Saturday, June 26, 2010

Some help please . . .

A while back I told you a bit about my upcoming trip to England. In case you missed it, here's the link.

So, yesterday in the mail we got these.

Yes, there are three passports. We went ahead and got one for Rominal, even though it will just be me and Bailey going to England. We thought it would be a good idea for Rominal to have one in case he had to come bail us out of jail while we are there.

So, here's what I'm asking of anyone who is reading this. What would you pack for a two week trip across the pond? Keep in mind that we will be camping for one week somewhere in/near Cambridge, and I believe that the Girl Guides (England's version of Girl Scouts) will be supplying us with sleeping bags and tents, so we don't have to worry about that. The other week we will be staying at Pax Lodge, a Girl Scout World Center. It is similar to a dorm, meaning we will be sharing bathrooms with other guests. During this week, we will be traveling on our own.

We need to pack as lightly as possible, but also be prepared for weather - mostly rain, I think. One person has suggested that we shouldn't bring jeans because if they get wet it will take them forever to dry.

Do you have any favorite pants for traveling? One friend of mine suggested a kind that can be washed out at night and dries quickly while you are sleeping. Do you have a special backpack that you would suggest? I'm thinking something that is very lightweight to use just for sightseeing during the day - something that would hold my money, passports, camera, etc.

I believe I need a power converter - but do you have any suggestions regarding that?

This is my first time out of the country (except for a quick trip to Mexico where I just walked across the border and back), so any hints or suggestions you have are welcome.

I'm thinking I will bring my old camera because it is smaller and lightweight. I love my new camera, I just don't want to risk losing or damaging it while we are there.

Do we have to get any special shots? Bailey is current on all of her shots, and I must be too - I guess.

When we are walking around, do I carry our passports with me at all times or do I leave it back at the Lodge? Since Bailey doesn't have her driver's license yet, should I carry her birth certificate with me?

Yes, so many questions. In the meantime, I'll go back to doing laundry. As you can see, Twister is helping out today.

Well, maybe he's not.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

A long, long time ago . . .

I should have written this post months ago. I meant to, I've been thinking about it all of this time, I just haven't gotten around to doing it.

We have some dear friends, Melissa and Bobby. Here's Melissa, adorable as ever.

Anyway, early in the year they went to a fundraising dinner for Habitat For Humanity and bid on an evening with a cook at their home. Luckily for me, they invited us to join them for this evening.

Sharon came out to their home and while making dinner for us, talked about her very healthy way of eating. She advocates an organic and raw way of life as much as possible. Clearly, eating this way has kept Sharon looking fantastic.

One of the first things we had was avocado with dulse and a drizzle of olive oil. Dulse is dried seaweed that Sharon rinsed prior to putting on the avocado. We loved this - even Rominal, who doesn't really like avocado that much.

Another item she served was sliced tomatoes with goat cheese, a basil leaf and balsamic vinegar. So good!

The next item we had was quinoa with tomatoes, carrots, broccoli and a bit of organic chicken bouillon. Again - it was fantastic!

My favorite dish of the night, and one I have made several times since, was a pear, walnut and goat cheese salad. It had tons of cilantro as well as lettuce. This is so good it doesn't even need any dressing.

Sharon made yummy guacamole and served it with long lettuce leaves. Bailey and Tiffany took the guacamole and spread it over the lettuce and rolled it up like a burrito. They called these "salitos" (combining the words salad and burrito together).

The fruit salad below was more like dessert it was so good. It was apples, bananas, blueberry yogurt, and organic coconut flakes.

Unfortunately, the picture I took of Rominal's favorite dish didn't turn out very well, but I will tell you about it. It was raw shredded beets, raisins, apples, and the top lettuce parts of the beets all mixed together. She served this with Ranch dressing for those who wanted it. We had no idea that raw beets were that good.

We had a fantastic time and the most wonderful dinner. Sharon was so plesant and nice to talk with. I'm so lucky to have such great friends like Melissa and Bobby. I can't wait to see what they bid on next year.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Peanut Butter Cookies

First of all - Happy Father's Day Dad! I wish I was there with you today! I love you!

For Father's Day I made Rominal some peanut butter cookies. A long time ago he had said that he liked peanut butter cookies, but he doesn't remember saying that.

Oh well, he got peanut butter cookies today.

These cookies turned out really well, despite me changing them up a bit. I got the original recipe here.

Here's the recipe and I wrote in the changes I made as well.

1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/3 cup rolled oats
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup crunchy peanut butter (I only had reduced fat, smooth peanut butter and they still turned out really good. However, I do think regular crunchy peanut butter would be better.)
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup honey
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 (1 ounce) squares semisweet chocolate (Rominal is a plain kind of guy. He likes plain vanilla or plain chocolate ice cream, nothing fun like candy or nuts added. So, needless to say, he did not want chocolate chips in his peanut butter cookies. I pointed out that chocolate and peanut butter go together so well, for example take Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. And he pointed out that the old Reese's Peanut Butter Cup commercials (you know the one - where the one guy was walking with a chocolate bar and another guy was walking with a jar of peanut butter and they accidentally bump into each other) was always shown as a mistake. He feels that this is proof that chocolate and peanut butter should not co-exist. Since it is Father's Day and I was making these cookies for him, I obliged. But only this one time.)

1.Mix flour, oats, baking soda, and salt in medium bowl.
2.Using an electric mixer, beat peanut butter, brown sugar, butter, honey, egg, and vanilla in large bowl until well blended. Stir dry ingredients into the peanut butter mixture in 2 additions. Stir in chopped chocolate.
3.Cover and refrigerate until dough is firm and no longer sticky, about 30 minutes.
4.Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Butter 2 heavy large baking sheets.
5.With hands, roll 1 heaping tablespoonful of dough for each cookie into 1 3/4 inch diameter ball. Arrange cookies on prepared baking sheets, spacing 2 1/2 inches apart.
6.Bake cookies until puffed, beginning to brown on top and still very soft to touch, about 12 minutes. (My cooking time was only 11 minutes, and possibly even less.) Cool cookies on baking sheets for 5 minutes. Using metal spatula, transfer cookies to rack and cool completely. (Can be made 2 days ahead. Store in airtight container at room temperature.)

Happy Father's Day to all of the Dad's out there!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Road Trip - Part 5

Well, we have made it home from our long journey. It was a wonderful vacation.

Last Thursday we arrived back at Grand Teton National Park after having spent two nights in Yellowstone National Park.

It is a beautiful place. Unfortunately, it rained most of the afternoon, so we were not able to take a scenic boat ride around the lake. When the skies did finally clear, we were able to see this view.

It the picture above, there is a moose. He is very difficult to see, but he's there.

I zoomed in on him to get a better look. We were quite excited to see a moose, and we saw several more the next day as well.

We splurged a bit on our room for the last night. We had the bottom room where Bailey is standing. When we checked in, the upstairs rooms weren't cleaned yet so we couldn't get one of them. In hindsight, we should have waited for one of those rooms.

Here's the view from our patio though. Still beautiful despite the clouds covering the tops of the mountains.

This little guy (we named him FredBob) lived outside our patio. He was fun to watch dart around.

Here's a bird that was in the valley.

When the sun was setting it was a magical place. I stood outside forever wishing a bear would walk by. There are lots of bear sightings in this area, but we were never lucky enough to see one.

This is the outside of the Jackson Lake Lodge. This faces the valley in the picture above. We had the best dinner there that night.

Still no bear. Darn.

So, we are now home. I am slowly working through mounds of laundry and I am facing going back to work tomorrow.

Here's some random thoughts from our trip. Hopefully this will be helpful to someone else.
  • If you go to Yellowstone, book a room early. I booked our rooms back in January and my choices were limited back then. Same thing with the Grand Tetons.
  • There are no televisions or internet service in Yellowstone. I'm fine with that, but I had told my boss that I would check in with work occasionally - which required internet service. I'm not complaining, it's just something you should be aware of.
  • There was only internet service at the Grand Teton Lodge - not in the rooms. Also, no television available.
  • Make your dinner reservations early as well. I was aware of this and made our dinner reservations about two months ago and even then I only had the choice of 5:45 or 9:00pm. People who did not have a reservation were turned away. There are "fast-food" type places available, but you will most likely have that for lunch so a nice dinner was welcomed. And it was a really nice dinner both nights. We were very surprised at how good the food was at the two different places we ate dinner at in Yellowstone.
  • If you go to the Grand Tetons - I recommend you splurge on a room with a view - and on a dinner at the Mural Room which overlooks the valley. No matter how much I like nature - I am very well aware that I also like to be spoiled.
  • One thing that Rominal would have liked to do differently was to not have to change hotel rooms so often. Because we drove from Texas to Wyoming and then back, we stopped a lot along the way. This meant that we were unloading and loading all of our suitcases each night. Rominal would prefer to fly to our next destination and stay in one place for more than one night.
  • No matter how surly your teenage daughter is at home, she becomes charming and personable again once she is out of the state. She even would let me put my arm around her as we were walking - something that would never be allowed at home. This trip helped us connect again if only for a week.

I'm already thinking of next year's trip. I'm thinking of something along the lines of flying out to Yosemite National Park and renting a RV and driving all around there, but Rominal is thinking of something more along the lines of Disney World.
I want more nature and he wants more lights.

Can this marriage be saved?

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Road Trip - Part 4

To continue our road trip stories - we left the Grand Tetons and arrived in Yellowstone on Tuesday (I think - the days are blending together for me).

Someone was nice enough to take our picture in front of the sign.

If you have never been to Yellowstone, it is an experience that is very difficult to explain. As you walk around, there are parts of the ground that has water boiling up from the earth. The smell is very similar to rotten eggs, due to the sulfur in the water.

We saw all kinds of wild life. Here's a marmot that popped out from some rocks to say hello.

We hiked up a trail to get a bird's eye view of Old Faithful. From this vantage point, we could see the surrounding valley. Also, you can see all of the people that gather to see Old Faithful go off.

The buildings you see above are the visitor center, and the Old Faithful Inn. Yellowstone is the first National Park and some of the buildings are very old.

A nice couple from England took our picture up at the top of the hill.

Later that day, we went to a different part of the park where we overlooked Yellowstone Lake. The boardwalks are placed for everyone to walk on - because the ground is so unstable in this area.

Here's an elk with some fuzzy antlers. We saw tons of elk all over the park.

Here's a spot where the water just suddenly starts boiling up into the air. Very strange.

We drove around in the park and came to a valley where the buffalo and their new babies gather. These guys (and galls) are huge.

I'm taking these pictures from my van. Rominal was driving and I was standing up through the sunroof of our van taking pictures. There are quite a lot of warnings all over the park of how people get gored by buffalo each year and how you are not to approach them.

Some people don't head those warnings and tried to get closer to get a picture. This guy even brought out his baby!

Here's what the valley looks like - again this picture was taken from the safety of my van.

We drove out of the valley and ran into the biggest traffic jam I've ever seen!

I couldn't believe it - so much traffic in a national park!

Well, it wasn't your usual traffic.

We got stuck in at least 150 buffalo moving down towards the valley that we had just left.

It was simply amazing. This was one of the highlights of our trip.

The buffalo just kept coming and coming. They would simply walk around the cars.

We were there for at least 30 minutes as they passed.

Towards the end of the group, this big fellow came through. He was so large, bigger than all of the others.

I took a picture of him after he passed our van, to try to show how much bigger than our van he was.

We have now started the long drive home, but I still have tons of pictures to post. It's been a fantastic vacation and quite an adventure.

I'll post more once we get home, and I've gotten some of the mounds of dirty laundry done.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Road Trip - Part 3

Wow - what a couple of days we have had. Right now I am sitting in the Jackson Lake Lodge because that's the only place that has internet service. Rominal is trying to do some school work and I thought I would post a couple of pictures.

So - a couple of nights ago we stayed at Colter Bay in the Grand Tetons. Unfortunately, the weather has not been that great. It has rained every afternoon we have been here.

That didn't stop us from taking a little stroll through the woods along the lake. Here's Rominal and Bailey. And of course, I've taken this picture from behind because I love how it's not posed.

This is the rustic cabin we stayed in. Emphasis on rustic. It rained during the night and hearing the rain on the tin roof was nice.

We saw this critter along the road. I'm not using a telephoto lens here either - we were this close to the deer.

Many of the hiking trails were either closed, or had this warning posted. Kinda scary. I'm still ever so hopeful to see a bear while we are here though. People keep telling me that they saw one.

Here's a rare moment when the clouds cleared and we could see the tops of the Tetons. For the longest time, Rominal and Bailey didn't believe me when I told them that there were mountains there.

Bailey took this picture of me and Rominal.

There's so much more to tell - and I've taken over 700 pictures so far. Tomorrow we start the drive back home, stopping along the way. I should be able to post more tomorrow night.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Road Trip - part 2

Today we spent the morning in Colorado at my Dad and bonus-mom's house. They have a beautiful house surrounded by trees. Last night we saw two deer, but the pictures I took didn't turn out very well.

Since we were leaving after lunch, Bailey had to say goodbye to George. This involved playing fetch.

George loves to play fetch.

Bailey loves to play fetch with George, so it all works out.

Here's Rominal - watching the whole thing.

Time for our goodbyes.

Hugs and kisses. Emphasis on the kisses.

We left Colorado and drove to Casper, Wyoming. Upon entering Wyoming, we were greeted with a HUGE hail storm. I happened to be driving during this time, so I didn't get any pictures during the event. Everyone on the highway had to pull over and wait out the storm. The hail was very intense and we were quite concerned our windshield would not survive. Luckily, the van seems fine and there was no windshield damage either.

We stopped at the Wyoming welcome center and I took this picture of the hail in the parking lot.

It had hit them too.

Here's some pictures of the clouds as the storm passed.

I always thought that Texas was vast, but we drove for several hours and hardly saw any cities at all.

We have determined that there are not a lot of people in Wyoming.

I want to move here.

There were some strange creatures there though.

A jackalope.

And I guess they still have dinosaurs in Wyoming as well.

Who knew?

Tomorrow we drive to Grand Teton National Park. The cabin we have for the night does not have a television, so I'm guessing they will not have wireless either. So, this might be my last post for a bit.

Have a great week!