Archive for the ‘random musings’ Category

Winter in California

December 20, 2008

Apparently, it rains for a great deal of the winter here in Northern California, as you can see from my front window. It hasn’t been entirely unpleasant, as I’ve always enjoyed the rain. We’re really beginning to figure out what to expect during the winter. There are some crisp, chilly days, but it hasn’t really gotten frigid outside, and on the days it’s not raining, the sun is bright and cheerful, and temperatures are moderate. I was very surprised when I was in Texas for a wedding two weeks ago, and was thoroughly chilled the entire time I was there. California is just not as seasonal, I suppose. We do have the lovely advantage of red and gold leaves showering down from the trees, but the lawns and citrus remain fresh and green. At least, they have stayed that way so far. We’re not far from the mountains, however, and just last week they were coated with a light smattering of snow. You can just glimpse them here, in the following picture, which I snapped whilst driving. I DID pull over to take it, thank you very much.

It’s really quite beautiful to be able to see snow-covered mountains on your drive home from work. Yes, technically, it’s my drive home from taking my husband to work, but it still counts! I stopped to take the picture barely a block from our house, and I can’t help but feel very blessed to be able to live in such a beautiful place.

I discovered that one of the wonderful advantages of living in California at Christmas-time are the AMAZING Christmas trees! Now, my husband and I are very traditional when it comes to Christmas trees, and we’ve made it a point to buy a REAL, fragrant, green tree every year since we’ve been married, in spite of the ridiculous cost. I was worried about that factor especially this year, so I thought I might have to go with a small, bush of a tree from Home Depot, rather than head out to a local farm. I was all prepared to pick it out, but I was pleasantly surprised to see that the selection of trees at Home Depot was WONDERFUL-huge trees with bright green, springy needles that I could practically smell from the parking lot as I walked up. The best part? The price was beyond reasonable-I paid $25 for a 6’6″ tree, and it is by far the nicest tree we’ve ever had. Apparently, the trees came from Oregon, but I know the California trees must be just as lovely. It is rather sparsely decorated, but I’m rather happy with the way we’ve gradually accumulated ornaments each year, instead of spending lots of money to have a tree with a theme, or a tree covered in ornaments. Yes, that would be our Duke Blue Devil in the center of the tree-he kind of stands out. GO DUKE!

Hope everyone is having fun, and not stressing out, during these last few days before Christmas.


I can’t tell you how much leftover guacamole I’ve eaten.

November 23, 2008

Today was spent, as most of our weekends have been (and will be, for the foreseeable future) on further preparing our house for real living! Most of the kitchen cabinet doors have been attached, and I have found almost all of our dishes. Thus far, there has been only one Fiestaware casualty-one of my peacock coffee mugs. I wanted to take a picture of how lovely all of the plates, bowls, mugs, and various serving ware items look in the white cabinets, but I figured the effect would be even better once the kitchen is completely finished.

I prepared my first official meal (grilled cheese sandwiches and beans and rice do not count!) on Thursday night. For the inaugural meal, I selected cold chicken satay noodles, one of my most favorite dishes. It’s a very simple dish, mostly because it calls for a rotisserie chicken. I’ve really come to appreciate rotisserie chickens-flavorful, relatively inexpensive, and very little preparation involved! The chicken is tossed with whole wheat spaghetti, thinly sliced spinach and carrots, and an absolutely heavenly AND addictive peanut and soy sauce. I could eat buckets of these noodles, and I’ve even been known to sneak a small bowl in the morning! They are also the only dish that I make with whole wheat pasta that my fairly non-discriminating husband will eat. No matter how hard I try, I cannot get him to really enjoy whole wheat pasta. Needless to say, we had the nicest little meal together at our own dining room table, and I was bursting with happiness at having been able to cook in my own house.

We spent the morning raking leaves and mowing the lawn. Actually, my husband mowed the lawn, and I followed along behind, picking up the 1000’s of tiny avocados that have been tumbling from the tree in our front yard. I’m going to have to read up on avocado trees and make sure I’m doing everything I can to make ours healthy. As you can see,

the tree in the front is certainly producing a plentiful amount of fruit, but they are immature. Imagine how much money that blue bucket would be worth if it was full of ripe, mature avocados? It’s mind-boggling! By the way, I don’t know why my hand is so freakishly swollen-looking here. It’s the angle, I promise!

We set up a little table in the kitchen, a breakfast nook of sorts, and I couldn’t resist including this picture:

Look at that beautiful bowl of Meyer lemons! From my own tree! For the non-cookbook obsessed crowd, Meyer lemons are a highly coveted, expensive variety of lemon. They have a more spicy aroma and taste than a conventional lemon. Lucky us.

By far the highlight of the day, however, was using my new avocado picker (a long pole with a hook and basket attached to the end) to pluck a slew of avocados from my healthy tree in the backyard. It was a delightful feeling to yank the avocados down! We’re still not sure about the ripening process, so we’re just going to try putting them in a brown paper bag to see if that helps. Of course, I had to photograph them first.

All in a day’s work…

November 19, 2008

Yes, this is seriously what I donned yesterday to scrub the paint out of my new kitchen sink. Somehow the fact that I was alone in the house while wearing the ridiculous getup made it even funnier. I had to protect myself from the evil fumes emanating from my aerosol can of Goof-Off, a miraculous, though highly suspect super cleaning product. I had a close call the day before when I inhaled just the slightest whiff (I was not wearing my protective gear) and almost passed out. By the way, that is a bird of paradise that I have outside my kitchen window! Birds of paradise, avocado trees, lemon, orange, and apricot trees-it just keeps getting better!

I finally found a set of my plates! The past few days have not been as productive as I’d like, because I’ve spent them in my garage, precariously balanced on top of piles of boxes with my trusty box cutter, attempting to find all my kitchen stuff. Of COURSE I neglected to mention to the movers that I would like those boxes at the front of the garage. Lest anyone fear that I’m endangering my life climbing on less than sturdy boxes, there is no cause for alarm. I have enough boxes of books that I could build a small house out of them, and they are certainly able to support my weight. You can see from the picture that I am not yet cooking in the house. Instead, I have been eating sandwiches and peanut butter crackers. This delicious everything bagel slathered with jalepeno cream cheese was a refreshing change of pace.

Breakfast has been slightly better, what with the addition of my newest Fiestaware, though I was nothing less than crushed to discover that my local Safeway does not have Cocoa Beach! Blueberry Morning will have to provide a temporary substitute until I make my way back to Palo Alto and purchase at least 10 boxes from the much more appropriately stocked Safeway there. I’m eager to find the rest of my plates, so I should probably make my way back out to the garage…

Harbour Island 2008

November 12, 2008

As predicted, our trip to Harbour Island was absolutely wonderful. It was just as a vacation should be, with few big events or planning to worry about, just simple relaxing, each day passing seamlessly into the next. We woke early each day, heading down to the beach for morning swims, then came back to the house to enjoy large platters of eggs, bowls of cereal and fresh, hot coffee on our shaded deck. Our typical routine would continue as we spent time reading before enjoying the second or third swim of the day, then finally diving into delicious Bahamian dinners prepared by Elizabeth, a kindly local woman who seemed to enjoy our company as she puttered around our kitchen, adding finishing touches to grouper or conch. We rarely strayed from the beach, save for a few side trips for brunch and shopping and an amazing snorkeling adventure, where we swam with tropical fish, inspected gigantic starfish, and collected sand dollars and seabiscuits. Not so simple to return to real life after such a wonderful vacation, I have to say, though I’m glad to get back to preparing our house for move in.

The daily view from our thatched umbrella:

The breathtaking beauty of the walk down to the beach:

Just to give an idea of the size of the starfish (hard to catch in the shimmering, gentle waves of the water):

The only place I showered, for the duration of our vacation:

more of my late evening thoughts…

October 25, 2008

I can’t even begin to say how excited I am about our upcoming vacation to Harbour Island in the Bahamas. We’ll be staying at a different house, but it looks just as amazing as our last rental:

Harbour Island is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been, if not THE most beautiful. The sand is a pale pink, the water a stunning turquoise…the island itself is utterly charming. Roosters are a permanent fixture, strolling around the entire island like neighborhood cats. The local seafood specialty is conch, and you can head down to the dock every night to watch the daily catch being brought in. We had such a wonderful time last year, and I can’t wait to return!

On an unrelated note, my attachment to the Twilight saga and all it entails is becoming dangerously obsessive. I found myself worrying about Robert Pattinson (the heretofore relatively unknown British actor playing Edward Cullen) and the fact that I literally cannot think of another movie role, in HISTORY, that comes with such a great amount of pressure. I’m not quite sure he can handle this fame! I also couldn’t help but return to Twilight while I was indulging in the AMC Fear Fest in my previous post-there has been a promo on every commercial break for the Jodie Foster movie “Panic Room”, which stars Kristen Stewart, Bella Swan in Twilight. Is it not terrible that my mind instantly reverted to thoughts like “Hey, that’s Bella! A young Bella, but it’s her!” This is getting out of hand.


October 25, 2008

Yes, that time of year has finally arrived. My absolute FAVORITE holiday season, Halloween. Why, might you ask, is Halloween my favorite holiday season? It’s not exactly reputed to be a holiday of positive tidings, nor is it religious. It’s not a holiday that allows businesses or schools to close. Am I one of those particularly creative people that prides herself on the costumes she has devised throughout the years? Most definitely not-I become a huge ball of anxiety at the mere mention of the word “costume.” Spontaneity and creativity aren’t my strong suits, and when I last was forced to actually dress up for Halloween I shelled out an exorbitant sum to buy a completely mundane princess costume, and even that was only to please my kindergartners (not a difficult task). I don’t even like candy corn-in fact, I loathe it.

Why, then, do I love the Halloween season? To sum it up: AMC’s Fear Fest. Well, actually, the name changes from year to year. Last year, it was AMC’s Monster Fest. The year before, it might have been Scream Fest, or something stereotypically similar. Needless to say, each year at this time, for the entire week before Halloween, the AMC channel plays nonstop scary movies, all day and night. (A sidenote: Now that they’ve hit the big time with “Mad Men”, I’m sure Sunday night will be devoid of horror films) I’ve always been a sucker for scary movies, though I do NOT like the turn they’ve taken in the past few years with movies like “Saw” and “Hostel”-I avoid that type of extreme, gratuitous film. I prefer the old school classics, comfortably predictable films with one maniacal killer and a single frightened heroine/hero. The Halloween series are my favorites, and AMC seems to feel the same-those movies are played over and over, more than any others.

I know I’m not alone in enjoying scary, suspenseful films-it’s always nice to snuggle up next so someone and feel the exhilarating rush of fear brought upon by a Michael Myers or Jason Voorhees. I think the reason I like the annual Fear Fest is because I’m rather nostalgic-I like being reminded that certain times of year are here yet again, and that they always stay the same. I enjoy knowing that I can expect the entire 8 or so Halloween movies to run during this week, and that I might be able to catch a showing of a new addition to the schedule, like “Gothika” or “Identity”-both modern frightening films without the excessive nature of the Saw franchise.

I will defend my strange attachment to scary movies by giving an example of a movie that definitely gave me nightmares:

Yes, I found this Julia Roberts film terrifying. There is definitely a scarier edge to movies that have real-life scenarios, and this tale of an abused wife stalked by a psychopathic ex-husband is chilling. I still think of it whenever I hear the strains of Berlioz’ Symphonie Fantastique, though its presence in “The Shining” is certainly more notable. (Another sidenote: “Sleeping with the Enemy” has some great Julia Roberts moments-I love the scenes of her in the college theater department trying on costumes and dancing with the sweet boyfriend, and though I’m slightly ashamed to admit it, this movie is what introduced me to Van Morrison’s “Brown-eyed Girl”)

By the way, though I saw the recent “Halloween” Rob Zombie remake, I didn’t particularly enjoy it. The phrase “too far” comes to mind. Interestingly enough, though I found the movie to be extra gory and depraved, I thought it was interesting that there was a clear and obvious connection between the killer that Michael Myers turns out to be and his upbringing, a sad truth that I completely believe in. Not to go off on a tangent, it’s enough writing for now-the sixth Halloween movie is just about to begin!

It’s coming along…

October 22, 2008

I’ll take a quick break from procrastinating about my paper to share what I’ve been working on the past few days…

Painting, painting, painting. Fortunately, I’ve had the help of my brother-in-law’s girlfriend, who is also my dearest California friend, and she has been great. We discovered a great Italian deli in my new neighborhood, where they have a delicious Caeser salad-they toss it with penne pasta and large toasted croutons of garlic bread! Why has Rachael Ray not thought of this before? We’ve worked diligently on painting all of the cabinet doors and drawers from the kitchen (saying “doors and drawers” in the same sentence is really quite a challenge, as I’ve discovered from the MANY times I’ve uttered the words over these past few days) and we also sampled two color options for the small third bedroom. It’s going to be a tossup between “gobi desert” and “sagey”-for the less imaginative, that’s light brown and light green.

The kitchen is almost complete-the second and possibly third coats of paint are what remain, and we should hopefully begin our official move over the weekend. I can’t believe that it’s only a matter of a mere few days between me and officially cooking in my new kitchen. In what little down time I have, I really should be planning my first home-cooked meal. Then I’ll have a bit more to blog about!

As far as the rest of what has been keeping me busy, I have been delving into Ancient and Classical Greece for my graduate class,

relishing decadent pieces of my favorite treat from Trader Joe’s,

listening, with great pleasure, to this new Keane album,

guiltily devouring, for the second time, the second novel in the Twilight saga,

and enjoying the steamy waters of the hot tub.

It’s a hard life.

Blogging from my new house…

October 13, 2008

Yes, I’m cheating, “borrowing” a wireless connection that miraculously has no password to blog from my house. We have been working hard all day, and I am taking the briefest of breaks before I return to the neverending list of tasks that need doing. Currently, I am sanding the cabinets in the kitchen to prepare them for painting. We’ve decided upon “vermont cream” as our color of choice. I would love to know who has the job of naming the paint colors. You would not believe how many shades of cream we had to sift through before we lit upon “vermont cream.” I have to admit, I’m still a little disappointed that “pot of cream” didn’t make the final cut. It sounded so charming and cute.

I arrived at the house at the crack of dawn this morning, as we had an “all-day” appointment with the gas company, which basically means that someone had to be at the house to anticipate the gas man’s arrival from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm. There is no shortage of work to be done, but being that I was alone, I determined that I had to amuse myself whilst busily scrubbing, sanding, and peeling like a worker bee.

I tuned in to a few old Bones episodes while I gave the cabinets a thorough cleaning. I particularly loved this Halloween episode,

…but alas, I wasn’t able to find it on, and had to resort to a few other episodes.

I also whiled away the time listening to this lovely audiobook:

Still, I cannot get enough of Edward and Bella. I’m an addict. The Twilight saga is exactly “my kind of heroin.” (Twilighters will understand what I mean)

I’m hoping to convince my wonderful husband, who arrived a bit later in the morning and has also been working ceaselessly, if we might stop for dinner at Elephant Bar, a California (or Northwest, West) chain restaurant that I have found to be very appealing. Macadamia nut-crusted fish sounds absolutely heavenly to me at this moment, and I think it would be nice to eat at an establishment in our new neighborhood.

On that note, I should return to my kitchen. There is more work to be done! I’ll finish my post with one of my favorite Booth/Brennan videos-it includes the moment that I decided I loved this show, when Brennan kicks her legs up! How anyone could not LOVE the two of them after that scene, I don’t know. Enjoy!

California dreamin’

October 3, 2008

Orange, lemon, and avocado, from my own backyard!

It deserves its own special picture.

My First Post

April 15, 2007

The lovely old quote from Little Women, a book that many besides myself cherish, perfectly describes the state of life in which I have happily found myself. Granted, I would hardly give myself the credit that Louisa May Alcott has given Meg-I certainly do not bring as much energy and cheerfulness to my household as I would like!-but I do aspire to make my home a veritable haven of domestic bliss for my adored husband. Unlike Meg, I spend the greater part of each day at my challenging, but rewarding, job as an elementary special education teacher. It’s probably a good thing that I have a limited amount of time on my hands when I get home-I’m fairly easy to distract. Even with that limited time, however, I have found myself wishing that I could document some of my domestic experiences. I’ve been poring over cookbooks almost since I began to read, but oddly enough, it wasn’t until I met my beloved that I was ever inspired to actually cook any of the recipes I relentlessly read about. He’s a man of many talents, including an innate ability to know exactly how much flour and butter to combine to make a white sauce and a sixth sense about the readiness of a heated pan for a pile of onions and garlic. While he sticks to the things that he knows best (bolognese, steaks, Danish comfort food, French toast) and rarely relies upon recipes, he nonetheless motivated me to delve into cooking for myself. Ever since then, I have been reaping the benefits and enjoying the satisfaction that comes from cooking for yourself and/or the ones you love. Truth be told, my belief in my own cooking abilities comes not just from my man, but also from the oft-loved, oft-loathed food personality phenomena known as Rachael Ray. I won’t go in to all of my feelings about Rachael in my first post, but to put it briefly, she has definitely changed my life. While I occasionally diverge from my Rachael Ray cookbooks and reach for Jamie Oliver or Donna Hay, I almost exclusively cook directly from Rachael Ray’s recipes.

Along with writing about my love (which is rather newfound) of cooking and Rachael Ray’s recipes, I wanted to also express my appreciation of literature. While I certainly don’t read as much now as I did when I lived in New York City and had an hour commute on the subway, each way, each day, I have continued to pore over wonderful books, both old and new. My husband is currently attending graduate school, and when he is overburdened by group projects and study sessions, I often find myself at home, sitting in the peacefulness of warm, golden afternoons at my dining room table, a novel or cookbook propped up in front of me, planning what I might make that evening or wishing that authors of now wrote with the passion and intelligence of authors past.

Needless to say, this blog will be a combination of both my loves, cooking and literature. I won’t ever be an obsessive poster-weeks might go by between posts!-but I am planning to chronicle the most notable of my domestic adventures and my literary revelations. Until next time!