365 Project: Opaline Cafe & Bakery #seattle

Following Yelp reviews, we stumbled upon this little bakery with a tiny dining room in the back allowing a full view of glass blowers at work. It was fascinating and fun for both my daughter and I. And, it’s free, although we grabbed a bite and chai at the cafe. Such a fun find!




365 Project – 199: Luncheon of the boating party ;) – Lake Crescent, Port Angeles, WA (July 18, 2013)

In 1880, Renoir had a more refined setting in mind when he painted Luncheon of the Boating Party but, in 2013 this is how girls lunch, after air-mattress kayaking on the lake, digging into their grub while reclining on their air mattresses! I love their style! LOL

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365 Project – 50: Arenal Volcano National Park – Costa Rica (February 18, 2013)

Hiking Volcan Arenal here in Costa Rica was an amazing geological, wildlife, and flora experience. And, it was just plain fun, for our two families who enjoyed this kid-friendly hike through the jungle to the viewpoint (“mirador”) of the volcano. We did the recommended loop trail and saw toucans, and heard numerous bird songs. The sights and sounds created nature’s scavenger hunt for the kids, distracting from the physical challenge from the heat and slight incline at the top.

We were hiking here on our own, with our Costa Rican friends, which was wonderful but, if I had a chance to do it again I’d love to go with a local bird expert. I envied the groups accompanied by local guides offering their knowledge of the flora and fauna. Within close proximity of one group we benefitted from a guide pointing out an anteater and our first toucans. One of our goals was to see toucans (my daughter’s number one wish actually) so we were all stoked to see several families of colorful toucans, with their big bills throughout our hike. We saw at least 10 toucans and heard even more. That alone totally made the trip! We didn’t see monkeys during this hike but, we heard them and laughed when they threw fruit down at us. (On a previous trip down the Sarapiqui River we saw many howler monkeys…that will be in another post.) And, the flora and fauna itself was amazing. We started the hike on the dry side, appreciating the shade of tall grasses flanking each side of our trail, then entered the lush jungle with hanging and climbing vines, large ceiba trees, tree ferns, and many prehistoric-looking plants. It was incredible.

It was quite a drive from San Jose which our friends generously offered to take us on this fun day trip. But, if we were on our own we’d probably stay in La Fortuna or another nearby village to explore the volcano a bit more and just be closer to this beautiful area. Click on this link for more information about Arenal Volcano National Park. And, as I mentioned in my previous post, there are no food options once you enter the park so here’s my restaurant recommendation in La Fortuna, just outside the park..


At the trailhead


At the viewpoint “mirador”


From the viewpoint looking at Lake Arenal, the largest manmade lake in Costa Rica providing 30% of the hydropower in the country


On the trail, which is clearly marked. You can see the loop trail we hiked on the right side of the map which was only 3 miles. or less, long. Wear sturdy shoes because of the lava rock at the top.

Restaurante La Choza de Laurel – La Fortuna, Costa Rica (February 18, 2013) #travel #costarica

Before you start hiking at Volcan Arenal stop in La Fortuna for some tasty authentic Costa Rican food at Restaurante La Choza de Laurel. Our Costa Rican friends said it was really good authentic food. For us we just thought the food was tasty starting with mango batidos (“smoothies”), fried green plantains served with black beans, pico de gallo and guacamole, then we ate typical Costa Rican plates such as arroz con pollo.

the ambience was casual with its open air setting and cultural activities. our daughter had a custom leather bracelet made with a suggested donation of a dollar. the hide was actually cut to fit her wrist then he stamped her name with some designs in the leather.

there are no options for food at the senderos (“trails”) so this is a great place to stop. as a point of reference, it is right next to Burger King. HA! and, in front of the restaurant, near BK, you can catch a view of Volcan Arenal. 🙂

Enjoy and Pura Vida!


365 Project – 280: Tasty flower snack: rice cake with peanut butter and banana (October 6, 2012)

Shutter Speed: 1/500, Aperture: F/1.8, ISO: 100

Our snack today: mochi rice cake with peanut butter and banana…yum!! And, as my daughter says…”easy peasy, lemon squeezy!” 😉

See more of my 365 Project: Untouched photos from my Nikon D5000 with 50mm lens

365 Project – 257: RECIPE: Chicken Cacciatore from “Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker Cookbook” (September 12, 2012)

Shutter Speed: 1/50, Aperture: F/2.8, ISO: 250

School’s started and the crockpot is one of my favorite and easiest ways to get a hot meal on the table at the end of the day. Not only do we end up with a homemade meal but, you walk in and the house smells heavenly and the cleanup is minimal.

I use a lot of recipes from “Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker Cookbook” by Beth Hensperger and Julie Kaufmann. This, and other recipes from this cookbook, can be found by clicking on this link. Here’s my version of the recipe, adapted from this cookbook, which my family gobbled up last night. 🙂

Probably the main difference in my version is that I like to brown the chicken and saute the onions and garlic before putting them in the crockpot. I also didn’t have dry white wine on hand so I used an opened bottle of champagne instead, which worked fine. And, because it was easy and convenient, I used all chicken thighs instead of mixing it with drumsticks. The original recipe is a bit easier because everything goes into the crockpot, without any cooking on the stove, but, I like the texture and flavor of the chicken better with my added steps.

The original recipe suggests serving this over rice or noodles. I added potatoes so you can eat this as-is right out of the pot. To keep this gluten-free I omitted the flour and I served it up over polenta. I also made my own marinara sauce, which I consider pretty easy to do. I just recommend using San Marzano tomatoes, which you can buy in the can at any store. In my opinion, they just have a richer, sweeter tomato flavor. Lastly, I increased the portions a bit to make this a recipe for 6-8, instead of 4.  My family has big appetites. 🙂

I’m curious what you think of this recipe, compared to the original version.  Make it and come back to leave a comment with your take on this recipe.  Enjoy!

Serves 6

~ 4 cups homemade marinara sauce (see recipe below)
1 medium-size yellow onion, cut in half and sliced into half-moons
1 to 3 cloves garlic, to your taste, minced
1 medium-size green bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks
1 tbsp coconut or canola oil
8-10 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
6 ounces fresh mushrooms, quartered
~ 1/4 cup dry white wine or champagne
3 cups fingerling or red potatoes, in 1/2 inch chunks
Shredded parmesan cheese to garnish (optional)

1. In a skillet or fry pan, heat coconut or canola oil on medium high heat, add your chicken and brown about 1 minute on each side
2. Layer half of the marinara sauce and all of the bell pepper, and browned chicken in the crockpot.
3. To the skillet, on medium high, add the onion and saute 1 minute to slightly soften,  add the garlic and saute another minute (turn down the heat if the garlic starts browning), then add the wine or champagne. Heat on high and scrape up all the browned chicken bits. Let reduce a couple minutes then pour into the crockpot.
4. Add the potatoes, sprinkle the mushrooms on top and cover with the remaining marinara sauce.
5. Cover and cook until the chicken is tender and cooked through, 2 1/2 to 3 hours on HIGH or 6 to 7 hours on LOW.
6. Serve as-is or over rice, noodles or polenta. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese if desired.

Additional Notes: I love mushrooms in this recipe but, my daughter doesn’t so I’ve made this without them and it tastes just fine. I’ve also followed the original recipe, by skipping steps 1. and 3. but, I prefer this version with the extra steps of browning the chicken and sauteing the onions and garlic. For sure, I have ADDED steps to this recipe but, I still think it’s pretty easy. It took me about 30 minutes to prep and get this all into the crockpot, including the time it took to make the marinara sauce below.

1/3 cup olive oil
1 medium-size yellow onion finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2 28-oz can San Marzano tomatoes
1 6 oz. can tomato paste
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves
1 – 2 tbsp agave syrup or sugar, to taste
Salt and pepper to taste

In medium size skillet saute the onion and garlic in 3 tablespoons of the olive oil until softened, ~ 5 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients, except for the salt and pepper. Heat until bubbly then reduce heat to a simmer. Stir, cover and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Puree with an immersion hand blender to break up whole tomatoes. Taste and season with salt and pepper. If using this sauce in the above chicken cacciatore recipe, the sauce is ready to use since the flavors will continue to develop in the crockpot. Otherwise, cover and let simmer another 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Sauce can be kept in the refrigerator for up to a week or frozen for 2 months.

See more of my 365 Project: Untouched photos from my Nikon D5000 with 50mm lens