December 30, 2005


Concetta's visit wouldn't be complete without a big batch of homemade pasta e fagioli, or, more affectionately, pasta vajole, pasta fazoo, pasta fazool, past 'n beans. There are as many variations of the recipe as there are Italians. But the one you grow up eating is always your favorite. I've searched the Internet for recipes to get an idea of what other people are eating. I was completely disgusted by this bowl of gruel disguised as bad chili which claims to be a "copycat version of the soup from the Olive Garden." 'Nuff said.

Concetta used dried great northern beans soaked overnight. She made her own pasta, small chewy squares which we have always called tuh-CUTS. I've spelled it the way it sounds. I'm not at all sure what the word is or where it's from. I've searched on the Internet for this word in many, many spelling variations and can't find info on it. The word is most definitely a product of the Italian dialect spoken by my grandparents. I will continue my search. These are not what are known as quadrattini. Quadrattini are way too small. If you know how to make cavatelli, you know how to make tuhcuts. Once your dough is rolled out, you cut long strips in the dough one way and then the other, like a checkerboard pattern. The tuhcuts are little squares of the checkerboard. To make cavatelli you start rolling all the little squares with your thumbs. Concetta also used the tomatoes we canned in September. Sometimes I like little meatballs in the dish but usually I don't. No meatballs this time. No meat at all, except that some of the liquid was homemade chicken stock from Julie. But just a small amount. What makes the pasta fagioli thick is some of the pasta water and you don't want the dish to taste like chicken. It needs to taste like beans, pasta, tomatoes and grated parmasean. Don't forget those celery leaves! At some point in the history of commercial grocery stores, the produce distributors started cutting off the tops of celery. Probably because some poor eaters and lame cooks didn't want it. That's a bunch of crap. Celery leaves are essential for any stock and soup. But they are hard to find. You have to pry apart the celery to inspect the innards in the hopes that there are leaves somewhere. Anyway, the past 'n beans is wonderful.

December 27, 2005

Christmas Eve morning walked to Madison Market for a few last minute tasty items and to take advantage of the chilly but dry weather. That day Concetta created a fabulously large and delicious bread stuffed with Italian sausage, cheese, and fried peppers and onions. Man, did the house smell great. Even our biggest baking sheet was a bit too tight of a fit for this behemoth but we endured.

That evening we were joined by Stephanie and her very yummy, homemade panatone bread pudding, and Sally and her savory roasted squash. This is sounding creppy so let's move on. There was lots of good food and lots of laughing.

Christmas morning was a lazy one. We eventually ran over to Fuel for fuel. How delighted were we to discover that Fuel was open on Christmas Eve and Christmas day!? The owner just couldn't let us drink crappy Charbucks or Dully's on the holiday. Thank you!

We opened our wonderful gifts and ate sausage bread and fried egg sandwiches, and talked to family members over the phone. We nibbled on homemade biscotti from Carol, homemade biscotti from Jackie, pizzelles from Aunt Fran, and a very rich and tasty bundt cake from Dave and Steph from Nothing Bundt Cakes. This cake was Chocolate Chocolate Chip with cream cheese frosting. It didn't last long.

After watching several episodes of Will & Grace Season 2 (thank you, Iva), we donned our coats and gloves and headed to Seward Park for a walk. The park wasn't crowded but was pretty busy for a major holiday. Fresh air and a respite from the rain was too attractive for some of us. We were so full from nibbling left-overs that we didn't eat dinner until about 8:30. Julie roasted a chicken stuffed with rosemary, lemon and onions. Damn was it good! There was also broiled asparagus and kabocha squash. At least, I'm almost sure it was a kabocha. Whatever it was it was very good.

December 26, 2005


Friday I was off work so Concetta and I hit the road and ran a bajillion errands, including picking up the Christmas tree. This was day three of looking for the tree. I never thought finding a tree would prove so tedious. I don't want to hear I waited too late. I started looking on the 21st. Since when do tree lots close up shop so damn early? Not everyone wants the tree in the house a freakishly long time. The day after Thanksgiving is a ridiculous target date for tree trimmings and I make no apologies about it. Swanson's nursery had trees and all were beautiful and all were 50% off. In addition to our Swanson's dollars earned over the summer, we spent no more for the tree than we usually would buying it on Capitol Hill at the Seattle Aids Support Group sale. But we missed that sale because they closed up shop before the 21st. We prefer to support that charity but desperate times call for desperate measures. Frankly, the tree from Swanson's was far superior in appearance and quality than any we have purchased from SASG but we will be back to SASG next year - a week earlier.
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December 23, 2005


Concetta arrived the 21st. Thanks to Erin's parking pass I was able to leave the lot at work and return at no charge. Thanks, Erin.

Thursday night we went to see Ham For The Holidays: Desperate Spuddwives at
Theatre Off Jackson. It was our second performance of Ham and our first visit to the the theatre. Lisa Koch and Peggy Platt are terribly funny as Euomi and Wynotta Spudd. They also did an outrageous mini-musical about Dick Cheney (Cheney, Cheney Bang Bang) and, with the two other actors of Ham, brought back the Sequim Gay Men's Chorus. We really liked the theatre. We'll have to look for other shows there in the future.

December 20, 2005


The night before Stephanie and Mark's party was the Neighborhood Block Watch potluck. This is where we discovered Trader Joe's Sweet Kalamata Spread. Unfortunately, we didn't find it in the store. The search continues.

The following weekend was dinner at Victoria Bozzacco's for the first time. Victoria is an excellant cook. She made spanikopita, onions in a balsamic reduction, roasted red pepper hummus and an olive focaccia bread (the recipe for which she said is based on this Harvest Focaccia recipe). Don't forget the chocolate pecan pie. All of this was homemade and delicious. We also got to meet Victoria'a intended, Glen, who drove down from Darrington. Sally was there too and it was a fun and relaxing evening.

The next day was a party at Time and Ellen's. This was our first time at their place. They had great decorations (must have disco ball ornament!) and very yummy food. Tim, the homemade ketchup was great. Ellen, those puff pastries stuffed with olives - delish! The lamp in the bedroom - very phallic. I know, I know, Ellen, "There's one in the house!"

Finally, we wrapped up last weekend with a little food by attending Andrea's cookie exchange party. We bring a half dozen cookies for each person (couple) and receive the same in return. Our frezzer is full of homemade cookies. It was a fun party and there was lots of good food. Whitney, the salmon dip and spinach dip were very tasty. Andrea's nephew Aiden chewed on his hand for a while and seemed satisfied.

Add to all of this eating madness the container of cookies we received in the mail from Carol. Plus, my mom tells me to look for a package from her neighbor, Jackie. this means only one thing - homemade biscotti. Oy! Everyone please come over and eat.


So in my Hungry Anyone? entry, I wrote about the Christmas party at Stephanie and Mark's. I didn't include the extemsive menu. I did mention that she prepared enough food for a party three times as large (in attendance were 14 adults and one toddler) but thinks she didn't make enough. This behavior goes way beyond just being Italian. I think an intervention is in order. I should have mentioned the decorations, especially the talking Santa who greeted us at the door and the lighted snowman. Julie counted over twenty christmas trees in the house (any tree image was fair game), and the subtle lighting of the living room made for a relaxed, intimate setting.

Well, I got an earful on the Comments board for leaving out the menu. So, here it is, in her own words, the rest of the Christmas party experience.

Not enought room? It's a Web page -- there is infinite room, and I didn't even make a lot. And no pictures of Myles? He was so cute! And what about the trees? Aren't you going to say how many Christmas trees there were? (5 full size, one 3-footer, 6 1-foot, and 2 half-foot)

Ok so here was the menu:
Shrimp cocktail
Cheese trays (Stilton, goat, etc.)
Crab on toast
Mini quiches
Mushroom tunrovers
Cinnamon almonds
Mixed nuts
Olives stuffed with blue cheese
Seasame Teriyaki chicken tenders
Tequila Lime chicken tenders
Honey Djoin chicken tenders
Hummus cups
Mini deli rolls

Marinated mushrooms
Roasted red and yellow peppers
Mini fresh mozzerlla balls
Marinated artichokes
Greek olives

Baked Ziti
Roasted lemon garlic pork loin
Roasted carrots and potatoes

Tiramsu tort
Drum cake
Orange cranberry bread
Brownie petit fours
Pecan Patties
Thumbprint cookies
Sugar cookies
Rum balls
Cheesecake bites
Chocolate chip cookies
Resese Pieces cookies

I had pepperoni too, but no one wanted me to open it.


December 18, 2005


Yes, I'm way behind. December is outrageously busy. We have attended dinners and parties every weekend. Plus the general holiday prep work to the house on top of the continued purging. The month began with a craft fair at the Phinney Neighborhood Association Winter Craft Fair on December 4th. Julie and Sally and Neva and I baby-stepped our way through two buildings of artisan everything and the place was crawling with, as Neva puts it, "Yuppies and their larvae." Well, there were lots of toddlers and not all of them attended properly. Toddlers do not belong on the stairs. The craft fair is neither the place nor the time to let the little ones explore and learn stairs. Many parents were dazed. You know what, stay home, get a sitter, leave the kids with the grandfolks. But don't bring them to the craft fair for play time. It's not only annoying, it's dangerous.

After the Phinney fair we headed to the
Sakya Monestery of Tibetan Buddhism for another craft gig and a free tour of the monastery. We have visited the outside before but weren't allowed in simply because we were not attending any services here. But the craft fair was our chance to see some traditional Tibetan craftwork and a peek inside the beautiful monastery. I took two photos before I realized that photos were not allowed. Check out the beautiful mandalas on the ceiling. I hope my karma doesn't suffer. At the crat sale I scored on two rings. Cheap but pretty in an old Tibetan way.

Sally, Julie and I went to The Library Cafe for lunch. They make their own veggie burger and it's delicious. Lots of teas, full espresso bar, yummy breakfasts.


So then on the 8th the eating began. Julie's work dinner at Buca di Beppo. Way too much food for even the dozen people who were there. Thus began the eating frenzy that is december.

This was continued two days later at Stephanie and Mark's Christmas party. They provided enough food for 40 people yet Stephanie fretted the whole time that there wasn't enough and that people weren't eating enough. The baked goods alone rivalled any church bake sale anywhere.

All the food was delicious and I don't have enough room on this blog to list it all. And then when we were all full Staphanie asked me, "How many pork loins should I make, two or three?" I think at that point she had chanelled my Nana B. It was a fun evening all the way around.

December 05, 2005


The purge is in full swing. The purge of the house, that is. Since last Monday we have, room by room, begun purging our house of the useless, the recyclable, the donatable, the Ebayable, the decrepit and so fourth and so on. It's a good feeling. It's alot of work. We are gaining space. "What will we do with all this extra space?" Julie asked. Not a damn thing! Space should remain space. It is not meant to be refilled. Mind you, none of this involves cleaning. That comes later. The point is to review the contents of the area and then decide what happens with them. Once the house has been purged, we go back through with the mop and the rags and the scrub brushes.

In other news, the Christmas shopping was completed before Thanksgiving and the packages were mailed out yesterday. Thus, the time to purge.

December 02, 2005


The snow lasted about two hours then it was gone. You hardly knew it had fallen. Curses! If it's going to be this cold we should have something to show for it.

December 01, 2005


As I returned to my desk at work, after my second of FOUR scheduled meetings today (thankfully, one was cancelled), I was excited to see snow falling on downtown Seattle! Doesn't happen often and never stays for long but it's still fun to see. Still don't ever want to live where it snows for real but I can enjoy the rare event because it doesn't snow for real in this town. Now that I am home for the day, I'm encouraged to see that some snow has managed to stick. Of course, my dream is for it to continue to snow, for the temperature to fall and for "school" to close tomorrow. No doubt that I will be checking the inclement weather line as soon as I rise in the morning. Julie, on the other hand, wishes for it to stop snowing. Her job only gets more difficult when the weather gets crappy. Sorry, Julie, my wishes are more fun than yours in regard to snow.

November 27, 2005

So today marks the fifth anniversary of our first date. This is the actual date of the day. The day of observation would be the Monday after Thanksgiving. Either way it's five years. It has gone by quickly. So much has happened. So much yet to happen. Let's not get too far ahead. Enjoy each day as it comes.

Again with the walking! A bit colder today but still dry when we arrived in West Seattle. We did our usual 1.25 mile walk to the Farmer's Market and met Sally at Coffe To A Tea With Sugar. Weird name for a place. The baked goods look fabulous. All made right there. Haven't tried them yet. The coffee can be iffy but that is more the fault of the ditsy barista we have encountered on our last two visits. Overall we like the place and the space. The market didn't have too much going on but will remain open into the winter this year as part of an experiement to gauge the demand for winter markets. We'll conitinue to go for winter veggies when we can.

Our plan was to cook a big piece of salmon for dinner and have a nice bottle of wine. After we got home we did some house work, I knitted, wrapped a few more gifts. Sure, there was wine, but after J made this very yummy turkey noodle soup we were very stuffed. She brought home both turkey corpses from Wrin and Bruce's house. All day Saturday she had two big pots going creating stock. Today she completed the soup. Yummy!

Then later in the day she made this recipe I posted a while ago for Pumpkin Oatmeal Bread, healthier alternative to holiday breads. The ingredients speak for themselves. You can go even further and replace the oil with unsweetended applesauce and the sugar with brown rice syrup or more chopped fruit. I don't like these types of baked goods terribly sweet. I really enjoy this bread as J made it. She thought it could have been sweeter but I love that I can taste the ingredients and not just sugar. Granted, it could use more spicing. But there is far too much sugar in things these days. So I like this break from oversweetend bakery. We used chopped dates because we had them on hand. No nuts. About a tablespoon of currants because, again, they were there. And we baked it ten minutes longer than suggested and I still think it could have gone another five. We will definitely make this again utilizing the above-mentioned substitutions. I will let you know. But we ate some of that too.

By the time dinner should have happened, we weren't hungry. But J had already prepared the salmon with the spice rub. So we had to cook it. J accomplishes this by cooking it on the grill on a wooden board. Basically, you are smoking the fish. It's amazingly delicious but we only had a few nibbles and never bothered to prepare the rest of the meal. We played a whole game of Hand & Foot (a card game - nothing kinky!) and had some wine. It was a quiet, relaxing, uneventful anniversary. Just what I wanted.

Pumpkin Oatmeal Bread!!

November 26, 2005


The second day of walkable weather. Cold but dry. We hit the road for coffee and visited Insomniax. We haven't been here is a long time. Well, not much of a website but pretty good coffee. They even made a write-up in SeattleWeekly. It's run by two brothers, Michael and Vito (no kidding) and a sister from Poland. We had a leisurely time there reading all the papers and even played some cards. Of course we hit the Madison Market for what I can't even remember. We just like going in there and coming home with something tasty or new or weird.

We then walked home, got in the car and hit a particular store which will remain nameless because I purchased a Christmad present. Our Christmas shopping is 95% finished and wrapped. We're amazing.

November 25, 2005


The next day J had to work but I was spared the trauama of employment. Sally and I went to a chic yarn store in Madison Park. Though French, the woman who assisted us with the yarn managed to muster enough personality to demonstrate a cast on method that was new to Sally. Sally later demonstrated this for me when she taught me the basics of knitting. More on that later. We next went to Big John's Pacific Food Importers. I wanted to link to it here as I have done in the past but the website is undergoing some changes. I was hoping there would be lots of holiday goodies displayed. Some were available but I was disappointed. I guess I will have to check back. I did pick up a few items but I will probably go back before Christmas.

Now, let's talk knitting. I've been wanting to learn for a long time. The book I have is a very good tool but doesn't take the place of someone actually sitting down with you and showing you the moves. I took my knitting gear that I received as a birthday present from Iva and got to work with Sally as my guide. After many false starts, I finally learned how to cast on (the double loop method), knit and purl. And this is what I did the rest of the day and all that evening. Cast on, knit, purl. Screw it all up. Start again. Purling proved confusing. Reading the description made it worse. I found a cool site on which I could watch little
video clip of the purl stitch. It was a little distrcting that the "actress" sported long nails done in a French (the French again!) manicure, but it was better than reading directions. But if you have to read directions, this site proved helpful too. For more video help, I've recently discovered, but have not had time to watch much of, Knitting Help. They have lengthy video clips of the English/American methods and the Continental methods. Not sure yet if the iMac at home can support the clips. But a PC should be able to just fine.

My biggest problem so far seems to be the pain in my wrist and forearm. Sure, time and practice will help me become a better knitter. But if this pain persists, I probably shouldn't knit? I don't want kntting to give me carpal tunnel syndrome. If I already have it to some degree, I don't want it to get worse.

November 24, 2005

Thanksgiving was fun. We were up early, bundled ourselves, and then walked to Madison Market for the fresh ingredients for the salad we were to bring to dinner. The neighborhood was quiet. No one was up that early and if they were they were cleaning the house and chopping ingredients. Luckily, our favorite store was open and hot lattes were available. We hung out drinking coffee and reading newspapers. The shopping didn't take long but what the hell - no gorgonzola cheese! So we packed up the backpacks with what we had and headed to Safeway. Luckily, it was not only open but it had plenty of gorgonzola options. Once we got back home we made some lunch. I then picked arugula and a couple different lettuces from the garden to add to the store-bought greens. I quickly chopped up the ingredients with help from J. We then had time to get stuff done around the house.

We brought the salad, a cooler, and two folding chairs along to Erin and Bruce's. They had a rain shelter set up in the yard and the oil was heating. The menu would include two deep-fried turkeys. I kept my distance from the whole operation. I'm not too keen on being near boiling oil and people smoking. Besides, the clam dip and the salmon dip were inside. Everyone brought something delicious. There was cranberry salad, swiss cheese bread and pesto bread, homemade sweet potato pie and homemade pumpkin pie (by homemade I mean that Andrew picked the pumpkins from his yard that morning), both dips, regular and vegetarian stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes in coconut milk, our salad of fresh greens, pear, walnuts and gorgonzola, homemade pickles, and green bean casserole. Oy. I was stuffed on dip before we ever sat down to dinner. Before we ate, Shannon read a "grace" of sorts. It was more a political satire and pretty funny.

After dinner I went in search of the kittens. I knew this would give me an excuse to lie down on the floor which was much more comfortable than trying to sit or even stand on such a full stomach. I visited them twice and eventually they came out from under the bed. Even the smell of food on my hands wasn't enough to hold their attention for very long.
We didn't stay to play cards. I was just to full and uncomfortable. We took home our piece of pie and eventually ate it the next day.

That night we were slugs on the couch. Even big mugs of freshly brewed coffee didn't keep us awake too long.

Let's begin.




Some of the grub

Shannon reads "grace."

I think I got almost everyone.

November 15, 2005


Alas, all things must come to an end. The last day we hung out leisurely then met Dave for lunch next door to Lexus. Steph then followed the car's navigation system and safely deposited us at the airport. Julie then proceeded to win $$ at a slot machine! Woo hoo! Once in Seattle we hopped a bus to the I.D. then a 5 minute cab ride home. No matter how much fun a vacation is it's always good to be home.

Leaving Las Vegas. The strip is so close to the runway.

Another view of the strip as we fly away. It's the brightest section that kind of runs parallel with the wing.

The Strip gets smaller.
You can see Las Vegas glimmering int he distant right. There is a little snow on the mountains. And the largest ball of light is the moon. No UFO's here, the rest of the light is the reflection of the wing light in the window. Posted by Picasa

November 14, 2005


Today we drove out to Red Rock Canyon. It's not that far at all from Dave and Steph's place. You can see the red rocks in the mountains from anywhere in Las Vegas but as you drive closer, you can see exactly how red the rock is and the various layers of perspective in the canyon. Red Rock Canyon is actually inside the boundaries of the Mojave Desert. We opted for the Pine Creek Canyon Trail. The trail starts from the parking lot, is intersected twice by the Fire Ecology Trail and by Dale's Trail, then forks near the old Wilson Homestead. In the meantime we crossed a stream and a wash. (An area reserved for when rains actually arrive. The wash helps divert the water appropriately.) When all was said and done we covered about 3.75 miles. The weather was perfect.

The rest of the afternoon we ladies swam. Later for dinner we hit a relatively new place called Nora's Cuisine, a family owned Italian place. It was most delicious. We had to take home most of our dinners because the bread, antipasto and arancini were so yummy and filling.

Approaching Red Rock Canton
Posted by Picasa Litlle did we know Dave would drink all the water.
The many layers of Red Rock Canyon.

The Canyon

Look carefully and you can see a rock climber in a blue jacket. He's about right in the middle of the rock.

This particular type of cactus only grew on the higher slopes. There were none of these down where we could get close to them. It was hard to gauge how tall this was. Best guess is 2-3 feet high. Some were half this size but none were larger. Cactus experts please feel free to expound on this awesome specimen.

Big spiky cacti. These grow about 2 feet tall. Don't touch.
Posted by Picasa Who brought the bunny?

November 13, 2005


Another very busy day. After everyone got their breakfast, Dave, Steph and I went to work-out at the condo complex where they lived prior to this current house. I jumped on and off the eliptical trainer and the bike plus did some of the weight machines. We picked up coffee on the way home. OK, so it was Starbucks the whole trip. You go with the flow when you are on vacation.

After this Dave was kind enough to drop off me and Julie at Mandalay Bay which is at one end of The Strip. Today we would walk this famous boulevard as tourists. This part of The Strip is not the old famous part that you see in TV shows about Las Vegas. Unfortunately, we never made it to that part, referred to as Downtown or Fremont Street. But we will be back and you can't do it all in one day.

We stopped into some of the big name joints like Luxor, MGM, Bellagio, New York, New York, and ended at The Wynn. In between we had lunch and bought a t-shirt. Julie played a few slots. So did I. I lost an entire $14! And $5 of that was Julie's. That's the extent of my gambling. What I wanted to know was where was everybody getting those bright yellow M&M bags. This became my new goal. We finally found the M&M store. Four whole floors of merchandising. None of which I wanted to even see. I just wanted the dame candy. In all the confusion (and there was plenty - the place was packed) we missed our first floor opportunity to buy bulk candy in a scaled down version of the mega M&M spitter on the 3rd floor. So we jockeyed our way to the upper floor and there along the back wall was every color, every variety of M&M is tall bulk chutes. I grabbed a bag and filled it with about a pound of mega milk chocolate, peanut, and dark chocolate candy. We then shoved and pushed our way out of there. I didn't even take a bright yellow bag (the conservationist in me, you know).

I am very powerful!

At Luxor.

Walk like an Egyptian.

New York, New York

The strip

Lady Liberty
Parasol Up/Parasol Down - at the top of the staircase. Posted by Picasa
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