Canada for July 4th

Sunday, July 20, 2014

July 4 Fireworks Over Niagara Falls

We decided it was wise to escape to Canada and eat at a Japanese restaurant for America's Independence Day. And this is how we ended up watching fireworks over Niagara Falls on a one night stopover. The display was only about 15 minutes, which is nothing compared to Pittsburgh standard fireworks. But Pittsburgh doesn't have giant waterfalls and an atmosphere that feels as tacky as the Jersey shore boardwalk. Pros and cons.

On our way back to the city, we stopped by Lockport, NY for a boat tour of the underground caves/mines. I have now seen 5-6 canal locks in my lifetime.

July 4 Fireworks Over Niagara Falls
Horseshoe Falls
Flowers at Horseshoe Falls
Katsu Dan, Edamame, and Sushi Pizza at Taki Japanese Restaurant Niagara, ON at night
Lockport Canal Locks
Lockport Underground Caves + Boat Ride
Lockport Underground Caves + Boat Ride

Success? Pickled Garlic Scapes

Friday, July 18, 2014

Pickled Garlic Scapes

In mid-June when garlic scapes hit the Farmer's Market, I purchased 1.5 pounds worth and set out to make Pickled Garlic Scapes from 'Food in Jars'. It turns out that I bought approximately one pint more than I needed, but I've got the jars, so whatever.

2 pounds of Garlic Scapes
Pickled Garlic Scapes

Review: LL Bean King Pine 4 Tent

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

LL Bean King Pine 4 Person Tent

In order to truly dedicate myself to more mini vacations (aka, weekend camping), I had to invest in a comfortable car camping tent. We've got a trusty lightweight backpacking tent, but this LL Bean King Pine 4-person dome tent is big enough that us giant people can even stand up in it! Also, it weighs fourteen million pounds.

We chose the LL Bean King Pine 4 over REI's Kingdom 4 tent, because (1) it can fit our queen-sized air mattress (a total necessity for glamping) and (2) the screened-in area is floor-less, so it can serve as an extended vestibule. You can stick your chairs under the tent when it rains, and not worry about tearing the floor!

As with all LL Bean / REI products, it's best to wait for a sale. Just before Memorial Day there's always a nice 20% tents sale, which went a long way toward making this high quality beast somewhat affordable. With those standard 100% satisfaction policies that you get from such over-priced establishments, it's a decently safe investment. Seams leak? Zippers are defective? You can just return it. However, nothing has gone awry yet in our trips since. Even in pouring rain, we've stayed nice and dry, watching the fire from the screened-in area.

Set-up is fairly intuitive, although I imagine if it was only one person setting up, it might be challenging. Possible, but a struggle. It's large enough to stand in, but not so large as to get comments from the peanut gallery. Without an air mattress, you could certainly fit four people side-by-side in the sleeping area and maybe some more if you put a tarp down in the screened room, but why would you want to?!

So far, we're really pleased with this tent!

A View through the King Pine 4 Tent
Sleeping Quarters in LL Bean King Pine 4 Tent
View Upwards of the King Pine 4 Tent
Back View of the LL Bean King Pine 4 Tent

Camping: Loleta Recreation Area

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Campsite 1 at Loleta Recreation Area, with our LL Bean King Pine 4 Tent

When considering where to camp this weekend, we thought about possibly Clear Creek State Park, but my friend Marisa's review of the campground ("It's kind of RV heavy--the campsites are definitely within earshot of all the noise-making generators and such. But the bathrooms are very clean") did not inspire too much confidence, especially since Loleta Recreation Area is not far from that site, we've been before and knew it had a perfect distribution of campsites. Most of the leveled-off tent sites are not even viewable from the road, much less from strangers' tents. It gives a feeling of actually being in the woods where you can pretend you don't have any neighbors! The electric RV sites are also a drive away from the standard tent sites, so there's not a generator to be heard. Downsides. While the campground has plenty of access to latrines, running water is at the bottom of the hill, and you basically have to drive there. Plus, there's only one shower per gender! Fun times.

Camping out in the Loleta Recreation Area in the Allegheny National Forest is much quieter than locations closer to the city because there's simply not that much to do! So, we hiked the short 3-mile Loleta Trail starting at campsite 15. We got to the Overlook (not much to look over), and promptly could not find the second half of the loop. So we just bushwacked back to the campsite. Ah, the benefits of having a hiking GPS. The Internet tells me had we followed the trail back, we'd have been pretty close to a creek. Instead, we stomped on ferns and were poked by pines.

Campsite 1 at Loleta Recreation Area
Loleta Trail (started at campsite 15)
This is what getting lost looks like.
No way but through.
Kindling Fire
Fire Build Up
Loleta Recreation Area Swimming Pond

Success? Rhubarb Chutney

Friday, July 11, 2014

Rhubarb Chutney

I've been building up quite the library of fruit jams and butters, along with some savory pickles. So with a new batch of rhubarb, I decided to try something new. This lead me to Marisa McClellan's Rhubarb Chutney (although, the recipe in her book starts with 6 cups of rhubarb, and an assortment of slightly different ingredient quantity adjustments.

Rhubarb Chutney
Boiling Rhubarb Chutney Ingredients
Reduced Rhubarb Chutney Ingredients
Filling the jars with rhubarb chutney
Putting the lids on the rhubarb chutney

Mixing Your Own Fajita Spice

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Fajita Seasoning

Did you know you can pretty easily make your own fajita seasoning at home? Pretty nifty, huh? Especially when you're in a pinch and want something new to flavor your dinner.

All these breakfast burritos while camping leaves us with excess tortillas and cheese. Fajita spice is the missing piece to our delicious solution.

Fajita Seasoning

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