This past week I've been traveling for work and got to trade frigid snowy weather for sunny California skies! I love traveling and since I have a food blog I sometimes follow up with a post about my favorite food spots (check out a few including NYC, Cincinnati, and Disney World). Sadly this trip was mainly airport and hotel conference food. We did eat at a couple local restaurants, but I just had some dental work and couldn't fully appreciate the cuisine. It's a bummer to not get to eat homemade tortilla chips and salsa at an authentic Mexican restaurant!
Instead of a food summary, I decided to share pictures from our tour of Joshua Tree National Park. Most my time in California was spent in hotel conference rooms, but my co-workers and I came in a day early to do a little site seeing before the conference began. My boss had noticed we would be near Joshua Tree National Park, so we decided to explore the area. I wasn't quite expecting how massive and beautiful the park would be, if you are ever in that part of California you have to check it out!
While visiting the park, we encountered two things you don't typically see: rain in the desert and snow in southern California. Hearing from the locals, both are pretty rare! We didn't let the cold (well cold for southern California), rain, and snow slow us down. We spent hours venturing through the park, taking pictures out in the rain, and hiking. My fitness band said we walked almost 12,000 steps in the park - it was a welcomed change after a previous day full of sitting around on planes and at the airport.
If you are unfamiliar with the park, you can read more about it here. The park contains two distinct environments, as you progress through the park you can see the gradual change from the Mojave desert to the Colorado desert. We didn't see any wildlife other than birds, but I was fine with not running into any snakes! The park contains Joshua trees, ocotillo plants, chollo cactus plants, large rocks and boulders, beautiful landscapes, and majestic mountains. It's hard to explain the beauty of the park, so I'll let the pictures speak for themselves.
Na na na na na na na na na na na na na na - Batman!
It's been a while since I've made a cake, but I had a chance to design and decorate a cake recently for a friend's family birthday celebration. Thankfully my friend gave me full reign to figure that the design of the cake, I love coming up with my own plan for the cakes.
I enjoy all the aspects of making a cake, but one of my favorite parts is trying to envision and design the cake in my mind. I am not a talented illustrator, so I usually leave the ideas in my mind and don't draw them on paper. I find sometimes the idea doesn't translate to the paper quite like I envisioned in my head. This is especially true if I try to get too complicated and make it very busy. Sometimes a busy cake works for a particular design, but most the time less really is more! I was pleased with the more simplistic design of this cake, it came out looking like what I pictured in my mind. Thankfully the family I made it for was pleased with the taste and the look!
Here's how I made the cake:
After a fairly mild winter, our town got hit with snow and frigid temperatures last weekend. When it's freezing and snowy outside, nothing is better than staying in and warming the place up by cooking! One of my favorite things to cook when we are stuck indoors is breakfast for dinner. We don't get up early enough during the week to cook a big meal, instant oatmeal is the extent of my early morning breakfast. On the weekends we have a few breakfast and brunch spots we visit, so we rarely take the time to cook breakfast then either. But since we were stuck in for the day, we decided to fix some of our favorites - blueberry pancakes, hash browns, and sausage.
I get bored cooking the same meals over and over, so I enjoy experimenting some with our favorite recipes and meals. This is particularly true when I start with a box mix, I love adding fresh ingredients to the mix and changing the flavor profile. As I did with blueberry muffin mix last winter, I decided to spruce up a blueberry pancake mix with lemon juice and lemon zest. I didn't want to overpower the pancake flavor with lemon, so I didn't add too much zest or juice. Instead, I decided to amp up the lemon flavor by pairing the pancakes with a lemon syrup. The pancakes had a light lemon flavor on their own, but when combined with the syrup the flavor was fresh and delicious!