Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Deliciousness - three recipes

I've been baking and cooking and trying new recipes lately and wanted to share a few of them. I'm always looking for new dinner ideas, so if you want to comment on any quick or easy ones that you've been using lately, I'd love that. . .

1. I made some yummy BLT's a little while back that went like this: 
  • Tomato slices placed in the toaster oven and slow roasted for about two hours on 120F with a little olive oil drizzled on top and a sprinkle of sea salt. This brings out the sweetness of the tomatoes. 
  • Favorite bread, toasted.
  • Organic bacon (turkey bacon can be substituted if you're into that kind of thing) that I cooked and crisped in our toaster oven at 400F for 10-12 minutes.
  • Grapeseed Veganaise (or Mayo) with fresh basil chopped up and stirred in. 
  • Fresh lettuce, baby spinach, or spring mix. 
Put all those things together and that's one tasty BLT (or BST if you're using spinach) sandwich. And I feel less guilty using the Veganaise. Plus I only eat this delightful sandwich once in a while which makes it totally OK.

2. Easy peasy yummy delicious fish tacos: 
I got the idea for these from my friend and neighbor Sandy. She made hers with mayo and cod, but I opted for salmon because I can't get enough of it and always have some on hand. I think halibut would also be tasty, and I would give just about anything for some ono (a.k.a. wahoo, I'm not kidding.) but I haven't seen any since Hawaii... 
  • Corn tortillas. (I used sprouted corn tortillas by Food for Life because they're super delicious and that's what Jon bought when he went shopping. So good!)
  • Salmon (wild)-- pan roast with a little bit of olive oil and then flake it a bit. 
  • Fresh chopped up lettuce.
  • Veganaise (see above recipe) with fresh oregano and fresh basil added in. 
  • Mango Salsa-- 
  • 1 whole mango, cubed. 
  •  1/8th red onion, finely chopped. (Can be substituted or omitted if you're an onion hater.)
  •  hefty pinch of cilantro, chopped up like crazy. 
What I did was lay down a little flavored veganaise in the center (fold) of the tortilla, then the lettuce, then the salmon (to keep the lettuce in place), with the mango salsa all over the top. You can not have too much mango salsa on this, I'm telling you now. Since you're using small tortillas, it is totally normal to eat 4 or 5 such tacos in one sitting. I'm pretty sure.
Also, I was thinking that for my non-fish-loving friends, you could sub out the fish for shredded chicken in lime juice... or whatever.

3. Anniversary cake:
So I made this a couple of weeks after our actual anniversary. What can I say, after our trip to California, I was swamped for a while playing catch-up. Initially it was going to be a chocolate sponge cake that I know how to make quite well. It is sort if a go-to for me. But while Jon loves chocolate, I know he's also a huge fan of good old fashioned vanilla. And since I wanted to make this cake as a thank-you to the most awesome man in my life, I went with vanilla.
I found a delicious recipe HERE. It is a super vanilla-y cake with a vanilla and rosewater frosting. I made it to the recipe on that link minus the fresh vanilla beans because while I had everything else at my disposal at home, I do not often have vanilla beans. OK, I never have vanilla beans in my home. But some day I might.

Here is how the cake turned out:

Just look at that fluffy frosting!

And of course, I had to smother it with berries. In the recipe I was following, there were berries in the cake as well as on top, but I thought it would last better if we just dumped fresh berries on top or all over whenever we felt like a bite, or a slice. 

Don't mind the ugly plates, just check out that lovely cake.

I'm not going to lie, I'm so proud of how this cake turned out. It was my first time cooking part of the frosting, and I just love how it turned out. It was so fluffy and light and easy to spread. And it as pretty as it is yummy. Vanilla with just a hint of rosewater. It got me thinking of trying it with a hint of mint (using fresh mint leaves of course). Jon's words were, "This tastes like no other cake I've ever tried before. You can really tell you put time into it. It is really, really good." That was the best compliment I could think of receiving. Jon is a man who likes his vanilla, and I was so happy that I made something he approved of wholeheartedly. Yay! And honestly, it didn't take THAT much time. But don't tell him. 

Monday, August 29, 2011

On blogs and dogs

First things first-- we are now public. So go ahead and add the blog to your Google Reader or whatever. After trying to keep up with a couple of friends' private blogs I realized that it can be a pain to remember to check those blogs. Not that those people aren't worth visiting or commenting on, but yea, private blogs can be harder to reach and read. And it seems like you agree with me. I decided that whether this blog is private or public actually didn't matter that much to me, so why not make things easier? Done and done. 

Second matter of excitement and happiness-- our cute new puppy. We named him Misu, which means "little bear" in Polish. We adopted him from Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kanab. They had so many cute sweet dogs and puppies to choose from. I went a month before the adoption to see what was available and after playing with Misu and his litter, I realized that he was the one for us. Back then he was called Hendrix, but he didn't look like a Hendrix to me. Turns out that Misu is a perfect name for him. He often sounds like a tiny little bear with his grunts and growls as he plays with Luna. 

He is half Miniature Poodle and half Maltese and is a sweetie. (A sweetie that still poops on the carpet from time to time, but still...) 

He and our other dog Luna get along really well. They play tug-of-war, wrestle, and chase one another around the house. Luna has really taken to her little brother and I love it. What's more is that they really seem to play off of one another really well. Misu is really chill and not easily riled up-- both Jon and I hope that trait rubs off on Luna. Having Misu join the family has been just great. Luna still loves following me around but she also gives me a little more space now that Misu is here. Which means I can get a lot more done around the house. And if it sounds like I'm talking about Luna as if she is a child, that's because in some ways she is one. And now with Misu she's a happier more self-sufficient one. However, unlike children, I'm finding that two is easier than one. 

So yea, we've got some good things going on around here. Good and cute. 

Monday, August 15, 2011

Anniversary trip, part 2.

Could you do me a quick favor? Seriously like one second of your time is all I need. Will you share your opinion? (Quiz on the right side of this page--) Thanks bunches!!!

Part One is right HERE.

. . .
The day after Sequoia National Park was a L-O-N-G driving day. Poor Jon had to drive us through Malibu during some crazy mid-day traffic. We moved about sixteen miles in an hour! Ridiculous, people! Finally, we just HAD to have a pee break. But you know what? Eateries around there aren't required to have bathrooms. So we had to hit up five different places before some guy at the gelato shop took pity on Jon and let him use the employee bathroom. Yes, Jon went first because I felt so bad for him. And then I decided that the best plan of action would be to first decide on some food and then have me find a bathroom. Certainly the deli that we chose would have a public bathroom, right? Nope. So I told Jon what to order for me and then I went on a bathroom-seeking journey. I had to walk two blocks to a public bathroom. It was like this-- one tiny girl's bathroom along a line of shops across the street and around a corner from our deli. And that was the closest public bathroom. Not even the Starbucks had one. Hello-- people in there are drinking coffee and coffee makes you need to pee lots. At least that's what I've heard. What the heck? How do the people of Malibu put up with such nonsense? Anyway, I finally made it to the bathroom and there were three ladies in line in front of me. The two at the end let me cut. Apparently I looked like I was ready to burst. I made sure I left the bathroom in a much better state than the older lady who went in front of me did. Yikes!

Anyway, after that things calmed down and were much better. We ended up with delicious sandwiches that we ate sitting in cool wood lawn chairs on a grass-covered mini-lawn. Suddenly California was sunny and lovely all over again. And our sandwiches were so big that we could only eat half of our lunch, saving us the expense of buying a real dinner. We had linner all ready and waiting for us.

After getting more gas for the 4-Runner, we made our way to our destination-- lovely, gorgeous, wonderful El Matedor beach. It did not disappoint. We pulled up into a parking spot IN the parking lot! Our luck had turned. And then I saw these guys with Polaroid Land Cameras. Jon asked if I'd go talk to them and I said, "Of course!"

Now, I'm not usually the type that just goes off and talks to new people like that, but they were driving a refurbished bright orange car with glittery-sparkly upholstery. And they had Polaroids. So I went over to chat while Jon paid our parking fare. They told me that they were impressed that a non-local knew of El Matedor, and I told them that I liked their car and their camera, and we got to talking about Polaroids, and I was so jealous. The one guy had a stockpile of old vintage Polaroid film-- 669 and 600 stuff. . . And then I took a picture of them sitting in their tangerine car overlooking the Pacific and handed it back, and a minute later, they peeled it and said, "Man, this girl really knows her stuff." Yay. In the first place, they liked my photo lots. And in the second place, they thought of me as considerably younger than them, which I doubt I was.

And then we walked down to the beach.

How gorgeous is this place?

On the way downstairs to the beach, I got stopped three times so people could ask me questions about my Polaroid cameras. I had my SX70 and my 350 land camera out, and Jon asked if I was feeling like a rock star by the time we got to the bottom. He said, "You're getting way more attention than all the people with their fancy digital cameras running around here." And it was true. There were seven or so other people running about with fancy-pants digital cameras, several of them doing shoots of "models." None of them were asked about their cameras. Jon was watching. And I still got asked about my cameras a few more times while walking along the water's edge. I'm not going to lie, it was kind of fun telling them that yes, these were functional older Polaroids and yes, there is still film to be had for them.

I make faces when I take photos. That's my secret. 
I wish I'd taken photos of the "models" out there-- There was one girl with purple hair who kept swinging her head from side to side as her "move." I'm guessing. There was another girl in a skimpy outfit that was so giggly, but as soon as the camera turned on her, she'd make these deep, thoughtful faces and would really get into it. Also, she was maybe 18 and had dyed her hair gray. I'm not kidding you. I saw it in several lighting conditions. Each time, gray. Oh, and Jon saw her get trounced by a big sneaky wave while she was trying for a seductive pose laying on the sand.

So happy to have some beach time together.

There isn't much more to say about the beach other than it was lovely and relaxing and so scenic. We'd never been to this beach before and even though it was crazy to get to, it was so worth it. Even Jon (who did the driving while I did the directing) had to agree. Amazing place.

We LOVED this beach.

Jon, jumping. :)
We spent the night at a really nice place for not very much at all. We woke up and had a lovely continental breakfast, and then we took a long walk along a river trail and fed some ducks. Then we drove over to pick up a dresser that we'd bought on e-bay. As Jon put it, "It looks better in real life than it even did on-line." An it's true. We are so happy with it. It is a mid-century solid wood 8-drawer dresser. I'll put up photos of it soon. We are delighted with our purchase. And the young woman we bought it from was so helpful. She provided the additional human-power that we needed to keep the dresser balanced on its back while Jon put the drawers in it. She marveled that our 4-Runner could fit it, but fit it it did. And there was plenty of room to spare for our clothes and cameras and snacks to fit in around it when we were done.

An amazing whirlwind of a trip. It was a great quick little anniversary trip out to California. A change of scenery and pace. And as always, it was so fun to go adventuring with Jon. It was great to have hours and hours of uninterrupted quality time with my honey. Time to talk in the car, time walking, hiking, and photographing-- I couldn't have imagined a better anniversary. Jon says it could have been better if we'd gone back to Hawaii. . . haha.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011


Jon and I celebrate one year of wedded bliss today. It's weird how on the one hand it feels like the past year has flown by, but on the other hand it's hard to imagine life any other way (and it's only been one year!). It has been an amazing, full, and happy year with my darling sweetheart. I look forward to many, many more. 

We had an adventure this past weekend as part of our celebrations. We went to California. It all started when we began looking for grown-up furniture. Right now our bedroom is a mash-up of both of our past lives. We decided it was high time to actually go for a look rather than look overly eclectic without a purpose. I have always loved mid-century pieces and once we got looking, we quickly found a really great solid wood dresser for a super awesome price. The only problem? It was in California. Wait, did I say that was a problem? Okay, it was more like an opportunity. The wonderful Carrie that we bought our dresser from was happy to hold onto it until we could come get it, and so our planning began. And our thoughts quickly went like this-- well, our anniversary is coming up, and we don't have kids yet so we can take a trip, and we love beaches and nature and we have this dresser in California. . . so it was decided that we would make a whole road-trip out of it.

We were fascinated by all the wind turbines.

Friday we drove out to Visalia, California where we met up with the lovely Amanda Morgan and her fiancee Addison. This was our first time meeting Addison, and we were so happy to see how happy these two are together. We had fun eating dinner at Panera and dessert at a local frozen yogurt shop.

That was it for our first day--- driving, visiting, eating, and then sleeping.

Day two was much more eventful. In the first place, we had a nice easy-going morning with a pretty nice complimentary breakfast, and then we met up with Amanda again for lunch. We had amazing sandwiches at this cute local joint, and then we took a few pictures. We were all full after half of a sandwich that we saved the rest for later. The sandwiches were HUGE! And oh so very tasty.

From there, we took Amanda's advice and stopped at Reimer's. I can happily recommend this place to anyone remotely near by. This place had some of the best ice cream that I've ever tried. They even had a cookies and cream in a chocolate base. That's what Jon got. I tried their almond toffee in vanilla. So delicious!

Look at the cute Swiss-inspired detailing!
Happy and full of tasty ice cream.
And then we got to Sequoia National Park. First we hit up the Giant Forest. We walked around a meadow and experienced huge sequoias, read some informational plaques, and saw two brown bears! Jon got within fifteen feet of one. They were just chillin' in the grass, rooting around for food. They didn't even seem to notice the people all around. One lady we talked to had one walk right in front her to go munch on berries in the glade.

Cute baby bear.

Huge trees!

Root base of a fallen giant. I'm in there for scale.
Giant sequoia hugging a boulder. 
Can you spot Jon in the photo above? Another scale photo. This probably would just look like a normal tree and a rock otherwise. (Click on the photo to see it larger.)

In contrast to the huge trees all around, I found these darling tiny pink and yellow flowers growing here and there along the trail. Does anyone know what they are?

Second bear siting.
I can see why the teddy bear has become a symbol of all things cuddly and sweet. The huge bear cubs did indeed look sweet and cuddly, and in a perfect world, we could go snuggle them. But alas, we had to keep our distance. So sad.

My cute Jon.
From there we decided to check out the General Sherman tree. While it is the biggest thing alive (by mass), we were more impressed by other trees and by our walk along part of the Congress Trail. There we not only saw other massive trees, but also gigantic burnt out tree trunks. They were haunting, sad, and beautiful all at once.

My one regret is that we didn't make it to a Visitor's Center early enough for me to get my National Parks Passport stamped. But Jon reminded me that we'll be in that part of California for Amanda's wedding in a couple of months, so we'll attend to that then. :) But while we were there, we had an quick impromptu picnic consisting of some of our snack food and the rest of our sandwiches from earlier. Thank goodness for high elevation and cooler temperatures. Our food still tasted great hours later.

Then we made our way to look over the valleys and so that Jon could take some more of his amazing 360 degree panoramic photos. It was a quick little hike up stairs to the top of Moro Rock and we got a few fun photos up there as the sun was setting and twilight was coming on. We were the last to come off the mountain. It was nice and quiet up there once all the other tourists left.

Here's Jon setting up for one of his photos.
I think we made quite a few people nervous setting up for our photos. We really don't take risks, I promise. We just don't always stay on the trail or within the bounds of the handrails. We really do make sure to only stick to places we feel comfortable on, though. So that makes it O.K. Right?

The second place that Jon set up to take panoramic photos. 
Jon's view of me from his vantage point.
In the next photo, if you click on it, you can see layers of mountains and valleys, the road that we drove up, and the moon in the sky.
I love the pastel colors!
Even though Jon forgot to smile because he was busy concentrating on the taking the picture,
this is a happy memory for me, so I'm including it!
Sunset on Moro Rock
The path illuminated by moonlight.
(Best seen large.)
And then it was time to head back to our car. Jon was helped me along the last part of the trail where it was totally dark. When we got to the bottom I saw something huge in front of us. "Uh, Jon?" was all I managed to say. Jon looked up and nearly jumped out of his skin. When our eyes fully adjusted, we saw that there was a buck licking something up off of a rock, and he was soon joined by a doe. This was RIGHT by us and next to our car. We just watched them for a moment and kept quietly talking to one another, and the deer would look up every once in a while, but they weren't scared of us. So of course, we had to take a few pictures.

Jon, our car, and a big deer.
And then, even though it was dark, because we were so close to it, we had to go see the Log Tunnel. It is a big tree that has fallen over with an arch carved through it making an 8' high tunnel you could drive through. I took a few photos of Jon driving through it.

Right after taking that second photo, I heard some rustling in the bushes next to me. Jon and I have been watching the X-files, and I've just plain seen too many scary/creepy movies in my life. I knew better than to stop and look at what was making that noise. I just firmly grabbed my camera and ran for the car. Jon heard the rustling from inside the running car, so I can't imagine it was a small woodland creature. More than likely it was another friendly deer, but I didn't want to take any chances. It was a pretty funny way to end our day at Sequoia National Park.

From there we drove back into town and shared a late dinner before getting back to our hotel room and crashing. And that is that for our second day of our anniversary adventures in California. More to come really soon!