Sunday, April 27, 2008

Catching Up

Finally the weather is improving. Better weather = more riding + less blogging. So a quick round-up is in order. . .

Starting cycle-commuting to work last week on the new bike. All is going well with it. I am very fortunate (and grateful!) to have access to some really fantastic facilities at work for bike storage and showers in the fitness center for cleaning up. I will eventually invest in all-weather gear so I can ride in the rain if necessary.

Speaking of upgrades, yesterday I picked up some SPD pedals for the Dew so I can click into the pedals.

They are Shimano A530. I didn't realize how accustomed I had gotten to being clicked into my bike until I was riding with standard pedals again!

Fun stuff
Went to music trivia at St. Stephen's last night. What a great time! I never go to any trivia night with the intent to win -- just to play and have a good time, which I did.

Went to Barry Manilow Friday night -- yes, Barry Manilow. I am not a huge fan, but was going along with the hubby, who really likes him. Yeah you read it right -- I said my hubby really likes Barry. Anyway, it was neat hearing certain very popular songs of his live. I think I counted a 27 piece orchestra: 11 strings, 9 horns, 1 rhythm/acoustic guitarist, 3 keyboardists + Barry from time to time, 1 percussionist, 1 drummer, 1 bass guitarist. He also had four backup singers. By the way, Barry really loves his Botox.

On top of it being a Barry concert, it also happened to be the first event inside the new Chaifetz Arena. They have some serious logistics issues to work out, but the facility itself was fine.

Have been to several food places since I posted last. Went to The U sandwich shop, Buffalo Brewing Company, and Pappy's Smokehouse. All three are at the corner of Lindell and Cardinal, just east of Compton. Food was good in all three, though the U needs work on handling its orders well.

Last but not least, of course, is God! Since starting my new job, my schedule has not afforded me the opportunity to go to weekday Masses, which I miss a lot. I think I am going to give a try to the mid-day Mass at one of the downtown Catholic churches.

Regarding today's readings, I am always so happy when the Holy Spirit is given special attention in the readings. I think we often overlook the Holy Spirit and it is unfortunate, because the Holy Spirit is a wonderful source of wisdom and guidance for us in our day to day living. Try using the Examen of Consciousness to get in touch with that guidance every day -- you may find it to be a wonderful source of grace throughout your day by adding it to your everyday routine.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Do the Dew

I decided to take the cycle-commuting plunge and recently picked up a 2007 Kona Dew. I added a rear rack, panniers, bike computer, bell, and tail light to it. I moved the computer from my road bike to the Dew and indulged myself in a new cadence computer for the road bike. I need to add a headlight on the Dew, but think I can cannibalize one from another bike instead of buying a new one.

The Dew is surprisingly peppy to ride and can take going up and down curbs with ease.

It's a simply elegant bike without a bunch of unnecessary bells and whistles. I like the trigger shift system, which is what I was accustomed to on my mountain bike prior to getting the road bike last year. I even like the periwinkle color!

My new workplace is just 6.6 miles from home. One of the reasons I chose this employer over a couple of others was their proximity to home, their on-site fitness center, and their accommodations for cycle-commuters. I knew that they had secured parking for bikes -- I was envisioning an outdoor area with perhaps a nearby parking attendant. I had no idea how nice of a facility it would be! I took the tour of it this week and it turns out the secured parking is indoors, on the 4th floor of one of the buildings, accessible only to those who have registered themselves for a spot. Wow!!!! The registration also includes a locker where I can stow my stuff! The fitness center is only two floors up, so since I have a membership there, I can use it to grab a shower.

I am really excited about commuting by bike -- great way to get some exercise and help the environment! I am also excited about not having to buy as much gas -- it's about $2.50 a day just to get back and forth to work. My husband is even getting into the act -- he was so impressed with the Dew's ride that he decided to buy one for himself and he is planning on cycle-commuting a couple of days a week also.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Randomly Recurring Cat Photo

This is Penny. She's adorable in her awkward mannerisms. This is a good example -- she's lying on a stool with a paw hanging over the edge.

She's also the kind of cat who chases her own tail.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Newstead Tower Public House

Just a quick summary review of Newstead Tower Public House, where hubby and I recently went with a friend. Scale of 1 - 5 with 5 being the best.

Atmosphere - 3.5
Interesting building shape -- renovator did a good job working around a series of structural support posts that slice the room in half. Nice decor for a pub, with interesting colors, good lighting, and other decor touches to look at. Smoke free, which is a wonderful thing. Seating at the bar or in tables and chairs. Big windows to look out of. The acoustics of the space make it difficult to carry on a conversation when there are lots of people in the space. Musical entertainment that started later in the evening put the kibash on most efforts to chat.

Drinks - 3
The pub had a surprisingly limited selection, but that didn't seem to bother me or my companions. I had a Griesedieck Brothers Golden Pilsener and my friends had their usual Bud Select and Dewar's with water.

Food - 2.5
I had "Benne’s Farm roasted chicken sandwich with brie, arugula and aioli" and the sandwich was ever so mild on flavor -- I think the most flavorful thing on it was the arugula. I put pepper on it to give it a little more interest. Wouldn't order it again.

Hubby had fish and chips, which was described on the menu as "beer battered cod with fried potatoes, chopped pickles and mayonnaise". He liked them and cleaned his plate. Even though the menu didn't specify it, his meal came with a little side of greens.

My friend had a hamburger, described as "Fruitland Farm grass-fed ground chuck with pickles & field greens". He liked it, and cleaned his plate, but his expectation on the field greens was that it would be a small side salad as opposed to a garnish on the burger itself. Since my hubby is not so much an herbivore, I offered his greens to my friend.

Portions were small-ish overall.

Service - 2
One word -- slow. There seemed to be a total of three servers handling the space. It seemed to me that one of the servers who might have really been intended to work the bar was helping out the other two. In any case, it amounted to what appeared to be some level of confusion. Replacement drinks were slow in coming.

Overall rating of a 2.5+. Would go there again.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Randomly Recurring Cat Photo

I'm starting a new feature -- Randomly Recurring Cat Photo. It's too much pressure to commit to a "Feline Photo of the Day" -- even "Bi-Weekly Quadriped Image" is too much! So you will simply have to be content with a cat pic whenever I feel like it. I suppose, strictly speaking, the occasions on which I decide to put up a cat pic are not random, but to you my reader, they will seem to be at random.

I digress.

Here's the first in the series. This is my kitty Purrl.

She's a tortoiseshell (torti for short) and I've had her since 1999. She was probably about four months old when I got her. Very loyal and attentive. One of her unique features is that often whispers her meows to me. Who knew cats could whisper?

Off the Vine

Last night, I went with some friends to the new-ish restaurant, Off the Vine. Another friend wanted a review, so I figured I would post it here also.

1 - 5 rating system, with 5 being the best.

Atmosphere: 2.5
It's the former Blue Water Grill space on Hampton at Columbia. Low-ish ceiling, or at least it seems that way with heavy beams in the structure. In addition to the dark brown beams/ceiling, the walls were painted a dark mustard, and the floor is a concrete slab. Decor was nice enough, if maybe a little sparse, but with a place that small, there's not a lot of room for elaborate decor. While we were there, there was a downpour outside and a table about six feet from us had to be moved because the ceiling was leaking. Since I am allergic to cigarette smoke, I was worried there would be a problem with smoking, since they allow it/have a bar area, but no one there smoked, or if there were smokers, I didn't notice it.

Drinks: 3.5
They had a very extensive wine list. You can get wines by the glass, half carafe, and bottle. They also had a decent assortment of beers and cocktails.

Food: 3
Braised Short Rib as starter: 1
Very small portion considering it was an $8 appetizer -- the meat itself was literally two bites. Meat was very tender. Served on top of a green risotto, which was pretty, but I have no idea what the flavor of the risotto was -- the menu says it was an Italian parsley risotto. Under the risotto was a sauce. On top of the risotto was a grouping of olives, mushrooms, and garlic. The olives did not go well with the dish. The sauce seemed like an attempt at a burgundy sauce, but it was bitter as if some ingredient in it had been burnt and did not taste good at all. The meal had a loooooong way to go to recover from this poor start.

Frisee salad: 3.5
I have never had a salad with a poached egg on it before, but it worked well. It was a hearty cold weather salad -- also had potatoes, red onions, pancetta, and cracked mustard vinaigrette on it. The greens were very fresh.

Roasted Beets salad: 3.5
Lots of good flavor. Well prepared. Nice presentation. Interesting/artistic colors. The goat cheese fondue, which served as the dressing, was especially good with the beets.

Andouille and crab gumbo: 4
This item is not on their online menu, but it's on their in-house menu because they just started offering it six days ago, according to our waiter. It comes with a generous number of substantially-sized andouille sausage chunks. Crab bits were more broken down and blended throughout. I had the 10 oz. bowl portion and I would definitely order it again.

Hanger steak: 4
This steak came with pomme frites and a creamed spinach; this is also is not on their online menu. I was concerned this steak was going to be tough, but it was very tender, flavorful, and the pan juices included underneath were a good choice. The creamed spinach (their menu refers to it as "melted" spinach) was very mild/delicate, and I think maybe if one were eating the steak alongside it may have been too delicate to go with that beefy steak, but on its own it was quite nice.

Devil's food cake with peanut butter center: 2
I was envisioning more of a lava style center, but it was more of a peanut butter-flavored cake in the middle of a dark chocolate flavored cake with a ganache poured over the top, garnished with whipped cream, mint leaf, and strawberry cut into a rose shape. This dish was not as exciting as I thought it was going to be -- the taste was rather drab. I should have gone with the meyer lemon cheesecake instead.

Portions: 2.5
Generally speaking, the portions were small-ish for the price, except when it came to the "large plates" menu items. This worked out great for me, but if feel like big portions, this is not the place to go. The hanger steak was the only item we ordered from the large plates section of the menu and it was a decent portion. They could have been a little more generous with the pomme frites, I think -- the portion looked like one potato's worth (not that one person really needs any more than that, but they are good for sharing). In looking at the other plates that were going around, it seemed the large plates were generally a good portion, though not huge/oversized.

Service: 2
I had what has to have been one of the most peculiar servers I have ever had wait on me. His mannerisms were very odd and his style distracting. He was usually on the spot with most things we needed, so his timing was not an issue, but he was just a one-off. I think he was going for an "elegant flourish" style of serving, but really ended up more in the "awkwardly over-trying" category. I didn't see other servers doing it, so I think it was just his thing. But I have to give him goody points because at the end of the meal, when he asked how we liked everything, I mentioned the bit about the braised short rib and without prompting, he took that off our bill.

Overall, I'd give the place a 3.5. They have improvements to make, but the food has promise/interest. I would go there again.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Rolling, rolling, rolling!

At last, the weather is starting to act like Spring around here! Naturally, that means one thing -- cycling!

I put just under 75 miles on the bike in the last three days while the weather has been good. Pretty much the same route each day -- from home to the end of Grant's Trail and back. Muscles are tired -- tomorrow is a rest day since it looks like the weather's going to be rainy anyway. Definitely can tell I need to drop some pounds to help me get back into condition. I've been lazy and haven't worked out in about a month, so that doesn't help either!

Some news happening of late is that I am starting a new job a week from today. It just so happens that the new employer is only seven miles from home and they also have a workout facility with showers on site. I haven't seen the facility for myself yet, but I hear it is very nice. I am hoping to get myself organized enough to cycle-commute on a regular basis. Can't wait to check it out!

Of course the possibility of cycle-commuting leads me to my next thought -- shopping for a commuter bike! Thinking about something durable that can double as both commuter and touring bike -- something that is suitable for Katy Trail rides as well as the urban jungle -- so if any of my dear rider-readers have suggestions, please comment.

Friday, April 04, 2008


Sometimes, rather than trying to digest all the readings for a given day together, it is useful to reflect on one idea or even just one word. The concept that really caught my attention today was that of abundance (John 6:1-15).

I have been very fortunately blessed with a great share of spiritual abundance in my life, particularly in the last few years. The Holy Spirit has led me to a Christian life, acceptance of Jesus Christ as my redeemer and soul-savior, helped me understand that I am one of God's children who is and has always been loved by the Father, and has brought me to a wonderful parish community.

In trying to understand what it means to be one of God's children, I think we all have, at one time or another, a hard time wrapping our heads around that idea. How does a being so cosmic even notice me, let alone love me, a single soul among billions? How awesome is the idea that I am sister, through the brotherhood of Jesus Christ, to all the others here on this planet now, those who came before me, and those who will exist after me?

Being a relatively new Christian (just passed my two-year anniversary this Easter), my status as a child of God is something I am only lately really beginning to fully grasp. It has been another in numerous epiphanies in this unfolding mystery of my faith.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Computer Day Today

Internet Security:

That's Mischief and Purrl, my two intimidating tortoiseshell kitties, keeping me safe on the Internet.

Yes, that messy desk is where most of the magic happens, friends. I hope to clean up/organize the entire office shortly, but since I am working on a project right now, the priority is to get that done first. Deadline is just a couple of weeks away and I have to learn a content management system and build the site by then. Have a pretty good handle on the system itself -- just have to build the site now.

Mischief was striking some cute poses today:

And Purrl, well, all I can say is she was striking some poses:

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Hardware Fun

Swapped out my USB-based wireless networking card for a PCI one today. Had some help though. Oreo is saying she can't quite figure it out:

So we called in the expert, Mischief. She's not afraid to get into her work:

Mischief also helped me decipher the tech. support person's accent.

Yes, for all you Harry Potter fans, that is a Hogwarts table I was using temporarily for my workbench.