Tuesday, July 09, 2024

A different kind of "making"

Anyone who's paying attention knows there's a heatwave out west. I'm smack in the middle of it, and a few friends (who don't live here) have asked how we survive. I mean - when you get into your car and you see this, you know it's going to be a tough ride. 

So we broke the record... not just broke it, but pretty much shattered it. By three degrees. It's a little sobering and scary. So how do we survive the summer temps? 


This little peach tree is sagging with fruit, and the birds have let me know that it's time to either pick them, or the peaches are fair game for their dinner. 

 I picked a handful and pulled out my trusty cookbook for baking. 

Now hear me out... first, I come from a long line of bakers. My Aunt Teresa was known for her award winning peach pie, and my mom is no slouch in the kitchen, either. In fact, we call her Virgie Baker (long story!) and her chocolate chip cookies are legendary. So is her cheesecake - which I'm craving right now.

For some reason, The baking gene skipped me. As much as I try, my breads are dense, my sourdough starter turned moldy, my pie crusts are hard... you get the idea. But this cookbook has served me well. 

Do you remember as a kid - buying books from a book service who would drop off a list of what was available - we'd put a few checkmarks by the ones we wanted, and a few days later, the books would arrive. I chose this one when I was around 9 or 10 years old, and I can't tell you how many times I've used it. 

It may sound silly, but I can make this recipe for Apple Crisp in my sleep. It's ridiculously easy... even a kid can pull it off. 

But this was the recipe I was looking for - mostly for guidance, than actual ingredients. 

I remembered that it makes a pretty small batch, and my other recipes seemed like they were going to make too much pastry dough. 

(Maybe my binging of The Bear led me down this path, who knows?)  

So I chose some peaches and followed Aunt Teresa's recipe for the filling. And I decided to make two smaller pies, rather than one big one. 

Dammit, I needed more peaches! I chose a few more and added to what I'd diced. 

Here's where it gets tricky - I have no idea how to finish the edge of a pie, so I did my best.  I can crimp a pizza crust with the best of them, but pastry dough seems like a different beast.  

I had a small bit of dough left over, and made a few tarts with some blueberry jam. These were OK, a little tough, crust wise. I Googled it and realize I over worked that dough like crazy, which developed the gluten and made them tough. Like I said - I'm not a very good baker! 

But in the end - here's my humble pie - no pun intended. 

The egg wash on top gave it that lovely golden color, but I may have applied it at the wrong time - maybe ten minutes before it was supposed to come out of the over. I wondered if it was going to turn into scrambled eggs on top, but it worked. 

I probably have enough peaches for another pie - just not sure my hips can handle that!


Saturday, June 22, 2024

Shopping in Chinatown

We have a terrific Chinatown here in Las Vegas.... so big, in fact - that there is a second one developing on the south side of town. I'm more than thrilled! Some of the best produce you will find are at the various asian and hispanic markets here in town. Their prices are way better than the big box grocery stores and better yet - the variety is ridiculously diverse. 

I needed rice the other day, and decided to head to SF Market, in the heart of Chinatown. 

Sure, I could buy rice at Costco, but then I'd miss all this grocery diversity! And yes - there are MANY asian grocery stores to choose from - 99 Ranch is one of my favorite. Greenland, too - which is a funny name for a store in at the Korean Town Mall.  

But I was on a mission for rice, and two people told me that SF Market has the best prices... so that was that. 

Enter the store and to the right is a well stocked produce department.  

I mean - this aisle features more varieties of bok choy than I've ever seen!

 It's hard to tell by this photo, but these strawberries were almost the size of tennis balls!

Heading over to the refrigerated cases - the sprout section was impressive.

And their mushroom selection is ridiculous. 

I'm assuming that some restaurants must shop here, as their prices rival those of wholesale food purveyors. And I mean - who needs a five-pound bag of cleaned garlic?!?

I don't know of too many stores that sell duck eggs! 

OK, I went a little overboard in their noodle department, 


 but then when I rounded the corner and found the ramen aisle, I thought I was in heaven. 

Need rice?  

I picked up a bag so large, I had to buy several OXO containers to store it!   

Like most other asian stores, they have a live seafood section, and will clean and cook your selection. TBH, I can't handle choosing a live fish and then watching it die. 

So I never buy live fish. 

But - need a lobster or some fresh catfish? 

This place will hook you up. This store is only about 12 minutes from my house, so it's pretty convenient to shop there. 

Makes me happy!



Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Pics from the Jewelry and Gem Show

There is never a lack of things to do here in Las Vegas.  Personally, I am looking forward to the Star Trek convention later this summer,  but meanwhile, this caught my eye.

A friend had told me that she and her hubby fly to Phoenix for the Gem, Mineral and Jewelry show. So when I saw that there was one coming to Vegas, I immediately signed up. And I had no idea what to expect. 

It was held at the World Market complex, a huge "campus" right in the center of town. 

This was built almost 20 years ago, and is home to many furniture showrooms, with 315,000 square feet of showroom space. Seriously, it's HUGE!

Back when it was first built, entrance was strictly controlled... you could only stroll the aisles if you had a business license and were involved in the furniture industry. 

I went there when it first opened and was shocked when I visited a showroom of a Chinese furniture manufacturer who was selling whole bedroom sets for less than what the materials would cost here. Seriously, I looked at a 8-piece bedroom set for around $1100 - and did some quick math in my head. Just the materials for that set would have run me around $2500. And the quality was decent.... not great, but certainly reasonably well made.

So it was a bit of deja vu when I walked into one of the conventional halls to see what all the fuss was about the Gem and Jewelry show. 

First off - rows and rows of jewelry... not my jam, but there were a decent amount of people buying. 

It appeared most were private individuals, not owners of jewelry store. Seriously - anything (jewelry wise) that you wanted was probably there. To be honest, my eyes started to glaze over all the rings, earrings and necklaces on display. I mean... thousands of them. 

It was definitely a sensory overload. So I headed over to the tables that DIDN'T have jewelry... and ran into a local fellow who was keenly interested in these knives on display. He was a knife maker, and gave me a quick tutorial on the types of antlers used for these knife handles. 

I fell in love with the next booth - selling these amazing laser cut pop-up greeting cards. 

They had dozens, and every one was better than the one before. 

I bought a few - and since I was listed as a "buyer" on my badge, I got them wholesale. 

Who doesn't love a discount!?!

Then things got serious - and I started walking down aisle after aisle of gems. Rocks, basically - some polished, some in raw form. It took a minute for me to understand the pricing - everything was sold by weight. Amethysts seemed to be one of the more popular stones, but opals seemed to be a close second. 

 There were rows and rows of tchotchkes, like these skulls and more. 

This photo is out of focus, but I loved the texture of this photo.

And then I found the real gems - both literally and figuratively!

 These amethyst geodes were amazing! 

And the people at this booth were highly motivated to sell, sell, sell!

This book matched set reminded me of fallopian tubes! When I said that the salesman, he looked at me with a blank stare...

You couldn't sit in this couch, as it was guarded by security - but it sure didn't look comfortable. 

Around the corner from the couch was where I thought it started to get really interesting... gem and stone dealers.  It's amazing to see all of this in one setting. 

Most bins had the price per gram listed on it, and then each piece had their weight. 

I fell in love with this Peruvian blue opal,

 and chose two matching ones. 

Upon weighing them, and then calculating my wholesale discount, this stone came to just under $30. I had them put two aside for me, until I could come up with a reason to buy them. 

A little further up the aisle - this booth caught my eye. I fin't really see how it fit into the classification of gems or jewelry, but I liked their sense of humor. This huge alien sculpture would look great in my back yard, but oy vey - it was pricey. 

I loved their alien pieces!

Their wildlife was pretty great, too. 

Honestly - Cactus Joe's has better work, more variety,  at a MUCH better price point. 

Finally - there were a few pieces of furniture crafted from stone or petrified wood.

There was a huge skull display - I guess there's a huge following for these pieces - but I didn't think they were anything special. Reminded me of the stuff you'd see in a head shop in the 70s or 80s. (Good times!)

On my way out, right by the exit - I found what might have been my favorite booth - and it felt like a nostalgic attraction. 

These wares reminded me of driving across country with my family as a kid - stopping at many small gas stations spanning the now historic Route 66. Or stopping at a Stuckey's, which always advertised their pecan rolls and Native American crafts. 

(Who doesn't remember those signs for Stuckey's all up and down the highway?)

This booth was filled with some very nicely crafted wares, and he had a fascinating background. 

These small beaded purses were superb, 

and I was particularly fond of the maracas.

 This turquoise inlay was just one of many inlaid pieces in his booth. 

 And then...  the exit appeared and it was time to head home. 

Would I attend again? I'm not so sure - the wares there were definitely not my jam, but it was an interesting way to spend an afternoon. And with free parking, free admittance and TONS of icy air, I could think of a lot worse ways to spend a few afternoons!

PS... I ended up not going back for the opals - I just couldn't come up with an idea for incorporating them into my furniture, and couldn't justify spending $60 on two stones that would probably sit in a drawer forever.