Sunday, November 30, 2008

Stopping to smell the snowman

I hosted a brunch this morning and the table was so pretty! And my crustless quiche with asparagus and ham was tasty, as were the fruit salad and monkey bread.

And I totally forgot to take pictures.

So here's Sophie, inspecting the handiwork of some neighbor kids. She enjoyed her brief romp in the snow before I went to work, my first day back after a week off. It felt like a very long day.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Bee bag

A sleeping bag will make a fine hive insulator.

Remedial apitechture

I needed to cover the hole at the top of the hive with something more substantial than a sheet and rug, especially with snow on the way.
I found a handy slice of wood from the same tree and drilled holes in it for screws. I didn't want to be hammering nails on the hive and freaking the bees out. This was right at dusk, at about 40 degrees, so there wasn't much risk of them coming out to investigate. Still, I put the lid on fast. You'll just have to imagine the hole under there.
Below you can see the knothole that is the main hive entrance. It's bigger than I realized.
So I found a piece of bark and quickly nailed it over. There's a space at the bottom where bees can still get in and out, but now they have less area to defend against robber bees, and maybe a little more protection from the weather. I covered the top with plastic and the sheet again.
Here's an interesting tidbit: Most animals don't like to mess with bees much, for obvious reasons, but skunks will go up to a man-made hive, knock on it, then feast on the bees as they come out to investigate. Beekeepers in skunky areas often string an electric fence below the hives to keep the gate-crashers away.
Sophie has no interest in making the bees' acquaintance.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Brilliant planning

My car needed a new center differential. What better day to have it fixed than Black Friday? You get a chauffeured ride to the mall and don't have to deal with parking.

If you're going to be stranded, you might as well get your Christmas shopping done.

Oh, and the car repair is under warranty.

The last notch

That's what my belt is on right now. The first Thanksgiving dinner was at the country club, thanks to my aunt's mother's kind invitation. That's my cousin's thumbs up:
The second was at my best friend's house. I didn't pile my plate so high, though I wanted to. I did save room for dessert.
I think my friend's bathroom scale is off. It told me I weigh 10 pounds more than I thought.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

What is it? No. 27

Whoa! Two in a row! But it's a special day and you deserve some fun.

Click on the photo for the answer to this bonus edition of What is it?

I'm thankful today (and every day) for your visits and comments!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

What is it? No. 26

I couldn't resist pulling out my camera when I saw this. Take a guess at what it is, then click on the picture to see if you're right.

No spoilers in the comments, please! (I'll provide further details in a later post.)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

How very meta

A small plane was circling the neighborhood yesterday.
It was dragging an advertising banner that was advertising an advertising banner: "Come fly your ad proposal with me."
I couldn't read the phone number, though.

If you had a shot at free advertising, what would your airplane banner say?

Under a shadow

I don't get to the mall very often, so I hadn't seen this shop before.
The Art of Shaving? That's a lot of real estate devoted to what I imagine would be more suited to a mall cart or kiosk.

Or am I wrong? If I think not many guys are going to get lathered up about visiting the shaving store at the mall, am I being sexist? Or am I hanging out with the wrong guys?

Whatever the case, the place seemed pretty thin on customers. The economy's giving all kinds of luxury businesses 5 o'clock shadow.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Robber bees?

For the most part, there has been little activity around the hive. Just a few bees coming and going. So I was surprised to look out today and see a cloud of bees, hovering. I think it was a squadron of robber bees. They were all facing the hive, and there looked to be pitched battles in progress at the entrance.
The hole is the original one the bees had been using, so I'm assuming they had it pretty well sealed so they could defend it. (It's just that little knothole where you can see bees gathered. The area above it is shaded by the rug.) There are no other access points.

Some time later, things had quieted down again. I don't know who won the battle, really.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Apple peeler-corer-slicer in action

I was making yet another apple cranberry cake, this time so Mom could try it, and I thought I'd test out my camera's video capabilities.
You put the apple on the prongs and turn the crank. The spring-loaded peeler takes the skin off in one long strip, the core gets pushed through the sharp ring, and a blade below the ring slices the apple. The width of the screw threads determines the thickness of the slices. The device comes with two screws, with thick and thin threads, that you can swap out easily.

If you have a lot of apples to process, it's well worth the purchase. Mine's from the Pampered Chef. It clamps onto the counter edge (I have to use it under the dishwasher mount, since the lip of the counter is too short elsewhere). There's also a kind you can get that uses suction on the countertop. I don't know how it compares for stability.

They run less than $20 and are available from Amazon and most general cookware places.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Bee feeding. Or not

I looked around online and found that bee food is pretty simple. It's just sugar water, 2:1. If you're working with a regular hive, there are bottles and trays you use, but I also saw where people put out a saucer of syrup. You want it shallow so the bees don't drown in the stuff. I covered an old cookie sheet with plastic wrap to hold the syrup, and stuck in red and yellow things in an attempt to attract the bees.

But it didn't seem to work. I don't know what else I can do.

There are bees:
They're flying in and out, and hanging around the entrance.
The one above is different from the regular ones. Is that a drone? It's bigger, and it looks like it has one big eye across the front of its head. Clearly I need to study more.
Well, there's only so much I can do for them. They'll make it or they won't.

Meanwhile, I've got a lot of mulch to spread. It's not an unreasonably large amount, happily, and I have plenty of places to put it.
It's hell on my back, though.

Lunch at Bistro One, Denver

The Sergeant and I had a stellar dinner at Bistro One in July (for my review and restaurant details click here). I went back there today with Mom for lunch. We got there right before the end of service, so the place was nearly empty, but we were welcomed warmly. We were each torn between salad or sandwich, so we ordered a grilled pastrami sandwich (with the fried potato side salad) and the tuna Niçoise salad and shared.
I can't say I was thrilled by the sandwich; it was a tad greasy for me and heavy on the grainy mustard. I think I'd like it better if the bread were just lightly toasted so I could taste the meat better. The fried potato salad was super-tasty, though.

And the tuna Niçoise – ooh la la.
It's an unusual presentation, with all the traditional ingredients encircled by super-succulent, melt-in-your-mouth tuna. The hard-boiled egg is crumbled and scattered on the plate around it.
There was a lot of tuna there. I think I ate the lion's share of it.

Mom had coffee, I had coke (and our server, Kevin, who is also the bartender, was gratifyingly attentive on the refills). The total bill was $20. Bistro One is joining Gaia Bistro on my short list of neighborhood spots where you can have an elegant lunch without breaking the bank.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Dead and gone, but not entirely

With the city forester breathing down my neck, I was forced to say yes to the tree trimmers' choice of today to bring down my doomed silver maple.
I had to forgo a couple of things I'd planned for the morning, including a meetup with Jen and Manisha, dammit. But I needed to be home to supervise.
Martin and Javier were sympathetic and speedy. They joked a lot, with Martin up in the tree and Javier on the ground, belaying the larger roped pieces and feeding branches into the chipper.
I removed a fence panel and set up a chute of tarps. Commercial mulch is expensive, and I liked the idea of recycling what I could.
As you may recall, the tree had a beehive in it, about 12 feet off the ground. What I did not know was that there was another hive up high. It was in the branch you see falling here, I think.
The branch split when it hit the ground. Those poor bees.
I was in danger of falling logs myself, so I didn't get a better shot than this blurry one of the actual bees.
It was a small hive, but they'd laid in a supply of honey. I tasted little bit of it.
The choice of day proved fortuitous. Yesterday it was 70 degrees, and the bees would've been active and angry. Today it was 35, and the poor things succumbed quickly to the cold. They crawled and flew in slow motion, then curled up and died.

A squirrel lost its cozy nest, too. This branch was filled with shredded leaves, and squirrel snacks of pumpkin from my mulch pile, where I'd thrown my jack-o-lanterns.
I feared that the broken hive was the one I knew about, tunneled through the trunk to the high branch, but Martin found that hive farther down. He cut below it and dropped the section.
I threw a sheet over it to keep the bees contained as much as possible. The section was too big to roll, but Martin trimmed off a solid chunk on one side.
The guys who showed up to take the bigger wood helped roll the whole thing into my yard. It took all their strength, and they were probably cursing me a little. But they were good-natured about it.
They didn't get the section into the raised bed as I'd hoped, but close enough. I should mention here that the City Council on Monday night voted to allow backyard beekeeping! While this probably isn't what they had in mind, I made sure the hive met the position requirements: as far from the neighbors as possible, at least five feet off the lot line, and behind a six-foot barrier (my fence).
I covered the trunk with an old wool rug and plastic, leaving a small escape hole above the hive entrance. The entrance was packed with bees. I could hear them buzzing loudly in the confined space, and there was warmth rising from the hole.

I hope they can seal up the hole at the top of the hive where the trunk was cut. I hope they can survive the trauma of their jarring fall, relocation and loss of who knows how many workers. More warmish days are coming, so I'll investigate whether I can feed them as ordinary beekeepers sometimes do.

Meanwhile, the log crew fired up their winch and loaded their truck.
They filled it to capacity.
This is Martin, taking a well-deserved rest. Javier is behind him.
And this is all that remains of my once-mighty maple.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

A tree falls in Denver


Details later.

Double the fun

Political correctness doesn't extend to firefighting jargon, I guess! I amused myself with the thought of sneaking back in the dead of night to cross out "Siamese" and add "conjoined."

Mom's coming to visit, so I was tidying the house and getting the car detailed today. I may be scarce(r) in blogland for the next week or so. But I suspect I'll have time to toss a photo or two your way. I know we've got some good eating planned!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Not so silly

Well, you know I heart Ikea! The most expensive thing here was the mortar and pestle, at $10. The frother was $2. It will probably break quickly. That's a meat thermometer in back, and a spice grinder in front of it.

I also got a citrus zester, pictured at right. It was lurking in the depths of my suitcase and missed out on the home photo shoot. A microplane works fine for teeny shreds of zest, but this one makes longer ribbons.

I had to get help lifting my bag into the overhead bin. "We don't have Ikea in Denver," I explained. That got smiles and nods of understanding.


I'm back! Had just enough time to run home, greet the poodle and dash to work. Long day. And I think I lost a necklace en route, dammit. So much for jewelry luck.

I'm too tired to do any kind of proper post, so I'll just leave you with this bit of security camera amusement.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Coming in for a landing

I'm flying away home this morning. I hope my arrival is as smooth as this one.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Banh mi at Cam Huong, Oakland

There's a hole-in-the-wall banh mi place in San Francisco that the Sergeant likes, but we missed the ferry and opted for Oakland instead. Cam Huong gets mixed reviews on Yelp, but we were quite pleased with the place. It's a tiny, narrow space, with a display of deep-fried goodness in the front window, a long counter packed with extra snackage, and a handful of booths in the back.

There was a steady stream of customers in and out, even mid-afternoon on a Monday. I got some ribbing for taking photos until I explained that I was looking forward to seeing how their banh mi compared with Denver's.
The guy behind the counter (whose name I should have asked!) told us they've been there for 23 years. His grandmother is/was friends with the original owner of the Ba Le franchise. His grandma stuck with restaurants (they have four), while her friend went into making wholesale ingredients (including headcheese!) and franchising. Some of Cam Huong's ingredients come from Ba Le wholesale, but they also have their own bakery up the street, so the rolls are fresh.
We couldn't wait to take a bite of our large sandwiches! They are about 8 inches long compared with the usual 6. The Sergeant got the curried tofu sandwich:
While I opted for the barbecued pork:
The sandwiches are heavy on the vegetables, which I like. If you prefer meatier, you can ask to double up on it. I got mine without jalapeños, but I should have taken them anyway and given them to the Sergeant. I do like the little bit of bite they add for having been in the sandwich briefly.

On the way out I help my camera up and snapped the security mirror:
Parking in the neighborhood can be tricky, but it's worthwhile to find a spot and do a little exploring in the Chinatown shops while you're there. Or you can have a friend circle the block while you get some banh mi to go.

Give it a try!

Cam Huong
920 Webster St
(between 10th St & 9th St)
Oakland, CA 94607
(510) 444-8800
7 a.m.-7 p.m. daily