Monthly Archives: May 2014

Bodega Bay?

For Memorial Day weekend on Sunday we decided to do a super stereotypical California weekend trip: some wine tasting and then driving down the coast to check out some beaches.  On the winery front, we drove up to Sebastopol and went to Merry Edwards, Dutton Estates, and our favorite: Iron Horse.  My brother and his wife found Iron Horse a couple of years ago and, due to its champagne and wonderful views, we love going back.

After the wine tasting, we took some back roads to coastal Highway 1, which was regrettable. The drive is beautiful, but it was slammed with cars; there is almost nothing sadder to me than a gorgeous road in the middle of the woods or on some lonely stretch of coastline that is covered bumper to bumper with cars… sigh.  I’ll have to get out of Cali at some point if I want to leave that behind.  In any case, we stopped a couple of times to go for little hikes and then we picked up a couple dozen oysters, eating them out of the half shell at a beach between Tomales Bay and Bodega Bay.  All in all, a very driving-centric trip but fun, nevertheless.

Dutton Estates, not the best wine in the world, but a nice picnic area

Dutton Estates. Not the best wine in the world, but a nice picnic area.

The Iron horse vista from the parking lot.  I would have sworn that I took other pictures but my phone disagrees with me.

The Iron Horse vista from the parking lot. I would have sworn that I took other pictures but my phone disagrees with me.

The beach - well kind of.  It was a nice hike but no beach access - something about a shear 50 ft cliff.

The beach – well kind of. It was a nice hike but no beach access – something about a near sheer 50 ft cliff.

Actually Beach!  It was cold - a brisk 50F so we just stuck out toes in.

Actually Beach! It was cold – a brisk 50F so we just stuck out toes in.

Kitchen Resupply

For Memorial Day, we hosted a cookout for some friends. While cleaning up the kitchen, I realized that the washcloth we had out was the only one that we had. As a kid, Grandma had made all of our kitchen washcloths and she started sending me the right sort of yarn for this a few years ago. I took this as a hint and have been making washcloths and pot holders for the family ever since – on a busy grad student schedule. However, being as it was a long weekend, I sat down and started knitting. In a couple of hours, we had a nice, new washcloth. It was so easy that I thought I would share the process.

These are all the supplies that you need.

These are all the supplies that you need.

The materials you need are quite simple:

  • Yarn that can hold up to heavy use. I use this yarn because it’s what Grandma always used and occasionally still sends me.
  • A tapestry needle for weaving in the ends.
  • Knitting needles. I use size 10 because I like the way it looks. Weirdly, the needles shown are also the pair Grandma first taught me to knit on. Maybe that’s why I like using them…
  • Scissors to cut the yarn.

The steps are also really simple:

  1. Cast on about 40 stitches. This depends on your yarn, needle size, and desired size of your washcloth.
  2. Knit in garter stitch until washcloth reaches desired length. I try to make my washcloths close to square.
  3. Bind off and weave in the ends.
  4. Because the washcloth is intended for hard use for a long time, I tie off the ends after I weave them in.

And that’s it! You now have a washcloth!

Easy to make and really useful!

Easy to make and really useful!

Braised Rabbit

One of the foods that I have seen occasionally at restaurants, but never cooked, is rabbit and one day I saw that my local butcher carried it so I had to give it a try. Our Czech neighbor gave me some advice as this is a dish they had cooked before a fair bit in the Czech Republic so here goes my first attempt at rabbit.

Take the 2 lb rabbit and stuff the innards with spices; I used sage, black pepper, and Chinese five spice.  Then wrap the outside with bacon, and cover with aluminum foil.  Preheat the oven to 400F and cook for one and a half hours. Remove the foil and brown for an extra half an hour.  It is really quite a lot like cooking any other poultry, you just add the skin. :)  Overall, it was pretty tasty, something like a mix between turkey and pork.  I don’t know that I would cook it again as it more expensive than most poultry and not really any better in taste, but a fun experience nevertheless.

It takes a little time to wrap the rabbit with bacon, but it is pretty tasty in the end

It takes a little time to wrap the rabbit with bacon, but it is pretty tasty in the end.

The rabbit with the hind legs off, that is where most of the meat is, everything else takes a good deal of butchering

The rabbit with the hind legs off. That is where most of the meat is and everything else takes a good deal of butchering.

The liver of rabbit is extra large size and quite tasty so you should certainly make some pate as well

The liver of rabbit is extra large size and quite tasty so you should certainly make some pate as well.

And I ended up having a fair bit of meat lest on the bones so I made a soup out of the residuals.  I think soup might actually be the best plan for rabbit. Maybe next time.

And I ended up having a fair bit of meat left on the bones so I made a soup out of the residuals. I think soup might actually be the best plan for rabbit. Maybe next time.

Strawberry Extravaganza!

Every spring for the last 6 years we have gone cherry picking out here in California and made a ton of cherry related dishes.  This year we went out to the orchards in Gilroy, CA with the plan to do it once again only to be told by multiple orchards that, due to high temperatures and low rainfall, there would no cherries this year. Rather distraught, we thought quickly and bought two flats of strawberries, or about 24 lbs.  This is how to use up all of them:

-Strawberry shortcake with whipped cream.  We just used the How to Cook Everything recipe

-Strawberry ice cream.  We have a little ice cream maker so we just followed the strawberry recipe.  It was delicious.

-Strawberry pie. Jasmine whipped up some pie crust and we added in a little strawberry to the middle for a delicious pie.  I think it was the best thing that we made in the weekend.

Jasmine even cut out a fancy looking strawberry into the top

Jasmine even cut out a fancy looking strawberry into the top.

-Strawberry bread. Another Jasmine special using fresh cut strawberries in bread.  It was tasty, but I think strawberries are a little too delicate for bread

Tasty bread, now half gone :(

Tasty bread, now half gone :(

-Strawberry jam. Have we done a post on jam? If not we really need to :)

-Strawberry wine. This is only 4 days into a month long process so more info to follow.

And, of course, some delightful fresh ripe strawberries. Do yourself a favor and go fruit picking this weekend (or the next weekend there are ripe fruit around where you live).

piles of berries just waiting for a tasty home

Piles of berries just waiting for a tasty home.

Tour of California: Stage 3

For an adventure this week, I decided to skip out of work on Tuesday and go check out the Tour of California bike race.  I had meant to go for a couple of previous years, but I finally just buckled down and skipped a day of work and went to the closest stage.  It left from Lake Cunningham County Park, through Grant County Park, and to Mt. Diablo – names which you may have seen before on this blog. :)  I decided to get into the mood by biking to watch on the Mt. Hamilton climb, which ended up being a 45 mile bike with a 3500 ft total climb, I was a tired puppy by the end. Jasmine had to work at school so she couldn’t go with me the whole way but she did make it to the start line.

It was a lot of fun and quite impressive to watch both the neverending train of support cars before and after the riders as well as the riders sheer speed.  Where I watched was about 30 miles into the race up about 3000 ft from the start and they raced past me at 30 mph chatting about lunch.  It was rather impressive.  Quite fun, but a little overmuch trouble to watch 30 seconds of racing.

It was such a beautiful bay in the hills over San Jose.

It was such a beautiful day in the hills over San Jose.

It was just straight uphill for me for the first 15 miles of the ride - ughh.

It was just straight uphill for me for the first 15 miles of the ride – ughh.

Jasmines bicycle was somewhat outclassed.  Mine was also outclassed by every one else on the road.

Jasmine’s bicycle was somewhat outclassed. Mine was also outclassed by every one else on the road.

The breakaway coming around the curve.

The breakaway coming around the curve.

And the back of the pelaton with the start of the  supply train.  It probably took you longer to read this then I saw the pelaton

And the back of the pelaton with the start of the supply train. It probably took you longer to read this than I saw the pelaton.

Mother’s Day Jewelery Box

For Christmas I made a jewelry box for my niece, and my mother not so subtly hinted that she might want one for herself so for Mother’s Day I decided that I would make one and give it to her.  As I posted about the other jewelery box earlier, http://neitherrocketsnorrobots.com/blog/?p=532 I won’t go into all of the details on this one but just an overview.

Step 1 is planning which I pretty much did at the wood store which is a bad idea. I purchased some 1/4″ thick stock for the walls which works well for a 5″ jewelry box.  I also purchased a brass hinge at the same time as I wanted this box to be usable as two open halves or as a closed box.

After you plan everything out cut the sides with a miter saw to the correct angle, line up on some tape and glue together. When the Glue is dry use the sides as a template and cut out and glue on ends.

After you plan everything, cut the sides with a miter saw to the correct angle, line up on some tape and glue together. When the glue is dry, use the sides as a template and cut out and glue on ends.

The trick to getting a box to line up nicely is to make the box then cut it in half, that way it automatically lines up.

The trick to getting the box edges to line up nicely is to make the box, then cut it in half; that way it automatically lines up.

I then used a rasp and up to 400 grit sandpaper finishing the edges.  I will have to do a seperate post one day about silver inlay but after that was done I gave everything two coats of lacquer.

I then used a rasp and up to 400 grit sandpaper finishing the edges. I will have to do a separate post one day about silver inlay, but after that was done I gave everything two coats of lacquer.

Now I bolted the hinge in with a little skullduggery. The line is not lined up equally between the sides but cheated towards the top as it was not cut in half to allow for the box to sit flat when open.

Now I bolted the hinge in with a little skullduggery. The line is not lined up equally between the sides, but cheated towards the top as it was not cut in half to allow for the box to sit flat when open.

Nothing says looking really classy like the pretty green velvet.

Nothing says looking really classy like the pretty green velvet.

And that is it; just a pretty and simple box for my mom.

Turtle Bread

While hiking, Lloyd and I were talking about the alligator bread at Boudin’s. We thought that it would be fun to make bread in an animal shape like that and decided to start with a turtle since it isn’t much different than a round loaf of bread. I found a Betty Crocker recipe and set of instructions for making turtle bread. I didn’t follow the recipe, instead using the bread recipe I’ve previously posted here, but I did use the instructions for how to score and shape the bread.

I started out by making “walnut-sized” balls, as stated in the instructions, for the legs and tail and a tangerine-sized ball for the head. Then I shaped the rest of the dough into a large ball and attached the head, legs, and tail.

The shaped loaf.

The shaped loaf.

Next, I used a knife to score the dough. I buttered the knife periodically so that it wouldn’t stick in the bread and tried to cut about 1/4 of an inch of the way into the bread. Then I covered the dough with a damp paper towel and let it rise for an hour.

The score marks got a little bit obscured.

The score marks got a little bit obscured during the rising.

I redid the score marks and put the bread in the oven.

I redid the score marks and put the bread in the oven. I think next time I’ll make bigger feet and a bigger tail.

Bake at 425 degrees F until golden brown. Not bad for my first attempt!

Bake at 425 degrees F until golden brown. Not bad for my first attempt!

Great Basin National Park (N39.01 W114.30)

So this is the last of the trip posts; next up we will be back to our regularly scheduled program. So Great Basin was an awesome park. It is in Eastern Nevada, right next to Utah in an area I always assumed was just desert, but it is all a beautiful forest island in a sea of high altitude scrub desert.  I would highly recommend going if you are anywhere nearby.

As is our wont, we found some cool stuff on the map, specifically a bristlecone pine grove and a glacier and decided we would like to go there.  As ofter happens afterward, the road was closed due to snow so we would have to hike most of the way.  This was one of those trails that doesn’t look bad on the map – it is only 5 miles out – but it went from 7700 ft to a final altitude of 11,000 ft, and was somewhat brutal.  But in the end we saw bristlecone pines and they were really cool and I saw a glacier, though that was less cool as a glacier surrounded by snow looks just like more snow.

So overall we had a ton of fun on the road trip and we will have to do this again at some point given even the slightest of provocations.

Our hike went up Lehman creek, a quite pretty alpine creek.

Our hike went up Lehman Creek, a quite pretty alpine creek.

Most of the trail looked similar to this, a fair uphill grade and ponderosa pines on one side and aspens on the other.

Most of the trail looked similar to this, a fair uphill grade and ponderosa pines on one side and aspens on the other.

We had planned to camp at this campsite, but went down a little in altitude for obvious reasons.

We had planned to camp at this campsite, but went down a little in altitude for obvious reasons.

This is the valley we ended up camping in instead.

This is the valley we ended up camping in instead. You can see Wheeler Peak in the background.

We lost the trail immediatly at the bridge as there were no blazes that I could find.  We ended up ded reckoning through 4 ft of snow to get to the pine grove and meet up with the trail in 2 miles.

We lost the trail immediately at the bridge as there were no blazes that I could find. We ended up dead reckoning through 4 ft of snow to get to the pine grove and met up with the trail in 2 miles.

So looking out over the bristlecone pine grove you can see Utah far away to the east.

So looking out over the bristlecone pine grove you can see Utah far away to the east.

I always end up having to make chopsticks at dinner.  Take a straight branch, whittle it out, then char the sticks in the fire to sanitize.  It works pretty well.

I always end up having to make chopsticks at dinner. Take a straight branch, whittle it out, then char the sticks in the fire to sanitize. It works pretty well. Well enough to shovel the couscous and anchovies into our mouths at least.

The Drive from Grand Junction Home

So only two posts for the drive home from the Rockies: one for the drive and one for Great Basin National Park.  The main reason for this is that we drove home relatively quickly because the first day it snowed and hailed so we couldn’t go into the national forest like we planned, and then Hwy. 50 is really boring on the way home so we just drove back in one day.  Here are the cool things that we got up to on the drive.

First stop was Capitol Reef National park, where there are a fair number of petroglyphs in the rocks which appear to show giant robots trampling big horn sheep, but I'm no archeologist.

First stop was Capitol Reef National Park, where there are a fair number of petroglyphs in the rocks which appear to show giant robots trampling big horn sheep, but I’m no archeologist.

We tried to go to Fishlake National forest but got caught in a hail / snowstorm and couldn't make it through the pass to see Pando, a aspen colony that is the largest living organism on earth.  This might be the edge of the forest, but it was hard to tell in the snow.

We tried to go to Fishlake National Forest, but got caught in a hail / snowstorm and couldn’t make it through the pass to see Pando, an aspen colony that is the largest living organism on earth. This might be the edge of the forest, but it was hard to tell in the snow. Fire danger was low.

Other people didn't drive as carefully as I did.  We were the first on the scene and I help out the one man in the cab who was amazingly unhurt but not surprisingly in shock.

Other people didn’t drive as carefully as I did. We were the first on the scene and I helped out the one man in the cab who was amazingly unhurt but, not surprisingly, in shock.

We dug or own fossils at U-Dig-Fossils in Utah.  Jasmine is hard at work quarrying.

We dug or own fossils at U-Dig-Fossils in Utah. Jasmine is hard at work quarrying.

We actually found a fair number of Trilobite fossils at the site and it was good clean fun.

We actually found a fair number of Trilobite fossils at the site and it was good clean fun.

We saw a lot of animals just outside the car window on the trip, but the wild horses were out favorite.

We saw a lot of animals just outside the car window on the trip, but the wild horses were our favorite.

Marble, CO (N39.07 W107.19)

After going to our friends wedding, we hung out at a cabin in the Rockies for a couple of days with a group of our friends. We were at a town called Marble so, of course, the first thing we did was go check out the marble quarry, which was pretty cool.  The only issue is that one of the cars, a Mini, missed the turn and almost got run off the road by a mining truck carrying hundreds of tons of marble down a windy mountain road.  But they survived unscathed so it is now only an amusing story.

The next couple of days, we just did a bunch of easy hikes in groups, I always forget how much slower groups hike than just one or two people.  I also forget how awesome the scenery is in the Rockies, not that I would want to live their permanently, but it is very nice to go back every couple of years to remember the splendor.

At the marble quarry there were the ruins of the old mill, which to my eye looked like displaced roman ruins

At the marble quarry, there were the ruins of the old mill, which to my eye looked like displaced Roman ruins.

They even made the benches out on the hikes out of marble!

They even made the benches out on the hikes out of marble!

More hiking in the snow, now with people to take our picture.

More hiking in the snow, now with people to take our picture.

There we hot springs flowing into the river, but it was a build your own affair as the retaining wall we built up on the left is washed away in the spring floods.

There were hot springs flowing into the river, but it was a build-your-own affair as the retaining wall we built up on the left is washed away in the spring floods.

I love Aspen trees almost as much as I love a empty trail out into the woods

I love Aspen trees almost as much as I love a empty trails out into the woods.

And of course there were plenty of alpine lakes.  We parked at this one then did a 3 mile hike to a more remote lake called lizard lake for lunch.  No lizards were spotted on the hike.

And, of course, there were plenty of alpine lakes. We parked at this one and then did a 3 mile hike to a more remote lake called Lizard Lake for lunch. No lizards were spotted on the hike.