Monthly Archives: April 2014

Road Trip – Mojave National Preseve (N35.17 W115.78)

Jasmine and I are going to a friend’s wedding in Grand Junction, CO and rather than fly out, we thought we would drive overr and spend a nice vacation going to as many National Parks as we could on the way.  So the blog will be full or sporadic travel pictures as we get internet access and time to blog.

We drove the southerly route on the way out, so down 5 then over on 15 and 70.  The first place we stopped at was Mohave National Preserve.  I didn’t even know National Preserves existed, but they do and in this case it is just a bunch of roads and trail though a mountainy section of desert.  It drew our eye on the map because there were cinder fields and lava flows and I had never seen that sort of geography.

We just car camped, but as no one else was within about 10 miles of us, it was pretty nice and desolate.  The landscape was all blasted and looked like it was straight out of some dragon-ruined fantasy landscape.  A pretty cool place when it was all quiet, but I have to imagine that on the weekend it is the sort of place used heavily for drunken ATV riding, for which even I have to admit it would be perfect.

Everyone starts a trip to Mojave at a winery:) This is a favorite of ours in Tehachapi called Souza

Everyone starts a trip to Mojave at a winery:) This is a favorite of ours in Tehachapi called Souza.

The drive out to the campsite had a little over aggressive offroading in a Corolla.  I had to slowly back up over the dirt mound with my 3 contacting tires.  We decided that that was far enough and parked

The drive out to the campsite had a little over aggressive offroading in a Corolla. I had to slowly back up over the dirt mound with my 3 contacting tires. We decided that that was far enough and parked.

The landspace was awesome.  Full of harsh black rocks and scrubby desert plants. Very surreal.

The landscape was awesome. Full of harsh black rocks and scrubby desert plants. Very surreal.

More blasted rocks.  I want to film a SF movie here.

More blasted rocks. I want to film an SF movie here.

A really cool valley was formed by the volcanic flow stopping and eroding away.

A really cool bipolar valley was formed by the volcanic flow stopping and eroding away.

Wunderlich County Park (N37.41 W122.26)

So in our ongoing quest to go to all the Santa Clara County Parks, we decided to take a break and go to a neighboring county (San Mateo) and one of their parks: Wunderlich.

The park was really rather nice with your standard Santa Cruz mountain range redwood forests and a bunch of nice trails to walk around.  It seemed to be a very popular location for horses and there were a couple on the trail, plus a stable at the trailhead.  I think the only downside with the hike is that it is pretty close to a popular motorcycle road so there is a fair bit of engine noise in the background, which is somewhat unavoidable in a suburban park.

Some really pretty alpine meadow like areas on the hike.  this one is called "The Meadows'

Some really pretty alpine meadow like areas on the hike. This one is called “The Meadows’.

Doe, a deer, a female deer.  Trapped in a Horse Corral, and by trapped I mean that 5 seconds later it and its yearling jumped the fence.

Doe, a deer, a female deer. Trapped in a horse corral, and by trapped I mean that 5 seconds later it and its yearling jumped the fence.

This is such a standard looking trail in the park.  Nice and shady but with some sun peaking through.

This is such a standard looking trail in the park. Nice and shady but with some sun peaking through.

Tons of lichen all over some of the trees.  I wunder how the park got its name

Tons of lichen all over some of the trees. I wunder how the park got its name.

All over the hills in the southbay there are springs that people used to use for medicinal water that are no longer in use. If you look close you can see the pipes on the damn.

All over the hills in the South Bay there are springs that people used to use for medicinal water that are no longer in use. If you look close, you can see the pipes on the dam.

This is the biggest tree stump I have every seen. It is near the horse corral on the loop trail.  It must have been at least 20 ft in diameter and I wish I could have seen the tree a century or two ago in its dotage.

This is the biggest tree stump I have ever seen. It is near the horse corral on the loop trail. It must have been at least 20 ft in diameter and I wish I could have seen the tree a century or two ago in its dotage.

Balsa Gliders

Jasmine is the president of a local AIAA (American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics) student chapter and she decided that they should do a fun event and the fun event they settled on was a glider competition.  The initial plan was that you would get a 3″x12″ piece of balsa, a paper clip, 2 pennies, x-acto knife, all the superglue you wanted, and an couple hours of time during a barbeque to make the farthest flying glider.  Of course, to make sure that it would work, we had to try it ourselves.

I built a U2 inspired glider while Jasmine made a Zeppelinesque creation.  They both worked after a fashion, but the U2 glider was the winner, able to fly about 60 ft when I took it out on the street.  It was not that complicated to do, but a lot of fun to just build a little toy on a lark; I should do it more often.

A pensive jasmine tries to decide what sort of plane to make

A pensive Jasmine tries to decide what sort of plane to make.

The stubby zeppelin.  Before we put the penny ballast on the nose it flipped end over end, but after the cg was fixed it flew OK

The stubby zeppelin. Before we put the penny ballast on the nose, it flipped end over end, but after the cg was fixed it flew OK.

The U2 used a double thick frame glued together to hold its spindily frame together.  I think it shows I did structures and not aerodynamics in school

The U2 used a double thick frame glued together to hold its spindly frame together. I think it shows I did structures and not aerodynamics in school.

First test flight of U2 in the house.  It was hard to throw it indoors and not have it ram the wall across the room

First test flight of U2 in the house. It was hard to throw it indoors and not have it ram the wall across the room.

Easter Foods

So no recipes here but thought I would share some Easter food pictures. First off is carrot cake, delightful carrot cake that Jasmine makes with cream cheese frosting and 1 lb of carrots for 3 lbs of cake, mmmm.

I'm going to force jasmine to make this again and write a post.  I'll make the sacrifice and eat it.

I’m going to force Jasmine to make this again and write a post. I’ll make the sacrifice and eat it.

On Easter itself we went over to a friends house; he is Greek Orthodox and they have a huge celebration for Easter which involves lamb on a spit.

40 lbs o' lamb.  Apparently it takes 6 hours to cook

40 lbs o’ lamb. Apparently it takes 6 hours to cook.

We were lucky enough to just show up and eat the food and hang out with a group of nice friends and the family of friends. Reminded me a lot of my family’s Thanksgiving – and now I want turkey as well as lamb.

There was a lot of juicy moist lamb. mmmmhh

There was a lot of juicy, moist lamb. mmmmhh

Fudge

Many years ago, my grandma decided she was going to find an easy fudge recipe. She tried lots of different recipes, most of which no one got to try because they were such failures, and finally settled on this one. I’ve never tried other fudge recipes, so I don’t know how this compares in terms of difficulty, but the failure mode is chocolate syrup, so that’s never a bad thing!

The recipe is as follows:

  • 7 oz marshmallow cream
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2/3 cup evaporated milk
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 cups chocolate chips
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Combine the first five ingredients and bring to a boil (full) stirring constantly over moderate heat. Boil 5 minutes over moderate heat stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Add chocolate chips and stir until melted. Stir in the vanilla. Pour into 8 by 8 inch greased pan and chill until firm.

I have trouble telling when the mixture reaches a full boil, so I usually just stir the whole thing for about nine minutes. This works pretty well for me. I also chill my fudge in the fridge over night. That way, it definitely has enough time to firm up.

This is what it should look like when it's done.

This is what it should look like when it’s done.

It should hold its shape pretty well when cut.

It should hold its shape pretty well when cut.

When Grandma taught me how to cook, this was one of the things she showed me how to make. When we got to the stirring part, she said, “Let me show you how to do this: Doug!” Grandpa came in, and Grandma told him to stir the fudge. I have made use of my own stirring machine (Lloyd) on occasion, but I’m not sure he’s as effective as Grandpa. Lloyd gets a bit impatient about fudge and wants to eat it before it’s ready to be cut so I usually time my fudge making so that he’s away when I make it and gets back just when it’s ready to cut. Otherwise, we enjoy some fudgy chocolate syrup.

Enjoy the fudge!

Mt. Diablo (N37.88 W121.91)

We have lived in the Bay Area for about half a decade now and, much to the chagrin of most of our friends, we have never been hiking up Mt. Diablo.  For those of you who aren’t in the Bay Area, Mt. Diablo is a lone mountain over past Oakland that is one of the highest in the Bay Area at 3800 ft where you can see from the Golden Gate to the Sierra Nevada’s.

We hiked up from the back side, starting at Mitchell Canyon Road and using the Eagle Peak Trail on the way up and the fire road on the way back down.  The only major drawback is that you can drive up to the top of Mt. Diablo, so while the hike is really nice, the top is full of tourists so that is not the nicest.  We hiked on a slightly overcast day after a rain storm so everything was really wet and a little muddy, but it was more than made up for by the large quantity of blooming wildflowers.

Overall, I would rank the hike quite highly and it is on the list of hikes I would do again in the area, especially if I have time to do it in the autumn just to see the difference of colors and vegetation.

The first half mile or so it was really muddy, but after a bit we got to some less traveled drier paths

The first half mile or so it was really muddy, but after a bit we got to some less traveled drier paths.

The view east from the bald ridge, the first little peak on the way

The view east from Bald Ridge, the first little peak on the way.

View east from eagle peak, the second peak on the way up

View east from Eagle Peak, the second peak on the way up.

You can see San Francisco from the top of the mountain

You can see San Francisco from the top of the mountain.

There were a dozen of hangliders, I managed to get 3 into this one picture

There were a dozen hangliders; I managed to get 3 into this one picture.

It was weird how green everything was

It was weird how green everything was, doesn’t look like how I imagine Contra Costa.

flowers3

A collection of flowers from the hike, click to enlarge.

flowers11 flowers10 flowers9 flowers8 flowers7 flowers6 Flowers5 flowers4 flowers2 flowers

Wooden Spoon

So I was walking home from work the other day and there was a fairly large magnolia branch that had fallen in our front yard and, in a non sequiter thought, I decided I’m going to carve a spoon.  I had always wanted to do this and I guess in the back of my head I was just waiting for some green undried wood to come my way. So here are the directions in picture format.

Step 1: find some green wood as it is much easier to carve.  This is the fallen branch

Step 1: Find some green wood as it is much easier to carve. This is the fallen branch.

Cut a piece of wood out that is about a half inch longer than your spoon will be.

Cut a piece of wood that is about a half inch longer than your spoon will be.

Use a hatchet and split the wood in half (or for a big piece in quarters or more)

Use a hatchet and split the wood in half (or for a big piece in quarters or more).

Use a pencil to mark the spoon shape. Then use a chisel to rough cut out spoon outline.

Use a pencil to mark the spoon shape. Then use a chisel to rough cut out spoon outline.

Then use a gouge or spoon chisel to cut out the spoon shape.  Then use a rasp to clean up the chisel cuts.

Then use a gouge or spoon chisel to cut out the spoon shape. Then use a rasp to clean up the chisel cuts.

Once the spoon is carved sand the spoon down to a 200 grit sandpaper.  I then coated it with mineral oil.

Once the spoon is carved, sand the spoon down to a 200 grit sandpaper. I then coated it with mineral oil.

The spoon is all done! It takes about 2 hours to make the spoon from start to finish and while it looks a little rough around the edges, it still works well as a spoon.  I’m going to have to try to carve another spoon again in the future; maybe after a couple of tries I will be able to make a nice looking spoon :)

Hellyer Park and Coyote Creek Parkway (N37.28 W121.81)

Two weeks ago we decided to go check out another two of the Santa Clara County Parks: Hellyer and Coyote Creek Parkway.  In the whole they were pretty decent parks; we had a very pleasant 14 mile walk up and down the parkway.  The Hellyer park was pretty small and more set up for picnics, but the Coyote parkway was pretty nice and while it ran next to Highway 101, it was separated by enough distance or foliage that is was relatively quiet for the walk.

Hellyer Park had another piece de resistance – a bicycle riding track (Velodrome).  We didn’t have our bikes with us, but we will be making a repeat trip for a bike riding adventure.

Velodrome! I wish I had my bike with me

Velodrome! I wish I had my bike with me.

Lake No 1 had a lot of birds in it

And a whole herd of waterfowl wandering around the lake

And a whole herd of waterfowl wandering around the lake.

There were a lot of lake on the path

There were a lot of lakes on the path.

I think that these are native California grapes

I think that these are native California grapes.

My favorites are the poppies :)

My favorites are the poppies :)

Bread

I’ve been making bread for about seven years now and, while I’ve shared my recipe and methods with people before, it’s a bit complicated. Hopefully the pictures will help make the recipe more clear! I’ll start with the recipe itself.

  • water – 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons
  • olive oil – 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon
  • sugar – 1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons
  • salt – 1 teaspoon
  • bread flour – 3 1/4 cups
  • active dry yeast – 2 teaspoons

I use regular white flour instead of bread flour because it’s more multi-purpose than bread flour. I’m not sure what the difference is between the two flours since I’ve never used bread flour, but I do know that the recipe works out just fine with regular flour. Whole wheat flour really impacts the recipe though, so that substitution is an advanced technique. :)

Put all of the ingredients into a stand mixer and mix at the lowest setting until the bread is completely mixed. It should look like this when fully mixed:

The bread once it is fully mixed.

The bread once it is fully mixed.

Next, wet a paper towel and put it over the top of the mixing bowl and let sit until the bread rises. This time can vary greatly depending on the temperature in the room. It should rise at least two hours, but preferably until it takes up most of the bowl. In Sunnyvale, I usually make the bread at about 8 or 9 pm and let the bread rise over night. Then I stir it again in the morning and let it rise again until about 5 or 6 pm when I put it into loaf form. Again, some experimentation will be required before you find the right time for your location. Finding the right rise time is one of my favorite parts about moving. At any rate, your bread should look much like this when it’s risen enough:

The dough is ready!

The dough is ready!

Mix the dough one last time until most of the dough is no longer stuck to the sides of the mixing bowl. Dust a cookie sheet with corn meal to prevent the bread from sticking to the cookie sheet, then form the dough into a loaf and place it on the cookie sheet. Then wet a paper towel again and use it to cover the bread loaf. You want to cover the whole loaf so use extra paper towels if necessary. If you don’t keep the bread moist during this phase of the rising process, there will be crackly bits on the outside and it won’t taste as nice.

The bread in loaf form.

The bread in loaf form.

This is a part of the process where I go pretty much straight on time. I let the bread rise in loaf form for one hour to an hour and a half and then preheat the oven. Right now, I’m using a temperature of 425 degrees F. It depends on your oven so some experimentation is necessary. It’s usually somewhere between 400 and 450 degrees F. This is my favorite part about using a different oven. My bread will be over or under cooked for about a month until I find the right temperature. Once the oven is done preheating, I remove the damp paper towel from the loaf, adding a bit more water to the paper towel if it sticks to the loaf, and then stick the bread in the oven.

Ready to put in the oven.

Ready to put in the oven.

Finally, cook until it’s a nice golden brown color. This depends on your cook temperature so monitor it until you find the right time. It usually takes somewhere around 20 minutes. Move immediately to a cooling rack so that the crust on all sides remains nice and crisp. In about 10 minutes, enjoy!

This one worked out really well.

This one worked out really well.