Friday, November 23, 2007

Gerbil Preparation

The only thing missing now is the gerbils... which are on special order from the pet shop. Should be 2-3 weeks. Needless to say, there is excitement. I think it looks pretty cosy, myself - the gerbil sleeping/hiding pod in the top level, the food dish, the running wheel for exercise, the water bottle - and downstairs, plenty of space to dig and some tunnels to hang out in. There is also a chewing/playing in cube, which must have got put in after the photos were taken. And of course, there will be some toilet roll tubes for chewing and playing with, and probably some bedding, but we'll wait until the gerbils get here for that.

And I've hung the pictures that got displaced by moving the bookcase, above the cage. Couldn't have a blank wall in my house!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Image meme fun

Here's a fun meme I found over on Jane's blog. You answer the questions, typing your response into google images, then pick an image and post it for each question - you are supposed to use an image from the first page of the results. I may cheat, we'll see...

1. How old will you be on your next birthday (if I'd done this last week, I could have done a different number!)

2. A place you'd like to visit (New Zealand, if it isn't obvious).

3. One of your favourite places to visit (Juniper Top, not Boxhill - similar, but there's a world of difference).
4. Your favourite object

5. Your favourite food
6. Your favourite animal (I don't really have a favourite, but I do like elephants - they are so interesting & I love to watch footage of them swimming!)

7. Favourite colour
8. Name of a past pet

9. Where you live (I'd like to clarify that I live neither in the playground or the pub, but if you go one way from my street (which is a cul-de-sac) you get to one, and the other way, you get to the other. Unfortunately, it's a skanky pub, so we don't go there much.

10. First grade teacher's last name (it took me AGES to remember what it was)
11. Your middle name (clue: it's not Massachusetts)

12. A bad habit of yours (no, not brightly coloured plastic trays - snacking!)
13. Your college major

14. Favourite holiday (when I lived in the US, I might have said Thanksgiving, but we don't really do much with it here...)

As usual, I'm not going to actually tag anyone, but if you want to play along, go for it!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Thanks, Grandma

And of course, on this trip to California, presents were acquired from grandmas and great grandmas. The girls got some clothes for their bears, Alex got some building toys called K'Nex which all the kids like. Alex and Olivia also got another bear each, with a Mercedes jumper on and Sarah got some clothes, which she has been wearing non-stop since she got them. I seem to have misplaced the photo of Olivia with her bears (or maybe I never took one) but you get the general idea...

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Roses & Beaches

More beach photos - I know, but it's San Diego - there's a lot of beach here! On the left is the view as I walk to breakfast at the hotel - the hotel is a huge complex and there are lots of lovely courtyards absolutely full of roses. I am not the hugest rose fan in the world, but they sure are lovely here...

Yesterday we went to breakfast/brunch with Maria, my sister-in-law's mother, at the Eggery in Pacific Beach - here's the beach - we had to walk down to look at it before leaving, of course. A few more photos of the hotel and beach are in my flickr album.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Service with a view

Here's my brother and SIL yesterday before we went to the service - my brother is wearing my dad's favourite tie - not that he wore a tie much in his retirement, but this one was one he really liked from before - he was a stamp collector and this one has the inverted Jenny stamp printed on it...

And this is the view from where the service was held - being a Londoner, I keep forgetting than in San Diego, everything is outside. I was expecting a little chapel or something, but it was just a paved area with seats, and an open structure with a roof - sort of a gazebo - really beautiful. The service was simple and very nice, a few words from a former work colleague, the chaplain's little talk and the military honours - shots fired, "Taps" being played and a flag folding and presentation. He would have approved! And he would have loved the view from where his ashes will be placed - you can see all the cruise ships in the harbour on their way out to go down to Mexico - he used to joke that one of his main jobs in retirement was to sit on the patio in Baja and direct the cruise ships.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Beach & Friday's

Yesterday, while my stepmom collected her brother at the airport and ran some errands, my brother, SIL and I went up to her parents' house (also in San Diego) and collected their two dogs (my brothers & SIL's dogs, that is) and took them for a walk at the beach. Here are just a small handful of photos from that occasion...

And a story, just for fun. This was one of Dad's favourite stories to tell - he'd tell it to anyone who hadn't heard it before, and quite often, to people who had heard it - but that's how family stories work, isn't it...

My dad really liked the restaurant TGI Friday's, and had been going there for years, from the time they first opened, which was a long time ago. There used to be on right near where he and my stepmom lived, and frequently, they used to drop in there after work, until it got to be like their local - like their own private Cheers - the barstaff all knew them (they always sat at the bar) and when they came in the door, their usual drinks would be on the bar before they even got there. One year, Nancy bought my dad a handful of shares in Fridays - it was publicly owned at that point - as a Christmas present - not to make money from, necessarily, just for fun. So my dad walked in, announced they were now shareholders, and of course free drinks ensued. Fridays is pretty good like that for its regulars anyway, I think...

Anyway, it got to be a kind of theme in their marriage that they would "collect" Fridays - if they went away someplace together, they'd always look to see if there was a Fridays. In 1998, they planned a trip to London to visit us, but a month or two before they were scheduled to come, my dad's mother died. While they were up in New Jersey dealing with the funeral and her property, etc, they of course made a trip to a local Fridays. They got to chatting with one of the bartenders, who turned out to be on secondment from the Fridays in Covent Garden (you see where this is going, I bet!) - well, this guy, at the end of the evening, said to them that it was nice having talked to them, and if they were ever in London, stop by the Covent Garden Fridays and he'd buy them a drink. Of course, my dad kept completely mum about their planned trip!

A month or so later, what happens but Karl & Nancy show up in the Covent Garden Fridays & go up to the bar - this bartender was luckily working that day - and say "Here we are - where's our free drink?" They guy of course recognised them and said "Jeez, what some people will do for a free drink!" Anyway, we all went out to Fridays last night for dinner in his memory - it's definitely the place he would have chosen for us to hang out - it's not "their" Friday's, which is in Greenbelt, Maryland, as that's where they were living then, but it's a Fridays- and the loaded potato skins are still the best anywhere.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Belated cheesecake recipe

I know I promised ages ago. What can I say? I'm a slacker.

When I was a kid, my mom made the best cheesecake (still does, I'm sure) which we always called Judy Wollstadt's cheesecake, presumably because my mom got the recipe from Judy, a college friend. A while back, I found a similar recipe (not quite the same) in one of my magazines, which was good, as I'd lost my copy of Judy Wollstadt's cheesecake recipe and anyway, this one is in UK measurements and products. The main difference is the addition of lemon and the fact that some sour cream is in the filling as well as the topping. Pretty close, though, and every bit as tasty.

Not Quite Judy Wollstadt's Cheesecake

For the crust:
85g/3oz butter, melted
10 digestive biscuits (140g/5oz) made into fine crumbs
1 tbsp granulated or golden caster sugar

For the cheesecake filling:
3x300g packs full-fat soft cheese (e.g. Philadelphia), at room temp
250g/9oz golden caster sugar
3 tbsp plain flour
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
finely grated zest of 1 lemon
1 1/2 tsp lemon juice
3 large eggs, plus one yolk
284ml sour cream

For the soured cream topping:
142ml carton soured cream
1 tbsp golden caster sugar
2tsp lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 180C (160 fan)/gas 4.

Combine crust items and press into the bottom of a 23cm springform pan. Bake for 10 minutes; cool on a rack while preparing filling.

Increase oven temp to 240/200/gas 9.

Beat cheese until creamy, then gradually add sugar, flour, a pinch of salt, vanilla, lemon zest and juice. Then whisk eggs & yolk in one at a time, being sure to scrape bowl sides. Measure out 200ml of sour cream from large container and add to cheese mixture; reserve rest for topping. The batter should be smooth, light and somewhat airy.

Pour filling over crust. Bake for 10 minutes; reduce oven temp to 110/90/gas 1/4 and bake for 25 minutes more. If you gently shake the tin, theh filling should have a slight wobble. Turn off oven and let cake cool in oven for 2 hours. For a cake that's creamy in the centre, open door slightly; for a drier texture, leave it closed. A slight crack in the top is normal during cooling.

Combine the reserved sour cream with the rest of the topping ingredients and spread over the cheesecake. Cover loosely with foil and refrigerate at least 8 hours or overnight.