Saturday, July 9, 2016

Moab, Utah & Arches National Park


Petra and I have been doing a lot of traveling this summer, with even more to come. Last week, we met up with the Fishback clan in Moab for some summer fun and hiking beauty. Southern Utah always blows me away with its impressive, majestic red rock. Arches helped me tick off #4 for me of Utah's "Big 5" National Parks. We spent two days doing short hikes with the kids, then on the third day, Nana watched all the kids while the rest of the adults did the "Delicate Arch" hike. Delicate Arch is the arch you see on many Utah license plates. Unlike many of the other arches in the park, it stands alone without much else around it, making it look very impressive and a bit mind-boggling. 

When I first became a Fishback, I was not a hiker, but I quickly learned that if I wanted to remain a Fishback, I needed to become one. It took a few years, but I can honestly say that I love hiking now. It's such a pure and rewarding way to appreciate nature and give thanks to the gorgeous world we live on.

Aside from hiking, we also had lots of good ole summer fun in the yard of the house we were staying in with a slip n' slide, snow cones, and a lake not too far away.  

{The cutest hiking buddy!} 

{Double Arch}


{The Fishbacks + a few random kids in the back - Bradford}


 {I love how Bennett is going at his older cousins with the hose. No mercy!}

{Wet kids in swimsuits!}


{Hiking up to Delicate Arch} 



{First sight of Delicate Arch after rounding the corner}


{The gang at the top!} 



Monday, June 27, 2016

Chidambaram & Thanjavur, India

I miss India. I think I will always miss it and long for it's intensity, humility, and brilliance. India (and Nepal) really brought home how lucky I am to have been born into the circumstances I was. Each day is a gift in my life because I have drinking water, a toilet to sit on, and a bed to sleep on.

We visited a lot of temples in India, and each one showed a different perspective, beauty, or intrigue. In Thanjavur, we visited the Brahadeeswara Temple, established in 1011 AD. I wish I could let you experience the feeling of walking into the inner sanctums of these temples and receiving pooja (a blessing) from the priest...the dirt floors, the bare feet, the acceptance, the humility, the belief.

{Chidambaram}

At Chidambaram, I witnessed a scene that really helped illustrate India's caste system and culture that still pervades today despite the technically illegal nature of discriminating people by castes. The man you see below was so frail, old, and weak. He dutifully transferred this pile of wood to the inside of the temple, using nothing but a short cloth to wrap them. All the while, a group of stout, young, able-bodied priests sat inside collecting donations and eating sweets. I blame the wood gatherer as much as the priests for this imbalance. He has accepted his life's fate and done nothing to try to change his lot in life, rather waiting till reincarnation for his situation to change. 

{man gathering sticks for fire at Chidambaram}

{Brahadeeswara Temple}


Whenever I feel discomfort in America, I think of an Indian bus station, and then I feel better again. 







Monday, May 2, 2016

Tzatziki Sauce


I've made one of those new-to-me discoveries that has totally been a game changer in my kitchen...tzaziki sauce! I pretty much eat it by the spoonful, but it also goes well with chicken, fresh vegetables, fish, rice. It just adds that perfect creamy yet fresh touch to so many Mediterranean-style meals and gives an otherwise simple plate a spark.

Tzaziki Sauce
From: RecipeTin Eats
Yield: about 2 cups
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Meld Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes

INGREDIENTS:

2 cucumbers
2 cups plain Greek yogurt
2 teaspoons white wine vinegar (or red wine or apple cider vinegar)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil (or more if you want it richer)
1 teaspoon salt
black pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Cut the cucumber in half lengthwise. Use a teaspoon to scrape the watery seeds out. Coarsely grate the cucumber using a box grater. (Be very areful when you get to the end, don't cut your finger!) Then wrap in paper towels or a tea towel to remove excess liquid.

Place cucumbers in a bowl. Add remaining ingredients then mix to combine. Set aside for at least 20 minutes to allow the flavors to meld.

Add to just about any grilled meat or vegetable dish and enjoy!

Friday, April 22, 2016

A Weekend in Newport Beach with A Baby

Last weekend, Petra and I took a road trip to Newport Beach. Travel is obviously something very important to Bradford and me, and we both so looking forward to sharing new places and experiences with our children. "Vacations" with a 1-year-old don't really exist, however exploration and excitement seems to be at an all-time high when you take a child somewhere new. Petra was so amped the whole weekend, hardly napping, and we had such a great time with family enjoying the gorgeous California coast that I love and miss so much. 

We stayed at Marriott's Newport Coast Villas, which is a really great spot for families. They have suites with a full kitchen, great play areas and daily activities for kids, and it's within walking distance of Crystal Cove State Park, which has great tide pools for exploring and adventuring. 






Monday, February 29, 2016

The Best Chocolate Birthday Cake



Petra turned one last week and we had a perfect, small celebration with family. I was beyond excited to make her birthday special, including baking this seriously delicious chocolate cake with vanilla bean buttercream frosting (and hot pink sprinkles!). I think I will be making this cake for every celebration I host from now on. It is moist, rich, and SUPER easy to make. We devoured it so quickly that the only picture I snapped was from the next day when there was only one slice left.

The Best Chocolate Birthday Cake
Yield: one whole cake
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Bake Time: 30 minutes
Cool Time: 1 hour
Total Time: about 2 hours

INGREDIENTS:

1 pkg. devil's food cake mix
3 oz. pkg. instant chocolate pudding mix
1 cup sour cream or Greek yogurt
1 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
pinch of sea salt
2 cups semi-sweet mini chocolate chips (optional)

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray cake pan(s) with non-stick cooking spray. 

Beat together all ingredients until smooth batter forms, reserving the chocolate chips if using. 

Mix in the chocolate chips with a rubber spatula. 

Pour batter into cake pan(s) and bake according to the time directions given on the cake mix box (30 minutes for a traditional round cake). 

Let cool completely before slicing each layer in half and frosting with Vanilla Bean Buttercream frosting.

*I'd also like to try this with this Best Ever Chocolate Frosting recipe sometime.


Vanilla Bean Buttercream Frosting

Vanilla Bean Buttercream Frosting
From somethingswanky.com
Yield: about 4 cups frosting (enough for one cake)
Time: 15 minutes

INGREDIENTS:

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup shortening (may substitute for butter, if needed)
4 cups powdered sugar
3 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract or vanilla bean

    DIRECTIONS:

    In a stand mixer or large bowl, whisk together the butter and shortening, scraping down the sides as needed, until smooth and blended.

    Add 1 cup powdered sugar and 1 tablespoon milk, then whisk until smooth.

    Add 1 cup powdered sugar and 1 tablespoon vanilla, then whisk until smooth.

    Add 1 cup powdered sugar and 1 tablespoon milk, then whisk until smooth.

    Add 1 cup powdered sugar and 1 tablespoon milk, then whisk until smooth.

    Be sure to scrape down the sides as needed when mixing. Enjoy!

    Wednesday, February 10, 2016

    "No"-cai Bowls




    I've been making smoothies for breakfast for years now and sometimes it can feel like a chore to chug down the entire thing. The other day, I had a fabulous idea to turn my smoothie into an acai bowl and it transformed my entire dining experience. The combination of a bright, flavorful smoothie with crunchy granola and chewy coconut flakes was superb! There's one confession I have to make though. There's no acai in this dish at all. So, I present to you the "No"-cai bowl...

    "No"-cai Bowls
    Time: about 10 minutes
    Yield: 2 servings

    INGREDIENTS:

    {for the smoothie}

    2 small oranges (or 1 large), peeled and quartered
    1 fresh banana, chopped
    1 frozen banana, chopped
    2 cups frozen berries, your choice (smaller berries blend better)
    1/4 cup juice
    2 large handfuls spinach
    1/2 cup greek yogurt

    {toppings}

    1/2 banana, sliced
    coconut flakes

    DIRECTIONS:

    Place all ingredients, in order, in a high-powered blender, such as a Blendtec or Vitamix. Blend until smooth, using the pulse button and a spatula to work through any rough patches. If necessary, add a little more juice to blend until smooth. The goal is to make the smoothie as thick as possible.

    Once blended, pour smoothie into a bowl, then top with bananas, granola, and coconut flakes.