Saturday, December 7, 2013

I'm not dead yet! I'm feeling better!

Sorry for the radio silence, I need to get back on the blogging horse here! Things have been going fairly well, the job is not exciting but going well, Matt has gotten some contract work so we might get to do some traveling again soon, Thanksgiving was delicious...

Ok, long version. We had Thanksgiving at a friend's and I brought regular and vegan stuffing, and discovered that leftover stuffing is best when stuffed in your waffle iron. Yes, we are now converts to the church of the stuffing waffle. Mix a little maple syrup in your leftover cranberry sauce and you are good to go. We had a second Thanksgiving at home on Saturday with my parents so I could have leftovers, and I actually made gravy correctly for the first time in my life. And an apple tart that was lovely and of course I didn't take a picture.

We also had a fun trip to Austin. We had horrible colds the whole time so we didn't do a lot of partying (and it is a party town). But there was a lot of great shopping and an insane amount of good food. The weather was crazy with flood warnings and thunder and lightning but we still went to an outdoor concert and had lots of fun! I'm glad we checked it out, Matt turned down a mediocre job offer out there a while back and we were wondering. It's a nice place to visit.

The holidays are now in full swing down here, I have a Christmas concert this weekend and it's time to get a tree! I am thinking about putting up lights on the house for the first time this year, we'll see what happens! 

How is everyone out there in blogland? Happy holidays to everybody out there!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Ringing Endorsement

So I had been told in the past "oh you should go read Jane Eyre, it's really good". That's it. Not something to get me running to the bookstore. This is stuff that got read in the other English class that I wasn't in while we read Julius Caesar or something. And it never really registered on my radar. So what did it?

Yup. The 2011 version of Jane Eyre is a humdinger. Mia Wasikowska is SO GOOD.

Also, Michael Fassbender does tortured and crazy and handsome quite well.

I had been reading junk like Rebecca and The Scarlet Letter and yes, great writing, blah blah blah. But talk about leading ladies that I cannot sympathize with for the life of me. But Jane actually does something about her situation, which is what drove me nuts about both those books. Jane gets through awful situations or she gets out. She does it all on her own terms, and to be fair, I am not generally pro-religion, but I like what her religion means to her. 

And seriously, come on.

So I read the book, thank you Project Gutenberg. And it is good. The movie definitely abridges some of the more dated bits, but it is still suitably crazy and gothic and visually stunning (and I don't just mean Rochester). And it gets bonus points for great casting of Judi Dench, who is good in pretty much everything but is great in this. So if you haven't read it, I will say it: get out there and read Jane Eyre. And then watch the 2011 movie, because helloooooo Fassbender! I am not normally one for the broody Byronic crazy ones, but I think Rochester is my exception to that rule.

Friday, July 12, 2013


Of a productive weekend. With another to come soon, hopefully. The top of my poor desk was looking so sad, I didn't even take a before picture. I scrubbed it down with diluted Murphy's Oil Soap and very fine steel wool. Then I wiped it down, let it dry and did some sanding.

Only the top really needed help, and let me tell you it looks much nicer now. I gave it a couple of coats of Minwax wood finish in dark walnut (it stains AND seals, whoo hoo) and it is pretty snazzy now in comparison. The rest of the piece is in much better shape so I just left it as-is. It's a little redder than the top but when I am sitting at my desk what I see is how nice the top looks now!

Friday, July 5, 2013

Before I Forget

This used to be my lawn. Not missing it so much now. 

Can't wait for my trees to give a little more shade, it's been cooking here the last week!

I do need to catch up on some weeding though.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Literary Interlude (or lack thereof)

I read a couple of interesting books recently so I thought I should put something up here so it looks like I'm still around (not really, I am swamped at work and spending all my spare time in the garden while the weather has been so nice).

Rebecca - yes, I know it's a classic and I needed to get around to it, but it made me think of reading The Scarlet Letter in that unsympathetic, I-can't-always-escape-my-modern-perspective way. As in the "Why the hell didn't she do something to change her situation, what a wimp" perspective. Hugely evocative writing and excellently creepy  to read, Mrs. Danvers is a hell of a character, as is Rebecca herself, but the de Winters (Mr. and the second Mrs.) are just so hard to identify with or sympathize with as a general rule. So, I'm glad I read it and now I think I've filled my Du Maurier quota for a while. But I do wish the movie was in color so I could see the epic descriptions of the house and grounds with all the lush, blooming flowers done justice.

Gone Girl - after all the hype I was curious and the library had it for Kindle (this is fancy, I can check it out from my laptop and then it shows up on my Kindle and disappears again in three weeks. No overdue book fees!), so I gave it a shot. It is definitely well written, characters keep seeming sympathetic and then changing, and the back-and-forth switching perspectives between husband and wife works really well (something that doesn't always work if the writer isn't up to it). But in the end, it was just kind of horrible. Miserable people and misery triumphing in the end. The much-vaunted twist at the end was something I never expected and was very well written, but I can't say I will be seeking out more of the author's work. I flat-out asked somebody if it was like the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo because I don't like reading so descriptively about torture and violence, and they said no, but I'm not 100% sure that was accurate. It is a different kind of torture, for sure, but it still was something I couldn't read at bedtime without worrying about it giving me nightmares.

I think I just had a run of a lot of miserable and highly unsympathetic characters all in a row. Thus the palate cleanser:

Three Men in a Boat - this is incredibly silly and quotable. It's like Wilde-lite and I love the language. I need more stuff like this for a while I think.

"How good one feels when one is full - how satisfied with ourselves and the world! People who had tried it, tell me that a clear conscience makes you very happy and contented; but a full stomach does the business quite as well, and is cheaper, and more easily obtained. One feels so forgiving and generous after a substantial and well-digested meal - so noble-minded, so kindly-hearted."

Next up is Monuments Men, which it looks like I need to read before the George Clooney version hits theaters. It was one of my mom's book club books which can be hit or miss, but this is the intellectual book club and she really liked it so I am looking forward to it.

What are you all reading out there in Blogville?

Friday, April 12, 2013

Does That Make Me Crazy? Probably...

I'm still around, things have been quiet because one of my coworkers got a new job and we haven't replaced her and my other coworker was on vacation so last week I got to do two people's jobs and this week I got to do three people's jobs. Well, not really. Let's just say we are a little behind but I gave it the old college try. And not the "drink stuff somebody mixed in a garbage can and wake up the next day in your party clothes" kind of try. But I am pretty proud of myself.

And my reward is going to be my first vacation day in seven months! We are headed up to Reno in the a.m. to give that storage unit of stuff a dirty look and visit a lot of people. It should be a blast, other than the drive and the potential for bad weather that always comes with the Sierra Nevadas in springtime.

And since what's a post with no pictures of plants, here's our trip to Hakone Gardens last weekend.
It was a weird, humid hazy day but the cherry blossoms and the azaleas were looking lovely. Too early for the wisteria though except in the sunniest spots.
And there were lots of people there, so it was a challenge waiting for people to move behind a shrub so they wouldn't spoil the photo.
But it was worth it. We tried to go to Filoli but they were having some sort of open house/family day and it was $20 for members (!) as opposed to the normal FREE. Also, huge crowds of small children. I don't go to gardens to be surrounded by people.
I go to gardens to maintain the illusion that there totally isn't a dude right behind that shrub. He's in the next shot.

So wish me luck, I have to go to bed so we can drive to Reno bright and early! And cross your fingers that we can unload some furniture while we're there!

Bonus! This is the cool creepy video from which I stole my title.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Life Update (By Emma's Request)

Since I do spend quite a bit of time meandering on here about books and food, let's do a full update for the new year (well, new-ish now).

I am living in San Jose, California, and it will be two years (!) this month. We left Reno when the jobs dried up and moved into my grandmother's old house at the edge of a cute little town called Campbell. I have been working on the house and garden under the stern but tolerant eye of the landlord (my dad). Since we moved in he has been able to do most of the 30 years of deferred maintenance that he put off while my grandmother was here. So it has been painted and the windows have been replaced and the kitchen and bathrooms have been redone, and we have dealt with rats and termites both, and there has been quite a bit of plumbing. But thankfully the roof is good. I have taken out a large amount of lawn and planted fruit trees and geraniums and a lot of wacky succulents (welcome to California).
 So far this is just inspiration. But isn't it lovely? Probably from

When we moved down here, Matt got a job at a company that rented big vans full of games and video games for kids' parties. He liked it, he got to play games with kids and drive around so it was way better than unemployment and much healthier than a high-stress corporate cubicle job. And he discovered, having always lived inland, that it is great to be able to drive to the beach and just hang out there. Unfortunately, one day driving back from the beach on a drizzly afternoon, I hit a wet patch and flipped the car. No broken bones, but Matt lost a lot of meat from the back of his head and the next three months meant staying home, living off of savings from the last high-paying corporate cubicle job and changing dressings three times a day.

After three months, a couple of surgeries and a skin graft, and a lot of arguing with insurance companies, his head healed up and he started going for walks outside. I got a job as a Horticultural Technician, basically going to big fancy companies and taking care of their plants. It was awful, but slightly better than unemployment. And I couldn't sit around the house and watch Matt any more after three months solid. We started having a life and he got a job at a local guitar repair and consignment shop. He loves it there and can ride his bike to work but his boss is bonkers so it is a mixed blessing.

More inspiration, also from Sunset Magazine

After a year as a plant janitor, I finally got a job with Soil and Plant Lab, we test people's soil and give them recommendations for landscaping and plant care, working with everyone from homeowners, contractors and landscape architects to the San Francisco Zoo and Cal Academy of Sciences to nurseries and tree farms. Now Filoli is one of my clients! I am a Soils Consultant and I get to drive out to fancy gardens to take plant and soil samples and then I research them out and write up reports. It is a short commute and my coworkers are both smart, nice and interesting people. My boss is crazy too, but she is at the Anaheim office so it is not a terribly high-stress environment. Matt is looking for some audio engineer work again and we are enjoying living in the Bay Area. It is not a cheap place to live but we are not living a crazy expensive lifestyle so if we would quit having expensive car problems things would be going pretty darn well. So one thing at a time.

So there's your update Emma, sorry I'm not a punctual blogger but as much as this sounds like excitement, it has all happened very slowly. We miss Reno but there is a lot going on here, we are so close to the beach and the city and there is so much music here!

Believe it or not I'm in there, second tuba from the left!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Roundup (mostly cooking and books)

I'm still here, no Austin in sight. They lowballed Matt so it looks like we are going to keep looking a little closer to where I already have a job. But I still am having urges to sell furniture. There is a trip to Reno and a storage unit cleanout somewhere on the horizon... I just had to have the transmission rebuilt in my car so all that stuff up there is looking mighty sellable.

Now I am in the throes of cooking projects. I have invested in some Indian spices and am working on diversifying my vegan cooking (the January resolution hangover). I am pretty happy with lentils and garbanzos as protein sources, but I still need to work on white beans, I basically only like them as Italian-style with pasta and lots of garlic. Bean diversification is in progress!

Also I still hate chard.

My mom gave me David Lebovitz's most recent book to read and now I want to buy all his cookbooks too! I have made the chocolate yogurt cake things twice now, they are basically a lovely moist chocolate muffin that goes great with coffee. He was the dessert chef at Chez Panisse, among other things, and it's a light memoir about living in France. I went through a travel reading phase and still go back to read Peter Mayle on French food, but this book was one of the few food-related memoirs I've read that made me want to actually cook 3/4 of the recipes in it. Julia Child and Jacques Pepin wrote my two favorite food memoirs, My Life in France and The Apprentice, and they are both AMAZING books. But while they completely inspire me and make me want to cook, they never really make me want to cook what they are talking about. This guy does. Clearly I need to spend some time perusing his blog.

I'm making a chicken curry-ish thing tonight with carrots and tomatoes, we'll see how it comes out. I've also been experimenting with desserts some more, I have 2/3 of a batch of the Barefoot Contessa's chocolate buttercream recipe sitting in my freezer because it is insanely rich and I have to figure out what else to put it on. Might need to bake myself a birthday cake at this rate just to use it up!

Garden pictures should be forthcoming soon, it has been cold and dry but we are getting some more rain soon so I need to get planting!

Friday, February 1, 2013

Back In The Office Again

It's that time of year, the organizing and fresh-starting season is nigh and my office needs some love. There is a doom-worthy file cabinet in the closet and I may just have to empty out the whole closet at this rate and start fresh.

The desk and bookshelves are under control right now, and I love my cushy red reading chair, but I need a solution for the wires in that corner, as they are looking pretty ratty right now.

But here's the rub: Matt just applied for a job in Austin. Yes, the one in Texas. And that's a 26-hour drive from here. California is big, but when you add in Arizona, New Mexico and West Texas, that is SO FAR AWAY.

So how much time do I invest in getting my office just-so, and how much do I spend trying to decide what we can take and what we will sell on Craigslist? I know it doesn't matter until they offer him the job and he takes it, but it is a crazy idea to have in the back of your head... If I had to get rid of most of this stuff, what would I keep?

The whole thing is just making me desperate to go to Reno and clean out the storage unit up there- if it didn't fit in this house and was still good furniture, we stuck it in a shipping container behind Matt's dad's garage. And I am dying to get up there and sell a big batch of perfectly good furniture, because at this rate, we may never have a house that it all fits in again (the Reno house was quite spacious). We went from around 1800 sq. ft. with a two- car garage there to 1100ish and a one-car garage down here, and this house was already partially furnished (hence the awesome bookshelf and desk in my office, those are MINE NOW).

Updates and pictures of furniture as events warrant. Right now I am in limbo. And it is killing me in the getting-projects-done department.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Movie Interlude

Is it weird that I'm watching the BBC miniseries State of Play (very good, so far) and counting the actors I recognize from Doctor Who? I'm up to six so far, I think. I had to look up a couple to make sure they weren't in Doctor Who. Matt even caught one I missed, and he usually makes fun of me for playing "name that face" (but, I needed to figure out that the snotty Miss Bingley from the BBC Pride and Prejudice was the Vice-President of the Galaxy in the Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy movie!)

My list of Who actors so far:
John Simm
Bill Nighy
David Morrissey
Marc Warren

and Rebekah Staton, who looks very different as a blonde. 
And on top of all the Who people, add a really young James MacAvoy and also, Kelly MacDonald, LOVE HER. Not to mention The Hound from Game of Thrones. Weirdly stacked cast. Almost distractingly so. But this was also pretty early in a lot of their careers and they have gone on to bigger and better things. So, um, good for them, I guess is my point. 

Matt was making fun of me for watching modern BBC with no Mr. Darcy involved but I am home with a stuffy brain and a semi-cold and I just watched the first three of six episodes in one sitting and am going to be waiting by the mailbox until Netflix sends me the second half!

Edited to add: also one of the cops was the alien leader in the first episode of Doctor Who I ever saw. I guess if you do British tv, it's either Eastenders or Doctor Who, is what this really means.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Update (Fruitcake Edition)

I managed to get some During photos for once but then forgot the After. This one got gifted on Christmas day after about 3 weeks of marinating. I forgot that this recipe makes a double batch so the partygoers got to sample a slightly fresher one on the 16th.
This is Alton Brown's Free Range Fruitcake recipe - it uses dried fruit (not candied, except for the ginger) which you then macerate overnight in your liquor of choice. This year it was dark rum because it was available, good-quality and vaguely festive. Past years have involved applejack or brandy but I am not married to any specific tipple for this recipe so far.

It was a hit at the party, too. Nobody knew what it was so I sliced it up into chunks and it disappeared with nary a fruitcake/doorstop joke to be found. Although that may have been partially because my dad spotted it and started telling everyone "Don't eat this" so there would be more for him.