July 27, 2015

Mallorca/Majorca - Sun, Stone and Sea



Long time, no see...
Last month I spent in Europe. Different places, cultures, different languages.
But, my real vacation was mostly planned to be in sunny, for me new and exciting place in the Mediterranean - Balearic island of Mallorca.
And I really had a sunny and maybe too hot vacation - the temperature was close to forties in Celsius every day. But if I knew that rain and hardly double digits are waiting for me in Vancouver, I would appreciate it more!

Mallorca/Majorca is an beautiful island in the Mediterranean sea, half way in between European and African continent.
Culture, lifestyle, food..it all spins around very rich history - the island was first invaded and influenced by Romans, then Arabs - Moors and finally Spaniards.


About food

The food reflects all that, so you will find the mix and influence of all the cultures that went trough here. Which really made the gastronomy of Mallorca quite unusual and unique. Let's start with one of the characteristic dish that is every bakery and stores around here "coca" - direct relative of pizza that many says brought Romans on the island. Unavoidable are of course rice, nuts and dry fruits, and the most - type of pastry swirled as a Muslim pitas, thank to Arabs - ensaimadas. And finally, Spaniards brought potatoes, peppers and tomatoes with the unique local variety of tomato that does not need irrigation while growing and refrigeration after picking - ramellet.
Surprisingly, it is not these ingredients that distinct the Mallorquin cooking - it is the method of very slow cooking in shallow dishes - greixonera.

Most homes around here didn't have stove until recently so they had to invent the best way to cook large dishes over the open fire. Pork is the most important meat and any, absolutely any part, can be eaten here. Although, I have eaten the best and tastiest local lamb, veal, rabbit and free range chicken, that comparing to American "free range" is considerably superior in taste, which brings me again to the question what kind of organic and natural we eat here on the american continent and paying big bucks for something that even don't have a taste...??!!
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Prosciutto "sections" are in almost every bigger food store


John Dory I prepared 
Mallorquin dishes tends to use large amount of pasta, rice and bread with small cuts of meats. Mallorca is known for its sausage - sobrassada, cured saussage, probably brought from Italy centuries ago that islanders redid completely and created very unique and special soft spicy sausage that can be mostly fried and eaten as a part of the dish.
Other dishes to mention are: bacalao, of course, sal cod prepared here special way with an amazing local "Tumbet" style, empanadas - pies with lamb meat and pastries, especially emsaimadas - swirl pastry that got its name since it has been made with pork fat.

sobrassadas

ensaimadas


rabbit

Pa amb oli is a popular way of food party in Mallorca. The raw ingredients are piled on a table and everyone sits around. It involves rubbing tomato and some oil on slice of bread, then adding some meat and cheeses over.
Mahon - local cheese is very popular to use in this event. It involves rubbing tomato and oil on toasted slices of brad, and adding some meat and cheese. Olives and pickles on side.

Almond milk - homemade is proudly served everywhere

Where to shop for food


The markets - mercado are really great place to find anything you need. In Palma, I lived near Santa Catalina market and went there every morning to buy some fresh fish or cold-cuts, vegetables, fruits ..and it is really fresh and quality food, anything you find there. But, I was surprised one Sunday morning that all the market was closed, along with many other stores. So, if you plan to go, be prepare for this, do not run out of water etc, the night before, you can be in big trouble, especially in Palma. Luckily, I found out few other stores in center that carry big selection of quality food that were open Sundays: big department store - Corte Ingles. Unfortunately, I have discovered that this hidden supermarket in the basement of the main department store, have absolutely everything that mercados have, with even better prices! More supermercados and markets can be find around towns and Palma. I will give the list at the end that was usefull for me.
This piece made of compacted dry blood is a specialty found on markets 

Produsct of fresh and dry figs are something to taste

Locally made jams and preserves can be find in small stores

Interesting 

Orange trees can be find on many regular streets in the middle of towns like this one in Palma center with fruits fall freely on the street. I wasn't sure if you can eat them or not..

Little History and Culture hunt

Palma's main Cathedral

Area around the cathedral is the place to be in the evening strolls, as the park is fabulous and enjoyable place to have  fun with kids and look for the place to have a diner. There is a long lake in front of cathedral that during a day, people use to kayak and in the evening to walk around and have a refresher after hot day on the beach.

All around the island you can find traces of rich history.
Flour windmills, dating from 16th century, can be find everywhere, now with the petition to preserve them, they are mostly privatized and converted to restaurants, like this one in the Santa Catalina  - Palma's center


Valldemossa town is famous since Chopin and G Sand spent some time here along with Borges and some other famous people

Banyalbufar, village famous for its wine production and unusual relief


Connection between Mediterranean islands is obvious. One of them are these little mysterious whistle figurines called Siurells, thousand years old and find also on Crete, Sardinia etc..
Don't miss visiting  Arabic baths in Palma - the only left remains of Arabic presence on the island

Modern art exhibitions are also worth of experience in some of the old buildings around the towns

Beaches

Prepare plan and some photos before you go. Even if you have the best maps you need to know Spanish, to find how to get somewhere. Maps are not enough to lead you, for instance, to Cala Deia,  it can be realy complicated.
wild beach around Banyalbufar area

June 15, 2015

What you can('t) find in Olympia


Every once in a while, we cross the border and visit the Washington State, mostly for a long weekends.
 Contrary what most of the border Canadians do, we don't go shopping  in big outlets or buy containers of milk. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but it's just not our thing.
We go to have a good time and fun.

Few weeks ago, we went back to Olympia, small capital city of the Washington State. Not too far from us, if you don't count two hours of waiting time a the border (it was long weekend ??!), passing Settle, you find yourself in an idyllic little town, with the Capitol Hill building at the top of the hill. It looks like a White House, but most of capitol buildings look alike in the United States.












City had a marathon event, organized that weekend, with Start/final point right in front of our hotel (one of the two in the city). So everything was quite cheerful- hotel full of families waiting for the dad and moms to cross the finish line.


Exploring small city like this was really enjoyable, with nice cafes that offer live folk music over the weekends, entertaining city center with fun water fountain, free tour of the Capitol Hill, idyllic park near Capitol lake, where you can also eat your lunch or handmade ice-cream, right on the grass. Right in the city center is also great supermarket with loads of cooked food and good choice of local and international wines. Along the marina, right on the waterfront, you can find amazing little restaurants that offer fresh local seafood with very affordable prices. And not only seafood!

Localy made ice-cream and more
The Cafe's social justice library
All with loads of  great live music
What really impressed me in this little city is the artisan lifestyle that everyone are proud. In the city, you cannot find large department stores or food chains, all area is dedicated to unique little stores, cafes, boutiques etc..

Right across the lake is The Traditions Cafe, with live music and jamming where you can jump in, if you feel like playing, have handmade delicious ice-cream or pie and read about world's social justice, right from the small cafe's library. Cafe also sell and support international crafts and handmade products.
 (Cafe completely up to my ideal standards!)
Pottery cafe is very active over the weekend!

You can also do something crafty yourself in pottery cafe, where for little bit more then cake and coffee, you can make and paint your own cup or plate and they will send it to you, if you are not staying more then few days in the city.

Food is far from boring. Considering the size of the city, international selection of restaurants is amazing: from classic American vintage dinner style and cooking to international: Asian, Italian etc..
During a day, you can pay visits to several artisan bakeries or food stands, and enjoy the soup or pack a sandwich for your sailing trip that most of the people practice here. 

Highlight of my trip would be my diner at La Gitana, Spanish pizzeria, not only because of the pizza (which I give high mark for thin crust and variety), but the atmosphere and original authentic music and flamenco dance I was able to participate among other restaurant guests. Local flamenco dancers with their founder , thought me how to dance this Spanish gypsy dance I dreamed to dance, ever since I was a child.  But, beside the group of amazing dancers, music that was played and sang that evening, performed by some stunning voices and passion, exalted already boiling atmosphere.

I just can't wait to came back again!




Pulling the scarf from my neck, was greeted passionately among everyone, especially the main flamenco dancer, so we continued dancing together!

I wish I can play here the music and songs they played, the voice and guitar was just pure 10.

I can only say praise to the places I visited and here is my list of what not to miss in Olympia:
La Gitana,
Anthony's Hearthfire grill,
Aya sushi,
Pho Sai Gon
New Moon Cafe,
Sidewalk Cafe,
and of course The Traditions Cafe

And can I just add that bus transit in the city, like in many others in US, is free! Unlike in Vancouver!

May 15, 2015

Popsicle - easy and tasty summer treat

Hot days are coming, and a need for some ice cold drinks and treats.
Combining fresh fruits and freezer can be a winning combination and solution if you don't want to fill yourself with some ice cream t(h)reats of extra calories, this year.
So get the fruits you love, blender and start loading your freezer with your homemade healthy ice treats - fruit popsicle.


If you don't have popsicle molds, all the work can be easily done in some narrow cups or glasses with some sticks put in the middle of your blended mass.






Let's get some recipes and start making them now:

Strawberry coconut popsicle:

Serves 8

1 pound strawberries, hulled
1 cup coconut milk or cream
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/4 cup honey
chopped strawberries

Directions
Puree the strawberries, milk, yogurt, honey, in a blender until smooth.
Pour the mixture into 10 3-ounce or 8 4-ounce ice-pop molds/glasses, dividing evenly. Insert ice-pop sticks and freeze until firm, at least 4 hours .

Cucumber, mint popsicle


2 large English cucumbers, chopped (about 6 cups)
1 cup fresh mint leaves
1 cup fresh lime juice
3/4 cup agave nectar

Directions
Puree the cucumber, mint, lime juice, agave in a blender until smooth. Pour the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer, pressing with a spatula to remove as much liquid as possible.
Pour the mixture into 10 3-ounce or 8 4-ounce ice-pop molds/glasses, dividing evenly. Insert ice-pop sticks and freeze until firm, at least 4 hours and up to 4 days.

Peaches and cream

Ingredients
3 cups peach or nectarine (apricots welcome)
3/4 cup coconut cream
1/4 cup honey or maple syrup
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger (optional)
chopped strawberries (optional)

Directions
Whisk together the peach nectar, cream, sugar, ginger in a large bowl until smooth. Mix in chopped strawberries Pour the mixture into 10 3-ounce or 8 4-ounce ice-pop molds/glasses, dividing evenly. Insert ice-pop sticks and freeze until firm, at least 4 hours and up to 4 days.

March 2, 2015

Handwoven coat

It's been a month almost, since my last post, but I've been really busy with creation of my biggest project, so far. 
Creating coat, from selecting threads, weaving it, until the final design, draping, sewing and fitting, without any previous training in any of this, was enormously hard and challenging task. After almost three months of work, including hours of digging trough library books and internet, I finally designed and tailored one large piece of woven fabric into the wool coat. Here is my result:














Front



Back



The process

from weaving to the final cut and sewing
The most complicated part was fitting and using the fabric that I made to design shape of the coat that will use 5 m of fabric and not a centimeter more. It was actually 4.5 m at the end since I previously made a shirt for my daughter from it. 
Library really helped in discovering "draping", method of fitting fabric over the model and designing your own pattern. 
Cutting hand woven fabric and then sewing it, without any ripping and losing of threads was also a tricky job. But one of the weaving websites had exactly that and explained how to do it. So I got some of that material with glue (not sure how they call it officially)

Weaving

I used  6 black rolls of 100% wool thread and about dozen cotton yarns in combination of colors (dark brown, metallic brown - gold, green, blue/purple, purple)
Weaving was done in November on my four shaft loom


Finished weaving taken off the loom was about 5m long
I used  leather pieces from the old black leather skirt for the front lining, and brown satin lining for all other inside lining.

 Designing and fitting

I tried few different ways to fit the fabric, and had a real problem, because of the limited amount of fabric.


The collar making

This part of fabric (brown and blue strip) was originally destined to be a belt but at last minute it turned out that it would give better accent to the coat as a collar,





Sleeves and buttons

Made from two parts, sleeves have also hand made buttons from leftover parts .


Similar are made for the belt at the back, since belt can be detached when not needed


Lining

That was , surprisingly the hardest part of all the process, and I didn't know that it will be until the final end. Sewing it to the black leather that I attached earlier was a realy complicated. Finally I just sew it, without any measuring. It was a pure luck that it turned out good.