Sunday, January 30, 2011

entirely inspiring dessert

I finally got to go to dinner at a local restaurant that has quite a devoted following. Boot and Shoe Service took its name from the original inhabitants of their storefront - they are a thin-crust pizza joint with amazing desserts.

My friend got a burnt caramel pot de creme that inspired me to do some poking around for the recipe! I found a likely candidate almost immediately, and set to work today.

All in all they came out okay - I don't think I nailed it yet! It's hard to purposely caramelize/burn sugar, and I think I pulled it off the heat too soon. But it was interesting, and I think I'll revisit this - possible for our wine group's dessert in February!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Great Plastic Experiment: I'm hooked!

Back in September I embarked on what I called the Great Plastic Experiment: I was going to finally be one of those working-the-system folks. To revisit:

The goal: free flight to Greece without paying any annual fees or interest on the charges.
The timeline: I'll be there in June 2011
The process: So far I've signed up for one Visa that gives miles on American. I have to spend $1500 in the next six months to get 75k miles. If I also sign up for their Amex, that'll be a commitment of $3,000 spending in six months to get 150k miles, which would be PLENTY for the trip - if I can successfully use them to book the travel.

And now:
The result: I'm going to Greece, baby! It's a dang good thing I signed up for two cards for a total of 150k miles, because my only option is to travel first- and business-class all the way, for a grand total of 125k miles and $700 spent. I didn't expect to pay money, but I forgot the traveler still has to pay the taxes and fees, and the taxes are based on a first-class fare, so they added up quickly. But wow, a first-class international flight is pretty exciting. Apparently you even get pajamas when you fly first class on British Air. I shall be sure to take notes, friends.

As planned I didn't pay any interest or fees. I still have to cancel the cards and will do so as soon as they approve me for yet another 75k mile reward card. Me, hooked?

Monday, January 17, 2011

A fine fine treat indeed

I went to Ireland and Scotland in 2009, and bought a multi-day train pass for my time in Scotland. My mom and I used our passes to get from Edinburgh to Inverness, Inverness to Glasgow, Glasgow to Gourock (and back again, when the Highland Games were cancelled due to soggy fields), and Glasgow to Edinburgh again. After my mom left, I used my pass one last time to travel from Edinburgh back to Glasgow. I think we probably got our money's worth, but I did intend to do a solo train trip to a randomly-selected destination, Oban.

Oban is a coastal town in the northwest part of Scotland. It's got a distillery there, and a hostel, and I had big grand visions of taking the train to Oban, walking to the hostel, poking about and enjoying the views, and of course visiting the distillery.

Well, I pooped out after 2 1/2 weeks of constant travel. Instead of one last overnight trip, I booked extremely cheap & shabby lodgings in Glasgow and did some solitary exploring.

I didn't even try the Oban distillery's whisky until over a year later at a local bar. And of course I found it delicious! At seventy bucks a bottle, it's nothing to be swilled lightly, but I bought myself some recently, as my official raise & promotion self-present. And yes, it's quite nice. And the next time I'm in Scotland, I am definitely going to Oban!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Creative energy

I've been a bit light on creative activity of late - I've been working on a complicated pair of socks, but am a little stalled. I tried to make a hat for a baby, but it was big enough to fit me, so I opted to rip it out and start all over.

I have been spending some sporadic time in the kitchen: I made some molasses-buckwheat-whole-wheat-flour bread, but it wasn't very photogenic. I made some chocolate-whiskey cake and am going to make some hard sauce to go on top of it - but I don't expect to get any photos. Oh, I roasted some veggies - Brussels sprouts one day, fennel another - and made some tasty soups.

So I guess I've had at least SOME creativity in my life! 

It's true that I'm still sleeping on a mattress on the floor, and don't expect to get THAT sorted any time soon, since I'm off to glorious New Mexico this weekend! perhaps I should say FRIGID New Mexico, but hey, that's what you get when you travel in January. Fortunately I'm traveling with friends and one of them has been doing all the heavy lifting in terms of planning. He likes it, I'm not feeling like I have any specific desires for the trip, and I just want to go and see cool stuff and have fun.

I shall take pictures! and notes! and will make blog posts therefrom!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

four hundred sixty point seven four

or, more conventionally put: 460.74. That's how many miles I rode my bicycle last year! At least that's what I cleared out of my odometer this morning when I rode to work for the first time this year. It could even be a bit more, as my odometer is a bit wonky, but that's good enough for me.

It's a lot less than I've ridden in previous years but it's nice to have a number. And if my spotty data sources can be relied upon, it's more than I rode in 2009 (which seems to have been 389.66 miles).

My round-trip commute to work is exactly seven miles, so that represents 65 commutes - better than once a week! When you factor in holidays and vacations, I actually work perhaps 45 weeks a year, so that's really starting to look pretty good.

I didn't make any New Years resolutions, but I like keeping my car home more days than not, I enjoy biking to work, and am fortunate to get to carpool many other days of the year. So let's see if I can do better than last year for mileage! Here's my bike's mileage so far, since I got it after finishing grad school:
  • 2004: Cycle Oregon #1: got my new bike, put 1561.5 on it.
  • 2005: Cycle Oregon #2: rode 1657 miles (3218.5 total miles on odometer)
  • 2006: rode 340 miles in Oregon, then 113.6 in California - 453.1 season total (3571.6 total)
  • 2007: rode a measly 88.7 miles (3760.3 total miles on odometer)
  • 2008: Cycle Oregon #3: rode 1,199.6 miles (4959.9 on odometer)
  • 2009: rode 389.66 (4967.4 on odometer)
  • 2010: rode 460.74 (5817.8 on odometer at end of year)
I'm so glad I got back into bicycle commuting to work. 2007 was just silly. (and I'll be the first to say that 2004, 2005 and 2008 was a whole 'nother kind of crazy) I'm also supremely grateful I have a bikeable commute!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

2011: 01

Dear friends, it's January - the start of a whole new year! I am going to have to figure out this blogging thing - I enjoy doing it and yet have been finding myself not wanting to turn on my computer in the evening. My work days in my new gig have been extremely intense and the last thing I want to do is waste my precious evening staring at a computer.

But I love you readers and heck, it's time for the calendar shot!
 I'm extremely pleased with this picture of San Francisco's iconic Golden Gate Bridge. In fact I've had a print made, and if I'm ever done with my bedroom project, I'm going to frame it nicely and put it in there. (It's a big if though... I'm feeling a trifle stalled at the moment. Though honestly my room is not terribly habitable as it is, so I'll resume the project soon.)

Anyway, a friend came to town for Thanksgiving and we took advantage of the stunning weather and walked over the bridge - one of the things on my California Bucket List! Now I can check that one off, though I'd happily do it again with the right company.

I knew the bridge is a cable bridge..  but it was cool to get to see inside a cable.
There are 27,572 wires in each cable! The total length of the wires used measures 80,000 miles! The.. oh, heck. A picture really is worth at least a few more of mine:

Anyway, the whole hour or longer we walked on the bridge I kept looking and looking for the right shot. I shot and deleted a whole bunch of pictures. I even got a few I like pretty well:

But when I took the one at the top of this post, I knew that was it!