Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Merry Happy Hanukamas!

Christmas came, and with it a trip to Karen's house for shmoozing and fressing with her family.

Eggs hung out most of the time on the mantle, backlit by some mini-lights, keeping an eye out on everyone and making sure the dogs kept their distance.

This year featured the introduction of a new member of the family. No, not Eggs, though this is their first Christmas. I'm talking about Karen's new niece, Lucy. Lucy traveled up here with her new buddy, Skie, and their humans, Karen's brother and sister-in-law. Bro shot this photo on the drive up north:

It has been sooooo long since I had a puppy fix: soft, silky puppy fur wrapped around a mouthful of needle-sharp puppy teeth. I was careful to ask Lucy and Skie's humans about what it was okay to feed them, treat-wise. But it wasn't until I diverted Lucy from chewing on my sock-encased toes to chewing on my bare hands that Bro very nicely told me that they don't allow her to do that because eventually, she is going to weigh around 100 pounds, with more teeth and power than she has at only 32 pounds.

That's okay, I get that, though I must say that never stopped me from play-fighting with my adult akitas, and my parents' adult akitas. My mother became torn over inviting me over for dinner or whatever, because one of the first things I'd do was to get down on the floor in the middle of the den and play with John & Yoko (uhm, my mother stumbled onto various artists late in her life, including Lennon and Ono, and so, when she ended up getting two Japanese dogs instead of just one, well, all I can say is, it made sense to her). Getting down to their level physically was their cue to instantly revert to puppyhood, and so we'd have a wonderful tumble and slobber fest. They would then be keyed up for hours, so, while I would go home, my folks were left with two highly energized dogs.

And did I mention that Yoko routinely jumped the 8ft fence that separated their large area in the side yard from the main yard? Or her penchant for fresh avocados, which she harvested for herself from the neighbor's tree that overhung the dogs' area? It took for ages for my parents to figure out why her coat was so much better than John's...and why she was so...plump. She was not a happy camper when they figured it out and took steps that ultimately prevented her from being able to harvest 'her' avocados.

But, I digress. This is, after all, the EIH blog! Once Karen's house started to empty out a bit as guests left, Eggs moved to a nearby table where they eyed some of the Christmas loot, including a photo album and a cute box containing most of the ingredients to make Scotty shortbread (that silvery thing on top of the box is a Scottish terrier-shaped cookie cutter).

Next to Eggs you can see a little Santa in a row boat. That is one of the pieces that Karen got at the Napa holiday crafts faire we went to after the Black Friday wine tasting.

Eggs did get to hang out for a while in the tree, where they were able to get up close and personal with several of the ornaments, including a couple of the airplane ornaments, and the bare butted Santa hanging down on the bottom right of the photo, another craft faire find.

And that was sort of that! Eggs made it safely through their first Christmas, which included cranberry martinis, a teething Rottweiler, and rum and brandy soaked fruitcake dressed with rum hard sauce.


Stay tuned for our next outing, which will probably be the upcoming Winter Wineland wine & food event.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Holiday Hats!

With Thanksgiving past, it was time to start thinking about the upcoming holidays...and holiday hats and blankies. Sist expressed a preference for Hanukkah colors, while Uova was definitely showing red! Always willing to grant their wishes as best I can, I came up with these two hats.

Unfortunately, you can't see the cable that twists its way up the front of Uova's red hat, nor the nice cushy broken rib stitch in the body of their new blanket.

Eggs had an opportunity to socialize with folks at
The Carousel Network's annual holiday party. TCN is the local information and support group for people with CFS, FM, tickborne and associated diseases. Here, Eggs are chatting with Jessica B., who has been coming with her mom to TCN meetings for many years. During regular meetings, Jessica always quietly busies herself with drawing and crafts. Each holiday potluck, she sweetly comes with party favors she has made for everyone. She is a great kid, with great parents.

Here you can see Eggs in situ, greedily eyeing the remnants of carrot cake on my plate.

Here's a close-up of Eggs, where you can better see Uova's hat's cable and the blanket detail.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Road Trip: Black Friday Wine Tasting, Part 2

After leaving Christopher Creek, we headed to our favorite winery,
F. Teldeschi Winery on Dry Creek Road. Well, it the favorite with Karen and I; today was the day to introduce Polly to Teldeschi wines and winemaker Dan Teldeschi.

But first, a drive through valley west of Healdsburg, along Dry Creek Road.

Public Service Announcement:
Did I mention that the rivers here flood during the winter rains, and that we have earthquakes? BIG earthquakes (think San Francisco 1906, Loma Prieta, and Northridge). And actors for governators. And 10 percent of the country's population. Did I mention California is a really awful place to live so if you don't already live here, you do not want to move here, okay? Go away. The door's closed. Well, except for visitors who want to enjoy the sights and sample the fruits of the vines and groves before they go back home.

On Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving, in case you are just tuning in, so designated because it is the first big holiday shopping day of the year), the day was sometimes brightly sunny, other times overcast and cool. But any gloom was dispelled by the deciduous leaves of trees vines gone russet and gold in the Fall.

The Eggs enjoyed their ride through wine country, perched in their car seat on the car's center console.

When we arrived at Teldeschi, we were pleased, after the crush at Christopher Creek, to see no other cars there. We went into the tasting room to find Winemaker Dan.

Dan was at work upstairs, so while Karen went to get him, I liberated a couple of the bottles out for tasting, and took them outside to the Eggs.

By the time I went back inside to get a glass going for myself, a group of people had arrived, so I snatched Karen's glass (since she was so rude as to not make sure Dan poured one for me) and took it outside to enjoy with the Eggs.

Here are Eggs enjoying the view overlooking the Teldeschi zinfandel vines and the intersection of Dry Creek Road and Lambert Bridge Road.

Just visible to the left is the corner of the old store and bar, now part deli and delicacy shop for those looking for some Italian and other goodies (olives, cheeses, sandwiches, etc.) to sustain tourists and residents alike who are out enjoying the day.

Here's a close up of the Teldeschi zin vines.

And a close-up of Eggs and wine bottles that I stupidly forgot to face forward so you could see the names.

Dan's brother, John, grows the grapes: zinfandel, petite sirah (Karen's favorite)
Carignane, and some Cabernet, Gamay, and Malvasia. We are both big fans of Winemaker Dan's Terranova, a blend of several of their grapes. You'd see that on their website, but I see it doesn't reflect their current selection or current wineclub offering. Gee, guess we'll just have to make another trip up there to let Dan know...!

And, speak of the devil, heeere's Dan! See Eggs watching Dan? The F. Teldeschi Winery tasting room is very unlike the majority of tasting rooms you are likely to visit, here in Sonoma and Napa counties. It reminds me more of the small rural family wineries in Italy. Funny, enthusiastic, and generally disheveled from working in the winery or in the office, clad in flannel against the chill in both, Dan's a breath of fresh air in a long day of wine tasting.

While the Russian River and Dry Creek Valley hasn't become as snobby as the eastern side of Sonoma, the wineries have become more business-like, a bit stuffy. Good wines, very definitely, but with some of the joie de vivre gone. Not so with Teldeschi.

But Eggs and humans do not live by wine alone (though we often give it a hearty try), and so we must eat, something more substantial than the decimated olives and cheese of earlier in the day.

And so we headed to the town of Sonoma for sustenance before diving into the opening of the holiday crafts fair in Napa.

We decided on Deuce, where Karen and I had lunch a couple of times during the year she was visiting her hand surgeon a lot (such a tiny bone! so many surgeries!). We've never actually eaten an actual meal at Deuce. When we go, we order several of their appetizers. Like their entrees, their appetizers change seasonally, depending on what's fresh in the local markets and not so local markets. Everything has been wonderful, and tonight was no different.

We again ordered lots of different things, this time accompanied by a bottle of Teldeschi's Terranova. Here, you see the Sommelier Eggs have opened the wine and made sure the cork is damp on the wine end, dry on top.

While waiting for our food, we suffered through Deuce's hideous rosemary bread. The stuff was so bad we suffered through three refills of it.
Considering all three of us eschew gratuitous carbs for various reasons, Deuce was lucky - otherwise, I suspect we could easily have cleaned them out of all the rosemary bread they had on hand that night!

Let's see, what did we have besides the rosemary bread... We had the lobster pot pie; endive and roast pepper salad with glazed walnuts and Point Reyes Bleu, dressed in a balsamic vinaigrette; crispy calamari with a tarragon lemon aioli sauce (I get all the little tangles of tentacles since Karen and Polly are wimps and don't realize how fun they are to eat); roasted butternut squash ravioli in a brown butter sage sauce; and Deuce's lovely mixed olives warmed in olive oil and garlic.

By meal's end, Eggs were sleepy, and so we tucked them into their carrier and went on our way. Because they were still asleep when we got to Napa, we left them in the car rather than risking them in the crush of the faire's opening night.

They continued to sleep through the faire and the ride home, dreaming of wines and vines and olives and cheese and hideous rosemary bread.

Not a bad first Road Trip!

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Road Trip: Black Friday Wine Tasting, Part 1

Many of you may have heard of the Friday after Thanksgiving in the U.S. being called "Black Friday." This is the first crazed rush of consumers to hit the stores to start their holiday gift buying spree. The hope is that enough money will be spent to put retailers firmly into the black for the year.

Many of us try to avoid descending into that particular maelstrom. Most do it by staying home and recovering from Thanksgiving dinner's tryptophan, 'bad' carb and sugar overload. Other's spend it like Karen, Polly and I did: doing a little wine tasting and attending the opening of the annual Napa holiday crafts fair.

Since Karen joined the
Teldeschi Winery's wine club last year, she usually heads on out to the winery every quarter to personally pick up her shipment, thus giving her the excuse to make a little time during at least one weekend afternoon a quarter to take a beautiful drive and sample some of her favorite vino. Because I basically have no life and she pities me greatly (and her doggie loves his godmom), I usually go with her.

We've been trying to work it out with Polly to come with us because we think she'd enjoy the place, the drive, and, oh yeah! the wine as much as we do. This year, with the additional draw of the crafts fair Polly makes a point of attending to look for more figurines by her favorite artist, we decided to make a day of it. Also, Polly is as wacked as Karen and I are, and so we make a great threesome, albeit a little scary to anyone who encounters us in full-blown wackmode.

At some point on Black Friday morning, while I was getting myself together, it suddenly occurred to me that Eggs need an outing, too. So I packed up the Egg carrier, including a couple of blankets, stroller, and the camera.

When Karen and Polly arrived, Polly came to the door to get me. Polly was quite matter-of-fact when I told her I was bringing Eggs.

We no sooner started on our way when Polly informed us that the eggs were getting carsick in back and so had to ride up front with her and Karen.

Unfortunately, I didn't think to knit Eggs hats with brims, nor did we have any sunglasses for them, so they rather squinted in the occasional bright shaft of sunlight that poked its way through the scudding clouds.

Our first stop was a winery we had not been to before,
Christopher Creek Winery, where we learned that not only is Black Friday a major shopping day in the U.S., it is also a major wine tasting tour day, with vans of people going around from winery to winery.

Which is the point, I know, and as Sonoma County residents, we love the tourist and retail dollars that our wine industry brings our community, but do they all have to go wine tasting when Egg & Us are going??!! Apparently so. ::sigh::

So, first stop Christopher Creek Winery. Here you see Eggs hanging out on the tasting room bar, nicely awaiting their turn.

Oh, wait.

They're too young to drink.

Here you see Eggs hanging out on the tasting room bar, doing some people watching while waiting for Us to work our way through the reds.

See how cute they are? Wouldn't it be nice if all offspring units were so well behaved these days?

We did debate whether it was legal for them to be in a place where alcohol is being served. I decided it was fine for them to be there, being so young that there was no way the servers behind the bar would think they were older than they were and serve them by mistake.

Tangent Alert:

You know, I've been talking about Eggs, but realize I haven't yet properly introduced them! I do apologize about my lapsed manners. Allow me to
introduce Sist (on the right in the blue and yellow) and Uova (in the little Tyrolean number). At least, that's what they were wearing when I first dressed them. I suspect that they sometimes swap hats when I'm not looking.

The group of merry-makers who were there when we arrived left, giving us a brief respite and opportunity to talk with the server about their wines. Suddenly, however, another group swarmed in, including one woman wearing perfume. Since Us are all adversely affected by fragrance products, we made a beeline for the door and the patio...and our lunch.

Eggs waited patiently at the table for Us to get get our food from the car. I think they sneaked a sip of my wine while I had my back turned. Polly and Karen swear they didn't see anything, but I dunno...

Ah! Finally! Food!

As you can see, the perfect wine tasting lunch: Kalamata olives, a good goat raw milk feta (my favorite goat feta is made by
Redwood Hill Farm Dairy, which makes a variety of goat milk products), a raw white cheddar, and, a third one that had something embedded in the surface. When I emailed Karen to find out what it was, she responded "I don't know the weird one. Unpronounceable." I don't think it was St Pat, the nettle covered one made by another favorite cheesemaker of ours, Cowgirl Creamery.

Well, that's enough for the first part of our day. Stay tuned for Black Friday Wine Tasting, Part 2.

EIH Part 1, continued...

Striped it is! This little hat was knit while the egg was still in the other room, so again, it was, uhm, faked. I knit it on #3 DP needles, and grafted the top like I do the toes of my socks (kitchener stitch). I goofed, however, because what I was envisioning was a flat squared off seam with tassels on the end. I tried putting tassels on this one but it look stoopid. So, out came the tassels, and rolled went the brim, and voila! Hat #2!

I rather like the jaunty angle of the brim in this shot.

And, yes, Hat #2 implies there will be more hats.

EIH, Part 1: Genesis

Every year about this time, Chaca, my 45+ year old female chaco tortoise lays an egg. Since Baby Atlas, my ~20 yo male chaco hasn't yet successfully mated with her, and her egging predated his arrival here by several years, the eggs have not been fertile. My two box 30+ yo turtles have also attempted to mate with her, as has Treppie (short for Intrepid), my now 9 yo captive bred desert tortoise. When Chaca is not receptive, all the boys can do is tilt themselves up against the back of her shell, and work fruitlessly (from a reproductive standpoint) away.

I feel bad that she has expended precious energy into forming the egg yolk and shelling it and squeezing out the surprisingly large egg, given the size of her vent (the opening through which all things pass out, and in, during mating). Then again, human females lay babies the size of good sized melons, so, every thing is relative, isn't it. Having myself passed only eggs, not babies, I'm not exactly one who can speak from personal experience. But given what I've seen, both of women and female reptiles, ouch! is an understatement.

This year, Chaca laid two round eggs, both slightly smaller than ping pong balls. I set them aside...well, okay, I buried them lightly in the soil substrate of
Tobago's enclosure, as I do every year, because I'm basically an idiot in hoping, "Well, maybe this one is different...". This year, by gosh, I was going to throw the egg out...but there they were, nice and round and white...and I couldn't. So, I buried them. But, as I walked away, thinking about them, it came to me.

Eggs in Hats.


Here is the first hat, a cute little number in slip-stitched turquoise and yellow, with a little tab at the top that I am particularly fond of recently in baby hats. I'll have you know that I knit this hat last night while the eggs were still buried in the soil, and so did not know if the hat would fit until I excavated the eggs this morning, washed them, and tried it on.

I'm thinking the second hat will be a mock fair isle or stripped number, made from the oodles of self-striping/patterning sock yarn I have left over from the 100 grams I need to buy to make my 80 gram pairs of socks (please may I have size 6 feet in my next life? It will be so much cheaper...as would a size 4 body, but that's another mantra...).

Stay tuned for Part 2.