Pulpology: Mark & Sonia's Intercontinental Absurdities!

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14 October 2007
Well, maybe sometimes you should say never
How I discovered my culinary limit

Ah, Sunday dim sum! Jeannette and Henry took us to their favorite dim sum restaurant, a huge place packed with Chinese families. Once again, we relied on Henry to order tasty stuff for us in Cantonese. We were nearly finished with the meal when Jeannette got an evil glint in her eye and asked, "Have you ever tried innards?" Henry looked horrified and said, "You're not really going to make them eat *that,* are you?!?" Feeling cocky from our successful jellyfish experience the night before, I decided we should go for it. So Henry requested the dish from the next waiter who passed by.

I may have finally met my match.

A big bowl of steaming unmentionables arrived at the table, looking and smelling absolutely awful. Undaunted, I grabbed my chopsticks and fished out a piece. It was dark brown, jiggled sickly, and smelled like liver. Oh boy. But it was too late to back down now! As I was fighting to swallow the spongy sticky rubbery liver-tasting wad of revoltingness without gagging it back out all over the table, Henry mentioned casually that "the lung isn't really the most tasty one." Oh, thanks for telling me now! But that meant I had to try another piece to get the "tasty" stuff. God give me strength. I gritted my teeth and dug in for one more bit, Mark now joining me and taking a similar bit in his chopsticks. I tried to get Henry to tell us what it was before we tried eating it, but he opted not to. The second one wasn't nearly as bad as the first... probably some kind of intestine, but it didn't have a very strong taste and was merely rubbery as opposed to spongy *and* rubbery. It still fought back and was tough to swallow, though. There was no actual regurgitation, but it got a battle to the death for a few challenging seconds there. OK, now that we've tried it once (twice, in my case!) I think it's fair to say that I will NEVER eat innards again. Urp.

The rest of the afternoon was spent wandering through Mountain View and visiting the Apple store where I drooled over the iPhone for about an hour. Me want! It's hard to justify purchasing a new shiny toy when I'm unemployed, so I guess it's back to hoping Santa drops one down my chimney by mistake. But they are slick little beauties, no doubt about it. I amused myself by showing Jeannette some Central American pics from this site via the user-friendly zoom tools on the iPhone's browser. So nice.

Back at the house, we played with Hadley and had a nice dinner with the fam before driving up to SFO and checking into our airport hotel in preparation for tomorrow's flight back. So much driving and jumping around is not my preferred way to travel, but it was fun to pack in lots of adventures into one fairly short trip. It was definitely a trip of extremes: from swank beach houses to some-guy's-couch, from French puff pastry to slimy lung bits. It'll actually be nice to get home and slow things down a bit!


Posted by soniaz at 12:00 AM | Link | 0 comments

13 October 2007
Never say never
From breakfast burritos to jellyfish in just a few hours

Sonia, Donna, Mark at the Chico farmer's marketGot a leisurely start to the day, and decided to visit the Chico market with Donna. It was small but lively, offering up lots of tasty treats (mmmm, breakfast burrito, how I love you), fresh produce, and funky crafts. Alas, we were unable to stay long, as we needed to hit the road and reach our next destination: San Jose, to visit our friend Jeannette and her family. Armed with some snacks from the Indian stand, we hopped back into the car and headed south.

Jeannette, Hadley, and Mark enjoy some jellyfishWe made it to Jeannette and Henry's house in time for some catch-up conversation before heading to an authentic Cantonese dinner. Jeannette and Mark have a long history of playful antagonism each other, particularly when it comes to trying new foods, and when Mark mentioned he didn't think he'd like to try jellyfish, Jeannette jumped at the chance. Archly stating that they had a policy with Hadley, their 5-year-old, that you have to try something at least *once* before deciding you don't like it, Jeannette instructed Henry to order up some jellyfish for Mark to taste. Meanwhile she mentioned that Hadley loves jellyfish... would Mark be outdone by a preschooler? Certainly not! Not that Hadley is just any run-of-the-mill 5-year-old. First of all, his parents are brilliant, so he's won the genetic lottery. Second, Jeannette speaks Fukien and Henry speaks Cantonese (two Chinese dialects), so their favorite game to play with Hadley is "translate what Daddy just said so Mommy can understand it" or vice versa. Wow. In spite of it all, Hadley *is* a normal five-year-old kid, who just happens to love jellyfish as well as fire trucks.

Long story short, the jellyfish was actually pretty good! Somewhat reminiscent of seaweed salad in texture, and flavored with a soy mixture. I had a second helping. Never say never when it comes to trying new foods... at least once!


Posted by soniaz at 12:00 AM | Link | 0 comments

12 October 2007
Chico, part deux
A quick visit with a couchsurfing goddess
It was a bummer to pack up and leave our cozy room at The Carlton Inn, but we had a long drive ahead of us, heading back to Chico to stay with a new CS host. Happily, the drive was pretty uneventful, and we managed to arrive at Donna's house in time to start making dinner. She was gracious enough to let us take over her kitchen for a few hours while she regaled us with stories of her many surfers. This woman is practically a CouchSurfing legend, and she's involved with the inner circle of movers & shakers who are making things happen. It was really cool to hang out with someone who is so passionate about this community. And I think we may have been volunteered for something by the end of the night as well. (Resistance is futile!) We stayed up till the wee hours, laughing and talking and enjoying Donna's generous hospitality.
Posted by soniaz at 12:00 AM | Link | 0 comments

11 October 2007
Going Sideways
A whole lotta yummy Pinot

Heidi pours some Studio winesEvery day should begin with one of Edward's marvelous breakfasts! These guys take the concept of bed & *breakfast* to a whole new level. They work with fresh, locally-grown ingredients, and take pride in crafting an extraordinary array of treats for their guests. Yum! After brekkie we set out for some wine tasting. First, to the Carlton Winemakers Studio where Heidi works as the tasting room manager. It's a really groovy place, a co-op of about 10 different winemakers under one roof. And the tasting room is totally swank. It's a LEED-compliant model of sustainable architecture and has been cited in Food & Wine and other magazines. And the wines are pretty tasty, too. ;)

oktapodi admires the single cane style of the vines at LenneNext we stopped at Lenné, a fairly new winery, where we got to see Edward in full-on marketing mode. He may have been transported to a small town, but he's still a savvy networker and a relentless marketer, always bringing Carlton Inn brochures to distribute to local businesses. And by the end of the tasting, he'd discussed the possibility of the Lenné winemaker visiting (or even hosting) the next meeting of the local B&B marketing council, which Edward is an active member of. Mark and I got a free tasting out of it, so we weren't complaining.

Was I saying something about detoxing earlier this week? Detox, schmetox.

Thibaud checks the grapesEdward saved the best for last, as our final stop was WillaKenzie Estate, where Edward worked his connections to get us a backstage tour of the winery. Plus we got to meet Thibaud, the winemaker. This is a huge deal in the middle of harvest season when things are really movin' and shakin'. It's a bit like getting to meet the Pope on Easter. Like most other Willamette valley wineries, WillaKenzie produces some deeeeeelicious Pinots -- Noir, Gris, and Blanc -- but they add a bit of French flair combined with some cool cutting-edge technology. I could tell you more, but I might have to kill you. Suffice it to say we got a glimpse most people don't get to see!

Mark picks raspberriesWe spent some time picking raspberries that afternoon, and ended the day with a leisurely dinner at home with Heidi, where we got to catch up with her and hear her take on their new life. It's always good to hear success stories from people who have done what we're trying to do: uproot from a seemingly have-it-all lifestyle and slow the pace down a bit to try something different. We talked about how taking almost a year off to travel helped ease E&H's transition to life in small-town Carlton, rather than going right from the hustle and bustle of life inside the Beltway. It's definitely a different scene out here! But they seem really happy and we're inspired by their successful adjustment to their new adventures.


Posted by soniaz at 12:00 AM | Link | 0 comments
10 October 2007
Ever northward
Finally we arrive in Carlton

The Carlton InnAnother day of driving! But we were only about four hours away from our destination: Carlton, OR, and The Carlton Inn. We even managed to get in a wine tasting before heading to the B&B to see our long-lost wanderlust friends Edward & Heidi. These two sold everything and set out in early 2006 in an RV with their two dogs, and spent almost a year traveling the US before they unexpectedly found a B&B for sale in a small town along Oregon's wine trail. So you can imagine we had lots to talk about with them!

It was really interesting to see them transplanted from their stressful inside-the-Beltway lives and happily making it work in a totally different environment. They've done a lot of work on the property, which is absolutely gorgeous. And due to some crafty marketing and networking in the community, they were booked solid through almost all of October. So we felt very fortunate they could squeeze us in for two nights! Wednesday night we ate at the French restaurant up the street, where Edward helps out a few nights a week. In addition to the fabulous food, we got to meet the very charismatic Gilbert, who came out of the kitchen to chat with us until the restaurant got busy. I have to admit, it was great to be able to roll two blocks down the street and back to the B&B! Although we could have walked all the way back to DC on all the calories in the marvelous pate and tagine and puff pastry! Boo-ya!


Posted by soniaz at 12:00 AM | Link | 0 comments
09 October 2007
Shasta, Weed, and a Rainbow

oktapodi checks out the local Chico ragToday involved a leisurely drive from Chico to Grants Pass, Oregon. We had a bit of brekkie and said goodbye to Michelle, and set out in search of some free wireless. Chico is such a cute town, totally Cali and a uni town to boot, so there's great people-watching and some very fun free newspapers. Good coffee, too.

Mark & oktapodi pose with Mt ShastaThe drive up I-5 got much more scenic as we headed into the mountains. The road gets curvier, there are some major hills, and all of a sudden Mt Shasta pops up in the distance, majestic and snow-capped. Nice! We also made a pitstop in Weed (heh-heh, hm-hm, settle down Beavis) to refuel and admire the really weird clouds forming over the mountains as the winds picked up. We heard later that some areas of Northern California and Southern Oregon experienced power outages due to the abnormally strong winds, so I guess we should be glad our little orange buggy wasn't blown off the road!

We arrived in Grants Pass a bit late to catch our CouchSurfing host, Rainbow (yes, that's his real name, and yes, he is a dude), before he had to leave for a bartending shift at the local martini bar. So we hit a movie: The Kingdom, starring Jamie Foxx and Jennifer Garner. First movie I'd seen in a lonnnnnnng time! And it was a good one! I wasn't too thrilled with the "reality cam" style that made me carsick after an hour or so -- guess I'm getting old -- but the story was engrossing and it was the kind of movie to make you go hmmmmm. Dunno if it's still playing anywhere or if it's been edged out by the next movie about Middle East tensions, but I highly recommend checking it out if you get the chance.

OK, on to our next 'surfing destination, which was a very different experience than staying with Michelle and Threnody! To be fair, it was Rainbow's first time hosting, so we took his CS cherry. And I guess sitting around watching TV and eating pizza is what most people *do* on your average Tuesday night. We did manage to have some interesting and spirited enough conversation to piss off Rainbow's roommate, who was squirreled away upstairs playing "World of Warcraft." (Never did see her, but you can imagine the mental image that developed in my little brain.) Mark and I weren't sure both of us would fit comfortably on the red couch-lounge-contraption, but somehow we managed to make it work, and got at least a partial night's sleep.

Posted by soniaz at 12:00 AM | Link | 0 comments
Crunchy Left Coast Greetings!

(Apologies to anyone who checked in to find a blank entry! I thought I was so clever by blogging from my PDA, except it wouldn't let me enter any text. Dagger.)

Quick shout-out from Chico, CA! Mark and I spent last weekend in Stinson Beach at the last family wedding of the season. (Whew, thank gawd. My liver can't handle much more of this!) And now we're driving up to Oregon to visit our friends' B&B. We couchsurfed last night in Chico and made a lovely mostly-vegan dinner for our friendly hostesses. And tonight we're stopping in Grants Pass to stay with another couchsurfer named Rainbow. I LOVE this part of the country!!

If anyone has any particular suggestions about offbeat stuff to stop and see along the way, do let me know. We're taking our time getting up to Carlton, and our trusty lil' GPS hasn't let us down so far.


Posted by soniaz at 12:00 AM | Link | 0 comments
08 October 2007
A new way to roll
And I don't even have to put my luggage on top? Stylin!

the bride arrives on horseback, like ya doWe Are Family!It was a bit sad to leave Stinson Beach today. We survived the various wedding festivities and brunch the following day. The wedding, was, of course, lovely. It was hard not to make comparisons to Dave & Meghan's fabulous soiree, although the bride's arrival on a horse was pretty unique. Once again, we danced our asses off at the reception! In addition to Sunday morning brunch we also had a farewell dinner with the Krakowskis. Happily, nothing was lit on fire, although the conversation was pretty fierce despite everyone's somewhat-fried state. I may in fact need to check myself into detox after all this partying.

After much strategerizing, we came up with the following plan to retrieve the rental car: I would ride to SFO with Dave & Meghan, who were returning their car to the same company but didn't have any space in their car for luggage or many passengers. I picked up our car, a funky little orange boxy thing, and drove back to the beach house one last time. Oy, I'm just about over this twisty vomitocious road!

a bit different from riding chickenbuses!Unfortunately it was necessary to drive it one last time as we headed up to Chico for our first couchsurfing destination. We plugged in our various devices (GPS, satellite radio, iPod) and set off. A somewhat different experience than taking chickenbuses and pickup trucks! But it was nice to travel in luxury, and we easily reached Chico in just over three hours.

Our first US CouchSurfing hosts were a mother-daughter team named Michelle and Threnody. We didn't get to spend as much time with them as we'd have liked, since Chico was just a stopover to break up the drive to Carlton. But we did manage to whip up a nice meal in their small kitchen, and had some fabulous conversation as well. I'd met Michelle on the "Independent Women" group on CS, and it was great fun to meet one of my favorite IWers in person. And the precocious 12-year-old Threnody was a trip, announcing to a friend on the phone: "We have an Independent Woman staying with us! And Mark!" Good times.

Posted by soniaz at 12:00 AM | Link | 1 comment
05 October 2007
A redwoods hike and a "picnic"

clowning around with giant redwoodsWith a bit of time before the evening's festivities, Laura, Mark, and I decided to take a short hike through Muir Woods, which was only about a half hour drive from the house. (There's a great trail map that shows the wiggly road from Stinson.) Home of giant redwoods and some great trails, Muir Woods is part of the US National Park system, and a lovely place to spend an afternoon. We chose the Ocean View  Trail, which technically did provide a view of the Pacific Ocean at one point but was mostly a nice walk in the trees. Very peaceful! And along another trail there was a huge cluster of ladybugs, which was an extra little bizarro-bonus.

rehearsal dinner partyWe got back to the house in time to shower and head over to what was billed as the rehearsal "picnic." Right. Shoulda known, Aunt Carol and Uncle Frank never do anything halfway. This was the swankest picnic I've ever been to! But we managed to bring it down a couple notches by being the loudest table at the party. And I'm pretty sure Mark & Dey's rendition of Motley Crue's "Home Sweet Home" on the grand piano was unlike anything Stinson Beach had ever seen. Party on!

Posted by soniaz at 12:00 AM | Link | 0 comments
03 October 2007
Time to hit the Left Coast!
It's off to another family wedding

The Red House at Stinson BeachAfter a surprisingly stress-free flight from DC, we landed in San Francisco and caught a ride to Stinson Beach with my dad. For those who are unfamiliar with the infamous stretch of Highway 1 just north of SF, mere words can't quite describe it. The scenery is gorgeous, with mountains and rugged coastline and sparkling ocean views. But it's hard to appreciate a beautiful vista when you're struggling not to toss your cookies! That twisty road is something else. So we were glad to arrive in Stinson Beach (population 400-something) and spend some time unwinding at our fabulous beach house. Known locally simply as "The Red House," it's right on the beach and was once occupied for entire summers by Steve Miller. Sweeeeet. More importantly, it had enough space for me & Mark, my dad, my sister Laura and her dog, my brother Dave and his new wife Meghan, and my brother Eric and his fiancee Dey. A full house, indeed! But most of the rest of the crew wasn't arriving till tomorrow, so Mark and I took the opportunity to snag the good bedroom, with a gorgeous view of the beach and a deck. Not bad at all. We enjoyed a lovely, if chilly, sunset on the aforementioned deck, and crashed early.

Posted by soniaz at 12:00 AM | Link | 0 comments