November 28, 2008

Bad Food Porn

Let's just say, it's definitely not Pay-per-View. I'm still saving up for my real camera and tripod. AND, warning to all vegetarians, look away...
We have a well-designed apartment. The smoke alarm is far away from the kitchen, right next to the bedrooms.

Yesterday, for the first time, we set it off! Fortunately, nothing was harmed, just the drippings burning in the pan. Poor Muttola, she'd never heard that sound before.

I love a sexy man with an oven mitt...
Riffs on traditional foods

Nothing we made was normal. Instead of mashed potatoes, we made up a recipe. While eating potato salad last week, we started doing a 'what-if' scenario: what if, instead of mayo, you use Blue Cheese dressing? what if, instead of bacon, you broil some pancetta?

This is the end result. To our tastes, it was the best potato salad we've ever had.

  1. 2 pounds New Potatoes. Scrubbed. Peeling is optional. Boil until forkable. Chill in refrigerator while chicken cooks.
  2. Slice two celery sticks. Add to potatoes.
  3. Dice half a red onion. Add.
  4. Broil 1/4 pound of super thin slices of pancetta, procutto or other cured ham. Separate slices and broil in toaster oven or oven for 2-3 minutes per side. Just to crisp. Drain on a paper towel, then pick up and crush. Sprinkle on top.
  5. If available, crumble in goat cheese or gorgonzola to taste.
  6. Add lots of salt and pepper to taste (Korean taste means LOTS of pepper).
  7. 1/2 cup high quality Blue Cheese Salad Dressing.

The 'Greens'

We saw this on On The Road Again. Using a cast-iron skillet over medium high heat, Gwyneth Paltrow toasted pine nuts and currants in olive oil, then tossed and wilted spinach on top. It's SO yummy. If my Mom had made spinach this way, I'd have begged for it.

Jrex also saw a quick recipe by Bitman, from that same show where he grated sweet potatoes. Stir-fried them in olive oil on high heat and then coated with a butter concoction. Also very good.

The Bird

Jrex followed the recipe from Cooks Illustrated for roast chicken. It was juicy and tender. The dripping sauce gravy did NOT work out. As you saw from the top photo, it just tasted burnt. Oh well! It wasn't even missed cause the bird didn't need any moisture to be palatable.

The dinner

The wine was a California Pinot. Jrex is on their mailing list and orders direct. Rhys Vineyards. This was a concoction of various grapes. On the nose, it was mellow with a hint of old shoe at the end. In the mouth, it was a bright, cheery flavor with a lingering finish. Very appropriate for Thanksgiving with it's happy taste blending well with each of the foods.

Dessert: Apple Cranberry Currant Pie

Since I now have a box of currants I need to use up, and since I wanted cranberries, when I saw this recipe in Sunset Magazine, I had to give it a try. I even made the pie crust from scratch. It's edible, but not that good (the crust). The pie itself was tangy and very good. Not too heavy.

In the future, I might just make it as a crumble.

The setting

The candlelight made it easy to ignore all the dishes waiting across the room. Jrex picked Miles Davis' Kind of Blue for the music. We toasted each other and shared what we're thankful for from the past year, and what we're grateful for in our marriage.

The best part was that, without any guests or an agenda, we just relaxed throughout much of the day and cooked little bits here and there. Of course that meant we didn't eat until our usual hour of 7:30, but it was a great day.

November 27, 2008

Just the three of us...

We had a friend who was going to visit for Thanksgiving weekend. At the last minute, she wasn't able to come. Her reasons were great and I wasn't offended, but I was sad. It feels like the point of Thanksgiving is to pack as many people into your house as possible and visit and feast all day. I tried to find some other orphans, but everyone we could think of had plans already.

At first I was really disappointed. It felt pitiful to not have friends or family for Thanksgiving. Somehow the dinner felt less like a gift and more like work. This morning I spent some time with the Lord and realized that I needed to view the day as an opportunity. A time to celebrate just the two of us. To be grateful for all we've survived together and to dream ahead.

As a result, we're going ahead with the meal we'd planned. Of course, everything we're making is a little off-beat and experimental: Roasted Chicken and shredded sweet potato stir fry by Jrex; blue cheese potato salad, wilted spinach with currants and pine nuts, and apple currant cranberry pie by me.
Yesterday, Jrex went to Whole Foods to get our 'organic, grain-fed, free-range' chicken. The woman in line ahead of him was talking with the worker,

"The 20 pound turkey is the biggest you have? Hmm...well, I guess I'll take that as well as the 15 pounder."

As she waited for them to collect her birds, someone came to help Jrex. They weighed the chicken and then said, apologetically, "It's only 4 pounds". Jrex nodded, "Perfect. Thanks."

The woman looked at him with envy in her eyes, and asked, "Thanksgiving for two?"

Jrex smiled and nodded, "Yup". She sighed again, "Enjoy".

Now that I've adjusted my expectations for the day, we will!


On cooking days, we call Muttola "Hopeful". As in "Watch out for Hopeful when you step back from the stove!"


Stay tuned for the food porn photos tomorrow!

November 24, 2008


Yesterday, I received a packet from Aunt Bird in the mail. She and my other aunts cleaned out my Grandmother's house this past summer and pulled from the piles of paper the letters and items that might be of interest to me.

There was a letter my Mom wrote to Grandma when I was 1 1/2 years old. She talked about how I already liked to 'read'. She'd read me from one book while I held another and turned the pages. (Hmm...think I might have been wired for independence?) In that same letter, she mentions "Uncle Sonny" and how she knows that if anything happens to my Dad, he'd protect and defend her. Uncle Sonny is a whole 'nother post, but of all the people she mentions, he was the one who was around the most for my growing up years. Aunt Bird warned about Uncle Sonny planning on toughening me for the streets; Sonny thought my Mom and all her farm-bred sisters were too soft and he had plans for me to be ready for the world. He did it, too!

Mom had also written out a account of my birth. Apparently nothing correlated to the Natural Childbirth book she'd read and she wanted to note all of that. I'm still in awe of my Mom. In 1971, when women were usually drugged for birth and encouraged to bottle-feed, she wanted my Dad in the room, wanted natural childbirth, and was determined to breast-feed. I guess she was in so much pain (backache labor) that she opted for drugs toward the end of labor. They gave her Demoral which meant she was really relaxed between contractions, but didn't really stop the pain of the contractions. It also meant that she felt like my birth was a bit of a dream state. Unlike today when they encourage women to breast-feed within two hours, it sounds like she didn't feed me until the next day?

I have a bunch of friends who have told me how hard breast-feeding is. One of them, right now, has a baby that cannot seem to learn to latch correctly. Apparently, neither me nor my Mom had any problems. It's a relief since it gives me hope that if that's ever relevant, that may be true for me as well.

Obviously, there are tons of questions I'd love to be able to ask my Mom, it was fun to get some of them answered 'beyond the grave'. Chatting with my aunts on the phone the other night was another reminder that I have a bunch of great resources for advice.

I love my family!

November 21, 2008

DBM* #527

On a road trip, stopping at a gas station, getting sleepy. I go in and stare at the refrigerated drink section. Every kind of water imaginable with energy, flavors or nothing OR high calorie caffeinated soda or chemical flavored no-calorie soda.

I turn to Jrex, "Wouldn't it be great if they just made a caffeinated water with nothing else in it?"

He shakes his head, "They have it. It's called 'tea'."

*Ditzy Blond Moment

November 19, 2008

Joshua Tree, Part I

After judging all the brownness of the Nevada desert, our time in Joshua Tree convinced me that in such barrenness, there is usually more going on than meets the eye. It felt like much of what we saw contained evidence: of the passage of water in the last rainy season, of the passage of animals in scat or tracks, of the grinding passage of time in the rocks and landscape.

Being in JTree is like being in a Giant Child’s rock garden. In the middle of flat land, all of a sudden, there rise piles of golden stones, rounded and haphazardly stacked and strewn about. In the flat areas, the land stretches to the horizon with spikes of Joshua Trees. At times it looks like the Dr. Suess’ idea of a Christmas Tree farm: regularly spaced whacky shapes bent at crazy angles with funny spikes of leaves.

It was beautiful.

Before this trip, I had a cliche notion of the desert: vast dunes of sand, with me crawling toward scant shade. What I’d never thought about was the wind. Every morning the wind picked up, sometimes gusting up to 40 mph. Our tent was tucked behind some big rocks, so at most, we had continuous fluttering, but other people, who set up in the quiet of evening, woke to tents that were whipping back and forth over their heads at crazy angles. Then at night, as the sun set and the moon rose, the wind usually died down. We were tucked among the child’s stones with the moon bright enough for clambering.

Day 1/Hike 1: Lost Palms Oasis
As usual when camping, we did one (long) hike per day. Joshua Tree spans parts of two deserts. The Mojave, home of the Joshua Tree itself, is 3,000 feet higher than the lower, drier Colorado. The first day, we descended to the lower desert to hike to an oasis. The trail was rocky, but very pretty. As we hiked out of a wash, Jrex ahead of me, I saw his foot descending right on top of a snake. What I couldn’t see was if there was a rattle on the tail. Jrex never even saw the snake until I pointed it out. No rattle, thank God. In fact, after being stepped on, the snake didn’t even move. That was my adrenaline rush for the day!

After 3.5 miles in on a rocky path, we turned and looked down on palm trees.

My Oasis image was also a cliche: a babbling brook or spring, palm trees, and someone in a toga waiting to feed me grapes and fan me with a palm branch. Instead, there was a row of palms straggling down the valley in the midst of dry rocks. As with much of my desert experience, once I adjusted my expectations to what it was, I found the beauty.

Day 2/Hike 2: Death by shifting sands

OK. OK. I’m being melodramatic. This was supposed to be a 10.5 mile up-and-down hike to a peak. The guide book mentioned climbing up gully’s and washes to the peak. What it didn’t say was that the WHOLE hike would be on sand. Imagine being forced to walk in the soft part of a beach, uphill, for hours.

The hike was my idea so I couldn’t get mad at Jrex, but we both agreed that sand was NOT fun. The view was pretty, we found a hidden valley of huge Joshua Trees, but I wouldn’t want to do that one again.

To add insult to injury, neither the signs on the mountain, the guidebook, nor the topo map seemed to agree on anything. We had to bust out the compass to figure out where we were and where we needed to go. On the way back, I insisted on trusting a sign instead of Jrex’s memory. What should have been the last mile turned into two.

I also wore sneakers. With mesh sides for ‘breathability’. The whole way down I had to stop every mile to drain my shoes and socks of sand. I kept telling myself: “It’s better than being at work. It’s better than being at work.”

It was.

We were there the night of the full-moon and the days leading up to and after. Which meant that after Jrex cooked dinner over one-burner, we could go and wander among the rocks in the moonlight. The moon was so bright we could see colors in the rocks.

Joshua Tree, Part II

Day 3: Aborted Hike and Acceptable Substitutes

We left camp by 8:30 AM. Drove 40 minutes west. Our goal was to explore a bit in the Coxcomb Mountains. It’s an area with no trails, so we planned to build little cairns of rock at each turn so we could find our way back. The guide book instructions: “From the intersection of Utah Drive and Adobe Road, drive 41.9 miles east. You’ll see a dirt road on the right. Watch for it, it’s hard to spot.” We found it. But, the dirt road was closed.

After 12 miles in sand the day before, neither of us was really tempted by the thought of hiking in 4.5 miles (and hiking that back out), in order to hike another 4-7 miles in the mountains. We agreed it would be a fun weekend backpack trip, hike in, camp, explore, sleep, hike out. As a Day Trip though? Fuggedabadit.

Instead we drove back and did two smaller hikes. We scooted up Ryan Mountain in an hour to a great view. We could see the Wonderland of Rocks from above as well as see the descent of the Mojave toward the Colorado Basin.

After Ryan, we drove through Hidden Valley, the campground paradise for climbers. (yes, I was wistful and a little bitter since I’m married to a non-climber, but held myself together) We hiked a mile through rocks to get to Barker Dam. I love the ‘no swimming’ sign! Apparently for 9 months of the year, there’s high water and lots of birds and wildlife.

Beyond the dam area, there are rocks with petroglyphs. The colors were painted on relatively recently, so they look great for the photo, but are inauthentic.

Yet again, I took us on a wrong turn and we had to hike out through some sand, but not for too long...

The next day, we packed up everything. Jrex made us a final cup of tea and we clambered up the rock near our campsite to have a final farewell to the park. Can you see where our tent used to be?

We drove out the West entrance since we’d seen a place with a “Showers” sign. Backpacker and Climber haven, obviously! After getting cleaned up, we asked the guys in the store for a brunch place between here and LA (since we drove around the outskirts of the city to get to Joshua Tree). They stared at us in horror, “You can’t get to LA! The roads are closed.” We were both confused and they continued, “Didn’t you hear about the fires? The 210 and the 101 are both closed. You gotta go north...”

Fortunately, we had a good map and they told us how to get up to Bakersfield the back way.

Our trip confirmed again that in our guts, we like trees and green. We’re not desert rats and don’t seem to be getting converted, but it was still worth it to see Joshua Tree. Jrex has camped in Death Valley with some buddies and says that’s even better, but I think our goal is to get to Kings Canyon for our next camping trip next summer.

The funny thing to me is coming back to work and trying to tell coworkers about my trip. They all look at me like a freak for sleeping in a tent. I try to explain, “You don’t understand, we were car camping, this was luxury! I could walk down the hill to a toilet!”

I guess that didn’t help their perception that I am from another planet. All the gay guys at work say, “Well, Palm Springs is great...” Yeah, it’s close geographically, but NOT Jrex’s scene. Cute shops and a quaint downtown? I would love it, but Jrex barely felt relaxed by car camping. Civilization still felt too close for truly getting lost in the wilderness.

I guess that means I’ll just be further on the freak scale when we take our next trip and backpack it.

November 18, 2008

Not what I expected in my Inbox

I just got an evite from my climbing partner, Graceful. She's Chinese-American and has been dating an African-American guy who is seven years younger than she. Of course, her family has been hoping he'll go away...

The evite photo was of two rings in a glass. The evite content? "Come celebrate our wedding"

I think they eloped?! Holy Moly.

November 17, 2008

Las Vegas Recap

Dear OTRgirl,

Have you ever seen such desolate wilderness as Vegas Valley?

Buggsy should have planted his resort on the backside of the moon. It would have been lovelier and had more water.


So true. I posted more photos on Facebook, but many of you aren’t part of that world, so I’m posting a couple over here as well.

I spent the hour and a half flight to Vegas looking out the window. I loved being able to see the traces of water-flow etched into the desert.

Flying into Las Vegas felt strange after passing over such barren land. Seeing lawns and swimming pools, bought with the waterflow meant for deltas in Mexico really irked me. I know I’m turning into a bleeding-heart over so many issues, but water-use in the West is definitely becoming one of my hot-buttons.

I was shocked that the Las Vegas Strip is literally right next to the airport. This picture was taken from the runway while the plane taxied into the terminal.

Overall, I was bemused by Vegas, but not overwhelmed. My focus, time and energy were on the convention we were producing. My coworkers are great and we had fun, so I didn’t have to think too much about the city itself.

That said, I did have to walk through two casinos as I went from one venue to the other. Each time, I felt sick. Not just the cigarette smoke, though that did give me a sore throat and headache, but the glazed looks in people’s eyes. I hated watching SO much money getting washed away. I kept thinking that if they would just invest that same amount they’d have a guaranteed jackpot. Yes, slower and much less thrilling, but worth far more in the end. Ah, whatever. I sound like a killjoy whenever I talk about it, let’s just say, it wasn’t my scene.

The funny thing about my work for this client is that 95 percent of our attendees are male tech-geeks. They don’t care what the signs look like. Yet all my approvers are marketing women, who care passionately. Sigh.

I got to help cheerlead the RockBand competition the first night. We wanted to get people playing it and psyched about joining teams and fighting toward being in a competition at the final party. Take a bunch of shy programmers and let them loose--turned out to be a great way to get them to interact and network.

I was able to meet with my main client counterpart. She’s based on the East Coast and most of our contact is via IM (Instant Messaging, Dad), so it was good to hammer out a couple things. She showed me the upcoming Big Show look/feel. It’s being developed by the ad agency that took over last spring. Her hope this year is that they create the initial look/feel and then pass it over to me to implement. That sounds MUCH better than what I feared: months of being a production artist and not a designer. We shall see how it all pans out, but it helped to see at least an initial presentation and to get a sense of what she’s thinking.

More power to those of you who have enjoyed Las Vegas as a vacation destination. It wasn’t on my life-list before and I was glad to shake the dust off my feet when I left. Sadly, the Account Executive on my team loved having me there and recognizes that I should be there for the site visit as well as the pre-show set-up. So, looks like more Vegas in my future. I guess we can’t all be lucky.

November 7, 2008

Exciting Times

I had a brilliant (absolutely mind-blowingly brilliant, I swear) post about the election, but my browser crashed and I lost it. Sigh.

I'm in Vegas for work, writing this between meetings. I get all the joy of writing post-it notes with place names onto the back of signs. Mostly, I'm making sure all the signs that I laid out are beautiful and placed correctly before the attendees arrive. This puts me squarely in the non-creative world of the sort of people who thrive on operations. Don't get me wrong, I like to be organized, but not quite to the extent of minutia that an ops person enjoys...

Did I mention Vegas? This is a weird place. I'm hoping to go for a run in the morning and take pictures to post. Look, the Brooklyn Bridge! It rises four feet off of an asphalt 'river', but it's right there! And a little Eiffel Tower. Why go to Paris when I'm visiting there now? Inside the building, the ceilings are painted with a fake sky, the halls are lined with quaint little shops full of glittering junk, and every lobby and opening is crammed with slots, crap tables and card dealers. I'm bewildered by a whole city built completely around people wasting time and money. Totally weird.

Sooo...excited by the election. Bewildered by Vegas. Looking forward to a vacation in Joshua Tree next week with Jrex.

I'll post again soon, gotta go do more signage!

November 4, 2008


Jrex and I just came back from voting. The lines were longer than we've ever seen them, but it only took about 30 minutes, so not bad at all.

I'll be glad when tomorrow comes just to stop the wild emails, Facebook causes, and links to crazy YouTube videos.

On the radical left: Bush will declare martial law if it looks like Obama might win. Carry your passport with you all day and make sure your gas tank is full and you have enough cash to get out of the country. He's brought in a battalion of Army soldiers and has them at his beck and call in violation of the Constitution. In the bailout fine-print, he has 1 billion dollars in discretionary spending. All beginnings of a fascist state. This is what Mussolini did in the 1930's.

On the radical right: Obama will bring in all his Muslim cohorts if he's elected. Sarah Palin is Esther and is chosen for this time. A vote for McCain/Palin is a pro-life vote. Obama is calling for a Civilian Defense force. This is the first step towards a Nazi regime. Hitler said he was a Christian and look where that got the Germans!

My own personal conspiracy theory? If McCain/Palin get elected, someone from a fringe element will try to kill McCain so that "God's chosen" can be in power.

I've never experienced this much emotional hysteria and conspiracy theory around an election!

November 1, 2008

Speaking of dreams vs hopes.

Judging by the series of twitching feet, bared teeth, growls and barks coming from the dog next to me, in her dreams she gets to do a LOT more hunting than she does in real life.