Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Eternal Optimism or Ulterior Motive?

While I debated whether we should pass out candy at all this year, Jon went out and bought Halloween candy. See, last year we only had four trick or treaters. Our neighborhood is filled with big lots, some of them over an acre. If I was a kid, I would only go to neighborhoods with townhouses and tiny yards. A few of the kids that came to our house crawled out of cars at the curb!

Jon is either hoping if he buys the candy the kids will come, or he is hoping to have lots of leftovers.

I calculated 116 ounces of candy. If my math is correct, that equals over seven pounds. If our numbers stay consistent from last year, that is almost two pounds of candy per kid.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Holy Crapper!

It has been another busy weekend here in NC. Kate and I decided not to head to the mountains for our annual Halloween kayaking trip so we could get the bathroom ready for the impending appointment to template the granite Monday morning. It was a tall order since we still had to finish mudding, sand the drywall, prime the walls, and set the cabinets. It rained all day Wednesday and part of the early hours Thursday morning and I'm pretty sure that affected the drying time of the mud. Around midnight Friday night I was finally applying the last coat of mud, trying to be very precise with my ceiling corners so I wouldn't have to spend all day sanding. Saturday morning we ran a few errands, checked out some tile, and picked up some light fixtures before I started sanding. I absolutely, positively hate sanding joint compound. Wearing a nice mask doesn't seem to stop all the dust, it gets everywhere. By 2:00pm I was satisfied with my sanding and I was ready to begin priming. While running our errands we decided not to purchase a new can of primer ($32.00 a can) because there was an unopened can in the shed. The can had been in there a very long time. After stirring the old can of primer for 30 minutes I was rolling primer onto our bathroom's new walls! Sunday morning our chores began just shy of 9:00 am, perfect time to set cabinets! I thought we would be done in two hours, maybe 3 tops. I was way off. I was haning light fixtures at 2:30pm. I was astonished that it could've taken us that long, but we are quite proud of our accomplishment. We ordered middle of the road KraftMaid cabinets in the 3 sections, 2x27" and 1x18". The guys that do it for a living almost certainly could do it faster than we did (and with far less profanity I'm sure) but I know the finished product would be the same, perfection. Here are a few pictures for ya'll to see.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Workplace Battleground

I talked in this post about a new account I was given when a team member left the company suddenly. In addition to the heartache of losing a dear friend as a colleague, this account is notoriously challenging. I have spent the last 10 days trying to transition my former accounts (five years of accumulated experience) and learn my way around the new one, as well as deliver on projects that were already in progress. No rest for the weary or anybody else, especially me.

There is a gentleman on the account (aka the Dude) that serves as a liason between me and my company and his company, his company also being a division of my company. The Dude and I have already had some difficult exchanges, because he walked into this new relationship beating his fists on his chest, apparently trying to scare me into submission and unrealistic timelines.

I am small, I am a woman, and I am very sensitive, but I will not be pushed around, largely because of those first three character traits. In fact, the worst thing you can probably do is try to push me around because I will either ignore you or push back just as hard. It’s a no-win situation for the pusher. I really wanted to sit this guy down and say “look, you can either work with me or against me and the former is going to be in your best interest.” But instead, we had this conversation:

The Dude (with feigned humor): “Oh, ask me if I care.”
Me (with veiled hostility): “I didn’t.”

Sigh. So that is how it is going to be.

Friday, October 27, 2006

What does a rat hunter look like?
A dirty-nosed dog.
More to come.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Not Loungin'

Just so that you don't think I was lounging around the house drinking mimosas while Jon was working on the bathroom remodel, I should tell you that I spent Saturday cooking North African Vegetable Stew, courtesy of Field of Greens cookbook, courtesy of Greens Restaurant in San Francisco.

That picture on the Greens website? My friend Betsy and I once sat for Sunday brunch at a table overlooking that very marina. It was Christmas several years ago and I was already a longtime fan of the cookbook. She was in the Bay area visiting from Florida and I was visiting from North Carolina. Betsy and her sister whisked me away for a surprise Greens experience ("Where are you taking me?"). It is one of the best surprises and favorite experiences of my life.

Over the years, my Field of Greens cookbook has weathered. The spine is broken by overuse along the page for 'Filo Turnovers with Spinach, Feta, and Rosemary'. My Greens cookbook library has expanded with The Greens Cookbook, Everyday Greens (signed by the current executive chef Annie Sommerville), and Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, written by Deborah Madison, the former executive chef of Greens Restaurant.

I have never made anything I didn't love out of the Greens cookbooks, but I do have my favorite recipes. The thing about cooking from Greens is that you are usually guaranteed lots of flavor at a cost of lots of ingredients with lots of preparation. It is a labor of love to be sure.

Pictured below are garbanzo beans, onions, potatoes, cauliflower, red and yellow peppers, broccoli, carrots, cilantro, ginger, garlic, saffron, turmeric, cayenne, and paprika.

And the finished product, which was served over Almond Couscous to some of our favorite people: our neighbors Jer and Selina and our friends (their old neighbors) Mike and Caroline.

A good time was had by all, despite any appearances to the contrary.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

What a weekend!

The past couple of weekends have been exciting around the house. I have made significant progress on the bathroom, we've hosted dinner a few times, and Tucker has been to the vet for his shots/checkup. Here is a "picture tour" of the bathroom updates.

Three weeks ago, we seemed to be at a dead stop. The plumbing, subfloor, and framing were complete but we didn't have the motivation to get going. We'll have guests for Thanksgiving, so I thought I'd better get moving.

Last weekend I took care of the wiring and the exhaust fan so I could begin hanging sheetrock. Yesterday, I was up early doing a little demolition in our friends' kitchen in preparation for their contractor to begin work on the new kitchen. After the demolition, I was in our bathroom hanging the ceiling with a little help from Mike and Jer. I finished hanging the sheetrock just in time to prepare for dinner. Kate made a delicious North African Stew.

This morning after our Buttermilk Pancakes, we headed up to The Home Depot for cement backerboard so I could put the walls up in the shower area. Another full day in the bathroom today.

Now it's ready for mud!

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Learning by Osmosis

There is a love affair happening in my living room, right under my nose. No, in all honesty, it is right in front of my face and I am powerless to stop it. The scene below happens every single day.

I have been replaced. Tucker stares obsessively at Jon when he is driving, when Jon is studying, when Jon is doing, well, anything. When I call Tucker onto the bed, he hops up, turns his back on me and plops down to...you guessed it...stare at Jon. At least maybe we are getting two educations for the price of one!

Monday, October 16, 2006

Go With What You Know

After a particularly trying day at the office, I stopped off at my local wine store for some fermented beverage to accompany the bean chili I made last night. When cash flow was more liberal, I would buy a case of wine at a time, taking advantage of the 10 - 20% discount for bulk purchases. No longer, but I still stop in about twice a month to support my favorite wine shop.

Seeing me peruse the domestic Cabernet Sauvignons, the gentleman whose name I still don't know after five years asked me if I was looking for the usual suspect. I said, "...it is Monday, and I'm in need of some comfort. I usually gravitate towards the Joel Gott or the Avalon." His eyes lit up and he led me over to the Latin American section, showing me a Chilean Cabernet. I forget the words he used to describe it except for smooth and medium body. Wanting to appease his expertise and also wanting to step out of my comfort zone, I agreed to try it. On my way to the register, I also grabbed a bottle of an old favorite, an inexpensive
Garnacha/Tempranillo Spanish blend called Borsao, a sure winner, a backup bottle.

I hate to admit that I really didn't like the Chilean wine. One college try glass into it, I started to pop the cork on the Borsao and Jon said, "you can't open a second bottle for just one glass." Naturally, I replied, "Sure I can!"

So there you have it.

Cousino-Macul Antiguas Reserva at $16.99/ bottle


Borsao Red Wine at $6.99/bottle.

Goes to show that you don't always get what you pay (alot) for.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Super Duper Stressed Out Situation

My company offers health and lifestyle evaluation tools and I recently took a survey to find out my risks for various conditions. Here is the result:

"Based on the responses you gave, you have undergone a tremendous amount of life change in the past twelve months. Research has shown that people who experience this amount of change in a short time -- regardless of whether the change had a positive or negative outcome -- have a high likelihood of developing health problems associated with stress.

Now is a good time to pay close attention to habits that have a significant impact on your health. In addition to trying out some of the stress-reducing treatments listed in this program, make an effort to stay well hydrated and get at least seven hours of sleep each night. Be particularly vigilant about your health, because you are much more vulnerable to illness when you are under stress."

This result doesn't even take into account the impending cross-country move or the fact that today I was handed a new very large account (that was already only 50% staffed) after the unexpected departure of a long-time colleague. Unfortunately, circumstances did not allow for any knowledge transfer, so I will be self-learning three years worth of information. I started poking around this afternoon to try and get 'up to speed' and ended up with a stomachache and minor heart palpitations.

My company has alot of great 'benefits' like the one above, and
I don't want to seem unappreciative. Our healthcare options are great, there are onsite programs for dental care, mammograms, financial planning, gyms for exercising, multiple cafeterias, dry cleaning drop-off and pick-up, mommy rooms for women who need to pump breastmilk, heck they even have breast-feeding classes! This is all great, and thank you.

The issue I have is that these corporate programs exist only because folks are so overworked that they do not have time to leave the office to manage these mundane life tasks. I remember complaining to my mom about five years ago that I didn't want a boyfriend as much as I wanted a personal assistant. Yikes! The reality is that while it is great that I can work out at work--I don't want to have to!

I can suck it up for now, really, I can. I'm not that unhappy and today has just been a bit of a bad day. On days like this, I remember that it is this very job that has allowed us to live off of a single salary so that Jon gets the opportunity to go to school full time. I am truly grateful for that, because it is a luxury that was given to me by my folks and I want him to have that too. It is also this job that is allowing us to move out west.

So I will drink more water as suggested, but I already get seven hours of sleep each night. I will pay more attention to my body and try to eat right, maintain my priorities, and spend quality time with friends and family. I will survive, but if you happen to run into me, I could probably use a hug.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Hot Springs in Idaho!

We had a very tame Friday night here in Boise. After dinner and a couple of drinks at Reef we decided to head back to the B&B to turn in early. Kate was up and out of bed early this morning, 6:30 to be precise. I was up and jogging on the Boise Greenbelt by 7:30am. My run was only about 30 minutes, but it was enough for me. I ran down to Broadway, headed downstream on the Greenbelt to 9th street, then through downtown Boise back up Idaho street to the B&B.

During breakfast Kate and I decided we would head north up Idaho 55 to check out the North and South Forks of the Payette River. I would say it wasn't 30 minutes in the car until we could see the river. I was lost in the scenery very soon after we were out of the city limits. Less than one hour from Boise and we were met with views such as this:

Here we are near swinging bridge on the North Fork Payette about 6 miles north of Banks, ID.

We drove further north to see Jacobs Ladder (yes, it is that scary in person), then we turned around and headed for the South Fork. We were in search of natural hot springs. About 4 miles up the South Fork we pulled off the road and began our hike.
We went up..........
Way up, our car is so small from this distance...........

The hike was very steep but the views were worth it. The views around the hot springs definitely held my attention more than any view of the day. Did I mention the name?

There is an elaborate network of trails, pipes, and concrete pools maintained by the regular users. I didn't understand why in the world anyone would bring pipe and concrete up to that altitude until I found the "headwaters" for the spring. Luckily, I barely touched the water when I realized how hot it was. Yikes, 149 degrees! If it were not for the pipes and pools the water would be far to hot to enjoy, unless you're making soup.

It was a great hike, the water was very theraputic. We enjoyed it very much. Cheers!

This was the view east up the canyon.

Kate was, by far, the winner of "most stunning view of the day".

It's hard to believe we've accomplished so much before 6pm. My only regret so far today is that we didn't have a trashbag with us during our hike to the hot springs. No matter where you are you'll run across the tracks of those stupid humans that haven't figured out how to "Leave No Trace". Next time we trek up to Skinnydippers Hot Springs we'll be sure to make our mark by removing the mark left by others.

Boise Day 2: Friday Part II

On the steps (there are 32) of the Idaho state capitol. I wanted to ring the bell, Jon claimed if I did, I would have to buy everyone in town a drink.

Playing speaker of the house in the Idaho Senate chambers.

Greco-Roman sculpture in Idaho.

Segregation: alive and well in the Idaho capitol.

Boise Day 2: Friday Part I

We ambled downstairs on Friday morning to a gourmet breakfast. Our hostess is quite the foodie. The table was set formally and breakfast came in courses. For the first course, Betti had whipped up a tropical fruit soup, topped with a dollop of creme fraiche and a sprinkling of coconut. We were served fresh squeezed orange juice in beautiful antique glasses and small blueberry scones with marionberry jelly. And finally, french toast coated with crushed nuts and a citrus syrup, bacon, and a slice of orange.

After breakfast we explored the Boise neighborhoods by car, trying to get a feel for where we might want to live. We then dropped the car back at the inn and headed downtown on foot for lunch. We ended up at the
Bittercreek Ale House. The food was excellent: Jon had clam chowder and I had a house roasted turkey sandwich on toasted sourdough bread with a side of black bean and quinoa salad.

Bittercreek has a wide variety of microbrew beers on tap.

We had alot of fun at Bittercreek, chatting up the bartender from Montana and photo-documenting our fun by taking silly pictures.

Friday, October 06, 2006

My Turn

Indeed, the Budget Host Inn was a poor choice, but we needed something cheap and nearby to lay our heads until sunrise. I became nervous when we turned at the roadside sign but did not see the place. We saw Lowe's home improvement store and Wal-Mart, but no inn. "Maybe it is behind the Lowe's," Jon said. I scoffed. A bit of reconnaissance and we found a sign that indicated we should turn right, then another. Peeking out from inbetween and behind the Wal-Mart and Lowe's and smashed up against the I-84 freeway was the Budget Host Inn. Clearly these hosts were on a budget that didn't allow for location.

Breakfast at Goldy's was a stark contrast. We both selected from the a la carte menu which allows you to build your own breakfast. The egg choices includes omelettes and scrambles; the potato choices include delicacies such as sweet potato hashbrowns and red flannel hash which is beets, potatoes, and sausage; for your bread, you can choose from scones, biscuits, pancakes, and toast. I opted for scrambled eggs with broccoli and gruyere, Goldy's potatoes which were sliced 1/4 inch thin and perfectly browned with a dusting of blackening spices, and a baking soda biscuit with marionberry jelly. It was divine.

Here are some images that I particularly liked from our explorations throughout the day.

Swallow nests carved into sandstone on the road to Hull's Gulch.

The trailhead at Hull's Gulch, where the Ridge to River's trail system begins just minutes outside of downtown Boise.

Roadside attraction in the Boise National Forest, on the way to Bogus Basin ski resort. We saw lots of road bikers on the way up and down the mountain.

Quaint pinecone arrangement on a forest service road. I hiked, Jon followed slowly behind me in the rental SUV.

Streetside in Hyde Park, one of the historic neighborhoods in Boise.

Passing by the capitol building downtown, en route to dinner.

Downtown mural.

Unknown street parade viewed from the balcony of our dinner restaurant. When we asked the waiter what was going on he replied, "I don't know. There's always something going on in Boise."

Thursday, October 05, 2006

A little time to write

Sorry I've been so negligent in my writing duties the past few weeks. Spare time has been very hard to come by between GauleyFest, preparing for this trip, and exams. Who knew Biology had changed that much in 15 years. I’d like to thank Mr. Smith in Bridger for teaching me well, but it seems advances in science have replaced everything he taught us!

Well, we’ve made it Boise for our first recon trip. Here I sit in our temporary digs, the Idaho Heritage Inn, listening to Ray LaMontagne while my beautiful wife lay sleeping peacefully by my side. Our flight was uneventful, thankfully the wonderful Northwest Air lady found room for us on America West. Both legs of our NWA reservation were delayed and there was no telling whether or not we’d actually get to Boise as planned. We thought it was a fortunate turn of events to get on a new flight, but after trying to sleep in the pitiful hotel last night I’ve decided we would have been better off sleeping in the airport. At least the airport is somewhat insulated from noise, unlike our accommodations last night. Check it…… that really is the interstate about 30 feet from our room.

This morning we couldn’t get out of the hotel fast enough. We had a wonderful dining experience at the finest breakfast establishment in downtown Boise. Goldy’s is the name and breakfast is their game. The enjoyment we got from eating at Goldy’s was no surprise, as they’ve been voted “Best Breakfast in Boise 1999-2006”. The food's quality was matched by the excellent service.

After our breakfast we rambled around the downtown area for a bit, then headed up to Northend, one of the cuter neighborhoods in the greater downtown area of Boise. We happened upon Hulls Gulch and we were so stoked at our finding. Without even looking we had come upon the trailhead for the Ridge to River trails in Boise. I kid you not, 85+ miles of established hiking/biking trails about a mile from downtown. This place is the BOMB. There looks to be over 100 trails and almost all of them are off-leash!

Each square is 1 mile.

After leaving Hulls Gulch we made our way west about 4 blocks to Bogus Basin road. Bogus Basin, the local winter resort is about 18 miles of twisty mountain road away from BoDo (Boise Downtown). I cannot wait to get out on my roadbike to try these climbs. I do believe it will be brutal, very brutal. I mapped it out on routeslip, the elevation gain is hellish. John, are you ready for it? Blood, Sweat, and Who? Hahahahah!

Since I sat down here at the window of our room to update ya’ll I’ve had two squirrels come to the screen, Tucker is going to have the time of his life living here. So many squirrels, so little time. I think I’ll take a walk and enjoy some of this Idaho sunshine. If you've got a few minutes you can check out the photo repository to see all of our Idaho pictures.