Monday, February 27, 2012

Lunch and Beers in Oakland

Oakland, California

As some may know, I recently took a trip home to California for a visit with family and friends. Living in Prague has provided me with an amazing opportunity to live in the heart of a capital city while working on my masters degree. Being given this opportunity has made me more inclined to really go out and see what the city I live in has to offer. This is something that I had never really done in the past. I was born and raised in California, and spent a good portion of my life living within an hour or so from where I grew up. I have always been interested in traveling and seeing the world, but I have found that I took little time to really explore the area surrounding my home. Yes, I would go to Sacramento or San Francisco for a day, and one of my favorite pastimes is wine tasting in Napa and Sonoma. However, now when I travel back to California it feels much more like a vacation and has inspired me to seek out new adventures. I now have more of the vacation mentality while spending time near my home. This is something that I hope to carry to any other city or place that I may live in the future. Many people live in a place their entire lives and do not see or experience some of the best treasures it has to offer. I hope to avoid this from here on and to treat my future homes as a collection of places to go out and discover!

One of my recent adventures while in California was inspired by two of my good friends, Jenelle and Becky. I was invited out to lunch and to a pub in Oakland. We started off at Quinn's Lighthouse for lunch. The lighthouse was originally established in 1890; however, it has been reconstructed and renovated several times throughout its long history. It has absolutely amazing views of the docks and bay from its upstairs dining area and patio. The menu has something for everyone. I had the Gilroy Hamburger, a burger on garlic bread, yummy! My favorite aspect of the restaurant was the extensive collection of nautical decor. This place was absolutely charming and delightful.

Lunch at Quinn's Lighthouse

Pirate piƱata

One of my favorite features - A sailor door handle into the ladies room

This bar area is so charming

Partial view from the restaurant

Jenelle and me in front of the restaurant with lady liberty 

Jenelle and Becky - my event planners for the day
After lunch we adventured into the downtown area of Oakland. I had never been to the downtown area and was surprised to see what it had to offer. Often people only hear about the negative aspects of Oakland, but I feel that it is a city that has a lot to offer those living in or visiting the Bay Area. Here we went to a pub named The Trappist. The Trappist is located in a Victorian building from the 1870's and boasts a wide selection of Belgian, Scandinavian, Dutch, and American artisan beers. It was rather difficult to find space to stand or to order a beer, but was worth the wait in the end. This was obviously a very popular place for local people to spend a Saturday afternoon with friends. We managed to find a spot to sit on the back patio and enjoyed a few delicious Belgian beers. 

Would love to live in one of these adorable buildings in downtown Oakland

Each beer was served in its own distinct glass

Back patio area at the Trappist
Overall, the day was a huge success and was a great start to my trip home. I hope to share a few more of my adventures from California over the next few weeks.

Sunday, February 19, 2012



A Make-It-Up-As-You-Go Recipe

Last month, a discussion was had in our flat.  It went something like this: 

Amy: You know what is a delicious and healthy breakfast food that can be eaten with yogurt to increase your calcium intake and ensure you are getting enough good bacteria?
Colleen: Hmm, cereal?  Cereal is so expensive here and sugary!
Amy: No, granola! 
Colleen: Boy howdy are you ever right!  We should make some!
Amy: Make granola?  How does one make granola?
Colleen: Well, it's easy!  You just mix up whatever seeds, nuts, and dried fruit you like with oats, honey, and oil; then you bake it.  

I may be paraphrasing.  There may have also been a discussion which followed like this:

Colleen: What do you like in your granola?
Amy: I don't know, the normal stuff.
Colleen: Dried fruit?
Amy: No.  The other stuff.
Colleen: Seeds and nuts?
Amy: Yeah, I guess.  And the crunchy stuff.
Colleen:  What kind of seeds and nuts?
Amy: I don't know, the normal ones.

Here's what we settled upon:

Gather Your Ingredients.
Most Stuff Should Be in Jars. If You Are Making Granola, You're The Kind of Person Who Stores Everything In Jars.

These measurements are difficult to quantify, but here's a try:
2-3 cups of oats (not quick-cooking)
1/4 cup of nuts
1/4 cup of large seeds
2 teaspoons of small seeds
2 tablespoons of wheat germ
3 tablespoons of honey
1/3 cup of oil
pinch of salt
pinches of sweet spices

For the nuts, we use almond and cashews because that's what we like.  I prefer the nuts chopped up.

Toss your nuts in the bowl, add in your oats.  As you can tell, I'm not one for measuring.  

Add in some wheat germ.  This is not a requirement as it does nothing for flavor; however, it adds lots of healthy stuff!  

Next, add some seeds.  We use lots of pumpkin and sunflower seeds (shucked, obviously) and a few teaspoons of poppy and sesame seeds.  

Add in honey, about three tablespoons.  It's better to under-sweeten than over-sweeten, though.  You can always put honey on top when you are eating it.  If you do not eat honey, for whatever reason, you can also use maple syrup-- though the flavor definitely comes through in the granola and you need much less than honey.  Then, add oil.  It takes more oil than you think, about a third of a cup! 

That's almost everything!  Add in a pinch of salt.  Then, add in pinches of your favorite sweet spices. I use cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, and allspice.

Mix it up!

Spread your granola on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.  Be sure not to pile it too high; you may have to bake it in two batches.  I am always sure to leave some clumps, though, ensuring that there's plenty of "crunchy stuff."

Bake at 350F (170C) for about 10-15 minutes, mixing with a spatula halfway through.  The granola is done when the oats are a little brown and the seeds or nuts looked cooked.

Store in an airtight container and it lasts for a few weeks.  If you do like dried fruit in your granola, you can add it before or after baking.  If you have raisin-picker-outers in your house, it's good to store the dried fruit next to the granola and mix it in when you want it.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Groundhog Day Cowl

Groundhog Day Cowl

A Late-Winter Scarf Pattern

Newly Finished Scarf!
 Let this be the first of many posts about knitting!  Last summer, I got one skein of this amazing wool while I was in Vienna picking up a visa.  The yarn is Jawoll Magic from this lovely little shop.  One skein was more than enough for this scarf.  I have a large scrap ball left over that I am probably going to make into some baby socks for sock-making practice.  I've looked online at prices and found that it's much more expensive from any online shop (~15 Euros) than where I purchased it in Vienna (8 Euros).  So, if you ever find yourself in Vienna, definitely hit up A. Christian.  They may not speak any English but they are very helpful with their hand motions! 

Two Wraps
I had been saving this yarn for months, trying to find the perfect pattern for it.  I had pretty much given up on knitting anything with it before it got too warm for wool--and then winter hit for real.  When Punxsutawny Phil predicted 6 more weeks of winter, I cast on a modified Dayflower Cowl.

Three Wraps For Maximum Warmth!
Though the pattern makes it big enough for one wrap around your neck, I tripled it so that I could have a nice warm scarf.  My exact specs are on Ravelry.  (If you're not familiar with Ravelry and cannot see these links, go ahead and sign up!  It's an incredible resource for knitters.  I cannot advocate for it enough!)  

Pattern Close-Up
I'm not generally a fan of variegated yarn, especially with lacework--but the lines in this are so subtle that I don't mind.  I love the bluebell-esque flowers in this lace.  After spending the winter making two pairs of mittens that were heavy on the color work, this lace was a nice escape.  

And so, I've come to accept that lace is where my heart lies even if I'm always eyeing a fair isle pattern.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Winter, At Last

Winter, At Last

Snapshots of Prague in Winter

Ice-skating Near Podolska Vodarna, Prague 4
Let me apologize off the bat for the poor image quality.  Amy is away in America, along with her nice camera.  

Anyway, the past two weeks in Prague have finally been like winter.  A sudden cold-snap has frozen most of Europe, with record-breaking lows.  Apparently, birds on the continent have been falling dead out of the sky.  
During the first week, I was so sick of people talking about it being "freezing" outside.  It barely even dropped below 20 degrees Fahrenheit.  To me, that just means it's winter.  However, last week, it got legitimately cold.  Single digits.  A few mornings, I woke up to find it was below zero--Fahrenheit.  I accepted it was cold enough for complaints.  However, I often relished the cold.  I felt like I could breathe clearly for once.  I enjoyed the sun that came with the frigid temperatures.  Give me this over damp and dreary weather any day!  
Today, I woke up and looked out the window to see snow for the first time in Prague 1 this winter!  We live right in the center of the city where no snow had collected so far.  On the outskirts, it had snowed quite a few times but mostly just turned to slush.  

Learning to Skate Among the Boats at the Marina

This snow is not in jeopardy of turning to slush any time soon!  It's soft and powdery, like walking through icing sugar.  Last week, I had noticed from the window of the tram, there were boys playing hockey at the marina by Podolska Vodarna.  This little inlet off of the Vltava had frozen over.  The marina roped off sections that were not safe to skate on but the rest was fair game.  

I went back today to take pictures in the snow.  Surprisingly, no one was playing ice hockey.  Mostly, there were just families sledding and skating.  

Using Docks As Benches For Putting On Ice-Skates
I love marinas in general, having grown up in a harbor village.  But I'd never had the opportunity to walk around boats stuck in the ice.  

The Tram Back to the Center
I enjoyed myself, even without ice skates.  What is it about walking on ice that's so exciting?  Is it that it could snap beneath you at any moment?  Or is it the idea that you have conquered water?  

Small Boat Frozen in the Ice
The freezing weather will not be letting up any time soon.  I look forward to more wintry adventures!