>We went to the Bridlewood vineyard today, which was one of the most amazing places I’ve ever been to, and on another gorgeous day.

Bridlewood is right up next to the east/west mountain range, which gives the syrah grapes a flavor like nowhere else. 90% of the 105 acre output is syrah, of which we tried three, including the #5 Syrah in the Syrah du Monde competition in France.

Syrah grapes – sweet and juicy, although with bitter, crunchy seeds.

I loved the pipe rail. Elegant yet practical.

Bridlewood has only been a winery for 15 years or so. Previously, it was a racehorse rehabilition facility, and there are racehorses there still, as well as a small track and stables. Remnants of the property’s past life show up everywhere.

The cellar used to be the stables.

A horse stall now holds a temperature-controlled cask.

The award-winning Syrah, straight from the cask.

And the final product.

I wanted one of these plants – the texture of the seed pods was like felt. I’ve never seen something like this before.

Then, we had a lovely lunch in Los Olivos – John had a fresh crabmeat sandwhich, and I had the most lovely salad with cumin-toasted pumpkin seeds, a bleu cheese vinaigrette, avocado and tomato, and then we got coffee and cupcakes at the sweetest little cupcake shop. I adore cupcakes. We got a small flight of them, including some with wine in them – which were of course phenomenal.


>Look how big they are! They’re in their ugly teenage years. You can almost see the acne.

This is another family (below) – the members of each seem to decrease every week. Sad. There were another 2 families swimming in the water, too, but I figured 12 pictures of geese just sitting there might be unnecessary.

So many big birdies!

And then the coconut cream stout, by the Battered Boar Brewing Company. Delicious. It will go with our meal, on our first grill! Hurray!

And Kitty is pondering what the beer might taste like. He did drink some Blue Moon out of the bottle cap once, back at 1350 N. Kedzie.

>Shannon’s downstairs making us martinis, so I thought I would grab a minute. How much I miss Chicago restaurants! Tonight, we went to a tapas bar in Rice Village – we ordered quail with figs in chipotle and chocolate sauce – heaven. Then poached monkfish in a honey saffron cream – I can’t imagine how they made it, as there was no texture of honey in the sauce, almost as if they boiled, frothed it into cream. Garlic spicy shrimp, baby clams and lamb kebobs in herbed couscous. Absolute heaven. It makes me want to spend more time in the kitchen, but I’ve been so unmotivated lately there…probably because of how much my life is absorbed in taxes right now at work. But I should do more with fish – more sauces, more broiling, etc.

It’s so good to talk with Shannon – we’re making up with lost time from Christmas, although it’s only a short weekend. But it’s good to bond about Mom, and about everything else. Tomorrow, massages & spa & gym and more martinis, then shopping.

Oh, and Shannon’s just handed me a martini, in a plastic martini glass. She says it’s because they slip out of her hands in the sink when she’s washing them. Mmm-hmm. I think there’s another reason why Benny only lets her drink out of plastic glasses.

I love my family so much! We’re all so predictable.

>Two lovely loaves of French bread today: one for John, and one for a woman at work. I get such pleasure out of the supple, soft dough, kneading it, how moldable it is under my wrists and hands and fingers – the texture is thrilling, how I could shape it into whatever I want to make of it. And the smell – so fragrant and fresh. John says these were the best loaves yet, but he says that with almost each new kind of bread I make, and these I’ve made several times before. Perhaps I know how to do it, finally.

I braved the misty weather for a run on the dam, which was also lovely. I haven’t run there since I first injured that pesky Achilles tendon, and wouldn’t you know, it started acting up again – and I believe it could be the slant of the running path. Hopefully I didn’t overcompensate this time.

And since I ran, I am allowing myself more of Scottish Graeme’s Talisker. We have to get through the bottle anyway, so then I can go purchase all of Scottish Ilan’s recommendations.

Also, I couldn’t have been MORE wrong about Cherie Priest’s Boneshaker. What on earth was I thinking, dreading it? That woman has put in more enticing hooks than all of VanderMeer’s novels combined. There are STEAMPUNK ZOMBIES in it. I devoured the first fifty pages last night. I’m going to force myself to read the new Locus issue before I pick up the book again, and then work my way through some slush submissions, which Kitty has agreed to help with.

>A baking frenzy this weekend, and our 6-month anniversary brunch at Bellini’s, which was deliciouso (including a bloody mary with horseradish, sun-dried tomatoes & kalamata olives for me, and an Irish coffee for John). I made 2 loaves of Hungarian split-farmhouse loaf, one with 1/2 a cup of buckwheat flour as an experiment (on the right), and the other as normal. The last time I made this bread, it turned out splendidly. Yet the loaf on the left (the normal) looks a bit like the rye from yesterday, and the buckwheat on the right a success (although a bit flat). I’m not sure what happened. At least they both taste fantastic.

And then the pork and apple cider stew, which was lovely. We drank some of the Talisker, which I don’t like quite as much as the Laphroaig, although still enjoyable in its own right. I agree with Graeme, it is like the sea. Briny, and almost ashy.

Then this. Here is what it looked like for me, and I forgot the Kahlua, too. It was deliciously evil. I’m going to try to pass a few pieces off at work tomorrow, too, to spread the guilt.

Also bought Mieville’s The City and the City at Borders today. I’ve been waiting for it in paperback, but finally gave in. And Cherie Priest’s Boneshaker, which I’m not convinced I’ll like, but I need to give it a shot – I’m very well-versed in the short story market right now, but it’s been awhile since I’ve read a good novel. There were also some YA’s I was planning to purchase, but the Borders didn’t have them, which frustrated me. You’d think after being well-received enough to get a Nebula nomination and also a ‘best of’ on the Locus reading list that a Borders would carry them, but no. Oh well.

>Work has gone from hardly working to so busy I can only grab a few minutes here and there. I even dreamed about tax returns last night – it was awful.

Today is cold and misty. There’s fog rising off the pond.

It’s bread-making weather. Or rather, just put the ingredients in the machine and let it do the work weather.

A light whole wheat bread.

I have the ingredients for a rye loaf set on a timer in the machine, to go with the pork apple stew for dinner, if that’s what we end up having, stew with apples and hard apple cider in it. And maybe we’ll try Graeme’s Talisker Scotch. All of that before I make the unmentionable.


We had Girl Scout Cookies for dinner instead of stew & rye bread. Well, I did, and John had a panini with the wheat bread, because the rye? Not so pretty.

This is what happens when you try to convert a 3 lb loaf recipe into a 1 lb loaf recipe, and you don’t know what you’re doing. It’s hilariously awful-looking, but it tastes amazing.

Maybe the stew & pie tomorrow.

I finished another revision of Braeberry Street tonight. Off to more readers, and then we’ll see how I feel about submitting it. I have a feeling it might just get shelved indefinitely, since it doesn’t seem to really fit a market. Yet I’m happy with where it’s at right now. It’s gone through so many changes, and every single one makes it that much better.

>To take one, go to the liquor store, hit the whisky (not the American whiskeys) aisle and find a bottle of Laphroaig. It’s my newest favorite beverage ever, recommended highly by Scottish friend Graeme (also bought a bottle of Talisker on his list, but we haven’t tried it yet). G, you’re right, it is peaty. I felt like I was licking the soil of Scotland on the first sip, and the next and the next – smoke and fog and wet leaves and earth, with the haunting sound of bagpipes in the background (and beautiful scenes from Braveheart, since that’s all my very American mind could pull together at that moment). Our little Oklahoma City duplex had disappeared, and I was sitting in some Scottish cottage, overlooking moors or bogs or peaty swamps. And the aftertaste – I swear I tasted peanut butter, although John thought I was crazy.

It’s the real stuff, this whisky with no ‘e’. The second glass, we did it the right way, with only a little cool water (instead of two ice cubes like our American brews), and it was a different beverage altogether. Even more flavorful. Now we can save up for the really old stuff – I think the bottle that I purchased was only aged ten years.

Thanks again, Graeme.

And to completely change the subject, we watched Aliens tonight – in my opinion, one of the best SF movies I’ve ever seen, and it was made in 1986. What I most appreciated was the lack of excessive explanation about anything. There was no need to show and tell what was happening – Cameron just showed it, especially at the end by having Sigourney Weaver back carefully out of the room with the eggs, point the flame gun up in the air and show the aliens that she could burn their eggs, and they retreated. We never once had to hear her inner or outer narrative; the audience was assumed to have brains, and the ability to put two and two together, and it was absolutely fantastic. I’ve seen a decent number of movies in the last year and 99.9% of them were so saturated with dialogue and sound that the experience was negatively overstimulating, no matter what the genre.

And now I have the creepy shrill alien screams in my head.

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