And then there were the mountains, valleys, rivers, falls, the glacier-carved canyon, and wildlife.





Grand Canyon of Yellowstone



Yellowstone Falls






blue bells


Golden Gate Bridge of Yellowstone



Mountain Bluebird


Calcite Springs




Lamar Valley


While the Grand Tetons were formed by the collision of tectonic plates, Yellowstone was formed by volcanic eruptions that resulted in a caldera (essentially a volcano with its top blown off). The Yellowstone volcano is still active, and has created more than half of the world’s geothermal features combined: hot springs, geysers, mudpots, and fumaroles.

Viewing these geothermal features with my own eyes was otherworldly. It was like I had been transported into a fantasy land, with fountains spewing from the ground, steam escaping from the depths of the earth, mud bubbling angrily, and turquoise-blue and jade waters that looked so inviting, but would scald you upon touch.

















Before school began in early August, J and I took a road trip to the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone. We backpacked for three nights in Grand Teton National Park before heading into Yellowstone. The experience filled me with awe and wonder, and at times made me feel like a tiny speck of dust. The beauty was indescribable. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.


driving into Grand Teton National Park


Paintbrush Canyon



Holly Lake


going up the divide


portrait session


Paintbrush Divide




soak at Lake Solitude


view from our campsite in the North Fork


South Fork, on the trail


the Tetons


to Hurricane Pass


Grand Teton


Cascade Canyon, on the trail



My apologies for neglecting this space. I didn’t mean to. It’s just that I’ve been swallowed up by school. School started six weeks ago, and tomorrow marks the end of the fourth week of middle school. Between student teaching, classes, and homework, I’ve had little time for anything else. I find myself scrambling to finish my reading and homework every night, or pushing myself to get ahead so that J and I can actually enjoy our weekends together. J has been really great about picking up my slack around the house (well, he pretty much does everything now) while I work on my assignments on the living room floor. All in all, being a student again is not as bad as I had envisioned it. I’m learning a lot, and I’m having fun doing it.

I also have an incredible demonstration teacher showing me the ropes. She is seriously amazing, and the 8th graders absolutely love her. I have so much to learn from her.

And I didn’t think it possible, but I find middle school students crazy adorable.

I can’t wait to see what the rest of the year brings.

the enchantments

About a week ago, we were in Washington visiting with friends. We also hiked the Enchantment Lakes. To say that the hike was challenging would be an understatement, as it was one of the most grueling “day” hikes I have ever been on. By the end of the hike, the five of us were like zombies marching in the dark, down the endless switchbacks in a trance-like state. How our feet managed to move of their own accord to navigate around roots and large rocks, I do not know.

Difficult as it was with multiple obstacles along the way, the hike was not without rewards. The views were incredible, and we were also blessed with multiple goat sightings.












Tomorrow morning, we leave for Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone. It will be a long road trip, but we have audiobooks from the library and sandwiches, kimbap, muffins, and other snacks to keep us entertained (and alert while driving) and well-fed on the road. In my numbed state in the Enchantments, I vowed to myself that it would be a long time before I would want to go hiking again. (J had this thought as well, as I found out the day after the hike.) But as we prepare for this trip, again we’re giddy at the thought of being in nature’s paradise, where wildlife abounds.

black and blue

I hope you all had a great July 4th weekend. We spent the entire Saturday at Great America, and another day in the sun at a barbecue with friends. And then there was time with family to round out the three-day weekend.

It’s been almost a couple of days, but I’m still recovering. I didn’t even want to write this post, but J said that he would punch me in the face if I didn’t. I kid, people. I kid. We like to joke around like that.

Here’s a joke for you (warning – it may or may not be funny): “What’s black and blue and creamy all over?”

A: “Someone who gets punched in the face with a cheesecake.”

Ha ha! Okay, maybe not. (Is it even physically possible to throw a punch and a cheesecake at the same time? This must be a two-handed exercise.)

The real answer to “what’s black and blue and creamy all over” is this blackberry and blueberry cheesecake.  J said it would be a shame if I waited until next year’s berry season to write about this cheesecake (I was trying to hold off until then. I am that lazy…I mean, um, tired.) So, here it is.


This cheesecake is a plain (vanilla) cheesecake topped with blueberry syrup, fresh blackberries, and blueberries. My original intent was to make a cheesecake with only fresh blackberries, but I thought a little something more was needed to hold the blackberries and cheesecake together. I had frozen blueberries on hand, so I cooked the juice of a large handful of blueberries down to a syrup. The top of the cheesecake was coated with blueberry syrup, and piled high with fresh blackberries. And then, to tie it altogether, some blueberries were dribbled on as well.

The black and blue cheesecake was a huge success with the family. It also passed the test of a ten-year-old who, without a doubt, knows his desserts. He didn’t eat much lunch that day, but interestingly enough, he did have room for two large helpings of cheesecake.

Graham Cracker Crust

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted (you can also use less than 1/2 cup; it should work)
15-16 cinnamon graham crackers from Trader Joe’s

First, take a 10 inch springform pan and wrap the bottom tightly with foil. (The pans are not leak-proof.) Place graham crackers in a large ziplock bag, and crush the crackers to a crumb by using a rolling and pressing with a large rolling pin. Press crumbs onto the bottom of the springform pan to form a tightly packed, smooth and even layer of crumbs. (Recipes I’ve come across call for baking the crust before adding the cheesecake filling, but I accidentally skipped this step and all was well).


Creamy Cheesecake

3 – 8 oz package cream cheese
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup honey
1 tbsp vanilla
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
pinch of salt
3 tbsp flour
4 large eggs

Preheat oven to 350°F. In a large bowl, mix first seven ingredients together, beating on medium-high speed until smooth. Add the flour and beat until incorporated. Add the eggs and beat until the mixture is just blended together. Pour mixture on top of the graham cracker crust and gently tap the pan on the counter top to ease out the bigger bubbles in the batter. Bake cheesecake for 45 minutes at 350°F. Turn off the oven and allow for cheesecake to slowly cool in the oven. (If the cheesecake cools too quickly, cracks will form as it shrinks and pulls away from the sides of the pan.) Leave the cheesecake in the oven for about an hour before pulling it out. Allow the cheesecake to cool to room temperature. At this point, you can either refrigerate the cheesecake overnight and serve it the next day, or you can chill it just so that it is firm enough to withstand the weight of the berry topping.


Black and Blue berry topping

2 cups frozen blueberries, thawed
squeeze of lemon juice
12 oz fresh blackberries

Make the blueberry syrup. Mash 1-1/2 cup of the thawed blueberries through a strainer over a bowl, using a spoon/spatula. The blueberry skins should be left in the strainer. Add a squeeze of lemon juice to the resulting blueberry juice and heat over medium-high heat until a thick (but not too thick) syrup forms. Allow syrup to cool (the syrup will also thicken as it cools).


Carefully unmold the cheesecake from the pan. Spread blueberry syrup on top of the cheesecake. Pile on the fresh blackberries, and sprinkle on the remaining thawed blueberries (use fresh blueberries if you have them). Keep chilled until ready to serve.

hot summer nights

When it gets warm — hot enough so that my blood vessels dilate instantly as I step outside (nice weather does come to San Francisco once in awhile) — all I want to do is curl up in a shady spot, and hope for a cool breeze to pass through. If I spend enough time in the heat, my appetite goes out the window (as does my desire to cook in a stifling kitchen). All of a sudden, I can’t stand to think of the foods that I love so much. What shall we have for dinner tonight? Chinese? Bleh. Grilled sausages and fries? Bleh!

On one of these hot summer nights, J suggested making our own Vietnamese summer rolls. We gathered up some boiled shrimp, lettuce, sprouts, cilantro, thai basil, mint, vermicelli, and tapioca starch wrappers, and wrapped up our summer rolls at the table as we ate, dipping them in lime juice/fish sauce and peanut sauce. It was marvelous.


Another night, we had watermelon salad. Cubed watermelon with tomatoes and avocado, tossed together in lime dressing. An amazing balance of sweetness and acid. We had this with a sliced baguette on the side, and it was the ideal summer supper in all ways imaginable — refreshing, light, and filling.

Watermelon Salad
Makes 2 big portions, or enough for 4 smaller servings
Adapted loosely from here

2 large tomatoes, mostly deseeded and cut into 3/4-inch chunks
2 cups 3/4-inch-cubed watermelon flesh
1 Hass avocado, halved, pitted, peeled, and cut into 3/4-inch cubes
3 large fresh basil leaves, cut into small ribbons
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 serrano chili, finely diced
1/2 tsp salt
freshly ground black pepper

Prepare watermelon and tomatoes, combining them in a large bowl. Place cut avocado in a smaller bowl. Add to the avocado juice from 1/2 lime, and using your fingers, toss around gently.

In another small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, remaining lime juice, basil, salt and pepper to taste. Pour over the tomato and watermelon and toss to coat evenly. Allow mixture to chill and marinate for 20 minutes.

Before serving, add the cubed avocado (along with the lime juice). Toss gently to mix, and drain excess liquid if you wish. Taste and adjust the seasoning to your liking.