Sunday, January 31, 2010

Directors Guild of America awards

This weekend, the Directors Guild of America named Kathryn Bigelow as their winner for best director of a feature film ("The Hurt Locker"), which came as somewhat of a surprise as it had been expected that James Cameron (who also happens to be Bigelow's ex-husband) would win for "Avatar". In most years, the winner of the DGA award also wins the Best Director award from the Academy, but that is not always the case, even when the DGA winner is nominated for an Oscar.

It'll be interesting to see how that all plays out. I'm not interested in seeing "The Hurt Locker", so I won't be able to make a fully-informed decision as to which I feel deserves it more, but I'm still interested in seeing who the Oscar nominees will be and whether they will match the five directors nominated by the DGA.

The Oscar nominations will be announced this Tuesday, February 2, at 5:30am.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

name that celeb

OK, so I saw a picture of someone, and even with knowing who it's supposed to be, I can't believe it's that person. It's a clear case of too much plastic surgery and re-structuring of your face, but seriously, this person doesn't even look like she used to.

Here's the picture.

Do you know who that is?

If not, and you want a hint, hover over the picture for the filename, which will give you her initials.

If you still don't know, here's where to find the answer.

And just for comparison sake, here are some photos of what she used to look like.

And it's not like she's been disfigured or anything - she does look good, unlike some other cases where the person now looks completely weird and bizarre - but it's not her. It's someone else's face.

Friday, January 29, 2010

a jury of your purrs

Many people who get called for jury duty are less than thrilled to have to serve it, partly because it can come at an inopportune time, but I suspect mostly it's the sitting around and doing nothing. People try to come up with all kinds of excuses to bail on jury duty.

Well, here's a situation when the reason not to have to serve is a legitimate one.

I heard about this story today, and it really made me laugh. When I heard one bit of the story, that the wife had included the cat on their census form, then I thought it was pretty stupid for her to do that (I'm just not one of those who considers my cat to be the equivalent of my child), until they clarified that she'd included the cat in the census form under "pets". OK, well, if there's a space for that (even if the form was canine-biased), then that's fine.

But I'm wondering what the jury commissioner thought in denying the request to be excused. Did he/she really think someone was pretending to be a cat to get out of jury service? I mean, I suspect there are ways to check if the "cat story" is true, right? If you watch the video on the page (which is mostly a duplicate of the info in the written story, but you get to see the kitty), it says they even got a letter from the cat's vet, stating that the "Sal" in question is actually a cat. Still, no go.

I'm figuring that with this news story, they won't actually have to show up with their cat and that Sal won't have to set paw in court.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Firecrackers Jump Rope Team

An email came through a list I'm on with a link to a video of what turned out to be the Firecrackers Jump Rope Team.

Here's the description of the group from their website:

The Firecrackers are a performance jump rope team made up of talented 4th-8th graders from the Kings Local School District in Ohio. Coached by Lynn Kelley, they perform at venues across the country. Some notable past performances have been at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, a Presidential Inauguration and an appearance on The David Letterman Show.

The group performed at half-time during a basketball game between Army and Navy in February of 2009, the video of which I'm including below. The video is rather long - just about 8 minutes - but it's worth the time to watch the whole thing. Those girls are amazing, both in timing and stamina. I could have done without the reaction shots of the crowd - yeah, I can tell by the noise how much the crowd likes it - I wanna keep seeing the girls!

It's pretty spectacular - and exhausting - to watch, so take a seat and enjoy.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Disney Valentine's Day antenna topper

A new antenna topper has been released at the Disneyland Resort for Valentine's Day, and I think it's really cute. I especially like the lace on the sides, though that would get thrashed pretty quickly if anyone actually used it as an antenna topper.

Here's a picture that shows the front and back of the antenna topper.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

baby kitty

Little baby kittens are always fun to watch.

Monday, January 25, 2010

you know it's a bad economy when...

I found out about this list, which I think is pretty funny for what it's worth.

I think this one is my favorite:

If the bank returns your check marked "Insufficient Funds", you call them and ask if they meant you or them.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

and the Super Bowl contenders are set

The first game today was for the AFC title, between the Indianapolis Colts and the New York Jets, in Indianapolis. There was no scoring in the first quarter, and the half ended with the Colts trailing the Jets, 13-17. Definitely not the game that was expected. But 17 points was all that the Jets would get, as they were shut out for the entire second half. And Peyton Manning showed why he was the MVP this year. The Colts scored two touchdowns and a field goal in the second half, giving the Colts a 30 to 17 victory over the Jets. It was a nice run, Jets, and you had a terrific year, and you defeated a lot of good opponents along the way. But running into the brick wall that is Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts does have an effect on teams. And this was *so* not the Manning and Colts that the Jets defeated earlier in the season. So the Indianapolis Colts advanced as the AFC participant in the Super Bowl in two weeks.

The second game was for the NFC title, between the New Orleans Saints and the Minnesota Vikings, in New Orleans. And it was a battle, a dead heat between the two teams, trading scoring drives with each other. The Vikings had two touchdowns in the first quarter but were shut out in the second. The Saints had a touchdown in each of the first two quarters, so at half-time, there was a 14-14 tie. Each of the teams scored a touchdown in each of the third and fourth quarters, locked in a 28-28 tie with about 19 seconds to go in the game, but the Vikings were driving, just about within range of a game-winning field goal. And on third down, the Vikings had 12 men on the field and were penalized. And on 3rd and 15, the inevitable happened - Brett Favre got hurried and hassled, and he made a bad decision, and he threw an interception, bringing the Vikings' drive to a screeching halt. And the game went into overtime. The Vikings called the coin toss and loss, so the Saints got the ball. And they drove, starting with a good punt return that ended on their own 39, and they kept marching their way across the field, including going for it on a 4th down and getting it, extending their drive. And they ended up at 4th and 3 on the 22 yard line of the Vikings. And the kicker came out to try a field goal. And he made the 40 yard field goal, giving the New Orleans Saints the win over the Minnesota Vikings by a score of 31 to 28. The Saints are the NFC participant in the Super Bowl, up against the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday, February 7.

And the part of me that's angry at Brett Favre for not being able to decide what he wants to do, at the expense of holding an entire team hostage (ok, well, actually, three teams over the past few years), rather enjoyed that the demise of the Vikings came directly at his hands, that it was his customary bad throw for an interception that cost the Vikings a potential game-winning field goal attempt. And when the game went into overtime, the Vikings never had the ball, so Brett had to just stand on the sidelines, watching the Saints march down the field, and there wasn't a damn thing he could do to help his team. I wasn't ever a huge fan of Brett Favre, but I respected him for what he did, even when I also knew about and saw the many times he had a penchant for really horrible passes that were then intercepted and caused his team to lose. But, when he retired from the Green Bay Packers, I gave him his due as one of the best that had ever played the game, even as I'd been unhappy about his waffling for the prior couple years about whether or not he was coming back each year, and each year, the Packers put their team on hold for him. And finally, one year, they didn't want to put their entire team on hold anymore. And they gave him time, but they asked for a decision. And he chose not to return, to retire, and the Packers moved on. And then Brett started claiming that the Packers pushed him into making a decision too fast, into a decision he didn't want to make, and he wanted to come back. And he was stunned that they weren't bowing at his feet. And in the end, he went to play for the New York Jets. And he played horribly. And again, he was retiring. And then not. At the last minute, he decided to play for the Minnesota Vikings, another team that decided to put their entire team (and their then-quarterback) on hold for him. And he ended up doing really well, which made me madder that I couldn't be happy for him because of his prima donna antics. OK, he didn't want to go to training camp because he's such a veteran, he doesn't need it. But what about the new teammates, people who mostly had never played with him before? Didn't they need time to get used to their new quarterback, to develop a rhythm and a rapport? Where was his sense of team spirit in doing what was best for the team, not just what he wanted to do? I was sorry that the Dallas Cowboys crumbled so easily in their playoff game against the Vikings, but at least now, for the last two weeks of the season, I don't have to hear about Favre anymore. Well, at least other than another round of "will he retire and stay retired" roulette. Be done, Brett, and let me try to respect you again for your accomplishments.

But, otherwise, it's onward to the Super Bowl. I'm a total fan of Peyton Manning, so I will be rooting heartily for the Colts, but if that doesn't happen, I'd still be fine with Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints winning, so it's gonna be fun either way.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

"Hot Tub Time Machine" and other movie trailers

The husband and I went to the movies today and ended up seeing 3 new trailers for upcoming movies.

I'd heard about "Clash of the Titans", and while I'd never seen the original, the cast for the new version sounded really good. The trailer looked awesome. I'm a fan of Liam Neeson, and when I heard he'd been cast as Zeus, that sounded perfect to me, and he looked great in the trailer. And since I'm now a fan of Sam Worthington, I presume he'll be terrific in this movie as well. Yeah, Medusa is also in the movie, so I'm going to have issues with that, but at least I know that going in.

Here's the trailer for "Clash of the Titans".

I'd also previously heard about the movie version of "The A-Team", and I'd approached it with real skepticism. I mean, 20+ years later, a movie version? Who's gonna care? And, with recent movies of old TV shows that completely disregarded what the TV shows were really about in the first place (yeah, I'm looking at YOU, "Miami Vice" and "S.W.A.T."), I didn't know what to think. Sure, I watched and enjoyed the TV show back in the day, but how was that going to translate to today? Well, surprisingly to me, the trailer looked amazing. It looks like they really did do a good job of recapturing the show, and Liam Neeson (yep, him again) looked incredible in George Peppard's role of Hannibal. Yeah, I laughed that Liam Neeson is going to be in movie theatres in two very different roles in a short period of time, but he looks like he's nailed both. The rest of the movie cast looks good too (they really did a good job of having the film actors bear great resemblances to the TV actors, and according to IMDB, there are going to be some familiar faces at least making cameos), so I'm actually looking forward to seeing the film now.

Here's the trailer for "The A-Team".

But, it was the trailer for a movie I hadn't previously heard about that really caught my attention. The film is called "Hot Tub Time Machine". It stars John Cusack and is about four friends who get transported back to 1986 by way of a magic time machine in a hot tub. Now, seriously, with that kind of premise and that title, you pretty much just have to go with where the movie is going to take you. There's no attempt to make a serious explanation for what happens - you really just have to give in and let yourself be taken. The timeframe of the mid-80s is something I remember fondly, and it was really funny because at one point in the trailer, they showed someone using their yellow Walkman - I totally had one of those, and I still have it. The husband didn't hear me when I said it during that segment, but after we came home, I showed him where it was sitting inside one of the cabinets. And I like John Cusack, so him being in the film is just a bonus!

Here's the trailer for "Hot Tub Time Machine".

It's gonna be a good time at the movies. :)

Friday, January 22, 2010

stranger in your hotel bed

OK, it's not *quite* as salacious as that, but it still amused me. I heard about this on the radio the other day, that a couple hotels in England are going to be offering human bed warmers to their clients. And no, "human bed warmers" is not a euphemism for something more shady. :)

My first thought is that you're in a hotel. If you're really that cold, why not just turn the heat up in the room? And do you really want a stranger in your room, much less in your bed, as you get ready to go to bed? Because it's not like housekeeping where they can do it while you're out of the room. You have to pretty much be there while they're in your bed because you would presumably be getting in the bed while their warmth is still in the bed. And do you really want to feel the warmth of some random stranger? I mean, I like the warm spot that the husband or our cat might make in the bed, but that's totally different.

And doesn't this potentially put the bed warmer at risk? It's not like delivering something to the room at the door or even going inside the room to do something, but to actually get in someone's bed? If it's a woman, I'd be concerned that someone might try to take advantage of her. If it's a man, maybe not so much, though that could still happen.

The person on the radio who was telling the story made the comment that unless the bed warmer is a hot chick named Trixie who's going to stay for a while, he wasn't interested. That amused me too.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

need to satisfy a sweet tooth?

We all get that craving sometimes - something sweet - but oftentimes, we're not exactly sure what we're looking for. Well, how about trying something different, courtesy of the Japanese?

I don't know why they don't get the Pocky thing. Pocky is awesome! As for the flavors, yeah, other candy stuff comes in flavors I'm not crazy about either. I don't love all the Pocky flavors, so I just get the ones I like. I love the ones with chocolate and nuts.

Now, I like squid, both as an actual food and as a snack, but as candy? Ummmm, pass.

And Green Tea Kit Kats sound like something I'd like to try. I'd like a version with just that, but the chili powder could give it a nice little kick too.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

stupid travel questions

Someone on a mailing list that I'm on sent around a list of questions supposedly gathered by an international tourism site of stupid questions being asked by people who will be visiting Canada for the 2010 Winter Olympics next month. Well, has debunked that list as having originated some time ago, with differing variations for the country and the occasion. But I still think the questions are pretty funny, whether they are real or made up, and I would expect that each of the questions has some truth to them as having been asked before.

On the mailing list, there was discussion about how people from other countries don't necessarily understand the geographical layout of the States or the proximities (or lack thereof) between various states and cities. One person posted that a relative from England was annoyed that they couldn't just pop over from Los Angeles to Cincinnati for the day to visit other relatives until they were told the distances involved. In many European countries, and even back east, traveling between countries and provinces and cities doesn't take a lot of time. I remember talking to a friend who lives in Boston about a day trip that she and her kids were taking. They were going to drive through another state to get to a third state to do some sightseeing and such. I was surprised she'd be going all that way, especially with young-ish kids, until she mentioned that it would be about a half an hour drive. Heck, I can barely get out of Los Angeles County with a half-hour drive!

Anyway, here's the snopes article. My favorite is the seventh question on the first list. :)

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

a little Jodi for a friend

Here's a little segment of Jodi Benson, the Little Mermaid, singing a portion of "Part of Your World".

Happy Birthday, Sherry!

Monday, January 18, 2010

sharing my best friend

So I've previously mentioned acquiring a new best friend some years ago. And in the interim, I have introduced a number of friends to said new best friend, and everyone has seemed to get along swimmingly. And I've continued to introduce the new best friend to other friends.

Over the holidays, I was the conduit for introducing my new best friend to another friend, though it took a little time (and more than a little cajoling) to get the two together. The friend promised that the connection would happen today, and that she'd email me once she'd properly met the best friend.

Well, she was as good as her word. Here's the email I received from her tonight:

I think that I have found my new poison-- it went down smooth ( too smooth !). I dont think that i have enjoyed lychee this much !!

Oh, and to update, my new best friend seems not to be available at BevMo anymore. Sadness. But, the husband did find out my new best friend's new address, so anyone who wants to visit can go there. :)

Glad you liked it, Suki. I'm always happy when my friends like each other. ;)

Sunday, January 17, 2010

funky colored sofa

The husband and I were in Ikea over the weekend, and I saw the following sofa on display.

I'm trying to figure out what the decor of the room would have to be for that sofa to fit in. And I can't think of what my reaction would be if I went to a friend's house and *that* sofa was sitting in their living room.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

change in procedure to submit comments

I've been receiving way more comments than I'd like that are just people and/or bots looking for some place to put random links (which I don't understand anyway). I'd prefer not to have to pre-approve comments, so I've now enabled an additional feature on the comment form. Everything is the same as before except that now, you'll have to type in a word that it tells you to, which should eliminate most bots since they don't generally recognize that stuff. It shouldn't be too much more to do, and my apologies for the extra step, but so far, I haven't gotten any automated comments, which is nice.


Friday, January 15, 2010

"24" - Jack Bauer's 8th really bad day is about to begin

I've been a fan of "24" since the very beginning, so I'm really looking forward to the start of season eight, which premieres this Sunday, January 17, with a 2-hour episode starting at 9pm, followed by another 2-hour episode the next day, Monday, January 18, at 8pm. Thereafter, the show will be on at its regular time slot of Monday at 9pm, one excrutiating hour at a time.

Here's the trailer for the new season, which I hadn't seen until I saw it on the official website today. There are some faces in the trailer that I'm surprised and happy to see. I also heard a blurb on the radio the other day about another familiar face/character that is supposed to return this season. I hadn't heard anything about it, but there was apparently a press release issued previously. If you don't want to know who it is, don't even hover over the link because the info is in the url. If you do want to know, here's the article.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Maleficent's castle

I've been a member of the Walt Disney Collector's Society for some years now, and there are a number of pieces in the Walt Disney Classics Collection that we have - what we call "big green boxes" because that's what they usually come in. It was recently announced that the Collector's Society is going away, but the Classics Collection pieces would continue.

Well, here's one piece that looks spectacular (though I'm not sure if it's technically part of the Classics Collection) - Maleficent's castle. And while the link I posted has a link to another page with a bigger, more detailed picture, here's a direct link to that page.

The piece itself looks terrific, but the sound element makes it even more intriguing. I'll have to see the piece in person first, but I'm thinking I might want this piece. The castle that I own and absolutely love is Beast's Castle, which the husband got me for my birthday some years ago.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

40 years in Pine Valley

I started watching "All My Children" when I was a kid, because one of my sisters watched it. Even after she stopped watching (but she did eventually name her daughter after one of the characters on the show), I continued to watch it, on and off as I grew up. Since it's always been on Monday through Friday at noon in Los Angeles, I couldn't watch the show when I was in school, but during holidays and summer, I watched again. (This was back in the dark ages before DVRs and VCRs and internet and such.) I grew away from it as I got into high school, and when I was in college, I started catching snippets again. After I was out of college and working, there would be periods of time when I'd tape and watch for a while and then stop. I was usually lured back by a particular story or actor/actress.

So when I heard that the 40th anniversary episode was going to be shown the first week of January, with many appearances by familiar faces, I knew I had to watch.

I just got around to watching it tonight, and they really did a terrific job. The story device of Hayley coming back to do a documentary on Pine Valley was the perfect reason for the retrospective. Having return appearances by favorites like Brooke and Maria and Nina was really a treat.

It was nice to see Ray MacDonnell, who has been with the show from the very beginning, but with the show moving from its long-time home in New York to its new home in Los Angeles at the beginning of the year, he's retiring, and Joe and Ruth are retiring and moving to Florida. It was nice to see him again.

One of the really nice things is that a lot of the people who were on the show a long time ago are either still on the show or have since returned, so the flashbacks from years ago, with the same actors, was terrific.

The fairy tale weddings of Cliff and Nina, of Edmund and Maria, of Noah and Julia, not to mention the very basic wedding of Jesse and Angie - what wonderful memories to relive.

I laughed at the segment where they talked about how many times Adam Chandler and Erica Kane had each been married.

I loved Erica's story of the last time she saw Myrtle and her viewpoint that when Myrtle passed away, Erica's mother Mona just came by to pick her up. That's a lovely image of the two women together, having a great time.

I loved the set-up of Dixie's possible return. Oh, we already know that Cady McClain is coming back as Dixie. But in what incarnation? Poison pancake do-over?

And I loved the mention of losing Julia, with Mateo and Maria. They never really had a chance to address that at the time of Julia's death, since the family was already off-screen, so it was nice for them to have been given this moment, especially with Maria being unable to continue.

There are lots of pre-cursors of things to come - the returns of Jack and Brooke.

And the show ended perfectly, with creator Agnes Nixon reading the poem of All My Children over a montage.

I stopped watching the show on a daily basis again a little while ago, but I still follow the stories (both on-screen and off-screen) via Soap Opera Digest, through their magazine and their Twitter account. I've grown up right along with Pine Valley, sometimes living there, sometimes venturing away, but always returning home.

Happy 40th, All My Children.

The 40th anniversary episode has been posted on YouTube in four segments, which I'm including below.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

How do you know when to help?

An experience I had today reminded me a bit of this post from a few months ago.

This morning, I stopped for gas on my way to work. As I pulled up to the pump, I noticed a woman who seemed a little disheveled, but I think it was just because she had big frizzy hair, which given the current static in the air wasn't surprising. As I started getting ready to put the gas in my car, I heard a nearby voice say, "Excuse me?" I turned to look, and the woman I'd seen was standing on the other side of the open driver's side door from me. She said she was sorry to bother me, and that she was trying to make her way home to Arizona and that she had a full tank of gas (gesturing at a car parked at the gas pump next to the one I was at) but that she hadn't eaten in a couple of days. I told her I was sorry that I couldn't help her. She nodded and walked away. I had noticed in passing earlier that the car she was pointing to had a man sitting in the front passenger seat.

There was a part of me that did and still does feel bad for not helping her. If I was in a situation where I legitimately needed help, I would hope I could find someone who could assist me. However, for the same reasons as in my prior post, I have no way of knowing if someone really just needs help, if someone is using the pretense to scam for money, or if the person has more nefarious motives hidden. It seemed weird to me that she had a decent car (it wasn't new or fancy by any means, but it also didn't look really old or run down or beat up) and could manage to get a full tank of gas and yet not have the means to have gotten any kind of food in the past couple days. Knowing there was a man sitting in the passenger seat bothered me a little as well. I did notice that she went back and sat in the driver's seat of the car, and during the whole time that I was getting gas and later parked to get something from inside the convenience store, her car was still parked at the pump. I know she got out and wandered around at least once, since I saw her walk in front of my parked car. I don't know how long she was there doing that before I got to the gas station, but I'm presuming she was waiting for new people to come by so she could make the same request of them that she had made of me.

I've heard too many stories from people who have given money to a homeless person or someone wandering around asking for assistance for this reason or the other who then have it turned on them. Some have not reacted well to being given money when they didn't think they were being given enough. Some have even become violent or pulled a weapon of some sort demanding the rest of the money once the person has taken their wallet out to give them something. As a female by myself, I am conscious of what I'm capable of doing to defend myself, so I'm more cautious about the situations I allow myself to be in. If I was a burly guy, I might not feel the need to be as conscious, but then, if I'd been a burly guy, I wonder if she would still have approached me. And I was suspicious that she was doing the approaching rather than the man sitting in the passenger seat, but then, a woman asking is probably more non-threatening, which again triggers the suspicion gene in me.

And yes, I felt terribly guilty for making a purchase at the convenience store and driving away without giving her any help - her car was still parked at the pump. I just wish there was a way for me to tell when someone is really simply in need of a little assistance (which I would be fine providing), and how I can balance wanting to be helpful without putting myself in a possibly precarious situation.

Monday, January 11, 2010

more "Glee"

It's been announced that "Glee" has been renewed for a second season, not to be confused with the remainder of the first season that is still to come.

That's good news indeed, as I really like this show, and I'm hoping that the reveal of Quinn's real baby daddy and that Will isn't a baby daddy at all will wrap up those stories and see where it goes next. I was not fond of Terri's deception of Will, and Terri's character is drawn really poorly - she has no rooting value whatsoever, even as a villain. I hope they either flesh out her character or drop her altogether.

And of course, more cool songs to come!

But, I'm particularly interested in the tidbit that they're looking for new people for the show.

So, who's auditioning? :)

Sunday, January 10, 2010

New Year's Eve 2009

For the past couple of New Year's Eve, the husband and I have spent the afternoon and evening at the Disneyland Resort. Usually, we don't spend much time there between Christmas and New Year's, partly because it's so busy there during that time. This year, though, because of various people I was spending time with, I was at the resort on five separate days from December 26, 2009 through January 3, 2010, sometimes going into Disneyland or DCA and sometimes only going to Downtown Disney.

On New Year's Eve, we headed down mid-afternoon, and when we arrived at close to 4pm, there was quite a bit of a line to get into the parking structure. The signs indicated that single-day tickets into Disneyland, park-hopper tickets, and AP blockout day passes were no longer being sold, but single-day tickets for DCA were still available. They even had a flyer that they handed out to guests at the parking lot toll booth.

We were sent to the Mickey level of parking, but there were no cast members (CMs) monitoring the rows or seemingly, the floor at all. Cones were just set up to send cars down a row, with no indication of how far to drive or where available spaces might be. The rows were only single-parked at that point (the rows are made to accommodate two cars per row, one parked in front of the other), so there was still plenty of parking available, if you knew how to find it. Our familiarity with the structure made it fairly easy for us to find a good space, but I'm not sure that non-regulars faired as well.

When we entered Disneyland, we got schedules to see what the evening entertainment would be. There had been some confusion about the regular midnight fireworks, but the schedule indeed indicated that the Fantasy in the Sky fireworks were at midnight, but we were surprised to see that there was a third showing of Fantasmic scheduled at 12:05am. The fireworks were only going to be 5 minutes long? That seemed shorter than we'd remembered for New Year's Eve.

As we walked through Town Square, I recognized someone and stopped to say hello and to share a laugh at something they'd shared previously.

The husband and I didn't really have anything specifically in mind to do, so we just walked the parade route from Main Street to Small World mall just to have a look, and the route was mostly full, with very congested streets. Some were undoubtedly waiting for the next parade, but some had already camped out spaces for the evening festivities.

As we walked through Fantasyland, the husband commented that he wanted to ride Dumbo at 1am. It had been years since we'd been able to do that. It was a tradition that started on the Usenet newsgroup alt.disney.disneyland that when the park was open past 1am (which happened more frequently back then), we'd get a group of people together to ride Dumbo at 1am. Dumbo has notoriously long lines all during the day, usually because of the small children who wanted to go on Dumbo, so it was an opportunity to go on the ride without the usual long wait since presumably, the kids would be gone by then. There were times when we had 20-30 people on the ride at once, taking up every single Dumbo vehicle. We even did a party-line call once so that we could call a friend who wasn't able to be there on that particular night.

We ended up walking by the Big Thunder BBQ, and the place was absolutely packed. There were a couple of empty tables and a couple others being cleared, but there were a lot of people waiting to be seated.

As we walked by the Big Thunder Ranch, where the petting zoo was closed and they were setting up for hat and horn distribution starting at 7pm, there was already a line formed, and it was only about 5:30 at that point.

We headed over to New Orleans Square and the jewelry shop to have a chat with the people who worked there. While there, I saw a gorgeous bracelet of blue sapphires and diamonds, which they graciously allowed me to try on. It was just stunning, and it was fun to wear it, but it was definitely out of my price range. I didn't win the lottery, so I had to ask them to take it off. I'm sure it will find a good home fairly quickly, if it hasn't already.

We then made our way back to Main Street and headed over to DCA. I then realized that in all the time we'd spent New Year's Eve at the resort, we'd never actually gone into DCA, so I was interested to see how that was all set up. As we exited Disneyland, though, there were signs advising people that hand stamps were required for everyone. Normally, annual passholders don't need a hand stamp for re-entry, but on very busy days, days when they think access to the park might be restricted because of capacity, they do require hand stamps as a way to monitor re-entry if necessary. The Disneyland hand stamp that day was Minnie.

We wandered around a bit, and at about 6:45pm, we heard horns being blown and saw people wearing the complimentary hats given out by Disney for New Year's Eve. They must have started distribution early at DCA. We ended up walking around, including right past the several CMs who were giving out the hats and horns, and it was *very loud* in some areas, with multitudes of people blowing horns.

We met up with the friend with whom we were having dinner, and then we accidentally ran into another friend who had already had dinner but agreed to join us just for the company, and we headed for Catal. Yeah, big surprise, huh?

I was surprised, however, to discover that a sweet wine that I like called Magicale was on Catal's menu. We knew that it was an exclusive import by Disney from Italy, but we didn't know that restaurants on property that weren't actually owned by Disney had the wine as well. Magicale had already had a part in my life the previous two days, and as it turned out as the evening unfolded, it was to be three consecutive days of Magicale for me. Not that I'm objecting, mind you.

There was a prix fixe menu for the night, and for my entree, I had venison, which I love and don't get often because very few restaurants serve it. It was delicious.

We had a lovely dinner as usual and had a good time with our server and the other staff that we knew at the restaurant. As it got later, we finished up so that we could go back into Disneyland before the fireworks.

As we walked towards the bagcheck area, we noticed that the walkway had been roped off on both sides, and they had created areas where people could stand and watch the fireworks. None of us remembered this happening before. There were areas inside the esplanade between the two parks that were roped off for fireworks viewing as well.

One of our friends decided to go back to her hotel instead, so we bid her farewell and headed into Disneyland with our other friend. At about 11:30pm, there wasn't any problem with getting back into the park, and as an annual passholder, they never checked for my hand stamp, so there must not have been a capacity issue. Main Street was packed, and we headed to our usual spot of Small World mall, though we had to detour our way there because of crowd control measures. The area right in front of Small World was roped off, which is what they normally do when it's a bit windy, and they don't want shell fragments from the fireworks to fall on guests, but we didn't feel any wind, so we were surprised at the closure. We went to the raised upper section and were just about behind the stage that had been set up with a DJ and emcee and Disney characters entertaining the people amassed on the street, waiting for midnight.

Our friend who was with us that night took a picture of the crowd from where we were standing. Yes, the street area was packed. It was a little less packed where we stood, though it continued to fill as midnight approached.

There were about 15 minutes until midnight, so we enjoyed the music that the DJ was playing. At midnight, the fireworks went off, and they were fun to watch. And yes indeed, the fireworks lasted 5 minutes - but the last minute or two probably had the same amount of shells as you'd see in about 5 or 10 minutes of a regular show. They were spectacular. And deafening at the finale.

There were seemingly too many people using their celphones to call or text greetings at midnight because we all experienced difficulty with our cel service at midnight and for some time afterward.

We stayed around Fantasyland and finally got in line for Dumbo just before 1am. All three of us sat separately. I picked a pink Dumbo, and the husband sat in the Dumbo in front of me, and our friend sat in the Dumbo behind me. I got my phone ready to call a friend once we'd taken flight. He was the one that we used to call from Dumbo back in the day, the one who we had tried to call with the party line, and I had texted him earlier in the day that we were going to be riding Dumbo, and he had said that I should call him like I used to. We chatted for a few minutes, and as I hung up with him, my ride was over. That was a lot shorter ride than I recalled, but it was still fun.

We walked around to go on other rides, but even at that hour, many of the lines were still quite busy. We skipped both Big Thunder Railroad and the Indy ride because their wait times were still over 30 minutes long. Haunted Mansion Holiday had a fairly short line, so we went on that instead. We had thought we might meet up with another friend who had come down late in the evening, but we seemed to miss each other on the phone, and we got tired, so at about 1:50am, we decided to head home.

A lot of people shudder at the thought of spending New Year's Eve at Disneyland. Yes, it's crowded, and yes, there are lines for everything. But if you know what to expect and know how to navigate it, it's a lot of fun. The energy of the crowd at Small World mall was great, and everyone was having a good time, even though they were packed in together, and the fireworks are unrivaled.

Whatever you were doing, I hope you had an enjoyable evening, and may 2010 bring lots of good things for you.

I leave you with Google's logo for the new year.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

NFL playoffs begin and NFL MVP awarded

The post-season for the NFL started today.

The first game was between the New York Jets and the Cincinnati Bengals, held in Cincinnati. I was rooting for the Jets, just because. I was also rooting for a snow bowl as I always enjoy those and I'd heard it was expected to have harsh conditions in Cincinnati for the game.

The Jets did a pretty decent job and in the end, the Bengals pretty much shot themselves in the foot, so the Jets won the game 24-14, advancing to the next round. The weather was cold, and there were snow flurries for a little while, but no real snow to speak of.

This game was a sort of re-match from last week's game since the Jets and the Bengals played each other in the last game of the regular season, but that game was held in the Jets' stadium. The Jets crushed the Bengals then, and afterward, some of the Bengals players mouthed off that they didn't want to give away their secrets and were just holding back for the playoffs, and that would be a very different game. Yeah, how'd that work out for you, blabbering Bengals players?

The second game was between the Dallas Cowboys and the Philadelphia Eagles, a re-match from last week's game where the Cowboys shut out the Eagles in convincing fashion, 24-0. The game was a bit better today, but the Eagles still self-destructed, and the Cowboys beat them 34-14. The Eagles' first touchdown was actually thrown by Michael Vick (who I never realized has a resemblance to Chris Rock) - great pass and an even better reception and run for a touchdown. But that was one of very few highlights for the Eagles amidst a lot of problems. There were the botched snaps when the Eagles' center hiked the ball into his own butt, thereby causing a fumble. There was the botched-fake-handoff-that-wasn't-really-a-fake-but-was that Vick pretty much screwed up, and that resulted in the Cowboys getting the ball.

There was a lot of talk that the Eagles would win this game. They'd already lost twice in the regular season to the Cowboys, first at home and then last week at Cowboys Stadium, and the Cowboys couldn't possibly beat the Eagles three times in the same season. And then there were those that said with how good the Cowboys were playing right now, they could certainly beat the Eagles a third time. And they were right.

Tony Romo was terrific, and with all the troubles he's had in the past few years, it was actually a bit surprising to hear the absolutely glowing terms with which the sports folks are using to describe him - one even compared him to Dan Marino!

The Cowboys play the Minnesota Vikings in Minnesota next week. Can you guess who I'm rooting for? :)

On Sunday, the first game has the New England Patriots hosting the Baltimore Ravens. I wonder if that's going to end up being a snow bowl. I'm rooting for the Patriots in this case, even though I'm not generally terribly fond of them.

The second game has the Arizona Cardinals hosting the Green Bay Packers, a re-match of last week's game that was also hosted by the Cardinals, which the Packers won. (Yeah, how weird is it that 3 of the 4 playoff games this weekend are between the same two teams who played each other the prior week?) I'm rooting for the Packers but I'd be ok with the Cardinals winning because of Kurt Warner ... and as long as Matt Leinart sits his ass on the bench the entire time and has absolutely nothing to do with the outcome of the game.

The Super Bowl this year is being held on Sunday, February 7 at Dolphin Stadium in Miami. Orlando had a rare snowstorm today - while highly unlikely, wouldn't it be funny if the Super Bowl this year turned out to be a snow bowl? ;)

And today, the NFL MVP award was announced as going to Peyton Manning, quarterback of the Indianapolis Colts. It was his fourth career MVP win. While that's a terrific honor, and well-deserved, it's a little less of a happy moment if you know that it's fairly well acknowledged that the Colts would be nowhere without Manning, and that it's his drive and skills and talent that have led the Colts to where they are, which is probably the reason for his MVP win. He is the reason for the Colts' success, and he is probably the sole reason. And that doesn't bode well for the team, even with their great season this year, because a team cannot sustain itself on the back of one player, even a player as great as Peyton Manning. But,in any case, congrats to Peyton on the win.

Friday, January 8, 2010

two stories for the price of one

First an update on this story about South Butt - South Butt is not going away and giving in, but rather, they're fighting the trademark lawsuit filed by The North Face. I had figured that The North Face's act of filing the lawsuit would bring more attention, and popularity, to South Butt, and yep, sales have increased. I think this is a David vs. Goliath thing, and people like to support the Davids of the world. It'll be interesting to see where this lawsuit goes.

The husband mentioned to me tonight that President Obama's state of the union address is supposed to conflict with the premiere of the last season of "Lost" on February 2nd. Well, a White House spokesperson has given assurances that such is not going to happen. I mean, yeah, he's President of the biggest power in the free world and all that, but he does *not* want to go up against rabid "Lost" fans. They might send the smoke monster after him...

Thursday, January 7, 2010

now this is being responsible!

Weddings can cost quite a bit, even if you're not having the dream wedding of a lifetime. And many people have trouble paying for them. So what do they do? Ask their parents to pay for it? *Expect* their parents to pay for it? Go into serious debt to afford it? Bitch and moan and complain about how expensive it is and how they can't afford 14 bridesmaids and a full orchestra at the reception?

Well, this couple is doing none of that. They're raising money to help pay for their wedding, and they're doing it by collecting aluminum cans. So they do the work to make the money themselves, and they're able to pick up what would otherwise be trash and have them recycled. That's just a great idea!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

2009 movie year

Here's the list of movies that I saw in 2009.

new films - 34

"Gran Torino"
"Friday the 13th"
"Slumdog Millionaire"
"Race to Witch Mountain"
"Monsters vs. Aliens"
"Fast and Furious"
"X-Men Origins: Wolverine"
"The Soloist"
"Star Trek"
"Angels & Demons"
"Terminator Salvation"
"Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen"
"Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs"
"G.I. Joe"
"Julie & Julia"
"District 9"
"Jennifer's Body"
"Whip It"
"Ninja Assassin"

reissued films - 4 - I'd not seen "Oliver & Company" or "Pinocchio" before, so this was my first time seeing each film.

"Oliver & Company"
"Toy Story"
"Toy Story 2"

special screening film - 1 - I'd not seen "Tron" before, so this was my first time seeing the film.


The 39 films that I saw in 2009 is fewer than the 47 films that I saw in 2008, but that's still not bad. The films that I found most memorable were "Coraline" (really loved the style and most of the story of the film), "Star Trek" (great contribution to the ongoing saga) and "District 9" (which probably wins for being the film that had the biggest impact on me in 2009).

Here's my post of the movies that I saw in 2008.

Monday, January 4, 2010

gotta have those nuggets

I've had my share of chicken mcnuggets, but I've never wanted them this badly.

I'm not really sure how the situation arose though. You put your order in at the menu area, and I would think that they would have told her then that they didn't have mcnuggets. BTW, when would they have run out of those things? I don't think they have them at breakfast, but otherwise, you'd think they'd have plenty. Did they tell her they were out, and she proceeded to the window anyway? Or did they make a mistake, take her order, and then when she got to the window to pay, they realized they didn't have any left. Weird all around. At least she didn't get out of the car and walk into the restaurant. Who knows how crazy she might have gotten then?

Sunday, January 3, 2010

visit to Napa Rose

I've previously posted about my visits to Napa Rose. Last week, though, I had the opportunity to share a new experience with a new friend. My dinner companion (I'll use the abbreviation DC for convenience) was someone I didn't know very well but was someone with whom I knew I shared a common love - Napa Rose. She had reservations at the counter, seats 5 and 6 - my favorite - and circumstances arose wherein I had the opportunity to join her for dinner that night.

The reservation was for the 5:30pm seating (for the counter seats, there are only two seatings per night, at 5:30pm and at 8:30pm), and I arrived just about at 5:30. She was already seated in the lounge waiting for me, and shortly after I got there, someone came over to escort us to our seats.

As we approached our seats, I was happy to see that Executive Chef Andrew Sutton was working on the other side of the counter directly across from our seats, and when I walked up, he saw me and greeted me and welcomed me back. I then introduced him to DC (who had previously eaten at the counter before but who didn't really know Andrew), and we took our seats. We had a server that I'd not previously had before, though I had seen him during prior visits to the restaurant.

At Napa Rose, they have a normal menu that you can order from, but they also have a four course prix fixe "Vintner's Menu" which changes weekly and includes seasonal ingredients. DC and another friend who had known about our visit that evening had tried to convince me to go with the chef's table - it's priced the same as the Vintner's Menu, but you tell the chef what your preferences and your dislikes are, and the chef constructs a personalized menu for you. Most of the time, I end up getting the Vintner's, and sometimes, there are specific things on the menu that I really want so I order those, and I've been hesitant to try the chef's table. That's partly because I'm not usually comfortable with not knowing at all what I'm going to get. The other trouble I was having was actually coming up with the things that I really don't like. On the drive down to the restaurant, I had been contemplating the chef's table, and I tried to come up with ingredients that I really don't like. What if I forgot something major, and horrors, that's exactly what I got as a main course? Well, as we were contemplating the menu, DC said that she was going to go with the chef's table. I hesitated for a minute but then decided to take the plunge and go with the chef's table as well. The server said that the chef would be by to discuss our likes and dislikes.

DC and I sat and enjoyed goodies from the bread basket as well as conversation between ourselves and observing all the goings-on in the kitchen. We sat there for quite a while, and it occurred to me that this was taking a lot longer than I had expected, even though I could see that the chefs were very busy with orders. After some more time had passed, our server came back and asked if the chef had come by to talk to us, and when we said no, he went away for a minute and then came back and said he would actually get our preferences and relay them to the chef.

DC told him the items that she did not want and the request that she specifically wanted the goose (that was the seasonal entree for the holidays, and as it turned out, our visit was on the last night that goose would be available) and that she wanted to pick her own dessert. I told him the items I'd come up with that I did not like (even the ones that I figured they wouldn't have but I told him anyway, just to be safe), as well as noting that I really wanted to try the cioppino and that I liked seafood and that I too wanted to pick my own dessert. The server asked both DC and myself how we normally like our meat cooked, which we answered, so I figured we'd probably be getting some during the course of our meal.

The first thing brought to us was the amuse bouche, which consisted of quince and apple, carmelized on top, with some pomegranates sprinkled on. I always love the little dishes that the amuse bouche usually comes on because they're small and cute. I was a little surprised at the ingredients only because it seemed more like a dessert item to start the evening since it was sweet, but it was still delicious.

amuse bouche - quince and apple brulee

Next up for me was the ahi starter, which I'd actually had on a visit with the husband and a friend several nights prior, but I was happy to have it again. The sampler version was almost the same size as the normal starter - when I'd had it previously, there were three slices of ahi rather than two. The ahi was very good quality, and I love sashimi, and the blue crab was very tasty too, so I enjoyed having this dish again.

citrus seared ahi sashimi and a roasted peanut & blue crab shiso with spicy mango-habanero sauce

For DC's starter, she got the tempura fried lobster and spicy asian beef salad. She had mentioned to me that she'd had the dish previously and really enjoyed it, but that she'd found the dish to be too spicy for her, so much so that she'd not been able to finish it. She mentioned that to the server, in case she was going to get that, and when she did get the dish, she noticed that there was less of the spicy sauce on it, and she very much enjoyed that it was not as spicy as she'd previously had it. I'd had the dish before, both as part of a Vintner's Menu and off the starters menu, and I too really like the dish.

tempura fried lobster and spicy asian beef salad mizuna salad with daikon radish and coconut-lime vinaigrette

For our next course, we both got a taste of the cioppino. The dish came with a very nice piece of wild stripe bass and two snow crab claws, as well as a piece of toasted herb/cheese bread. I loved the taste of everything, and I'll admit that I loved it so much that the small taste made me lament that I hadn't actually just ordered the entree itself so that I could have had more to enjoy. Everything was so tasty, and the broth was just delicious. DC enjoyed the dish very much as well, particularly the bread accompaniment.

wine country cioppino - wild stripe bass, sea of cortez white shrimp, snow crab, in a hearty roasted tomato broth

Between courses, DC and I had been watching everything that had been going on in the kitchen and all the dishes that were being made and brought to the pass. We were also looking at the various preparations that the other chefs were making, some of which were for the evening's dinner service and some of which were for the following night's New Year's Eve dinner service. Executive Chef Andrew Sutton had come by periodically to check on us, and at one point, DC had asked him about the fennel she had seen at the back of the kitchen. He mentioned that he used fennel a lot, pretty much a little bit in just about everything they make, which made DC happy because she likes fennel a lot. Later in the evening, they actually brought the fennel to the counter across from us because they needed to do some prep work with it.

Very frondy fennel.

One of the chefs cut all the fronds off and saved the bulb parts for use, though I don't think we ever saw what they actually did with them. DC lamented that all the fronds went to waste by just going in the trash when there was so much that she could have done with them if they were hers. She also extolled the many uses and virtues of fennel, so that was interesting to learn about.

For my next course, it was the second course of the current Vintner's menu - pheasant and dumplings. The dish has actually been quite popular at Napa Rose and has been on the regular menu as a starter on many occasions. I have some friends who particularly enjoy the dish. On our prior visit, the husband had asked and was able to have the dish as his own starter without actually ordering the Vintner's Menu, which they will sometimes allow if they have enough extra of a dish, and he'd enjoyed the dish. I'd never had the dish before, and while I'd told the server that I did not eat squab (I just can't get over the fact that it's just a fancy way of saying pigeon), he asked if I liked quail or pheasant, both of which were items on the current menu, and I'd said yes. But I think I'd forgotten about that exchange because I didn't expect to actually receive the pheasant. I've always liked the presentation of the dish in a little copper pot, but since I'd never had the dish before, I'd never known that its cute presentation was only outdone by how amazingly delicious it was. There was a nice mixture of textures with the pheasant, the dumplings, the mushrooms and the truffles. And the sauce was really delicious. Having now tried the dish and loved it, I'll be very tempted to order it again if it's put on the regular menu again in the future. Since DC had never had the dish either, I insisted that she have a taste, and she liked it as well.

roasted pheasant tossed with winter black truffles, wild mushrooms & potato dumplings

For DC's next course, she received a sampler-sized portion of the goose. I'd noticed that the goose had been quite popular that evening as I'd seen quite a number of them brought to the pass, and I'd pointed them out to DC, who was surprised at the presentation. She had seen a picture I'd taken of the dish when I'd had it several nights prior, but it was hard to tell from the picture how the dish actually looked. I'd tried to describe it, that it wasn't a breast or a filet or other solid piece of meat but was rather shredded and looked more like a terrine. I'd remembered seeing a smaller size of the goose being prepared, so I was happy that was what they'd ended up bringing her. She was quite happy with her dish, and she said she was glad that it was actually a smaller serving than the normal entree because goose can sometimes be very filling and heavy.

"holiday goose" roti roasted goose with sweet potato puree, braised cabbage and cranberry port essence

Another view of the sampler-sized goose because DC insisted that I take another picture, but she's right - this view is better. She made sure to point out to me the tiny little piece of carrot, which is quite visible in this picture, so that should make her happy.

And for comparison's sake, even though it's not a great picture, here's the regular entree size of the goose that I'd had several nights prior.

In speaking with Chef Andrew earlier, we had specifically mentioned the goose since that was what DC had wanted and since I had enjoyed it so much on my prior visit. I asked Andrew why more restaurants didn't serve goose, and he said that it was really a lot of work and a bit tricky to work with, but that he didn't mind doing it during the holiday season, which is when Napa Rose has it on the menu. He said that the goose is very fat on the outside but very dry on the inside, so the trick is to try to get some of the outside fat to mix in with the meat inside to tenderize it. He described what they needed to do to make the goose dish, and it's a very time-consuming process. They start with boiling the goose in a brine (I can't remember exactly what kind) for several hours and also cut the outside of the goose to drain a lot of the fat. It's then put on the rotisserie (which you can see at the back of the kitchen) for about 8 hours, and he pointed to the empty rotisserie and said you wouldn't see any there now because it had to be made hours ago. There was then more preparation that needed to be done, which I don't remember, but as I mentioned, it was a very long and involved process.

For my entree, I received the filet of angus beef. I don't remember seeing how big a portion the regular entree size was, but the several slices I received were perfect to have a good idea of what it tasted like without being too filling because of the other courses we'd already enjoyed. The meat (which I'd ordered medium rare) was quite tender and tasty, and the smoked bacon pieces added a nice flavor to it as well. I noted to DC and to Chef Andrew when he came by to check on us that I didn't think I'd ever really had beef at Napa Rose, and Chef Andrew agreed that I normally ordered other things. As much as I like beef, I am lucky to have other places where I can get good steaks, so I usually prefer to have something at Napa Rose that isn't readily available in other restaurants. And I have told other people that while I know Napa Rose is great at making "fancy food", I'm sure that they also make terrific steak for those who prefer something a bit simpler, and now, I can say that with absolute certainty and personal knowledge.

grilled petit filet of angus beef with crisp yukon gold potato gnocchi, smoked bacon, grilled onions and merlot jus

For DC's entree, she received the lamb, which came with a chop as well as a serving of the shank. That was also another popular dish that evening, and I'd seen many of them plated and taken to other tables. The normal entree portion comes with two lamb chops and probably a larger portion of the shank, but again, given that we'd already had several courses, it was nice that they made a smaller portion for the entree. DC seemed to love her entree.

walnut crusted mountain meadows lamb rack with boneless braised lamb shank, roasted parsnips and sonoma mushrooms

What's the best way to top off an already amazing meal? Why, with amazing desserts, of course!

We talked to Chef Andrew about his dessert recommendations, and the one he liked most was something that DC had already decided she wanted and that I'd already had on my last visit, so I decided on the "best hot chocolate ever". Unfortunately, I didn't get a copy or picture of the dessert menu, so I can't remember exactly what everything was, but there was a nice-sized glass of very delicious hot chocolate, very rich and thick and almost "sludgy", but in a good way, with crushed hazelnuts sprinkled on top. Accompanying the hot chocolate were two donuts, and one of them had a cream filling inside, but I can't remember what it was. Everything was delicious though. I don't have donuts very often, so it was a nice splurge.

best hot chocolate ever, with two donuts

One of the things that I rave about at Napa Rose is their strawberry ice cream. Now, I'm not particularly fond of strawberry ice cream generally because it's usually fairly bland. For some reason, on a particular occasion, I had a trio of ice creams for dessert at Napa Rose, who make all their own ice creams, and the strawberry was so delicious and flavorful, partly because it had bits of strawberry in the ice cream. If all strawberry ice cream tasted like that, I would be a huge fan of strawberry ice cream. Whenever I've gone with someone who's never had it before, I always order a dish so that the person can try it. I was surprised that in this case, the presentation was quite different - usually, a scoop of ice cream just comes in a little dish by itself - not so this time. I did notice that the strawberry flavor wasn't quite as rich as I was used to, and I'm not sure I noticed the same bits of strawberry as previously, but it was still pretty delicious, and DC seemed to enjoy her tastes of it.

strawberry ice cream

For her dessert, DC had wanted to try the ginger ice cream, which came with an apple tart and a cinnamon-spiced glass of cider. I'd had that particular dessert on my prior visit, and while I'd liked the ginger ice cream, it was actually the apple tart that I found really amazing. I usually find them to be too gooey and have too much sauce for my preference, but their tart was crispy but not dry, letting you really taste the apple, and the crust was flaky. I'm also not generally too enamoured of cider, but theirs was very tasty as well.

dessert of apple tart and ginger ice cream with a side glass of cinnamon-spiced cider

picture of the same dessert from another night that shows different details of the dessert

I'd just had water with my meal, but DC had added the wine flights to hers, so with each course that was delivered, a glass of a different kind of wine to accompany the course was brought as well. Since I'm not really a wine person (which led to an amusing exchange wherein I told DC that I loved moscato, which she hated, but she said that she liked some merlots, which a few of my friends absolutely hate), I didn't really pay that much attention to the wine she received, except that I did notice she wasn't keeping up with the wine they were giving her, so she often didn't finish a glass before moving on to the next one. The only wine I had paid attention to on the wine flight pairings on the Vintner's Menu was the dessert wine, and that's only because it was Magicale, something I particularly enjoy. For some reason, I had assumed they were bringing the same pairings for her as on the Vintner's, and I think that's because I had remembered the first wine being a dry riesling, which is what they'd brought her for her first course. When they brought the dessert wine, though, it was a sweet riesling, and I remember expressing surprise that it wasn't Magicale. Looking back on it now, it made sense that it wasn't Magicale because the dessert she had was different than the dessert on the Vintner's which was supposed to be paired with the Magicale. I didn't think I said it loud enough for anyone but DC to hear, but I was obviously wrong because a few minutes later, our server brought her a glass of the Magicale. She loves Magicale as well, but she'd already had the other wine pairings so said she wouldn't be able to finish the glass of Magicale. Well, no point in wasting perfectly good Magicale, so I asked if I could share it with her, to which she agreed. I asked the server for a glass so I could share hers, but he said he would just bring me another glass, which he did. That was very nice of him, and I was happy to be able to enjoy the Magicale as well.

As much as I've had amazing meals at Napa Rose, this was another amazing meal on several other levels. It was the first time I'd had the chef's table, which I thoroughly enjoyed and which I now don't find (quite) as intimidating.

It was the first time I wasn't dining at Napa Rose with the husband or a very close friend, so it was nice to have conversation and to get to know someone in such a nice environment, and our discussions of random and varied topics were interspersed with interruptions of delicious food being brought to us or other matters that one or the other of us would notice going on in the kitchen. We had a lot of laughs and fun with some of the things we saw.

At one point, we saw a chef pull out two hunks from an oven, and we tried to figure out what they were. They looked like poultry to us but we weren't able to pinpoint what exactly it was. When we asked Chef Andrew, he said they were actually lamb shoulders, for the following night's dinner menu. Well, who knew that lamb shoulder could look like roasted poultry?

Later in the meal, DC noticed a chef plating mashed potatoes and green beans and commented that it was such a simple dish for a place like Napa Rose and wondered what else would be plated with it. I noticed a nearby chef preparing something and pointed out that it was probably the chicken that he was cutting. She protested that it couldn't be chicken because there wasn't any chicken on the menu. Well, it was definitely not red meat, and it wasn't pork, and it didn't look like turkey. She wondered if it might be duck, but I said that I knew duck didn't look like that when cooked. I kept reiterating that it was chicken, but she remained skeptical. I then expressed the guess that it might be something from the kid's menu, but then when I saw the serving size of the entire dish, I wasn't sure because it was a fairly large serving for a child - it was a healthy serving even for an adult. The plate was brought to the pass, and I asked the expediter what the dish was, and she said it was the child's plate of broiled chicken, mashed potatoes and green beans. Ah ha! I'll admit that I did an "I told you so" to DC. We watched as the runner brought the plate to a table and placed it in front of a boy who looked to be about 7 or 8. No chicken nuggets for this little boy!

Because of the delay at the beginning of our meal, as well as the chef's table taking up a bit more time than a normal meal, our dinner actually ran late, so we didn't finish until just about 9:30pm, so I felt bad that the next seating was starting their meal late. However, even though the restaurant was a little busy, I enjoyed that we had a chance to chat a bit with Chef Andrew, and the other chefs were very forthcoming when we'd ask questions about other dishes they were preparing. I've always found that while the chefs are not intrusive, they are more than willing to answer questions when approached. I tend to not want to bother them as much when I know they're busy and will generally try to catch them during a lull. We were staring at the desserts for a while and could not for the life of us come up with what the ice cream was that was accompanying the chocolate cake, with guesses of blood orange, pomegranate and cherry, but we couldn't agree on what made sense for it to actually be. When we asked the dessert chef and she told us it was raspberry, we felt silly for not even thinking of that ourselves.

Our server was attentive without being intrusive, and our water glasses were regularly refilled, so the service was just as great as usual. Every time I think that an experience at Napa Rose couldn't possibly be better than before, I am (happily) proven wrong.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

talk about a dysfunctional family

There are a lot of crazy family stories this time of year, but I think this one takes the cake.

I'm wondering, though, why he couldn't just go somewhere else - other family that he likes, or friends, or even just get a hotel room for himself. Maybe he thought being arrested was a more legitimate excuse for not being home, but then telling the police that he'd rather be in jail than with his wife and relatives pretty much blows his cover story, doesn't it?

Friday, January 1, 2010

a great start to the new year

On the first day of the new year, there was an absolutely gorgeous sunset out tonight. We came out of a movie at about 5pm and on the way back to the car, I noticed a reddish hue on all the surrounding mountains, which gave it an eerie feeling. A few minutes later, I saw the sunset itself, and it was really spectacular.

We were listening to the Rose Bowl game on the radio, and the announcer was mentioning the sunset, as well as his observation that most of the people at the Rose Bowl were taking pictures of the amazing sunset. And then two of the Twitter accounts I follow also posted about the beautiful sunset. :)

Here are a couple of sunset pictures that I took.

Happy new year, indeed!