Friday, December 22, 2006

Last of the ornament stories...

Jeff and I depart for Michigan today, so we leave our Christmas tree behind with Dobie and Buster. One of my favorite ornament "collections" on our tree are the dozen-or-so floppy figurines that Jeff has carefully selected over the past few years. We've got jolly Santas in various outfits, whimsical court jesters, and old time carolers. These lively characters appear to leap from every nook and cranny of the tree.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Cookie day...

On Saturday, our friend Pamela--a photo classmate of mine at Ft. Mason--and her husband hosted their annual cookie decorating party at their beautiful home in Telegraph Hill. This was our second year, and we had such fun painting with colorful glazes and sprinkling with dots and sparkles other miniature bits. The cookies sparked imaginative conversations for a perfect December weekend.

Afterwards, Jeff and I walked a few short blocks to North Beach for dinner. We happened upon an intimate northern Italian restaurant--Da Flora--which served us the best gnocchi I have ever tasted--melt-in-your-mouth morsels in a bacon and sage cream sauce. (Jeff's hearty pork bolognese and my dungeness crab tagliatelle were certainly worthy dishes to follow.)

Inspired by our surprise dinner Saturday evening, I made a wonderful "Tuscan shrimp" dish on Sunday night. This simple dish from the Food Network was warm and flavorful, which was particularly nice on an unusually frigid SF evening. (Hey, I had a razor thin layer of ICE on my windshield this morning. For SF, that is C-O-L-D. :)

Thursday, December 14, 2006

White House ornaments...

For the past several years, I've been buying the annual Christmas ornament from the White House Historical society. I began collecting when I bought my townhouse in Virginia. One of my coworkers used to take orders for the office. Since then, I've kept up the tradition and bought them to remind me of my DC Christmases. Jeff and I like the historical themes. Each ornament honors a former president, and includes a discussion of life in the U.S. during that president's term. The ornament to the left is the first I collected. The one below is one of my favorites.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Prayers for Penn...

My prayers are with my Uncle Penn and his family today. Growing up, I viewed Penn as a strong man and a role model of subtle wit and kindness. After I became a Virginia Tech Hokie, Penn never missed a chance to poke a gentle finger after a Tech defeat at the hands of his University of Virginia Wahoos. Today, Penn just feels far away, but ever present in my thoughts.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Plugging strangers...

I don't normally cross-promote the Strangers Among Us group blog (even though I think there are some really fun photos and stories there). But today, I want to tip my hat to one of my fellow Strangers contributors, who brought former President Carter to our little blog party. How very cool.

Working with glass...

On a tree filled with glass decorations, one of my favorite ornaments is fake glass. I fondly remember making these pseudo stained glass ornaments with my mother and brother in the house where I grew up. In those days, our tree was mostly filled with things that Cliff and I made--blobs of felt, handmade frames with school photos, and melted stained glass. When Jeff and I spent our first Christmas together in San Francisco, my mother sent this ornament along to help start out our new tree.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Ornament tales...

I never thought that I would be one of those "ornament collectors", but each year when Jeff and I pull out our boxes of ornaments to decorate the tree, I am taken back to trips we've been on or font memories of family members. So, since most of my rabid readers are not in SF, I thought I would share a few of the stories that our tree tells.

I thought I would start with one of our most recent additions. This glass ornament is one of four we brought home from Venice this year. We chose these, because they illustrate a classic Murano glass style where cross-sections of intricate glass rods are fused and shaped. We found this particular ball on the Venetian island of Murano, where a glassmaker described the uniqueness of each piece and how the different colors and shapes are achieved.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Holiday photo show recap...

Our annual Holiday Photo Show at Ft. Mason was a rousing success, once again. We had a continuous stream of people both Friday and Saturday, and moderate sales. (Moderate means some people sold a little, my dear friend Susan sold a LOT, and I didn't sell anything.) Nevertheless, the true measure of a good show is the positive feedback I receive from friends and strangers alike. Many many thanks to my friends who fought traffic and ravenous holiday shoppers to visit.

I've included the shots below that I had on the wall this show. Some (obviously) are from previous posts, since three are from Venice.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

December happens...

Time gets away from me each December. My excuse for not posting in over a week? Well, I did have a photo show, been decorating, doing Christmas shopping EARLY (well...earlier), went to a Christmas party, working on some photo projects, loading up my iPod with Christmas music.

But the house is beautiful, once again. And I'm in full Christmas spirit. And I'll be catching up on some missing posts as the week rolls along.


Monday, November 27, 2006

Bling Barbie (and other signs of the apocalypse)...

Does the world really need a Bling Barbie? I truly think not. But I will give the marketing folks at Mattel credit for one thing. I'm sure that the Paris Hilton Cheap Whore Barbie wouldn't have done nearly as kudos on the name choice. (Also big kudos to Toys R Us for locking up this "exclusive".) Oh, just watch now...this will be this year's Tickle Me Elmo and I'll be the laughing stock of Blogger.

On another cheery note...I got my hair tidied up at the Hair Cuttery today. (Note to more panic hair cuts while on business travel!) I swear that the hair dresser/cutter person was just taking random snips around my head. Anyhow, the turning point in the haircut was when the hair dresser unexpectedly sprinkled baby powder on my neck, and proceeded to massage my neck and my ears...MY EARS. Then she dusted the hair off my shirt by rubbing my back. She finished cleaning by using a blow drier on the front of my shirt and my crotch.

Uh. Yeah. OK. Didn't expect to be fondled at the Hair Cuttery!!

Saturday, November 25, 2006

And then there were nine...

Friday afternoon, my Aunt Teela and Uncle Jim arrived for Thanksgiving Part Two. After a lunch of leftovers, Teela and Mom watched Benjamin while the rest of us went to a matinee showing of James Bond. Everyone liked the film, although a couple found the movie too long. Not me...I really enjoyed the film. It was exactly what I was hoping for...classy with and edge, serious with well timed humor. The new Bond is wonderful. Can't wait for the next one.

After eating leftovers for breakfast and lunch, we made new food for a festive birthday dinner for Teela. I made our favorite baked enchiladas with a spicier tomatilla sauce than my usual. We paired the enchiladas with a cool salad topped with pomegranate, blue cheese, and avocado.

After dinner, we played a new game (for me)--Mexican train dominoes. I can't figure out the origin of the name, but we all played a few rounds and thoroughly enjoyed it.

Today (Saturday), Teela and Jim left early for home--leaving Jeff, my folks, and me to a lazy, sunny day. We drove Jeff down to see the beautiful State capitol, took a healthy walk across the James River to Belle Island, sipped a latte in Shockoe Bottom, and toured historic St. James Church (Patrick 'give me liberty or give me death' Henry), Chimborazo Park, and Hollywood Cemetery.

We had lunch at the 3rd Street Diner downtown, where our tasty meals were outshined by a colorful customer across from us. Let's just say that a big plate of spaghetti and inebriation do not go together well. This rough-looking, VERY heavy-set man made a horrible mess with his spaghetti, but tried to clean himself up with dainty dabs of water on his napkin. The kicker was when he went to the register to pay. It seems that the poor waitress had to come back to the table to explain about tipping.

The best news of the day: Virginia Tech shutout UVA to hold onto the Commonwealth Cup...and irk my brother :)

We finished the day with a quiet dinner (a few more leftovers), a crackling fire in the fireplace, and a few rounds of Rummicube.

Sooooo, a few photos from the past two day in a sort of John-style. First, is the Virginia State Capitol. All shiney and clean...but still behind fences during reconstruction of the grounds.

Next, from our walk to Belle Island. This is one of the intakes to an abandoned VEPCO hydroelectic plant on the island. Let me tell you that this image is the stuff of my worst nightmares. Dark water sends shivers down my spine.

And lastly, my photo of how our walk in the park looked from Benjamin's perspective. Kind of a horror movie view, don't you think?

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving...

Turkey and stuffing. Garlic mashed potatoes and green bean casserole. Orange cranberries and sweet potatoes. Crisp veggies and sauerkraut. Our table was full. My mom and dad. Jodi and Cliff and Benjamin. Jeff and me. Our hearts were full. It was a perfect family Thanksgiving.

The phones were ringing off the hook. Jeff was on with Michigan; Jodi with Indiana. My family dialed up Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, and Maryland.

We topped off dinner with an amazing cheesecake made by Jeff and Jodi. Jeff dubbed it the Shirley Plantation Pumpkin Apple Butter Cheesecake, after the apple butter we bought on Tuesday. The cake (pictured below) was a perfect melding of sweet, smooth cake with a slightly-tangy pumpkin apple butter topping.

We finished the evening with several games of Rummicube, which Jeff described in his blog yesterday. My mom and I brought out this game, thinking that we could throw off Jeff and Jodi who were kicking our butts at their Euchre card game...they were especially kicking MY butt. The four of us plus Cliff played several rounds, and Jeff somehow managed to win more than his fair share :) Nevertheless, our home was clearly addicted.

[For the record, Jeff took a few of the photos today. I liked his angles better than I stole them :) ]

Monday, November 20, 2006

Ramping up for Thanksgiving...

Jeff and I began the day with a ham biscuit at my folks' house. Then we headed to Cary Street in Richmond to wander, shop, and eat. We picked out some beautiful Christmas ornaments, before stopping for lunch at the New York Deli--a very cozy local restaurant. Jeff had a scrumptious burger, and I had a toasted pastrami and swiss on rye. We topped off lunch with a latte from the coffee shop next door.

We took a winding path home through some of the gorgeous houses along Cary Street and the James River. Jody met us at home with Benjamin all decked out for some Christmas photos. Dinner was my Dad's AMAZING fried chicken.

After dinner and a Euchre re-match (where I am now 0-3...I have lost with EVERY partner), I got to dance with young Benjamin and sway him to sleep. He is just so adorable.

I thought I would close with one of the Monticello photos from yesterday.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Day tripping...

Our luggage arrived around 4 or 5 in the morning..quietly deposited on the front steps. After a warm shower, fresh clothes, and a hearty toasted English muffin with ham and cheese, Jeff, Cliff, Jody and I headed west to visit Monticello. (A quick stop at Starbucks before we drove TOO far, of course!)

We toured Mr. Jefferson's home, lead by a chatty man with a colorful yellow tie. Monticello is a beautiful home--and the ONLY home in the U.S. designated as a United Nations World Heritage Site. The air was crisp and smelled of fallen leaves as we walked around the grounds and out-buildings.

We ate an early dinner at Lord Harwicke's in Charlottesville, before hitting the road for fresh brownies and key lime pie at home.

After desert, Cliff and Dad watched young Benjamin (and football), while Jeff and Jody taught Mom and me how to play Euchre. (For the record, Jeff had previously taught me this card game in Michigan, but I failed to retain the rules...or basic strategy :)

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Its always something...

Well, Jeff and I arose early this morning (5am to be precise) to head to the airport...bound for Richmond. Check-in couldn't have been quicker, and security was only slightly longer, so we had plenty of time to buy a few magazines and the requisite latte before boarding.

No luck getting an upgrade...these 500-mile vouchers are utterly useless. But Jeff and I had fine seats.

Now, when the pilot comes on and announces that they are rebooting the computer to try and fix 'something odd', you know that you're being set up for a delay. When the pilot comes back on and tells you that they are going to try shutting all power down on the plane--rebooting the plane--then you know it will be a good delay.

Sooooo, we arrived at Dulles quite late, and just barely made our connection. Our luggage did not.

Its now 2am, and we've given up waiting. Our lugage should be here 'before 8am' accoring to the phone update.

On the plus side...we had a delightful family evening. Goodnight :)

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Lovely afternoon...

I took this shot from Ft. Mason this afternoon as I was leaving photo class. Today, we spent two hours sharing works in progress--10 or so classmates presenting photos. And what a variety of photos. We had architecture, people, morning fog, graffiti (guess who that was), mysterious objects, etc. The mixture of styles and techniques is one of the reasons I keep returning to this class.

Morning trivia...

Our lives are full of useless trivia, but this tidbit from my morning dose of "Ask Yahoo" tweaked my interest. It would seem that the most common birthday in the US is October 5. The least common US birthday is May 22.

Frankly, I don't know how to apply this bit of knowledge in my daily life, but I found it worth passing along.

Please return to your daily routine.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Yoda's butt and other musings...

Yes, this is Yoda's butt. And it amuses me. And I think it sets up some of these other random thoughts I'm having this evening.

Like this shot from this weekend. Jeff and I headed down the peninsula Saturday to visit one of the local malls. Well, the holiday frenzy had already began, so we had to find parking near the Sears...which was oddly vacant. So...note to Sears: you will never beat hip Target at their game if you use bad graduation photos to highlight your photo studio. Inside Sears, we passed displays hastily constructed of cardboard and racks of cheap trinkets. If this is the best Sears can do, then they really do deserve to go out of business.

On Sunday, we drove north to Sonoma and hit a couple of wineries. The day was gray and cold, but I did catch this moody shot of birds on a wire. We visited a couple of new wineries, including Nicholson Ranch...where the friendly wine pourer asserted that broccoli wrapped in bacon and served with butter and garlic might cure my broccoli phobia...and put me in the grave, frankly. (He then went on to suggest replacing the broccoli with a second type of bacon: bacon wrapped in bacon with butter and garlic!) Well, he sold a couple of bottle of wine in any case.

Today was a bit of a blur, that began with a couple of fillings at the dentist. This rain shot pretty much captures the mood :) My dentist seems to be a bit keen on keeping the cash flow up. Until I visited him, I had never had a single filling. Since them, I have had four...just to be sure. Honestly, I buy the logic...but tell me that doesn't seem a BIT coincidental.

Friday, November 10, 2006


When I arrived in the office early this morning, long dramatic sunbeams were lighting up the walls, turning them into dramatic canvases. I only had my Treo this morning, so this picture is quite pixelated, but I still like how the image worked.

Thursday, November 09, 2006


Ready or not, the Christmas decor appeared in Starbucks this morning, and I jumped in with both feet--I bought my first gingerbread latte of the season. Normally, I resist for a couple of weeks, because I'm stubborn and feel like "its too early for Christmas". Well, not this year. This mind-altering-drug in a cup is just what the doctor ordered to perk up my mood.

My first sip brought a smile to my face. Yum.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Ray of sunshine...

I would never survive in politics, because deep down I'm an idealist. I trust people. I want to like everybody. And I see the world in black and white...good and evil. So, I would just be depressed in politics, where a sliver of hope is spun into glorious victory.

Take the email I received this morning from the Human Rights Campaign, touting the headline "Election 2006 - We did it!", citing Democrat victories and the rejection of an anti-gay marriage amendment in Arizona. Well, for kicks, I checked out a "family values" website, which was crowing with the headline "Marriage Amendments Seven for Eight on Election Day 2006: Majority of States Now Define Marriage as One Man, One Woman". Further, the good people of Colorado decided to vote FOR an amendment to ban gay marriage AND defeated a law to allow for domestic partnerships.

So, I'm having a hard time being a "glass is half full" guy, even though I do see that the world is becoming more tolerant. In politics, you really do have to treasure those two steps forward, in spite of the steps backwards.

I will close with a request to the crusaders for the sanctity of marriage. Please get your own house in order before lashing out at others. I found it ironic that on the same news pages noting the new marriage amendments were the early reports of Britney Spears' divorce--her second after her first 55-hour marriage. It was only the first divorce for Britney's husband...who met Britney while his girlfriend at the time was pregnant with his child.

I'm not anti-marriage. I just think its not as exclusive as we might be told. Marriage is what you make of the relationship, not how its codified in the Constitution.

Really...I'm off my soapbox...again.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Scratching another project off the list...

A common feature in many SF homes is a lightwell. Ours is wonderfully situated, and brings light into our main bathroom, the guest room, and (via a stained glass window) the stairway.

Nevertheless, the previous owners neglected our lightwell, and we just finished re-painting it and filling its floor with peaceful river rocks. The final step will be to find an appropriate stainless steel planter.

Whats on the grill...

We had a simple but yummy dinner last night. Jeff had a hankerin' for a Dijon-style pork chop on the grill. I paired that with Jeff's favorite vegetable-asparagus--that I also grilled. They both turned our very nicely.

Saturday, November 04, 2006


Buster (pictured) and Dobie seem to have a sixth sense for open doors. They can be sleeping peacefully downstairs, Jeff or I can quietly open the door to the upstairs balcony, and inevitably they are outside within two minutes.

Same with the basement and garden doors. This afternoon, Jeff and I were carrying bags of river rocks from the basement to our upstairs lightwell (more on that project tomorrow). On one trip up, we left the doors open for no longer than 2-3 minutes. Sure enough, Buster quickly made his way to the backyard...all the way to the back wall.

In this photo, he innocently looks back at me, as if to say "Oh, hi. I was just waiting for you. How did I get all the way out here? Please assist me back to the house. You're my hero. I almost missed my afternoon nap."

Oh, Old Crooked Head. I can't stay upset...he's too damn sweet...and sleeping next to me now as I type this update :)

Holiday photo show...

I don't know anybody who is truly ready to admit that its time to plan December, but I'm caving and putting things on the calendar. Like this IMPORTANT event!!

On December 1st (6pm-9pm) and 2nd (11am-4pm), I'll be participating in my 11th photo show at the Ft. Mason Center, Building B, Room 106. The Ft. Mason holiday shows are fun events with displays from all of the City College art departments. I'll have 3-4 new pieces on display, including this one from Venice.

So, for those of you within the sound of my drop by and say hello.

Political sidebar...

I'm sorry...and this will be brief...but I'm tired of the argument that we need to "protect marriage" for our children. But the wise zealots of Virginia have placed a Constitutional Amendment on their ballot to define marriage. But the amendment goes even further to deny ANY legal union "of unmarried individuals that intends to approximate the design, qualities, significance, or effects of marriage". The SIGNIFICANCE of marriage. Excuse me. Who is judging?

Anyhow, this burns me up.

I'm off the soapbox.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Special shout out... Sean, who is EXTRA special today. The Peets latte he bought was EXTRA yummy, and he is on my EXTRA favorite list for the day. I hope that everyone will acknowledge Sean on their blogs today, for he is a ray of sunshine on this otherwise bleak November day.

Return of the rain...

We finished up October with sunny, mild days and fond memories of a very nice pumpkin cheesecake, courtesy of my hubby. Yesterday, I spent the day at home on the sofa in front of the fireplace nursing a cold and watching the clouds build. By nightfall, a light drizzle settled in, and today, we've got good old fashioned rain on our hands. The garden is cheering the return of the rainy season :)

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Happy Halloween...

Thanks to everyone that sent along birthday greetings today...or phone calls or blog mentions or scary photos from birthdays past...or foamy grande lattes :) And Jeff and Chris are taking me out for RIBS comfort food of choice!!

But my favorite gift of the day HAD to be the sight of dear Michele try to light a wooden match in my office for the candle on the yummy cupcakes she brought. Like MacGyver gone senile, Michele tried EVERY surface in the office including the bottom of her shoe, until she spotted an etched glass globe bookend.

We lit the match on Asia, I believe. And, of course, I blew out the candle two second later so as not to set off the sprinklers. Classic. We haven't laughed that hard in ages.

[Update: My biggest smile of the day came with the phone call I received from Jeff's family for a rousing rendition of Happy Birthday. A special thanks to Dominick and Natalie, who sang their special new song for me: "Matthew is big, Joshua is little. Dominick, Natalie and Keegan are smack in the middle. Big and little." THANK YOU!!]

Sunday, October 29, 2006


I realize that I do not travel to Virginia NEARLY as much as Curt does, nor would I want to compete for that distinction. But I have been in the air and in hotels much more than normal lately, and my blog has suffered for it...not to mention my sanity :)

But that said, I am working with the BEST proposal team I have ever worked with, and having fun in between late nights and coffee infusions.

Anyhow, one casualty of my travel are photos from Jeff and my weekend in NYC. So, in an effort to catch up a bit, here are a few of the more curious photos from NYC, including a fascinating tribute to Christopher Columbus in cheese.

For the record, I believe that Jeff took the second of the rooftop photos, from high above the city at Rockefeller Center. This one showed our lofty perch quite nicely.