Thursday, February 15, 2007

I know we have some loyal Menagerie readers who would like to know the good news. Raz does NOT have cancer of the liver. Yay! Her mama and dad do cartwheels of joy! The vet says that at this point she thinks the liver issues are an extension of her irritable bowel syndrome. Which is much much much better than liver cancer, which we could do nought about (at least medically).

Here is a sweet picture of the pugs cuddling up on this cold winter day...

Monday, February 12, 2007

What to do when it's 0 degrees

Watch sports, of course!

A while back, as part of St. Paul's Winter Carnival, we (Eric, gigglygirl/Jenny, and I) attended a curling bonspiel (bonspiel means tournament) at the St Paul Curling Club, which is the largest curling club in the US (and founded in 1888!), thank you very much. Eric, of course already knew a bit about curling from watching the Olympics and because he can absorb knowledge about any sport in an alarming fashion. But there were also various members of the club walking around, answering questions. It was very amusing too because they had a special costume theme going on - they were to dress as some kind of duo. There was one team who were milk and cookies! Then Jenny spied someone she knew from work! So we parked ourselves in front of their "sheet," which is the playing field. Jenny's friend's team was Laverne & Shirley, with the guys on the team as Lennie & Squiggy. Cute! The other team was Captain Morgan & Coke. (Although I didn't know what Captain Morgan was...). It was lots of fun.

Yesterday - even though the temperature reached a balmy 24 degrees (F) - we went to a University of Minnesota Women's Basketball game. As many of you may know, Eric grew up in CT and is a die-hard Women's Huskies fan, and I went to college in CT during the initial explosion of women's basketball at UConn so I am a fan too. We are psyched to live in cities where there is a good fan base for college women's basketball and are committed to becoming Gopher fans. Somehow we never managed to go see the Indiana Women's team play- bad on us!!! But we kind of managed to make up for that because the Gophers played the Hoosiers yesterday. It was a good game, and senior day! For the lone senior on the team, who is also captain and one of their best players, Kelly Roysland (#3). To make it even better for her, she returned from a few weeks out due to a broken collarbone and... She played 24 minutes, more than was expected, and... She reached 1000pts right at the beginning of the game! Very exciting. During half-time they had a special presentation for her, during which what seemed like the entire population of her hometown of Fosston, MN came out on the court!

The game itself was a good one. Minnesota and Indiana's records were fairly close to one another and the last time the Gophers and the Hoosiers met, the score was 69-65, Hoosiers won. This game seemed to go in spurts- Indiana would have a run, then Minnesota. But we (yes, we were rooting for the Gophers!) led for most if not all of the game (Eric may remember better) and the final score was 79-69. The team is quite young- as I said Roysland is the only senior. We were very impressed by Emily (Emmy) Fox (#4), a sophomore. She is quick and has some mad skillz. A freshman, Brittany McCoy (#12) also has good passing and shooting skills. Did I mention she's a freshman?! Ashley Ellis-Milan (#21), a redshirt freshman and also a native St Paulian (yay, St Paul!) is also going to be one of our favorites, I think. We are very excited to watch this team develop and become better and better.

The fans were a lot of fun too. Lots of senior citizens, families, high school basketball teams. Almost everyone in maroon and gold. And the band was good too. We will be back for more! Hopefully next year we can get season tickets.

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Friday, February 09, 2007

A good eating day

Welcome to a brand new feature of The Menagerie- Restaurant Reviews! We've been eating out a lot (try, every day) since we moved to St Paul, what with the no kitchen. So we thought it would be fun to review some of the places we go here in the Twin Cities. Of course, we reserve the right to review restaurants in the cities we visit when we need or have to get away.

First in the series? Moscow on the Hill in the Cathedral Hill neighborhood of St Paul. I decided that we needed to go to this restaurant because 1) Russian cuisine features dumplings and I love me the dumplings and 2) I was wearing a hat that day that I thought would go well with the decor, character, and style of the restaurant, you know, romantic and Anna Karenina-ish and all that.

The menu was quite informative and amusing. It informed us that a lot of Russian cuisine is hearty and warming, due to the frigid temperatures that are typical of Russia. We thought that this was very apt, since we have been experiencing quite the cold snap since we moved here (one recent day when the temperature ventured above zero degrees (F) I told Eric that I thought it was quite mild out!). Also, the menu was of the opinion that vodka is very traditionally drunk with a meal, as it warms you up and breaks the social ice.
You could even order a whole bottle of vodka (but only with the order of a meal)! They also had flights of vodkas. We were also instructed that you do not sip vodka but gulp it.

We got the Moscow Vodka Flight, featuring six large shots of homemade, flavored vodkas. There was garlic & dill, horseradish, caramel, tiramisu, cherry, and pepper. The flavors were amazingly intense. We were initially worried that in gulping instead of sipping we wouldn't get a sense of the flavor. Not to worry!!! My favorite was the pepper because it not only warmed my chest due to the alcohol but also all the way from the lips to the stomach because of the pepper. Second to that, I loved the caramel. I spent a lot of time just smelling it, remembering the caramels my dad and I used to buy by the pound. Eric's favorite vodka was the horseradish- enticingly spicy. The garlic & dill was amazingly garlicky and Eric didn't really like that one at all. And I must say, I am a better gulper of vodka than is Eric. It's the alcoholic genes in me! :)

Eric had the Chicken Kiev, which he had never had before (!). The breading was crunchy and the chicken moist. It was served with mashed potatoes - very yummy - and red cabbage - fine, but a little too pickled for his tastes. I had Vareniki (natch! These are potato-filled dumplings from the Ukraine; I guess we really had Ukrainian cuisine, huh, I just realized that!). There were a whole bunch of them- about 15-20 maybe? The pastry had a light touch but in the end I was stuffed (haha). Sour cream and fresh dill topped them, along with some sauteed onions. We were both quite happy with our entrees.

For dessert we had some divine Blintzi - crepes filled with a dried fruit (currants we thought) and cream cheesy filling, drizzled with warm chocolate sauce. Very rich and filling. With our oohing and aahing we managed to persuade the people at the next table to order it too.

The ambiance was very red velvet Russian - lots of red drapes and flowered, black tasseled shawls swathed about the hanging lamps and delicate ethnic art, dolls. The bar was quite long, featuring a lot of vodka bottles.

All in all, it was a good eating day, as the Russians say on cold winter days.


Monday, February 05, 2007

Lettin' it all hang out

Raz has lately been a bit ill. On top of the inflammatory bowel syndrome she now has either hepatitis or liver cancer. Neither is very good news, but we will hopefully get a diagnosis later this week. And the drugs she's on for the IBS should be helpful for hepatitis. But she's actually feeling okay this last week- alert and goofy as always! She likes to sit like an old man, after he's had a few beers (I don't know why, but that's the image that comes to my mind)...

(not) unpacking

It's hard to unpack when you are simultaneously renovating.
Or is it laziness?
Or is it because Raz doesn't want you to?

Trip to Bay Area

Though the trip was unplanned and due to unpleasant circumstances, we nonetheless enjoyed going to the San Francisco area. We saw some relatives, did some shopping, ate burritos in the Mission, and went to the Marin Headlands (on the northern side of the Golden Gate Bridge). We also saw a bunch of wildlife on and around the Bay-- several new (to us) ducks, cormorants, grebes, a loon, an egret, some mule deer, and a couple of California Quail.

The headlands were really beautiful, with views out to the Pacific Ocean (there were quite a few surfers trying to catch a good wave) and over to the city, Alcatraz, etc. There happened to be a huge container ship passing under the bridge when we were there, as you'll see in the pictures which follow. These pictures were taken with my phone, so the quality is not great.... but you can use your imagination to fill in.

I believe this is called Cronkhite Beach...

The Golden Gate, barely visible in the haze... this is where we saw the deer right along the cliff, and I think just after we saw the quail.

It was sunset as we arrived at the closest point to the bridge, so there were quite a lot of people there. Unfortunately the sun sets in the other direction from the bridge... someone should do something about that...

Here's the container ship. The day after we left, the Queen Mary 2 was supposed to go under the bridge (with only 30 ft. of clearance!).