Wednesday, May 30, 2012

A Tale of Two Meals

This last weekend we had two couples over on successive nights.  Unfortunately as is so often the case these days, I only took pictures of half of each dinner.  But through the genius that is de-I I am going to put together a single coherent post that seamlessly combines the two as if they were one meal! you say de-I can you accomplish this.  Even though we know you can turn Cheetos into fine dining and can get countless people to throw their lives away on your hiking trips.  How can you pull this off.  Be patient locust (grasshoppers older sibling).  All will be revealed.

Getting Started - All of the initial cooking was based upon grilling

Marinating chicken
I've mentioned this in the past but I take the marinade basic components (onions, garlic, carrots, wine) and add flavorings as suits my mood (thyme, rosemary, Worcestershire sauce, lemon), pulse them in the blender, put into plastic bags and let sit refrigerated overnight. 

Marinating vegetables
I had a variety of root and non-root veggies
Here I'm prepping kohlrabi.  I also had potatoes and I parboiled those.

I just used some oil and this cool strong, sweet Chinese vinegar I got from my shopping spree.
I was also marinating red bell pepper, mushrooms, eggplant, and yellow squash

And there was shrimp as well in oil, red chile powder, Mexican oregano, lime juice and cilantro

Before grilling the chicken, I wash all the marinade off and dry and oil the chicken

The chicken was cooked indirectly but the shrimp went on first over the direct heat for just a couple of minutes.  The chicken took about an hour and half with indirect heat.

Now here is where day one stopped as far as pictures.  I actually used part of the shrimp to make a Mexican style shrimp cocktail and then served the chicken and veggies as is.

However, I purposely had cooked more than I needed with a next day menu in mind!

Next Day's Meal
I made an aioli (a garlic mayonnaise) and served the leftover cold roasted potato, kohlrabi, and shrimp as a first course.
I made a broth out of the chicken bones and some Indian spices then made a rice pilaf with the chicken meat and the left over non-root roasted veggies.

See.  Easy.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Weekend Introduction

I say introduction because there's going to be a big ass cooking post but that comes in a day or so.  I really tried to relax.  I've been exhausted all week even though work hasn't been that hard.  Wife got me to realize that I've been dwelling on lots of stuff related to Dad and that mental energy has been a drain.  So although there was lots of work to do, I pretty much only did what was absolutely necessary.

Hiking was of course on the agenda.  There have been some gigantic forest fires a couple of hundred miles to the south of us.  Heavy winds were bringing the smoke up here and conditions did not let up until Monday.  But on Monday Wild Bill and I did one of our longer hikes.  I was pretty amazed at how well we did considering the many weekends I've been at sea level and infrequency of long hiking.

Wife and I also went to our local Asian supermarket.  I'd been meaning to do this for ages.  I use lots of Asian condiments and flavorings in my lo cal cooking and was just about of everything.  Plus I wanted to try some new stuff to give us more flavor variety.

This was just part of the haul.  If you blow the picture up you will see there's fenugreek and coriander seed (about a quarter of the price you pay in the regular supermarket...if you can find them).  There are 3 kinds Chinese sauces, double black soy sauce, Korean bulgogi sauce, a couple of Vietnamese flavor bases (chicken and duck), fermented tofu in sesame oil, and some spicy, sour coconut flavor base from Thailand.

Lot's of cooking fun in there.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Mayday Mayday - Magical Unicorn Pony Travel God on my Tail!

Clearly the Church of the Born Again Aztecs needs to get back out on the street looking for sacrificial captives as I had a brush with Kchchiniquztzal, the Aztec version of the Magical Unicorn Pony Travel God yesterday.

I returned home from Connecticut on the usual flight I have through Washington, DC.  I looked at the weather and noted there were going to be scattered thunderstorms.  Thunderstorms are always an issue when traveling afternoons in the warm months and can frequently result in big disruptions.

We got on our plane fine, pushed back from the gate and were immediately put on indefinite air traffic control.  Pretty much the whole airport was.  After sitting on the tarmac for 2.5 hours we had to go back to the gate.  Most of our crew as now timed out (beyond the consecutive hours they are allowed to work).  If you're late in the day, there is a really, really good chance you're not going get out, so I was prepared to spend a night in the airport and not get home until Wed afternoon.  But by some miracle (maybe it was that UPS guy we sacrificed in March?) they found another crew. 

We ended up taking off about the time we were to arrive - four hours late - and I got home around 1:30 AM.  Thankfully I didn't have a meeting until 8 AM and I'm finished after a lunch meeting because I'm working on fumes.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Another CT Trip

Another month and another visit to Connecticut.  Dad's slide is continuing.  He's weaker and his memory is slipping more noticeably.  But it is his eating and weight loss where it is really apparent.  Always a big guy, now when I touch him, it's like he's just skin on his bones.  There are still flashes of his energy and sharpness but they are farther between.  I'm thankful to have the time but it's getting harder and I wonder which is going to the last.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

de-ISO SUN Tour

de-I Sandia Outfitters (our motto:  You have nothing to loose but yourself) is back in business.  Although we've had a few legal problems that were cleared up when the plaintiff ran into an unfortunate coyote encounter, and the ratings on yelp, city search, google, and most other (I guess you would call them reputable) sites have been mixed (is someone calling you a thieving, murderer a bad thing???), fortunately there are a lot of people out there who don't actually use the internet. 

Hence we had a new client who was signed up by his spouse (why is it always the spouse who signs up our clients???) for our SUN Tour.  This involves our hiking a lovely 4.5 miles up the mountain to a fantastic lookout point over looking the city.  The trail was at its best with a recent rain having softened the trail for easier walking.

When we got to our spot, we took in the view

Would you believe it my client was less than pleased!

"What the hell is this!"

Clearly the client's wife had failed to explain the So Uber cloudy it's like Night Tour to him.  I tried to assuage him with beautiful desert mountain flora.

But in the end had to rely on tried and true customer relations techniques.

Hiker reported lost
 Only evidence available
Please call if you have information

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Tea Time

For the vast, vast majority of my life tea has been an enigma to me.  Just didn't like it.  Hot-Iced made not difference.  Later on in life I got to like Asian tea varieties with my Asian meals.  So I would have green tea with Japanese, and jasmine tea with Chinese and Vietnamese.  I do like chai - real Indian chai - not the glob they serve in most coffee places.  But for the most part, having a cup of tea?  No thank you.  Give me my coffee.

But this fall when I was so sick, and my integrative physician was giving me a homeopathic remedy, one of the things you had to not consume was coffee.  Horrors!  So I was forced to move to tea for my daily caffeine.  I never did get used to having tea in the morning (though making my own chai was a very acceptable substitute).  However, I found that later in the day that I was enjoying that cup of tea more and more.

Simultaneously, I was frequenting a Tea shop here in ABQ because it is much quieter than the Starbucks just five doors down (and coincidentally their coffee is better).  They have an extensive selection of black and green teas.  I started to try more of them and ask questions.  "So what is the difference between Scottish Breakfast and English Breakfast tea other than one is a few hundred miles further north?"  "Is Yorkshire Gold a real tea or some kind of marijuana?"  Questions like that.  You can see that I immediately endeared myself to them.

So now my cup of tea is becoming a daily ritual anytime that I'm home.  I've bought supplies of loose tea leaves and I'm experimenting with different ways of brewing them to come up with my own favorite. And really loving it.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Death By A Thousand Cuts

The airlines and credit card companies would have you believe that the wonderful world of luxurious travel is yours for the having if you will just concentrate your flying and purchasing on their airline or their credit card (that gives you points toward free travel).  What they don't tell you is how each airline makes in incredibly difficult to actually make use of those miles (or points) for anything that is really desirable like:
  • Free travel during peak periods
  • Upgraded travel to attractive locations
  • Free travel in style to attractive locations
Over the years I've seen how the requirements for free and upgraded travel have gotten more and more difficult while at the same time the promotions that you can get all this wonderful stuff get more and more.  Actually years ago, I figured that the real benefit of be a high level frequent flyer has to do with the better seats, early boarding, occasional upgrade, and priority on crisis (weather, aircraft problems) rebooking - not the award program.

That being said, with a lot of effort, over the years I've managed to get us some nice trips.  We did our trip to New Zealand in Business/First for miles (a minor miracle involving changing the trip dates and going more out of season...see 2009 blog posts about constant rain in New Zealand).  This year we have a trip to Europe planned in September/October.  I had hoped to use the upgrade method where you buy an economy ticket and use miles and money to upgrade to business.  But none of those are available or have been available. Part of the airline game is holding off on making those upgrades available at the last possible moment until they are sure they can't sell the seats.  Not good if you need to make your travel plans in advance.  Of course they also don't make available early any of the saver awards for business class travel.  Those are awards that are at a discount amount of miles.  

And Wife and I didn't have enough miles for the full award package for both of us.  There is an option where you can buy the miles.  The price we'd pay for buying miles was not a whole lot more than the upgrade option.  But there are limits as to the number of miles you can buy.  And you have to have enough miles in each separate account.  You can transfer miles to someone else (like me to Wife).  But they charge you for that too.  And they limit the number you can transfer.  Wife found a new credit card that offered a 55 thousand point bonus (transferable to our airline).  That helped.  And she was offered a promotion for 20% off the purchase of miles.  That helped.  I wasn't offered the promotion (it was only aimed at folks with low balances so they can't accumulate enough to really get the expensive flights).  But I whined and they gave it to me anyway.

All this took a crap load of time.  It really doesn't make you feel loyal to your airline at all.

Monday, May 7, 2012

A Very Nice "Trip"

While maybe not a vacation, Wife and I enjoyed the heck out of our little "trip" even with all the driving.

We flew into San Francisco.  We had a 6 AM flight (ugh) and got in at 7:45 west coast time but didn't have our meeting to be interviewed by Customs and Immigration for our Global Entry status until 10 AM.  So we went to the United Club and killed some time doing emails and then had breakfast.  SFO United terminal has one of the best food courts I've seen in an airport.  There is a great Chinese place and I had a bowl of Duck Noodle Soup.

This only cost $12 and had half a duck in it!

More cheap good eats were to follow.  We got our rental car and drove north to Petaluma where we were going to buy food and booze for the weekend.  The market had a guy grilling meat outside and we had a half a rack of ribs for lunch.

This only cost $7!  And they were good.

Then we drove up to Gualala that is just over the Sonoma/Mendacino County line on Route 1.  SIL 1A the Armenian Deal Hound out did himself with a fantastic place, great beds, nice kitchen, hot tub, lowest cost we found for the weekend, and with views to die for.  We spent a lot of time just taking the views in.

One of the nicest aspects of the house was that with it being on the heights we got to see all kinds of birds flying at our level, just below or above us.  Once flight of pelicans went right past the window and another couple of time there were vultures circling right outside.

1.1 and Wife spent lots of time together

The only negative on 1A was his weather reporting.  We went out to Point Arena to see the light house and go to the beach because 1A said it was going to be in the 80's.  Turned out it was no even over 60!

1A - "OK everyone look at Grandpa de-I and don't look cold cause the $@*& is going to post this picture on his blog"

More scenes from Point Arena

It was just a day and half with the #1 clan and then it was drive down to Salinas to see Lady Di and Steve.  We had drop our rental car off at the airport and get a different one to go to Salinas.  If you go and drop off at the same airport it is much less than dropping off at a different place.  We saved $125 this way.

Some pictures of the Route 1 coastal highway.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Our Little Piece of Paradise

It's 7 in the morning and I'm sitting on the banquette in the living room of the house we rented with #1 and 1A looking down over the Pacific ocean crashing on the rocks below.  Coffee is almost ready.  No one else is awake yet.  Even though it is chilly, I will be going out to smell the ocean as soon as it is.  Flock of pelicans just flew by.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Evidently I Don't Vacation

Good friend, enthusiastic eating consumer, partner in nefarious deeds, and frequent client of de-I Sandia Outfitters (usually trying to have us lose her husband), Agent W is going through a rough spell.  Lot's of unanticipated life changes and having to be caregiver for family members out of state.  I gave her a call earlier in the week just to show support.

We were talking and she noted that Wife and I are going away this weekend.  She asked if were vacationing and I said we were flying into San Francisco, getting our new Global Entry Passes (more on that in future post),  then driving about 3.5 hours north to spend Saturday in a rental house on the coast with #1, 1A and family, then driving 5 hours south to see friends Lady Di and Steve for dinner on Sunday and then flying home Monday morning.

"Oh, said Agent W.  You're going on a trip then."  I inquired what the distinction was.  She said a vacation is where you go somewhere, plant yourself in a locale, occasionally go to do something, but mostly just relax.

According to this definition evidently Wife and I have never had a vacation in our life because there is literally NO time when our 'go somewhere' schedules don't resemble the schedule above.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012


Just got off of Skype saying goodbye to Daughter #2, 2B, and 2.1, 2.2, and 2.3.  They are visiting with Daughter #1 and family because tomorrow morning they are on the plane to Manila, Philippines for their 2 year stint.   We've gotten quite used to being able to see them 3 or 4 times a year as they've been in the US for the last 6 years.  That's just not going to be the case as they go off on the diplomatic corps career.  We're sad.

Word Picture of de_I Hiking Epic

As stated in the last post, my two major electronic devices are all teetering on implosion.   Actually I can use my computer as long as I'm careful to not let it get overheated.  That means putting it into sleep mode whenever, I'm not actually using it.  I will be shopping over the next couple of weeks to find what I want for my next one.  I'm hoping that Macbook Air will work for me because I'd love to shed some of the weight I'm always lugging around with my Macbook Pro. 

But that's not why we're here today.  We're here to talk about last Saturday's hike.  With us anticipating a shut down of the mountain due to drought and fire danger probably in June, I'm trying to get in as many big hikes as I can.  Gaius Derf has a goal to climb the La Luz Trail every month of the year and had done all but 3 months with one of those being April.  So we (Wild Bill and I) set out to accompany him.

To save you searching down reference to this trail in the blog (near impossible since I refuse to tag any of my posts) , I will give you the details

  • The La Luz is the landmark trail of the Sandias.  It is the most popular way of going to the top.
  • It is 7.2 miles to the top (and another mile to the tram down if you want to go back which is our mode).
  • You climb 4,000 feet from 6,600 to 10,600.
  • Have of the climb is over the first 5 miles
  • The rest of it is over the last 2.2 miles so the last 1/3rd is about twice as steep
  • You also do most of that climb on seven big switchbacks that go up a big ass rock slide - meaning you are going over large broken rocks not a smooth trail.
  • It is a fairly benign trail over the first 5 miles and a bitch the last 2.2 miles.
We started early and in spite of Derf and I having a long time to get into it, when we stopped at the 5 mile mark we had done it in just over two hours which is good for us and we were feeling good.  So off we went to tackle the switchback rock slide.  We hadn't gone very far when we started running into snow...deep snow...snow that completely covered the trail.  To go up it you had to climb up footfalls from other hikers in many cases going up almost vertically.  It was one of the four most exhausting climbs I've done (the others - oddly enough - almost always involving snow).  These are the moments where you are beyond cursing - beyond wondering when it will end - you're just putting one foot in front of the other...trying not to slip...watching your balance...hoping the snow doesn't give way under foot (Derf once went in up to his hip).

But we made it.  After getting beyond the major climb there was no more snow over the last mile to the Tram.  After coming down, we got the cars and headed home.  Usual icing of limbs, back and neck followed by a nap.

Next day felt great - endorphin city.  Nothing like terror and exhaustion to get them going.