Athletes aren’t the only ones into winter sports. Cobalt and I are pretty excited about them too. And as much as we’ve enjoyed watching curling and figure skating, we really wanted to get outside.
But there’s a problem. We haven’t had much winter here. So this weekend, we and some of our friends went on a mission to 1) find snow and 2) go cross-country skiing and snowshoeing through it.
Cobalt and I, plus six of our friends and their three dogs, headed to White Pass, Washington where we skied/snowshoed on and around the Pacific Crest Trail. Cobalt went snowshoeing with four of the friends and all three dogs, and I skied with Q and J.
The Pacific Crest Trail was pretty narrow and it went straight uphill, so we were worried that we were going to have a rough time going down on skis. But that turned out to be the best part of the whole day! We cruised (and fell a lot) down the trail and came out the other side smiling. And then we went up and did it again.
And then we all went out for beer and pizza afterwards. Yum. Good day. :)
Short post today because there’s lots of other stuff going on. But I’ll see you guys next week! Same time, same place! Meanwhile, anyone else have some winter sporting activities they want to share?
I really wanted to eat something buttery, crunchy, and flaky. And yet, most croissants that I have found, while delicious, fall short of that description. So I decided to try to make my own!
Now croissants are crazy flaky because they’re made out of puff pastry, which is basically flour and a LOT of butter folded over and over and over onto itself to make those layers we so appreciate. You can buy puff pastry at the store but I wanted to make my own. It takes a while because you have to keep the butter cold. So a typical recipe has you do a fold, then put the dough in the fridge for 30 min to an hour to chill the butter before you fold it again. It’s a lot of waiting. I decided the weekend would be the best time to try it.
Cobalt and I have Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything book so I decided to start there. I spent Saturday evening rolling and folding the dough, as per Bittman’s suggestions. Then I put it in the fridge overnight so I could make toasty croissants for Sunday morning brunch.
On Sunday, I rolled out and shaped the croissants. They looked good. Check it out.
Then I popped them in the oven. After about 25 minutes, they looked golden brown and pretty.
Though they looked pretty, they felt kind of weird. They were heavier than I thought a croissant should be. Could be okay still though. It came down to a taste test.
The inside was a disaster. They were still raw in there! I wonder if I made them too big. But also, they didn’t really taste great.
I went on a mission for a new croissant recipe. And I found this one by The Great British Bake Off’s judge Paul Hollywood.
So I went to the store and gathered some more supplies (these things need a lot of butter). And then I started on the recipe.
Hollywood’s recipe has yeast in it, which I took to be a good sign. Croissants that have risen maybe wouldn’t be as dense as the Bittman ones were.
This recipe was a little more complicated than the Bittman one. First of all, the ingredients were listed in grams instead of our American cups and teaspoons. But that’s okay! I have a kitchen scale. I pretended I was back in the lab: I tared the scale and then weighed out the exact amounts of my ingredients.
The recipe also called for “caster sugar,” which is apparently superfine sugar. Our store had sugar and powdered sugar (which is superfine sugar with cornstarch in it), so I had to make my own caster sugar. I took regular sugar and put it in the food processor. Voila. Superfine!
Then all of Hollywood’s measurements were in centimeters instead of inches. I’m not great at guestimating centimeters, so I borrowed my measuring tape from my sewing kit.
Finally, I had some drama getting the butter the way Hollywood described it. But at last I got the dough to its stopping point and let it rest overnight in the fridge.
On Monday morning, I rolled out the dough and shaped the croissants. Not bad!
These ones were smaller than the Bittman ones but they also had a two-hour rise before I baked them. They puffed up!
And then they puffed up even more even more in the oven. Oh man. They looked and smelled so good. Plus they were light and super flaky!
Time for a taste test. Looks like Cobalt likes them! Yummmmm….
I really like making puff pastry dough (minus adding the butter to the Hollywood recipe, which made me infuriated). There’s something so relaxing about rolling out and folding this dough. Especially with the Hollywood recipe because it smelled so good. :D
I’m definitely going to have to try this one again. I have to figure out how to perfect that butter part! Also maybe I should mix up the recipe a little. Maybe make some pain au chocolat (chocolate croissants)? Yes please!
I hope you all are enjoying the new lunar year! Year of the Dog! Did anyone make/eat dumplings? :)
Who wants to see a giant waterfall that has no water in it? Oo oo sign Cobalt and Potassium up! That’s right, we drove two hours away to see the grave of an ancient waterfall!
This week’s post is a continuation of Cobalt’s and my exploration of how floods from thousands of years ago carved out the landscape of eastern Washington state. A few weeks ago, we went to see Palouse Falls, and then the next weekend we headed farther north to see its cousin, Dry Falls.
During the end of the last ice age, Dry Falls was apparently the largest waterfall in the world at 3.5 miles wide and 400 feet tall! That’s like five times the width of all three falls that make up Niagara Falls. And the tallest of the Niagara Falls is less than 200 feet. So… Dry Falls was friggin’ HUGE. Tons of water surged over these now-dry cliffs as it made its way toward the sea. And now it’s all gone. The only thing that remains are the cliffs themselves and those ponds, called “plunge pools,” where the cascading water carved out the rock below. But it must have been quite a sight!
I took this picture from the visitor center, which sits at the top of Dry Falls. The whole time we were up there, I was itching to get down to the bottom. I wanted to be surrounded by these huge cliffs and imagine what it would have been like to be completely underwater.
It turns out that there’s a trail that takes you to the edge of that plunge pool on the left in that picture, and it wasn’t too cold out. So Cobalt, our friend K and I had a wonderful walk across the floor of the former riverbed. It also turns out that it’s really hard to photograph just how crazy and awe-inspiring it felt to be surrounded by walls of rock that used to be a waterfall. But I’ll try:
Utter craziness, I say. Stay tuned for more fun with ice age floods as Cobalt’s and my exploring continues. Are you from the area? Where should we go next? We’re always on the lookout for our next adventure. :)
What happens when you’re super excited about something, and then it doesn’t happen? That energy has to go somewhere, right? Last week, I decided to put my disappointment about missing the lunar eclipse into taking crazy double exposure photos of Tarantula and the moon. It was possibly more challenging than photographing the eclipse itself, AND it made me giggle, which cheered me up.
It all started last Tuesday evening, when I was nerding out about the Super Blue Blood Moon! I love taking pictures of the moon (as y’all know), and lunar eclipses (the “blood moon” part) are especially fun to photograph. Unlike a solar eclipse, you don’t need crazy equipment to keep your eyes and your camera safe. You just point the camera at the moon and click click click click. Yayyyy. Cool moon pictures.
The total eclipse was supposed to start at… 4:50 am on Wednesday morning here in Washington state. My friend K and I planned to get up at 4 am and meet up so we could witness/photograph the wonder together. Great plan!
4 am is quite a bit earlier than I am used to getting up, though, so I decided to pack my camera stuff the night before. That way, I could roll out of bed, grab my fancy new camera bag, and go see the moon!
I was getting everything ready when I looked up and saw the super moon watching me through the window. It was pretty neat. Some trick of the light made a mini reflection of the super moon right underneath the moon itself. I liked it because it was still a pretty detailed reflection. So I took a few photos. But not too many because I thought I would have way cooler ones in the morning.
BUT when I woke up at 4 am, it was CLOUDY. Cobalt, nice husband that he is, even went on a mini walk outside to see if our apartment was blocking the moon. He came back with sad news. No eclipse for me.
I was so grumpy on Wednesday. People were posting such cool photos online. Blood moon over an observatory, blood moon over the ocean, blood moon, blood moon, blood moon! It seemed like everyone saw it! And yet, I had nothing. It’s not like I slept through my alarm, or I forgot to charge my camera battery. It’s just that sometimes, these things happen. It was out of my control.
On Wednesday night, when the moon rose, I glared at it. It was still kind of cloudy, but you could see the moon. It was taunting me. Oh now you decide to show up, moon.
A part of me suggested that maybe I take some full moon pictures anyway. My camera was already prepped for moon photos. So I grudgingly set everything up and took a few photos of the moon from our deck.
Tarantula watched me from the back door. That’s when I got the idea. What if… I took a picture of the moon and then, using the multiple exposure mode on my camera, took a picture of Tarantula so that it looked like she was watching it?
Crazy challenge accepted! Finally all my grumpiness had somewhere to go: This photo was going to require some serious planning.
The way the multiple exposure mode works is that it takes two (or more, depending on what you tell it) consecutive photos and smashes them together into one photo. So I had to take two perfect photos back to back. Which was hard because the moon and the inside of my house are lit quite differently. Also Tarantula is quite a bit closer to my camera than the moon is. ALSO… I had to remember where I framed the moon in the photo and then somehow get my cat to look in that general direction.
It took two different lenses (take picture of moon, switch lens to portrait lens, adjust settings, take picture of cat) and a lot of trial and error.
I’m still sad that I didn’t get to see the eclipse. But at least I got to have fun with my camera, which is one of the things I was looking forward to. I’ve been trying to take pictures that tell a story. Sure, a photo of the eclipse would have told a “Potassium got up super early so she could see this sweet lunar phenomenon” story. But these photos tell a pretty neat story too. I mean, how often do cats get to look at a moon in their own living rooms?
Now it’s your turn! Did you see the eclipse? What’s something that’s disappointed you lately? How did you handle your feelings?
Helloooo! How is it the last week of January?! How did this happen? So confusing.
Today I am gonna talk about Cobalt’s and my weekend adventure to Palouse Falls. So this is crazy: in the middle of eastern Washington farms, there are these amazingly epic falls. These falls were formed by ice age floods that carved out the landscape across eastern Washington thousands of years ago. Apparently these falls are the only ice-age-flood-formed waterfalls that flow all year round! So pretty. So intense.
So anyway, this past weekend Cobalt and I went to Palouse Falls after our friend L showed us pictures. The falls are spectacular and super easy to see, even if you don’t like hiking. From the parking area, there’s a viewpoint that looks out over them. But Cobalt and I wanted to explore a little more. So we followed a series of trails that led us back behind the falls and down to the river.
From there, we were surrounded by towering cliffs, rushing water, and soft moss and other friendly plants. Then we left the slippery, mossy rocks behind and got back on a trail surrounded by green and yellow grasses blowing gently in the wind. Creeping along the cliff wall, we followed the river back around to the waterfall. Then we rounded the corner of the cliff and stepped out next to the top of the waterfall. Huge gusts of wind blew mist up in our faces where it coated our glasses. Cobalt and I grinned at each other and then picked our way to the waterfall and then the surrounding areas. It was incredible! From the top of the falls, we could see how the floods had carved out a canyon below the waterfall. Here are some pictures.
Eventually, we had to go back to the car. So we picked our way back over the trail on the other side of the waterfall. On the way back, I got distracted by the green plants. They were so green and so detailed. I wished I had a macro lens for my DSLR so I could take some crazy up-close and pictures to show off just how intricate each plant was. But alas, all I had was my portrait lens and my iPhone. The portrait lens wouldn’t let me get as close to the plants as I wanted, so it was up to the iPhone camera! It did a pretty good job I think. I really like the spiky patterns in these plants. I find them mesmerizing. I also like that the bigger leaves look like hearts.
It was so fascinating to see such bright green plants here in eastern Washington. I’m used to seeing them in wet western Washington, but not so much here. We live in what’s called a “Shrub steppe,” which is sort of a desert but with small bushes and shrubs (think: tumbleweeds) everywhere. No small green guys. So it made me happy to see them again.
All in all, it was a good day full of adventure and marveling at this crazy earth we live on. So beautiful.
PS: I took the top picture with my DSLR, not my iPhone.
PPS: It’s scarily warm here for this time of year. :-/
Today I thought I would share my newest revelation about my current job/life situation. But first we have to talk about cameras. Why? Because I like cameras. And also because this is my blog and I say so.
So let’s start at the top.
My camera has two settings for focusing: auto and manual.
For autofocus, I tell the camera what to focus on and then it controls the lens and brings my subject into view. I use it almost all the time because it’s fast and usually the camera and I agree about what I want it to look at.
Sometimes I can’t use autofocus though. Sometimes the camera and I disagree about what should be drawing the viewer’s eyes. Sometimes, like when it’s dark outside, the camera has a really hard time “seeing” what I see, and it’s easier for me to just switch the camera to manual mode and focus for myself.
It can be a challenge. When I use manual focus, I often second guess myself about what “perfect” focus looks like. I bring my subject in and out of focus as I test the possibilities. It’s even harder when it’s dark and I can’t really see much better than the camera can.
Here are some examples:
Last summer, I noticed a bunch of birds sleeping in a tree by my house. It was so cute to see their little bird butts sticking out of the leaves, and I grabbed my camera to capture the moment. It was 10 pm. The camera said “I see a vague tree-like shape here… ummm… not really sure what you’re going for…” so I switched to manual, which was hard because I could barely see the birds myself! After some trial and error, I finally captured the birds the way I wanted them, and I left them alone to dream.
This past weekend, Cobalt’s best friend T was hanging out in Seattle. So we headed “over the hill” and into the city. It was lovely! We talked books with T and his family, we ate an epic brunch with my sister, and then we hung out with my friends from grad school, Titanium and her boyfriend whom we will call “Iron.” Titanium and Iron took us on a ferry so we could go have dinner on Bainbridge Island. On the way back, we spent the majority of the ferry ride in the crazy cold wind outside because we wanted to witness the Seattle skyline draw closer and closer. I brought out my camera to photograph the skyline. That was pretty easy for autofocus: point camera at space needle. Camera sees the lit-up space needle against a dark sky. Camera brings space needle into focus. BAM. Picture.
But then I thought, hrm. How would I capture the fun we are having right now on this ferry? And I decided to take some pictures of Titanium and Iron. The lighting was not ideal for humans. It was 10 pm (again). Titanium and Iron were either backlit from the light inside the ferry or the Seattle skyline and my camera was not finding their faces. So I switched to manual focus. But again, the same problem with the birds popped up – it was hard for me to see when their features were that crisp though the eyepiece either.
This is where the story gets a little different. For the birds, I just used my on-camera flash to illuminate the birds once I got them in focus. This past weekend, however, I decided that since I was manually focusing in the dark, maybe I should play around with some of my camera settings. What would happen if I didn’t use my flash and instead turned the shutter speed waaaaay down (longer exposure=more time for light to illuminate Titanium and Iron)? Well Titanium and Iron would be blurry because we were on a moving boat. But maybe that would be a fun effect. Let’s try it. And so I did. And here are my pictures.
I was thinking about these pictures yesterday, and how much I enjoyed the fact that they were not “perfect” and crisp. I loved the blurriness and the crazy Seattle-skyline bokeh around Titanium. And that’s when I realized that this is how I feel about my life right now. I have a lot of education now (PhD, Scicomm certificate, lots of multimedia experience), and I’m not quite sure how I want to use it to make the world better. I have some idea what I want to do and where I want to end up. But it’s all pretty hazy. No real way for a camera to autofocus on it. So instead I’m using manual focus. And then the pictures come out like this – I can just make out my subject there smiling in the future. It’s there! And I’m coming for it.