Sunday, December 23, 2007

Adventurous arrival

Our flight arrived in Minneapolis right on time, no problems, and we started a very long trip home. It had been snowing lightly and blowing hard all morning and wasn't letting up anytime soon. Dad picked us up and took us to the Highland Grill for lunch before we started north. Roads were snowy, and there hadn't been many plows out, so traffic was moving slowly. We were driving 40 mph on many stretches of the freeway, and saw numerous cars in the ditch. By the time we got to Duluth, the lake effect had taken hold - lots more wind gusting around. The freeways had been pretty clear, but the city streets were not. We barely made it up 21st Avenue, gingerly cut across 4th St., but couldn't make it the final half block to our house. We grabbed our computers but abandoned the Volvo and the 2 big suitcases and walked the rest of the way home. Mom had tea and lots of Christmas cookies waiting for us.

Dinner was one of my favorite meals - venison steaks and fried onions. After a rice pudding fortification, we set out to rescue the Volvo. Fred manned the big snowblower and worked on the driveway. The wind had packed it into a four-foot-high drift. Dad took the little snowblower down to the end of the block, to clean up the intersection. Scott and I got shovels and did the details. And... it worked! Mom and Scott and I took Max for a celebratory walk around the block - between the bright white snow, the Christmas lights and the full moon, it was bright out. But still cold and windy, so I was happy to get home and curl up with tea, one more cookie, and a warm laptop. It's wonderful to be home, and such a snowy home at that.

Water Ballet!


Alternate title: It's a Foot!

Many thanks to Becky for putting up with Scott's and my shenanigans in front of the camera!

Tail end of Florida

We're en route to Minnesota - just an hour left until our transition from humid 70-degree weather to icy 0-degree weather is complete.

Work was busy, so I didn't get to spend as much time with Scott's family as I would have liked, and we didn't see many of the sights. Still, it was a nice visit. On Friday morning, we toured Echo echonet.org, which is a Christian organization that develops plants and agricultural techniques to help feed hungry and malnourished people around the world. We spent two hours there and only managed to see the highlights. We saw some really smart, innovative rooftop gardening ideas. People who live surrounded by concrete can use old tires, carpet and old pop cans to plant vegetables. We also saw a bunch of neat edible tress. The moringa, for instance, has incredibly nutritious leaves and horseradish-like roots, and its seeds can purify water 98%. (Not sure what's left in the last 2% though...) For Christmas, Becky and Sandy had a tree planted in Scott's and my honor.

On Saturday, we celebrated Christmas. We drove north and picked up Becky's mother, and then drove a little farther to where Sandy's mother lives. Fantastic dinner - turkey with all the fixings and apple pie for dessert. We pried some good stories out of Mrs. Anderson - she lived in Indonesia for 2 years and in Brazil for 5 while her husband was working to introduce new crops to those regions. She's 100% Norwegian and was pretty excited when I told her I was going to get to eat lefse this Christmas.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The neighborhood



Scott and I went for a lovely crepuscular walk tonight

Wednesday, December 19, 2007


Thoroughly enjoying my "office" this week. Scott and I are sitting outside on the lanai, about 10 feet from the swimming pool. Beyond that is a pine forest and blue sky.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

A tumultous trip across the country


The adventure started on Sunday at 5 p.m. I went to check in online and discovered that we had missed our flight - we were supposed to have left on Saturday night, not on Sunday night. Miraculously, United issued us new tickets at no charge. Scott and I went on a nice little dinner and a movie date (burritos and "Enchanted"), finished packing, and took off first thing Monday morning. It turns out that if we had left on Saturday night, we would have been delayed in Chicago for 12 hours because of weather there. Instead, we had nice, uneventful flights.

The day was an eventful one for the Sheep though - a pretty massive restructuring was announced. (Here's a link to the official blog post about it.) I spent the three-hour layover on the phone, learning about it and discussing it, and a few more hours doing the same once we arrived in Florida. Almost all of us were shocked by the news. It's a sad thing, and it's strange to have to say goodbye to people who were doing wonderful work. (Some of them will continue to work with us as contractors in the short term, thank goodness.) We're all trying to navigate how to work together moving forward - who will fill the holes and how, who to ask for support, who needs to be supported, etc. After more phone calls today, I have a definite sense that everything will be okay. Not smooth or easy, but get-throughable.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Christmas Cactus, Day 2



Today's bloom is even bigger than yesterday's, and there's another bloom on the way - I hope it opens before Sunday.

I counted 11 other tiny blossoms getting ready to go.  We'll probably miss them while we're gone traveling.

Blogged with Flock

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Finals week... twiddling my thumbs...

I've been remiss in blogging... but my life has been pretty quiet these days. UC Davis is engulfed in finals, and I think I'm looking forward to Thursday night, when Scott is all finished, almost as much as he is. We have at least 4 parties scheduled for this weekend, to make up for the currently muffled social scene.

I'm mostly impatient for our holiday travels to begin. We're leaving for Florida on Sunday, where we'll spend a week with Scott's family. Then we'll spend a week in Duluth, have New Years with Alissa in Minneapolis, and head west to Colorado for a week of skiing with friends. Scott goes home after that, and I'll head back east for a Sheep retreat in South Carolina. That makes four straight weeks of traveling for me!

So, I'm happy that our Christmas cactus bloomed today so that we can enjoy it before we leave.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Color in my living room!


My apartment, originally uploaded by esproat.

I spent last night sewing a sleeve onto the back of my quilt, and tonight after dinner Scott and I hung it up. It fills the space nicely, and I'm definitely happy to have it hanging rather rather than folded up in a closet.


Today was productive overall. Scott and I worked from Mishka's in the morning, and then I ran a bunch of errands. Went to the Davis Craft Center's annual holiday sale and bought some gifts that I'm very excited about giving. More errands, an afternoon nap and some music shopping on emusic.com, a yummy butternut squash-beet-carrot-bok choy-chipotle stir-fry dinner, quilt hanging, and then a terrific game of Scrabble - our first in months.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Ta da!

Here's the top of the quilt!



This is going under the tree for a special someone, and then after Christmas we'll have it quilted professionally (get the top, the batting and the bottom layer of fabric all sewn together). Technically, I *could* do it, but it will turn out 10 times better if we bring it someone with the right equipment - stretchers and a fancy sewing machine.

The border turned out a little wrinkly... but besides that I'm really happy with it. It feels great to have it all bunched up in my lap. The colors are prettier in real life than in the photo.



In other news, today was a cooking-themed day. I spent the morning buying produce at Pedrick's Produce, other stuff at Super Walmart (although I'm still feeling guilty about shopping there) and bacon and kale at the farmers market. I made a pan of pretty good butternut squash and spinach lasagna. (Here's the recipe.) It was a beautiful, sunny 54°F afternoon, so Scott and I took a run through the campus arboretum, which definitely whet our appetites for lasagna.


On the agenda for tonight:
1. Work on a sleeve so I can hang my blue star quilt on the living room wall.
2. Hot tub.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Deep tissue massage

I've been meaning to get a massage since we moved to Davis three months ago.  At first, I wanted one because moving in was hectic.  Then I wanted one because work was crazy.  Today, I wanted one because I've finally gotten back in the habit of working out on a regular basis, and my legs were very tight from two days of running workouts.  (Here's one of them.

I found a masseuse in Davis with an introductory special of $75 for 2 hours and an opening tonight - the opportunity was just too good to pass up.  He did lots of work on my legs (and commented that he probably could have spent the entire two hours working on them.  They were tight!)  How sad that tomorrow, I'll do another workout and get all sore again. In any case, it was worth it.

The funniest part was that, at the beginning, a brass band was warming up for the Tree Lighting Ceremony in the parking lot across the street.  We decided it was better to turn of the soothing flute music and just listen to them, instead of have a band-flute cacophony.

And, the icing on the cake, Scott just agreed to take a dip in the hot tub with me tonight.  Yay!

Blogged with Flock

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

I think I'm official...

I went to the DMV this morning and showed them my smog test paperwork. After some paperwork, inspecting the car, and more paperwork, I got a new pair of license plates and installed them. Then we did some more paperwork. After that, I did more paperwork so that they'll send me a drivers license with my name spelled correctly. If all goes as planned, I won't have to return to the DMV for a long time. That's a big "if" though.

Here's the Panzer with shiny new California plates! I think the blue MN plates suited it better, but right now we're enjoying the flashy CA look.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Ten things I'm thankful for this year

  1. The Davis farmers market + Mark Bitman's How to Cook Everything - our semi-weekly entertainment and source of delicious dinners.
  2. Wireless - Working from home can get lonely, but wireless lets me do work from so many places - namely, Mishka's, where I run into people I know. Also, my family finally got wireless, so I can spend more time with them over Christmas!
  3. Telecommuting - Moving to Davis was scary, but being able to keep a terrific job with The Electric Sheep Company made the move ten times easier.
  4. Facebook - For allowing me to connect with old friends. There's no way I would have hung out with Seth in Las Vegas or Catie in Berkeley without it.
  5. California's smog laws - Even though it's been a big headache to comply, I'm glad they exist.
  6. The health and safety of my family - Too easily taken for granted.
  7. The hot tub in our apartment complex - It took Scott and I two and a half months to use it, but it's really nice!
  8. Scott's classmates - For being so friendly and welcoming to a shy Significant Other.
  9. The climbing wall at the UC Davis gym - It's fun, it's a workout, it's a way to escape the house after a long day of work, and it's a great way to meet new friends.
  10. Scott - For buying weird dried fish at the Chinese grocery and frying them for me, whether I like it or not. For picking such a nice town to move to. For giving me backrubs when I beg. For always listening to me, whether I like it or not.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Thanksgiving Eve Day

Thanksgiving Eve Day couldn't have been nicer. We've been having perfect fall weather lately - crisp mornings, bright blue skies, warm afternoon sun.



I worked from home in the morning - here's a picture of my office, which looked particularly nice this morning with sun streaming in and lighting up the flowers.



Then I picked up the car from the repairmen, dropped it off at the smog place and worked from the public library for a few hours before my stomach got the better of me and I went to Crepeville for lunch (and good wifi that let me access my work email).

I picked up the car, rejoicing in its smog compliance, stopped at the farmers market for pumpkins, beets, carrots and tomatoes. (Heavy on the red/orange food family today.) I should have taken pictures at the market - it was even more beautiful than the flowers.

I got home, did a quick workout (my first CrossFit workout in months), and when Scott got home, and we made one of our favorite Bittman soups - greens with soy sauce, habaneros and lime.


Today made me realize that even though Davis is small and doesn't have many places to go downtown, it does mean that you run into people a lot more often than you would otherwise. I saw four of Scott's classmates at Crepeville, and another friend at the market. Maybe this will get stifling in a year or two, but for now, for someone whose coworkers are voices on the phone or hastily typed IMs, it's great.

Blogged with Flock

The Saaga Continues...

The Saab saga may be nearing completion!  Here's a recap of our story so far:

DMV: Go get a smog test.

SpeeDee: Your car failed the smog test.

SpeeDee: We can't figure out why your car failed the smog test.  (But we won't charge you for the diagnostic.)

Volvo California Swedish: Your oxygen sensor is broken, and your exhaust pipe is cracked and leaky, and your catalytic converter might be messed up too.

Advanced Auto Repair: We could replace the oxygen sensor, but your exhaust pipe will probably break in the process.

Muffler place (contracted by AAR): Here's a shiny new exhaust pipe!

Advanced Auto Repair: Here's a shiny new oxygen sensor!

SpeeDee: Your car passed the smog test!

Next week: What will the DMV say when I return?  Will they let me register my car in California?  Will they relent and give me a drivers license that says "Elizabeth" rather than "Elisabeth?"  Will Ruthie find yet another way to torment me?  Stay tuned...

Blogged with Flock

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Weekend in San Francisco

I guess my post from Saturday deserves a little explanation.  I was thoroughly enjoying myself at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco, and felt compelled to photograph Naramsimha.  The story goes that the guy on his lap had received some sort of immortality "free pass" from the gods so that he couldn't be killed by man or by beast, in the daytime or at night.  Then he started acting up, and the gods decided he must be stopped, so Naramsimha changed into a half-man half-lion and at dusk ripped his guts out.



The rest of my San Francisco weekend was more mild-mannered.  I spent Friday at Valerie's house.  During the afternoon, I worked alongside a few other Electric Sheep, and that night Valerie and her husband threw a terrific dinner party, and even more Sheep came over.  I see my coworkers very rarely, so events like this are a treat.  (And Valerie and John are fantastic cooks and hosts.)

I spent Saturday at the museum, wandering through downtown San Francisco doing a little Christmas shopping, and having dinner with some of my oldest friends.  I grew up dancing ballet with Mavis, Nia and Lindsay.  I saw Mavis and Nia last year, but I hadn't seen Lindsay in a *really* long time, so we had a lot to catch up on.  For instance, she's married to a great guy named Andy!

Ballet girls + one husband

Above: Nia, Lindsay, me, Mavis, Andy

On Sunday, I got to have breakfast with Catie, who I haven't seen since we graduated from high school.  She's getting the same Ph.D. as Scott, except from UC Berkeley.  I'm happy to report that she will be in Duluth for Christmas, so I'll get to see her again before another 6 years go by.


Catie and I
 
I hopped on the Amtrak and was back in Davis in time for our IM frisbee team's first playoff game.  Since it's a single elimination series, and we lost, it was also our last playoff game.  But it was a perfect, sunny, crisp fall day, and I was happy to be out playing with great people.

Master Breeders - scary version

Above: the "scary" version of the team photo


Many thanks to my San Francisco hosts!  I can't wait to return and visit your fair city some more.

Blogged with Flock

Halfway...

40 out of 80 blocks finished!  I hope to get another 20 done over Thanksgiving weekend.


Blogged with Flock

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Thursday, November 15, 2007

On a roll...

I stitched 10 more blocks last night!  I did them when I got home from climbing, so my fingers felt a little loosey-goosey, and my back was definitely aching by the time I finished, but now that I've started, I'm excited to finish.  (Also, I've turned the living room into my staging area - finished blocks on the floor, raw fabric on the coffee table.  This reminds me of the project, and makes it easier to pick it up and get going, and makes me feel a little guilty for leaving a mess out, which motivates me to finish.)



This diamond pattern is probably what the finished quilt will look like, but it will be 8x10 rather than 5x6.  There are a bunch of ways to assemble log cabin blocks (just do a Flickr search on "log cabin quilt"), but I'm leaning towards this one.

Blogged with Flock

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

25% Done

The quilt grew again last night!  20 blocks down, 60 to go...

Blogged with Flock

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Home Ec Day

We thought today would be like most Saturdays - pickup Ultimate in the morning, a quick stop at the farmers market, and the afternoon spent working at Mishka's.

Somehow, the light drizzle kept the frisbee players away, so we got to the farmers market before all the good tomatoes had been taken.  We bought seven pounds of tomatoes, some cilantro, a hefty spaghetti squash, and three ripe persimmons.

We got home before noon and went straight to our market day bible, Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything.  The mustard greens from last week went into a spicy soy sauce soup, and the tomatoes went into pico de gallo. 

We decided to forego Mishka's since it was raining harder than before.  I worked a few hours and then pushed my computer aside to make way for a machine that hasn't seen the light of day since we arrived in Davis: Mom's sewing machine.  Mom was planning on making a log cabin quilt a few years ago, the summer that Margaret and I made our first quilts.  She had purchased and cut all the fabric, but my sister and I monopolized the sewing machine that summer, and Mom never got started on hers.  This summer, she took me up on my offer to piece the top for her.  Today, I finally started! 

Here's my progress so far.  My camera didn't capture the colors exactly, but this is the basic idea:



Log cabins are tedious patterns - each block has a lot of seams.  But they're not difficult, and it feels good to do work that's so different from my paid work.  My eyes assess colors, my fingers manipulate textiles, and my ears listen to the sewing machine the way I listen to my car when driving - the sounds can tell you a lot about how things are going.  Virtual worlds are great, but it feels good to have something tangible to show for your efforts at the end of the day.

I finished these blocks just before dinnertime.  I brought out Bittman again for a batch of black bean soup, which we served with a spinach and pea leaf salad.  Scott and I declared our love for the lesser greens (loosely defined as any leafy green that is not iceberg or romaine lettuce).

Now, back at my computer, I have another little home ec. project to my right - a potted herb garden.  The rosemary is dying (not enough sun?), but the mint, basil, sage and lavender are coming along nicely. 

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Parents meet parents!

I still haven't written much about the recent Parental Summit, when Scott's parents and my parents all got together out here in Davis to meet each other and take their favorite children out to eat. Besides all the good food and excellent company, here are the highlights:

  • Walking through the arboretum, examining cork and olive and eucalyptus trees, along with the big white head sculptures sprinkled liberally through campus.


  • All four parents arriving at our house with Chinese takeout and getting to spend time with them during an otherwise very busy day.


  • Showing the parents Virtual CSI: NY.


  • Scott's explanation of why his building is the Death Star.


  • Highlights from Saturday in San Francisco

  • Mid-morning pastries from the oldest Chinese bakery in San Francisco, and an evening stop at a Chinese grocery for tiny dried fish, little dried mussels, large dried mushrooms and unusual tea.


  • Biking across Golden Gate Bridge. I saw an otter below, and the pelicans were soaring so close above our heads that we could see their sagging gular sacs.


  • Seeing the bridge itself at such an intimate level and pace.


  • Reading "DEATH MONSTERS AHEAD" on the bike path, just before a street cut across.


  • Browsing City Lights Bookstore, convincing my mom to buy On Writing Well, and picking up E. B. White's The Elements of Style for myself.


  • Deciding not to rush home to Davis that night, and relaxing over a nice dinner with my parents instead.


  • Using my new book to determine correct punctuation in conjunction with parentheses while waiting for our food to arrive.


  • Not checking e-mail, and feeling like I had a real vacation day, far away from Davis.
  • Monday, October 29, 2007

    I got back from New York City last night. Here are some of the highlights of the trip:

  • Sitting on a pillow on the floor in the basement of a fancy Manhattan bar surrounded by Sheep, sipping a glass of wine, and watching Gary Sinese yell, "Log off! Log off, NOW!" on primetime TV.

  • Doing dishes with Becky on Friday night and knowing that the work week was over.

  • Venturing out into a rainy Upper East Side, in search of good New York pizza with Kate.

  • Finding good New York pizza and eating it with Kate.

  • Sleeping in until 11 o'clock on Saturday and Sunday mornings.

  • Wandering through Chelsea galleries, talking about art, thinking about color, planning to create it myself.

  • Listening Kate and her friend Katherine's shrieks when Ellsbury was at bat and when Papelbaum came out to pitch and when the Red Sox won Game 3.

  • Halloween costumes all weekend long - on little kids (Spiderman), on little dogs (a spider), on grown men (the tooth fairy) and on roller skaters in Central Park (a pirate/cheerleader).

  • The lavender and gold sunset on the way to the airport and the pumpkin moonrise while we taxied before takeoff.
  • Sunday, October 28, 2007

    Thursday, October 25, 2007

    We did it. We launched!

    It looks like tonight will be a quiet night - the first one we've had in a while. The CSI: NY Virtual Experience launched last night, and things have been going really well. A bunch of Sheep celebrated at a bar in Manhattan last night, where we watched the airing on a big-screen TV... and of course had a bunch of laptops running. Some people were making sure the registration portal was running, some were keeping the servers going, some were making sure the sims were staffed with greeters. It was neat to watch the registration numbers spike each time a commercial for the project came on. It was great to watch the episode itself, after so many months of preparation. But when it was over... it was over. So soon. It felt very abrupt. Good thing it's a cliffhanger and we get to watch our work on primetime again in a few months. (That's assuming the writers don't go on strike.)

    Kate came to the party too, and it was great to share the experience with her. I have such a hard time explaining my work to people, so I really appreciate opportunities to actually show what I do.

    I spent the night at Kate's and heard all about her recent skydiving trip and decided that I really want to go. Scott's been already, and is busy as a bee these days, so I'm not sure what my chances are of convincing him to join me. But maybe I could get Fred...

    And, finally, an explanation of why my color is "light cyan."

    you are lightcyan
    #E0FFFF

    Your dominant hues are green and blue. You're smart and you know it, and want to use your power to help people and relate to others. Even though you tend to battle with yourself, you solve other people's conflicts well.

    Your saturation level is very low - you have better things to do than jump headfirst into every little project. You make sure your actions are going to really accomplish something before you start because you hate wasting energy making everyone else think you're working.

    Your outlook on life is very bright. You are sunny and optimistic about life and others find it very encouraging, but remember to tone it down if you sense irritation.
    the spacefem.com html color quiz

    Tuesday, October 23, 2007

    More Virtual CSI: NY promotion!




    It launches tomorrow, Wednesday the 24th. I'm flying to NYC tonight to attend the launch party.

    Saturday, October 20, 2007

    Friday, October 19, 2007

    The parental summit

    As my previous posts indicate, I've been up to my eyelids in work the past few weeks. We launch on Wednesday the 24th, so make sure you watch CSI: NY that night! You'll get a glimpse of what we've been working on lately.

    The really exciting news is that Scott's parents and my parents came to visit us this past week! This was the first time they had met each other, and I'm happy to report that things went swimmingly. They got rained on quite a bit but still had a good time hiking, touring a vineyard, learning about the gold rush, and visiting their eldests. I expect to see a full write-up here soon!

    Scott's parents left on Wednesday, and mine moved west to San Francisco. Scott and I are meeting them there tomorrow for a day of sightseeing. If it's nice out, we'll rent bikes, ride across the Golden Gate Bridge, check stuff out and then take the ferry back. Maybe the Asian Art Museum in the afternoon, and then one last nice dinner.


    It's too bad they couldn't have visited at a time when I had a little less work to do. I would have liked to spend more time with them. As it happened, though, I think I savored my time with them more than I would have otherwise. It felt so good to step out from behind my computer screen and to have so many wonderful people to spend that precious non-work time with!

    Thursday, October 18, 2007

    Thursday, October 11, 2007

    CSI: NY Second Life Virtual Experience

    "Check out a first look at the upcoming CSI: NY Second Life virtual experience. Don't miss the episode everyone is talking about on Wednesday, October 24 at 10pm et/pt only on CBS."

    Wednesday, October 10, 2007

    Lovin' my oven

    Another benefit of working from home is that I'm in a great position to roast things.

    Scott had picked up a pumpkin on his last grocery run. A little random, perhaps, but Mark Bittman came to the rescue. I sliced it, brushed it with a terrific mix of oil, lemon juice, soy sauce, cinnamon and sugar, and baked it for an hour. We ate it over spinach, with a sprinkling of gorgonzola and a balsamic vinaigrette. It tasted fantastic, and the house smelled like cinnamon for the rest of the night.




    Last night, the eggplants had their turn in the oven. The skin got wrinkly, the flesh went in the food processor, and out came baba ghannouj. Also quite tasty.


    We had a quick dinner tonight (chicken in coconut curry that Scott whipped up) and then got to spend time with Scott's parents, who just arrived. They'll be in California for the week, and we're looking forward to seeing more of them this weekend (when my parents will also be here).


    Busy day... ready for bed.

    Wednesday, October 03, 2007

    I <3 afternoon naps.

    After lunch today I lay down to take a 10-minute power nap, but I slept for an hour. Oh, the joys of working from home. I got up, washed away the grogginess with a frothy soy cappuccino (have I mentioned how much I enjoy my new milk frother?) and have had a surprisingly productive day ever since. I've always been an early riser and have enjoyed getting things done early in the day, but these days no matter how early I get started, everyone on the east coast has already had a 3-hour jump start on me. The day invariably starts out hectic with all kinds of e-mails and IMs and phone calls to respond to. But sitting down to do work after dinner means that I can focus on producing things rather than just responding to things. Don't get me wrong, I'd much rather be out playing frisbee or crashing grad school parties, but given the amount of work on my plate these days it's definitely preferable to getting up at 3 am.

    Saturday, September 29, 2007

    DC week nearing its end

    I'll admit that I wasn't completely excited about my trip to DC before I came out. A week spent working long hours (away from Scott) didn't seem too appealing. But it's turned out to be pretty wonderful. I arrived last Saturday and spend the weekend with my aunt and uncle. I hadn't had a chance to say good-bye to them before I left in August, so it was good to spend some time with them during this trip. I got to practice with Pi on Sunday afternoon, crashed at Jess's house Sunday night, and got to work nice and early on Monday morning.

    It's pretty amazing how much more productive it is to work face-to-face with someone than from a place three time zones away. Damon and I can do good work together from our respective coasts, but it's just not the same as being able to walk into his office to figure something out, ask a question, and make decisions. I haven't even left the city, and I'm already planning my next trip out here, for the end of October (when our project launches).

    I've had time for a little bit of fun. On Tuesday, I had dinner at Pizza Paradiso with Paul P., Paul G., Jay and Christina. On Wednesday, I got to practice with Pi again. On Thursday, Damon and I took a break for a nice gnocchi dinner. This weekend is I'm playing in Regionals with Pi. It feels a little strange to be stepping away from work when there's so much to do, but it's great to be able to play with this team one last time. And I'll head back to the office on Sunday afternoon anyways.

    Off to bed. Looking forward to a solid night's sleep after four games and a big, beautiful Mexican dinner (accompanied by a mango margarita).

    Teammates at pancho villa. Very good margaritas.

    Wednesday, September 19, 2007

    Point Reyes

    We took advantage of one of Scott's last free weekends and took a nice little day trip to Point Reyes National Seashore, which is just a few hours west of us and a little bit north of San Francisco. We hiked along two different sections of the coast, and it was wonderful. Here are some photos.



    Spot the elk!











    The obligatory self portrait.

    Thank you Mark Bittman!

    We've had a very active kitchen these past few days. It's the result of lots of good food (farmers market), good food going bad (I'm still shopping in group-house quantities) and a terrific cookbook we just bought (Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything).

    On Saturday, we broke in our new cast iron dutch oven with the lamb shank we picked up at the farmers market. We stewed it with tomatoes, onions and olives. (Mark Bittman recipe #1.)

    On Sunday, we used the bones to make stock. (Bittman recipe #2.)

    Monday night, we had baked ratatoille, since the eggplant was on its last legs. (Bittman recipe #3.)
    After dinner, I made bread dough using a very easy, no-knead recipe. (From a Bittman NYT article.)

    Tuesday night, I baked the bread but had dinner at a Graduate Students Associate barbecue with Scott... no Bittman.

    Tonight, we used the lamb stock and the fresh bread to make French onion soup. (Bittman #5.) Since the carrots were starting to go, we made curried bulgar with carrots and raisins. (Bittman #6.) We tripled the number of carrots it called for but still had a significant volume on our hands, so we threw them in the food processor along with some tahini and a can of pinto beans (which I accidentally opened instead of chickpeas) and some other stuff and made an impromptu carrot-pinto hummus. And we had half a watermelon left over, so we made a batch of really yummy watermelon soup. (Last time we made it with watermelon an cantaloupe, which is even better.)


    Not sure what's next on the menu. We made enough food tonight to last us a week, and I'll be out of town next week, but I'm certainly looking forward to more culinary adventures in the months ahead. As much as we enjoy improvisational cooking, we have a lot to learn, and Mr. Bittman is teaching us quite a bit. (Many thanks to my mother, of course, who taught me everything I know so far!)

    Saturday, September 15, 2007

    Bikes, trains and automobiles

    Really, this post should be Planes, Trains and Automobiles in hommage to Fred's favorite childhood picture book, but bikes are a much greater factor in my life these days...

    Bikes
    A lot of cities are bike-friendly enough to qualify for the bronze level of the League of American Bicyclists. Fewer reach the silver level, and only a handful get the gold.

    Davis, however, needed a category all its own.

    Named the most bicycle-friendly city in the United States on Wednesday, Davis is the first and only member of the platinum level.

    Davis is recognized for its more than 100 miles of streets with bike lanes, trails and other bicycle routes, thousands of bicycle parking spaces and 25 grade-separated intersections keeping bicycle and motor vehicle traffic apart.

    From C.I.C.L.E.

    As I'm sure I've mentioned before, Davis's motto is "The Most Bicycle Friendly Town in the World." It's really pretty amazing. But... I still sort of miss the bike culture of DC, where things are just a little less civilized and faster-paced. Biking is incredibly safe here, and cars, bikes and pedestrians all have their own places and everyone follows the rules, and the police really will fine you $100+ for not coming to a complete stop (one foot on the ground) at a stop sign, or not using a light at night. In DC, traffic signals play more of an advisory role - you can choose to ignore them at your own risk, and usually get around just fine. Biking here is resigning to a slower, more civilized pace of transportation. It's good for me (and for everyone around me), but I'm struggling to leave my impatience behind and enjoy the journey for what it is.

    One delightful thing I discovered this morning is a bike path rotary. We discovered a new little shortcut from our house to downtown, and it includes a rotary for cyclists. Scott says there are even bigger ones on campus. It's really fantastic.


    Trains

    Our apartment is about 100 yards from the train tracks, so the sounds of trains have become a constant in our lives. If you look out through the kitchen windows, through the olive trees, you can see an Amtrak commuter trains or a nice big freight train rumbling past. The freight trains are the noisiest and usually remind me of the scene in The Blues Brothers when Jake and Elwood are in Elwood's apartment by the El tracks, and they can't hold a conversation and the whole place rattles.



    Our trains sometimes pause conversation, but so far they haven't rattled anything. We'll have to wait for an earthquake to do that, I think. Our bedroom and office are on the opposite side of the apartment, but the noise still echoes off the surrounding units for us to hear. It's easy to get used to, and I kind of like the sound of train whistles. They remind me of the ships and the Aerial Lift Bridge in Duluth.


    Automobiles

    Our little Saab (aka the Panzer) is incredible. It can hold anything. On Friday, we brought a fully constructed futon home in it. We had to tie down the hatch, since it couldn't close all the way, but boy can it hold stuff. The A/C is still broken, but afternoon temperatures are coming down, so we probably won't need it much until next summer. On my list of things to do today: add an Ultimate Players Organization bumper sticker. It's already got Fred's and Margo's stickers, so now it's our turn to brand it. I found a nice round red one that says "Play Ultimate" and has an image of a layout d. I've also got one from a long-ago Wellesley fundraiser that reads "Ultimate: Because everyone could use a good huck." Not sure which one to pick, so I might have to apply both...

    Also, I got fitted for a contact yesterday (yep, just my right eye needs it), and my cute Calvin Klein tortoiseshell glasses will be arriving soon, so my ability to read street signs will soon be much improved!!

    Farmers Market Sunflowers


    Scott and I visited the Farmers Market this morning, and it was even better than the Wednesday night market. We bought:
    Tomatoes
    Peaches
    Raspberries
    Yellow raspberries (?)
    Strawberries
    Tortillas
    Lettuce
    Yellow chard
    Kale
    Eggs
    Shank of lamb
    Breakfast sausage
    Sunflowers (pictured above)

    And there was oh-so-much-more that we wanted to buy but wouldn't be able to eat...

    On the south end of the market, there was a folk band. On the north end, a brass jazz band. In the middle, a violinist. Next week, I want to go and have a picnic breakfast on the lawn and listen to the music. This week, we had already had a breakfast: scrambled eggs with produce from Wednesday's trip to the market - okra, peppers and tomatoes.

    Tuesday, September 11, 2007

    Everest and DC

    Had a really cool dream last night about climbing to the top of Mount Everest. In fact, the climb up was so easy, I slept through it. I just opened my eyes and realized that I had made it to the top. It was really beautiful. We took the short cut on the way down, which involved opening a door in the side of the mountain to reveal a nice wooden staircase and several rooms filled with people playing pingpong.

    On a slightly less ridiculous note, I just bought tickets to go back to DC at the end of September. I'll be in town from the 22nd through the 1st, so if you're free and want to hang out, let me know! (Also, if I can crash at your house on Saturday night (the 22nd) that would be awesome.)

    Saturday, September 08, 2007

    Post game fashion

    Pi teammates in chicago

    Friday, September 07, 2007

    Week 1 in California has been a success. All of our shipments arrived, and we’ve been filling in the gaps – stuff from Ikea, stuff from craigslist and, of course, Ikea stuff from craigslist. We went to the Davis Farmers Market on Wednesday night and bought some beautiful tomatoes and grapes. We went running through the arboretum on the trail by the creek. Still lots of things to do, such as:
    1. Unpack my various beauty supplies (makeup, hair stuff, lotiony soapy stuff, etc.). For someone who doesn’t dress up much, it’s embarrassing how much of that I have, filling up plastic bags sitting on the bathroom floor. Soon it wil be stowed away in neat little drawers, and I’ll mostly forget about it until the next time we move…
    2. Visit the Davis DMV to apply for a Califonia driver’s license, and to transfer the Saab title from Dad to me.
    3. Visit the optometrist. As we were driving home on Monday night, after picking up an Ikea bed from a craigslist seller, Scott and I were comparing how far away we could read highway signs. He could read them 11-12 seconds before we passed under the sign, but I only had 3-4 seconds. I had no idea my vision was that bad! I think some glasses would come in handy…
    4. Set up the home office. So far, I’ve been working from the dining room table, but our office (the second bedroom) is south-facing and has much nicer light. And it will be nice to have a work space separate from my living space. I’m still trying to adjust to working from home. All the moving-in chores are definitely distracting, but hopefully I’ll get into a groove in the next few weeks.

    Right now, I’m on my way to Chicago for a tournament. Definitely looking forward to hanging out with Pi this weekend and running around a bunch! Maybe we’ll even win a game or two…

    Tuesday, September 04, 2007

    Settling in

    I arrived safe and sound in Sacramento, along with all of my awkward luggage, and was whisked away to my new home in Yolo County. It's wonderful to be here. It's been a busy few days of shopping trips (Target and Ikea), craigslist purchases (a "Jefferson chair" and a bed) and trying to keep up with work.

    Things are in disarray - my clothes are mashed together in open suitcases on the floor, and our counter is covered with paperwork to do - but little by little, things are getting done. We registered to vote, and Scott opened a checking account. We've got internet, and next week I'll visit the DMV to transfer my license. It feels good to be here.

    Sunday, September 02, 2007

    From the Denver airport

    After being in a sort of limbo for much of August, I am finally en route to California. Our stuff has been shipped, and Scott successfully picked up the Amtrak load yesterday. I taxied to the airport this morning with a huge purple suitcase, my bike (taken apart and boxed up), a heavy down comforter (which didn’t fit in the suitcase, so it’s in a taped-up trash bag), my violin, and my messenger bag (with laptop, crossword puzzles and New Yorkers). An awkward assortment of luggage, that made me thankful for baggage carts and even more thankful that Scott will be waiting for me on the other end.

    August was good. The time I spent with my family in Minnesota was wonderful, and I wish I lived closer to them. The week in Maine with the Electric Sheep Company was rejuvenating, and I returned to DC happy to get my hands dirty in work. The week in DC was productive work-wise and busy packing-wise. I got to spend time with some of my best friends there and had to say goodbye, but I’ve been impatient to get to Davis, and to Scott. I felt unsettled, so I’m happy to finally be on the move.

    Saturday, August 11, 2007

    Santa Cruz

    Wednesday was busy. The crazy post office trip, a busy day at work, an Ultimate practice with lots of sprinting, a few hours of beer, pizza and Frisbee players, and finally, packing up for a 2-week trip.

    Thursday was terrific. We arrived in San Francisco safe and sound, proceeded to the rental car office only to discover that our super-cheap rental was a black Mustang convertible. Sweet!! We took off down the Pacific Coast Highway, top down obviously. Gorgeous blue ocean with white-capped waves breaking on a rocky coast.

    We stopped at a café for lunch and spent a few hours doing work (me) and math problems (him) before continuing on to Santa Cruz. We arrived at Sibley and Nina’s in time to help with dinner. Great to see them. Great to be in such a beautiful, peaceful place.

    We spent several hours on Friday morning in downtown Santa Cruz working and doing math and the rest of the day back at their house hanging out, exploring the property, climbing 100 feet into a redwood (well, I just watched, but maybe I’ll work up the courage to do it later this weekend…), and making and eating dinner. Nina made challah for Shabbat, and Sibley made a vegan pot pie. Friends who had been to a local winery that day brought wine. All in all, an excellent meal.

    Scott and I slept close to 12 hours last night, which felt wonderful. He’s getting over his cold, and I wonder if I was fighting off the same thing, since I almost never sleep that much. Today is sunny and beautiful. The air is crisp and smells like eucalyptus leaves – so much more pleasant than the DC mugginess. Soon we’ll be eating lunch, holding a wedding ceremony (the seventh in a series of seven, held over the course of seven weekends) and then building a treehouse 100 feet up in a redwood.

    Thursday, August 09, 2007

    Trials and tribulations in our nation's post offices

    Scott and I are shipping most of our items on Amtrak, but we have several boxes that we wanted to ship via USPS media mail. Abby kindly lent us her car on Wednesday morning, and chaos ensued:

    We loaded up the car with all of our boxes and hit the road at 8 am. We headed south on Georgia to the Howard University post office, since it opened at 8 - nice and early, so I could get to work at a decent hour.

    We couldn't find it. We asked three people and circled the block four times and finally determined that it was in the basement of an administrative building. Not wanting to haul our boxes through a maze, we decided to go to the Upshur St. post office, which would be open by the time we arrived.

    We couldn't find it. We went home, regrouped, checked addresses and opening times, and set off once again.

    We found the Upshur St. office and happily (well, it was super hot and muggy, and Scott had a killer headache, but anyways) unloaded our boxes. We decided that Scott would deal with mailing the boxes so that I could drive home and get to work. I got home to a voicemail from Scott: the Upshur St. post office only accepts packages weighing 30 pounds or less.

    I drove back, and we loaded all the boxes into the car again. We drove north on Georgia and found a third post office. We determined that they would accept our boxes, although for some reason we couldn't address them in the (air-conditioned) post office. We unloaded our boxes onto the sidewalk, valiantly battled gusts of hot wind to label them. I nervously left Scott to finish up so that I could go to work. Around 11 am, I got a text message letting me know that everything was mailed. Such a feeling of accomplishment for such a menial task!

    Saturday, August 04, 2007

    Soaking up DC

    Just four weeks left until we settle in Davis. August will be fun and hectic, with a trip to California for Sibley and Nina's wedding, a trip to Minnesota to visit my family, and a trip to Maine for a Sheep retreat. Happily, I've been doing a good job of soaking up DC the past few weeks. Some highlights:

    I finally went to Twins Jazz on U St. There are loads of places to enjoy live jazz along U St, but I'd been meaning to visit Twins specifically ever since my friend Paul recommended it to me years ago, as one of the best. I had a guest in town, so it was the perfect excuse to show her a cool niche of the city. Tuesday is Afro/Brazilian/Cuban night, and it was fantastic. Kicking myself for not checking it out earlier... but better late than never.

    Similarly, I finally got around to getting lunch from The Well-Dressed Burrito. It has a fantastic reputation, despite its lowly location - a sketchy looking door in an alley opens into a space that looks more like a community center kitchen than a ravely-reviewed restaurant. Perhaps the best part is that it's only a block away from the secret garden, so you can get your lunch from an inauspicious hole in the wall and eat it in secluded beauty.

    We got to watch a trio of Venezuelan breakdancers perform on the corner of 11th and U, right outside the Bohemian Caverns. Their tour is sponsored by the State Department, but the show felt anything but official. It was casual, friendly, spontaneous. They had incredible yoga-on-crack balances. Cirque du Soleil meets hiphop. They're amazing artists, but generously shared the linoleum with anyone else who wanted in. I love DC for the fact that this kind of thing is special, but not wholly unexpected. It's easy to stumble across free, world-class entertainment (like Joshua Bell playing in a Metro station).

    For our weekly training session last week, my frisbee team needed a good flight of stairs, and most convenient location just happened to be the Jefferson Memorial. It's one of the prettiest - it's modeled after the Pantheon in Rome and sits overlooking the tidal basin. We piled our bags in a place that wouldn't upset tourists' photos, and spent a sunset hour sprinting and hopping up the stairs. I'm going to miss having such easy, casual access to places like this.



    Lately it's been hot and humid. Just about any bike ride gets you sweaty. It's 97*F out right now, and the humidity is predicted to rise from the current 34% to 64% tonight. Somehow, I love it. It feels like summer, when you're supposed to be all messy. You just resign yourself to being damp all the time, either from being outside or from taking a shower and never quite drying off. I love DC in the summer. (I love MN in the summer too... maybe I just love summer.)

    Thursday, July 19, 2007

    Cucumber Soup

    Right around this time last year, Scott and I made a batch of cucumber soup (read about it here), and lately we've been dreaming of making it again. It's easy and tasty and would have been the perfect thing last night, when we both got home from our respective Ultimate practices sweaty, hungry and tired.

    This morning I hunted through my e-mail and found the recipe that we used last year! It's one that Lynne Rossetto Kasper published in her weekly "Splendid Table" e-mail. Without further ado, I present "Cool Cucumber Soup with a Cucumber-Herb Relish." Bon appetit!
    July 12, 2006

    Dear Friends,

    We who dream up recipes for a living can fantasize all we want about America waiting breathlessly for yet another summer gem from our kitchens. Real world right now is, "Once I get home I want to stick my head in the refrigerator, then take an ice bath, then order in pizza, and hope no one will complain."

    This soup might change some of that anticipation. You could have it waiting in the refrigerator, along with cheeses, crackers, watermelon and lemonade. No stove, no work, and if you serve on paper plates, no clean up. Then take the ice bath.

    Cool Cucumber Soup with a Cucumber-Herb Relish

    Excerpted from Vegetable Soups from Deborah Madison's Kitchen. © 2006 by Deborah Madison. Used with permission of Broadway Books, New York. All rights reserved.

    Makes 3 to 4 cups

    This herb-green froth of a soup can be whipped together in a blender in moments, then chilled until serving. Served in glasses, it makes a refreshing way to begin a summer dinner, and it's a great convenience to have on hand in the refrigerator for a quick lunch or an afternoon bite.

    A cucumber soup can be led in many directions. You can allow dill to predominate and garnish it with dill flowers, use a mixture of herbs as is done here, or use chives with a leaf or two of lovage, the perfect cucumber herb in my opinion. If you want the snap of chile, add minced jalapeño and lime.

    The Soup:

    * 2 pounds cucumbers
    * 1 cup buttermilk, whole-milk yogurt, sour cream, or a mixture
    * 1/2 cup coarsely chopped herbs, including basil, dill, cilantro, and lovage
    * Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
    * Zest and juice of 2 lemons, or to taste

    The Cucumber Relish:

    * 2 tablespoons minced chives or scallions
    * 1 tablespoon minced dill
    * 2 tablespoons each finely chopped basil and cilantro
    * 1 lovage leaf, finely slivered
    * 2 teaspoons olive oil

    1. Peel and seed the cucumber. Use one to make a cup of small dice and set it aside, then coarsely chop the rest. Puree in a blender or food processor with the buttermilk, chopped herbs, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and the zest and juice from 1 lemon. Chill.

    2. Just before serving, toss the reserved diced cucumber with the herbs, a few pinches of salt, the olive oil, and the remaining lemon juice and zest.

    3. Taste the soup for salt, pepper, and acidity, adding more lemon juice if needed, then serve in chilled bowls with the cucumber-herb relish.

    LYNNE'S TIPS

    * Lovage has a flavor similar to celery, but bolder and spicier.
    * Go for especially sweet cucumbers for this dish. The season is high, and stubby pickling cucumbers and the unfortunately named "burpless," or classier sounding "English" cukes can be treats. Don't wash produce before storing. If you seal whole cukes in bags, pressing out all the air, they will hold in the refrigerator a week.
    * Even if it hasn't been possible in the past, it is time to buy organic directly from local farmers. If it's abundant and local, organic prices should be lower than at any other time of the year.

    Sunday, July 15, 2007

    This has been one of the nicest weekends in DC I've had in a while - lots of quality time with Scott, lots of soaking up what DC has to offer, lots of productivity around the house, and of course some Ultimate.

    On Friday night, Scott and I went to the Tabbard Inn for dinner - we've been meaning to go since his birthday, since his parents gave him a gift certificate. We sat out on the patio, and it was a perfect evening. Clear light, ideal temperature, no wind. I ate my first raw oyster ever, as well as my first soft shell crab and conch, and I'm eager to have all three again. We ate at a leisurely pace but weren't quite ready to go home when we finally paid the bill, so so walked to Dupont Circle, sat on a bench and people-watched for a while. The brass band was playing on the other side of the circle, and their jazz wafted our way. Couples, dogs, chess players, frisbee players, drunk people, hurried people. What a night to be out.

    We headed downtown again on Saturday morning to check out an exhibit at the Sackler called Encompassing the Globe: Portugal and the World in the 16th and 17th Centuries. From the website: "The Portuguese voyages of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries led to the first real interaction among almost all the world's peoples. An unprecedented exchange of knowledge, techniques, imagery and ideas inspired the creation of highly original works of art." The exhibit contained sections on Africa, India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, China and Japan. Lots of cool, scrambled things - like an Italian Madonna and Child in a setting with Chinese decorations. I got to visit Portugal for a week while I lived in Italy, and it was fascinating. I'd love to go back and spend more time there sometime.

    Scott had to spend the afternoon at the office, and I spent it doing useful things around the house. Like cleaning mold off the underside of the mat in the shower. Gross, but satisfying. Scott and I met at the Carter Baron Amphitheater, a few blocks from our house, for a picnic dinner and a free outdoor performance of the National Symphony Orchestra. Again, a perfect evening to be outside. The NSO performed a neat collection of works by American composers. Bernstein's Overture to Candide was terrific. Grofé's Sunset from the Grand Canyon Suite was wonderful. And the encore was Copland's Hoedown from Rodeo - irresistible fun.

    Today we spent lots of time in the garage, pulling out furniture that needs to be given away or trashed, and in the basement, packing boxes to ship to Davis. Today's "moldy shower mat" was a box of kitchen supplies that I had stored in the garage. A mouse had gnawed into it and made a nest of the potholders... and had left droppings amongst the silverware. I soaked it in bleach and washed it well, and then threw away the sponge and washed my hands well. Scott is as good as packing as I am bad at it. This entire process would probably drag on for weeks if he weren't here giving orders. Today, he's entirely responsible for my sanity.

    At 3:30, I left the nice, cool basement and headed north to Pi practice. We worked hard and sweat a lot, and it was a long bike ride home, but it was good. Now I'm home, showered, fed, hydrated, happily ready for bed.

    Tuesday, July 03, 2007

    Day 8

    We woke up and got moving earlier than usual, since we were on a tight schedule. We ate cereal rather than our usual full meal, loaded up the rafts, headed downriver 15 more miles, to mile 240. A speedboat was waiting for us there, so we loaded our luggage, said good-bye to our guides and cruised for 2 hours to get to Lake Mead. Our guides would spend about 7 hours making the same trip on the rafts. Flat water, low dirty yellow walls... an anticlimactic finale. At Lake Mead, our bus was waiting for us, and we rode 2 hours back to Las Vegas. Scott and I taxied straight to the airport, where we changed out of our river clothes into something cleaner. We got to Baltimore after midnight, caught a SuperShuttle home, showered and got to bed by 3 am, in a completely different world than the one we had woken up in.

    A fantastic trip. I hope the Grand Canyon is preserved and not dammed up in years to come so I can go back again.

    Monday, July 02, 2007

    Day 7

    Today was our last full day on the river - certainly bittersweet. I love the pace here, the rhythm dictated by the light and the water level rather than by work. But my body is ready to get back to more shade and less hot, dry wind. The river is much warmer now than when we began - its temperature rises 1°F every 20 miles, so today's water was around 58°F, rather than the 48° of Day 1. I'd been doing fine with the water the whole trip - sitting at the front of the raft, no rain gear, getting wet, shivering for a minute and then drying off and warming up. But it finally got to me. I was a little chilly, wearing a wet long-sleeved cotton shirt to keep the sun off, and I was worn out, so I got cold and cranky. Happily, people took care of me - got me situated in a warmer, drier place on the raft, so the day was not lost.

    We didn't go on any hikes today, because we had to cover a lot of ground. Our only stop was at Pumpkin Spring, named for the bright orange arsenic and selenium deposits. It was right at the river's edge, and the river was wide and safe enough that we could climb up onto some high rocks and jump off into the river. It's pretty crazy to be shivering when the air temperature is 115°F, but Scott and I both were. It stayed hot for a long time once we got to camp. We sat with our feet in the water and wore wet clothing to try to stay cool.

    We had a very good dinner of rib eye steaks, and then sat around together for closing remarks - good-byes, thank-yous, promises to exchange e-mail addresses and photos. All week our guides have been telling us what a great group we are, and we've been telling them what great guides they are, but it was nice to do it one last time, altogether, under a starry sky.

    When we had said what we wanted to say, we went scorpion hunting. Ani had a black light along, so about seven of us followed her back along a path, peering under bushes and behind rocks. And we found some! They really do glow in the dark! Bright neon yellow. We even found one hunting - we watched it sting an insect with its tail, grab it in its left claw and eat it. It's a scary insect but beauiful, and amazing to watch. Very graceful.

    The moon was late to rise, so I feel asleep under a black sky full of stars. The constellation Scorpio was hanging right over the canyon wall.

    Sunday, July 01, 2007

    Day 6


    We emerged from the bedrock, the hard schist, and returned to sedimentary layers - a pity, as the schist was really pretty.

    We were all tired this morning. We've been out for long enough that we're starting to feel worn down. For the first time, I felt ready for the trip to be over. I was tired, heat-rashed and a little bored.

    We went on a really neat hike along the upper rim of a slot canyon called Deer Creek Canyon. It involved some slightly frightening shimmying along a narrow ledge before the whole canyon opened up into a beautiful creek and waterfall. There were lots of big trees, which you don't see very often here. The hike had gorgeous views down into the slot canyon - lots of graceful, striated curves - and out across the Colorado River and the whole Grand Canyon.

    We camped at Fern Glen Canyon, at mile 168, and after we set up camp and did our afternoon reading, we hiked back into the canyon. It involved some rock climbing to get back to the big, rounded out amphitheater, which was of course filled with ferns. The route back there made me nervous - I'm always afraid of falling off rocks - but I'm getting braver about following Scott's lead, and it's almost always worth it, both for the sights and for the feeling of accomplishment. We took our time back in the canyon, exploring different parts of it, and were happy for our evening baths when we got back to camp. The after dinner entertainment was trading jokes. Good times.

    Saturday, June 30, 2007

    Day 5

    I woke up last night and saw the stars. The big dipper had fallen out of sight behind the canyon wall, but Cassiopia and Signus had risen. The moon was shining too brightly to see much else. Sunset, moonrise and nighttime are my favorite times here - the first two for their effect on the walls. It's amazing to watch the slow creep of sunlight and moonlight and their respective shadows on these rock surfaces.

    Today was another day of big rapids, which was great. I rode all the way at the front of the raft for a few of them, which is definitely more exciting (and drenching) than being farther back. Even better than the rapids were the hikes - we got to hike to two different waterfalls. At the first one, you could swim around behind the falling water, and then get pushed out through all the turbulence. The second was even better, because you could swim around behind, climb up through a tangle of dark rocks, emerge at the top of the waterfall, and jump down into the pool below. Both were absolutely beautiful.


    (Here's Anne jumping down. Norm took the photo, not me.)

    We put in a long day on the river and made it to mile 140 or so.

    Friday, June 29, 2007

    Day 4

    Here's Scott waking up on Day 4. Even though we took baths every night, it was still hard to get our hair clean. The result, in his case, was an awesome mohawk.



    Today was our first day of really big water. The rapids in the Grand Canyon are rated on a 1-10 scale (whereas the rest of the world uses a 1-6 scale). Today we ran some 10s and, I kid you not, some 11s. Straight out of Spinal Tap. They were definitely fun, and not as scary as I expected. The reason for all the rapids is that we dropped into a harder layer of rock. We went from nice soft shales to much harder schist. Less erosion = narrower, deeper, more violent water. The big waves are fun, but my favorite part of the rapids is right on top - the water is as smooth as glass as it's getting pulled, hard, down into the chute. You can see all the turbulence ahead, but for a moment it's very smooth and peaceful.

    It's beautiful rock. Seeing this canyon, along with reading John McPhee's Annals of a Former World has given me a whole new appreciation of how beautiful rocks can be. Just a little bit of understanding about how they came to be, combined with seeing them all laid out on such a large scale, goes a long way.

    Our only hike this morning was a short, flat one to Phantom Ranch, which is only accessible by boat and by mule. There are cabins and campsites and, nicest of all, a canteen where we bought ice-cold lemonade and mailed postcards to our nearest and dearest.

    We arrived at our campsite around 3 pm, right along a thundering rapids. Our noisiest campsite yet, but in the best possible way. We got set up under the blazing sun, and then Scott and I hastily retreated to a shady spot to read and nap until the sun got a little lower. After dinner, Norm got out his guitar, and we all sang songs together.

    Thursday, June 28, 2007

    Day 3

    We had another short day mileage-wise. So far we've been averaging about 20 miles per day, even though we have to cover about 240 total. The logic is that it's cooler at this end of the canyon, so it's better to spend more time here, and then more more quickly through the hottest parts.

    In the morning, we hiked up into Saddle Canyon, which glows red and orange, to gorgeous waterfall. The light on the walls was almost entirely reflected light, so it enhances the colors of the walls. At one point, I felt like I was breathing red air. Incredible.

    We set up camp early, right across the river from where the Little Colorado River joins the Colorado. We spent the rest of the afternoon playing and relaxing in the Little Colorado. It was as turquoise-blue as Saddle Canyon was red-orange. We felt like we were suddenly in the Caribbean. The water temperature was luxuriously warm compared to the big river, so we spent lots of time just idly paddling around. Following our guides lead, we flipped our life jackets upside-down and wore them like diapers in order to slide down the shallow, gentle rapids. Before we could get bored with that, our guides hiked us a few hundred yards upstream to where we could jump off a big rock. It was fantastic to see the 50-year-olds as enthusiastic about it as the 15-year-old.

    We headed back to our campsite when the sun had dipped below the canyon walls and shrouded our beach in shadow. As we were getting ready for dinner, our guides spotted some humpback chubs in the water - a special sight, as there are very few remaining native fish in the Colorado. They nibbled on scraps getting rinsed out of bean cans, as well as on Scott's finger.

    After dinner, we got to watch the rising moon slowly light up the canyon walls around us - sort of a reverse of the shadow shrouding that had happened earlier. Just as we were going to sleep, the moon itself rose above the walls.



    This is a poorly-focused picture of one of the rocks common on this campsite. It formed around coral, when this area was underwater, and then the coral dissolved away leaving this imprinted rock.

    Wednesday, June 27, 2007

    Day 2

    We started to settle into the routine that would structure our lives for the next seven days:
    • Wake up as it gets light out, around 5:30. Often accompanied by Travis, one of our guides, letting off a long, Tarzan-esque "cofffff-eeeee!"
    • Pack up your sheets, sleeping pads and tarps.
    • Wash your hands, rinse off a plate, eat breakfast and drink coffee. Make a sandwich for lunch.
    • Wash your plate, brush your teeth, pack up your stuff and bring your bags down to the beach.
    • Form a fire line and pass bags from the beach to the rafts. Spend a few minutes journaling (me), reading (Scott), or hanging out while the guides pack up the portable toilet.
    • Hop onto the rafts and enjoy the adventures in store for us that day.
    • Towards the end of the afternoon, pull into a campsite. Leap off the raft, explore the lay of the land, and stake out a good spot to sleep, preferably near the river, since the canyon walls have been soaking up heat from the sun all day long and radiate it well after you're ready to go to sleep. Leave your life jacket to claim your territory.
    • Form a fire line to unload everyone's bags and all of the kitchen items and to pass buckets of dish water up to the kitchen.
    • Hors d'oeuvres, alcohol, chatting, reading, bathing.
    • Dinner, which was consistently excellent. We ate only local, organic meat and dairy products, which would have been good even if we weren't hungry from a day in the sun and water.
    • More chatting, maybe some singing (with any of the 3 guitars that were along on the trip).
    • Fall asleep under the stars and the rising moon.

    It was a wonderful routine. I loved waking up naturally, as it got light out, and falling asleep under the stars.


    Enough about routine though. Here's what was special about Day 2:
    We started the day with a hike up the canyon where we were camped. It ended at a beautiful little pool. Then we hopped on the rafts and started our day on the river with the Roaring Twenties -- miles 20 through 30 on the Colorado are interspersed with whitewater every half mile. There were some big rapids, mostly little ones, but everyone got a good dousing.

    We ate lunch under this big beautiful natural band shell that covered the beach. Scott and Travis practiced climbing up the wall, and I tossed a Frisbee around with some of the college students who were on the trip. Saw some neat lizard and bird and insect tracks.

    We took another hike in the afternoon, and saw some Hopi artifacts: the stone foundations of a shelter and some petroglyphs. There was also a huge rock with tons of beautiful marine fossils.

    Farther on down the river, we passed a group that was stopped on a beach eating lunch, and there was a full string quartet serenading them. Erica, our leader, said they were professionals who get to go on the trip for free in exchange for providing entertainment to high-paying customers. I can't imagine bringing my violin down the river and exposing it to such extreme heat... but they seemed to be doing pretty well! They sounded great. What a neat summer job.

    Tuesday, June 26, 2007

    Day 1

    We woke up at 4:30 and piled onto a coach bus at 5:30. Destination: Grand Canyon. We wanted to nap, but a Grand Canyon documentary was playing, and it was just loud enough and just interesting enough to keep us marginally attentive. We learned all about General John Wesley Powell, the first man to navigate the entire Grand Canyon... at least the first man we know about. Five hours later, we were at Lake Powell, packing our personal items into dry bags and using a flush toilet one last time. After a brief orientation from Erica, our lead guide, we were off: 24 travelers, 4 guides, 2 big blue rafts.

    We started seeing beautiful canyon walls immediately. The walls at the beginning and the end of the canyon are lower than they are in the middle, where the earth has been pushed up higher. We also started getting wet immediately. There weren't any big rapids, but enough "riffles" and splashing to wake us up. The water was a chilly 48°F, and Scott and I were definitely shivering by the end of the day. We were happy to find our campsite and change into dry clothes. We had an excellent salmon dinner, read for a few minutes, and fell asleep,exhausted, as night fell. It was probably around 8:30.

    We chose to sleep out under the stars rather than in a tent. It meant that more sand blew in your face, but it was also much cooler. I'd forgotten what it's like to be in a place where you can see all the stars in the sky and just how dense they are. The milky was was glowing. Absolutely incredible.

    The only downside of the day was Scott's ant bite. He was walking around barefoot and got stung on the toe. He spent the rest of the evening sitting next to the river, numbing the pain, and ended up sleeping on the beach with his foot in the water as well. Pretty powerful ant.

    Monday, June 25, 2007

    In and around Las Vegas...

    I ended up having a really nice time in and around Las Vegas. On Saturday evening, we walked all the way from the Econo Lodge where we were staying to the Bellagio, where Cirque du Soleil was performing. A long, hot walk, but a good educational look at the Las Vegas scene.

    The show, "O", was incredible, both artistically and athletically. And it was clever - clever arrangement of bodies, clever wordless humor, clever engineering. The entire stage could be raised and lowered, in different sections, to create solid ground or pools of water deep enough for the artists to do high dives into. The backstage tour would be fascinating.

    We had a nice Italian dinner after the show, and then had leftover pizza for breakfast on Sunday morning before heading off to Death Valley.

    Death Valley is insane. We went to Badwater, which is the lowest place in the western hemisphere. The temperature was close to 120°F, and there were equally hot blasts of 60 mph wind. It's truly incredible that plants are able to survive there. We checked out Artists Drive, which loops through hills with very pretty sedimentary layers - years of mineral deposits have turned them green, violet, burgundy... barren, but neat. And it was really hot. Our poor car was overheating, so we drove around with the heath blasting and the windows wide open. Before any spontaneous combustion occured, we headed back to Nevada, which was hot but felt *so* much more bearable. We stopped at a gas station for dinner food - bread, peanut butter, bananas, and wine - and then found our campsite on the top of Mt. Charleston, which was thankfully cool and breezy. We slept well.

    We spent Monday back at Red Rock Canyon, which was great. We found some neat hikes and were even more wistful that we had our climbing gear. We got back to Vegas in the afternoon, showered and napped, and then met Scott's parents, their friends, and my friend Seth for dinner. The food was terrific, as was the company. I haven't seen Seth since high school, so it was great to catch up with him.


    The rocks at Red Rock Canyon
    (Photo credit)

    On Tuesday morning, we left for the Grand Canyon! But right now, I'm ready for bed, so I'll save those details for another post. I'll just say that my weekend in Vegas was terrific, but it was nothing compared to my week in the canyon.

    Saturday, June 23, 2007

    Safe and sound in Vegas!

    Scott and I arrived safe and sound in Vegas last night. Exhausted, bewildered by the casino-airport, but happily reunited.

    We spent today at Red Rock Canyon, which is just 10 miles outside of the city limits, but which feels completely removed from the ridiculous commercialism of the city. It is absolutely gorgeous. We hiked around and only did as much bouldering as my nerves would allow. We decided not to bring out climbing gear this trip, but I'm definitely excited about coming back here (in a cooler season, perhaps) for a climbing-centric trip.



    (Photo credit)

    Tonight we're off to see Cirque du Soleil. Tomorrow, Death Valley! It's pretty hot here in the city... I can't imagine what it will be like there.

    Tuesday, June 19, 2007

    Dream recipe

    Even though I had a snack before bed, I still woke up hungry at 4 am. I figured that was a little too early, even for me, to get up, so I went back to bed and dreamt about a peanut butter and jelly salad. It was basically broccoli with Thai peanut sauce and a raspberry vinaigrette. I don't know what it would taste like, but I definitely have to try making it. Maybe I'll impose it on Jack & co. at our dinner party tomorrow...

    I think the best part of the dream was the vivid green, "food porn"-esque close-up shots of the broccoli. Very TV.

    Saturday, June 16, 2007

    Quiet Saturday Evening.

    I just got home from helping Rob move into his new place, which is absolutely gorgeous. It was a fun afternoon, with lots of friends all pitching in. It gave me a little lump in my throat - it reminded me that I'll be moving in 2 months and that I'm going to miss my friends here a lot. But overall, a terrific day. I'm so happy (we all are) for Rob and Michelle!

    I had a pretty bike ride home, I'm listening to a good Father's Day edition of Prairie Home Companion, and I'm looking forward to an evening to myself.



    This was on my friend Paul's blog a while back, and I'd thought I'd share/pass it along.

    Four Things About Me --

    A. Four jobs I have had in my life:
    1. Server (and official cartoonist for the daily specials) - Bennett's on the Lake.
    2. Library conservationist - Wellesley College.
    3. Geometry and Algebra II teacher - St. Stephen's School in Rome
    4. Functionary - Electric Sheep Company. Yay!

    B. Four Movies I can watch over and over:
    1. The Blues Brothers
    2. Run Lola Run
    3. The Red Violin
    4. Uh... just those three I think.

    C. Four Places I have lived:
    1. Duluth, MN
    2. Wellesley, MA
    3. Rome, Italy
    4. Washington, DC

    D. Four TV Shows I like to watch:
    1. Does The New Yorker count?
    2. I like watching Top Chef when I'm with friends.
    3. And it was really fun watching The X-Files in the basement TV room in college, with lots of friends heckling.
    4. NOT Battlestar Gallactica... sorry Scott!

    E. Four places I have been on vacation:
    1. Duluth, MN
    2. Rimini, Italy
    3. Seattle, WA
    4. Savannah, GA

    F. Four of my favorite foods:
    1. My mom's rhubarb crunch
    2. Pizza (on a thin, crispy crust with fresh basil and mozzarella)
    3. Saturday morning pancakes with Scott
    4. Dairy Queen banana chocolate blizzards

    G. Four Places I would like to be right now:
    1. In Nevada with Scott
    2. In Duluth with my siblings and Alissa
    3. At the cabin with my parents
    4. In Duluth with Scott and my family and Alissa

    Thursday, June 14, 2007

    Another thunderstorm!

    My commute last night was as dramatic as Tuesdays, but nearly as well-timed! I was dry between Cafe Citron and Dupont Circle, but then the rain started. It was only spitting at first, so I didn't bother to put on the raincoat in my bag. By the time I got to 16th and Harvard, I was drenched. And what was the point of putting on a raincoat then? So I continued to Aaron and Jess's, arrived completely bedraggled... but it was fun. Sort of outrageous to be out in weather like that. Such a DC summer thing.

    The best part, though, was being welcomed at the end of the ride with a clean towel and dry clothes that Jess let me borrow. A delightful evening ensued.

    Wednesday, June 13, 2007

    Venice, Lightning, Cooking


    Many thanks to Bucci for supplying me with these pictures!


    I had a dramatic run home from work yesterday. I was running down 16th Street toward the Rock Creek Parkway bridge, and the clouds were dark gray, and the trees were dark green underneath, and a bright bolt of lighting lit up in the distance. I got home just as the rain started, and enjoyed the remainder of the storm, from the comfort of my couch.

    Tonight I'm off to Aaron and Jess's for the season premier of Top Chef, but even better, we also get to enjoy a nice dinner together beforehand.