Monday, March 30, 2009

Humana Festival still in full swing until April 26th

The Humana Festival, of new American plays, is still amazing and entertaining audiences in Louisville. The festival, which runs every year for six weeks, will be here until April 11. Seven plays and several 10-minute plays are still running. One of the favorites will be extended until April 26th at the Pamela Brown Auditorium and is reviewed below:
adapted for the stage by Marc Masterson and Adrien-Alice Hansel
from the writing of Wendell Berry
directed by Marc Masterson
Wild Blessings is An exploration of the earth, its citizens and the impact of each on the other. This world premiere brings the works of nationally acclaimed poet, novelist and ecological visionary Wendell Berry to the stage in a celebration of words, music and a life well lived.

was born in Henry County, Ky. He has taught at Georgetown College, Stanford University, New York University and University of Kentucky, his alma mater. The author of over forty books of poetry, essays and fiction, Mr. Berry has received numerous fellowships and awards. He lives and works with his wife, Tanya Berry, on their farm in Port Royal, Ky.

Wild Blessings: A Celebration of Wendell Berry, is a theater piece of Berry's poetry written by Marc Masterson and Adrien- Alice Hansel, after extensive reading and research on Berry's volumes of stories, essays and poetry. The play is not a biographical look at the poet and no actor plays Berry. It is composed of 36 poems, beginning with "Manifesto: The mad Farmer's Liberation Front" and concludes with "The Contrariness of the Mad Farmer" and "The Rising."

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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Aleksander House is Going Green. We promise to:

Stop buying water in plastic bottles

Save resources by drinking from a glass whenever you can, or use a refillable, stainless steel bottle when you are on the go. Ever wonder where most of those plastic water bottles go that we knock back from every day? Into landfills, where they live on and on and on and on. Exempt from many state deposit laws, and most often used away from home, where recycling bins are scarce, the majority of water bottles do not make it into the recycling stream.

Not only do they accumulate and stress landfills, they are made from polyethylene terephthalate (PET), a petroleum product, and their manufacturing process uses oil, a nonrenewable energy source, and increases CO2 emissions. So kick the plastic water bottle habit. That way you can avoid the controversy over chemicals leaching from both hard and soft plastics into your water, even at room temperatures.

Stop using harsh chemicals

Instead of harsh chemical sprays, get those windows and mirrors crystal clear with a simple solution of white vinegar, newspaper and a little elbow grease. You'll also save money and the hassle of needing to stock more cleaning supplies.

It's simple: mix 2 tablespoons of white vinegar with a gallon of water, and dispense into a used spray bottle. Squirt on, then scrub with newspaper, not paper towels, which cause streaking.If you run out of vinegar, or don't like the smell, you can also substitute straight lemon juice or club soda (don't dilute either in water), and rub with newspaper. See, simple!

Stop using bulbs that are not energy savers

This one is a no-brainer: Swap your old incandescent bulbs for compact fluorescents (CFLs). Each bulb may cost a little more (between $2 and $7), but a compact fluorescent will pay for itself in mere months and prevent 450 pounds of power-plant emissions over the bulb's lifetime.

If every U.S. household replaced just one incandescent bulb with a compact fluorescent light bulb, the amount of energy saved could light 2.5 million homes for a year.To help choose the bulb with the right light output for your purposes, visit the chart on EnergyStar. If you need further convincing, Popular Mechanics has recently done a lab test comparing CFLs and incandescents. You'll be surprised at the findings.

Stop wasting energy

If you are really serious about cutting your energy costs, this will make a difference. Make sure ALL electrically driven items are Shut Off and/or disconnected completely when not in use for extended periods. And, have guests keep their towels two days and their linens three days

Computers, TVs, gaming units, night-lights, coffee pots with clocks, microwaves, printers, etc. Use programmable thermostats for different times of the day, and set lower temps (heat), or higher temps (a/c), when you are on vacation or go for extended periods. Burnt out light bulbs should be replaced, or at the very least, removed. If you start looking around your home you will find many more ways to conserve.

Buy and recycle recyclables

Buy and use Green products

Conserve water

(this is just a start. We promise to do more)

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Monday, March 16, 2009

Kentucky and the art of equestrian sport..........Dressage Competitions

Dressage competitions are held regularly in Louisville, three of four times a year. Many of the spectators have stayed with me here at the Inn, which is very close to where the competitions are held. Dressage is the highest expression of horse training, and is considered to be the art of equestrian sport. It is used as the groundwork for all the other disciplines. Its beginnings can be traced back to the 17th century courts of Renaissance Europe and today, interest in dressage continues to grow throughout the world as a sport and a pastime. Dressage is also one of the three disciplines in competition at the Olympic Games, the other two being Jumping and Eventing.

In modern competitions, horse and rider are expected to perform from memory a series of predetermined movements, known as figures (volte, serpentine, figure of eight). The completely flat arena, measuring 60 x 20 m., is skirted by a low rail along which 12 lettered markers are placed symmetrically indicating where movements are to start, where changes of pace or lead are to occur and where the movements are to end.

In all competitions, the horse has to show three paces: walk, trot and canter as well as smooth transitions within and between these paces. Many people have seen Olympic or Grand Prix dressage on television. The horse appears to do intricate maneuvers as the ride sits almost motionless. But, dressage isn't just fancy moves with hard to pronounce names. The horses are trained to carry the rider with increasingly more ease and respond to subtle aids.aids. The horse is being taught to be supple, balanced and responsive.

A kur is a dressage test ridden to music. You are given a set of required elements and create your own test to instrumental music you choose. Some tests can be ridden in pairs or teams.The horse appears to be dancing, as with the Fresians in the video.The goal of dressage training is to develop a horse's flexibility, responsiveness to aids and balance. This makes the horse stronger and more pleasurable to ride.

If you compete you will always be competing against yourself, as well as others taking the test. The goal in competition is to always improve on your own score. The goal of dressage training is to develop a horse's flexibility, responsiveness to aids and balance. This makes the horse stronger and more pleasurable to ride. If you compete you will always be competing against yourself, as well as others taking the test. The goal in competition is to always improve on your own score.

Friday, March 13, 2009

A perfect day in Louisville

Everyone needs a break now and then. We think it's about time you did a little something for yourself...... like relaxing in a tub of luxurious bubbles, or sipping a glass of wine in front of a beautiful art deco fireplace. How about falling asleep in a huge, 4-poster, Victorian bed, snuggled under crisp, white luxury sheets and down comforter? Then, waking in the morning to the aroma of fresh baked muffins or bread, with the anticipation of a perfect day.

Now that you're rested, come on downstairs and relax in our beautiful French Toile dining room, while we pamper you with steaming cups of fresh brewed, gourmet coffee. Maybe try one of our Belgium waffles with fresh strawberries and whipped cream, or a delicious Spinach-herb Quiche. Don't get up!! Just sit and relax and imagine all the fun things we've got planned for you today, on your perfect day in Lousiville, Kentucky.

If you come, be sure to come in the springtime, when everything is in bloom, and the weather is warm and pleasant. Today, as you leave the Aleksander House, you will hop into the cab that's waiting out front. Heading toward downtown Louisville, your cabby will first take you to the Louisville Glassworks Studio, where you'll watch some of the finest glass in Louisville being blown. From there, you'll take a little tour down Market Street which is lined on either side with beautiful, 17th century buildings, restored and standing as proud reminders of Louisville's past history.

Next stop is Joe Ley's Antiques, a curious 3 story building containing fine and unusual antiques . Even if you aren't a collector, you must see this authentically, restored, 1890 schoolhouse. Filled with a vast array of antique lights, lamps, doors, mantels, fences, and gates, as well as antique toys, carousel animals, wooden clowns and handsome antique furniture, it's absolutely incredible.

Now for an incredible place for lunch! We've selected Lynn's Paradise Cafe, a quirky, independent restaurant with great food, serving everything from walnut-encrusted chicken to Mom's meatloaf, as well as a variety of soups, salads and sandwiches. Lynn's has received extensive local and national media attention, including features on television programs such as the Oprah Winfrey Show. Amazing food, and amazing decor and gifts.

Next, your cabby will take you on a scenic ride down past the Ohio river front, where our historic river boats are docked, and up through Old Louisville, the third largest preservation area in the country, with row upon row of 17th and 18th century Victorian houses. You are on your way to beautiful Churchill Downs, home of the Kentucky Derby. Once there, you will step inside the world of horse racing. Stay as long as you want. Place a $2.00 bet and cheer for your horse, as he comes galloping down the track.

Time to head back to the Inn, only 14 blocks away, and take a little rest before dinner. You have reservations at Jack Frys; an amazing, intimate and romantic, american restaurant. Order the Pistachio-encrusted salmon, it's fabulous! A little wine, a scrumptious dessert, and some pleasant conversation and you're ready to head back to that 4-poster bed and collapse beneath the glistening white linens and comforter. See you in the morning!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Cherry Scones and Lemon Curd

Cherry Scones
(32 scones)
1 package Victorian House Scone mix
3 sticks butter
2 cups buttermilk
1-2 cups dried cherries
Pour contents of bag into mixing bowl. Cut in 2 sticks of chilled butter, until mixture is fine and crumbly. Stir in 2 cups of buttermilk. Dough will form a soft ballTurn dough out onto floured board or pastry cloth and knead gently 3-4 times.

Divide dough into quarters and shape each quarter into a flattened circle 6-7 inches in diameter, aproximately 3/4 inch thick. Knead in the dried cherries.

Using a biscuit cutter, cut out scones. *Dough may be frozen at this point, to use later. Place scones on parchment-lined cookie sheets. Brush with crean and'or sprunkle with sugar. Bake in preheated oven at 425 degrees for 13-18 minutes, depending on size of scones. Tops should be very light golden brown when done.

Serve warm with butter, preserves, lemon curd and/or clotted cream.
To order scone mix, go to:
Lemon Curd
1 stick butter
1 cup sugar
juice of 4 med-lg lemons
2 tablespoons lemon zest
5 egg yolks
Melt butter in sauce pan. Add sugar, lemon juice and zest. Stir until sugar dissolves. Add egg yolks. Cook over medium heat until thickened, stirring constantly. May be stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
Clotted Cream
1 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup sour cream
1 Tbsp. confectioners' sugar
Using a whisk attachment on the mixer, whip heavy cream until stiff peaks form. Remove from mixer, and hand whisk in the sour cream and confectioners' sugar until just combined. Store in refrigerator
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Sunday, March 8, 2009

The Japanese Tea contrasted with the Victorian Tea

The chanoyu tea ceremony, which offers Japanese green tea in the powdered and whisked form (maccha), is still the most widely practiced of the Japanese tea ceremonies. While its traditions may slightly vary from tearoom to teahouse, the basics are the same. Here’s what one can expect to experience at a tea ceremony.

The host or hostess will don a kimono. In tea ceremonies held in a detached teahouse, guests will wait in a garden portico for their host’s summons. Guests will take part in a ritual hand washing. Upon entering the teahouse or tearoom, guests should stop to admire the hanging scroll, art piece, floral arrangement, or other decorative element set out for their enjoyment.

Guests may be served a light meal with sake or a small offering of sweets. They should bow lightly when either is presented. Sweets are selected and eaten with a wooden pick called a kuromoji. Once selected, sweets should be placed on the special napkin called a kaishi. The host ritually cleanses and arranges all the tea utensils: tea bowl, whisk, tea scoop, then begins making the tea, using precise measurements of powdered green tea and water, specific whisking techniques, and other formal procedure. Guests should keep conversation minimal and enjoy the sights, smells, and sounds of the teahouse and the tea-making process.

The tea bowl is served to the guest of honor or first guest who exchanges bows with the host. The first guest should then bow to the second guest and lift the bowl in respect to the host. Always handle the bowl with delicacy and care. Before drinking, the guest should rotate the bowl, avoiding drinking from the front of the cup. Then take two or three sips, wipe the rim with his fingers, rotate the bowl back, and pass it to the second guest with a bow. The guest may wipe his fingers on the kaishi.

Once all the guests have been served, the host ritually cleans the utensils. The guest of honor or first guest should ask to examine the utensils. At this time, all the guests should admire each utensil with respect and gentle care. If the host serves everyone tea in separate tea bowls, guests should admire and examine the bowl when they’re finished as well. The host will gather up the utensils, dismiss the guests, and bow his farewells from the door.

McCoy, Elin and John Frederick Walker, Coffee and Tea, G.S. Haley Company, Inc., 1998.

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Friday, March 6, 2009

Return to the the Victorian Tea

As promised, I will share my plans for our first Victorian Tea in April of this year. I thought I would take you along with me as we explore the two kinds of Victorian Teas: High and Low, the foods usually served at these events, and the many varieties of teas that can be used.

A Victorian Low Tea
In Victorian times, Low Tea was a Tea that was typically served in a 'parlor' or living room type of setting using side tables, and a tea cart or tea or coffee table to serve from. It is called "Low" because of the tables that were used. They were lower than dining tables. It isn't unusual now, though, to serve a Low Victorian Tea at a dining table. Most Teas offered in tea rooms and shops are low Teas because of the nature of the food served, but are served at a high table

Food served at a Low Tea
Tea Sandwiches
Savory Scones, seasoned with herbs, cheese, etc.
Other Appetizers
Plain Scones served with Clotted Cream & fruit curds
Sweet Scones
Tea Breads, Banana, Zucchini, etc
Tea Cakes
and a nice hot pot of tea.

Low Tea protocol
Although more food options are served in a Low Tea, like tea sandwiches, scones, special desserts, candies/chocolates... it is still considered like a snack. Therefore, when helping yourself or being served, do not expect a lot of food. One or two of each item is normally appropriate. Seconds may be passed or a return to the buffet table may be indicated, but the same principle applies, one or two of each item

A Victorian High Tea
A true Victorian High Tea will be a full dinner served at a dining table.

Food served at a Victorian High Tea
Some or all of the following:
a vegetable dish or two
other sweets

Victorian Tea prices per person
We have decided to offer three different teas: a Low Tea at $17.50 per person, a Low Tea at $21.95 per person, and a High Tea at $24.95 per person The difference in prices depends upon the amounts, the variety, and kinds of foods served. We will come up with a list of interesting and delicious sounding foods that we like to make, we've made before, or we have recipes for. We will categorize them into the groups mentioned above and price each group so that we may customize each Tea party.

On our next post, we will mention specific foods we plan to encorporate into our available food items list, along with some of our recipes, and discuss our research on varietals of tea and which ones we have selected for our Tea parties.
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Wednesday, March 4, 2009

TEA: Where does it come from?

In my last post, I gave a little history of how tea came to America, how it became popular, and how Victorian Tea Parties developed. We are planning to host afternoon Victorian Teas here at our Inn, so I thought I should do a little research on the many kinds of teas available. I've identified various countries who specialize in tea farming and thought maybe you might like to see what I came up with...........

Tea consumption
Tea has been a popular pick-me-up for thousands of years. Black, green and other teas are made from the leaves of the same plant, Camellia sinensis, which grows in tropical and subtropical regions around the world. India, China, Kenya, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Argentina, Brazil and other countries export large volumes of the dried and shredded leaf. About 2.4 million hectares (six million acres) are planted in tea, often in large plantations called "estates." Tea consumption is increasing thanks to news about its health benefits, but production has been growing even faster, resulting in an oversupply and depressed prices for farmers.

Rainforest Alliance
Rainforest Alliance certification is a comprehensive process that promotes and guarantees improvements in agriculture and forestry. Their independent seal of approval ensures that goods and services were produced in compliance with strict guidelines protecting the environment, wildlife, workers and local communities. The Rainforest Alliance launched its tea certification program in 2007. The first Rain Forest Alliance Tea farm was Kericho, an estate in Kenya owned by Unilever that supplies the Lipton and PG Tips brands.

Tropical crops
Like any tropical crop, tea raises a number of environmental and social issues, each with a cost/benefit balance that can be tipped in a positive way. Tea grows year-round, employing a lot of people, especially pluckers who carefully pick the top three or so leaves from every branch on the bush. That makes tea an important employer, and there are challenges around wages, labor organization, housing, health care and other rights and benefits.

Tea Farming
Tea farming replaces biodiversity-rich tropical forests with a beautiful, but single-species, monoculture. Soil erosion, competition for water, pollution from fertilizers, and the need for firewood to fuel tea dryers are some of the main environmental concerns. By following the Sustainable Agriculture Network standards, growers can proactively address the social and environmental challenges. The Rainforest Alliance organized multi-stakeholder meetings in Kenya to gather input on the standards, ensuring that they are as effective at tea as they have been for coffee, bananas and other crops.
(some information in this article taken from "Sustainable Agriculture", an on-line article by the Rainforest Alliance)
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Monday, March 2, 2009

A wonderful little Italian restaurant only 3 blocks from my Inn

The Amici' Cafe opened July of 2006 in a historic building, within walking distance of the Aleksander House, in Old Louisville. Serving Northern Italian cuisine, it has developed into a popular neighborhood restaurant, frequented by locals and enjoyed by many out of town visitors.

After visiting the restaurant several times myself and finding the food authentic, delicious and superbly prepared, and the ambience romantic and inviting, I began sending my guests there for lunch and dinner. They all loved it! Hurrah! another very fine restaurant in Louisville,.....and we have so many!

I'm from Chicago, where there are so many very fine restaurants. When I came to Louisville 15 years ago, I experienced one of the surprises of my life. Louisville is truly loaded with some of the best restaurants around. And Amici is certainly included in this prestigious group!

"You will think you are in a Tuscan courtyard when you step into our dining room with cherry red and white checkered tablecloths, large windows, beautiful artwork, and the aroma of ragu pomodoro sauce simmering in the kitchen; all inviting you to sit down and enjoy a flavorful and relaxing meal" (the owners).

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