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!