Monthly Archives: April 2012

Super Fancy Latte Art

For many years I was content with whatever coffee happened to come my way. More than content, really. I love coffee. Puts my mood on the elevator going UP! So perhaps the recent descent B and I have made into coffee snobbery is not all that surprising. It started innocently, really, with a gift of a stainless steel coffee mug from my parents to B. He was delighted by this mug and, not one to waste nice gear, he began drinking coffee with me in the mornings just to use it. With a partner for my caffeinated endeavors things rapidly evolved. First it was the stovetop espresso maker. Then it was the milk frother. The next step was the biggest- after much research we invested in the 20 lb, stainless steel Gaggia Classic espresso machine. Oh my. After a steep initial learning curve and much internet mediated support, this thing makes some real nice espresso. Soon the Trader Joe’s coffee was out and Blue Bottle was in. We started referring to sub-par milk froth as “dishwater.” The grinders at the store were far too inexact. We had to have our own Rancillio Doserless Rocky grinder to better control the variables. We watched longingly as baristas on YouTube made perfectly textured milk foam and poured exquisite latte art. Hearts! Trees! Dragons!

I practiced this hobby vigorously enough to start getting intense caffeine withdrawal headaches. So I cut back. And back. Until I found that drinking any coffee at all seemed to give me a headache. Such tragedy! I am still in mourning and rehashing this breaks my heart all over again, but I write this post as an excuse to publish something of which I am very proud. The pinnacle of the all too brief latte art attempting stage in my life, a tribute and a farewell to coffee:

The soon to be coveted and rarely seen Bichon Frise Latte!


The Awesome Thing About My Horse Being Slow Like Molasses

The other day on the trail as Sebastian and I finally managed to pass an elderly lady shuffling down a hill with her white-muzzled golden retriever, the lady commented “Oh! You were going so slow I thought you must have been a person!” In certain circles this may be a complement. If Sebastian were destined to give pony rides at the carnival no comment would have pleased me more. Thing is, we are working towards long distance trail competitions. Riders in these types of competitions brag about the speed of their horses’ walks, as in “Is it okay if I pass with Trigger? He has a huge walk and he jigs if I hold him back too much.”

The average trail horse walks somewhere in the range of 3-4 miles per hour. Sebastian, given his druthers, would walk about 0.5 miles per hour. That is, if there was nothing interesting to eat along the way that demanded a prolonged pit stop.

Sebastian eyeballing a juicy looking fern in the middle distance.

Sebastian practicing his model horse pose (sucking in the gut, I’m pretty sure). Watch out Horse Illustrated.

At about 14.2 hands he’s not a leggy creature, but really that’s no excuse. He’s got plenty of go when he feels it is necessary. He just doesn’t have those kinds of feelings very much of the time.

So, after many a long conversation with Sebastian about keeping our forward momentum, I needed to work on seeing the bright side of this. What is awesome about having a horse with more “whoa than go” (as the Parelli folks would say)? Turns out it is the perfect situation to up the ante in terms of training on the trail by going from doing a good portion of my communicating with the bridle to using only a neck rope (with the bridle as a safety net- we do live in Oakland, crazy stuff happens on our trails). I made a mini-flag out of my dressage whip by trying a scrap of plastic bag to the end of it so I have a way to correct him when he doesn’t respond to just the rope.

The whole thing works like a charm! Both of us are more engaged. He keeps me busy because he is not a horse that feels confined by the boundaries of the trails. Lately we ride mostly fire roads and he frequently asks if we can wander off into the bushes or up what look like small cliffs to me. Maybe it’s a Mustang thing. Waving the flag to correct his direction when necessary has a bit of a motivating effect, so he gets back in the direction I’m requesting and reactivates the forward. Perfect!

Baby Succulent Delights

Our roof deck has not gotten much use in the past few years since O was born, as evidenced by this lounge being eaten by the Japanese Maple. We had assumed it’s only job recently has been to provide the cat with yet another place to sleep.




Apparently the lounge made just the right conditions to hatch a tiny crop of succulent volunteers! Must have been seeds from the containers on the lower part of the deck. We have volunteers of all kinds in the garden, but these are the first succulents I have noticed.


I love when plants reward my lack of attention to proper housekeeping with treasures like these.


Just minutes after publishing that last post our goldendoodle Bonny started boofing to announce the arrival of the postman inside our front gate. He was carrying this:

It was very loud! Chock full of hungry, thirsty babes peeping vigorously for their first meal.

I gave each chick the obligatory beak dunk, so they knew where the water was, and they were off!

The best thing about little chickens is how very much they act like big chickens- they scratch, they do the wing/leg combo stretch, they peck leftovers off one another’s beaks, and they pick up tiny sticks and run like hell until it is plain to every other chicken anywhere in the vicinity that a prize has been found.

One thing particular to the tiny guys is their cat naps. Frequently as they walk into the range of the brooder light and warm up they do clumsy, slow-motion face plants and pass out instantly in the bedding. They nap until they are stepped on enough times by the others, and then get back to the important work of growing up. One little one tumbled and capsized right under the light. After an unsuccessful attempt at righting himself he got so cozy he fell asleep with wings splayed out, toes in the air. I think it has been a long 3 days for this brood.

I could watch these babies constantly. It’s going to be hard to do much else!

Waiting for The Stork


I am writing as a means of quelling my anxiety. As I type, somewhere in Oakland a box of baby chickens is accompanying a USPS worker on his rounds. Last week I ordered 25 chicks (+ 1 free! Rare Exotic Breed) from McMurray Hatchery and according to my tracking info they will arrive sometime today. Hopefully sooner than later, as their window of possible survival is closing soon. Before they are born baby chicks absorb the nutrients from the egg yolk and can live for 3 days after hatching without food or water.

Today is the 9th. The babies shipped on the 6th.  Everybody cross your fingers for a box of *live* babies.

Everyone Should Grow This

O and one of our most beloved plants, Sanchez:

Sonchus acaulis “Cerraja”

I really can’t get my head around why these plants aren’t common. It is super tough, the foliage is beautiful and for about a month in the Spring it looks like an enormous dandelion. Hilarious! This particular plant lived in a pot with no soil for months before I relocated it to its current home. I’m pretty sure I didn’t even water it. In its native land of the Canary Islands it is an epiphyte on the trunks of trees, so apparently it can take this variety of torture. Unfortunately Annie’s Annuals no longer grows this gem. May have been lack of demand. Sigh. Where are the silly plant people?? The rains brought down the flowers this year, but he’s still a stunner. Our Sanchez.

7 Sleeps Until Easter

Excitement about Easter has really been building around here. O has been counting down the sleeps for weeks.

I’d like to say I awoke at dawn in order to chop beets and gather lichens from the forest to make my own natural dyes, but really I couldn’t pass up the Paas dye kit. Ah, the brilliant, artificial dyes of my childhood. O seemed quite satisfied.

Our chickens lay blue, green, and brown eggs, so revealing the colors was extra exciting. Good work O!