Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Dinner at Wine Vault & Bistro

Hey There:

It has become a Girl's Night Out thing for two friends and I to have a nice 10-course meal at Wine Vault & Bistro located in Mission Hills, next to Shakespeare's pub. The 10-course dinner is usually paired with a certain event or celebration (5 de Mayo, Mardi Gras, Oktoberfest, Thanksgiving, etc.) in this case we enjoyed the "Top 5 Reds of 2012 Dinner" which was served the week before New Year's.

We have nothing but good things to say about the food, the paired drinks, the service and ambiance. Unfortunately for you, I'm not a foodie writer and don't know how to explain the flavors and stuff, it doesn't help that by the end of the meal I'm kinda tipsy so I don't have that great of a memory. Just trust me, it's really super good!

1st and 2nd Courses
Fennel cured salmon + roasted garlic brioche
Marinated mushrooms | frisee + nueske bacon salad | soft cooked egg
2011 banshee pinot noir

Fennel cured salmon - Marinated mushroom
3th and 4th Courses
BBQ pork ribs | parsnip mousse | celeriac slaw
Roasted skirt steak | romesco sauce | coriander + edamame friend rice
2010 bokisch garnacha (our favorite wine of the night)

BBQ pork ribs

Roasted skirt steak

 5th and 6th Courses
Garlic roasted organic chicken breast | braised leeks + root vegetables
Crispy chicken wing | sweet + sour glaze | pumpkin | quince mostarda
2009 tridente tempranillo

Chicken breast

Chicken wing
7th and 8th Courses
Roasted cauliflower + buratta | caramelized onion | golden raisins
Truffled potato + spinach gratin | cheddar | roasted burdock root
2007 gerard bertrand tautavel

Roasted cauliflower

Truffled potato
 9th and 10th Courses
Wagyu braised beef brisket | savoy cabbage | 1000 island dressing
Pomegranate glazed lamb shoulder | manchego | chestnut polenta
2010 stoplman "originals" syrah

Lamb shoulder

Beef brisket

 Usually the 9th and 10th courses are desserts, not this time and we're not complaining. All the meat was flavorful and tender, the wines were just right and all this for $42.50 per person, it's an amazing deal and the next one is on Feb 12...Mardi Gras!!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Garden Window Decor - Chinese New Year 2013

Hey There:

Lately the posts that are getting more comments have been the ones that have to do with my Garden Window and that has made me not only very happy, but has inspired me to do more designs this year. Big Thanks for everyone who has seen my posts and added comments!

Chinese New Year will be celebrated on February 10th and while there are many celebrations preceding this date, I don't know much about them. But I can tell you I learned a lot as I was planning my decorations.

On a sunny Saturday morning I made my way through estate and garage sales, thrift shops and a gift shop in the City Heights area of San Diego and without spending too much money found great treasures for my decor!

2013 is the Year of the Snake and in honor of it I bought a small jade snake, a small wooden one and one with little coins on the back.

"In Chinese astrology the animal signs assigned by year represent what others perceive you as being or how you present yourself. It is a common misconception that the animals assigned by year are the only signs and many western descriptions of Chinese astrology draw solely on this system. In fact, there are also animal signs assigned by month (called inner animals), by day (called true animals) and hours (called secret animals)."
Wikipedia - Chinese Zodiac
The best hours: from 9 AM to 10:59 AM. This is the time when Snakes are leaving their caves.
The best matches: Ox, Rooster, Dragon
Matches: Rat, Rabbit, Monkey, Snake, Horse, Goat, Dog
No Match: Tiger, Pig

Previous Years of the Snake:

14 February 1953 – 2 February 1954
2 February 1965 – 20 January 1966
18 February 1977 – 6 February 1978
6 February 1989 – 26 January 1990
23 January 2001 – 11 February 2002

The Chinese take out box is actually a small purse with a mirror and pockets inside. The silver fortune cookies are guest name holders, and the mandarin oranges are the most popular fruit in this time of year, they represent luck or fortune. During the Lantern Festival (Feb 24) unmarried girls will throw mandarin oranges into the sea, a river or a pond to find a partner.

The red envelopes are very important in this celebration, "they are are passed out during the Chinese New Year's celebrations, from married couples or the elderly to unmarried juniors. It is also common for adults or young couples to give red packets to children."
"Red packets almost always contain money, usually varying from a couple of dollars to several hundred. Per custom, the amount of money in the red packets should be of even numbers, as odd numbers are associated with cash given during funerals. The number 8 is considered lucky (for its homophone for "wealth"), and $8 is commonly found in the red envelopes in the US. The number six is also very lucky as it sounds like 'smooth', in the sense of having a smooth year. Sometimes chocolate coins are found in the red packets."

Wikipedia - Chinese New Year

I bought the Crystal Tree on the left many years ago in Hong Kong and until now I know what it means:
"Real-life wish-fulfilling tree is a common sight in many Asian countries (such as Hong Kong or China). Believers will toss wishes enscribed on red incantation papers at the tree, accompanied with juicy mandarin oranges; these “wish trees” will then make the wish come true. Since olden times, the wish tree has been a potent tool, used to summon better health, wealth, and family harmony. There are many Chinese texts which show that coins grew from the branches of the wish tree and fell into a bountiful treasure bowl. It is for this reason that people keep the Crystal Tree, in the hopes that they will always have enough fortune in their lives."
"The story behind the Crystal Tree is that a heavenly fairy, Shang Ziyie, travelled to Earth with the intents to marry Chooi Wen Lui, a small village commoner. Because they had little money, the fairy fostered a magic tree, which created coins. It provided her family with the means to survive, and also assisted the other villagers when they gave it a shake. In modern days, a small Crystal Tree is displayed in homes and offices, to signify a steady profit and everlasting financial support."
The Lanterns are the traditional ones used this time of year and the Chinese Doll was an extremely lucky find deep inside a thrift shop, isn't she beautiful?

And now I'm looking forward to the next decoration....Mardi Gras!


I completely forgot I had real Hong Kong money I brought back as a souvenir from a trip I made there almost 10 years ago. So I went ahead and added them to my decor and to the red envelopes...this time next year I'll be loaded with money!


Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Cross-Stitch Projects

Hey There:

I've always been a crafty person, I used to spend so much time and money on yarn, I knitted blankets, sweaters and baby clothes. Over the years I've done other crafts, such as jewelry making, scrap-booking, stenciling, mosaic....let's just say I really know my way around Michael's and JoAnns!

When I moved to San Diego and had to pay rent for the first time in my life I made a few changes that would save me money, for example, I dyed my hair to my natural color to eliminate the monthly trips to the hair salon, and I picked up cross-stitching.

This is a very economical craft! A beginner can start by downloading a free pattern online, purchasing the hoop (less than $10) and floss ($0.50 or less), or buy a kit with all the supplies included, and that guarantees fun for months or years to come!

In my case, the projects I choose are more complicated and I'm happy when I can finish one in less than 6 months. Cross stitching is a big stress reliever for me, one of the reasons why it takes me so long to finish is because I get tired of it, leave it for a few months and then re-take the project. Do that a couple of times and the project is finished within a year or two. These my most recent projects:

Wedding Keepsake

This is called Hand in Hand Forever and I purchased from I made two of these as a Christmas gift for my Brother and Sister. I started them in the middle of August and finished them two days before Christmas. It was made with lots of love for my siblings.

Christmas Angel

I have a book filled with Christmas patterns, this is one of the projects from that book. I like this project because it has gold and silver floss, beads and it just looks beautiful. This project was finished in 2006, it took me one year, I remember I started it on December and had it ready for the Holidays the following year.

Guardian Angel pattern

Ever since I saw this as a pattern I knew I had to do it, I used to have a Guardian Angel like that above my crib and with all the things I've done, I just know I have a few of them taking care of me! This project was finished in 2012 and this one took me 2 years to finish, the coloring was very intricate and it usually happened that when it was time to back-stitch I would leave it for a few months and then get back to it again.

On this project I made a huge miscalculation and didn't have enough space for the tip of the wings, so had to add a small strip on the top. It doesn't bother me too much since this is one is for me and I learned my lesson of measuring twice.

Currently I am half way done on a cat pattern, want to make a sepia photograph of my Mom and Dad and my most ambitious project yet, a Russian Mother of God icon. If I do that one right I will be sure to win some contests.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

New Year's Geek List - 2013

Hey There:

I am a Geek and not only do I refuse to grow out of it, I will continue learning and obsessing about geekier things, but I will continue to avoid MMORPG even though they look so awesome. Some of the things in this list will be hard to accomplish, but will do it!

Read the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series

I haven't even seen the movie, how dare I call myself a Geek and not have a clue about that series? I hope the library has them in audiobook!

Win at least one Magic The Gathering draft

I started playing Magic last summer and so far I'm not the best, but I'm no longer the worst. The premise of this goal will be to go to Friday Night Magic, play Booster Draft and win at least one time. And do you know what this means? I will now have to start reading Magic strategy blogs, play more than once a week and get lucky when I draft. The guys who play every Friday at my local gaming place are hard core and the one I'm more concerned with is a tough-as-nails 13 year old.....Dear God why am I doing this to myself??

Two of my buddies playing MTG

Re-watch all Star Trek episodes

Except for Enterprise. I've already seen all the episodes at least one time, I want to see them all again and refresh my Trekkie memory. Fortunately Hulu Plus now has them and Original series is already on my queue!

Star Trek Original Series

Star Trek The Next Generation

Star Trek Deep Space Nine

Star Trek Voyager

Collect all Lucifer graphic novels

Lucifer is an offshoot from Vertigo's The Sandman by Neil Gaiman series, it is awesome and just went out of print. If I want to get them before the price explodes I need to do it now. As the name of the comic says, this is about Lucifer Morningstar, the devil, Satan, or whatever you want to call him. On The Sandman series Lucifer basically says "screw this, I quit" he gives the keys to Lord Morpheus and moves to L.A. where he opens a nightclub. Superb writing and amazing artwork... so far I only own Books 1 and 2, need the other 8.

Write and self-publish at least one book

This has been a dream of mine for ever and ever until I discovered I don't particularly enjoy writing, I usually put it off to make time to read. This time it's different, I've found a non-fiction niche in which I know what I'm talking about. I'm on it!

lol cat- writer's block

Watch Firefly

So many geeks are super obsessed about this series and recently I heard rumors that Netflix might pick it up and produce it. I have to watch the series and see what all the fuss is about. Good thing it's also on Hulu Plus!

There you go, after I finish these list I will have even more Geek street cred!

Monday, January 14, 2013

New Year's To-Do List - 2013

Hey There:

My New Year's resolution each year is not to make New Year's resolutions; I know I won't keep them, so why bother? This year I decided to have a To-Do List and make it public so I could be accountable at the end of the year. My list consists of things I want to do in San Diego, which I haven't done in spite of the fact that I've lived here for 13 1/2 years.

I already have a few friends interested in doing these things with me and I might make them as Meetup event to make it even better. In no particular order, here is my list:

Whale Watching

I vaguely remember doing this when I was in elementary school in Orange County and I've had glimpses of the whales looking down from hills in Ensenada, Mexico. But I want to have the experience of the boat ride, possible sea sickness and taking lots of pics. This will be my first item of the year since now through April is whale watching season.

Hike Cowles Mountain

A mountain in the middle of San Diego! I can go, climb, pass out, climb some more, reach the top, take pics, take a nap, come down and eat fast food in order to replenish all the calories I burned in the climb. So far have no clue how to get there or where to park my car, but lovely Internet will tell me. And no worries, I'm not in that bad of a shape...I hope.

san diego, hiking

Visit the USS Midway

I've been to most of the museums in San Diego, how come I've never been to this one? This year I'm doing it and I already have a friend signed up to go with me!

san diego, museum

Have a meal at Hotel Del Coronado

This one will be tricky, Hotel Del has always been a source of wonder for me. It's so iconic, Marilyn Monroe made a movie there and it's haunted. I want to go there, have a nice meal and walk around the Hotel. The tricky part is that I looked at the menu online, and it's really expensive! I might just have to be OK with a nice coffee.

san diego, historical buildings

Haunted San Diego tour

I've read several books regarding the haunted legends in San Diego, and I tell those legends to couch surfers or friends visiting me, but I've never taken the 2-hour fully narrated tour that starts in Old Town with the people dressed in spooky Gothic costumes. I have to do it at least once!

san diego history

My list will make me a tourist in my own city, and that's fine, every day I marvel that I live in San Diego and it's always a treat to see it through the eyes of visitors.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

San Diego Zoo Jungle Bells

Hey There:

Today, Jan 6th, is the last night to see Jungle Bells at the San Diego Zoo.

The zoo closes at 8 PM, giving us a 3-hour window to walk around in the cold dark wilderness with surrounding animal sounds and flashes of bright holiday lights. It's a bit spooky.

Since the lights can be better appreciated at night, during the day you can still see Holiday decorations everywhere you look.

Don't expect to see the animals, it's their bed time. But we did get to see the elephants out and about and a few sleeping animals. These are the only two pictures that came out OK, since I didn't want to disturb the animals I avoided using the flash.

For the Jungle Bells celebrations the zoo has singers, music, and special wagon rides. And tonight is the last night for the celebrations, so go walk around the zoo!

This was my favorite: a Holiday Giant Spider!