museum (6223 W. Ridgeway Rd., Deer Park, WA) will feature events such as tractor pulls, barrel races, and live demonstrations at the annual Old Time Farm Days celebration.  Bust out your overalls, and get ready to get your farm on!

So many great events to choose from, and only a few days in which to prepare for them!  Enjoy the rest of your week, and have a great weekend!

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Say What You Mean. Mean What You Say

A commentary included in this week’s episode of CBS Sunday Morning struck an unexpected chord with me.  It concerned the phenomenon of 20 and 30-somethings replying to others’ requests with the phrase “no problem”.  I’m certainly guilty of this particular crime of verbiage, and I’m sure that many of you are, too.  “No problem” has become such a commonplace response that I would never have given its use a second thought, much less others’ reactions to it.  However, now that the phrase’s interpretation, particularly by those older than myself, has been brought to my attention, I doubt that I’ll use it anymore.  The commentator argued that by replying “no problem” to someone’s request, said request would somehow be troubling the person who said it.  Truthfully, this is rarely the case: if one is working as a server in a restaurant and a customer asks for a glass of water, it shouldn’t be a problem for the server to find a glass, fill it with ice and water, and bring it to the requesting customer.  Serving the customer is what the server is being paid to do, after all.  The more I thought about it, the more I agreed with the commentator.  Most requests aren’t problems at all, so replying that the request is not, in fact, a problem, isn’t altogether appropriate.  I could clearly see where he was coming from, but, being a member of the offending generation, I could also understand the counterargument.

I realize that “no problem” isn’t the only phrase that is running rampant and causing ire.  “No worries”, a saying once almost solely associated with worry-free beach-goers, has found its way into the common vernacular.  I occasionally use it, and it consistently drives my dad crazy.  Like “no problem”, I appreciate that one’s intention of conveying laid-back understanding may be interpretted by another as the former individual may not be taking a situation seriously.  “You got it”, “sure thing”, and “you bet” are capable of causing similar annoyance.  I don’t think that younger individuals are actively trying to put off their elders.  It could simply be a generational difference or a sign of the inevitable evolution of language.  Either way, it’s food for thought and a matter worth considering.

As of late, I’ve been working to become increasingly cognizant of the way I communicate with others, particularly my friends.  None of us work together, and the majority of our day-to-day conversation is conveyed through text messages.  By now, most everyone is more than aware of the problems that misinterpreted texts can and have caused.  Texting is largely blamed for the utilization of proper grammar becoming a thing of the past, and due to these miniaturized messages, there’s an acronym for everything.  If we’re willing to work at it, then I don’t think that it’s too late to remedy the situation.  The remedy will likely take a few more seconds and keystrokes, but doing so may well eliminate a few future autocorrect-induced tiff.

The ease of text messaging means that conversations are often stretched out over hours, if not days, without clear delineations between the end of one conversation and the beginning of another.  “Hello” and “good-bye” aren’t always included, so they can’t mark starts and finishes.  It disappoints me a little bit when I receive a text message first thing in the morning, and the sender immediately jumps into his/her question.  What ever happened to “good morning”?  Are salutations a dying concept?  Worse yet, are they becoming little more than a buffer for bad news?  More and more frequently, I’ve noticed that if I receive an unsolicited text message in the middle of the day, and it begins with “Hi!”, whatever follows will likely be disappointing.  I know what a text message “hi!” means: it means someone is making an attempt to console me with an unexpected greeting (and an unnecessary exclamation point) when she knows I’ll not like whatever she has to say next.  The simple “hello” deserves better than this.

What with the deterioration of the use of proper pronunciation, profanities slipping in to everyday diction, and the fact that people actually say “OMG” aloud, I could go on and on with my grievances about the direction our language it headed in.  That seems superfluous, though, and I think that I’ve already gotten my point across.  It’s not my intention to sound old-fashioned by thinking that the tools of written and verbal communication are rules to be respected, nor to come across as though I’m not taking a matter seriously by replying with casual response.  The truth of the matter is that we live in an age where fewer and fewer people are wearing suits to work and when people can speak face to face while being miles apart.  The times, they are a-changin’.  However, change is a gradual and doesn’t happen overnight.  We’re constantly stuck in the balance between the way things were and the way they used to be.  I think that the best that we can do is to roll with the punches.  When it comes to language, for the sakes of both clarity and courtesy, this means both learning new habits and incorporating a more vintage practices.  Yes, it’s a little extra effort, but compared to having a full-on generational language barrier, it’s no problem, right?

Tea for Two or Tea for You

It saddens me that there was once a time when I grossly misjudged all of the possible uses and potential of tea.  As my Opa (German for “grandfather”, yay new words!) will gladly tell you, when I was a wee lass of only eight years of age, I could not stand to drink straight tea and could not resist abusively diluting it with obscene amounts of cream and sugar.  I’d often enjoy multiple cups of tea during the course of our tea party, though I’d venture to guess that the way I was drinking it, my tea was approximately 40% cream and sugar and 60% actual tea.  I could have done worse, but I could have done a lot better, too.

Now that I’m older, my tastes have matured, and I’m far more able to appreciate the sweet and savory complexities of a well-brewed cup of tea (without the additions of cream or sugar, as I’m sure you were wondering).  Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy the milkier and sweater renditions of tea: I’ll rarely say no to a chai tea latte, and I’m not altogether opposed to the idea of a London Fog on a rainy day.  Still, though, properly brewed tea is a good thing, not to be taken for granted.  Let’s make some now!

First, one must decide what tea he or she would like to enjoy.  Know, however, that different types of tea have different brewing instructions in terms of water temperature and steeping time.  Also, contrary to popular belief, brew time is not the true determinant of the strength of your tea: it’s the amount of tea you use that determines strength.  The general rule of thumb I’ve always abided by is using one teaspoon of loose tea leaves per 8 oz. cup of water, though this recommendation tends to vary from tea shop to tea shop.  If you’re using tea bags, one tea bag will suffice for one cup of tea, though you can sometimes stretch it to two cups.

After you’ve picked and measured your tea, next we’ll need some hot water.  This is an excellent time to utilize that electric kettle you got before leaving for college for something other than Top Ramen (I’ve used mine as a container for hard-boiling eggs on more than one occasion).  Not all teas require boiling water; in fact, you can actually scald the tea leaves by using water that is too hot, so some types of tea, in particular, green, oolong, and white, recommend that you bring the water to just under a boil for proper steeping.  Black, herbal, and rooibus teas, however, often utilize boiling water.  Now, once your water has reached its recommended temperature, gently pour the water over the tea leaves or tea bag.

As I mentioned before, each type of tea has ideal steeping times for maximum flavor and life of the leaves.  Most teas call for a minimum of 2-3 minutes, and some call for maximum steep times of 5-7 minutes (see below for specifics).  Finally, remove your tea bag or leaves and enjoy.  Do not squeeze the liquid out of the tea bag once you’ve removed it.  That is a tea brewing no-no.

Did you know that, when properly brewed and steeped, you can actually reuse your tea leaves again?  Yeah, cool trick, huh?  I try to reuse tea as often as possible, so I have a small dish dedicated to playing host to my once-used tea leaves.  Tea leaves are best reused the same day, but if you don’t plan on reusing them until the next day, spread them out a bit so that they can fully dry and will be less prone to holding in moisture and possibly developing mold (always an unwelcome surprise).  For this reason, tea bags aren’t as great for long-term recycling, but used the same day, they’ll be just fine.  Reused tea leaves may need a bit more time, typically under a minute, to develop a flavor that is most similar to your initial brewing.

Table of Brew Temperatures/Times

From The Teaquent Stop

Tea Type Water Temperature Steep Time
Black Tea Boiling 3-5 min.
Green Tea Just Under a Boil 2-3 min.
Oolong Tea Just Under a Boil 2-5 min.
White Tea Just Under a Boil 2-3 min.
Herb/Rooibus Boiling 5-7 min.
Mate Just Under a Boil 3-4 min.

Let’s Get Cookin’!

Ahoy, mateys!  Welcome to One Baroque Girl, a blog solely devoted to helping you to prosper in the kitchen while spending as little money as possible.  That said, it is my intention to provide you with recipes that are at once simple and altogether mouthwatering, helping you to add a healthy dose of fancy to your everyday cooking.  It is my belief that just because one can’t afford to purchase all of one’s cookware from Williams-Sonoma (though I sincerely wish I could) and all of one’s ingredients from the hippest, upscale grocers, that doesn’t mean that one’s can’t still prepare dishes and meals that have prominent hints of refinement and outstanding taste.  Please, won’t you join me on this culinary adventure?

In preparation for our aforementioned adventure, let’s make sure that we’ve got some essentials.  For most everything we’ll be making here, you won’t need anything other than what you already have in your cupboards, assuming you have a few pots and pans, some flour, sugar, and a few cans of assorted vegetables, beans, and fruits in your cupboards.  In the event that you don’t yet have a few pots and pans, not to worry, they can be easily acquired.  A lot of retailers, such as Wal-Mart, Shopko, and Target (to up the fancy-factor, I enjoy pronouncing it “Tar-zjay” so that it rhymes with “ballet”), carry pretty complete sets of bakeware and cookware for $40-$60.  Should you find yourself in need of additional chow-bearing vessels, by all means, purchase them on an as-needed basis.  Why purchase a four-set of miniature spring-form pans if you have no intention of ever creating tiny cheesecakes to share with your ladyfriends at high tea?  Totally unnecessary.  For the sake of saving both money and space, don’t purchase what you don’t and won’t need.

This purchase-on-an-as-needed-basis philosophy often applies to ingredients, as well, though you’re more likely to have exceptions here.  A few things I constantly find myself in need of: flour, sugar, eggs, frozen meat, frozen veggies, and butter, always butter.  In particular, unsalted butter.  I used to always think butter was soooo overrated.  I was wrong.  I realize the egregious error in my ways.  For realsies, if you desire truly outstanding results in your baking, particularly when it comes to pie crusts, croissants, and a whole slew of pastries and French dishes, use good old-fashioned, unsalted butter.  At another date and time, I am confident that we shall have a whole conversation on why butter is the most magical of all secret and not-so-secret ingredients, but until then, I implore you to trust me that butter is where it’s at.  Occasionally, you can sneak in margarine or another butter substitute and obtain similar results, and I shall do my best to make a point of alerting you to these occasions, but unless otherwise noted, let’s stick with the real thing.  In regards to the frozen meats and veggies, frozen is often times less expensive than fresh, so I like to keep some of these frozen foodstuffs on hand for dinner in a pinch.  Same goes for frozen fruit: I frequently thaw out small cupfuls of frozen blueberries and toss them in with my yogurt and granola for filling and healthful breakfasts.  More often and not, though, I’ll purchase fresh produce.  It’s fresh, full of nutrients, and makes for some darned good cooking and baking.

As we sail farther and farther across the ocean to separating us from Le Cordon Bleu-quality cuisine (I’m trying to keep up the nautical theme I started with), it’s inevitable that we’ll encounter a few storms and sea monsters along the way.  These oceanic foes may take many forms: failed recipes, botched adaptations, shortages on necessary ingredients, etc.  Regardless of the challenges we may encounter or the qualms we may face, we shall persevere together.  So, please, come sail away, come sail away, come sail away with me!  Let’s get cookin’!