Sunday, August 21, 2011

Locks of Love

For most of my life, I have had long hair. Boston was the first time that I was "adventurous" and cut it, with much coaxing from my friends Jamie and Sarah, to shoulder length, which at the time was a big deal.

We did a wedding slide show and William saw some pictures of me with long hair and commented how much he liked it and so I decided to grow it out again. William had been teasing me before we were pregnant that it seems that most women chop off all of their hair before having a baby and of course I said it wasn't going to be me. But, after a few months of not liking my long hair at all (it doesn't curl as well as my friend Inger's and so I could really only do it straight which was getting boring), I decided to donate my hair to Locks of Love. This was my first time donating to the organization and my sister Sarah has done it several times before so I decided that I would do it with her this time.

What is amazing was that I was able to get a FREE haircut. I cannot begin to say enough about the wonderful stylists at Barberia Salon. Mimi, my stylist, gave me an amazing haircut complete with layering which in the week and a half since it happened, I have been able to style on my own (which is saying a lot because I am not adept at doing hair).

Here is a before shot showing how long it was (excuse the wet hair as I needed to wash it before getting it cut)
The cut pony tail ready for donation
And, now for the big reveal
From the back- you can actually see my neck! It's so short that I can't even pull it into a ponytail, which is a good thing since I was sporting one of those every few days with my long hair since I didn't know what else to do with it
So far, I am "adjusting" pretty well to the change. It was weird at first to see my silhouette with short hair and also to wash my hair and have nothing there. But, it is definitely an easy cut to style- just a little round brushing, a few swipes of the magic Chi hair straightener, and it's good to go. I am shocked by how quickly I am able to "do" my hair and have it look decent.

Anyways, the jury is still out on whether or not this will be a permanent change. I really liked how my hair was shoulder length as it left me with plenty to do, but this is definitely very welcome right now.

Strawberry Recipes from the Web

I absolutely LOVE food blogs. I am mainly a baker and not a chef and so most of the recipes that I try are of the sweet nature. I bought several pints of strawberry's from the Los Altos Farmer's Market last week and had fun using them in some delicious recipes.

Strawberry Sorbet: The original post is about a Strawberry Basil Sorbet but that didn't sound appealing to me so I just left the basil out and it was delicious. My only suggestion is to make sure that you puree and pretty much liquefy the strawberries otherwise you will end up with hard frozen chunks in your sorbet. This was so good that we polished it all off in one night (at least now I have the excuse that I am pregnant!!)

Strawberry Country Cake: I have had this before and it was delicious and so I wanted to make it again. This recipe from Ina Garten is good, but here are a few tips. I halved the recipe to only make one cake and then I sliced that one cake in half and decorated with whipped cream and strawberries. However, you should DOUBLE the recipe for the whipping cream (and use powdered sugar instead of granulated) because otherwise it is a bit too much cake. I also didn't follow her recipe exactly because I didn't want to buy the actual lemons and oranges to make the zests and so I just used lemon juice but you couldn't taste the citrus like others have said.
Strawberry Sour Cream Ice Cream: the original recipe itself is from David Lebovitz who has an entire book about ice cream, sorbets, and the like and so I knew that it had to be good. And it did not disappoint. I made sure this time that I liquefied the strawberries (I didn't have quite enough as recommended in the recipe- a few had gone bad) but it was still so good. It was best in my opinion when it came directly out of the ice cream maker before putting it in the freezer to harden. At this time, it had such a soft, creamy texture with only the slightest tang from the sour cream. It was still good the next day, though it needs to sit out for a little bit before eating- which I am generally not patient enough to do so I just eat it when it is still hard- and it is still very good, though not quite as magical as when it first comes out. I am already dreaming of using this recipe with fresh PEACHES.

I was very happy that all 3 turned out because I have had some baking disasters with some recipes off the internet but these all did not disappoint so I thought that I would further share the love ;-)

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

My Internet Baking Debut

My co-worker, Jackie, is a great and budding photographer and so I was completely honored that she asked if she could take photos of me baking something to get some practice.

I warned her repeatedly that there is absolutely ZERO natural light in our apartment. She shrugged that off but when she came, she realized that our little place literally does not have any natural light. Yet, she handled things like a pro- the photographs of our kitchen and our apartment make it look 1000 times nicer than it really is. William especially was blown away by how good the photos turned out.

"The Red-Haired Baker and Her Cinnamon Buns"

Even as I look at her photos of the cinnamon rolls now, I have a craving to make them. I used my favorite recipe that I have posted about earlier which I highly recommend. However, I feel bad that my weird expression messed up her final shot- and we even went outside to take it in the natural light. I hope it tasted as good as it looked in these photos. Thanks again for the honor Jackie of showcasing my baking on your blog!

Monday, August 1, 2011

The Mystery Spot

After an ice cream pit stop at Marianne's in Santa Cruz (and I HIGHLY recommend the peaches and cream flavor- so light and creamy), we went to the Mystery Spot.

This is an iconic bay area landmark and you see it advertised everywhere through the signature bumper stickers that they place on the back of people's cars. My sister Sarah had gone earlier in the summer and had said how fun it was so I knew that we had to go.

For those interested in going, make sure that you book your tickets in advance- either online or on the phone. I called the morning of, at about 10 am, and they were sold out until 2:48 (they have tours every 12 minutes). We tried to go another Saturday without calling and we got there and it was sold out so I learned my lesson.

How to describe this place called the mystery spot. It was featured on the cover of Life magazine back in the 1940s due to its "unique gravitational anomalies" as they call it, as evidenced by this tree that straddles the gravitational line and has changed it's growth pattern due to it.

William prefers to call it, it's more optical illusions. The best though was that he was explaining to me how he thought one of the demonstrations worked and then our guide then dispelled William's exact comment with another demonstration. We think it is genius that they have their guides dressed in the same colors as national park rangers to help give them some additional authority.

It really was just fun to stumble around and test out some of these unique experiences. I did not participate in many of them since supposedly your sense of balance is thrown off during pregnancy and I didn't want to take the chance of falling. I just could not stop laughing because of how funny most people looked even standing around, like William is.

Sadly, this photo does not do justice to how incredible it looked to see William leaning backwards in the air yet was still supported due to the logistics of the place.

The only drawback to going on a Saturday is that the groups are very large and so you do not have the chance to try out all of the experiences yourself- we at least got to watch them be done by the guide and others. The house on the mystery spot is totally crazy with unique angles and slopes which makes for some interesting visuals. The guy on the end in the orange was actually super tall yet when placed in this area, he seemed to be about the same size as everyone else.

I loved that each guide carries around a level to show you that things, while they appear to be crooked, are actually straight, adding to the illusion of the mystery.

All in all, it was entertaining, but I am glad that we went to the railroad as well because I might have been a bit disappointed if we had made the drive all the way down for just the Mystery Spot.

Roaring Camp Railroad

Following my trip to Alaska where I rode the the White Pass Railroad through the Yukon territory (it was incredible- I can't wait to post pics!!), I am now very into riding trains. Fortunately, William, the trooper that he is, accompanies me on these adventures.

My co-worker Caroline told me about her steam train ride through the redwoods near Santa Cruz called Roaring Camp Railroad and I so wanted to do it. I did make the mistake of having us take the 1st train at 11 am because the fog and not yet burned off, but fortunately, we were able to see some blue sky for part of our ride.

I loved that you had to walk through a covered bridge, which seemed to transport you back in time . . .

We were able to see them fill up the train with water from the tower partially seen in the upper right hand corner. It is amazing how much they filled it with because we saw lots of steam sent off.

We sat in the open air cars at the very front right next to the engine. A word of warning though- this is the "splash zone" because you get pelted with water drops (not very bad but I was glad that I didn't do my hair that day :-)

I LOVED having the open air car because it provided you with the experience of feeling right in the heart of the forest.

Just look at how adorable our conductor is! He totally looks like something out of a movie. He was a wealth of knowledge who told us that steam trains in the west run on oil while steam trains in the East and Europe run on coal. There was a lady in our car who was a huge train enthusiast- she was wearing a t-shirt for the Skunk Train, another steam train, and she was filming most of the journey so that she could get some good sounds for her cell phone ring tone. She asked our conductor if this train recycles the oil and he told her that it was too expensive and that in fact, it was way too expensive to buy oil here in California given all the regulations and so they go to Nevada to get the oil. We loved just how completely honest he was about everything (I did feel bad for the lady because she did seem somewhat disappointed by his comment)

I was pretty ignorant about this as I literally thought that steam trains only ran on steam, but as I quickly learned, when they have to do a very tough job, like pushing a long train filled with passengers

in REVERSE up the hill, it needs much more power. The photo below of the black smoke was of this event.

The train travels through the redwoods but not on a circular loop. The train has to literally back up and down onto a separate track to go to the upper part of the redwoods. During these parts, we kept saying "I think I can, I think I can" because it was obvious that this train was working so hard to push everyone. The blue sky finally emerged on our way back to the station (evidence below) and I absolutely LOVED this whole experience.

The video below shows the steam coming from the train both from the top pipe for the most part but at the end of the clip- there is a huge release of steam from the sides to get rid of excess pressure before they go down inclines. There is also the iconic whistle.

And for people with kids who love Thomas the Tank Engine, they are doing a special ride out with Thomas next week. The ride is pretty slow and we saw the whole range of ages from little babies to toddlers to pre-school and it seemed that they all enjoyed the one hour and 30 minute ride (it is a bit shorter than that- they do give you one stretch break half-way through in the redwoods).