Sunday, December 30, 2007

River walk

It was a pretty nice morning, so we decided to take a walk down by the Truckee River downtown with Grandma Gail. Got some good pictures; I'll just let them speak for themselves...


Just a little bit of cute here...

Of course, after we played with the bunny for awhile, Sofia's nose was running ike crazy. Even though the allergist said she didn't test allergic to rabbit, we think there may be something there...

Dreaming of Gwen Stefani

Honestly, this one caught my eye because of the title, Dreaming of Gwen Stefani. Now, I've been a fan of Gwen and No Doubt since about 1991, when a college roommate of mine from San Diego introduced me to them. That was back in their ska days, and while they've steadily become poppier, I will still give them a listen from time to time. The book, anyway, is about a guy who falls in love with Gwen after seeing a program about her and the band on TV, and dedicates his life to preparing himself to meet her someday. It's kind of sad, kind of realistic, kind of fun. Feels like Vonnegut, Salinger and John Kennedy O'Toole all wrapped up together. Great quotes from No Doubt scattered throughout, too...

Book 95

Fallout shelter

So the local Reno myth is that under the downtown branch of the library, there is a fallout shelter that's been there since the building was built. Turns out it's true, and Mich and I were lucky enough to get to go on a little tour of it, led by my friend and coworker, Marc.

In the back corner of the Periodicals section downstairs, there's a grate in the wall. In fact, the grate is a door leading into the fallout shelter.

There's a small "lobby" kind of area just inside the door, then you climb down a ladder to the main part of the shelter. Here's someone getting ready to climb down.

Once down, the shelter is basically two long concrete ventilation tunnels. Pretty windy inside them, too. Here's Mich sitting in one:

And a view down one of the tunnels:

Then back up on the other side of the ladders, there are some Civil Defense supply barrels stacked up. Marc hopped up and showed us some.

Many of the barrels were water containers like the one that Marc is holding, but some had this great logo on them:

There were also quite a few tins of "carbohydrate supplement", which was simply really old hard candy. Marc said that they had tried some last time they went down, and they were disgusting.

A couple more pictures of the entrance/exit, from inside and out...

Anyway, thanks again to Marc for showing us around down there; it was pretty interesting!


Obviously, I'm a few days behind on blogging here. We had a very nice Christmas, though Christmas Eve at Mich's parents house, then Christmas morning at our place. Everyone came over, opened stockings, had some breakfast, and then dove into presents. I didn't get a lot of pictures, because I always end up handing out presents frantically. (Trying to train Julien into that job, but he wasn't interested this year...) The few pictures I did get were of Sofia opening a present from Nanny and Grandpa, which was bigger than she was.

It was a big kitchen set; here she is checking it out...

Anyway, it was just the right amount of Christmas. Hope everyone else's was nice as well...

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Gods Behaving Badly

Gods Behaving Badly was excellent. I'm a sucker for the gods/mythology translated to modern times genre (witness one of my favorite books ever, Good Omens), but this was especially well done. And from a debut novelist, too, Marie Phillips. (Whom I'm afraid I have a bit of a crush on now, dang brunettes...)Basically the story of the Greek pantheon of gods, whose power has diminished and are living in a rundown house in central London, and what happens to them when they inadvertently get mixed up in the affairs of a couple of mortals who are trying to fall in love. It's funny, smart, sexy, sweet and did I mention funny? I chuckled, I laughed out loud, I giggled, I think I laughed every way I can think of. Well, maybe I didn't guffaw. I won't admit to guffawing. Great book, though.

Book 94

Monday, December 17, 2007

Smile When You're Lying

Another book that pulled me in with cover design. Chuck Thompson's Smile When You're Lying: Confessions of a Rogue Travel Writer is his manifesto of what's wrong with travel writing, told with illuminating stories from his experience in the field. Even when he's ranting, it's pretty funny stuff. From salacious tales of the Thai sex trade to an East German grunge rock tour, he keeps the humor up while being honest about how things really work in the travel industry. Really, this is my favorite kind of nonfiction: offering a laugh while imparting some kind of information.

Book 93

Friday, December 14, 2007

Sofia's Christmas program

Sofia had her Christmas program at her daycare today. They did it around midday this year, instead of at the end of the day when everyone is cranky and ready to go home like last year. Less of a parent turnout, and the kids were ready for lunch and nap. They sang 3 songs, and were pretty cute. I guess you're expecting some pictures...

Thursday, December 13, 2007


Nothing sad; just Julien's first lost tooth. It had been loose for a few days, fell out this morning. Can't find it, though...

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Plato and a Platypus Walk into a Bar

The second I saw this title, I know I had to read it. It didn't disappoint. This is basically Philosophy 101, abridged, told using jokes as examples. Quite a few of the jokes were so funny, I had to read them out loud. I'm sure my wife enjoyed that. Great stuff.

Book 92

Monday, December 10, 2007

Rainbows End

I read Rainbows End on the strength of a review at I can see why they loved it. This is a near future mindwhirl of a book, with some of the human/technology interface ideas of Cory Doctorow's Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom and some of the history/family feel of Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon. There's a worldwide conspiracy plot line, a family who is mixed up in it with their own plot arc, and some great characters. A cured Alzheimer's patient who has last his ability to write award winning poetry; his granddaughter, child of brilliant parents with a bit of a Nancy Drew feel; and her stepmom, suffering psychological damage from neurological overtraining. Every page seemed to have cool, interesting, nearly possible ideas and concepts expanded in fiction form. At the same time, though, it wasn't over written. Enough was left to the imagination to make it tempting and tantalizing. Highly recommended.

book 91

Sunday, December 9, 2007


Julien, concentrating hard on a game of Scrabble Sorry...

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Pumpkin cake in a jar

Time for one of my holiday baking traditions, pumpkin cake in a jar. This is from a recipe that my mom made years ago, and I started making every Christmas a few years ago. They make great gifts for coworkers or neighbors, and since they're sealed in a jar, they keep unrefrigerated for quite awhile. Much longer than I've ever been able to keep one around without eating it, anyway. Here are some pictures, and I'll share the recipe at the bottom.

A dozen jars, set out on a baking sheet ready to be filled. I think they still need a shot of nonstick spray inside at this point. The Silpat is only there to keep the jars from sliding around.

The cake batter. Making a 12 jar batch of this is pretty much maximum capacity on my 9 cup Kitchenaid mixer.

Jars filled and ready to bake.

Sofia was very curious about what I was baking and why I was taking pictures of it...

Cakes baked and out of the oven. Have to hurry a little at this point to get the lids so they can seal as they cool.

Jars lidded and cooling. The 42 minutes at 325 degrees is for the next batch that just went in.

Three of the five dozen jars I'm making this year.

Pumpkin Cake in a Jar

Ingredients / 8 jars / 12 jars
Shortening / 2/3 cup / 1 cup
Sugar / 2 2/3 cups / 4 cups
Eggs / 4 / 6
Pumpkin / 2 cups / 3 cups
Water / 2/3 cup / 1 cup
Flour / 3 1/3 cups / 5 cups
Salt / 1 ½ tsp. / 2 tsp.
Ground cloves / 1 tsp. / 1 ½ tsp.
Allspice / ½ tsp. / ¾ tsp.
Cinnamon / 1 tsp. / 1 ½ tsp.
Baking soda / 2 tsp. / 3 tsp.
Walnuts (optional) / 1 cup / 1 ½ cups
8 or 12 pint-size, wide mouth jars with lids and rings for sealing
Wax paper circles cut to fit inside jars

Cream shortening and sugar together, adding sugar slowly. Beat in eggs, pumpkin and water. Set Aside.

Sift together flour, baking powder, salt, ground cloves, allspice, cinnamon, and baking soda. Add to pumpkin mixture and stir well. Stir in nuts, if using.

Pour batter into greased canning jars, filling half-full. Place jars on cookie sheet. Bake upright in preheated 325 degree oven for 45 minutes. (Cake will rise and pull away from sides of jar.)

When done, remove cookie sheet from oven. While still warm, place wax paper circle on the top end of the cake. Wipe sealing edge of jar. Place lid on jar and close tightly with ring. Let cool fully; jars should seal as they cool.

To serve: Open jar, shake cake out. May need to slide a knife around inside of jar to loosen cake. Warm cake in oven if desired. Slice and serve.

This recipe was slightly adapted from the cookbook Recipes from Riversong, Pat Crocker, Moulin Publishing, 1996.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Santa hat cupcakes

Since I had apparently been cured of my inability to make decent cupcakes while making the vampire cupcakes at Halloween, I decided to make some Christmas cupcakes. Not sure where the idea came from, maybe the domed shape of a cupcake, but I thought it would be cool to frost them to look like little Santa hats. I did a few google and google image searches and found lots of Santa face cupcakes, but no Santa hats! Surely I can't have been the first person to try this. Anyway, here's the process in pictures:

Start with whatever kind of cupcakes you want, I used a basic yellow cake.

Pile some red frosting up into a cone shape. I used a bag, but you could probably spread it into shape just as easy...

Because I had to spread the red frosting a bit anyway so it didn't look like, well, a big red poo.

Frost a white border around the bottom, and a white pompom on top. Voila!

I'm sure someone else could make these look a lot better, my cupcake "production values" weren't the best this morning. But they were fun to make.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Selling Out

Well, that was a stronb second book in a series. I read the first one, Keeping it Real, last week, and a couple of other things before this one. Very nice progression. Fairly gutsy writing, and I must say, I'm waiting for the third one now. Not sure if this is planned as a trilogy or what, but I'm going to read it out...

Book 90


Had all the cousins over last night - my job was to be the "horsey."