Sunday, June 29, 2008

Meet the New Grad

Mac graduated from puppy kindergarten on Friday! I need to take a video of his routine, its really cute: sit, down, roll over, sit up, high five, low five, stay, come, and then sit again. Here's a few pictures, though the quality is not great:

Mac and Me

The Little Graduate

Saturday we took my VW up for a service and to deal with the intermittent loss of power and accleration I've experience when driving, on the freeway no less! It was also rattling at low speeds. We dropped off the car and met up with some friends at Heather Farm Dog Park in Walnut Creek. It was really nice, with the standard separate big dog and little dog parks, and lots of grass surrounded by a paved path. The atmosphere was relaxed and everything was low key, surprising because of the number of dogs there. After the park we went to In 'n Out Burger for lunch and got the dogs had their own beef patty (their grilled cheese is better than their "veggie burger," which was just their regular sandwich without the meat). Then we dropped the dogs off at home and went to see Wanted. It was okay, but I thought it was kind of silly and solely a vehicle for special effects, which weren't the best in any case.

Today we picked up the VW, and as soon as I got it home it died. Seriously, some of the engine lights came on and it won't start now. They brushed off my suggestion that they look at the wiring harness (it does look melted/burned, and some online research suggests it as a possible culprit for the problem). I guess they only checked the computer for problems (none recorded) and drove it around to try to recreate the problem, which didn't happen for them. They didn't even look at what I asked them to look at. They better not charge me for another diagnostic when I take it back in. The rattle is gone though.

Otherwise we've been doing some touch-up painting around the condo and on the patio and getting everything in order for the upcoming week. At least the smoke from the wildfires is beginning to clear out. We might actually have a fireworks show to see on Friday! I'm off to figure out our menu for the 4th.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes

No, I didn't try to burn my house down, but we have a bunch of wildfires burning in California right now. While they aren't near our home, we have had a lot of smoke in the area and that familiar smell of fire in the air. Luckily its cooling off after a hot weekend, so hopefully the firefighters get some help.

We had a nice weekend. I took the dogs swimming on Friday afternoon, as I usually do. It was around 100 degrees but I spent most of the time in the water as well as the pups, so it was very nice. Saturday I went to a high school graduation in Berkeley, and I took Ayla to run on the golf course in the evening. She's starting to understand how to play with other dogs (thank you Mac!). We met what I think was a Catahoula and after some initial posturing, she started play bowing and jumping around with him. Ayla ran her fool head off too, though I of course kept her off the greens.

Sunday Chris and I spent a lazy morning torturing Ayla and Mac:

Ayla dusting off her 4th of July attire

Mac wearing Ayla's "Wanna be Doberman" shirt. It fits! He's big!

Group Shot

And Again

Mac left the shirt alone once I had it on him, but he kept trying to take Ayla's hat off. Maybe he thought it was too embarrassing?

After we tried their patience to the limits (and Mac fell asleep) we went out to lunch at El Balazo where we had Bob's Burrito, one of their vegetarian specialties. It was very tasty, and I enjoyed watching Chris sweat eating the jalapeno and onion relish. Then we walked over to the Cold Stone Creamery and shared a banana ice cream with chocolate chips (yum!). After lunch and dessert we went to see The Incredible Hulk. It was pretty good. I think Edward Norton is a very good actor, and of course Liv Tyler is just gorgeous. The movie was well done, and leagues better than the previous Hulk from 2003. There are a lot of good summer movies coming out, so we'll be going often I think.

After the movie we took the dogs to the elementary school to play. We can play keep-away with the ball for a while, but once Ayla gets the ball its very hard to get it back from her. She likes to run away with it and lie down in the shade, and will run if we come toward her. But while she was hoarding the ball, we ran around having Mac chase us. We've discovered that from a dead stop, he's as fast or faster than us, though we can outlast him. The little guy moves! After we tired the dogs out we came home, did some gardening, and grilled hot dogs (and a tofu pup for me), enjoying the warm evening.

I've made some progress on the Travelling Roses scarf. Here it is three lace repeats in, only ten more to go. The color is truer in this picture than in the previous one I posted:

Travelling Roses Lace Scarf

Finally, I baked up some cookies tonight and am very happy with the results. I adapted the recipe from the back of the bag of Guittard semisweet chocolate chips. These are like little fluffy clouds of banana and chocolate yumminess! And yes, we are on a chocolate and banana kick lately. Does it show?

Chocolate Chip Banana Cookies

2-1/4 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 cup butter, softened
3/4 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp. banana extract
1 banana, pureed
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a small bowl combine flour, baking soda, and salt. In a large bowl cream together butter and sugars until light and fluffy (I use an electric hand mixer). Beat in eggs and vanilla until smooth. Beat in banana puree. Gradually add the flour mixture until combined. Stir in chocolate chips.

Drop by well rounded teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake 8-10 minutes until golden brown. Let rest on cookie sheet for 1-2 minutes, then remove to wire racks to cool. I made about 4 dozen cookies.


Tuesday, June 17, 2008


What's a car that costs more than my condo doing in our parking lot?!

Lamborghini Murciélago

And can I go for a ride? Pretty please? I shudder to think what the owner pays for gas for this machine, although that might explain why its in our parking lot. If they had to sell their house or their obviously beloved Lambo, they chose well.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Dog Days of Summer

Last Thursday was Doggie Night in downtown Danville. I don't have any pictures since it was just Ayla and myself unfortunately. Molly's Pup-purr-ee hosted the event and Ayla and I had a lot of fun, as well as a great opportunity to work on our socialization. The parking lot of the store was closed off with a bunch of booths set up, including our trainer's booth. Ayla and I stopped by to say hi and then checked out the store which was full of adorable pet supplies, beds, collars and leashes, toys, treats, and clothing. At the store we were given a bag and a sheet of paper with a list of 15 or so stores to visit for a scavenger hunt/doggie trick-or-treating. The goal was to visit each store on the list, get their sticker (and some doggie treats as gifts while you were there, hence the bag to carry it all) and return the list to Molly's to be entered in a drawing for something from one of the stores. It was hot, we walked a lot, and there were lots of people and dogs. Ayla was a trooper and we hit each store, from shoe stores to fancy jewelry stores to clothing and home goods stores. It was a lot of fun and Ayla let quite a few people pet her, some even enthusiastically. My Chicken Little is really coming far in her training! We came home with a bag full of dog treats and a new hot pink tennis ball that matched Ayla's collar. Next year hopefully Chris will be able to come with us with Mac. The little guy would be really in his element.

Friday was too hot to hike to the ol' swimmin' hole, so I took the pups to Hap McGee Ranch Park in Danville to play. Here's a couple shots:

Mr. Handsome

A really gross tennis ball, just the way Ayla likes them

Here's a recipe I tried out the other day. It started in Women's Health Magazine and has made the rounds of the food blogs I read. I made it with Molly's idea of adding avocado, since almost everything is better with avocado I say.

Quinoa with Black Beans and Sweet Potatoes

1 c. quinoa
1 to 2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 sweet potato, peeled and diced
2 scallions, thinly sliced
1/2 tsp. dried red chile flakes
2 c. water
salt to taste
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
juice of 2 limes
1/4 c. chopped cilantro
1 avocado, chopped

Rinse quinoa.
Heat oil over medium-high heat in a medium skillet . Add sweet potato, scallion, and chile and saute until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add quinoa; toast for 2 minutes. Add water and salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium low, and cover. Simmer until quinoa and sweet potato are tender, about 10 to 12 minutes. If liquid remains unabsorbed in the pan, raise heat to high and cook for 2 minutes until it boils off. Stir in black beans and lime juice and cilantro. Top with avocado and serve warm or chilled.

This was very tasty, and great cold the next day for lunch.

Finally, here's a new project I've started knitting. Its the Traveling Roses Lace Scarf and I'm making it with Muse, a nice lace weight yarn in olive that's shot through with a silver thread so it will be a little sparkly. This is my first real lace project, made on little tiny size 2 needles. I had started on even smaller size 1s, but they were bamboo and held onto the yarn too much making it difficult to work with. The size 2s are are metal Plymouth Speedways and are much easier, smoother, and faster to knit with. This picture isn't a good representation of the color (bad lighting), but the first pattern repeat is done, only 12 more to go and then blocking to make the lace bloom. This will be a gift for a special someone...

Traveling Roses Lace Scarf

Sunday, June 8, 2008


It has been a productive week. Monday was our 4th wedding anniversary, and 12th anniversary together, and I can't believe how time has flown by since we made our vows on a beach on Maui. I still need to get a copy of the video my dad has from our little wedding. Its difficult to hear what was said due to the ocean, but the best part is when a single chubby beach goer slowly floats by in the background. He stops and watches our ceremony for a while, and them floats on. And if I recall, he floats back the way he came a few minutes later. My wedding was the bomb! :)

We didn't do too much to celebrate. We had gone shopping over the weekend and finally bought ourselves an Aerogarden, which we've been wanting for a while now. I tried to take a picture, but the full-spectrum lights on it don't agree with my camera. Monday night we took ourselves out for dessert too. And yeah, we're obviously very romantic. :)

Wednesday I started up new training classes with Ayla. Our trainer is an ex-K9 cop out of Oakland and she is so attuned to dog behavior, its amazing. I'm already seeing improvements in Ayla since our first session and my work with her. In fact, she's starting to sniff the hands of people who offer them to her, instead of getting scared and trying to run away. My poor little chicken! I'm not aiming at her becoming Miss Outgoing, but I am looking forward to her being less fearful and more trusting in my leadership. And Ayla just loves training and classes, so its fun for her too.

Then on Thursday I finally submitted my thesis for my masters degree. Its only a couple years late, but who's counting? I'm very, very happy to have the bloody thing finished and out of my hands. I had completely lost my motivation to finish it when I ended my internship the fall after my classes ended. The last thing I need to do is turn in some paperwork to file for graduation in a few weeks and I should expect to get my diploma in the mail this winter. And if I'm thinking correctly, it should be signed by our Governator himself!

Its been a nice, quiet weekend. I've done a lot of reading and finished up a knitted bag. I actually finished this bag a while ago, but found an fatal error when I was seaming up the sides. I had to rip back about half of my work, which took a surprising amount of time. Once I got to the middle of the project again though the work went quickly and I finished seaming the sides this afternoon. The end result is a nice stretchy bag that's squishy soft and should be great for shopping trips.

My always-willing (to do anything for a treat) model

Eco-Bag from Lion Brand
Yarn: 3 balls Sugar 'n Cream Twists
in Summer Twists (discontinued)

Chris requested some Banana Oatmeal Raisin Chocolate Chips Cookies (three of his favorite flavors, all in one), so I mixed up a batch. I need to work on the recipe before I can post it though as the cookies become quiet hard after cooling, but they are still delicious dipped in coffee. I did make up a batch of homemade tortillas from a recipe from our grocery store's quarterly magazine. They were very easy, especially using a food processor instead of mixing with a fork as specified, and very light and tasty. I used them for fajitas for our lunch today (with Mojitos on the side!):

Portabello, Summer Squash, and Bell Pepper Fajitas
For the Tortillas:
adapted from Raley's "Something Extra", Summer 2008

2 cups flour
3 tbsp. shortening
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking powder
3/4 cup water

Mix together flour, shortening, salt, and baking powder in food processor until mixture resembles coarse crumbs; mix in water. Place on a lightly floured board and knead several times to form a smooth dough. Cover with a cloth and let stand for 30 minutes. Divide dough into 12 equal portions. Roll each into a 6-7 inch circle. Cook each tortilla in a skillet over medium-high heat for about 2 minutes per side or until lightly browned and puffed.

For the Filling:

2 small portabello mushrooms, sliced
1 summer squash, quartered and sliced
1 small bell pepper, sliced
Garlic red wine vinegar
Taco seasoning

Heat a dash of olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and sautée until beginning to soften. Add the squash and pepper and sautée until done. Add a splash of the vinegar and about a tbsp. of the taco seasoning. Keep warm.

For the Salsa:
Recipe from my mommy :)

1 can stewed Mexican-style tomatoes
1 jalapeño, minced
1 onion, diced
1/3 bunch cilantro, roughly chopped
Minced garlic
Dash of lime juice

Put all ingredients in a food processor and blend to desired consistency.

I use this salsa for my guacamole - leave some salsa in the food processor, add a chopped avocado and blend again. Et voilà
- Easy guacamole!

It should be a good week coming up. The weather is turning warm, which makes the dogs lazy. They tend to do a lot of this: