Tuesday, October 28, 2014

California Dreaming

Blog friends! I'm sure you thought I died, or even worse--fell off the blogging bandwagon. I didn't. I simply had a busy few weeks followed by a trip to California! Typically I share projects, DIY's, fun facts, etc. on this little site of mine, but this trip to the Golden State was too good to keep to myself. Of course, I still believe in learning, so I'll share some snapshots and a few facts, too.

We flew in to SFO (aka the San Francisco airport), stopped by Fisherman's Wharf to see what all the fuss was about, and headed up to Napa to spend the night. Thus begins the list:

10 Things I Learned in The Golden State

10. The Napa Valley is one of the oldest and best-known areas for wine production. I learned a lot here, like that the vines have to be about three years old before producing useful grapes, and there are between 500 and 600 grapes in a bottle of wine. 



9. Animals are cute. But I guess we already knew that, huh.



8. Over 250 million people visit California annually, so it is considered the most visited state in the U.S. I figured this photo would illustrate that the best (*cue laughter*).

After we left Napa, we started our drive down the coast. We drove down Highway 1 and stopped in some of the little (and big) towns in between San Francisco and L.A.



Pebble Beach (above) and Big Sur (below) are two of those take-your-breath-away spots along the coast of Highway 1.

7. Big Sur was initially connected to the rest of California through the construction of Route 56 in 1919. The highway was built with the help of unskilled convicts and locals, including John Steinbeck (no wonder he was continuously inspired to write good stuff). The road was incorporated as Highway 1 in 1939.



6. Stuff like this grows along the coast. But I'm not really sure what this is, so… Learning fail.



5. If you take the 5, it's about 380 miles between S.F. and L.A. If you take the scenic route and stop anywhere and everywhere in between, go up to Napa, go down to L.A., go everywhere in between… You'll put about 1,500 miles on your rental car. But don't quote me on that. 

This would also be the part where I talked about how great L.A. was, but I was so busy spending time with friends that I didn't take any photos. I'm only a little mad about it. 



4. Sunsets are even more gorgeous when reflected in the ocean.



3. We saw seals. I may or may not have screamed. According to the E-Seal Newsletter I picked up, males can grow up to 5,000 lbs, and they battle for breeding rights for up to 100 days without food or water. So.. I'm not really sure how they make it up to 5,000 lbs without eating a little In-N-Out



2. The Golden Gate Bridge is considered by some to be one of 7 Wonders of the Modern World, and it is painted International Orange. An estimated 5,000 - 10,000 gallons of paint are used each year to keep the bridge lookin' fresh. While incredible, the bridge is also home to more suicides than any other location in the world. The Bridge Rail Foundation is looking to do something to change this statistic. 




1. Travel is good for the soul.



I had a golden time on this trip. California, hope to see you sooner rather than later. 


Monday, September 29, 2014

But first, Coffee.

National Coffee Day, huh? Most people like coffee, and those who don't are crazy. College students, employees and bosses alike are equally likely to drink coffee--often in different forms and at very different times of day. Cream, no cream. 11 a.m., 11 p.m. Hot, cold. No matter how you like it (or if you don't), it's likely that the word "coffee" isn't going to be escaping the English language anytime soon.



So, whether you use up to 4 at-home brewing methods like my barista friends, or you like your Folgers Classic Roast watered down a little bit (because the Classic Roast is just too strong), let's ask ourselves the important questions: Why is it National Coffee Day, and where did this stuff come from?

National Coffee Day was first celebrated in the U.S. in 2005, and as is the case with most Hallmark-created holidays, nobody knows where it came from or why it is September 29th. We just do it for the coffee.



The origin of coffee itself is highly debated, but many give preference to the legend of Kaldi. Kaldi was an Ethiopian goat herder who noticed that his goats went crazy when they ate berries from a certain tree. The goats jumped around and wouldn't sleep at night. (Spoiler alert: It was coffee tree.) According to the legend, Kaldi took the beans to a monk who made a drink using the berries and confirmed that after drinking it, he was easily able to stay alert for his overnight prayer sessions.
If you wanted to go out on a limb here, you could say that drinking coffee is a holy practice. I think that's a logical conclusion from the legend of Kaldi.



According to the L.A. Times, 1.7 billion cups of coffee are consumed daily, and 35% of the world's coffee consumption occurs in the U.S. Santa Fe Springs, California, is likely responsible for a good chunk of that statistic, with a whopping 560 Starbucks locations within only 25 miles. Starbucks also claims 87,000 drink combinations. ABC News says that the average American spends $14.40 per week going out to coffee shops, totaling $1,100 each year. That doesn't include the cost of drinking coffee at home, either. The National Coffee Association also states (in bold) to "never reheat your coffee." Oops.





Think you might be over-caffeinated? The problem is historical. In the 1730's Johann Sebastian Bach (BACH, guys) wrote a satirical cantata on coffee-obsession. The title is Schweigt stille, plaudert nicht, or "Be still, stop chattering" for you non-German speakers.

Translated from German (I didn't translate it… I haven't learned German yet), a stanza in the cantata reads as follows: No suitor comes in my house/unless he has promised to me himself/and has it also inserted into the marriage contract,/that I shall be permitted/to brew coffee whenever I want." Satire or not, I have to agree with this. I couldn't marry a man who won't let me have my mochas!



So the moral of the story is this: Drink and be merry. But first, make sure he likes coffee.




Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Caramel Apple Parfait

This post was inspired by wisdom teeth surgery (ow), McDonald's, and all the girls longing for fall.

Spoiler alert: It's still summer until September 22. I know we all want it to be fall, like, yesterday, but I personally really love summer. So, this treat is a summery snack/dessert/breakfast (or dessert for breakfast) option for those of us who are enjoying summer yet longing for the upcoming crunchy leaves and caramel apple season.

So, back to wisdom teeth. I had 'em removed recently, and as you likely know, I wasn't allowed to eat anything afterward. I mean, I could eat ice cream, and soup, and parfaits, but that's about it. I couldn't eat apples, or pretzels, or heaven forbid I try to eat a hamburger. It was a low point in my life.

So one day I'm eating a McDonald's Fruit 'n Yogurt Parfait, and I decided it wasn't half-bad! (Did I just lose all of my "food blogger" internet cred?) I got to thinking about how I could make an at-home version of the snack, but with a twist.

Ingredients:

- 1 cup vanilla yogurt
- Apples, chopped (I used Granny Smith and Red Delicious)
- Pretzel crumbs
- Caramel

Little bit of trivia: "Parfait" got it's name from the French word for "perfect," and their origin dates all the way back to 1894. Parfaits are different all around the world, too. Don't order a parfait in the UK unless you want "a very smooth meat paste (or pâté), usually made from liver (chicken or duck) and flavoured with liqueurs." (Ew, right?) But this recipe won't be like that. It'll be good. Promise.

The best thing about parfaits is that they're so easy to make. That's probably why the French deemed them perfect. They're a quick-fix for a sweet tooth. Or if you're like me, a sweet+salty tooth.

Instructions:

Start by drizzling caramel in the bottom of your dish. Next, add a layer of the yogurt on top. Add some of the apples you've chopped, and sprinkle some of the crumbled pretzels on the same layer.

To finish off the parfait, simply add the same layers again! Caramel, yogurt, apples, pretzel. You could repeat these steps indefinitely if you're really hungry and want to eat a punch-bowl-sized serving, but my recipe only required 2 layers of parfait to fill the dish.

Drizzle some more caramel just for kicks, and you're ready to eat up!

I hope you enjoy this treat, friends! Let me know if you try it; I would say it is parfait for this time of year. Happy late-summer-almost-fall!