Sunday, November 11, 2012

Hobbit country

We kept seeing hobbit homes in the woods.

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The banana slug and new clover

Before we started our walk, I saw one of these, as a chocolate, in the gift shop. It was a good bit longer in person than as a chocolate.

Tress was discovering how different the landscape is, west coast versus east. She exclaimed, "Even the clover is different!"

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Tress and Melissa love trees

My travel mates each wanted to show love for the forest in turns.

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The Muir Woods are fantastic. Tress and I both nearly wept as we moved through the ancient forest, a reaction that I haven't had since the glacier in NZ.

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Saturday, November 10, 2012


Sadly, horrifically, an owl flew into our vehicle last night. It wasn't killed but broke a wing--and was caught in the grill [shudder]. I got out of the car to try to free it, but was defeated by flapping, screaming (owls scream), and talons. It freed itself, eventually.

We were calling bird and animal rescue agencies, and the California Highway Patrol, and weren't able to get assistance from anyone. The poor bird moved itself off the road. If it had not been an owl (we thought at first that it was an egret), we would have tried to capture it. The talons and the bird's clear panic complicated things.

Melissa spoke this morning to an animal rescue person, who said there wasn't a lot more that we could have done. We stayed until it just about disappeared into the brush at the side of the road.

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Friday, November 9, 2012

Thursday ends

We had dinner at the Culinary Institute of America, where the food was every bit as good as it is at Tra Vigne, but IMHO no better. I had a cheese sampler to start, then a stone fruit salad with pistachios (not as nice as it should have been), and a house-aged steak.

Laden olive tree at Tra Vigne:

Another couple of Markham images:

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Tra Vigne

Melissa had a food epiphany during the starter course of Mozzarella Il Minuto, and it deepened during the first course, a fig and gorgonzola pizzetta with balsamic reduction.

The entry door at Tra Vigne:

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Napa Valley

We got started pretty early, at the hour when the tasting rooms open, 10am. We told ourselves that, where we live, it was already 1pm!

We went to Beaulieu first (above), then Grgich, Jessup, a room offering two wineries' wines (was one Rios?), August Briggs, Markham, and Merryvale. We had lunch at my favorite restaurant on earth, Tra Vigne in St. Helena.


Lime ?bush? at Grgich:

Olive tree at Grgich:


The trio at Markham, Tress mid-word:


Old cask room, above, and new below:

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Thursday, November 8, 2012

View from our room

We are staying in Marin County, directly south of Sonoma. We have a 2BR suite with full kitchen and breakfast provided free. There's a huge flat-screen TV, and there was a bottle of wine and a box of chocolates waiting for us when we got here. OK, I ordered the wine and chocolates.

I cannot wait to use that whirlpool. The (saltwater) pool is set at 85 degrees.

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San Francisco!

Tress, Melissa, and I left Boston yesterday with only minutes to spare before the wind, rain, and snow took over. It was a long flight (Tress is already dreading the flight home), but we are in CALI, baby!

Although we flew Virgin America, and Virgin used to have great food, the food on the plane was minimal, expensive, and arguably nasty. So when we got to San Fran, we were hungry!

It proved difficult to find a place whose kitchen was still open. Then we found Mel's on 101. You gotta love a diner. I had a meatloaf sandwich, and Tress and Melissa both ordered chocolate (fountain) shakes with their meals.

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Sunday, September 30, 2012

Urgh, formatting

Sorry that, no matter what platform I'm using, I can no longer change how my text is presented on blogspot. There were Returns after every line in those recipes, but, try as I might, I cannot reinstate a single one. I recommend copying the text and re-formatting it! My paragraphs vanish as well--see No July, which had 3 paragraphs, as I wrote it.

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Steak & salad recipes

Warm Stir-Fried Salad 2 tbs olive oil 1 red or Vidalia onion 1 red bell pepper 2 cloves garlic 8 oz cherry tomatoes 5 oz baby spinach 0.75 oz fresh basil 4 oz feta cheese Slice onion. Cut pepper in small squares. Thinly slice garlic. Halve tomatoes. Heat oil in pan until very hot. Add onion, bell pepper, and garlic. Cook 2 min. Add tomatoes, spinach, and basil and cook till leaves have wilted. Transfer to serving plate and serve with crumbled feta. Steak with Gorgonzola Sauce 1.5 tbs olive oil 0.25 lb shitake mushrooms 2 cloves garlic 0.75 cups heavy whipping cream 0.5 cup Gorgonzola 1 tsp chipotles, canned 24 oz beef tenderloin or steak 0.5 tsp salt 0.25 tsp freshly ground pepper Stem & slice shitakes. Mince peppers and garlic. Crumble cheese. Heat 2/3 olive oil in lg skillet over med. Add shitakes and saute 4 min. Add garlic and stir 1 min. Add whipping cream and bring to boil. Reduce, then simmer 4 min. Stir in gorgonzola and chipotles. Season to taste. Sprinkle steaks with salt & pepper. Heat remaining olive oil in separate skillet. Cook about 5 min per side. Serve on plates with sauce spooned over.

My holiday

I spent my actual birthday just south of Virginia Beach, where the 2012 festival of the North American Sea Glass Association was held. My friend Tress and I rented a seafront condo for 3 days. The unit was actually sound-front--see below. The building itself was seafront.

The picture below is of the fishing pier just down the beach. Our trip featured getting lost on a closed Route 64, getting lost on the condo parking level, eating amazing food at Baja across the street (the freshest steamed shrimp), going to Ross, going to the festival (disappointing), Tress drinking pool-side--not to excess--and me preparing a really yummy steak in gorgonzola-shitake sauce with warm salad. Recipe to follow.

Front of the buildings:

Sunset from the balcony:

Wildlife preserve just yards to the south...turtles in that water!

A Suzuki that reminded me, at the back, of England's Ka:

And one more thing, the Waffle House where I had breakfast on my actual birthday! Oh, how I love the pecan waffles and scattered, peppered hash browns at Waffle House.

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My 50th

I had a nice surprise at Ohana, a new Glosta eatery.

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New car

I really loved my Echo, its petite size, and its great mileage per gallon. But its clutch started slipping.

When that slippage started to occur in both highway and city settings, I knew I needed to hasten my search for a car. I was thinking: used, but 2010 as the earliest acceptable vintage. As much as 11K, but 4 figures were preferable. I test drove a 2012 Veloster and hated it. I found a 2010 Kia Soul competent but unexciting.

Test driving the Spark was FUN. A brand new car, a 2013 Spark could be had for 3K more than my projected top price. Victor suddenly said that he could cover some of the expense. The stars were aligning.

I call it my Snow Pea.

Here it's contrasted with the Prius C, a contender in my search. The Prius reviews weren't good, however. The Spark is a Daewoo that has been sold all over the world for years. It has solid reliability and safety data behind it, 10 air bags, and a flat-screen radio. Love that radio.

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