Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Huntington Beach continued

Some more Stewie photos from our trip to Huntington Beach for all you fans out there, who are ALL of you, of course. Who wouldn't be a Stewie fan??

1: Unleashing the wild beast.

2: Waiting until the beast realizes he's free (sometimes he can be a little slow).

3: Realization hits!

4: The beast springs to life!

5: He's off!

6: And away he goes...

7: ...only to be rudely tackled by an over zealous pup along the way. I merrily laugh at his humiliation.

8. Stewie: "I have my eye on you, waves. You'll never get me wet."

9. Stewie: "..."

 10: Stranger dog: "Mmm, a tasty white and fluffy marshmallow treat just for me..."

11: Stewie clings to me for dear life.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

A dog-friendly weekend at Huntington Beach (and beyond)

When we moved to LA from NYC, I had a dream. A dream of jumping into my car and driving away from the city for 1-2 hours and spending a quick weekend away whenever I felt like it. It would be beautiful, outdoorsy and Stewie would come with us. And, of course, I'd score an awesome last-minute cabin/camp site/hotel/bed and breakfast deal for cheap and everything would just fall into place on its own.

But did it ever happen? Nope.

It's tough doing weekend getaways, even though it's what Los Angeles is made for, what with Malibu and Santa Barbara to the west, Big Bear Lake and Palm Springs to the east and San Diego to the south. I quickly discovered that doing an overnight trip on a regular two-day weekend felt too rushed...and when would we get our laundry done?? And anytime a three-day weekend came around, everything (including bare camp sites) would book up way too fast. It was also complicated to bring Stewie with us. And those last-minute deals I thought I could get? They never seemed to materialize, even while searching for them at midnight the day before. In fact, everything I found was twice as expensive than usual.

They never materialized, that is, until this past Memorial Day weekend!

Everything finally fell into place for once. We didn't have anything scheduled for the weekend, it wasn't supposed to rain and we found a really awesome last-minute deal for a hotel in Orange County. And we finally got to go to a place we've had our eye on ever since we moved out here: Huntington Dog Beach.

But before we hit the dog beach, we stopped by the Park Bench Cafe for breakfast. It was a really cute almost all outdoor restaurant that's semi-integrated into the park it's located in. It's famous for its dog friendliness and even has a menu where you can order food just for your pet. Literally every party there had at least one dog with them, including several HUGE dogs whose heads easily went over the tops of the tables!

So Stewie got his first ever restaurant meal--cooked chicken breast! The dish on the menu was called the "Bow wow wow." Here he is waiting for his breakfast (he's in the shade under our table):

So tasty, isn't it Stewie?

N and I got a couple egg dishes which were surprisingly good. There were dog water bowls everywhere and a big container where you could go refill your dog's water whenever you liked. It was a really cute cafe; we'd definitely go back! 

After breakfast, we headed to Huntington Beach. It's a super long stretch of beach and it was pretty crowded when we went. You're technically not allowed to have your dogs off leash, but no one pays attention to the rules. Since there were so many dogs and people, Stewie couldn't relax. He kept climbing into our laps and trying to get us to pick him up to save him from the other dogs who wanted to sniff his butt. What a wuss.

Showing Stewie a neat shell I found (there were a ton of really cool shells on this particular beach):

On the bike path that goes for miles along the shore:

And finally, one of the rare moments when Stewie lost track of the waves and actually ended up in the water (he usually dances just out of reach of the ocean):

We stayed at the Westin Hotel in Costa Mesa for one night. The chain is really dog-friendly; they allow all dogs under 40 lbs for no extra charge. They also provided us with this Westin-branded dog bed for Stewie. They usually provide food and water bowls, too, but they ran out the night we were there. There were a ton of the dogs at the hotel.

Altogether a very successful weekend trip! Huntington Dog Beach was very nice, but it wasn't the best place for Stewie. A little too crowded and active for his tastes, so he couldn't fully relax and have fun. He definitely likes Arroyo Burro in Santa Barbara much better.

Another plus to this trip was that we were able to stop by Buena Park on the drive home and go to Portillo's. I love Portillo's! We got italian beef sandwiches and the very friendly staff brought a bowl of water out for Stewie. Stewie also got some cheese fries, too, of course.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Linotype: The Film (and back to the International Printing Museum)

Several weeks ago, N and I took another trip down to the International Printing Museum, but it wasn't for the printers fair--we went to attend a screening of Linotype: The Film. Watch the trailer:

You probably know by now that I have a special love for old timey printing. I love the clanking sounds of the old machines and seeing all their zillion parts move together in an impossibly fluid motion. It's like watching a Rube Goldberg machine, but the finished product is a piece of paper with a perfect (or perfectly imperfect) ink impression on it. And I don't discriminate--Linotype, Heidelberg, old fashioned typewriters--anything that takes a carved piece of type, covers it with ink, then presses down on paper makes me happy.

So I was pretty excited when I heard about this documentary. A tiny film with no distribution just about the Linotype machine?? I had to see it.

I didn't have high expectations, though. In my mind, I categorized it with the documentary Helvetica (yes, a movie about a font), which I thought was good, but not that great. But I ended up being truly impressed! It was a really great film! It was very nicely paced and the talking heads in it were fantastic--funny, informative, passionate. But then again, I wouldn't expect anything less from old wizened men reminiscing about their days as a youngin' working as a Linotype operator. I'd sit on the ground in front of their rocking chairs for hours listening to them if I could.

The film juxtaposed the long past era of the Linotype machine with its current (very) limited world. The "youngest Linotype operator in the world," a guy in Brooklyn, talks about how he learned how to use the machine from a mentor and hopes to pass the knowledge on. The film also features a man who is a traveling Linotype repairman--probably the only person who really knows how to fix and maintain the crazy complicated machines nowadays. All he does is travel on the road with his wife answering calls and replacing Linotype parts. There's also a man who runs a "Linotype University" in Iowa. It's all really fascinating stuff.

One of the great things about watching this film at the International Printing Museum is that a lot of the attendees were true printing fans. Not poser hipsters like me...I'm attracted to these machines, but I know relatively little about them, and I've certainly never used one before. I bet if I went to this screening in NYC the theater would have been full of young people who were there just to watch a niche indie film. But a lot of the crowd at the Museum were actually other old wizened men who worked as Linotype operators when they were young, and they were there to get in touch with their past. After the screening, I saw some of them sit in front of the old Linotypes on display in the Museum and rest their hands on the keyboard. They had wistful and dreamy looks on their faces. It was really moving...I may have teared up. Maybe.

The other great thing about watching with this crowd was the Q&A after the film. It was great! Everyone asked insightful questions. I've been to enough Q&As with directors to expect the same lame questions to come up every time, but this one was really good.

Oh, there was also a raffle for those who attended the screening. I told N beforehand that of all the raffles I've ever been entered in, this is the only one I've ever wanted to win. And guess what. I WON.

My name was drawn FIRST! N could not believe it. I think he still doesn't believe it. I knew it would happen, though ;)

I got first pick at the various prizes they had available--some large metal slugs, candy, a book. But I already knew what I would take. And here it is:

In case it's not clear (and I'm sure it isn't), it's a custom-made stand that displays your metal slugs! Remember the ones N and I got of our names from the printers fair? I love them but I didn't really know what to do with them...this stand solved that problem. It has an angled notch where you place your slug so the words on it are conveniently reflected in the mirror and you can read them frontwards. Genius! And in case you didn't notice--we used this latest trip to the Museum to spend another dollar on getting a slug made with Stewie's name on it.

The Museum created these stands for a client to give out at some convention, and this was one of the leftovers. It says "Linotype-Hell" on it because Linotype merged with a company called Hell at some point. A docent told a story of how competing companies would call Linotype-Hell just to hear them pick up and say, "Linotype Hell!" to which they'd respond, "IT SURE IS!" and hang up. Harhar.

Nowadays, Linotype is still around but doesn't deal with printers at all anymore. But you might recognize the name in your font menu--they design all kinds of typefaces and fonts.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Growing (and eating) mushrooms

So--those babies I mentioned a couple posts ago? They were born. We raised them. And we ate them yesterday.

N and I brought home a mushroom growing "kit" from the fair in February. Here's what it looked like in the beginning:

The bag held a mixture of cotton seed hulls that were inoculated with oyster mushroom spores (and some other stuff). Here's a close up view:

It looks kind of gross, but it actually smelled pretty pleasant! All we had to do was puncture the bag several times with a fork, then place the bag in the dark (the back of our closet) and wait while the substrate filled the mixture. Three weeks later, it looked like this:

All the white stuff is mushroom growth (substrate). The points sticking out of the bag are called "pins." At this point, we cut open the plastic bag around a few of the largest pins and brought the bag out of the closet into indirect light. A few days after that, it looked like this:

They were starting to look like mushrooms! It was very exciting. This is what it looked like a couple days later (about a month after we brought home the bag):


They pretty much maxed out around the size above. I think we did a pretty bad job with the pins--we should have caught them earlier and let one of them grow--two at maximum. The fewer pins you allow to grow the bigger the mushrooms become. We had 3-4 clumps going at once so they turned out pretty small.

At the fair, everyone was saying that fresh mushrooms taste completely different than anything you buy at the grocery store, so I was really curious to see how they'd turn out. N did the cooking with what we happened to have in the fridge at the time:

Oyster mushrooms, arugula, chives, olive oil, salt and pepper cooking in our cast iron pan. And the finished product:

Mixed with pasta and parmesan cheese! A little pasta water was the base for the "sauce."

I have to say, hands down, this was the best thing N has ever created and cooked. Everything was done perfectly. There were barely any ingredients, but it was amazing. And the mushrooms? AWESOME. They were crazy sweet. I never thought mushrooms could be that sweet! And they were cooked perfectly, along with the pasta. N says the secret to perfect pasta is salting the water the right amount. I'd easily pay $20 for that pasta I hoovered down that day.

Mushroom growing is fun. And easy. And tasty. I think I will do it again sometime...