Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Mount Sutro Details

I wrote yesterday about our Mount Sutro hike this past weekend, and today I'm posting a few pictures of details I noticed on the trails.

I mentioned the trail was muddy and the trees were dripping dew drops despite the fact that we've had no rain in quite a while.  The moss growing on the eucalyptus trees loved these weather conditions:

What's this?  Banana slug slime?

Bird eating a worm:

Peeking at our house through the trees, near the tall white building with the red tile roof:

Somehow I caught this bird mid-flight:

{Clearly I had fun playing around with my manual settings!}

Monday, July 30, 2012

Hiking Mount Sutro

It was cloudy yesterday morning, and I am learning that it's just proof that it is summer in San Francisco (I should have known this--I was fairly warned!  But we had such a nice Fall/Winter/Spring that I started to doubt those pessimists.)

After watching several awesome games and matches of the various Olympic sports on TV (water polo has been especially exciting!), we were ready to get moving ourselves.  It seemed like we lucked out when Will found a hiking trail where reviewers mentioned the hike was "even cooler when it's foggy." Done!

So yesterday afternoon we hiked Mount Sutro, right in the middle of the city.

Just like on other hikes we've done in San Francisco, two minutes into the trail you've already forgotten there's a city around you--it feels so remote!

Though the sun did pop through the clouds for quite a bit of the hike...

The trusty fog did come back.

It's probably unusual to comment on the "smell" of the trail, but the combination of eucalyptus trees, pine, scrub brush, and dew made for a very refreshing experience.

We passed only a handful of fellow hikers:

But we knew like-minded hikers had walked these trails before us:

There were a few good sights through the trees.  Here's Alcatraz, for example:

It was a good activity for an otherwise foggy day.  I have a feeling a few more foggy days are in the cards this summer, so maybe we'll be back soon.

Hope your week is off to a good start!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Life Lately, According to Instagram

Happy Friday!

I have been enjoying Instagram lately, so I figured I'd post a few recent photos.

Top Row (L to R): Flowers on my walk to work; Brunch at Elite Cafe with Olivia; Beautiful, historic library.
Middle Row: Planning a future vacation with the locals; Custom koozies for the Kennifest family reunion last weekend!; Latte from a relaxing Sunday morning on our balcony=Bliss.
Bottom Row: One of several coolers of Kennifest refreshments; Swiss chocolate dessert--turned dominos?; Airport tailgate to welcome Will home last week (longtime family tradition).

In other news, Will just finished up his recent 4+ month long stint of work on the east coast!  Time for a breather from all the travel.  There will be lots more celebrating this weekend.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Wacky Wednesday

Have you all seen the blog Catalog Living?  It's a collection of posts mocking the ridiculousness that appears on the glossy pages of Pottery Barn catalogs and the likes.  And I think it makes an appropriate Wacky Wednesday topic!

I found out about it long ago and loved some of the original entries, but funny ones are fewer and far between now.

But this one made me chuckle the other day!
Gary was torn. He wanted the lumbar support offered by an additional pillow, but he couldn’t help but be afraid he would forget how to get to the beach the next morning.

See more of my favorite entries here, here, and here.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Cruising Up The Coast

Weekend getaways to nearby cities are a fun way we like to switch things up between the work weeks.
Often the trips involve two steady driving trips so we can get to the destination and back quickly, and the remainder of the weekend can be dedicated relaxation time.

Several weeks ago, however, we switched things up.  After a relaxing Saturday in Monterey, we headed back North towards San Francisco on the slow road Sunday morning.

We weren't in any hurry, so we cruised through the beach towns of Aptos, Capitola, Soquel, and Santa Cruz.  I pointed out places along the way, like where we camped when I as kid, and where I'd competed in open water swims and paddle-board races.  We snacked at an old favorite, El Toro Bravo.

We spent a fair amount of time watching the surf.

The waves were slamming into this rocky ledge:

I love the following picture.  Watching storm surf gives me such an appreciation for the power behind those waves.  These "ins and outs" (as we used to call them growing up) are especially fun to ride; they're like taking the fast-track back to the surf zone, saving you the trouble of paddling.  And it's actually quite thrilling to be right in the spot where the "ins" and "outs" face off.

This lighthouse above Steamer Lane houses a surf museum.

From Santa Cruz, we continued North to Half Moon Bay, which is a road I hadn't traveled before.  It had beautiful scenery, and Big Sur-like cliffs over the water.  

As you all might guess by now, the following restaurant sign caught our eye, and we agreed we had nothing more important to do than test the brew master's skills at Half Moon Brewing Company:

We cozied up by the outdoor fire pit with a Mavericks Pillar Point Pale Ale and a Princeton-by-the-Sea IPA, along with a few appetizers.  We enjoyed the warmth of the fire and watched the sun dip below the cliffs...

We didn't make it to check out the Mavericks break, (and I know it wouldn't have been particularly large this day), but it is something I would eventually love to see!


That's the perfect excuse for a repeat visit!  Now if only I could capture surfing pics like that above...

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Three Years

Three years ago today, I did this:

It has been wonderful being married to such a great guy.  I am a lucky lady!

Cheers to many, many more!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Cooking with Herbs

Last week Vron emailed me a link for a fancy cocktail (be on the lookout for its debut at a future Virtual Dinner Party).  The drink calls for both basil and mint, and we got to chatting about how expensive buying herbs can be.  It's always the same story: you find an interesting recipe you want to try; you buy the grocery package of fresh herbs, which costs $4 each time; you use about 3 springs/leaves; the rest goes bad before you have the chance to use it again...

Though we no longer have any backyard space for a full garden, we do have a balcony, and I've made it a priority to grow all the herbs I use frequently.  You drop that same $4 for each small plant at Home Depot, Lowes, or Trader Joe's, but if you plant it and show it some occasional love, you've got herbs all summer and fall (rosemary and parsley year-round!)

Basil, Rosemary, Cilantro, Thyme, Oregano
After growing an herb garden for a number of years, here are some random tips I've learned:
  • Don't waste your time growing herbs from seed.  Two weeks into your labors, you are elated to see two sweet little leaves.  But just think how many more weeks it will take for that little seedling to become large enough to harvest anything from it without wiping out the whole plant!
  • Mint will overtake all the space around it, so grow mint in a separate pot.  
  • Pinch off the tops of basil as soon as they begin to flower.  If they flower, the plant puts more energy into making seeds and growing flowers, and you will see the number of new leaves for eating quickly dwindle and weaken in flavor.
  • Cilantro, no matter how well you care for it, will go to seed after about 4-6 weeks, and that's the end of your cilantro harvest.  Come to terms with the fact that you will need to replace this particular plant when it flowers and goes to seed, for the same reason as basil, above.  You can use the seeds it produces for cooking, though--that is coriander.
  • Rosemary needs less water than other herbs.
Trader Joe's has been a good place to buy herb plants.  Today at the store they were selling these cute little pots of herbs.  The tag says this old Italian clay pot was found on a California ranch dating back to 1908.  Seems a bit fancy.   But hey, I had mint on my grocery list to make the cocktail, and this mint pot was $2.49.  The container of fresh mint in the produce section was nearly twice that price.  Obvious answer there.

(Have any of you seen these herb pots at your local Trader Joe's?  I'm a bit skeptical that these pots are truly Italian antiques from an old California ranch, yet can be mass produced and sold at TJ's...)

Anyway, the other time and dollar-saving trick I use to keep herbs on hand is to freeze them.  At the end of the summer (or with any leftovers from your grocery store packs), harvest the remaining herbs, rinse and dry them, and store them in a bit of olive oil in a plastic ziplock bag in the freezer.  When I need some herbs, I take the ziplock out, crack off a piece of the frozen herb and oil block, and chop it up on a cutting board before adding it to my recipes.

And you've likely seen my recipes call for "2 cubes of Trader Joe's frozen basil" in the ingredient list.  These things are a huge time saver in my book!

Which herbs do you grow or which would you use most often if you had some always on hand?

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Meal Planning

The year or so after I graduated from college and moved to North Carolina is when I learned how to cook.  I started by asking my mom to write down nearly every recipe she had made us growing up (I still call her to get clarification and tips on some recipes these days!).  Soon I began experimenting more with Food Network recipes and using produce from Farmer's Market with which I wasn't previously familiar.

Japanese and White Eggplant

In 2011, I made it my resolution to try one new recipe every week, and I reported that I made 64 new recipes that year.  (Click back to read the stats!)

The activity that allowed me to commit to trying new recipes was meal planning.  It helped me buy ingredients that would be used in a couple different recipes, and it (usually) saved me from staring into the fridge without a plan every night.  I found that much less food went to waste this way.

I still plan out meals nearly every week, leaving a bit of flexibility for the occasional spur-of-the-moment meet-up with friends or fits of extreme exhaustion/laziness.  Here is what's on the menu this week:

Tonight we're taking advantage of the lazy Sunday evening and the sunshine to grill Chili Lime Turkey Burgers inspired by Iowa Girl Eats.

I bought another vegetable-stand's worth of produce this week, too.  We'll grill up some of it tonight and use the rest to accompany our dishes through Thursday.

Grilled Vegetable Tacos via How Sweet Eats:

Penne Rosa with Shrimp--lightened up with yogurt instead of cream!

Panzanella Salad, also via IGE.  We enjoyed a similar salad at Beretta in the Mission this past weekend, and it was so refreshing!  Can't wait to make my own version:

And at the end of this yummy week, we're heading south for a family reunion!  I'm excited to report back...

Hope you have a great week ahead.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Summer Veggie Jackpot

Last weekend we spent some time up in Northern California: inland, where temperatures edged closer to the 90s than to the San Francisco 60s.  The soil up there is fertile, and the hot sun produces conditions perfect for beautiful summer produce.  Upon waking up Sunday morning, I was handed a cup of coffee then asked if I wanted to tag along on a farm stand run.  I was game.

The farm stand opens daily at 8am; we pulled up at 7:54am to find 8 others already ahead of us in line!

The produce was gorgeous, and I was absolutely shocked at the prices--most produce was $1 for a full bag of veggies.

My loot that morning consisted of 5 cucumbers, 5 heads of fresh garlic, 5 zucchini, 4 yellow squash, 8 Japanese eggplant, 1 huge red onion, a bag of yellow cherry tomatoes, and a bag of vine-ripe tomatoes.

A mere fraction of my loot

And my wallet was only $6.50 lighter.  That's quite a steal, if you ask me.

I'll admit I was a bit nervous as to how I would use up all the veggies before they spoiled, but from Sunday through last night, everything was eaten up in creative dinners and lunches.  We've enjoyed grilled veggies with lasagna, caprese salads, roasted veggie homemade pizza, and grilled vegetable orzo salad.

Now, I know the fruit stands in San Francisco aren't quite such a bargain (understatement of the year), but I am anxious to do a bit more Farmer's Market shopping this summer, and wing it with fresh meals all week.  It develops my creativity in the kitchen!
Happy Friday.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Wacky Wednesday

Well, I think the greyhound has finally run out of fancy party hats.  In the window of the dress shop, she has been replaced by mannequins dressed in vintage Fourth of July outfits.  However, when I walked by the store the other day, I noticed the greyhound has a bulldog friend who gets placed out front during opening hours:

The best part of this new development is actually the stare-down that was happening once I zoomed out:


Happy Wednesday.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Portobello Mushroom Burgers

We've been in the grilling mood around here, and here's our latest creation:

Portobello Mushroom Burgers with Roasted Peppers


2 portobello mushroom caps
1 red pepper or 2 halves from jar of
          roasted red peppers
2 hamburger buns
cheese for melting
balsamic vinegar for drizzling
lemon pepper or salt and pepper
basil leaves

Spray the cleaned mushroom caps with olive oil and season with lemon pepper.  Grill on both sides, for a total of 10 minutes or until browned; drizzle with a bit of balsamic near the end of cooking.  Serve atop a toasted bun with roasted red peppers, melted cheese, and basil leaves.

It's a lighter alternative to a beef burger, and a nice swap-out!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Fog and a Big Cat

I mentioned yesterday that this past weekend was our first back in San Francisco in over a month, and we were itching to do some more exploring.  After a Friday night out in the Mission, we headed the opposite direction and made plans to hike in the Marin Headlands.  I was especially looking forward to checking out Point Bonita Lighthouse, where the suspension bridge has been recently reconstructed to hold more than 2 people at once.

Saturday started off sunny and rather warm in San Francisco.  We could see a few clouds hanging over the Golden Gate, but with the blue skies above, we figured the fog would blow off by lunch time.

Well, it didn't. 

We are used to views like this from Marin Headlands:

But Saturday, we just saw a lot of this:

We scratched the lighthouse off our plans.

This is actually a photo of the lighthouse, and you can see why we didn't bother with a visit this day:

Instead, we had a picnic on Black Sand Beach.  Despite the fog, it wasn't too chilly, and we had a fun lunch, imagining what our view would have been had the Pacific not been blanketed in fog.

The highlight of the day, however, was a bobcat sighting.  We initially saw a big animal far away in a field.  We guessed he was a coyote at first, but as soon as we saw him walk, we knew it was a cat.

And as we got closer, we could distinguish that it wasn't a mountain lion (probably a good thing), but a bobcat.  We were in the car, so we were able to drive up quite close.  And thanks to my zoom lens, here's our friend up close:

It was a very exciting wildlife spotting!

I'm already looking forward to our next visit, which will hopefully be much more clear.