Onward from a Dance with Dragons to NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo
I've been devouring George R.R. Martin's "A Song of Ice and Fire" series for the past couple of months. I can't recall the last time a series of books has so captivated me that I've purchased the following books well before finishing the first tome. But that's how it has been with this series.

Yesterday, after a brunch of Spaten Optimator and Schnitzel at Steins on Clement (they opened on Monday in the old Pagan space), I popped in to Green Apple books with the hope that I would be able to pick up the 5th and latest book in the series, A Dance with Dragons, from their recently released used hardcover shelves. Luck was on my side — they had one copy!

I was hit with the realisation, however, that after I zip through this book in a week or so, as I've done with the others, I don't have a next book to drop myself into. I do hope Martin doesn't take another 6 years to finish the 6th book int he series. I can't wait that long!

Timing wise, it will be good to finish up the series mid month, so I can start prepping for NaNoWriMo. I was considering skipping it this year, due to the incredibly hectic pace at work, but, frankly, you need to have some creative brain time and this is such a good, disciplined way of working that in. I have a couple of ideas to choose from, and am not yet quite sure which one is going to win out.

I think to get into the daily writing groove I'm also going to start following some of the daily writing prmpts, such as the Daily Post blog. If you have other favorite sources of writing prompts let me know.

A Flurry of Home Improvements

mad as a hatter's tea party!

When I moved into this apartment, for whatever reason, I never fully settled in. It always seemed as though it would be a temporary landing space, even though I positively loved the neighborhood from the get go. It's possible I was just acting out in response to how seriously ugly the brass with fluted glass chandelier is that dominates our dining room.

15 years later, despite our recent efforts to look for a slightly roomier place to call home, we are still here in our wee rent controlled apartment in the fog belt.

Around my birthday, we made the decision to truly commit to living in this apartment and figuring out how to make the most of its limited space and cramped kitchen quarters. And thus, we have spent about one day per week since my birthday weekend refining the apartment.

The first order of business was going through all my books and CDs, paring things down, and reorganizing them on some new bookcases from IKEA. This prompted me to put some books up on Good Reads' bookswap, and to donate a bag full of books to the Friends of the San Francisco library.

I also took the opportunity to rearrange my pseudo pantry shelves, and take stock of all my excess canned goods (I probably had a dozen cans of enchilada sauce lurking in one cupboard…) With the living room and dining area under control (and sporting a stylish new rug), the last target for sprucing up was our bedroom.

We had an issue with water damage in one corner that we'd been putting off asking the property management to fix. When we did tee it up, one forgotten appointment (by them) and some 3 weeks later, we finally got the water damaged wall (the roof leaks in the corner) repaired and repainted. And while we had them here, we had them rehang the bathroom door so it will properly close (it's been stubborn and unwilling to close as long as I've lived here, thanks to an improper rehang after it was last painted.) And to top it off, we had them install the hardware for a curtain rod we picked up during our mega-IKEA shopping trip.

This afternoon, after a nice local and organic crispy chicken sandwich for lunch at Eats up the street, we came home and hung up the chocolate brown curtains, hung up the nicely framed rock and roll prints that had been sitting in a corner waiting for some attention, and can now say: this place looks like a home. Finally.

And it only took well over a decade to get everything in order…

Following a Weekly Meal Plan

A Farmers Market haul

The past month has been terrible from a "you are what you eat" standpoint. Being incredibly busy at work, vacation, then coming back to even longer hours at work has meant we've been doing a ton of eating out. And not a ton of healthy seasonal cooking at home.

This is why yesterday I pulled out all the items in my pantry cupboard to take stock of what we had on hand, and then made a week's meal plan that made good use of what we had on hand. I should note that I had no idea I had 8 cans of enchilada sauce in that cupboard. This is one of the primary drawbacks to using a deep, tall shelf next to the stove as a pantry, but when you're a renter in a high price city, you make do.

Here's what I came up with to help thin out the cupboard, and stop eating out so much:

  • Sat: mus sa mun curry with beef over rice
  • Sun: bean and beef enchiladas
  • Mon: chicken stir fry
  • Tues: Bean and cheese quesadillas
  • Wed: lasagna (make sauce ahead on Sunday)
  • Thur: pork chops
  • Fri: eat out for dinner

I also made sure we had a ton of yogurt and healthy cereal for breakfast, and plenty of tasty yet healthy snacks to keep me away from the cheese. This reminds me I really need to figure out how to make my ideal spicy trail mix. I love that stuff.

Today, I'm doing some prep work (making pasta sauce and a chicken+bean soup), making some sides (bean salad, potato salad, corn muffins) and mixing up chocolate chocolate chip cookie dough for the freezer. That sounds like a fine way to spend a Sunday don't you think?

Easy Pasta Sauce

  • 1 TBSP olive oil
  • 1/2 a red onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 a white onion, coarsely chopped
  • 15 baby carrots, roughly chopped
  • 3 15oz cans tomato sauce
  • 2 TBSP garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • salt and pepper to taste

Add the olive oil to a stockpot and heat on medium. Add the onions and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until they become partially translucent. Add in the carrots and cook for another 5 minutes. Add in tomato sauce, reduce heat, and simmer on low for 1 hour.

I'll be using this for my lasagna this week.

Chicken and Black Bean Soup

  • 1 32 oz container Imagine organic chicken broth
  • 1 TBSP olive oil
  • 1/2 a red onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 a white onion, coarsely chopped
  • 15 baby carrots, roughly chopped
  • 1 boneless skinless chicken breast fillet (i.e. half a chicken breast)
  • 1 TBSP garlic, minced
  • 1 Tsp poultry seasoning blend of your choice

Pour chicken broth into stockpot and heat on medium high and bring to a boil. Sprinkle chicken breast with your favorite poultry seasoning and salt and pepper then add to the hot broth and poach, removing once meat is white all the way through. Cool chicken until it is at room temperature, then shred into bit size pieces. While your chicken is cooling, reduce heat to low and add in your separately olive oil sauteed onions, garlic and carrots (I did mine at the same time for the pasta sauce then split the total cooked mixture in half). Add back in your shredded chicken and simmer for an hour.

Makes 4 servings. 5 points plus per serving.

Just What *are* those “Period Details”?

425MKT5
I recently saw a listing for an apartment out here in the Fog Belt that has a curious selling point "period details."

Now, if you've never been to San Francisco's Richmond District, perhaps you think of our quaint and often photographed Painted ladies– the gorgeous Victorian and Edwardian buildings on all our postcards and tourist literature.

But as a long-time neighborhood denizen, living in a 1965 building, I started to think, what exactly would I consider to be a 1965 period detail? Original powder blue and baby pink kitchens? (NOTE: that is what my place had before I signed the lease and they ripped it out.) A lack of windowsills or mouldings? The introduction of the open floor living plan?

I'm not sure that any of those details would entice your average renter, but I could be wrong about that…

TGIF and a Happy Long Weekend to you!

I Have the Post-Vacation Crazy Busy’s

image from farm7.static.flickr.com

Which is clearly why I've been baking cookies all afternoon, after a nice walk up the street to get my nails done. A week away, followed by the first week back from work being significantly more challenging than these things usually are, meant that by the time the weekend rolled around, I was pooped.

And this is why although my photos from Disneyland and Los Angeles are up on flickr, as are the ones from the California Academy of Sciences yesterday, I still haven't written anything about our travels. Honestly, I haven't written anything at all outside of emails at work.

It's been THAT busy.

So consider this my poking my head up and saying "hello! I'm still here!" And as I have no hope of catching up with my blog roll, ping me if I've missed anything I should know about…

xo erika

You Say it’s Your Birthday…

one of my favorite photos, taken by L on our first trip together, of one of my absolutely most favorite places, Venezia, Italia.

I always like to do two things for my birthday: something sentimental and go out for a fabulous dinner.

This year, the fabulous dinner portion of my day consists of Jardiniere. It's a repeat of last year because I absolutely adore dressing up and dining on the balcony, basking in all of its streamline moderne glamour. And on my birthday, I don't necessarily want to take a chance on a new place. I want to be guaranteed a fabulous time. No surprises.

So the other birthday tradition is some sort of wallowing in sentimentality. This can take the for of playing old records, or looking through my plentiful scrapbooks. But this year it was manifest in my going through all my CDs, my remaining stash of tapes, and my DVDs.

Yes, I still had a significant stash of tapes, despite not having played one in at least a decade. You see, many of them held a sentimental place in my heart. For years, in high school, I had pen pals all across the US and even one in Australia. And in addition to sending me all manner of interesting paper ephemera that was indicative of the time and place wherein they lived, people also always sent me mix tapes.

You see, in addition to being a serious music junkie, I had my own radio show in high schol. I started at the small high school a.m. radio station and by senior year had secured a slot at my local college radio station, with an early morning Saturday slot, as art of the alternative rock programming. Thus, my penpals always endeavored to send me unique bootlegs and import records, via tape, for me to weave into my shows.

In those pre-Internet days, your awareness of interesting music was truly only as good as your personal network — or your budget when traveling in from the valley to San Francisco– allowed it to be. And I had an exceedingly good network, as these relics of those days gone by reminded me.

Now, I have much of the music fro those mixtapes on vinyl or CD, so in the end, I decided to get rid of most of them. But I did hang on to a few, especially those made by dear friends, and at least one tape of my college radio show, taped for me by my mom.

I also found a stash of CDs from the incredibly fun (tho short-lived) SF Indie Mixtape club circa 2004. I have fond memories of spending hours constructing just the right playlist. Then playing around with my stash of collage supplies to create an appropriate cover image. Good times.

This past year has been a pretty tough one for me. Busier than I would have liked. And with less time spent with beloved friends than is strictly optimal. But on the flipside of that, I also got to travel to Scotland and meet in person some of my favorite folks on the Interwebs. Of course that trip made me wish there wasn't an ocean between us and the UK.

🙂

In summary, another year past, and another year ahead. I hope to keep myself mindful that we only live this life once, and thus it is imperative to make the most of each day.

xoxo e

Saying Goodbye to Severus Snape

Severus Snape...erm, make that Grape, in my Restaurant City restaurant

Sometimes you need to have a less ambitious weekend. That's how this one has turned out, after the landlady for the place we had an appointment to go see (a landlady who talked L's ear off for 15min about the place I might add) called to tell us it had been leased. Thus we ate the extra city car share hours, and spent some time cruising around the neighborhood looking for For Rent signs, then ran a ton of necessary but completely uninteresting errands.

My greatest accomplishment thus far this weekend? Helping L with his Restaurant City tasks, resulting in him attaining — and gifting to me– the adorable little Snape, erm, Grape, statue you see here in my restaurant.

I absolutely had to have him after seeing the final installment of the Harry Potter movies last weekend. I was misty-eyed for about the entire last half of that movie, as Severus Snape has pretty much been my favorite character in those films since I first laid eyes on him. Alan Rickman, with his Trent Reznor hairdo and terse comments, can you even imagine anyone else in the role but him?

Snape appealed to me as a character because, frankly, he reminded me of my teenage years. Snape was the sort of kid who would have hung out with my friends in the quad. He would have been in the front row of the Sisters of Mercy show with us. When he was having a tough day, he would have gotten a hug, not shoved into a locker. I recognize his dry sarcasm as a defense mechanism. And as the story plays out over the movies, I love how we get to see more and more what a truly amazing and caring person he is.

I'll stop now, before I say anything that may spoil something for someone whom has not yet seen the film. This is when I should mention that, unlike pretty much everyone I know, have not read any of the Harry Potter films. L has read them all, usually as soon as they were released. But I have experience Hogwart's only through the movies.

This has meant extreme vigilance in curbing (or completely turning off) my social media usage around release time of the movies, lest I be spoiled thoroughly before making it to the theater. I am happy to report that I made it to see this edition of the franchise without any spoilers reaching my eyes– tho just barely.

It continues to amaze me just how insensitive people are to others, and how eager they are to casually toss out spoilers in public media as soon as they themselves have seen something. There appears to be very little recognition or understanding as to how incredibly insensitive that is to other people. And then there are the people who *cackle* and rush to share spoilers with you. Luckily, it is incredibly easy to swiftly unfollow such folks.

If you love Snape as I do, here is some additional clicking for you:

City Living: A Crafty Sunday in SF

Green Apple BooksLast weekend, I had a quintessential city living day.

I hopped on the 28 bus and rode to Fort Mason Center to check out the Renegade Craft Fair. If you've never been to one of these, let me assure you it is not your grandmother's lace doily fest. Rather, it's a collection of all sorts of 20- and 30-something folks who make a wide range of things by hand.

Some of my favorites were:

Walking through and soaking up so much handmade creativity inspired me to head back to my neighborhood in search of some crafty projects of my own.

After enjoying Huevos Rancheros for lunch at Eats, I headed to Green Apple Books, where I picked up two books and a magazine for inspiration:

Inspirational materials in hand, I headed back towards home, stopping at Miracle Spa for a mani pedi, and relaxed while I flipped through my reading materials. Once my toes were dry, I stopped in at the hobby shop for some felt and some embroidery floss, then finally headed home.

There are days — especially those sopping wet riding home on MUNI days– where I ask myself: is it worth it to live in the City? Is it worth the high rent? Is it worth being dependent upon the somewhat unreliable transit? Days like this one remind me exactly why that answer is YES!

When I am an Old Lady, I will…

Versailles_garden3

 

  • Live within walking distance of Erika S.'s front porch
  • Finally make a living baking cookies
  • Have as many cats as my backyard can accommodate and my neighbors can tolerate
  • Make sure to still travel some place fabulous every year
  • Finally dye my hair blue
  • Have a large enough place that I can invite as many friends from far flung places as possible to come stay with us
  • Never get up earlier than 7 a.m. again
  • Eat dessert first
  • Have a kitchen garden

When you are a little old person, what will YOU do?

     

Ranch Chicken Marinade

This recipe was inspired by my colleague sharing this recipe for Rosemary Ranch Chicken Kebabs. My version is pared back to a quantity suitable for dinner for two, and to reflect that rosemary is not a favorite herb in this household.

1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup Hidden Valley Ranch dressing
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp salt
splash of lemon juice
splash of red wine zinfandel vinegar
two twists of pepper from the pepper mill
1/2 tsp sugar
1 large boneless skinless chicken breast (a little over 1 lb) chopped into small chunks

Combine all but the chicken in a small bowl and whisk together until combined. Let stand 5 min while you chop up the chicken. Place chopped chicken in a ziploc bag, and pour marinade over the top. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour prior to cooking chicken by your preferred method.