Sunday, December 23, 2007

Greetings from over 10,000 feet!

Happy new year everyone! If you received a Christmas card from us this year, here's a glimpse of where we decided to write them--from 10,000 feet! (And if you didn't receive one, we sincerely apologize--it's likely we don't have your mailing address...).

On December 17th, we ascended the longest tramway in the world to Sandia Peak. It was a gorgeous day, cold and crisp, with lots of snow at the top of the peak--perfect weather for a hot totty in the High Finance bar at the top of the peak while inscribing holiday greetings to friends and family. Great idea Jon!

The photo to the left is looking down on our shadow in the canyon--our tram is the large dot just below and right of center.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Window Cover Ceremony!

Ahhhhhh, we're finally able to rip off the butcher paper from our windows and replace it with curtains and shades. Freedom at last!

We installed blackout panels behind our curtains in the bedroom to save energy, and our shades are slightly opaque to also save energy too. The butcher paper was a fine stopgap to provide privacy until we could choose the right shades, but it's sooooo nice to be legit now! It's starting to look and feel like a home....

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Disturbing Holiday Greeting

A friend of ours sent us this cute, free ElfYourself online greeting card application (by OfficeMax) where you can morph a photo of your head onto a group of singing elves. You can then call a toll-free number to record your own greeting for the elves to sing. We couldn't resist the temptation to try it with photos of our cats, Maximus and Alma, along with photos of some friends' cats.

What you are about to see may be disturbing. Viewer discretion is advised. (Note: no animals were harmed during production of this video)...

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Burn, Baby, Burn!

While it was no Disco Inferno, burning an acre or so of weeds was more fun than one might imagine. We did put our friends Mark & Tara to work, but they insisted it was voluntary, so we let them continue with this delusion, which made the burn much more fun and speedy.
It was one of the many highlights of their visit last week. In addition to hiking nearly every day (first at Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks Natl Monument, then in the Sandia Foothills on Elena Gallegos and Pino Trails), we ate wonderfully good food (homemade Frito pie!), and played lots of cards and board games. A good, old-fashioned round of Life anyone?

Mark and Tara brought their dog Kai and 17-year-old cat Chester with them, which was also a treat. It was so nice to have a dog in the house (particularly well-mannered, adorable Kai), and Chester kept us laughing with his territorial behavior, making it known that he was the oldest animal in the house--and all other beings, residents or otherwise, must submit. Poor Max and Alma cowered in the closet for most of Chester's reign-of-terror.

Kai, sensing an innate duty hearkening back to his unknown ancestors, was eager to herd our neighbor's sheep, but didn't quite know what to do with them once he had them. It was amusing to watch--for us, not the sheep--and we'd like to take this opportunity to thank our woolly friends for helping us mow down the weeds in preparation for the Big Burn. Th-a-a-a-a-a-nks guys!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Blog Slackers

We apologize for the temporary delay in our blog service. It's been a busy few weeks at the Ashe household (and on the road...). Just after Thanksgiving, Val attended Autodesk University, her company's annual user conference (10,000 people!), in Las Vegas. Meanwhile, Jon entertained guests back at the homestead, our good friends Mark & Tara, while waiting for the weather to subside for his long-awaited weed burn day. Exciting photos to come!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!

We hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving 2007! We had Val's family over and had a wonderful time. It was our first time making and hosting a turkey dinner. By recommendation, we ordered a Willy Bird Sonoma turkey online (Williams Sonoma) and we don't regret it! It was worth the extra $$, and was so exciting to wait for our fresh young bird in the mail! It arrived Tuesday before Thanksgiving, and we began brining it Wednesday evening. If you've never brined a turkey, we recommend you try it next time. Deeeelicious!

Pumpkin place settings (Val got a little Martha Stewart on us). Talk about recyclable table settings--these babies will become pumpkin bread, cookies, and pies over the following week.

Getting ready for a post-meal Ratatouille viewing. An appropriate movie after a feast--all about enjoying food and following your passion!

Postprandial turkey sedation...

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Winged Migration--or Attack of the Birds?!?!

Jon woke up Saturday morning with a plan to drive us 1-1/2 hours south of our little town to Bosque del Apache, NM, where thousands of geese, ducks, cranes, and other birds fly from the north to rest for the winter, or en route to destinations further south. I wasn't prepared for the incredible beauty and awe we experienced--birdwatching is WAY cooler than I thought. Possibly the most magnificent bird to spot was the lone bald eagle on the preserve (he's on the dead tree in the photo below). Make sure to click on the videos to see and hear the sheer mass of birds (less than 1 minute each).

Friends of the Bosque has created and maintains the preserve for all kinds of wildlife, but the biggest attraction each year are the birds. They even have an annual Festival of the Cranes, an event complete with tours, classes, photography contests, dinners, etc. We'll miss the festival this week, but the birds are there through February so we'll be back to visit.

We're Auntie & Uncle Mr. Ashe Now!

Our friends Jennifer and Jonathan Lucero gave birth to a lovely, healthy baby boy on November 9th, 2007. That makes us official!

Christian Lee Lucero
Born: at 4:08pm on 11/2/07
Weight: 8lbs 4oz
Length: 19in
We're so honored and happy to welcome this little treasure to the world! Congratulations guys!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

More Home Cooking: Paella Night

A couple Saturdays ago, we spent the evening with Val's folks, sipping Spanish wine and making a traditional Spanish paella. It was a lot of prep--shucking shellfish, chopping veggies, and measuring everything out--but once we threw it all together in the paella pan, under Mom's direction, it all came together into one of the most delicious home cooked meals ever. She still has the magic!

The best part of the evening was the four of us enjoying our handiwork at the table with a bottle of Bodegas Castano 2004 Monastrell Yecla Hecula, and Val's mom teaching us a repertoire of dirty words in French. Quelle soiree!

Whirlwind Tour

This has been a month of extensive travel and events for us (Val's been on the road nearly every week of October and November). Aside from family illness and tragedy, it hasn't been all bad (for privacy's sake, please call us for details). Val's biz travels the past month have taken her to San Francisco, Galveston TX, Atlanta, and Naples. Sorry to disappoint everyone, but that's Naples, FL. Still it's a pretty place, isn't it? This was the view from my hotel room at the Naples Grande; the Gulf of Mexico is just beyond those buildings in the distance.

I have a couple weeks off from business travel until the week after Thanksgiving when I'm off to Vegas for our largest annual user conference, Autodesk University. This year, the agenda will be all about teaching those architects and engineers how to use our products for sustainable design. As always, it's a great conference, culminating in an event on the final evening to entertain over 7,000 attendees, including employees, Las Vegas-style.

If you ever wondered exactly what I do for the company, here's an example (and an opportunity at shameless self-promotion):

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Galveston, Texas

I'm in Galveston, Texas, this week to attend the International Association of Drilling Contractors, carrying the banner for our Autodesk solutions into this new territory for our company.

As I like to describe it, I'm here to hobnob with the J.R. Ewings of the world. I've never been to Galveston, but I always hear about what a cute resort town it is, an island right on the Gulf of Mexico.

So far, it's not been so cute. It's late night on Halloween, and we did see some adorable kids running around the streets with their folks, going to local haunted houses in the plantation-style mansions, but mostly it's gas stations, convenience stores, and strung out people running in front of your car. Maybe it will look different during the day....

Texas is it's own "whole 'nother country". The people are so polite and gracious, but you never know what they might say about you when you leave the room. The hotel decor is always sentimental--it makes me pine for my 80s days of fuschia pleather tight pants, white flowing poet shirt, jellies, silver bangles, and big Jersey girl hairdo. It's not all bad, I suppose. You do get great stories and jokes out here. Like:

Once there was a Texan who was visiting Harvard and was lost. He stopped the first person he came to in the hall and said, "Can ya'll tell me where the libary is at?"

To which the affronted Harvard grad replied, "Sir, this is Harvard. At Harvard we never end our sentences with prepositions. Kindly rephrase your question."

"OK, can ya'll tell me where the libary is at, asshole?"

That's a nice one. I think I heard it over 10 years ago when I frequently traveled to Hill Country for a different job (between Austin and San Antonio). Ahhhhhhh, Texas. It seems I'll never be free from your bewitching spell.....

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

What Does Your House Look Like?

We get this question a lot, followed by "you should post some photos...." We haven't done much with the house lately, but are expecting window coverings soon (no more butcher paper. Yay!). We chose some groovy Hunter Douglas shades. We'll post more photos when they're installed. In the meantime, this is the what the house looks like:

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Recipe for Comfort Food

It's been great being home, so we've ventured to cook nearly every meal over the past few days vs. going out. Our most creative so far has been chopped veggie "junk" salad with an awesome light dressing (Jon's magic creation), and a bun-less, spicy burger: low-fat, grass-fed, Angus beef burger patties atop hearty mashed red potatoes, surrounded by the veggie of your choice (we chose peas and corn to give the dish a comfort food feeling. Plus it just looked and tasted good). I think we'll call this dish "Wannabehomealotta". It has a Hungarian ring, which reminds of us of other good comfort food meals like goulash and papprikash.... The whole meal took about 40 minutes to prepare, cook, and serve.


Chopped Junk Salad with Jon's Dressing (serves 2)

Chop the following and toss in large salad bowl:

1 cup red cabbage
4 medium carrots
1 large red bell pepper
1 cup mixed greens
1 cup cooked beets

For the dressing, whisk together in a small mixing bowl:

3/4 cup unseasoned rice wine vinaigrette
3 Tbsp. canola oil
2 Tbsp. low-sodium soy sauce

Drizzle over the salad and serve.

Wannabehomealotta (bun-less spicy burger over mashed potatoes and veggies)

1 lb. lean ground Angus or Kobe beef

2 cloves minced garlic or 1 Tbsp. garlic powder
1 Tbsp. mild red chile powder (New Mexico preferred, of course)
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. chopped oregano, basil, or 21 Seasoning Salute (available at Trader Joe's)
1 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper

Combine beef with remaining ingredients in a medium mixing bowl. Split mixture in half and form two 1/2 lb. patties with your hands. Heat a non-stick skillet over med-high heat, and once the skillet is hot cook patties for 5-10 minutes on each side, until you reach the meat temperature you like (5 minutes should be rare to medium, 7 minutes med-well, 10 minutes well).

Serve over a bed of mashed red potatoes (boil 1 lb. red potatoes for about 20 minutes or until they break or fall off a fork when tested; mash potatoes (skins on) with a fork or a potato masher in a large bowl with 3/4 cup milk and 4 Tbsp. salted butter, soft or melted). Add fresh cut corn and peas--or frozen if you wish--and voila! Enjoy!

Do you have a recipe you'd like to share with our blog community? Post a comment and include your recipe!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Home Sweet Home

Back from San Francisco, and not traveling for a week or so. It's great to be home!!!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Are we living in a police state?

On the plane back from Oakland to Albuquerque, I read the article about Carol Anne Gotbaum, the depressed, alcoholic mother who threw a fit in the Phoenix airport due to being displaced from two flights on her way to rehab in Tuscon. She was eventually restrained, handcuffed behind her back and shackled to a bench in a holding cell where, within minutes, she strangled herself and was found dead.

I can't get over this story as I fly quite frequently, and see (and experience) lots of situations where someone--even I--could *snap* and be treated in the same manner. It worries me that our freedom seems to be getting smaller and smaller in this country. It makes me feel as if our terrorist enemies have certainly won at a virtual war that we don't even see taking place, a little bit of freedom lost day by day.

However, some argue that Carol Anne was a "drunk", she acted irrationally and dangerously. That she shouldn't have been traveling alone. I agree that she should have been supervised--friends were scheduled to escort her to her connection in Phoenix but they were delayed--but I'm more aghast at the actions of the police.

What do you think? Was she treated fairly? Should she have been detained in such a manner? Should the police have ordered medical attention for her, or left an armed guard in the room with her to prevent this tragedy? I'm curious if I'm alone in my thinking on this one.

Time for me to board the plane--off to San Francisco again for an Autodesk marketing summit. God forbid the airlines leave us on the runway for 12 hours, or deny someone a seat that they purchased, or TSA drags us randomly away in handcuffs against their best judgment....

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Val in SF this week

I just completed two days of Construction Administration training for work, taught by a retired colonel from the Army Corps of Engineers, now an ASCE instructor at University of Kentucky. It was fascinating material about the risks and litigation involved in building the structures we live, work, and play in (and on) everyday. I'm fascinated with this industry--all of its intricacies and how thousands of pieces come together to define a "project" which then turns into a building. Or a bridge. Or an oil platform. Or a housing development. If architects, contractors, and owners streamlined their communication and worked more ethically, things like the Minneapolis bridge collapse wouldn't happen. It's an amazing industry to me, and learning things as I did this week makes me appreciate my job--marketing construction project collaboration tools for Autodesk, Inc.--even more.

It's strange being back in SF, but so far I don't regret moving to NM! It's fantastic being a tourist in this town: I get to stay at a trendy boutique hotel in the Financial District, jog on the Embarcadero every morning, get fresh coffee at Peet's in the SF Ferry Building, go to amazing dinners at the best new restaurants, and catch up with friends when I can sneak in some time.
Monday I had the honor of sharing lunch with my friend Bruce at Perbacco. We caught up on his new job at The Economist, and I got to hear about his upcoming trip to The Lost World in Venezuela, where several unique species of life abound--and are to be found nowhere else in the world (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote a book titled The Lost World in 1912, which inspired Michael Crichton's 1995 novel by the same name, the sequel to Jurassic Park). The Lost World is so remote, you either have to scale mountains to get to the top of the tepuis--or mesas--or hire a helicopter to take you up and camp for several days in the remote wilderness. Looking forward to his stories and photos when he returns.
Monday evening I shared a cozy meal of comfort food at Presidio Social Club with Grace from work. While we waited at the bar for our cab to pick us up, the bartenders filled their downtime by introducing us to a digestif liqueur called Chartreuse. This pungent, bitter, electric green/yellow liqueur is infused with 130 Alpine herbs, plants and flowers, the recipe known only by 3 Carthusian monks in France, and therby passed down to the next 3 monks as a legacy. The ensuing 20 minutes at the bar became a very informative and interesting digestif tasting. We learned about Cynar (an Italian digestif made from artichokes--very bitter!), Angostura bitters, and the elixir of San Francisco bartender initiates: Fernet-Branca (ew--do not attempt tasting on its own!). We finished off with a time-tested reliever of the common tummy ache: Cynar bitters with Ginger Ale and a squeeze of lime. Not half bad!

Tuesday evening, I visited our friends Chris and Ivan at their beautiful new home in the Oakland hills. Their idyllic neighborhood must have been featured in the JC Penney catalog at some point--narrow, tree-lined streets full of crisp, yellow autumn leaves and Arts & Crafts-era houses each showing off their unique colors and accents. I'm so proud of them--their home is beautiful and their careers are burgeoning. Chris's company Doubleclick is en route to be acquired by Google. Can you say gazillionaire?!?! We spent the evening dining at Oakland's fairly new Tamarindo restaurant, which wasn't as much to write home about as we thought it would be but the company and pomegranate margaritas were outstanding, so not too much was lost.

We then returned to their house so I could preview decorations for their upcoming Halloween party. If their life-size, motion-detected Haunted Donna doesn't freak you out, you have nerves of steel my friend!

Wednesday I spent the day working in the San Francisco office. I fit in a lunch at one of my favorite sushi spots, Ozumo, and spent the evening at Jennet and Tom's house in Orinda. They're 6 months pregnant and have an adorable 2-year old, Jarret. Tom showed me the incredible new shed he spent the past 3 months building (more like a small house), and Jennet made us a healthful, home-cooked meal of oven-fried chicken and quinoa with fresh fruit for dessert. It doesn't get much better than that.

This trip was good for the soul for many reasons:

1) I learned a lot about the construction industry and my personal role in it

2) I had the opportunity to spend quality time with friends at lunch and in the evenings

3) I learned that I truly WANT what I HAVE. I sorely missed Jon, the cats, and our lovely home so much while in the Bay Area; an unexpected, but welcome reaction. I'm IMMENSELY happy to be home this weekend!