Sunday, May 29, 2011

A Morning Ride

I have had summer on the brain a lot lately.  The upcoming season is well on its way (despite all the rain), and I am very much ready to see the sun again!  I live in a town that is covered with biking trails, and this summer I plan to make good use of them.  One idea is to take a trail, whether walking or biking, in the early morning.  Pack a take-along breakfast, and picnic somewhere along the trail; perhaps at a park, if that is where the trail leads.  Whenever I think of picnics I think of lunch time, but why not breakfast? What an amazing way to start the day, the fresh, early air, the calming sounds of nature, the birds chirping, the soft breeze, just beautiful.  Take Bananas, blueberries, maybe some yogurt and homemade granola, yum, it would make for easy packing as well.  The exercise doesn't hurt much either; to get your juices flowing bright and early is a good habit.  Take a ride with someone you love, get a good start to the day, and remember to stay hydrated!  To greet the day with something to look forward to is the best, it is one of the little things.

April Showers Bring May...Showers?

In Oregon the rain is often.  It rains for most months out of the year, and two days away from June is no exception.  I went to sleep last night to the sound of rain pattering on the roof, and woke up to the same enchanting sound this morning.  I love the way rain sounds and looks, and when the weather is cold it gives me a reason to make one of my favorite, simple recipes; Hot Cocoa on the stove!  There is something just so wonderful, and heart-warming about a cozy, warm, mug of hot cocoa on a nippy day.  Making the cocoa on the stove is even better; it gives the drink an extra ounce of care and love, it makes it even more special.

Stove Top Hot Cocoa:

 *Makes 3 to 5 servings

  • 4 to 5 cups of milk (I use fat free, but it doesn't really matter; 1%, 2%, or whole milk makes for creamy dreamy hot cocoa)
  • scant 2/3 cup unsweetened dark cocoa powder (more or less depending on your chocolate preference)
  • 1/2 cup sugar (I like sugar in the raw)
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 cup whipping cream, or heavy cream
    **Optional Toppings: whipped cream, marshmallows, extra cinnamon, chocolate/white chocolate shavings 

    1. Turn a burner on to med/high and place heavy bottomed pot on burner.
    2. Add milk, cocoa powder, sugar, vanilla,cinnamon, and nutmeg to the pot; stir continually with a whisk, breaking up any clumps, and simmer ingredients for about 5 minutes, getting as close as possible to a boil, without actually boiling it.
    3. Pour into mugs, filling them about 3/4 of the way up. 
    4. Add 2 to 3 tablespoons of whipping cream (heavy cream) to the mugs and stir.
    5. Whipped cream, marshmallows, an extra sprinkling of cinnamon, and/or chocolate shavings can be added to top the drink off.
    6. Serve as is, or with an accompaniment of fresh baked cookies (browned butter, or chocolate-peanut butter cookies are what I bake!)   

    Backyard Bliss

    The backyard should be a place of enjoyment and relaxation.  The backyard is over looked by many, and I believe it is something people take for granted.  It is a little thing in life, that I feel should be taken care of, that sadly, often times is not. 

    During the warm months, barbeques, Fourth Of July parties, and all sorts of fun activities take place in the good old backyard.  A fun way to dress up your backyard for the warm months is to add color. This could be by doing anything from adding some new, outdoor throw pillows to the current seating arrangements; adding hanging colored votive candles to the trees in the space; planting as many flowers as possible; using pretty planters in the yard, watering the ground for bright green grass, or anything else that might make you smile!

    Those Summer Time Nights

    Night time can be so magical, especially in the summer time.  The nights are a cool break from the day time heat, but not nearly as chilly as they are in the spring, fall, or winter.  One idea, that is a favorite of mine, is to make the night a time to reconnect with the whole family.  The backyard is the perfect place to do this when the weather is nice, as it is in the summer.

    Camping in the backyard is just so fun! It is relativity easy to do since the traveling distance is minimal.  This idea is great for the little ones in particular; keeping a close eye on them is simplified a bit.  If a fire-pit is readily available, it makes the experience much more authentic.  A hot dog roast, (made with turkey or chicken dogs are best) and traditional s'mores can be made around the makeshift campfire.  Tents, lanterns, firewood, sleeping bags, bug repellent, sunscreen, etc. should be outside ready to go for a great camping adventure everyone is sure to love.