Saturday, January 02, 2010


When we recently visited Weese and MAW, we had occasion to sample some cheeses ne to us. One had bacon (or maybe ham) and horseradish in it and though I couldn't eat a lot of it because of the heat, I really liked it a lot. Another had some sort of Iris maybe?) stout in it and that was my favorite, and the other, I think, was a type of Gouda.

Did I ask MAW for the names or brands so I could seek them out here? No. We talked about it and I mentioned writing thwm down, but never actually got that taken care of.

I decided it was time to try a few new cheeses anyway, and whie I think that Spec's will have the best array to choose from, that would be the downtown location and I just haven't made it there yet.

The HEB that we frequent has quite an assortment and their cheese staff is pretty helpful. In the past when we have commented that a particular house made cheese ball looked interesting, they immediately cut into ot and prepared a sample. Same for any cheese we might want to try before buying, and thay have also told us that any cheese can be scaled down to a smaler portion just by asking. Nice.

Yesterday we went there to get a pork shoulder to roast away in the dutch oven at 275 degrees. For 4 hours. Can you smell it? It's rubbed with a mixture of Ancho chile powder, cocoa, oregano, salt, cinnamon, brown sugar, and sugar. I think that is everything. It's currently about half done and when it is finished it will fall off the bone and be fork shredded for eating with tortillas. Inhale...2...3...4...smell it....

So until it is done, I will quell our hunger with a small array of grapes and cheese and crackers. I got three and while I know Martha and Ina sugget that a cheese platter have a soft, semi-soft and hard, I got three hard. There is Somerdale Tintern which is a cow's milk cheddar with onions and chives. Add to that Somerdale Red Dragon, another cow's milk cheeddar with mustard and Welsh ale. Finally we have Wensleydale with Honey & Figs, also cow's milk, but near as I can tell, Wensleydale is a type of cheese like cheddar is a type. I think all three are from the UK.

Reports on both the pork and the ceeses to follow...

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Presence vs. Presents

Happy Almost New Year! Almost Twenty Ten. Wow.

I just changed out our big at-a-glance wall calendars at the office. Once I got them moved, I went and got the official company "Closed Holidays 2010" list. Those days are all now blocked off in green so we don't schedule work crap on those days accidentally. Sometimes the deadlines require that we work anyway, mostly during Thanksgiving and Xmas (like, even today...) and when that happens we take other days. This year that meant our "Thanksgiving" trip to NYC/CT/NJ. *That* was a whirlwind drive!

Another bit of housecleaning was to make a list of my acupuncture treatment for tax purposes. I have been told this can be itemized as medical treatment but have been unable to get any sort of official confirmation. All the appointments were on the old calendar, so before taking it down I made a list. I have a few CPAs I can ask about it, but I know there are so many little loopholes, that I still might not have any sort of difinitive answer. If it works into turbotax, I'll go with it.

I was able to wrap up my official GratitudeProject2009 list. Everything is done and out the door. Sort of. Sally's gift is done, packaged and in my car ready to mail, but it is going to Canada so I couldn't just post it from work as I don't know how to set the machine for international. I will get it officially in the mail next Wednesday for sure. It has been done and ready for more than a month but I just haven't been able to fit in a visit to the post office. The one time I tried I discovered that our official office for our house has been torn down and is not new town houses.

GFB also asked if she could be added to the list as she found out about it very much after the fact. I added her, but haven't added the end of 2009 deadline for myself. Still trying to decide what she is getting.

The xmas holiday for us was pretty awesome. It began when we enjoyed Thanksgiving dinner with Elizabeth's nephew Greg and his wife and our kids and some various friends at Greg and Laurie's compound. It was a cooperative effort and truly an enjoyable day.

Then we went on the previously mentioned whirlwind. It takes 30 hours to drive to NYC from Houston with minimal stopping along the way. I mean all totaled our stopping was probably 4-5 hours. But it was also all necessary. By minimal I mean that we didn't break it up over 3 days. In the future, we will be flying to NYC unless we have the luxury of many more days to make the trip via automobile.

While up there we got some time in NYC at our beloved Pearl River Market. I should have bought more tea, cookies, and soba noodles, I think. The tea is in good supply for the moment, and I haven't been adventurous yet with the noodles, but the butter cookies I bought are gone and I had...umm...none of them. We'll just have to go back.

After NYC we slipped over to visit Weese and MAW in CT. It was delightful and I shall say no more.

From there we went to NJ to see Aunt Patty and my mom who will be visiting for most of the winter which translates until Aunt Patty gives her the boot. It was a hoot seeing them and we wish it could have been longer. Elizabeth has dubbed them the Ya-Yas. What was supposed to be a nice quiet dinner for 5 ended up being an awesome dinner party for about 10. The only thing missing was Aunt Patty's tassies(holiday fare of old), but the alternate dessert wastotally awesome, a mandarin cake with pineapple whipped cream and pudding topping. I need to make that some time soon. I came away from the dinner party with a recipe for Potato Casserole that we enjoyed at WTXB6.

After NJ, we had GFI for the weekend. After that we had WTXB6 and GFD for the weekend. Then it was xmas weekend, last night we capped it all off with dinner with GFS&V(who had to miss WTXB6) and now it is soon New Year's weekend. All of this, from Thanksgiving to now, that was Xmas for us.

Peoples' *PRESENCE* is way better than presents. In fact, in discussing the holidays last night, we realized that we haven't bought or made a single** gift for Xmas. We have made a lot of GratitudeProject gifts, yes, but there were no Xmas gifts. No more stuff that is bought just for the sake of stuff.

Welcome 2010.

(** I did sort of buy one gift for Elizabeth. While in Los Angeles, we came across an awesome store called Zinnia and I had them send a mystery box of stuff they sell for crafting, but that was more something to treat us both to a surprise rather than a specific holiday gift.**)

Monday, December 21, 2009

Happy Holidays!

We have been making art every Sunday this month. It started with a couple of cool chicks from CTm Weese and MAW. Then it was at our house with GFI who was visiting from CA. Yesterday, it was with GFD who was visiting from IL. I made this xmas card yesterday for my mom and Aunt Patty and thought I would share it here before sending it out.

I recently came across artist Teesha Moore . More precisely, I came across a list of you tube tutorials she has done for making a 16 page journal out of one sheet of 22 X 30 watercolor paper. I like the idea and have most of what I need to get it going, but I have been making a few pieces in that style as a sort of warm up. The card above is one of them. The image below is another.

First Kiss was a lot of fun to make and I did it on Make Art on Sunday with GFIrene. We had a lot of fun cutting and pasting that day. I first found the peaches and knew they would be eyes, and then I started to envision the owl, and then I found the fish. All of a sudden they were kissing and the collage took off.

missing from this image is the border which is just strips of magazine ads. I used some pastel pots to lay in color for the background and then began embellishing with markers. The process was a lot of fun. and I thinak Teesha Moore for taking the time to make the videos explaining the process. I think the only thing I need to get started with making the 16 page book is the waxed thread for binding the book. I think I might be able to pick that up in the next few days, but the process can get started before then. I am going to set the pages and maybe paint backgrounds tonight. Maybe. I haven't knit in the past few days, so I might do that instead. Or too.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Tomorrow might be summer again, but today, it's definitely fall...

I have to make it official. I just increased the acceptable distance to travel from the office to pick up lunch to eight and a half miles. This is to include Spring Creek Barbeque in the offerings of places I can run out to when our efforts to be more frugal and healthful in our eating wane ever so slightly.

My knitting guild meets at SCB on the last Monday of the month and this is how I learned of the place. Sure, I have driven by it often enough, but bbq places can be a dime a dozen 'round these parts and I already have a favorite (that would be Goode Co. on I-10) so why bother trying another that I had never heard of?

Well, last month I had the slices beef sandwich which was pretty good, definitely good enough to eat once a month before a guild meeting, but it did nothing to shake the standing of my favorite. Then, last night, I had the chopped beef sandwich. It was nothing short of perfectly delightful. It was so delightful, that when my boss gently urged that she might want me to go pick up some lunch, I complied immediately with the SCB plan.

There potato salad? not so much. There banana pudding? I'll let you know after I have my afternoon snack.

I took the elevator down to the main floor of our building and braced myself for the heat and humidity of mid-day to wash over my 68 degree popsicle extremities. I opened the door and low and behold, it's Fall. Do you hear the glorios splendor that this announcement brings. Fall. In Houston. And it's still September. Heat of mid-day, and it was only a blessed seventy-seven degrees with only 53% humidity. I want an office window that opens! At least until tomorrow when this freakishly Fall weather disappears.

Might be a good night for some chiminea action.

Monday, September 14, 2009


What a lovely birthday weekend. Too late in the week, Elizabeth and I discussed the fact that I should not be working on my birthday (Friday, 9/11 in case you've been under a rock). I say too late because our admin at work had already asked me what I wanted for my birthday dessert and sent out the appropriate email announcement to the rest of the office.

As fate tends to be kind to me, I finished my work on Friday at 1:56, just in time for my office dessert to kick off the birthday weekend, and I consciously finished my work day but did no further work. Happy Birthday to me. For the office dessert gathering, I have a theory. If the admin likes you, she bakes something herself. Truth be told, I think she likes everyone, just some, less so, and they get store bought. Me, she likes. My answer to her query was peach cobbler or pie with vanilla ice cream. She made a peach cobbler in a 13X9 baking pan and I can't even hazard a guess about how much butter she used, but I can safely say it was definitely an all butter crust. There was about a 4 inch square left over and as I walked past her desk to leave on Friday afternoon, she asked, "You didn't like your cobbler?" I just rolled my eyes to acknowledge she was crazy, and she told me I had better go get my leftovers. I threw it in the fridge when I got home knowing I would eat it before the weekend's close.

Elizabeth had asked me what I wanted to do for dinner Friday morning, too early to know for sure, but I had been jonesing for the cornmeal crusted fried shrimp and cheesy bacon grits appetizer from Shade. Regardless of what else I might think I want, Shade is always a good bet. Their menu changes with what's seasonally available, but it is always been fabulous. We should be going there at least once a month. I ordered the shrimp and the trio of soups. The trio changes with the soup chef's mood I think (or at least with what is available) and usually there is one soup I think I want and two that I think, eh, not so much. The waiter rattled off the three soups and they all appealed, so an easy choice. There was a carrot ginger, potato bacon, and a tomato/shrimp/rice. All three were excellent, and the tomato had a bit of zing. The shrimp were also dipped into the carrot ginger. tres yumm all around.

My entree was a scallop and shrimp dish that was in a ginger saffron broth. It included rappini, chorizo, fennel and vermicelli. Oh my. If scallops are on the menu, I am likely to be ordering them. The only scallops I have enjoyed more were from Tupelo Honey in Asheville, NC. I am not likely to be having that any time soon and these certainly make my tummy happy. Elizabeth had a salmon dish that she thinks was just divine and she rarely orders fish, so there you go. If you are in Houston, you need to be visiting Shade.

The waiter came and handed us the dessert menu. We promptly handed it back. Was he insane? We were just too full to even look at the dessert menu.

It was still pretty early so we went on the next leg of the birthday adventure. elizabeth had told me that her plan involved going domewhere and dropping about $300. Now this is pretty vague. She said we could do it at any point during the weekend and since we had planned to go in to work on Saturday, and it was still early enough, we would go do it then and there after dinner. At dinner she looked over at me and said, "Go ahead and guess..." I always do (she mentioned this, too) and it always makes her pout, but I always then tell her how it goes toward our fated compatibility. How to soften the blow...hmm...

"Well," I gingerly offered, "If there is a choice of places ( a small clue she had offered, that it is a specific thing she wants to buy me, but really, I need to pick) then my first guess (deliberately a throw away to ease her pout) is a yarn store." Her smile brightened and she said "No!" We all know that yarn stores are already closed by this time on a Friday night. So my second guess (really my first), was Williams Sonoma (or Pottery Barn, Crate & Barrel). Bring on that cute little pout.

About 5 years ago for xmas, the boss gave me a WS gift card and I used part of it to buy a six inch Wustoff Chef's knife. I had seen an episode on FoodNetwrk where Sara Moulton had gone over different kitchen knives and how some were so much more useful than othere. She particularly waxed poetic about how much more useful she, as a woman, found a six inch chef's knife as opposed to an eight inch or ten inch. Her babble sold me on the idea, and I was woefully lacking in a decent kitchen knife and found mydelf more and more leaning toward cooking fresh at home. I had done a little research and decided that Wustoff Classic was where I should begin. I totally heart that six inch chef'f knife still, and it has just recently become in need of sharpening.

The Wustoff Classic legacy has continued in the form of a bread knife, paring knife and utility knife as well a diamond steel. I have been eyeing the paring and utility knife for some time, but other things bump it down the list. No more. Unless I get worked up over a particular kind of cooking that rrequires a particular knife, I think I am set with just these four. I don't want miscellaneous knives that I just won't use.

shopping is exhausting. At least it serves a purpose. It allows the fabulous dinner to settle enough that you might think that you can consider dessert. We stopped on the way home at Brenner's. When it's your birthday, 2 exits past and u-turning is definitely on the way. I ordered the croissant bread pudding and elizabeth ordered the chocolate mousse cake. We both had only about three bites and had the remaining boxed up. I also had a Praline Freeze cocktail. Tuaca, Frangelica, Cointreau, all blended with vanilla ice ccream. Essentially a Tuaca Milkshake in a martini glass. I could have one of those every night and I might just stock the ingredients on the next visit to Spec's. The bartender also poured a sample of a Black Muscat dessert wine. Too sweet for Elizabeth, but it didn't go to waste.

So here it is, the end of my birthday, and we have three luscious dessert leftovers in the fridge. Oh my.

On Saturday, we went to work from 10-4 and then on to Empire cafe to continue the birthday merriment. I had the salmon salad and some shrimp bisque. Elizabeth had a chicken dish. Very yumm and very filling. I hit the ladies room before we left, and on the way there passed the counter of cakes. Since we stood in line to order, they had put out a new one, the yellow cake with chocolate buttercream. I was too full, but that is my favorite cake there these days, so I got a slice to go. Saturday evening I was knitting away and when it occurred to me it was time for something sweet, what I really wanted was two chocolate cremem oreos. Four awesome desserts in the fridge and I wanted Oreos. I could have played the bday card and asked Elizabeth to go to the store. She would have. But reason and sense converged and I had some cake. I ate a good portion of it and the saved some for later. So, so, good.

Sunday morning and it was time for my peach cobbler. I put all that was left in a shallow pasta bowl and hit the micro. Not only did I heat up the cobbler, but I used a plastic spatula to scrape out all of the pan juices. The peach gravy. Once I ate it all, I set about the tak of licking the bowl clean. Yes it was that good. I put the dish on the counter and thought about putting a post it note on it to confirm it was dirty. I confessed my misdeed to the cook this morning as I passed her desk and thanked her heartily once again for my awesome cobbler.

Phase two of birthday merriment begins on Thursday at 6pm when we load up the car and head to Sedone. We'll be spending a few days amidst our people, the gays. Woohoo for continued bday merriment.

Monday, August 31, 2009

It was a totally dead-pan response

As it's widely known, I have custody of more than a thousand negatives from photos my dad took in the 50s. I heart them a lot and my brain is in a tailspin about things I can do with them to give them a new artistic life.

When we went to visit my mom last November, an additional stack of about a hundred of them had been found. Adding that to the 900 I already had pushed my total near 1,000. On Saturday, I got a small package from my mom who found them when she was cleaning out a cabinet of ammo she had finally gotten rid of.

I originally got custody of the negatives in 2006 when I went home for a visit. When I planned to go, there was some minor upset from my mom because she was going to be visiting my Aunt Patty in NJ so she would miss my visit. I can't remember now why I couldn't change my trip, but I knew my mom would get over it. As it turns out, that was the last visit I was to have with my dad, so I 'm really glad I went then and that we had a nice week together.

The only real drama to come out of it from my mom was when she learned that my dad had given me the negatives. "I was going to do something with them. You need to send them back."

My reply was hasty and came out more abrupt than I intended. "You''ve had those negatives more than 40 years and haven't done anything with them so now it's my turn..." She was really put out with me.

When I was visiting with my dad, I asked him if he wanted to go through the negatives and see if there were any in particular that he would like me to scan first for him to have as prints. He didn't really think about it at all and he responded quite readily, "No, I went through them and removed all the nudes a long time ago."

It wasn't something he seemed to want to discuss further, and though I was curious about "all the nudes" and whether they ever existed or not, I was more sure he was kidding, or that by "removed" he actually meant destroyed.

When I got the new batch from my mom, I learned that "removed" actually meant separated and stashed in the ammo cabinet that no-one ever goes into. As I looked through the new negatives, I saw several for prints my dad has as 8 X 10s that I really like, and just as I was about to forego looking through the rest until I could scan them, there she was, naked on the bed. Who, exactly? Likely no one knows.

There are about a dozen nudes, all of the same woman. Fortunately, there is also a photo of her fully clothed so I can scan that one right away and send it off to mom for possible identification. I am currently considering a matchbox series. Move over Vargas.