Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Beltane Eve

One of my favorite books is Marion Zimmer Bradley's The Mists of Avalon. It's a retelling of the Arthurian tales from his sister Morgaine's point of view.

If you remember, Arthur's mother was married and had a daughter with another man before she was wisked away by Uther. The daughter later beds Arthur and has his child. She is often portrayed as evil, or seeking to usurp Arthur's power by means of their child.

This version is different. To pull from the Wikipedia article:
"The Mists of Avalon is in stark contrast to other retellings of the Arthurian tales, which consistently paint Morgaine as a distant, one-dimensional evil witch or sorceress; with no real explanation given (or required) for her antipathy. In this case Morgaine is cast as a strong woman in pain who has unique gifts and responsibilities at a time of enormous political and spiritual upheaval; as she is called upon to defend her indigenous matriarchal heritage against impossible odds. The Mists of Avalon stands as a watershed for feminist interpretation of male-centered myth by articulating women's experience at time of great change and shifts in gender-power."

I've always been intrigued by mythology - norse, native american, greek/roman, and celtic - and fantasy stories woven around those myths. I really enjoyed Bradley's take on the tale, and the descriptions she offered of some of the rituals.

Today I found myself on Wikipedia, and that led me to the page about Beltane (which made me think of this book), which signifies the begining of summer. Tomorrow is Beltane/May Day, and tonight Beltane Eve, so if we were pre-christian celts right now, we'd be building big fires and beginning the celebration. Maybe we'll have a little fire on the patio tonight...

Monday, April 28, 2008

How Cute is My Neice?

Just wanted to share some photos:

Still in Need

Remember how I said I needed a vacation? I still haven't had it. In fact - I'm not even sure what happened to the last two weeks or so. I just know I worked a lot!

I've been really busy - at the office until around 7pm most nights, often not getting home until 8pm... not really even time to make dinner. I can't even remember.

This last weekend it finally slowed down. We removed the carpet in the music room last Sunday, and this weekend had inted to remove the tile (yes, there is at least one layer of tile under all the carpet) and lay the laminate floor that is in the rest of the house, but that didn't work out. Bobby had to work on some plans (fire sprinkler designs) and my parents were using their table saw to lay flooring in their own house.

Saturday morning Bobby and I finally made it down to a local cafe I've been wanting to try - Cafe Casse Croute. It's a little French-Canadian cafe, and what drew my attention were crepes. I'd run a Google Maps search for restaurants near our house because I'm tired of driving so far for everything, and I was intrigued. That was months ago. I had the chicken crepes, and Bobby had poached eggs benedict. This was the first time I'd ever had crepes filled with something you wouldn't put on pancakes, and it was lovely. filled with chicken and broccoli and a creamy white wine sauce - just lovely. Both our meals were very good (although I think mine was better), as was the orange juice, the service, and the price. We agreed we would come back again.

I most of the morning watering the backyard really well (we really must install sprinklers) and deep cleaning the barbecue, but I wound up spending most of the afternoon trying to rest. I had a headache all day. I tried taking tylenol, and later some aleve, but they weren't really helping. I haven't had a headache like that for years. I felt stressed and irritable for no reason whatsoever, and as if I had a long list of things I needed to get done, as if I shouldn't be relaxing.

Sunday I woke up around 8:20am - a little late for me) and it was already 78° outside, and I knew we were in for a hot one. I made sure all the windows were closed and turned on all the ceiling fans. Since I was going to be inside all day, and didn't want to do anything productive or responsible at all, I wound up playing computer games all day. Playing all day, and comfort foods like tuna melts for lunch and spaghetti for dinner also helped me finally relax. Unfortunately now I'm back at work, undoing all that hard work.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Dan in Real Life

I think I first heard about Dan in Real Life on public radio - they were giving it a fairly glowing review, and some of the clips they played sounded interesting, so I added it to my Netflix queue. It showed up about a week ago, and we finally got around to watching it last night.

Synopsis from

Just as LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE did in 2006, DAN IN REAL LIFE reveals that Steve Carell is an actor who can do more than just comedy. He's won both accolades and awards as bumbling boss Michael Scott on THE OFFICE, but there's a greater depth to this performance as a single father and man in love. Advice columnist Dan Burns (Carell) has his hands full with three daughters that he's not willing to let grow up. The girls still grieve for their mother who died four years ago, and Dan hasn't made any attempts to date. So he's pleasantly surprised when he meets Marie (Juliette Binoche) at a bookstore when he goes to his parents' Rhode Island home for the annual family reunion. But his joy is short-lived when he discovers that she is dating his brother (Dane Cook), forcing Dan to hide his feelings and chemistry with Marie. Carell adeptly balances his role's humor and heartache, while Binoche (CHOCOLAT) is radiant as ever. Comedian Cook (GOOD LUCK CHUCK) shows surprising talent as the third leg of their love triangle. Through his duties as director and co-screenwriter, Peter Hedges deserves much of the credit for creating a film that is sweet without being sappy. Even though he's working with a far bigger budget than he did for his directorial debut, PIECES OF APRIL, he still maintains the feelings of intimacy and honesty that made that film such a critical favorite. What could have been a standard romantic comedy of errors turns into a strong film that goes deeper than many of its peers in the genre. DAN IN REAL LIFE also succeeds thanks to its soundtrack from Norwegian indie pop musician Sondre Lerche. The singer's compositions, both originals and favorites from his career, perfectly suit the film's tone and moods.

I really enjoyed this movie. Carell did a really good job with the part, and the movie had a good balance of serious and funny scenes. Bobby's not generally inclined towards romantic comedies, but we both liked the film and found ourselves laughing out loud to a number of scenes.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Flip Truck

Last night Bobby put together some fittings for his new employee, Rudy, to pick up and take to the job site. He put them on the side yard so he wouldn't have to wake up early, and Rudy could just come pick them up.

But at 6:20am or so, the phone rang. It was Rudy. He'd been hit by another car, and had flipped his truck. Luckily, he's was fine (and isn't at fault), but his truck was still upside-down.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Happy Brithday Colette

To celebrate her birthday, my friend Colette rounded up her friends for a tour of Temecula wine country. Rented a limo, picked out the wineries they wanted to visit, and spent a few hours partying it up.

The last winery of the trip was Ponte Winery - where Bobby and I just happen to be wine club members. Unfortunately we couldn't join them for the whole tour, but we did meet up with them at Ponte for a bit of tasting and a beautiful lunch.

First we took advantage of the free tasting that is part of our membership - I tried all the sweeter white wines they had (I was feeling summery), while Bobby decided he just wanted all six of his "tastings" to be of their Supertuscan.

Lunch was very nice - sitting outside on a rather warm Saturday afternoon. The waiter brought out some bread for us to start along with a wonderful champagne vinaigrette that I have since been trying to re-create; the waiter said it has scallions and garlic and champagne vinegar...

Overall, a good time. I wish wine country were a little closer to home, and that we could spend afternoons relaxing and socializing more often. Hmm.... perhaps this spring we can host some wine tastings at the house...)

Thursday, April 10, 2008

I Need a Vacation

This has been a difficult week. We had some rather extreme technical difficulties at work, and on top of that I had a LOT of work to do. Late nights almost every night. I wish I were on spring break with Emma. The other day I started doubting I would be able to take my pseudo-planned trip to Europe this August (Bobby and I are trying to work it out, but it's not set in stone yet), and I got a little depressed. But I'm really trying to make it work - I need the break...

Tuesday, April 8, 2008


Bobby's friends Jon and Josh came over this evening. I didn't get home from work until around 7:30pm, and I immediately started making dinner (I was hungry). There was a left over cheese plate in the fridge - muenster, pepper jack, a Mediterranean style jack, garlic & spice Havarti, cheddar, edam, etc. - so I used it up making tuna melts. I think I had at least 3 kinds of cheese on each sandwich. Then I heated up some sweet onion soup to go with it.

Jon and Josh arrived just as I was finishing up dinner, so we sat around and ate and chatted. Then Jon spots the board games on the shelves and suggests we play Cranium. I am personally a big fan of board games, and the other eventually agreed to play too. We rolled for teams, with Bobby and Jon rolling the same number 3 times in a row, before we settled - Bobby and Josh v. Jon and me.

I can't draw very well at all, but apparently Jon can interpret my scribble when I draw w/ my eyes closed. Josh is a very good artist, but he often spent too much time or was too elaborate to get his point across. Bobby is excellent at acting out charades - he had to get Josh to guess bungee jumping, so he got up on the table, acted like he was tying his feet, and jumped off the table. When he had to do "saved by the bell" he grabbed some books off the shelf, ran and slid across the floor, and then banged on the symbols (yes, there is a drum set right there). It was a close game, but Jon and I eventually won.

Cranium isn't one of my favorite board games, but we had a good time. One of my favorites is Catch Phrase, and I also like Balderdash and Taboo. I love card games too - Rummy, Gin, Kanasta, Skip Bo...

We are thinking of having another Casino Night soon...

Sunday, April 6, 2008

This Meeting is Called to Order

So as you know, Bobby is starting a business. What you may not know, is that as an incorporated business, it is required to have board meetings at least annually. He's the sole stockholder, so legally he doesn't need anyone on the board aside from himself, but outside input can be helpful, so his brother Brian and I are on the board as well. The first board meeting was last year, and was more about ratifying the Articles of Incorporation and all that. Tonight we had our first real board meeting.

But earlier today we started wondering about what we actually needed to do in a board meeting. Here Brian and I both have business degrees, and Bobby is working on one, but all we know about boards is that they are responsible for governance. So what does that mean?

We did some research online, and wound up ordering some books, but the whole thing became a learning experience. (Actually, drawing up the Articles of Incorporation last year was a learning experience - I started to wonder what I did learn in college.) Luckily we are all smart people, so we just started talking about some of the issues facing the company, and spent some time going over financial statements together to find where the business was weak. After an hour and a half, I think we all felt like it was a good experience not just for the business, but for ourselves.

Bobby and I later decided we'd like to have these more often. When the books we ordered arrived, we'll read through them and plan ahead a bit better, but this felt like a good start. I kind of wish we had done more practical, hands-on exercises like this in school. It seems so essential to running a business...

Beach Day

Too bad Lily couldn't have joined us today as well. We went to the beach.

It was a little cool, but it was a good time. We really want to get outside when we can, which lately hasn't been too often. We were only there a couple of hours before we had to eat and get Emma back to her great-grandparents' house (the girls are visiting them for spring break this week), but it was a nice, relaxing day.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Riley's 1st Birthday Party

One of my best high school friend's son turned one a few weeks ago, and today we went to his birthday party. We don't often attend anything with a bunch of kids around, but we knew Emma would love it - they were renting a jump house and doing a pinata and everything.

Bobby and I often regret that we don't know many people with kids Emma's age. When she's with us, she's often by far the youngest person there (by at least 6 years), or she is significantly older than the other kids (again, around 6 years). She's a very sociable child, and though she handles it really well, we know how much she loves to play with kids near her age.

She often wishes her younger sister, Lily, could come with her when she visits with us, and we've told her that it's always okay with us - she just has to get permission from her mom. So occasionally Lily comes along as well. When I got home from Home Depot this morning with my new herbs et. al., I was pleasantly surprised to find that Lily had received permission to join us today.

We hadn't been at the party five minutes, and Emma and Lily were already making friends; shoes were off and they were in the jump house. Emma paired up with a boy that was just about her age, and they seemed stuck to one another the whole afternoon. He even went to get a peice of cake for her. (I started wondering if she was starting to develop an interest in boys, and if not, when that would be; she is already nine.) Lily, meanwhile, was off running around with another girl, just about her age (six) - mostly in the jump house.

Later, when the pinata was burst open (that was one of the sturdiest pinatas I've ever seen), Emma and Lily were both quick to scoop up as much candy as possible, but when they noticed some of the younger kids didn't get much, they quickly shared their loot.

Eventually, it was time to head home, and we'd promised to return Lily around 6pm. She was planning on asking if she could stay the night, but on the way back to Orange County, they both quickly passed out in the back seat. By the time we were arriving at their great-grandparents' house, she was ready to just crawl in bed. They'd really worn themselves out.

Herb Garden

When I woke up this morning, all I could think about was my need to plant an herb garden.

I have a few herbs left from last spring/summer - marjoram, oregano, sage, parsley, and my giant rosemary tree (it's taller than I am; needs to be cut back actually). But my thyme has been drowned out by the plant next to it, and my basil is long gone. Now that it's springtime, and everything is coming back to life, I thought it was time to plant some new stuff.

So as soon as I was up and presentable, I made my way over to Home Depot's garden center, and over to see the herbs. I picked up 4 basil, 2 thyme, 2 spearmint, 2 dill, an onion chive, and another italian flat leaf parsley. And a catnip plant. Did you know that only 2/3 of cats are affected by catnip? My cat is apparently one of the 1/3 that aren't.

While I was there, I also grabbed 2 different tomato plants, a Thompson seedless grapevine, and a pink jasmine. The grapevine and the jasmine are going in my courtyard off my bedroom - the gardners cleared away my passion fruit (I'm not sure if it just hadn't come back yet and they thought it was dead, or if it really was dead - it was just suddenly gone). Everything else is going in my little kitchen garden on the back patio.

Oh, and speaking of grapevines - they're alive! My little Pinot Gris and Cabernet Franc look like they are going to pull through. They looked a little pekid at first, but now they have little green shoots. Add that to the Merlot in my kitchen garden and my new Thomson seedless, and I should have grapes coming out my ears one day.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Bordeaux Intro

I've been taking online surveys lately, and each time I do I am rewarded with points I can spend on things like magazine subscriptions and airline miles, etc. A few months ago I used some points on a one year subscription to Wine Spectator.

Bobby and I get a little excited when the new issue arrives at the house, and we'll read through it and awe at some of the ridiculous prices of some things, but we are actually learning some things about wine and the industry as well. I only started drinking wine over the last five years or so, and I still have a tough time describing wines - I just know what I like and what I don't.

One of the recent issues focused on 2005 Bordeauxs. Apparently 2005 is one of the best years for the Bordeaux region since 1961, which was apparently one of the best years in recent decades - yes, I said decades. (So in Ratatouille, when Chef Skinner seduces Linguini with a 1961 Chateau Latour - I know he's talking about a very fine - and expensive - wine.)

Of course, I'm not going to go out and spend a ridiculous amount of money on a bottle of '05 Bordeaux they've recently rated. I'd never had a Bordeaux, would I even care for it? Though, I was a little interested to give some a taste.

Enter BevMo. Our usual strategy is to go in, and buy wines we've never heard of, that are either rated well, or won a medal or something, that are in our price range - we usually shoot for $10-$15. This way we get to try different producers and find ones we like. On Friday BevMo was having their $0.05 wine sale - buy a bottle for full price, second bottle is $0.05. And wouldn't you know - they had two kinds of 2005 Bordeaux (nothing we've heard of or that had been rated) that qualified for the sale. We decided to get both wines (two bottles of each) to try out. If we like them, we can buy more or branch out.
Last night we opened the first bottle: Cheval Quancard Reserve; Bordeaux 2005; Merlot - Cabernet Sauvignon. I really, really liked it. I'd like to see if BevMo has any more, and if not, I'm wondering if I should save the other, or if I should drink it. We would like to start cellaring wines, and we are learning about how to select wines that will age, but we really need to start practicing - it seems to be a skill that requires experience to develop. I'm really curious about the other producer we purchased - we'll have to try it out soon, so we can get more before they run out.


I was just looking at a new blog post, and the poster had use PictoBrowser to display them. It allows you to create little photo galleries from your Flickr pictures to post on your blog. It looks so nice, I almost want to switch to from Picasa Web Albums to Flickr so I can use it. I have to see if I can find a comparable service/tool for Picasa...