Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Slowly Lowly

When I was a kid, it took me almost no time at all to get through a book, even a fairly long one. This was primarily due, I believe, to the fact that I was able to read in the car whenever we went anywhere. I didn't fully appreciate it at the time, but these days I would be most grateful for the opportunity. Nowadays I usually only make it through ten or fifteen minutes of reading at night before my eyelids grow heavy. It takes me weeks to get through a few hundred pages. Weeks!

This has been particularly irritating of late, due to a growing list of books I'd like to read. I'm almost tempted to start two or three at once, but I know such an attmept would be futile. By the time I got through a chapter of the third book, I'd forget what was going on in the first. Lame.

The clear answer here is that I need to hire a chauffeur. Public transportation in L.A. is unfortunately just not up to the task. I took the train to work one day, when Tom had to take the car to the shop, but even getting on the very first train at 5am put me to work an hour late. Plus I had to walk a mile. No, a chauffeur would be the way to go. I wouldn't have to get all stressed out about the traffic; I could just immerse myself in a novel and forget where I was. I bet I'd arrive to work in a much better mood, too. Yeah, that extra hour a day would really help me make a dent in my reading list.

Or I could just go spend another ten days on the beach in Mexico. That would work, too.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Trish's Tomato and Basil Soup

I know I said I'd post this last weekend, but...well, better late than never.

The following recipe is based on one from The Daily Soup Cookbook. Trish, the excellent galley cook on The Peace, made this for us during our Anacapa dive trip two weeks ago. Her adaptations from the original recipe are italicized.

Ingredients
2 Tbsp butter
1 large onion, chopped
2 leeks, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 Tbsp sugar (omited)
2 tsp dried thyme
2 bay leaves
2 tsp large grain, kosher salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
6 c. stock (good chicken stock paste, not "the yellow stuff")
1 can (28 oz) whole tomatoes, diced
2 c. heavy cream
1 Tbsp brandy (or sherry, or wine of some sort)
3/4 c. pesto (homemade with basil, jalepeno and cilantro)
4 plum tomatoes, seeded & diced
1 tsp garlic, minced
1/2 c. chives
3/4 c. pine nuts

1. Melt butter in a large soup pot. Add onion, leeks, celery, pine nuts and sugar. Saute 10 min until carmelized and golden brown.
2. Add thyme, bay leaves, salt, pepper & cayenne, and stir until the vegetables are fully coated.
3. Add stock and canned tomatoes. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, for 30 minutes.
4. Stir in heavy cream and brancy, and simmer for 2 more minutes.
5. Remove bay leaves and puree half the soup. You can either do this in a blender or (much easier) with a hand blender like this one. Return the pureed half to the pot, stir in the pesto, and heat through.
6. Remove from heat and add the plum tomatoes & garlic. Serve topped with chives.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Convenient

For whatever reason*, I have developed a powerful association between the taste of limes and our Christmas trip to Mexico. As I sit here on the couch in crappy Los Angeles, eating a Trader Joe's Lime Floe, I am instantly transported back to the fabulous beachside resort where we spent ten glorious days. I'm sure the association will eventually dull with time, but I'm sure enjoying it while it lasts.


*It's not as though there is actually any mystery here. I strongly suspect our daily consumption of cerveza con lima y muchos mojitos was the culprit.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

I never really wrote about Anacapa

But I will now.

Saturday night (Feb. 3), we drove out to Ventura, where we loaded our enormous quantities of gear on to The Peace. After a glass of wine and several rounds of Texas Hold'em, we settled into our bunks and were soon fast asleep.

We were awakened around 6:00 the next morning by the boat motors firing up and the smells of delicious breakfast foods being prepared in the galley. Dozed off and on for another hour and got up when the boat pulled away from port. Ate some breakfast and found a spot on the deck to hang out. The trip to the island took about two hours, and on the way we passed a pod of dolphins.

The biggest pod of dolphins I have ever seen. More than likely, there were actually multiple pods.

There were, literally, hundreds of dolphins surrounding the boat. A bunch were "bow-riding," swimming along right at the front of the boat, darting from side to side, jumping out of the water every now and again. It was a fantastically cool thing to see.


Bow-rider


Other dolphins were swimming beside and behind us, leaping and playing.



Before we knew it, it was time to suit up and get ready for dive number one. It was still pretty chilly out, and the water temp was in the high fifties, but fortunately it was also quite clear. Sure, we didn't have the kind of visibility we got in Cancun, but it was still pretty good. It seems that there's a lot more to see in the Pacific, too.

For example:


Many sizes/shapes/colors of sea urchins




Schools of fish




And crazy brittle stars!


The highlight of the dive, of course, was the pinniped encounter we had during our safety stop at the end. As we were waiting to make our final ascent, we were joined by either a sea lion or a harbor seal, who darted up and down beside us. It was so damned cool.

Back up on the boat, there was a steaming pot of tomato basil soup with pine nuts waiting to chase away our chills as we cruised to the next dive site. The galley cook, Trish, was kind enough to let me copy down the recipe (which I will post sometime this weekend). I would be hard pressed to find anything more satisfying than hot soup after a cold dive. Freaking brilliant.

Dives two and three were much like dive number one, minus any large sea mammals. I saw more kinds and colors of starfish that day than I'd ever seen before, along with two lobsters as big as my cat. We got progressively colder as the day wore on, especially when (by dive three) we were swimming around in the shadows of the island.



Which was blessed with an overabundance of pelicans.



Though most of the boat hit the water for a fourth dive, we called it a day after three and hit the hot tub instead. Yes, there is a hot tub on The Peace. Doesn't get much better than that.

Body heat regained, we dried ourselves, re-packed our gear, and settled down in the galley for the trip back to Ventura. Trish (who had continued to serve up fabulous spreads after each dive during the day) baked brownies and peach cobbler, which we devoured with ice cream as we fought off sleep. We passed through the giant herd-o-dolphins again, and I took a little video that I'll attempt to upload a little later. Back home that night, we were passed out by 9:30, dreaming of our oceanic adventures. Next month there's a two-day trip to the Outer Channel Islands scheduled...and perhaps we'll be on it. ;)

Friday, February 16, 2007

Then and (sort of) Now

One of our friends just sent us some pictures she took at our wedding last spring. One photo in particular seemed oddly familiar somehow. Then we figured out why.



August 24, 2002 - M & W's wedding at the Summer House in Grants Pass, OR


May 20, 2006 - Our wedding at the Summer House in Grants Pass, OR


Amusing, huh? ;)

Thursday, February 08, 2007

The First Year Back

This post is a little overdue, since I had those first strings of pot roast on January 21st of last year, after nearly eight years of vegetarianism, but I thought I'd offer a little update on my re-descent into carnivorousness.

Last February, I posted a list of things I'd never, ever, ever eaten. I've crossed off quite a few things in the past year. Check it out.

  • All fishes except rainbow trout » I've now had salmon, tuna, yellowtail, snapper, and probably some others I can't remember right now. Sushi options have increased dramatically since I started eating things with faces again.

  • All other sea creatures except shrimp and the artificial crab meat you get in a California roll » I've had eel, scallops, octopus, crawfish, and possibly some lobster and/or crab meat. Still no full lobsters or crabs.

  • Most game meat (elk, deer, pheasant, etc.) » We made quite the extravagant pheasant dinner back in April.

  • Jello » Still no Jello

  • Lamb » I am so going to hell for unleashing what is apparently my genetic adoration for tasty little lambs. My Greek blood will not be denied!

  • Veal » Still gonna avoid this one on principle, I think

  • Rabbit » Haven't had the opportunity

  • Duck » Did I write about our duck dinner? I don't remember. It was delicious though.


Even though I'm plagued by guilt every now and again at the evil of my carnivorous (i.e. murderous) ways, I think that on balance the switch back to meat-eating has been a good thing. I have enjoyed trying new things, and I've enjoyed expanding my cooking repertoire to include various meats. I don't feel as sluggish and crappy as I remember feeling right before I became a vegetarian (which was, in fact, the biggest factor in my decision to try vegetarianism), and I haven't gained ridiculous amounts of weight this past year. (Haven't lost any either, thank you very much Mr. Atkins, but I wasn't really working on that until recently.) I think I'll stick with the carnivoracity a while longer.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Anacapa

Instead of watching the Super Bowl, Tom & I went to Anacapa Island for a day of scuba diving. We had an amazing time, and we even ran into a harbor seal! See?


Okay, so I didn't get a very good photo, but this seal swam around us for a good minute or two. I managed to take some other fairly decent pictures, but Tom's going to try to fix the colors on Photoshop tomorrow, since they're kind of washed out. I'll post 'em in a day or two.

Been a busy gal, in case you couldn't tell by my unchanging, un-updated blog. Been trying to be really good about going to the gym every day after work, though I failed today due to post-dive soreness. Tomorrow I shall return to you, o elliptical trainer of my discontent. Weekends have been full of activity and way too short. Not that I'm complaining about having stuff to do, but I don't think I've been able to sleep in more than one day a week since we got back from our honeymoon.

Speaking of sleep, gotta get ready for bed now. More about the dive trip and other stuff in a few days.