Wednesday, September 21, 2016

South Dakota Success!

I just got back from a week-long road trip to South Dakota, and it was incredible!  Perfect weather, the biggest, bluest open skies I've ever seen, amazing hiking and great company - it couldn't have been any better.

I'll finish up with the posts from Universal Orlando (I'm slow, I know) then begin writing about Rapid City and Custer State Park.  In the meantime, here are a couple of teaser pics I took:



Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Universal Orlando Trip - Day 2, Part 2

Tip:  Always take a ziploc bag with you to a theme park - it's great to slip your phone/wallet into on water rides, and comes in super handy if it rains.  Also, you still need to wear sunscreen on overcast days.

After Jurassic Park, we continued on and came to the newest attraction at Universal, Skull Island: Reign of Kong.

Just like the Harry Potter area/rides, Skull Island gets extraordinary marks for theming.  On the outside it really looks foreboding with a huge weathered black wall covered with skulls, spears and torches, giant carved gorilla head (through which you enter) and mist-covered mountains rising in the distance.  Off to one side there's a huge temple with massive doors that open for the ride vehicles to pass through.

My current wallpaper
Just amazing from the outside

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Universal Orlando Trip - Day 2, Part 1: Harry Potter and Jurassic Park

Today we set off for Islands of Adventure.  The park opened at 9am, but guests staying on-site get one hour early access to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter section - another perk of staying with Universal.

Fun with mirrors
Good morning Orlando

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Universal Orlando Trip - Day 1

We just got back from spending 4 days at Universal Studios and Universal Islands of Adventure in Orlando, Florida, and it was a blast!  The attractions ranged from fun to amazing, the parks were clean, and the employees were friendly and efficient with lots of smiles.  The crowd levels were low, plus we had plenty of rain (which didn't bother us) which drove the numbers down even lower.

In case you forget where you are

I'd be remiss if I didn't start off by saying that although I'm not a big Harry Potter fan (the movies were fun to watch, but once was enough, and I haven't seen the last 3 or 4 of them), the Harry Potter areas and rides at Universal were nothing short of incredible.  Talk about being transported!  Hogsmeade at Islands of Adventure and Diagon Alley at Universal Studios are the most well-done, well-themed, areas I have ever seen at any theme park.  The queues and rides in those areas are so fully-immersive; it's like being in that world.  It really is worth the cost of travel and price of admission to see, and that's not even including the new Reign of Kong, or the fun Simpsons Land, or the etc., etc.

Hogsmeade at Islands of Adventure

We stayed on-site at the Loews Royal Pacific Resort, and it was also great.  We had a slight problem after checking in, and the hotel staff immediately resolved it:  The hotel rooms are all non-smoking, but when we got up to our room it smelled, strongly, of cigarette smoke.  I called down to the lobby and requested they move us.  Within 5 minutes a member of the front desk staff brought up key cards to another room, apologized for the inconvenience, and we were set.  Great service!

Now, on to the photos.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Passiflora Incarnata

In 2008 I took this picture of a flower while on vacation in San Francisco:

Spotted in the Grace Marchant Gardens as we descended the Filbert Steps from Coit Tower down Telegraph Hill.

I had never seen anything like it and had no idea what it was, other than amazing.

Imagine my surprise then when a couple of days ago I spotted its purple cousin while on a walk in my own neighborhood in DFW.  Thanks to the community at iNaturalist, and the iNaturalist app, I now know that it is a Purple Passionflower, and that it is a native plant of Texas.  Funny that I've lived here my whole life and never seen one.

Vines overgrowing the hedge with just a few blossoms by the side of the street
An amazing flower
It's like a purple sun with a yellow carnival ride in the middle



Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Bananas Foster Sorbet - OMG

The peach sorbet was good, the cantaloupe sorbet was great, the bananas foster sorbet is amazing!

Bananas foster sorbet

No recipe for this one - I just tinkered.  I started with a simple syrup, substituting brown sugar for white.  When the sugar was dissolved I took it off the heat and added about a tablespoon or tablespoon-and-a-half of unsalted butter and let it melt in.  A teaspoon of rum extract (I would have used actual rum, but I didn't have any on hand.  Next time.) and a healthy dash of cinnamon topped off the mix.

I added it to my bananas in the blender, pureed it, then put it in the refrigerator for an hour to bring the temperature down.  After that I processed it in the Cuisinart ice cream maker for 35 minutes, then let it sit in the freezer overnight.

The results were delicious!  This one definitely goes to the top of the list.  Now, what to try next?

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

A Rainy Morning On The Canal - Videos

After a week long summer cold I was back to walking for exercise yesterday.  Of course as luck would have it it was raining, but not too bad, and the temperature was down so it wasn't so hot.

While I was out I shot a couple of videos:  one of the rain on the water and a duck coming in to land, and the other a slow motion shot of a fish breaching the surface of the water.  Enjoy.




Sunday, August 7, 2016

Speedwalking In My Asics

A short time-lapse video I made on this morning's walk.  The music is "The Best Revenge (Tocadisco's Macaco Gordo Mix)" by Fischerspooner, from the Danse en France EP (not available in iTunes).

Let's go!



Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Tunnel Vision

You may recall that while the local park is closed (due to flooding aftermath) I've been sometimes walking along the canals that snake through our neighborhood (ooh, foreshadowing).

Along the way there are several tunnels; I thought I'd chronicle a few below.  There are more after the jump.


I don't go through this one anymore - their are light fixtures along the left wall and all are thickly covered with spider webs and a disturbing amount of harmful-looking brown spiders.  They're on the ceiling too and the thought of one dropping on me makes my skin crawl.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Sunday: A Second Serving Of Sorbet - The Results

Ok, so I have to say this turned out to be one of the best things I've made.  The key is definitely ensuring the melon is at the peak of ripeness.

Cantaloupe sorbet

Working with an Alton Brown recipe as a starting point, I tweaked it to my liking and taste.  The result is a smooth, cold, sweet, perfectly cantaloupe-flavored treat with a little twist and kick.  Very refreshing.  The recipe is below.

4 cups chilled ripe cantaloupe, diced roughly into 1-inch cubes
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons Absolut Raspberri Vodka
1 to 1/4 cups sugar, depending on ripeness of melon
1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon fresh-ground coarse black pepper, to taste

Place the melon in a blender or food processor and process until smooth.  Add the lemon juice, vodka and sugar and process until the sugar is incorporated, about another 30 seconds.

Place the mixture in the refrigerator until cold (30 min to 1 hour depending on how cold the melon was going in).

Add the mixture to the ice-cream maker of your choice, and process according to the manufacturer's directions.  (I used a Cuisinart ice-cream maker, and let it churn for 30 minutes).  Approx. 5-10 minutes before completion, add the cracked black pepper and let the machine mix it in.

Transfer the sorbet quickly to an airtight, freezer-safe container, and let chill for at least 4 hours; preferably overnight.  For best results, serve in a chilled dish or bowl.

Delicious!

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Sunday: A Second Serving Of Sorbet

Hmm...what can I do with this?
No, that won't work.  But maybe...
...with a little help?
Stay tuned - I'll let you know tomorrow how it turns out.

A Morning Walk On The Canal

Clear and hot this morning, with a slight breeze that helped (a little).
Morning along the canal

Here's the fauna I saw this morning while walking:

2 Great blue herons
1 night heron
Many squirrels
Many ducks - mostly brown, but there's this one white one that's part of their raft
Many turtles
1 rabbit
1 lizard
Many spiders (ugh)
A swarm of dragonflies
Several dogs (being walked)
Quite a few Pokemon, which didn't matter 'cause I was out of Pokeballs.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Tough choices

So for quite a while now I've had the photo below as my desktop background:

From Lyndon Wade's fantastic photo series "The Birds"
Yes, it's a recreation of/homage to the classic Alfred Hitchcock film "The Birds", but first and foremost it's an incredible work of photography.  The attention to detail, sense of movement, drama, terror, anguish that Lyndon Wade was able to capture in a still photograph is beyond words.  It's a disturbing subject, to be sure, but executed so well that you can't stop looking at it.

I'm temporarily changing my desktop to this photo of the sky I took yesterday.  Just for a little serenity break, mind you. Then I'll go back to the dark perfection of children being attacked by birds.

A sky sans birds
Much more serene, don't you think?

A Beautiful Evening

Ratatouille for dinner and an evening walk with a beautiful sky - what could be better?

Gorgeous

Sans buildings
Easy, healthy, vegetarian and delicious

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Anamia's Tex-Mex

Had a late lunch yesterday at Anamia's.  Made-at-the-table guacamole (no one does it better) and shrimp sautéed in garlic and lime on a bed of vegetables and rice.  Delicious.

Camarones al mojo de ajo

Saturday, July 23, 2016

So This Happened...

I signed up for Snapchat yesterday.  This is the result:



Peach Sorbet And Potato Chips

I went to Central Market the other day and bought a bunch of honking big peaches and plums.  That wasn't the intention of my trip - I actually went because they have several great, flavored, whole-bean, decaf coffee beans you can buy by the pound and because I've found they carry Utz brand dark russet potato chips.  I love "burnt" (they're not really over-cooked; the natural sugars in the russet potato caramelize giving them a dark color and unique taste) potato chips, and way back when it was a treat finding them mixed in with the other "normal" chips in a bag - they added variety and flavor.  It's a shame now that the homogenization of the major chip manufacturers' potatoes and processes results in such a dull,  boring product; they've strived to deliver the exact same chip every time for consistency, but unfortunately that's exactly what they got - no variety, each chip the exact same as the last, maybe one is doubled over, hooray, consume mass quantities, etc.  With Utz dark russets, that delicious "burnt" flavor is the star, but not all the chips are exactly the same due to differing levels of naturally occurring sugars.  I highly recommend trying these if you find them in your local store.  If not, you can order them directly from Utz here.  Note, I'm not paid to endorse anything on my site - this is more own opinion and endorsement solely because I really, really, like them!
Photo from prestofreshgrocery.com

But I digress.  Back to peaches.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

What's Cooking?

For dinner tonight I tried something new:  lemon chicken, roasted asparagus, and white corn on the cob.  I wanted something easy, flavorful and light, and this fit the bill.  Todd hates asparagus but he asked for seconds and ending up eating half of it.

This was a great dinner on a hot summer day.  Recipes after the jump.

The goal
The result; sauce was on the side.  Not much on presentation, but it tasted great.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Caught In The Storm

Yesterday morning I met Mom at 7am to play tennis, but just as I arrived at the courts it started to rain.  It only rained for about 5-10 minutes, but it was enough to make the courts unusable.  So instead we walked the mile-long path that went around the park and called it a day.

When I got home, it was overcast, but didn't look bad.  I checked the weather and it showed a 30% chance of rain was still 3 hours away, so I put on my headphones and went walking.  I walked out about 2.5 miles before turning back to go home, and when I turned around I saw this:

Oh snap
Where did this come from?
Just then the wind picked up and the temperature dropped noticeably.  I stopped to take this video of the edge of the storm - the bump in the middle is when my hat blew off:




Sunday, July 10, 2016

A Matter Of Perspective, Or "The Things That Tequila Goes Around"

I'm reminded today that everything is a matter of perspective:  Being able to take a step back and see the bigger picture, to imagine ourselves in someone else's shoes - this is what separates us from the animals.  Specifically, birds.

Take for instance a tasty lunch.  You might enjoy, like I did today, this delicious deep-dish pizza from Classic Chicago Gourmet Pizza in Irving, TX.  Called "The Great Chicago Fire", it comes with spicy sausage, sport peppers, garlic, cilantro and mozzarella cheese.  It was eye-wateringly, nose-runningly good, and it has a ton of cilantro (which I love).  Pair it with a house salad and a Coke and voila:  tasty lunch.
Added bonus:  it had a nice crisp crust and wasn't oily/greasy.
On the other hand, if you're a bird your idea of a tasty lunch might be something more like this:
Um, pardon me garçon, but...
A mealworm cake (yum!) we spied while shopping for bird feeders at Home Depot.  It's main ingredient, as you might have figured out by now, is mealworms, but it's also packed with the goodness of sunflower chips and gelatin.  So there's that.

It just goes to show that one bird's meat is another man's poison, so to speak.  And while we may not see eye to eye, the important thing to remember is we've all got to eat.

To each his own, live and live, etc. etc.
"Not for human consumption".  Thanks for the heads-up, but I don't think you have to worry about that - my first thought was not "Yum, the things that tequila goes around."

Morning On The Canal

There are two great places to walk in my area:  a 10.5 mile greenbelt area with parks and a system of paved trails, or along the canals used for local flood control.

A large portion of the greenbelt area near me is still closed due to flooding, so this morning I walked along the canals.  Below are some photos, and a playlist of the music I listened to to is posted on my other blog, Shuffle My Feet, at www.shufflemyfeet.com.  Check it out and have a great Sunday y'all!






Tuesday, July 5, 2016

No Parking: Lot Flooded Again

Heavy wind and rains last night brought more high water to the DFW metroplex:

Check out more photos and a video on my other blog:  Shuffle My Feet