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Back again, maybe?

26 Jul

Wow, I can’t believe how long it’s been since I’ve posted anything new here…

One of the reasons is because I update almost everyday now on Facebook which is much faster and viewable only to people I know in real life…

The other reason is that well, we’re expecting another baby and he’s due to arrive in a little over 5 week @_@

But I miss blogging…and my updates on FB or Instagram don’t allow much space for deeper reflection or sharing.

So I’ll see if I can get back to this space more often.

But in the meanwhile your prayers and kind thoughts would be much appreciated. Going from a two-kid household to being outnumbered is certainly going to be a challenge!

Life is too short

15 Jun

Last Saturday a friend hosted a nice lady’s tea for a group of us to celebrate the end of our MOPS (Mother of Preschoolers) year. She has a collection of fine china which she laid out nicely for our tea and it reminded me of my own (few) items that I should enjoy more. 

So today, I had breakfast tea using one of my bone china cup sets – somehow the meal was tastier and felt more leisurely…

It was so nice that I’m now thinking of making every Friday (or more often!) a fine china day~

Lupicia Earl Grey (in Royal Albert)

 

 

First family vacation recap – Day 2 “Braised Lamb Cheeks”

11 Aug

This summer is passing by so quickly (classes start in just 2 weeks – yikes!) that I realized that if I don’t set aside a regular time to write, it will be a long time before I post any follow up pieces about our vacation…maybe so long that I won’t remember much details. So I’m going to try to blog on Sunday nights – seems like it would be a good way to wrap up the week.

Anyway, so tonight I’m going to start with recapping our recent vacation. I plan hope go on more in the future and this summary should help with the preparation.

I decided to jump straight into second day of our 48 hour mini vacation (we headed out on Tuesday afternoon and got back on Thursday afternoon) because it was the longest and only full day of our trip and therefor the most packed with good eats. If I keep up with this Sunday night blogging exercise, eventually I will cover Days 1 and 3 and even the Pre-trip planning and packing.

But first, here’s our overall schedule for the three days:

Day 1 – Waters Edge Hotel (Tiburon), complimentary wine & cheese reception, dinner (Cottage Eatery) and dessert (Paradise Deli)

Day 2 – Breakfast (complimentary), lunch (Bistro Jeanty), dessert (Bouchon Bakery), COPIA, Oxbow Public Market, snack (Ritual Coffee, Model Bakery), Napa Premium Outlet, dinner (Pizzeria Picco)

Day 3 – Breakfast (complimentary plus Fatted Calf, Model Bakery, Bouchon Bakery), Ark Row, lunch (Fish), Heath Ceremics.

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Even though Noah had adjusted to traveling better than we had expected and slept through the night, he didn’t, unfortunately, sleep in like we had hoped that he would. He was awake and ready to play at 6:30 AM *cry*

Luckily, we had the foresight that he would be up so early and ordered breakfast for 7:30 AM. So after nursing him we had our own breakfast, which consisted of mainly cold items. But for a complimentary continental breakfast that was delivered to the room, it was a pretty good deal. I was especially happy to have the hard boiled egg (they even provided mini salt & pepper shakers), fresh fruit and hot coffee (kept hot in a thermos pot).

After breakfast we decided to take a walk around the water front to wear Noah out so that he would take a morning nap (in case he doesn’t nap the rest of the day) but it ended up being too cold so we walked away from the waters and stopped at the supermarket to buy Noah a banana for the day.

After the walk Noah and I both took naps while Charlie read his morning news.

Then we headed out to Yountville where we had an 11:30 lunch reservation at Bistro Jeanty. Ever since we first (and last) visited the restauarnt 4 years ago on our honeymoon (the same trip where we also dined at the French Laundry), Charlie has been dreaming about their lamb cheeks. So it was a very happy surprise (we called on Sunday) to learn that they have outdoor seating (where Noah could be noisy, if he wanted to) and an open table.  What was even better was that “Braised Lamb Cheeks” was listed on the special menu*!

*Apparently our glee at finding the lamb cheeks was pretty funny because when I read the dish name off the “Today’s Menu” board posted at the door, a man sitting nearby who overheard us chuckled.

And as if lamb dish wasn’t rich and fattening enough, we also ordered the bone marrow (forgot the official name), the house special tomato soup in puff pastry (Creme De Tomate en Croute), and beef stew (Daube De Boeuf).

Needless to say, we felt very full (and heavier) after the meal but everything was delicious, especially the Braised Lamb Cheeks, which Charlie has been dreaming about for the last couple of years. This time he was able to taste and identify more of the various spices that went into the sauce so someday he MIGHT attempt this at home (that is, if we figure out where to get lamb cheeks). But until then, Bistro Jeanty is where you will find us!

Prior to the trip I was concerned about how Noah would do in a nicer restaurant and worried that Bistro Jeanty would be a bad place to find out. Fortunately, the setting (in their outdoor patio) and service (our waitress – forgot her name – was very attentive and accommodating) were perfect for our meal. Still, after about an hour, Noah wanted to get out of his seat. So we quickly paid the bill and headed to our next destination down the street – Bouchon Bakery.

Since we were too full to eat anything substantial, I decided to buy only 1 – 2 small pastries to try and 1 to save for later.  It was hard to choose but in the end, I picked their Coffee Eclair, Chocolate Bouchon, and Cherry Cheese Danish. And to wash everythng down, a cup of Americano.

Charlie and I can’t remember the last time we’ve had an eclair so we don’t know how to make comparisons but the Coffee Eclair was too sweet and nothing special. The Chocolate Bouchon, on the other hand, was truly amazing – dense, moist, and very chocolaty without being sweet. It kind of reminds me of the Flourless Chocolate Torte we had once at the Zuni Cafe. I can see why people buy several of these though a dozen might be too many. The Cherry Cheese Danish we saved until the next morning and it was also very tasty – striking a good balance between sweet (Cherry filling) and tart (the cream cheese filling). Bouchon Bakery had a nice outdoor seating area that was pretty empty on a weekday afternoon so we enjoyed our dessert at a leisurely pace until it got too hot to be outside.

After lunch we walked around a few shops hoping to cool off and put Noah to sleep but after about 45 minutes and he showed no sign of sleeping we decided to just move on and head over to COPIA in downtown Napa.

I have been wanting to visit COPIA ever since it opened and having free admissions now makes it an even better time to check it out.

Sadly, you get what you paid for. I don’t know if it was because we went on a weekday but COPIA was a pretty empty and lifeless place on a Wednesday afternoon. A few wings of the museum was being renovated for new exhibits and closed to the public. There was only 1 food “demonstration” (I don’t know if I should even call it that since we didn’t get to see the food prep) and 2 food/wine samplings, both aimed to promote products sold at the museum store. The edible garden outside was very interesting (you can walk close up to most plants and read about the fruit or vegetable or herb) and we would have lingered longer had it not been so hot.  The display upstairs in the main hall which included a video exhibit (food in film) and history of some foods would have been educational but Noah got bored too quickly for us to take the time to read through everything.

In the first place, it’s difficult to put on an engaging display about food without involving our senses of touch, smell, and taste. One of the volunteers told us that they have more activities on the weekends so if anyone plans to visit, I highly recommend checking out their calendar of events first.

The only thing that looked interesting though we didn’t try were the “wine stations” that allow you to get a taste of a variety of wine from other regions. The wine we sampled at a nearby demonstration that day was from Lodi (didn’t even know they produce wine!); it’s good of COPIA to promote not just Napa Valley wines.

The cheapest option is around $2 but it’s not clear how much wine you get for a “taste.”

Luckily for us, downtown Napa had another attraction, the Oxbow Public Market. Charlie and I are big fans of the Ferry Building in San Francisco so we couldn’t wait to visit this one considering that they had a whole different group of artisan merchants. Like COPIA, it was largely empty that afternoon but the quietness was actually pleasant. We took our time strolling through the place, receiving attentive service at every stop. Unfortunately, as we weren’t returning home until the next day and didn’t have a refrigerator in our room, we could only purchase a few items that we could finish within the day.

Views of the Market from one of the entrances. Like the Ferry Building, Oxbow also has a produce stand though on Wednesday, no one was there to browse or shop. Maybe business picked up later in the evening before dinner time?

On the other hand, Oxbow’s in-door seating area is more spacious and it’s easy to assemble your own meal from various eateries.

The beautiful display at Whole Spice.

These “sniffing stations” really work! After smelling one of these we came home with some harissa, a North African spice mix that I later found out was recently featured by both 101Cookbooks and the Wednesday Chef.

We started out by visiting Fatted Calf and Model Bakery to pick up some pate, olives, bread, and cookie for breakfast and snack. Then we got caught up by the wonderful aromas at Whole Spice and did an olive oil tasting at The Olive Press before ending our visit with an amazing cup of Clover made coffee at Ritual Coffee Roasters. There was also a Wine & Cheese wing that we didn’t venture to but the selections there is suppose to be incredible as well.

This is the first time we’ve done olive oil tasting. Basically you go from light and more fruity to heavy and peppery. I stopped sampling after only 3 oils though Charlie went all the way to the end. All I can say is, the Italian stuff (the end of the spectrum) is STRONG! There was a “7 second delay” after tasting and then you cough cough cough! Needless to say, we came home with their lightest oil, which we’ve been enjoying with fresh tomatoes from my dad’s garden (they’re the best!). You can also buy some of their oils in bulk. But lucky for us, the oil we chose wasn’t available in bulk. Otherwise we might have ended spending a lot of $$!

Overall the place reminded me of the Ferry Buildilng when it was first opened, before too many people found out about it. However, the Ferry Building had a strong base to build off of with the long-time farmer’s market so it may take longer for Oxbow to become popular (but not so popular so that it gets too crowded…just enough to stay in business!)

At this point we were full and ready to take a break from food, so we headed out to the nearby outlet for some retail therapy. As always, Charlie found some great deals at Banana Republic (though he CLAIMS that he never finds good deals) while I loitered in the Coach store for close to an hour. Before we knew it, it was already 7:30 PM and that’s when Charlie remembered that Pizzeria Picco (Larkspur) closed at 9 PM. Since it takes an hour to get there, we hurried down the road.

After an hour of intense driving we reached the restaurant at 8:45 PM, just before it closed and grabbed their last outdoor table (the inside is counter-only dining). It took a while for all of us to be seated (Charlie had to find parking and unload all of Noah’s stuff) and the waitress to take our order (I think we finally talked to her around 9:15 PM) but just when we were congratulating ourselves for saving dinner, Noah started to get restless. After offering him everything we could think of and still not being able to pacify him, we finally decided to call it a day and asked to have our pizza and dessert packed “to go.” On the way back to the hotel, I wolfed down dessert (Straus Dairy Soft  Serve with Da Vero extra virgin olive oil and sea salt) while Noah wailed and Charlie drove with a quesy stomach. Had the setting been different, I might have enjoyed it more but as it was, dessert was just soft serve, with some sea salt and olive oil.

The cute outdoor table at Pizzeria Picco (Larkspur). The weather was perfect for sitting outside too! But it was bed time for Noah who had had a full day and desparately wanted to go to sleep.

By the time we put Noah to bed (an hour past his usual bed time, poor kid – mommy and daddy are stupid!) and finally had a chance to have dinner, it was already 10:30 PM.  Still, we tried to make the best of it and set up a picnic spread on the bathroom floor with towels and chilled mineral water provided by the hotel. Even though the salad pizza (we ordered the Ibis Pizza with the Rocket Man salad on top) was cold and the setting a little odd, dinner turned out surprisingly pleasant because of the shared moment.

Although the last few hours of the day were tense, most of the day was actually relaxing and the food excellent. So we will gladly do this again sometime in the near future, except that next time we will dutifully retire for the evening by 9 PM so Noah can get his beauty rest!

More photos from our day:

Sampling a cup of coffee made by the Clover at Ritual Coffee Roasters

After you select the beans (which determines the price of the cup, ranging from $2.75 – $4+) the barista grinds them and performs the magic on the Clover.

After the brewing process, the grounds come out as a “puck.” Our tasty (down to the last drop) cup of coffee paired nicely with the Almond Cookie from Model Bakery located next door.

The selection of meats from Fatted Calf. Too bad we weren’t going home right away!

We got a tiny tiny portion (3 oz) of the house pate and some mixed olives for breakfast. Despite the small purchase, the store clerk was very attentive and packed everything (in double bags) in ice as requested. Sorry I don’t know your name but thanks for the excellent service!

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I had intended to include links for all the places I mentioned but it’s already taken me 3+ hours to write this post so I’ll just leave you to look them up yourself. Thanks!

Okay for those of you who can’t get enough food porn or are just nosy enough to want to see more photos, check out the rest of them at flickr.

Cute kids product

1 Oct

Saw this on babygadet today and just couldn’t resist re-posting here. It’s the Animals Flatware available through MOMA. Isn’t it cute? Too bad it’s only for ages 3+

MOMA Animal Flatware

Be back later tonight to reply to comments. Thanks for visiting!

[photo credit: MOMA Store]

The first addition to our family

5 Sep

For two lazy people, we’re very blessed to have Polly. She came to us (at two years old) fully housebroken. She LOVES her crate and doesn’t mind staying in it for hours a day (allowing us to go off for work or play easily) and she doesn’t get into things – not garbage, furniture, or even her own food bowl.

If the door to her bed or crate was closed, she’d sit in front of it until you noticed and let her in (which can sometimes take hours).

Before Polly came into our home, we weren’t sure that we’d fully enjoy being dog “parents” (we don’t dress her in outfits or anything – other than for Halloween – but we don’t think of ourselves as “pet owners” either) but now we wouldn’t give her up for the world. As weird as pet cloning might sound, we will consider it if only so that we can have “another” dog just like her.

Polly at the beach

Of course, Polly isn’t perfect. She is, after all, a dog. And sometimes dogs do strange things.

Like this morning, she ate her own poop. She hasn’t done that in a while and we’re not sure why but she was definitely being rebellious when it happened this morning. When Charlie let her out for her morning bathroom break, he noticed that she started picking up her own poop afterwards. Wanting to stop her from eating more (sorry if you’re reading this after a meal), he rushed out to where she was in the backyard but even with him standing over her (and showing obvious disapproval), she still promptly continued what she was doing.

Not knowing what else to do, Charlie had no choice but to give her a breath mint before leaving for work and left me to do the disciplining. Even though she’s suppose to have the intelligence/understanding of a smart five year old child (we were told), no kid I know would try to eat their own poop so I wasn’t quite sure what to do.

As a matter of fact, from what we’ve read, it’s not uncommon for animals to do this. One reason could be to supplement any deficiency in their diet. Another could be to cover up their tracks from predators (a habit from their less domestic, wolf-like days). And others do it simply because they “like” the taste.

We don’t know why Polly does this but this morning, it was clear that she knew we were displeased.

First, she tried to hide in the bathroom in her favorite spot behind the toilet. (I say she was hiding and not just chilling in there like she normally does because she was facing inward, towards the wall, as if to hide herself from sight.) Once kicked out of the bathroom, she proceeded to stay in her bed (where she is suppose to go) all day. Maybe it’s just coincidence but I think she knew that being there would earn her back some brownie points because every time she’s in her bed, I have told her that she was being a “good girl.”

Not only that, she didn’t ask to pee outside again until late in the day when Charlie came home from work. Being a loving parent, I would never have kept her inside if she needed to go but it was as if she knew that what she did this morning was wrong and put herself under detention. Once Charlie came home and we paid her sufficient attention, she was back to her normal, somewhat free roaming self.

We will never fully understand Polly and know how much she actually understands us but taking care of her has definitely trained us to be better prepared for real parenthood. I mean, one of the things all parents think and talk about is their child’s diaper routine, right?

A man and his dog

Neighbors

24 Aug

We moved into a large apartment complex recently, as a part of the second phase tenants. The third phase just opened last week so new people move in almost every day.

We don’t know any of our neighbors and so far, have yet to see anyone we’ve shared an elevator with more than once.

The other night, a light came on in the apartment across our balcony and vaguely, you can see outlines of a man in a pink or reddish shirt with dark slacks. Must be new neighbors, we thought but we haven’t seen the light come on again since.

Still, we are curious about the other tenants in this building, especially when we walk past their front doors in the hallway.

Some have a lone pair of shoes. Others went through the trouble of getting welcome mats, although all of them are rather non-descript and none of them actually say “welcome.” Some don’t even look occupied except for the tentant notices that hang on the door. One has several pairs of shoes, a few dainty ladies shoes (the strappy kind) on one side and bulky, masculine shoes on the other. The most interesting one is the unit with a trash can – we’re not sure why anyone would greet their neighbors and guests this way.

So what’s in front of our door, you ask? Well, right now, nothing yet. But Charlie says he wants to get the “Beware of Dog” mat from Bed, Bath, Beyond. Or maybe just for fun, we can get the one that says “leave.” LOL

24 Jan

And when you do, you ALWAYS see this little (shy but persistent) girl…waiting for her share

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