Saturday, May 31, 2008

Brewed Chocolate and the Wild Kingdom in my Bathroom - Saturday 5/31/2008

I heard about Cabaret Brewed Chocolate on Evan Kleinman's Good Food on KCRW. The April 19th broadcast is available on either site. (Oh, and Good Food is quickly becoming one of my favorite podcasts, right up there with This American Life and Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me.)

The makers say that this is possibly the closest experience you can have to the original way that Mayans drank cacao. Rather than shipping you ground beans, though, they concentrate a pound of cacao beans and some cane sugar down to 24 teaspoons worth of syrup. You mix one teaspoon into 4 ounces of water and it makes the muddy cup you see above.

From my first sample, I'd say that I found the lightly chocolate flavor pleasant. It finished with a hint of toasted grain.

I didn't notice any of the mood altering effects that the brew is purported to induce in some people. Energizing? Calming? I'll give it another whirl, for sure.

Here's a shot that shows off my vintage Washington, DC souvenir teacup. It has three kookie little feet on the bottom, which makes it a little perilous.

I have about three of these types of teacups. Then I came to my senses and realized a collection like this could take over my life.

WARNING: If you are squeamish about spiders and/or the brutal realities of nature, don't read any further!!

We've been letting this spider live in our master bathroom, over the seldom-used bathtub (it's separate from the oft-used shower stall) because it's been helpful in capturing the moths that sometimes flutter out of the parrot and budgie food.

Today a fly got into the house. Yeah, I admit it, I helped drive the fly into the web. It was amazing to see the spider rush over and take care of it.

There was lots of wrapping and moving and then more wrapping. The spider hung by two legs while it worked its webbing with the others.

And it's lunch time!

We left to run errands right after this little incident. I think this was a tasty and intoxicating treat for the spider.

When we got back, the spider was kind of lying face down in the fly.

"Burrrp. That was delishush."

Okay, sorry folks. But I have a little bit of a Marlon Perkins swagger on this evening.

Man, that guy was a hero of mine when I was a kid. Not least because he always managed to stay on the bank while the intrepid Jim waded into the river and wrestled the giant snake, or got bitten by a scorpion, or let a monkey rip out little tufts of his sideburns.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Rrrrowrr! - Friday 5/30/2008

Per Peaches (my boss), "The days of the shoe box diorama are over."

This is her daughter's creation, and the whole thing is about 2 1/2 x 3 feet! There are some pretty scary volcanoes in the background.

LittleVee reports that this dino only has one eye because he lost the other one in a fight.

You should see the other guy!

Coincidentally, Hydra sent me this apparently serious take on dinosaurs put forth by one Christian ministry: Pterosaurs: An Introduction. It's a amazing. They seem to have been created to cover up Adam and Eve's nasty bits!

For some reason, these keychains, sent to us by the other owner of the company--who works and lives in Massachusetts--struck my fancy on the way to Peaches' office to snag the dino shots. I'm using a blue hibiscus patterned version right now.

This one's for The Last Noel!

A little investigative reporting reveals this sad news: The men's room at Andrew's (fka Sittons) is stained-glass free! I went around the outside of the building to check it out, and there's no window at ALL in the men's room, which from this p.o.v. would be to the right of the stained glass window.

If there had been one, I would have seriously considered going inside again to get a shot with the light behind it.

Talkin' 'Bout My Gym - Thursday 5/29/2008

Okay, can I gush about my gym for a minute? This is the branch of 24 Hour Fitness in Santa Clarita, which is the one I visit the most. It has a nice mix of features. So far I'm using the cardio machines and some of the weight machines the most. I've also been to the Lancaster, Hollywood, and Palmdale West branches. I like this one the best, but I love that I can use the other locations when they are handy or offer a class that I want to try.

It's about half-way between work and home, and past the two major snarls on my commute--where the 170 meets the 5 and where the 14 peels away from the 5--so I stop there on weeknights.

I bought their package of 5 25-minute personal trainer sessions for $149 and I'm really glad I did. Did I tell you that my trainer is from Indiana and that I rode the school bus with her uncle? How weird is that?

So, anyway, having her lead me around the gym over the past 4 weeks has been really helpful. I feel I have permission to use areas and to move the movable equipment (like mats, balance balls, etc.) around the facility in ways I'm sure I would have felt timid about.

I have one more session with her and then I'm going to use the gym on my own. I will probably hire her again in a few months to help me up my levels if I need to or if my enthusiasm has started to wane.

I haven't lost a lot of weight, but my trainer and my doctor both predicted that given my body type I'd put on muscle easily. It's those European plow-following, sheep-toting genes, I tell you. My mom's been active all her life with gardening, yard-work, walking and now line dancing. My dad was a big jock--basketball and Golden Gloves boxing (he was a regional champ!)--so I'm going to try to think of myself as an old athlete myself.

Oddly enough, I realized when I received my membership card that I had signed up not only on the same day that my commitment to Taking the Reins ended, but also on the anniversary of my father's death at age 62 of a heart attack (April 17, 1990.) Dang, that sounds younger every year. I can't believe how much he's just last week a new great-granddaughter.

I have this fear of my own heart that I am trying to overcome.

I've exercised more and less throughout my life, but I'm seeing that after just a few weeks my body is responding. I feel stronger and more emotionally satisfied, too.

Yay, me!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Escape - Wednesday 5/28/2008

My shadow is even more eager to leave work than I am.

Anyone want to hire a writer?

Big Pretty Cloud - Tuesday 5/27/2008

Cloud over the mountains on the way home. Big pretty cloud.

Carnations - Monday, Memorial Day, 5/25/2008

These miniature carnations are doing better this year than they have in the three or four years since I planted them on the street side of the house.

Much as it would have been nice to spend another night at the campground, it was really nice to wake up at home. Allergies have been dogging me for days, and I enjoyed one of my favorite indulgences: lying in bed in the morning reading and dozing.

We went to see Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of th Crystal Skull, which I review on my film and book website Curioscopy.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Pink Peppercorns - Sunday 5/25/2008

There were also pepper trees all around our campsite.

Yeah, I guess I knew these were pepper trees, but I never really thought of them as, bearing edible pepper.

I guess I figured the peppers would be toxic things that sort of resembled peppers. Silly moi!

CG pointed them out and said that he cooks up a mean salmon with pink peppercorn sauce.

So I harvested a few! I'm looking forward to using them on salmon or something after they've dried a bit. Mmm. They smell good!

This is either Sespe Creek or the Santa Clara River right after Sespe Creek empties into it, outside of Fillmore, CA. Really this weather shows off the mountains so well.

Okay, this just goes into the oddity file.

This is a seat sitting on Highway 126. A random, full sized seat, probably out of one of those handily convertible vans.

Not so handy now is it, smart guy?

Is Anyone Else Here C-C-Cold? - Saturday 5/24/2008

Yeah, I was there. I was ready to sit in front of my camper with a book and a cup of tea, but it was ch-chilly again.

On Friday it rained a bit and we had 3 or 4 people come in to play inside the warm camper. It's something we've been looking forward to since we first bought this trailer with its big kitchen!

We sat with friends outside their camper, singing along. This is my tea mug on the table in front of our camper, before I headed out to find the music.

We always have an ice cream social with this bunch. So we built a fire to huddle around...which brought the sun out for a couple of hours while we dipped ice cream and shared toppings that everyone brought. (We contributed crushed mint centered Oreos!)

If a Tree Falls - Friday 5/23/2008

I took this photo because I thought it was kind of amazing how this old car was turned into an agricultural vehicle by cutting the roof off of it and taking the doors out.

But it also shows what the weather was like. What is this weather all about anyway? Just a few days ago we were at that 100 degree wedding reception. Now we're camping and the daytime temps are in the 60s at best.

Did someone move Southern California while we weren't looking?

The only person who heard this tree go down in the night was a nearby tent camper. She thought it must be a might big animal and wisely didn't go check it out.

It must have just eased on over.

The people in the next site exclaimed that they were supposed to be in that site, but they'd gotten into the wrong one by mistake. Several people decided that this is proof that there really is a god.

Being in charge of campsite reservations, I was aware that the guy who was supposed to be there wasn't due in until later in the day. I wasn't really happy that I couldn't confirm The Miracle of the Trees.

This is the camp manager and her husband cutting up the tree and hauling it off. I really adore this woman. She's so straightforward and smart. We always have at least one good conversation when I see her 3-4 times a year at the campground.

What Awaited Us - Thursday 5/22/2008

These flowers draped themselves over the wall at the edge of our usual campsite. It was like finding a bouquet in our hotel room.

I haven't cropped these close-up shots.

Something kind of amazing was happening with the light.

We arrived just as storm clouds were moving through.

Didn't even unhook the trailer when we first arrived. There were friends waiting for us to join them for dinner--yay!--so we did it when we got back.

I must say that Hyrda has evolved into a wonderful--nay, amazingly talented--trailer backer upper. He slid our 27 foot home-away-from-home into the campsite in one pretty impressive try.