draggonlaady: (Vampire Cat)
We slept way in today; Bruce has been feeling congested and a bit sub-par, so has been waking early/not sleeping well. This morning when I woke, he was still out, so I let him sleep. We ended up leaving the room at nearly noon, and heading to Rooster for breakfast (lunch?). We split the Mo. German Style Sausage #2 crepe (check out the menu, they didn't bother with cutesy names for most of their stuff - so there's bacon #1, bacon #2, bacon #3, etc. It's a bit odd, and I love it.) and the s'more crepe. Very good - we are, in fact, going back for breakfast there again tomorrow, making this the only planned repeat restaurant of the trip.

From Rooster, we headed to the Gateway Arch for the stereotypical tourist option of St. Louis. We didn't bother to do much research online prior to showing up, so were rather surprised at the "airport style security check" (yeah, that's really what they called it) at entry. Lucky for me, my pocket knife is under the limit and wasn't an issue, but my torque was a point of brief contention. Woman at the entry wanted me to take it off. I told her it only comes off with an allen wrench, which she made me prove by lifting my hair out of the way and turning entirely around so she could inspect it. She then called across (by which I mean yelled) to the guy at the metal detector that "it doesn't come off!" before sending me through. Weirdly enough, this very same torque has never been an issue at the actual airports I've worn it through. Anyway, even with the issue of the torque, they were getting people through security way faster than the airports do anymore, and we were on our way to the trolleys fairly quickly. This is NOT a ride for the claustrophobic! The trolleys to the top of the arch are chains of 8 pods small enough that I hit my head on the roof, and I'm not tall. Each pod sits 5 people, so if there is a big line up, you're going to be really smashed in. We were extremely lucky in our timing, and got our own pod both up and down, but when we left there was a line 3 or 4 full trolley loads worth of kids waiting. The view of town from the top is pretty cool, and includes a direct view into the stadium, where the St. Louis Cardinals were facing the San Francisco Giants in the playoffs. We decided that the way to watch games would be to bring binocs and a radio here, pay the $10 ticket to get to the top of the arch, and not have to fight for $200 seats in the stadium.

After leaving the Arch, we headed across downtown to the City Museum, but ended up not going in, because it turns out they close at 5 on weekdays, and it was already 4:30 by the time we got there. We plan to go back Friday, when they are open later. Lacking an immediate plan, we wandered off through town on foot, soon to happen across The Gelateria Tavolini. I am seriously disappointed in every single person who gave us recommendations of places to try in town and failed to mention this place! It was lovely; quiet, calm area to sit and read or talk; friendly service from a perky, easy going lady; absolutely freaking delicious gelato. It would be nearly a crime not to visit this place if you are in town! I had a split serving of chocolate and coconut; the chocolate was a wonderful semi-sweet chocolate, and I have no complaints about it, but the coconut put it to shame. It was the perfect level of sweet - delicious, not cloying - with flakes of real coconut for both taste and texture. Bruce and I are in full agreement that this place kicked all available ass in comparison with Ted Drewes, even though several people recommended Ted Drewes to us, though he was a little disappointed that they had no vanilla gelato available to try.

From gelato, we dashed through the rain to a clothing store down the block, and I tried on a couple tops. We picked one to go with a skirt I'd brought without a top, and then dashed back through the rain to the bus stop. We had a 45 minute bus ride out to where we planned dinner, which was just about enough time to dry off before we got off the bus and walked a block in the rain again to Momos. There are the typical tables and chairs you'd expect at a restaurant here, but we eschewed them in favor of cuddling on the comfy couch for dinner. We had the avgolomeno (lemon chicken broth with orzo pasta), the cheese plate with both white and whole wheat pitas, and finished up with chocolate phyllo. A little disappointed; the cheeses were all quite salty, which made them less enjoyable than we'd hoped. The chocolate phyllo was delicious though. During dinner there was a belly dancer working her way around the restaurant; she picked on Bruce and ended up giving him an impromptu belly dancing lesson, which was both fun and funny. Don't worry, I got pictures.

From there, back to the hotel room, and now, to sleep...

St. Louis

Oct. 15th, 2012 10:09 pm
draggonlaady: (Default)
Oh, my feet! I think I may have blisters...quite the pair we are, because Bruce has blisters from the other day already. When we headed out this morning, we walked to the bus stop about half a mile from the hotel; I made a poor shoe choice today, and my feet were already starting to regret it... we eventually found cushion inserts for me, but it's been a pretty mincy day for me.

First stop was a fabric store (yeah, we pick exciting vacation destinations!) to look for cloth for costumes for a party we're going to this weekend. From there, we headed downtown. We had the basic idea of where we were heading, but we got a little uncertain when we transferred from the train to the bus, because there were 2 buses with the same number. So Bruce asked for directions to Pappy's... from a guy in a Rib Shack shirt. And then belatedly realized what he'd done when the guy gave him a sort of sour look before busting out laughing. Turns out that Rib Shack guy was just let go from Pappy's a few weeks ago, and Rib Shack is a new job for him. Social graces, we haz dem! Anyway, he was getting on the same bus we needed anyway, so when it was our stop, he told us so. Pappy's Smokehouse was great. We had pulled pork and beef brisket sandwiches, both of which were delicious. Sweet potato fries, deep fried corn on the cob, and baked beans... the fries were wonderful, the corn was good but not significantly different than roasted corn on the cob, and the baked beans were apparently really good - I don't like beans, but I didn't hate these :). We got to talking to one of the servers (the servers were all friendly and high-energy, a fun bunch to watch work), and he was disappointed in us for not having the ribs; so disappointed, apparently, that he couldn't let it stand. He ran off to the kitchen and came back with a rib for each of us. First bite elicited a "daaaaamn, that's good ribs!" from me, and "that may be the best rib I've ever eaten" from Bruce. Seriously, any of you that like ribs and are in the area, make it a point to have the ribs there. And the sweet potato fries. Fabulous.

From there, we walked the rest of the way downtown, after being assured it was just a short way by one of the Pappy's servers... and if we'd been in comfy shoes and not already blistered, it wouldn't have been a problem. As is, I needed pretty frequent breaks on the way. We stopped and talked to a really nice lady at one of the bus stops... she claimed to be 59 and have grandkids, but looked like she was in her late 30s. Super nice lady, willing to field random questions from total strangers. We eventually ended up at the bus transfer station downtown, where we caught the Downtown Trolley. Kind of a zippy little bus that makes a figure eight run through downtown; we didn't get off anywhere, just looked around and made plans for the rest of the week.

When we got back to the transfer station, we switched to a bus to take us off to a different corner of town for dessert at Crown Candy Kitchen. Our waitress was super chipper and helpful (Bruce said that if he was still managing a restaurant, he'd be trying to steal her) and the chocolate ice cream was an incredibly good bittersweet (I lack the proper words to express for you how good this is - just plan on trying it if you are ever in this state, ok?). Trevor had black cherry ice cream, which he says was quite good, though not as much better than its counterparts at other ice cream places than the chocolate was. We picked up some chocolates to go and will be enjoying those later....

We also did some non-exciting drug store shopping for mundane things like hand lotion, but I figured you guys didn't really need details of Walgreen's and Scnuck's. And now, some reading and then some sleeping.

St. Louis

Oct. 14th, 2012 02:43 pm
draggonlaady: (Vampire Cat)
Travel to St. Louis was pretty smooth, unlike some prior flights I've ranted about. Yay! We arrived safely Friday night.

Unfortunately, we were immediately unimpressed with our hotel of destination.... we found the hotel shuttle waiting area, and after a bit of time a van prominently labelled "Millenium Hotel" drove up. And gave no indication of stopping. We stepped up and waved to get the driver's attention, and he stopped in the lane of traffic instead of pulling over. The window rolled down (and a cloud of smoke wafted out), and he informed us that he was not there to collect hotel patrons (read patrons with a sneer, and the whole statement with a put-upon tone), but if we really wanted, he could call the hotel and ask for a VIP pass to transport us to the hotel. The guy was seriously so rude about the whole thing that the woman on the sidewalk behind us, with whom we'd had no prior interaction, commented to us about his attitude and behavior.
We ended up slogging our luggage back across the terminal and catching the metro train downtown, then hiking the 3 blocks from the station to the hotel, because the Millenium doesn't run airport shuttles for mere patrons. I dunno who the Hell they think keeps them in business, but apparently treating those damn patrons like they're welcome doesn't enter the plan. They also don't believe in Wi-Fi in rooms (though there is Wi-Fi in the lobby), and while you can get internet access in the rooms by good old fashioned ethernet plug-in, they charge for it. There are 30 floors and they are hosting conferences, but there are only 3 elevators - it was faster to climb the 10 flights of stairs to my room from the lower lobby than to wait in line with the 200 other conference attendees for a lift.

So the prompter for this trip was a continuing education conference for me, which is how I spent most of Saturday. Bruce apparently met up in the elevators with another attendee's husband who was at loose ends, and the two of them wandered off to Hooters while we boring wives got educated.

We haven't done much exploration of town yet, but one thing I was unable to avoid noticing was the stench in the area where we were - standing on the sidewalk in front of the hotel, there was a strong and obvious reek of sewer, mixed with natural gas, and overlaid with diesel exhaust fumes. Stomach churning. I'm hoping that is not common throughout town.

Saturday night, Bruce and I returned to the metro to travel across town to a bar we'd been directed to, and tried the toasted ravioli, which is apparently a St. Louis thing... a St. Louis thing that Bruce is totally welcome to make me for dinner any time he feels like it, yum! We stopped by Hooters for dessert on the way back to the 'tel, because I had complained to him that he was supposed to take me with him when he went places I'd never been before. It was about what I expected; a sports-themed place with cute serving staff wearing tight shorts. The cake was good but not spectacular, and came in large servings.

Today I was once again conferencing most of the day, which left Bruce to pack up all our stuff and get us checked out of the room. At the end of the lectures, we hiked back to the metro station and caught the train back to the airport, where we caught the hotel shuttle to the hotel where we will be staying the rest of the week. This hotel is considerably lower-cost than the Millenium, but so far Homestead is kicking Millenium's ass in customer service. The shuttle driver was super friendly and helped carry our bags in to check in; the Wi-Fi is free and easily accessed; the building looks a bit older and less spiffy but the rooms have kitchenettes and we're on the ground floor, so no elevator lines.

Anyway, future updates will be more food and vacation/touristy stuff oriented.... we are considering heading to the Chocolate Bar for dinner tonight.
draggonlaady: (Vampire Cat)
Popcorn + salted caramel + chocolate = delicious.
draggonlaady: (Vampire Cat)
Since we hadn't gotten out to look at the plane yesterday, Cap'n Dennis, T, J, and I went to look for it today.
We found it. And we began speculation on exactly what it is that Z smokes while waiting for otters to wander into nets.

This is the "white plane with blue trim, and 2 9's in the tail number" that Z found. We called the number in to see who's plane it was, and went back to Northern Song to ask Z if he is colorblind. Red trim on cream is not the same as blue trim on white!
Pretty overgrown. Z had estimated about 10 years old, which would have put it right in the time frame to have been Smokey's plane. Dennis says "looks like a mighty long 10 years."
Tail number was intact. No 9's involved, just a couple 6's. Maybe Z was standing on his head?

Saw a cormorant on the trip back to Northern Song, but no picture. There were many, many marbled murrelets in pairs and trios, a handful of bald eagles, and a bunch of pigeon guillemots.

Got a call back; this plane wreck was already registered. It was a non-fatality crash in 1965. Smokey's plane is still unfound. Z caught much harassment about numbers and colors over dinner.

5 more otters caught and transmitters implanted, bringing the total up to 30 otters. Very happy otter crew!

Started raining a bit that afternoon, so I spent most of it hanging out on Northern Song reading.

Dinner was halibut (thanks to J and T) with roasted potatoes. Quite yummy!
draggonlaady: (Vampire Cat)
So on Day 5, the plan was that Leanna and I would kayak to shore, hike to a place called Fossil Bluffs (different than Fossil Beach), and then come back to Northern Song. Dennis was going to do boat stuff while we hiked, and then we were going to go look for the plane wreck.

What actually happened was that Leanna and I made it about a quarter of the way to the bluffs, a nice, level hike on easy ground, when we got called back to the boat. The otter crew had decided to move to a different area in hopes of catching more otters. So we headed back to Northern Song, and moved base. On our way out of the bay, Cap'n Dennis swung the Northern Song in along the cliff with the pictograph; which was both cool and scary/impressive, because he pulled the boat in RIGHT next to the cliff to get a good look. It was even making Leanna nervous. Turns out there's a second pictograph, this one a boat (though it looks more like a fish spine to me).

We moved around the point of the bay, into Keku Strait. I went out with the otter crew that afternoon again to check nets. It was a good afternoon for catching things, apparently; the first net we checked had 2 otters in it. 1 was a pup, and escaped as we pulled mom out of the net (the pups are small enough that they can wiggle out easier than the adults can). We couldn't catch the pup with the dipnet, so we beached S on a nearby "deserted island" to keep an eye on the pup, and hustled the mom to the Jerry O.

Cap'n Dave and I went to check the other net while Z and V hauled the otter to Jerry O. And that was exciting. There were four otters in the net. The 2 on the end were fighting with each other (bad!), 1 was a pup (again!) and there was another pup swimming around crying (the one away from the group in that pick is the loose pup). We had only 1 box with us. (Oops!) We radioed for helpers and boxes, and pulled otter number 1 into the one box we had. At that point, the pup in the net made a break for it, so now we had 2 pups swimming around whistling for mommy. The otter we'd just boxed was calling back to the pup who'd just escaped. We left her wound in the net in the box for the moment, and then help arrived. They started at the other end of the net with the second boat, and pulled in the biggest of the otters--he was an 87 pound male, one of the fighters. As it happens, he's a crappy fighter. The female next to him (50 pounds) had banged his face up something fierce, but had not a mark on herself. Got the male un-netted, pulled the second female up and got her boxed, decided that it would be too long a time to leave pups apart from mom by the time they got through the line-up, and we released the female that Dave and I had pulled in, as she appeared to be not only nursing, but pregnant again.

Hauled the other 2 back to the Jerry O, dropped them off and picked up mom #1 to transport back to her pup. They made a big, happy ruckus when they got back together!

Got some pretty good close-up shots while waiting for boxes.
Treading water
Should I be worried?
Nah! Not worried.
Boat is more interesting than other otters fighting behind her.

Box is open?
Hmm. That's a bit of a drop. You sure you can't lower me more?
Fine, fine! I'll dive.
Back home, free again, but not in any big hurry to get away from the skiff.

Day 5 ended up having a total of 5 otters radioed, 2 pups escaped, and 1 release. Big day! We never did end up looking for the plane that day.

Lunch was smoked cod, pretty good but not my favorite fish ever, and dinner was black cod marinated in something yummy. Much good. (Good thing Bruce wasn't along, he'd have gone hungry all day! Silly boy doesn't like fish.)
draggonlaady: (Vampire Cat)
First, something I forgot on Day 2 - One of the otter crew (Z) is a grad student, writing up this project for his thesis. Z was therefore particularly stressed by the lack of otter catching prior to my arrival. At the end of yesterday, happy and tired and playing around after catching 4 otters, Z decided to cut across the edge of the bay on the way back to Northern Song. In doing so, he managed to rip the lower unit off the skiff's motor on a submerged rock chain. Oops.
Otter project had 2 skiffs, (Sea Weasel and La Tourista) so at bedtime on Sunday, they were half down on transport ability for setting nets and hauling otters to the hospital boat. Plan was to call repair shops first thing Monday morning and have a lower unit sent out via Doug, the still patient private pilot who transported me and then my luggage.

On waking on Day 3, however, things get even less smooth. It seems that overnight, the La Tourista snagged and was rolled under the Jerry O, flooding the motor and dumping a bunch of equipment into the water. J and T (2 other observers like me; not officially on the project) were up early to go fishing, so they took one of the Northern Song's rubber skiffs over to the Jerry O to help retrieve the float-away otter boxes, stuff sack, life vests, etc. and bring Dave (Jerry O's captain) back to Northern Song for breakfast. So now the otter project has no skiffs. The Northern Song has 2 rubber skiffs, but those aren't good choices for pulling otters out of nets; otters bite and holding boxes are sharp edged, and rubber, it doesn't do so well at staying inflated after puncture. So we have a slow/lazy morning of waiting for parts for 2 motors to be located and flown out.
Combined with continued beautiful weather (and they say it's cold in Alaska!), this provided a great time for some kayaking.
Leanna and I headed out along the same island that we'd played around on yesterday, paddling up to the point of the island and letting the tide and wind drift us back along the shore.
This time, we found a couple Sunflower stars where we could reach them, and really appreciate how freaky HUGE they are compared to other stars. There were dozens of common stars arrayed along the intertidal areas, and lions mane jellies in the water. Also saw a couple mink on shore--and I'm beginning to sound like a broken record or something, but those buggers are BIG. I was expecting something about the size of a domestic ferret, but these kids were 2 or 3 times that size. And much quicker than I am; I failed entirely to get a decent picture.

We drifted through a school of about a million humpy fry; seriously, it took several minutes to float from one end to the other of this school.

We saw bald eagles (go ahead and assume that I say this every day, okay?), ravens, and gulls.

At one point as we floated along, several fish flung themselves repeatedly from the water to our side, skidded along and dropped back in. We didn't see what was chasing them, but suspect it was harbor seals.

On shore for an hour or so in the afternoon with Ocean, there were drifts of muscle and clam shells, some nearly knee deep (yes, I'm short, I have short legs. So? it's still a lot of shells!). Leanna reports that there are also river otters here, that pull muscles and clams up to the tide line where there's better cover to eat them. There were miniscule barnacles on everything along this beach; even growing on other barnacles.

My new camera has an impressive macro function, so you can enjoy pictures of these tiny, tiny red spiders (mites?) that look like strawberries with legs.

Black bears supposedly come down these beaches and graze and eat muscles, but we didn't see any of either. We blame the bear hunters who were also in the area. Apparently this particular bay is commonly used by one particular group of bear "guides" who basically run the Alaska version of road-hunting. They bring people out on a boat, float along and shoot bears on shore without ever getting out of the boat. If the bear falls over, they beach and "collect" it. This particular group has been using this bay constantly for a few years now, and as a result, there are very few bears in the area currently. I gather that they are a very unpopular group with the locals; they are actually based somewhere in the lower 48, and unlike other guides, don't seem to see the point in rotating areas. They also had the attitude of owning the bay, and wanted use to leave so as not to interrupt their very important hunt.
We have no proof that the garbage we kept scooping up and hauling back to ship came from them, as we didn't see it being tossed, but since there was only us and them in the bay, and there was still mayonnaise in the jar.... well. We drew conclusions.

Evening brought a stream of moon jellies gliding past under the boat; I took a few crappy pictures that don't do them justice at all, but they are small (about 1 1/2" across, though they apparently get much larger later in the summer), nearly transparent, it was getting dark out, and the flash doesn't help when taking pictures through the surface of the water, so... just trust me, they're prettier than the picture shows. You can go here for much better pictures than I took.

Dinner was sea bass (rockfish) with diced veggies (piccole verdure), and was quite yummy. Thanks, J and T, for catching it!
draggonlaady: (Vampire Cat)
Leanna and I took one of the skiffs over to Fossil Beach and spent several hours wandering around, playing in tide pools, and generally enjoying good weather and pretty surroundings.
Tides in this area (Saginaw Bay) are impressive. By which I mean sometimes 22 foot changes between low and high tides. There was one area we played around at that had a vertical drop of about 10 feet. At high tide, this bank is entirely underwater. At low tide, pockets and shelves on this drop become little tide pools, creating a sort of display stair of pools, like something a museum would set up but that you would never expect to find in the real world.

Tide pool critters abounded; some I was familiar with, like common stars (quite common, this one had lunch in progress) and blood stars; some were entirely new to me, like sea cucumbers. Sea cucumbers were present in outstanding numbers, and varied from tiny to enormous. It was nearly impossible to walk without literally wading through them, as they were actually stacked several layers deep in places. Sea stars were also plentiful, and we found one sunflower star (much larger than common stars, and with 18-21 legs instead of 5), but couldn't get to it for good pictures.
Another new critter for me was the salp. These are free-living tunicates, and may be found singly or chained together in groups. Wiki has a lovely picture of an impressive chain, and more info. The longest I saw on my trip was 4 chained together.
Other fun sights of the day:
Tubeworms (red trumpet calcaeous worm? dwarf calcareous?)
Red sea urchin
Crumb of bread sponge
Chitons of various colors
Sculpin and Greenling fry
Clams; I'm particularly proud of this shot of a clam's "mouth" just after it sprayed me with water. (I LOVE this camera!)
I have no idea what these slimy critters are, but they were kinda neat.

There were also, of course, some fossils on Fossil Beach.

While Leanna and I were playing around, the otter crew netted 4 otters. All of today's otters were female, which made the crew very happy, as not only had they made a big chunk of their goal in one day, up until then they'd only caught males. The girls were not as big as the brute from the night before, ranging from 42 to 55 pounds.

Dinner was pork chops with a delicious creme something-or-other sauce. Sorry, I suck at the recipe thing.
draggonlaady: (Default)

Vacation in St. Kitts was much fun, so this will be long, with lots of links. Feel free to skip if you're bored by my ramblings. Bruce's comments are in italics.

The trip down was quite long. We flew on Delta this time. Overall, Delta treated us much better than United did on our Knoxville trip. Bruce slept most of the way down. I didn't get to sleep on the plane at all—the leg I was trying to sleep on, the seat was broken and wouldn't lay back, so I couldn't get into a comfortable position. I ended up sleeping a couple hours in the airport during layover though. We had a brief bit of panic when we belatedly realized that the gate had been changed on the last leg of the flight (the important one, as Delta only flies to St. Kitts once a week) and we were waiting on the wrong concourse! We hauled butt across the airport (Atlanta is BIG) and made it to the correct gate just as they were pulling our bag out of the cargo hold and giving up on us. It was 35F when we boarded in Atlanta.

The 85F and 90% humidity when we deplaned in St. Kitts was a pretty brutal change! But we made it through Customs and Immigration with only a small issue (we only got one of the two forms we were supposed to've been given to fill out, so had to fill the other out while standing in line. Hardly the worst Immigrations complication to have!) and Bear and Georgia met us as we staggered back out into the heat. We went to their place and changed into summer gear. Chased lizards in the back yard for a few minutes (little brown anoles with an almost transparent yellow tail, and medium/big brown anoles with stripes, and tiny quick little lizards—you'd think they were teleporting, they're so quick). Then we headed for the beach to chase critters and waves. I'm sure you'll be terribly surprised by all the parts where I list what critters we saw! I did my best to ID birds for Nessa, but didn't get very good pictures of most of them, sorry. I did get a lot of pictures of lizards though! (surprised, anybody?)

So the beach called The Strip was our first St. Kitts play destination; we found a bunch of little sand crabs and one camouflaged crab, watched the Brown Pelicans diving for fish, and the sunset over the water, then hit Buddie's for some BBQ. Pretty good stuff, and had our first experience with restaurants that hand you a bottle of mosquito repellent when you walk in. And our first taste of the nearly absolute lack of customer service exhibited at restaurants on the island. Then we went home to sleep off the travel exhaustion.

Day 1 Bird list: Brown Pelican (http://www.bio-diversity-nevis.org/images/Nevis%20Birds/Sea%20Birds/1%20Pelican.JPG)

Cattle Egret (http://www.bio-diversity-nevis.org/images/Nevis%20Birds/Shore%20Birds/Cattle%20Egrets%201.JPG)

Wood dove (Zenaida Aurita) (http://www.bio-diversity-nevis.org/images/Nevis%20Birds/Land%20Birds/Zenida.jpg)


Next morning we got up late and had delicious strawberry pancakes with banana syrup. Bruce and I spent a couple hours swimming and hanging out on Whitehouse Beach while Bear and Georgia had their final sailing lesson. Wind was from the wrong direction, so water was too choppy for snorkeling, but was fun to play around anyway. Tons of different tiny little shore snails; took pictures of some of the more striking color patterns. Scraped my ankle up on something underwater. Chased some birds around, and debated the pros and cons of the waterfront property for sale at the corner of the beach... Bruce's new goal in life is to move the the Caribbean and become a Cabana Boy. We went to PJ's for dinner; no bug spray on the table there, because they have an automatic sprayer in the doorways (every 19 minutes—how's that for a random time cycle?). Chicken picatta is yummy, mon.

We went home and met a friend and previous student of Bear's, Laura. Laura is a wonderful outdoor warrior type; she came over to borrow Bear's sewing machine after having done a 50 mile bicycle ride on the neighboring island of Nevis. FIFTY MILES! For fun! That means, by the way, that she was making laps of the island, because seriously, the island isn't that big.

Day 2 Bird list: Thick billed plover (http://www.bio-diversity-nevis.org/images/Nevis%20Birds/Shore%20Birds/Charadrius_wilsonia.jpg)

Grey Kingbird (http://www.bio-diversity-nevis.org/images/Nevis%20Birds/Land%20Birds/Grey%20King%20bird-Tyrannus_dominicensis.jpg)


Monday there was no sleeping in, as we decided to join a Ross University Adventure Club hike. Why yes, we ARE crazy. The hike was lead by Warrior Laura, you see... Mt Liamuiga is the volcano responsible for forming St. Kitts. We hiked all the way up to the crater, and the view was incredible. For future reference, when the warrior woman says “moderate hike” she means “do try not to die, as it would be moderately inconvenient to have to carry you out”. But we managed to hup our out-of-shape and not-heat-accustomed selves all the way up. It wasn't all that bad. There was one girl who almost quit out crying, and one guy who got heat-sick enough that he threw up. They were not us! Only new bird for Day 3 was the Antillean Crested Hummingbird that hung out with us on the edge of the crater for a while. I failed to get good pictures, as he was a speedy critter, but his crest was a beautiful iridescent green. This picture utterly fails to do him justice: http://www.bio-diversity-nevis.org/images/Nevis%20Birds/Land%20Birds/Antillean%20Crested%20Hummingbird.jpg. Several other pictures available here: http://ibc.lynxeds.com/photo/antillean-crested-hummingbird-orthorhyncus-cristatus/lateral-view-perched-adult-male.


Tuesday, Bear had to work. Georgia dropped us off in the tourist area of town, and we wandered around shopping, had a good bit of fun watching how people's attitudes changed when we told them we were not on a cruise ship. (There is a distinct range in the prices a lot of places charge ranging from local/native through local/student or uni employee up through visiting-but-staying-in-an-actual-house and topping at cruise ship tourists. There are some places where there is literally a 4-fold difference in prices for things depending on which category you are.) Met Bear and Georgia for lunch at Circus Grill. Bruce got Bear into a fight with a street vendor outside the restaurant. He wanted to try the local carrots, as Laura had told us they tasted different. Bear told him that the price the vendor was asking for carrots was too high, which apparently seriously offended the woman, because when Bear asked what she wanted for the sweet potatoes, the vendor said “You can't afford them,” and refused to give her a price or sell her anything. I stood back and tried not to laugh too loudly. Had “Caribbean Creole” chicken for lunch, which was significantly milder than I expected. The ginger beer was made in-house, and VERY gingery. And thick! Like whole milk thick. Scoops is a wonderful ice cream place in Port Zante. The coconut ice cream is made with actual coconut, and the rum raisin ice cream is made with actual rum. A shot per scoop, according to our guides.

Day 4 bird list: Magnificent Frigatebird (http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Magnificent_Frigatebird/id)

Terns (http://www.bio-diversity-nevis.org/images/Nevis%20Birds/Sea%20Birds/Common%20Tern.jpg)

Black headed grassquit (http://www.bio-diversity-nevis.org/images/Nevis%20Birds/Land%20Birds/Antillian%20Grass%20Quit.jpg)


Mostly lounged around the next day, Bear headed back to the States to be a bridesmaid for her friend in New Orleans. Georgia and Bruce and I walked down the hill from the house to Bird Rock Hotel in the afternoon to play fetch in the water with the dogs. Saw some big black crabs on the road, not the beach (body big as a fist) and a huge skink (http://www.bio-diversity-nevis.org/images/Reptiles/Geckos/Ameiva%20erythrocephala%20%28ground%20lizard%29.jpg). We went out with Laura that evening to catch Dr Kevin Fitzgerald's comedy routine (he was on the island to do some guest lectures for the students at Ross, and had an evening comedy show). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kevin_Fitzgerald


Thursday we walked back to Bird Rock Motel and played with the snorkeling equipment. Saw 3 different types of fish, but since I know nothing about fish identification, I can only tell you that the blue ones were probably Yellow Tail Damselfish. No idea what the slightly larger black ones, or much larger brown and black fish were. Did not see the huge skink, probably because we had the camera with us this time. While there, we had a lovely “you're not in the States anymore” experience. Watching this gent I'm still unconvinced that both X and Y chromosomes were present with a baby girl playing in the sand... he strips the kid naked, smears on some sunscreen, and then walks off and leaves her alone. On the beach. With nobody between her and the water. Not that the kid DID anything but sit there and play in the sand, but still... that'd never happen on a US beach without someone freaking out.

Back to the house to shower the sand and salt off, and then off to the Veterinary College with Laura to catch a couple of Dr Fitzgerald's exotics animal medicine lectures. I got left behind with Georgia. Then a walk-around of the campus, which was quite nice. Things you only hear from veterinary students: “Look, a pig skeleton! How cute!”

Went to Bary's for dinner; really good BBQ. Says Bruce “He's not afraid of flavor and this is obviously not toned down for the tourists. That's not a complaint.

And on the walk home, saw geckos! Sadly, no camera.


Friday we thought we'd try out Sky Safari (http://www.skysafaristkitts.com/) but turns out they only go by appointment. Made an appointment for Sunday morning, and went to the Caribelle Batik (http://www.caribellebatikstkitts.com/) instead. Got some pretties, wandered around the grounds and took pictures of purple plants and pretty Brahmin cows. Despite the doubting Thomases, I got a really nice picture of a Green Throated Carib. Bruce claimed to see a monkey, but sure looks like a silver tabby cat in the photos... Stupid shape-shifting voodoo monkeys. Then we went to dinner at Pizza Shack at the Marriott. Decent pizza, but a bit spendy.

Day 7 Bird List: Green Throated Carib (http://www.bio-diversity-nevis.org/Bio-div%20Thumbnails/1%20Green%20Carib.JPG)

Lesser Antillean Bullfinch (http://www.bio-diversity-nevis.org/images/Nevis%20Birds/Land%20Birds/Antillian%20bullfinch.jpg)

Bananaquit (http://www.bio-diversity-nevis.org/images/Nevis%20Birds/Land%20Birds/Bananaquits.jpg)



Saturday we slept late, then spent the afternoon at Sandy Beach. Did a little snorkeling, and saw a stingray; he was pretty cool! Some silvery fish with blue dorsal line and blue around the eye, apparently called Grab Jacks? Lay on the beach reading for a while, then headed off to dinner. On the walk back to the car, Bruce saw a mongoose, but I missed it. Not the voodoo kind. We went to La Belle Vie, which, as you might guess from the name, is a fancy French restaurant. It was quite nice, though it's rather an odd cultural dissonance to sit in a fancy restaurant and be handed a bottle of bug spray...

Goat cheese absolutely should be served warm over salad with bacon and a nice vinaigrette. It was quite yummy; easily the best thing I've ever eaten with goat cheese. Tomato slices would have been nice. Steaklet of duck in green and black pepper sauce was quite delicious also. The rack of lamb in thyme sauce was also nice but the sauce was not as flavorful. The assortment of cheeses was pretty good too; finally was introduced to a cheese in the bleu family that does NOT taste overwhelmingly of mold. Bleuforte is much mellower, though a bit salty. Salty is an understatement. Good stuff, though.

Bird of the day: Red Tailed Hawk. Looks shockingly like the Red Tailed Hawks at home.


Sunday we got up early to get to Sky Safaris. Zip lines are fun! Sadly, it was a pretty short course... I was really expecting it to be longer. Ah well. Got some good pictures of “rasta” Bruce (I'd braided and beaded his hair the night before). There is nothing I wouldn't do for her, obviously, nor is there such a thing as a "good" picture of said devotion. Shortly after finishing the Sky Safari, the drought broke and boy howdy can it rain down there. Beach out of the question for the evening, we decided to check out the shiny new 8-screen cinema. And give our host a bit of personal time, rasta style. We went to the conveniently located Domino's Pizza (right next door to the theater) for dinner. It was absolute insanity. The group that shoved in front of us while we were politely waiting our turn at the counter was led by a young girl (10 years ish?) followed by a very tall woman who didn't seem to think children needed any controls, and a very fat woman who had no good grasp of communication. She pointed at the sign and told the lady that she wanted the chicken sandwich. Fine and dandy, but there are 4 different chicken sandwiches listed. When the lady behind the counter asked which sandwich she meant, they went around in circles 3 or 4 times about there being more than one chicken sandwich. She storms out, the tall lady starts to order. Then the fat lady comes back with reinforcements in the form of a guy and 2 more kids. *sigh*. All in all, it took them about half an hour of arguing and fussing to actually give their order. Then the kids proceeded to run in and out of the building randomly, taking extra stuff from the chip rack and refrigerator case, so that the tall lady ended up standing at the counter and just passing over money every few minutes when some kid ran through and grabbed something. All for a small pizza, a couple sides of bread sticks, and an untold number of sodas and bags of chips. The chaos was such that the lady working there forgot to bring us our pizza until I went up and asked for it again. Daybreakers was a pretty darn entertaining flick.


Still raining on Monday, so we mostly lounged around and read all day. Checked my receipts to put them in my check book, and was unpleasantly surprised by the Sky Safari charges. Called and inquired why I was charged $100 (US!) more than expected. Explained that we are not rich cruise ship tourists, and would really appreciate the Ross University price (nicely, really. and the lady was quite nice too. But we have to go back in person to get a refund, and can't get there today; they're closing early because of the rain.) Bear got back from the States, so Bruce and I headed out for the evening to give her and Georgia some alone time. Took Laura to see Book of Eli; good stuff. Rather more overtly religious than we were expecting, but good fun.


Tuesday we went back out to Sky Safaris and got refunded. Wandered around downtown, saw the Spencer Gallery (some interesting artwork, but not a big selection). The honey bees in the ceiling were pretty darn cool. Best viewing of active honeycombs I've ever seen. Bought Bear a new phone, since her old one went swimming with us at Sandy Beach, oops. Georgia went to pick Bear up from work, and Bruce and I wandered through a little toy store with a crazy mix of really old toys and new stuff. Bear wasn't feeling well, so we didn't do much exciting for dinner, just back to the house.


Wednesday, Georgia kicked us out to fend for ourselves while he cleaned the house. Heh, but that's a story for another time. We taxied up to Brimstone Fort, an old British military fort (http://www.geographia.com/StKitts-nevis/knbrim01.htm). We spent about 4 1/2 hours wandering around this place. This day was a lot of "you're not in the States any more" stuff. There was only 1 warning sign in the entire place, and there was "you could die" stuff at each step. Drop-offs down rock walls, stairways in the middle of sloped floors with no indication of which end of the opening is the top of the stairs, no guard rails anywhere. It was great! Truly, she speaks. Though apparently my feelings of "you could die" were not unfounded; during an Easter picnic years ago, a rush to get out of a sudden rain ended up with 10 dead...

Deciding that the taxi was way, way too expensive to call back, we caught the local bus home. The bus system in St Kitts is completely unlike the US systems. Buses are privately owned and operated mini-vans, that have vaguely recommended routes but no real set times or stops. almost entirely along a single road on the coast. A bus coming through town with space on it will honk when approaching people, and if you want on, you just step up and wave. They'll stop anywhere to pick people up, usually in the middle of traffic with minimal warning. They don't bother to pull out of the lane, so traffic just goes whipping around past them. Switching buses consists of signaling your driver, who begins honking at other buses until one of them honks back, then both stop (blocking the whole road, of course) and people jump off one, run or saunter, depending on their mood across the road, and climb on the other. To get off the bus, you just tell the driver where you want to stop; there aren't scheduled stops any more than there are scheduled routes, so you say "that pink house" or whatever, and the driver stops and lets you off. Again, they don't bother to pull off to the curb for this, just slam on the brakes and stop in the road. The maximum speed limit on the island is 40mph. Buses commonly disregard such niceties, and accelerate as fast as possible between stops, so you go 0 to 60 to 0 to 60 repeatedly and suddenly. It's like a roller coaster ride, in traffic. And much (1/10th of the price) much less expensive than the taxis. If we ever go back (or to a different island) we will absolutely be using the bus system! It was exhilarating.

We asked a random taxi driver on the street where we should eat dinner tonight, and he sent us to Chef's Garden, which was great food, once we convinced them to cook it for us. Then as we were walking downtown, we crossed paths with the lady from Scoops. By this time, we'd been in so often that she recognized us on the street and asked why we hadn't come in today...


Thursday we thought we'd try the Bat Cave/Bloody Point hike. Bloody Point (and Bloody Beach, and Bloody Canyon...sensing a theme here?) is where the British and French decided to cooperate with each other long enough to kill essentially all of the native population of Karibs. During a religious rite, no less. The canyon is a very narrow, very deep gorge in which the tribes gathered for ceremonies. The Brits and French split up the top of the gorge, and shot them all during their ceremony. Since we're both terribly masochistic, we called on the lovely warrior woman Laura to lead us on this hike. Unfortunately, with the past several days of rain, the hike was undoable; the trail was thigh-deep in very quickly moving water. We followed the top of the gorge for a while, but started running into fences and such. Backtracked and waded through the river again, then followed the old narrow-gauge rails for a while. The trellis was fun; ties were definitely not evenly spaced. Good thing neither of us is scared of heights!

Home for clean clothes, and then back to the Strip to see The Fireman at Mr. X's Shiggity Shack. The ginger chicken was quite good, and they didn't stint on the spice in the jerk pork. Not even a little stinting. The Fireman is a fire-eater/fire-breather guy who puts on a weekly show, somehow managing to not burn down the very crowded eatery. Well, in fairness, the fire-breathing happened outside. Then he comes back inside and limbos under a burning bar.


Friday's trip to the neighboring island of Nevis didn't happen, because it was (surprise!) still raining. Somehow, walking down to the ferry, ferrying across the way, and renting a scooter didn't sound like a good heavy rain plan. She can be so reasonable, sometimes. So we spent the day lounging about with Bear (who'd taken a sick day from work, but was feeling rather better, thankfully) and Georgia. Silly movies were watched, books were read, naps were taken. Good relaxing day.


Saturday we packed it all up, and headed to the airport for the return trip. Gotta say, the 24 hours of flying is not the best part of a vacation to St. Kitts! The flight into Atlanta was uneventful, until we got to Atlanta. And spent the first hour of our 2 hour layover sitting on the plane, on the tarmac. No gate to unload at, and then no crew to set up the available gate. Re-routes from some other airport that took priority. All manner of excuses, none of which actually got us deplaned. We finally got to head into the airport and check through customs, and then got the unpleasant news that we had to go pick up our baggage and recheck it, because for some unexplained reason the airline can't/won't shift it to the next plane at this point. Nevermind that this process consisted of standing around a baggage drop, picking our bag up, walking it to the next room, and handing it to someone to put on a different baggage carousel. Very frustrating and pointless. Speaking of pointless--we now have 30 minutes to make it across the Atlanta airport to our next flight before it departs. Which means it's probably boarding already. So we can run for it, right? WRONG. Instead, we have to go through security again. I guess the hand search of every bag, and pat-down of passengers after going through metal detectors and x-raying bags at St. Kitts wasn't sufficient, we have to go through the whole process (minus things like hand searching bags and pat downs, which are too...what... primitive? effective? annoyingly useless? to be bothered with in US security). So we end up with less than 10 minutes to get to our next plane before it departs without us. Good thing Atlanta's airport has trains, because I don't think we could have made the run.


When we got to Washington DC, we had 7 hours to kill. Too early to check in for our next flight (can't check in more than 6 hours early), so we weren't sure what the protocol on baggage was. Asked the steward and he said to ask the lady at the gate. So we asked her. She said we should go pick the bag up, since it might not get transferred to the next plane. So we trekked down to baggage claim and waited for it. Tried to check it into the baggage storage area, but they wouldn't take it. So we ended up packing it along with us the rest of the time. Not quite long enough to be worth getting a hotel room, but we thought we'd grab a taxi, and have them take us to food. Now, I don't have much experience with taxis in the States. My experiences with taxis have been on Caribbean islands, where if you ask a taxi driver for recommendations on just about anything, he'll have a list of places he likes, and a list of places that tourists like, and will be happy to (for a small fee, of course!) take you to any and all of them. Apparently, that's not how it works here. The taxi driver seemed to think that we were total nutjobs when we asked him what was a good place for late-night (it was pushing midnight at this point) dinner. He could not grasp the concept that we didn't have a hotel reservation. Finally came down to give him an exact address, or get out of the car. So we got out of the car. Went back inside the airport, found a yellow pages, and started calling restaurants listed as "late night". Got info, directions, and address, and went out to hail a different taxi. Gave address to this taxi driver, who asked what the place was. When we told him the name, he says "oh, I know that place! Good food!" Turns out the place is a 5 minute drive from the airport, frequented by cops and taxi drivers. So why the F did driver number 1 think such a place didn't exist? aarg. I hypothesize that the first driver had spent fewer hours in our nation's capitol than the tourists he was driving around. Ah, the power of a navigation system. Anyway, if you need a late night place in DC that will give you huge portions of food lest you waste away to nothing before breakfast, check out Kabab Palace. (http://www.yelp.com/biz/kabob-palace-arlington-2).

We decided not to try getting a taxi driver to tour us around DC to look at pretty monuments, partly because it was very late and we were tired, partly for fear of asking taxi drivers questions after previous experience, and partly because it was (still, again, some more) raining. We caught a taxi back to the airport, and tried to find some place to sleep for a couple hours. Unfortunately, the DC airport seems to be determined not to provide a comfortable napping area. No benches anywhere, just rows of chairs with metal ridges and low armrests between each seat. We ended up just laying out on the floor, which was cold and uncomfortable and not good sleeping.

When check-in finally opens well 3 of the twenty terminals, anyway, the rest got confused by DST, we pass over the bag, and the woman behind the counter tells us that we should have just left it for the airline workers to transfer, because it was already checked clear through to Spokane (even though we weren't!). She just looked confused and had no explanation when we said that 2 people the night before had told us differently. Ah, consistency.


Next stop, St. Paul. In stark contrast to DC, the St. Paul airport actually has at least one corner cubby with a floor pad in it for sleeping on at the gate. Too bad we were only there for an hour. The rest of the trip home was pretty uneventful, and Monday I returned to work to a pile-up of messages from clients. It seems I was missed... Bruce (the lucky lucky bas...er... gentleman) had the day off, and got to sleep in. And sleep in I did.

draggonlaady: (Vampire Cat)
The lovely Bruce acquired us tickets to Avenue Q, which he presented to me for Christmas. Because he bought them so very early, they came as a combo with a hotel reservation. So for Valentines, we set out to celebrate Christmas.

We dropped the kid off at his mom's, and arrived at the theater promptly at 10 to 3. Only to discover that in our careful planning, we'd made a slight error. Show started at 2. Horror!
All was not lost, however, as the very friendly entry-gate lady directed us across the way to the ticket office, where I admitted to feeling fairly idiotic, and commenced to beg. First person we spoke to passed us to her manager, who took pity on us, and switched our tickets out for a different showing. Without even charging us an exchange fee! So huge thanks and kudos on beyond-excellent customer service to the ticket folks at INB/Tickets West.
Now, we'd made dinner reservations for fairly late in the evening, because we expected to be at the show. So we had several hours to fill.

We hit Ben & Jerry's for a sundae to tide us over until dinner, and then caught a showing of The Wolfman. It was about what you'd expect from the previews. Dark, fun, pretty gory. I enjoyed it, and Bruce didn't complain much. ;)

Then, just to see how our luck was holding, we stopped by Twigs, the restaurant at which we had 8pm reservations, still a couple hours early. The hostess laughed (but not too mockingly) when we asked if we could sneak in early, but said she'd take our number and call if anything opened up early. Being right at the dinner rush time, we had no real expectation of a call significantly before our reservation. We headed off to browse some stores, but hadn't made it very far at all when the hostess from Twigs called and said there was an open table! Not even 15 minutes after saying they were booked solid for hours! It was our first time at Twigs, so we pestered our waitress with a ton of question about the food. She was grand; cheerful and peppy and very helpful. She was also REALLY flirty and fun, and at one point modeled for our suggestions how to properly flaunt her cleavage in order to win favors from the cooks. All in all, a good time, with excellent food. If you're ever near a Twigs, I highly recommend the fries, they are wonderful! Rice wine vinegar, salt, pepper, cayenne, and basil. Yum.

Dinner accomplished early, we messaged one of Bruce's friends to see what he was doing for the evening, and were invited to a Pasties and Paddles show he was photographing. Fairly amusing and the performers were obviously enjoying themselves, but the space left much to be desired...a good view of the stage primary among them.

After that, we dragged our tired selves off to the hotel, only to discover that despite our paperwork clearly stating that our reservations were for 13 Feb, the hotel had us as a no-show for 12 Feb. Again, however, this was quickly resolved with minimal fuss, and we found our way to comfy warm bed without having to make the 50+ mile drive home. Once again, hurrah for good customer service! That seems to've been a theme for the weekend, and a pleasant one it was!

Rolled out of bed at the luxuriously late hour of 11 this morning (it is sadly rare that we get to sleep in together, due to our offset work schedules), and went in search of brunch. The Kalico Kitchen was pretty busy, but the waitstaff was friendly and moved people in quickly. They do need to update their menu, as some items listed are no longer available (sad me, no coconut syrup for chocolate chip waffles), but the food was good and try as I might I really can't come up with anything significant to complain about.

From there we headed once again to the INB, and this time arrived in plenty of time for the show. Avenue Q was not exactly what I expected, but was an excellent show. The cast is a mix of people and puppets; I had expected a sort of Muppet-like puppet/people interaction, in which the puppeteers are behind or below the set and full-body puppets on stage, but the puppeteers were actually out on stage, carrying half-body puppets around and controlling them. Interesting. There was some editing/censoring of lyrics in the songs, and Bruce and I are wondering if it was "toned down" because of the area, or for the entire tour. Primarily, the word "fuck" was essentially removed from the play, though oddly, "shit" and "ass" remained in several places. It was quite a good production and I'm really happy that we were able to get tickets exchanged and see the whole show instead of having to step in at intermission yesterday!

One interesting point; in the original show/soundtrack, George Bush is mentioned passingly. That was changed to Glenn Beck in this one, and Bruce wonders now how that makes Mr. Beck feel--to be the new "ultimate evil bad guy" to all the liberals. I think he's probably pretty proud of it, if he even knows.

Wandered through a thrift store and tried on a couple dresses, picked up a couple toys, then headed northwards. Stopped at Flamin' Joe's for dinner. Bruce had the quesadilla, and declared it probably the best quesadilla he'd ever had. Wings were good, and the sweet potato fries were not bad. Not the best ever, but solidly in the good range. And hey, sweet potato fries! You have to try pretty determinedly to make those bad.

Then we stopped to get my Valentine's present (remember the whole Avenue Q thing was Christmas!). Picked up a shiny, slim, sexy, black .... keyboard! Hah. get your brains out of the gutter. My old ergonomic keyboard was fast on the way to uselessness, with stiff/sticky keys and an annoyingly loud clatter. The new one is much softer and easier on my hands. Also easier on Bruce's ears, so a win-win.

Coldstone for dessert (can never go wrong there), and now we are happily home, with a fire going and the critters happy to see us (mostly because it means dinner, I think).
draggonlaady: (Default)
ITV fined £1,600 for cruelty over 'rat risotto'

LONDON (AFP) – ITV has been fined £1,670 for cruelty to animals over an episode of "I'm A Celebrity.. " which saw contestants kill and eat a rat, a spokesman said on Monday.

The broadcaster was taken to court by the RSPCA in Australia in December after two of the reality show contestants caught a rat and killed it in a bid to feed their starving team mates.

Celebrity chef Gino D'Acampo and soap star Stuart Manning were both charged with animal cruelty after the stunt in which the creature was served up with rice and beans.

D'Acampo, who went on to win the show, said: "I saw one of these rats running around. I got a knife, I got its throat, I picked it up."

The RSPCA said that killing a rat as part of a TV stunt was "not acceptable".

ITV said it had "apologised for the mistake" and paid a fine of $3,000 Australian -- £1,668.

"The production was unaware that killing a rat could be an offence, criminal or otherwise in New South Wales, and accepts that further enquiries should have been made," the spokesman said.

"This was an oversight and we have since thoroughly reviewed our procedures and are putting in place a comprehensive training programme to ensure that this does not happen in future series."

Contestants who ate the dish apparently enjoyed it with Hollywood legend George Hamilton describing it as "actually quite nice.

"We all said it was like chicken but chickeny-beefy kind of stuff so it was actually very nice. If you kill it you should eat it," the elderly actor said after leaving the show in December.

I would just like to point out the incredible hypocrisy that goes into people's choices on what we can and cannot kill and eat. I didn't see this (I don't watch TV much and have no interest in "reality" shows), but I bet you dollars to nails that this rat died faster and easier and for more purpose than the millions of rodents people poison daily. So they get sued for killing it more humanely? Where are the suits against every store that sells D-con? and would they have cared if it was an animal that's "okay" to eat, like a cow? Tell ya what, your average person is a LOT more capable of humanely killing a rat than a cow.
draggonlaady: (Vampire Cat)
and I'll say it again. Cinnamon roll icing is the way to go for topping waffles. YUM!


Dec. 20th, 2009 01:22 pm
draggonlaady: (Vampire Cat)
I am.
The lovely Bruce made cookies of yum this morning (ginger chocolate cookies, as recommended by the esteemed [livejournal.com profile] neogrammarian).

And for breakfast, bacon and spiced meringue with Hollandaise over English muffins.

The man seriously tries to make up for the crap I get in the rest of life (like waking up with a headache that won't go away despite 3 doses of different drugs, and then having to go do a c-section on a goat first thing this morning...). I cannot believe how lucky I am to have tricked Bruce into thinking he's ahead by staying with me!

If you care on reference to the cookies, he made a double batch and substituted 1 oz of minced ginger for the ground ginger the recipe calls for.
draggonlaady: (Default)
Things I forgot to mention about Thursday:

We hit Market Square during a demo/show-off of a bunch of electric cars and renewable resource stuff. Got to ride on a Segway and poke around at some electric trucks. Saw a really cute electric lawn tractor. Won a couple pint glasses from Tennessee Green Fuels for our mad bean bag throwing skillz.

We also accidentally found a gay bar while looking for the titty bar. If you ever need to track down the rainbow folk in Knoxville, try Club XYZ. Or, you might wanna talk to the extravagantly be-jeweled gent at Bliss in Market Square.

On to Friday:

Friday we abandoned our goal of busing due to rain. We walked 2 blocks; by the end of the first, Bruce declared that I was indecent. Something to do with the water soaking my shirt down to me. We took shelter in Cafe 4, which was atrociously busy, and had a radio show broadcasting from the patio. Apparently they do not stir their mochas there... Not sure why. But if your first drink tastes like straight espresso, try stirring it. The pulled pork quesadilla was YUMMY. Parmesan on fries is a grand idea, but I think the truffle oil was wasted on fries. Bruce had the tomato bisque, and said "that's about as good as tomato soup gets".

Then off to brave the airlines again. Got to the airport early to request seat reassignments next to each other. Which means that since all flights to and from Chicago were delayed by weather, we got to spend 3 hours at the gate. Yay. But this time we actually got gasp good customer service, and the gent at the podium got us seated next to each other on all 3 planes.
So, flight #1 from Knoxville to Chicago left at 5 instead of 3:30. Fortunately for us, flight #2 out of Chicago was also running late, so we had an ample 30 minutes to get to our next plane. Unfortunately, that means that we arrived in SeaTac after our flight out was already boarded. I have a serious gripe about the airport here. There was NO ONE at any of the gates to ask questions of... no customer service to direct us to our next gate. We had to go all the way back out to the end of the concourse to find a board with flight info posted, then all the way back down the concourse to our gate. Inconvenient, to say the least.

Anyway, we arrived home at about 1AM. Tried to start a fire, it being rather colder in the mountains of home than it is in Knoxville. Well, actually, I DID start a fire. Unfortunately, for some reason we have not figured out, the chimney would NOT draw. Had smoke coming back out the air intakes under the stove and around the door seal, but it would NOT go up the flue. Made for a less than incredibly pleasant atmosphere inside. The really really weird thing here is that it works JUST FINE today. Maybe there was a raccoon sleeping across the top or something.

Okay, think I'm done with this travel log of sorts. Now I'm gonna go make Bruce paint my toenails and help him look for rope tying instructions for later...
draggonlaady: (Vampire Cat)
Slept in this morning, and that was really pleasant. Happy to report that we did not wake up covered in bedbug bites. Headed back downtown for lunch at Tomato Head. [livejournal.com profile] winnett, if you are ever in Knoxville, find this place. You'll love it. Lots of vegan choices on the menu. Pepperoni rolls were fun but not spectacular, the tomato sauce to dip them in could maybe have used simmering a little longer. The cheese melt sandwich Bruce had was really quite good, and the cheeses were really nice quality all around.

Then we wandered about town randomly, hit a bunch of little stores. Found dessert at Rita's; the frozen custard was really yummy but I was a bit disappointed by the mango ice--it tasted more like orange, very citrusy.

Yee Haw Printers was amazing to wander through. They have banks and banks and drawers of lead printer strikes, carved wooden print presses, some just beautiful stuff. I didn't realize people still did old letterpress printing any more, I guess.

Dinner at Calhoun's for BBQ ribs and pecan pie. Really cheerful, friendly staff, and balcony seating out by the Tennessee river was pleasant. Good place all around, I think.

After dinner we decided on some lechery, and headed out to The Emerald Club for some dancing girls. It was fun, but the variety was all in the girl and not in the dancing. Seemed like they all did very similar routines, and several of them didn't really put much effort into it. Which, you know, Thursday night and only about 10 customers (we were seriously outnumbered by dancers!) I guess they were probably pretty bored. The one lady that really stood out was actually the heaviest of the dancers, but she looked like she was having fun with it, you know? Talked to her a bit after, and she had just started at this place yesterday, after a 4 year hiatus since she danced in Florida. Sweet smile that lady had!

And now, back in the hotel for some sleepings. We'll be flying home tomorrow, wish us better luck than we had on the trip out here!


Oct. 21st, 2009 09:18 pm
draggonlaady: (Vampire Cat)
Stuffs for just in case anybody out there visits Knoxville :)

Stayed at Holiday Inn in downtown. Nice place, though not as nice as they charge for, I think.
Had lunch yesterday at Koi Fusion in Market Square. Good stuff, the tom yum was utterly unlike the tom yum I've had before; it was shrimp instead of chicken, and spicier. Good good despite being unexpected. Sesame chicken was excellent, and they managed to make the broccoli NOT squishy and bland.
Dinner plan was originally to go to The Butcher Shop, but they turned out to be closed on Tuesday, despite what the website says. So we took the rec of the hotel bus driver and went to a place called the Copper Cellar. Excellent chicken. Bruce says the bleu cheese grits were wonderful (I declined to try them, as I don't care for bleu cheese). Apparently the beer was great, and Bruce tried a drink called Herbal Remedy. Vodka + white grape + basil + bitters + sugar + lime. A bit too much on the vodka for me, but Bruce declared it his new favorite drink ever. Service was good, lechery was directed towards waitresses.

Today we moved out of downtown and into the much less expensive Super 8. Not as scary as half expected, given the facade of the motel down the street. Definitely missing the Hell out of the double shower heads at home though!
We went to a place called The Bistro for breakfast/lunch. Substantial servings, but the sweet potato fries were rather disappointing. They should not be bland. The Bourbon barbecue chicken sandwich was really good though. Barbecue sauce was quite smokey, and had just enough kick to be attention grabbing but not so much as to overwhelm.

Dinner at The Butcher Shop tonight. Interesting concept. You can pick your own steak, and cook it yourself at the quite sizable grill. We're not really sure how the liability works with that, but hey, fun stuff. Sadly, the steak was of lesser quality than hoped. The double baked potatoes were excellent.

Caught Zombieland after dinner. Much fun was had.

Dessert at Coolato Gelato was yummy. We may be heading back for lunch there tomorrow.

And now, SLEEP!
draggonlaady: (Default)
Just a blip I found that I thought I'd throw up here after the recent conversation
about organic/conventional farming and locally produced food.

From Newsweek:

"A New Yorker leaves a smaller carbon footprint drinking a French Bordeaux shipped across the Atlantic (2.93 pounds of carbon per bottle) than drinking a Napa merlot (7.05 pounds). That's because when it comes to calculating carbon costs, the method of transportation matters as much as the distance. Shipping freight by sea generates less than half the emissions associated with airplanes or tractor-trailers."


May. 28th, 2009 08:04 pm
draggonlaady: (Vampire Cat)
Banana bread. it's pretty good, right? nice, easy breakfast food. Unless Bruce makes it, and then it's full of wonderful. Yummy things like blueberries and coconut and chocolate chips. You should all be jealous.
draggonlaady: (Vampire Cat)
So yesterday, Bruce and I lounged about in bed much too late, then got all spruced up and went to town to see Spam-a-lot (his Christmas present to me). On the way out of the house, Bruce gets the brilliant idea to go to the Melting Pot for dinner if we can get reservations; he calls and spins a sob story about it being our anniversary and he's not so good at remembering these things and please please please please? and the guy on the receiving end of the call laughed at him and got us a table reserved, and generally acted like he hears this at least weekly. (meanwhile, I'm trying frantically not to bust up laughing next to him, because if anybody's likely to forget a date, it's me, but Bruce played it quite well--not over the top, just enough desperation. And no, none of you've forgotten our anniversary either. Depending on what you start counting from, it was January, February, or March. But it's not Christmas today either.)

Spam-a-lot was amusing, basically Quest for the Holy Grail set to music, but with plenty of scantily clad dancing girls to amuse Bruce and the other men in the audience who'd been wondering why they were going to a musical.

Then we walked over to the Melting Pot, where everyone was very happy to see us, and wished us Happy Anniversary, and there was an anniversary card on the table signed by all the cooks and the manager and our server. The server rocked, and talked us through all the different (overwhelming variety of) options, and even went so far as to suggest that we split an individual order so we'd have room for chocolate--which never happens, because why would a server try to sell you LESS food? And the food was all quite good. (Except I accidentally ordered a salad that was basically a tomato sliced up with slabs of Mozzarella on it. Great for those who like tomatoes, but I don't.)

Then we skipped into the mall to get me new thigh-highs that don't have that stupid rubber stay-up strap that doesn't actually make them stay up but does make it impossible to keep a garter belt fastened to them. Quite hard to find these things for some reason, and I don't know why because I refuse to believe that anybody actually LIKES the stupid rubber strap.

And came home to find the house flooded. It seems that our washing machine is possessed, or something, and decided that it should just run water all day long and not drain it out of the tub at all, so it's overflowed across the utility room and entire kitchen and is draining out down the heating vent in the kitchen floor.... yay. Thanks, washer. Great Christmas/anniversary present. But I refuse to be upset enough by it to cancel all the good. Despite the washer, it was a lovely, fun day.


Apr. 27th, 2009 06:43 pm
draggonlaady: (Default)
Gremolata==this is a wonderful, wonderful thing, and I'm saddened that you foodies out there (looking at YOU, 13fetters and la-roja) never told me about it. But I'm really happy that I know about it now!

Bruce's directions for making the yum:

Brine some chicken with some lemon. No particular brine---just brine. and lemon. and maybe some garlic. pepper won't hurt anything. Honey's always good. You just don't wanna do too much, because you're going for one of those 3 strong/balanced flavor things.

Take a smut break while that's brining.

Get yourself some lemon. Real lemon. A good one, like real fruit, not the silly lemon juice "ReaLemon" stuff. Zest it. Flat-leaf italian parsley and garlic (easy on the garlic, it's raw), mince it up. all of it. ALL OF IT. Even the zest.

Break out your Parmesan, shredded (not grated). Parchment paper, or other serious non-stick lining (none of that amateur stuff). Sprinkle 2 tablespoons parmesan into a round, flat disk. Cover it with the stuff. Bake at 350F until you achieve visual deliciousness.

Grill your chicken. Plate your chicken. No, you dork; put it on a plate, you don't need those electrodes. But if you have them, you know, keep them handy. We might use them later. Put a couple of fricoes (that's the parmesan crispy things) on the chicken. Sprinkle with the gremolata (the lemonygarlicyparsley stuff, in case you haven't caught on to that yet).

You'll need a knife. You could add some pasta or veggies to the plate too, if you really want.


draggonlaady: (Default)

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