Sunday, January 31, 2010

Winter Reality

I returned from Austin to find this:
Not the historic snow we had in December, but about 5-6 inches and a pain to drive home in. A 40 minute drive took 4 hours. Ugh.

Texas Wants Me Anyway

Here is more of my trip to Austin. I was honestly shocked by the hills and the lake and the trees. I didn't realize that Austin was so green. The whole trip, I was humming Lyle Lovett. And seeing the cowboys ride the music notes, it was just a great combination.
And this is a agave plant that is my lovely Texan Friend's front yard. Yes, her house is purple. Yes, that plant is taller than me.

There are beautiful murals all over the city, and these were my two favorites:

It must made me want to go back and see more of the city (and not have so many meetings!). And to play more with this little guy, Elliot:

The Windsor Effect

These are all ties belonging to one man. It is a most impressive collection. I think I will ask him to teach me how to tie a windsor knot, because surely, he knows how...

The Lone Star State

Please excuse my absence, I have been away. I went to:

Specifically, I went to: It was a business trip, but when this:

greets you at the airport, you know that you will also have some fun in Austin. And that I did.

My lovely Texan friend in Texas and my lovely Friend in Texas (and owner of Elliot, the cutest terrier ever!) scooped me from the airport and drove me around downtown Austin. My lovely Texan friend was driving and she was paying more attention to the changing strand of Christmas lights (which ironically changed from red to green) than the actual traffic lights and almost killed my lovely Friend in Texas and I as we looked at the state capital, which apparently is in Austin, and not Houston. Ahem.
Okay, my lovely Texan Friend didn't *really* almost kill us, but she did almost run through a traffic light because the Christmas lights changed colors.

Downtown has a lot of new tall buildings now, apparently a lot of them condo buildings. My lovely friend in Texas and I agreed that this reminded us of the PNG building in Pittsburgh: it's the whimsical top of the building.

The purpose of the trip was business and not all play. I headed on Thursday to the University of Texas:
(Why *yes* that is the famous UT Tower where the student used it as a sniper location in 1966). I was there to do some work for work but also to see what my boss does on the other side of his job, when he and I aren't working on the same work. He runs British Studies at UT. The office is amazing, not least because of the Earl of Meow-nt Batton keeps Lord Disraeli company.

I got to work at this lovely desk:
It is a nice, lovely desk that greets you when you walk in the door. Oh, the previous owner? Well, he left his name on it:

In case you can't read the photo, yes, that does say that this desk was the writing desk of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Ahem. And I got to send out a few emails on my computer while sitting at this desk. Not exactly Sherlock Holmes quality.

And so not to ruin the image in my head that all of Texas is like the movie Giant, my lovely Texan Friend took me to the historic Driskill Hotel in downtown Austin (where Kevin Nelan was also breakfasting), where she showed me that even Austin has a bit of Texas in it:

And to go with the longhorn, antique saddle, and rawhide couch, why, a thistle crystal sink in the ladies' loo!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Need moar dawgs

I know between many of our readers we can pull together a few dogs - anyone got some sheep we can borrow? Doesn't look too tough - I reckon we could bodge something together in a week or so..

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Great Canasta Battle

Will and I went over to the Italian's for dinner tonight and had some delicious barley soup and a second course of beef stew and mash, and a third course of a stunning chocolate cake. Instead of the usual Game of Life, the Italian and her lovely husband, B, introduced us to Canasta.

We attempted to read the directions in Italian and made complete @sses out of ourselves, butchering the language. Once they stopped crying from laughing at us so hard, they explained to us how the game is played.

Played in partners, we chose sides: my partner was B and the Italian played with the Brit, so it was like a Europe vs America kind of game. The object of the game is to get a series of cards all the same rank (all 7s or 10s etc) while getting the most points possible. I am sorry to say that the Americans lost.

While there is not supposed to be any table talk, the Europeans blatantly ignored this rule and conferred about which cards to lay down, what to discard, and when to close (meaning, go out). They won the first hand with something outrageous: 6,000+ points. You only need 10,000 to win the whole game. It was down hill from there. With all the cheating going on, it is a wonder that we Americans did as well as we did, only losing by about 4,000 points in the end.

However, B and I have vowed that we will return and fight and win next weekend when we meet again for another go at the Great Canasta Battle of 2010....

Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Neighbour's Lawn

This house is down the block from us and *every* time we walk by it,
Stirling must scratch herself all over, and over again.

It never fails to amuse.
And look at her smiling!

And they better not ever mow it or try to green it up, or we are in trouble.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Familiarity Isn't Necessarily A Good Thing

Cousin Diane sent this to me with the note, "Look Familiar?"

Yes, it does. All too familiar...
Seriously, this cat really could be Jackie...It is a bit uncanny...

Thursday, January 21, 2010

At the Dog Park

We are now frequenters of the dog park near our house. Until Stirling, we never went to the park and didn't notice that there was a fenced in area with wood chips made especially for dogs. It is to the point that any time we walk Stirling, we have to make a swing by the park in case one of her buddies is there. She, in fact, pulls us towards the park. It's quite sweet.

Today, Stirling and I met Slider, a Jack Russell, who is about half Stirling's size. He still managed to hold his own, even with a gentle leader on! Plus, omg, my new iPhone now has video capability! yea!!

ps. sorry for the sound, it is Slider's owner on her phone.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Dog Observation #1

Dog Observation #1: White, on portion of bed sheets, is not possible if you own a dog.

We have navy sheets, but the duvet cover has a big white square in the middle of it. Over the weekend, I washed it twice. Once because it was the weekly sheet washing and the second time because of muddy paw prints.

Now, all white sheets get covered with another non-white sheet. Remember that all my duvet covers are white....Uh-huh. You just know I am spending more time doing laundry.

our bed, with a sheet protector

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

They're called "Ebelskiver", Silly

That is a direct quote from Fiona, as I cannot seem to say the name of these tasty pancakes filled with, in this case, raspberry jam. I seem to call them edelweis more often not, and we all know, that is a flower... and now that the song is in you head, I will explain what ebelskivers are.

A beloved treat from Denmark, ebelskivers are light, puffy pancakes that can be filled with fruit, chocolate, jam or cheese and served whenever. Will first had them on a trip to Amsterdam two years ago and has been talking about them ever since. And then for Christmas, I got an ebelskiver pan from Will--shocking that I got a cooking present from Will. Why, yes, they have their own special pan, of course it is available at Williams-Sonoma.

The dough is not a straight forward as pancake mix, but has the same consistency. One reason it isn't like regular mix is that you have to separate out the egg yolks and the whites. The pan has the indentations that you place melted butter in. When the butter starts to bubble (because the pan is getting hot), you pour in a tablespoon of batter, then add a teaspoon of filling, and then add another tablespoon of batter. Cook 3-5 minutes on one side and then flip! The flipping is the hard bit, and you really need chopsticks or the specialized ebelskiver sticks so you can flip the little pancakes easier.

Monday, January 18, 2010

No Lime in This Coconut

I made toasted coconut ice cream today! Using David Lebowitz's book, The Perfect Scoop, I made my first custard-based ice cream. I altered the recipe a bit: using half and half instead of heavy cream and using lite coconut milk instead of whole milk. And I forgot the salt. But, the result is still delicious!

I had never made ice cream with eggs. As usual, when talking to Fiona, she perfectly put my anxiety into words, "You don't want scrambled eggs in your ice cream!" Always the worry when mixing the egg yolks into the cream and then heating. Now, the left over egg whites will be used to make meringue nests, but that is for another day. Right now, I am just enjoying a scoop of toasted coconut ice cream.... and maybe another scoop of mint chocolate chip...

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Wet Dog in the Morning

Today is the first rainy day we have had with the pup. After pushing her out the door this morning for the morning loo break, I was doubtful I would even get her out for a mid-morning walk. I was able to get her out the front door, and we made it two whole blocks before Stirling decided that she was wet enough. We came to the corner, instead of turning left or right, Stirling turned right around and started walking--indeed, trotting--back home.

We came inside, I toweled her off, and watched as all her fur promptly started to frizz. You can see that she is thrilled with the new hair do.

So, now that the morning "walk" is over, I can get to all my chores done that I put off yesterday since we went out for two walks (totaling 3.5 hours!)...

Also, I will have to run out and get dark sheets or blankets, as wet dog and white duvet covers just do not mix well.

Saturday, January 16, 2010


With Will being gone, I made some mint chocolate chip-vanilla ice cream. We had been planning on making it for a while, so why tonight? So I can be a piglet and eat it all myself!

Which won't happen because I don't think I can eat the 2 quarts I made in the 5 days he is still gone without causing some serious injury to my arteries and cholesterol levels. Not to mention the growing effect it would have my rear.

I will admit, however, that the thought *did* cross my mind as the ice cream is *that* delicious.

Move Over, Goldilocks

Friday, January 15, 2010

The Lap of Luxury

I think that we have finally achieved harmony: kitty in my lap, puppy besides me on the couch. Thank goodness the dog is not a lap dog. We would be in serious trouble then.

For about 2 hours, I sat like this. Jackie was purring and Stirling was snoring, both of them sleeping. Good thing it was a new Grey's Anatomy and Project Runway.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Brussels's Vegetable

Will loves Brussels sprouts. Loves.them. We have them a lot, which is funny, because growing up I distinctly remember working out a scheme with my siblings to pass the sprouts to my youngest sister Rebecca, who happily eat all four helpings--hers and the us 3--offered to her underneath the table.

Now, hardly a meal goes by where I don't have them. I was curious about their name, origin, reasons as to why they are called a superfood.

Turns out that the Romans started cultivating the sprouts. Those crazy Italians at some point got them to what is modern day Belgium, with the first mention of them was in Brussels in the late 1500s. In Belgium, they remained a popular local crop and with the end of World War 1, the (few) returning soldiers brought them back to home and spread the joy of the sprout, making the super veg even more popular.

Thomas Jefferson is credited to bringing the sprouts back to the States after his stay in Paris; though in all likelihood it was the French introducing the crop into the area we call the Louisiana Purchase. Commercial production of brussels sprouts began in earnest in Louisiana in the 1920s. Long Island, California, and Louisiana are still the top U.S. producing areas. Europeans prefer smaller sprouts than we Americans, and the only production difference is when the mini cabbages are picked.

Brussels sprouts are packed with vitamins & calicum, high on fiber, fat-free, and low on calories. I have also discovered that they are loaded with folic acid, which stimulates brain growth and development. My sister Rebecca is *pretty* smart. Maybe eating three extra helpings of brussels sprouts as a child is the reason....

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Dog Research

Will and I have been researching Stirling's supposed heritage. We think that

Australian Shepard

Gorden Setter

What do you think?

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Land Down Under


Sorry for that outburst. I am much calmer now. This morning at approximately 9:15 AM EST, Will and I booked tickets to go to Australia for a belated honeymoon. I am just a wee bit excited, as I didn't think that it was going to happen (until we remembered Will's 23042983413422 frequent flier miles!).

He will be out there working by the time I leave DC via LA to Brisbane to Melbourne. I leave on a Friday, and arrive on a Sunday. I don't even want to talk about that... We are heading down there at the end of February, which is the start of their summer. A chance to escape the cold!

We will have about 2 weeks there and top of the list is Phillip Island, where each night at sunlight the world's smallest penguins, the Little Penguins, waddle ashore to get to their burrows.

Also we will go to the Australian wine country, a train ride to Sydney, an expedition to see kangaroos & koalas, and more wine.


Friday, January 8, 2010


Will and I sent Will's nephews (and, to be honest, his nephew's dad) toy robots that you have to build. As Will put it, it would be amusing to have Oscar and Lucas demanding their robots be built while Andrew fiddled with all the fiddly-bits.

Today, Andrew sends us this:

"I could hear your worry that we had not got all the pieces after Luke’s exuberant and excited opening of your Christmas present. Very happy to report that we even had two mini screws left over! Luke has been following the robot around all afternoon (often humming the Star Wars theme tune… so robocan might have to morph into droidican). Picture attached of the one second when he stopped. Thank you again – I had a good giggle with the boys putting it together."
I would just like to add for the record, that Lucas looks too much like a big boy in this photo instead of the rambunctious little boy we saw at the end of June. It sorta freaked me out about how much these kids change, almost over night.

I also would like to point out that we built the same robot only we made our eye wires curly by wrapping the wire around a pencil. We also altered the length of the arms by cutting the straw as it seemed improbable that a robot could really function in "real life" with arms that long.

West Coast Meet-Up

While Will is busy taking the pup to work, I am in San Diego for a work conference. Here is the view from my hotel room this morning.

And guess who also happens to be here at the same time, visiting their other family?
Brando and Chloe!

Caroline and et. all scooped me at the airport, took me to my hotel, and then we went for lunch on the water (yum! coconut shrimp!), followed by a visit to Darren's sister's house.

At lunch, Brando decided that he wanted the lemon.
Only he realized, too late, what a lemon actually tastes like.

He next decided that maybe the french fry was a better choice.
Chloe couldn't agree more. You *always* go for the fried food over anything sour, especially a lemon.

While at Kim's, some Rock Band was played.

Turns out that Caroline is not only an accomplished pianist, but plays a pretty good snare. Well, would be if the drum kit had a snare.

And Darren can totally rock the lyrics.

And Brando, well, he decided that being the normal groupie in hipster clothes wasn't the way he wanted to support his favorite band. He decided to break out a costume in hopes for an autograph, or at least some of his own mic time.

Paid to sleep

Today we had a new excursion. With Miriam away I decided not to leave the pup home alone all day and instead brought her into the office.

Turns out I made a good choice according to Stirling. We had a nice drive in, short walk then I got underway. She quickly made friends with the folks here then tucked herself under my desk for the rest of the morning.

After lunch and a chilly twenty minute walk she decided that she was done working for the day and left my office to curl up on the comfy chair. Still under my gaze but no longer providing warmth to my toes.

That's the life

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Mail Call!

Someone got a package today in the mail from lovely cousin Diane.
It was a package full of good stuff: chew sticks, pet hair remover rollers, some catnip for the kitty, and a new purse. Even the grocery bags used as stuffing are a present now that DC is charging 5¢ per plastic bag for them (the 5¢ goes to clean up the Anacostia River).

Wait, a dog purse? Apparently all the cool dogs have one. It is a "Business Bag" that dispenses from the bottom a scented bag to pick up dog poop and handles for easier tying. It attaches to leashes, bags, or belt loops! It is, of course, green!

Stirling is thrilled! Thanks, Diane!