Archive for December, 2008

Christmas With the Kanes

I don’t usually have much to do on Christmas. This year I was planning on doing some work and cleaning my apartment. Thrilling, I know. Evan’s out of town and my family doesn’t celebrate the holiday, so I hadn’t planned on the day being any different from any other weekday. But I ended up with an invite to spend the day with one of my best friends’ families, playing games, eating tons of food, and feeling like part of the family. Thanks, Kacie!

We played a trivia game called Fact or Crap, which I wasn’t terribly good at–I wasn’t usually fast enough to judge whether a statement was true or false, and I often had to guess. It was quite a bit of fun, though we wished the game would actually give us the real answer instead of just saying what we read was “crap.”

We ate tons of food, of course–from cheese dip and olive spread appetizers to a delicious salad, cheesy potatoes, roasted vegetables, ham (which I can’t really comment on since I didn’t eat), as well as pie, See’s Candy chocolates and homemade caramels. There was a fire going in the fireplace all night, and they’d occasionally throw in pine cones which made the house smell even more festive.

After dinner, we played a dice game called Left, Right or Center, where everyone at the table was competing to be the last one with coins in front of them to win $20. Every time you roll the dice, you risk losing your coins to the person on your left, the person on the right or the center pot. If you’re lucky, you get to keep them–or your neighbor passes you one so you can stay in the game. The first round went to Kacie’s grandfather. He said he didn’t want the money and that we should play again. So we did, but he won again.

It was great to have something fun to do for Christmas other than sit at home and mope about all my friends being occupied with their families. Thanks again, Kace and crew, for making me feel like a party of your family.

You can check out a few more photos from my Christmas with the Kanes in my Facebook album.

Photowalk: Wakodahatchee Wetlands

Our afternoon at the Wakodahatchee wetlands in Delray Beach, Florida, was full of fun animal sightings, and Evan got some great photos. Here are some of my favorites:

We were greeted by a very pretty parrot at the entrance to the wetlands.

There was a giant alligator lounging in the sun with some turtles. They didn’t seem bothered.

We saw a bird (a hawk?) scoop up a fish with its talons and fly away with it.

There were two very large iguanas. One was colorful, the other wasn’t.

Check out more of the photos from Florida, including plenty of ducks, herons, turtles and egrets on Evan’s website.

Have Extra Cream? Make Butter!

I was having a slow night tonight. Evan’s out of town, as are a lot of other friends, and I was just relaxing at home along. I started perusing my Google Reader items, and came across a post on Lifehacker that caught my eye: Make Your Own Homemade Butter. It didn’t give instructions, but I was intrigued, so I followed their link to Slashfood, then looked up some more detailed instructions on Instructables. The project was perfect for me–I even had leftover cream from some soup I made that only needed a quarter of a cup, so I pulled out the blender and got to work.

All I needed was the cream–I had half to three-quarters of a cup; a mixer (apparently a stand mixer makes it go faster, but I only have a hand mixer); a spatula; and some very cold water (not pictured, but I put some ice in my Brita). I also used a bit of sea salt to flavor the butter at the end. Check out how pretty the butter turned out!

To start, beat the cream for about 10 minutes. It will start to get foamy, turn into whipped cream, and then start to thicken even more. Then, it will start to separate into buttery bits and buttermilk. You want to make sure the buttery bits are nice and thick, and the buttermilk quite watery, then just use the spatula to gather the butter bits into a blob and pour off the buttermilk.You can save it and use it for cooking apparently (I didn’t since I don’t think I’d use it right now).

It will look sort of chunky, and it will need to be cleaned with some cold water. Pour a bit of water into the bowl, and beat the butter on low with the mixer for 10 or so seconds. Gather the butter together in the bowl and pour off the water. Repeat this cleaning process until the water doesn’t get cloudy when beaten. It took me 3 times.

Then just take your butter, pack it all together, and mix in some salt if you’d like. Put it in a dish, a mold, a jar… however you’d like to keep it, and enjoy! I tried mine out on some toast. And I even found a real butter knife. Buttery!

Weekly Reading: Top Wii Games

I just did the 2nd edition of my apparently now yearly roundup of top Wii games for families at Hitched magazine. I interviewed Jeff Gerstmann, EIC at GiantBomb.com, again, and he had some great games to add to my list, and helped give me some more insight into the ones I hadn’t had a chance to try out myself. I did just recently get outdoor adventure, and I’ve been playing it quite a bit. It’s a great little workout. I even got my parents to try it, though they wouldn’t let me take a photo of them trying to maneuver a mine cart together.

Florida Roundup: Grandparents, Gators and South Beach

Sorry that I still don’t have the Florida photos, but I do have this one we took with the point-and-shoot in South Beach, and I suppose I may as well put into writing our 6 days in Florida while they’re still somewhat fresh.

We spent the bulk of the time visiting with my grandparents in Palm Beach and Boynton Beach (both sets of grandparents live there — at least in the winter), taking walks around the golf course and down the beach, eating at various restaurants, including Palm Beach’s Taboo and Couco Pazzo, and sitting by the pool. My aunt Marla was also in town, so we got to spend time with her, and the three of us shared a fantastic piece of key lime pie, with the densest meringue I’ve ever had, at the Four Seasons.

It was Evan’s first trip to Florida, so had to get in some traditional sights. We spent an afternoon at the Wakodahatchee Wetlands, a small man-made preserve where we went for a nice walk on an elevated platform above the water. We saw lots of turtles, herons, egrets and other birds. We also saw three alligators–a giant one, a medium sized one and a little baby–and two impressively large iguanas. Wakodahatchee was only about a 10 minutes’ drive from my grandparents place, and a really nice place to wander around for a bit.

We also spent a few hours one afternoon driving around Palm Beach to see the beautiful beachfront mansions, the stately Breakers hotel and the super-upscale Worth Avenue while my grandma played tour guide. It’s really a gorgeous place to tour around.

Our only real trip away from the Palm Beach area was down to Miami Beach. We had lunch outside at the News Cafe, then walked along the beach, Collins Avenue, and Lincoln Road, checking out the shops and enjoying the art deco buildings. We rented lounge chairs and relaxed on the beach, then went to Puerto Sagua to get some Cuban food for dinner. Unfortunatly Cuban food isn’t very veggie-friendly, so I ended up having a potato omelet and some fried yuca, which left me yearning for something green and healthy. I suppose I should have ordered a salad to go with it. Next time I’m there, I’d love to check out the Wolfsonian museum. It was near closing time when we walked by, so we just went into the store, and it looks like they have some really neat design objects.

This trip was really nice and relaxing, and it was great to spend some more time with my family — and finally introduce them to Evan, too. Evan’s still traveling, actually, and he’ll be on the East Coast until nearly New Year’s while I’m holding down the fort, or rather, the two-bedroom apartment, in LA.

We should have some pictures up soon — look forward to seeing the alligators and iguanas.

Weekly Reading: Tech, Tech, Tech, Chocolate!

I’m back from Florida and have plenty to share. I’ll be putting up the pictures and posting about the trip soon, but for now I have lots of new stories out on these fair interwebs. Not presented in the order the headline would lead you to believe, let’s start with dessert…

First, there’s my SpoiledinLA Holiday Gift Guide Review of Madame Chocolat, which you already got a little preview of.

Then there are two AllBusiness articles: one on web browsing tricks to help you speed up your surfing, and another on whether a netbook is right for you.

And then there’s a piece I did for Entrepreneur.com about the unwritten rules of social networking. I interviewed Joel Postman of Socialized PR about The Unwritten Rules of Social Networking, from how to interact with clients to the best strategies for growing a strong following. We also discussed whether to hire a community manager and how to balance your personal and professional identities. Thanks, Tomdog, for sharing one of your social networking blunders, and thanks to everyone else who shared their social media horror stories via Twitter and LinkedIn, too.

Winter Travel Season Begins Tomorrow: We’re Going to Florida


A photo of my mom’s parents on my last trip to Florida in 2006

Tomorrow night we’re heading off to Florida for a little 5-day vacation to visit my grandparents — both sets. I haven’t seen them in a while and Evan hasn’t even met them yet since they live so far away and he’s never been around when they’ve come to California. We’re excited to get some slightly warmer weather, some new scenery — Evan’s never been to Florida — and to relax with my family.

We’re also planning on spending a night in Miami, but we need to do a bit of research to figure out where to stay and what exactly to do. I’ve spent a total of one afternoon in South Beach so far, and mostly just spent my time walking down the beach. If you have any suggestions for Miami, or for Palm Beach/Boynton Beach (where we’re staying), we’d love to hear them!