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Fall Friday Fill-Ins!

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Mostly in the interest of not having two back-to-back Caturday posts (because who am I, a Crazy Cat Lady? Only almost, friends. Only almost), I bring you…Friday Fill-Ins! And some miscellany down at the end. Get excited.

1. My back yard is home to a little family of opossums, who have taken up residence in our persimmon tree. I think they likely live there year-round, but I can only recall seeing them last winter when we moved in and then again last night as I was pulling into the driveway. They are the creepiest-looking animals ever, and I am not excited that they are going to be eating my ambrosial persimmons. Maybe they’re only there at night? Does anyone know anything about opossums, other than that they are horrifying?

2. On our second night in Yosemite, when I heard actual coyotes (wolves? some other species of wild dog?) yipping in the Valley, I knew we were truly in someplace wild. Now, I am not a city girl by most definitions, but the fact that we were sleeping in a tent cabin that was full of bear warnings and hearing wildlife sounds all around us was simultaneously sort of cool and a little bit harrowing.

3. Leaves are falling all around, particularly up in the Santa Cruz Mountains, where we went this afternoon to go pick up some wine. There are seasons in the Bay Area. Who knew?

4. Now that I’ve synched all of our paper and online calendars, I can no longer pass off my procrastination as forgetfulness. We have a lot of stuff to do before we head off to London! (In three and a half weeks! Yay!)

5. Healing is…time consuming. That is all I have to say about that.

6. Soup-making and baked-good plotting is what I’ve been up to lately! In the kitchen, at least.

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I’m looking forward to watching the Giants beat the Padres (come on Matt Cain, it may be 5-0 right now, but let’s end strong, ok?), tomorrow my plans include a little wine pick-up and picnic as well as some very necessary schoolwork, and Sunday, I want to sleep in, and make sure to catch Mad Men. I am crazy in love with this season, it’s official.

And now the miscellany: remember that job I was interviewing for? Well, even after two successful interviews (that I had thought went fairly well), I didn’t get it. They gave it to “the other candidate,” who I can only assume is a Super Ninja Assassin Librarian, because I am actually pretty great. Back to the (slim pickings) drawing board… Sigh.


Caturday: The Lush Edition

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Because GP and I and the in-laws are in Sonoma this weekend doing a little (ok, a lot of) wine-tasting, it seems appropriate to share this picture of Sydney in one of his favorite perches: atop one of our wine racks. From there, he can survey the back yard and make sure none of the squirrels are up to any shenanigans.

The "Oh, snap. Remember when we got back from our honeymoon A MONTH AGO?" post

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Uh, yeah. I don’t know how this happened, but somewhere in between flying home, unpacking, going back to work, attempting to catch up on schoolwork (sidebar: this semester? Not my best performance), getting through two-thirds of our thank-you notes, adopting a kitty, changing my name, getting back into the swing of cooking rather than eating out all the time, and gorging myself at Thanksgiving…I sure did not finish my Very Exciting Honeymoon Recap. Sorry. So what you get now? Is just a small explosion of my favorite pictures with a sentence or two thrown in for some extra tastiness.

Leaving Sydney, we headed up to tropical North Queensland– Cairns and Palm Cove, specifically. While there, we hit the beach (which was about 50 yards from our hotel lobby– pure bliss)…

trekked, took a gondola, and finally rode a train through the rainforest…

and, knowing that we had to take advantage of the fact that we were so close to such an insanely beautiful natural wonder, went out on the Great Barrier Reef. Our underwater pictures ended up sort of lamely, but! There was tea and cake time on the boat. I died.

and champagne! Or sparkling wine, at least. Whatever, there were bubbles.

And then it was on to Melbourne, complete with my fancy new sunburn (because it is some sort of law that no matter how much high-factor sunblock I slather on, I will be charred, while GP barely dabs it on and he is just fine). I really loved Melbourne because it’s so neighborhood-y and really rewards you for just walking around– there is a lot of cool stuff down some of those alleys! (Including a duty-free shop in Chinatown where I scored a ton of cheeeeeap Jurlique products. Sigh.)

We found our first dinner in Melbourne down one of the alleys– delicious Chinese, complete with lots of wood paneling. Thanks, Fodors!

The next day, a walk down to the Yarra River that runs through the city.

Then a trip to the Old Melbourne Gaol, where Ned Kelly was hanged. (Note: the Ned Kelly movie with Heath Ledger is free on Hulu! Total win.)

And lo, the walk back to our hotel from the Gaol included a pass by the Victoria State Library! Another win.

We took in a performance of Chicago at a theater down the street from the hotel. I was worried about the accents, but the actors managed well– is an American accent an easy one to imitate? I wonder…

Our last full day in Australia was occupied with a tour of the Yarra Valley, one of the country’s wine-growing regions. (Like we were not going to go wine tasting on this trip. I mean, come on.)

GP tried kangaroo at lunch–turns out it is sort of a cross between beef and venison. (I had the vegetarian entree, a better-than-usual lasagna. You’re welcome, animals.)

We ended the day at Chandon– sort of funny, considering we haven’t been to the one up in Napa yet.

Ok, that’s the Official Honeymoon Wrap-Up! Now we can move on to more important things, like me complaining about the shipping of all the Christmas gifts I’ve ordered online, talking about my cat (I can’t stop, I’m sorry), and being crazy-excited about the finale of Top Chef (Team Kevin, all the way. Or Jen, I love her, too. Really, anyone but the obnoxious Voltaggio brother.).

Oh, and my birthday is tomorrow. Yay!

On being a bad blogger, or why I haven’t posted in about a month

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Sorry, friends, I don’t really have an excuse or apology for you…I was busy, and when I was not busy, I was…not in the mood? Oh well. The point is, I’m back(ish)! How about a little recap? In the past month, I have:

attended a wedding in New York

attended a wedding much closer to home (only 20 minutes away, a new record!)

concocted a watermelon, feta, and mint salad (and not posted an official Whip It Up! entry, sorry)

gone on a small field trip with GP and his parents to the CIA in Hyde Park, for a delicious Italian dinner

…and another field trip to the place on the Hudson where our Big Fat Engagement Party is going to be, next Memorial Day (GP’s mom is a planning powerhouse, people, and I totally fail so far at wedding-planning)

had Engagement Party #1, a much smaller affair hosted by my mom and stepdad. The first attempt at getting various friend-groups together, as well as the first “All About Us” activity, and it went pretty well. Cupcakes were involved, so what else would we expect? (Note to self: write those thank-yous NOW!!!)

worked diligently and for very little money at my internship and at the tutoring place

started library school, in which I am taking three classes. I am told that this is an “intense” course load…and so far am not convinced. UCLA’s quarter system prepared me pretty well for intense educational experiences, so there.

watched my Bruins beat #18 Tennessee at football. I began watching the game fully expecting us to lose, and was pushed further into the doom-and-gloom category by the (under)performance of our new quarterback (who I still might like to punch, despite the victory)…and then lost my mind when we finally beat them. Yay, college sports!

vowed repeatedly that I would be more diligent in blogging and commenting. With as much attention as all this blog/wiki/Web 2.0 (bleah) stuff is getting in all of my classes, I feel like I should do it, if only to stay on the forefront of the field…you know, because my personal blog has so much to do with library business.

Officially a wino

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Better late than never, right? As you know (or should, at least, because I couldn’t shut up about it), we went to Sonoma last weekend for Mother’s Day with my mom and stepdad, my brother, and GP’s parents. We had been planning a fun weekend full of wine tasting and delicious food, and that is exactly what we got! Oh, and all my worrying about mom competitions? Certainly for naught. I don’t think that our parents are going to be forming drum circles or anything, but having them get along for a period longer than, say, a meal (which was the length of their previous exposure to each other), was encouraging.

Saturday began early, as we wanted to get on the road by 8 in order to make it to our northernmost winery destination by 10, which is when they open. After picking up GP’s parents at their hotel, we made our way up the East Bay, past Berkeley and Oakland, and then over the Richmond-San Rafael bridge into the North Bay. As we got closer to the wineries, my brother called and told me that they were two cars behind us, so our planning worked out really well. The first winery we went to was St. Francis, which had a beautiful backyard-type area behind it, as well as a pretty gorgeous main building. Their wines were all right, but the girl who was pouring was basically ignoring us. If you haven’t been tasting, you need to know that it isn’t like going to a bar; of course, you are drinking, and have the potential to be quite smashed by about noon, but the people pouring are supposed to interact with you, as it is their job to make you want to buy the wine.

Winery number two was the polar opposite, though. We got there right at the time that they were beginning their cave tour, so we got to see the caves where they keep their barrels, which are really cool. It didn’t hurt that it had started to heat up and the caves were at least 10 degrees cooler than outside. Going into their tasting room, we noticed that they had a specific area for a VIP-style tasting, and being the snobs (and cheese enthusiasts!) that we are, we seated ourselves on their classy leather sofas and sipped our four tastes (for a fairly-steep $20, but come on! There was cheese involved!). This was when the buying started, too. When GP and I go tasting in Napa, we might come home with half a case or so, total, of wines that we tried and liked. When we go to Amador County wine events, we might bring home a bit more than a case, because it is cheaper there (but still good wine!). When we were there this weekend, we came away with three cases of wine. I blame the parents– my parents are huuuuge wine collectors (we’re talking hundreds of bottles here, multiple winery memberships), and his parents are members of a couple Sonoma wineries, even though they live in New York.

We stopped at a cute Italian deli/cafe place for something to soak up all the wine we’d consumed (we are not apt to pour anything out unless it is pretty gross), and then headed off to another winery, where I got to hang out with the Official Winery Dog while we tasted. Being the smart animal that he is, he had decided to take a nap on the cool, tiled tasting room floor to escape the heat…right on one of my feet. Thanks, dog.

The families split after this, because my parents wanted to visit just one more place and then go to the hotel to rest before dinner, so GP and I and his parents headed, ambitiously, to three more places.

Pretty exhausted, we tucked into dinner at a place I had been eager to try, and made the (totally too-long) drive back to our hotel, where I am proud to say I passed out before 9pm. It had been a loooooong day.

The next morning, after having presented both moms with presents and spending some time hanging out at the hotel bar for mimosas and Bloody Marys, we made our way to , where GP’s parents are members. We skipped the tour, having chosen some morning drinking instead, but got there in time to sample some Blanc de Noirs before we were seated for brunch. The brunch was surprising– I had expected maybe a buffet or a range of options, but we all ended up with the same salad with bay shrimp, lamb, and fresh fruit trifle (no beef sauteed with peas and onions, sorry!). Other than the lamb being so rare it was near-bleating (woo, homonyms! Get it?), everything was very delicious. After our meal, we sat outside and tasted while enjoying a great view of the entire valley.

All in all, a successful weekend. Carrying the wine from the car to the apartment was a bit of a pain, but I’m pretty certain we won’t need to buy anything until we go back to Amador for their Fall Crush event. The only problem now is that we have all these nice wines and only a couple “occasions” coming up… I’m sure we’ll manage, though.

Day 3: Charleston Throwdown, Beach, and Athens

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Sorry to leave you hanging for all of those 24 hours, but I wanted to let the drama of the bedroom thievery fully sink in. At this point in the evening, GP and I were both pretty wiped (remember that 5+ hour drive that we had done that morning from Atlanta? Yeah. It was long.), and I had been drinking enough Jim Beam and ginger ale to be a little feisty. GP, being the better grownup of the two of us, headed to the bedroom to resolve the conflict– apparently there had been some miscommunication, or at the very least a bit of a misunderstanding. The misunderstanding being that it would be the appropriate thing to do, to leave the out-of-towners to fend for themselves when certain others had just driven out to the beach from Charleston. Southern hospitality? I was thinking, Well, I guess she is from Massachusetts.

To make what seemed like an arduous ten-minute period seem shorter, I will simply tell you that a phone call was placed (to the groom, no less!) and we ended up sleeping in a luxurious king-sized bed. Because, bitch, please. There is no freaking way I am giving up a bed after having traveled across the country. Just sayin’.

The next morning, though, I think everyone was helped by the full night of sleep, and we semi-bonded over breakfast and then headed out to the beach. Being a completely insecure individual, I ended up going to the beach fully clothed, despite having brought my new Old Navy tankini. Hey, I didn’t know these people, and there was no way my white ass was going to be showing up at the beach, all jiggly-like. At any rate, we got to hang out for a couple hours, playing bocce, taking a walk, and enjoying being in/near the ocean in general (not exactly a novelty, but definitely different than when we go to Santa Cruz).

After some de-sanding, it was back on the road– this time to Athens, where a guy that GP’s been friends with since kindergarten and his wife live while she/they are going to grad school (she’s in vet school, he’s starting a PhD in the fall) at UGA. I had no idea what to expect of Athens, given my very limited exposure to parts of Georgia that aren’t Atlanta, but I knew that it would definitely be less urban. Turns out, I was right. During the ride out, we went through my Very First Southern Thunderstorms (I’m not gonna lie, it was a little scary), and stopped at my Very First Really, Really Backwoods-y Southern Gas Station to use the restroom (likewise). We were greeted by the couple and their two dogs (yay, pets! There were also two cats and an iguana), and hung out awhile before heading out to dinner.

Dinner was delicious, at a nicer version of Olive Garden, complete with some prom kids (awww!) and a crap-ton of wine and desserts (though the waiter did seem a little perplexed at GP’s request for some after-dinner port). As a thank-you for dinner, we stopped by the Kroger and bought them some nice California wine…because we are snobs. Seriously, we spent so much time at dinner talking about how wonderful it is to live in California that I think we should be able to draw some sort of salary from the tourism people here. Really, it’s just a ploy to get people to visit us, because we love to entertain and show off our great sushi place, and our two (yes, two) luxurious fold-out couches. So, seriously, come on over! We are so fun.

Because we are old and lame, we ended up not going into downtown, where all the bars/clubs/hoopla was happening, but we did get to go back to their newly-purchased home and talk about mortgages and great grownup stuff like that. So as to avoid having us share a room with the iguana (who I am told is a night-snacker), they were kind enough to lend us their bedroom, where we promptly passed out, tired from all the 401(K) talk.

That was our last night in Georgia! But there is still a bit to tell, what with our Sunday flight not departing until almost 7pm. Stay tuned for the final chapter in The Trip of Northern Aggression…

Valentine’s, delayed…

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Hello, friends! Due to intermittent (at best) internet at The Apartment, Valentine’s Day reporting has been delayed until, well…today.

It was a low-key evening, with a semi-repeat of our first New Year’s Eve together– living room picnic, complete with cheeses, meats, olives, and wine. We watched Paris, Je T’Aime, which was love-themed, but not nauseatingly so…so, a good choice for the evening. Below, a view of the tableau…

V-Day was a sandwiched between two wine-related weekends (though really, when are they not…). The weekend before was spent in Amador, at their Behind the Cellar Door festival, which is the early spring counterpart to the fall harvest Big Crush. The weather was gorgeous, definitely warmer than the Sierra foothills usually are in early February, but we weren’t about to question it! We worked on filling up our nearly-empty (for us!) wine racks (yes, plural. We’re winos, sorry), and nearly got there, buying about a case and a half of delicious Amador zins, the area specialty.

The weekend after (which, technically, is still happening for me…thanks, President’s Day!) was spent here…

Well, really only Sunday, but we packed it in! Drove up in the morning, and hit V. Sattui for a picnic, complete with some awesome cheese and a bottle of their Gamay Rouge. Then it was on to the CIA at Greystone for a demo and some food ogling. Watching the demo was like being in Kitchen Stadium, and we got to sample some of the pork loin, chutney, and sweet potato, so it was really the highlight of the day. Plus, I finally got a Microplane! Now I can zest and grate to my heart’s content… We hit Elizabeth Spencer for our free tasting and Sauvignon Blanc magnum (thanks to a contribution to KQED), and finally Peju, which is always a stop for us when we go, as I’m enamored with their Provence blend, and he loves the Zin (and this time we knew to skip the Carnival, because, really…ew). Light dinner at the tapas place that we’ve been to every time we’ve been up to Napa (we may need to branch out, no?), and then a drive home during which I did not fall asleep– quite the feat, considering how near-food-coma I was.

…and then today, thanks to some dead white dudes, I get to have a tea party and watch a friend try on wedding dresses! Sweet. I leave you with this…

The perfect recipe for an awesome Valentine’s evening.