Category Archives: To Market

Photo Friday: Signs of Spring

Wherever you look in Amsterdam in late winter, there is something .. well, cute. Picturesque. A harbinger of the Spring season to come. The first tulips appear on corners and in big flower markets, their heads still tightly closed. At the same time tulip bulbs are available for sale for those who still wish to get them into the ground.

And of course there are the bikes — flower- and basket- and sometimes person-bedecked. Whizzing by and parked, sometimes two and three deep, in all weather, on the bridges that rise gently over the lovely canals.

Have you seen and photographed something unusual, whimsical, beautiful, or otherwise interesting in your travels? Has anything surprised you or caused you to pause? Or have you simply experienced a small, lovely moment that you wanted to capture? If so, I hope you’ll share with us by leaving a comment with a link to your photo. I look forward to seeing it!

Photo by Susan Sachs Lipman

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Photo Friday: De Kaaskamer Cheese Shop
Photo Friday: Carnival in Venice
Tulipmania: Parts One and Two
Daffodils: Bunches of Spring Sunshine

Photo Friday: De Kaaskamer Cheese Shop

As I’m sure many of you know, my family loves cheese, enthusiastically and nearly unconditionally. So it was that I flagged De Kaaskamer Cheese Shop in our guidebook on our recent trip to Amsterdam. It turned out I didn’t have to. As if by homing device, we managed to sniff out this haven of cheese (the name translates to “Cheese Chamber”) and spontaneously beeline to it almost the minute our luggage hit the floor of the hotel.

We adored much about Amsterdam, as we wandered its pretty streets and canals, admiring antiquarian books and handmade shoes, art, music, beer, and the citizens of Amsterdam themselves, most of whom seemed to roll upright and speedily on two wheels apiece, in all weather and clothing, carrying paintings, floor lamps, babies, friends, and yes, food.

In De Kaaskamer, we sampled Goudas of various ages and a delicious crunchy Beemster, which is very similar to the Saenkanter cheese that is a family favorite. The clerk told us that Gouda simply designates the “wheel” shape of the cheese, rather than a type. Gouda cheese originated from the Gouda region of the Netherlands, but apparently the name is not protected by terroir (place), and all kinds of cheeses can be referred to as Goudas. We satisfied ourselves with visions of pastoral Dutch farmland, portable cubes of wonderful 3-year Gouda, and a large baguette, and took to the Amsterdam streets.


Bonus pic: Willig Cheese Shop at Night or One Can Long

Have you seen and photographed something unusual, whimsical, beautiful, or otherwise interesting in your travels? Has anything surprised you or caused you to pause? Or have you simply experienced a small, lovely moment that you wanted to capture? If so, I hope you’ll share with us by leaving a comment with a link to your photo. I look forward to seeing it!

Photo by Susan Sachs Lipman

You might also like:

Photo Friday: Carnival in Venice
Cheese of the Week: Mossfield Farm Organic Gouda
Cheese of the Week: Hirtenkase
Rogue Creamery: Noordhollander Gouda and More

Photo Friday: Gather ye Rosebuds

There are those who find Valentine’s Day trite — a Hallmark holiday, at best — and scoff at roses, chocolates, teddy bears, balloons, and other designations of love. Not me! In addition to celebrating love every day I can, I admit to being a complete sucker for Valentines signs and symbols — for sweet doily-bordered hearts, home-made meals, romantic gifts, and bunches of brightly colored flowers that appear in profusion in the dead of winter. I like seeing them all lined up at the market like these, just waiting for someone (even if at the last minute) to decide to scoop some up just because it’s the best and most extravagant way at the moment to proclaim their feelings.

Have you seen and photographed something unusual, whimsical, beautiful, or otherwise interesting in your travels? Has anything surprised you or caused you to pause? Or have you simply experienced a small, lovely moment that you wanted to capture? If so, I hope you’ll share with us by leaving a comment with a link to your photo. I look forward to seeing it!

Photo by Susan Sachs Lipman

You might also like:

How to Make: Fun and Easy Homemade Valentines
Photo Friday: Between Seasons
Photo Friday: San Francisco Storefront

Photo Friday: San Francisco Storefront

San Francisco’s North Beach neighborhood is perfect for strolling and for conjuring just a bit of San Francisco’s Beat era history. Our family ends up there a lot. We peruse the small shops with their arcane displays. We get fresh-baked biscotti in Italian North Beach, or dim sum in neighboring Chinatown. We buy beads and postcards, leaf through records in low-ceilinged store basements, where milk crates are stacked floor to ceiling and a person can barely squeeze between the stacks. Among the old, there’s always something new. A fresh look down a street that winds all the way to the Pacific Ocean, or up at a line of laundry blowing in the breeze between buildings. I hope the arcane and the lovely find you, wherever your travels take you.

Have you seen and photographed something unusual, whimsical, beautiful, or otherwise interesting in your travels? Has anything surprised you or caused you to pause? Or have you simply experienced a small, lovely moment that you wanted to capture? If so, I hope you’ll share with us by leaving a comment with a link to your photo. I look forward to seeing it!

Michele at Fun Orange County Parks has gotten the ball rolling by submitting a wonderful, magical picture. Thanks for playing, Michele!

Photo by Susan Sachs Lipman at Gallery 28

You may also like:
Photo Friday: Ghost Sign
Photo Friday: Empire State

Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market

We are blessed in the San Francisco Bay Area to have an abundance of farmer’s markets, many of which operate year-round. The thrice-weekly farmer’s market at the San Francisco Ferry Building provides a multiple blessing, with its huge array of fresh, local foods, and the possible added fun of a ferry ride across the bay, the Ferry Building shops, and the energy of city shoppers bustling through a farmer’s market. Here are some snaps from a recent visit:

Photos by Susan Sachs Lipman

Fool Your Family with Easy April Fools Day Pranks

Though we all love a good laugh year-round, April Fools’ Day offers some great opportunities to crank up the pranks.

Why do we even celebrate April Fools’ Day?

Even though the Julian calendar, which we use, was adopted in 46 B.C., many Europeans were resistant to the change — really resistant, as it turns out. For centuries, their New Year coincided with Easter and other Spring celebrations. In the 1560s, France’s King Charles IX finally decreed that the New Year should officially begin on January 1, and Pope Gregory in Rome followed a full 18 years later. It is said that the Europeans who hadn’t gotten the memo on the date change continued to celebrate New Year’s in April, thus they were considered fools, and the source of our modern day pranks.

In France, the fools got paper fish hooked to their backs. These are vintage “Poisson d’Avril” (April Fish) postcards:

Other theories hold that April Fools’ Day arose from the Spring renewal festivals that have long been held throughout the world. These have wonderful names and customs – Hilaria in Rome; Holi, the festival of color in India; Hock-Tyed, a randy event in Great Britain.

The Museum of Hoaxes site has more information about April Fools’ Day in history and literature. The infoplease site casts some doubt on the calendar theory and posits another, from Boston University History Professor Joseph Boskin, who explained that a group of court jesters told the Roman emperor Constantine that they could do a better job of running the empire, so he let a jester named Kugel be king for one day. “It was a very serious day,” Boskin said, and his story was run by the news media in 1983.

There was one glitch: Boskin himself had made the story up — in great April Fools’ Day tradition.

Fun and Easy Food Pranks

So, what are some fun and easy April Fools’ Day pranks that you can pull on your family? I’ve often used mealtimes to turn the tables and have some fun with food pranks, many of which will be a treat to eat even after the joke’s over. All of these are quick and easy to pull off, with ingredients available at most grocery stores.

Fishy Fish Sticks

What you’ll need:

Log-shaped candy bars such as Twix, Mounds, or Kit Kat
Shredded coconut or toasted coconut (available at specialty stores)
Corn Syrup

How to do it:

Toast the coconut by placing the shredded pieces on a baking sheet and baking at 350 degrees for 2-4 minutes, or until it is light brown with some white shreds remaining (if you are not using toasted coconut). Allow the coconut to cool and then spread it atop a sheet of wax paper. Roll the candy in the corn syrup until it is lightly coated, and then roll the coated candy in the coconut. (Note that some candy bars may have to be cut to more closely resemble the shape of a fish stick.)

Sweet Potatoes

What you’ll need:

Vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt
Butterscotch or caramel sauce

How to do it:

Place a scoop of ice cream or frozen yogurt on a plate. Top with butterscotch or caramel sauce. Let the sauce drip down to resemble gravy.

Different Dog

What you’ll need:

A banana
A hot dog bun
Peanut butter
Vanilla yogurt
Red and yellow food coloring

How to do it:

Place the banana into the hot dog bun. Mix drops of red food coloring into a couple of spoonfuls of peanut butter until the color of the peanut butter resembles ketchup. Mix drops of yellow food coloring into a couple of spoonfuls of yogurt until the color of the yogurt resembles mustard. Generously spread the “condiments” over the banana to make the hot dog.

Not So Fried Egg

What you’ll need:

Lemon or vanilla pudding or yogurt, or a canned peach half
Marshmallow sauce (used for sundaes)
Piece of toast (optional)

How to do it:

Spoon a generous amount of marshmallow sauce on a plate or a piece of toast. It will spread. Finesse it with a spoon into an egg-white shape. Place a small, neat spoonful of pudding or yogurt, or the canned peach half on top of it so that the whole resembles a fried egg.

Smile and Say “Grilled Cheese”

What you’ll need:

A pound cake
Buttercream or white frosting
Red and yellow food coloring

How to do it:

Cut the pound cake into slices to resemble bread. Toast them in an oven (on a cookie sheet) or in a toaster oven just until they turn golden brown. Once they’ve cooled a little, stack two slices for each sandwich and cut each stack in half diagonally. Mix drops of the red and yellow food coloring into the frosting, stopping when the frosting appears like American cheese. Carefully spread a generous amount of frosting onto the bottom slice, then gently press the top slice over it. This will make the frosting ooze a bit over the sides of the “bread”, so that the whole resembles a melted cheese sandwich.

A Stiff Drink

What you’ll need:
A package of flavored gelatin.

How to do it:

Dissolve the gelatin according to box directions. Pour the gelatin into drinking glasses and place a plastic straw in each. Refrigerate the gelatin until firm, then watch when someone tries to drink their “drink”.

A Meaty Dessert

What you’ll need:

A meatloaf recipe
Mashed potatoes
Cake decorators’ icing

How to do it:

Combine the ingredients for the meatloaf recipe. Before baking, divide the mixture into the two round cake pans and pat it flat. Bake as usual, shortening the cooking time to adjust for the thinness of the meat loaves. Prepare the mashed potatoes, adding a little extra milk to them and whipping them until they are fluffy. Once the loaves have cooled a little, place one of them onto a plate and cover it with a thin layer of mashed potatoes. Place the other meatloaf on top of the potato layer, and finish frosting the “cake” with the remaining potatoes, swirling them with a knife to imitate cake frosting. Decorate the top with a fun April Fools’ message.

Fairy Burgers for Tiny Pranksters

What you’ll need:

A box of Nilla wafers
A bag of small peppermint patties such as York
Shredded coconut
Green food coloring
Red or yellow “Fruit by the Foot”
Sesame seeds (optional)
Corn syrup (optional)
Toothpicks (optional)

How to do it:

Dissolve a drop of green food coloring into a cup of water. Place about a quarter cup of shredded coconut into a mixing bowl and pour the food coloring over it. Mix the coconut to coat it with color and then let it sit a few minutes to make sure the color is absorbed. Pat dry with a paper towel. That is the lettuce for your burger. Roll out the “Fruit by the Foot” and cut small squares of red or yellow to represent tomato slices and cheese. If you wish your Nilla wafer “bun” to have sesame seeds on it,  place the desired number of wafers on a flat surface. Dip a toothpick into the corn syrup and dot the wafer with drops of the syrup. Carefully place a sesame seed on each syrup drop and let it sit for a couple of minutes to dry.

Assemble the “burger” by starting with a wafer for the bottom and then adding a peppermint patty, the fruit square(s), the coconut, and, finally, the top bun. Nibble with tiny bites, just like the fairies do.

Backwards Meal

Even if you don’t have time to make or buy special food, you can serve a meal backward, starting with dessert. Or you can have a whole backwards day where meals are concerned. Even a few drops of food coloring can instantly change a bowl or oatmeal or a scoop of mashed potatoes.

Have fun and get silly! Happy April Fools’ Day.

Flea Market-Inspired Spring

Inspiration and beauty are all around. For many, Spring is a season of sun-dappled sidewalks and flea-market weekends. Of exploring shapes and colors which take their cues from nature, history, and the whimsy of a flowing line. It’s the season of looking around with fresh eyes.

It’s Girl Scout Cookie Time

Whether from enterprising Brownies behind a card table or on a sheet tacked to an office bulletin board, few can resist the call of Girl Scout cookies. Cookie sales represent equal parts tradition, flavor, entrepreneurship, and the winning qualities of the scouts themselves. As a troop leader, I oversaw numerous table sales, and it was not uncommon for customers, upon seeing us, to brake their cars abruptly, whip out their checkbooks, and ask to buy every last box of Samoas or Thin Mints in our possession.

Throughout much of the U.S., public cookie sales start this week, as do deliveries to people who pre-ordered cookies from co-workers or neighbors.

Cookie sales are an involved process. They’re also big business. Each troop has a Cookie Sale Mom and a mom who oversees the Cupboard, or stash, which is added to and taken from throughout the duration of the public sales. Troop units have people further overseeing delivery and sales. Here are the cartons of cookies coming into our local Scout Hall to be divided for pick-up. (At 12 boxes a carton, that’s a lot of cookies.)

The first Girl Scout cookies were sold in 1917 by the Mistletoe Troop in Muskogee, Oklahoma. In 1922, a cookie recipe was published in the Girl Scouts’ The American Girl magazine. Its author estimated the cost of ingredients for 6-7 dozen cookies to be 26-36 cents. It was suggested that troops sell the cookies for 25-30 cents per dozen. Here is a recipe for the early Girl Scout cookie.

Girl Scouts in the 20s and 30s continued to bake and sell sugar cookies packaged in wax-paper bags. In the mid-30s, Councils in Philadelphia and New York began to use commercial bakers. They smartly stamped the trefoil logo onto the cookies, which grew in popularity around the country until World War II ended their production due to shortages in sugar, butter and flour. (The clever Girl Scouts turned to calendar sales.)

Pre-war customers in could display a Girl Scout cookie window decal:

With 50s suburban growth came tables at shopping centers, which augmented door-to-door sales. There were now three types of cookies: Sandwich creme (in chocolate and vanilla), shortbread (called Trefoil), and Chocolate Mint (which became Thin Mint). Peanut butter cookies were added in the 60s. (I knew them as Savannas. They are now called Do-Si-Dos.) Other cookies have come and gone over the years. Different regions use different bakers and even different names for the cookies. In recent years, Tagalongs (chocoate casing over peanut butter and wafer) and Samoas (a gooey, sweet chocolate-coconut-caramel cookie) have done well.

Thin mints still reign in popularity. Here’s the breakdown of cookie sales by type:

25% Thin Mints
19% Samoas (sometimes called Caramel deLites)
13% Tagalongs (also called Peanut Butter Patties)
11% Do-Si-Do (aka Peanut Butter Sandwich)
9% Trefoils (aka Shortbread)
23% All other

You can see a listing of all the types of Girl Scout Cookies, some of which I’d never heard of, at this girl scout cookie site.

So where does that cookie money go? According to the Girl Scouts, approximately 70% of the proceeds stays in the local council. A small portion of that goes to the individual troop (usually 7-12% per box). The balance goes to the baker to pay for the cookies. In addition to contributing to the coffers, scouts also learn a lot through cookie sales, whether by making change for a customer, talking to customers, taking inventory, attempting to earn incentives (like grown salespeople!),  or deciding how to allocate troop profits.

This site tells you where you can find girl scout cookies in your area.

Even with my daughter’s well-honed sales pitch to “Buy extra boxes – the cookies freeze well”, they do tend to run out. Luckily, various bakers have come to the rescue, with their own recipes for homemade versions of popular Girl Scout cookies, should you find yourself craving a Samoa in November.

Love and Olive Oil has a nice review of a Tagalong/Peanut Butter Patty recipe that originally appeared in Baking Bites.

Fortunately for Girl Scout cookie fans, Baking Bites also offers its take on the Samoa. In addition to the yummy-sounding Samoa recipe, they offer a Thin Mint recipe and a Do-Si-Do/Peanut Butter Sandwich recipe, which sound delicious to this Do-Si-Do enthusiast.

One cookie that might not be so delicious right now is the Lemon Chalet Cremes, which were just recalled because the taste and smell were deemed by the bakers to be less than the standard.

All this begs the question, What’s your favorite Girl Scout cookie?

Images: Susan Sachs Lipman, Scouts on Stamps Society International

Mixed Reviews for New Necco Sweetheart Flavors

I admit I was a little (okay, a lot) worried when I read that one of my favorite childhood candies, Necco wafers and sweethearts, was being reformulated after a whopping 163 years of tradition and success. Necco wafers were good enough to accompany two explorers on their expeditions (Admiral Byrd’s to the South Pole and Donald MacMillan’s to the Arctic) as well as feed the WWII troops, plus they featured the most wonderful iconic bright colors and flavors — Why would the company want to mess with that?

Mostly, as it turns out, to replace artificial ingredients with natural ones, an endeavor it’s hard to argue with. According to the Necco site, the roll contains the same flavors it always did:  Orange, Lemon, Chocolate, Clove, Cinnamon, Wintergreen and Licorice. Artificial ingredients have been replaced with natural flavors and colors from red beets, purple cabbage, turmeric and cocoa powder.

A panel of adult and teen tasters assembled by Slow Family Online tasted the company’s Sweethearts in preparation for Valentine’s Day. The group applauded the inclusion of natural over artificial ingredients and even liked the new, slightly softer, texture of the candies. While some of the new flavors were fine, others didn’t fare as well in the transfer and we bemoaned their loss.

The group found Purple (grape) to retain the most classic Necco flavor. The grape flavor is actually a little more pronounced than it was before. We all continue to like Orange (color and flavor), a favorite, which is definitely more citrus-y than its predecessor. The Green (green apple) has a new flavor, instead of its traditional, vaguely lime one, which I had really liked. Like the Purple, it retains the Necco chalky quality we like. The apple flavor got mixed reviews. I found it somewhat cloying. Light blue (blue raspberry) is brand new, in flavor and color. It’s a bit sugary tasting, but then the tartness of the raspberry comes on. This one could grow on me, despite the additional strange newness of its color. My daughter was particularly disappointed with Yellow (lemon), which she says used to have a more banana flavor. I was particularly let down with Pink (strawberry). Gone is the classic, nostalgic, unclassifiable Necco pink flavor. In its place is the much too bright strawberry.

I’m glad to report that the bright colors definitely remain intact. I’ve watched the sayings get updated over the years, as new ones like FAX ME and E MAIL ME came on. This year brings TWEET ME as an addition to classics like SOUL MATE, SWEET PEA, SAY YES, and ALL MINE. The Necco Sweetheart page tells us that all the previous sayings were scrapped to make way for sayings that were voted on by the public. I’m glad, then, that the voters thought to include LOVE YOU along with U R HOT.

Sweethearts are the top-selling nonchocolate Valentine’s Day candy. 6 billion little Sweethearts are produced each year. They’re so successful that they are now going to be produced for occasions other than Valentine’s Day. You’ll soon see Sweethearts with sayings targeted to the Twilight vampire book series, as well as a patriotic line.

I’m eager to try a Necco wafer roll next. I’m looking forward to Chocolate I remember. They wouldn’t mess with that, would they?

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Photos: Necco

Bonus Trivia Question: What does Necco stand for?

Answer: New England Confectionary Company

Slow News Day: Are the French Losing their Cheese Edge?

While some American farmers are just discovering the joys and products of old-fashioned, methodical cheesemaking — employing ones own cows, sheep and goats — some in France are rigthfully worried that that country is losing its traditional methods, along with some of its long-time producers. One family that has been making cheese since Charlemagne’s 9th century rule, is in its last generation of cheesemakers.

Blame increasing globalization of both palate and distribution. Near-ubiquitous use of pasteurization has also moved the French away from unique raw-milk cheeses and toward blander packaged fare. As a result, the very people who coined the term terroir (meaning that the food reflects the region in which it was produced, say as a result of specific grass munched by local cows) are in danger of losing their most unique geographically-based cheeses.

Why should we care? If you love cheese, of course, you likely treasure the small-batch, hand-made varieties from the farmer’s own hands and farm. They’re more special and rare; they taste more distinct, reflecting the land and the care — sometimes two years of processing and storing — that went into them. This trend extends beyond cheese, of course, and represents a loss of long-time tradition and craftsmanship as well as a diminishment in the appreciation of a fine product, which leads to the demise of that product itself. Remember when cars were more stylish? Clothing better made?

This fine article explains the cheese situation in more depth.

The only thing one can do on this (or any) side of the pond? Gather up a good French cheese, like the Comte Les Trois Comptois (a nutty, floral raw milk gruyere), a sturdy baguette, and a bottle of wine, and do your part to keep unique, terroir French cheeses alive.

Photos: Keith Weller, Susan Sachs Lipman

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