Tomiko and I would like to share some insights about naming your blog, based on our so far limited experience. Choosing a blog name is important, since it’s going to be the name of your brand and will represent your blog and you, as a blogger. However, it is also important not to be rash about it. Once Tomiko and I decided we’d like to start a blog, I wanted to jump in right away. I’m glad we spent a few weeks brainstorming and testing out names. Here are some of our tips to keep in mind:
“Nomansland, the territory of the Basques, is in a region called Cornucopia, where the vines are tied up with sausages. And in those parts there was a mountain made entirely of grated Parmesan cheese on whose slopes there were people who spent their whole time making macaroni and ravioli, which they cooked in chicken broth and then cast it to the four winds, and the faster you could pick it up, the more you got of it.”
The Basques are an interesting people – neither French nor Spanish, their Basqueland’s seven provinces span those two countries. They have their own language, Euskera, a prehistoric language that is unrelated to any other known language. Their history spans millennia, and they have even been thought to have descended from the Cro-Magnon. I am reminded of the fiercely independent Spanish clan from Asterix in Spain – although never said outright, and wearing different clothing, there are some aspects of the Basque culture represented.
After spending several days hiking Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon National Park in October, my parents and I started to make our way back to Las Vegas, from where we were to fly out. Luckily, we spent a night at Valley of Fire State Park, which is just a short drive from Las Vegas and more of our wheelhouse than Vegas itself.
The drive through the desert on our approach to the Valley of Fire State Park was amazing. The landscape seemed almost alien – Martian even. There were these weird red rocks jutting out of the landscape, with wadis (dry riverbeds) criss-crossing the road.
As we only had one day in the park, we were able to just take a few short hikes. One of the remarkable sites we saw were rocks covered in petroglyphs. At the start of the hike, there was a petroglyph legend with explanations of the drawings we saw, including a ‘batwoman.’ Awesome! My dad and I tried another hike that promised spectacular views of rock formations, but the signage was rather poor and we spent a good 30 minutes wandering around a flat, sandy plain dotted with cacti.
We also spotted some cute critters that looked like chipmunks – antelope squirrels. These little beggars popped up when we were sitting by the firepit after a day’s hiking, looking at us and looking for food. The park warns against feeding them, though, because they can carry the bubonic plague!
After living for so long in Saudi Arabia, hiking Valley of Fire State Park felt like home. It was hot and sunny but very dry, a much different desert climate than either Zion or Bryce. The sand and the red rocks were also characteristic of desert areas we camped in around Riyadh. And given the relentless winter we’ve had this year in Toronto, I can only reminisce about what it feels like to be in the warm sunlight.
If I were to choose my favourite dessert, I think I might have to choose the rather simple combination of cookies and milk. And my favourite type of cookie is the chocolate chip cookie. I don’t care for sugar cookies; cinnamon-flavoured snickerdoodles are alright once in a while; anything with raisins is an automatic ‘no.’ If I were to have a daily cookie, the chocolate chip cookie would be it.
The secret to making these cookies soft and chewy is the cornstarch – adding just a bit completely changes the texture. I’ve read in many cookbooks that adding a bit of corn syrup also helps to make cookies chewy, but I didn’t have any in my kitchen, so I just went with the cornstarch. I normally bake everything, from cookies to cakes to puddings, with whole wheat flour, and I find that it adds a bit of chewy nuttiness to these cookies.
Poached pears have never really appealed to me. I think I imagined the dish to be mushy and bland, which is crazy because I love both pears and wine. When I recently found some extra homemade Riesling in the basement, the light bulb turned on: why not try my favourite sweet white wine along with some Boscs (my favourite pear)? I loaded up on the spices as well, guaranteeing that this dessert is packed with flavour. After poaching the pears and plating them, there was still something missing – a creamy element. I found some chevre in my fridge and one dollop provided the perfect amount of velvety tartness these poached pears needed. Voila!