Monday, August 31, 2009

Walk On

We continued our walk upstream. Naturally the farther we walked the fewer people we saw. By now we were meeting people who were doing the two day hike down the river. Most often the first thing said to us was, "How much farther?" They always looked tired and, of course, wet. Hiking downriver requires a permit and one night of camping on the river bank.

We also continued to enjoy the scenery around us.

dave, the narrows, zion, 8.09

the narrows, zion, 8.09

I'm channeling Ansel Adams with this version of the previous photo.

the narrows, zion, 8.09

Don't forget to look up!

the narrows, zion, 8.09

As we walked further upstream the river was narrowing and the canyon walls were becomig higher and steeper.

dave, the narrows, zion, 8.09

We walked to a section of the river called Wall Street. At that point the water deepens as the river narrows and the canyon walls go straight up. I was too busy concentrating on not falling so I have no pictures of that part of the hike. Plus it was a real pain to have to stop and take my camera out of my backpack and then out of two plastic bags. There is no shore line at this point so it would have required more coordination than I am capable of. I value a working camera over a couple of photos.

While waiting for a more photo friendly spot I will take a break and let Dave model the three essential items required for this hike: good sturdy shoes, a walking stick and long sleeves.

dave, the narrows, zion, 8.09

After three hours of walking upstream we decided to turn around and head back.

The scenery continued to amaze.

the narrows, zion, 8.09

Ironically the deepest part of the river occurs near the beginning of this hike. The hike ends early for those unwilling to get their clothes wet. That's too bad because the canyon is spectacular. The last time we had hiked up the Narrows we had reached a point about three hours up that would have required swimming. It is amazing how much the river changes from year to year.

This is as deep as it got this year. Last time at this spot it was chest high. Who knows what next time will bring?

dave, the narrows, zion, 8.09

By the time we got near the beginning the air temperature had warmed up (109 in the park) and had gotten much noisier. The afternoon hikers were out and about.

We really enjoyed our day in the river and would strongly recommend this hike for anyone looking for something different to do for a vacation.

dave, the narrows, zion, 8.09

Next we are going to climb, zip line and rappel down those canyon walls.

To be continued....

Friday, August 28, 2009

That's Cold!

Friday dawned bright and early for us cross-country travelers.

zion, 8.09

With a projected temperature of 109 degrees it was looking like it was going to be a hot one. Lucky for us we were planning on hiking up the Virgin River in Zion more commonly known as "The Narrows". Water temperature, mid sixties. The river itself meanders for approximately 16 miles and cuts through Navajo sandstone canyon walls up to 2000 feet high. The Virgin River contains the tallest cliffs of the narrowest canyon found anywhere in the world. Though a strenuous walk the only real danger is the possibility of flash floods. If a wall of water should come down the river there is no place to escape. But with a forecast of hot and sunny, flash floods were of no concern of ours.

Zion allows very little car traffic in the park itself so we boarded the bus and headed for the Temple of Sinawawa.

zion, 8.09

After getting off the bus we then had a one mile hike on the Riverside Walk.

zion, 8.09

"The paved River walk trail winds along the cliff wall for 1 mile, and leads through marshes, hanging gardens and numerous springs before it ends abruptly at a point where the river spans from one cliff wall to the other. From here it is either get wet or go home."

We decided to get wet.

dave, virgin river narrows, zion, 8.09

It looks like Dave almost got wetter than he had planned on.

dave, virgin river narrows, zion, 8.09

I learned from Dave's good example and was extra careful with my river crossings. That water is cold!

carrie, virgin river narrows, 8.09


dave, virgin river narroows, zion, 8.09

There are three important things we had learned from hiking the Narrows a few years ago. Despite a cloudless sky, very little of that sunlight reaches the canyon floor. It may be 109 but it is nowhere near that warm down in the canyon. Long sleeves are welcome. Second, good shoes are a must. Third, walking sticks make hiking the river much easier. Some use fancy hiking poles and some like us use sticks that have been left for use by previous hikers.

dave, virgin river narrows, zion, 8.09

We slowly made our way up the river. And I do mean slow. It is slow going for us. The rocks are slippery and the current is quite fast in some places.

dave, virgin river narrows, zion, 8.09

Time for a break.

dave, virgin river narrows, zion, 8.09

to be continued...

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

That's Hot!

As many of you know Dave and I took a short vacation last weekend. Because of Dave's frequent travel we had a couple of free airline tickets just begging to be used. Our destination? Zion National Park in Utah. We had been there a few years ago and had really enjoyed our time there so we thought a repeat trip would be fun. Even though I knew where we were going Dave had also planned a couple of surprises along the way.

We left Thursday morning and landed in Las Vegas early afternoon. We got our car and headed for Zion.


It looks nice outside the car window but a glance at this thermometer shows a different story.


You are reading that correctly. It was 112 degrees outside. I know they say it is a dry heat but let me tell you that is still hot. It should come as no surprise that we were driving through the desert from Vegas to Zion.


Though we were driving thorough the desert to get there Zion is the land of canyons and spring fed rivers. If you like rocks you would like Zion. By late afternoon we had arrived at our destination and our home for the next two nights.


This was the view from our front porch. Pretty.


Not wanting to waste a beautiful evening Dave studied the map and picked out a short after dinner hike.


The hike he chose meanders by some emerald pools and small waterfalls. It was a nice break from the heat of the day. As we were walking along we passed a hiker who said, "There's a tarantula on the path ahead". Huh? I told Dave but then added I must have heard that wrong. Why would there be a tarantula on the hiking path? Well, look what we found around the bend up ahead.

Well, hello, Mr. Tarantula.


We stood and watched him for a bit and then he went about his business and disappeared in a rock crevice. We later told a park ranger what we had seen and she became very excited. I guess it is just the beginning of the season to begin spotting them around the park.


We continued on the path and enjoyed the water and rocks until the dark drove us back to our cabin.


Tomorrow: hiking up the Narrows.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Watch Out!

Watch out Chippies! I can't stand in my driveway 24/7 protecting you from danger.


Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The View From Within

The cool summer (up until now) and frequent rain has been kind to my garden this year.

butler, pa, 8.09

butler, pa, 8.09

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Dessert or Disaster

Instead of Dinner or Disaster tonight I am doing a Dessert or Disaster post. Today's recipe is Plum Kuchen which I found on Smitten Kitchen's food blog. Now this recipe is a little different than the rest. It is a cake but it also has yeast in it which kind of makes it a bread. Maybe I should call this a Brake recipe. It sounded interesting and I am always up for interesting so I thought I would give it a try.

Now I couldn't leave well enough alone as you can see I used peaches instead of plums. I had just been to Michigan and had brought back some fabulous peaches that were begging to be used.


Arranging the peaches on the bottom of the pan turned out to be the easy part. The hard part was the "brake" batter. I mixed everything up and it looked just the way the recipe said it should look. Then I left it to rise in the bowl. And rise and rise and rise. Do you see where this is going? It wasn't rising the way it should. I let it go twice as long as the recipe called for and called it a day and continued on. I didn't have any yeast that was fresher than I had used so there was no sense in starting over.

The "brake" batter went in the pan over the peaches for a second rise.


After more than twice the time it should have taken this is what I had.


Do you see much of a difference? Me either but I was determined to continue on so into the oven it went. Much to my surprise it did rise somewhat while it was baking and when I took it out this is what I had.



It looked good and really it tasted pretty good too. I had a few issues with peaches sticking in the pan but other than that and the yeast not working right this was an easy recipe.


Plum Kuchen
Adapted, barely, from Gourmet

This yeasted cake is unbelievable: moist, light and with a complexity to its sweetness that most standard coffee cakes don’t have. Mine dipped a little when it baked, no doubt because it was left to rise almost an hour too long. That said, don’t skimp on the rising times — you want to get all of the lightness and height possible out of your dough.

Gourmet notes that this can be made with any stone fruit and that it tastes the best the first day. I don’t know, though, I had some that had been wrapped in foil in the fridge overnight and couldn’t find a thing not to like. Two days, however, might be pushing it.

Gourmet says it serves 8, but I cut mine into 16 squares

2 1/4 teaspoons or 1 (1/4-ounce) package active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water (105–110°F)
2 cups (267 grams) plus 2 tablespoons (18 grams) all-purpose flour, divided
1 cup sugar (220 grams), divided
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup plain whole-milk yogurt (124 grams) (preferably Greek-style, but I used regular yogurt and it worked just fine) at room temperature
1 large egg, warmed in shell in warm water five minutes
1 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 sticks (5 ounces or 142 grams) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons and softened, divided
3/4 pound firm-ripe plums (about 4 small), halved and pitted

Stir together yeast and warm water in mixer bowl and let stand until foamy, about five minutes. (If mixture doesn’t foam, start over with new yeast.)

Add two cups flour, 2/3 cup sugar, salt, yogurt, egg, zest, and vanilla to yeast mixture and mix at medium-low speed 1 minute. Beat in one stick of the butter, one tablespoon at a time, until incorporated. Beat at medium speed until dough is smooth and shiny, about five minutes. (Dough will be very sticky.) Scrape down side of bowl and sprinkle dough with remaining two tablespoons flour. Cover bowl loosely with a kitchen towel or plastic wrap and let dough rise in a draft-free place at warm room temperature until doubled, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Spread remaining two tablespoons butter in bottom of an 8- or 9-inch square baking pan and sprinkle with remaining 1/3 cup sugar. Cut each plum half into five or six slices and arrange in one layer in pan. (I had quite a bit of extra plum slices to snack on, but my plums were also giants.)

Stir dough until flour is incorporated, then spread evenly over plums. Loosely cover with buttered plastic wrap, then kitchen towel. Let rise in a draft-free place at warm room temperature until almost doubled, about 1 1/2 hours.

Preheat oven to 375°F with rack in middle. Bake until kuchen is golden-brown and a wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes. Cool in pan five minutes, then invert and unmold onto a rack to cool completely.

Serve with additional yogurt, lightly sweetened, or sweetened crème fraîche.

I am going to try this again with fresher yeast. I am thinking I will end up with a lighter cake if it rises the way it should. Four forks out of five for the first try. Here's to second chances.


Friday, August 14, 2009

Dinner or Disaster

A couple of weeks ago Parade magazine had a grilling article. Who should be spotlighted but Bobby Flay! That had my attention and when I saw the picture of one of the recipes he had chosen for the article I was hooked. I had my next Dinner or Disaster candidate.

The recipe I was trying was Chicken With Tangerine-Honey Glaze. Now, really, how can you go wrong with a recipe with a name like that? Now his recipe called for boneless, skinless chicken breasts but I decided to try using chicken thighs instead. Except for the time required to make the glaze this recipe is easy peasy. I also had to use regular paprika because this part of the world doesn't have Spanish paprika. But I figured that neither one of these substitutions should make much of a difference in the end result.

It is time to Fire up the Grill!

butler, pa, 7.09

Here is the chicken having some glaze brushed on. Go, Dave, go!

dinner or disaster, butler, 7.09

While we wait for the chicken to finish cooking why don't you admire one of my flower pots that is sitting next to the grill. Isn't it lovely?

butler, pa, 7.09

.... waiting ...... waiting ...... Is it done yet, Dave? ...... waiting .....

Ah, done!

butler, 7.09

What do you think? I just have to say they tasted as good as they looked. Dave declared them a five out of five winner. I have to agree. They were excellent. They were so good that we had them a few days later. This time we used boneless, skinless chicken breasts. There were good but I think the chicken thighs were a wee bit better.

Cory, Sarah and Cory's parents were here for the weekend and Dave requested this chicken recipe again. For something different I used boneless, skinless chicken thighs. That was the best so far. They would be perfect for sandwiches. We will definitely be making this recipe again. Thanks, Bobby Flay.

Bobby Flay’s Winner of a Chicken Dinner

Chicken With Tangerine-Honey Glaze

3 cups tangerine juice or tangerine-orange juice (not from concentrate)
5 fresh thyme sprigs
1/4 cup clover honey
Kosher salt and black pepper
3 Tbsp Spanish paprika
1 Tbsp ground cumin
1 Tbsp dry mustard powder
2 tsp ground fennel seeds
2 Tbsp canola oil
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 8 oz. each)
2 green onions, thinly sliced, for garnish

1. Combine the juice and thyme in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened and reduced to about 1/2 cup; remove the thyme stems and discard. Whisk in the honey until incorporated and season with 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper. Transfer to a bowl and let cool to room temperature.

2. Heat grill to medium-high.

3. Stir together the paprika, cumin, mustard powder, fennel, and 1 teaspoon each of the kosher salt and black pepper in a small bowl. Brush both sides of the chicken with the oil, and season with salt and pepper. Rub the top of each breast with some of the spice rub and place on the grill rub-side-down. Cook, without touching, until they’re lightly golden brown and a crust has formed, 3 to 4 minutes. Turn the breasts over, brush the tops liberally with some of the glaze, flip them, and continue cooking until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center registers 155°F. Remove from the grill, brush the spice-rub side with more of the glaze, tent loosely with foil, and let rest 5 minutes before serving.

Serves 4. Per serving: 460 calories, 39g carbs, 48g protein, 12g fat, and 125mg cholesterol.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Say Yes To The Dress

What an exciting weekend! A new baby has joined the family and Katie has touched a cat. I'm not sure if weddng dress shopping can compete with that but while we wait for those baby pictures I thought I would entertain you with dress shopping pictures.

Sarah's original thought was to go to a couple of bridal salons that were unique to Pittsburgh. Long story short it didn't work out at all and we ended up at David's Bridal which has locations throughout the country including South Bend. But when it was all said and done I think it worked out for the best.

We started our day with an early lunch at Sibas in Cranberry. Dave and Cory joined us (Sarah, Cory's mom Dreda and me). It was a beautiful day so we requested a table outside and enjoyed a lovely lunch. I strongly recommend the Lobster BLT. The guys left for a round of golf and we headed to David's Bridal.

pa, 8.08

Sarah was so well organized that she had printed off some dresses she liked from their website. This was the first dress she tried on and one of the dresses that she had liked online.

sarah, butler, pa, 8.08

A closer look.

pa, 8.08

It was a pretty dress online and pretty in person but not the dress for her.

She tried on another dress she had chosen.

sarah, butler, pa, 8.08

sarah, butler, pa, 8.08

Pretty but not right for her.

Now the woman who was helping us started pulling dresses that matched the style of dress that Sarah was looking for. Or at least what she thought she was looking for. Nothing seemed right. Now she started pulling dresses that she thought might work.

I have to admit that this dress was my favorite. It was the first dress she had tried on that day that looked beautiful on her. Sarah liked it but eventually decided that it wasn't for her. She thought it was too "beachy" because of the chiffon overlay and that wasn't the feeling she was looking for.

sarah, butler, pa, 8.08

Then the lady helping us said she had a dress that she really liked. Though it wasn't what Sarah had described as what she was looking for she would really like it if she would try it on. No problem, she would try it on for her. She walked out of the dressing room and Dreda and I both gasped. It was perfect. We loved it, the saleswoman loved it and more importantly Sarah loved it. Then she put the veil on and that was it. Perfect.

Just to be sure she tried a couple more dresses on.

sarah, butler, pa, 8.08

sarah, butler, pa, 8.08

But she kept going back to "that" dress. I'm not going to tell you what she choose but I will say it was nothing like she what she thought she had wanted. She is going to take her girlfriend to the David's Bridal in South Bend and get her opinion. I have a feeling that this is "the" dress. Even though I'm not going to tell you what she chose I will give you a couple of sneak peeks. That will have to do until you see her walking down the aisle of the Basilica.

sarah, butler, pa, 8.08

pa, 8.08

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