Thursday, July 15, 2010

Want To Make Bread? There's No Knead!

In November of 2006, Mark Bittman introduced the world to Jim Lahey's No-Knead Bread. This recipe totally rocked my world, and demoted the bread machine to a sad, unused corner of the kitchen. And it wasn't just me...everybody I knew who baked was talking about it. Four years later, it came up at lunch, which inspired this post.

And what is this Wondrous Bread Without Kneading of which I speak? A homemade bakery-style boule, with a wonderful crust, open crumb, and the feel of a real loaf of bread. There's no complicated technique, no sophisticated equipment. Though you do need a 6-8 quart covered dutch oven (cast iron, glass, etc.) that can withstand a 450 degree oven, and time to mix the dough a day in advance.

The secret behind the no-knead method is water. To get a good bakery crust, you need a steam-injection oven, which most people don't have in their home. Jim Lahey realized that if you have a relatively wet loaf of bread in a covered get the steam for free! His next insight was that when you mix up the wet dough you don't need to physically knead it. Over a long stretch of time (12-24 hours) the rising dough will naturally stretch out the gluten, and when the dough is wet the gluten molecules are free to assemble themselves into alignment and create the network necessary for a great loaf of bread.

In December, 2006 Mark Bittman posted a follow-up article with some tweaks to the recipe, and later Cook's Illustrated picked up the baton for their "Almost No-Knead Bread" (subscription required) in the January 2008 issue. Both of these contained key insights to improving the technique, and I've added a few tweaks of my own. One suggestion from Cook's Illustrated that I tried once and didn't find very useful was to replace 6 Tbs water with mild-flavored American lager. Unfortunately, as mild-flavored American lager is like making love in a canoe, I didn't find this to be very useful.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Black Bean Veggie Burgers

Back in Ann Arbor, Becky and I would grill all through the summer grilling season. And one of our favorite things to grill on short notice were the Morningstar Farms Spicy Black Bean Veggie Burgers. These are exceptional veggie burgers because they don't try to taste like fake burgers. (Becky doesn't eat meat, and I like real burgers.) With black beans and corn and spiciness, they are delicious and full of protein. And they are not available on the west coast. And the grilling season lasts all-year round here! It's tragic.

So this has forced us to roll our own.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Ramble On!

When we started this blog, I pitched it to Eli as a place where we could share recipes, pictures, and travel stories. But my ulterior motive was getting Eli to blog about the financial meltdown. And it worked! Temporarily.

Meanwhile, we used my Flickr account for sharing travel photos and stories. And when Sam was born, we figured people were more interested in pictures of him, so we use Flickr for his pictures, too. We have posted lots of recipes on this blog, though, so at least that has been useful to us (and hopefully to you!).

However, I really wanted to have a personal website, with a blog. I've wanted to rant about all sorts of things, but some of them didn't quite seem right for a shared blog. So I'm announcing (after only three paragraphs) that I am now blogging at I'm not yet sure what I'll be focusing on, but please come along for the ride!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Telling the Internet to get LOST

Like some people in this article, I will be going on an internet blackout at 6 p.m. PT tomorrow night. And if you don't know why, then I must ask you what cave you've been living in for the past six years.

With the rise of VCRs and then DVRs, the networks have been worried about people time-shifting their shows and skipping the ads. But now, people are connected by Facebook and Twitter, and having real-time conversations about shows. So why not start simulcasting the biggest events -- like awards shows (as has been done recently) and big finales -- in all time zones? Wouldn't that increase the buzz even more? I know that NBC is full of epic fail when it comes to this, but I can't think of a better time for ABC to take that kind of risk.

At one point I threatened to start a "Simulcast the LOST finale in all timezones!" campaign. I half-suspected that was why ABC was airing it on a Sunday. But I never had time to do that, so instead, I will avoid my internet tomorrow night, and catch up with everyone on Monday morning. Maybe when the next Big Television Event rolls around, I'll be able to watch it live with everyone.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

S is for Sam, and for Santa Barbara ABCs!

The ABCs of Santa Barbara
Originally uploaded by R Stanek
Back when I was pregnant, I wanted to make an alphabet poster for [untitled], using letters from signs around town. Well, Sam turned 7 months old today, and I finally finished the poster! We hit up many local Santa Barbara institutions, particularly the nearby neighborhood joints (Derf's, Los Gallos, etc.) that we frequent. And this was definitely a joint effort: I took nearly all the pictures, and dealt with cropping and scaling, but Eli did the assembling of the poster in Photoshop. In my defense, there is no way my laptop could have handled it.

I can't wait to see the poster on the wall. Happy 7 months, Sam!

(Week 20 of Project 52.)


Originally uploaded by R Stanek
I just really love the bright red sign against all the blue and gray. Also, the breakwall does get very slippery sometimes, yikes.

Week 19 (yes, I know it's late, but there's a good reason) of Project 52.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

True Love is Forever. Apparently, so is The Gap

I just realized that today Eli and I are both wearing the same shirts that we did on the day we got engaged.

In October, 2005.

What's sadder, that I remember this*, or that apparently neither of us has gone shopping in four and a half years?

*There are actually pictures, which is how I remember. Also, Eli's shirt is really orange. I'm not losing that brain cell any time soon.

Monday, May 3, 2010

The solitary flower and/or photographer

Scrubbing bubbles
Originally uploaded by R Stanek
I know I said "no flowers", but I'm using this picture because it actually has a story behind it! I was lagging behind the rest of the family while walking in Santa Monica, and wanted to get a picture of these great flowers. While I was doing so, and older gentleman came up to me and we had a chat about trees, California, photography, etc. I learned that this is a bottlebrush tree, which I'm sure saved me some time that would have otherwise been spent with a National Audubon Society Field Guide.

Most of my hobbies and interests are naturally solitary pursuits -- reading, photography, jogging -- and that often suits me. That doesn't mean it's lonely, though. I enjoyed the photowalk I did with local Flickrites, and people often approach me while I'm out and about with my camera. And I don't take pictures of other people, generally, so it's not even because of that. People just want to talk about cameras and trees and art, and I've started to enjoy that.

(Week 18 of Project 52. Uh. Did I say I was going to stop taking backlit pictures? Sorry about that.)

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Busy Busy!

Originally uploaded by R Stanek
It's busy everywhere right now. Busy on the blog! Busy at home, now that Sam's eating solids and we're making baby food! Busy at work! Busy with photography, as I'm working on an alphabet project for Sam's room.

So I thought this busy photo was appropriate. I'm still going through the pictures from last weekend's photowalk, and experimenting with the post-processing, and some conversions to black and white. Hopefully some of those will see the light of day!

Courgette (Zucchini) Bread

Back when I was in the Peace Corps (I know, I know) I took spring break 1998 to visit Mike V. on Mafia Island, a small island off the coast of mainland Tanganyika. Mafia is exactly what you would expect from a desert island in the Indian Ocean, complete with a fantastic coral reef. Luckily, V was friends with the folks who ran the scuba dives from the main resort on the island. Which scuba diving!

Yet it does seem kind of rude to just tag along on a dive trip, especially since the resort prepares lunch for the guests, so we had to bring our own lunch. Since it was pumpkin season on Mafia (who knew?) we also decided to bring some homemade pumpkin bread to barter for some better food. Although we lacked a real oven, it's possible to make quick breads by building a very basic "convection" oven. You put one sufuria (a pot without a handle) on a three piles of coins inside another larger sufuria which is placed on a kerosene stove. When you cover the large sufuria, convection will bring heat all the way around the bread. It works pretty well, although temperature control is a fine art that depends on the temperament of your kerosene stove.

Joining us on the dive trip that day (pictured above) were the resort folks, Sam (who was British), and a woman whose name eludes me for the moment (who was a white Kenyan). The paying guests were a nice family from Denmark who were very blond. At lunch we brought out the pumpkin bread, and everybody was baffled. Bread made with pumpkin? Nobody had ever heard of such a preposterous thing! Sam said incredulously, "what other crazy things do you Americans make...courgette bread?"

Indeed we do!

In spite of their apprehension, everybody enjoyed the bread and I got two more free days of diving that week.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Truth About Pandering

One of the great things about Michael Steele is that he often accidentally speaks the truth, like in his mention of the GOP's infamous Southern Strategy. In return, a conservative blogger complained, "Steele’s job is to make TODAY’S GOP attractive to voters, not to declare that we haven’t pandered enough to any group."

Let me spell this out for Mr. Cargosquid. If the only demographic your party consistently attracts is white men, maybe the problem isn't that you're not pandering to other groups. Maybe the problem is that you've been pandering to white men. Remember when I pointed out that in many circles, male is the default? Well, to the GOP, white men are the default, and everyone else is a special interest group.

(Special interest groups who should stay in the kitchen! Ah, Medina.)

Monday, April 19, 2010

Walking around

Hanging around
Originally uploaded by R Stanek
Yesterday I met up with a few other local Flickr people and went on a photowalk at the harbor! I love the harbor so much. It got overcast, and then it got cold, so we didn't last very long. Long enough, though! I took tons of pictures, and uploaded quite a few after my first pass through them.

This one was my favorite. I love the way the pink bucket stands out against the masts and the background.

(Week 16 of Project 52. As I said, this was a stupid resolution. But I may as well keep going. I'm going to try to keep with the spirit of the resolution -- no holding back pictures with the intention of uploading them at a later date).

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Whimsy and Whining

Takin' it to the streets!
Originally uploaded by R Stanek
Boy, this was a stupid resolution. Uh, this is from my archives, which are running a bit thin. Anyway, I think this is cute, and there are worse things in life than being whimsical.

(Week 15 of Project 52.)

Sunday, April 4, 2010


Originally uploaded by R Stanek
I know, more diagonal lines! But, much like Sam, the heating vent kept catching my eye. I love the weird patterns made by the rust, and . . . okay, maybe I should dust it. Whatever.

Week 14 of Project 52. I'm caught up! We'll see how long that lasts.


Originally uploaded by R Stanek
I know I keep doing these backlit shots, but I can't stop -- it's a sickness! I promise, this will be the last one for a while, but I like the over-exposed nature of this one, plus the spiderweb at the top.

Week 13 of Project 52. (Yes, still catching up. Taken on or before 3/28/2010.)

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Balanced. Maybe

More Tivoli Lights
Originally uploaded by R Stanek
Another picture from Tivoli! This might be the last Tivoli picture, but it's not like I could ride any of the rides there, so I spent the entire time taking pictures.

Sorry for all the archived pictures, but except for pictures of Sam (which, in addition to sunsets and flowers, don't count) I didn't manage to take any pictures I actually liked in the month of March.

(Project 52, week 12. Taken on or before 3/21/2010.)

People in the Picture

Stop. Lights.
Originally uploaded by R Stanek
It's been a crazy couple of weeks here, but I'm finally catching up on blogging and resolutions. Here's another picture from Tivoli -- I spent so long wandering around with my camera it's a shame how few pictures I posted back in June! Normally I'm quite shy about taking pictures with people in the frame -- street photography is definitely not my thing -- but for whatever reason I didn't mind that night.

I should get braver about street photography, because I think the people in the frame make this a lot more interesting than some of my other Tivoli pictures. The other pictures might be prettier, but I think this is more interesting.

(I know I'm behind on Project 52. I'm not going to cheat as I catch up -- this picture was taken before 3/14/2010, and so counts as week 11.)

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Silly Girls -- the Internet is for Boys!

It's April 1, meaning that it's time for technology blogs -- and it's always technology blogs -- to pull out that tiresome old canard of making their site women-friendly. It wasn't funny when Slashdot did it, and it's not funny now that PetaPixel has done it. Yes, how hilarious to market technology sites towards women! After all, we know that the internet is for the menfolk!

On a related note, many sites nowadays have user icons. But what if you don't upload one? What sort of "default" icon is provided for you? In most cases, it's a male icon. Sites with male default icons include, but are not limited to:

It is possible to have gender-neutral default icons. Flickr uses an emoticon. Twitter has a bird. Typepad has abstract designs. Why have a masculine default icon when you could have a neutral one? Clearly no one -- not even Jezebel -- would ever have a feminine default icon.

This is why I cheered when Nancy Pelosi said, "Being a woman will no longer be a pre-existing condition." Because I'm tired of the meme that the default status is male, whether in health care or on silly blogs online.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Two is just the same as one

Originally uploaded by R Stanek
I've been meaning to learn to make diptychs forever -- I even have a folder on my computer with pairs of images, intended for future diptychs. Well, now I've finally done one in GIMP. I hate GIMP, but I think the biggest problem is the lack of patience between keyboard and chair.

ANYWAYS. I love fencing, and layers of fencing, so I love the diptych of the two takes on the same field of view. I know that's about the most obvious diptych that one could possibly make, but hopefully I'll branch out this year as I get more comfortable with GIMP.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Looking back on the past

I took this picture last fall, shortly before Sam was born (but after his due date!). Why there was a giant mirror in the backyard, against the garage, I have no idea. But I like the sunlight in the corner, and how it takes a second glance at the picture to register that it's a reflection in a mirror.

Week 9!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

New Picture; Old Subject

It's a Zoo Out There!
Originally uploaded by R Stanek
This isn't the first picture I've taken of this awesome carved elephant -- in fact, it was one of my first subjects when I got my camera. But I love it with the lion valentine in the background. Thanks to V for the elephant -- a gift from a while ago -- and to J for the valentine!

Week 8 of Project 52, and a picture I actually took today! Woo!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

NBC Fails at the 21st Century

I remember watching the 1988 Winter Olympics, and being completely entranced by speed skater Bonnie Blair. Ever since, I've been an Olympics junkie -- especially speed skating. But it's not 1988 anymore, so I don't know why NBC is broadcasting them like we're still back in the Stone pre-Information Age.

I emailed Dick Ebersol, and while I'm sure none of these emails get read, it was still therapeutic:
Mr. Ebersol:

I am writing to request that you do away with the ridiculous tape
delay of Olympic coverage for the West Coast Olympic fans. This
prevents a quarter of the country from enjoying the coverage with
friends in the rest of the country via Twitter, Facebook, or even the
phone. Why should I watch when I already know the results? It's not
1964 anymore.

And why the emphasis on prime-time coverage? Those of us on the West
Coast are used to live sporting events starting at 5 or 6 p.m.! 100
million Americans watched the Super Bowl, and it wasn't because it was
tape-delayed on the West Coast. We watch Sunday Night Football and
Monday Night Football and the World Series in the early evening -- in
fact, we're not used to staying up until 11 p.m. watching sports!

Please, for the love of god, stop tape-delaying your Olympic coverage.
And remember that the highest-rated broadcast of all time in the U.S.
is the Super Bowl, not some soft-focus feature about how someone
raised by a single parent survived cancer and a torn ACL and an epic
crash in the 2006 Winter Olympics. All we want is live coverage of
the sports, so we can enjoy every thrilling downhill run and crazy
speed-skating collision with the rest of the country.

If you want more anger, check out the nbchate tag on Deadspin. And hope that ABC -- or hell, anyone who's not NBC -- gets the rights to the Olympics someday.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Stringing everyone along

Originally uploaded by R Stanek
I know I'm late on this week's picture. In my defense, I have a million excuses, including (but not limited to) traveling, the holiday weekend, family in town, and going back to work.

Enough of that. Look! It's another picture with diagonal lines! And as I dig through the archives, I've noticed there are a few colors I'm always drawn to -- mostly oranges and browns. I'm not sure why I never uploaded this picture -- I really like the text on the interior of the piano.

(Also: I've flossed all but two days so far this year. Yay!)

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Walking on sunshine

Originally uploaded by R Stanek
I'd been wondering how I was going to find time for photography, now that I'm going back to work. And the answer is -- weekend walks with the whole family! Of course. We're having a great winter -- enough rain that the mountains are green again, but lots of sunny days. And apparently I just can't stop looking into the sun. The glow in the late afternoons is perfect.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Pretty in Pink

Originally uploaded by R Stanek
I've started wearing scarves on breezy days to stay warm. In fact, I try to always have earrings and a scarf on when I leave the house -- since I don't wear makeup, it's a good way to feel less frumpy, and to make sure I'm taking care of myself. Anyway, I love the feel of the light scarves, and the fringe, so when a weekly theme group on Flickr chose "colorful", it was an excuse to finally get off my ass and take a picture of the scarves!

I'm not super-thrilled about this picture -- maybe I should have lowered the contrast? -- but it's fun and bright and I like the fringe.

(Maybe this will end up being the year that I get much better at post-processing?)

Friday, January 22, 2010

Tilted a New Way

Lined up
Originally uploaded by R Stanek
It's been raining here for the past week, so time to dig into the archives again. I love the Santa Barbara Harbor (Marina? Does it have an official name?), and yet for all the happy times I've wandered around there with my camera, I've only uploaded about half a dozen pictures. At the same time, three weeks into my Project 52, and I noticed that a lot of my pictures rely on diagonal lines. Too many of them, perhaps.

So here's a picture from the harbor that's nothing but horizontal and vertical lines! I really love the parallel lines here, but I'm not crazy about this picture. I can't quite put my finger on how it could have been better. Different focal length, maybe?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Pining for more time

Spiny Piny
Originally uploaded by R Stanek
What is this? A picture actually taken in this calendar year? You don't say!

Sam will be starting daycare in three weeks -- eeek! -- and while he won't be there full-time, he still has to get used to taking his food from the bottle, instead of directly from the tap. We're still at the point where I have to leave the house when Eli feeds him, and luckily it's been nice enough for me to wander around with my camera. I may not have a chance to download and edit the pictures right away -- which is why my resolution is to upload pictures, not just take them -- but I'm glad to have the opportunity to take them in the first place!

When walking this past weekend, I was absolutely taken by the sunlight through this pine tree. I dug out my trusty National Audobon Society Field Guide to Trees, Western Region, and . . . well, it's some sort of pine. Maybe a Knobcone Pine, I don't know. I just love the needles and the golden light, and I'm pleased to get good pictures at noon -- a notoriously difficult time of day for photography.

(I know most of you are already seeing my pictures via FB or Flickr, but if I don't blog about it, I might not keep up the resolution!)

Monday, January 11, 2010

Mexican Rice

You can't have cheese enchiladas without rice and beans! So here is our favorite Mexican rice recipe, which can be made in parallel with the enchiladas. (I must admit here that we usually use canned refried beans with the enchiladas, although I promise to post our refried bean recipe in the not-too-distant future). The recipe has been adapted from here, with many modifications.

Mexican Rice

1 cup white rice (we use basmati)
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1 tomato, grated
1 1/2 cups water, hot
1 Tbsp chili powder
1/2 tsp salt

Heat 2-3 Tbsp peanut oil in a heavy skillet or saucier (a saucier works great because it's harder for the rice to get stuck in the corners). Heat oil over medium-high heat until hot. Add the rice, and stir continuously. If it begins to stick a lot, add a little more oil. After about 2 minutes, add the onion and garlic. Saute until the rice is golden brown. Add the tomato, hot water, chili powder, and salt. Bring to a boil, then cover. Cook on very low heat for 20-25 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit covered for 5 minutes. Stir and serve!

Grating Tomatoes

In my last recipe, for cheese enchiladas, I said that the tomato for the chili gravy should be "grated". (We also use a grated tomato in our saag paneer recipe as well as the forthcoming recipe for Mexican rice). This has caused some confusion and consternation amongst the legions of fans of the Beckyan Deli, so I am posting this here as a primer.

Grated Tomato

1 Tomato

For the method, it's easiest to go back to the source: Madhur Jaffrey's excellent World Vegetarian cookbook. Take it away, Madhur!
How to grate a tomato: When a coarse tomato puree is required, the easiest way to get it is to hold a ripe tomato over a bowl and grate it on the coarsest part of a grater. The skin stays in your hand while the puree collects in the bowl. Sometimes the tomato slides along the grater and does not engage with the sharp holes. In such cases all you do is cut a thin slice off the tomato. This will get it going.

We use a box grater, and it works great!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Cheese Enchiladas

Some time back in 2004 or 2005 Becky and I first tried to make cheese enchiladas. I've loved cheese enchiladas since I was a kid, and this is a fantastic and fun vegetarian meal. We first tried the recipe from the Sundays at Moosewood cookbook, and it was awful. Bland, unsatisfying, strange, and dry.

So we turned to the Internets!

I found a much better recipe online here. I've continually adapted it over the years, and now I'm finally ready to share it with the world. The construction of the enchiladas usually takes two of us. Stay tuned for our recipe for mexican rice for the side!

Cheese Enchiladas

Makes 12 cheese enchiladas

12 corn tortillas
1 1/2 onion, chopped
2 cups shredded cheese (cheddar, Mexican mix, etc.)
3 Tbs butter
3 Tbs flour
2 cups water or vegetable stock, hot
1 tomato, grated
1-2 Tbs chili powder
1/4 tsp cayenne
canola oil

Start by cooking the onions over low heat in a couple tablespoons of oil until soft. It helps to start this before making the chili gravy.

For the chili gravy, start by making a roux by melting the butter in a small saucepan. The saucepan should be large enough to accommodate one of the corn tortillas. Stir in the flour and whisk over medium-low heat for a couple of minutes. Slowly whisk in the hot water or vegetable stock until fully incorporated. Add 1 Tbs chili powder, tomato, and cayenne. Taste for salt and chili powder, while cooking down the gravy for about 10-15 minutes, whisking frequently to keep it nice and smooth. When it has thickened satisfactorily (it needs to adhere to the corn tortillas), remove from heat.

Now prep the enchilada station. Grease a 9x13 inch oven-proof dish, and preheat oven to 400F. Have cheese, onions, and chili gravy ready to go. Heat oil over medium heat in a frying pan, deep enough to easily cover a tortilla. The oil is ready when a piece of tortilla dropped in sinks to the bottom and immediately resurfaces.

For each enchilada: Pick up a tortilla with tongs and place into hot oil for 15 seconds to soften tortilla. Dip tortilla into chili gravy, covering both sides. Place tortilla in 9x13 pan, putting cheese and onion on, and rolling it up. (Use the right hand for the onion, left hand for the cheese, right hand to roll it up and slide into place, and left hand to drink beer. Any other combination will leave you with "club hand".) Make sure each tortilla is seam-side down. Repeat for all 12. Pour remaining chili gravy on top of enchiladas, making sure that the corners are moist so they won't burn. Sprinkle remaining cheese on top.

Bake for 10-15 minutes until cheese is bubbly. Remove from oven and let them sit for a few minutes (like pizza, digging in too soon can be hazardous to the roof of your mouth.) Enjoy!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Cleaning Up and Looking Back

Lighting the way
Originally uploaded by R Stanek
I've never met a hard drive I couldn't pack to the gills. Even so, in 2007, when I got my current laptop, 160 GB seemed like an enormous amount of space. That was before I got a DSLR with 12 MP, of course. Two thousand pictures later, some of them need to be cleared off the harddrive -- I was down to 6 GB of space left on my harddrive.

Going back through old pictures was good. It was reassuring to see that as time has gone on, there are a higher fraction of pictures from each day worth keeping. And I also found some pictures from my travels last summer that didn't make it online, due to my rush to get pictures online. So here's a picture from Tivoli Gardens, which is a small amusement park in Copenhagen. The rides are okay -- although being 5 months pregnant at the time, I couldn't ride any of them -- but it's absolutely lovely at night, when all the lights are turned on. And dear Eli was very patient as I spent several hours wandering the park with my camera.

In related news, I have flossed every day in 2010. (Full disclosure: daily flossing was a New Year's resolution of mine in both 2001 and 2006. Maybe the third time's the charm?)

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Wine Tasting with Aunt Amanda!

Eli's sister Amanda visited for a few days, so what did we do, as we do with all our guests when I'm not pregnant? Wine tasting! It was a gorgeous day on the central coast for some wine tasting.

We started at Zaca Mesa, whose viognier we really love. The wines, and my brief comments on them:

  • 2008 Estage Z Gris. I'm generally not a fan of rosé, but this was the driest I'd ever had. It wouldn't be bad with cheese and crackers on a summer afternoon.
  • 2008 Estate Viognier. Love!
  • 2006 Estate Roussanne. I didn't think I liked this -- it tasted kind of strong to me -- but it had a really nice finish.
  • 2006 Estate Grenache. I was surprised by how much I liked this, since I don't tend to like the light, sweet reds.
  • 2006 Estate Z-Cuvee. Unmemorable.
  • 2005 Estate Syrah. Extremely disappointing. But when an employee overheard us complaining about it, she then poured the 2006 Estate Syrah, which was amazing -- best wine of the day. Crazy! It's only become available in the last few weeks, and that's just in their tasting room -- it won't be available elsewhere for a while yet. What an astounding difference between the two years.
  • 2005 Estate Z Three. Eh. I'm not big on blends.

After lunch in Los Olivos, we headed to the Qupe tasting room, as we are big fans of their syrah. They were also pouring tastings of Verdad and Ethan wines. I didn't like any of the whites, but the three syrahs we tried were all very nice:
  • Qupe Syrah - "Santa Barbara County". Only available in the tasting room. It was my least favorite of the three syrahs, but still good.
  • Ethan Syrah "Rancho Santa Rosa Vineyard". This was fantastic. Only 100 cases of it were made, and the guy claimed that only 11 bottles are left.
  • Qupe Syrah "Alisos Vineyard". Nearly as good as the Ethan syrah, but a much higher alcohol content. Whoa. I've never been able to hit more than two wineries or tasting rooms in a trip to wine country, so things always kind of blend together by the end of the day.

We had a lovely, lovely time, and it was no problem taking Sam. We're learning that when going out, we need to budget an extra 45 minutes every 2.5 hours for feeding Sam, etc. But on a lovely day like yesterday, there are far worse things I could be doing than sitting in the sunshine at a winery and nursing Sam. What a wonderful day.

(Picture: Eli, Sam, and Aunt Amanda, on the Zaca Mesa grounds.)

Friday, January 1, 2010

New Year's Resolutions

The more the merrier
Originally uploaded by R Stanek
Last year I made two New Year's resolutions -- see more live music, and go to the beach more often -- and I kept both of them. Hooray! So here we go for this year:

  1. Floss every day.
  2. Upload one picture a week to Flickr.

Now, that second resolution may seem like nothing to those of you who are doing Project 365. But I have a two-month-old, and I'm going back to work in February, so I need to be realistic about my time. On the plus side, I have this crazy idea that having a kid will make me a better photographer, because I have to get the picture right the first time. I can't count on having a chance to go back with a different lens or at a different time a day -- it's now or never. So hopefully that will force me to be more careful about setting up the shot in the first place.

Besides, this is what happened en route to uploading a picture today:

  1. Edit a few family pictures, while I'm at it.
  2. Wonder why DPP doesn't seem to save my changes when I convert to JPG.
  3. Swear a lot at the computer.
  4. Feed the baby.
  5. Eli, tired of my complaining, looks into the issue.
  6. Eli figures out that it doesn't save the white balance if I use Color Temperature to adjust it, but everything else works.
  7. I edit and upload pictures to my liking using other settings.
  8. Feed the baby.
  9. I look for an update to DPP.
  10. I download and install the update to DPP.
  11. Since the DPP update requires rebooting my computer, I figure I may as well run software update.

All that just to get this picture online. But I quite like it, and hopefully there'll be many more to come.

Happy New Year!