Flashback Friday: Washington, D.C. Cherry Blossoms

Living in Washington, D.C. when Josh was stationed there from 2003 to 2008 was not always easy, but there were two events that I loved, and we tried our best to experience annually: Cherry blossom time in the spring and Christmas at the White House in December.

Since it is cherry blossom time in Washington, D.C. now (article linked here about how peak bloom was March 25), I thought I would post about it. It’s been 9 years now since we moved back to SoCal after living in D.C., but I imagine that it is still much the same and still beautiful during cherry blossom time.

The following pictures are all from either April 2006 or April 2008.

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Two-year-old Corran at the Washington Monument. This boy is now taller than I am! At this age, Corran was very interested in space shuttles and rockets, so to him the Washington Monument was a “rocketship stuck in the ground.”

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Cherry tree by the Washington Monument – April 2006

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It is magical to walk under these trees. Yes, there were crowds everywhere, but somehow, it didn’t matter very much. We were all there to experience beauty.

These, of course, are not cherry blossoms! These are tulips at the Floral Library run by the National Park Service. The Floral Library was always a must-see when we were at the Tidal Basin for the cherry blossoms. It is a lovely photo opportunity and a wonderful place to take your children.

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Jefferson Memorial with cherry blossoms in foreground

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A close-up of the cherry blossoms.

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When you visit D.C., be prepared to walk, and walk, and walk some more! We went to this area numerous times when we lived there and still did not get to everything that there is to see!

-Lynn

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The White House in spring

 

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Compost Bin Voucher Program – San Diego County, California

 

This post will be geographically specific to our location, but maybe for those of you outside our area, there is a compost bin rebate or voucher program available as well. I will say that this program was not very easy to find, and this is why we decided to post about it.

Josh has been wanting to buy a real compost bin for a while. He tried to use a compost heap, but that didn’t work out. We looked at some compost bins and tumblers online, but we were a bit put off by how expensive they were!

I had seen something about a compost bin voucher program in a Dixieline ad, and I showed it to Josh. It wasn’t very clear how it worked, so he decided to go to the Dixieline by our house and see if they even had compost bins there. He didn’t find any. So I decided to do more digging online and realized that there was an application you had to fill out online first before you could buy the compost bin at the discount price.

The compost bin voucher application link differs depending on where you live in San Diego County. We are in an unincorporated area, so I went to the San Diego County website.

Click here to go to the Compost Bin Voucher Application for San Diego County

All we had to do was fill out the application so they could verify if we qualified and wait for an e-mail that gave us the voucher for $40 off a compost bin. You could get $40 off vouchers for up to 2 of each type of compost bin: the classic compost bin and the can of worms compost bin (which I am assuming is for vermicomposting). There are only two Dixieline locations where you can redeem the vouchers for the County of San Diego, the Escondido location and the Rancho San Diego location.

Here are a few other links for those in the City of San Diego, La Mesa, and Del Mar.

Click here to go to the Compost Bin Voucher Application for the City of San Diego

There are 3 compost bin options for residents of the City of San Diego. Please note that the voucher redemption locations for the City of San Diego are different than those for San Diego County.

Click here for more information about the Compost Bin Voucher Application for the City of La Mesa

La Mesa has a different method of application and receipt of the voucher. You either mail in or drop off the application, and your voucher is mailed to you in 2-4 weeks.

Click here for more information about the Compost Bin Voucher Application for the City of Del Mar

Those are the only 3 other cities I found in a quick Google search. There may be more opportunities that I just did not see.

Our final cost was around $100 for two of the classic soil saver compost bins. Hopefully, in about two months, we will have good dirt for Josh’s garden beds.

Josh will be taking over the post from here, since he is the one who went to pick up the compost bins. I just took care of the online application for him.


We live closest to the Rancho San Diego Dixieline, so that is the one I got the compost bins from.  As Lynn said, I didn’t see any regular compost bins the first time I went to the Dixieline.  At that time they did have a couple of the worm compost bins.  I would imagine they don’t sell as many of those since people don’t usually want to deal with worms.  When I went to the store on Saturday there were probably about 8 of the compost bins, some of which had come from a different store in El Cajon.  If you don’t live close to either the Rancho San Diego or Escondido store, you may want to call ahead to verify they have the bins you want.

The cashiers in the store are unable to give you the discount.  You have to go to what I believe is called the Pro Center usually located near the middle of the store.  This is the place where you also order wood and other large products.  This is typically a slower desk because they are working through special or large orders.  Make sure you give yourself a few extra minutes in the store in case someone is ahead of you at check out.

– Joshua

 

 

 

Chocolate Bundt Cake with Chocolate Donut Frosting

Yes, it is yet another Bundt Cake post! I promise that my next baking post will be about something different (Macarons.. are those different?). I know that I said in my Key Lime-Mint Bundt Cake post that I wasn’t too thrilled with this cake, but it could be that I just wasn’t in the mood for chocolate that day. The important thing about this recipe is that my family loved it, and it was gone in two days. I usually know that a recipe is good if it doesn’t last very long at my house. In this case, I let my kids eat this cake for breakfast… I know, this cake isn’t for breakfast, Lynn, what are you thinking!? Here’s my reasoning: We eat those huge chocolate muffins from Costco… eating chocolate cake for breakfast isn’t any different, right?

I am not a fan of cereal in general. I do love Quaker Oatmeal Squares, but it is so rarely on sale that we don’t always have it around.  The day after I made this cake, I just didn’t want cereal… So let them eat cake it is! Don’t let my kids tell you about the time they had candy for dinner (Josh was deployed…) or the time they had ice cream for dinner (hmm… that also might have been when Josh was deployed). But you know what? They still talk about those “dinners!” It’s funny what kids remember.

Today’s cake comes courtesy of Corran, my oldest, who requests chocolate in almost everything I bake, like the cinnamon rolls I made today. Sorry, Corran, I didn’t put chocolate in the cinnamon rolls.

Here are the recipes I used:

The Best Chocolate Bundt Cake at Inquiring Chef

Chocolate Glaze That Hardens

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This time I dusted my bundt pan with cocoa powder instead of flour. This worked a lot better than I thought it would. You will see why I say this in a few pictures.

 

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The cake batter was very liquid-y (is that a word?). I think I’ve gotten too used to the sponge cakes I’ve been making lately; they have such a thick batter.  The pictures of the batter at the recipe site don’t look quite as runny as my batter does, so maybe I did something wrong. It still baked up fine though.

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The cake finished up huge! I’m so so glad it didn’t overflow onto the bottom of my oven. I might need to get out my old, beat-up bundt pan the next time I make this. I think that one has a 12-cup capacity.

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It is not obvious from the above picture… but see the cooling rack? The cake was supposed to be on the cooling rack for this picture. But when I flipped the rack and the pan over, I wasn’t expecting the cake to fall out so fast and it landed on the worktable instead. So the cocoa powder worked great. I’m glad the cake didn’t land on the floor! And that it stayed mostly in one piece. What you don’t see in this picture: Children rushing into the kitchen to eat chocolate cake crumbs off the worktable. Um.. Kids, if you wait until after dinner, you can have a whole slice…

I think the chocolate glaze I used for this cake is supposed to be the fast version of a boiled chocolate icing. It worked great and hardened perfectly. If I ever make donuts (which my kids have requested numerous times), I will use this icing on them! The donuts, not the kids.

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I globbedy-gooked the icing onto the cake, and I let my kids pick the completely unnecessary sprinkles to go on this cake. And of course, they chose chocolate!

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I actually remembered to take a picture of a slice this time! I think the cake could have used a few more minutes in the oven, but at least it wasn’t totally underbaked. It was definitely moist and definitely chocolatey. And definitely got eaten up like lightning.

-Lynn

San Diego Comic-Con Open Registration is Coming…

I’m not sure if I posted about our results from San Diego Comic-Con Returning Registration, but here is the gist: Currently, Josh and I do not have passes for the same days at Comic-Con, which kind of defeats the purpose of us going. You know, together time and geeking out about all the things at the same time.

Yesterday, we got our e-mails about Open Registration. This year, it will be on April 8th at 9 AM. That day is going to be busy for us (birthday party for our twin nephews at 10 AM then our oldest is in a band concert at 6 PM), but hopefully, either Josh can get Friday and Saturday passes, or I can at least get just a Thursday pass.

I will say this though. Even if we don’t get to actually attend Comic-Con, I’m pretty sure that we will be be downtown at least one of those days. For three years, we just went downtown during Comic-Con with our kids and there were so many things to do outside the convention center that it really didn’t matter that we didn’t have passes.  In fact, I’m hoping to write a post about that: Things to Do Outside Comic-Con when You Can’t Actually Go to Comic-Con.  And it is a surprisingly long list!

-Lynn

Key Lime-Mint Bundt Cake With Key Lime Icing

It’s not hard to tell that I have been baking a lot of bundt cakes! For me, they are much easier to make than a layer cake, and I don’t have to really decorate them. Drizzling or pouring icing onto a bundt cake and letting the gorgeous design do the rest is my kind of decorating.

This cake comes courtesy of my good friend Lanett, who is one of the most awesome people I know. She was kind enough to let me in on her buyer’s group for Comic-Con International, so I decided to bake a cake of her choice (and also because I had a major cake craving after talking to her on the phone!). So… yes, this cake is her fault! Not a bad thing though, because I have to admit that this cake was really, really (yes, really!) yummy. I made a chocolate bundt cake (another blog post) a few days after making this one and the chocolate one just couldn’t hold a candle to this one, and I LOVE chocolate!

I went to two websites before deciding on the recipe I kind of followed. I say kind of followed because I ended up changing a few of the ingredients. This cake is supposed to be a mojito cake, but Josh and I don’t drink alcohol so we didn’t have any rum around to use in it.

The recipe I used is from One Sweet Mess.

The changes I made:

  • Left out the coconut or white rum
  • used 1/2 tsp of imitation rum extract (I’m not sure if this added anything to the cake; I’ll probably just leave it out next time and use vanilla extract instead)
  • 1/2 tsp of mint extract (this might have been slightly too much if you’re not into mint, but I actually liked this amount in the cake itself)
  • Left out vanilla extract
  • Used 1 cup of regular milk instead of coconut milk
  • I cheated and used the bottled lime juice from the grocery store that is usually in the produce section.
  • I only had 1 key lime for the zest. I would have used the zest of 3 key limes if I had had them. You want the lime to shine in this cake.

The icing was really simple. I just used 1 -2 cups of powdered sugar and added a teaspoon or two lime juice and heavy cream to it until it was of drizzling consistency.  I think the 1 -2 cups of powdered sugar wasn’t enough though so I had to make another cup of icing. The lime juice just added so much to the icing. It was perfect with the cake. I’m sorry I don’t have any exact measurements for this, but I was in a hurry when I was making this cake, so I had to eyeball my measurements!

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I’m not sure why… but this kind of cake batter appeals to me a lot more than the pourable kind, which you will see in the future chocolate bundt cake post. This is the Nordic Ware Crown Bundt pan, and from what I’ve read, it is a 10-cup Bundt pan.

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I had some crumbling at the edges, but that was my fault. I didn’t grease the pan all the way to the edges because I wasn’t expecting the cake to rise that high. So the cake edges stuck when I was trying to get the cake out of the pan.

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It must be true. Icing makes everything better. This truly was a messy drizzling job I did on this cake, but it didn’t really matter. In fact, all my kids wanted the slices with the great big globs of icing. Maybe I should paint the icing on so that it will spread out more evenly.

This cake was so good that it was gone by the end of the next day. It was gone so fast that my oldest Corran hardly got to eat any of it and that is why he asked me to make another bundt cake.

To be honest, I wasn’t sure if I would like the flavors of key lime and mint in one cake since to me, they don’t really go together, but Lanett, my friend, you picked a winner. Thank you for introducing me to a great flavor combination that I am definitely going to try again!

Key Lime-Mint Bundt Cake with Key Lime Icing

  • Servings: not enough... I mean, 14-16 slices
  • Print

Please do visit or try the original recipe if you can. I only adjusted the recipe according to what I had on hand and for certain flavors.

Adapted from Mojito Bundt Cake by Jennie at One Sweet Mess

Ingredients

For the Cake:

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tbsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp rum extract or vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp mint extract
  • zest of 3 key limes (I only had 1. Use 3 if you have them!)
  • 1/4 cup of key lime juice
  • 1 cup milk

For the Icing:

  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp key lime juice (add a little bit at a time until consistency desired)
  • 1 tsp heavy cream or milk

Directions

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Grease and flour a 10 or 12-cup bundt pan.

In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer or using a large bowl with a hand mixer, beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. This will take about 5 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, incorporating each before adding the next.

Add the extracts, key lime zest, and key lime juice. Stir just until combined.

Beat the flour mixture into the butter mixture, alternating with the 1 cup of milk. Finish with the dry ingredients. Mix until you have a smooth batter and there are no streaks of flour. Make sure you reach the bottom of the bowl.

Pour or spoon the batter into the prepared bundt pan. Smooth the top of the batter and bake for 60 minutes on the middle rack, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Cool cake on a wire rack for about 10-15 minutes before removing from the pan. After removing the cake from the pan, allow the cake to cool completely before decorating with the icing.

Icing directions:

In a small bowl, combine 3 cups of powdered sugar with the 1 teaspoon lime juice and 1 teaspoon heavy cream or milk. Add key lime juice and/or heavy cream a 1/2 teaspoon at a time to powdered sugar until icing reaches your desired consistency. Drizzle or pour onto completely cool bundt cake.

 

 

Borrego Springs, California: Wildflowers 2017

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To see a World in a Grain of Sand

And a Heaven in a Wildflower

Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand

And Eternity in an hour

-From “Auguries of Innocence” by William Blake

 

Last year, we went to Borrego Springs around this time hoping to see the wildflowers. We did get to see wildflowers last year, but not as many as when we were there in 2008. Last year, we also found these amazing metal sculptures in Galleta Meadows.

This year, we were able to go to Borrego Springs with Josh’s family. It was a fun day trip with our kids, our nephews, Josh’s parents, and his sister. During a superbloom year, there are a LOT of people who visit Borrego Springs to see the wildflowers. We left as early as we could and were in Borrego Springs by 9 AM, but there was already quite a crowd there!

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We like to stop at a turnout on the S-22 before heading into town. The overlook we stopped at last year was busy so we had to stop at a different turnout.

Our first stop in Borrego Springs was the Borrego Desert Nature Center near Christmas Circle. They offer free daily wildflower maps every year. The staff there has always been kind. The store there is also a good place to browse for books and gifts. My son, Matthias, is a rock hound and picked up a pocket-sized book about rocks during our visit last year. I wish I had taken pictures of the building when I was there. The Nature Center is located at 652 Palm Canyon Drive, Borrego Springs, CA. The Nature Center is not related to the Anza-Borrego State Park Visitor Center. In fact, when we drove past the street to the Visitor Center, there was a police officer directing traffic just at that intersection!

Once we drove into town, the traffic let up a little bit but it was still very busy. It was not too difficult to find parking near the Nature Center though. Josh and I were able to run in for the day’s wildflower map.

This was today’s flower map. It’s really informative and the lady who gave it to us explained to us which places were the best to go. We didn’t make it to every place on the map unfortunately. I think we needed another day or two to hike all the trails and visit all the flower fields.

It was very sunny and quite warm while we were out so sunscreen and lots of water were a must!

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Palm Canyon Trail, Hellhole Canyon, and Little Surprise (the trail we hiked last year) would have been difficult to find parking, so we decided to go visit the flower fields off of Henderson Canyon Road. This is the area we visited when we only had two kids, Corran and Matthias, in 2008. The flowers were spectacular here.

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Desert sunflower buds – my nephew Sawyer found these for me to photograph

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Desert sunflowers carpeting the area off of Henderson Canyon Road

The desert sunflowers were everywhere here. We also saw sand verbena, desert lilies, and brown-eyed primrose across the street, away from the hills.

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Sand verbena – lovely purple flowers. When we first got out of the car, I think the scent of these flowers was what we smelled. Possibly combined with the scent of orange blossoms from an orange grove close by.
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Desert Lilies – These were my favorite flower this year. They are a little unobtrusive so you have to be looking for them or you will step right over them.
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Brown-eyed Primrose – I had to look these up once we got home, but these pretty little flowers were everywhere this year! This one is all by its lonesome but most of the others we saw tended to be in little bunches.
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We walked by the desert sunflowers on a dirt road skirting these rows of palm trees. One of the boys said these palm trees looked like they formed a cave.

 

We saw quite a few creatures during our walk, fortunately, no rattlesnakes! There were many of these caterpillars around. Later, I found out that these are white-lined sphinx moth caterpillars.

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Can you find the ladybug? Always nice to find these helpful insects around! We also saw a beetle or two as well as a lot of gnats and flies!

After taking pictures of the field of desert sunflowers, we headed down the road to the west end of Henderson Canyon Road. This was an interesting hike. We saw quite a few different flowers than we did in the flower fields.

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Saguaro Sculpture in Galleta Meadows, near the intersection of Henderson Canyon Road and Borrego Springs Road

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This is the area in which most of the metal sculptures are located. We did not visit too many of them this year, though we did make the sea serpent sculpture our last stop before heading out of Borrego Springs.

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Ocotillo – with buds. We found a lot of cactus and ocotillo during this hike.
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A closeup of ocotillo buds

The beavertail cactus were in bloom. Their hot pink flowers are so bright they almost don’t look real!

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Teddy Bear Cholla with Brown-eyed Primrose

The flowers in this area were mostly desert dandelion, desert chicory, and blue phacelia.

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Desert dandelions
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There are so many wildflowers in this picture that I don’t think I can name them all. They make a beautiful picture though.
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Sand verbena and desert chicory
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Beavertail cactus with desert chicory
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Purple mat – these are tiny tiny purple flowers. You almost don’t see them unless you are looking at the ground as you walk.
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Blue phacelia – I’m glad I didn’t run into the teddy bear cholla that was right by these!

There were a few flowers that I wanted to see that we didn’t find – monkeyflowers, dune evening primrose, and canterbury bells. Maybe we will find them next year!

The flower fields are beautiful, but the trail hikes are also beautiful and a lot like a treasure hunt. We almost stopped at Little Surprise Canyon on our way out of Borrego Springs, but three of our five kids had fallen asleep! So we will have to save that hike for another time.

Some links to more information about some of the flowers and plants we saw:

Desert Sand Verbena

Brown-eyed Evening Primrose

Desert Sunflower

Beaver-tail Cactus

Teddy Bear Cholla

Purple Mat

-Lynn

 

 

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