Sunday, October 25, 2009

Photo of the Day


[Summer Squash Pizza with Goat Cheese and Walnuts]
Recipe here


Thursday, October 22, 2009

Wedding Cake, Revisited

Several people have asked how the wedding cake was, so I'll cut straight to the chase with the final verdict: it was pretty GOOD! I was honestly expecting to take one bite and toss the rest. But here's the whole story...

Both my and my husband's parents were in town last weekend. We thought it would be fun to defrost the wedding cake while they were all here, so they could partake in the tasting fun as well! Especially since Nate's parents didn't actually get any cake on our wedding day due to their unexpected ER visit.

We had a nice fondue dinner planned with meat, cheese and dessert fondue, with the wedding cake to top it off. We defrosted the cake slowly in the refrigerator by taking it out of the freezer a day prior to when we wanted to eat it. The cake itself was quadruple wrapped in plastic wrap, placed in a Ziploc bag and then put into a box, which had been in our freezer for the past year.

Peering into the box, it looked pretty good. But I wasn't getting my hopes up. I was thinking, "At least we're having some amazing fondue that will make up for crappy cake." Finally the time came to unwrap and cut the cake. Here's a shot after we had cut off several pieces.


Overall it looks decent, right? Well, it WAS! My only complaints were that the top layer was a little drier than the bottom layer, which makes sense since it was on the top and more exposed. Also, because of the thawing, the bottom of the bottom layer got a little soggy. But the buttercream icing was still very tasty and not overly sugary after the year in the freezer. You can see a little more of the texture in this close up shot.


While we were re-living the wedding, we broke out our last bottle of wine left over from the wedding and had that with our meal and dessert as well. I had to get a shot of our wedding remnants, displayed below. (Thanks Mom for holding the flowers in the background!).


So, definitely a successful cake tasting in my opinion. I enjoyed it so much I actually saved a few pieces so I could devour a little more this week. Nate doesn't eat cake at all, so it was left to me! It was kind of sad to throw half of it away, but I certainly don't need to eat all that cake myself.

I'm not sure if it was the technique used to wrap and store the cake that made it editable or the fact that my lady who baked the cake had a trick for making it extra moist, but I was surprised. Year old white wedding cake with buttercream frosting? YUM!!


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The (Sun)Rise and Fall

When I returned home from the gym this morning, it happened to be just the time the sun was starting to come up. The sky had a few clouds that had turned a gorgeours pinky orange and the sun wasn't yet peeking over the horizon. So what did I do? Rushed inside to grab my camera and snap a few pictures! I think they really capture the beautiful images I was seeing with my own two eyes.




And while we're talking about pictures, here are a few I snapped over the weekend of our maple trees and mums. The colors are so vibrant right now.

First the trees. The oranges and reds are to die for.






The mums I planted for the fall season are just bursting with color. The only thing we're missing is a pumpkin!






My favorites are the oranges, of course. And you get extra points if you can spot the bug!



Happy Fall everyone (my favorite time of year)!



Saturday, October 17, 2009

First Anniversary

Our first wedding anniversary was spent northwestern style in the lovely city of Seattle. They say when its sunny in Seattle, there's no better place to be. And lucky for us, although fall was in the air and it was a little chilly, it was sunny the entire time!

We had a very fun, relaxed weekend. We chose Pike's Market as the place to meet our friends Jennifer and Dan. I snapped this shot of one of the flower stands. They had gorgeous bouquets...some as cheap as $5. If we ever happen to move to Seattle and are near the market, I will have fresh flowers all the time.


Our Saturday was spent at a local bar watching the Notre Dame vs. Washington football game. It was a very exciting game indeed! We were able to see Jennifer & Dan's new house right off of Alki Beach and had dinner at a local spot where we had clam chowder and fish and chips. Yum.

On Sunday, I got to check another baseball stadium off of my list, as we went to Safeco Field to watch the Mariners play their last game of the season. Nate scored Terrace Club seats from a scalper, which had an enclosed indoor area where the food and drink stands were. The perfect place to go when you needed to warm up!



We were lucky enough to see what was probably Ken Griffey Jr's last game. He received standing ovations from the fans every time he came up to bat. On his final at bat, all the fans were cheering "One More Year" as he took his last swing. He got a hit up the middle, a great way to end a career. The fans went crazy and Griffey came out for a curtain call. It was really wonderful to experience.


Nate took me around the park and showed me all the great vantage points. They actually have fan level viewing of the dugouts. It's really cool to be able to see the pitchers warm up and it's an entirely different perspective of the field.




The Mariners ended up winning the game too!


For our anniversary dinner, we had one of the most extravigant meals we've had as a couple. We dined at Spring Hill in West Seattle. Nate had found the restaurant in one of his Food & Wine magazines and it really lived up to the hype - and expense!

Their menu was interesting, as they didn't divide things by courses, but instead by the type of food (e.g. pasta, vegetables, fish, etc.). They also had many tapa-style dishes (small plates), as well as items with an MC next to them, meaning main course.

Nate and I shared many plates and it was all phenomenal. One of my favorites, which I sadly did not get a picture of, was the roasted chanterelles. They were served with grits, parmesan and a bath cooked egg. Heaven in a bowl! The scallops were another of my favorites and they were served with a green-tomato gribiche and tokyo turnips. Don't they look divine?


By far Nate's favorite was the duck egg yolk raviolo, with green sauce, duck ham, and garlic chips. It was one expensive piece of pasta, but so worth it...


Thinking back over the last year, it really is amazing how quickly our first anniversary arrived. It was a year with many fun times, good experiences and life moments that brought us closer together. I'm looking forward to many more years! And what could be more romantic then the skyline of Seattle at night. Just beautiful!


And although we're a little tardy, we'll be trying a piece of our frozen wedding cake tonight to finish out our first year together. Will it be one bite and then in the trash? Stay tuned for an update...


Thursday, October 15, 2009

Book Review: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

Completely different than anything I've ever read, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon is told in the perspective of an autistic boy. I didn't know it was a young adult book until a participant in my book club last night mentioned it, and honestly I'm not sure how much a teen would get out of this book.

I, however, was impressed by the way the author was able to completely portray the life of an autistic--although, highly functional autistic--boy. The main character, Christopher, is fifteen and two of his main interests are dogs and "maths", so when he finds his neighbor's dog murdered, he decides he has to solve the mystery and find the killer. The story is then a first person narrative of his experience with this great mystery, as well as a story of his overall day-to-day life.

Christopher is very logical and matter-of-fact and has a difficult time understanding emotions. He doesn't like to be touched, therefore his mother and father can't even hug him without a screaming episode. This makes a reader wonder whether Christopher can really experience love at all. He seems to connect most with his teacher, Siobhan, and is always remembering advice she has given him.

There is much more to the story then the mystery of the dog's killer and I won't ruin that here. Although I haven't been exposed to anyone that has autism, I feel like I have been now. I was intrgued with the clever pieces of the plot Haddon was able to work in to make this book believable.

And did I mention the book has pictures? And it ends with a math problem. Talk about unique.

----------------------------------------------------------- review (if you're interested):

Mark Haddon's bitterly funny debut novel, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, is a murder mystery of sorts--one told by an autistic version of Adrian Mole. Fifteen-year-old Christopher John Francis Boone is mathematically gifted and socially hopeless, raised in a working-class home by parents who can barely cope with their child's quirks. He takes everything that he sees (or is told) at face value, and is unable to sort out the strange behavior of his elders and peers.
Late one night, Christopher comes across his neighbor's poodle, Wellington, impaled on a garden fork. Wellington's owner finds him cradling her dead dog in his arms, and has him arrested. After spending a night in jail, Christopher resolves--against the objection of his father and neighbors--to discover just who has murdered Wellington. He is encouraged by Siobhan, a social worker at his school, to write a book about his investigations, and the result--quirkily illustrated, with each chapter given its own prime number--is The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.
Haddon's novel is a startling performance. This is the sort of book that could turn condescending, or exploitative, or overly sentimental, or grossly tasteless very easily, but Haddon navigates those dangers with a sureness of touch that is extremely rare among first-time novelists. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is original, clever, and genuinely moving: this one is a must-read. --Jack Illingworth,


Friday, October 9, 2009

Digital Camera Basics

I walked into the Creve Coeur Camera store on Olive expecting a small group of people gathered for the Digital Camera Basics class. Boy, was I surprised! There were probably 25-30 people in attendance. Ed, our instructor, commented that this was the biggest class he'd seen in quite sometime. I'd say!

Ed was probably a 30-something gentleman. He'd previously worked in New York and California and he really knew his trade. All around the room there were large printed photos that Ed had taken, each very cool in its own right. So at the very beginning of class I was already in awe looking at all the photos thinking, "Maybe I'll be able to take pictures like THAT someday..."

Once Ed started talking, I was drawn in by the wealth of knowledge he obviously had. The class exceeded my expectations, partly because I went into it thinking that since it was a free class, it wouldn't be that great. But lo and behold, it was all good stuff! And except for the annoying lady in the front row who seemed she needed to prove her knowledge by continously asking questions she already knew the answers to, the overall atmosphere of the class was good too.

The class mostly focused on the common elements between cameras and overall storage, memory cards, file types, photo editing, etc. Here are a few tidbits I wrote down in my notebook:

  • .raw files are the best quality and what most photographers use; however, they take the most work on the computer to format
  • Picassa and Photoshop Elements are both good software programs for beginners to use to resize and reformat pictures
  • Everyone should have a tripod (he didn't say this, strictly my opinion) to get the really cool night-time or time elapsed shots you can't get otherwise
  • Use autofocus (by holding button down halfway) to focus on main object in the picture and then move left or right to move off center
  • Portrait mode blurs the background - the closer your subject gets or the farther away the background, the more blurry it is
  • Mountain mode keeps background in focus; much easier to use during the day
  • Sports mode (best used outdoors) will freeze the action; check camera to see if it goes into rapid mode (where you can just hold down the button and it takes picture after picture)
  • Night scene mode needs a tripod; do not use flash
  • On a sunny day, put the sun behind your subject and use the flash; this prevents shadowed faces

Cool, huh? Now I have to play with all of my camera modes to get comfortable with the automatic functions of the camera before my camera specific class in a couple of weeks. Wish me luck!


Friday, October 2, 2009

Where The Wild Things Are

The second week of September we went on a camping/backpacking trip with our friends Kara and Patrick. Before the trip even commenced, Nate and I had to purchase a few things: tent, sleeping pads, sleeping bags, backpack, etc. This whole excursion was the guys' idea, so they were completely in charge of all planning activities.

Our adventure took place at Meramec State Park in Sullivan.


The park contained a 10-mile trail with camping spots along the way. We left on a Friday afternoon and arrived at the park around 4:30 pm. We hiked in a couple of miles to one of the nearest camping spots and setup our tents for the night before it started getting too dark. We only saw 1 person on our hike in, so we were definitely "roughing it." At least I like to think so...

Our camping spot was nicely off the beaten path. After successfully setting up our tents and gathering some firewood, our chef for the trip, Patrick, prepared a nice spaghetti dinner. We entertained ourselves with some cards around the campfire, before it got too dark to be able to see well enough to play. Then we roasted some yummy marshmallows, enjoyed the quaintness of our first night in the woods and soon enough it was off to bed for all of us.

Now, sleeping. Let me diverge for a bit here. When I think of camping, even tent camping, I picture a nice air mattress upon which to start my slumber. But as I found out, when one is backpacking one cannot bring an air mattress. It is too heavy. So one instead purchases sleeping pads, which are basically glorified yoga mats, to sleep on. This may sound okay, but also keep in mind that only one sleeping bag was brought along for the trip as well. And a sleeping bag that doesn't totally zip open either. I had packed long johns, a fleece and some comfy pants to sleep in, but just picture this with me for a moment...

Laying on a sleeping pad in the middle of the wilderness (aka. basically the hard ground) with only half a sleeping bag covering you for warmth. Sound comfy? Um, it wasn't. I spent half the night trying to stay warm and the other half trying to get comfortable and I didn't accomplish either. We tried laying on the sleeping bag on top of the sleeping pads, but then we got really cold. We tried laying directly on the pads with the sleeping bag over us, but we were still cold and really uncomfortable. Sigh. This picture pretty much sums up my feeling in the morning.


And here's me pretending to not be dead tired.


The second day, we walked five or six miles through heavily wooded areas, open rocky fields, and next to dry creek beds. The trail itself was what I'd call easy on a difficulty scale. There were a couple of inclines, but overall it was pretty flat or downhill. I guess that's MO for ya!



We eventually came upon this cave (try to ignore the blur), which had a spring coming out of it. That was our water souce for filtering water and refilling our water canisters for the rest of the weekend.


When we made it to our camping spot for the night, it was only early afternoon. So we had a late lunch and Patrick and Kara were able to find two trees to hang their hammock, which we all enjoyed relaxing in throughout the remainder of the day.


After some more cards and a wonderful dinner of smoked salmon and rice, we all sat around the campfire sipping hot chocolate and roasting marshmallows. It really was quite nice and very peaceful.

That night I slept slightly better...I was certainly more tired anyway! Our adventure ended with another mile or two on Sunday and then we were back where we started. Here are a couple of pictures of when we finished...notice all the cockelburrs on my pants...



I can't take credit for any of these pictures, as Nate was the one that had the camera in his pack. Guaranteed if I would have had it, there would be a ton more "nature" pictures, but Nate apparently wasn't feeling camera happy....or more likely just forgot about having it at all.

Looking at these pictures now after being fresh out of my digital photography basics class, I can point out all the incorrect things about each one. The biggest mistakes, anyway. I still need to share my class experience with you all, but that'll be coming soon!

So the verdict on my first ever backpacking trip? Overall it was a fun time and I would do it again. As long as we have a better sleeping strategy next time, that is. The best part? The totally unhealthy breakfast/lunch we had on the way home. Kara and I split a piece of cherry crumble pie a la mode. I mean, c'mon. How can a girl resist that?



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