Friday, July 21, 2017

Halo Of Color

This is the area I can see directly outside my living room window.  In the morning when I'm having coffee, I sit and watch the birds descend on the feeders, devouring seed for hours.

Last year I replanted these little cactus plants.  I was going to throw them away because they were tiny nubs, a nuisance underfoot.  But this area was empty so I just dug a few shallow holes and stuffed them in.

Well, a few days ago, they flowered.  Look how pretty they are!

These cactus are part of the genus Mamillaria, one of the largest of the cactus family. This particular plant has flowers that bloom around the top of the cactus, like a crown.  Some people call this a Halo Cactus because of the ring of color the flowers create.
We've had a lot of rain since it's monsoon season, and I've noticed a lot of the plants on my property becoming a little lusher.  I know cactus don't need very much water, but it certainly seems to have helped these little guys.
Look at that vibrant magenta color!  The delicate pink flowers are so incongruous with the dangerous spines that cover the rest of the plant.  



~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
2016: 
Western Exposure

2015: Heroes And Legends In South Tucson
2014: A Decade Of Love, Travel, And Monkey Business
2013: Thirty-Thousand Square Feet Of Stuff To Spend Money On
2012: Truckin’ With Ed
2011: Way Better Than Seven Years In Tibet
2010: His Charm And Understated Humor Is Totally Contagious
2009: The Creature Comforts Of Home
2008: Checklist
2007: Happy As A Clam
2006: Two Things
2005: Good For Licking

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The Place Beyond The Pines

This past weekend, Ed and I went to Flagstaff, Arizona so he could ride his new Kawasaki KLR 650 in the Mountain Madness 2017 event sponsored by the Coconino Trail Riders.
Ed, prior to getting suited up in all his riding gear.
It was a two-day Dual Sport ride in the mountains of Northern Arizona, 7,000+ feet high.  They offered A, B, and C adventure routes.  The A and B routes are the most challenging, the C routes a little easier and mostly designed for bikes bigger than 650cc.  Ed fell into the C category because of his bike and because he was new to this kind of trail riding.

Below you can see a map of Ed's ride.  The light blue line is the route as it was shown in the GPS, according to the GPS tracks given to him by the rider organization.  The dark blue line is the route Ed actually wound up riding.

In some areas he decided not to follow the course, in others he got sidetracked and got off course.  
The ride was scheduled for Saturday and Sunday, with two breakfasts, lunches, and one dinner provided.  Saturday was an all day event, ending with a dinner for all the riders, and Sunday's ride ended by 2 p.m.  Ed only participated in Saturday's ride.  

The area is very pretty, with pine trees lining the back roads and lots of pleasant scenery.  At one point, Ed ventured off the C route and wound up on an A route.  He shot some video of his ride and I've got to say, the A route looked a little hairy!  Very rocky, very narrow.  Much more suited for the bikes in the photo below than the one Ed was riding.  But he made it through.  Yay, Ed!
He liked it so much that I know he plans to do more riding in the future.  Southern Arizona has a lot of desert and dirt, and I'd imagine it gets a little boring after a while looking at the same thing for miles.  The northern part of the state has scenery I'd find a little more appealing to ride through.  But I'm not riding, right?

If you're interested in this kind of riding, you can find dual sport events nationwide through this website.

Happy Trails!  




~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
2016: He Needs A Personalized Plate
2015: Get Down With Oscar
2014: Embrace The Heat Of Miami
2013: Oh, To Be A Kid
2012: Kind Of Like A Virtual Celebrity Bodyguard
2011: Jack & Jill Went Up A Hill To Fetch Some Aircraft Parts
2010: Live Longer. Live Better. And Be Sure To Have A Devil Dog Once In A While.
2009: How Can You Not Be In Love With The Man Who Invented Kisses?
2008: And We Wonder Why We’re The Fattest Nation On Earth
2007: Star Gazing
2006: Only A Southerner
2005: Do You Take Wolfgang Winkelmeyer To Be Your Lawful Wedded Husband?

Monday, July 17, 2017

Man Bun Burrito

I captured this guy, with his man bun, tattered sneakers, tattered belt, and tattered tattoos, in the Chipotle in Flagstaff, Arizona.

Not everyone can pull off the man bun.  It doesn't work on any of these guys.

But Ben Dahlhaus?  I can look at him and his man bun all day long.



~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
2016: 
Boys And The Barn
2015: Not Your Average Meme
2014: Marine Transport

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Friday, July 14, 2017

Shift Change

Ed and I drive an 8/8/3/3 schedule.  This allows us to skip the Hours of Service mandatory 30-minute rest break and neither of us has to do more than 8 hours of driving at one time.

Let's say Ed starts driving first - he'll do 8 hours, and I'll sleep eight hours.  Then he stops and I do my eight hours while he sleeps.  When I'm done, he drives three hours, I sleep three hours, then I drive three hours and he sleeps three hours.  Then we begin again with the eight-hour stint again.  


This schedule works perfectly on our dedicated route and if we want to take a break we can but we're not obliged to do so.  
It's not for everyone.  Some people like having very scheduled sleep and drive times but we are used to this and it works for us.  
Finding what works and working it.  Isn't that the ultimate goal?



~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
2016: 
A Chair Is Still A Chair

2015: Summer Calls For Cukes!
2014: Nature's Bounty Fills My Fridge
2013: Bags, Boxes, And Bikes
2012: Wrappers Delight
2011: Breaking The Spell
2010: It Never Ends
2009: 275 Square Miles Of Brilliance
2008: Four Standards, One Newbie
2007: Semantics
2006: 36 Hours Of Hell On Earth
2005: 11:11:11

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Seventeen Years Just Whizzed On By

This is a picture of my nephew Joe making his way around the track at Autobahn Indoor Speedway here in Tucson.

He recently celebrated his 17th birthday and it looked like something fun to take him to do.  I was initially planning to go but when Ed and MacG said they'd take him, I gracefully (wink-wink) backed out.

Boys and fast things on wheels.  What better way to spend an afternoon?



~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
2016: 
Into The Mouth Of The Wolf

2015: We Have Our Very Own Air-Conditioned Theater
2014: A Real Weekend
2013: Gary Hits Me Up With Another Gem
2012: After Dinner Pusch
2011: Moments Before Sleepy Time
2010: Bakin’ It The Fake Way
2009: The Elegant Gathering Of A Life
2008: My, What A Nice Berg You Have
2007: The Hills Are Alive With The Sound Of Grapes Being Crushed Into Wine
2006: There Are No Words To Explain The Misery Of A Three Digit Temperature
2005: New York State Of Mind 

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

The Crucible


"May your home always be too small to hold all of your friends."
~ Irish Proverb

Yesterday I went shopping with my friend Marlaina for what turned out to be a housewarming gift for me.  Marlaina had many housewarming gift ideas, from a set of sheets like hers to a Dyson cordless vacuum cleaner.  At one point she even mentioned getting us a new dishwasher.  Crazy talk.


Deciding on something was hard for me because a) I'm not great at deciding on things I want, and b) it's even harder when it's an expensive item.  I sometimes do so much research on products that I wind up never getting them at all.  One time I got a Coach Hobo bag as a gift but decided it just wasn't practical, so I returned it.

Then we started talking Le Creuset.  I've always been a fan of this cookware - my father had a few pieces when I was younger and I'll never forget the colorful enamel exterior - Flame, Le Creuset's signature color.

Le Creuset (pronounced, roughly, "Luh Crewsay" and meaning "the crucible" in French) is a cookware manufacturer in Fresnoy-le-Grand, France.  They've been making cast-iron cookware the same way since 1926.

Each piece is sand cast and hand finished and then they're sprayed with at least two coats of enamel that becomes resistant to damage during normal use.  All of the cast-iron pieces are made at the company's foundry in Fresnoy-le-Grand.  They have a 12-step finishing process that requires each piece to pass through 15 pairs of hands to ensure there are no flaws or imperfections in the finished product.  They come with a lifetime warranty.

Once I decided that I wanted a Le Creuset Dutch Oven, we went shopping.  The Dutch ovens come in sizes ranging from 1 quart to 15.5 quarts.  In the photo above, you can see the 13.25 quart round dutch oven in Marseille (blue), and next to it the 15.5-quart oval dutch oven in Palm (green).  Aren't the colors beautiful?

Mostly, I wanted to go into a store so I could feel the weight of the pot.  Cast iron is extremely heavy and sometimes a really big pot is just too much to handle.  But when I picked it up it wasn't as heavy as I thought it would be, even while I swung it around pretending I was washing it.  I also imagined how heavy it would be when full, and how hard it would be to lift off the stove or place in the oven.  It seemed doable.  The more I looked at them, the more I fell in love.

Once I warmed to the idea of owning a piece of Le Creuset, I knew I had to go big.  I would use a pot like this for Sunday gravy, to make my grandmother's stew, to cook a pork roast, to deep fry, to make soup.  For any of those things, especially if I'm cooking for family and friends, I needed the capacity.  And because this can go from stovetop to oven, and it cooks evenly and retains the heat, I knew it would become one of my most-used kitchen products.

So...I got the 15.5 quart Oval Dutch Oven in Palm.  The color is GORGEOUS.  In person, it's even better.  I'm so thrilled!  It's an absolutely fabulous housewarming gift and I know I'll get many years of use out of it.

I'd like to thank Marlaina and MacG for adding such a great piece to my kitchen wares. I'm not sure if this factored in the decision making prior to purchase, but they'll totally be benefiting from all of the awesomeness I plan to cook in it!

And I've already told Ed that if he ever decides to kick me to the curb, the pot is coming with me! 




~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
2016: Find Yourself
2015: Bringing Back The Library Card
2014: Moab Muster
2013: Farm To Garden
2012: You Know You’re Getting Old When You Start Carrying Your Own Sugar
2011: America Runs On Dunkin’
2010: Los Links!!
2009: Here Kitty Kitty Kitty
2008: Intense Eddie Friday
2007: It’s An iPod, Not A wePod
2006: Doing The Wade
2005: It’s A Numbers Game

Monday, July 10, 2017

You Are The French To My Toast

Today I had lunch with my mother at Prep & Pastry in Tucson, Arizona.

This was a place I've been wanting to try for a while.  I liked the menu items but don't really venture to this area of town too often, and the one time I did stop by it was so insanely busy with people waiting outside, that I passed it up and went somewhere else.  I haven't found a place yet that serves food worthy enough to wait for more than ten minutes.

My mother decided to have the Classic French Toast (Brioche bread, vanilla poached berries, candied almonds, chai whipped butter).  I didn't taste it but it looked delicious.  
I had The Grilled Cheese (tea smoked tomato, white cheddar, brie, Parmesan rubbed Asiago bread, arugula pesto) with a side of fries.  It was an extremely tasty sandwich.   
The waitress came over and told us pastries were half off, so of course we had to indulge.  This beauty is a Nutella Goat Cheese Croissant.  Half price.  Swoon.  I'm really liking the goat cheese in desserts.  I can't wait to come up with my own concoction that uses this tangy, smooth, earthy fromage.
I've got to say, the presentation is nice.  They certainly have pretty food.  Check out their Instagram to see other pictures.  



~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
2016: 
Junk In The Trunk

2015: Clean Panties In The Corner Pocket
2014: Total Throwback Thursday
2013: Attack Of The 50 Foot Chicagoan
2012: The Art Of The Merge (And Other Simple Courtesies Of The Road)
2011: Montana Fluff
2010: Stop The Presses!
2009: Fiesta Ed Friday
2008: Crotchety Old Woman
2007: One Side Of A Coin
2006: Why Oh Why
2005: Sign Of The Times

Saturday, July 08, 2017

The Little French Dining Car

Tonight we were treated to dinner at Maynard's Market & Kitchen by our friends Marlaina and MacG.

Ed and I have been to the Market side of this establishment, the day we walked Tumamoc with my friend Kim - the hateful hiking event that needed to be rectified by having a delicious breakfast, kind of like washing away a bad experience with a good one - but tonight we dined in the Kitchen side, which features French inspired American food.  And oh, what a difference.

We began the evening by having a few of Maynards Craft Cocktails.  The boys started with a Perfect Martini (Hanson of Sonoma Organic Vodka, Dolin Dry Vermouth, blue cheese olive,  jalapeño and bacon olive, house onion) for MacG, and for the Texan in the house, Ed, a Texas Mule (Tito’s Handmade Vodka, fresh lemon and lime juices, ginger beer, cucumber simple syrup).  Marlaina and I had The Cooler (Hendricks Gin, cucumber, cilantro, lime, agave nectar).  I don't drink, and I was the designated driver anyway, so I had mine without the gin.  It was extremely refreshing and oddly, I really liked the cilantro in the drink.  
The next round consisted of a Maynards Manhattan (Buffalo Trace house-infused bourbon, Carpano Antica, a dash of orange bitters)
 for MacG, and an Easy Living (High West Rye, pineapple gomme, Giffard grapefruit liquor) for Ed.  I tasted both of Ed's drink - holy crap, they were potent! - and went back to nursing my alcohol-free cooler.

We finally decided to order appetizers.  The choices all sounded delicious but we eventually settled on two.  Marlaina chose first, ordering the Barrio Bruschetta (
Grilled local Barrio Bread baguette, peaches, prosciutto, bourbon burnt honey, boursin cheese, arugula, horseradish).  The bread comes from a local bakery where they make the most delicious looking loaves of life you've ever seen.  Their Instagram feed is intoxicating, I swear you can smell it baking.

My choice was the Baked Mushroom (Ragout of wild mushrooms, Arizona pecans, puff pastry, pea puree, lemon confit, goat cheese, pickled pepper).  I love mushrooms, and although both were delicious, if I had to choose, I'd say the Barrio Bruschetta took this round.  The flavor combination of the peaches, prosciutto, bourbon honey, and cheese were just outstanding.  I could have eaten two more slices without blinking.

A little more chatting, a little more sipping of cocktails, and some talk of tartare.

Marlaina and MacG really wanted to try the Steak Tartare (Chef’s blend of hand-chopped raw strip and tenderloin, local greens, sorrel, pickled and raw vegetables, smoked espelette aioli, topped with a raw egg yolk).  I used to date a guy who ate raw chop meat on a sliced onion, but I've never intentionally ordered meat uncooked.  Ed and I said we were willing to try it.  And we did.  I can't say we loved it as much as our dining companions did.  

Next, our entrees.

I'll begin with my order.  When I go to a place like this, no matter how unusual or elegant or even bizarre the preparation may be, I usually don't like to order something I can make at home - pasta, chicken, steak, pork.  Sometimes, it's unavoidable, but usually I try to go for something I don't make, or don't know how to make.  Tonight I ordered something I haven't had in at least thirty years, and wasn't even sure I'd really like, the duck.  The only reason duck doesn't appeal to me is because the entire bird is dark meat.  Birds which use their chest muscles for sustained flight (such as geese and ducks) have dark meat throughout their bodies, and I'm a white meat girl.  But I thought I'd give it a shot.

The Pan-Roasted Duck (Glazed duck breast, sauté of lima bean and wild mushroom, sorrel, puffed sorghum, roasted corn pudding, rhubarb vanilla gastrique), cooked medium-rare as the server suggested, turned out to be better than I expected. The duck was tender and flavorful, and the roasted corn pudding a perfect complement.  The presentation was beautiful.  Those little puffs at the bottom of the picture, the ones that look like tiny popcorn, are the puffed sorghum that's in the description.  This is what sorghum looks like in the field. 

Ed decided on one of the other dishes I was eyeing - the Buttermilk Fried Quail (Stone ground & creamed Durham semolina, braised swiss chard, watermelon, pickled okra, baby herbs).  The dish was beautiful, and Ed said it was good, but I have to say, I've never seen a tinier bird in my life.  We have quail in our yard that are easily more than twice the size of this bird.

Ed asked the server, "Are these Oro Valley quail?" making a joke because we live in that area and have quail in our yard, and the server replied, "I'm not sure, sir, let me find out for you."  He was totes serious!  He came back and said, "Actually, these quail are from Benson, Arizona."  He literally had a totally straight face when he said it, too.  Benson is is 60 miles from us, so when they say "locally sourced", they really mean it.  I'm still trying to figure out how they breaded and fried that delicate little bird without burning its damn wings off.

MacG went the classic route and ordered the Filet Mignon (6 oz Niman Ranch herb roasted filet, blistered tomato, roasted corn pudding, grilled summer squash, fried okra, pickled pearl onions, black currant demi-glace).  It was beautiful.  He sliced through it like it was actual butter.  And it came with blistered tomatoes.  Who thinks to "blister" a tomato??


And the last of the entrees belongs to Marlaina, who true to form, went for the lamb. I swear to God, she's got a secret love affair with this animal.  Lamb meat comes in three types:  lamb, which comes from a sheep that's less than a year old; hogget, which is the meat of a lamb older than one year; and mutton, which is the meat of an adult sheep. Lamb is the most expensive of the three.  Of course it is.  That's my Marlaina!

The Riesling Braised Lamb Shank (Braised lamb shank, potatoes tartiflette, bacon lardons, braised greens, green olive and Marcona almond salsa, roasted leek pan jus) looked medieval.  A big 'ol hunk of meat that was literally falling off the bone.  Perched atop the potatoes tartiflette, it was begging to be devoured.  She loved it.  The portion was so generous, she took most of it home.
 
The food was really outstanding, but there was still dessert to be had.  I was full, but the choices were so enticing, I had to have something.  The boys skipped dessert and instead each ordered a glass of 10-year-old port.

I ordered what Marlaina called the "most boring dessert" on the menu, the Vanilla Crème Brûlée (caramelized sugar, orange shortbread, fresh berries).  I know, I know, plain jane, but it's one of my favorite desserts.  I have never made it, and don't even know if I'd attempt it because of the whole burning-of-the-sugar-to-create-the-caramelized-hard-cracked-top-surface part.  The custard is just so creamy and delicious that I'm always drawn to it when I see it on a menu.  I can't resist.

I'm glad I ordered it.  First of all, it was the largest portion of c
rème brûlée I've ever had in my life.  Usually, it comes in a tiny ramekin like this, with about an inch of custard. But this dessert - which I didn't take a photo of - came in a freakin' cereal bowl!  On one hand, it was too much because I was pretty full from everything else we ate, but on the other hand, there was enough to share with Ed.  And it was deeeelicious.  

Marlaina gave me the evil eye when I placed my desert order because after reading the menu online, we kinda agreed that I'd order the cheesecake.  But when it came time to order, "crème brûlée" just popped out of my mouth before I could stop it.

Upon further discussion, and with input from the server, we eventually decided to order a second dessert for the table to share - the Meyer Lemon Goat Cheese Cheesecake (strawberry and pink peppercorn gastrique, fresh strawberries).  And boy, am I glad we did, because I was really intrigued by both the "Meyer Lemon" part, and the "Goat Cheese" part of this dessert.  It turned out the goat cheese was amazing.  I'm totally going to make a cheesecake in the future using goat cheese.  It was so insanely light.  Whipped, really.  Fluffy.
The restaurant, located in downtown Tucson's beautifully restored historic train depot, was a very enjoyable experience.  Seated by the window we could see the "edible garden" where they grow a lot of the vegetables used in their dishes, and beyond that, the tracks where freight trains stacked with shipping containers, steadily chugged by.
I love to cook for my family and friends.  As much work as it is at times, it's a real pleasure when I hear that what I've cooked has made a person happy.  And I'll never get tired of hearing the compliments.

But, I also love to eat out.  And it was really wonderful to be treated to such a nice place (even The New York Times loved it!) and to be accompanied by friends who are interesting to be with.  Thanks, M & M for a great night!

This restaurant has been on our radar for a few years but in past visits, it just didn't work into our plans.  I'm glad we finally fit it in.  It was definitely worth the wait.  





~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
2016: Shiny Happy People
2015: The Oedipus Driving Complex
2014: Summer At Percy Priest
2013: Heat And Humidity Abundant, Wind Nowhere To Be Found
2012: Delicious Eats And Healthy Treats
2011: Special Seasoning
2010: Two Truck Drivers, A Writer And A Photographer Walk Into A Bar
2009: Taking The Express To The Heartland
2008: TIT-illating Sights On The Road
2007: I’ve Been Everywhere Sunday
2006: Embracing Your Inner Bike Riding Hussy
2005: It Takes A Village To Wake A Child

Friday, July 07, 2017

Financial Reality

Picture above from left to right - Our friend Marlaina, Ed, and our nephew Nic.

This high stakes meeting is taking place to discuss finances.  My nephew graduated from high school this year and Ed and I gifted him with money to start a retirement account.  We invited him for lunch one day and gave him whatever pearls of wisdom we could offer, and then Ed talked to him about all the boring money stuff that I'm not very interested in.  Nic is a math whiz, an honor student, and has plans to go into the medical field, so starting him early with the financial stuff seemed like a no-brainer.

Enter Marlaina.  She's a scholar of investing.  Reads about it, thinks about it, breathes it.  Every day she's on the 'net checking out the markets, monitoring her stock, and reading the financial websites and blogs.  She turned Ed on to Mr. Money Mustache and suggested The Whitecoat Investor for my nephew, a blog written by a doctor for doctors.  Of course, anyone can benefit from either of these sites and I can tell you from my experience - which is mostly learning through osmosis - that if you read enough on a subject, you will eventually benefit from the knowledge gained.

As you can see, the discussion is intense.  Nic talking, Marlaina listening, and Ed playing with his virtual reality headset.

Exactly the setting in which to plot the path for your financial future.



~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
2016: Spring Break
2015: Moving The World
2014: Shoving Off
2013: Bean By Day
2012: The Honey-Do List
2011: Following The Trail Of The Father Of Our Country To The Place Where A Cuckoo Flew Over A Nest
2010: Amid The Corn
2009: I’m Going To Be A Millionaire!!!
2008: How I Do Love A Colorful Lunch Plate
2007: Lucky Sevens
2006: My Head Has Been In The Clouds For Weeks
2005: Chunky Cheese