Sunday, June 29, 2008

Stunningly Beautiful Weekend

This last weekend was one of the most beautiful weekends in recent memory. Again, it was clear blue sunny skies with temperatures between 75° and 80° - we even had a very gentle breeze meandering around the back patio.

Bobby and I didn't leave the house once... well, except two trips to the grocery store, one of which I walked, and stopped at Rite Aid and buy a single scoop of mint chip ice cream to eat on the walk back. Mmm.

We also did nothing of importance whatever. It seems that lately we always have things that need to get done, or places or events we need to go to. This weekend? We spent some time Sunday afternoon cleaning the garage and kitchen, and doing a few loads of laundry, but other than that we relaxed, had our meals on the back patio, drank wine, watched Michael Clayton, and played computer games. It was a much needed rest.

For lunch we had some pork tacos. Bobby absolutely loves my shredded pork (my mom informs me that it's not carnitas if it's not fried in lard or something), and since I've had some on hand fairly regularly he has been eating it for lunch almost every day. Still, he doesn't complain when I suggested it for lunch. I just pulled it out of the fridge and warmed it in a pan so that it would crisp up some. I also cooked some red pepper and onion strips in a tiny bit of canola oil, adobo seasoning, salt, and pepper until they had just softened a bit. Some simple white rice with adobo seasoning, and some flour tortilla's warmed on the grill and we had a quick lunch. Lunch al fresca was peaceful and serene.

For dinner I made the dreaded chicken - Bobby was none too pleased with my selection. So I did what needs to be done to make him like anything - lots of garlic. We finally had the green & yellow beans my mom brought me, and we reheated some leftover pasta from yesterday to finish.

Roast Young Chicken
1 young chicken
6 large cloves of garlic, minced or sent through a garlic press
1 tsp. kosher/course salt
1 tsp. pepper
1 1/2 tsp. herbes de provence
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 lemon, quartered

Preheat the oven to 450°.

Mix the garlic, salt, pepper, herbes de provence, and olive oil together. Pat the chicken dry. Rub the seasoning/oil all over the chicken and inside the cavity. Stuff the lemon slices inside the cavity and close it back up. You are supposed to tie the legs together, but I've never found that necessary. Inster a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh (not touching bone), and pop it in the oven until the thermometer reads 170° (about 1 hour to 1hr 15min).

Pull the chicken out and let rest for 10 minutes or so before carving and serving. Makes for a really juicy chicken.

Beans with Shallots
2 tbsp. butter
1 large shallot, thinly sliced
enough green (& yellow?) beans for 2 people (for me, this is alot), trimmed and snapped into the size you want
kosher/course salt

Melt the butter over medium heat and throw in the shallot and beans. Sprinkle with salt and cover. Stir occasionally and cook to desired tenderness. I like them crisper, so I pull mine out first, then cook them a bit longer for Bobby - he likes them pretty limp.

After dinner, Bobby and I sat down and watched Michael Clayton. Now that we have made it through all three available seasons of lost, we can get back to watching other things... until season 4 is out on DVD of course.

Here's the synopsis from
Michael Clayton (George Clooney) is what is known in the legal world as a "fixer," or in the character's own pejorative version, a "janitor" who cleans up legal messes for VIPs and corporations on behalf of a prestigious New York City law firm. A former litigator, Clayton has found a niche that capitalizes on his legal acumen and shrewd people skills, and yet, after 13 years on the job, finds himself increasingly disgusted with his clientele. The film covers four pivotal days of his life, in which a midlife crisis and a crisis of conscience neatly converge when he is called in to "fix" a situation unfolding in one of his firm's hottest cases. Brilliant lawyer Arthur Edens (another powerhouse performance by Tom Wilkinson), representing a huge agro-chemical corporation being hit by a class action suit, has a bipolar breakdown, compounded by guilt over his defense of a company that is probably in the wrong, but is wealthy enough to buy its innocence either way. The company's CEO (Tilda Swinton) will stop at nothing to keep Edens from sinking the case. Clayton must decide how much of Edens's mad rebellion against the company is sheer mental illness, how much is true, and how much it will cost him to do the right thing. Clooney delivers a rich performance as a hangdog and haunted man who wants to stay on the side of good, but is a little too skilled at moral margin-walking to make that an easy choice in every situation. Swinton glows as a secretly frail Amazon who somehow won't let a tortured conscience prevent her from getting ahead. The final third of the film is as suspenseful as any courtroom drama, without ever resorting to legal-thriller cliches.

It seems they are making their synopses longer, oh well. Bobby thought the movie was "great," I thought it was "good." I particularly enjoyed some of the ranting of Tom Wilkinson's character. I like to hear the rants of people that use words that you don't hear often, like "patina." I know, I'm a dork.

Coupled with a little mango sorbet (for me) and vanilla ice cream with strawberries (for Bobby), it made a nice end to a beautiful weekend.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Beautiful, Sunny Saturday

The weather today was absolutely beautiful. Stunning actually, I couldn't stop commenting on how lovely it was - clear blue sunny skies with temperatures between 75° and 80° and a very gentle breeze meandering around the back patio.

I made homemade baguettes this morning, and for lunch had a tuna, tomato, and fresh basil sandwich on a fresh, warm baguette. It was a rather tasty combination, I'll have to do that again. I love fresh bread, and would like to make it more often, I just don't get around to it very often.

I received something from Cook's Illustrated in the mail (I can only guess they got my info from Gourmet/Bon Appetit - I get both, but they are from the same company) with a couple of random recipes - among them: Pork Chops. So then I started thinking about dinner.

My parents dropped by as I was brining in the mail. They were on their way back from Santa Monica, where they were visiting my aunt. They'd gone to the farmers market there, and brought me back some green and yellow beans. I absolutely love green beans, and I figured the yellow ones would be just as tasty.

Bobby claims pickiness when it comes to meat - he says he "hates" chicken, and pork chops, and ribs, but I find that when they are made well he'll eat them. It's not that he "hates" them, it's that he usually prefers steak. But even then, he didn't really care for steak until he moved out of his parent's house into a bachelor pad with a couple other guys. They all started grilling steaks. While his family would cook steak to medium, the guys would cook them medium rare. It's a completely different food.

So when we went to the store to pick up food for the weekend, Bobby picked out a rib eye, and I picked out a pork chop for our dinner. That way I could try out my newfound recipe, and he could stay safe with a steak. I also grabbed a whole chicken and some asparagus.
"We're having chicken for dinner tomorrow."
"No we're not."
"Yes, we are."
"I hate chicken"
"You don't hate chicken, you just prefer steak. I like chicken, we haven't had it in awhile. I'm making chicken."
Silence. Acceptance.

When I was making dinner Saturday, I realized I needed a bigger stove. Four burners just isn't enough. I needed a pot to cook the pasta in, a pan for the pasta sauce, a pan for the pork chop, a pan for the rib eye (yes, seperate pans, I needed to be able to cover the chop), and a pan for the green & yellow benas. That's five, and I only have four.

So I adjusted my meal - I decided to cook the asparagus tonight, and the green & yellow beans tomorrow, since I could cook the asparagus in the oven. I just tossed the trimmed asparagus with a little L'arte Dell Olivo olive oil, and some kosher salt, and threw it in the oven while I made the rest of the dinner.

The pasta recipe I stole from Rachael Ray's 2, 4, 6, 8: Great Meals for Couples or Crowds. It's the last recipe in the "2" section - Mushroom Marsala pasta. She makes it with beef fillets, but I've found it's really good pasta on it's own, and also with grilled chicken breast. It's super simple and really tasty.

Mushroom Marsala Pasta
2 tbsp. butter
6 mushrooms, thinly sliced (she uses button, but I prefer crimini)
Salt & Pepper to taste
1/3 cup Marsala wine
2/3 cup cream (I always use heavy cream)
enough pasta for 2 people - any kind you want.

Melt the butter in a pan over medium heat, and saute the mushrooms until they are soft. Sprinkle with salt an pepper. Add in the Marsala, and cook until reduced by half. Stir in the cream and warm through. Toss with pasta.

Simple huh? One thing I learned from Wolfgang Puck - If you are tossing your pasta with sauce right away - don't rinse it. Once you drain the pasta (that you have boiled in salted water, it will absorb whatever you hit it with next. If you rinse it, it will soak up that water. If you toss it with your sauce right away - it will soak up the sauce.

Pork Chops
So Cook's Illustrated's scheme is that they try out several ways of making a dish and present what they believe to be the best method. I have a giant book by them, The New Best Recipe: All-New Edition with 1,000 Recipes, that my brother recommended, but I've only tried a few recipes so far. In the small pamphlet they sent me, they were trying to find a relatively quick way to cook pork chops on the stovetop without winding up with a dry chop. I am also not fond of dry meat, and wanted to give their method a try.

Pork Chops - 1/2" to 3/4" thick
olive oil
sugar (yes, sugar)

Don't preheat the pan (this is the key, actually - slow, low heat). Slice through the fat around the edge of the chop in two places. Just to sort of score it. Then drizzle a tiny bit of olive oil, and sprinkle salt and pepper on each side of the chop, and sprinkle a pinch of sugar on one side of the chop. Place the chops in the pan sugar side down and press them into the pan. Put over medium to medium low heat and cook for 4-9 minutes (I went 6). Turn the chops over and cover the pan, cooking the chops an additional 3-6 minutes. Use a thermometer to check the temperature - they are done at 140°.

Pull the chops out of the pan, and tent them with foil for 5-10 minutes. Pour any juice srom the plate back into the pan and cook over medium-high heat for a minute or so to reduce them. Pull the pan off the heat and press each side of the chops into the pan to coat them with the reduced juices.

I have to admit it was a juicy chop. As Bobby noted, the chop was still tougher than his rib eye, but I liked the lighter flavor of the pork. Made for a nice change. I know you are supposed to have white with pork, but we opted to try the 2006 Tensly Syrah that my brother and his wife sent us.

Bobby commented that our desimated plates and the half empty glasses of wine on the plaid picnic table cloth would make a very nice picture - I was just too lazy to get the camera.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


Last month I posted my aunt's story - she'd been issued a subpeona by a lawyer after writing a scathing blog post about him. She has since also posted the subpeona, her Motion to Quash, the judge's Order to Show Cause, the lawyer's Response to Order to Show Cause, and her Response to his response. The cycle is now complete, with the judge Santioning the lawyer in question.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Dial 9

My co-worker just came and told me that working in an office is starting to get to him. He showed me the call log on his cell phone, and pointed out the calls he tried to make over the weekend that wouldn't go through. Why? Because he dialed 9 before the number. You know, for an outside line. I responded with, "Welcome."

This is something I've been doing for years now. In fact, when I dial a phone number, any phone number, I have to think for a minute or so about whether or not I need to dial a 9 first. In fact, even between my cell and landlines - do I need to dial a 1? 9-1-number, 1-number, or just number?

It's about as annoying as dreaming about work.

Sad Plant

I was recently telling a co-worker that I kinda wanted to get a plant for my desk - something about the lack of life being depressing - and he went off on a tangent about how great indoor plants are, how they are natural air filters, and everyone should have one. Okay, but I'm really picky - which plant would be a good office plant that I would still like? He had the answer to that too, and sent me some studies by NASA people about the best houseplants to have. I picked out a couple that I liked, and finally settled on an Orchid - which was convieniently available at Trader Joe's. My second choice is Devil's Ivy, which I may still get (why not two?), but I've always loved orchids, and the color was a nice addition.

So how am I supposed to care for my orchid? According to the plastic around the pot - water it every 5-7 days, and keep at indoor temperatures. Perfect!

It's done well... until today. The leaves still look healthy, but the flowers are starting to look droopy and sad. I don't think the air goes on here over the weekend, and the lights only go on if someone comes in.

Last weekend Emma brought her pink potted flower into her room. This weekend it was looking pretty sad - it is clearly not an indoor plant. All the flowers had turned brown and fallen off, though the stems and leaves were still green. I convinced her to bring it back outside and we watered it really well. I think it's going to have to stay outside.

Perhaps I should bring my orchid home on weekends, and put it in Emma's room. That way she can have a flower in her room, and I can maintain my orchid's light and temperature better. I was thinking about getting a few more for the house as it is.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Bottling Beer

After a little lunch thing at the nursing home with my mom's family today, we headed over to Aaron's brewery, Bootlegger's, to help with some bottling. His batch of Amber Ale was ready. It's actually an Altbier (will most likely be named simply Alt) and is my favorite of his beers so far. He's still waiting on the labels, they aren't ready yet, but it needed to be bottled up, and we were there to help.

I'd never bottled anything before, and was somewhat curious about the process. From what I understand, bottling machines are pretty expensive, so we would be doing it by hand. So for those of you who are curious, this is the process:

First we wash the bottles with water and sanitizer. There's this nifty little contraption that you press the inverted bottle onto so that it shoots water/sanitizer up into the bottle. Then you hang the bottle upside down so that it dries out. Once the bottles are dry, we put them onto the table and inserted this tube that is hooked up to the vat the beer is in. The tube has a special tip on it that allows beer through only when it is pressed down, so you insert the tube into the bottle, and press down until the bottle is full of beer (no foam, so you overflow it until there isn't any foam left). The next person uses this contraption that crimpes the bottlecap onto the bottle. Then dry off the bottle. If the labels were ready, this is when we'd put them on, but alas, not this time.

Unfortunately it's a rather slow process. It was hot too - 101° outside. We periodically just climbed into the cold storage room just to cool off. Bobby, Emma, and I helped for around three hours, but we still only got about 1/3 of the beer bottled. Aaron posted a message on Bootlegger's Twitter feed at 10:28 last night saying they'd just finished. Like I said, a slow process.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Summer Begins

The Summer Solstice occurs at 11:59 pm UTC/GMT (that's 3:59 pm for me). It is officially summer here in the northern hemisphere.

Thursday, June 19, 2008


None of my interns have ever used Microsoft Outlook before. I could understand if they don't use it on a regular basis, but they didn't even know what it was! These are college business students. WTF?

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

This Makes Me Sad

I admit it - I'm a Googlephile. I know that many of their services can be improved, but I'm still a big fan. One of the blogs I subscripe to is Googling Google - it basically keeps up with things Google is up to. This morning's post was really simple: Google colors their ads for Gay Pride week. Essentially, if you search for the word "gay" you'll see a rainbow stripe down the page to the left of the Ads section. Not for everyone, just if you search for "gay." It seemed a non-issue to me.

Reading through the comments at the bottom was really saddening. There were a number of commentators saying that because of this they would be ceasing to use Google products or support the company. There was a lot of outright gay bashing. I realize that living in Southern California I am often surrounded by people more accepting of homosexuality, but the outright hatred some people have is disturbing and saddening.

When I hear this kind of hatred being justified with religion, I want to point out that if these people actually followed their own religion, they would remmeber that it is not their place to judge - only God's - and refrain from judging and hating others. I'll admit that I am often very judgemental of others. But rarely do I express it out loud; it normally stays in my head. Why? Because I don't think I have the right to tell people how to live their lives.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Fresh OJ

On Thursday morning I was making myself a smoothie/shake for breakfast - banana, plain yogurt, some frozen blueberries, mango sorbet, and orange juice. We didn't have any orange juice in the fridge (we usually don't), but we did have a few oranges in the bowl that needed to be eaten anyway, so I juiced them up for my smoothie/shake. I had a little of the OJ left over, and drank that while my shake blended. I was reminded how much I absolutely love freshly squeezed orange juice.

I have never loved store bought orange juice or OJ from concentrate - they are always just too tart, and I end up cutting them by as much as half with water. I do like Simply Orange juice, but nothing compares to freshly sqeezed. Drinking my little bit of fresh OJ, I began wishing I had an orange tree so I could juice my own oranges in the morning without having to buy all those oranges all the time.

Emma watched me juice some limes yesterday for the pico de gallo and guacamole, and asked if she could juice some oranges - claimed she'd never had freshly squeezed orange juice. So we picked the squishiest oranges out of the bowl and juiced them up for her. I had to have a sip of it. Mmm... tasty. Again, I wanted an orange tree.

I was craving fresh orange juice the moment I woke up this morning. Luckily I had enough oranges left to squeeze myself a glass to have with a slice of my banana bread for breakfast. I'm going to have to buy a big bunch of oranges on my way home today - at least until I have a tree.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Father's Day BBQ

Bobby's cousin is moving to London for two years in a week or so, and as a sort of Father's Day celebration / sendoff for Ricky, Bobby and I had some family over for a barbecue today. Bobby's dad was driving across the country and his mom was working, so they couldn't be there, but we did have his brother, sister, uncle, cousins, second cousin, and my parents over.

When Ricky arrived he complimented the house and patio, and then said it was a perfect opportunity for us to have some "porch climbers." Huh? At first I thought he was joking about us having kids or something. "What's a porch climber?"
"It's a drink." Ohhh... He said all he needed was a pitcher.

Porch Climbers
1 can frozen lemonade concentrate
equal amount of whiskey (just fill the now empty lemonade can; he used Canadian Whiskey)
2 cans beer (he used Tecate)
Mix all ingredients and stir, serve over ice

I have to admit, it was nice for an afternoon barbecue, although after a few the sugar starts to get to you. Later in the day we substituted the whiskey for tequila to make Beer Margaritas. I looked them up, and found a few different recipes for both porch climbers and beer margaritas, but we can play with the recipe some more in the future. I like the idea of using Limeade instead of Lemonade in the Beer Margaritas, and I wouldn't mind lightening up the porch climbers a bit by cutting them with club soda or something.

It was a really nice day for a barbecue - it did get really cloudy and cool off for a bit, but for most of the day it was a pleasant sunny day in the high 70s. Bobby's uncle Rich brought some marinaded carne asada and chicken, along with some freshly made corn tortillas, and I slow cooked some pork and made fresh guacamole and pico de gallo. Bobby's mom sent some rice, and I warmed up some black and pinto beans. Brian & Jess brought a watermelon and chips.

We spent most of the afternoon just chatting on the patio, chowing down, but the boys also played their instruments for a bit, and played a little Halo 3. My parents were nice enough to take Emma home (since she lives near them) so we could stay and watch the Laker game.

People started showing up just after noon, and the last left just before 11pm. Unfortunately, we forgot to pull out the camera, so I don't have any pictures to show you. I hope we can have more barbecues this summer - I really like having people over.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Banana Bread

When I was a little girl, my grandpa went through a phase when he wanted to cook a lot. One of the things he made all the time were all different kinds of tasty fruit and vegetable breads. Banana bread, pumpkin bread, zucchini bread... mmm. My mom and I used to make banana bread together, and I think I purposely buy bananas I'm not really going to eat so that when they turn brown I have an excuse to make some banana bread. Gotta do something with those bananas, right?

I play with the recipe a bit. I like to add things or swap things out. This time it came out really well.

Banana Bread
2 cups flour
1/4 cup hazelnut flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup applesauce
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
4 browning bananas, mashed
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350° and butter the inside of a bread pan.
Mix the flours, baking soda, salt, and nutmeg and set aside. Combine the butter, applesauce, and sugars together and beat until smooth. Beat in the eggs. Add in the bananas and lemon juice. Stir in the flour mixture 1/2 cup at a time. Stir in the raisins and walnuts. Pour batter into the bread pan and bake for 1 hour. Reduce heat to 325° and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool before slicing it up.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Loving Day

Did you know that today is Loving Day? Do you know what that is?

Loving Day is the anniversary of the Supreme Court decision on Loving v. Virginia, when the court decided that laws banning interracial marraiges were unconstitutional.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Life Cycle

I was playing with the Macro Focus on the camera this morning. I wanted to show you the next stage of my cabbage's life cycle.

I did not expect any of the changes in this cabbage. I realize this may not be very interesting to anyone else, but I'm fascinated with how unexpected every stage has been. At first, I put it in the ground thinking another cabbage head would grow... that did not happen. Instead the "seed stem" shot up very quickly, and little yellow buds appeared. After a little research, I expected these yellow buds to turn brown and then burst releasing seeds for a new cabbage plant. Instead, the yellow buds unfolded into little yellow flowers.

Now, the little petals are falling off, and the pistil of the flower is elongating, so that all that is left is the enlarged pistil, with a little bright yellow tip. You can see the progression in this picture, starting with the flower at the top and then going following clockwise. There are some lone pistils below the flowers.

Perhaps it is these little yellow things that are supposed to turn brown and burst with seeds. We shall see.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Kitchen Art

I'm trying to decide which of these prints I should buy to hang up in my kitchen. I like the artist, Will Rafuse, and I already have a couple bartender prints by him. I like the chef ones a lot, but I only have so much wall space. Who do you like more? Edwardo:

Or Jean Pierre:

Monday, June 9, 2008

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

Bobby and I stayed up late to watch The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford with his brother. I'd ordered it from Netflix a month or so ago and we'd just gotten around to watching it.

I'm generally a fan of both Brad Pitt and Casey Affleck - I find I enjoy most of their movies, and have a lot of respect for their acting abilities. I'd heard an interview with Casey Affleck and clips from the movie, and wanted to check it out.

Here is the synopsis from
Jesse James (BRAD PITT) was one of the country's first bona fide celebrities. There have been countless books written and tales told about America's most famous outlaw--all of them colorful and fascinating, all focused on his larger-than-life public persona and daring exploits, and most of them bearing only incidental reference to the truth. To those he robbed and terrorized, and to the families of those he admittedly killed, he may have been just a criminal, but in the sensational newspaper articles and dime novels chronicling the James Gang throughout the 1870s, Jesse was the object of awe and admiration. He was a Robin Hood, they suggested, targeting railroad owners and banks that exploited poor farmers. He was a man with a tragic cause, a wronged and wounded Confederate soldier striking back against the Union that had ruined his life. Most importantly, to an increasingly buttoned-down and citified population leading ordinary lives, he was the last frontiersman--a symbol of freedom and the American spirit, a charismatic rebel who flouted the law and lived by his own all accounts, a legend. Foremost among his admirers was Robert Ford (CASEY AFFLECK), an idealistic and ambitious young man who had devoted his life to the hope of one day riding alongside his idol. He could never have imagined that history would ultimately mark him as the "the dirty little coward" who shot Jesse in the back. But who was Jesse James, really--behind the folklore and the selling of newspapers? And who was Robert Ford, just nineteen and a member of Jesse's inner circle, who was able to bring down such a formidable figure when lawmen across ten states had tried and failed? How did they come to be friends and what happened between them in the days and hours leading up to the gunshot that would end one man's life and become the definition and sum total of another's? No one will ever know the whole truth. Based on the novel by Ron Hansen, "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford" delves into the private lives of America's most notorious outlaw and his unlikely assassin to offer a new perspective on a legend and address the question of what really may have transpired in the months before that infamous shooting. The year is 1881 and Jesse is 34 years old. As he plans his next great robbery, he continues to wage war on his enemies who are trying to collect the reward money and the glory riding on his capture. But the greatest threat to his life could come from those he would trust the most.

Wow! That is a long description - kind of like the 2h 39m movie. Though I found the acting to be quite good (especially the body language of Sam Rockwell and others), I did not find the film very entertaining or even emotionally evocative. I had a hard time making out the dialog, or even following the story in some parts. I just didn't care about any of the characters. I found myself glancing at the clock to see how much was left before I could go home and get to sleep...

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Lemon Semifreddo with Summer Berries

I recently subscribed to Bon Appetit, and have come across a number of recipes I wanted to try out. This recipe was in the June issue: Meyer Lemon Semifreddo with Summer Berries.

At lunch on Friday I drove past a strawberry farm, and even though I was on the opposite side of the street, the strawberries were so fragrant they were making my mouth water. I decided that on my way back I would stop and buy some. When I got there, everything looked and smelled so wonderful, I wound up buying a three-pack of strawberries, and a small basket of blackberries.

The berries were clearly picked when fully ripe, and would need to be eaten soon. I shared with my co-workers (who could smell them from their desks), and they were perfect! I decided it was time to try this recipe.

I've never had Meyer Lemons before, nor have I seen them in the store. From what I understand they taste like a cross between a mandarin orange and a regular lemon, making them slightly sweeter, and less intensly sour. I've read that using regular lemons when Meyer lemons are called for can lead to an overly sour dish. I love a light lemon flavor, but I'm not a big fan of sour, so I was a little cautious.

But after reading through some of the reviews, in which a few people stated they'd used regular lemons and the desert still came out delicious, I decided to just give it a try. Worst case scenario: the semifreddo is too sour, and I put the berries on something else.

I used regular lemons, but less zest than called for. I had some really juicy lemons, so it didn't take many, and the zest from those only gave me maybe 3/4 tbsp., so that's what I used. I also skipped the sugar on the berries, because my berries were so amazing, and I figured if I needed to, I could always add it in.

The semifreddo filled an entire bread pan before the berries - there was no way Bobby and I would be able to eat this alone. So I brought it with us to his parents' house yesterday - they can all help me eat it, right?

While I had a slice myself, no one else got around to trying it out yesterday, so I left it there assuming we could have it today. At around 9pm I got a text message from Bobby's mom: "Semifreddo - yum!" Then this morning his sister-in-law calls: Oh my god, it's so good I've had two servings in the last hour, you must give me the recipe!

Yeah! It's a hit! Tonight we had more, along with a Rose Spumante from Ponte Winery. Lovely on a hot day like today.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Not Fishing

Bobby had to finish something up at the jobsite in Big Bear today, and thought it would be nice to make a day of it. He planned for all of us to go up together, he'd take an hour or so to finish up, and then we'd go fishing. Invited his dad to come along too.

We had to make a stop at the Home Depot first - he needed to construct a plan holder using some 3" PVC pipe and fittings. As we were parking, I said I wanted to go to the Garden section, and he could come get me when he'd finished. Emma quickly chimed in that she wanted to go with me. Letting us go in was his first mistake.

We were originally just going to buy some seeds, and I wanted to check out if they had any Meyer Lemon trees - not that I was going to buy one per se, I just wanted to see the size and price. But what did we find? A blueberry bush. Only $10.

Now, as much as I love strawberries (I know, I can hardly shut up about them lately), blueberries are my most favorite berries. I have been wanting a blueberry bush for awhile now, but had yet to find one for sale. Emma, also a lover of blueberries, cheered when I told her to go get a cart.

Oh, and right next to the blueberry? A Zinfindel - $5. In it went.

I had not been too excited about fishing - I much prefer deep sea fishing to lake fishing. I was willing to go along, feeling like I would be a bit of a party pooper if I were to bow out. But as it got closer and closer to when we were supposed to leave, Emma was mentioning a little more that she didn't really want to go fishing. I admitted that I didn't really want to go either. We eventually decided that Bobby and his dad would go fishing, and Emma and I would head home.

Of course, we didn't go straight home... we had to make a small stop at the Home Depot near our house - we now needed potting soil, and a couple pots... and I picked up some Stargazer Lily and Iris bulbs as well.

When we did finally get home, I dutifully started a load of laundry, and then Emma and I set about our gardening. She'd picked out 4 flower seed packets and one potted flower. We planted seeds, bulbs, and plants in the pots and throughout the yard. Starting, of course, with my blueberry.

Hopefully this pot is big enough. I'm running out of space to plant where actual sunlight hits. I suppose I could plant smack in the middle of the yard, but then my gravevines would be shaded.

This is the one potted flower Emma picked out.

As for the Zinfindel, I thought the spot left with the best sun was in the front yard. We have a low chain link fence between our house and the neighbors that it can climb on, and since there are sprinklers in the front I won't have to think about watering it too much. I'm not too fond of the look of chain link, but it should look nice covered in grapevine.
All this potting and planting... I decided I wanted to move some stuff around too. My Thyme wasn't really flourishing where it was (not enough sun, I think), and I hated having to trek to the opposite side of the yard when I needed some. I had a bunch of empty pots hanging around next to the patio, and decided to put them to use. First, I transferred my dill and thyme into pots, and placed them along the edge of the patio where the afternoon sun would hit them.

My tarragon and lemon balm were already in pots, but I moved them so that they too were along the edge of the pato, opposite the dill and thyme. In the little pot there (one of the new ones), I put some garlic cloves.

This little step display thing has been in the yard forever, but until recently it has just held emptly pots. Emma and I planted some seeds in a couple of them, and I decided I will finish it with all flowers. I don't usually plant flowers, often opting for plants that will eventually feed me, but I felt this side of the yard needed some color. To the left, Emma and I also dug up the earth, mixed in some soil and compost, and put in an until now unused trellis/tower thing. In the ground there are Morning Glories. In my experience, they grow pretty fast, and have amazingly beautiful little flowers. I think we can brighten up this wall.
I also moved my parsley out of the "kitchen garden" to just beside it. I already had the pot and the stand, they just weren't being used just yet. My thinking is that I'll reserve the kitchen garden for fruits and vegetables, and keep the herbs in pots - although the basil can stay for this season, and the marjoram and oregano will continue to be a floor covering along the back wall.
And the, because I've been buying (and eating) a lot of onions lately, I've had the inevitable sprouting onions. I tend to avoid chopping them up if they have a sprout, and I'd acquired quite a collection. The one in the front had been in the compost heap, and mangled as it was, it was still fighting for it's life.
Since I'd just moved some of the herbs out, I put these onions into the kitchen garden. Hopefully they will bring me more.

Once we finished potting and planting what we were going to pot and plant and cleaning up after ourselves, we watered down the yard and all our new plants really well, as it was now after six and starting to cool down. Something about watering everything makes everything feel so fresh, and when the water hits all those herbs, the yard smells just lovely.

Now that our watering was finished, and it was approaching evening, we had one step left - releasing the ladybugs. I wasn't going to let the aphids get my tomato plants this year, but I didn't want to buy any pesticides. Emma and I had made sure we picked the pouch with the most live ladybugs, and she made sure they were kept cool throughout the day. We opened the pouch, and gently sprinkled them in the kitchen garden.

We sat on the patio for a few minutes, relaxing, smelling the herbs, and bragging about how much we'd just done, and how nice the yard looked. True, we'd planted mostly seeds, but adding the herbs to the end of the patio, using up some vacant pots, and cleaning up had made it look really nice.

Then it was back inside, to get more laundry going, and clean up inside the house...

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Cute Videos

Hey Kids, Get Off My Lawn

Sometimes I feel like I'm becoming an old lady.

When I was deciding where to eat lunch today, one of my concerns was "Where has the best outdoor patio?" It's an absolutely beautiful spring day, and I have this intense need to be outside. I decided on Gina's Pizza, because they have one of the best patios - it's not a solid cover, but more of a latticed patio, so enough sunshine gets through to warm you up, without being in direct sunlight and making you overheated.

I found a table at the edge of the patio, right next to a rosemary plant. The patio was relatively deserted, only a few other tables taken. It was very quiet and peaceful with the perfect amount of sun peaking through. I sat and ate my sandwich in this peaceful setting, reading the book that Bobby's mom gave me, One Hundred Years of Solitude. I'm only 20 pages in or so, but it's been a good read so far.

Near the end of my lunch, when I probably should have already been packing up and heading back to work, a group of eight or so college kids came and took up the two tables next to me. They were loud and boisterous... and shattered the quiet. I suddenly couldn't concentrate on my reading. I wanted to tell them to be quiet, but decided I was being a spoil-sport, and just packed up and went back to work.

Damn kids. :)


This post makes me want a cherry tree, and I don't even care for cherries. What is it about fruit blossoms that is so wonderful? Orange, peach, plum, cherry. I'm a little (okay, more than a little) jealous - I would also like to be there napping under the cherry tree in Lorraine everyday after lunch.

I spend way too much time indoors. I know this. My skin is showing it - I'm very pale right now. This past weekend Emma and I were putzing around the backyard in the late morning, and Lucas came out to join us. He found a perfect spot, nestling himself in the planter along the back wall, under a plant. He was half shaded, so he could feel the warm sun yet not overheat himself. He looked so peaceful, sitting there, watching us. I wish I had a picture.

I often take pictures (both real and mental) of Lucas when he is curled up relaxing or napping. I think it is because I envy his ability to be so restful. I've never been good at relaxing. I have a hard time taking naps during the daytime, and I can never seem to just sit still - I require something to read or occupy my mind. Even on weekends that I don't have anything I need to do, I have such a hard time feeling idle. I really want to just nap in the half-shaded spring sun, relax, and soak in the warmth, and yet when I try, my mind races and I fidget.

I can probably recall all of the times I have been able to still my mind and just feel at peace - those all-is-right-with-the-world moments. I can remember where I was, what the circumstances were - they are very few and far between; I treasure them. It's probably the reason I love morning so much - it's the one time of day I feel the most peaceful - warm in my bed, and not yet affected by the stress of the day.

Yoga is another thing that I find really relaxing - at least the cooldown afterwords. It's unfortunate that it has been so difficult to find time for it. Something about lying still in a dark room following a calm exertion. Perhaps that is it - I don't exert myself much sitting in an office chair all day most days.

We have Emma again this weekend. Perhaps we can go to the beach, or the park, so I can fulfill this need I have to be outside.

Back in Business

I'm so glad to have a working camera again! Now I can show you what I've been growing. First off: Remember my cabbage? This is what it looked like in mid April, growing in my fridge:

Well, now it looks like this. See the yellow flowers, and the sort of purple-y green leaves? That's the cabbage plant!

Yes, I know they are a little close together. I didn't expect everything to get that large. But they seem to be doing just fine. To the right and just behind the cabbage are my tomato plants. I have a Lemon Boy and a boring old red one. To the bottom left of the cabbage is some of my basil; more of that to come. The radicchio (back left of the cabbage) was particularly surprising - (it should look like this, but instead,) it looks like this:

Yes, the big one, next to the cabbage. In early April, it was just a little thing (in the back right in the pic in this post). I know I put radicchio seeds in the ground, and I thought I saw reddish purple in there a few months ago, but I didn't pull it up, I just let it grow. Now it's huge.

Told you there was more basil. I love the stuff. And it smells so lovely when I water. As do the marjoram (left) and oregano (right) below. I'm not sure if you can tell from the picture, but the marjoram is growing what looks like seed pods. From what I understand these two create quite a nice ground cover; I'm hoping they grow sideways and cover the bed of the planter along the back wall.

And my baby grapevines have grown quite a bit in just a short time too. I don't remember which is the Cabernet Franc, and which is the Pinot Gris, but I'll know when the grapes color - although I won't let any grapes grow for at least a couple years.

I'll let this one grow some grapes next year though. This is the Merlot I bought at the Home Depot last year. It already had roots and all last year, so this year it is just taking off:

Next time I'll have to take some pics of my rosemary, sage, and thyme...

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

New Camera!

Bobby received a few Best Buy gift cards for his birthday, and was told not to use them for something he needed for the business. He thought a lot about what Best Buy would have that he really wants. He could think of two things - a camera, and a PS3.

We both need and want a camera, since both of ours have recently died. Although it is also something we need for the business, Bobby has been wanting to get a good camera to take scuba diving with him (he'll still need the underwater case before that can happen), and we have been sad that we have not been able to take pictures for events like his birthday. With his sister's high school graduation tomorrow, and the fact that a PS3 would mean putting some extra cash down as well, he decided to go for the camera.

We'd been doing a lot of research lately, knowing we would need a new camera. We both agreed on the make and model we wanted: the Canon SD870 IS. Bobby was particularly interested in the wide zoom of 28mm, and I was looking for the largest screen.

When we got home, Bobby had to take care of some things in the garage while I brought the goods in. Once he made it into the house, he expressed surprise that I hadn't already opened the box and assembled the camera.
"But it's your camera, not mine."

I didn't like the idea of taking over his birthday present, but Bobby said that since he'd taken over the use of my camera so much over the last year (since his had died), that this was definetly our camera, not just his. I still let him put it together, then I took to trying it out by photographing one of our favorite subjets - our furchild, Lucas. He'd taken a liking to the wrist strap, so the flash was a little close to his face, but I kind of like how it came out.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Lorenzo's Oil

Lorenzo Odone died last week, the day after his 30th birthday. If you haven't seen the movie based on his story, Lorenzo's Oil, I highly recommend it. Here is the synopsis from

Based on a true 1985 story, "Lorenzo's Oil" chronicles a couple's search for a cure for their son's fatal disease. After diagnosing 5-year-old Lorenzo Odone's condition as an extremly rare degeneration of the nervous system known as Adrenoleukodystrophy (ALD), the doctors tell his parents that there is nothing that can be done, and that he has only two years to live. Refusing to accept the word of the medical establishment, the Odones begin researching ALD themselves. As her husband desperately seeks a cure, the boy's mother devotes herself to keeping her child alive with a single-minded fanaticism that alienates everyone around her, including, at times, her husband. Academy Award Nominations: 2, including Best (Original) Screenplay, Best Actress--Susan Sarandon.

Need More Space

Lately I want to grow everything. And by lately, I mean the last year or so.

I want a bay laurel tree, an avocado tree (or two, I hear you need two), a grafted apple/pear tree, a grafted lemon/lime tree, an orange tree, a peach tree, lots of lavendar, a few different grapevines (both for eating and for winemaking), all the major herbs, onions, different kinds of tomatoes, strawberries, blueberries, red bell peppers, carrots, cucumbers, romaine, red cabbage, leeks, shallots, corn, sweet and red potatoes.... I could go on.

There is something about going outside and picking my own thyme that feels awesome. When you can pick a tomato off the vine and put it in your salad...

This, of course, is impossible at the moment. I can handle a bunch of herbs, and I have 4 grapevines, a couple tomato plants, and my cabbage, but my yard couldn't handle another tree. I need a bigger yard, so I can have my shady patio, and a sunny area where I could grow veggies.

Sim City with My World

Did you ever play that game? The one where you get to be the master planner and administrator of a city? I did (the original version; I never tried the newer ones). Sometimes I think about my current environment and how I would like to change it and make it better. And by better, I mean better for me. :)

Like public transportation. I want there to be kick-ass public transportation that would allow me to not have to drive most of the time. Have you seen this? This would be ideal! A metro or train would work great too - even if if meant walking or riding a bike for 20-30 minutes. Heck, if they just put in a line from the Disneyland area to the John Wayne airport that would be really helpful.

Also, I want there to be a farmer's market either on the weekends near my home, or even at the end of the day during the week near my work. As it is right now, they are on weekends near my work, and during lunch on weekdays near my house. This just does not work for me. Who are these people that can do grocery shopping from 9am-12pm on Tuesdays?

Grocery shopping in general can be a pain. I haven't found a butcher or bakery near me, so if I want decent meat, I go to Stater Bros., but their baked goods selection is slim, so for that, I go to Ralphs. Veggies? Trader Joe's or Whole Foods because I can't seem to get to a farmer's market. Oh, and household items like laundry detergent? Target. Much better prices than the grocery store. All this means I find myself running around a lot, and doing some kind of grocery shopping at least every other day.

In my mind the solution is for the gods to put in a butcher, bakery, and produce market (like this one) into the shopping center that actually is down the block from my house. I don't even care if they are all in the same store or different stores next door to each other - I just want good (but affordable) stuff, and I want it closer to home. There is even an abandoned movie theater in that parking lot they could use (unless the NSA has a secret base there, of course; can't think of another reason the space hasn't been used yet).

I would also really like if there were either some nightlife close enough to home that I could walk/bike there, or some sort of public transportation to the nearby nightlife. I would love if I could take a metro/subway to Downtown Fullerton, Downtown Disney, or the new GardenWalk area they are building. As it is, it's at least a 15 minute drive. I realize that's not a long drive, but between traffic and finding a place to park, and always needing to be mindful of who is going to be the designated driver - it really does prevent me from going out more often. I like nightlife - I'd love a pub/bar with live entertainment, a wine bar, a nice place to eat, and a little cafe nearby. I love little areas like Downtown Disney that are closed off from the street so you can wander around (although I wish they had stuff there); I love Stubrik's Steakhouse and Steamers Cafe, and I love listening to live music on warm summer nights.

So... I basically I want to build a little Sim Anaheim, or Sim Orange County. With kick-ass public transport, and underground parking garages, and easy grocery shopping, and local/easily accessible nightlife.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Let's Go Angels

On Friday a co-worker of mine was trying to get rid of some tickets to today's Angels game. Someone he knew had purchased a whold block and had some extras. Bobby and I have often talked about taking Emma to a baseball game, and this seemed perfect. They had already broken even on the block of tickets, so I was able to get five tickets for free!

So this afternoon Bobby, Emma, Brian, Caelyn, and I all went to the Angels game. We had some nice seats, lower view level, just behind the first base foul pole, and got there just as the 4th inning was ending, and the Blue Jays were up 3-2. The score stayed the same until the bottom of the ninth, when after walking a batter to load the bases, the Blue Jays pitcher hit the batter with a ball to tie it up. The next batter only had to hit a single to win the game 4-3.

We all really enjoyed the game, and I learned later that the Blue Jays pitcher that was brought in the last inning, had never before failed to maintain the lead. I kinda feel bad for the guy, but I'm still glad the Angels won - that's my team.


It only took me three tries. The first time I got the wrong cut of meat, and instead of falling apart, it stayed a solid roast. The second time it fell apart beautifully, smelled wonderful, but the wonderful flavor I was smelling didn't penetrate the meat itself. The third time - success!

1 bone in boston butt pork shoulder roast (NOT a picnic-style shoulder roast. I know it's confusing, but a boston butt is actually a shoulder cut too. I don't know how many pounds, maybe 4; I just got the smallest one so it would fit easily in my slow cooker)
canola oil
1 large spanish/yellow onion, chopped
4 large cloves of garlic, peeled, cut in half
1 small can of green chilis - whole, diced, doesn't matter
4 dried New Mexico red chilis, torn in half
1/4 cup Kosher/coarse salt (sounds kinda funny using Kosher salt on pork)
Abodo seasoning
Dried Oregano

Heat the Canola oil in a large pan and brown each side of the pork shoulder in the hot oil; transfer to the slow cooker. Throw in your onion, garlic, green chilis, dried chilis, and salt. Fill slow cooker with water until 2/3 full. Cook on low for 8+ hours. (You could get away with less I suppose, I just start it in the morning if for dinner, and in the evening if for lunch).

Transfer pork from the slow cooker to a cutting board. Using a slotted spoon, pull out all the onions, garlic, and chilis, leaving only the juice. Using two forks, shred the pork - it should just fall apart. Seperate out fat, skin, and bone. Put the pork back into the juice in the slow cooker. Sprinkle Abodo and Oregano over top and stir it in. Set back to low and leave until ready to eat (unless, of course that is tomorrow).

I got such a good price on the pork butt, I think I'm going to pick up some more and try to make pulled pork. Slow cook in salt water, then find a good sauce recipe. Mmm... pork.

Disneyland Farewell

I looked at our Disneyland passes the other day and realized they would be expiring shortly - June 2nd. Since we had Emma for the weekend, we thought it would be appropriate to make one last visit, since we wouldn't be renewing in the near future.

I prefer Disneyland in the evening - Fantasmic and the fireworks, all the early birds already dragging their tired children home, and not standing in the hot sun when in line. I looked at the schedule and found they were open until midnight, so we figured after dinner would be perfect. We left the house around 7:30, and still had plenty of time.

Although the park was quite busy, none of the lines we waited in were too long. We also tried to do things we didn't normally do. We started with Tarzan's Tree House, then took the train to Tomorrowland. We finally convinced Emma to go on the Matterhorn Bobsleds, and although she was very reluctant, by the time it was over she was chanting, "Lets go again!" Next was Space Mountain, another ride we have to practically drag into, although this time she wanted to go on that one again as well.

One ride we always go on is Star Tours. This time we loaded into the cabin, but the ride didn't start. We just sat there, locked in our seats (you can't release the seat belts), waiting for someone to start the ride. After a few minutes, an attendant finally came in, and explained that they were going to switch us to a different cabin. That took another few minutes or so, and once we finally switched, there was a family from the previous run looking under all the seats for a missing camera bag. When the ride finally started, all the passengers burst into applause. We had waited longer for the ride to start than we had in the line!

Although it had been open for nearly a year now, Bobby and I had yet to go on the new Finding Nemo submarine ride. Emma went on it when she came with her aunt, but Bobby and I never wanted to wait in the 70+ minute line. We really wanted to check it out before our passes expired, so we checked the line - it was only about 35 minutes.

Emma had told us that the ride wasn't worth the line; when she had gone on it with her aunt they had waited in line over 2 hours. After a slight panic feeling as we were going down, I have to say I really enjoyed it. The ride felt long (at least 10+ minutes, maybe even 15+ minutes), and the easy pace was nice. You essentially float around the lagoon and hear audio and see projected images on underwater screens that are blended into an underwater coral reef facade. I can imagine loving this ride on hot days, when you just want to be out of the sun in the cool cabin, or when you've been walking or standing for hours and just want to sit and rest.

When we got off of that ride, it was around 11:45, and we decided to call it a night. It had been a lovely, low stress visit, and we were all tired. Emma was asleep before we made it home.