Sunday, July 31, 2011


I took this picture almost as an afterthought - I spent a weekend camping and hiking with two friends in glorious Big Sur. We'd had an amazingly lovely (and butt-kicking) hike, covering ground I'd previously visited a few years prior. In the intervening years there'd been a lot of fire activity and the new growth was threatening to choke off the path altogether! So I assure you that sitting down and enjoying a beer together felt like a bit of heaven:
Only as we were leaving did I look back and see the sunshine on the glasses and think that it represented a lovely piece of time.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

WIP Wednesday: Cherry bounce!

In talking with a knitting friend lately, I realized I'm a process person, while she is a product type. In other words, I enjoy the time I spend making a knitted object, but am not really motivated by the finished project (and living where I do, I have a limited demand for scarves, hats, and knitted socks). She, on the other hand, is all about getting stuff made and is an amazingly prolific knitter!

It was an interesting conversation, and rather enlightening too. It explained my interest in jamming, when it turns out I don't really eat jam; and my more-recent fascination with infusing booze, when I'm not really that big a drinker.

I made limoncello (it didn't turn out well, but from the looks of the bounty on my building's lemon tree, I may try again in a month or two!); I infused gin and rum with figs; I've made two stabs at nocino, and now I'm making cherry bounce!

It turns out cherry bounce can be either sweet or sour cherries, in any type of booze, with sugar. I am literal-minded and made cherry bounce using the recipe that was my first introduction to the subject. The recipe calls for bourbon, sweet cherries, and sugar - easy! TOO easy, my friends.

I polled people I know about bourbon preferences, and wound up buying two types - Maker's and Four Roses. In separate jars I combined 500 ml of each with 1/2 cup sugar and a half-pound cherries, and now I just wait a few months and see if there is any earthly difference.

...and it just so happens I have a flat of sour cherries in my fridge, so I may be making non-bourbon bounce in the near future. As ever, stay tuned!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Traveling on miles: first results

In September 2010 I launched my experiment with getting miles in order to fly inexpensively. It's been interesting, as the hoops have gotten a little more tricky each time. In fact I am now realizing that the details are already very vague!

Completed programs:

  • First, I got two cards; on each card I had to charge & pay off $1500 in six months. No problem. The result? 75,000 miles per card - 125k miles on American! (cards now closed)
  • Then I got another card -  this time around I had to charge & pay off $4000, and I can't remember what the time frame was - probably 3 months, for another 75,000 miles on American. (card open but with zero balance, ready to close)
  • Oh, and then I got an offer to take out a different card, pay something like $90, charge a couple of times, and pick up 50,000 miles on United. (card now closed)
Pending programs:
  • My most recent card (Chase) requires that I charge $3000 in three months to get 50,000 points. I went in thinking they were points on United, but it looks like they are Chase points that can be used to buy (among other things) airline miles, so they will likely become 50,000 United miles.
  • Finally, I've opened a bank account with Citibank. I have to pay 2 bills with their online bill pay for 2 months in a row, and they will give me 25,000 miles on American. I opened the account with $100 and have set it to pay two bills so far. Should be quite doable.
What does all this mean? Once I get my next set of points I will have 138,000 miles on American, and 122,587 on United; I'll pick up a bout 4,000 more miles on my Christmas flights which will push me over 125k on United, the holy grail for first class international flights (at the moment).

So is it worth it? Yes, it is, especially if you can be a bit flexible/creative in your bookings. First of all - it's an excellent adventure: the above picture is my private dining table in first class on British Airways! Each person is seated in a pod-like area with a foot rest and a seat that fully goes flat and can be made up like a bed; a table that can be pulled out and set with linen and real tableware (clearly first class passengers would never endanger anyone by wielding flatware improperly); a private tv screen (though that's not exclusive anymore), and the food was delicious. It's not a free flight - it cost me $700 (you have to pay all the taxes and fees for the flight), but that was about half what a coach class ticket would have cost me.

Of course it's important to pay attention to the details and charge enough (and pay it off, of course) to make it to the deadlines. I'm aware of programs like buying coins from the mint and using them to pay the credit card bill, but I'd prefer to do this in a straightforward fashion. We'll see how it goes - my spending seems to go in peaks and valleys and I'm at a low stage right now. I still have to charge $2430 in the next 2 months, so I may wind up looking for tricky options - we'll see!

I'm going to Germany at least once next year so I'm not worried about finding ways to use the miles - I just have to decide if I'm willing to fly coach class anymore. (I kid.. sorta)

Friday, July 15, 2011

Guess where I've been?

I've been away, I know! What a summer it's been so far! Just a little show today; hopefully I'll get around to the "tell" segment soon.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

WIP: Nocino report

Almost as soon as I got the walnuts in the vodka, they darkened the liquid to this extremely suspicious color.
I know that this is okay, but it sure is ugly.

Also, I was thinking about my recipe that I posted in my last blog post on this subject: Including grains of paradise is kind of obnoxious. Sorry! I am immersed in foodie land in the Bay Area and was psyched to score this ingredient a couple of years ago. It's kind of like a floral peppercorn, and is definitely not required to make your own delicious liquor. But I just couldn't help myself!

Soon it will be time to remove the solids and then just let this sit and think about what it's done. The earliest I ought to taste it is December. By which I mean, I'll be sure to sample it when I remove the solids!

Friday, July 1, 2011


When I took this picture I knew it was destined for my calendar, and indeed, I think it's my favorite of all the pictures I took in New Zealand last spring.

It's a fence post that we passed when walking into the small village called Ohinemutu. Using a bit of shell for the eye was a brilliant touch!