Friday, July 31, 2009

Field Trips

Henry is off summer camp this week, so we did some field trips and visited places we don't usually have time to visit. Children's Discovery Museum in San Jose was a disappointment. We paid $25 ($20 admission for two, $5 for parking) and Henry was bored in less than five minutes. The museum actually has gotten better since the days we used to visit. I remember taking the little Henry there and the place was over ran by school kids. Now there are lots more things for the younger crowd. But alas, my child has grown. Before I know it, he's not a little kiddie any more. Yesterday we took a two hour drive to Sacramento. Henry had a day trip there right before school ended, and came home complaining that he didn't have enough time in the Train Museum and Old Town. So here we go, a personalized trip. We've both heard from friends about Jelly Belly Factory in Fairfield and it was a nice stop along the way. Henry tried rotten omelet (rotten egg and molded cheese) at the tasting bar. He didn't like it. There was a nice big Chocolate Shoppe which provided much needed morning snack before we hit the road again. The Train Museum in Sacramento is, well, full of trains. It's another place we visited when Henry was little, when he was a train fanatic. Now he's more interested in the history and how the travel culture had changed than the Thomas train table on the second floor. The model trains were still fun. It would be very nice to have a model train setup if we have the space. There was a large Lincoln exhibit at the museum. Here is Lincoln's gun, a tad longer than Henry. Outside Train Museum is Old Sacramento, a mini town imitating the Gold Rush days. Buffalo Bob statue looks more like a Bob than buffalo. I'm glad Henry was willing to pose with it.
We also visited the San Jose main library on Monday. Schulz's Beethoven was on exhibit in the Beethoven Center on the fifth floor. Henry was very excited to see the comic strips on display, much less concerned about Beethoven. We will go up to Charles Schulz Museum next week.

Trinket on Friday

Why does food taste better when they are on the floor? Every meal Trinket tosses some of his kibbles and rice on the floor, eats what's left in his bowl, then polishes off what he tossed out.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

GAAA Squares Seven to Twelve

Pattern: Great American Aran Afghan booklet
Yarn: Paton's Classic Wool (worsted weight)
Needles: US Size 8
Square Seven: designed by Ginette Belanger, rated one of the easiest squares. It was easy for an Aran design.


Square Eight: designed by Barbara Selesnick. Also rated one of the easiest squares. Looks complicated, but fairly easy to knit up.


Square Nine: designed by Jay Campbell. It starts from the edges and decrease towards the middle. The decreases are not the same on every row, which caught me off guard. My square came out a little poofy in the middle and I hope some blocking will cure that. I will not reknit twenty bobbles. Not doing it.


Square Ten: designed by Dana Hurt. Cable and lace together make this square rather stretchy.


Square Eleven: designed by Carol Adams. The garter and lace center makes an uneven texture for this square. Interesting, but too much contrast.


Square Twelve: designed by Betty Salpekar. Rated one of the most challenging squares, and it's the most difficult set of cables that I've knitted so far in my knitting career. The center square shown here contains multiple sets of continuous cables (cables that does not start or end within the knitting, but rather run into each other, so if you trace your finger at any one point on the knitting you can go on forever). The technique used here is using invisible cast on at the beginning of each set and k2tog or ssk onto the main body, then the ends of each set are grafted together. On the GAAA Ravelry forum someone mentioned there were easier ways to do continuous cables, but I wanted to give this a try.

All those invisible cast-ons and graftings create new ends. There are about forty of them in this center square to weave in.

I have finished the cabled border since these pictures were taken. The square is coming out rather lovely, just need to deal with all those ends.

Bucky's Skinny Pug Tender Chicken Stew

This recipe is good for when your dog has upset tummy and needs a mild meal, or just for some special attention. For Bucky this is becoming a long term diet. It consists of white rice, lean chicken meat, and vegetables, good balanced nutrients and tastes great. To make the chicken and vegetable stew:

1 cup of water
1 skinless boneless chicken thigh or breast, comes to about 1 cup of meat
1/2 cup bite size vegetables. I've tried carrots, green beans, mushrooms, celery, my dogs love them all.

Dice chicken meat, trim fat.
Boil water. Put chicken in the pot and bring back to full boil.
Simmer for ten minutes. In the last three minutes add vegetables.
Cook white rice as directed on the package, only using water (no salt, butter, etc.).
I cook the chicken and veggie stew every other day or so, and the rice about once a week. I've been making the rice a little wetter than needed, since it loses moisture in storage.
At meal time, scoop out:
- 3 heaping table spoons of cooked white rice (this is rough estimate, since rice tends to stick into big chunks. The idea is to have more rice than stew.)
- 4 table spoons chicken and vegetable stew
Heat in microwave for 30 seconds. Mix well, make sure the rice chunks are completely separated and every grain of rice is nicely covered with broth. This is enough for one meal for a 25 lb dog.

I hope some of you will try this recipe. If you do, please tell me how your dogs like it.

(The picture of Bucky is an oldie. He's slightly slimmer now and a little more gray.)

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Point Reyes Seashore

Last weekend we took a minivacation and went back to Tomales Bay, Point Reyes seashore area.

First, lunch at Bouchon in Yountville. Thomas Keller, the chef owner of The French Laundry and Bouchon, created "the world's greatest sandwich" for the Adam Sandler movie Spanglish. In the movie the sandwich is a twist of traditional BLT -- there is a softly fried egg in the middle and the runny yoke serves as sauce over the bacon and bread. We've been wondering if Keller serves this sandwich in one of his restaurants. Henry found a very similar version on the menu at Bouchon. The ham and cheese sandwich comes with a softly fried egg on top. Even Henry, who usually doesn't like runny eggs, declared this sandwich to be delicious. The big mound of fries was a surprise to all of us. 

Can't skip the pastry from the Bouchon Bakery next door.

Marconi Conference Center is a retreat facility situated on wooded acreage right off the Tomales Bay, near the tiny town of Marshall. Usually the center serves large groups, and only rents out spare rooms to individual travellers if they call just the right moment. Since they don't accept my reservation, we were very lucky this time they had one room left that could accommodate three people. It turned out very nicely. The room is facing the bay. No human insight.

A family of quails visited us along the moss covered wooden fence. This is the father looking out, mom and babies soon followed, but I wasn't quick enough to capture them on camera.

Henry was exceptionally happy with his loft. The kid couldn't wait to get his parents out of his hair!

Nobel prize winner, Guglielmo Marconi, who first transmitted wireless signals through radio waves, set up The Marshall Receiving Station to send signals across the Pacific Ocean. This building was the original staff and visitor hotel. It's described as "Mediterranean revival with Craftsman allusions", but it's quite run down now and sitting empty. We peaked into the other meeting rooms, which were all historical buildings, very beautiful and charming. I hope I can bring the South Bay Knitters' annual knitting retreat here some day.

Hiking in the Point Reyes seashore area is always a wonderful experience. Before the hike we stopped at Drakes Bay Oyster Farm where Henry tried his first raw oyster, fresh out of the Pacific Ocean. I still regret that I didn't get a picture of the oyster, nor when Henry ate it, but it was so cold that I could hardly think. I always forget how cold it gets on the coast, especially Point Reyes area.

Couple of restaurants we liked in the area:

Station House Cafe in Point Reyes Station. After the big plateful of fries at Bouchon, Henry was "fried out". For dinner here he ordered a kid's Fish n' Chips, and asked the waiter, very politely, if they could substitute fries with vegetable. Mr. Waiter said he'd check with the chef. When the food was served, Henry's plate was filled three quarters full with roasted vegetables, including some of the best looking green beans and heirloom carrots. We saw the carrots next day in the local farmer's market for $4 a bunch.

Olema Farm House in Olema. Olema, population 45, sits on the intersection of Highway 1 and Sir Francis Drake Boulevard, and the intersection is the whole town. The farm house is a lodge, restaurant, deli and convenient store. The chef demoed Mahi Mahi with vegetable Risotto in the farmer's market earlier in the day, which prompted Henry to order halibut with assorted vegetable and a nice helping of Risotto. Bill had oyster stew in both restaurants and he said they were different styles but both very good. I just wished we could hang around longer to try out all the other interesting seafood dishes.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Socks for Lesley

Pattern: Socks for Veronik, by Mona Schmidt, Interweave Knits, Holiday 2007
Yarn: Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock Solid, Powder blue
Needles: US Size 2
Cast on: April 25, 2009
Cast off: May 19, 2009
Notes: My friend Lesley is the only non-knitter in our bookclub. In our April meeting, when the rest of us all pulled out our knitting, Lesley mentioned longingly that she had never experienced hand knitted wool socks. Well then, here is her chance to cuddle up with some lacy merino wool socks, in her favorite color.

Field Trip on the Santa Cruz Coast

Couple of weeks ago my friend Sarah, who home schools her two children, generously took me on one of her field trips. We went down to Santa Cruz then up Highway 1 along the coast. I'd never been to that part of the coast, and now wonder what made me wait so long. First we went hiking in Butano State Park. It was a very steep trail from the valley up to a peak. The view is incredible. We visited the creek at the end of the hike, and found this little newt. Also found a handicapped crayfish (missing a leg), but I wasn't able to get a good picture. Sarah knows all these cool farm places. This road side farm stand sells organic dried beans. I never thought beans could be so pretty! They are very tasty too.
A nearby goat farm offers kids (baby goats) for petting. They are lively little kids. This black one successfully untied my shoe.
This one just wanted a mouthful of cashmere.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Bucky, The Thinner Version

The bout of pancreatitis in June helped our usually chubby puggy lose some weight. He lost quite a bit of sleep, being up all day and night singing in our ears. Then he couldn't keep any food down for even longer time, until I gave in and bought a 20 lb bag of white rice and started cooking for him. Bucky says the leaner physique would attract more fan letters. Mom is just happy to see Bucky's bright eyed inquisitive look.

Got a cookie for me, Mom?

When he's not busy reading fan mail he catches up a few snores.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

For Dogs and Their People: Travels with Charley

I pulled this book by John Steinbeck off the shelf in the library because it's a dog book. In this book Steinbeck chronicled his three-months-long around the country trip with Charley, a bleu standard poodle by his side. "Charley is an elderly gentleman of the French persuasion." "Charley is a born diplomat. He prefers negotiation to fighting." Wrote Steinbeck. Such elegant words for such a gentle dog. "Charley came back apologizing ..." (His ailment) "caused him embarrassment." "When a stranger addresses Charley in baby talk, Charley avoids him. For Charley is not a human; he's a dog, and he likes it that way. He feels that he is a first-rate dog and has no wish to be a second-rate human." There are many more important topics Steinbeck touched on in this book and I will leave that to you to discover. What Steinbeck to Charley was a partner, and what Charley to the great author was a friend. Steinbeck's Charley was not funny, was not cute, or even friendly; he's handsome, dignified, and demanded respect. May every dog person finds his own Charley. May every Charley finds his own fellow human.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Been Distracted

The bathroom door is done, after four coats of red paint.
Minor imperfections, which I will consider to be design features. Next time I better think seriously taking off the hardware first.
The more time I have at home the more I cook and the more I eat. Here are some sea scallops wrapped in bacon, marinating in rice wine.
Lexulous on Facebook (Scrabble). Come play with me.
A perfect rose outside the window. Love it, love it, love it.

Village Harvest

Before this valley was lined with silicon, there were many orchards -- apricots, plums, apples, citrus fruits. Today most orchards have become business parks and housing developments. Some old trees survived on the few orchards left, still producing abundance of fruits. There are also fruit trees in backyards that owners could not digest the excess fruits. Village Harvest is a volunteer ran organization that collect these fruits and donate them to food banks. Volunteers get to take home the culls -- bruised, damaged, over-ripen fruits.

This is what came home with me yesterday. I shall commit my life to tree-ripened apricots.

Last week I took home a box of white plums. I pureed the plums, mixed with yogurt and made about 40 popsicles. Perfect treat for the post-basketball-game sweaty child.