Lili on the Loose: On Life and Getting Lost 

Museum Monday: Unicorn Bestiary at DMNS

Some believe that Unicorns come from a mis-translation of the Hebrew bible of the animal Re’em.

Unicorns in a Medieval Bestiary.

Unicorns in a Medieval Bestiary.

Denver Museum of Nature and Science’s Mythic Creatures Exhibit is available to see through September 7th. Read my review here.

Museum Monday is an every other week series about museum news, objects, and reviews.

Souvenir Saturday: Mustache Shot Glass

vshotglass

I have a wide collection of shot glasses, but most of mine are functional. This is one of my only kitchy shot glass, from The Venetian hotel in Las Vegas. It is in the shape of a Gondolier, the people who guide the small boats in venice. I picked this up after riding the gondola in the hotel.

Souvenir Saturday

Souvenir Saturday is an every-other week series on the items that represent travel memories.

Museum Monday: Choco Museo / Chocolate Museum

As an American, we eat so much chocolate, but rarely think of where it comes from or how it is made. That is why I decided to visit the Choco Museo in Antigua, Guatemala. Beyond learning about the history of chocolate and its uses over time I was more fascinated to simply learn about where chocolate comes from!

Chocolate is from the cacao tree. This tree is very picky on where it lives, and only grows in certain parts of Central & South America, the Caribbean, West Africa, and a few plantations in Asia. There are also different types of cacao trees which produce different tasting chocolate.

It was strange seeing the extremely small flowers that grow to become cacao pods, not from branches but directly from the trunk of the tree. These pods are really the fruit of the tree which are harvested and cut open to allow the beans and pulp to ferment for up to 9 days in the heat. This helps to give chocolate its brown color and flavor.

Dried Cacao Beans

Dried Cacao Beans

Afterwards, the beans are separated from what is left the bitter white pulp of the fruit and allowed to dry in the sun, which can take up to 7 days.

Cacao Shells or Husks

Cacao Shells or Husks

Next the beans are then roasted, to lessen their water content to help get them out of the shells. The de-husking process is called winnowing. Shells are lighter than the “nibs” inside. Nibs are what will then be used to make chocolate, although some people use the shells for other uses like cacao tea or fertilizer.

nibs

Cacao “Nibs”. You can eat these raw but they are bitter, or can start the grinding process to make chocolate.

The nibs are ground down, and make a paste called cacao liquor which is made up of around 50% cacao butter and 50% cacao solids. After grinding you can press the chocolate liquor with enough friction and separate these two parts. Cacao butter is used in chocolates but has other uses like cosmetics or medicine. The cacao solids are often grounded down into a powder, which is used to make chocolate beverages or baking.

Grounded Cacao Nibs, starting to form Cacao Liquor.

Grounded Cacao Nibs, starting to form Cacao Liquor.

To make what we know as chocolate you mix the cacao liquor with various percentages of cacao butter, sugar, milk, and other spices. But you must be sure refine the mixture to make sure the chocolate’s texture isn’t too grainy or too pasty. This mixture must be frequently agitated to give chocolate its silky texture, this is called “conching” and can take a few days. But do it too much and you’ll ruin the consistency.

When it is time to use the mixture, you must first temper the chocolate by cooling and warming it repeatedly. This is what gives chocolate its snap, glossy sheen, and its proper melting consistency. Now the chocolate is ready to be used, for example set in molds to from candy.

Chocolate for Sale at the Choco Museo in Antigua, Guatemala.

Chocolate for Sale at the Choco Museo in Antigua, Guatemala.

If you go:
It is located 1.5 blocks off the central square.
Check the website to see hours.
Displays are in English and Spanish.

Museum Monday is an every other week series about museum news, objects, and reviews.

(And yes I know I switched up the schedule the last 2 weeks.)

Travel Missteps: Yavin 4

Its not often while traveling that you can really let your Geek Self out. But at the top of Temple IV in Tikal, Guatemala I had that opportunity to Geek Out with other Star Wars fans. You see, a very short scene from the original Star Wars (A New Hope) was shot at the top of this temple in Tikal to show the Millennium Falcon landing at the rebel base on the 4th moon of Yavin. Temples I, II, and III are seen off in the distance.

Yavin 4 (Tikal) in Star Wars A New Hope

Yavin 4 (Tikal) in Star Wars A New Hope

I had opted not to climb other temples because I had previously sprained both ankles a few days earlier in the trip, and each stone block was HUGE. I almost didn’t climb Temple IV because it was so hot, and the wooden stairway was missing a step here or there. But after watching the group head up, I decided to see how far I could go. And boy am I glad! I hadn’t realized which temple it was that I was climbing, but as soon as I got to the top, I knew instantly where I was!

Corny Tourist Shot

Corny Tourist Shot

Earlier our guide was saying that the scene from Tikal was in Return of the Jedi, but I knew that was wrong. While I was on the top I overheard some girls debating which movie actually featured Tikal. I meekly said “It was A New Hope” and then the other girls looked up, smiled and we all started talking all at once about Star Wars. ‘

After a lovely conversation I just looked out over the jungle towards the other temples. Beyond the tops peaking out, the jungle seemed to go on forever.

The jungle goes on forever.

The jungle goes on forever.

Travel Missteps

Travel Missteps is an every-other week series on how sometimes part of the journey is making mistakes and getting lost.

(And yes I know I switched up the schedule, next week will be Museum Monday. Why because today is a STAR WARS DAY and so I had to switch this post to day.)

May the 4th Be With You

Happy Star Wars Day! Today is May the 4th Be With You and tomorrow will be Revenge of the 5th!

I love the original Star Wars, and have a few lightsabers. My favorite mistake of the original movie is when the Stormtroopers enter a room and one hits their head.

SW

I’m also very excited for the new movie. Millennium Falcon part was amazing!

sw_mf

fa2

fa2cwh

But who is trending more on Twitter?

Background by Monstar753, graph powered by Wayin.

Souvenir Saturday: A Weapon for a More Civilized Age

I’ve written before about my dash through Disneyland, but wanted to show you the awesome lightsaber I built!

This is the lightsaber when its "retracted". There is a button that activates the sound and light, and you kind of just throw it upwards to make the lightsaber come fully out.

This is the lightsaber when its “retracted”. There is a button that activates the sound and light, and you kind of just throw it upwards to make the lightsaber come fully out.

I picked purple as its my favorite color!

After you select the base hilt (and if you wanted a double bladed lightsaber) you then select the color, and then select the various hilt customizers.

After you select the base hilt (and if you wanted a double bladed lightsaber) you then select the color, and then select the various hilt customizers.

One cool feature not many know about these custom lightsabers is that the various crystals that come with it aren’t just for show! They allow you to change out the sound effects. You put one in the compartment before you put the hilt on, and then place the others in the bottom storage compartment and screw on the base.

I prefer the sound of the blue crystal.

I prefer the sound of the blue crystal.

Souvenir Saturday

Souvenir Saturday is an every-other week series on the items that represent travel memories.

Travel Missteps: *Sigh* “American Right?”

Baci+2

Many people travel to countries where they don’t know the language. Prior to my trip to Italy I had traveled to England, France, Mexico, and Japan. In middle school and high school I had taken some Spanish, French, and Japanese classes, so I didn’t feel that lost language-wise when traveling to those countries. So Italy was a first for me, not knowing any of the language.

After a long day of traveling, our group stopped into a roadside shop. It was like a mini-grocery market combined with a restaurant and a chocolate shop. I was tired and decided to buy some chocolate. They had it behind a glass counter, so I had to order with the man behind the counter.

He spoke in Italian to me, and I went deer in the headlights. I pointed at what I wanted, and he spoke again. My mind in its blank state realized it was a foreign language and so switched to the foreign language I know the best. He pointed to what I wanted and I answered “Hai”, Japanese for “Yes”, but sounds like “Hi”.

He looked at me like I was a stupid tourist. He said something again and I just nodded saying again “Hai”. He sighed and was like “American right? Is this the chocolate you want?” That is when I realized I was speaking Japanese, and hadn’t even bothered checking to see if he spoke English. I felt like an idiot. But at least I got some delicious Italian chocolate!

Travel Missteps

Travel Missteps is an every-other week series on how sometimes part of the journey is making mistakes and getting lost.