Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Get to Work!

I had to go in to work this past Saturday to provide meeting support. This means I had to make coffee and fetch lunch for about 50 people. Fun times. But the overtime is nice. I figured I could amuse myself by taking Ayla to work with me. Here she is in my office:

We went to The Stuffed Inn in Berkeley to pick up sandwiches for the hungry researchers. They make really tasty sandwiches and soups there. Ayla hung out in the good ol' company car and people-watched while we waited:

In the afternoon we took a field trip down the hill to stretch our legs a bit:

Poor Ayla didn't really settle down the entire day in my office. She only barked a few times and she got to meet a few of my coworkers (and did well, too!) but she was in a new place and there were lots of strange sights, sounds, and smells to contend with. We finally got home after 5 that evening and she went straight to bed for the rest of the night! She sure made the day pass faster for me though.

Sunday Chris and I watched movies. We watched the third disk of the last season of The Sopranos (they were really good episodes this time, especially the first on the disk). I don't know how they can tie up all the story lines in the next few episodes, but we've really enjoyed the series and I'm looking forward to the ending. I've been able to shield myself from spoilers thus far, so I don't know what happens. We also watched The Bourne Ultimatum and it was great, as were the first two.

We made pizza at home, though my dough recipe needs some tweaking so I'll have to post it another time. Half of it we topped with bechamel sauce, mozzarella, parmesan, mushrooms, spinach, tomatoes, and basil. The other half we used a tomato sauce in place of the bechamel. If you've never made bechamel you really should try it. Its easy, decadent, and probably terrible for your waistline:

Bechamel Sauce

- 6 cups milk
- 1 cup butter
- 1 cup white flour
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

Heat the milk until very warm but not boiling.
In another pan melt the butter on medium heat; do not let it brown.
Whisk in the flour and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring constantly.
Gradually add the hot milk and continue whisking until the sauce thickens.
Add salt, pepper, and nutmeg to taste.

I made a half batch and we used it on the pizza, on pasta later, with artichokes tonight, and there's still more left. It is really good in a lasagna instead of tomato sauce. It would be good over steamed vegetables too I'm sure. I hope you try it and enjoy!

Here's a picture of Chris and Gretel catching some afternoon sun.

Thursday, December 13, 2007


My Wisp is finally finished! This took me a while, probably 30-45 minutes for each section repeat and there's 17 of them. But I really enjoyed knitting this scarf and am pretty happy with how it turned out since it is my first go at lace. Its made with one skein of Paton's Lacette on size 7 circular needles.

Here's a picture of how it's intended recipient will probably wear it (I hope she likes it!). By the by, its rather difficult to take a picture of yourself!

Here's Miss Ayla modeling it as a shawl, being demure:

And Ayla again, tied scarf-style, begging for a treat:

I loved this project - watching it grow as I knit, seeing it open up when I blocked it. I'll have to make one for myself someday, but I've promised Christopher a blanket and I have so many other things to try, I don't know if I can bring myself to do the same thing twice right now. When I'm faster, perhaps...

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

What Says Holiday Cheer Like Tequila?

Last weekend was rather quiet. Ayla and I did our hike Saturday morning. My neighbor Dawn couldn't go, but we took her dog, Ayla's best bud Christie, along with us. The girls had a blast running in the mud, checking out the cow pies (don't accept kisses from Ayla), and hanging out with the other dogs.

Then on Sunday I decorated the condo for Christmas. We don't have much: a 2' fiber optic tree, stockings, a few ornaments here and there. I do have my lights on the patio though, a string of icicle lights, a string of gold on the top of the railing, and a string of white bulbs on the lower part of the railing. Its bright out there! I love Christmas lights though; Ayla and I take walks at night to look at the neighborhood houses and I'm hoping this weekend we'll drive around with cups of cocoa to enjoy the sights.

Tomorrow at work we're having a farewell party/potluck for a coworker who is leaving us for greener pastures. In her honor I made a Margarita Cheesecake (this, of course, is where the tequila comes in).

The picture isn't great and the top browned much more than I'd like, but I've made this recipe before and know it will turn out tasty. The recipe is from Martha Stewart's Everyday Food:

For the Crust:
4 ounces salted pretzels
1/3 cup sugar
4 tablespoons butter, melted

For the Filling:
3 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese
1 cup sour cream
3/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons Grand Marnier or Triple Sec (I used Triple Sec)
1 tablespoon tequila
1 tablespoon grated lime zest
4 large eggs

1. Make crust: Preheat oven to 375 degrees with rack in center. Butter a 9 1/2 inch springform pan; set aside. In a food processor, pulse pretzels to fine crumbs. Add sugar and butter; process until combined.

2. Press evenly into bottom and slightly up sides (about 1 inch) of pan. Place on baking sheet. Bake until light golden brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Set aside to cool.

3. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees. Prepare filling: With an electric mixer, beat cream cheese until light and fluffy, scraping down sides of bowl as needed, about 1 minute (use a really big bowl or you'll get cream cheese everywhere, like I did). Mix in sour cream, sugar, Grand Marnier/Triple Sec, tequila, and lime zest; beat until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, beating to combine after each addition.

4. Pour into cooled crust (filling will come up higher than crust). Line outside of pan with aluminum foil (to prevent water from seeping in). Place in a roasting pan. Pour hot water to come halfway up sides of springform pan. Bake until set and slightly firm to the touch, about 1 hour. Remove from water bath, and let cool on a wire rack; refrigerate until chilled, about 4 hours. Run a hot knife around edge of pan to release.

I haven't taken mine out of my springform pan yet, I'll do that right before its served tomorrow so transporting it is easier. And I wanted to pipe a ring of some type of lime jelly close to the outside of the cake, and then a ring of whipped cream outside that. I think that would be a nice presentation, but I don't have a piping bag or tips, I don't think my whipped cream would hold overnight and I don't really want to whip it at work, and I don't want to use canned whipped cream. I suppose I just didn't plan this well enough this time around - next time though!

And since its Wednesday, it must be Business Time:

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Hiking and Holidays

Yipee!!! We're going hiking!!!

Ayla and I went hiking with the Saturday morning group. Here she is at the top of the Elderberry Trail in Las Trampas Regional Wilderness. This is overlooking Castro Valley and you can see the bay in the background.

Hiking is thirsty work. Here's Ayla and her buds Christie and Coby getting a drink at one of the watering troughs. There are cattle grazing through the area and the water for them makes for convenient dog watering too. Ayla didn't have to put her front paws up like these two, she could just stick her head over the side since she's so tall. Looks like she'd rather drink the mud here though.

Speaking of cattle, here's Ayla wondering what she should do here. This cow and the others on the other side of the road had calves with them, so they were a bit grumpy and mooed a lot.

Finally back in the car after four or five miles of hiking, with Christie. Look, they're holding paws! :)

It was a great hike and Ayla (who is eviscerating her stuffed goose toy as I type) was good and tired after, which was a great thing because Chris and I were going out that night - gasp! :) Chris' work sponsored a holiday party on the San Francisco Belle, so we got dressed up and hopped on the bus with many of his coworkers in Pleasanton. The ride over the Bay Bridge was neat - we were up so high in the bus and could see so much more than I'm used to when I drive over the bridge. It dropped us off at Pier 2 in SF and we boarded the boat. It was decorated for the holidays and there were appetizers and a jazz quartet.

Before the boat launched, Chris looked over at me with a gleam in his eye and said, "You know, we could get off the boat and go have a nice dinner and see a show or something instead." I took a look around and realized that while the party was nice, I only knew a few people there, and the appetizers weren't promising for a vegetarian (unless I wanted to eat just cheese cubes, carrot sticks, and goodness-knows what had been dipped in the chocolate fountain). The music was good but it was loud and enclosed in the room, and I have an awful time focusing and holding up my end of a conversation in that type of situation. So off we went! Funny, we felt at first like we were breaking the rules or getting in trouble, but then realized we're adults, we can do what we want! How silly is that?

We found a bus stop and looked at a map, wanting to get to Union Square. It looked to be about a mile away so we set off on foot. On the way we got to look at a lot of holiday decorations, and though it was cool we had coats and gloves so we were happy. We made our way to Union Square and walked around a bit looking at all the holiday cheer (kittens in the Macy's window display!), looked at a ticket office but didn't see any shows nearby that we were interested in, then happened upon the Daily Grill, a restaurant my great-uncle and -aunt Loren and Lynn took the family to for my college graduation 5 years ago. We had a wonderful dinner: I had grilled vegetables, risotto, and a glass of Shiraz. There was so much food it looked like I had hardly touched my plate, but I was stuffed! Chris couldn't pass up the 28-day aged porterhouse with fries, though he usually doesn't eat meat either, and a spiced rum and coke. He said the steak was one of the best he's ever had, and this is a man who loves steak.

Then we walked down to the big mall and rode the many curving escalators, something we did together on that National Honor Society trip 11 years ago when we first fell in love. We went to the Nordstrom's Cafe for coffee and dessert (creme brulee and a sorbet & gelato trio) and looked out over the city and its hustle and bustle. After that we caught an easy BART ride back to Pleasanton, walked a short half-mile or so back to Chris' work, got in the car and drove home.

It was such a wonderful day and we had such a good time. I'm pretty much hobbled today since I walked too many miles in the city in 3-inch heels, but it was very much worth it. I'm sure the boat would have been nice, but I'm glad we decided to do our own thing instead. Here's to my husband and his spontaneity! What a wonderful gift it was!

Monday, November 26, 2007

A Productive Holiday

The Thanksgiving holiday felt like it lasted for ages! My awesome supervisor sent me home on Wednesday before noon so I got a few last minute things for our Thanksgiving dinner at Whole Foods Market. I really wanted to up the kitsch factor with a Tofurkey, despite hearing that it tastes like cardboard, but all they had was the entire "bird" which feeds 10 people, or a small feast with sides I didn't want. Oh well, another time.

Thursday morning (after we had pumpkin pie and coffee for breakfast) I took all of our stuff and the old closet system out of our closet. Then I patched holes and painted. After lunch Chris put in the new organizing system and it is great! We have storage up the wazoo now! In the process of putting our belongings away again we culled out what we no longer needed or wanted. We've always been more on the minimalist side, what with our yearly apartment moves for so long, but we always find something else that can go. Here's some crappy pictures of the new closet system (not much light in the bedroom and its dark so opening the blinds won't help).

This is the left side. I still need to fix the TV cables to the wall and make it all neat. Its really nice having the TV in the closet so it can be closed away, yet I can watch Food TV while I work out on the Bowflex that's opposite. And there's nothing wrong with watching cooking shows while exercising. Right? I hope?

Here's the center section where we've installed two hanging rods. Like I said, we're somewhat minimalist so we don't need a lot of room for the both of us. Notice the guest appearance by Ayla in front of the closet and Gretel on the bed, in the kitty bed I knitted and felted for her.Finally, the right side, which doubles as document and book storage, as well as my jewelry box in the hutch. You can also see the above-mentioned Bowflex in the reflection on the left. The bedroom may not be the most normal place to put it, but when you have only 700 sq. ft. to work with you do what you can. I think in the bedroom is a little better than in the living room for the few occasions when we have guests.

I'm very happy with it all. It was a bit of work to get it all done but nothing too difficult. On to the dinner!

I didn't take any pictures. :( But it was very tasty and cooked up in about 40 minutes, thanks to not having meat to cook. I made my own take on the classic green bean casserole with sauteed onions and sliced portabello mushrooms. We had organic jellied cranberry sauce from Whole Foods (Chris insists its not really cranberry sauce unless it has the rings from the can around it). I made mashed potatoes and mushroom gravy. Chris made a salad. And the centerpiece were two little vegetarian "turkey" breasts with cranberry stuffing inside, which were surprisingly tasty.

Friday I faced the shoppers at the mall. I was feeling good and relaxed and wasn't insane enough to go at 4:00 am or whenever they really opened. But I did finish up the Christmas shopping and enjoyed myself. I can't remember what I did that afternoon though, so maybe it was more traumatic than I realized.

Early Saturday morning I went hiking with my neighbor Dawn and her dog Christy, one of Ayla's best buds here. She goes with a group of ladies (and the occasional gentleman) and their dogs every Saturday. I was a little concerned that Ayla would be too shy, but she did great. We humans hiked about 4 miles, but the dogs did much more than that and Ayla kept right up! Looks like I have a new weekend activity since this group goes rain or shine. It'll be great practice for the backpacking I hope to do next summer, and good exercise for the both of us. Here's Ayla and Christy on our way home (I'll take hiking pictures next week):
After the hike Chris and I rented a Rug Doctor from our grocery store and cleaned our carpets. We have a little spot cleaner but the entire carpets needed to be done. That would take forever with the Little Green Machine and Chris would have to do it all since I'm not strong enough to provide the pressure needed to suction all the water back out of the rugs. The rug doctor was easy and much quicker, and the carpets look great now. I returned the machine a couple hours after we rented it and the lady incredulously asked, "Done so soon?" Sometimes I'm happy to live in a small place - it cleans up much quicker. :)

Sunday we rested. Ayla and I took a jaunt to the pet store to look for a new bed for her, but didn't find anything we liked. She got lots of attention and cookies though! I spent the rest of the day mostly reading and knitting (and doing laundry) while Chris gamed. It was very nice and a great end to a great holiday.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Here we go again!

The home improvement machine is starting up again. Yesterday we spec'd out closet organization systems at Home Depot for our bedroom closet. I spent the evening drawing and using online tools to lay out the system we'll put in. Then today we went back to Home Depot and bought almost all of the components; they didn't have enough drawers in stock but we can always add those later.

Ayla says, "Again? Really?" She doesn't care for it much when we do home improvement.
So in the next few days we'll remove the 3 huge mirrored doors and take everything out of the closet, including the old wire storage system that came with the place. Then I'll remove the baseboards, spackle all holes and divits, paint the interior to match our walls, and vacuum and clean the carpet on the floor. Then its putting together the new organizer, which is usually Chris' forte, and installing. There will probably be a few trips back to Home Depot for parts that come out of the box damaged (Chris already found one drawer that looks like a candidate) and for stuff we forgot to buy. Luckily the HD is only 5 miles or so down the road.

Its been a nice weekend otherwise. Ayla and I went for a run yesterday. She kept stopping short, which really interferes with trying to exercise, so I finally unclipped her leash and said bye-bye while I ran away. After that she trotted along right at my left heel the entire time - awesome! So as long as we're not on a main road running should be a lot more enjoyable for us now.

Other than that I've been reading. Right now I'm addicted to Phillipa Gregory and her chronicling of the English Tudors and the women in King Henry VIII's life. I've read The Other Boleyn Girl (soon to be a major motion picture!), The Boleyn Inheritance, and The Constant Princess in the past few weeks. I tend to latch onto an author and read most of his/her books before moving on to another author. I've got another half dozen or so of Gregory's books to read, then I've got to find a new obsession.

I watched De-Lovely, Irwin's biographical movie about Cole Porter with Kevin Kline and Ashley Judd. It was simply wonderful. If you're looking for a musical about one of the Jazz Era's greatest composers I definitely recommend it. It made me cry, but I'm sappy like that. There are surprising guest appearances for some of the numbers that were great. The way Irwin framed the story was very imaginative. Delightful.

I also made some more progress on the scarf I'm knitting (Knitty's Wisp, for those who might want to know). This is going to be a Christmas gift. I can't wait to get it finished and blocked so that the lace pattern opens up. I'm about 2/3s done here:
I suppose that's all for now. For anyone traveling over the holiday, stay safe! And you're welcome to come join us for a Tofurkey on Thursday. I figure that for our first Thanksgiving as vegetarians we should go all out. :)

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

*Cue Drooling a la Homer Simpson*

I had a nice long weekend. I had completely forgotten than Monday was a holiday since Chris' work does not give them the day off. What a pleasant surprise, and thank you Veterans!

I spent the weekend cooking and shopping. Let's talk about the cooking. On Saturday I made a dinner of little foods, using recipes I got from Dr. Stonielove (a cooking blog I read) though I tweaked them a bit:

- Black Bean Sliders -
I halved the recipe since there's only two of us; I used regular cheese; I didn't use caramelized onions because I had a lot of other foods to prepare and didn't want to spend the time; and I topped them with the usual burger accoutrement (lettuce, sliced cherry tomatoes to keep things little, ketchup and mustard). These were great!

- Mini Spring Rolls -
The only thing I changed here was using ready-made sweet & sour sauce since I have little packets in a drawer, but that still fit in with my little foods theme! These were really tasty.

- Taco Bites -
I only made about ten total and cut down the recipe as needed. I also omitted the rice and added some textured soy protein instead. Then I topped them with diced tomato and some cilantro. The soyrizo was really good in this recipe.

- Mini Corndogs -
I didn't make these, but Morningstar Farms did! I've seen these little corn"dog" poppers in the store and have wanted to try them since I used to love corn dogs, and they didn't disappoint!

I had also bought a little lemon meringue pie (serves two). I used to make a really good lemon meringue, but after three or four of them I just can't do it anymore. They turn out with an odd flavor and I can't figure out why. So instead I'll drop a couple bucks on a little pie that's probably better for us since we don't have a whole pie beckoning us from the fridge. I consider my little foods night a great success.

Sunday night I made two pizzas. I usually make my own pizza dough but since I was going to Trader Joe's anyway I picked up a bag of their whole wheat dough and a bag of their garlic and herb dough. I made a Bechamel sauce and put that on the garlic/herb crust with sliced mushrooms, frozen chopped spinach, sliced onion, sliced garlic, and a shredded Italian cheese blend. On half the wheat dough I put pesto, sliced marinated mozarella, sliced tomatoes and garlic, and more of the Italian cheese. On the other half I put some leftover homemade veggie-laden tomato sauce and a ton of shredded cheese with cheddar. These pizzas were a hit and we've been having them for lunch since! I really liked having the different types all at one time. And its pizza, how could we go wrong?

Unfortunately I didn't take any pictures. Too busy eating. :)

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

On the road again...

We spent a long weekend on the road this past weekend. Friday morning Ayla and I headed up to my parents' place in Nevada. We didn't do too much that day - went to the market, helped Dad haul numerous 60lb. bags of sand from the truck to the back yard for their new marijuana-factory greenhouse, and just chatted. Mom and Dad grilled veggie burgers and Mom made some awesome fries for dinner. Chris arrived later that evening since he couldn't leave until after work.

Saturday Chris left for Greg's place in Mammoth. Mom, Dad, and I headed in to Carson City to do some running around. I got more yarn and a needle roll at Michaels (yippee!) and Dad came this close to adopting a 7-year-old Lab/Dalmation mix from an adoption event outside Petsmart. He was such a sweet old man and had it not been for Phantom's old age (he turned 14 on Halloween!) and their cat Precious' asthma which seems to be particularly bad with stress, and the fact that they couldn't tell us if sweet old Casey was good with cats, the Larson's might have had an addition to their family/zoo. Heartbreaking indeed, but it turns out Casey was adopted the following day to a family with multiple cats. Here's hoping to a loving home for him!

Then we stopped by Lowes where Clay works and I gave him a big hug in front of his coworkers, thoroughly embarrassing him. :) Later that evening Clay joined us for dinner at Indian Garden. They had tons of vegetarian options (yippee again!) and I got to introduce them to the mouth-gasm that is Ras Malai - fried cheese balls soaked in sweetened condensed milk and flavored with cardamom. I've had it served cold, but these were hot and oh so tasty... excuse me, I'm drooling on my keyboard...

Chris went all over Crowley and Mammoth with his brother. He got to drive his little Toyota up around Rock Creek, which he's wanted to do since before he even got the car. Greg showed him his mad archery skillz and they BBQ'd at Greg's spacious place that night. Now that we know Greg has plenty of room for all of us (twice the size at least of our condo! not fair!) we'll all head up to Mammoth next summer! Chris really enjoyed spending time with his brother - its really a shame that we're all so far apart.

Sunday Chris watched and Greg caddied while their dad played in the Bishop Country Club Championship. He unfortunately did not win, but I hear he had a good time and its great that his sons were able to be there. Meanwhile, Mom and I went to the newer mall in Reno and did some shopping. We had a great time checking out the stores (I bought Mom lip gloss at Victoria's Secret, she has sexy lips!) and had a nice light lunch of Chai lattes and a fruit and cheese plate at Starbucks. We drove back home through Virginia City, which is a cute, tiny little town with a lot of history. Maybe next time I visit we can go up and poke around more.

Eli arrived shortly after Mom and I got back. The Larson's place is a convenient stopping point whether he's flying in to Reno to visit his family in Bishop or driving through from Kansas, as he did this time. Welcome home Eli! We're glad you made it safe and sound! Chris also got back from Bishop that evening and Mom and Dad made a big spaghetti dinner for everyone.

The next day Chris and I leisurely headed for home back in San Ramon. It was a really nice trip, as always. Thanks again for hosting us and the random friends and family that tend to show up with us, Mom and Dad! Love you guys!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Just a Little Something...

Everything has been pretty uneventful lately. Just the usual go to work, play with the animals, relax at home, and start all over again.

I have to share this cute little clip - If you have a cat, its probably very familiar:

Friday, October 5, 2007


I really enjoy my Fridays. I get off from work a little early and usually grab Ayla to go have fun somewhere. Most of this past summer we went to Shadow Cliffs, part of the East Bay Regional Parks system. The main lake has a swimming beach, fishing docks, boat rentals, grassy picnic grounds, and probably a ton of other stuff. But I haven't really been there, because if you go over the hill on the other side of the parking lot there's a bunch of little lakes and dogs are allowed to be off-leash. That's such a rarity, the grail search of dog owners out here, a place where your dog can run unfettered by nylon or leather leads.

So today we headed out to Shadow Cliffs for what will probably be one of the last trips till next season. Ayla loves going here. She really likes swimming, or her approximation of it. She often makes friends with the other dogs we see and I've met some interesting and mostly nice people. They're not always nice though.

A couple of weeks ago we went, and there's one beach area that Ayla can use to get in the water. All the other areas have drop offs and she's a bit wonky and can't handle them. So we're playing fetch in the water, she's splashing about and having fun, when two fishermen come up behind us. One sets his tackle on a table a ways back while the other continues on. I nod my hello and continue playing with my dog. A few minutes later the remaining fisherman comes up behind us, rod in line. In disbelief, I ask is he's planning on fishing here, to which he responds, "Yes, its the only clear space [its not the only one, he didn't want to walk farther]." I say, "Yes I know its a clear space and the only one where my disabled dog can get in the water." "Hmmph," he says, readying his cast. "Well, I guess we'll leave," I say. "Oh you don't have to," he responds. "But I don't want my dog getting hooked on your line," I say. "Hmmph." "We have to go now, Ayla," I say and lead her away while she's looking behind her.

What? Why would a fisherman want to fish where a dog has been swimming? There's not going to be any fish there! And why would someone push their way in where someone else already is? What happened to first-come first-served? I was just flabbergasted and left, though I wish now I had said something and stood my ground. Anyway, we walked a loop around and came back, by which time he had left, and resumed playing in the water.

That rant aside, it really is a wonderful place. Here's a little slideshow of pictures I took today:

Its been a nice relaxing day and a good start to the weekend. After Shadow Cliffs we came home and rested, then I did some grocery shopping. For dinner I made Giada De Laurentiis' Veggie Meatloaf with Checca Sauce, which I watched her make last weekend and have wanted to do since. It was tasty but turned out more like a casserole. I think there's probably twice as much rice and lentils in the recipe than there needs to be. Two measly eggs and some mozarella isn't enough to bind it all together, like Giada's was on the show. Chris liked it and the checca sauce, so I'll play around with the recipe and get it to work right. Oh, and don't serve it with mashed potatoes. Can you say carb overload?

Monday, October 1, 2007

Fine weekend... fine wine

Stef and I went to Napa this past Saturday for a beautiful day of wine tasting and catching up. We took a random road off of Highway 29 to get over to the Silverado Trail and away from the overly crowded wineries along the main route. Luckily it presented a very nice photo opportunity:

We started off at Mumm Napa Valley. Their tasting experience is a lot different than I've seen before. We saw a lot of people sitting at tables and thought it was a cafe, but realized no one had food. You actually sit on a nice patio at tables with umbrellas and they bring the tasting to you. Nice! Stef tried their Pinot Trio and I had their Signature Sparklers. They give you a lot of wine too:I really liked the Cuvee M and came home with a bottle. It was my favorite wine of the trip!

We headed to ZD next, just down the road from Mumm. This is one of Stef's favorite wineries, and where I took the grapevine picture at the top. There is a grapevine arbor on the path to the tasting room, ending with a fountain. The tasting room was very pretty too, with two big chandeliers that remind me of Mom Schafer. The wines were nice too, though I don't remember which we tasted (I meant to take pictures of the tasting menus, but only got Mumm's - oops!). Here's the two of us under the arbor:Then we went to lunch at the Silverado Resort, where Stef holds her big work function each year. The food was very good - we both had the onion soup, I had a vegetarian wrap (made with spring roll wrapper, yum!) and Stef had the French Dip. The service was incredible too. As soon as we appeared to have our minds made up on our orders the waiter appeared. As soon as I put my soup to the side it disappeared (I didn't even see them do it!). Good service always impresses me at a restaurant. The resort was very nice too - casually elegant without being pretentious.

After that we were ready for more wine. We headed to Darioush, with its building modeled after a Persian royal palace. The building definitely stands out along the Trail, and inevitably draws more crowds as there were many people in the tasting room. The wines were fine, though I wasn't trilled with them (but I don't really know anything about wine - I usually buy pretty labels).The last stop of our trip was Clos Du Val, another of Stef's favorites. I liked the label. :) We called Liz outside of the tasting room to tease her that we were drinking wine and she can't, because we're mean like that. But we really wish you were there Liz!

We drove back to San Ramon and played with Ayla a little. Then we went out to dinner in downtown Pleasanton at Pasta's Trattoria where we sat on the patio since the evening was so nice. There was a breast cancer benefit walk going on, so streams of people wearing bras decorated with lights and everything else streamed by, reminding us to get mammograms and protect our ta-tas by megaphone - it was interesting. The dinner was quite enjoyable nonetheless.

It was such a wonderful and decadent day, I had to recuperate on Sunday! Chris and I took Ayla to the local park to play some fetch. Then we just hung out at home and relaxed. I hope your weekend was at least half as good as mine!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007


I haven't written in ages! Time to rectify that! I'm not going to try to remember everything that happened between July and now - I'll just tell the stories as they come to me...

First of all, big congrats to Lizzy-poo and thanks for giving me an excuse to knit baby stuff!

I also have to brag a little bit about how great of a wife I am. :) Chris got his 30th birthday present a little early (August instead of February, but whatever!)

I bought my husband a convertible! Its an '03 Toyota MR2 and the little thing is a totally fun to drive, when I can wrestle the keys out of his hands. It also means he likes driving more and I get to be a passenger, since I used to do most/all of the driving. Now I get to sit back and enjoy the scenery. We actually piled the three of us in there and went for a drive, but Ayla didn't like sitting partly on the floorboard and partly on my lap too much. I can't say that I did either, but its tolerable. We can do short little trips to the park and such, but my Jetta remains the doggy-mobile. I'm not sure if we'll ever take it on a trip since we couldn't take Ayla and there's no storage to speak of, just a little bin behind the seats suitable for a tiny overnight bag (engine is in the back, spare tire under the hood), but its great to do little errands in and for commuting to work.

Its been a good summer, though quick. We spent a lot of time in one of our favorite places, our patio. Here's a little photo story courtesy of Ayla I'll call "How not to sleep on a dog bed"

This looks like it might be comfy...

Wait, I'm not doing it right...

Yeah, definitely not right...
What, you're gonna laugh at me? Buy me a bigger bed!
That's all for now. I'll do my best to keep this current. Toodles!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Playing Catch-Up

I hope everyone had a great 4th of July. I had all of last week off!

Sunday, June 30, Chris' dad came to visit us. We grilled steaks, showed Don around our home town, and chatted. Monday morning the boys had a 9:00 tee time at The Bridges Golf Club, which is pretty much right behind our condo. Both said it was probably the most difficult course they've played, but very beautiful. When they got home I grilled some pizzas, we went swimming and rested up, then went to dinner and saw Live Free or Die Hard. I thought it was a great action flick.

Then Tuesday morning the boys had another tee time at the golf course in front of our condo. We're surrounded by golf! The course was easier, and still beautiful. More swimming after, resting, grilling, then we played mini-golf. I think the guys were worried when my first shot was a hole-in-one. I didn't win, but I hung in there with them and had a blast.

On the 4th Don went golfing at our local municipal course; Chris was wiped out from the previous golfing since he doesn't actually get out on the course very often. We had a nice time resting at home and getting ready for the show. We grilled hot dogs and hamburgers, with my macaroni salad and baked beans on the side. We watched the broadcast of Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Competition (Kobayashi has fallen!). Then we watched the fireworks show right from our patio. It was a good show, and Ayla just watched, not scared at all like I thought she would be.

Thursday morning we drove up to my parents' place in Nevada. For the first time Chris and I took the Pioneer Trail route around South Lake Tahoe, and what a difference! I really dislike going through the town, and this bypasses almost all of it. My life has been changed!

My dad, brother, and Eli (on leave from Iraq) were golfing at an Arnold Palmer course in Dayton. They got home and we got to catch up with Eli, hear about his experiences, and enjoy ourselves. We had a lasagne for dinner that I had made and brought from home, then went to see Transformers which was a lot of fun. Then we dropped Don and Clay off at home and headed up to Reno to hit some tables. See, we had to stay up all night since Eli had to be at the airport at 4:00am, so why sleep? We lost at El Dorado to a dirty blackjack dealer (he was a perv!), took Eli to the airport for his 3-day journey back to Iraq, and finally got back to my parents' house at 5:30am.

After a few hours of sleep I got up and hung out with my folks. Don had already headed home by then. We were too tired to do any more driving, so we stayed in Dayton that day. We all had fun playing in the pool during a lightning storm (hello, I'd like to be fried now!), napped throughout the day, and relaxed. It was really nice. Chris and I headed home around noon on Saturday and spent the rest of that day and Sunday repairing from so much fun on our vacation.

So, now we're back at work and I'm playing catch up with all the emails in my inbox. The weather's been cool the past few days, but the weekend should warm up again. I'm looking forward to some time at home over the weekend. The laundry sure is piling up! :)

Friday, June 22, 2007


This is the entry gate to our complex. Someone ran into it, at a good clip apparently, from the inside. Why were they trying to go out the in-gate? Why were they going so fast? How big will the assessment be from the HOA to have it replaced? I guess only the last question will be answered for certain, and I'm not looking forward to ponying up the money for it. Maybe the responsible party will have to pay.

Recently, we've had 6 cars get broken into in our parking lot. Gate openers were stolen (guess that's moot now!), as well as radios and personal items. I hear someone's car might have been stolen. Four or five months ago someone was stabbed in the lot too, though neither the stabber nor the stabbee were residents. I have no idea what's going on here. This is a yuppie, wealthy town.

I don't feel unsafe though, especially with my big, scary, afraid-of-her-own-shadow-but-you-wouldn't-know-it doberman. She may be a big chicken, but she's got a great bark!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Reinventing the Wheel

That has been the theme for a while now.

First off, we've been working on little things around the house. As usual, we rarely have the right tools and/or knowledge, but we figure out a way to get it done. Last weekend we did some finishing in the kitchen. The backsplash on our new counters aren't as high as the old counters, which left a smooth patch on the textured wall. I had to figure out how to fix that. I ended up filling in crevices with spackle, sanding it all smooth, and using texture-in-a-can from Home Depot. The result is pretty close to the rest of the wall, so I went ahead and painted. I think it looks good; if I ever find out more information I might do it over. I also had to do this process in the bathroom where we removed the counter that extended over the toilet.

We've also been working on the moldings around doors and the baseboards. This is just a tedious process of spackling and sanding to get a perfect finish. Getting closer!

I've been knitting a summer top, my first garment. The hitch is that I'm left handed and knit left handedly, while patterns are written for righties. I have to do it all backwards, essentially. That means flipping my increases/decreases so they slant in the correct direction so far. And my yarn-overs need to be yarn-unders I've discovered. I'm working on the back piece now and I am a very slow knitter, so after I finish what seems like acres of stockinette and do the armhole shaping, then redo the work I've done for the front piece, I'll have to figure out how to reverse all the lace sections. Should be interesting!

Monday, June 11, 2007

Nothing like fresh BBQ pizza!

These were seriously easy and quick to make. Mix 1-1/4 cups flour, a packet of yeast, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a bowl. Gradually stir in 1/2 cup warm water until a soft dough forms. Form into 4 balls, spray with cooking spray, and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise for 45 minutes. Then heat your grill to high, roll out the balls between wax paper to about 4-inch circles. Gently lay them on the grill and then flip after 30 seconds (they'll puff up a little). Top with your desired toppings, close cover, and let cook for about 5 minutes until done.

I love it. I can have pizza all summer and not heat the entire condo up with my oven. The rise time for the dough is about the same as my traditional pizza dough, but the cook time is much faster. And cooking outdoors is wonderful. Oh, and you can see that since I'm grilling again I've successfully gotten my propane tank refilled. Wohoo!

We had a nice weekend. I took Ayla swimming twice. She seemed excited to be splashing around in the water with the other dogs, and excited to be out of the house and having fun again. Here she is post-swimming yesterday. Am I the only crazy person out there that covers my dog with her own blanket while she sleeps?
Otherwise it was a very restful weekend. I enjoyed the nice weather on the patio; got some knitting done and then had to rip it all out since I messed up and my attempts at a fix only made it worse, then started over; made good food, and generally took it easy.

Here's Gretel in a normal sleep position. You can kinda see her naked belly. It hasn't changed since the vet visit. Oh well, I'll continue keeping my eye on her.

Ayla and I are going for a jog today after work. The biggest thing I'll need to do the rest of the evening is decide what to make for dinner. I guess it could be worse! :)

Thursday, June 7, 2007


An actual email I found in my inbox this morning, sent to everyone at the lab:

Ummm.... Someone misplaced a pair of blue underpants in the SW Addition stairwell. Have them in my office (140A) if you need them back.

And a response received this afternoon:

I have thought of two possible responses to your email. You can select the one you like best.
RESPONSE 1 Yeah they are mine but I don't need them any more.
RESPONSE 2 Do you want to change offices with me.

I'm... speechless.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Sleep? Yes, please!

So Friday night was a tough one. Ayla didn't do well with the anesthesia. She slept the entire evening after I brought her home from the vet. Chris and I woke her up to get water in her and some food. That was a mistake. When we tried to go to bed that night Ayla couldn't settle down. She'd lie down and immediately get up again, trot into the living room, come back, rinse and repeat. Then she started whimpering the entire time. I took her out 4 times that night since she wasn't feeling well and I spent the rest of the night sitting up with her and trying to figure out what to do for her. Finally around 8 or 9 the next morning she threw up everything she had eaten and was able to settle down. Poor thing. And yuck.

Saturday happened to be our anniversary too. What a great way to start it! We've been married 3 years now, and together for 11 years. Wow, where does the time go?

When we got married on Maui the night we left we ate at Mama's Fish House (http://www.mamasfishhouse.com/). That is the best meal I've ever had, definitely worth the higher price tag. Seriously, if you are ever on Maui you absolutely must have dinner there. Since we couldn't be back on Maui for our anniversary (maybe next year?) I thought it would be fun to have a nice dinner out at a local fancy Hawaiian place. But with Ayla's surgery, we opted to stay home and BBQ instead. Our grill has probably been one of the best investments we made. We use the heck out of it, and the propane tank just yesterday ran out, after probably a year! I've got to go get it refilled soon. I might go into BBQ withdrawls.

It was an otherwise uneventful weekend. We grilled, we ate, we played with our gimpy dog, and we rented the first couple DVDs of "Rome" which we are now hooked on. HBO does a good job with its dramas. I love Sopranos and can't wait till the current season is out on DVD; Deadwood is another really good one, the second season comes out this weekend I think; now I'm into Rome. I just wish I could add HBO to our current cable TV without having to upgrade to some expensive package. I suppose I'm practicing patience... I hear its a virtue. :)

Friday, June 1, 2007

What a start to the weekend!

Poor Ayla! I took her to a grassy dog park after work today and play. She was doing very well with the other dogs, playing fetch, trotting around, etc. All of a sudden she cried out and wouldn't come to me. She was holding up her paw and I realized her dewclaw was perpendicular to her leg! It was bleeding like crazy too, and other dogs were swarming around Ayla, a nice lady asking if she was okay. I got her out of there and went to her vet.

She was panting and starting to drool from pain, and didn't even do her usual wiggle when her old trainer came to say hi. While waiting in the exam room I held her in my lap to keep her still and after a while she started to relax and even nod off. They kept her for a few hours where they put her under light anesthesia and took care of the nail. Now she's home with a bandage, orders to stay calm for a few days, and antibiotics. :(

No swimming or hiking this weekend. Now I have to figure out how to keep an adolescent dog calm once she wakes up from the drugs. I know she'll like the pills though; I wrap them in cream cheese and she goes crazy for them. She licks her lips when you shake the pill bottle or say cheese. :)

I hope your weekend is starting off better than ours!

Monday, May 28, 2007

How I've spent my summer vacation...

... or just my Memorial vacation so far.

Chris and I packed up the car early Saturday morning and headed to visit our friends and help with their kitchen renovations. We got a lot of demo done and a start on the cabinets. I'm sure it will look great when its finished. Ayla had a blast playing with their dog and their 2-year-old son too.

Sunday afternoon we headed back home. Driving through Gilroy, the garlic capital, was mouth-watering. I guess all the garlic had been heating up in the sun and I could virtually taste the garlic bread in my mouth. Heavenly! Once we got home Gretel gave us a stern talking too for leaving her on her own for 36 hours. Sorry kitty, it won't happen again! She was appeased with food, per usual.

Today has been chores and relaxing. Chris had to buy a new router for our internet connection. On his way he dropped me off at the local Art & Wine Festival where I wandered around a bit. I saw the requisite tie-dye baby jumpers, jewelry made from antique spoons, and photographs of Mediterranean villas.

We just had a tasty dinner of ribs, grilled marinated portobella mushroom, macaroni salad, and corn on the cob. Its funny, my parents and grandparents are having ribs and corn tonight too. In honor of Liz's cooking ability and Memorial Day, here's my recipe for my special

Jack Daniel's BBQ Sauce:1 c. ktechup
1/4 c. Jack Daniel's whiskey
1/4 c. molasses
1/4 c. apple cider vinegar
1 Tb. lemon juice
1 Tb. Worcestershire sauce
1 Tb. soy sauce
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. dry mustard
1 clove garlic, crushed

Combine all ingredients in a sauce pan and bring to a boil. Simmer for 10 minutes.

I like to add more garlic since we love garlic. And I've been adding Frank's Red Hot Sauce lately after the sauce is finished to up the heat. I love this BBQ sauce. I haven't used store-bought in years. Its great served over beef ribs cooked with a dry rub. I am looking forward to topping this all off with lemon meringue pie later tonight!

Friday, May 25, 2007

Ayla Swimming

This is what Ayla will be doing this afternoon. Have a great Memorial Day!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

I Don't Get It

Warning: talk about restrooms and the items therein follows...

As I've mentioned before, I work in a trailer. In my trailer is a conference room, offices, a common area, and two restrooms. These restrooms are not gender-specified (i.e., no separate "mens'" and "womens'"), despite the fact that there is a urinal and toilet in one and only a toilet in the other.

Why, oh why, would any of the men want to go in the room without the urinal where they have to lift the seat to proceed with business? Its not that I have a problem with seats being left up, but we could all avoid having to touch it in the first place, especially since our janitorial services seem to be few and far between. So why not use the urinal instead? Its not that often that both rooms are in use. Yes, I realize we all wash our hands in the restroom (I hope!), but I still don't want to touch the toilet seat if I don't have to. Please stop making me!

End rant.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Pets, a.k.a. Money Pits

Last weekend was vetting weekend for me and my poor animals. Lately my kitty Gretel has been pulling the fur off of her belly, and started doing the same to her back feet and just below the tip of her tail. She's looking a bit... mangled. I've tried flea meds in case it was fleas or mites, changing her food in case it was an allergy, still working on getting the dog to stop chasing her if its stress. Well, the other morning she was standing in the windowsill above my bed and I saw a big lump hanging from her belly. Vet time!

I took Gretel to the Banfield pet hospital at our local Petsmart and I must say I am quite happy with their service! The tech looked her over and then the vet came in. The consensus: fat. Yup, my little chunker is just overweight and the lump that I feared was a mammary tumor is just fat padding, all the more noticeable since she's made herself nekkid. And the nekkid part? Psychogenic (i.e., we don't know, probably not medical. Here, give your kitty some anxiety pills.).

We left the vet with antibiotics for the little lesions she's caused, amitriptyline for her anxiety, and a prescription to use flea meds again and lose about a pound and a half. The antibiotics are in liquid form and I give them with a dropper by grabbing Gretel's head, shoving it in her mouth, and squeezing while she makes awful "ack ack ack" noises. But I follow that up with a special little blue pill in a salmony-stinky treat that zonks her out for a while. I don't really like that, but I'll use the course and see what happens.

The next day I took Ayla in for her vaccinations. Poor girl had drops put in her nose (kennel cough), blood drawn from the front of her neck (heartworm test), three shots in the side of her neck (giardia, distemper/parvo, and corona virus), and a shot in her rear flank (rabies). Yeah, she's gonna enjoy going back there again. But she got to see her trainer, one of her most favoritest people in the world, and pick out a treat at the store. Spoiled much?

Sigh... the things I do for my pets. And then the cat just yells at me 'cause I don't feed her enough (you're on a diet, fatso) and the dog complains that I'm not giving her my undivided attention at all times. Brats. :)

Wednesday, May 16, 2007


The rest of my cabinets came in last Friday. YIPEEE!!!!

Chris put them together that night, and we installed them on Saturday. And the funny thing is, they called the next morning saying they had one more box for us. Now we had already received everything we were supposed to get, but it turns out it was an extra pack of doors that just so happened to replace one that had some minor cosmetic damage. I have a complete kitchen again! After two months of dealing with the very helpful people at Home Depot (yeah, right), when it was supposed to be two weeks, I am done. If only the mere mention of the words "Home Depot" didn't induce rage in me now...

But, the renovations aren't complete for me:

My work office, while having million-dollar views of the Golden Gate Bridge and Bay Area, is in a trailer behind the main building. When they installed the trailer a decade or so ago, they didn't hook up AC. The poor schlubs who worked there tried to get ventilation (it can get wicked hot in there) by cutting holes in the floors and installing grates. That didn't work so well; no better ventilation and lots of fun critters. A few years later they hooked up AC from the main building and things are better, though the heat only seems to work in the summer and the AC only in the winter. Anywho, we're finally doing a major renovation of the trailer with new paint (my office was smoker-yellow before), new carpet, fixed thermostats, network in the walls rather than falling from the dilapidated ceiling panels, no more holes in the floors, etc. In the meantime I've been working some in another office, an occasional cubicle, a little bit at home... it will be nice to get back in my own office, hopefully next week.

And Chris and I are going to help our good friends (better be good friends for this!) install their new kitchen cabinets next weekend. But they live near the beach, Ayla loves their dog Mischa, and they've got the most adorable 2-year-old son to play with, so it will be a good time. Oh yeah, we'll get to see our friends too, almost forgot. :)

Here's to home improvements!

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Happy Cinco de Mayo!

Ayla and I are visiting my parents in lovely Dayton, NV, this weekend. That means beer and mom's homemade Mexican food! Here's Ayla enjoying some, though she's watching her girlish figure so she opted for the Corona Light. :)

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Renovations and Ranting

Chris and I have been working our tails off doing a lot of home improvement projects. We've done baseboards and door moldings, lots of painting, new vanity, counter, and toilet in the bathroom, and we've been working on the kitchen.

A couple months after we bought our condo at the end of 2005 we took our first pass at the kitchen. It had awful cabinets, we had no money, so we opted to paint them white. It took at least two weeks! And it was incredibly hard to do, much more difficult than you would think painting cabinets could be. But the end result was good enough for our attempt at slapping a bandaid on the whole situation.

Well, March 15th of this year we ordered new cabinets for the kitchen through Home Depot. It is now May 2nd, and we still haven't gotten all of them. We got a little more than half the order in three weeks after we placed it (1 week overdue already). But their special order people didn't even check that it was all there, a fact we discovered while taking inventory and loading the boxes of unassembled cabinets and doors into our cars. After a week of going to Home Depot daily -- "You know, you can call us instead of coming in" "Yeah, but no one answers the phone" -- they finally reordered the items and some that arrived damaged. Undetered, we went ahead with ripping out the current stuff and installing what we had. Three weeks later (and again, a week overdue) we got a couple more cabinets. Its been a couple weeks again and the last remaining items haven't come in. They'll tell me they're arriving that day, then that they were backordered. The latest is that the rest of the order will come in on May 7th (a Sunday?!).

Le sigh. I really don't like Home Depot. I just wish the Lowe's wasn't 30-45 minutes away. However, the new stuff does look lovely.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Happy Birthday Ayla!

Ayla is one year old!

She's finally healed from straining her leg, so after I got off work today she got to go to the park for the first time in TWO WEEKS! She was so excited to be there and ran around like crazy, played with the other dogs, chased the ball, and was her usual deliriously happy self. People at the park even sang "Happy Birthday" to her!

After the park we went to the pet store and chose a big rawhide treat. She wasn't really interested in any toys, so that's all she got. The Nutro saleslady gave her cookies, and Ayla got to say hello to her trainer Melissa, whom she adores.

Ayla pretty much got all the treats she wanted today, lots of play, and lots of love. She even got a birthday email from the couple that has her sister, Ember. How sweet!

Happy Birthday Ayla, I can't believe you're growing up so fast!

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Bathroom Renovations

The home improvement bug has struck us again! We spent all last week working on door moldings after work. Seriously, we'd both get home from work and start measuring, cutting, sanding, nailing, spackling, sanding some more, and painting. We did manage to get all new moldings up on the doors and get a good start on finishing them. It takes a lot of work to get them perfect, at least for inexperienced handy-men and Chris and myself. But we'll get there, some day. At least it looks pretty decent now.

On Saturday we went shopping at Home Depot for bathroom items. We found a pre-assembled vanity we really liked, and a countertop with inset sink to fit on top. Now my Jetta can haul a lot of stuff, and we've had many fun adventures trying to fit stuff in there and get it home without it falling out the back, most recently being a six-foot cat tree we brought home from Costco. But there was no hope this time, so I went to the Customer Service desk to ask about renting one of their pick-up trucks - stike one. Apparently, if you want one, you have to get there right when the store opens because they get rented out quickly. So we went home to shop online and see what delivery would be. However the HomeDepot.com is an awful, non-user-friendly site; one of the worst I've used (and as a professional purchaser, I use many!) - strike two.

We stopped by the local Budget rental car office and picked up a ten-foot moving van (no pick-ups available). Have I mentioned how much I like driving moving vans? It must run in the blood, since my uncle is a truck driver. We head back over to the local Home Depot and Chris goes in to buy the items, only to find the vanity we'd liked was gone! Well, we wouldn't be deterred, so we went to the Home Depot in Pleasanton. They ended up having one we liked even better. Score! We made our purchases, loaded the heavy items into the truck, drove home and somehow unloaded and got everything inside. I still don't know how, because that stuff was heavy!

The next day we had a wonderful visit from Duncan, Sara, and little Collin. We were a little apprehensive with how Ayla would do. Children's voices tend to set her off barking, and while she's not much of a jumper, she hasn't been around little kids much. Add on top of that the strained paw/leg that led to a week of forced inactivity, hence a wound-up dog, and we thought things would be... interesting. But she did wonderfully! She greeted Duncan and Sara outside like she's always known them and inside she had a blast chasing Collin as he ran up and down the hallway, never touching him at all. She was such a good girl, and when she could see him the little kid sounds didn't bother her at all. That's my girl!

After the family headed for home, we got down to business in the bathroom. Chris tore out the existing couter, sink, and cabinet. After a lot of finesse, learning about plumbing (our new sink is about 6" to the left and 3" higher than the old one, so we had to learn about piping to connect it), and a lot of work, we got the new vanity installed. Its awesome: we each have three drawers, space under the sink, and the coolest feature, a huge bottom drawer the width and length of the vanity. I put out old hardware from the first remodel back on since we like it so much. And the new counter and sink are one continuous unit made from cultured marble. We really like it.

Monday we removed the old toilet (shudder) and put in the new one. It was surprisingly easy. Although at one point scraping off the old wax that the unit seats on, I realized my fingernail had torn my glove and I had old gross toilet wax on my hand. I promptly screamed like a little girl, tore off my glove, cleaned up, and then got back to work; Chris was amused. After that the installation went quite well. The new unit is taller than standard toilets, by 3", which is neat. The coolest part is the new seat. Its a quiet-close seat, so you just flip the lid down a little and closes slowly and quietly on its own. No more accidently dropping the lid and it crashing down, threatening to shatter the porcelin and send rivers of water everywhere that should really be staying in the bowl. Yippee!

We have also made a neat frame for the mirror out of more molding and rosettes. Its been hard getting it in the proper spot and staying up, but I think we've got it now. And it really makes a world of difference in the look of the whole room; its much more refined.

Still to do: glass shower doors, new medicine cabinet, some tile accents above the shower unit, and maybe a new faucet fixture. Then we're headed to the kitchen... And if you made it this far, I'm sure you're just riveted by my account of our home improvement escapades and can't wait for the next installment.