Wednesday, February 15, 2017

The Market in the Lava

Hawai'i is always on my mind, lovely memories of the beautiful islands in the Pacific Ocean. In particular I love the Big Island, and today I just want to continue with photos and tales from our vacation there back in August of last year.

I told you about Kalapana and its devastating relationship with Madame Pele. Once a thriving fishing village it was wiped out by lava from Kīlauea in 1990. However, a small part of Kalapana is still left, and it turns into a very colorful spot on Wednesday nights when people come to visit the popular Uncle's Wednesday Night Market.

You can buy all sorts of things here, from organic soap to jewelry to t-shirts to hand carved spears and boomerangs. It is fun to walk around and just watch people, a colorful palette of unique characters.
The main attraction, however, is the food. So much to see, smell and taste. An abundance of flavor for all the senses. Let me give you a few samples.

Kaefer and I tried the Huli Huli chicken which was delicious, and the Geek couldn't resist the Paniolo steak with a spiced Kona coffee rub. The Huli Huli chicken with its sweet ginger soy was a hit and the Paniolo steak was delicious as well. We also tried the Banana Lumpia and some wonderful tropic lemonade.

When we left the almost full moon was in the clouds, illuminating the sky over the ocean. It was a gorgeous and a bit unreal scenery, very fitting for the location.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Chili Mac for Chilly Days

Our winter has been one of the wettest in recent years - which, on the one hand is good news as it puts an end to the four-year drought in most of our state. Today I read that nevertheless the California State Water Resources Control Board extended out state's emergency drought regulations at least until May which I think is very wise. On the other hand, so much rain has brought a lot of flooding and mud slides - and, of course, many gray and rather chilly days.

In order to beat the chill I cook chili - sort of. A couple years ago I found a recipe for this Southwest skillet chili mac, and it quickly has become a family favorite. The recipe says to put beef in it, and it certainly is delicious with it. However, since Kaefer has become a pescatarian and I also want to cut down on meat consumption, I have been re-thinking many of my recipes. This recipe is perfect for a filling vegetarian meal.

Here's what you need:

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium red onion, finely diced
  • 2 red bell peppers, diced
  • 3-5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 1/2 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 can diced tomatoes with liquid (14.5 oz)
  • 1 can tomato paste (6 oz)
  • 1 1/2 c water
  • 1 can corn, drained (15.25 oz)
  • 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed (15 oz)
  • 1 1/2 c uncooked macaroni
  • 1 1/2 c shredded cheddar cheese

Heat the oil over medium low heat in a large cast iron skillet, dutch oven or oven-safe saute pan.

Add the onions and peppers and cook until beginning to soften (about 4 minutes), then add the garlic and cook for another minute or two.

Add the chili powder, cumin, cayenne, salt and pepper, and mix well.

Stir in the tomatoes, tomato paste, water, corn, beans and macaroni, mixing well.

Cover and simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the past is just tender.

Stir in half of the cheese, then sprinkle the rest on top and put it in the top third of your oven with the broiler on 400 F (200 C) and allow the cheese to brown. Then serve.

We like to eat tortilla chips with it, and - don't forget the wine!!!

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Scene & Story: January 2017

A winter vineyard - nothing special in our county which is part of the wine country and has many many vineyards. They spread up slopes, cover hills and line the roads.

This particular vineyard is right by the side of the highway in Sonoma Valley with a very convenient lay-by. Over the past six months it has become a landmark on our road to Davis. In my mind it connects me to my daughter.

On my way to Davis when I want to pick up Kaefer for break or a weekend it's a most beautiful view. Even in the rain or on a gray day it appears sunny and colorful to me. I'm on my way to my favorite girl, knowing we will spend the next few days together. It's joyful anticipation. A few hours later when we return we are already deep in conversation, she has told me about her life in the dorm, her classes and her friends. Both of us always stop talking when we pass this vineyard, remembering the day in November when we first really saw it while it was glowing in the brilliant colors of fall.

But there are also the other days when we pass it - when Kaefer is returning to college, leaving home over and over again. While I always enjoy the drive with her sharing thoughts and laughter, my heart is heavy at the same time. Seeing the vineyard means saying goodbye to her in a couple hours and driving back home alone. Back to a home still full of love, but so very quiet.

When I pass the vineyard again later in the day, I actually enjoy my company, listening to music and singing along. The vineyard marks the beginning of the home stretch - 30 more minutes and I will be back where I belong, in the arms of the Geek. A home full of love.

I'm joining Lee and Sarah today for Scene & Story.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Ginger Kitties All Around

Winter is a great time to knit - yes, I know I do it all year long almost daily, but still winter with its short and over all darker days feels like the perfect time for a mug of hot chocolate, good music and curling up on the couch with some knitting needles and beautiful yarn. It is calming, relaxing and peaceful - exactly what I have needed over the past few weeks.

I also love cats and when I found this cat hat I knew that I had to try it out. The pattern was originally written in French, is very detailed and confused me at the beginning a little bit. However, I tried it out and followed the instructions to a T, and while knitting it the pattern became clear to me. The special thing about this pattern is how the tails are worked - they are not knitted within the pattern but are kind of three dimensional and stick out. This it how it looked when I got started and had just finished the tails:

As you can see, they stick out, but when you continue in the pattern they are eventually attached to the cats' bodies. Quite clever!

After I was done with the kitties the hat knitted up really fast.

The yarn was beautiful to work with, a blend of 70% merino wool and 30% mulberry silk by Cascade Yarns.

I loved how the cats turned out. And an idea started to form in my head. Why not take the cats and put them on a sweater? Not any sweater, but a sweater for a very special little girl with whom we spent a day at the Sacramento Zoo at the beginning of January. Last year I knitted this sheep cardigan for her and she wore it many times. This time I decided to knit a sweater for her.

I found a basic sweater pattern and did some math how to incorporate the cats. It really wasn't rocket science. I chose a soft and very beautiful pure superwash merino wool by Malabrigo - this is my all time favorite yarn - whereas the cats are knitted with 100% superwash wool by Cascade Yarns (another favorite).

First I worked the back, then the front and - other than in the instructions - I sewed both parts together by using the three-needle bind off which leaves no visible seam. The sleeves were knitted directly to the sweater by picking up stitches; not my favorite technique, but it worked. There were a lot of kitties on this sweater and I had to pay close attention in order not to mess up the pattern.

When the cats were done it was a straight stockinette stitch and the sweater was finished. I didn't put whiskers on the cats because I thought it too much on this already busy pattern. All I had to do was to block it and then pack it up and send it on its way.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Then The Road Disappeared...

Martin Luther King Jr. Day and my birthday were on the same day this year (a real honor), and since neither the Geek nor I had to go to work we went to Davis to spend the day with Kaefer. It was the third sunny and dry day in a row which we enjoyed so very much. I had hoped to go to Lake Berryessa and hike there, but on our way there we saw signs that the road was closed due to toppled trees and rock- and mudslides during the recent storms. It was a bit of a disappointment, but then we decided to go to IKEA in Sacramento by taking back roads and thus getting to know the area a bit more.

It's a very flat country there with lots of agriculture. Some might think it's boring, but it actually has its own charm. When we came closer to Sacramento we had to take I-5 because the river road we wanted to drive along was closed due to flooding. However, right when we had crossed the levee the land was much drier and we were able to leave the Interstate and go along the river road.

"The river" is the Sacramento River of course, and it was pretty full, flooding the banks.

I saw birds sitting in the trees, like this yellow-billed magpie that we don't have in our area.

We shopped at IKEA for a while - it's interesting how you always find something there to buy, this store is immensely dangerous - and then decided to go back to Davis via back roads again since I-80 was hopelessly clogged with traffic.

On our way we decided we wanted to see how badly the river road was flooded. While driving on I-5 into Sacramento we had already seen how widely flooded the land was beyond the levee. Now we got closer to it, following the river road...

 until we arrived at this barrier...

behind which the road simply disappeared.

It was completely immersed in water. But where did all this water come from? It was just a small river, much smaller than the Sacramento River - it didn't even have a name on the map!

The trees you can see in the picture above mark the bank of the stream. But the water was everywhere beyond them, forming a huge lake.

Fortunately the railroad tracks were built way above the water (they are familiar with this problem) and so is the Interstate on the other side.

Whereas the road was just swallowed by the water.

It was quite fascinating to see this - I was in awe of what water can do. It will take a while until this land is dry again. We had more rain last week, but at the moment we have a dry spell. We need it right now.

And here's my favorite girl in the world - I am so happy that I could spend my birthday with her. The best gift ever.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Along Wet And Muddy Trails

We are very lucky to have the laguna close by, right between Santa Rosa and Sebastopol. During the recent heavy rains it was prone to flood all the land next to it - and it did. However, with some drier days following the water receded quickly.

When we took a walk in the laguna last weekend we still met pretty wet and muddy trails with some rather large puddles that weren't always easy to navigate. But they displayed some beautiful reflections and were very welcome for this photographer's eye.

The water must have been about six feet high in places judging from the debris that we saw in the bushes and shrubs. Colorful plastic doggie bags hanging from twigs and branches were signs of how high the water used to be. It was quite impressive (the doggie bags not so much).

Sitting high up in some trees I finally saw what I was missing at the lake the day before: black-crowned night herons. They had chosen just a few trees where they were perching in little groups. We counted 22 of them that day, and I'm sure we missed some. I was so happy to see them.

We also saw quite a lot of hawks this afternoon, sitting in bare trees and circling over the area.

I will leave you with a few more shots of our beautiful laguna.