Russia Revealed: Moscow to St. Petersburg

It's official, I'm going to Russia! I made my last payment for the trip today and have started looking at weather forecasts and thinking about what to pack.

This trip is going to be very different from any trip I have taken to date. First it is a river cruise. Second, my mom is going to be my traveling companion. Third, it is an organized tour. Fourth, it is Russia! I have never been to Russia...

I am a firm believer that life opens unexpected doors and I seem to be the one walking by when this happens. This Russia trip is one of those doors. My friend Mo (I mention her in Death Valley, Owens Valley, and the Green Scene) and her mom found this trip in Russia after casually looking for five years. Five years! Anyhow, Mo mentions this trip to me and said they were trying to get a group of people together and would I want to go? She said she was going with her mom and I should ask my mom if she wanted to go.

My mom, has only recently been out of the country for the first time since before I was born and that was a short trip to Canada. I thought this would be a good trip for her because Mo's mom would be there and we would be on a boat (I'm on a boat and, I'm going fast and....) so we would only have to unpack once. Also (and I discovered this later) the company we are going with caters to "retired" travelers. I asked my mom if she wanted to go and was excited when she said yes.

So everything fell into place and I am headed to Russia in the middle of June with my mom and Mo with a tour group called Grand Central Travel. I am not a huge fan of organized tours but am going into this with an open mind. I am sure there will be times that I wish I was on my own but I am going to pay attention for the good parts of being on a tour (like someone picking you up at the airport) and try not to lament my individual freedom too much.

Have you caught on that this trip is on a boat? Do you remember last summer when T and I brought Alaska Eagle back from Mexico and I was sea sick for two weeks. I definitely remember that trip whenever anyone mentions a boat. This Russia trip is no different. I am a little worried that it is on a boat but am hoping a "river cruise" will not cause sea sickness. Cross your fingers!

I am excited to see Russia! It is a country I have always wanted to visit but never had on a priority list. I'm starting to get recommended books at the library and look forward to visiting this part of the world.

Here is a link to the trip I am taking. Has anyone been to Russia? Any thoughts or words of advise? Send them my way.


Year of the Dragon: Goals

It's that time of the year again! It's Chinese New Year and time for me to commit to some new year goals. Here are some goals from the past few Chinese New Years:
Year of the Rabbit: Goals
Year of the Tiger: Goals
1000 mile challenge

If you have been reading for awhile, you know I theme my years to kind of have a focus. This started with the Little Sister in 2006 when she decided it was going to be "Year of the Awesome!". My themes for the years have not been as cool but they have been meaningful to me. I was having a hard time coming up with a theme for the Year of the Dragon and finally settled on a topic that kept popping up in my head; "....it's all in the details".

I'm not sure why this topic is so important to me right now. It might be because I have a lot of projects (home and work) that are mostly done and functional but would be much better if they were 100% complete. I have a lot of projects like that at work right now and decided I am going to finish each one of them this semester. I am not taking on anything new until I complete everything on my plate.

At home I notice I have projects that are almost complete too. The ones at home are a little different because I work on these with T and he is not someone who can be scheduled very well. It can be frustrating.....

With all these thoughts I move into the Chinese New Year. I have been procrastinating on writing this post because I have decided to address the details for completing my goals. When you put something in writing in changes how much of a commitment you have to yourself and anyone else who sees it. I guess I am getting serious about this detail stuff.

Goals for (2012) Year of the Dragon:

Food photo shoot once a month:
The Little Sister and I have decided to cook and photograph food once a month in honor of Donna Hay. This is good for me because I want to get better at photographing food and it gives me time to spend with my sister. We already did this in January and you can see it here.

Lose 5 pounds a month until I complete the 25 pound challenge.
Do you remember the 25 pound challenge with my Dad? How sad that it was two years ago and neither one of us made it. It has kind of become a family joke but I decided it is time for me to win that bet. Here is what I am going to do:

1) Exercise everyday. (I have to tell you that was a little hard to put in writing....) So yes.... exercise everyday. I have been exercising 4-5 days a week since the new year and realize I need to step it up. After completing the P90X (that's right! I am a P90X grad!!!!!) I proceeded to go to Tahoe and barely exercise. Now I find I workout on the days I go to work but slack on the weekends. No longer. Everyday I will do something active.

2) Control my eating. Count my calories. Steer clear of sugar, wheat, and dairy. That really hurt to put in writing. Even though I have been doing this all of January, it seems really extreme in type. Extreme, but needed. Exercise is great because it keeps the body strong and active but food is what fuels the body and keeps it clean. And what keeps it fat. Time for me to really start paying attention to what I choose to eat. I have been using the iPhone LoseIt! app to track my calories and exercise and really like it. So far I have lost seven pounds since coming back from the holidays using this app. Pretty cool.

3) Weigh myself often. Nothing like a good slap from the scale to re-align my goals.

4) Have monthly updates to keep myself motivated to keep going.

Run 5 miles in an hour.
I am shaking my head right now. I remember when the Middle Sister and I had a goal to run 6 miles in an hour. Guess I slowed WAY down last year. No problem. This year I will work up to 5 miles in an hour again. I will do this by once a week logging an hour of running and working with my time results to get back up to 5 miles. When I get to 5 miles, I will do my two mid-week runs at this pace and up my milage on the weekend runs. I am defiantly the tortoise but I can get back to 5 miles in an hour.

Complete Rosetta Stone: Italian
I have the Rosetta Stone for Italian. I never get past the first section. I am deciding to do something about that. I am going to complete the Rosetta Stone for Italian this year. Five days a week I am going to work on the Rosetta Stone for 15 minutes each night. This seems doable but I know it will be a struggle.

And there you have it. My goals and strategies for the Year of the Dragon. I can do it. Especially if I pay attention to the details.....


Farmers Market: Winter in So California

California (and the rest of the country) is experiencing unusually warm weather for this time of year. At least that is what the news is showing me and the fact that a few days around Christmas were defiantly "beach days" is a little odd. The warmer weather messes up my winter soup cravings and makes me just want salads. Lucky for me a rain storm (well I want to call it a storm) hit us over the weekend and soup was on the menu!

(If you are wondering I made fire-pot soup from Jenna at EatLiveRun and then made the Tuscan Kale and White Bean soup again!)

This warmer weather makes me question some of the produce I find in the Farmers' Markets. I mean, I still have tomatoes on my plants, why wouldn't they?

The whole eating things that aren't in season seems to matter to me in a way that is not 100% rational. Remember my strawberry rant? That can't be normal. But with the strange weather, I'm not sure how to feel about some of the foods I am seeing at the Farmers' Market. Case and point: these tomatoes.

Look at them! They look like grapefruits. And the colors are so vibrant. Will they taste like a summer tomato dripping with sweet goodness in a caprase salad? My guess is no.

Taste of Home magazine has put together a great guide of Seasonal Produce by State. Check out California, we have a huge list of produce available to us during the winter months. And I double checked the list for January, tomatoes are not on it. But a few things I did see at the Farmers' Market on the list were:





Sounds like a soup to me!

And my personal favorite, Satsuma Tangerines.

What about you? Are you finding unusually produce in your Farmers' Markets? Let me know I'm not the only one!


Hay Hay Donna: Frittata

A few years ago one of my goals for the year was to take "photo-studio" like pictures of food. My undergraduate degree was in photography and I had wanted to be a food photographer so I thought, why not. That goal wasn't really met and I found myself taking a lot more "street-photography" pictures of food. No big deal. It was still food and I was having fun.

In October the little sister and I were talking about how much we love the photos in the cookbooks and magazine produced by Donna Hay. We joked about starting a blog called Hay Hay Donna that would be us trying her recipes and taking pictures of the food we cooked. I am a bit of a realist though and didn't want to start a blog we might not be able to sustain. As a warm up for Hay Hay Donna I suggested we commit to cooking and photographing what we cook once a month. The little sister was in and that is what we did today.

Behold the Frittata!

The little sister whipped this up and I set up a space near a window to photograph. It might have taken us 2 hours. I personally like the photo below, and I realize I have a long way to go before my food photos become "food porn" but I am glad I get to work on this with my sister and will be brining you our monthly image. Who knows? Maybe Hay Hay Donna will one day become a reality....


Eat this! Tuscan Kale, White Bean, and Ciabatta Soup (without the ciabatta)

Sunset Magazine has a great article this month in their food section called Craving Greens (or 22 ways with fresh greens on the website). It has recipes from chefs in the west who are using greens like nettles and swiss chard. The image on the cover of the magazine is for Tuscan Kale, White Bean, and Ciabatta Soup. It looked good and I like finding ways to eat more of the greens I find in the farmers market so I tried it out this past weekend.

First of all I have to let you know I modified the recipe a bit. If you read my last post you know I am not eating wheat this month so the ciabatta never made it into my soup. Also I ended up using curly kale instead of the tuscan kale like the recipe asks for because I went to a different farmers market this weekend and that was the only kale I could find. Other than that I think I followed the recipe pretty well but did leave off the cheese at the end. Even with all these changes the soup turned out to taste really good. So good that it is going to be in the winter rotation of recipes.

Sunset magazine currently has the recipe available on there website so click this link for Tuscan Kale, White Bean, and Ciabatta Soup and give it a try. The red pepper flakes add a touch of heat while the garlic and anchovies give the soup some great depth. It is a really good soup. I highly recommend you try it!


EAT: Tea for Lunch

Today the sisters and I had "high tea" for lunch with a twist. You see I was reading a blog post from Summer Tomato about Health Recalibration recently and decided to jump on the band wagon. Like her, I had been doing a lot of traveling the last month and was feeling, well fat and sluggish. I did run a few times in Tahoe but when T and I were in Mammoth and Yosemite I didn't get to eat my normal Farmers' Market finds and it showed on the scale when I arrived home.

In case you don't read the Summer Tomato post it is basically that she is eliminating sugar, dairy, and wheat for the month of January. I thought this was a good idea and have decided to do it as well. Of course the moment you decided to stop having something you realize how much you eat it. In my case it wasn't so bad when I cooked for myself but I started to see hurdles when I ate at other peoples' homes or at restaurants. No one likes to be the girl who "can't eat anything" because she is on some crazy "diet". I personally love to cook and eat at home and decided to roll with the punches when it is within my control. I was doing pretty well when the middle sister suggested we have high tea for lunch.

High Tea usually includes delicious tea sandwiches (wheat), with cheeses (dairy), and scones and desserts (sugar). At first I said that sounded like a great idea but immediately realized this was going to be hard with my January way of eating. Lucky for me, the middle sister caught my vibe and said we should try to make a gluten free- non dairy -sugar free, tea for lunch. And we did.

The three sisters had tea-lunch together and we each modified a tea food / sandwich for the event. The menu consisted of chicken salad in endive, cucumber rounds with white bean dip and dill, and frenched green bean salad. For dessert we had a dried fruit and nut platter. We successfully had a gluten free- non dairy -sugar free, tea for lunch!

Cucumber rounds with white bean dip and dill:

Chicken salad in endive:

Dried fruit and nut platter:


Travel: Yosemite for New Years

From the Tahoe not white Christmas, T and I drove south on Hwy 395 to do some skiing in Mammoth. Last year California had an epic snow year and we decided to buy season passes to Mammoth Mountain. T decided we needed to go skiing 30 times this winter so we booked the dates on the calendar. T decided to put the Airstream in Aberdeen for the season so we have a place to stay and to keep the cat.

We arrived in Aberdeen on December 27th and hit the slopes on December 28th with one of our neighbors. The mountain was opening and the temperature outside was already 39 degrees. Not good for the snow. We skied for half the day and then left when the "snow was like mashed potatoes and the crowds started getting too big" according to our neighbor. T ended up getting sick that day and we are not sure if it was food poisoning or altitude sickness. All I know is that he slept for 15 hours and the next day we took it easy. It was during this day that I decided we should try to go to Yosemite for New Years.

I mentioned in the Tahoe not white Christmas post that there had been no snow this year and that included all of the Sierra Nevada mountains. Because of the lack of snow a lot of the mountain passes that are normally closed this time of year were still open including Tiago Pass into Yosemite from the eastern side of the Sierra. T and I packed up the airstream and left at dawn for Yosemite National Park.

T and I had taken Tiago Pass with the Airstream once this summer when we were meeting friends at Cherry Lake. It was our first time in Yosemite last summer and we didn't make it to "The Valley Floor". This trip we found a place to camp on the valley floor and were looking forward to the trip.

Here is a picture of a snow plow (guess they still have to work even if their is no snow) coming down Tiago Pass.

The ranger station at the top of the pass was closed so we didn't get to flash our annual pass but we did get to enjoy the scenery. Here is one of the many frozen ponds we passed.

The Yosemite Valley Floor was pretty amazing. When we first drove in the giant granite guardians of the valley greeted us with their dark shadows. The valley was not as big or wide as T and I thought it was going to be but it might have seemed small because everything surrounding it was so big. Even though there was no snow it was still cold in the valley. I think it was in the low 40s at the warmest part of the day. Here is a picture I took on the way out of the park. The Airstream can give you a little bit of scale for how big the granite mountains are.

After we parked the airstream in the Upper Pines Campground we headed out to explore. The first thing we checked out was The Ahwahnee Hotel. Someone told me parts of The Shining were filmed at The Ahwahnee, but seeing as I haven't seen it, I couldn't tell you which parts. I think The Ahwahnee was beautiful. There are three huge fireplaces in the main hall with lots of comfy chairs and sofas. Big windows let in dappled light and views of the surrounding valley. T and I had breakfast at The Ahwahnee on New Years Eve and it was fantastic. T had the breakfast buffet and I had the Apple Flapjack which turned out to be one of the signuture dishes and was amazing. Here are some pictures of The Ahwahnee:
The backside of the hotel

A gentelman tending one of the fireplaces. They were so big you could stand inside of them.

My apple flapjack at breakfast.

T looking out the window at breakfast. We had a 7am reservation and had the dining hall all to ourselves.

From The Ahwahnee, we headed to "Yosemite Village and the Yosemite Lodge" and checked out the Valley Visitors Center, Ansel Adams Gallery, and watched the film "Spirit of Yosemite". Later that night we ate dinner at the Mountain Room restaurant. Here is a picture of us at twilight.

Day 2 (New Year's Eve) found us riding the YARTS (free) bus around the valley floor and then we drove to Glacier Point to take some pictures of Half Dome. Here are a few pictures from the day.
YARTS bus.

View from Glacier Point geology hut.

We left on the first day of the New Year and took our time leaving the park. I've heard that Yosemite is crowded in the summer and am glad we took this opportunity to check it out. With the airstream so close in Aberdeen, I am sure we will be back soon!


Goodbye Fall 2011

Fall 2011 went by so quickly! I feel like it just started and now it is over. Looking over my blog posts from the last few months I can see I was all over the place. I was sporadic and not very focused. I did have one heck of a DIY weekend and fell in love with my crock pot again. I see I need to focus a little more on farmers markets and cooking in the up coming season. I think winter 2012 is going to be great and I look forward to sharing it here on everyAUGUST.

A word about the blog headers that get retired with each season. These are pictures I have taken and then give them a place of honor as a banner for my blog. The image for Fall 2011 is a Cafe Latte from Eat Chow. Eat Chow has one big wall that is just windows and I love getting there early for breakfast and watching the place wake up. Seeing the way the overcast skies create beautiful light in restaurant inspire me to always take pictures of my breakfast!