Saturday, June 27, 2009

Pool Party

It has been a hot, hot day. I think it was somewhere around 100°F, way too hot for the dogs to have any fun outside without collapsing. So we set up the doggie pool on the patio for them to play in a bit late this afternoon. It was very nice to dip my feet in and then relax in a patio chair while watching Ayla and Mac play too.

Mac enjoyed just pushing his glow-ball around in the water.

He also likes hoarding the toys so Ayla can't play with with, little jerk.

Caught mid-shake - those jowls make for some magnificent shaking!

Ayla planning to get in there for the tennis ball. She'll put her front legs in the pool only.

Mac shaking again, and it looks like Ayla is laughing at him.

Gretel pretending she cannot see such tomfoolery.

We recently took down our 29 gallon aquarium. F*cker, the blue cichlid, went to that big fish tank in the sky recently, so the only fish left was the Chinese algae eater. We decided to downsize and bought a small hexagonal tank to set on the pass-through bar in place of the big tank. I also picked up four mollies (two Dalmatian, one silver, and one black) since I'm in the mood for a friendly community tank now.

Fish are hard to photograph!

I transferred the algae eater to the new tank and he looks like a sea monster now. It might be a little small for him, so I'll keep an eye on things. I can always set the big tank back up if he's not happy. He spends most of the time hanging out in the Tiki hut anyway.

The Kracken!

The assistant at the fish store must have given me a pregnant female because I woke up this morning to four little baby mollies in the tank. I'm pretty sure I haven't had them long enough for them to mate and gestate. If they survive, anyone want some cute little fishes? Seriously, mollies are like the dumb adolescent Labradors of the fish world: cute, friendly, and hardy. They like to nibble my fingers when I clean the tank!

Small fry

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Too Much Fun

In fact, I had so much fun last weekend that I just now have the energy to write about it.

It has been far too long since Stef, Katie, Liz and I got together and acted like our usual immature selves, and that's exactly what we did Friday through Sunday last week. And it was awesome.

Katie drove through a snowstorm to get to my place Friday around noon. She met the dogs, and Ayla surprised me by instantly liking her. I showed Katie around and we took Ayla out to play some fetch. Then we headed out to Stef's place to meet up with Stef and Liz. Then we all piled into Katie's car and drove up to San Francisco. We parked the car and checked in to our room at the Hyatt in Union Square. Then we hopped on a cable car, packed like sardines in with the other passengers, and headed to Fisherman's Wharf. He had dinner and drinks at Cioppino's On The Wharf. I had the three cheese tortellini that was nice, and a great peach bellini that was even better. Yum! After dinner we walked to Pier 39 and barked at the sea lions, checked out Alcatraz from a distance, and enjoyed the street performers. As evening fell we walked down to Houston's at the Embarcadero to have wine and beer on their gorgeous patio by the fire pit. Then he hopped on a Muni car (free ride night!) and headed back to Union Square. We went to the top of the Hyatt to the Grandviews Lounge for more drinks and listened to the piano player's last set. Finally we went back to our room to laugh ourselves to sleep.

Saturday morning we blearily and pre-coffee dragged ourselves to Max's for breakfast (yummy blueberry pancakes!). After the coffee perked us up a bit we walked around the city. We stopped to check out The Palace Hotel, with its stunning Garden Court. Then we walked through the financial district where we saw some really weird and cool horse statues made out of driftwood and cement. Once we got the the Embarcadero we walked around an arts and crafts fair, and then to the Ferry Plaza Farmer's Market. We walked down a pier and watched people catching their dinners, and then headed up to Chinatown. Then we had to get back to Union Square to see Spamalot, which was fantastic! I think quite a few in the audience didn't know what they were in for, which confused me, but we were laughing until our faces and stomaches hurt. The Lady of the Lake was especially great, and she really stole the show.

After the show we headed back to the room to relax a bit and share a bottle of wine that Stef had brought. Then we had dinner at Scala's Bistro, where we had another bottle of wine along with our dinners (pesto ravioli with lemon cream sauce for me, yum!) and where Katie and I developed a crush on the sommelier. After dinner we took silly pictures in front of the store windows in Union Square, and then went to The Carnelian Room at the top of the Bank of America Building, the tallest building in the city. The view was amazing, and the apricot colada was good too. Stef, Liz, and Katie went downstairs to meet up with Stef's fiance and the kids (who brought us really cute plush flowers) while I held our table and just enjoyed watching the sun set over the city. Then we walked to North Beach, got chocolate at a candy store, and walked back to Union Square again. We stopped in at Lefty O'Doul's for a beer and then went back to the room. Liz was hungry again so we ordered a pizza from room-service. Then it was one or two in the morning, so we hit the hay. One more day to go!

Sunday morning we checked out of the hotel and went across the street to Starbuck's for coffee and food. Then we drove across the Golden Gate Bridge and stopped at Battery Spencer on the north side to take photos. Then it was onward to Napa and wine tasting! Our first stop was Viansa, a gorgeous winery and marketplace where the tasting was a mere $5. Our favorite was the Frescolina, a dessert wine. We drove a bit further down the road and stopped at Domaine Carneros, which was very impressive. We shared the sparkling wine flight (the rose was the best) and a cheese plate with the best goat cheese I've ever had. We headed up to Beringer, and though we missed the tour we had a nice lunch. Then we drove back down Highway 29 and stopped at Heitz Cellar where I made friends with the resident dog. She was so cute, as soon as she woke up she rolled over for belly rubs. The port here was very good too. Our final stop was V. Sattui, one of Stef's favorite places. They have a very nice lawn where I hung out while Liz and Katie tasted wines - I was a bit wined out by this point, but I hear the wines here are very good.

Finally we drove back home to my place so Liz could see the condo and meet the beasts. Then it was time for everyone to go home. We had such a fantastic time and laughed ourselves silly; our voices were hoarse toward the end because of all the talking and laughing. It was so great to be with the girls again. We're so lucky to be able to pick up right where we left off the last time we saw each other. And I'm very lucky to have such wonderful people for my friends. Love you guys!

The full set of pictures is here.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Fresh Pasta

Two ingredients - just 1 cup of flour and 2 eggs - and you can have your own fresh pasta made in not much time at all. Crazy!

I came across this post over at The Pioneer Woman and knew immediately that I had to try it. Crack the eggs into a well in the flour and mix by hand. It takes a while, but its good and sticky.

I always enjoy kneading dough. Its a good way to get your aggression out. This dough was a bit of a workout for my hands too (keeps carpal tunnel at bay). After the dough is smooth and you've let it rest a little, roll it out as thin as possible. Mine wasn't thin enough. And I love my pastry mat - its much easier to clean than a sticky, doughy counter top.

I used a pizza cutter to make long thin noodles. Now I'm interested in a pasta machine.

A quick boil in salted water, and its done! My noodles could have been thinner, or perhaps cooked a little longer, but this was fun and good. I melted some butter in a sauce pan and threw in chopped tomatoes, garlic, and dried basil while the pasta was cooking. Then I tossed it all together and served topped with a dollop of ricotta cheese.

And while I was over on The Pioneer Woman Cooks, I came across a dead-easy recipe for a quick dessert: Apple Tarts. I made four smaller tarts from one sheet of puffed pastry and two apples tossed with 1/2 cup brown sugar, a dash of salt, a squeeze of lemon, and about a teaspoon of vanilla (maybe too much - they were boozy but I liked it; you might want to use less vanilla). I used canned whipped cream since I'm all out of heavy cream to make my own, and let it get all melty on the tarts.

Mac loves the canned whipped cream. We used to spray it directly into my parents' dog's mouth, and Mac has taken up that torch. He can sense when I've even just touched the can in the fridge and comes running. Then he sits at my feet and acts cute, looking up at me with eagerness in his eyes.

See? Its a little blurry since he was so excited he could barely contain himself, but just look at those bottom teeth sticking out. He's already pulled his jowls back in anticipation!.