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an artsy cheesesteak adventure

Culinary/Museum jaunt through the city of Brotherly Love

High brow art meets greasy comfort food. I teach Art History and French. I can surround myself with some pretty snooty stuff sometimes. But, I’m not above an everyman sandwich topped with something called “whiz.”

I’ve eaten “cheesesteaks” in Virginia before. Who wouldn’t love a warm bun filled with grilled meat and topped with onions and melted cheese. Sounds fabulous, right?. However, my friends from Philly swear that there’s something in the air (or stuck to the greasy grill) in Philly that makes theirs better than anywhere else. Ok, I’ll bite.

Pat’s is the original hot dog stand turned steak purveyor.

I took a day off from work and hustled up with the family to Philly for a long weekend to explore some history, art, and cheesesteaks.

I loosened my belt (or maybe donned some elastic and lycra) and decided that we could sample at least three different cheesesteaks during our trip. It was a struggle, but someone had to do it. We got recommendations and I found three candidates. We and our German exchange student were all up to the task.

First stop was the original, Pat’s. It was surprisingly our least favorite. It was good, but I’ve had just as good (and not so overpriced) cheesesteaks back home. The only thing that was special was the bread. I’ll give that to Philly. Their bread is special.

This one was adorned with American and not the iconic “whiz.”

Stop # 2; Tony Luke’s was amazing! The kids all chose the classic with whiz. I opted for the roasted pork with broccoli rabe; it was something special. We all agreed that the product at Tony Luke’s was definitely something different and worth the five-hour car trip to Philly.

This is the original location on 10th Street in South Philly.
Roast pork with greens. Give it a try!

Third and final stop, Jim’s on South Street. This was worth the wait. It was a fabulous greasy bit of goodness and it was perfect washed down with a cold Yards IPA. I’d go back to Jim’s or Tony Luke’s. They were unique enough to say that they were better than any grilled steak sandwich that I’d had outside Pennsylvania.

The well-seasoned grill!
This wasn’t actually our order, because we wouldn’t bastardize a cheesesteak with vegetables… But, nonetheless, they were steamy hot. It’s almost sensual.

Philly and the Cheesesteak Wars, here’s what we learned:

Philly is a a fun place despite its constant history lessons. My kids endured Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, and the requisite landmarks of Philadelphia history for the promise of greasy meat and cheese on a warm bun. I think it was a good deal. As a teacher, it’s a win-win.

South Philly is full of funky mosaics, interesting shops, and the amazing Italian Market. We were able to make a whole dinner out of our purchases since we rented a fun Airbnb for the trip.

Cannolis are just as good for breakfast as they are any time of day.

Famous cheesesteak joints may not live up to their hype. Try the less touristy places and you won’t be disappointed.

Philly is a hidden gem ( but in plain sight) for beautiful art. VISIT THE BARNES FOUNDATION and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. It’s not just there as the backdrop of the Rocky Statue. Climb the steps (not just on your workout) and actually explore.

Everyone should visit the Barnes Foundation for an Art History lesson. I didn’t allot enough time to take in this beautiful and amazingly-arranged space. It’s like no other museum ever. You will learn something as you go. Then watch this documentary. You may never see the art world as a coterie of prissy, stuck up snobs again. Seriously, this story could rival Game of Thrones for ruthlessness. (Ok, maybe that is a bit exaggerated; there are no dragons.)

Explore the gallery below to see more of what we did.

Love statue

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comfort food

Potato, sausage, and corn chowder

Does it bother you when you search a recipe online, but once you’ve landed on the link to the adorable blog you are required to scroll through miles of endless blather about the blogger’s life, pictures of the kids, the dog, the artfully arranged ingredients, and more about the personal inner struggle the blogger has with getting her kids to eat whatever it is?

Me too.

So Hallelujah, I’m gonna spare you my personal drama and just let you check out the recipe.

Potato & Kielbasa chowder

This is a satisfying & easy recipe for a Potato & Kielbasa Chowder! It’s a family favorite.  A wonderfully flavorful recipe that is perfect for a chilly evening.  We particularly like it on a cosy night while there is football or basketball in the air and a beer on hand.

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 4 cups water
  • 8 potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 2 cups frozen corn
  • 16 oz. Kielbasa sausage
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp ground pepper
  • 8 oz sharp cheddar or Monterey jack cheese, shredded
  • 1 cup heavy cream (or half & half)
  1. In a 6 quart Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium high heat.

  2. Add the onion and garlic. Sauté for 3-4 minutes until the onions are translucent and slightly golden. Be careful to not let them get too brown.

  3. Add broth, water, potatoes, corn, sausage, bay leaf, thyme, and pepper. Stir to combine.

    Bring to a boil.

  4. Reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and let cook over low-heat for 35-45 minutes or until the potatoes are fork-tender.

  5. Discard the bay leaf.

    Add the shredded cheddar cheese and cream to the soup and stir to combine and melt the cheese.

  6. Serve and enjoy!

To lower the calories, easily substitute half & half for the cream, and a turkey kielbasa.

 
 

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Off the ledge after the laundry

Starting again.

Sometimes great ideas come before their time. I started this blog several years ago because I needed to have a blog; I was stereotypically a SAHM with a new graphic design/photography business. It’s what I was supposed to do. I needed it, right?

Well, now I’m a French and Art History teacher who dabbles in graphic design and photography. My kids are teenagers and I don’t have anything that I need to say.

HOWEVER, I’ve had many encourage me to start again.

BUT I’m busy,

I have so many worthwhile projects,

I don’t want to be another mom with a blog,

I work full-time,

my kids need me,

I have to cook dinner,

my laundry is not folded,

my husband travels a lot,

I’m cranky,

I’m supposed to workout now,

I’m on another diet,

who cares what I think anyway…

The push and pull, the yin and yang, the black, white, and gray of writing a blog are all sitting on the safe side of the taut tightrope of good reasons to start this blog. I’m taking my first step off the ledge anyway. Stay tuned; I do have laundry to put away.

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Who stepped on the duck?

Originally posted on by 

Why are farts so funny?
We all break an occasional wind, just like we all walk, talk, sneeze, or sleep. So why is the fart such a hilarious moment that needs to be celebrated with snickers and high fives.
Belly-busting for busting tail.

I live with three men (two under the age of eight and one who should be old enough to know better), but for some reason if anyone cuts the cheese all decorum is lost. Even the stink-eye from mommy can’t bring them back from the brink.

Taco and chili nights are the best gas-producing dinners (unfortunately meals that I don’t have to threaten or bribe them to eat.) And now that we’ve entered into spring, the produce section is teeming with the green leafy veggies, those toot-fueling monsters. I admonish, “eat your greens,” but with my trepidation knowing what vapors lurk in their little bowels yearning to break free.

The only thing funnier than a fooster from my boys would be one from me.
High fives all around.

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Thanksgiving cards

This time of year is getting busier, but it’s not as hectic as December.  For the past two years, I have sent out Thanksgiving cards.  They are two-sided.  One with a picture of the boys {or family} on our yearly family vacation and the other side with either another fun family photo {or a picture with Santa.}  This year, our Santa popped up at the mall on November 1.  I had a free afternoon with the kiddos and got a crazy one of the two of them.  They claim to be too old to take photos with  Santa, so I let them have a little fun with their posing.   Check out the results below.

Getting this holiday chore done earlier is great for me.  One less thing to stress about while preparing for the onslaught of Christmas to-do’s.  I even bought the stamps online at the USPS online site.  Check out their great holiday store here.  {I didn’t have to wait in line; who has time to go to the post office.  I work all day and can never seem to get there before it closes.}  The minimal shipping cost was worth the freedom from the hassle of standing in line while telling my kids not touch anything or anyone.

chef stamps

These are the celebrity chefs stamps that I chose for my Thanksgiving cards.

christmasthanks 20142 web

Here is the Thanksgiving side of my card.

christmasthanks 2014 web

Here is the Christmas side of my card.  Don’t worry, my younger son is only “smoking” a candy cane.  It’s likeness to anything else was unintentional.

I get them printed at a photo lab that ships overnight.  You have to have a photography business to use that one, but tinyprints.com {which is currently offer 30% off holiday orders} and moo.com {which is offering free shipping for a purchase of $40} have some really nice designs.

tinyprints

for TINY PRINTS click here

moo

for MOOclick here

 

Happy start to the holiday season.

SPL

 

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It’s beginning to look like Christmas… and if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em

So the retailers have been on the Christmas prowl since this summer.  I saw Christmas trees up in stores in August.  Back to school supplies in stores before school was even out and Christmas shopping in August!  No wonder there’s global warming; we can’t get our shopping seasons correct.

All that said, I am all about getting a jump on holiday shopping because I hate the stress of a crowded marketplace when I’m trying to find the perfect gift for my in-laws or my very-hard-to-shop-for, he-has-everything father, who’s birthday just happens to be December 25!

However, this year, I am trying not to sell my soul to the devilishly successful online marketplaces of Amazon, Target.com, overstock.com, etc…

If I can’t find it at a local retailer, I’m going to frequent sites with a good cause.  Sites that stand for something and give part of their proceeds to help others.  {Don’t be forlorn, big retailers actually do give back as well.  See here.}

So without further ado, I give you my current list.

noonday collection necklace The Noonday Collection:  Great collection of jewelry and accessories.  Their mission is to create economic opportunity for the most vulnerable artisans in the developing world.  Interested in the cause? Read more here.

sancutary eaarings International Sanctuary. This is a lovely collection of jewelry created by survivors of human trafficking in India.  Interested in the cause? Read more here.

ruhamah bracelet Ruhamah Designs.  The beautiful jewelry and accessories from this company are also designed and hand-crafted by Indian girls rescued from sex-trafficking.  Many of their survivors were SOLD as young girls and have never known life outside of prostitution.  Interested in the cause? Read more here.

indigenous poncho Indigenous Designs is a collection of Women’s and Men’s clothing.  Their goal is to support and preserve fair trade wages and artisan cooperatives, invest in natural and organic fibers and environmentally-friendly dyes, and spread the beauty of handmade, eco fashion.  Interested in the cause? Read more here.

31bits 31bits.com sells beautiful jewelry to support artisans in the developing world.  They receive a sustainable income and holistic education, empowering them to rise above poverty.  Interested in this cause.  Read more here.

coffee higher groung Higher Ground Roasters.  This coffee company’s mission began with an effort to purchase the best coffee available, and roast it perfectly.  They give back to the local and global community and support environmental preservation and conservation by purchasing 100% Certified Organic, Fair Trade, and Shade Grown Coffee.  Interested in the cause?  Read more here.

insulator_pic_1(1) HipCycle is an online retailer specializing in upcycled goods.  Their mission is to offer upcycled alternatives to traditional home decor, jewelry and fashion as a way to reduce global waste. They are trying to educate consumers on the benefits of upcycling.  Interested in the cause?  Read more here.

These are just a drop in the bucket of online retailers with a cause.  If you have a favorite, please comment below.  Happy shopping.

SPL

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VOKI

I’m trying out using a voki for my smartboard activities.  Here she is for now.

She’s a little stilted in her speech, but it could be fun.  I think the some students could benefit from listening several times.  She doesn’t get bothered by the repetition as much as I do.

We’ll see how it goes.

 

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New no-bake Nutella cheesecake

I saw a recipe on Pinterest the other day for this no-bake Nutella cheesecake.  It sounded like a great pairing.  But, I can’t stand cool-whip.  It tastes like raw chemicals to me.   Yes, I’ve used the stuff before, but I’m trying to cut a lot of junk out of my life.  Obviously, that doesn’t mean cutting the junkfood out of my life; I’m making a Nutella cheesecake for goodness sakes  That’s not an essential, nutrition-packed recipe, now is it?

Anyway, I have amended the original recipe as follows and it is devine.  My kids loved it too.

no bake nutella cheesecake
no bake nutella cheesecake

 No-Bake Nutella Cheesecake with Oreo crust

Ingredients:

Crust:

  • 12 oreo {or oreo-like} cookies
  • 3 Tbsp butter, melted

Filling:

  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 2/3 cup Nutella
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 8 oz whipping cream
  • 3 Tbsp crème fraîche {optional}
  • 4 Tbsp sugar

Garnish: {optiontal}

  • 1 Chocolate bar {I love the intense flavor of a 70% cacao dark chocolate bar, but you can use whatever is your favorite.}
  1. In a food processor, blend the oreos until they turn to a fine powder.   In a bowl, combine the oreos and the melted butter until they clump together.  Spread the mixture on the bottom of an 8″ or 9″ pie pan.  Make sure that you have a thin layer all the way around.  {My crust was thin and did not go up the sides of the pan.}  Set aside.
  2. In the same bowl as you made the crust, add the softened cream cheese and Nutella.  Mix with a hand mixer until well blended.  Add the vanilla and mix again.  Set aside.
  3. {You do not have to clean the beaters from the Nutella mixture.} In another bowl, whip the whipping cream, crème fraîche and the sugar to fairly stiff peaks.  Be careful not to make butter though.
  4. With a rubber spatula, fold the whipped cream mixture into the Nutella mixture until there are no more white streaks.  It makes a lovely mocha-colored mixture.
  5. Add the Nutella cream mixture to the oreo crust.  Even out the top and chill about two hours before serving.
  6. If you’d like to make it fancy, grate a chocolate bar and sprinkle it on top.

 

New no-bake Nutella cheesecake

Recipe Type: Dessert
Cuisine: Chocolate
Author: Ginger Hansen
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 8
Scrumptious No-Bake Nutella Cheesecake with Oreo Crust
Ingredients
  • 12 oreo {or oreo-like} cookies
  • 3 Tbsp butter, melted
  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 2/3 cup Nutella
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 8 oz whipping cream
  • 3 Tbsp crème fraîche {optional}
  • 4 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 Chocolate bar {I love the intense flavor of a 70% cacao dark chocolate bar, but you can use whatever is your favorite.}
Instructions
  1. In a food processor, blend the oreos until they turn to a fine powder. In a bowl, combine the oreos and the melted butter until they clump together. Spread the mixture on the bottom of an 8″ or 9″ pie pan. Make sure that you have a thin layer all the way around. {My crust was thin and did not go up the sides of the pan.} Set aside.
  2. In the same bowl as you made the crust, add the softened cream cheese and Nutella. Mix with a hand mixer until well blended. Add the vanilla and mix again. Set aside.
  3. {You do not have to clean the beaters from the Nutella mixture.} In another bowl, whip the whipping cream, crème fraîche and the sugar to fairly stiff peaks. Be careful not to make butter though.
  4. With a rubber spatula, fold the whipped cream mixture into the Nutella mixture until there are no more white streaks. It makes a lovely mocha-colored mixture.
  5. Add the Nutella cream mixture to the oreo crust. Even out the top and chill about two hours before serving.
  6. If you’d like to make it fancy, grate a chocolate bar and sprinkle it on top.

no bake nutella cheesecake 2web
It’s worth making this mess