Thursday, March 29, 2012

Paradise Found

It is not paradise, per se, but rather man's impression of what paradise should be.  Green and lush, but perfectly controlled.  Safe, and controlled.  Off in the not-too-far-off distance you can hear the hum of the highway, see the metallic frames of poles ensuring our paradise is adequately electrified.  The nature preserve is perfectly coiffed, and wildness is contained in the way only humans can do...clean lines, manicured, pleasing to the eye.  It's no wilderness.  But try telling that to the dozens upon dozens of species of birds that occupy this area.  Green, yellow, crimson, black, white.  Hawkish, flitting, curious, predatory.  They sing songs we know not the words of, but still cast one into a dreamlike state.  A birdwatcher I am.

It's home; relocated, warmer.  It could be anywhere.  In town it is an aural rush, mixed with all the rowdiness and awkwardness of a once quiet village now alive solely for the tourist.  Visitors leave propriety and modesty at home and unleash an inner self seldom shared in public.  Colors abound and the air is thick with native song.  The promenade could be in any beach town.  Our homeland has clearly influenced the culture here. 

But the food, oh the food!  Decadently authentic if you scope the right spot.  A rich chocolatey and fruity mole sauce drowning perfectly juicy pieces of pollo.  Smooth and completely satisfying.  Guacamole unlike any I've ever had.  Silken and creamy, spicy and refreshing. Though, the view from my seat at Mi Pueblo is discomforting.  The lure of quiet shared seclusion is far more appealing to these two weary travelers. 

Tanned bodies lay sleeping under limp umbrellas.  Beach lounges are crammed in side by side in either direction for as far as you can see.  Sardines come to mind.  Every 10 or so yards is a new establishment blaring everything from local sounds to bollywood's finest.  The sand drops off 3-4 feet where the tide smacks up against this man-made wall of sand.  Hand scooped 'stairs' are carved into this wall every so often.  Children woop and laugh uncontrollably as the waves move in and out.  Their smiles are infectious.  The sand is like silk and the light breeze carries coconut and oil on it.  The sea is a dozen different shades of blue and aqua.  It is precisely what you see on postcards.

Gracious ruins hold down the fort, high atop limestone cliffs, the Sea butting serenely up against the walls.  The sun shines hot and sizzles unscreened skin.  History abounds within these walls.  It has held fast to its truth as best it could, but is slowly losing its grip to the strong arm of modern culture.  You would not believe the color of the Sea.  No photo can really do it justice.  Cerulean and  aqua, navy and turquoise.  Crystal clear and welcoming. 

Outside the walls of the ruins you are thrust into the arms of a bustling tourist community.  Brilliant colors, loud music, sweaty bodies, roaming dogs, native children running around giddily and barefoot.  Acrobats dangle precariously by their ankles from a totem pole in the center of the town, spinning with arms outstretched. 

The sunrise and sunset works hard to do us one better but nothing beats the awe of a sunrise over the Lake.  I yearn for home briefly but am re-intoxicated by the warm and relaxed air. 

Sitting on the balcony, listening to the birds conducting their morning symphony, the warm familiarity of a hot mug of coffee resting on my chest, wrapped up in comfort, I squint into the sunrise and look over at my husband engrossed in his book.  I pick mine back up and dive right back into my adventure.  Time passes without a hint, but what does it matter.  We've got nothing to do and all the time to do it. 

This is paradise...

Monday, March 5, 2012

Garlic Herb Bread

I made bread!  And it didn't suck!  Granted, I really only hunted and gathered all the ingredients, read and re-read the recipe 40 bazillion times, and then dumped it all, in the proper order, into the bread machine.  So I guess the bread machine did all the real work :)  But for all intents and purposes, I made bread and it was good. 

I can't believe how easy it was.  We have a West Bend bread machine and it is pretty great.  I have never done anything like this before, and I've never even really seen a bread machine...except for when we moved and I carried it into the kitchen from the old apartment.  That's about it. 

I inventoried our cupboards and determined we had very little on the ingredients list, so to the market we went.  Yeast is weird.  I've only ever seen Kevin stirring it up somethin' fierce at the holidays when he makes these really amazing rolls that go with dinner.  I've never actually participated in the yeast'ing of anything, so I was a touch intimidated, but there was no need to be :)

Basically, just add the ingredients in the exact order below...this is important.

  • 2/3 cup water (70 to 80 degrees F...I nuked it for 1 minute in the microwave...and yes, the temp of the water is important)
  • 2 teaspoons butter, softened (you can also sub with olive oil if you like)
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 cups bread flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt (I used kosher sea salt)
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed
  • 1/8 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/8 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons active dry yeast (I used one full 1/4 oz. packet and it was just fine :))


  1. In the bread machine pan, place all ingredients in the order listed above. Select Basic bread setting. Choose crust color and loaf size if available (our machine doesn't have these options). Bake according to bread machine directions (check dough after 5 minutes of mixing; add 1 to 2 tablespoons of water or flour if needed...I ended up adding 1 tablespoon of water as it looked a little dry).  

The prep was quick and easy, and the total bread machine time was around 3 hours and 10 minutes.                

And that's that!  It was incredibly tasty!  Golden crispy, but not too crispy, crust, and a warm moist center that has a great density to it.  It is perfect :)  We immediately enjoyed a slice with butter...yum.  Then we decided that wasn't enough of a sample size and that we'd better expand our research/tasting efforts, so we dipped it in olive oil with shredded parmesan cheese.  Whoa.  That was a whole lotta yum.  The herb flavors are there, but not in your face.  I could taste more of the rosemary and thyme, but Geof said he could taste the garlic.  I thought the garlic was pretty subtle, but I wouldn't add any more than I did.  This would be perfect with any sort of Italian dish, or just by excess ;)

I scooped this recipe from HERE in case you want to read any of the reviews and see how others adapted the recipe, including for the oven (instead of a bread machine).