Time For Your Closeup: Serendipity

Tuesday it was Lilo's turn, but now it's time for Serendipity's - or Sera, as we call her - closeup!

This is Sera. She's an eight-year-old Bengal cat (EIGHT TODAY - HAPPY BIRTHDAY SERA AND TWIN BROTHER MOOCHIE!) of the marble persuasion and Moochie is her twin brother. She has an intensity about her the other two don't. We're not quite sure exactly what the intensity is all about, but it's either something along the lines of she can't believe the stupidity and inadequacy of her humans, or it's all about her being Queen of the World and wanting everything her way. Quite possibly it's both.

(As always, you can get larger versions of this pictures by clicking on the picture here. Depending on your browser it may resize it to fit the screen and clicking again will get you full size .jpg. If you really want the feeling of close-up, try it.)

Sera also has an unique ability to look straight through your soul with complete contempt for your existence. In other words, like most cats. Just be sure you don't forget to fill the food dish.

But before you go thinking bad thoughts about this kitty, you should also know her absolutely assuredness in her beauty really is justified. She knows the golden tips of her fur and her marbled design make her something to be admired.

And she's also quite loving. When we sit down on the couch she's there to be on your lap literally within seconds. And if one of us gets up to go to the bathroom she'll steal the warm spot before the human in question makes it all the way vertical. Like Lilo, she does the same thing when you sit down at the computer as well.

Sera also has quite the little purr box and loves to be skritched under her chin. She also has a spot around her hip that if you skritch it just right she starts licking her lips uncontrollably. Oh boy, she won't want me telling the world that - she considers it an embarrassment to her superb self control.

Ah! She's judging me with contempt now!

By now you may have noticed Sera has quite a unique pattern in the marbling on her forehead. Let's take an even closer look.

Check it out - it looks like a heart! I also love the small patch just above her nose that stands out extra shiny in this picture. In that section the fur inexplicably lays towards her nose, while just about everything else lays from nose to tail.

Believe it or not, this contemplative kitty is the same one I've warned my dear readers about in the past because she has 16 razor blades at the end of her paws. Does that look the face of a kitty who could slash a throat and go have a snack? Oh, it does? Never mind then.

The thing Sera hates most is to be interrupted while she is cleaning herself - like in this picture above. I probably have a scar from what happened after I took this one.

We love her anyway, even with the claws and looks of contempt while perched up high and judging us from her ivory tower (more on the ivory tower in a few days).

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September Tasting/Drinking Notes

Pastrami on Rye - Reuben, pastrami - This food cart at the 4th and College pod near Portland State serves up a pretty damn good sandwich. People claimed it was the best in Portland and while I agree it's pretty good, I still give that edge to Kenny and Zuke's. I will say, though, that these were half the price and more of a single serving, so it really depends on what you want. I really liked the marbled rye bread they offer though.

Gladstone Pizza and Coffee - Mocha, sausage and pepperoni - We've been meaning to try this pizza place for a while because foodies kept claiming it was as good as any of our favorites, like Nostrana, Ken's, Apizza Scholls, Dove Vivi, and Lovely's Fifty-Fifty. Well, they were wrong. It's not that this pizza is bad. It's not. It's likely better than some of the middle tier places and I'd put it in the same category as Pizzicato, Hot Lips, and Pizza Schmizza. However, their prices - it was $24 - put them in the top tier category, so that's what they get measured against. And it's just not as good. I didn't hate it or anything, it's just not anything special. Neither was the mocha.

Chinatown Restaurant - normy gai, #5, pork shew my - Wifey and I split all of these dishes and we really liked them all. Next time we'll try some of the seafood they are supposedly known for. Normy gai is sweet rice with chicken, sausage, BBQ pork, bamboos shoots, and mushrooms all wrapped up in a lotus leaf and this was very, very good. The shew my literally melted in your mouth. The #5 dinner combo contained fried shrimp, pork chow mein, sweet and sour chicken, pork fried rice, and a spring roll. I have no complaints...though next time we probably won't get a combo. Sadly, they were out of baked BBQ pork baos. Our waitress offered steamed instead, but it's not the same. Next time.

Addy's Sandwiches - duck confit and cranberry, turkey and brie - I've been to Addy's before so the fact these were outstanding wasn't a surprise. I wanted to try the duck because that confit wasn't anything I've had before, but the flavors were excellent. The turkey and brie was likewise well balanced. And her bread...it's very, very good. Of course it is - it comes from Little T.

Ziba's Pitas - meat burek - Once again Ziba's burek was awesome. I keep getting recommendations to try the spinach one or the cheese one, but it's almost impossible for me to order anything else because this is so good. Perhaps next time. Maybe.

September was also our month to go back to places, apparently. In separate posts, all with pictures, we returned to:


Adding this section new this month. Apparently we (well, mostly me) drank a decent amount. Oops. Some of these may have been from August too.

MandaRossa Nero d'Avola (red) - We found this wine at Taste Unique. Nero d'Avola is apparently a grape specific to Italy and this wine tasted very mature. That's a good thing. A medium level of tannins with red fruit and a taste of licorice if you really search for it.

Sokol Blosser Evolution (white) - We had never tried a Sokol Blosser wine before, but had been meaning too. Then this wine ended up being used on an episode of Top Chef (by Angelo), so we decided to give it a try. It's excellent. In fact, this might be our favorite wine we have ever tried - so much so we went out and bought two more bottles. Very crisp, you get flavors of citrus and supposedly pear, but we both really pulled peach out of it. Excellent wine.

Sokol Blosser Meditrina (red) - We ended up buying this one because it right next to Evolution at the store. Shrug. It's okay, but we like it better cold, which goes against all wine people will tell you. Why? Cold we can pull out the berry notes, but as it warms up it gets more and more tannic, in my mind, and pretty soon all I can taste is leather and alcohol. That's not good.

Conundrum (white) - We came across this wine online while researching Evolution. Supposedly, the claim was, if you like Conundrum you would like Evolution. Well, we liked Evolution so we figured we might like this. It wasn't bad, but it's not something I'm going to go out of my way to find again (like we did this time, finally finding it at Barbur World Foods). The flavors were okay, but it just didn't have the fruit-forwardness of the Evolution. And it's more expensive.

Full Sail Brewery - Old Boardhead 2010 - I picked up the 2010 version because I thoroughly enjoyed the 2009 version. Unfortunately, 2009 enjoyment did not predict 2010 enjoyment. This year's version was way, way too hpppy for me. Will I try again in 2011? Maybe.

Goose Island Brewing - Matilda - I've just about given up on any beer with fruity notes in it - see the next entry - but this one was very well balanced. the citrus notes were just barely there, but there was enough of malt and yeast flavors to not allow it to be overpowering. I'll try more from them.

Dogfish Head Brewery - Festina Peche - Hands down this was one of the worst specialty beers I've had. All I could taste was peach. Of course, I bought it because it promised some peach, but the peach overpowered everything else in the bottle. It ended up tasting like peach juice with all the elements of cheap beer. This was my first Dogfish beer and I will try others, but I'm going to keep an eye on the fruit content.

Laurelwood Brewery - Espresso Stout - I really enjoy Laurelwood's Porter - which they need to get in bottles rather than just being on tap - so I thought this might be good. It uses Portland Roasting beans in the brewing process. The results were, well, a tad too strong for my tastes. The coffee flavors weren't robust and fresh - it tasted like bad coffee.

Great Divide Brewing - Smoked Baltic Porter - I wasn't entirely sure what to expect from this. I mean, I like porter generally but hadn't had a Baltic one before and wasn't sure what to make of the smoked malt idea. Turns out it's fantastic. Absolutely one of the best beers I've had in a while, and one I'll be buying more of. Also, I'll probably try others from Great Divide. As a side note, I picked this up at John's Marketplace in Multnomah Village. I had never been there before and heard they had tons of specialty beers - and yes they do. Belmont Station is pretty nice too, but that's an extra 10 miles further for me from this place. Definitely worth a stop if you like beer - or wine, actually. They have a ton of that too.


Time For Your Closeup: Lilo

I'm starting a new miniseries today - four posts of closeups. I'm obsessed with taking closeup pictures of the kids for really no purpose other than I think they look cool, but now it's time to share them.

First up on the list, Lilo the tiny spotted bengal kitty! Lilo is our adopted stray who tips the scales at six pounds. One of her favorite places in the whole house is sleeping on top of the TV receiver. Apparently it's quite warm...and this also explains why I need to vacuum it every so often.

(As always, you can get larger versions of this pictures by clicking on the picture here. Depending on your browser it may resize it to fit the screen and clicking again will get you full size .jpg. If you really want the feeling of close-up, try it.)

I love this picture mostly because of her eyes. It's outside and bright enough her irises narrowed to slits. Plus, in that light her eyes become almost aquamarine instead of their normal green/hazel.

For the most part Lilo is a happy kitty, but when she's not happy she will tell you. And the neighbors. It's usually forewarned with a look like this:

Lilo also believes her head was put on her shoulders solely to ram yours. If she's in the right mood - which is often - and you bend down to her with this look, she's liable to give you a head butt. And yes, a head butt from a six-pound cat can still hurt.

Still, she's a sweetheart, as she is coyly indicating to the camera here.

Lilo loves the sun room, where she'll lay for hours if we let her. Her favorite thing is us forgetting she's there while the temperature climbs into the upper 80s. Given that room isn't properly insulated we tend to not like this, since I'm pretty sure it jacks up the electric bill due to overuse of the air conditioning. Still, she will tell you this light properly reflects the gold flecks at the end of each piece of fur.

And here she is, passed out in the sun room on the couch, soaking up the rays.

Next up, Sera on Thursday!

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A Return to Biwa

Last year Wifey and I hit up Biwa, the Japanese izakaya on the east side next to Simpatica, and had a fantastic meal. Last week we made a return and brought the camera.

Along with a green tea for Wifey and something called a "Sapporo Deluxe" (Sapporo beer with lemon and lime - and wasn't bad at all) for me, this is what we ordered off the dinner menu. All pictures were done by Wifey, who kicks food picture taking ass.

The first dish is called kara-age.

It's essentially Japanese-style fried chicken, but with a generous helping of salt and served with a side of hot mustard sauce. And when it says hot, believe it - that stuff is dangerous.

The interesting thing about this dish is it looks dry, but you bite into it and the meat inside is still extremely moist. The saltiness wasn't too much either, on it's own - highly recommend.

The second dish is called korokke.

It's croquettes, if you have had those before, but stuffed with curried pork and potato and comes with a side of tonkatsu sauce. Crack it open and this is what you see.

Very, very nice. Well-balanced flavors, with a crunch crust. Another highly recommend.

The next dish is grilled pork belly.

Sadly, I was really looking forward to this one bit it fell a little flat - it's not the same pork belly dish from our first trip. It was well cooked, but it seemed to need a litle something...else. Not sure what, just something. At this point the saltiness was really starting to add up - which is probably just poor planning on my part.

Our last dish for dinner was the bacon chahan, which is fried rice with various veggies, some ground pork, and chunks of pork belly.

This was okay - it was unexpectedly spicy, which really threw me off in a fried rice dish. The presentation was fantastic and it tasted good, but we probably wouldn't order it again.

At this point we were stuffed, but while our server boxed up the extra fried rice we said what the heck and ordered some of their spectacular gryoza to take home with us too.

Good thing we did - this may be the single best thing on the menu (not that we've tried everything). Perfect little dumplings of goodness. We made a resolution that from now on every time we go we are ordering this, no matter what else we also get.

All in all another very good meal at Biwa. For me the saltiness in each of the dishes really added up, but that's something I think can be better tempered next time.

We'll be heading back to Biwa soon, this time to eat off the late night menu. Their Biwa Hamburger is supposed to be outstanding, which means I need to break my no-eating-after-9pm rule, at least this once.


Pac-10 Week 4: Conference Play Begins

Last week the Pac-10 predictions were a little rough on me. I picked more than one upset - one of which did not pan out at all, thank you Mr. Jake Locker for skipping the Nebraska game - but some did. I ended up going 7-3 on the week, which was a nice recovery considering Cal and Washington gave up the ghost in the first two games of the weekend. That puts me at 23-5 on the season with my picks.

Did we learn anything last week? I think we did - we learned Pac-10 teams are always unpredictable. I did not see ASU keeping up with Wisconsin or Cal getting run over by Nevada. I didn't come close to predicting UCLA would run over Houston, but then again when your Heisman candidate quarterback (Houston's Case Keenum) has his season ended and you are a minor conference team, there aren't always quality replacements to fill the gaps.

But, what really stood out, is how good Arizona and Stanford have become. All along people have talked about how amazing the Oregon Ducks have been and how dominant they have looked, but I can't honestly say I think they look better than Stanford or Zona. In fact, next week when Oregon and Stanford play that could end up being a game that determines the course of the Pac-10 in 2010.

Right now I see the Pac-10 groupings, according to all factors, coming together like this:

Tier 1 - Oregon, Stanford, Arizona

Tier 2 - USC, Oregon State

Tier 3 - Arizona State, Washington, California

Tier 4 - UCLA

Tier 100 - Washington State (yes, well, they are that bad)

ASU moved up one tier last week, while Cal dropped one. As Pac-10 play begins with a vengeance this weekend this is bound to change.

One final note for the week: I am picking Oregon State to beat Boise State. Now, that's not saying I feel 100% good about it or that I'll be shocked if it doesn't happen. What it means is they are capable of doing it if they play their game. Will they do it? Will the defense step up? Will whomever has the ball last win, because the offenses are going to go crazy? Either way, it will be entertaining.

On to this week's schedule. As always, all game times are Pacific time, followed by the network and the pick. Also, the network and whether or not it's on TV is for Portland - some games may be televised regionally, so if you live in a home market, check your local listings. Rankings are in parentheses (AP, USA Today).


12pm - USC (20, *) at Washington State, Fox Sports Northwest - USC
12:30pm - Stanford (16, 17) at Notre Dame (41t, NR), NBC - Stanford
12:30pm - UCLA at Texas (7, 4), ABC - Texas
5pm - Oregon State (24, 28) at Boise State (3, 3), ABC - Oregon State
7pm - California (38t, NR) at Arizona (14, 16), Fox College Sports Pacific - Arizona
7:30pm - Oregon (5, 6) at Arizona State (38t, NR), Fox Sports Northwest - Oregon

* USC is not eligible for the USA Today Coaches Poll because of NCAA sanctions.


Perhaps one of you is wondering where Misaki's picks are, since I made a big deal out of promising them. Well, those shot glasses I mentioned having in a box? That box is apparent MIA. Missing In Action. I know it's around here somewhere, but I'll have to do some looking. The odd thing is we don't have piles of boxes to look through - our garage is clean (well, organized, not clean) - so I'm at a loss as to where they are.

In the meantime, know Misaki will also take the Beavers over the Broncos. Hey, she is 1-0 so far this year.

Game on!


Misaki Loves Bengals!

Our cute little puppy is a fan of all things Bengal. That doesn't just include her adopted brothers and sisters, like Moochie here though.

Moochie, chilling on a beach chair in the living room. What, is that NOT what they are for?!

Oh no, she's apparently a fan of the NFL's Cincinnati Bengals as well. What a coincidence, since that's Mom and Dad's favorite team too!

Wifey put a Chad Johnson (ney, Ochocinco) jersey on Misaki last weekend so she could help us cheer on the Bengals. Doesn't she look excited?!

Misaki: Seriously? You are being serious now?

Hmm, maybe not so much excited as "I guess I'll put up with this because you feed me..."

So why did we do this? In all honesty, we thought she might like it. Ruby, our Akita, loved the football jerseys. I was a Michael Vick fan when he came into the NFL, so I had a red Vick Falcons jersey. After the whole being-arrested-for-dog-fighting thing there wasn't much chance I'd wear the jersey anymore, so as a joke we put it on Ruby. I thought for sure she'd hate it, but quite the opposite. She got a big grin on her face and ran all over the house, super excited.

We did take copious pictures of this, but sadly those pictures reside on a hard drive in a computer that will no longer boot up. Kids, this is where I recommend you do regular backups on your computers.

Misaki, though, just doesn't seem to really be getting into the football spirit.

Misaki: Oh lord, is this over yet?

So why a Chad jersey? Well, it goes back to the 2000 college football season. That was the first season Wifey and I were together and the first season we had season tickets down at Oregon State. This was also the only season Chad Johnson played D-1 college football, at Oregon State, for the single greatest college football team I have ever seen (that Beaver team went 11-1 and won the Fiesta Bowl by trouncing Notre Dame). To this day I will take that team against any college football team in history - that's how good they were.

After that one season Johnson went into the draft and was taken by the Bengals. At the time we didn't really have a NFL team we felt tied to, but the memories of Johnson and his teammates at Oregon State made us bring out allegiance to Cincy, where it will likely remain even after he retires.

Misaki, though, wasn't born yet in 2000, so she missed out on all the history that led us to these pictures.

Misaki: Maybe if I don't move this will all just go away.

But, like a good pups, she humored her pack leaders. Well, for awhile anyway. Then she started to give us the Shiba stare, which basically is an intense look you can feel drilling through your skull. It's quite effective, because then we'll keep doing all sorts of things for her until one of them (or maybe it's the combination) eventually placates her.

Of course, all along, she'll start Shiba-sighing with exasperation that her humans simply can't understand the obvious. That's life with a Shiba. As a human you are destined to forever fail to meet their low (in their opinion) standards of acceptable pampering and spoiling. Hey, we DO try!

Misaki: If I squeeze my eyes shut super tight perhaps this will prove to be just a bad dream.

Yes Misaki, you can take it off now.


Pac-10 Week 3: Interconference Showdown

Last week ended up being a fairly easy week to pick games for the Pac-10. I ended up going 8-0 for the week, with the only "scare" being Wazzu almost losing to Montana State (which, sadly, wouldn't have really surprised me). That makes me 16-2 on the season - Vegas, here I come. Or not.

This week, however, is one of those weeks that separates the men from the boys. Arizona State, Washington, and Arizona all play schools ranked in the top 12 in the nation (all major conference foes) and just about everyone has a tough game.

Well, except for Oregon, who after blowing out Tennessee in the second half last week gets a scrimmage day against Portland State. Oregon is averaging 60 points a game after their first two - that average might actually go up.

Needless to say, this is the week that will determine the national perception of the Pac-10 for the rest of the season, for good or bad. Our left coast conference gets shafted in the rankings normally, but to put up a bad day the one week everyone is paying attention would only make it worse.

On to this week's schedule. As always, all game times are Pacific time, followed by the network and the pick. Also, the network and whether or not it's on TV is for Portland - some games may be televised regionally, so if you live in a home market, check your local listings. Rankings are in parentheses (AP, USA Today).


7pm - California (29, 24) at Nevada (44, 39), ESPN2 - California


12:30pm - USC (18, *) at Minnesota , ESPN - USC
12:30pm - Nebraska (8, 8) at Washington (NR, 38), ABC - Washington
12:30pm - Arizona State (NR, 40t) at Wisconsin (11, 11), ESPN2- Wisconsin
12:30pm - Washington State at SMU, CBS College Sports - SMU
2:30pm - Louisville at Oregon State (25, 33), Fox Sports Northwest - Oregon State
3:15pm - Portland State at Oregon (5, 6), Comcast Sports - Oregon
7:30pm - Iowa (9, 10) at Arizona (24, 18), ESPN - Arizona
7:30pm - Houston (23, 23) at UCLA, No TV - Houston
8:15pm - Wake Forest at Stanford (19, 19) - ESPN2 - Stanford

* USC is not eligible for the USA Today Coaches Poll because of NCAA sanctions.
That's quite a bit of ranking there, which only goes to illustrate how important this week will be to public perception. And yes, you may also notice I have picked two top-10 teams to go down at the hands of a supposedly lesser Pac-10 opponent, Arizona and Washington. Both of those are Pac-10 home games - had they been on the road I'm just about positive I'd go the other way.

So why pick them that way? Arizona, in my mind, has been very impressive early this year. I think their defense is plenty good enough to contain Iowa's offense, and I believe - as usual - Pac-10 offenses can't be contained by a Big 10 defense.

As for Washington...quite a few eyebrows will probably be raised with this pick. But here's my argument: Nebraska hasn't looked overly impressive in their first two wins. ESPN guys were going on and on about Nebraska's defense stepping up last week...against Idaho. Really? Idaho? That's the measuring stick? Washington has been inconsistent so far, but they seemed to really put things together in last week's blowout win over Syracuse. I'm going out on a limb a bit, but I think the Huskies can take it.

That would give the Pac-10 a 7-3 week if they follow my predictions (as well they should) and two major upsets (in the eyes of those who determine those things). If the Oregon State Beavers can take care of Boise State next week (and I also believe they can), maybe this misconception of Pac-10 weakness can finally get corrected.


Misaki's pick will start next week, when there are regular conference games to pick. Suffice it to say this week she will take Oregon State over Louisville.

The rest of them? She doesn't care too much at this point.


Writers and the Library

I'm a confessed lover of the library. I check out books there at least weekly, love the fact I can manage a list of requests online and can find pretty much anything I want, and especially love the fact that it's free.

I feel strongly libraries are good things, that they should be free, and that they should be plentiful and accessible to anyone. I'm a strong believer also that if the facilities are there people will take advantage of them and as a whole they will benefit society.

Now, that said, I also have big plans to be a writer, a novelist. And no matter what any writer tells you, they want the book they write and get published to sell well. Selling a lot of copies not only gets you a contract to write more books without having to have a real job (I don't think of it as "work"), and in the best case scenario can allow a person to live a very comfortable lifestyle. Again, ideally - for most it doesn't work out that way.

But this brings me to a bit of a dilemma. As a consumer I very, very rarely spend money on fiction. I used to, when I first got a job after college that allowed for extra money to be spent on books. I'd buy the new novels from all my favorite authors from Amazon as soon as possible, then consume quickly. And then the book would go on a shelf or in a box and probably hasn't been touched since (well, that's not true - we revamped the storage system a couple years ago, so they HAVE been touched).

I'm not the kind of person who reads books more than once. Maybe I'm not reading the books or maybe I just can't stand spending time on something when I know what happens when I could be spending that time on a new novel. There's no doubt I'll never get to all the things I would like to read, so why read something twice even if I did enjoy it immensely?

I also freely admit this is a personal quirk - a lot of people will read a book twice or more.

But it leads me back to my findings, which were I was spending $17 on a new book, reading it for a few days, and then never looking at it again. Instead, I can get on a list at the library for a new novel, receive an email when it's being held, read it and return it, and never spend a dime. Isn't that a fantastic deal?

However, I want to write a novel. Or multiple novels. I want these novels to be published and sell a million copies. I want that novel to become immensely popular. And do to that, I have an inherent expectation that people must BUY the novel. Not check it out the library.

Sure, libraries have to buy books too, but just selling to them isn't going to get me out of 90 minutes in the car every day commuting and getting up at 5:30 in the morning to avoid the worst of rush hour.

Can I ask someone to do something that is going to make my life better (hopefully) if it's not something I do myself? Can I really expect someone to buy my novel if I pimp it out at a book signing at a local bookstore, when if the tables were turned I'd probably just go to the library?

Published or non-published writers out there, what do you do? Readers, would you even care? Leave a much-appreciated comment - maybe I'm overthinking things (and getting way ahead of myself since, you know, I haven't even started...).


A Return to Screen Door

There is a fantastic southern comfort food restaurant on East Burnside called Screen Door. I wrote about it way back at the beginning of this blog, but a short while ago we made a return trip that was a long time coming - and we took pictures!

We weren't necessarily planning to go here and we had Misaki with us, so we parked about a block away and made a call to the restaurant. We knew they had outdoor seating, but didn't know if that meant it was okay for mild-mannered little puppies like her. Apparently it is!

The below pictures if of the front door area, on Burnside. The outdoor seating is to the right here (Screen Door is on a corner) and consists of some full size picnic tables and a few more two-seater tables. Misaki laid down under the picnic table and was generally a model little Shiba. Our server also brought a little dish of water, which Misaki appreciated because it was a warm day and we had been out walking a bit.

So what did we order? We started with the praline bacon. It's a house-made bacon they pralined (I think that's a verb - pretty sure) and is pretty damn yummy. The first time we visited Screen Door I meant to order it but forgot when we actually ordered, then didn't rectify it because we ended up with a ton of food. This time we made a point of getting it.

Sweet, crunchy, bacony goodness. I wasn't sure about nuts on my bacon, but it was fantastic. I'm not sure if it's better than the bacon at The Country Cat - it's different - but I recommend this.

I ordered the traditional eggs benedict for my main course, with a side of grits:

I'd never had grits before and neither had Wifey, so I figured what the heck, why not? You always hear grits mentioned somewhat derisively like it's a throwaway dish (at least I have, spending my entire life in the Northwest), but these were actually really, really good. The menu didn't say, but I swear I tasted a little bit of cheesiness to them and the texture was nice. I'd go back and order one of their grit dishes as a main course.

The eggs benedict were very good. The Hollandaise sauce was much thicker than I've been able to manage at home (that is to say, normal, while mine is runny), the eggs were cooked just right so they spread in a puddle when cut into, and the grilled ham and English muffin was very good.

Wifey ordered something called Fried Chicken Cathead Biscuit Sandwich with sausage gravy and a side of roasted potatoes. Does that sound odd to you? Did to us. We had to ask the server what that meant before ordering, and she assured us that all it meant was that the dish was bigger than a cat's head. Southern people are weird. Here's what it looks like:

I didn't have a cat around to measure, but that certainly looks bigger than a cat's head to me. Or two cats heads. I love the knife stabbed in there holding the whole thing together.

The gravy was very good with a creamy texture and sausagey-yummy flavor, the fried chicken very moist and crunchy, the biscuit amazing, and the potatoes were also pretty tasty and well-seasoned. All in all this dish hit all the marks as far as taste and comfort. What more could you ask for? If anything we wished the potatoes were cut just a little bit smaller so there was a little more crunch, but that's a personal preference.

I believe our total bill was less than $30, but that also included an extra order of sausage gravy to go with our leftovers. That might seem a tad steep for a brunch, but considering we got five servings out of the food it's really not.

Just for fun, I decided to take some pictures at home with an actual cat's head (still attached, of course) to truly test Screen Door's claim about the dish. Below is one of the leftover servings - the only difference from what was originally served is a little of the extra sausage gravy and a fried egg.

Lilo graciously volunteered for the cat's head test. Actually, I lie - she didn't volunteer at all, but she's the one without claws and a little more calm when being held, so we can get her to do a lot of things we can't with the other two.

As you can see, the leftover chunk of chicken in this dish could possibly be the size of Lilo's head:

Or something.

Admittedly she is the smallest cat we have, and probably a tad smaller than average, but again, this was the leftovers and only about a quarter of the actual chicken.

So not only did we have another fine meal at a decent price, but Misaki also enjoyed the outdoor dining and we also learned that yes, indeed, the Fried Chicken Cathead Biscuit Sandwich is really, truly, bigger than a cat's head.

No cat heads were harmed in the production of this blog post.


Pac-10 Week 2: Misaki Shows Her Colors

We aren't the only ones in the house that love the college football. Misaki, as you can see, already has her favorite team.

Misaki looking snappy in her OSU bandanna.

Now, as a University of Oregon alum I suppose I just have to deal with it, but she won't go near anything yellow. Says it clashes with her fur. Oh well - I can't really argue because she's right. Heck, I don't wear it either.

One Saturday into her first Pac-10 football season in our household and she already has the routine down. Mom and Dad sit on the couch and she curls up at our feet.

The kitties love the football too, especially Moochie. He loves nothing more than to flop out on the couch and watch the games. You think I'm kidding, but he really is watching - not paying attention to us. In fact, if we have errands to do on Saturday that keep us out past 12:30pm - normally the first TV Pac-10 game of the day - he will greet us with yowls as we come in the house, and not stop until the TV is on and everyone is settled on the couch.

Actually, now that I think about it, it's kind of disturbing. Apparently not only does our cat tell time and know when we are late, but he obviously also knows the days of the week and when the games start. Pretty soon he'll start asking us to flip channels when a game turns into a blowout. And building bombs in the garage. Should I be worried?

Misaki looks down on your favorite team choices.

Before we get to this week's games, let's take a quick look at last week. I went 8-2 in my picks which normally would make me pretty happy, but the two I missed - Washington and Oregon State - were the only two games where the outcome could actually be considered a tough call going in (though, yes, I know there will be some who say they knew TCU would win all along).

So really 8-2 just proves I can pick easy calls and screw up the two tough ones.

I have to say one thing about Oregon State too - to me, they were very impressive. It was the first game of the season with a "rookie" quarterback, on the road in Texas, on national television. Should Ryan Katz look for short throws more often? Sure. Does the center need to figure out how to snap the ball? Absolutely. But these are easily correctable issues. The announcers after the game were talking about "another slow start to a season by Oregon State." Hey, I get it. This is the program that almost lost to Eastern Washington in the first game the season they ended up in the Fiesta Bowl, and there have been a lot of weak openers and bad starts since then. However, not one of those Beaver teams looked as good as they did last week against TCU, nor did any of them play an opponent of near the quality (even when they played that highly ranked LSU team, which time proved to be not as good as everyone thought). And still, they can get better. The loss sucks, but by the time the Pac-10 season begins the rest of the conference should watch out.

On to this week's schedule. All games are on Saturday this week and Oregon State (29, 30) has a bye. The Pac-10 schedule opens with one game and the other seven are non-conference matchups. As always, all game times are Pacific time, followed by the network and the pick. Also, the network and whether or not it's on TV is for Portland - some games may be televised regionally, so if you live in a home market, check your local listings. Rankings are in parentheses (AP, USA Today).


12:30pm - Colorado at California (NR, 37), Fox Sports Northwest - California
4pm - Syracuse at Washington (NR, 39t), Fox Sports Northwest - Washington
4pm - Montana State at Washington State, Fox College Sports Pacific - Washington State
4pm - Oregon (7, 8) at Tennessee (NR, 52), ESPN2 - Oregon
7pm - Northern Arizona at Arizona State (NR, 41t), Fox College Sports Atlantic - Arizona State
7pm - Citadel at Arizona, (32t, 23), Fox College Sports Pacific - Arizona
7:30pm - Stanford (25, 28) at UCLA, ESPN - Stanford
7:30pm - Virginia at USC (16, *), No TV - USC

* USC is not eligible for the USA Today Coaches Poll because of NCAA sanctions.

Why yes, I am adorable. Thank you for noticing! As if you could miss it...

Why are there so many pictures of Misaki in a football post? Well, next week in this space she's going to be the star. One of her Twitter friends, Taro, showed off some skills on the gridiron a little while back and that got us thinking, how can we incorporate Misaki into these weekly columns and add some entertainment?

Wifey came up with a great idea - let's have Misaki pick the games! Ideally I wanted to find mini helmets or footballs for all ten members of the conference, but that will involve some time and a surprising amount of money to do. Oregon and Oregon State stuff, we're all good, but the other teams?

About all we have, without arbitrarily attaching teams to a random stuffed animal, is my Pac-10 shot glass collection I put together. I was thinking I'd dig them out of the attic, put water in them, and whichever one she chose is her pick for the week. Of course, she only drinks water something like three times a day, so getting her to do it on command might be difficult.

The idea was to have all of this in place this week, but it's been one of those weeks. Next week we'll have it all worked out, replete with pictures of the process!


Makes My Brain Hurt

We've been driving out to Yamhill-Carlton recently to pick up boxes of CSA veggies from Kookoolan Farms. Our route takes us through Newberg, Oregon, and then out to the tiny town of Carlton (which, by the way, has a place advertising a Rocky Mountain oyster feed coming up - not just their availability, but a full-on feed).

This is the same route we've been taking for weeks, and every week just before we exit the Newberg city limits the road crosses over some railroad tracks and then past a small street. The name of this street catches my eye every single time because it's so incongruous with, well, reality.

Like any street it has a sign with a name: W. North St.

Doesn't that just seem a little wrong? I mean, the straight name being two separate points of the compass? I get the fact Newberg is divided into East and West, as most towns and cities are, and this particular section lies on the west side, but it's painful to read. In fact, as a driver it's borderline distracting (or maybe it's just me and I should focus more on my driving).

And if that was all it was, perhaps I could leave it alone and not mention it, but it's not all.

See, not only is this W. North St., but it's also a one-way street. Going east. Are you kidding me?! I think my brain just exploded.

Again, I understand that's just the way it is, but I would like propose an end - not a moratorium, which implies a time limit, but an end - to naming a street a direction. It's quite common, I know, but it really has to stop. It seems like in the right situation it could blow a hole in the very fabric of reality.

If I really want to break it, I could start making a case for all the places this W. North St. that is a one-way going only east is south of, but that wouldn't be very nice.

It reminds me a little bit of a song by Sheryl Crow - My Favorite Mistake. Well, in the way that it makes my brain want to eat itself, not because it has anything to do with directions.

Wifey and I are big Sheryl fans. For me, it goes back to when we got married on Maui. A day or two before our wedding we went on a cruise out to Molokini Crater - an extinct volcano related to Haleakala, which dominates the landscape of South Maui - just off the coastline for some snorkeling. It's interesting, but what I remember the most from the trip - not that it wasn't all great - was our seemingly seasoned and gruff captain cranking up Crow's Soaking Up the Sun with the track set to repeat halfway back from the crater to the harbor. The entire boat got into the act, singing the chorus and generally having a good time. At that point, in the warm Maui sunshine, speeding over the water with my bride-to-be on my arm as we watched for sea turtles, it was just the perfect song.

From Mauiguidebook.com

Of course none of the previous paragraph has anything to do with my point here, but I wanted to write it. Hey, my blog, my rationales, right? Besides, you get the awesome picture above.

Anyway, the chorus of My Favorite Mistake goes like this:
Did you know when you go
It's the perfect ending
To the bad day I was just beginning
When you go all I know is
You're my favorite mistake
Many of you have probably heard this song multiple times and never given a second thought to the lyrics. However, the first three lines of the chorus, when you really think about them, are likely to cause a brain aneurysm - or at the least a mild seizure - if one tries to logically think about it.

She's talking about when the guy leaves it's the perfect ENDING to a day just BEGINNING? Excuse me, what? Can someone put this on a timeline and show me? Great song, but until I can fully grasp the meaning there it's forever going to be a distraction.

Sigh. I really should find more important things to worry about - not like I don't have any.


Apparently Writing is About Sacrifice

If you recall, back in June (holy shit has it been three months already?!) I proclaimed my intention to write a novel.

As it turns out, while I might think the actual proclamation is a major step, it doesn't actually mean anything gets done. So much for that theory.

I'm sure there is exactly one person out there who is wondering just how far I have come in three months. Well, I've thought about it some more - does that count for anything? Yeah, I know - not so much. I keep telling myself I need to put things down on paper (or Excel, whatever), some kind of outline or timeline. I have it all in my head, but I'm not clear on where my gaps are, and I feel I need that clear before I can write the first words.

So what's the deal?

Part of my problem is having too many other things to do and having too many other things I'm focused on. Those are different - the first is responsibilities and the other is simply personal choice.

I have two jobs already, which take me about 10-12 hours depending on the given day. In both of those jobs I spend just about all my time already at the computer, staring at the screen, and producing thousands of words in emails, documents, and journalistic articles.

Apart from work there are always other things that need to be done. Lawn mowing, cooking, shopping - all those things required to maintain normal life (and sure, lawn mowing IS optional - you should see my yard...).

Then there are the things I choose to do because I want to, such as watching T.V. or movies, reading (I'm a firm believer that extensive reading makes one a better writer), spending time with the family, cooking elaborately, writing this blog, taking pictures of the kids (and the computer work that comes with those), hiking, and all the millions of little things that just get done without a second thought.

And yeah, all of these details are simply a list of excuses (well, some may say excuses - I say explanations) as to why the book hasn't been begun. Everyone has to give up something to get it done - new authors don't typically have the luxury to working on their book exclusively. This isn't a complaint, an expectation my experience be any different, but it's a question of where do I make a cut, a sacrifice, in order to reach that final goal?

In the previous post one of the commenters pointed out an average novel has something like 50,000-75,000 words. If you commit to writing at least 1,000 words a day, then finishing a first draft of a novel can happen in no time at all, relatively (or, as another illustration, I could have had it done in the days since I declared I would write one). Hell, when I'm in a zone I can drop 1,000 words in half an hour.

That's nothing, right? Then there is the fatigue factor. After work, when I've already written multiple thousands of words and stared at a computer screen all day, doing it some more doesn't overly fill me with joy, even if this would be fun rather than work. There are a lot of pros in the field who will say good writing only happens a couple hours a day. Stephen King, for instance, wrote in his book On Writing he writes from 8am to noon every day - he learned a long time ago anything he wrote after that almost always ends up cut because he loses the edge.

Any of you who write a lot of words in your daily work - heck, just think about the emails you write, which are far from pieces of literature but still take thought - are probably nodding your head right now.

I could decide to write before work, but that would entail getting up at 4am. And I could, it's absolutely my own choice not to, but I've been there and done that - I think there is also such a thing as too early. Well, unless one shifts their entire life schedule and the schedule of their family. Let's try and avoid that.

So the bottom line here is where does one make cuts? Can I accept a slightly lower income by letting one of the jobs go? Will that be the differencemaker? Do I need to block out X amount of time every day? Do I limit my own television watching like a parent would to an eight-year-old? Do I - and this sounds very odd to me - do the same thing with reading? Or does that become counterproductive?

And what things are absolutely off limits? Family time I need - everyone does, that winding down time, the contented moments when you can just relax. I need one job, that's for sure - haven't won the lottery yet so the bills pay themselves. I need to sleep. I need to run errands. I need to do my part around the house. I need to eat.

I guess going into this I was hoping I could do everything I wanted to do without regimenting my day, compartmentalizing every little aspect and task into a daily schedule, but maybe that's not possible.

"Just Write" is a fantastic mantra and one I'd love to embrace. Apparently, though, it's just not as easy as that, for me.

Writers, I'd love to hear what you have to say. What's a typical day look like for you? When do you write? Do you have a daily benchmark? And how did you find the schedule that worked for you? How many different types of schedules did you try?


The Country Cat

If you haven't figured it out by now, we love brunch food and we love comfort food. That makes a trip to deep Southeast Portland to The Country Cat a must.

This actually wasn't our first visit to Adam Sappington's (he of the much respected butcher skills around town and winner of multiple Iron Chef-style competitions) house of goodness; it's our second brunch, but the first time we didn't bring a camera.

The Country Cat sits in the Montavilla section of southeast on the corner of SE 80th and Stark. You can pick it out pretty easily because of the gigantic calico cat on the sign.

I have no idea why, but this cat makes me smile every time I see it. It's not a Bengal, but he seems pretty cool.

You know what else is cool? Having Sappington himself cook for you. The first time we were there he was not, but on this mid-morning on a Saturday he was hosting a work meeting to one side of the restaurant for a group of servers - as far as we could tell it was about setting up and working a special dinner away from the restaurant, perhaps a wine dinner or something of that sort.

During their meeting there was only one guy working the kitchen - it's open to the diners - and he looked pretty harried. Sappington took over the meat cooking after his meeting, which kicked the other cook into high gear. Always happens when the boss is looking over your shoulder, I suppose.

Our first time here we ordered breakfasty foods - the French toast and the WT, with a side of house bacon and a basket of cinnamon rolls. All of it was so excellent we ate too much and couldn't wait to return. Oh man, that bacon was amazing.

This visit we opted for dishes more lunch-like. First up is the chicken fried steak that came with mashed potates, braised kale, and Worcestshire gravy:

Really, really good - the gravy was very smooth and flavorful, the steak cooked perfectly, and the potatoes were excellent. This was Wifey's dish and she said it was nothing like any chicken-fried steak she had had growing up (I had never eaten it before) - and that was a very good thing. Thumbs up.

My choice was the cast iron skillet fried chicken and toasted pecan spoonbread, which also came with a small side salad. (Sorry, the picture isn't one of my best.)

This chicken was fantastic. All white meat breast, still moist and juicy, and the breading had a nice balance of flavor without being too thick and dominating the meat. The spoonbread also was very good. I'd order this again in an instant.

As a side we ordered a basket of sweet cream biscuits with marionberry jam:

Again, excellent. Perfectly done with a nice crust while still being moist in the middle.

We both wholeheartedly recommend a visit to The Country Cat - it's worth the drive for those of you on the west side of Portland. And while brunch is fantastic our next visit will probably be for dinner - I hear great things about whole hog dish (and really, everything on the menu).

And by the front door you get greeted by the same kitty on the big sign:

Don't you just want to give him a hug? After your meal your tastebuds will.


Not as Innocent as She Looks...

Misaki is a fantastic little dog and we absolutely love her with all of our hearts, but she's actually not perfect. Of course, perfection is a ridiculous expectation - I mean, whose perfect, right?

She is also a serious creature of habit. Dogs in general like to keep to a schedule, whether it be normal wakeup and bedtimes, walk times, dinner times, whatever. Our little Misaki in particular is adamant about schedule.

She didn't like it when we slept in while on vacation, because it meant breakfast was later. She doesn't like it when it rains so hard we opt to skip the morning walk. She doesn't like it when she doesn't get to go back to her crate for a post-breakfast nap without having to worry about being bothered by the kitties.

Misaki: No matter what, remember that this cute face is not capable of anything but sweetness! (By the way, Lilo is the lump under the blanket. She burrowed, Misaki didn't cover her - though I wouldn't put it past her.)

She's funny. If dinnertime comes and we aren't working towards putting food in front of her, she'll follow us everywhere and try herding us back towards the kitchen. If we are in the kitchen but doing something else - you know, like working on our own dinner - she will sit (out of the way) and stare holes into our skulls. As soon as we start working on her food, she relaxes, knowing food is on the way.

She's the same way with her bathroom habits. Extended use of the facilities - the facilities being the periwinkle vines in the backyard - happens in the evening. We take plastic bags with us on walks and hikes but just about never have to use them. Misaki has a schedule and sticks to it. She's trained us to this schedule, like a good Shiba training her humans, which of course are of lower intelligence than a Shiba. Everyone knows that, right? They need good training, consistent rules, or things get out of hand. Yes, apparently, humans and Shibas.

So last Saturday morning Wifey had a hair appointment. We took Misaki, drove over to the salon on E. Burnside, and Misaki and I went off for a walk while Wifey got a cut. Before the appointment we stopped at the Volkswaffle cart on 7th and Burnside for an original Belgian waffle (which, by the way, was excellent - almost like a doughnut!) for a snack. After eating that we had two extra napkins, which I stuffed in my pocket because I had nowhere else to put them.

I did not have any plastic bags with me, like I carry on morning walks - there were some in the car, but I never thought about grabbing them. Why would I? Misaki has trained me for only an evening need of them.

Misaki thinks she is very funny.

Misaki: Just thinking about what I could possibly do next...

About two-thirds of the way through our walk/Wifey's salon time, we came across a park with some green grass. Misaki loves green grass and since she doesn't currently have any at home - blame two months with no rain and my lack of desire to put out a sprinkler - I let her sniff around a bit. It's a typical city park, about a block in size with a small baseball field, green space, picnic area, some trees, and a basketball court.

I noticed Misaki had stopped walking with me, so I turned to see what she was doing. That prompted this email I sent to Wifey via my phone, for her viewing pleasure while getting her hair done:
Subject: Puppy is awesome.

Her = pooping

Me = Cleaning it up with two napkins in my pocket in the park while two, um, interesting chicks are having a bikini photo shoot.

Yes, this really happened....
Sweet. The easy joke answer to this email is: "Well, at least you had napkins!" Ba-Dum-Ching.

First off, yes, there was a bikini photo shoot going on. I have no idea why. It was a 65-degree August morning in a lackluster public park in Portland. The background couldn't have been that great, unless they planned on editing out the sleeping homeless people. There is low budget and then there is this...perhaps it was the cover for a cheap porn video?

And frankly, whatever they were promoting for the shoot, it's not going to work on me. Yikes.

So this photo shoot is going on about 30 feet away. Misaki finishes her business and like normal is very proud of herself. I'm standing there looking around, wondering just what the hell am I going to do now.

Misaki: I have won! Wait, I mean, I'm super sweet and innocent.

Then I remember the napkins. Maybe I can pull this off.

I take the napkins out of my pocket and realize they are the cheapest quality possible napkins and not very big at all. Maybe I can't pull this off. There is no way they can do the job.

At this point I have to make a judgment call. Now, I think it's every dog owner's responsibility to clean up after their pup in public. I do it, and expect that others should as well. Sitting in this situation did not make me happy, especially since it's obviously not the dog's fault, it's mine. I'm not prepared.

I swear Misaki is grinning at me, with a look on her face that says: "What are you going to do now smart guy?"

Misaki: Hey, when you have to go you have to go. Love me?

She can be quite the smartass. I wonder where she gets it.

So I rationalize it. I could do nothing, just walk away. I don't live around there, no one is really that close to me...but I can't do that. That's pretty gross. I spy a garbage can a few feet away - closer to the bikini shoot, lucky me - so I decide to take the napkins, get as much as I can, walk purposefully towards the garbage can to toss it, then keep walking purposefully out the other side of the park.

I got over half of it and keep myself clean...which, considering the situation I think is pretty admirable. Still disgusting and illustrating how short-sighted I was, but admirable. Misaki would rather I cleaned up the whole thing - hey, that's my job, right? - but she seems to begrudgingly accept the fact I have done the best I could with the situation she created. (And yes, I am still convinced she knew exactly what she was doing and did it on purpose as a test.)

Misaki: Hopefully you learned something here today. And what would that be? That I am in control at all times. And super cute!

"Dad," she says to me, "You won't leave the car for a walk without bags to clean up after me, will you?"

No, dear puppy, I won't. Yes, your lesson has been learned and I will do my best to be better in the future, to take care of all your needs, desires, and whims.

"Good," she says, ignoring my dripping sarcasm.

So hey, I learned something I suppose - my puppy can be a little devious. Or, as other owners of this breed like to say, a Shiba.

But you know what I really don't understand? We walked past multiple instances of the tell-tale plastic bags - tied off and full, if you get my drift - just sitting on the sidewalk. Really? So you took the time to clean up after your dog, but then just left it on the sidewalk? You think someone else is going to pick THAT up? Holy schnikies.

Misaki: This face is nothing but pure innocence, no matter what Dad tries to say. I mean, who are you going to believe?

Don't let that innocent face fool you...Misaki, like all Shibas, is simply waiting for that next opportunity to show you how inadequate you are, both as a sentient being and a simple dog owner.

And we love them for that. :)