Thursday, September 27, 2012

pine cone cork board

Everyone keeps trying to convince me it's fall but the forecast for the weekend in LA is 90 degrees and sunny. In fact, the sun has shone every single day since we arrived. The unchanging weather seems to alter the passage of time here--maybe that's why I can't believe it's already been three weeks (and maybe that's why the 40 yr olds here think they're 20...). I do feel like I'm missing out on changing leaves, pumpkins, and apple cider...hopefully "winter" will be more like an extended fall? This is something that is definitely going to take some getting used to.

I had these four bulletin board squares that needed a little a little jazzing up to fit into our new place. Nostalgia led me to make one into a pine cone cutout, and I love the way it turned out!

Side note: those are all of my necklaces--three were gifts and I made the other three (I learned how to make the bird's nest neck from Kinsey's DIY ) I can't remember the last time I actually bought a necklace in a store!

You will need: piece of cork board, pencil, permanent marker, strong double sided tape (for mounting), sharp scissors or exacto knife, pine cone pattern (I used this one)

Start by drawing your pattern on to the back side of the cork board (your final image will be a reverse of the pattern). You can print out your stencil & trace it, or freehand it by eyeballing a picture, like I did. Using sharp scissors or an exacto knife, carefully cut out the pieces one by one. I would advise keeping track of the placement of each piece so you don't end up with a puzzle-like jumble after all the pieces are cut out! Finally, put a small square of double sided tape on each piece and place on the wall!

My tape ended up being stickier than I thought, so I couldn't easily move the pieces after attaching them to the wall. So my pine cone turned out slightly unevenly spaced and messy, but I still love it! It adds some great texture and a touch of nature (without being as obvious as, say, a pine cone border).

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

horsetooth reservoir

I finally realized the severity of the news of the summer drought this year when we hit western Nebraska (it's difficult to see the effects of the drought in the city). Throughout NE, WY, CO, MT, ID, UT, NV, and even into CA the creek beds had been reduced to dry pathways. One of the largest and most dramatic indicators of the drought was the water level at Horsetooth Reservoir in Fort Collins.

June 2011
August 2012
Besides the lack of rainfall, the water in the reservoir had been used this past summer to help put out the fires in Colorado.

I can't complain about the beautiful colors at the reservoir though. Photos there always turn out great, whether it's rainy and foggy or sunny and bright.

Friday, September 21, 2012

let's build a fort

I visited my sister in Fort Collins, CO, last summer, and was so excited to go back for a couple days during our trip! FC has the cutest downtown area (locals will call it "Old Town") that's chock full of restaurants, bars, & shops--I don't think I saw a single empty storefront. There's also some great sculptures & public art, like this bear friend.

Fort Collins has this cool ongoing public piano project--local artists paint pianos under a little outside tent in Old Town and the pianos are placed around the city (or at least, in the area). Anyone can play them, and lots of people do! It's so cute to see kids pounding out "Frere Jaques" or laughing adults struggling through "Heart & Soul". Dane decided to play a little tune for me :)

Of course, we had to get some ice cream at Walrus (ok, maybe it was more than once...). My sister is the master of trip planning, so we packed in lots of great restaurants, the ghost tour, Horsetooth Resevoir (I'll have a separate post on that!) during our two day stay. It was nice to stay somewhere for more than a night, and gave us a break from driving every day!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

a road map

Hi everyone! I just wanted to let you know that I created a new page for my travels! You can find all of my posts tagged "travel" by clicking on the "along the way" tab! Since I get all of my HTML & technical blogger information by googling, please let me know if you run in to any issues trying to open the page.

Thanks! Happy browsing!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

welcome to the west

Our stop in Cheyenne was short and spontaneous, but I'm sure glad we spent some time walking around their little downtown area. When I say little, I mean little-- just a few blocks (that I could tell). It was a preview of the wide uninhabited expanses that Wyoming would later show us to see the center of the capital and largest city (geography lesson) contained in an area smaller than my Chicago neighborhood.

There was something strange about Cheyenne, too--but I mean this in a good way! Of course, the downtown had plenty of Western emporiums/ Cowboy gear & paraphernalia, along with some very cool retro signs. Maybe I'm used to seeing the chintzy or touristy version of "Western Style" so the authentic thing felt strangely foreign to me. I was almost mesmerized looking around at the shops, signs, and scenery.

Aren't these handmade moccasins beautiful? I definitely regret not buying a pair!
The scenery in Cheyenne was refreshing after the endless hours of nothingness in Nebraska. Cheyenne made it feel like we had made it to an entirely different part of the country than I am familiar with, and it definitely whetted my appetite for more.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

maple apple cobbler pie

Let me be clear about something: the weather here isn't "brisk" or "fall-like" and there is no nip in the air. It's a heat wave with the hottest temperatures LA has had all summer.

But when I saw some big, green granny smith apples at the farmer's market this week, I couldn't help myself.

Maybe it's because so many of my friends and fellow bloggers are getting excited about the coming fall weather and all that autumn entails. In this house, we are autumn lovers. Changing colors, light sweaters, Halloween, apples, pumpkin, butternut squash, crunchy leaves, cool breezes--we love it all. Which means we will have to force autumn upon southern California. Because 100 degree temps in the middle of September doesn't make sense to northerners like us.

Transition: have you ever been plagued by the decision whether to make cobbler or pie? I love them both. I've been a huge apple pie fan since I was a kid (my mom can attest that I always requested apple pie as my birthday cake). So I decided to combine the two. Revolutionary!

Putting cobbler into pie. Kind of like putting autumn into southern California.

Maple Apple Cobbler Pie (modified from here)
makes one mini-pie, but easily amplified to make more!

Butter Pie Crust
1 cup flour
pinch of salt
1/2 Tbsp sugar
1/2 cup butter, cut into cubes and chilled (I stuck mine in the freezer for about 10 mins)
3-5 Tbsp ice water

Combine all dry ingredients into a large bowl. Toss the butter cubes in the mixture to coat, then work in with your hands until no lumps larger than a pea remain. Add ice water 1 Tbsp at a time and stir with a fork until dough comes together, then use your hands to form dough into a ball. You can add a bit more water or flour if your dough is too dry/sticky. Dough should be smooth and pliable. Wrap the ball of dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 or more hours.

Apple Maple Cobbler Filling
1 Tbsp butter
1 large granny smith apple
scant 1/2 Tbsp cornstarch
1/4 cup brown sugar
pinch of salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 Tbsp maple syrup
1/4 cup quick cooking oats

In a saucepan, melt butter over medium-low heat. Cut apple into 1/2 inch cubes and add to melted butter. Sautee for about 5 mins, until apples are beginning to soften. Combine the cornstarch, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon, and pie spice in a small bowl. Once the apples are soft, remove from heat and add dry mixture. Stir to coat the apples. Stir in maple syrup. Return to LOW heat and cook the mixture for about 5 mins until it begins to thicken. Remove from heat and stir in oats, then set aside to cool.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Roll out the refrigerated dough on a clean surface to about 1/4 inch thickness. Transfer dough to a mini pie tin sprayed with cooking spray, and remove excess dough around the outside. I braided my extra dough and coiled it around the top of the pie, but you can roll it out again to make a smooth top, or roll into strips to make a criss-cross top. Add cooled filling to pie and cover with your top. You may need to pinch the top crust closed with a fork. Bake for 16-20 minutes, until crust starts turning golden brown. Cool for at least 10-12 minutes.

This is a fairly sweet apple pie. If you prefer your pie tarter (is that a word?) you can either lower the amount of brown sugar and maple syrup, or slice your apples larger. I knew that the smell was enticing (a certain someone was lurking behind me while I took photos and snatched his piece up the second I finished) and the taste was even better. Think flaky crust with extra gooey insides. Although with the heat here I should have added ice cream.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

one horse town

The dreaded Drive Through Nebraska has plagued cross-country motorists and their passengers since the interstate system was built. Nebraska is always larger than you think it will be, and if you're taking I-90 straight through, plan on being in Nebraska for about 9+ hours. To try to break up the flat cornfield monotony, we made the only planned-in-advance food stop at the Green Apple Cafe in Cozad, NE (more on that in a special post about our food stops).

This is the only street in Cozad (beside the two cross streets, one which runs to that feed mill in the background, and the other which runs to the highway).

As you can see, the temperature was 102. Still, we took a quick walk after lunch to the end of the street and back & found two photo ops, which is a pretty good ratio for one road.

We ended up seeing quite a few cool old marquees on our trip--enough that I'm planning an entire future post on them. Most of them were still open & operating, too, but not the Rialto in Cozad.

There was also this great mural along the road-that-ran-to-the-highway. Maybe it's because I watch too much Parks & Rec these days, but I love murals like this-- they cram in all the important historical events and industries that led to the rise of a town. Thanks to this mural, I can tell you that Cozad was economically boosted by livestock and a local train depot. There's your history lesson for the day.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

is this heaven? no, it's iowa

Photo 1 of MANY taken with the self-timer
I used to live just across the Mississippi from Iowa. It's a lot like southern Wisconsin, I think: rolling hills, pastures, farms, small to medium-sized town exits peppering the interstate. It's interesting how mythical states like Iowa and Wisconsin can become to people who grow up on the coasts--in movies, that "small town character" that acts as a foil to the jaded, city-wise NYC/LA character is often from Iowa or Wisconsin. Ok, so I'm mostly thinking of "The Prince and Me" because I always pictured the writers' meeting going something like this: "Hmmm, what's the complete opposite of a wealthy royal prince?...a girl from Wisconsin!"

I had never been to Des Moines though, and I was pleasantly surprised. After staying the night with a childhood partner-in-crime, we spent a little time at the capital building, and it looked lovely and golden in the morning light. A golden ear of corn maybe? Eh?

The statues' silhouettes looking toward downtown are telling us (but not the original settlers of Des Moines) to keep going west!

Monday, September 10, 2012

the route

We went from...

Chicago, IL

Des Moines, IA

Cheyenne, WY

Fort Collins, CO

Big Timber, MT

Yellowstone National Park

 Grand Teton National Park

Salt Lake City, UT

Bryce Canyon National Park

and finally to our home in Los Angeles--home photo coming after unpacking is finished :) We had lots of stops and saw some amazing things along the way. We ate at small town diners and local stops, drove a one-lane canyon road and were treated to a few wildlife photo ops. And now I have an internet connection at home (kinda? It's still malfunctioning a little...) so I can share it all with you!