The Mighty Redwoods

2 Jul

Over Memorial Weekend Mike and I embarked upon an epic Northern California road trip to the Mighty Redwoods in Humbolt County.

You can see our route here – nearly 1,000 miles and 15 hours in the car!

Here Are Our Top Ten Favorite Experiences:

1.  Sunset Boat Ride in Eureka with Captain Steve 

Sunset cruising on the Madaket.

Sunset cruising on the Madaket.

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Getting ready to shove off! Captain Steve at the wheel.

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View of Humbolt Bay.

We saw a ton of wildlife including Sea Lions.

We saw a ton of wildlife including Sea Lions.

2. Watching a Leg of the Famous Kinetic Sculpture Race

This 3-day, 42 mile “triathlon of the art world” is a BIG deal in Eureka.

Crossing a bridge...and holding up traffic.

Crossing a bridge…and holding up traffic.

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In first place on day two.

3. The Big Trees in Humbolt Redwoods State Park

We were a bit underwhelmed by Avenue of the Giants. The good stuff is in HRSP.

Keeps going and going...

Keeps going and going…

"Tall Tree"

“Tall Tree”

"Giant Tree"

“Giant Tree”

4. Wildlife Sightings

Banana slugs

Banana slugs

Elk grove in Prairie Creek Park.

Elk grove in Prairie Creek Park.

Snails

Snails

Bunnies

Bunnies

5. Watching a Baby Whale Play at Patrick Point State Park

I didn’t get a picture of the whale because I didn’t want to take my eyes off of it, but it was playing in the cove off to the left.

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I could have sat there all day.

I could have sat there all day.

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Stunning

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The Trail

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I mean, seriously.

6. The Cheese Curds at Loleta Cheese Factory 

The man loves cheese.

The man loves cheese.

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Cheese


7. Coastline at Trinidad

This reminded us of the Cinque Terre in Italy.

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Imagine waking up to that view every morning.

Ridiculous

Ridiculous

8. Dinner Over the Campfire

Setting up camp.

Setting up camp.

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Meat and veggies on the grill.

The grillmaster.

The grill master.

Finished product: Bison burgers w/pub cheese, mushroom and cous cous salad, white bean salad and marinated red peppers and zucchini.

Finished product: Bison burgers w/pub cheese, mushroom and cous cous salad, white bean salad and marinated red peppers and zucchini.

9. View from Cow Mountain

We stopped over here on the long drive north because the camping was free. But reaching the sites took so long we probably burned the cost of a campsite in gas. Good thing the views were pretty amazing.

The view

The view

The site.

The site.

It was freezing being that high up. I had to wear 84369305 layers.

It was freezing being that high up. I had to wear 84369305 layers.

10.  Driving the Lost Coast

Getting blown away on the Lost Coast.

Getting blown away on the Lost Coast.

11. (BONUS!) The Craft Beer-Tasting!

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Six Rivers

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Taster

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Mad River

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Taster

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2nd Annual Genoa Place Block Party

24 Jun

Kick-the-can, bonfires, hotdish potlucks…growing up in a traditional small town in Minnesota summertime block parties were a regular occurrence – an opportunity to bond with our small community of neighbors. 379723_591754784189716_947300167_n

Living in San Francisco, although a very friendly place, we never got to know, and actually hardly ever saw, other residents of the weird little alley we all call home.

Last year, Mike had the brilliant idea to host a get together and so the Genoa Place block party was born.

After a successful first year, we held 2nd annual event two Saturdays ago.

I am never sure what people are going to bring (we should probably encourage sign-ups on the FB event page next year!) so I made sure to have some hot dogs, a side dish, appetizer and of course dessert. Turns out I had nothing to worry about. Our friends and neighbors pulled out all the stops.

In addition to providing the delicious brews for the event, Mike is also the expert on the grill.

In addition to providing the delicious brews for the event, Mike is also the expert on the grill.

Look at that spread!

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Block Party Feast!

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Highlights included stuffed strawberries, goat cheese and pecan salad, fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies and a berry trifle.

Expectations are high whenever I make dessert, so the heat was on. I had originally planned to test run a cupcake recipe I wanted to make for my sister’s graduation AND I was also obsessing over a cherry hand pie recipe from one of my favorite blogs. But after the local jam I had purchased during my work trip to Portland earlier that week was confiscated by airport security (dude, jam is totally a solid and regardless it’s use in cherry hand pies should make it exempt) I abandoned ship and came up with two new ideas (cherry hand  pies: you are dead to me).

#1: Lemon cookies: featuring lemons from my HR manager’s tree. These were just ok. If you are interested, here is the recipe.

#2: Incorporating the nostalgia of Midwest block parties I selected a banana, peanut butter and honey whoopie pie recipe from a Wisconsin based-blog I follow. Extending the theme even further, I used honey made in Wisconsin by the father of my good friend Emily.

With all that midwest love, the recipe was sure to be a winner. And that it was.

Peanut Butter, Banana & Wisconsin Honey Whoopie Pies

Secret ingredient: homemade Wisconsin honey

Secret ingredient: homemade Wisconsin honey

Banana Cakes

Ingredients:

  • 2 C flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 C butter
  • 1/4 C shortening
  • 1/2 C brown sugar
  • 1/2 C sugar
  • 2 overripe bananas
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 C milk
  • 1 tsp lemon juice

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350. In a medium bowl, combine flour, salt, baking soda and baking powder. In a glass measuring cup, measure milk and add lemon juice. Mixture will curdle slightly. In a large mixing bowl, beat together butter, shortening and sugars until fluffy. Beat in bananas and vanilla. Add eggs one at a time, beating well. Next, alternately beat in dry mixture and milk until well combined.

Scoop 1 inch balls of dough onto a baking sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes.

Peanut Butter-Honey Frosting

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 C butter, softened
  • 2 1/4 C powdered sugar
  • 1/2 C peanut butter
  • 3 tsp honey
  • 1 Tbsp half & half or milk

Instructions:

In a large bowl, beat together butter and powdered sugar until creamy. Beat in peanut butter until smooth and well combined. Beat in honey. Pipe or spread frosting onto bottom of one banana pie and top with second pie.

Block-party goodness

Block-party goodness

Great Blogger Cookie Swap 2012!

11 Dec

fbcookieswap_whiteHooray! It’s that time again. After having a fantastic experience participating last year I eagerly awaited information on this year’s Great Blogger Cookie Swap.

Although I have literally had cookies on the brain for the past three months and have anxiously awaited the time for when it is socially acceptable to begin holiday baking, I struggled with what I wanted to make for this. I am certain I agonized more over my cookie recipe options than I did my wedding dress.

Anyhoo, I ended up settling on Lemon Coconut Snowballs because 1. I couldn’t get the recipe out of my head after I saw it and 2. They are the closest thing I’ll see to real snowballs in San Francisco any time soon.

Lemon Coconut Snowballs

Lemon Coconut Snowballs – Powdering in Progress!

Lemon Coconut Snowballs

From MyRecipes.com

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon coconut extract
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons grated lemon rind
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sweetened flaked coconut, lightly toasted
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Preparation:

  1. Beat butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy; gradually add 1/2 cup powdered sugar and extracts, beating well. Add flour, lemon rind, and salt, beating until combined. Stir in coconut. Cover and chill dough 30 minutes.
  2. Shape dough into generous 1″ balls; place 1″ apart on parchment paper-lined baking sheets. Bake at 350° for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden on bottom, but pale on top. Transfer cookies to wire racks to cool 5 minutes.
  3. Place 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar in a bowl, and roll warm cookies in powdered sugar, coating well. Cool cookies completely on wire racks. Roll cooled cookies in powdered sugar again, coating well.

The Send Off

After finishing work on these pretty labor-intensive cookies, I packaged them up to mail to my matches! I once again typed the cookie recipes up on my vintage typewriter. I’d like to report that I had fewer botched drafts than last year, but no dice.

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Step 1: Seal in plastic bags for freshness

Step 2: Type recipe cards and package up all purdy

Step 2: Type recipe cards and package up all purdy

Step 3: Pad with bubble wrap, seal in a shipping box and send!

Step 3: Pad with bubble wrap, seal in a shipping box and send!

My matches who received my cookies were:

What Did I Receive?

Of course a cookie swap isn’t only one-sided. I received some fun cookies which were:

Happy Holidays!

Our First Christmas Tree

1 Dec

Believe it or not 2012 was the first year that Mike and I had our own Christmas tree. This wasn’t due to lack of interest, cost or logistics. It was due to Collina. Our sweet-faced kitty’s devilish ways would surely result in her grabbing a branch with her teeth and pulling the entire thing over or worse yet, chomping through the light string and getting electrocuted. So I put the possibility of housing our own piney, sparkling, natural tradition out of my mind and just set my sights on enjoying the tree at my parents’ home.

As of early November, Collina became a Wisconsin resident bunking with Mike’s parents and their two other cats. I can’t thank them enough for taking her and know she’ll be happy and well cared for. Although I miss her greatly, I’m making sure to do all the things we couldn’t when she was around.

We passed handful of tree farms on our trip back from Santa Barbara last weekend, and fully intended to stop, until an idea came to me. Mike’s parents had bought us a beautiful little redwood seedling during their last visit.  We kept it out on the balcony and it had now grown to a respectable 2.5 feet. We should use that. And after Christmas, we’ll return it to the deck.

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Lights!

So we had our tree. Hurdle number two was ornaments. Anything we had received as gifts to date were left back in MN and WI.

I weaved a few Swedish paper hearts and also remembered my mom making cinnamon ornaments when I was a kid, so I decided to create a few of my own.

As I was mixing the ingredients together I told Mike the story of why I remembered my mom making these ornaments so vividly.

As they were cooling on a wire rack my dad passed by, picked one up and took a HUGE bite.

“Shari,” he said, “these cookies don’t taste right.”

My mom replied, laughing, “That’s because they’re made with cinnamon and glue.”

Cinnamon ornaments.

Cinnamon ornaments.

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Cinnamon Ornament Recipe – Non-Edible

Ingredients

  • 1 cup ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon ground cloves
  • 1 tablespoon ground nutmeg
  • 3/4 cup applesauce
  • 2 tablespoons glue

Preparation:

  1. In a medium bowl, stir together the cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. Mix in the applesauce and glue. Work the mixture with your hands 2 to 3 minutes to form a ball. If mixture is too wet, add more cinnamon. If mixture is too dry, add more applesauce.
  2. Lightly dust a clean surface with cinnamon. Roll out the dough to 1/4 inch thickness. Cut out shapes with cookie cutters, and use a toothpick to make a hole at the top for hanging with a ribbon.
  3. Dry in a slow oven 200 degrees F (100 degrees C) for several hours, or air dry in a sunny spot for 4 or 5 days

Minnie-Apple Bourbon Pie – Edible 😉

We were also lucky enough to catch the last weekend of U-Pick Granny Smith Apples at a farm south of Solvang. I had picked up a bourbon apple pie recipe at the Minnesota State Fair this past Labor Day Weekend and knew that was exactly what I wanted to make.

Ingredients:

  • Your favorite crust recipe (makes two crusts – 1 for bottom crust and 1 for the top). I used a shortening based one that I wasn’t crazy about. 
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 TBS flour
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • 6 cups cored apples, slides (I always leave the skin on for the extra nutrients)
  • 2 Tbs bourbon
  • 1/2 cups raisins plumped in additional bourbon for several hours
  • 1/2 cup toasted pecans or walnuts (I used walnuts)
  • Additional 1/4 cup sugar and 1 tsp cinnamon for sprinkling

Preparation:

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

2. Mix dry ingredients in a small bowl.

3. In a large bowl mix apples and bourbon. Add dry ingredients, nuts and raisins. Mix.

4. Place mixture in your prepared pie crust, cover with second crust and sprinkle with additional cinnamon and sugar. I would also cut slits in the top crust to release some of the steam. My apples were over baked.

5. Bake 15 minutes then lower temperature to 375 degrees for an additional 35 – 40 m minutes. Cool on a wire rack and enjoy!

Minnie-apple bourbon pie

Minnie-apple bourbon pie

Making pie with the last apples of the season and decorating our first Christmas tree – I’d say it was the perfect transition of the seasons.

Raspberry Cake with Homemade Lemon Curd

2 Oct

Despite having the itch to bake exclusively with pumpkin and cinnamon, I wanted to try this cake recipe at least once before diving head first into fall-themed goodies. With warm weather and a movie in the park on the weekend agenda, this was the perfect opportunity to make this fresh, summery treat.

The recipe from Sunset Magazine calls for store-bought lemon curd (which Trader Joes has), but I figured I’d try making my own – which turned out to be incredibly easy!

Cake

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup plain low-fat yogurt
  • 1/2 cup low-fat milk
  • 1/4 cup lemon curd (see below for recipe)
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 4 3/4 cups raspberries (about 18 oz.)
  • Powdered sugar for dusting

Preparation:

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Spray a 9 x 13 inch baking pan. In a large bowl with a mixer on medium speed, beat butter and granulated sugar until fluffy. Beat in eggs, salt, vanilla, yogurt, milk, and lemon curd until mostly blended.
  2. Add flour, baking soda, and baking powder to bowl and beat until smooth. Spread half of batter in pan and scatter half of raspberries on top. Gently spread remaining batter over berries. Scatter remaining berries on top.
  3. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, about 1 hour. Let cake cool about 1 hour, then dust lightly with powdered sugar.

Lemon Curd

Ingredients:

  • 5 egg yolks
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 lemons, zested and juiced
  • 1 stick butter, cut into pats and chilled

Preparation:

Add enough water to a medium saucepan to come about 1-inch up the side. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Meanwhile, combine egg yolks and sugar in a medium size metal bowl and whisk until smooth, about 1 minute. Measure citrus juice and if needed, add enough cold water to reach 1/3 cup. Add juice and zest to egg mixture and whisk smooth. Once water reaches a simmer, reduce heat to low and place bowl on top of saucepan. (Bowl should be large enough to fit on top of saucepan without touching the water.) Whisk until thickened, approximately 8 minutes, or until mixture is light yellow and coats the back of a spoon. Remove promptly from heat and stir in butter a piece at a time, allowing each addition to melt before adding the next. Remove to a clean container and cover by laying a layer of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the curd. Refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.

Another Year, A New Set of Goals

24 Sep

“The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, not worry about the future or anticipate troubles, but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly.” – Buddha

Friday was my 28th birthday and every year that passes is filled with joy, laughter, love, triumphs and struggles. Highlights of my 27th year included a fantastic trip to Italy and starting a new job – something that felt like a major risk, but has so far provided many interesting opportunities and challenges.

With each year that goes by I learn more about myself and how to be a better, more self-aware person. In an effort to continue growing, I’m officially declaring the following as my goals for my 28th year.

  1. Attend a class at my gym – it is time I face my fear of  organized group workouts in front of large mirrors.
  2. Find a new way to serve – my mentor program ended almost a year ago now and I want to find a new way to volunteer my time to benefit my community. Ideas are welcome!
  3. Not take shortcomings sooo hard – cupcakes taste like feet? Idea shot down by my team? It is not the end of the world.
  4. Be patient – oof, I really need to work on this one. Especially when it comes to waiting in line.
  5. Do less – I love to be busy and fill my weekends with new adventures, but when fun activities start to feel stressful, it is time to slow down a bit.
  6. Take a class – I’m not sure what this will be yet, maybe completing the small business class Mike and I started, but didn’t finish because of our trip to Italy.
  7. Learn Italian – living in North Beach I have a wealth of native Italian-speakers to practice with. Bona Fortuna!
  8. Handle stress better – I need to work on living by this verse:  Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. Philippians 4:6

Cheers to 28! Let’s get ’em!

I Like My Food on A Stick

18 Sep

The fair, family and Surly Furious – a  (Minnesota) nice weekend

With my sisters getting older and therefor busier with their own lives I feel lucky to have had the opportunity to piggy back on a work trip and spend Labor Day Weekend with my family.  To make it even better Mike also flew in to join in the festivities. In addition to the fair, highlights of the five day trip included bike riding along the new trails around Lino Lakes, a Surly Brewery tour and a night out in downtown Minneapolis with drinks at the top of The Foshay.

MNSF 2012!
Californians just don’t understand how epic the Minnesota State Fair  really is. I smile and nod politely as they  reflect on the “awesome corn dog” they ate or the at another fair while in head I’m thinking you poor thing. You have no idea.

Friday morning Brynn, Mike and I got up early filled with deep-fried excitement and set out for a full day at the fair. With her busy work and Lino Lakes Ambassador schedule Brooke wasn’t able to join us for but luckily she and I had some alone time together the night before doing some damage at the Mall of America.

We have arrived!

The three amigos got down to business having no issue digging into deep-fried cheese curds at 9 a.m.

It was the deep-fried cookie dough at 9:15 a.m. that may have been concerning…

9 a.m., Food Items #1 & #2: Grilled Shrimp & Cheese Curds

#3: Deep-fried cookie dough on a stick

Oof, after that breakfast of champions we headed over to the MN Rollergirls Booth and threw some pitches at the St. Paul Saints booth.

Deadeye #12

Fast!

Enough with the calorie-burning, time for some morning brews at the MN Craft Brewer’s Guild Land of 10,000 Beers.

Beers and maps?!?!? For Mike, it doesn’t get any better.

Are we hired?

So talented

Off to the animal barns.

Baaa

I wouldn’t want this running around my yard based on the size of its claws alone.

I was really into the all-you-can-drink chocolate milk this year. I guess I needed something to wash down the giant turkey sandwich Brynn and I shared. Interestingly enough the turkey stand was located right outside the poultry barn…

Calcium

Despite it being before noon it seemed wrong to have milk in one hand without cookies in the other. Dessert #2!

Sweet Martha

In continuing with the theme of breaking societal eating rules, Brynn and I proceeded to jump on the most nauseating ride we could find with a belly full of turkey, cookies and milk.

I’m scared!

Oui. I’m getting to old for this.

I think I’m gonna…

Ride #2 – more spinning.

So. Dizzy.

Demonstrating the whiplash we experienced on the ride.

Continuing to scare the crap out of Sarah…

Back to business.

Wild Rice Burger with White Cheddar.

Cajun walleye – hands down best food item of the day.

Deep-fried Mac-n-Cheese on a stick

Cheeseburger sticks

That guy from “The Voice” on a stick

Mike would save his beer if he was abducted by Big Foot

When (Kemps) cows attack

Squeaky clean

Sparring

I’d say it was a successful day at the fair and a wonderful time spent at home.