Sweet Nasvhille

So far in Nashville we've admired a lot of gorgeous food.

Some friends of Kira's were having a bake sale today to raise money for the flood relief.

I ate that strawberry cupcake. A+.

We were there to do our part.

Kira made these festive looking peanut butter-chocolate chip cookies (shown above).

And one very clever person, channeling Paula Dean, made bread pudding out of rum and Krispy Kreme donuts.

Then Kira took us to the Yazoo Brewery.

First we had a pint.

Then we took the tour and looked at the vats of brewing beer.

We were given a single hop to taste - my favorite part of the tour.

Tonight: honky tonks. Tomorrow: BBQ. We like Nashville.

Headed to the Nashville Skyline

I know you really want to come a long on my comparison of various rural parts of the states we've driven through.

The flat parts of Indiana may look familiar to you. I think it's kind of pretty, but that's probably because I grew up here. It's a nice place to be a runner.

Here's the bridge that takes you from Indiana to Louisville, KY.

Not a fun place to get stuck in traffic.

And while I agree with Sara that KY can be an aggravating place (what kind of people say there's a Chick Fil'a and then don't follow through with it off the interstate?), it's also beautiful.

It took us 7 hours to drive to Nashville from Fort Wayne. We would have been there by 2 or 3 had we not been stopped by a giant pothole on the road out of Fort Wayne. After the 5 hours it took to get the front passenger wheel replaced on our car, it only took 7 more hours!!!

But soon enough we were in Nashville, which I'll write about next.


Summer Road Tripstravaganza Oh-Ten Part 1 - Fort Wayne

Yeah, yeah, I published some posts out of order. I'm sure all two of you reading this were really confused.

Forgive me.

I've spent a lot of time hanging out in the backyard with the dogs. My parents accidentally have a big grape vine growing back there. They say the grapes are too sour to eat, but they look really nice.

My mom is growing a peony plant, too, and it has big, gorgeous blooms.

For the first few days we were in town it was really cold and I thought I packed all the wrong clothes. And now it's summer. In the 80s.

My parents' dogs hang out in the yard when it's warm out, too. It's a pretty lazy summer kind of existence.

I've run a few errands for my folks - like planting these flowers.

John and I have cooked a few things, a few repeats from early blog posts, and some not that bloggable. Since the weather is nice now we decided to grill out. Tonight's dinner was red bell peppers, mushrooms, yellow squash, and shrimp that we marinated according to this Cooking Light recipe.

And a final, "general Fort Wayne" note: we have acquired a new bread machine. This was the second we found in a week, compliments of my mom and the Cinema Center "up-scale" garage sale.

I'm going to name it R2-D2.

Unless I'm particularly impressed by another meal or something in Fort Wayne, our next blogtrip stop is Nashville!

Into the Woods We Go Trail Run 5K at Lake Winona

Last weekend John and I did a trail run 5K. It stormed for about 24 hours the day before, which meant there was a lot of mud on the trail and near the starting line.

It also meant that some trees fell over night and the race was delayed while a lot of things happened...Trees were cleared away. The routes for the 10K and 15K were altered. The registration tent location changed right before registration started.

A lot of that would have been more understandable had the race director spoke to us a little more frequently or in a different way. The race was supposed to start at 9am. At 9:30 the race director came on the mic and told us what was taking them so long. Apparently to keep us entertained and stall a little longer she decided to explain a play by play of the race course for the 5k.

"You're going to go around the port-a-potties and take a right, then another right. Then at the second bridge you go straight for the 5K and left for the others." Of course there were volunteers at each of these places and a lot of clearly marked turns, so it wasn't any big deal. After her 10 minute description of the entire course, she said, "Are there any questions?"

John, of course, asked, "Could you repeat that?"
A lot of people running the race were sort of pissed that we were delayed a total of 45 minutes and she seemed annoyed that they weren't interested in listening to the "pre-race meeting." Still, I felt sympathy for her since it was their first race and the bad storm the night before probably did create a lot of problems for them.

Once the race got going it was wonderful. The second mile was especially beautiful, with the trail weaving in and out of a field of really tall, purple and white wild flowers. I was thinking, "Where's that guy from the starting line with the camera? This should be the publicity shot." My time wasn't so great - about 37 minutes - but that's what I expected for a trail run. It was nice not to think too much about speed and just run comfortably.

We came home muddy but happy.

Summer Road Tripstravanganza Oh-Ten, Part 2 - Oxford, OH

During our second weekend in America we decided to pay a visit to Music Theory Midwest. I attended the conference in 2008 because someone asked me to sing musical examples for their paper and payed my way. The conference was so much fun that it seemed like a good time to go back, to experience another stay in a delightful hotel in small-town Ohio, where there's really nothing to do.

Here are a couple of shots from two the '08 conference:

Tim Best was there, as you can see.

As was Mark. This was taken during our trek to the Beer Cave at a gas station down the road.

This year Mark presented a paper, so he acted more like a grown up for the first part of the trip.

His paper (or that of another IU theorist) should have won the Komar award, but it wasn't in the cards. Either way, Mark did a fantastic job and gave a very polished paper about the Beatles.

[What's that you say? You thought music theory was too boring to include cool music like the Beatles? There are time I'd agree with you. But Mark is fighting the good fight. I'd like to think I'm doing the same thing, at least some of the time.]

Here's Mark at Pizza Hut, where MTMW was kind enough to send all the graduate students for a free pizza dinner. I have my own thoughts on whether or not this was really an attempt to have a Grown Ups hour at the official reception, but I won't go into that here. Mark is lamenting the children's games on the place mat.

That's all for my pictures, but I do have another media of fun for you, if you're bored at work.

Here's a link to Mark completing what I'll call the "I bet you a dollar you can't jump from one bed to another 10 times in a minute" at our hotel this year.
Click here!

And a link to our friend Drew W. doing the same thing in 2008. Mark is the winner.

But were the two events really the same? Was Drew bet that he could actually jump twenty times in a minute? Either way, Mark accomplished it. Never mind that the beds in Oxford (2010) are way further apart than those in Bowling Green (2008).

Click here!

I love going to theory conferences. Believe it or not, I actually remember several of the papers from 2008. But the good times had at the Best Western are what I think of more often. Sometimes I really miss my theory masters class, and our honorary elder member, Tim Best. But I'm glad three of us can have a mini-reunion at theory conferences for the rest of our lives.

John and Abby's Road Tripstravaganza Oh-Ten, Official Intro

We are in America!

Here are some shots of us leaving Ontario. Note how similar the farmland in Ontario looks to that of northeast Indiana.

We left early in the morning about two weeks ago and have been livin' the easy life at my parents' house ever since. Last weekend we also ventured to Oxford, OH for Music Theory Midwest, and I'll show you the three pathetic pictures I took in another post.

So here we are! As John likes to say, we could smell the freedom as soon as we crossed the bridge, and as soon as our trunk was searched. This time they threw away some oranges that we were trying to bring as a road trip snack - which were undoubtedly from the USA in the first place. Oh well.

On Friday we depart for Nashville. More soon!


Coming to America

Tomorrow is the first leg of our umpteen-leg Summer Road Tripstravaganza Oh-Ten.

Today we're running errands, cleaning out the car, doing the final bits of laundry, etc. Tomorrow we drive to Fort Wayne, where we'll hang out for a few days before going to Music Theory Midwest.

The trip should give me lots of things to blog about, and I will do my best to post some things about our travels. We should have internet access in most of the places where we're going. The posts may be sort of inconsistent, but at least they'll be novel.

Speaking of novels, I've been reading Travels with Charley, John Steinbeck's book about a cross country road trip that he and his dog (Charley) took. There are some extremely beautiful passages about the American landscape and a sort of nostalgic sense of who Americans are (or were, since it was published in 1962). Some parts of the book are also excruciatingly mundane. For instance, the part where he spends 3 pages talking about trailer parks, and how they're the wave of the future. If you've ever read anything by David Sedaris when he talks about his father, it's kind of like that. "They had a working fireplace, I tell ya', these mobile homes are gonna' be big!"

That's not a real quote, but you get the drift. Still, I love the premise of taking a long, cross-country road trip with a dog. For now, it will just be me and John driving through at least all of these states:


...plus I'm taking a side trip to Baltimore at the end of June, so I get to add Maryland to the list.

So long, Canada! It's going to Sound like America for about 6 weeks. See you soon!


Cashew Cream Sauce

Last week I came upon this recipe and realized that vegans have figured out how to make delicious cream sauce without cream or butter.

The picture on the site looked so good that John and I put it on the menu for last week. It was so good and easy to make we ended up having it this week, too.

I made a couple of small changes, noted below. The color in mine was a bit darker than the one on vegan yum yum's, and to me this tasted nothing like alfredo sauce, but I didn't care because it tasted so good. It has so many different flavors and the texture is really creamy. We made a giant batch and added broccoli and mushrooms (not shown here), and the sauce was enough to cover everything perfectly. When reheating it I used a trick my mom used to use. I add a little (soy) milk to the noodles before they go in the microwave and a little after, and that helps make the reheated version a little creamier. The leftovers aren't quite as good as the first night's batch, but they're still tastey. Now I'm really interesting in finding more vegan cream sauces!

Vegan Cashew Cream Sauce
adapted from Vegan Yum Yum

1 cup plain soy milk
3 tbs tamari or low sodium soy sauce
2 tbs dijon mustard (we used honey mustard, it's what we have)
2 tbs lemon juice
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
2 tbs tahini
1/4 tsp smoked paprika
pinch of nutmeg
1/4 cup raw, unsalted cashews (we used roasted, which may account for the color)
2 cloves of garlic
1 lb. of pasta, any shape

Boil water for the pasta, cook according to package directions. This will take longer than making the sauce.

Combine all ingredients except the pasta in a blender. If you prefer it to be extremely smooth then strain the sauce before adding it to the pasta (otherwise you'll have a few larger bits of cashew, but they're pretty good, too). Blend on high until smooth.

Drain cooked pasta and return to the hot. Add the sauce and heat on medium (or medium-low) until sauce is heated through. Add any additional vegetables, etc.* Serve.

*We also steamed 3 heads of broccoli and sauteed about 1.5 cups of mushrooms, then added the pasta and sauce to the pan with the vegetables. We also added 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes. It's easy to add things to this, as you might with any cream sauce, so add whatever you think might taste good. The recipe calls for fresh basil on top, but nothing about this tasted like Italian food so I skipped the basil.



All year John and I did homework on the kitchen table or in our his and hers arm chairs (we have no couch). When we cleaned out our guest room this spring we decided to look around used furniture shops for desks or tables that could pass for desks. Last week we hit the jack pot.

That's John's desk as he bought it at Goodwill. It's an old vanity table and it would take a pretty short chair to fit his legs under it. So, John took a hammer to the trim in the center. He noticed that the drawers had holes for handles that had been filled in and painted over. He poked the little cork pieces out and we went handle shopping. The result is this:

It looks much less like a vanity table and more like a...desk. He also hung some pictures that a friend gave us. Both are distorted photos of places in London: a population sign as you enter town, and a shot of Prince Albert's Diner, on Richmond (apparently a classic London place to go).

Next to John's desk at the Goodwill was this one, which John said was appropriately tall for me.

It's missing a screw or two, but John tightened the ones it has and it's a much sturdier desk now. As you can see, it fits perfectly into a corner in the guest room.

This is the view if you come in the room and look to your left. It's a little hard to get a picture of the room as a whole, but basically, it's coming along. We like to hang out in here a lot more now, and I'm no longer worried about getting food on my homework, or vice versa.

Lemon Cumin Quinoa with Avocado and Raisins

A few weeks ago John and I decided to search for a quinoa recipe. It was still a little cool outside for this recipe, but it would be perfect for a summer potluck, or as the side to a summery meal.

The little pieces of avocado stayed green for a long time, since there's so much lemon juice in this salad. Somehow they tasted like butter to me in this mixture of flavors. I'm not the biggest fan of anything lemon flavored, but it was really delicious. I'm sure we'll make it again when the weather gets hot and humid.

Lemon Cumin Quinoa with Avocado and Raisins
from Erin's Food Files


3 Tbs. raisins (preferably a mix of dark and golden), or currants
2 Tbs. dried apricots, thinly sliced
1 cup red or white quinoa, rinsed well
Kosher salt
1 large lemon
3 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp. ground coriander
1/4 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. sweet paprika
1 medium firm-ripe avocado (6 to 7 oz.), pitted, peeled, and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
2 medium scallions, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced (I omitted)
2 to 3 Tbs. coarsely chopped toasted almonds (I used sliced almonds)
Freshly ground black pepper


In a medium bowl, soak the raisins and apricots in hot water for 5 minutes. Drain and set aside.

In a 2-quart saucepan, bring 2 cups water, the quinoa, and 1/2 tsp. salt to a boil over high heat. Cover, reduce the heat to medium low, and simmer until the water is absorbed and the quinoa is translucent and tender, 10 to 15 minutes. (The outer germ rings of the grain will remain chewy and white. Some germ rings may separate from the grain and will look like white squiggles.) Immediately fluff the quinoa with a fork and turn it out onto a baking sheet to cool to room temperature.

Finely grate the zest from the lemon and then squeeze 1 Tbs. juice. In a small bowl, whisk the lemon zest and juice with the olive oil, coriander, cumin, paprika, and 1/4 tsp. salt. In a large bowl, toss the vinaigrette with the quinoa, raisins, apricots, avocado, scallions, and almonds. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve.


Forest City Road Race 5K

This morning John and I ran the Forest City Road Race 5K - one of 5 races held in London today. They also put on a marathon, half-marathon, 10K, and kids fun run.

Everything happened around Victoria Park, downtown.

We each got two coupons for special food stations after the race, but the lines were so long that we just took our loot and went home. But our number bibs are also coupons for a smoothie joint in town, so we'll be making a visit later this week.

John walked the course in 39:49, though he ran a sprint for the last 100 meters or so. The excitement of the race and finish line made him want to run, I think.

I came in at 32:39, which is 2 minutes faster than the last 5K I did, and the best time I've gotten since I was a senior in college. So it was an all around success! We're running another in Indiana on May 22nd, and I'm interested to see John's reaction to how different it will be. The one today took place all around downtown and was pretty large. The one in Indiana will be around a lake, a trail run, and it will probably be a lot smaller.

My participant's medal is hanging proudly from my "new" desk, which I'm sure will be on this blog soon enough (Goodwill, $14!).