Thursday, July 31, 2008

Green blobs taking over the country!

Here's a scary animated representation of the growth of Wal-Mart across the US. I took three "snapshots":

1967: 3 stores (all around Bentonville, AR)

1988: 1167 stores (pushing north and across the south, but not yet northeast or west)

2007: 3176 stores - blanketing every population center in the USA (many times over), and some really out-of-the-way locations, bringing every-day-low-prices to the masses! Civilization!

Next stop - world domination!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Scallops and nectarines

Who would have thought? two of my favorite foods, and they're very good together. (Not quite as good as chocolate and peanut butter, but then, what is?) I saw this recipe on yesterday, and had most of the ingredients already, so I decided to make it.

Grilled Scallops and Nectarines with Corn and Tomato Salad

Ok, first off, I wish I were as good a food photographer as Deb over at smittenkitchen. But we'll just have to live with my imperfect camera skills. (and in this case, the quality of my camera-phone, which makes it even worse!)

Things I did differently -
1. In the move from DC to TX, I got rid of the stovetop grill pan, so the George Foreman grill was the only option. I nixed that, and used a big sautee pan.
2. I bought smaller bay scallops rather than sea scallops, which would have made it nearly impossible to grill anyway - hard to get those little suckers on skewers!
3. I didn't do the basil puree, but I did chiffonade some basil leaves and sprinkle them over the top. In retrospect, the puree would have been nice.
4. I thought it needed a little more greenery, so I laid everything over a bed of romaine. Voila - salad AND entree!

The verdict: very tasty. Glad there are leftovers!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Cheer up!

Gretchen Rubin posted this on HuffPo, and I have to say, I definitely needed a little cheering up -- and it worked! [well, apart from the "good blazing fires" bit -- it's only 95-degrees here today...]

These are pointers on how to cheer up from 1820. Many of them still apply. (and if you need some more, Gretchen posted her own tips for cheering up on her blog.)

1st. Live as well as you dare.
2nd. Go into the shower-bath with a small quantity of water at a temperature low enough to give you a slight sensation of cold, 75 or 80 degrees.
3rd. Amusing books.
4th. Short views of human life--not further than dinner or tea.
5th. Be as busy as you can.
6th. See as much as you can of those friends who respect and like you.
7th. And of those acquaintances who amuse you.
8th. Make no secret of low spirits to you friends, but talk of them freely--they are always worse for dignified concealment.
9th. Attend to the effects tea and coffee produce upon you.
10th. Compare your lot with that of other people.
11th. Don't expect too much from human life--a sorry business at the best.
12th. Avoid poetry, dramatic representations (except comedy), music, serious novels, melancholy, sentimental people, and everything likely to excite feeling or emotion, not ending in active benevolence.
13th. Do good, and endeavour to please everybody of every degree.
14th Be as much as you can in the open air without fatigue.
15th. Make the room where you commonly sit gay and pleasant.
16th. Struggle by little and little against idleness.
17th. Don't be too severe upon yourself, or underrate yourself, but do yourself justice.
18th. Keep good blazing fires.
19th. Be firm and constant in the exercise of rational religion.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Wine, wine, whine!

Whew, four days of vacation in Napa/Sonoma/Calistoga is just exhausting. Oh, right, and Yenta #3 got married! Yay!

Thursday we flew to Oakland and drove up to St. Helena (that's Hel-EEH-nah), where we were staying with family friends (N&S) in their rented villa. (It really is a villa -- the house has 4 bedrooms with full baths, and an extra apartment over the garage... a huge kitchen, big living room, and a pool... and is surrounded by grape vines!) The weather was beautiful - average mid-80's during the day, and down below 60 at night. brrr!

What we did not know was that our illustrious lame duck President was attending a fundraiser in St. Helena on Thursday evening! We were treated to a line of California Highway Patrol cars up and down Route 29. We later learned that the wealthy Republicans who paid up to $7500 per person were forced to eat sandwiches, because giving them cutlery might have posed a danger to Dubya. Honestly, when you can't even trust your big donors not to stab you with their forks, what is the world coming to?

This trip was a blur of great wine, amazing meals, gorgeous scenery, and windy mountain roads between wineries. Here's a picture of the "view" from my chaise lounge on Friday morning before we went to lunch.

Speaking of amazing meals, we had dinner on Thursday at Mustards Grill with N&S. The seared ahi appetizer was to die for. The soup was so rich and creamy I wasn't even going to taste it, for fear that it might kill me! Between the four of us we drank a bottle of red and a bottle of white (N brings his own bottle of red whenever he goes out... and it's always really good! He's trying to teach me to like red, but I think I have issues with the tannin.) We ordered a half-order of their onion rings, which were really more like onion strings, and very tasty. A whole order would have been deadly. ;) In the middle of dinner, we watched all of the black SUVs and CHP cars drive away... the President was gone. Phew! When we got back, I laid in bed and was so full I couldn't move. ugh.

Friday was sort of a lazy day. We waited for (N&S's son) Drew to arrive from SF and then went to lunch at Martini House. They are famous for their kobe beef burgers, and let me tell you, there's good reason for that! We sat outside at a lovely table on the patio (with ceiling fan) and had more than our share of amuse bouche (2 kinds of tiny mushroom tart, a polenta round with a slice of sausage and red peppers, and ... something else.) If I had known there were going to be that many amuses, I wouldn't have ordered the *lovely* ahi tuna and cucumber appetizer - or maybe N and I would have split one burger! Another bottle of red, and bottle of white. The white wine was Merry Edwards Sauvignon Blanc, and it was outstanding. I had the burger (without the cheese). I couldn't even eat the whole thing! (P didn't mind sharing...) ;)

After lunch, we walked around "downtown" St. Helena. There are some cute shops and beautiful art galleries, and we definitely needed to walk off lunch! From there, we took Drew's recommendation and went to the Napa Wine Company in Oakville, aka Cult Wine Central. Instead of offering tastes of wines from just one winery, this company provides grapes to up 80 wineries, helps them with production, and provides a beautiful tasting room for their small batches of very good wines. We tasted a flight of white and a flight of red. YUM.

After a short nap and a dip in the pool, we had dinner at Cindy's Backstreet Kitchen. I'd been hearing about Cindy's since mom took a group out there for dinner during a conference. Cindy's is owned by the same folks as Mustards, so we knew we were in for a nice meal. We sat outside on the patio, and had a funny, good-natured waitress. Unfortunately, the ahi there wasn't as fantastic as it had been earlier in the day, but I just couldn't stuff myself any more! We did have dessert - chocolate pot du creme - but after that, I was done!

Saturday morning I decided I'd eaten/drunk way too much without doing any exercise, so I put on my duds and my iPod, and went for a walk. Turns out I walked 3.3 miles - I even jogged a little! and I took my camera along, so I could take a few pics of the area. Here's a grape vine full of ripe fruit -- the next morning, they were all gone!

When the sun came out and burned off the mist, Saturday turned into a gorgeous day. We picked up some coffee at Oakville Grocery (getting our fill, since the one here at the Domain went out of business!) and went over to the BR Cohn winery in Sonoma -- P is a member of their wine club. We tasted some great wines (and bought some) and also visited their gourmet shop - they make wonderful olive oils, sauces, etc. I bought some of those, too. :)

After tasting all of those lovely wines, it was definitely time for lunch. We drove down to Sonoma to look at the Town Square and have lunch. In retrospect, the restaurant we chose was not the best... there were many other options that we discovered *after* lunch when we walked around. Oh well. We checked out some shops, and then decided to go to one of the other wineries that N had recommended, because of the art gallery.

Hess Collection is a beautiful (a little hard to find) winery back on the Napa side. We started with the tasting -- a flight of red and a flight of white, natch -- and then went to see the art collection. Three stories of very interesting and creative works, including giant woodcuts and a flaming typewriter. As the guide at the entrance said, tasting the wine first made the art much more interesting!

Back to the house for a nap, and then it was time for the wedding! We got all gussied up (didn't take a picture til the end of the night, dammit!) and drove up to Calistoga. The Hans Fahden winery was a beautiful setting. (Clearly they do a LOT of weddings there...) There was a gazebo area for drinks and hors d'ouvres, and then an outdoor setting for the chuppah. The ceremony was lovely. The rabbi did a great job, and I managed to keep from crying. :)

Here's a pic of Val walking down the aisle with her parents. She looked absolutely gorgeous. We all filed into the wine cave for dinner. (if you're looking at the photos from Hans Fahden, it was set up like #9.) Not having met the groom, I immediately made a beeline to the front of the room to see if he lived up to the hype. (he did!) I was going to make him an honorary Yenta (as we did for Josh when Judy got married) but decided against it since she hasn't met him yet either! We'll just have to embarrass him in DC next time we're all together.

It was nice to see some of the familiar faces from the old neighborhood and the '97 Inaugural Committee - and some of them even recognized me! It was a small crowd - only 100 people - but very lively. The band played in the room just outside the cave. P and I had a good time dancing and chatting with everyone, until the last song played at 10:30pm. And by then my feet hurt so much that I couldn't walk any more... The Carlos Santana shoes were cute and went with the outfit, but the straps were biting me! :(

And like that, the weekend was over. We stopped at Oakville (again!) on the way to the airport on Sunday, to get sandwiches and coffee, and then set off for Oakland. We had enough time to have a beer at the Pyramid Hefeweizen bar before the flight, and eat our much-better-than-airport-food sandwiches.

Photos from the weekend (I didn't take many!) are posted to Flickr, though they're a little out of order! It was a blast! I'm still exhausted!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Feeding the masses

Today, in the "news that's not really news" department ... maybe I'm glad I'm not going to Denver for the Democratic Convention?

Apparently there are strict food laws in place for what will be served to the delegates. Some of them, like the organic requirement, I fully appreciate. The made-in-Colorado thing is just a way to shore up the state's economy, what with thousands of hungry delegates descending on the mile high city. But really, what's a good party without beer and wings and cheese fries? and how are you going to bring southerners and not serve fried chicken or biscuits?

The convention host committee denies that there's a ban on fried foods. But obtained a copy of the catering proposals, including an odd one that specifies how many and which colors of food are supposed to appear on a plate.

Here are some of the requirements:

- No items are to be fried.
- Preference is to be given to vendors with "green" practices.
- At least half the meal must consist of fruits and/or vegetables.
- Meals be colorful, including at least three of the following colors: red, green, yellow, blue/purple, and white. (Garnishes don't count.)
- Seventy percent or more of ingredients must be certified organic and/or grown in Colorado, by precooked weight.
- Seventy percent or more of ingredients must be fresh and not pre-processed, by pre-cooked weight.

Healthy, yes, and Bravo! Big umbrella, inclusive of all of our nation's peeps? Not so much.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

More Q&A

Phyl double-dog-dared me. (well, indirectly. She dared all of us!)

1. Who was your first prom date? Jeremy W., junior year in high school. (we had a junior-senior prom -- two, in fact -- we had one, and the boys school had one.)

2. Do you still talk to your first love? Not since I ran into him in my apartment building 7 years ago. eek!

3. What was your first alcoholic drink? Hm. Probably Manischewitz! ha ha

4. What was your first job? does babysitting count? Otherwise, summer camp counselor, when I was 16.

5. What was your first car? I drove Dad's gold Chrysler Town & Country convertible for a while, but then I got my own car, a cherry red Pontiac Grand Am. zoooooom!

6. Who was the first person to text you today? No one has texted me today... yet.

7. Who is the first person you thought of this morning? Someone at work. (and NOT in that way...)

8. Who was your first grade teacher? I had two. Mrs. Leesfield and Sra. Sagranichini. (try saying that name when you're 5 years old!) My elementary school had two teachers in every classroom, one English-only, one Spanish-only.

9. Where did you go on your first ride on an airplane? California, to meet my grandpa before he died.

10. Who was your first best friend, and are you still friends with him/her? Kelly has been my best friend since we were in kindergarten. She still is. :)

11. What was your first sport played? I was always bad at sports, always picked last on the teams in elementary school. I got into racquetball when I was about 13, and loved it. That and volleyball, but you can't play that without at least 3 more people.

12. Where was your first sleepover? Molly's house, I'm guessing.

13. Who was the first person you talked to today? Janie, when I walked into the office.

14. Whose wedding were you in the first time? My cousin Michelle's. The dress was pink silk shift under a lace flowy top. I just remember being very tan from summer camp.

15. What was the first thing you did this morning? tried to go back to sleep.

16. What was the first concert you ever went to? My dad dragged us to Roger Whitaker one year. It was good, but it wasn't as much fun as DMB or anything. ;)

17. What was your first tattoo or piercing? I got my ears pierced at 13, just in time for my bat mitzvah. No tattoos.

18. What was the first foreign country you went to? Canada - we went to Toronto when I was little. I don't remember much of the trip.

19. What was your first run-in with the law? I've only ever gotten tickets for things like expired inspection stickers and turning right on red - nothing more shocking than that - not even a speeding ticket! (knock on wood!)

20. When was your first detention? I got detention in high school for... something. Skipping class, maybe?

21. What was the first state you lived in? DC is not a state, and come to think of it, neither is Virginia (it's a Commonwealth). I lived in Maryland for two years, though, '99-'01.

22. Who was the first person to break your heart? that'd be Jeremy. (see #1)

23. Who was your first roommate? Debbie M., freshman year at Rutgers. Her boyfriend used to come up and visit all the time. I have blocked out the things I heard them doing while they thought I was asleep. bleh.

24. Where did you go on your first limo ride? Unfortunately, I think my first limo ride was associated with my grandfather's funeral in New York. Not as much fun as my last limo ride, which was for Judy's wedding! yay!

Monday, July 07, 2008

Spain wins again!

Viva EspaƱa!

Rafael Nadal unseated the reigning king of Wimbledon yesterday, beating Roger Federer in five rain-interrupted sets. WOW. The tennis was unbelievable. Rafa looked amazing. I was jumping around my living room during the fourth set tiebreaker - I couldn't sit still! When I called mom, she wasn't even watching, she had to run away to the basement. But she gave in and went upstairs after she heard all of the screaming and yelling.

... and then I missed the end of the match. (I didn't even set the DVR) :(

At the second rain delay (2-2 in the fifth set!), the tv commentators kept saying the players would have to come back really soon because otherwise it was going to be dark, so they'd have to finish on Monday. I figured they were right, it would finish on Monday, so I left the house. Little did I know that the rain delay would last only 30 minutes, and the match would continue into the twilight. (I remember one of Sampras' matches going so late it was almost dark, too.)

And, just like Sampras, the first thing Rafa did was scramble up into the stands to hug his father and his uncle. The second thing he did was to go greet the Crown Prince of Spain (Felipe) and his wife Letizia. [*Sigh* Felipe is so adorable. Speaks English perfectly, you know... he went to Georgetown University. ] How cool was that?

The Spaniards have got to be so excited, between the Euro2008 and this (and the French Open, which Nadal also won)... They're going to be fired up for the Olympics!

Friday, July 04, 2008

Happy Fourth!

I love the 4th of July. It's my favorite holiday. I used to have a wardrobe full of red-white-and-blue clothes, hats, jewelry, you name it. I think when I moved to Texas I purged a lot of my stuff -- when I went looking for a flag shirt to wear to work yesterday, I couldn't find one! What's that about?

But still, I love the Fourth. :)

I slept late this morning, then went out and did my usual 5k walk around the neighborhood. It was a gorgeous morning, blue sky and not too hot (yet). I forgot that there's a parade in my neighborhood every year for the Fourth! So as I turned on to Far West Blvd, I was met with a steady stream of people walking back home, all decked out in their flags - dogs wearing bandannas, kids in wagons and buggies, men, women children - everybody showing their colors. And the people who live on Far West come out to show their support - they set up chairs on their lawns and in their driveways... I saw cars, trucks and even a tractor covered in bunting and flags. It was so cool! The whole neighborhood was out! (This turned out to be a good thing, because there was nobody in line at Starbucks when I got there.) ;)

After all that excitement, I came home to watch Wimbledon. I've been very lax in my tennis watching this time around - I'm usually glued to the tv coverage and checking the scores online all day! I watched the Williams sisters make it to the finals in doubles -- before they play each other in the women's final tomorrow -- and then watched Nadal and Federer wipe out Schuttler and Safin (respectively) to meet each other in the men's final on Sunday. Some things never change. ;)

This afternoon I went shopping and hung out with P's friends Diana and Coral. We had SO much fun. We ran over to Nordstrom so Di could buy pants... which were somehow not among the things in her shopping bag when we walked out of the store! oops! And we closed the place down! (they were closing early for the Fourth) Coral is a very bad influence in the shopping arena. She made me try on all sorts of things that I never would have done otherwise... But I did learn that I almost fit into the next smaller size, even below the size I thought I was! WOW! Then we went back to the house, and Joel had planned out an unbelievable dinner: watermelon/cucumber/jicama salad, herbed potatoes, and jerk chicken. And in the meantime, Geoffie had shown up with some bbq ribs, so we had something to snack on while we were waiting for the chicken to cook. ;) OMG, I haven't eaten that much in AGES. We lit sparklers, drank wine, and generally laughed ourselves silly. The only thing we didn't have was fireworks.

But, I planned ahead. :) I set the DVR to get "A Capitol Fourth" on PBS. I didn't need to see the Macy's NYC celebration, but I did want to see what they were going to be doing in DC. Turns out Huey Lewis and Brian Stokes Mitchell sang, and Scott Hamilton led a tribute to the Olympics (complete with John Williams' Summon the Heroes, yay!). Jerry Lee Lewis is looking old. But really, I just wanted to see the fireworks over the Washington Monument.

So, I hope y'all have had a day as full of food, fun and friends as I have!


Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Trojans, Buckeyes and Obama

How many parts of this quote make my blood boil?
Hugh Hewitt on OSU-USC football game: "[I]t's probably the last football game we'll ever get to see before the United States gets blown up by the Islamists under Obama"
Leaving aside his contention that the Buckeyes are going to "slaughter" the Trojans (HAH!), the Obama thing just infuriates me. What is wrong with these people?!?!

In much happier news, it's being reported that former Secretary of State Colin Powell is going to endorse Senator Obama. Woohooo!!! When I was working for America's Promise in the spring of '97, there was buzz about Powell running for President. He didn't (his wife Alma didn't like the idea, among other reasons), but things are different now. It'll be very "in your face" to the Bush Administration, but they made him a scapegoat, so I don't think he owes them anything.