August 27, 2017

Milk chocolate tart with pretzel crust

I had never made a tart before and was intrigued by this recipe. A giant chocolate covered pretzel? That was the idea anyway.

After it had set in the fridge for a bit, it was so pretty!

But I needed to transport it to South Jersey, and the plastic wrap and cooler didn't help it stay pretty. It also made it a little more wobbly than it had been after it sat in my fridge overnight.

This tart is a cool idea, but it's not very good. It's just not chocolatey enough. The milk chocolate is a mistake. It's already not as intense as a darker chocolate, and then you add heavy cream to make the filling and it dilutes it further. However, I'm not dissuaded from making tarts. More tarts in the future!

August 23, 2017

Utah rocks

Two thousand miles. Eleven days. Three states. Six national parks. Three state parks. One national monument. One tribal park. In keeping with my habit of blogging about our trips long after they happen, it's time to blog about our April trip to Utah. (This post is filled with photos, but if you want to see even more, you can find them in the Utah gallery at

Slot canyon!

Utah? Yes. Utah rocks. If I told people that my trip to Utah rivaled my trip to Hawaii, they'd think I was crazy. But Utah is filled with natural wonders, otherworldly places, and beauty that needs to be experienced. Before we left I picked up the National Parks Annual Pass, which can save you a lot of money. (It'll come in handy again for our upcoming trip...) Another good thing to know is to stay in the parks if you can. You'll avoid lines at the entrances, and you can look out your room or cabin's window and see amazing things! Most of where we went in Utah qualifies as desert so make sure you bring water when you're hiking.

The plan was to hit the Grand Circle and other places along the way in Utah, then travel down to the Grand Canyon in Arizona before heading home. We flew into Las Vegas (hence the three states), and drove to Zion National Park. We drove through the strip on the way. That was my first (and admittedly probably last) time in Vegas, but it was interesting to see in person. I also planned to eat as much Mexican/Tex-Mex food as possible during the trip. YUM.

Mission accomplished

I can't just say Zion was beautiful because everywhere was beautiful. Zion's beauty is hard to capture in a photo. With this park, you're in the canyon instead of looking down into it from the rim. I wanted to hike the Narrows, wading in the river through the narrow part of the canyon, but it was off limits. The river was too dangerous for hiking while we were there. We hiked all over Zion, though. There was lots of hiking on this trip.

the Watchman and the Virgin River in Zion

As we were driving from Zion to Bryce Canyon National Park, a bighorn sheep ran out in front of the car. It was pretty cool to see it so close. I can say that because we didn't hit it. There are many spots to pull over on the roads to check out the scenery, especially along Scenic Byway 12, and Dave wanted to pull over at the next one. What did we see? A sign saying that you might spot bighorn sheep on the road from Zion to Bryce.

Bryce Canyon was like nothing I've ever seen. It's filled with incredible formations called hoodoos.

Inspiration Point at Bryce Canyon

The viewpoints are very accessible from the parking lots, but we did hike down into the canyon. I'm so glad we did.

hiking in Bryce
However, remember that if you hike down into the canyon, you have to hike back up.

Bryce hoodoos up close

I should mention that I was determined to see the Milky Way while we were out there but kept being foiled by clouds. We did get to see it a little bit one night in Bryce but not the galactic core. Next up was Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. GSNM is huge. It's the size of Delaware. I didn't get to see nearly enough of it. Just driving through it is awe-inspiring. We stopped at Kodachrome Basin State Park on our way to Escalante.

Dave on the trail at Kodachrome

We hiked a loop trail and got back on the road. In GSNM outside of Escalante, we drove twelve miles down a washboarded dirt road to Devils Garden.

Devils Garden

Worth the drive! It was a secluded area of large, interesting formations. Then it was on to Capitol Reef National Park.

Capitol Reef

Capitol Reef is dominated by the Waterpocket Fold. It's described as a giant wrinkle 100 miles long. Also, petroglyphs!

Capitol Reef petroglyphs

I'm a fan of petroglyphs. Several of the parks we visited had petroglyphs. Next up was Goblin Valley State Park.

Goblin Valley

You walk down among them in a large valley. I think they look more like mushrooms.

Goblins or mushrooms?

Almost right next to Goblin Valley, in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, is Little Wild Horse Canyon.

Little Wild Horse Canyon
I love slot canyons! I wish we could've hiked more of them.

me and Dave

It's vitally important if you're going to hike slots that you check the weather first. These canyons were formed by flash flooding that still happens today if it rains nearby. People die so don't mess around.

Dave takes a lot of photos of me taking photos

Next we went to the town of Moab, which would be our base for the last part of our stay until we headed down to Arizona. Driving through Utah, I got to thinking that every part that we had seen was beautiful in a different way. We drove through Dixie National Forest and the aspens were gorgeous. We also saw a lot of cows on and next to the roads. There are a lot of open ranges in Utah so the cows just wander around. Be careful of the cows!

Hi cow!

The first thing we saw near Moab was dinosaur tracks. Dave wasn't impressed, but I thought it was neat.

Dinos were here.

Then we made our first trip to Arches National Park. We ended up going to Arches several times over the next few days. Arches was our favorite park of the trip.

Double Arch

The next day we got up early to drive to Dead Horse Point State Park so I could take sunrise photos. The overcast clouds sort of ruined the sunrise, but you can see it's still pretty looking into Canyonlands from the state park.

Dead Horse Point State Park

Canyonlands National Park has three sections. We drove down to see the Needles first. It's not the most visited section, but it was cool to see. We returned to Arches afterward.

me and Dave in Arches

We saw Delicate Arch from one of the far viewpoints.

Delicate Arch from Upper Viewpoint

This is the iconic arch of the park. It's on Utah's license plate. If you want to see it up close, you're going to hike three miles round trip. Not bad, you say. It's all uphill for the first half and there's no shade. All of the National Park Service brochures and the website warn about how strenuous this hike is. So we debated whether we were going to do it the next day.

the Island in the Sky section of Canyonlands

The next morning we went to the Island in the Sky section of Canyonlands. It's vast. It's almost incomprehensible. The weather wasn't great again, but I did manage to get a bit of sunlight glow on the underside of Mesa Arch.

Mesa Arch

Then it was back to Arches!

not just arches in Arches

Were we going to do that hike up to Delicate Arch? We were! Wow. Delicate Arch was without a doubt the highlight of the trip. The hike wasn't that bad at all. The Watchman Trail in Zion and getting out of Bryce Canyon were both more strenuous. When you near the end, you're on a narrow ledge of rock, with a wall of rock next to you and a steep drop off to the left. The wall of rock ends, and there is Delicate Arch. Glorious! It blew me away.

Delicate Arch

It's magnificent. It's not small, either. It's sixty-four feet tall. We were there about an hour before sunset, and the sun on the arch was breathtaking. I don't know what to say other than don't miss this. Take your time, bring plenty of water, and get ready to be amazed.

me and Dave at Delicate Arch

The next day we got up and drove to Arizona. In the snow. Did I mention that some places were quite high in altitude and it was colder than you'd expect? We had seen snow in Bryce Canyon and other places, and now it snowed heavily while we were driving. The weather at Monument Valley was stormy, so we looked for a minute and continued on our way.

Monument Valley

As we headed to our final stop, I wondered what Dave would think of the Grand Canyon. I'm one of the few people who isn't nuts about the Grand Canyon. It's big. It's pretty. All the viewpoints pretty much look the same. What would Dave think? Yep, he thought that, too. The Grand Canyon and Monument Valley were our least favorite parts of the trip.

the Grand Canyon

We walked all over and saw different viewpoints and also had some yummy ice cream.  

That's a sliver of the Grand Canyon behind us.

I got so many stamps in my National Parks Passport on this trip! That was exciting.

So many passport stamps!

Final thoughts?

me and Dave in the Fiery Furnace section of Arches
I could have spent a month in Utah and not seen everything I wanted to see. I knew I would like it. I never expected to love it.

August 14, 2017

Doctor Who: The Seeds of Death

In the near future, the Earth relies on T-MAT for transporting supplies across the globe. It's run from the Moon, and the Doctor, Jamie, and Zoe head there to see what's wrong when it stops working. Ice Warriors have taken over the base!

the Doctor with Ice Warriors

The Ice Warriors start using the TMAT to send seed pods to Earth to change the atmosphere before the Ice Warrior fleet arrives for part two of the invasion plan. In the end, the Ice Warriors' plan is not very well thought out and they're easily defeated. I expect better from them.

Ice Lord and Ice Warrior

There are only two serials left in the 2nd Doctor era. I feel like Grover, reluctant to turn the pages to get to the end of the book.


Doctor: Second
Companions: Jamie, Zoe
Episode: #48, "The Seeds of Death," six parts
Adversary: the Ice Warriors
Classic Lines: the Doctor, to some Ice Warriors: "Your leader will be angry if you kill me. I'm a genius!"
Tuck This Away to Impress Your Friends: This serial marks the first appearance of an Ice Lord (Slaar). Ice Lords command a group of Ice Warriors and look a little different. 
Next Up: "The Space Pirates"

August 8, 2017

Doctor Who: The Krotons

The TARDIS lands on a planet with two suns, hence the Doctor's umbrella. He says it will be hot.

Jamie, Zoe, the Doctor
They see someone vaporized and soon discover that the Gonds have been under the control of the Krotons for thousands of years. The Gonds use intelligence machines, and the two smartest are given to the Krotons every so often, never to return. Yeah, they don't return because they aren't smart enough and the Krotons kill them. 

Espresso, anyone?

FYI, Krotons kind of look like Bialetti coffee makers. Zoe and the Doctor use the intelligence machines and have the intelligence the Krotons need to escape the planet. (The Krotons keep calling them "the high brains.") Will they? If you know Doctor Who, you know the answer.

I just realized that there are only three more serials to go in the Patrick Troughton era. That makes me sad. I'll miss the adventures of the 2nd Doctor, Jamie, and Zoe!


Doctor: Second
Companions: Jamie, Zoe
Episode: #47, "The Krotons," four parts
Adversary: the Krotons
Classic Lines: the Doctor: "Zoe is something of a genius, of course. It can be very irritating at times."
Tuck This Away to Impress Your Friends: Zoe has an easy time with the intelligence machine but the Doctor doesn't do as well.
Next Up: "The Seeds of Death"
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