Saturday, February 27, 2010

Mexican Lime Pound Cake

"This one!"

Ronan's Uncle Greg is known around the world for his stunningly delicious southern pound cake. All of my friends who have tried it fall over themselves to get more of it- one bite and you are hooked. Greg has tried to teach me how to make it, but it involves too much chemistry, timing, intuition, superstition and magic that I never get it right. Once, when we were baking the cake together, he yelled at me to, "stop stomping around the kitchen like clumsy bull... you'll make the cake fall!"

"Texture is good- very fluffy... a nice, soft cake"

Taking his recipe as inspiration we set out to bake a California style cake using the fresh Mexican limes that yesterday's storm had blown off our tree (thank you Nana... yes, the lime tree you gave us is *still* a heavy producer of delicious fruit). We used both the juice and the zest- Ronan had a blast helping squeeze the tiny little limes using a citrus press.

The key flavor ingredient- fresh Mexican limes from the tree.

The cake turned out better than we hoped. It was lighter than expected (given the 20 tablespoons of butter and 2 1/4 cups of sugar) and the Mexican lime flavor was superb. The only complaint was the thin glaze that simply ran off the sides when applied.

"Hmm... it's good, don't get me wrong, but I preferred the teriyaki skirt steak we had for dinner"

Delicious though it was, our cake did not compare to Greg's original southern version (which he serves with Haagen Dazs Butter Pecan ice cream). However, for a baking-challenged-family with only clumsy left feet, this Mexican lime concoction will suffice.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Stanford's Hoover Tower

Visitors on the Hoover Tower viewing platform

On Saturday we spent a couple of hours walking the more picturesque parts of the Stanford University campus; Ronan seemed most impressed with the fountains and the large tour buses parked at the Oval.

"Sweet... Bus"

Enjoying splashing the water

When we walked through Memorial Court he did take an (admittedly mild) interest in the Burghers of Calais. Art Appreciation Moment was short-lived; after a few minutes Ronan redirected his attention to exploring the subtle nuances found in bicycles.

Brake inspection!

"Hmm... these Burghers have big hands... just like mine"

Ronan also liked running around the Main Quad; the glittering facade mosaic and repeating arches of the arcades made for a stimulating place to explore. The people visiting & using the space were equally as intriguing, with Ronan staring (unabashedly) at a group of people practicing Tai Chi.

Dainty dancing in front of MemChu

Ronan regards a group practicing tai chi chuan with suspicion

While walking around the Quad Mom noticed people on the observation deck of Hoover Tower; a modest admission fee and quick elevator ride later we had great views of the campus, Palo Alto, and parts of the South Bay. We even spotted the redwood tree in our front yard. Ronan thought it all interesting but the chilly wind and the fact the bells were not playing (this frustrated Ronan... why were they not making noise?) kept our time at the top to a minimum.

The view from the top, looking back on the Main Quad

The fountain as seen from the tower

The $2 fee, friendly student-docents, and excellent views make a trip to the viewing platform a must for any worthwhile Stanford campus tour.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Heritage Grove Redwood Preserve

A very tall tree. There are only a handful of old growth redwoods in the grove but they are spectacular

Last week we took Ronan to Heritage Grove Park a small but charming stand (actually two stands) of old growth redwood trees. Ronan loved running up and down the damp, soft, hushed trails of the forest. He seemed mildly interested in the main attraction and namesake, the giant redwoods, but was drawn to the running water of Alpine Creek.

Small boards laid on a soft carpet of fallen redwood needles made an ideal spot for Ronan to practice charging up and down steps

Creek walking is best done in galoshes

He also seemed to enjoy discovering the little things like moss on the fencepost or the soft decay of an old redwood stump. Ronan found a couple of banana slugs which prompted Mom to encourage him to 'lick it'. Ronan wisely refused (the mild neurotoxin secreted by banana slugs makes the tongue go numb).

Mom failed to convince him to lick the banana slug. Perhaps he's not as gullible as we think?

A beautiful place for a stroll

Heritage Grove a great place for a simple, serene stroll- we look forward to doing larger efforts like Big Basin with Ronan in the future.

Enjoying snacks on a bench in the tranquil grove

Saturday, February 20, 2010


It's that simple... and using Auntie Mel's immersion blender makes it a snap

Another 'food group' that Ronan loves is fruit smoothies. Even though he inevitably gives himself brain freeze (due to his rapid pace of consumption) he still goes 'bananas' for the frosty fruity beverage.

No words, just pointing.... the meaning is clear, "more."

Now that he's on Amoxicillian (ear infection) we need to replenish his intestinal flora with supplementary probiotics. The smoothie is a never-fail delivery mechanism; using a yogurt with live cultures is even more effective.

The awkward result of a brain-frozen smile

Thanks Mom for your tasty concoction!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Duck Pond!

Extending a hand to the resident ducks

This morning Ronan, Mom, and I took a trip to the Duck Pond, a reclaimed water pool that hosts a variety of waterfowl and is part of the Palo Alto Baylands Nature Preserve.

Wistfully watching airplanes take off and land

In addition to visiting the ducks (feeding is not permitted) Ronan was able to watch aeroplanes take off and land at the adjacent Palo Alto Airport. He stretched his legs on the gentle but picturesque walking trail that skirts around the tidal marshes. Gravel and fallen palm fronds made for fun things to explore along the way.

An unconventional method of handing me gravel...

Successfully commandeered a palm frond... deliberating on what to do next

Unfortunately the Lucy Evans Interpretive Center was closed but Ronan was still able to run up and down the viewing platform that extends out over the marshland. He seemed to enjoy pointing out the 'duck-uhs!' and reminding us that seagulls like to say, "mine! mine! mine!".

Clearly happiness come when trails are used for running

Peeking through the side-rails (made from painted rebar- brilliant!) en route to the observation platform

The sun, the aircraft, the birds and the beautiful scenery made for a fun-filled way to spend the morning. So great, in fact, that Ronan followed the adventure with an unusually long three hour nap to recover!


Thursday, February 11, 2010

Ronan Makes A Pizza!

Happy about shaping the dough after throwing it

A couple of weekends ago we made pizzas from scratch with our good friends- the process was fun and the results were 'not entirely bad'. The College Terrace Pizza Margarita was particularly tasty.

Spreading the sauce, which in this case is nothing more than sauteed garlic and olive oil in an heirloom tomato reduction

This past weekend we decided to get Ronan involved in the process- he was with me when we went shopping for the "Peeetsuh... Stoune!" and was curious about dough throwing and pie topping.

Freshly grated Romano cheese is always a nice touch

Ronan was more helpful than we had predicted; he followed instructions well and did not make too much of a mess. However he persisted in trying to eat the cheese before it made it to the pie and there were a few instances of tossing the flour onto the floor.

Ronan's pie on the pizza stone... on it's way into the oven

The pies turned out great- Ronan may have a future in cooking!

Adding the accoutrements... in this case fresh basil

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Working on Steam Distribution

Straight out of Cannery Row in the 1940s... a serious grimace, steam equipment, and, of course, a salty-dog tatoo

During out last visit to the Monterey Bay Aquarium Ronan was a little overwhelmed by the large crowds streaming through the exhibits. Amidst the chaos a small but enchanting display of old cannery equipment was located in a quiet corner; this provided the perfect spot for Ronan to relax.

Turning a valve handles like it was a steering wheel

It was remarkable how Ronan took to the machinery- we spent a good thirty minutes looking at and playing with old steam boilers, lines and valves. Had Mom not been diligent in keeping to a nap schedule, Ronan would have happily spent another thirty minutes turning handles and following pipes. The fresh coat of paint and visitor-proofed equipment made the walk through Cannery Row history welcoming to toddlers and adults alike.

Waiting for the foreman to issue the release command

Thanks to Auntie E for taking all of these great photos!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Feel Better Uncle Todd!

Ronan has been sick all week with a high fever and a runny nose. The amount of mucus is ridiculous- the snot is everywhere. At some point you would think that this little body would run out of whatever the key snot ingredients are. Ronan was feeling sorry for himself until he learned that Uncle Todd was hospitalized last night with a lacerated liver. Yes, an unfortunate bicycle crash has relegated him to several days bed rest in the hospital; thankfully no surgery. Ronan sends all of the 'get well soon' love he could muster. Heal quick, Uncle Todd!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Gratuitous Bathtub Shots

This post is nothing more than two photos of Ronan naked. Yep, just a cute toddler in a tub. That's all, folks. Move along... move along...

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Hiller Air Museum

The main gallery

Yes, Ronan loves cars and motorcycles, but he also has an affinity for helicopters and airplanes. A great local spot for him to get his fix of aviation vehicles is the small but charming Hiller Museum in San Carlos.

Like any accomplished pilot, Ronan always keeps one eye on the gauges

There Ronan is able to explore an actual (but long since decommissioned) forward portion of a Boeing 747. Once he was able to chat up a retired United pilot who flew one of the actual displays (the cockpit of a Boeing 737) years ago. Helicoptors, an odd flying platform, an F-18 cockpit, the main section of the never-to-production Boeing supersonic passenger jet, and early version dirigibles are all packed into this small but great-for-children museum.

Cracking jokes with the pilot who flew this exact 737 years ago

Finally, if the static displays become boring, the museum looks out over the San Carlos airport giving visitors the opportunity to watch local pilots take off and land their single and twin prop airplanes. And, of course, many thanks to Grammy & Papa for the annual pass!