Monday, March 18, 2024

Cardamom Rose Cake

I'm the designated baker for the office, so was asked to make a treat for our February birthday celebration. I hemmed and hawed a bit about what to make, but my sister came through with a cardamom rose cake recommendation. It uses rose water, which I'd never worked with before and discovered that it's impossible to not feel like you've overdone the rose because as soon as you pour any amount into the batter the room smells strongly of rose. 

Of course, my cake pan is also a 9 inch, not an 8 inch, so I had to calculate the recipe. And I knew one co-worker wouldn't touch the cake, so also needed to make chocolate chip cookies - which served as a solid backup for everyone else as well just in case I messed the cake up horribly. None of this would've been a big deal since our lunch was on a Tuesday and usually my Mondays are pretty chill. But I'd agreed to play in a concert for another orchestra and that group rehearses on Mondays and our concert was the same week. So I found myself trying to frantically put together the cake and cookies between work and rehearsal. I managed getting the cake baked and cooling as well as making the cookie dough before I had to leave. When I got back I baked the cookies while making the glaze for the cake. Definitely messed up the glaze a bit because it was a little too stiff when I put it on the cake. So mine didn't end up as pretty as the online picture.

But adding the pistachios and rose on top helps to draw attention away from my glaze mistake!

The cake was delicious, definitely floral. I did cut the rose in the glaze down to 1/3 of what was called for and may try playing around with the amount of rose in the cake itself the next time I make it as well as increasing the lemon just a bit. Don't want to lose the rose flavor, but I think where it was at may be overwhelming for some. Overall, a very easy cake to make once you get your flavoring amounts to your taste - since it's just a single layer it only takes 40 minutes to bake and the glaze is not complicated, even though I managed to mess it up. Both this and the cookies got rave reviews from co-workers.

Sunday, March 3, 2024

Mid-Winter Break

For the first time ever, I took off during the kids' mid-winter break. It's my least favorite of their breaks but we were planning to try and organize an international trip for the family - maybe to Mexico. We failed at that and then thought what we should really do is go see some colleges in California. But it took a while for G to confirm they were on board with that and then covid finally got me and after recovering from that the airfares were crazy expensive, so that idea got tabled. But since I had the time off we didn't want to waste it, so we booked a last minute stay on San Juan Island.

We headed up to Anacortes Wednesday to catch an afternoon ferry - it's a one hour ride to Friday Harbor and even though it's the off season, reservations are still needed for the ferry. It was funny to hear San Juan locals on the ferry chatting - lots of surprise at how many cars/people were on the ferry when it's not even summer yet. But also "you coming back from the doctor?" conversations and that right there is why you don't retire to/I couldn't live on the islands. A full day just to get to/from appointments is rough and it's probably smart to sign up for their helicopter ambulance service if you do live there.

We checked into our room, decided it was a little too late to fit in a hike so we wandered the town for a bit. Of course, since it was after 4 many of the shops were already closed, and there were several that were closed until spring or summer. But we did find an open bookstore and always enjoy a good bookstore wander. M got the newest Amulet book. The streets were almost completely empty while we wandered, but then we headed to San Juan Brewing for dinner - and there were actually other people there! Enjoyed some good food before walking back to our room.

The next morning we headed out for our first hike - Young Hill. This is located on the north part of the island and where the English were camped at the time of The Pig War - which M actually knew about from school! Not too hard of a hike but with a little climbing. We took a mini-detour to a cemetery part way up the hill.

Some of the land in the distance is Canada.

When we got back down the hill, I very unexpectedly ran into a former coworker - she'd moved to Portland so it was surprising that we both ended up visiting the island the same week! It was fun to catch up before heading back to town to find some lunch. After lunch we headed out for our second hike - a longer one at 4 miles, but mostly flat. Despite being mostly flat, the area was called Mount Finlayson. This hike was on the southern part of the island, closer to the American camp during the Pig War.

The first half of this hike was mostly in the open, with flat grassland, while the second half was more forested with occasional opportunities to detour to the beach. We opted against the beach detours since M was getting tired. We could've detoured to one of the two lighthouses on the island as well, but that would've added more time to the hike than we had. After getting back to town we went to an Italian restaurant for dinner - another instance of being pretty sure the town is completely dead and only as we got to the door of the restaurant did it become clear that there were many people there. 

The next morning we had an early checkout, but our ferry back didn't leave until the afternoon so we had some time to kill. We started off by heading to Bakery San Juan for breakfast - delicious pastries and if we did live there I'm sure we'd go to this place often because their loaves of bread and cakes were so tempting. Then we headed to the Whale Museum. Lots of informative things there, but definitely a little dated in their presentation. After the Whale Museum we headed to the San Juan Island Sculpture Park. 

This is titled "Grumpy Man" and made me laugh

These fishnet sheep were delightful - they're intended to be used as footstools apparently!

My feet were already very wet by this point so I didn't want to walk through the mud to see this cool jellyfish any closer

I forget the name of this one, but it's supposed to be something new breaking through the old

We still had a couple hours left so hung out at San Juan County Park, where my phone got confused an thought I'd entered Canada. There is a little beach area below the main park that you can go to and then we also enjoyed clambering on the rocky bluff. There are several campsites with views of the strait.

We headed to the ferry line and back home. G had stayed home so they could attend a rocketry club event but also completed some fine-tuning of their college list while we were gone, so we actually need to plan our college visit trips now.