Wednesday, June 17, 2009
From Garden to Table

On Monday night we hosted Monica and Alison at our apartment for a mini-dinner party. It's no secret that I love to bake and entertain, so this kind of get together -- and the preparation involved -- makes me giddy.

I ended up baking a lasagna using some fabulous cheeses (fontina, gorgonzola, gruyere, parmesan, and ricotta) and added a layer of artichokes and prosciutto just to make it interesting. That dish and the olive-and-rosemary bread seemed to be enjoyed by all, which of course made me smile. Add two great wines to the mix (supplied by the girls) and some wonderful company, and our mini-dinner party was quite an enjoyable evening.

We also visited our garden earlier in the day. After failing to bring the camera along on the last visit, only to find the plants flourishing, I made sure to bring it this time. I'm still surprised (and pretty proud) of our ability to grow anything, let alone quality veggies. Truthfully, up until that first zucchini came in, I was sort of subconsciously believing that we would just keep watering a patch of dirt with little or no results.

So far that looks to be far from the case:

The zucchinis keep coming in every week and grow until they look like fat cucumbers. I did indeed make zucchini bread with the last giant one but am in need of some creative uses for the upcoming constant stream of produce that the garden has begun to spit out...

From the looks of the tomato plants, which are brimming with tiny green fruits, we'll be up to our eyeballs in tomatoes come July. Some of the little guys are even turning red...

Bell peppers are sprouting, too. These are the sweet red variety but I think they have some time before they start to turn that color...

We grew these radishes from seed and they are already pushing their tops up from the ground...

These green beans started from seed as well, and if you look closely you can see the tiny beans hanging from the bush...

Our neighbors have some pretty enviable crops as well...

Word on the "street" is that there's a ground squirrel problem. We noticed some nibbling on the edges of our cabbage, but for now we're satisfied that they haven't feasted on our other crops. Once more things are ready to be picked, we'll be looking for more ways to get the most from our harvest (making spaghetti sauce is one idea). Either way, local friends should prepare themselves for baskets of veggies. After all, there's only so much two people can consume :)

Posted by Kelley at 9:30 AM | 1 comments

Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Los Angeles

So after a great couple of days in San Diego, we loaded into the rental car and headed north to L.A. We checked into this cute boutique hotel in the Fairfax district called The Farmer's Daughter and prepared for a couple of days running around this sprawling city.

Kelley: On the first day we hit all the tourist spots just to check them off the list. We drove through Beverly Hills and had a poolside drink, then continued down Sunset Boulevard and into Hollywood to see the walk of fame. It's one of those things they say you have to do but really, just don't. It is crawling with the worst kind of tourists. Chris was not having it, so we left after a couple of pictures and headed to Roscoe's Chicken & Waffles. The fried chicken definitely lives up to the hype. So yummy!

Chris: Hollywood Boulevard is indeed a nuisance, down there with Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco and Chicago's Navy Pier. And the walk of fame becomes a joke when you see some of the names and realize it must only take a publicist and fifty bucks to get on it. Still, plenty of folks are smitten by it all, including the teenage girl who was camping out across the street from Grauman's Chinese Theatre ahead of the premiere of "The Hangover" that night.

Kelley: Next up, I wanted to see a movie at one of the state-of-the-art theaters, so we headed over to the famed Cinerama (now Arc Light). The sound system and digital picture were good but I wasn't blown away. I guess we have pretty good theaters in San Jose.

Chris: They weren't showing "Up," so we went with "Angels and Demons," which didn't help the experience any.

Kelley: After a day of being in the car, Chris and I realized L.A. really is a town of drivers. Unfortunately, it was driving us crazy (no pun intended). So we opted to walk the two or so miles to Barney's Beanery, a bar in West Hollywood with a lot of history. It once was the last stop for travelers on Route 66 and a hangout for old movie stars such as Clark Gable and Clara Bow and, later, for rockers Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin. More important, it was very un-L.A., and after a day of valet parking and an "are you on the list" type of a scene, it was exactly the place we needed to unwind.

Chris: I forget the details, but the bar's collection of license plates purportedly began during the Depression. If a customer could not pay for his meal, he left the plate as a sort of collateral. Now, a cup of chili was probably a nickel, and car considerably more, so I'm missing something. But it was all very interesting. And the three-dollar home brew very tasty.

Kelley: The next day we headed to Venice Beach. Of all the places in L.A., it is the only neighborhood in which I could see myself living. The beach is just a few blocks away and the houses that run along the canals are full of charm and character. The beach cottages are great, but some of the modern architecture is just spectacular. I think some of my Dwell magazines have even rubbed off on Chris.

Chris: I had no clue about Venice, and what a surprise! Kelley definitely has opened my eyes to the world of design. I often still don't know what I'm looking at, but I like what she likes, which certainly is good for all involved.

Kelley: From there we decided to take part in one of the current local trends: the Kogi BBQ truck. L.A. is known for it's taco trucks, but this one is getting a lot of attention in part because it serves great food but also because every day it sends out its location via Twitter. We began following the trucks' feed and decided to hunt it down using the GPS on the iPhone. We found it in Santa Monica with a line about 30 minutes long ... but it was so worth the wait.

Chris: Korean short rib burrito = soooo good. Listening to two studio dorks in line behind me gushing about how some new script is "so Aronofsky" = less so.

Kelley: Later that night we went to the hipster-esque neighborhood of Silverlake to grab dinner at The Kitchen. Then off to bed for an early morning of hiking Runyon Canyon.

Kelley: Runyon Canyon is in the Hollywood Hills amid homes owned by the young and famous. We thought this might be the spot we would spy our first credible celebrity, but it didn't happen. Instead there were dogs everywhere (accompanied by their celebrity dog walkers) and young wannabe actresses sprinting off those last two pounds. We had no idea it was actually a heart-pumping, sweat-inducing trail, but the views from the top were worth it and it was nice to escape the concrete jungle for a few hours.

Kelley: After the hike we cruised Beverly Boulevard so I could peruse the design and furniture shops before ending up at Barney's again for the first game of the NBA finals.

Chris: We passed on Scott's offer of $175 tickets to Game 1, in favor of watching among the Lakers fans. The crowd was largely into it, though not as much as I expected, with a few folks interested only in being seen; and after L.A.'s easy victory broke out in chants of "Olé Olé Olé!," apparently the custom. Also, it is here I spotted our first celebrity (such as he is). Gregory Smith was familiar from the Mel Gibson movie "The Patriot" and, more so, from the old WB series "Everwood," which, at the risk of opening myself to ridicule, I used to enjoy. (I remember stumbling upon it in the UK, where it was less imaginatively titled "Our New Life in Colorado.") Still, as Kelley reminds me, I've not seen a "real" celebrity if I have to immediately follow the name with "you know, the guy from...".

Kelley: Friday we said goodbye to Hollywood and hello to Burbank, where most of the big studio lots have been since the 1960s. This was the day I had been anticipating the whole trip: Conan Day! I absolutely love Conan O'Brien and, even though I'll admit he hasn't hit his stride yet on "The Tonight Show," when he does there is no one funnier on late night. I always wanted to see "Late Night" in New York but never scored tickets. So after a long wait in line, we entered the new set and I nearly (read: actually) sweated right through my shirt. I couldn't believe Conan was so close to us. It was basically my version of seeing a rock star in the flesh.

Chris: Yeesh, Kel. Get a grip. I, too, am a fan, and this was much more fun than (and without any of the cringing of) my only previous stint as a member of TV audience, at the Jerry Springer show. Conan was good, but we also savored the breaks between segments, when the inner workings of the show were revealed: the powwows about jokes, the hair and makeup touch-ups, and, best, the guy who made sure that Conan had enough Diet Coke in his coffee mug.

Kelley: The rest of the weekend was spent with our good friends Robin and Scott. They are both teachers in Burbank and were nice enough to let us stay at their new home. On Saturday the four of us went to a baseball game at Dodger Stadium. I'll admit that their stadium epitomizes L.A. in the '60s -- very mid-century modern with palm trees. But their fans are absolutely the worst. I've never seen so many people escorted out for unsportsmanlike behavior. I mean c'mon! If you can't handle the competition and opposing fans in next seat, you really aren't mature enough to attend a game.

Chris: You might think Kelley's opinion is skewed by her being a Giants fan. But I'll pile on, too. Certainly the fans' preoccupation with smacking beach balls and looking for fights is annoying. Worse, though, was the sense that any ribbing would be misconstrued as some sort of affront. I've been to Boston for games between the Yankees and Red Sox -- perhaps the biggest sports rivalry in America -- and while there was plenty of trash talk, it was for the most part good-natured. Their fans seemed to realize it's just a game. No doubt there are socio-economic differences that I am too dim to expound on, but Dodgers fans, at least those with us in the left-field bleachers, were much more territorial and less willing to let someone have a go at them.

Kelley: Those Dodger fans definitely left a bad taste in my mouth, but all was forgotten after going to see the absolutely hilarious "The Hangover." So funny!

Kelley: By Sunday we were ready to get home. We'd been away for over a week, and while the pet-sitters' updates on Santo were much appreciated, they made us miss our kitten. We happily said goodbye to the traffic and the push-button-to-start (?!) rental car, and we certainly won't miss their fans. That said, it was a great time cruising around SoCal.

You can go through all our pictures here.

Posted by Kelley at 9:57 AM | 0 comments

Wednesday, June 10, 2009
The Taste of Success

We went to our garden today half-worried our neighbor might have forgotten to water it for us and everything would be dead. Turns out, the vegetables are thriving! The tomato plants are bearing little green fruits, the bell peppers are sprouting little peppers, and the zucchini--well just look at the picture! The one we picked today is nearly the size of Santo.

I can't believe how rewarding it feels to actually produce something we will eat. Plus, we still have plenty of space to put in some late herbs and fall crops like squash or pumpkins.

Now I just have to decide what to do with that monster zucchini. My first thought was to slice and grill it (yum!), but I think I may just make some zucchini bread on account of its ginormous size.

Posted by Kelley at 4:41 PM | 0 comments

Monday, June 8, 2009
San Diego

We're back from Southern California and ready to share stories and pics! We had such a good time with family and friends and have so much to tell that I think it is best if we break the posts up by region. Starting with San Diego...

Kelley: The big highlight of our time in SD was seeing Scott and Jeni run the Rock & Roll Marathon. Chris and I got up bright and early to scout out a spot downtown, right around mile 7. We had our eyes peeled for our two as plenty of runners in Elvis costumes and other silly get-ups ran. Soon enough Jeni comes by all smiles and with plenty of positive energy. We snapped some photos and away she went. Not far behind was Scott. He flashed us a quick thumbs-up but kept on going.

Chris: Before stopping, Jeni navigated her way through the crowd and into their hotel (which was right at this spot) for a bathroom break. Scott blew us off for photos, but then initiated an exchange of text messages. I suppose these both are examples of thinking on your feet.

Kelley: From there we headed to breakfast and then on to camp out at mile 24. We were sure they would need our encouragement that late in the game (neither of us having run a marathon, we could only imagine what their state of mind would be) and not long after our arrival we saw a pretty fit man begging his wife to let him quit. But pretty soon here comes Jeni, still all smiles and upset only that her time wasn't up to her own high standard.

Chris: We took the trolley over near Old Town, which annoyed me in its resemblance to Disneyland's Frontierland. After a short walk to the course we were eager to spot Jeni, but it proved difficult to accurately pick anyone out of the heedless river of runners. Indeed, we first misidentified six or seven women (and, in my case, embarrassingly, one man). Sorry, Jen.

Kelley: After she goes by, we start scouring the crowd for Scott. His goal time was a little slower, so we're thinking he can't be far behind. Ten minutes pass, then 20, 30, 40. Then a juggler goes by, and we snap a photo with the idea of teasing Scott later on about his slowness. Then an ambulance goes by and I start going over worst-case scenarios in my head. Finally, around noon, at least an hour after Jeni has passed, we head to the finish line... where we find Scott. All the while we were expecting Jeni to be first, Scott managed to pass us and get the better time!

Chris: Scott was slightly less than a gracious winner. When he got Jeni on the phone and found out that his time was quicker than hers, he shouted something along the lines of "Yeeaaahh! That's what I'm talking 'bout!". Thirty-six, Joe. You're 36.

Kelley: Then after they had run 26.2 miles (!) we all went out for burgers and beers, first on Coronado Island and then downtown. We had such a good time just hanging out. But it has to be said how impressed Chris and I were by their absolutely positive attitudes. Well done, guys.

Chris: I was impressed as well by Scott's wolfing of another burger, this one from Wendy's, before retiring for the night.

Kelley: The next day we capped our visit with breakfast at Hash House A Go-Go, a breakfast place in San Diego I had heard great things about. The recommendation was right -- it was delicious -- but the portions were enormous. Chris ordered a Snickers flapjack (that's right) the size of huge frying pan and we all had a bite. If you can't recognize my giant-sized dish, that is eggs Benedict.

Chris: "A bite" = yum. A second bite = ick.

Kelley: After we said farewell to Scott and Jeni, Chris and I stopped at beautiful Balboa Park before heading up the coast. We hit the beach in La Jolla and Torrey Pines Golf Course as well, and then it was on to the beach town of San Clemente for dinner with our friends Brittany and Noah. Their apartment sits over a bunch of surf shops and is a short walk from the beach. Absolutely charming!

Chris: Balboa Park's campus of attractions is bountiful and diverse -- museums of art, anthropology, local history; a botanical garden; the famous zoo -- and there are many spots for just lazing about. The mix is really quite clever. And I'll echo Kelley's thoughts on San Clemente. It oughta give Seattle a run for its money, you two.

View all the pictures from this leg of our trip here. And have a look at Scott's version of events here.

Next up: Our adventures in Los Angeles!

Posted by Kelley at 5:36 PM | 0 comments