Saturday, January 31, 2009

Comb over

Right at dusk I went to fetch the bee log. I wanted most of the bees to be settling down for the night, but I didn't want to work in total darkness. Bees are particularly defensive then. Though they can't fly, they will crawl around and try to sting you if they can.
Well, I jiggled the log a little and blew into it and got nothing. No buzzing at all. Which meant there was nobody home, and all the bees I'd seen around in the day were scavengers.

I rang the guy's doorbell and told him. That's when I found out that the branch came down a year ago. So of course there were no bees in there. Nor honey, I'm sure. It's all been scavenged.
I wrapped a sheet around it anyway, and the guy helped me put in the car. I was able to carry it into my yard myself.

A big section of comb was loose. I brought it in the house to look at it.
There was one bee on it, a straggler from some other hive. I put her back outside.
The honeycomb can be used to lure a swarm into a beehive or keep it there. I could also make candles with it. It smells divine.

Call me crazy

So it looks like I will be getting some more bees. Maybe.
Yes, I am certifiable.
"Whoa whoa whoa!" you say? "Back up!" you implore? "What bees are these?" you ask?
Well, this big branch came down in one of our recent windstorms. The bits that didn't contain bees were carved up and carted away, but the bee section was left semi-intact. I talked to the guy who lives there. He said a neighbor told him she wanted it, but she never came and got it. He's dealt with beekeepers before, as his tree swarms regularly.
So there are bees in there, but it's not clear if they're from the original bee cluster or robbers from nearby hives.

I'm bringing the log home tonight. I'm wondering if I can find someone to help. It looks heavy.

If there's a cluster in there, I will rehive them in the spring. If not, I have lots of good comb for swarm-bait.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Quick dinner for two

Just because I like to cook doesn't mean I always have the time or inclination, especially when I'm running late for work. Sometimes this is my mise en place:
Yes, frozen potstickers from Costco or H-Mart make for a pretty good meal, dunked in a sauce of brown rice vinegar and soy sauce (I prefer the low-sodium variety). If I'm ambitious and not going to work, I may mince some garlic to put in the sauce, too.

Prep is simple.
Heat some oil in a pan (grapeseed oil has a high smoking point) and toss in your frozen potstickers. Add about 2/3 cup hot water, cover, and leave the heat on medium for eight minutes. Take the lid off and let cook for another minute or two until the potstickers are browned on the bottom.

Here's another mise en place, for a meal I make every couple of days.
Scramble a couple of eggs in milk, mix with kibble.

Voilà: dinner for poodle and person.
And no, Sophie doesn't get chopsticks.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Still fluffy

Sophie has decided to forgive me for the grooming torture. Though her face itches.
It was about 12 degrees out yesterday when we went for a walk, but the abundant sunshine made it all right. Once you've gone through a South Dakota winter with a puppy, anything above zero is a piece of cake.

That's Sophie at about 10 months with a snow-covered snoot in Aberdeen, S.D. You can tell she still had puppy fur then. She needed it!

So 13 years later we come full circle to shaggy.
While we were out walking, we passed that empty lot whose scraping-off I documented.
Well, well. It's for sale again. Looks like the builders who bought and scraped have given up on it. The neighbors had told me the lot was not big enough for a duplex, but the sign shows two addresses, so I'm guessing it is indeed zoned R2. No idea what they're asking for it. It went for $340K last time.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Fennel potato gratin

Fennel has such a lovely mild flavor that even if you don't like licorice, you will probably still like fennel. I adore licorice, so I'm a pretty big fan of fennel, too. And who doesn't like potatoes? (I don't think I've ever met anyone who didn't. Have you?)A gratin is pretty easy to assemble, even in the middle of the night.

Bring a mushed clove or two of garlic plus one bay leaf to boil in 1.5 cups of dairy (heavy cream, half-and-half or milk in any combination, but creamier is better) and a half-cup of chicken stock. Remove from heat and let steep as you prep the other ingredients. Preheat your oven to 375.

Thinly slice a handful of potatoes (I used Yukon golds) and a fennel bulb or two.

Remove the garlic cloves and bay leaf from the milk and mix the milk into the potatoes and fennel, along with a handful of grated parmesan, some salt and pepper, and a grating of nutmeg. Put it all in a buttered baking dish. Top with bread crumbs or more parmesan, or both. I used panko. Bake loosely covered for half an hour, and then uncovered for another 45 minutes to an hour. (Stick a knife into the potatoes to make sure they're completely soft.) If the top isn't brown enough for your liking, you can turn on the broiler for a minute.

Monday, January 26, 2009


No, it's not very easy to take good photos of a black dog in the snow, especially if you're in a hurry. Sophie was very happy to be released from the jaws of hell, and I would've loved to let her romp some more, but I needed to get to work. Oddly, the north side of town got like 6 inches of snow, while I got maybe 2. No need to haul out the snowblower yet.
I'll try to do a better portrait photo of the haircut tomorrow.

Poodle torture

This is what Sophie would much prefer to be doing right now. Having a nice snooze, preferably undisturbed by a camera in her face.

Instead, we were up at an ungodly hour to navigate this:
Why does it always snow on grooming days? At home hardly enough has fallen to be worth shoveling, much less snowblowing, but on the freeway it was a blizzard in places. Not so bad going (still early), but nearly a parking lot on the way back. I guess it's good to have a reminder once in a while of what most people have to deal with in regular working hours.

This is not a day I'd want to be driving my fancy sports car, either.
As always, Sophie was reluctant to exit the vehicle, knowing what torture awaited her. I could take her to a groomer closer to home but Peggy only works on a couple of dogs a day, out of her home. I'd rather Sophie not be exposed to too many other stressed-out dogs, or be crated, if I can help it.

Photos later of a prettified, if pissed-off, poodle!

Silly kitchen gadget No. 36

I'll let the marketing copy do the talking here:

The Paderno World-Cuisine upright carrot peeler "is designed for carrots with a unique positioning of the six opposing blades. With one smooth downward movement the carrot is peeled. The blades are on springs to accommodate varying diameters. Stand and peeler sold separately."


Is it just me, or does it look like this would work on lizards, too?

Sunday, January 25, 2009


Happy Chinese New Year! Well, almost. It's the eve. If you were born in the Year of the Ox (牛), this should be a special year for you. Case in point: Barack Obama is an Ox.

If he follows Chinese country superstition, he will tie a red thread around his belt this year for extra good luck. Someone should alert his valet.

I contemplated going out for dim sum today, then remembered the holiday. It's sure to be a madhouse! Which is the preferred state of affairs for a Chinese party: hot and noisy, or 热闹. But I've got a bunch of produce that needs cooking and eating sooner rather than later, so maybe I'll go next weekend.

To those of you who are celebrating, have fun! Eat some jiaozi for me.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Foodie day

Friday was Foodie Day for me. Started off with a class in the morning on a particular kind of breadmaking. The teacher is a Weston Price adherent who advocates grinding your own grain and soaking it. As she said in her introductory email: "This process ... neutralizes the phytic acid that is in the bran of the grain. Unneutralized phytic acid blocks the absorption of calcium, magnesium, copper, zinc and iron in the intestines and can lead to mineral deficiency over time."

Are your eyes glazing over? Yeah, me too.

The teacher explained her process as she prepped flour that she had already ground and soaked overnight. The kitchen was a bit chaotic, with two dogs making a din at the doorbell, a couple of chirping parakeets (and their talking mirror) and the phone ringing. She has six kids, ranging from 12 to 24, plus a couple more pseudo foster children. Which gives you an idea of her multi-tasking abilities.
The presentation was a little scattered, but resulted in the nice loaves ready for the oven that you see at the top of this post, plus these waffles. Which were really outstanding. Very light and fluffy. The batter is made in the blender. Definitely a technique I'll have to try.

We were all impressed by the sunflower-shaped loaf made by a friend of hers. I wish the friend could have been there to explain how she puts it together.
We also got a chance to see a couple of electric grain mills in action. The teacher has a very noisy K-Tec model, while one of the students brought along her Mil-Rite stone mill, shown here grinding brown rice. The former costs $200, the latter $400. That's some serious gadget commitment.
Now, I tend to shy away from evangelists, especially when there are contemporary messiahs involved. But there wasn't much hard-sell here and just a whiff of whackaloon ("All white salt is poison!").

In any case, reducing processed foods and eating more organic vegetables and whole grains is a sermon I can say "amen" to.

I'm still not sold on kombucha, though. It's sometimes called "miracle mushroom" but it's really a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeasts, or SCOBY, that can reproduce. You ferment it in tea and sugar. The result is a vinegary drink that is supposed to be healthful. Some of the claims: eases joint pain, increases sex drive, makes hair thicker, is a soothing foot soak, eases digestion, relieves congestion, reduces blood pressure, heals boils, improves circulation, prevents bladder infections, smooths out cellulite, repels mosquitoes and removes rust!

I'll stick with the proven blood-pressure-reducing therapy of dog petting. There were two sweeties there to keep me happy:
I had to bug out before the bread was done baking to meet up with two other (human) sweeties, namely Jen and Manisha. We did a whirlwind rampage through H-Mart, mainly for Jen to stock up on goodies for Chinese New Year (which is Monday).
That's Manisha with camera in hand, and Jen happy with her cabbage.

We didn't have a lot of time to dilly-dally with our cameras, though H-Mart is quite capable of providing hours of shopping pleasure. Given my recent produce spree at Berkeley Bowl, I was able to limit myself in that arena. But I couldn't resist a lovely bunch of yu choi, and some taro to try. And some frozen dumplings and rice noodles, which then got me caught up in H-Mart's weird sale pricing system. If you buy one sale item, it costs you, say, $6. If you buy two, it costs $3. I guess it's their way of getting rid of expiring stock really fast.

I also needed more brown rice vinegar, which I usually recognize by the label. It would appear there's a knock-off. Look at the differences in the labels. So close, but not quite. I'm sure it's fine, though.

So anyhoo, I guess I need to cook a bunch of interesting stuff this week!

How do I love my poodle?

Let me count the ways: Ten pounds of duck jerky and 365 PetTabs.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Bucking the rules

I got there late, so I didn't hear the injunction against videotaping. I got told off (nicely, though) right after I shot this, so it was my last one. I had a feeling it was going to be the best.

Yeah, we got front-row seats! Strictly speaking we should have been a few rows back, but the crowds aren't very big on a Thursday morning.

I wish I could tell you who this rider and horse are, but I flubbed on the note-taking, sorry. It might be Colin Stalley of Riverton, Wyo., on Bad Eye or maybe it's Ben Londo of Pendleton, Ore., on Strawberry Alley.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Nothing like a little rodeo in your face ...

... to wake you up!

Fun times at the Stock Show this morning. More photos later.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Good haul

I went bowling for produce and scored big! It's been almost a year since I last (and first) visited Berkeley Bowl Marketplace. Though the weather was fine and sunny in both the Bay Area and Denver, it's still winter, so a little fresh produce therapy seemed like a good idea.

This is just a representative sample of the citrus and artichokes I picked up, along with spring ginger, mangos, papayas, feijoa, fennel bulbs and celeriac, all of which are either nonexistent or way pricey in Denver. I also got a few snacky treats at Trader Joe's.

No, I probably didn't need to get all that, but I was having fun shopping, and I had room in my bag, especially with the addition of a sturdy Berkeley Bowl shopping tote (available at the checkout for 99 cents).

The place was a bit of a madhouse, maybe because it was a holiday. Though if some people are to be believed, it's always that way. (Hence the nickname Berkeley Brawl.) Certainly, there was an assertiveness of cart- and stroller-maneuvering that spoke of priorities more important than my own little foodie-tour.

The pet parrots parked outside in the "no pet parking" zone are a pretty good symbol of the ethos.

Then we went to Moe's Books and I didn't buy a thing.
I was not remotely tempted by the Alinea and elBulli coookbooks, unlike the rest of the food-blogging world. Seriously, I do not understand their attraction. Maybe one of you can explain it to me?

I was tempted by a signed copy of Marilynne Robinson's latest novel, "Home." She's only my all-time favorite author, but I don't need to be spending $20+ on another book. A more affordable copy will come my way eventually and I'll read it then.

Yes, I've come a long way in the self-restraint department. At least when it comes to books.