2012 Favorites

Well friends, can you believe it?  The year is about to end.

This year was different than the last several as cycling fell off our radar in early summer.  This left time for fishing, backyard makeover, kayaking and just plain hangin' around.  It was nice.

There were also trips to Chicago, Leavenworth/Seattle, Jenner, Bend and Laguna Beach (haven't shared those last two yet!).  We didn't see our favorite place in the whole world, Montana, but hopefully we'll return in 2013.

We are blessed.

I was excited to be nominated to be one of the Top 25 Nor-Cal Mom's for 2012 over at Circle of Mom's and had two recipes featured there!  I was also happy to work with California Farm to Table this year and have several recipes featured on their site Philly Cream Peach TartSpicy Pumpkin HummusHomemade Garden Burgers,Salmon Cakes with Creamy Dill Sauce.  I had another feature at a great little linky as well.  I also entered my first cooking contest with Real Women of Philadelphia, and though I didn't win a new kitchen, my recipe was featured there too.  I'm also happy to have been featured on my friend's great blog, The Tasty Alternative, not once, but twice (thanks Amber!).  It has been a big year for this little blog.

Thank you to everyone who read, reads and continues to visit this little bloggy.  It means more than you know.  

Now here are your favorites of 2012!

2.  Cold Quinoa Salad with Fresh Mint, Craisins & Almonds

3.  Salmon Cakes with Creamy Dill Sauce (good thing all that fishin' happened)

4.  SlimKicker Review & Giveaway - proof that everyone likes free stuff.

5.  Pumpkin Banana Muffins with Cinnamon Glaze

6.  Trail Protocol: What side of the bike trail you should be on and why

Cheers to a safe and Happy New Year!  Can't wait to see what's to come in 2013.


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Christmas Cocktails!

Alright, I say Christmas Cocktails should officially start NOW!  In searching out our Christmas dinner menu, I came across all of these awesome Christmas Cocktails, how's a girl to choose?  {click the picture to link}

An eggnog shooter to start off the night, or would this be better for an after dinner treat?

A pomegranate margarita?!  Just another reason why Jessica is a genius.

Or maybe a classy greyhound??

Martha, you naughty girl - Christmas Punch

You can never have too many margaritas, right?  (or maybe you can, I wouldn't know about such things) Cranberry Margaritas.

Last but not least, eggnog martini.  I die.

I hope everyone enjoy's their Christmas (and their cocktails)!  Cheers to safe and happy holiday season!


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Let's keep talking about this please.

I thought more than twice about writing this post.  On Saturday I told The Cyclist I had to write about this.  Instead, on Monday I told you what I would be eating for Christmas dinner.  But I can't escape the fact that something needs to be said.  Not because it hasn't already been said, but because if enough of us keep saying it, maybe something will change.

I was sitting at my company Christmas lunch in San Francisco on Friday texting with The Cyclist when he broke the news.  A gunman had entered an elementary school in Connecticut and killed 20 children.

20 children.

I wished he hadn't told me.

I continued about my day, finishing shopping and catching a movie with my co-workers, but all day it floated around in the back of my head.  As soon as we got on the bus to go home, I started searching the news on my phone.  It made me sick to my stomach.  I couldn't sleep.

I know that nobody will be able to help me understand how or why someone could do this.  Even if they could, I don't think I would want to know.  But left in the wake of this tragedy are two giant red flags for our society: assault weapons and mental illness.

I really don't know anything about guns.  I don't have one, I don't want one.  I have shot one.  I am respectful of them and the power they contain.  I don't necessarily think they should be illegal.  I appreciate that there are hunters who use guns for sport and law enforcement officers who use guns for their jobs.  And, although I personally wouldn't choose to have a gun for protection, I understand why some people would choose that.

Here is what I don't understand.  What is the purpose of an assault weapon?  The shooter in Connecticut had three or four guns, including two pistols (a Glock and a Sig Sauer) and a .223-caliber Bushmaster rifle (source).  It appears the rifle is the gun he used at the school.  It shoots 6 rounds per second (source).  Six rounds per second.  It is said he had many "high-capacity clips" (source).  I am having trouble understanding exactly how many bullets these things can hold at once, but as far as I can tell it's up to 30 (source).  Assuming that is what he used, in as little as 5 seconds, he could fire 30 rounds.  

30 rounds.  
5 seconds.
And the shooting lasted for 3 minutes.

So again I ask, what is the purpose of an assault rifle?  I am not asking to be snide or ironic.  I really want to know.  I don't see a deer hunter using a gun like this.  I don't even know if they are available to law enforcement.  Are they?  The articles say they are used in the military.  But why would the average person have a need for this type of gun?  The only reason I can come up with is for collection and/or entertainment/target practice (?).  If this is the case, is it really worth it?

Is it really worth it?

Have you ever thought about all of the laws we have surrounding vehicle safety, compared to the lack of laws we have surrounding gun safety?  Did it occur to anyone else that a man with a bomb in his shoe who didn't kill a single soul changed security at all of the airports in the world?  We took him seriously, why aren't we taking gun control seriously?  

I understand some people buy assault weapons citing personal safety.  If you really think you need an assault weapon for your personal safety, please explain to me why....and when you're done I'm going to ask you again, is it really worth it?

Beyond assault weapons, the other red flag here is mental illness.  Mental illness is taboo in our country.  We don't talk about it.  We aren't supposed to talk about it.  Things like that should be "taken care of at home".  The plain fact is, mental illness affects many of us.  With the right treatment, some mentally ill people can be productive members of society.  There is one guarantee about mental illness and that is if we keep pretending it doesn't exist, we can expect more of this to happen.

Unfortunately the care is lacking, especially for those who can't afford it.  Mental illness is a real thing.  If we continue to ignore it, tragedies like these will not only continue to happen, they will get worse.  If you have not read I am Adam Lanza's Mother, you should.  What would you do with a mentally ill child?  As parents, we should ask ourselves this.  Would we be as brave as this woman to drop her child off at a mental hospital because she takes his threats seriously?  Or would it be easier to look the other way?  Cast it off as teenage behavior?

As I sit here, I don't want to pass judgement on the real Adam Lanza's mother.  But when I read articles like this one, in which Adam Lanza's aunt, Marsha Lanza is quoted saying, "if he had needed consulting, she would have gotten it, Nancy wasn't one to deny reality", it just, stops me.  This quote is in the same article that says Nancy Lanza warned a babysitter not to turn his back on Adam, that she had to go to his school to diffuse "situations" with him and, most disturbingly, the account from a friend who says Adam was "clearly a troubled child" but also says his mother "told him she introduced guns to Adam as a way to teach him responsibility".  Of course, this is just a compilation of quotes from random people in an article.  They could be untrue.  But the quote from Adam Lanza's aunt gives me the chills.  Clearly this boy needed counseling of some kind prior to the shooting ever happening.  Clearly.

What is the solution?  I sorry but I don't have one.  The best thing I can come up with is to pay attention.  When and where you have the opportunity to make a positive change with regard to gun laws, do it.  Trust your gut.  Know your children.  Don't be afraid to ask for help if you need it.  Don't be afraid to say this isn't OK.  And most importantly, none of us should allow this to slide by as just another shooting incident.  

The 20 little kids who died last Friday deserve better than that.  So does every other victim who came before them.  

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What's on your Christmas Dinner menu?

The Cyclist and I both have enormous families and its hard to get to every place, every year.  So when we were married, we enacted a plan: we spend Thanksgiving with my family and Christmas with his and then the next year, we'd swap.  Overall it works pretty good, even though there is still some running around.

This year is Christmas with The Cyclists family.  Usually this means travelling to the Bay to our "auntie's" house, but that auntie has moved and she has hung up her apron for hosting Christmas.  This means that we get to host Christmas at our house this year.  Although we will miss the family we usually see, we're looking forward to cooking too.  Since we realized we would be the hosts, I've been obsessively planning our menu on Pinterest.

So far, this is what our menu is looking like....

Yes, we will be a mountain of food.  An appetizer is still necessary!  Originally there was going to be 6-8 of us, but peeps are moving, working, etc., so we are down to 4.  I'm leaning towards a cheese ball for our app, but these other things look lovely too.

We'll start with a butternut squash soup.  I've been working on my own recipe, but it's not mastered yet.

The next course will be salad.  I didn't want to do a plain old salad so it will be one of these, depending on whether or not I can get blood oranges from the farmer's market...

Although I do most of the cooking, The Cyclist is actually a really good cook.  He cooks when it's time to get fancy, so he's in charge of the main course, which will be lamb.  I don't know which recipe he'll be using, but I found these...

I'm in charge of sides, which are my favorite anyway.  I've narrowed these bad boys down as follows...

I wishfully want to make my own bread.  We'll see if I run out of time or not...

The Cyclist's mom is in charge of this and she's making us chocolate eclairs!!  Can you say yum?!

So tell us, what's on your menu?  Also - come back tomorrow and check out all of the Christmas Cocktails!


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DIY Burlap Pendant Banner

Remember that Summer Bucket List of mine?  Well, I actually did cross off some other stuff, but I'm just getting around to sharing it with you.  Presenting #10 Make Something Crafty...

The Munchkin's birthday is in July and I really wanted to make a pendant banner.  I can't sew, like anything at all, so I researched around and came up with my own DIY for us non-sewy people.  Now, there is some sewing involved, but its pretty basic.  Seriously.  I can't even sew a button, so if I can "sew" this anyone can.

Things you'll need:

  • Burlap - amount depends on how big your pendants are and, of course, how many pendants you'll be making.  I used a burlap linen blend that was formerly one of the table runners from our wedding.
  • Paper
  • Scissors, I recommend a pair of good sewing scissors to cut your burlap.
  • Felt tip pen
  • Embroidery needles
  • Embroidery thread - I used multiple colors, but one color will do just fine.
  • Iron
  • Hot glue gun
  • Craft paint - I also used multiple colors, but one color will do.
  • Small paint brush (like one of these).
  • A computer and a printer (to make your stencils)
  • Tape - any type
  • Twine - I used the jute, garden kind you can purchase at Home Depot, like this.
Start by figuring out how big you want your pendant triangles to be.  After tinkering around for a bit, we decided the right size for our banner was 10x11x11.  The banner was covering a fairly big area and we wanted the letters to be readable.  The template should have a 1 inch "top" for folding over, like this:

So, start by cutting out a template.  I used a heavier weight paper for this, but I think any paper will do.

Then trace your template onto the burlap with a felt tip pen, making sure you trace a pendant for every letter you need.

Then cut all of your pendants out.  Sorry, I did not photograph the cutting, it takes two hands.

When you're done cutting, heat up your iron.  Fold over the top one inch and iron away.

Once you've ironed all of your pendants, you are ready to sew.  Don't be scurred.  If can't sew a button girl I can do it, so can you.

Use a couple of embroidery needles to hold the flap down.

Make sure your thread is long enough.

Then make a knot in the end of your thread and do the basic "up-down" stitch.  I really have no idea what this stitch is called, but you basically go "up-down" with your needle all the way across   I also can't really give good advice on tying knots, but we have a fix for this later.  Just do your best and make sure the knot is big enough that it doesn't pull through.  It should look about like this when it's done.

When you're done sewing, cut off the folded over edges and any excess thread and lay your pendants out on a table.

Because I we are not the best knot-tiers, let's use a hot glue gun to secure our knots, shall we?

Good job.  OK, now go to your computer and choose which font you want to use.  I used Cooper Black at 300pt and printed all my letters in a word document.  Then I cut all of them out and taped them face down to the back of my pendant flags.

For painting purposes, you can pretty much see the stencil letter through the front, but for the edges, I held it up to the light to paint the outline and then filled it in.

Once you're done painting in all of your letters, attach a safety pin to the end of your jute and string it through the pendants.  Viola!  You're done!

Feeling pinny?  Here is a quicky version of the whole tutorial.

What's great about this banner is we can use "Happy Birthday" for anyone and just change out the name.  Hence the "B" in my paint picture, I made a different name banner for a first birthday of our friends child.  She borrowed happy birthday and kept his name banner, which makes a nice homemade gift too.

I'm thinking of making one of these for our mantle for Christmas.  I spotted this one on Pinterest....

Via Etsy

Here is a free printable from The Red Kitchen!

Cheers to you and yours! TCW

*I shared this DIY at the following site(s):

New Life on a Homestead

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Jenner by the Sea {Part Two}

Ah yes, Jenner.  With all the hustle and bustle of Christmas I wish I was there right now.

You can read about Day 1 here.  We started day two with a hike on the Fern Canyon Trail at Highland Campground which is part of  Van Damme State Park.  The Fern Canyon Trail leads to the Pygmy Forest.
I am going to do my best to explain the Pygmy Forest.  The Cyclist is the scientist in our house, so his description would be much better but here goes....The ground of the Pygmy Forest is a hard-pan surface.  So hard, in fact, that very few plants and trees can actually live there.  Additionally, their roots cannot penetrate the hard-pan  so instead of going down, they go out, which results in very small plants and trees.  You can read more about it here.

If you are wondering why I'm not showing you any of our photos its because we biffed it and the camera ran out of battery shortly into the hike.  Also, because we are clearly brilliant, we tried to memorize the trail map (campsite closed, no trail maps available to take).  Later our friend asked us, "why didn't you just take a picture of it with your phone?".  Um.  Well.  Duh.  Being that we were such non phone users that day, I didn't bring my phone on the hike either.  So, you'll just have to trust me when I tell you that it was a very pretty hike.  It starts uphill through a pretty forest with lots of interesting plant markers, then levels out into the Pygmy Forest.

Since we couldn't remember the whole trail map, we headed back down after reaching the Pygmy Forest.  At the bottom we met a ranger who told us we could have kept going across a meadow and down to Salt Point State Park.  If you are looking for a long hike in the area, I would totally do this.  Since we weren't going to go back up to go back down, we got in our car and drove across the road to Salt Point State Park.  This time I remembered my phone/camera-for-the-day.

It was a foggy day.  And an Instagram kind of day, apparently.

We were above the fog line at the Pygmy Forest, then below it at Salt Point.  We decided to forego any set trail and instead walk along the shoreline across the rocks and near any tide pool areas.

Mr. Seal is hiding in the fog layer.  Can you spot him?

Salt Point is filled with really amazing rock formations.

And stacked rocks along the trail edge.  I love these.

We spent a lot of time seeing what we could see under the water.

And of course taking feet pictures.

Then we stopped to stare at the sea.  These little sea plants reminded me of Dr. Seuss...

After our hike, we went back to relax for a bit before heading to dinner at River's End.  Here is a photo of the restaurant from the beach (on Day 1 when it was sunny).

This is what our views would have looked like had it not been foggy.

But to be honest, we didn't care that there wasn't a view.  It was nice just to be together.  Besides, I was of course, enjoying looking at the food.

Dinner was fabulous and the trip was more than fabulous.  Thank you Cyclist for a wonderful birthday.  I love you.

River's End - Yelp review

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