Friday, October 16, 2020

Illinois Parks and Family Time

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Lakewood Forest Preserve, McHenry Dam and Moraine Hills State Park.

Wednesday was the last NICE DAY in the forecast for quite awhile. 

It was blustery, with 40-50 mph winds from the south. Sun was in and out, but the 60-70's temps were lovely. 
Since our boat hoist is broken and it is hanging in the air...we decided to venture out in the counties for a little fishing with son and daughter-in-law, who had some vacation time.

We decided to try two of our favorite places.


We headed to Lake County Forest Preserve up in Wauconda, Illinois. Really only a few minutes from our house. It is the largest Forest Preserve in Illinois, with huge tracks of pristine land, walking and biking trails, horse trails, dog park, rolling hills, prairie, marsh and perfect for family outings for biking, hiking, picnicking, fishing and picture taking.


Several little lakes and ponds are sprinkled here and there along the walkways. In the distance is an island usually thick with geese. They were hunkered down in the grasses though, with the wind being so wild.


I just had to take photos where I found them. The bulk of the big trees are oaks, every kind.

Nestled in a small valley is the trout pond which is wind sheltered. HOWEVER...closed to fishing for the bulk of the month because of stocking. This gives the stocked fish a chance to spawn.


We were disappointed but it was still beautiful. 


I should have done a video the wind was wild!


I love nature and will take photos for possible paintings later.


As I kid, milkweed pods were my favorite...these are just about ready to explode into seed fairies!


Color is hit and miss in Illinois. We had a very dry July, August and September after a very wet Spring.  With the wind, anything that turns is blown away, so color may last for only a day.

We moved on, and drove northwest.


I have never seen all the rocks in McHenry Dam, in 30 some years,...mind you the water was up to the blue service bridge by the locks, last Spring and most of June.

The Fox River, yes the one that Father Marquette and Joliet traveled down to find the Mississippi. It runs from Green Bay, Wisconsin  to the Illinois River then to the Mississippi. And, you can boat all the way...with locks. I always wanted to take the entire ride in a boat, but have never had the opportunity. 

We dropped the guys off to fish here, and headed for one of the trails along the river and marsh.

Just around the bend, we saw a huge turtle track here, must have come from a  turtle dragging it's shell belly all the way to the water. The width was at least 8"with huge feet.

Besides having the waterway, the parks have glacial features, moraines and eskers, acres of marsh as well as hardwood forests and hills. It's beautiful and very, very large. The trail we are on is over 3 miles, but we are going to turn around and come back rather than do the whole thing.

 Today we were just by the dam and the marsh next to it.


This huge tree, drew my attention. While those are mulberry leaves in front of it, the tree itself was an Eastern Cottonwood. 


That's my finger sunk into the grooves of the bark. Cottonwoods love to grow along streams, rivers and in floodplains, which is exactly where we were walking.


Other usual marsh plants are Sumac, now a brilliant burgundy, which were actually drying up.


This is the only flowering plant we saw on our walk. It appears to be some sort of Loosestrife which favors marshes and wet lands. 


We've had three record years of rainfall in N. Illinois, and this area is a natural flood plain marsh. Lots of trees will just die when there is too much standing water for too long. 

This tree, looks to have been disassembled and made into a Hobbit hideaway.


Beaver are making a comeback as well as muskrats, this almost looked like a beginning of a dam.


The camera focused on the grass rather than the pair of mallards on the edge of the new wood dam. Still a cool photo. 


Walking back we walked on the edge of a huge pine forest. The needles are very thin, soft and long. I wish they would mark what is what in a park.


Back at the damn, the guys had been fighting the wind and NO bites, but it didn't matter.


It was a great afternoon outside with FAMILY, what could be better! 


Where is your favorite place?

Do not use my photos without my permission and linking back to this post on my blog.

Thank you for your cooperation, 

Monday, October 12, 2020

Can You Believe this is CAKE? .Burgers and Slider CAKES!

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Anyone can do this Burger Cake! We had a family birthday and the theme was Bob's Burgers, and I volunteered to make a Burger Cake! Since it was for only 9 people, I chose 2- 8"pans, 1-round bowl(pyrex), 1 9"pan(for the brownie) and  the cupcake pan for sliders


This is an eight inch wide Burger Cake. But, you can make it as large as the round bottomed baking bowl (for the top) you have. (I used the second largest pyrex bowl from the set)

For an 8" burger and 10 slider cupcakes, you will need the following:

2 yellow cake mixes-follow directions

1 fudge brownie mix-I skipped the water(just egg and oil) I wanted a chewy firm brownie.

1 package of fondant--I really have to find a recipe from scratch, it's $$$

cocoa mix (for cupcake tops to color)

Red squeeze cookie icing for ketchup

chocolate cake icing for assembly

green and yellow food coloring for fondant.

Trays and deli paper for effect! 



Baking: I used baking spray and flour on the bowl, parchment paper rounds in the pans for the layers. Still spray the pans and parchment paper for easy release. Remove layers from the oven to cool on racks as soon as possible, to avoid any sticking.

Cut and level off one 8" baked pan of yellow cake for your base. I work with cold cake, baked the night before. Lightly ice this layer. Take the brownie layer and with your fingers peel off the edges and round them to make a burger like layer. Place on bottom, lightly ice the burger layer. 

(You will have one extra yellow layer left over--or use for more cupcake 'sliders' or you could make a double burger with 2-brownie burger layers. I made a lunch counter out of this piece.)

Color and roll your yellowed fondant into a square shape--thin, trim to shape, you want the 'cheese' to be able to drip over the edge. Take your red cookie icing and squeeze all the ketchup you want over the burger and down the edges. I was vigorous because I wanted lots of color. 

Take a smaller ball of fondant and color it green with a bit of yellow added. Thoroughly mix, and break off into lots of random chunks and roll between two pieces of parchment until thin. Choose the biggest pieces, rip in half, ruffle the rounded edges into 'lettuce', and place around the edge of your burger.

Place your rounded cake on top after trimming flat on one side. The glass bowl gave the perfect brown finish for a bun top.

The SLIDERS are cupcakes split. The tops were too yellow so I rolled the top surface in cocoa mix, which was the perfect color and delicious. Add, Mini cheese pieces, and lettuce and the ketchup. The burger layer was a gob of chocolate icing swirled around and squished all together. 

Served on deli paper in a basket worked perfectly.


I added some printed photos..and signs...

Characters added to the sliders, but this could just as easily been made for a football game desert! Just add goal posts and some helmets on picks.


The sparkler candles were added fun.


Slicing open the cake was gorgeous, we never got photos, as it was eaten very fast.
The brownie layer MAKES this practically bare cake! 
The sliders were delicious, too. 
AND everything disappeared, so fast! 


Just a HUGE BURGER, a birthday
 and lots of family Fun! 
(We are fortunate almost all are working from home, and being home-schooled, so social distancing, elbow bumps instead of hugs, and even masks were present.)

What's the craziest Cake you ever made?