Thursday, August 31, 2006

For Summer

For a couple of years when I was a teenager (late high school, early college), my summer job was working at my friend Caitlin's horse farm. It was the first - and come to think of it, only - time I was happy to get up before dawn six days a week to drive an hour to work long days for little pay. I carpooled with another friend, Sara, and we'd blast The Foo Fighters or Collective Soul or the local radio station, chattering all the while. We'd arrive and make the rounds feeding all the horses before wandering off to the blackberry bushes that provided our breakfast. Since moving away from Oregon, one of the things I have missed the most is blackberry season. Berries from the supermarket simply don't compare. There is just nothing like finding the plumpest, ripest berries on the bush and eating one after another until your fingers are stained purple.

The rest of the day would consist of exercising the horses, tearing down old pasture fences and building better ones, sometimes giving riding lessons to kids, hauling hay from the barn to the fields with the tractor, cleaning out the stalls, and doing whatever else needed to be done. On one memorable occasion, we took Caitlin's truck down to the lumber yard and filled the bed up with wood shavings. Caitlin shoveled while Sara and I took turns either helping her or standing in the truck bed and doing a "rain dance" to pack the shavings down so we could get as much in there as possible.

In the afternoons, if we had time, Sara and I would take the two retired horses out on the trails. We'd take them swimming in the creek if the weather was hot, and then we'd race them back to the barn. Sir is an ex-racehorse himself, and MacDuff is a big Percheron who has been Sir's buddy for years. The boys always got excited when we would approach the galloping lane, ears pricked up and heads raised high, suddenly much lighter on their feet than you would expect of such respectable elderly gentlemen. As soon as we'd give them permission, they would be off, feet pounding the dirt and necks outstretched. On Duffy's back I felt like a warrior going into battle, with his big draft horse hooves making the earth shake.

Every night I would come home filthy and exhausted, but ready to start again the next day. If I ever find another job for which I have so much enthusiasm, I will consider myself a lucky woman.

Yesterday afternoon I got an email from Caitlin. She passed along the sad news that one of her mares, Summer, had an accident out in the field that left her fatally wounded. It's not really clear what happened, but she had to be put down. She was a good old girl, the only broodmare on the farm who only had one foal. (She was already somewhat elderly when Caitlin acquired her, and after one foal she couldn't get pregnant again.) We were all very fond of her, and she lived out a happy retirement at pasture. Upon hearing news of her passing, I memorialized her in the most fitting way I could think of - by going to the Farmers' Market and buying a package of blackberries, which I took down to the beach and ate quietly while thinking about my summers on the farm.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Ahoy there!

Look ye down below. I (finally) got the pictures added to the risotto-stuffed mushrooms post.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Return of Haiku-Tu Participation

This is an approximate representation of my morning so far:

Wallet? Where are you?
I'm on the coffee table!
Back at home? I suck.

Ants! Ants everywhere!
On the floor and on my desk!
Office invaders.

Looking at the clock...
Wait, is it going backwards
Or is it just me?

Monday, August 28, 2006

Open Letter to the Powers That Be of Magic Mountain

To whom it concerns:

This past spring, we purchased season passes to your establishment, specifically for the purpose of visiting a few times throughout the course of the year without breaking the bank, as it were. One of the things we expect of our visits is that the rollercoasters we wish to ride will be operational. We understand that sometimes attractions are down for repairs; we can deal with our disappointment when our desires cannot be met on one visit. However, when we are thwarted on subsequent visits, we tend to get a little testy. Was there really a good reason for X to be closed down for a whole week? And if so, would it have been so very hard for you to put up a little recorded announcement so that one could conceivably call in before the park opens and find out that he/she would do well to make other plans for the day and try again another time? Hell, we might have still come on down, but at least we would not have come with high hopes that would only be violently dashed upon our arrival. In the future, please consider better accomodating your guests, who only wish to come and give you money in return for 35 seconds of high-flying thrills.

Cordially,
Mr. & Mrs. Johnson

Kitchen-Aided Procrastination

My plan for Thursday evening was to come home after work, wash the dishes, make a tasty dinner and do some studying for my DNA/Serology final. What I did instead was come home after work, sit on the couch, surfing the internet and playing WebBoggle for about 2 hours (just one more game...), then get up and wash dishes, and finally, spend about another two hours making tasty, tasty risotto-stuffed portobello mushrooms. By the time dinner was eaten, it was time to get ready for bed. Oops.

Okay, so the risotto. I always make it generally the same way, with minor variations depending on what else is going to be served. I start out by browning the rice a little in some melted butter on the stove. Once it's got a bit of color to it, I dump some white wine or beer (Thursday it was Gordon Biersch Pilsner) into the pan to deglaze. In a separate pan, I saute my vegetables of choice in some olive oil. This time I diced sweet onion, bell peppers (red, yellow and orange, left over from fajita night) and sun-dried tomatoes.


I love making risotto because you get to keep the lid off the pan and just keep stirring and adding liquids until the rice is done. No mystery, no "oops, I burned the bottom," just periodic taste tests and the opportunity to adjust the flavors as desired. When the beer had cooked down almost all the way, I added some tomato soup to the pan. This turned the rice a nice orangey color as it soaked up the tomatoey goodness. After that cooked down, I started in on the vegetable broth. Add a cup or so, let it cook down, add another cup, cook it down, add another cup, etc, etc, until the rice is soft. Depending on the brand of broth, a little added salt may be in order (some broths are way salty on their own, and adding more is just crazy-talk). When the rice is just a little too al dente to eat, then you stir in the vegetables that have been quietly simmering away in the other pan. I always like to dump in a fair bit of parmesan cheese at this point as well.

Once the risotto was ready for eatin, I turned the stove on low and turned the oven to 350 degrees. I got my delicious portobello mushroom caps out of the fridge and prepped them (scrape the innards out with a spoon, scrub down with a damp paper towel, and rub lightly with olive oil). Then into each cap I spread a thin layer of goat cheese before packing them tightly with the risotto. A sprinkling of parmesan on top was the finishing touch, and into the oven they went for 25 minutes. They were delicious. :)


(Sorry, I should have photographed the first one I ate, so the plate would be nice and clean.)

Friday, August 25, 2006

Busy busy busy...

Trying to get lab reports written and diagrams studied before my final exam tomorrow. Got a nice post to put up later about the exceedingly delectable risotto-stuffed portobella mushrooms I made for dinner last night. For now though...what the heck is up with google? I had to sign into Blogger all sneakily-like, because it kept saying Server Not Found.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Can it be...catblogging?!


I know, it's been a while. But at least I'm breaking the catblog fast with a good one. ;)

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Um...no

Contrary to what is apparently becoming popular belief, my roller coaster queasiness from Sunday is not (I repeat...not) an indication of any impending pitter-patter of little feet. Really, it is more accurately an indication of my advancing age and decreasing ability to tolerate the violently twisty coasters of yore. Besides, were I actually "in a family way" I wouldn't be nearly so cryptic about it. ;)

Sunday, August 20, 2006

A Fun Weekend

Friday afternoon, my mom arrived at LAX for a week-long visit with her mom & sister. On Saturday, I met up with them at Aunt Teresa's after I got off work. Even though Tom and Max and I would be making dinner that evening, I could not resist eating some of Aunt Teresa's amazing hors d'ouvres. Little baguette pieces with cream cheese, pesto (made with basil straight from their garden) and sun-dried tomatoes, homemade spanakopita and dolmathes, and tasty baklava provided by Grandpa. For dinner there was spaghetti with homemade sauce (with tomatoes from the garden), and while I knew that actually eating a full helping was a bad idea, I couldn't help at least trying some sauce with a piece of delicious garlic bread. ;) It was the right decision - the sauce was excellent.

That evening we made chicken adobo, green beans and sticky rice, with banana-chocolate chip scones for dessert. I didn't manage to get any photos, but it was delish. In fact, Tom & I just finished eating the leftovers for our dinner tonight. ;) After dinner, we watched Dodgeball. It was incredibly stupid, but I could not stop laughing. Utter absurdity at every turn. I can appreciate a movie that continuously makes fun of itself, as this one does.

This morning we headed over to Magic Mountain in hopes of finally getting to ride X. Alas and alack, it was closed down for repairs. We got there early enough that there were hardly any people there. We never waited more than 5 minutes for any ride. It was actually kind of creepy, walking around the park practically by ourselves, but cool at the same time. Unfortunately, I got a little nauseated, which almost never happens to me on roller coasters, so after spending 2 hours in the park and getting on 4 coasters, we called it a day and went for lunch. As we left, the girl manning the exit gates was shocked that we didn't want our hands stamped to come back later. ;) But we didn't get those season passes for nothing! So with the rest of the day stretched out ahead of us, we came home and watched Chinatown. Well, Tom watched Chinatown. I fell asleep. I'll be taking it with me to San Diego tomorrow to try again. ;)

After the movie, we went to the Caltech gym to play some racquetball. It was good exercise, and so much more fun than running. Sure, Tom kicked my ass up and down the court, but it was still a good time. And if we make a habit of playing relatively often, I might actually get to be fairly decent at it. ;)

Home to dinner and preparations for the week ahead. Hope everyone had as pleasant a weekend as we did. :)

Friday, August 18, 2006

Classy


Yes, those are women's panties draped on the base of that light post. Yes, that light post is in the parking lot of the company where I work. No, I do not work at a brothel.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

What I Did (and didn't do) This Weekend

  • I did not do any reading for class or lab report writing this weekend. Bad Susan. Guess what I'll be doing tomorrow and Wednesday...
  • I did go to work on Saturday. I did not actually do much work while I was there. But in all fairness, there really wasn't that much that needed doing.
  • After work I helped Gram Gram fix her computer. She gave me money, which I only accepted after her insistance that I use it to purchase filet mignons to make for dinner. I did so, Tom pan seared them and finished them in the oven, and they were exquisite.
  • We did watch Underworld: Evolution on Saturday night. It was not as good as Underworld (the first one). It was also really, really, gratuitously gory. I mean, I'm not squeamish, but damn.
  • I did not write any more thank you notes. The guilt remains heavy on my conscience. Tomorrow, tomorrow...
  • I cleaned out the catboxes. That is to say, I dumped out all the old litter and hosed the suckers down before drying and refilling them. They were gross and in dire need of a thorough cleaning. They looked much better afterward.
  • I vacuumed the apartment. I continue to marvel at the awsomeness of our new vacuum.
  • I dried the dishes that Tom washed, and I folded one of the loads of laundry. This is not exciting in any way, and I'm not sure why I'm bothering to mention it, except for continuity's sake.
  • I did cajole Tom into going shooting with me. The range recently got a new 9mm that's sort of in the style of a Glock but not quite so heavy on the trigger, and I gave it a try. My first three rounds all went through the same hole...about two inches left of the x-ring. I eventually got the hang of the sight and shot reasonably well, though never again with the same astounding precision of those first three rounds.
  • I did manage to stay out of the sun for the most part. Our apartment was still too warm, however, even though it wasn't all that hideously hot outside. In fact, it was cooler and breezier outside than in, even though we had all the windows open and fans going. Let's all recite the fifth law of thermodynamics...
  • I slept fairly well on Saturday night and poorly last night. I couldn't seem to stay asleep. I was tired for most of today.

As a direct result of this last bullet point, I am going to read a few pages of my book and (hopefully) fall fast asleep. A pleasant evening to you all.

UPDATE:

Here's the "Farscapey" triangular sight on the Steyr. Because visual aids are always good. ;)

Friday, August 11, 2006

Things I Need To Do This Weekend:

(in no particular order)

  • Read a bunch of stuff about DNA for class
  • Work on lab reports for class (detection/analysis of blood and semen...ooooh)
  • Watch Underworld: Evolution
  • Finish our darned thank you notes (we only have a few left, and I know we've technically got a year to complete them, but at 2.5 months I'm getting antsy and feeling guilty)
  • Go shooting (It has been too long. I must project lead at paper at high velocities at least once every few weeks. Don't want to lose my mad skillz, yo.)
  • Stay out of the sun
  • Sleep
  • Laundry
  • Dishes (but not many since I washed them yesterday!)
Looks like it'll be a busy weekend. :) Anyone else have plans to share?

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Seemingly Interminable Workday

This isn't griping about work so much as about the unacceptable length of the day. Oh, I'm working my usual number of hours today; it's just that each hour feels like three. Why can't I be doing something fun with this long-ass day instead?

Drawing a Blank

I'm having trouble resisting the urge to be a complainasaur today. I can't really think of anything to say that doesn't involve the phrase, "Gah! Work/school/weather/traffic sucks!" So instead, I'll link to this because no matter how many times I see it, it always makes me laugh. So enjoy! Now if only it weren't blocked by the firewall at work, so I could watch it too...

Monday, August 07, 2006

Honeymooners

News so big it deserves its own post. ;)

Saturday night we bought our tickets for the Cancun trip. We will be spending ten days on the Riviera Maya (a little bit south of Cancun proper) at this place. It's an all-inclusive resort right on the beach, a short bus trip away from various Mayan ruins, underground rivers, and other neat things. I definitely want to take advantage of the gorgeous sightseeing, but mostly we're looking forward to doing a lot of lounging, reading, swimming, napping, and poolside margarita consuming. ;) I have been a little bundle of excitement all weekend. I've never been to Mexico, and Flickr has been providing me with some drop-dead gorgeous photos of the Yucatan peninsula.


The weather is due to be just about perfect, too. Hurricane season will be over, and even in December/January the average temperature is 82 degrees. Sounds about right to me! Alvin & the Chimpunks have been on a near-continuous loop in my head for the past few days...

Christmas, Christmas time is near
Time for toys and time for cheer
We've been good, but we can't last
Hurry Christmas, hurry fast
Want a plane that loops the loop
Me, I want a hula hoop
We can hardly stand the wait
Please Christmas, don't be late.

Fun-filled Weekend

Man oh man, where do I even begin? Well, Friday night was dinner at Max's, but I've already covered that, so I guess I'll start with Saturday.

I went to work in the morning and got a bunch of paperwork done. Wheeeee! Then after work I met Tom at the Norwalk metro station, and we drove to Aunt Suzanne's house in Santa Ana, where festivities were underway for Aunt Julie's 80th Birthday Party. We got to relax in the nice swimming pool and catch up with family, some of whom I hadn't seen since I was...well, far too young to even remember meeting them originally. So that was neat.

One of the highlights of the event was Yaya's gift to her big sister, which was a life-size cardboard cutout of Aunt Julie's main crush, Brett Favre. It was even autographed!


Uncle Kenny, The Favre, and the Birthday Girl

As is typical for gatherings in my family, there was a veritable smorgasbord of delicious food, from grilled meats to spanakopitas to orzo salad with vegetables straight out of Aunt Suzanne and Uncle Ed's garden. And let's not forget the chocolate-ganache filled cake! As is also typical for such gatherings, there was a spontaneous musical performance when "Hey Hey, We're The Monkees!" came on the stereo. Aunt Teresa and Aunt Jean danced around with paper plate tamborines and entertained us all. ;)


On the way home from the par-tay, we stopped and picked up my good buddy Marcy, who is in town from Tacoma visiting family. We stole her away for the weekend and went to the Huntington Gardens on Sunday. Those are some pretty amazing gardens, I have to say. We saw a wealth of beautiful and very weird plant life, and naturally, I took a slew of photos. (They aren't all uploaded yet, but I'll be putting more up over the next couple of days.)

This was some sort of aloe tree, which was in the Desert Garden. We also saw a Palm Tree "forest", Japanese and Zen Gardens, the sneak preview of the Chinese Garden (which will be open for six months, and then closed down again for two years until the completion of the first phase), and the indoor rainforest and Cloud Garden. We also went through a couple of the galleries and saw some neat paintings and sculptury. I couldn't bring myself to walk down the hall of busts though. All those pupil-less eyes staring at me...no thanks. I just don't get it. These artists can carve all these amazing and intricate details out of marble, but they can't chisel out a couple of pupils? You spend twenty years working on a bust of Caesar or somebody, and you get every curl of his hair and every leaf of his little crown just right, and the overall effect is ZombieCaesar because he's got those blank, expressionless eyeballs. What gives?

Anyway, we had a really nice time and were thoroughly wiped out by the time we got home. After slothing around for a few hours, we went out to dinner at the Tibet/Nepal House, where we ate tasty, tasty lamb served in a variety of ways (noodle soup, mo-mo dumplings, and lamb saag). Also, there was garlic naan and savory daal. It was a fine feast and an excellent way to round out the weekend. :)

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Tickets!

We have purchased tickets for our Christmas Honeymoon in Cancun! Yay! Details on the morrow. Bedtime for now.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Eggstravaganza



Dinner at Max's last night was an orgy of egg-tasticness. While my personal favorite of the egg-centric dishes is the quiche, last night I was introduced to eggs benedict. This was the entree - our canvas, if you will - for the 'aise-themed dinner. And while only two of the 'aises were represented (homemade mayonnaise and hollandaise), we still managed to make our way through nearly a couple of dozen eggs in the process.

On the Menu:

Potato-cheese Perogies with sour cream and sauteed peppers and onions (non-egg-related appetizer)
Guacamole and Chips (also not egg-related; was an impromptu appetizer prepared in light of the fact that there were ripe avocados about)
Eggs Benedict - poached eggs and warmed canadian bacon, served on a toasted English muffin and topped with hollandaise
French Fries
Mayonnaise (for dipping of said french fries)


Mmm...delicious perogies



First up after the delicious appetizers was the mayo. Personally, I've never been a huge fan of the stuff, and I cringe every time I see someone using it as a french fry condiment, so I had my doubts about this part of the meal. However, since my abandonment of vegetarianism, I have tried to make a point of at least tasting all the new things offered my way, even if I don't go beyond one bite/sip/whatever, so I agreed to give it a chance. Right off the bat it was clear that "real" mayonnaise is nothing like store-bought mayonnaise, and Miracle Whip doesn't even deserve to be considered a substitute for either. The mayo was tricky to perfect, however. In its initial iteration it tasted like balloons. Like chewing on party balloons. It was determined that this was probably due to there being too much oil and not enough lemon juice, and after some tweaking, the balloon taste went away. The final product was very rich and was more in the ranch dressing family than the rubber family. So that was acceptable, even to my picky palate.

Next we made, and later consumed, a huge amount of fries. Before cooking, the cut potatoes filled a gallon-sized (I think) bucket nearly to the top. Frying them took rather a bit longer than I expected. I (probably wisely) stayed away from the boiling oil as Tom slaved over the stove, frying batch after batch. After the fries were finished, he rightly declared himself free from all future cooking duties that evening.


Hot oil! Yikes!


Poaching the eggs was, like the mayo, somewhat tricky. Demetri was used to employing some sort of special poaching aparatus - basically a small dish into which hot water is poured - but since we didn't have anything like that, there was some trial and error involving cups and small ingredient bowls that took place. Eventually it was determined that, yes just like the recipe book says, the eggs can be slid gently into a pan of hot water, where they will poach to fine effect.

While Demetri worked on the eggs, I whipped up the hollandaise. Let me say, I have come a long way from my first day working my summer cafe job, where I cracked not one but two eggs on the floor in the middle of breakfast rush, just trying to crack them into a bowl. I'm not, shall we say, naturally gifted in the kitchen, but I have been learning. Last night I separated yolks from whites like an old pro and whipped them up nicely with the hand mixer. Max had clarified some butter earlier in the evening (melt unsalted butter and then strain off the foamy protein-y stuff), so that was added to the eggs, along with salt, pepper and a bit of paprika. Bam, hollandaise done and ready to clog arteries like nobody's business.


The fellows and their chefery


The toughest part of the whole preparation process was coordination. In order to have everything hot and ready to go at the same time, there was quite a bit of timing involved. We did all right overall, which is good, because who wants to eat tepid poached eggs and cold soggy fries? All in all, a successful dinner, though I was tempted to drink some Draino afterward in an attempt to drive all the cholesterol from my body. ;)

Note to Self (or Husband)

Set radio tuner on radio alarm clock to an actual station, so that the next time the alarm is accidentally not set to buzzer, sound will issue forth, which will have a better chance of waking you up than the quiet white noise through which you will just sleep for an hour and sixteen minutes.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

The Aforepromised Weekend Update

Let's see. Friday night Tom & I met his friend Lay Kar, who was in town visiting from Malaysia, at this nifty Thaitalian restaurant we've been wanting to try. Tom & I split the chicken curry pizza, which was reeeeaaally tasty. Tom remarked that it was probably actually worth the $15 they charged us for it. So that was nice. :)

Saturday morning we got up ass-early (not so nice) to drive down to San Diego. I had a final exam to take, and then afterwards we went to the beach and to Sea World. We walked the length and breadth of the Ocean Beach pier, which proclaims itself to be the longest pier on the west coast, and though it doesn't really look like it from afar, it's actually quite a hike to get to the end. So we dodged fisherfolks' hooks and held our breath against not just the smelly fish guts but the occasional puddle of urine, and by the time we returned to the shore we were still somehow hungry enough to head off in pursuit of lunch.

After lunch, we made our way over to Sea World. I had a pair of free tickets. Yay for free things!



It was insanely crowded, which I guess is no great surprise for a midsummer Saturday, but I don't think either of us really expected there to be quite so many people there. Anyway, we had a decent enough time, wandering around and looking at the various creatures of the deep. I took quite a few pictures, and some of them even came out well enough to share. ;)

We drove back Saturday afternoon/evening, since there were still plenty of weekend chores to be done. Oh yeah, and the heat wave broke over the weekend as well, much to my delight. It even drizzled a bit in San Diego on Saturday morning! It's been overcast and, while not necessarily cool, per se, much less hot than it has been. So I'm thrilled about that. It's about damned time.

Anyway, that was the weekend. Monday afternoon I headed back southward to start another class (the other reason for driving back up on Saturday, rather than Sunday). It's DNA & Serology this month, which promises to be pretty interesting. We shall see!