Monday, April 28, 2008

Pool's Open

First swim of the year at Orinda Park Pool.
And that's just about how it looked. There were two other swimmers. The water was fine. I did about 30 minutes (500 free, 250 breast, 250 kickboard).

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Got Firewood!

I should have taken a "before" picture so you could have seen how dramatically different this looks. We had a ginormous cedar tree removed on Wednesday. About 2 months ago, a very large limb from this tree fell onto the neighbor's property. We were afraid that the tree, which was leaning thataway, would go and take out the whole neighborhood. This woodpile looks bigger in real life. Can you believe how ugly that shed is on the neighbor’s property? So much for borrowed landscapes. I am interested in any suggestions for quick solutions for ameliorating this situation. Long term I have it covered: I will plant something wonderful in the autumn. This area is subject to depradation by deer and did I say that there is full sun now?

Thursday, April 24, 2008

New York, Day 1

We are in New York!

This was the first time Robin, Linda, and I had traveled together. We have been talking about this trip for a long time but none of us had been to New York recently. We agreed about museums, shopping, the theater, walking, eating, and we are very compatible, but Monday was the day that we had to actually do it. We had a plan: Coffee! Walking! Museums!

We knew Starbuck’s could be our fall back coffee position, but we really wanted to go local. Monday was experimental. We needed coffee and we picked the first coffee place that seemed local – I think it was PAX. Research would continue.

MOMA is open on Mondays! The Met, the Whitney, the American Folk Art Museum are not open on Monday! We walked to MOMA at 53rd and Fifth, stopping into St. Patrick’s Cathedral on the way. We got to MOMA just as it was opening, actually, just as Café 2 was opening. We made a quick decision to combine breakfast and lunch while there were no crowds.

Café 2 is really just a museum cafeteria but as they say, "taken to sophisticated new heights." It features "rustic Italian cooking of the Roman cantinetta or rosticceria style of seasonal Italian foods with handmade pastas, cured salumi, artisanal cheeses, panini, salads, soups, and simple desserts." It was perfect! I think we could all recommend it, especially if all you've had is bad coffee on your first full day in New York.

We all had the bruschetta plate with a choice of three from a selection including mozzarella with olive tapenade, tomato jam, cured tuna with black olives and lemon, broccoli rabe, prosciutto with roasted butternut squash) and we shared a salad of cannellini and fava beans.

We saw the show, “Color Chart: Reinventing Color 1950 to Today.” It explores the the “lush beauty that results when contemporary artists assign color decisions to chance…” and was hugely inspirational. More than forty artists were represented, including Ellsworth Kelly, Gerhard Richter, Frank Stella (“Straight out of the can; it can’t get better than that.”), Andy Warhol, Sherrie Levine, and Damien Hirst.

Then it was on to see our favorites from MOMA’s amazing collection including Cezanne’s The Bather, Van Gogh’s Starry Night, the Fauves, the Impressionists, the surrealists, until we were exhausted. I should have Robin prepare a post about how she discovered that she could use her iPhone to access the museum’s audio tour. We shopped at the museum stores and then I think we began our cupcake research (it is all beginning to blur). Could we have done that much in one day? Was Cupcake Café (9th Avenue between 38th and 39thStreet) on Monday or Tuesday? It was not worth remembering, anyway – okay coffee and pretty cupcakes but forgettable in the taste department.

Andrew met us after work for dinner at Mesa Grill. This southwestern-style restaurant by celebrity chef Bobby Flay sparkles on Fifth Avenue between 15th and 16th.

We started with goat cheese “Queso Fundido” with rajas and blue corn chips, barbecue pork and Oaxaca cheese quesadilla with hot sweet cabbage relish, and grapefruit, Peach, and Flay’s prize-winning margaritas.

Robin had ancho chili-rubbed chicken with roasted tomatillo sauce with queso fresco, which was yummy! Andrew had the grilled lamb chops with cilantro-mint chimichurri and potato celeriac Anaheim chile gratin. Linda and I had the New Mexico-spice rubbed pork tenderloin with bourbon ancho chile sauce which was served with a sweet potato tamale with crushed pecan butter. We ended our meal with the delicious chocolate, brown-sugar souffle pudding with pecan flatbread crunch, but I don't know how we ever ate another bite. We walked back to the hotel. Weather: a little warmer than Sunday.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Quilt Content

Les Poules Jolies
33" x 45"

These chickens have been in the works for almost two years. Memorial Day weekend of 2006, my friends Alice, Pat, Janine, and I had a girls’ art adventure in Mendocino. We stayed at the Mar Vista Cottages, at Anchor Bay, near Gualala. It is a very special place: the cottages were built in the thirties; they have kitchens, woodstoves, and porches with deck chairs; there is a large garden and guests are encouraged to pick herbs and flowers; and best of all, there are hens and fresh eggs every morning. I took many photos of the Mar Vista hens and made a small study but couldn’t seem to get going on a larger piece that would be more appropriate for Voices in Cloth, the biennial show of my guild, the East Bay Heritage Quilters (EBHQ) . I was still putting stitches in it on the morning it was to be delivered to the show, the first weekend in April.

The show was fabulous. I helped with set-up on the day before the show opened and had a wonderful time working with a great group of volunteers. As the show went up I was very inspired by the marvelous quilts from guild members. I went to the show on Saturday, April 12, where I finally met Del Thomas.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Happy Earth Day!

It seemed that a picture from the garden would be appropriate.

Here We Are!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Girls’ Trip to New York, Chapter 1

On Sunday we flew from Oakland to JFK on JetBlue and arrived in New York on time at about 5 PM. Is every airport in the country in a constant state of construction? We had to take a shuttle from our gate to get into the terminal. But NY is very organized. We went to Ground Transportation and a line of travelers were efficiently ushered into waiting cabs. It was overcast and threatening rain, but none appeared. The drive from Kennedy to Manhattan was remarkable for the traffic in Queens which our cabby dodged and the many flowering trees. April is a wonderful time to go to New York!

By the time we reached the New York Helmsley Hotel on east 42nd Street, we barely had time to change out of our travel clothes and dash to meet my son for dinner. He was waiting for us at craftbar, Broadway and East 20th . This is the more casual Tom Colicchio restaurant my travelling companion Linda and I had learned about as avid Top Chef viewers. My handsome son, Andrew, was waiting at the bar and we were shown to a spacious banquette. We were sustained by wonderful breadsticks while we perused the menu. We loved the pecorino fondue with hazelnuts and honey appetizer.

Robin had the escarole soup and the orecchiette with fennel sausage, roasted tomatoes, and ricotta salata (which was delicious!). Linda and I had the baby beets with blue cheese and walnuts, and the daurade with potato gnocchi, morels, and ramps. Andrew had the sirloin with smoked mushrooms, jalapeno, and lime; and the crispy potatoes.

Since it was our first night, we had to have dessert. We shared the butterscotch pudding with gingersnaps and the hot fudge sundae with coffee crunch ice cream. Ah, excess!

So we walked 24 blocks up Park Avenue, back to the hotel, with a slight detour at Grand Central Station and called it a day. Overcast, chance of rain, high of 53°F, low of 40°F.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Homemade Power Bars version 1.2 MOCHA

I'm just back from a whirlwind visit to New York. Before I left, I made a batch of power bars so I could bring some to Andrew. I finally made the recipe with mini chocolate chips. I added ½ cup to the dry ingredients. When I poured the hot syrup on, as you would expect, the chocolate chips melted. There was no visible evidence of the chips when all of the syrup was incorporated. The interesting thing was that the coffee flavor was enhanced. Two tasters asked whether I had increased the amount of ground espresso. I had not. I would not say that the flavor was chocolate-y with this amount and this kind of chocolate (I used Nestle’s minis because I felt the scale would be right.)

I will try it again with other kinds of chocolate, like Ghirardelli dark chocolate (baking bar) because I love that chocolate. I will roughly chop it but I suspect it, too, will melt. There is no advantage to using chips except ease of mixing and I’d rather go for great flavor.

Version 1.2 adds 400 calories to the recipe or 25 calories per bar if you cut it into 16 bars.