Monday, December 27, 2010

Goin' To California

Christmas was a blast with Reno family, now I am off to CA to see LG family and start cleaning out my grandmother's house. Weird. Christmas Eve the turkey turned out wonderfully and my stuffing (first time ever) was a massive success! And my sister-in-law brought her big book of Christmas carols and we had a big post-dinner sing-along/dance party (we sang, the little guys danced). Our friends brought a chocolate cake they made out of one of the Ina Garten cookbooks, and it was kind of ridiculous. A pound of butter and a  pound of chocolate and it was still kind of dry. Tasty though.

Christmas morning we went and watched the kiddoes open presents. I got a high-tech flashlight and some  fancy smelly lotion (surprisingly nice), as well as a vacuum wine cork thing (from the wine drinkers) and a fleece that didn't fit, boo. Matt got me the Jack Spratt books (funnier than Thursday Next, in my opinion) and this awesome print:
which will be the first thing on the wall in the new house. I got him an awesome Van Halen shirt and some  CDs, but the biggest excitement was his coffee press, which he adores. The relatives all got homemade apple butter and other tasty perishables wrapped in a nice dishtowel from Williams Sonoma, we'll see if they get used. Hope everybody had a lovely Christmas and got nice stuff (but not too much stuff)! I'll be back for the weekend...

Friday, December 24, 2010

Have Yourself A Merry Little Pagan Winter Celebration?

I may have posted this before but it is another of my favorites and vaguely holiday-related so Merry Christmas everybody! Off to baste the turkey!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

More Pictures! Holiday Roundup.

Homemade swag.
Nerdiest swag ever. It's a tiny tuba.

This is my awesome tree. I paid  more to get it from the Boy Scouts instead of the grocery store but then they trimmed the trunk for me and loaded it in my car without getting needles everywhere. Also it is a much nicer tree than I have ever had before and has hardly shed at all in almost two weeks! No idea how the fancy decor bloggers get such good tree pictures, however I imagine it has to do with proper lighting and big white walls to shoot against instead of busy red brick and speakers. Now I remember why I am not a fancy decor blogger.
Hungarian ornaments. Oddly enough I have a heart and an umbrella. They were from one of my sisters, years ago.
Hummingbird from my aunt. He has a matching peacock buddy, too. You can also see my beloved cranberry wood garlands in the background. I think these are so pretty, I got two last year and had to get two more this year because I love them so much (and they are pretty short).
My oh-so-festively decorated mantel. If I wasn't getting ready to move I would acknowledge that it needs bigger art or something as everything is slightly too uniformly short. But right now it just has to hold all the holiday cards. There is some hand-me-down silver garland action here too. Not as cool as the cranberry  garland. Also tiny felt trees from my sister and silver candlesticks from the in-laws.

And this is my centerpiece. Every year it gets a different combo of ball colors, but the dish is always the same. It is a random wedding gift from I-have-no-idea-who and once a year I bust it out and fill it with balls. 

Now back to cooking!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Pictures! Also, Recipe Roundup And Peppermint Bark Recipe!

This is peppermint bark. It is pretty simple to make. I melt a bag of milk chocolate chips in the microwave (30 seconds, then stir, repeat 3-4 times until there are no chips visible). Spread it in a foil-lined cookie sheet and put it in the fridge until it hardens. Put six standard-sized candy canes in a bag and bash them with the bottom of a pint glass (or other convenient hitting implement) until they are a mix of small chunks and powder, nothing bigger than about 1/2 inch. Melt the white chocolate just like you did the milk chocolate, then before you spread it on, stir in the candy cane bits and spread away. Once it has all hardened, break it into chunks and enjoy! It may not look like much but it tastes like pepperminty heaven!
 Bourbon balls from Cookbook's recipe. No Nilla wafers here! Tempering chocolate is still not my forte but they taste a lot better than they look!
Honey caramel nut bars via Sunset magazine. These need to cool COMPLETELY before you try and cut them. Not as in wait until they're just warm. Like, the next day. 
 Nuts with sea salt, garlic powder and Italian spices. Easy, but these need a lot of olive oil or all of your spicy goodness will fall to the bottom of the bowl once they've cooled off. So sad. Until you get to the bottom of the bowl... These are ridiculously tasty when they are still hot.
 Snappy little gingersnaps. Yum.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

I Swear Pictures Are Really Forthcoming

So the party Friday night was generally a success. And I slept all day yesterday, just about. We missed a couple of people because a storm blew in Friday afternoon and they decided to stay in. But the overall turnout was still great! People brought candy and cookies and little pesto cheese pinwheels. Also vodka, tequila, wine and beer. We always end parties with more booze than we start them. I am drinking leftover cider with gingersnaps right now.

In a hierarchy of homemade popularity we had :
bourbon balls,
peppermint bark,
my grandmother's korozot (nothing like the recipes you find on the internet, hers is WAY better)
hummus (had to explain how to make it at least twice)
nut bars (should have sprung for cashews instead of subbing in walnuts)
roasted red pepper/artichoke dip (didn't need to compensate for not using marinated veggies by adding too much garlic, whoops)

We killed the soft cheeses and the Irish cheddar (mmm, Trader Joe's I love you) and still have a solid chunk each of gouda and apricot stilton (to serve for Christmas Eve, not eat all up). I have been sending visitors away with care packages of cookies and am doing my best to defend the rest of the candy for specific recipients. Also somebody brought some candy cane taffy from Whole Foods and it is shockingly good. It's like saltwater taffy and so pepperminty and delicious! The big bowl of veggies was almost completely cleaned out (and now I am craving more radishes), as was the antipasto platter (Matt was so sad to not have any leftover salami). The secret smash hit was TJ's pigs in blankets. They were a late addition and stuck to the pan coming out of the oven but once people spotted them they disappeared in minutes. Overall it was a great party and I am still tired!

Next up, Christmas dinner!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Recipe/Spread Pictures Pending

I want some action shots of the spread tonight before I post some how-tos. So probably tomorrow. The second cookie option turned out to be these and in retrospect I should not have cheated and subbed out the salted cashews for some walnuts I had on hand. Matt called them hippie cookies and I think that's why. The cashews would have  made them richer. Although the shortbread is nice and buttery. They aren't super-sweet either.

Next time, not more sugar, but a little more in the spice dept. and no cheating on the expensive nuts. Then they will be worth popping that Benadryl for.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Flash Of Genius

No, not me. The person who designed the functional Christmas tree stand I now own. Pictures to follow shortly. I used to think it was just me having trouble getting the tree up. This new stand makes it clear I was completely incorrect on that front. It took about 5 minutes and there wasn't ANY swearing.

Also my house is so full of candy I am not sure what to do about it. Oh yeah,that's right. Make another batch of bourbon balls.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

So Maybe I was A Tad Unrealistic

...because although I offered to join the cooking party, I am also preparing to cook for an actual party. It is a week from tomorrow and it is LARGE. We throw a Christmas party every year and this is our last one in Reno. I am expecting 30-40 people  (it's hard to predict).

So here is the initial rundown of what I plan to serve, and thus, have to prepare in the next week:
artichoke dip
roasted red pepper tapenade
this awesome looking thingy (as a replacement for my usual)
along with a regular cheese plate, some fruit (with the cheeses) and veggies (with the dips), crackers, baguettes and an antipasto plate with olives and salami and whatnot. But that stuff just needs assembling. Also super-awesome fancy pigs in blankets from Trader Joe's, as well as their delicious olive tapenade.

and on the sweet side:
gingersnaps (would it be weird to put in chunks of candied ginger? I love that stuff)
peppermint bark
bourbon balls
snickerdoodles? Is that too much? I can't skip either of the candy options as they are two of my biggest hits, and I LOVE gingersnaps so I am thinking these are the ones to scratch.

People always bring sweet stuff and it doesn't move as fast as the savories so I am not going all out here. I am trying to think of a couple more hot options. I'd do Cookbook's awesome-sounding hot artichoke spinach dip but I am without a crock pot. In the past people have also bought chips and seven layer dip as well as shrimp w/cocktail sauce so I am inclined to skip those two things. I  am trying to keep it not totally heavy, too.

But I am also tempted to make my grandmother's korozot as it is a huge hit as long as I tell people what it is. All the recipes I find on the internet seem to have a stick of butter. Hers is blue cheese mashed up with cream cheese, grated onion, mustard and paprika. Maybe instead of the artichoke dip? But I already have all that other cheese going on too...

Opinions VERY welcome! What do you look forward to at holiday parties?

And after this is Christmas dinner, and my mother-in-law has already announced that SHE wants to do lamb (even though it was totally awesome last year when I did it). Maybe I can do the korozott then instead.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


Ahh measuring tapes, the bane of my existence. I finally got my dad to send me a floor plan, and while it is good to know that we really can't bring our giant couch, it still puts a couple of kinks in some of my theoretical plans. But it sure is nice when you find out a room is a little bit bigger than you thought  it was and suddenly planning everything out gets a little bit easier. However, our living room is still a totally wacky shape and it will be interesting to see if I can make it comfortable without succumbing to the siren song of a more size-appropriate Craigslist couch (do they have bedbugs in the Bay Area?)

Also, despite the Blogger picture issues driving me bonkers, I found a Christmas present for the new place. I just can't post you a picture of it. Not  even from my own Flickr account. Stupid Blogger. Does anybody know how Blogspot lets you post pictures? Or at least if it sucks less?

Also, ginger carrot soup is very good for colds but my entire head is still blocked up solidly. SOLID. LY. I feel like I am descending in a plane and my ears will not pop. Ergh.

Monday, December 6, 2010

In Theory

I should be posting my list of cooking challenges, how awesome my job hunt is going, and how productive I am being. Instead I am watching old Doctor Who (as in, Eccleston-era, not OLD Doctor Who) and sniffling  a lot while feeling very congested/sorry for myself. I hope this goes away soon. Matt's has lasted for almost a week and he had a good three-day head start on me. Can anyone recommend good time-wasters from Netflix streaming? Hey, how about a pretty picture?
I am going to miss my blue walls. Also, I would like a lime green lounge-y chair for Christmas please, Santa.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Opinions? Also, Gloating.

So I succumbed to Cyber Monday. had a deal where if you spend over $100, you get $30 off. So if I buy two pairs of shoes (like I usually do, assuming there is NO WAY both of them will actually fit) they are $54 each, instead of the normal-sale $72 or the full-price $90. And I have been hunting for a pair of dressy flats for pretty much all of 2010. Also, free shipping AND returns (crucial for how many shoes I return). Then I can return the pair that doesn't fit (there's always at least one) and still enjoy my discount, ha!

So these are the front-runners. I am pretty pleased with them. They are not 100% comfy but about 85% and that is good for me as Clarks usually take a little breaking in. They also are awesomely gunmetal gray with STUDS and a tiny (a.k.a. comfortable) wedge heel. How could I not love them?

This was very cheering after wasting most of my day at the Nevada Job Connect office. They seem to be catering to people who have no idea how to use a computer or write a resume. I feel like I should be able to find a job without the help of anyone there. Yeesh. It seems weird to be talking about this and shopping in the same post. But that's also why I can't buy shoes unless they're at least 40% off. It's weird how I can justify spending money sometimes even though I haven't had a job in a month. But I am working on it. And I have been hunting for shoes like these for at least a year now. Also, I am attempting not to purchase clothing until I have employment to justify it. I can get through holiday parties etc. on the wardrobe I have. But not the shoes.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Weekend Update

I hope everyone had a happy T-Day (or a nice weekend, Canadians). This was one of the nicer Thanksgivings in recent memory, we drove down to my aunt's house in Winters (outside of Sacramento) bearing pies and apple butter (Xmas presents for people we won't see later). I helped with potato mashing and Matt led a family jam. Winters relatives have a musical bent so there are generally percussion items for small people to bang on. And guitars and pianos for big people to bang on. My mom's sisters are nice and mellow and only one of my sisters was there (we are less mellow and there are a million nieces and nephews) so it was a refreshingly peaceful day.

The potatoes were a mix of generic yellow (yukon gold?) and purple potatoes so they came out a delicious shade of lavender. The apple pie was declared by the five-year-old to be the best pie he had ever had. So overall a success. That night we crashed in Davis and went back for breakfast the next day. And can I say, baking leftover mashed potatoes with cheese on top until they get crispy edges has to be one of the better uses of leftovers in our family.

Then we trucked back to Reno and sat around on the internet looking for jobs. The rest of the weekend mostly involved being cold and going to other people's houses to eat their leftover turkey soup. Now I am sad that I don't have my own leftovers. I might just have to pick up some purple potatoes. Also my whole family is excited for me to move into my grandmother's house. All I have to do is communicate that I am not attached to any of the big dark old paintings even though they are of family. And that I could really use some of the furniture. I am also back to collecting inspiration photos.

Unlike my (cozy, brightly colored) house, the new place has wood floors and white walls (gasp!) and white curtains. So we will see what we can do to make it feel like home.

Thursday, November 25, 2010


I am thankful for all my loving crazy family and friends, and for the new adventure to come! Hope all my readers/crazy friends are having a happy T-Day full of love and good food. 

Settle Station

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Drop in the Bucket.

In between applying for jobs I am starting to attempt to clean out the house. I just got rid of a lounge chair/ottoman thing via Craigslist and it took so long. Curse you, winter storms. I need to have a garage sale here! Can it please not be 35 degrees out this weekend? Talk about bad timing to start getting ready to move.

I want to take about half this stuff with me. Matt wants to store way too much of it for just-in-case purposes, which might kill me (esp. in the cases of a lot of the random crap we've NEVER used). But at the very least it is not getting trucked to California. And he knows that. So it's a start. And he knows we are not paying to store anything. And his dad (of the 5 acres of sagebrush with plenty of spare room...) knows that too.

I figure, if we really need it we can come get it out of "storage" or replace it via Craigslist because the Bay Area CL is so much better than the Reno one. And I am realizing how many people I have missed that I will be able to see again down there. Not the least of which is my grandmother, but also my parents and sister and Reno peeps who have moved down there and LG peeps who have never left. So I am getting excited!

Tomorrow we go talk turkey with my dad, see what kind of shape the stuff in the house is and what of it we can still use. Also, eat real turkey. I am bringing a pair of pumpkin pies and an apple pie with obligatory homemade crumble crust. Pumpkin pies are done, pain-in-the-butt pie is all that's left to do other than pack the car and get a haircut. Matt has been taking videos of me with his new phone and other than generally objecting to their existence, they showed me that I really need a haircut. So I guess their existence isn't completely offensive, just mostly.

Also, does anyone know how to put pictures in Blogger now? I have some home inspiration photos I really like and it wants me to put them in Picasa so I can upload them. It seems silly to not be able to upload directly from My Pictures any more. And posts with no pictures are exponentially less fun :(

Sunday, November 21, 2010


We just called my parents and asked them if we could move into my grandmother's house. They offered in the past but now it's serious. Also it is a lot smaller so we are really going to have to do some cleaning out now. We will store some stuff with Matt's parents unless we can get somebody we like as a renter and then we might be able to rent this place partially furnished. But we are still moving somewhere smaller and even though the job market is WAY better I still don't have a job.


Friday, November 19, 2010

Canning Success. I Guess.

A big chunk of Christmas is now taken care of. The second batch of apple/pear butter was much more successful. However, I am unable to keep my stove at a low enough simmer so I have to turn it off and give it an extra stir periodically so it doesn't bubble to enthusiastically. This would be fine if it didn't have a tendency to blorp a lot and make a big mess. And spit scalding brown liquid IN MY EYE. It's gonna be a cranky Christmas, I can just feel it.
Apple Butter
From somebody much more organized. I got about a dozen jars of this size as I made two separate batches that were both small enough to do in my Dutch oven. They will probably just get a nice ribbon and a little label pasted on and be good to gift.

However, peppermint bark is thankfully pretty much idiotproof. I will post a recipe as soon as I make a batch and remember all the things I always mean to write down. I am so lazy I tend to gift this in a ziploc bag with ribbon tied around it. But I assume everyone else eats it as fast as we do so I figure it's not a big deal.

Monday, November 15, 2010

That Was Interesting

Had a nice visit home this weekend. We are looking into renting this place and moving down to the Bay Area. I still can not wrap my head around that. My grandmother is in a care home and we would rent her house from my dad, and then we could go see her more. But I think the whole landlord-in-law thing is freaking Matt out. BUT, I can't even find jobs to apply for here. So we will see how things work out.

Current free time projects are thus a. job hunting and b. getting this place potentially rental-ready. Which kind of kills me since I just repainted my office and it looks nice and green right now. Sigh. We will put that bit off for a while. Maybe we can find a renter who likes a little bit of color.

Also, a tiny little part of me is excited about leaving the allergies and the cold and getting to decorate a new place and whip a new yard into shape. Even as a renter. Am I crazy? Maybe.

Monday, November 8, 2010

I Am Still Terrible At Titles

Sunday turned into a very fun day! Beauty and the Beast was a very well-done production, and I have never seen the Pioneer Theater so full! It was a matinee, too, so there was a very high percentage of little girls in princess dresses too. My niece made it through the whole thing,but she did spend most of act one on her grandma's lap and most of act two on mine. I think her mother was probably aghast. But there were lots of other kids sitting on people's laps so I figured it was no big deal.

Anyways, the show was fun, but they definitely didn't add much in the music department. I recognized most of the songs from the movie and they were solid but the filler songs that were added were all pretty weak and the kiddo and I both got fidgety during those (they were all ballads too, ugh). Costumes, sets and effects were all lovely. There were some neat bits when they're being attacked by wolves in the snow in the forest so they had a transparent scrim come own at the front of the stage and then projected blowing snow on it and they had people in black behind it doing big wolf puppet things that looked pretty darn cool. That was a terrible explanation.

You know what else was terrible? The sound, dammit. I swear all the sound guys in this town are deaf! The whole show is very lyric-heavy and a lot of the big numbers are already a little hard to understand but when the pit is miked and totally overpowering it is kind of annoying. For the prices of these tickets we should be able to hear and understand at least the leads, if not the chorus as well. Although understanding the chorus is a pet peeve of mine, and also why I wish all English operas had supertitles, especially Gilbert and Sullivan.

Overall, a fun show, and suitable for modern wannabe princesses of all ages, although clearly 4.5 is a hair on the young side. Belle is interesting and proactive, always trying to stand up for herself and what she thinks is right. There are a lot worse Disney princesses out there to choose from. Also kudos for a show with both male leads NOT being tenors. I love me some baritone goodness.

And then Matt and I went to a gorgeous, mostly vegetarian dinner party. I need to replicate the non-veggie bit, it was this amazing shrimp in a cream sauce but it involved flambe'ing them in Sambuca first and it was so subtle I never would have been able to ID the flavor if it hadn't been for the big poof of flame. Then there was an amazing Thai-inspired beet soup and zucchini fritters in homemade tomato sauce. Personally I like a fritter to be crispier, but it was a grand showing from someone who would normally prefer to feed us steaks and things stuffed with cheese.

Now I just have to figure out what to make next time we have him over. Last time if I recall the starter was a creamy corn chowder (very time and calorie intensive but worth it, only in corn season though) and then a ridiculously nice piece of halibut from Whole Paycheck. I love dinner parties.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Hoo Boy

I have been a bum this weekend but I will make up for it by getting out and being sociable today. I get to go to the touring Broadway version of Beauty and the Beast with my mother-in-law, my sister-in-law and my completely princess-obsessed four-year-old niece. Can a four-year-old sit through an entire musical in a possibly stuffy and hot auditorium on a rainy Sunday afternoon? I guess we'll find out.

Also, any excuse to get dressed up. Boo yah. I wonder if I have an outfit that justifies my grandmother's pearls? I might have to go work on that. I wonder what my junior high tomboy self would think of me now? She'd probably be pissed at me for not figuring out how fun dressing up is years ago.

Now I know I could totally rock a shiny silver muumu. Partially because I think I am about a foot taller than the pixie in the picture.

Or I could rock my grandmother's best striped teapot. Also, I wouldn't need a raincoat!

Friday, November 5, 2010

The Pros And Cons Of Netflix

I have been watching some fun stuff on Netflix Instant recently. And some not-so-fun stuff, too. Recently I clicked on Easy Virtue, a Noel Coward play made into a movie with the awesome Kristin Scott Thomas and the normally adorable Colin Firth. However, this is apparently not a comedy originally, and they attempted to make it into one. Colin Firth is a depressive war veteran and Jessica Biel, of all people, is the sassy daughter-in-law trying to stand up to Kristin Scott Thomas. Kristin Scott Thomas, people. Seriously. She could pick her teeth with Jessica Biel. I gave up about 20 minutes in, after JB sat on KST's dog and tried to hide the expired carcass in a throw pillow. Pathetic.

Then I remembered a movie that SCB has mentioned in the past:

This is Noel Coward done properly. Jeanne Tripplehorn is the scheming soon-to-be daughter-in-law and the matriarch is the fabulous Julie Andrews. There is a minor Baldwin brother who isn't terrible, and Stephen Fry is the obligatory butler AND Colin Firth is the much more entertaining nephew. This is much more fun and a much better way to spend an evening. Clearly I need to get some Noel Coward plays from the library.

Also, apple butter updates are forthcoming, the first attempt will probably be tomorrow. Wish me luck!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Facing The Holiday Onslaught (And A Question)

I know the holidays aren't really that bad, but I am trying to do my prep EARLY. The goal is to spend minimal $$$ while not appearing cheap and/or neglectful. Top three candidates for adult friends/family presents are:

1. apple butter
2. herbed sea salt (for the cooking-inclined, but is this too chintzy?)
3. peppermint bark (mine is way more awesome than Willams Sonoma's and also much cheaper to make!)

That way we only do actual shopping for the kiddoes, and since I am up to EIGHT of them now we will optimally be coordinating with other family members on some group gifts. So they get good stuff instead of just junk in mass quantities.

T-Day will be hosted by another family member so I am off the hook for that other than for a couple of pies. But that is when I will see most of my family members before Xmas so the goal is to give most of them their misc. perishables then instead of after the fact. So this month I will be making apple butter for sure (and I also owe one fruitcake).

So I finally get to bust out my handed-down apple butter recipe and do some real canning! It doesn't look that scary. Right?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Quote of the Day, Week, Month...

I believe that if life gives you lemons, you should make lemonade. And try to find somebody whose life has given them vodka, and have a party.

- Ron White

Or maybe I should go with Dory instead -

Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming. What do we do? We swim, swim.

Now it's time to turn that resume into GOLD.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

It's Already Tuesday!

Yes, I early voted and NO it wasn't for crazy Sharon Angle. Also, I am so tired of applying for jobs and not hearing anything back from anybody. So I just got a nice email from my old boss with lots of good tips on re-formatting and polishing up my resume and that is the project for the day. I've got another half dozen jobs to apply for so I am just going to keep on plugging away...

Friday, October 29, 2010

Weird Schedule = Bad Updates

I am not doing well at updating now that I am back! For reference, I am planning on being a bum this weekend and hiding out in the dark watching movies instead of giving candy to children or dressing up and going out to spend too much money on alcohol with a bunch of strangers. Bah humbug, I say! Or is that too soon?

However, tonight is dinner party night! I love a nice dinner party! It's nothing too exciting, here's the menu:

smoked gouda
red pepper and artichoke tapenade

from here.
nice piece of wild sockeye salmon (probably just gently sauteed with lemon and white wine and a bit of garlic)
the last of the green beans (possibly roasted, possibly not)
salad (with the last of the tomatoes, sigh)
roasted vegetables (carrots, mushrooms and tiny potatoes)
and whatever ciabatta is left if I don't finish it before they get here...

Dessert is being brought, so that will be fun! Our guests are pros in the dessert dept. so I figured that was safe to delegate ;)

That is pretty much the big excitement for the weekend. I am going to lay low and stay away from candy and probably skip out on family Sunday dinner early so I make sure not to miss my new favorite show. Masterpiece Theater, how I love you so!

Also, Martin Freeman has become my new favorite Watson! I will refrain from writing more drivel about him with excessive exclamation points, but suffice it to say, I am a fan.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

On Pleasant Surprises

I was cleaning out my cupboards this weekend and just happened to find all the makings of a pumpkin pie. Yay pie! So I knocked up a couple of pie crusts using my standby recipe (I cheat and use my food processor so it takes about four minutes) and my mother-in-law happened to be doing a turkey for Sunday dinner so we went all out. It was ugly but tasty. But now I have a spare pie crust.

So I am thinking pasties. My favorites while we were in England were the Cornish pasties but I have also had interesting ones involving pork and apples. So right now I am contemplating carrots and potatoes, to be traditional, but maybe with some of the chicken sausage I have stashed in the freezer. Too weird? I guess I'll find out... I love having all the fixings to make something right in my kitchen without having to run to the store for ONE THING.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

It Must Be Fall

because I am having cleaning urges. I've started on the pantry and have cleared out some old bottles and jars that expired/were never going to get used. What I really need to do is de-grime my horrible old avocado green stovetop. I get compliments on my retro green kitchen but it is so hard to keep clean. More photos and trip recap once I get this out of my system. Ugh.

Well maybe a picture or two. We are still jetlagged, I am coming home and taking naps before dinner and then waking up raring to go at 5 am. It's not terrible, apparently I am more inclined to be productive in the mornings than in the evenings.

And last night we went to a lovely recital (after my nap), to "celebrate" that my job ended yesterday. So my house is going to be really clean soon. And all the house projects I have been putting off will be done. Right?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

I'm Alive! With A NYC Recap And Pictures, Too!

And good lord is it nice to have water pressure again. The Brits do many things well (ask Matt about cask-drawn ales sometime), but water pressure is not a high priority. And when it takes a half an hour just to get the soap out of my hair, it makes me think, are we really the wasteful ones here?

Anyways, trip recap part 1:

We drove down to the Bay Area and I got to have a nice visit with my grandmother, followed by a girly afternoon with Kari and pedicures and wine tasting. In retrospect, this was a GOOD idea. By day two in NYC, my dogs were barking! We got to have a chill evening with some friends instead of the reunion fiasco, and then we were off!

We flew into Newark first to see some cousins and had a couple of gorgeous days in the city:

We walked through Times Square (oops) and Central Park (aaah).

We hoofed it all the way up to the Lincoln Center neighborhood for free awesome jazz at the American Folk Art Museum AND over to Grand Central Station just to do some ogling. That is one gorgeous building.

Instead of walking back through Times Square we cut across Fifth Avenue and Matt patiently let me wander through H&M (I find that to be a highly stressful store) and I found a ridiculously large mauve circle scarf that I then wore every day for the entire rest of the trip. Also for one of the only photos of me, in front of Rockefeller Center (not very exciting).

Among the other highlights of the NYC portion of the trip were High Line Park, a converted elevated train line that is now a nice park for walking around (maybe better when you haven't already walked 100-odd blocks, though) with some neat views. It is in one of those weird neighborhoods where it looks kind of rough and is down by the water but then you walk by a store and realize it is Diane von Furstenberg. There are some cool views from up there. If you click that is Lady Liberty right in the middle there.

And some ugly buildings, too.

The Empire State Building has an amazing lobby but we were too cheap to go up to the Observation Deck. Story of my life. I guess the views aren't what they once were with all the taller buildings there now. But still, sigh.

We also walked to Greenwich Village for more awesome free jazz at The 55 Bar and just happened to walk by a Brooklyn Industries store. I now officially LOVE this place and wish I had more money to spend there. I got an adorable purple skirt (with studs! very mild-mannered ones, though) and a yellow wallet with birds on it (I will never lose it). The shirts were on the thin side but the dresses and skirts and bags were all eminently covetable. Also, lovely service and coats to die for.

We stayed with cousins in Hoboken and took the Path into the city, which was nice and easy. We didn't have much in the exciting food dept. overall, whenever we went somewhere touristy we regretted it. We found a great little Jewish deli right behind the Empire State Building where we were the only ones aside from the staff not wearing yarmulkes. We also had nice Thai food and tasty pizza in Hoboken close to where we were staying. We were trying not to spend boatloads of cash as England is pretty pricey, but we still had a lovely time. Staying with family was highly entertaining, the new wife is an ex K9 cop and current dog trainer and has a gorgeous black German Shepherd who only responds if you talk to him in German.

Next up, Earby! Also Manchester, Skipton, Carlisle is awesome and Heathrow sucks.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

I'm Still Here. Barely.

I am trying to finish everything up before my trip. And pack. And find a suitable pair of shoes to bring. Everything else is pretty much under control.

But I told my coworkers that I was going on my trip with only a carry-on and to a woman, they were aghast. Is this so crazy? I think I can do it. It's not a big partying trip for which I will need lots of fancy outfits, we're staying with family the entire time and they all have washing machines. My only worry is shoes. I was just going to bring one pair but I am really wishing I had room for a cute pair, maybe to go with one dressy outfit?

Odds are in favor of the weather being crappy for the most part and there are zero dressy events planned, but cute clothes are sure cute. I'm torn. I am bringing not-totally-hideous sneakers for the walking but I am really tempted to toss in a cute pair of heels and a skirt just in case. they wouldn't take up that much space, right?

Not the most fab shoes ever but at least they are comfy and I can waterproof them somewhat (also, at least they're not white).

Books for the trip have been a major triumph though: my mom loaned me a biography of Gertrude Bell, I just obtained the complete stories of Dorothy Sayers and the author of one of my FAVORITE BOOKS EVER just put out a new book that I am not allowed to crack until I am safely ensconced on a plane.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

SCB's Book Meme

The Rules (for there must always be RULES):

1. Go through the alphabet, and for each letter, think of a book you've read that starts with that letter (A, An, and The do not count).

2. You must write down the FIRST book you think of for any given letter. This may make for some odd choices, but them's the breaks.

3. You must have actually READ the book. (I thought of lots that started with some letters, but I hadn't read them.)

4. If you think of a more impressive-sounding book for a particular letter, but you've already written your first thought down, you CANNOT change to the more impressive-sounding book. As an example, you have to leave "Fifty Famous Fairy Tales" (the Whitman Publishing pink and white one) on the list, even if you come up with fifty more impressive books afterwards.

5. If you can think of a book for X, you win... my lasting admiration (I can't afford real prizes!)

6. You can then tag as many people as you like. The more the merrier.

Anne of Green Gables - L.M. Montgomery
Busman's Honeymoon - Dorothy Sayers
Coraline - creepy kid's book by Neil Gaiman (is it sad I thought of this randomly, before one of my FAVORITE books, The Count Of Monte Cristo?)
Deerskin - Robin Mckinley
The Emerald City of Oz (I read so many Oz books as a kid I can't tell them apart any more. Pretty much uniformly good, as I recall)
The Fountainhead - Ayn Rand (yes I read it, that doesn't men I agree with it)
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (I am usually skeptical of super-popular stuff but I really enjoyed this one)
The Hounds of the Morrigan - Pat O'Shea
The Inn at Lake Devine (look this one up, it's a fun read)
Journey to the Center of the Earth - Jules Verne
Kitchen Confidential (I have a soft spot for foodie books)
Lord of the Rings (then I don't have them as three/four separate options)
The Moonstone - Wilkie Collins
Notes From a Small Island
Of Mice and Men - Steinbeck again
Provenance (see my previous post about this book)
Rue Tatin (my current fluffy travel/food read)
Sweet Thursday - John Steinbeck
Tam Lin - Pamela Dean
Under The Tuscan Sun (cheesy)
Can I count Vanity Fair? I read a LOT of it but I am fairly sure Thackeray was getting paid by the word as man, that book is LONG.
Where the Wild Things Are

I am kind of disappointed that I still can't think of anything for Q,X, Y, or Z but I figured I might as well get the ball rolling and maybe I will think of something for them later. And I'm going to attempt to tag Lojo, Lauralynne, Cookbook and Kerry, if they have time.

Edit: I actually like this meme more than the BBC book list one as I have read a lot of those, but ALL of these.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

This Is A Fascinating Book.

I highly recommend it. Art forgery has always intrigued me and this is a whole new avenue of forgery, forging a picture's history and background by altering archives at major museums. So even if the picture is a mediocre example of the genre, it will be highly marketable due to the extensive paper trail proving how really real it is. They make it sound easy (if I was the Tate or the V&A I don't think I'd like that). And the forger now makes a career of selling "Genuine Fakes' and does exhibitions etc. "in the style of". So I guess points for making lemons out of lemonade. Or prison time.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Hunt Doth Continueth. Eth.

The trip goals have been few. Have a good time. Bring some awesome books. Don't have to buy too much gear before you go. However, attempt at walking shoes #1 was a complete failure, and jacket #1 was much too bulky. Am I a picky person, or what? Yesterday attempt #2 at a jacket arrived from and didn't look remotely water-resistant. Or warm. Or comfortable (thus, no linky-link). So I dropped it off at REI and found this instead:

Moderately warm and waterproof and fits decently. I put on a sweater and a fleece under it in the store and it was still comfortable. So it doesn't need to do the heavy lifting in the keep-me-warm dept. but I think it will do the job overall.

Today attempt #3 at shoes also showed up. I am DYING here, people. Not Martha and Mighty Girl post adorable travel roundups but I seriously need some solid walking shoes that are waterproof and not too heavy/bulky (ahem, not you, stupid big running shoes with mesh panels, thankyouverymuch). MG's modus operandi of "we’re walking on cobblestones in the rain here, so these are cheap, destroyable flats from Target" does not work in my world. And I coincidentally have the same pair of cute flats that NM wore on her big Paris trip (and I am trying to EBay them if anybody thinks they're cute and wears a size 12).

I hate shoes. And shopping. And especially shoe shopping. Especially shoe shopping for all-day walking in rainy cold places. How do people who live there do it? Probably much like I do here when it snows, by getting in the car. Sigh.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Reno Has Its Points

Although in this case they are more round.

Or sometimes lumpy.

And there are a LOT.

It's the great Reno Balloon Race!

It sure does brighten up your morning to see this on the way to work.

I promise more posts with content soon, but until then, I am super busy, so pretty pictures! And you can clickity-click to embiggen if you like.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Itinerary...

This is going to be quite the multi-part trip. Part one is theoretically a high school reunion in the Bay Area. That will be a weekend with my family and friends and should be quite nice. The weather should also be respectable. If there is time, I would like to go see the Post-Impressionist exhibit at the De Young in Golden Gate Park.
from here.
Then we fly to Newark. Matt has a cousin in Hoboken who got married this summer. We missed the wedding, so we will stop there for about three days before we head out. I hope to hit a museum or two while we are so close to NYC. I am trying to think of a wedding gift or at least some sort of hostess gift as we will be crashing there. The happy couple didn't register as they are both older and have kids from prior marriages and tons of stuff. And I think they may have eloped and we may have just missed an after-party of some sort. I'd just bring some nice wine but we aren't checking bags, so no liquids :(

THEN we fly to Manchester and take a train to Skipton and a cab or something to Earby. This is in North Yorkshire, a.k.a. the Yorkshire Dales, as made famous by James Herriot in All Creatures Great and Small. Depending on who you ask it may be in Yorkshire or Lancashire because apparently they changed the boundary years ago and the locals didn't appreciate it very much. We will be staying with Matt's grandad in a large old cold damp house so that is one more thing to pack for. We are having some quality family time here and helping out around the house, I am not sure what I will do so I will probably offer to do some cooking or gardening if there is anything I can help with.

from here. This is down the street.
Lastly we are having a bit of time on our own - Matt is a rabid atheist but adores cathedrals (go figure) so we are taking a weekend trip of our own to Durham. I figure a nice weekend pottering around town looking at castles and staying in some little B&B sounds like a nice end to a big family trip.

from here.

So don't ask me how I am going to do all this with only a carry-on. My two saving graces are 1. I can leave the warm-weather stuff in Los Gatos (no need for sandals anywhere else), and 2. we will be staying with family almost the whole trip so I can do laundry. So I really only need to pack for maybe five days at a stretch. Five cold, damp days.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Why Is It Always...

As soon as I buy a plane ticket somewhere, I realize that I need decent walking shoes and a raincoat? What do I do here when I have to walk somewhere really far away? Or when it rains? Well, get in my car, in both cases. Sigh.

Wishing for this:

Seriously considering this:

More trip details to come...