Saturday, December 29, 2012

Friday, December 28, 2012

Smells Trigger Memories

The B&B where we stayed had great hand soap.  They had taped a label to the hand soap that read something like this: We sell this hand soap at the front desk for $13, if you take the soap from the room we will charge you $20. The lavender smell reminds me of  the solar recovery spray that I bought in St. John.  I happened to see the soap at Sprouts (for 9 dollars) and so I bought it.  Now I can be transported to vacation every time I wash my hands.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Give Me Stuff for Free

Sometimes I get 10 dollar gift certificates and I really try not to spend more than 10 dollars when I go to the store.  I used to get a lot of them from Kohl's.  I've also gotten them from DSW and Victoria's Secret.  I recently got one from Eddie Bauer.  I really didn't want to drive out to the outlet to spend the $10, and when I saw that they were having free shipping I decided to spend the gift certificate.  I bought a pair of socks--less than ten dollars.  I've already received them.  I like the stripes and they might be my new favorite pair of socks.

Usually when I spend less than the amount of the gift card I forfeit the remainder.  I refuse to spend money at VS.  Eddie Bauer actually sent me a check for $3.23!  Not a gift certificate....a check.  Real money.  So they sent socks straight to my door (FedEx) and gave me a check.  Happy Holidays to me.

The Tea

Looking at the tea I bought it doesn't seem that much, but I sure spent a lot of money.

I bought Happy Kombucha Oolong from David's tea.  The man helping me actually made me a cup to go, and I liked the pineapple flavor.

From Imperial Tea I bought Mihong Jasmine--Ross picked this one the first time we went there and it is his favorite.  He really picked a good one--I will always have this one in the tea cabinet as long as they keep selling it.  I also bought Orchid Oolong--one for me and one for Tejal.  I had ordered a sample from them last year and really liked the light flavor--it tastes of Japanese plum.  I also stocked up on  Keemun--getting the Imperial grade this time.  I call Keemun Company Tea, cause that's what I serve when we have company.  Oh, and I got Imperial Milk Oolong.  I couldn't resist the smell.

From Tillerman Tea I bought 3 oolongs: Muzha Tieguanin, Dong Ding Hong Bei Wulong, and Alishan Dong. My tea cabinet is overflowing.  I don't know where I'm going to put some of these.  I need to drink tea more often.  Maybe I'll make a cup right now!

Rainy Sunday in Napa: Oxbow Public Market

It was rainy Sunday morning, so we spent some time indoors at the Oxbow Public Market.  I had sworn off these kind of places because they tend to be the same kind of stalls over and over again and I have trouble deciding what I want, but this was different.  Oxbow Market is small and each stall is different.
Tiffany and I bought specialty salts and spices at Whole Spice Company.
A very nice man at Tillerman Tea sold me 3 different kinds of Oolong.  He didn't look at me like I was nuts when I asked for Dong Ding Oolong--in fact he had many different choices.  Unfortunately they were out of green puerh tuo cha.  I would have bought one.  I could definitely work in a spice shop or a tea shop.
We had lunch from C Casa.  I had a taco with meat that tasted like tamale meat (beef of course) and Ross had a duck taco. I wasn't very hungry--still stuffed with lamb ragout and coffee cake.
Cupcakes at Kara's Cupcakes.  Ross and I split a passion fruit filled cupcake and Ross, Tiffany and I split a vanilla cupcake.  The vanilla frosting on the passion fruit cupcake was like buttah--no grainy sugar at all.  The vanilla cupcake had vanilla-bourbon frosting that was more like traditional butter cream and very flavorful.  I would have liked the buttah texture with the bourbon flavor.
I got a cappuccino from Ritual Coffee Roasters to go with the cupcakes.  Finally got that pretty coffee.  It was amazing to watch the guy pour these.  Ross's latte was pretty too.  I'm going to buy a different milk pitcher and practice making foam and pouring.  I want to be able to make a heart like this or a leaf one day.  Oh, and I had just bought some vanilla sugar at the spice place, so we used that in our coffees.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Wine Spectator Greystone Restaurant

After the Castle we went to the Wine Spectator Greystone Restaurant, which is part of the Culinary Institute of America, for a late lunch.  The CIA is in a big stone castle-like building.

I guess because of the time of year and time of day the restaurant wasn't very crowded.  The ambiance was nice--although I think it was a bit chilly in the room. First, I want to talk about the food.  The most important part, right? So, as Nicole says, here is the food porn.

 I decided to have some butternut squash soup to help warm me up.  It had pomegranate seeds in it.  Odd combination, but as I bit into each seed there was a juicy burst of flavor.
 Ross started with the steak tartare.  The toast had blue cheese and carmelized onions.  It was very tasty.
I chose the lamb ragout.  Very good, except for one giant pappardelle ball.  It was a lot of food, so Ethan helped me finish.
Ross and Tiffany got the duck.  It was the clear winner.  The celery puree was so smooth and perfectly seasoned.  Ethan demanded steak, so he and Robert shared the steak.  It was a part of a prix fixe menu that included 3 other courses.
This is Robert and Ethan's dessert. A molten chocolate lava cake and vanilla bean ice cream.  We all had a taste.  We were stuffed at the end.

Now the service.  As Ross said---it was Rank: Amateur.  Easy things like water and bread...took forever.  The time between courses (and keep in mind we are very leisurely eaters) was excessive.  For being the wine spectator restaurant you'd think the'd ask if we wanted wine or make recommendations.  Nothing.  The service was very disappointing. It would have been disappointing anywhere, but the fact that we were paying 50 bucks a head somehow made it worse.  Even though the duck was exceptional the service was enough to deter me from ever going there or recommending it to anyone.

The Greystone also has a Bakery and Cafe that is run by the students.  We were disappointed that it was closed.  We were hoping to get some pastries for a late dinner/dessert.  The gift shop had lots of beautifully decorated chocolate truffles.  We bought two stout truffles, but haven't eaten them yet.

Since we still wanted sweets for later we went to Dean and Deluca.  We got an eggnog late that was divine.  Ross and I got slices of coffee cake.  His was much better (and bigger) than mine.  I was so stuffed at the end of the night that my tummy hurt--just from being so full.


When we left the movies last night I didn't exactly notice this Whole Foods card on the driver's side window.  At the stop light I lowered the window and pulled it inside.

I think this is odd, but nice.

Castello di Amorosa

Our excursion to the Petrified Forest was a bust--the trails were closed due to flooding.  I decided we could check out the Castello di Amorosa winery because it was close by and had Gewurtztraminer.  The winery really does have a full-on castle.
 View of the castle and some of the vineyards.
 View from a castle loop hole of the valley and an olive tree.
 View from the castle restroom.  It reminded me of the views from Neuschwanstein.
It had been raining, but the skies cleared up for our visit to the castle.  The courtyard area was still wet and Ross and Ethan played ninjas or something in the big open area.

We paid $18 for 5 tastings.  Three of my tastings were of Gewurtztraminer.   Ethan got to have Gewurtztraminer juice.  Apparently that was as good as the wines--Robert and Ross tried it, but I didn't.  The sweetest Gewurtztraminer was a hit with everyone, and if I didn't have to mail it back to myself or check a bag I would have bought a couple of bottles.  I probably would have bought some of the juice too.

Book Review: Coffee and Kung Fu

I wandered around the library looking for a book to get for the Cali trip--Super Sad True Love Story was checked out.  I settled on Coffee and Kung Fu by Karen Brichoux because it was lightweight and I liked the title.  I started the book on the BART and finished it up yesterday.

The essence of Coffee and Kung Fu is loneliness.  The things we do when we are lonely.  It is about the moment when you at your life and decide if you can continue on the same path for the next 70 years.

I don't read much fiction anymore, but this one was a winner.  Pick this up for a great weekend read.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Friday in San Francisco

I got to San Francisco around lunch time and I took the BART to town. I got off right into the Westfield Shopping center.  I started shopping, but decided I had to eat first.

I ate under this dome, which was beautiful until the light shows began.  It made it look so cheap when it turned red and blue or snowflakes were projected onto the dome.
I had a chicken and mushroom open faced sandwich and only ate two bites of bread.  I totally resisted the pastries at La Boulange (where I had lunch).  It was a miracle.  I had tea instead of coffee.  They gave me a tea bag in a regular glass with warm water.  The coffees looked so pretty, but I got a cup of pale tea.  Oh well.

I did some tea shopping, and waltzed over to Nieman Marcus in the rain to buy something I've been wanting for a while.  I then hopped back on the BART to get up to the Ferry Building.
I walked all up and down the Ferry Building and the smell coming from Acme Bread was killing me.  It smelled so luscious, but I was trying to be good.  Ross met me there at the Ferry Building. I ended up breaking down and getting Mac and Cheese and steamed vanilla milk from Cowgirl Creamery and shared them with Ross.

I also bought lots of tea at Imperial Tea.  And I bought some bath salts to use on the trip.  Oh, my bag when I got to San Francisco weighed 14 pounds!  My shopping added to that and I ended up putting things in my bag in my bag.
I think this is the best photo I took all weekend.

After the Ferry Building it took us almost 2 hours to get onto the freeway.  Rush hour traffic, holiday traffic, and lack of signs made for a grumpy couple heading up to Napa.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Packing Light

So when I go on short trips I try to pack light(ly). Here is what I'm planning on taking on a long-weekend trip.

  1. The water bottle.  I've been using a different one lately, but I opted for the smaller SIGG.
  2. Reading materials.  I'd take more, but they are heavy.
  3. Cheese--it seems like that is the only snack allowed on my current diet.
  4. Cell phone.
  5. Camera.
  6. ipod touch.  This has all my music on it so I can chill on the plane or wherever.
  7. Noise cancelling headphones.  These make the plane seem so much less noisy that I can actually sleep.
  8. The 1 quart bag with all my liquids.
  9. Jewelry bag.
  10. A comb, gum, and my starbucks certificate that I have like 2 dollars left on.
  11. Umbrella.  Forecast is calling for rain.
  12. Wet bag---having my clothes in a zip-lock saved me when I went to NYC with Valerie.
  13. Extra clothes for the weekend.
  14. Tons of socks.  I'm wearing tall boots, and I have to wear two pairs of socks because they are a little big.  I was silly and sent an extra pair of jeans in Ross's suitcase.  I should have sent all these socks and my underwear.
  15. A travel essential: perfumed hanky.
  16. My new travel silverware: matching fork, knife, and spoon.
  17. Bag.  I always have a bag inside my bag.
  18. That's my wallet.
  19. Charger for the ipod touch.  I don't want it to die when I'm playing Bedazzled at the airport.
  20. Case with my make up and toiletries.  I wish they made my kind of deodorant in a travel size.  I might have to buy a regular one and just take out the inside bar, cut it in half, and put it in a snack bag.  I actually considered buying the Dove travel sized anti-perspirant, but I decided the pain under my arms isn't worth it.
  21. Feminine items. Blegh.
  22. Bra and underwear.
  23. Not pictured: A hat to protect my straightened hair in the rain.

Some have called my purse my suitcase--and I did travel to NYC a couple of times with nothing but the purse.  My new bag is even BIGGER.  All that stuff is in my new purse.  It is heavy.  And that's with an empty water bottle, the camera is charging, and the cheese is in the fridge.  If it gets to be too much I can always pull out the wet bag and wear it as a backpack, or take out the bag inside my bag and put some things in there and throw it on my other shoulder (if it isn't already full of tea from Imperial Tea).  And once I get to the hotel (B&B) I can dump most of the stuff out and it will feel light as a feather after carrying around all that stuff.

Monday, December 17, 2012


I have no idea why, but I decided to make some cookies.  I used the basic butter cookie recipe as a start, but instead of lime or orange juice I used 3 Tbl. eggnog and 1 tsp. vanilla.  They taste good, but you can't really taste the egg nog.  Maybe next time I'll do 4 Tbl. eggnog and no vanilla.  I'm not sure I can go without vanilla though....

I made 2 dozen of these EAT ME cookies with a stamp I bought on Amazon.  I took the better looking ones to Ross's work, and didn't take any photos, which doesn't make any sense.  Guys don't care what they look like.

Then I made half a dozen of these heart cookies that go on the side of your coffee cup.  Ross seemed to enjoy his eggnog with  heart cookie last night.


Okay, so last night I felt like a trapeze superstar.  There were only 4 of us in the class, so we really got a lot of turns.  I felt great.  I felt like I wasn't working and fighting as hard to do the swing.  I worked on my take off and my swing. I took off unassisted for the first time! I took off from the riser for the first time!  It was pretty exciting. I ripped my wounds from last week back open, but it isn't so bad.

In the video I took off from the first riser.  Jay on the board and Russel pulling lines.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Espresso Cheese

You know what I always say "Cheese makes the world go 'round and cake keeps it in line."

Well, I've been following an extremely low carb diet and eating lots of cheese.  I was pretty tired of plain old mozzarella cheese sticks and HEB was sampling some fancy cheeses.  I tried the Espresso cheese and loved it.  Ross didn't like it, so I gobbled it all up myself--before I remembered to take a photo.

This week I've been chowing down on the mini baybel cheeses. Maybe next week I'll be ready to go back to those boring cheese sticks.

The Watercolors

Ross's grandmother had a beautiful house with lots of beautiful things.  When she died Ross's family asked him what he wanted from the house.  He said he wanted the watercolors.  His mother told him that they had already been claimed by a cousin.  Fast forward 15 day I used Susan's (Ross's mother) restroom and saw the watercolors hidden away in the tiny little toilet area. You sneaaaaaky Mom!

Well, when Ross's mother died Ross claimed the watercolors.  We brought them back with us from El Paso and I hung them up over the fireplace.  It is funny to think of Ross's grandmother having these racy watercolors.

Story of the Nazi Flag

My grandpa fought in World War II.  He spent time in North Africa and Europe.  The story I always heard was that he came home with a Nazi flag.  My grandma cut it up into hearts and made a quilt out of it.

My mom gave me the quilt this last time I was visiting.  I brought it home and I've washed it a couple of times to try and get the mothball smell out of it.  Unfortunately the batting is coming out of the quilt backing and forming little white pills.  I'm working on picking those off.

I'm going to use this quilt, just like I use the others I have.  They were made to keep people warm, not be kept in a cabinet or hung on a wall.

Fear v Security

Here in Austin we have the Dell Jewish Campus. A bunch of synagogues, Hebrew school, Jewish Community Center.  Big fence around it--a ghetto.  I have strong feelings about this.  There is a security guard/shack at the front gate.  I hate it.  It makes me feel unwelcome.  Why do we need a guard?  What do we have to fear?  Some people say it makes them feel more secure.  Secure about what?  Being stopped at the front gate to ask me what I'm doing and where I'm going just makes me angry.  Apparently just a sticker on the car is pass enough not to stop you.  So how is that secure?

If someone wants to bomb me, shoot me, or otherwise terrorize me because I'm a Jew they will find a way to do it.  A guard at the front gate won't stop them, it just angers and insults me.  I refuse to live in fear of some unknown threat.  And I refuse to believe some guard at the front gate is actually protecting me.

Gingie's First Fall

It is Gingie's first Fall.  Well, first Fall with me.  Gingie's leaves have changed colors and started falling off.  Actually, Gingie has lost a lot of leaves since this photo was taken.  I have to remember that Gingie is just hibernating, and still needs water.

First Swing Class

Last Saturday Ross and I went to our first swing class.  Swinging on the trapeze looks easy, but it takes a lot of muscle.  Swing class only lasts one hour and that's a good thing.  The swinging zaps all your energy and the gauze bar tears up your hands.
 Ross tore up his left hand on his last swing.
I peeled off one layer of skin on one swing and then popped off a few more layers at the base of my pinky finger--that is when I called it quits.
Ross's swing greatly improved after his first turn.
This was my best turn of the day.

My hand has pretty much healed up, Ross's hasn't fared as well.  I'm taking another class on Sunday, and I'm hoping not to rip too badly.  I need to remember to chalk up before I put on my grips.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Year of the Zoo: Austin Zoo

On Saturday we went to the Austin Zoo and Animal Sanctuary.  All the animals at the zoo are rescued animals.  December 1st and it was 80 degrees.  It was a great day to go to the zoo.
The marmosets were very active and making little noises.
The zoo had lots and lots of big cats, including a lynx and a panther. The male lion was very sleepy, and the female lion was taking a bath.
We could see all of the animals very up close.  The problem was that they were behind chain link fences, so a good clear photo was impossible.
Of course there were peacocks and peahens.

The Austin Zoo isn't a typical zoo.  You can get very close to the animals.  The paths are really just dirt/rock trails. It is pretty small, and there are no pachyderms.  Still, I enjoyed the zoo.