May 29, 2009

This Weekend: Spicy Ice Cream!

Ever since seeing Chocolat, I've had a passion for adding a little heat to anything sweet (no, that's not a reference to Johnny Depp). I've included smoked ancho chili powder in my chocolate biscotti recipe, I added a dash of cayenne to hot chocolate. Both were delicious!

So, naturally, I was intrigued by a post on SeriousEats about spicy ice cream. If you're up for a little food fun this weekend, why not try a scoop of your favorite cold dessert with dash of fire: chocolate with cinnamon & cayenne or maybe watermelon-jalapeno?

Click here to read the article. Click here for SeriousEats' recipe for Cinnamon-Cayenne Ice Cream. Yummmm!

© Vertes Edmond Mihai |

May 27, 2009

Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence...really!

There are plenty of reasons to visit Puerto Rico, perfect climate, beautiful beaches, lots of history, and one gigantic reason that you may not know about. An hour and a half from San Juan, sits the Arecibo Observatory; home to the world's largest single-dish radio telescope. You may have seen it in Contact with Jodi Foster. You may have seen it in the James Bond flick, GoldenEye. But you may not know that what happens at Arecibo can connect you with E.T. and the depths of the cosmos.

Stretching 1000 feet across and covering nearly 20 acres, the Arecibo dish listens for sounds that aren't part of the natural noises of space. Arecibo is seeking radio signals that indicate the presence of intelligent life beyond our planet.

If you think about the vast expanse of sky, the great depth of space and the many different radio frequencies you start to get a sense of the tremendous amount of data that the telescope collects as it does its job. To analyze all that data, scientists would need an enormous super computer, which, of course, means enormous amounts of money. Lacking that, some very creative people thought it would make a lot more sense to use not one supercomputer but many, many, many small computers; each one working on a little chunk of data. This is where you come in.

The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) developed SETI@Home so they can send manageable amounts of information to computers just like yours. Basically, you go to the SETI@Home site and download a special "screensaver" called BOINC. Once that's done, you can connect to SETI and have data transmitted to your computer. Then BOINC goes to work. According to the SETI site, "Like other screensavers it starts up when you leave your computer unattended, and it shuts down as soon as you return to work. What it does in the interim is unique. While you are getting coffee, or having lunch or sleeping, your computer will be helping the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence by analyzing data specially captured by the world's largest radio telescope." When your computer has finished working on its data, it lets you know it's ready to transmit its results. The site says transmission takes less than five minutes and you control when your computer reconnects with SETI.

SETI@Home just celebrated its 10-year anniversary. In the course of the past decade, 5 million people in 200 countries have been part of the search for life outside our world and about one million people are currently part of this most amazing research project. If you are a woman who dreams of off-world adventures as she gazes at the night sky or you just love the idea of being part of something really, really big, click here to check out the SETI@Home web page.

To listen to SETI Director Dan Werthimer talking with Ira Flatow on NPR's Science Friday, click here.

© Robertas Pėžas |

May 21, 2009

7 Eco-Adventures That Might Be Your Last...

TreeHugger has a fun piece about seven eco-adventures that might just get the better of you: Bolivia's Death Road, volcano boarding, saving the crocs...

Click here...if you dare....

It's Official, World Oceans Day is June 8

World Oceans Day was started by the Canadian government in 1992 and has been celebrated, unofficially, around the world ever since. Happily, 2009 marks the year that our oceans get an OFFICIAL day. The United Nations has declared that June 8 will forever foreword be known as World Oceans Day.

According to The Ocean Project's Web site, "World Oceans Day provides an opportunity each year to celebrate our world ocean and our personal connection to the sea. The Ocean Project, working closely with the World Ocean Network each year, helps to coordinate events and activities with aquariums, zoos, museums, conservation organizations, universities, schools, businesses." All of those events and activities will be working with this year's theme, "One ocean, one climate, one future."

So, what oceanic happenings are scheduled for your part of the globe? Click here to find out.

Image courtesy of The Ocean Project

May 19, 2009

NOLS: The Natonal Outdoor Leadership School

My boss likes to say that people need to hear something 7 times before they remember it. I know that's true with my kids but in the case of NOLS, it applies to me. I had seen the famous mountain and sun logo. I saw their booth at the Adventures in Travel Expo, (my sister won a NOLS T-shirt), but I didn't put it all together until last week:! And then I requested a catalog and spent this past weekend drooling over pictures and dreaming of rock climbing in Arizona, sea kayaking in Alaska & Mexico, wilderness canoeing in the Yukon, flyfishing in Patagonia, mountaineering in India, backpacking in Australia & Scandinavia.... Ah! What a catalog it is!

With more than 40 years of experience and courses ranging from 10 days to a full academic year, The National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) calls itself "the leader in wilderness education." They back that up by taking students of all ages on "real wilderness expeditions, teaching outdoor skills, leadership, and environmental ethics in some of the world's wildest and most awe-inspiring classrooms." Did you notice the part about the "academic year"? Many of NOLS' students take their courses for college credit -- credit that has transferred to more than 400 colleges around the country. Financial aid is also available through more than $1 million in scholarships annually.

So are you wondering what you can learn in a NOLS course? How's this for starters: backpacking, canoeing, caving, rock climbing, culture, fly-fishing, horsepacking, river kayaking, sea kayaking, mountaineering, rafting, sailing, skiing, snowboarding, leadership, teamwork, environmental studies, and risk management.

If you are interested in honing your leadership and outdoor skills or in taking the trip of a lifetime you've got to check out the NOLS course catalog. Click here.

May 15, 2009

American Hiking Society: Volunteer Vacations

You have a lot of vacation options for the summer but here's a terrific, affordable idea that you may not have heard about. The American Hiking Society offers an entire catalog full of Volunteer Vacations where you can spend time working on a trail stewardship project on America's public lands. You don't need any experience to become a volunteer-- just a love of the outdoors and a desire to get dirty. Here's what you need to know.

You pick the kind of adventure you want: Easy-moderate, moderate-difficult or strenuous-very strenuous. Each vacation in the AHS catalog has a difficulty rating as well as information about the kind of hiking or backpacking to expect and accommodations. Your trip may involve a primitive camp site, bunk house or cabin. Volunteer crews range from six to 15 individuals plus a crew leader and AHS says their participants range in age from 18 to 82. And then we get to the locations...because you'll be working on public lands, you have lots of spectacular choices: from Chugach National Forest in Alaska to Moosehorn National wildlife Refuge in Maine, to New Mexico's Cibola National Forest and Virgin Island National Park in, yep, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and lots and lots of beautiful places in between.

Costwise, this is a bargain! Your first trip will run you $275 ($245 if you're an AHS member) and each additional trip only $175.

What a great way to "get out and give back."

For more information about the American Hiking Society and volunteer vacations, click here.

To download the volunteer vacation catalog, click here.

FYI: I added a permanent link to the American Hiking Society in the resources section on the right side of the blog.

Image credit: Andrea Ketchmark taken by Allison Waterbury, American Hiking Society

May 14, 2009

California Woman Sky Dives at 89

I love this story in the San Gabriel Valley Tribune. Maxine Moreau has celebrated her birthdays with an adventure ever since she turned 85. First it was a helicopter ride over LA, then came the balloon ride and this year, at 89, Maxine opted for sky diving. Click here to read a terrific story by Jennifer McLain.

Here's my favorite quote from the article, "'People think I'm nuts,' Moreau said. 'When I was young, I was never that adventurous. Well, I never did anything stupid, I'll put it that way.'"

Happy birthday Maxine!

May 13, 2009

10 Mountains for Your To-Do List

The Adventure Blog is recapping a list of 10 mountains that don't require Everest-level climbing skills. Forbes Traveler created the global list (click here) for those of us looking for a challenge but who don't want to get the oxygen tanks out of the basement. This is a list for amateur climbers around the world so clear your weekend and grab those hiking boots!

Image credit: SEMENIC MOUNTAIN - 1446+
© Bogdan Lazar |

Give the Gift of Adventure This Summer: Give Fresh Air

For many of us, going into the electric energy of New York City brings adventure to our lives. But for many kids who are growing up in New York, adventure is found in grass and backyards and sunshine.

The Fresh Air Fund has been matching inner-city children in NY with host families since 1877. Their goal is to help kids enjoy the simple pleasures for one or two weeks each summer and this year is no exception. The Fresh Air Fund is seeking families from Virginia to Maine and parts of Canada who are willing to host a child between the ages of 6 and 18. According to the fund, more than 65% of all children are re-invited to stay with their host families, year after year. Why? Because the families believe that their lives are enriched by the experience.

To learn more about The Fresh Air Fund, click here.

For FAQs about becoming a host family, click here.

To see Executive Director Jenny Morgenthau talking with Meredith Vieira on Today, click here.

May 11, 2009

The Best Road Trip Ever...and I missed it

Back in December, I wrote about the National Pie Council's Annual Pie Championships (April 24-26) in Orlando and encouraged all of you to enter your favorite creation. Since the weekend coincided with the Great American Pie Festival (yes, a festival devoted to PIE), it was probably one of the best road trips ever -- one that I didn't take. I am particularly sad that I missed the 70,000 slices of pie in the Never Ending Pie Buffet.*

There is a brighter side, there were 900 pies put before 170 competition judges and 266 of them were entered by amateurs from across the US and Canada. The "Best of Show" amateur winner was Phyllis Szymanek's "Category Five Peanut Butter Pie." If you are like me and you missed all the delicious festivities, you can whip up Phyllis' creation yourself because the Pie Council sent us the recipe. If you are a pie fan or a pie baker, this weekend-o-pie is something to put on your travel list for next year.

Happy eating!

Category Five Peanut Butter Pie
by Phyllis Szymanek, Toledo, Ohio

1 1/3 cups finely crushed vanilla wafers
2 TBS sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/3 cup melted butter (unsalted)

Mix all of the ingredients in a bowl until blended; pour into a 9" pie dish sprayed with Crisco cooking spray. Press into the bottom and sides; bake in a 350 degree oven for 8-12 minutes or until lightly browned. Let cool

Peanut Butter Filling:
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1/3 cup Jiff creamy peanut butter
3 TBS softened butter (unsalted)
1/4 cup chopped peanuts (save small amount for garnish)

Mix first three ingredients in a small bowl. Spread into the bottom of cooled pie shell and sprinkle with peanuts.

2/3 cup sugar
3 TBS corn starch
1 TBS Pillsbury All-Purpose Flour
1/2 tsp salt
3 cups milk
3 egg yolks, lightly beaten
3/4 cup Jiff peanut butter
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
6 small (.55 oz) frozen peanut butter cups, chopped

In medium saucepan, combine sugar, cornstarch, flour and salt over medium heat. Gradually stir in milk until smooth; bring to a boil. Cook and stir for 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Gradually stir in one cup of hot filling into the beaten egg yolks. Return all to sauce pan, stirring constantly. Return to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Add vanilla and peanut butter. Let cool, fold in 5 chopped peanut butter cups. Pour into cooled pie shell. Garnish with whipped topping and remaining chopped peanut butter cups and remaining chopped peanuts.

*extra pie was donated to Feeding America

Image credit: The National Pie Council

May 7, 2009

This Weekend: Celebrate Spring

Contributing from Montana, Anne muses about spring in the wild places near her home.
The problem with being the Outdoor Diva for this blog is that I have to be inside to post updates. In the spring that can pose a challenge.
Between my husband and I, we’ve been keeping track of how many of the local wildflowers we’ve seen so far. I think he was up to nine before he went to California for the weekend, but I think I saw a new one while I was hiking yesterday. The dogs and I were very excited about our hike. There’s a large open space area not far from my house that’s closed during the winter because it’s winter elk habitat. It opened up again on May 1st. There were lots of new smells for the dogs. Joste, my older Norwegian Elkhound found a deer leg bone, which made him very happy. Roary, the younger one, got to chase prairie dogs—his favorite hobby.
I did have to pay attention on the walk. The trail skirts some very nice homes that are in a secluded valley. In the back acreage of one of the houses there was a large live-bear trap. They use these culvert sized traps to catch problem bears in our area. The bears are then relocated away from town. We get quite a few black bears around Missoula, but we didn’t see one on our walk.
Next weekend I might see lots of wildlife including bears, moose, otters, or elk. I’m signed up to do the 135-mile 2-day ride called the Scenic Tour of the Kootenai River in Libby, Montana. The northwest corner of Montana has lots of wildlife and few people. The first day is 98-miles, but I understand that they have a support van for the faint-hearted. I expect to have difficulty walking next Monday.
Meanwhile, get out and enjoy spring. It’s a great time.

For some great hikes in the Missoula, MT area, click here.

May 1, 2009

May is National Bike Month

In my area, May is the month when the weather jumps from cool and wet to HOT in about an hour. So, it makes sense that someone thought it should be the month dedicated to bike riding. With that in mind, I encourage you to visit Adventure Cycling, a not-for-profit organization whose mission is to inspire people to travel by bicycle. The How-To Department (click here or find it on the right side of their home page) has lots of articles on biking travel basics, biking gear and more. The group also sells maps for a number of bike routes around and across the country.
is a great free resource for finding bike trails anywhere in the US and Canada. They have more than 1,000 rides in a variety of categories (advanced, mountain, family, etc.) as well as a terrific search engine that lets you look for the perfect bike trail for you. The site has links to bike tour groups around the globe.

Looking for a new bike? Outside magazine's May issue has a feature on buying a new road or mountain bike.

Work close to home? Pull your bike out of the garage this weekend and give it a tune up because The League of American Bicyclists is promoting May 12-16 as Bike-to-Work Week.

© Allegretto |