Isn’t she lovely?
I am finally – FINALLY – the proud owner of a Kitchen Aid Mixer!
JR was completely against this purchase since I first brought up the idea approximately forever ago. The truth is I didn’t have much going for me to justify the expense. I’m not exactly known for my skills in the kitchen and in our previous apartments, there was nowhere to store another big kitchen appliance. So I let my dream fade away for a long time, but then our neighbors started showing up at our door with freshly baked goods. Breads, hot pretzels, scones, you name it, Rachel bakes it (she has an awesome food blog: http://www.tastychao.com). And you know what she uses? A Kitchen Aid Mixer. Suddenly, JR started to see the light. Or he just wanted me to shut up about it. Either way, our very own mixer arrived via Amazon and we are BOTH loving it.
The new mixer timed up perfectly with our newest Netflix obsession, The Great British Bake Off. Although neither of us are big fans of cooking show competitions, we watched Season 1 of this show and highly recommend it. It was enjoyable and relaxing, and made us want to bake! The competitors were all so friendly to each other and it was a definite change from the normal American reality shows. Only one season is available online, so once we were finished we tried to watch other cooking shows like Iron Chef and and Chopped, but the yelling and hysteria didn’t do it for us. We just like watching friendly Brits bake in the English countryside.
The very first recipe I tried with my mixer was a knock-off Macaroni Grill rosemary bread. It didn’t look exactly like it should have, but it tasted delicious. And I made bread – from scratch!
Inspired by Rachel, we made soft pretzels. So good. And not as hard as I feared, although it’s tricky to cook them all the way through without burning the tops and bottoms.
In the 3-ish weeks we’ve had the mixer we’ve also made pizza dough, pumpkin bread, cupcakes, and strawberry muffins. I’m in love!
Lest you think I’m suddenly a baking pro, there have been some failures. Some big ones. I tried to make a strawberry layer cake and when I went to flip it onto the cooling rack, it completely fell apart. I’m a work in progress.
We took a break from the kitchen the other weekend long enough to make a day trip to Gori, birthplace of Joseph Stalin. There is a small museum that includes his childhood home, pictures, some of his personal belongings, and even his private, armored train car. The entrance fee was around 10 lari and included a tour guide. Our guide was Giorgi and he was really great, patient in answering our questions and saving me from knocking over an exhibit while I was holding Abby (oops). It’s hard to describe the feelings towards Stalin in Georgia, particularly in Gori, given his notorious place in history. As Giorgi explained, it’s not that they’re celebrating the man but rather they recognize the large role Stalin played in world history and especially the country of Georgia. We thought Giorgi did a great job of presenting the basic facts about his childhood, rise to power in the Soviet Union, and the dark side of his leadership.
Word of warning – the museum is not heated and even on a mild day in February, it was frigid inside. It was so cold we could see Giorgi’s breath during the tour.
Stalin was apparently very afraid of flying, so he used this train car to travel to Potsdam and Yalta to meet with the Allied leaders during World War II. The train car is bullet proof and included its original furniture and fixtures.
After walking through the museum and Stalin’s train car, we finished the tour at his childhood home. The small house, where Stalin’s parents rented a single room, stands in its original location with a monument-like structure built around it. Giorgi opened the door and invited us to look around the inside, which he said remains just as it was when Stalin lived there (I’m a bit skeptical). Abby was not content to stand within the small roped off entrance, so Giorgi lifted the rope for her and invited her to climb right up onto Stalin’s bed. Weird, but we went with it long enough to take a photo.
Again, I’m not sure I believe this was really Stalin’s childhood bed, but pretty weird either way.