Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A Look Back

As Billy and I sit here tonight drinking a bottle of Marinus out of coffee cups (true high class trailer livin') we are reflecting on this past year and looking forward to this next one. We ran over to The Nugget grocery (I love The Nugget) and bought some weird indulgent goodies to ring in the new year. We have already been feasting on Point Reyes Blue Cheese with sundried tomato crostini and local pistachios, next will be asiago and pine nut ravioli with Sonoma Gourmet garlic sauce and we are capping it all off with vanilla rice pudding. I fully expect that I may puke before 2009 actually hits. Especially since this wine is so freaking good and I am sure to drink more of it than I should. If you are a wino I highly suggest indulging in this one. It is produced right in Carmel Valley. Good stuff. I should be more than moderately drunk by the time I finish this post. Or maybe I already am more than moderately drunk? You decide. Hic!

Anyway, I thought I would pull together a little photo essay of this past year of our lives for my last post of 2008. We had a good year that was peppered with a few weird patches but over all it was fun and interesting. This time last year we were in Texas. It seems like a million years ago! I think we stayed in last year and cooked black eyed peas. I forgot about black eyed peas this year somehow. Don't tell my Gram. She will be convinced that all will be in ruins by next Tuesday because we did not eat the peas. And she may well be right about that.

OK. I am going to post three pics for each month of the year. How does that sound? Here we go... January in Texas!

This was our campsite for the last few weeks we spent in Hill country. Nothing special... but the weather was nice.

On January 6th of last year we visited Texas Stonehenge. And I wore this outfit to Texas Stonehenge. That is a real live Stetson hat by the way. As I recall Rudy got really car sick that day. Or maybe my sense of style was making him puke. Who knows.

We ended the month of January by traveling the 8,890 miles across West Texas and up through New Mexico on our way to Santa Fe. We stopped off for a few days in Roswell. It was fun in the stupid way that you would expect it to be.

On to February... we arrived in Santa Fe where we put the Airstream in storage and rented a casita downtown. Rudy's birthday is on Valentine's Day. It was his first birthday and my Mom sent him a cake. As you can see he was really embarrassed.

Michelle and Casey bought Rudy his very own tiger for his birthday gift. I will let the picture do the rest of the talking on that one...

Michelle would come over at night and entertain us for hours by playing a tiny blue accordion.

And I have to sneak one more pic in here. Because one of the most important things about Santa Fe is the cherry pie at the Plaza Diner. I think we ate it at least twice a week for the 6 or so months that we were there.

March is when the weather starts to ease up in Santa Fe. You can get out and start to enjoy the sunshine and go hiking and stuff again. You can also practice amateur rock climbing if you are brave enough...

Our favorite mariachi band starting performing on the plaza in March...

And we took a trip up to Ojo Caliente to go hiking for the day and jump in the natural hot springs...

On to April... Billy gave a painting workshop in our living room.

We went hiking in the Pecos Wilderness and almost lost Rudy. For real. We almost had to leave his dumb ass behind because he ran off into the woods and we could not find him and it was getting dark, etc. etc. Anyway... he came back.

My cousin Chelsea came to visit us. She is my fave cousin and we had a great time hanging out.

May is a great month in Santa Fe. The weather is really warm, hot even. We celebrated Billy's birthday and spent a lot of time on the plaza and just hanging around town, going to the dog park and enjoying life.

Somehow the only pics I have from June are of Rudy from the park by the post office where we would take him to chase tennis balls. He loved it and so did we because it involved lots of laying around on the grass and laughing at dumb dog antics.

Sometime around July is when we got our new Nikon. I still love it.

This shot is from the 4th of July before the fireworks.

And July is when I cut my hair. This is the before shot... I don't know if I will ever let my hair grow that long again.

August... what the heck? August was huge. We left New Mexico in August and traveled across Utah and Nevada in to California. We spent my birthday in on of my favorite places on Earth, Monument Valley.

Then we headed up to Zion where we nearly died on the hike pictured below... we ran out of water and it was like 105 degrees that day. I don't recommend doing that. I recommend the hike... just not the shortage of water. Or nearly perishing... try to avoid that experience if you can.
Somewhere near Zion we found this cool little sand dunes state park. We had a blast wandering through there and letting Rudy run like the wind.

Then we hit Cali. Billy's Dad and little sisters had recently relocated here from the East coast and we hooked up for a visit outside Sacramento.

In September we hit the beach and Santa Cruz. It had been forever since we had been to the ocean and it was soooo nice. I love the redwood forests on the coast as well and we spent a few weeks hanging out in the area.

I am going to cap off with October because guess what... if you can't just page back a few posts to see November then you are lazy. Or I am lazy... maybe we are both lazy. October was when we were officially booted out of Big Sur when we lost our camp host positions and our plans for the winter crumbled before our very eyes. We headed back up to Carmel and settled in to the valley. The beach in Carmel became our daily addiction and Rudy's favorite place in the whole wide world.

We had a great month and spent a lot of time exploring...

The sea lions in Monterey are all yoga masters...

So there you have it.... A quick year in pictures. Who knows what 2009 will bring? As I write this we have NO idea what we are going to do or where we are headed. I have applied for national forest service jobs everywhere from Minnesota to Alaska. We are still considering heading back out to New England as well. We just have to see what cards we are dealt in the next few weeks. Not knowing is somewhat stressful but it is also exciting. We have nowhere that we HAVE to be right now. The choices laid out before us are almost too many.

All the best to you in the coming year. I think it is going to be a tough year for all of us no matter where we are or what we are doing. The world is in a shambles (worse than usual) But what goes down must eventually come back up right? To quote Mark Twain... "Only he who has seen better days and lives to see better days again knows their full value." Cheers!

Winter in Paradise Valley

Billy rode out early this morning to shoot pictures of the ranch in heavy fog. We woke up to an absolute blanket of it. While he was out it started to break up and the sun was bursting through. He got some really gorgeous shots. Things are starting to really green up here because of the recent rains. It is a beautiful spot to be right now considering the hideous winter weather a lot of folks have been dealing with elsewhere in the country. As always you can click on each individual pic to see a full screen version...

Not too shabby eh? I am sure Billy will do at least a few paintings from the images he grabbed this morning.

Oh... and I have to add here that Billy announced finding "The Prettiest Poop" he has ever seen this morning as well. Behold...the ethereal morning dew and the pretty poop!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Coconut, Christmas, Cows

Hiya folks. I hope everyone is doing fine and returning to normalcy after Christmas craziness and the fact that 16 tons of snow were just dumped on every acre of land from sea to shining sea. We had a mellow holiday here in Cali. We opened gifts live over speaker phone with my family in Illinois and then cooked a glutinous dinner and pigged out. It was an easy relaxed day.

I whipped out a batch of ambrosia macaroons the other night. It was my first try at making macaroons and it was so much easier than I had guessed it would be. I am a hard core macaroon junkie and always assumed that they would be a tough cookie to crack in a home kitchen. I was ever so wrong. You can kick out a batch without even knowing what the heck you are doin'. The hardest part is the waiting.... waiting for them to cool and set up in the fridge. Here are my pics from the baking seesion and the recipe follows taken from

Before baking...

and after...

Ingredients and Preperation

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated orange peel
  • 3 large eggs
  • 24 ounces sweetened flaked coconut (about 6 cups firmly packed)
  • 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted
Position rack in center of oven; preheat to 325°F. Line 3 large rimmed baking sheets with parchment. Using electric mixer, beat butter in large bowl until smooth. Add sugar and salt; beat until blended. Beat in orange peel, then eggs, 1 at a time. Mix in coconut. Drop batter onto sheets by tablespoonfuls, spacing 1 1/2 inches apart.

Bake macaroons, 1 sheet at a time, until golden on bottom and browned in spots, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool completely on sheets.

Using fork, drizzle chocolate over macaroons. Chill on sheets until chocolate is firm, about 30 minutes.

I took advantage of my friend Brook's kitchen to bake in since they were away for Christmas. The space we have in the trailer is obviously not ideal for projects like this. I thrill at the opportunity to spread out over real actual counter space and the ability to use three cookie sheets at once!

I am pretty sure the cattle did not know or care that it was Christmas. It was business as usual for them. Eat grass. Poop. Eat grass. MOOOOOOOOO! Chew your cud. Stand around. Whatever. They did not get any new Wii games or an iTunes gift card or rainbow striped toe socks. They don't care. They save their money. Smart cows.

We still have no idea what our next move is or what our plan of action for 2009 will shape up to be. We are kicking around several possibilities. Each idea is completely different from the next. It is possible we may head back to New England... or maybe we will become light house keepers on an island in Lake Superior. Or perhaps we will finally allow Rudy to join the circus (his big dream) and Billy and I will escape to South America (my big dream.) Over the next week or so we should shake out the details and figure out what we are gonna do.

Happy New Year to you all. Be safe and don't shoot an eye out with a party popper.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Solid Foods!

Today marked the first day since I got this cold that I have felt like eating anything other than weak brothy soups. Does that not sound appealing? Weak brothy soup equals delicious. Bleh.

So anyway I started the day off with a bowl of kashi which I think shocked my system enormously. Nothing like going from broth for 5 days to consuming 42 grams of fiber in one sitting. We are sticking with the breakfast theme for the day and having biscuits and gravy for dinner. We found a recipe in Vegetarian Times magazine and have been wanting to try it because it uses lentils as a meat substitute. We love making sloppy joes out of lentils so this idea appealed to our tastes as well. Here is the recipe.

Biscuits & Gravy
Serves 8 | 30 minutes or fewer

1 cup brown lentils, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 cup diced red bell pepper
1/4 cup diced carrot (1carrot) 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/8 tsp rubbed (crumbled) sage
2 1/2 cups low-fat milk
1/2 cup Annie’s Naturals Cowgirl Ranch Dressing
8 whole-grain biscuits or 4 English muffins

1. Bring lentils and 3 cups water to a boil in 2-qt. saucepan. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer 30 minutes or until just tender. Drain, and set aside.

2. Heat oil over medium-high heat in large skillet. Add onion and cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add bell pepper, carrot, and garlic, and cook 5 to 8 minutes more, or until vegetables are tender but not mushy. Stir in flour, black pepper, paprika, mustard, red pepper flakes, and sage; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Gradually add milk, stirring after each addition. Cook 3 to 5 minutes, whisking constantly, until gravy comes to a gentle boil. Remove from heat, and stir in ranch dressing and drained lentils.

3. Split biscuits or English muffins. Lightly toast English muffins, if using. Place biscuits on plates, and top with gravy.

The only thing we tweaked was that we added some salt, a few good sized pinches of it and I think the next time I would up the amount of lentils to two cups. Other than that it was really quite good. The gravy is really smoky and has a nice subtle heat to it from the peppers and paprika. Oh and we threw some parsley on top at the end for freshness and color. We used whole wheat english muffins this time but on a more industrious day I would definitely just whip out some fresh biscuits. Of course that adds tremendously to the calories in the dish but what the Hell.

In closing I would like to ask for some help from the internet at large. If you are reading this before the close of business on Christmas Eve do me the favor of throwing a little focused positive energy toward the fact that my family's Christmas gifts are missing in action. I shipped them out via USPS priority mail on the 16th and the box has not arrived on my Mom's doorstep yet. To say that I am pissed off about it does not really come close to covering it. I thought shipping the stuff out with 8 days to arrive at it's destination was sufficient. I would like to pee on the face of the post office. Or at the very least I would like to openly slander them here... Post Office... YOU SUCK. I will only take it back if the box shows up on Mom's front porch tomorrow morning.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Uhhh, Yuck.

Internet... I am sick. It's a cold or some such thing. It is causing my body and my head to feel like they are made out of toxic play dough laced with slug poop. I am officially on day four of this germy journey.

Since I have been laying about the trailer for three solid days doing nothing but drinking enough tea to sink a battle ship and I don't have any exciting tales to tell I thought I would throw together a post linking to some of my fave blogs and sites. A few of these are already links on my side bar but maybe you have never clicked through to check them out.

First up is Sarah who writes a blog "Yes and Yes." I can't even remember who found who first but she links to me and I link to her. Sarah is an optimist (revisit the title of her blog for direct proof) and is inspiring to read. She loves to make lists and she has a great sense of humor. And she loves cheese. Nothing wrong with that.

If you are in need of a good laugh head over to the LIST OF THE DAY. Allow me to introduce you to the first list I ever stumbled upon... a list that caused me to laugh hard enough to require several tissues to mop up my tears. Click HERE. I think that list will hook you. If it does not then you are never allowed to come to my blog again because the your funny bone is clearly missing or broken.

If you are searching for a perfect gift for your good friend Spock or for my Dad, Think Geek is the perfect place to find something. Last year I got my Dad this shirt from the site...

For your home office where you may be busy writing your own personal blog here is an inspirational poster for you....

If you can't read the text it says...

Never before have so many people with so little to say said so much to so few.

And my personal favorite items they offer on Think Geek are the GIANT MICROBES. You can choose between microbes like Gangrene, The Plague, Malaria, Ebola or even just a simple old stomach ache. Cute!

I have to throw some love to Etsy. I can't do a links post without including a few of my favorite new shops.

Sweetie Pies Delights is a shop that will ship to you (or to a person of your choosing as a gift) freshly baked sweets that are absolutely to die for. They have a huge list to choose from and I would not mind at all working my way through the whole list. Word on the street is that their Red Velvet sandwich cookies are seriously delicious.

You know you are somebody when you can pull off wearing a piece from The Urban Rose shop. This designer's pieces are off the charts cool. She takes vintage jewelry and creates the most fabulous assemblage works I have seen. Example...

And another example...

Like I said... you know you are somebody when you can actually pull off wearing one of these spectacular show pieces. I just love her work. Take a spin through her shop to see what other treasures she has!

I have also really been coveting artist Michelle Ramin's drawing. I love her style and palettes.

I always find myself shooting photos of these very things she has a tendency to draw... the water towers, silos and quaint small town visuals that we sometimes take for granted.

OK. That's it for me. My head is swimming with giant microbes of my very own. I must retreat back to the bed and convalesce.