Sunday, March 31, 2013

Cocolate cake & blueberry pie

Even though it’s not done yet I’ve been playing in my new kitchen. Mostly I’ve been playing with my new ovens – you remember those don’t you?

Twin 30” convection electric ovens? They replaced the one 24” that was forty years old and couldn’t keep temperature. I love to bake, and when B suggested we redo the kitchen the first thing I thought of was new ovens, along with a new gas cooktop to replace the electric that only had two working burners.

Well, I read a number of food blogs (some listed over there on the right) and at times print out listed recipes in anticipation of being able to make them. I love doing cakes and cookies, unfortunately a lot of recipes call for using one of those fancy mixers, which I don’t have yet (but it is on my get it soon list) along with a food processor (we have a small chopper thingie).
I came across this nice blueberry tart over at Valeri’sI saw this pretty tart and thought, well, except for the blueberries I’ve got everything it takes. Well, I can’t take photos as nice as hers, but the tart came out very well:

I can’t taste the ginger in the crust, but the chocolate is a background taste that helps a lot. I don’t usually make the crust myself, just buy premade ones, but this one was worth it – rather easy to make, and my first try at the lattice top. It goes really well with the blueberries.

A few weeks ago over at the Cafe there was a recipe for a flourless chocolate cake that sounded pretty good. It’s about a pound of chocolate, a pound of butter, eight eggs and a cup of Kahlua – what else could you throw in there?

This one came out marvelously – if you like chocolate this is about the best thing you can make. She paired it with whipped cream and raspberries, as heavy as the cake is the whipped cream would help a lot, it is very dense and chocolaty and I love it.

The ovens work very well. A blueberry tart and cocolate cake that complement each other. I would hightly recommend making either (or both). No recipes here - they are posted on those sites.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Vegas clouds

One of the reasons we moved to Las Vegas from San Diego was the sunshine. (I know, should have said the waters) Las Vegas is located out in the desert surrounded by mountains. As a result we have very little humidity, which results in a lovely clear blue sky with intensive sunshine. If you’ve ever visited and walked the Strip in the daytime or lay out by a hotel pool you probably ended up lobster red with a painful sunburn because of this. It’s always something to look for when walking the Strip or wandering through the resorts, to count how many red people you see. The pale people are usually locals that know better and stay indoors or are well protected.

We get around 3 inches of rain a year (under 7cm) and so we get nice blue skies quite often. Went for a walk around the local park the other day (trying to be better and get some exercise) and noticed that we didn’t have a clear sky. This is what we consider a light cloud cover.

The low humidity and low temperatures at higher altitudes result in some nice contrails caused by the overflying jets. All the planes from LA out to the rest of the US seem to go right over Vegas.

We wandered down around the park near our house. This is the one we used to take granddaughter E to when she lived here and was little. She loved just sitting in the swings, and gradually moved up to climbing the structures and using the slides down. Since then the parks department has upgraded things – some nice shade overhead and instead of that dusty dirt patch we have a nice soft rubberized underlayment – no more hot, dusty, sunburned kids on the swings! Here is the play area with some stripes in the sky to the west

The suncloths look pretty.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Birds in Vegas

Since we now have a big window in our kitchen I’ve been looking out at that side of the yard more often. I have a humming bird feeder hanging right outside the window, and like to watch those little guys come and go. We have three feeders around, each take a cup of solution and right now I’m refilling each of them every week. We have a group of birds that nest in the olive trees out front, and stay here year ‘round. Las Vegas is also on a migratory route and in the Spring/Fall we get some unusual birds stopping by for a few days on their trips back and forth. We also have a different group of birds that live up on Mt. Charleston and come down for the winter to get out of the snow. Mostly we have Anna’s which are here all year and Black-chinned humming birds which migrate to Mexico during the winter.

There is usually one hummer that sits near each feeder and guards it, chasing others away that come by to eat. We also see them in the evening catching insects over the grass out back.

We have a large peach tree out back with a trunk that is about a foot in diameter (30cm). We noticed a series of holes all around the trunk that ooze sap, and wondered what was causing it. I assumed it was some type of woodpecker or sapsucker, but we had not seen any in action. At times we heard a woodpecker knocking away and once in a while would quickly see one working away. Last week B was looking out back and thought she saw something moving. She pulled out our binoculars and saw this guy – can you see it?

Yes, you have to look closer.

He’s about eight inches high (20cm) with black and grey stripes and a red head. We think it’s a young male, as the ones we have seen before were much brighter and over twice this size. He hung around on that tree for about a week, spending most of the day right about there pecking on the trunk, but moving up higher in the tree when we walked out back. We’re assuming he was migrating back up the mountain and just stayed a while where the feeding was good.

We live in an area that is zoned RR – Rural Residential. That means we can have a small number of animals and birds on our property. Some people still have horses, and quite a few have chickens. Our next door neighbor started keeping chickens a few years ago, and also raises a few turkeys for Thanksgiving. We wake up to the roosters greeting the sunrise, and have been hearing a turkey over there for quite a while. I finally went over and asked to see the turkey, and this is what he looks like.

He’s about eleven months old and weighs over fifty pounds (about 23kg). His buddy went for dinner last month and weighed in at around 45 pounds dressed. Neighbor Bob cut him up and smoked the meat, as nobody around had an oven that would take a bird that size. The birds we buy usually are around 12 pounds (5kg) but get them up to 18 pounds (8kg) when we have a big group over. A bird that size just about fills our large oven. Bob’s not sure how long this guy will last – he’s already gotten two chicks in preparation for next Thanksgiving (the end of November) along with thirty more baby chickens for general consumption. He keeps a dozen or so back there for egg production.

So those are the birds we see around our house. Others that are here all the time include small grey finches and sparrows, doves and pigeons and black grackles. Sometimes a red breasted robin flies through, and sometimes a bright yellow finch can be found on the water fountain, but mostly we get dull looking birds.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Another boring post about old movies and songs nobody remembers

Thanks to a posting by Lisa I’ve spent some time looking up information on Berthold Brecht. The name was familiar, and of course the internet provides lots of information. Wikipedia provides a good biography, along with the movie I remember him for, which is Threepenny Opera. You might not be familiar with Brecht or his opera, but I’m sure you older folk have heard parts of it, this is the version I am familiar with

The song covers what the star of the opera, Mack, is doing. One of the lines gives the names of Mack’s girlfriends, and he mentions Lotte Lenya. Her name isn’t in the opera, but she was the wife of composer Kurt Weill who wrote the music. She played Jenny Driver in the movie but didn’t sing the song in it. Kurt Gerron sang it in the original play

Kurt was a Jewish actor in Germany, and ended up ‘taking a shower’ in Aushwitz on the last day of its operation. As you can tell, I like old movies, especially the little details of them and the history behind movies, stories and music. It makes things more interesting.

That song is the introduction to the 1931 movie – oh, found a clip from it, with Mack walking around while his story is told. Ernst Busch sings it in the opening scene of the movie

Back to that song – two versions I really like. One by Louis Armstrong in 1956

Ella Fitzgerald

And Lotte Lenya herself

Oh look – I can tie this back to my last city and one of my favorite authors, Neil Gaimen. His wife is Amanda Palmer, lead singer in the Dresden Dolls – here she is singing Pirate Jenny, another song from Threepenny Opera, at a performance at the House of Blues in San Diego

This reminds me of one of my favorite movies, another German movie from 1931, Fritz Lang’s M, with Peter Lorre in his first big role, that of a psychotic murderer ( what the M stands for)

And you can even watch the whole thing:

OK, thanks Lisa for prompting me to go back and find these things. Even if everyone else just scrolls through it at least I can come back here and find it (if YouTube keeps those videos up).

Friday, March 15, 2013

Venetian Spring

I went over to visit some friends at the Sands last Monday. The lobby and meeting room area has had a big makeover, but the convention floors are still the same. This is G hall, downstairs with a lot of support pillars to hold the upper levels, but still large at around 750,00 square feet (70,000 sq. meters)

Over at the connection of the Venetian and the Palazzo it’s decorated for Spring. B likes the big cherry blossoms falling down into the fountains.

There is a big pink tree to the side

And out front the gondolas still travel the water.

Monday was sunny and around 62f (17c) supposed to be up around 90 today and this weekend (32c), a little warm for March but much appreciated

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Three walking things

I’m a computer programmer (sorry, the current term is Software Engineer) and sit at a desk in front of a computer all day. In a big building full of high walled cubicles. It’s very quiet, few people talk to each other and nobody walks around to visit. To keep my legs from freezing up I try to get up every hour or so and go for a walk around the parking lot. It’s a big lot between buildings and takes around ten minutes to circle. It’s an OK walk, all I really see is asphalt, cars and buildings but there are trees in the distance. Here are three things for Clare
1. Enjoying the bright sunshine in my face while walking, feeling the cool air and looking forward to it warming up. Supposed to be over 90f tomorrow (30c) – a little early (90 in freekin’ March? What’s up?)
2. Hearing the sound of a train horn in the distance, announcing its trip along the freeway and across some local roads.
3. Rounding the corner and catching the smooth odor of the sweet acacia bushes in bloom – meter high balls of bright yellow flowers.

Friday, March 08, 2013

E Friday

Sorry, I think of her all the time but my photos are just sitting on my computer, waiting for editing and uploading. This one evidently was after a very hard day at school. Love the hair.


Thanks for the reminder Rob. He often posts groupings of music, and I love this one, haven't heard it in a while. Nice to hear but sad if you listen to the lyrics. And I love Paris.

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Thursday music

A few days ago Google reminded us that it was Miriam Makeba's birthday. I posted this before, but still like it, and am trying to get my granddaughter to sing it:

A while back I joined PostCrossing and have fun exchanging post cards (wow, the Post Office still works) with people around the world. It's nice to get home and find something other than a bill or advertising flyer (or political flyer) in the mail box. Someone in Malta that I am sending a post card to listed the comedian Tim Minchin as a favorite. The name was not familiar, so I went on YouTube and searched, which resulted in a long list of posts. After looking at him I realized I had seen him somewhere before (who can forget that face?). This one, with a full orchestra at the Royal Albert Hall was nice:

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Three nice things Tuesday

Three nice things Tuesday (for Clare
1. To walk outside in the crisp spring air and enjoy the clear blue sky.
2. To hear the sound of planes, and look east to see that the Air Force Thunderbirds are practicing, and the sky is full of loopy contrails. Like a little girl practicing her fancy writing and filling the air with big Os and Ls and not making any real words.
3. To have the hard parts of my new kitchen done, and be able to cook and bake and make things with new appliances and have lots of countertops for prep. And to pull out all of those wonderful drawers trying to find where my wife has put everything.