TRYING STARBUCKS SALTED CREAM COLD FOAM BREW & VISITING CLINE FALLS NATIONAL PARK, OREGON

TRYING STARBUCKS SALTED CREAM COLD FOAM BREW & VISITING CLINE FALLS NATIONAL PARK, OREGON

I love blogging. It hits the spot. It’s like my little punch of dopamine. Some play video games; I try and weave a blog post together. And neither of us will judge the other, okay? It pulls me out of the daily monotony and displaces time doing physical labor–something I’ve grown to DESPISE.  Unloading dishwasher…diaper changing…folding clothes….putting things away constantly….cleaning out the car…cleaning up after meals….grocery shopping….weeding the front flower bed….putting things away….picking things up….bathtime….getting up throughout the night (for almost 3 years now) to feed screaming babies….and never enough rest or time to do the things I desire to do.

Someday people will look back at our current time and instead of saying “There’s an app for that”, they’ll be saying “There’s a robot for that.” Imagine how much more free time future people will have for video games and surfing the internet while ignoring 3-D humans by enslaving semi-humanoids/Robots? Bonus, we won’t need to go to college either. There will probably be some way of downloading information straight into our brains…perhaps some attachment device to our brains so specific kinds of knowledge integrates and adds to our own minds! Why bother studying when you can just BECOME MORE AWARE, MORE knowledgeable with just the press of a button? BYE BYE AlZHEIMERS, BYE BYE  Double Digit IQ.

Today has been hot. HOT. I think it’s 102 degrees and we don’t have an air conditioner. Instead of enjoy the balmy 87 degree house temp, I thought getting out and hitting some air conditioned stores would be best.

We began with Tuesday morning Storytime at the library. If you live anywhere near Bend (Oregon) you can appreciate all the FREE CHILDREN’S ACTIVITIES here! Summertime is dense with activities, everything from parks galore to free lunches, free crafts and games with terrific staff. There’s also free music (but not free food) at Drake Park on Thursday evenings. Don’t forget Farmer’s Market downtown on Wednesdays!

MY CHILDREN AT TUESDAY MORNING LIBRARY STORYTIME

 

After Storytime, we headed over to Target to try a SALTED CREAM COLD FOAM BREW offered by Starbucks. WHAT A SUPRISING CONCOCTION! Delectably creamy, deeply-brewed with a tingle of salty aftermath. If you don’t mind a bit of salty flavor, you’ll really enjoy this drink! My daughter also requested her first CAKE POP upon spotting a row inside the glass pastry shelf. In case you needed to know, we actually went to Target to purchase baby food and my daughter’s first set of underpants. Milestones are underway.

I WANT SALTED CREAM COLD BREW COFFEE MAMA! PLEEEEEEASE!!!

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Trying her very first CAKE POP! What an irony for such a hot day.

 

 

We also spent a chunk of the hot day at Cline Falls State Park. This is a very beautiful region in central Oregon near Redmond–like the quintessential ‘oasis in the desert’. You’ll see the usual scrubby evergreen trees and earthy terrain and suddenly you’ll spot the river and it’s grassy green banks.  It will settle your soul, akin to taking a deep breath on a hot, parched afternoon.

Since I had little one’s we didn’t make it to the Falls section, but we did find multiple “beach spots” to play along a calm section of the river. I highly recommend it here–especially for little ones. There are so many gentle wading areas and deeper, yet easy flowing areas for a nice float.  There are plenty of picnic tables too! Just make sure to go on a weekday and earlier in the day too. You’ll easily find a spot to enjoy the river. We found some nice companions there who offered us freshly picked cherries. 

Enjoying the Deschutes River near Cline Falls:

 

 

 

 

 

 

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THINGS TO DO NEAR BEND, OREGON. RAINFORESTS and OLD GROWTH GROVES with MY CHILDREN!

THINGS TO DO NEAR BEND, OREGON. RAINFORESTS and OLD GROWTH GROVES with MY CHILDREN!

Do you ever just pack up your kids, get in your car and start driving? You have a general idea of where you’re going, but nothing more. That’s what I did this Wednesday. I’m becoming increasingly less timid taking my 9 month old and 2 year old out on “adult-like” adventures by myself.

I wanted to revisit the Willamette National Forest (a lush rainforest–almost tropical) and also the Santiam River.The Santiam River has been whispering my name since our last visit. We crossed the Santiam Pass back in May on our drive to the Oregon coast and drove right next to the Santiam river.

Perhaps, one of the most inviting rivers I have ever seen. Sparkling water of various depths weaves over a rock and clay river bed. Every twist and turn of this river has interesting features, like deep blue pools of water (perfect swimming holes!) or stretches of river with a smooth, clay covered bottom. It is densely vegetated in this rainforest and the trees that flank the banks are cloaked in moss.

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The problem with this river– and perhaps why it’s so pristine– is that it fairly hard to find a spot on the side of the road to park. Even more, it’s difficult to find any trails to navigate down to it. It’s not accessible in most places. I guess you could forge your way through a densely vegetated drop-off to reach the river–but with a baby in the front pack and a toddler, there was no way I was trying that. Honestly though, the day was so hot and the bright sunshine was cajoling us to the river so we found another, safer spot to splash:

 

I also wanted to scamper into the Hackleman Old Growth Grove with my children. And we did. These Old Growth trees were unreal… simply magical. I would highly recommend taking your children (of all ages) on this trail–its even (partly) wheel chair and stroller accessible. Even on a hot day you have plenty of shade from all the trees overhead and a nice breeze too. It feels cool in the forest on a hot day!

The best part? We basically had the hiking path to ourselves. What a glorious day seeing nature, past and present.

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The Willamette National Forest:

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COLD BREW COFFEE RECIPE and PAINTING GAUGUIN’S, “THE YELLOW CHRIST”.

COLD BREW COFFEE RECIPE and PAINTING GAUGUIN’S, “THE YELLOW CHRIST”.

This week has been one heck of a ride. Lot’s to be excited about and lots of future adventures on the horizon that I’ll be blogging about. I’ve been doing some “copying” lately with regards to recipes and, well, famous paintings. Learn from the best right? Sometimes creativity is playing around with other people’s ideas–make sure and give them ALL THE CREDIT, of course.

Another thing…I failed at a scratch banana cream pie. I noticed that I had extra whip cream and some bananas (about to go bad), so why not attempt it? It turns out that cooking custard and getting a desirable consistency is something only genius cooks with arcane culinary and mathematical skills can master.

Here is my pie. But I won’t ruin your moment and display the runny, slushy middle. It tasted AMAZING. Impeccable freshness with a deliciously thick homemade graham cracker crust. However, the consistency of the filling was WAAAY off–even after allowing it to set for 6 hours uncovered in the fridge.

Making a “firm enough” custard filling is one of those precarious situations. You better not undercook or overcook it and it has to be done accurately within 5-7 minutes on your stovetop. You have to stir rapidly during the boiling process (no distractions or multi-tasking). Oh, and don’t let your custard brown on the bottom of the pan during your 5-7 minute boil. It’s very difficult to achieve a decent result because the parameters are so strict. Don’t accidentally scramble the eggs either–you’ll get lumps.

I don’t want any liability or litigation, so I won’t be posting this banana cream pie recipe here. I will give the taste of this pie an A+ but the consistency an F–it was very creamy (no lumps) but it just wasn’t firm enough. My daughter keeps asking for more–so we’ll be eating it over the next couple days.

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After my pie failure, I decided to go for something easier. How about cold brewed coffee? I had been skimming over the Pioneer Woman’s cookbook and noticed her recipe. I basically followed her General Plan for iced coffee.

I used a very dark coffee bean (Rwandan Coffee beans) and ground them up. Then I scooped 3 large cups of my freshly ground coffee and dumped them into a glass bowl.

Next, I poured 6 cups of COLD water over the coffee grounds and gave it a quick mix with a spoon. Finally, I covered it in plastic wrap, set it on the counter top and let it brew for over 12 hours.

Once the 12 hours were up, I found a bigger glass bowl, a sieve and some paper towels. I strained the ground coffee mixture through the sieve and about 2-5 layers of paper towels (yes, this will take a bit of patience but I promise it works as a PERFECT FILTER and I didn’t get a single stray coffee ground in my final brew!

 

I poured the cold brewed coffee into a juice dispenser and let it chill in the fridge over night. My only regret is that I didn’t make enough!

Let me tell you, this is the BEST CHILLED/ICED/COLD-BREW COFFEE I’VE EVER TASTED!

Just fill a glass with ice cubes, decant your brewed coffee into the icy mix and dribble in some half and half and a spoonful of sugar (or don’t). Either way, its just luscious!

I thought that the dark roast would be too-overpowering, but it wasn’t at all. It just tasted rich…deeply flavored even after a splash of half and half.

Another thing that I’ve been doing this past month is trying to paint, “The Yellow Christ” by Paul Gauguin. The Yellow Christ has always been one of my favorite paintings of all time. I just find the color scheme breathtakingly original. Gauguin is definitely one of my favorite painters–one of his paintings sold for 300 million in 2015–just to give you some perspective of his classic popularity and talent.

Here is my version:

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We’re also working on another acrylic painting (this one, 100% my own idea) with my little painting helper beside me!

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Boxed Brownies For Imbeciles!!!

Boxed Brownies For Imbeciles!!!

I apologize if my brownie blog post conjures up feelings of oppression or triggers anxiety. I’m happy for you if you’ve already mastered the astute skill of boxed brownie making and I’m not sure I can offer anything in this post.

This post is actually for ME! Because I’m incompetent when it comes to brownie-making. I’m posting it here so that I can refer to it for my future brownie-baking endeavors.

I’m 37 years old. I’ve never, ever made decent brownies to save a squirrel. I’ve tried baking them from scratch. I’ve tried making every possible boxed brownie mix I could find but never any success. NEVER.

Like many, my problem isn’t with flavor (who can’t add a few marshmallows, chocolate chips, nuts or whatever–as if that’s brilliant?). My failure has always been with texture…consistency…how they swim and melt on my palate. In the end, the brilliance is in the baking.

I always make brownies either A. Undercooked or B. So hard and tough that you feel like you’re eating beef jerky.

THE TWO THINGS I LEARNED ABOUT MAKING BOXED BROWNIES?

Over the past few months I’ve been doing some brownie research. Why does this ALWAYS happen to me? I’ve discovered that there are a couple reasons.

The first thing that I kept coming across was that in order to achieve a chewy, gooey texture with adequate density and thickness (but still baked properly) you need to make a double batch (2 boxes of brownie mix) and bake in a 9×13 aluminum pan!

The second thing is to mix the wet ingredients separately, add them to the dry ingredients, and let your mixer swirl the ingredients for just a few seconds–just until they are imperfectly wet and mixed. If you beat the ingredients too long, your brownie batter develops air pockets and makes the texture more like a cake than a brownie.

Today I finally made brownies that tasted delicious, but even better–had the correct “brownie-texture” once I followed these simple rules:

  1. Use 2 boxes of brownie mix. I used this one:

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2. Double all your ingredients as per your box (obviously, you’re using 2 boxes).

3. Mix the wet ingredients separately and completely.

4. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and beat with mixer just until mixed.

5. Smear a decent layer of vegetable oil all over a 9×13 aluminum pan.

6. Pour brownie batter into super greasy pan.

7. Heat oven to 325 degrees.

8. Bake the brownies for 50-53 minutes. I baked mine for 51 minutes and they turned out perfectly gooey inside with a crackly top.

8. Let your brownies cool (and continue to cook in pan) for over 1 hour after you pull them out of the oven. I cut mine after about 2.5 hours.

They are still gooey inside but sufficiently baked! This has been my struggle!! Finally I have a decent brownie plan for future brownie creations.

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