Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Weekend in Arcata

I hope everyone had a Happy Easter.

We (Denise and I) took advantage of the long weekend (Good Friday is a Toro holiday) to drive up and visit Jacob on his birthday.  It is a long damn drive from Temecula to Arcata and I don't mind sharing that with you.  It is so long that we broke up the drive, going as far as Petaluma on Thursday evening and then finishing the drive Friday morning.

Denise and I shared driving duties, taking turns with one of us driving while the other caught up with work, thanks to the modern miracle of laptops and wireless broadband internet access.  One of the problems with catching up with work on the road is that Denise must necessarily drive while I'm on my laptop (I don't think California law specifically prohibits the use of Microsoft Office from your laptop while driving - yet - but I figure I shouldn't test it) and consequently has command of the audio programming.  Man, some of that music leaves something to be desired.

We had a nice visit/dinner with T at the Homeroom in Oakland, a mac and cheese mecca.  Only just fabulous.  And really convenient off the 580.  I must stop there more often on my frequent (semi-annual) trips through the east bay area.

After dinner we drove the remaining 45 minutes or so to our lodging in Petaluma and sometime around midnight had an opportunity to Skype with Nicholas in Italy.  He has posted some updates on his blog, so if you haven't already, you should check it out.  It would appear that he is having a great time.

Friday headed the rest of the way up to Arcata, stopping in Fortuna at the Eel River Brewing Company and had lunch in their Taproom Grill.  Had a few good beers, way too many appetizers and consequently not much actual lunch.

We stayed in Arcata at a fairly nice place, the Arcata Stay Scenic View Stay.  It's actually some one's guest house that they rent out for visiting HSU parents and other ne'er do wells.

At this point, I should point out that I am FAT.  I came to this knowledge through the courtesy of the two floor length mirrored wardrobe doors in the Scenic View Stay bedroom.  Aahh!  One look in those mirrors and I came up with what I think will be a foolproof (it will have to be) weight-loss plan.  I will text Denise every time I eat something.  This will help me focus on my consumption and the texting fees will eliminate any money I might otherwise have used to purchase more food.

But I digress.  It was good to see Jacob.  We made a trip to the Arcata farmer's market (being in the Emerald Triangle I decided to buy a couple $5 bags of herb) on Saturday morning.  Later did a little hiking and celebrated Jake's birthday belatedly that evening (Friday he and Natalie were attending Drag Night or some such.)  
Bag of "Herbs" from Arcata Farmer's Market - I believe this one is the Fantastic Fish Blend - lemon basil, chives, dill, thyme and celery

Birthday dinner was pizza, no mean feat given the extremely limited capabilities of the kitchen in the SVS.  The pizza was accomplished with a fair amount of cursing (the f'ing oven door slammed shut on my arm, once causing me to spill half the pizza toppings all over the electric oven heating element, TWICE burning my arm and generally screwing up my crusts by burning portions due to the uneven oven heating.  In the end it was not too bad if you avoided the burned crusts.  Dessert was a chocolate brownie (baked in a cast-iron skillet that was one of Jake's gifts) topped with vanilla ice cream. 

Birthday gifts also included an audio mixer and a camera, the latter being an afterthought because Denise forgot to bring our camera.  I figured since Jake had no camera I'd just buy one, make it a gift and thereby have some photographic record of our trip.

Sunday, we had a breakfast of grandpa's pancakes at the SVS (no oven required, thank god) and then set out on a death march out the Skunk Cabbage Coastal Trail.  Actually it was very pretty and a pretty mellow trail, although a bit sloppy due to the frequent rain.  We did an out and back loop of about 7 miles which would have been fine had I remembered to bring my hiking boots.  Unfortunately all I had was a pair of cross trainers that beat the crap out of my feet.

Returned to the SVS, hosed off my muddy shoes and set about preparing a vegetarian lasagna for our last night in town. We were joined again by Jake and Natalie.  Had to call a short evening, because Jake needed to be up by 4:00-ish for work Monday AM.  We on the other hand, were able to sleep in to a leisurely 6:00 wake up for a 6:30 start to the drive home.  A mere twelve and half hours later we were back at home with our bouncing baby Leo there to meet us.

In case you are interested, there are more pictures here.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Spaceflight, Headgear and Taking Inventory

First a little tribute to Yuri Gagarin, first man in space, on this the 50th anniversary of his flight.  NASA had what I thought was a totally cool tribute.  Another one of those little things that makes me appreciate how little I've accomplished; I can neither fly in space nor play the flute.

Also a brief tribute to Nicholas who, before heading for Italy, brought me and Denise each a little going away present.  The gift is a Buff, multifunction headgear with 12 ways to wear.  It's even a UV Buff, providing 95%  ultraviolet protection.

Here I am modeling the Buff in the Sahariane style, a look that reminds me of Ian Anderson, but without the boyish good looks.

I should have been wearing it this weekend while gardening.  I would have saved myself a sunburn on the top of my little hair thinning head.

Leo, much to his chagrin, is modeling the hood style.

It was CSA pick up day today, after a week of herculean efforts to consume our allotment of produce.  Last night's effort was vegetarian lasagna, in which I used up a ton of broccoli and rainbow chard.  (It was delicious by the way.)

So, today I made Denise wait to transfer the contents of the CSA box into the fridge until I had time to document everything we have to eat for the next week.  I have to devise some plan.

Left in the fridge, before we even opened the box we had...

  • Big bag of mixed salad greens
  • Beets
  • Cilantro
  • Leek
  • Broccoli
  • Mustard greens
  • Kale
  • Some other kind of salad greens (a big bag of this leafy vegetables with a lavenderish central rib and these very frilly edges - have no idea what it is)
  • Arugula
  • Still other greens
  • Collard greens
  • And a bit of remaining lettuce
Add to that the contents of the box we received today...
  • Big bag of spinach
  • Head of red-leaf lettuce
  • Rainbow chard
  • Kale
  • Mixed greens
  • Cilantro
  • Mustard greens
  • Leeks
  • White radishes
  • White carrots
  • Beets
  • Green garlic
  • Bok Choy
  • Kohlrabi
  • Broccoli
  • Lemons (4)
  • Oranges (7)
  • And a baby's arm holding an apple (Name that tune?)
Would anyone like a little salad?

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Soup Again?!

OK, I must be getting old, because I'm increasingly having soup.  Voluntarily!  I mean usually soup is reserved for combating the common cold or the frigid depths of winter (such as they are in Southern California), but I made soup twice in the last week.  This time it was Minestrone and a side salad (Thank you Denise), but note the similarity to the blog before last, lentil soup and salad.  They are practically the same photo.

I will say this; minestrone = canellini beans.  Lentil soup = lentils.  Minestrone wins, hands down, if for no other reason than the reduced carbon footprint (methane is a greenhouse gas.)

I also give the nod to minestrone because of the Parmesan cheese shavings on top.  And I went with the Italian theme, what with Nicholas in Italia and all.

What it really comes down to is this: you can use up a heck of a lot of produce in soup.  I was able to use up a couple more leeks, another quart of vegetable stock and entire bag of spinach and probably a few other trace veggies.  With Denise's efforts on the salad we were actually able to get all of our produce back into the refrigerator produce drawers!!!  A first since joining the CSA.

Friday, April 8, 2011

The Fighter. Spinal Tap?????

Denise put The Fighter on the Netflix queue.   We're in the middle of it and I'm trying to figure out if this is some complicated practical joke, a la Spinal Tap.  I can't quite decide if this is supposed to be humor, but I think that's the only thing that can possibly redeem this thing.  Or maybe if Amy Adams starts cooking something.

It is so eff-ing stupid.  There better be a good punch line.  No pun intended.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Lentil Soup and Salad

Spoke to Nicholas today and he seems to be having a fabulous time.  You will be able to track his progress on his new blog, Il Percorso Scenico, at least as soon as he starts posting to it.

Tonight it was back to the CSA grindstone, seeking more creative ways to use up the mass of vegetation coming our way every Tuesday.  We received some very nice red leaf lettuce this week and some oranges, so I suggested that Denise make an Orange, Olive and Red Leaf Lettuce Salad.  She used some CSA avocado, kalamata olives and a little left over green leaf lettuce.  Then a vinaigrette with some of the juice from the oranges, a little balsamic vinegar and olive oil.  Tasty.

My contribution was a lentil soup (convenient that it turned cold and rainy tonight), in which I used a lot of leftovers from the fridge, but not nearly enough.  So it was olive oil, a couple leeks (CSA), onion, garlic, carrots (CSA), a little leftover marinara sauce, salt, pepper, lentils, 2 quart jars of homemade vegetable stock (mostly CSA), a chiffonade of basil and a bunch of rainbow chard (CSA).  And because Nicholas is in Italy, a little Italian seasoning.  Topped my bowl off with a little Frank's Red Hot, which I thought was perfect.  Denise seemed to think it fine without the hot sauce.

Sadly, now I have leftover soup and salad.  Oh well, such is life.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Bon Viaggio Nicholas!

Well, Nicholas is on his way!  As I type this he should have just passed the Hudson Bay en route to Frankfurt, thence to Rome and then by train to Spoleto to begin his work as a farmer.

Last night I prepared him a home-cooked meal, his last (at least from our home) for a while and figured, LASAGNA!  No, not actually.  I figured that he's not going to get a lot of Mexican, so I made some of the spinach and mushroom stuffed peppers that he likes, along with some quinoa and brown rice tacos.

Today I took the day off to drive him to LAX.  Mixed up some ombled-eggs for breakfast (another something he won't likely be served in Italia) and helped him get his considerable load of stuff into a duffel.   The duffel was quite a load and I was concerned there'd be an excess baggage fee for it.  Checked Lufthansa's web-site and became considerably concerned; they've got charges up in the $350 range.

Leo knew something was up and I think wanted to join us on the trip.  He had to settle for wishing Nicholas a bon viaggio and was then banished to the backyard, with a cookie he was not too enthusiastic about.  I think he is going to miss his boy.

The trip to the airport was mostly uneventful.  LAX was relatively calm and the Bradley terminal practically empty.  The duffel proved to be a non-issue; flew through the baggage check-in with no problems, no fees.

Interestingly, I had an opportunity to check off one of my Gumbilist items; Eat a hot-dog at Pink's.  It turns out that there is a Pink's IN the Bradley terminal and what's more it's actually outside the security check-in.  So, we had Pink's for lunch.  (Nicholas had a vegetarian dog, which he declared not too bad, although the guacamole was a little funky.)  I don't actually think this qualifies for the check-off, unfortunately.  The list item is "Eat a hot-dog at Pink's."  It's not "Eat a Pink's hot-dog at LAX."  So, that one will have to wait.

We killed a bit more time, wandering about the terminal and nearly losing Denise while she was absorbed in some "You are here" terminal information kiosk.  Had a beer together in an airport bar and then saw him off through the security check-in.

That's about it for my update.

This is Nicholas' adventure, so I'm going to let him tell the story.  I'm sure he'll be blogging as time permits.

Can't wait to get the updates.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Spicy Catfish Stir-Fry

I've been starting to get a little sick of this vegetarian stuff and all the CSA foliage that we've been force feeding ourselves in an effort to keep up with the deliveries.

So, tonight I said screw vegetarianism and whipped out a big-ole-can of pescetarianism.  Stopped at Albertson's and picked up a couple catfish fillets (farm-raised in the USA; I think that earns an "A") and, so that I would not be exclusively buying fish, I threw a couple tall PBRs into the basket.

Odd little side note; as I picked up the hand basket from the rack near the Albertson's entrance, I noticed a sign at the top of the rack - "Use a basket to ease your shopping."  Is that entirely necessary?!  Without the sign would people just stare and go "Now what do you suppose those are for?"

Home, a quick search of the Internet (Google, I hate Bing) and I found an approximation of what I sought; Spicy Catfish Stir-Fry.  I was looking for something analogous to the PF Chang's Hot Fish, "crispy slices of our fresh daily selection in a Sichuan sauce with stir-fried vegetables."  This I found amusing the one time I've had it (the only time I've been to PF Chang's.)
"What's your daily fish selection?"
The waitress appeared  puzzled.  "I don't know, I'm sorry, we don't have a daily fish selection."
"Your Hot Fish.  It says it's your daily fish selection."
"Oh.  Catfish.  It's always catfish."
Anyway, the recipe afforded me the opportunity to use up a bunch more vegies (baby bok choy, yellow onion, spring onions, garlic, cilantro, etc.) and still eat something essentially not vegetarian.  And it turned out pretty tasty.  And photogenic.

One of the many downsides of having Nicholas gone is that I have to function as my own food photographer.  As a consequence, the Nikon is kind of slathered in sesame oil, but at least I got the shot.