Monday, January 31, 2011

San Francisco's Beautiful Looff Carousel Horses

Regular readers of The Flirty Blog would probably agree that I spend a lot of time up in San Francisco. And 95% of the time when I leave the city I drive down Fourth Street on my way to the 80 freeway to come home.
Stargazing Pintos

At the intersection of Fourth and Howard, about 5 blocks from the freeway entrance sits a beautiful Carousel completely encircled by tall glass windows and protected by a glass roof.

I swear, nine times out of ten I always seem to hit the red light at the intersection of Fourth and Howard. I wait, look to my left and think to myself that someday I want to go get out of my car and take photos of the Carousel perched above the intersection at the Yerba Buena Gardens. But I never do. Well, I never did until this past weekend when I found myself spending a leisurely afternoon in San Francisco while attending Macworld and realized that it was the perfect time to go take the photos I'd wanted to take for, oh, about a decade!

A Classic Galloping Horse with all Four Hooves in the Air

After lunch we were walking back to the Moscone Center when I detoured over to the Carousel. The thing is, this isn't just any old Carousel. It's a Looff Carousel carved by master woodcarver Charles I. D. Looff. His horses are sooooo beautiful. They look like the kind of horses that could, with just a teensy bit of magic, spring to life, shake out their cascading manes and give a whinny.

The Horses are Four-Abreast

Click to Enlarge any Images

Looff also carved other animals. From what I could see there are camels, giraffes, goats/rams, one standing lion and two dragons, one green one blue on the Zeum Carousel. There were also two chariots for those who want to ride but not sit astride an animal. The chariots are decorated with the green and blue dragons.

A Medieval Carousel Horse

As lovely as this Carousel is there is another Looff Carousel I have seen that is even more lovely. The horses are more ornately jeweled and carved and the restoration and maintenance are superb. The Looff carousel located in Riverfront Park in Spokane, Washington is especially beautiful. If you're ever traveling through eastern Washington State I'd highly recommend stopping by Riverfront Park to ride and view their Looff Carousel. You won't be disappointed.

A Stargazing Galloper

The history of the Yerba Buena Gardens "Zeum" Carousel is more interesting than you'd think with it's many residences listed on their website as:

  • 1906 Constructed in Rhode Island by renowned designer and craftsman Charles I.D. Looff. Could not be installed in San Francisco as planned due to earthquake and fire.
  • 1907 Installed at Luna Park, Seattle
  • 1913 Moved to San Francisco’s oceanside amusement park, Playland-at-the-Beach
  • 1972 Playland-at-the-Beach closes. Carousel purchased by private collector and put into storage in New Mexico
  • 1983 Moved to Shoreline Village, Long Beach, CA
  • 1998 Purchased by the City of San Francisco, fully restored, and opened in its current location at Zeum in Yerba Buena Gardens for new generations of San Francisco residents and visitors to enjoy!
A Dainty Standing Palamino

I love this row of dapple grey horses and how their legs are grey from knee to fetlock. The shading from light to dark grey is subtle but so beautiful.

This was, for all intents and purposes, a throw away shot I took through glass as we were leaving. I didn't think it would turn out at all but surprise, surprise, once I color balanced out the green tint from the glass it came out quite nice in a dreamy sort of way. It makes me want to go back again someday soon for more photos.

The Zeum Carousel: Website at www.Zeum.org
Location: Fourth and Howard, Downtown San Francisco, CA
Hours: 11:00 AM to 6:00 PM Daily
Cost: $3 per person for two rides!
Best Parking: Fifth & MIssion Garage

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Attending Macworld 2011, San Francisco CA

This was only the second time I've attended Macworld in downtown San Francisco, CA. This time was more unique than the first though because it was a double date: Carl Mindling and his wife Kim attended with my geeky hubby and I.

Held each year at the Mosocne Center, it's a total geekfest!

If you pre-registered online and printed your access badge at home you could walk in the front doors and stroll straight into the show.

If you didn't print your badge at home there was a huge station where you could do so upon arrival. There was no line while we were there but during peak attendance why would you want to wait and register onsite?

If you knew me four years ago when I attended the unveiling of the first iPhone you may remember my shock and outrage at being charged $8.25 for a mediocre egg salad sandwich on wheat. In the big scheme of things, the fact that the sandwiches this year were only 25¢ more was impressive. I thought with inflation the sandwiches would have been well over $9 by now. LOL

Having not learned my lesson well enough four years ago, I forgot to eat breakfast and was hungry when we arrived so I opted for this economical but overpriced $1.75 banana. It was a freakishly large banana so I didn't feel too ripped off, until we went to the Starbucks next door after the show and I saw their bananas were only $1.00 each. Geesh, listen to me say "only $1.00" for a banana. Um, I bet at Safeway one banana is like 29¢.

So, the whole reason I decided to attend Macworld was to see our friend Jonathan Mann performing at noon on the second floor. You may know Jonathan as the Song-a-Day guy who wrote and performed the famous "iPhone Antennae Song" and "That's Just The Woz." We met Jonathan at Woz's "6.0" Birthday party last year and have have been friends ever since.

The Audience

Jonathan and his group, The Rock Cookie Bottom, played for 45 minutes including his biggest hits and some of the new songs he wrote this past week in honor of Macworld including "A Brief History of Macworld" and "Fans of Apple"

The lower picture above was pretty funny to me. Jonathan dedicated a song to the one and only John Gruber from Daring Fireball (a technology blog) and The Talk Show (a weekly podcast).

I was trying to inconspicuously take a picture of John Gruber taking pictures of Jonathan performing but the last shot I took he looked directly over at the audience so it looks like he's looking at me. But I'm sure he wasn't. He was just looking in the general direction in which I happened to be sitting. Or maybe he saw me and thought "Why is that creepy girl taking pictures of me?" LOL

After watching the show we decided as a group to have lunch before viewing the exhibit hall... separately. Because my hubby has a very limited range of foods he enjoys he wanted to eat at the food court in the San Francisco Center Shopping Mall while Carl, Kim and I wanted to eat something nicer... So hubby went to the mall and we walked across the street to the Samovar Tea Lounge.

I had a Grilled Agor Cheese with Pesto and Sundried Tomato on a Whole-wheat Ciabatta sandwich. Carl had quiche and Kim had a curry plate that smelled so good the people who came in and sat down beside us were practically leaning over our table saying very conspicuously "I wonder what she's having" so that we would tell them what Kim was having. I think hubby had a hamburger over in the food court. The price for my delicious sandwich with salad and a sliced apple was $11. That's right, only $3.50 more than the refrigerator case sandwich back at the Moscone Center. The meal was light, healthy and filling. I couldn't even finish all of my salad.

Each time I go to Samovar I usually try a new tea. This was, sadly, the first tea I didn't like and more so because I wanted to like it most of all. I went all out and ordered a cup of authentic, top of the line, Hekisui matcha tea. It's powdered tea that is hand whisked with only 4 oz of water. It had an interesting creamy feel to it as I drank that I did enjoy but the flavor was very strong. In retrospect I should have simply asked for more hot water to add to it but I'm pretty sure that would have been very gauche. Like going to a fine restaurant and asking for ketchup to smother an elegant meal with because you didn't like the flavor of the food.

Tomorrow I will do a post about stopping by a gorgeous Looff carousel on our way back to Macworld. This is a sneak peek of one of the photos I took. Edited to Add: CLICK HERE to the View Post

Arriving back at Moscone Center I just had to show my badge and I was in!

There are many types of booths and demonstrations going on including two stages with various presentations. The top photo was where live podcasts and project spotlights were featured. The stage below featured the Berklee College of Music using computer software to do something with music...

There are lots of booths. Most are really fancy with huge signs. The HyperJuice booth even had a lounge area behind the colorful banners if you wanted to sit and take a break.

I loved the presentation of the dexim booth. I felt like I was walking into a website...

One of the coolest devices I saw was their P-Flip solar phone charger. Yup, just pop it open, place it in the sun and it will charge.

A demonstration I found particularly interesting was by Dragon, known for their computer program Dragon Naturally Speaking. Their voice recognition/dictation software for both Mac and PC converts the words you speak into digital text on your computer. I watched part of the Dragon Dictate presentation.

Not only can you use the Dragon software for business purposes, perhaps even more meaningful is that people who suffer from hand, arm or spinal injuries and conditions that makes typing difficult or impossible can use their software to be able to operate a computer.  Dragon Dictate not only enables you to "type" on your computer, it also gives you the ability to launch and use applications by voice command. Dragon Dictate for Mac allows users to launch and use applications like Mail, iChat, iCal, TextEdit, Pages, Safari and more. Very cool!

While I doubt I will ever have a need for a waterproof "Dry Case" for my iphone, the display at their booth cracked me up. They put an iPhone into a Dry Case sleeve and submerged it in a tank with goldfish. I kept waiting for a fish to swim by the front of the tank (for a more dramatic photo) but they seemed to like hanging out behind the phone more than in front of it. Basically the sleeve protects your device at the pool, beach or lake, while still allowing you to use it (with a waterproof headphone and mic jack) to play music, chat on your phone and take underwater photos with your camera.

When I went in 2007 there were a ton of companies selling skins (protective cases) for ipods and iphones. This year there were a few but not too many. There were also quite a few iPad stand booths in case you want to convert your iPad into a vertical display screen at work, home or wherever you happen to be.

But the coolest thing I saw was the Photosimilie 5000 3D product animation lightbox. Say what? At a glance it looks like a huge, curving, futuristic, microwave oven. But it's fully automated and takes perfect images and creates flawless, 360º product animations. From the Ortery Company Website:
"Photosimile 5000 makes it easy to create professional still photos, 360-degree, hemispherical and full spherical product animations."
Software controls every aspect of Photosimile 5000 from proper lighting, picture taking, camera movement, camera settings, turntable movement and image processing. Everything works in unison controlled from one program that automates and simplifies all of the workflows involved in generating professional photography results.

Oooooh I'd love to have one of these for some of my blog photos. LOL I'm so low tech I don't think I could go any lower. I use a piece of white poster board combined with a little Photoshop to blow out the background to bright white to shoot the "light box" effect photos you see here on my blog. And with the Photosimilie 5000 retailing at $22,000 on the B&H website, I'll be sticking with my poster board solution for the foreseeable future. Though I keep meaning to upgrade to a piece of white linoleum. Yeah, that'll be a great upgrade :)

There are all kinds of phone, music player and computer accessories at Macworld. From iPhone options to keyboard covers... The only thing missing was an idea I had a few years ago. I'm posting it here in case any developers see potential to expand upon it within the multi-billion dollar, burgeoning pet accessory market... Modeling my iPod leash/portable music player for dogs is the cutest dog ever, my dog Kitai. I call him the "cutest dog ever" because his shelter dog advocacy website url just happen to be www.CutestDogEver.com.

BOL! (Bark Out Loud)

And I loved this. Great marketing. As you leave the building you see this huge poster with the dates for the 2012 Macworld. That's right, mark them down, January 26th, 27th and 28th 2012.

I'd have to say that since Apple Inc. decided to no longer participate in Macworld the number of exhibitors in the Expo Hall has diminished significantly and imo if you live out of town, I don't think it's compelling enough to hop on a plane, book a hotel and fly out here unless you're planning on purchasing a lot of stuff using the show discounts in the Expo Hall. If you are considering coming from out of town to attend Macworld I think it would only be worth it if you are planning on upgrading your registration to attend the Super Sessions, Users Conference, Pre-Conference workshops, MacIT® Conference or Industry Forum.

It is a fun experience though and if you're a Mac fan it's a great way to spend an afternoon. Thanks to Jonathan Mann for the invite to attend. You rocked your performance! Going to check out your song for today right now...

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Creating the Perfect Anchovy or Vegetarian Baked Puttanesca

After recently completing my first Daring Bakers Challenge I was ready to relax a bit in the kitchen... And here's the thing: While baking is an exact science, casual cooking is far less rigid giving the home chef license to be creative. You can experiment adding more, less or different ingredients. What you create may not be perfect but chances are it will still be pretty darn good.
While I loved Carl Mindling's Baked Ziti recipe, it was so rich I'll only make it again for a special occasion. Because there's so much cheese (36 ounces to be exact) I wanted to come up with a lighter baked pasta I could make more often because I'm watching my cholesterol. In that spirit I set out to create the perfect Baked Puttanesca using Carl's ziti recipe as a base.

Carl had given me a jar of Rao's "Arrabiata" premium pasta sauce. It's pricier than most brands of bottled sauce but you can taste why. From the Rao's website:
"Fra Diavolo" Sauce with the spice of imported crushed red pepper, imported Italian tomatoes, imported pure Italian olive oil and blended with fresh garlic, fresh basil, black pepper and oregano. Spicy and perfect for pasta and seafood."
I used grated Asiago cheese with a bit of Pecorino Romano I had on hand. I left out the Ricotta and Mozzarella this time. With hindsight I will definitely add back in 8 ounces of Mozzarella (half of the 16 ounces the ziti recipe calls for) the next time I make this. In total my improvised recipe will only call for 16 ounces of cheese vs. 36 ounces.

This was around a tablespoon and a half of small capers. I didn't measure, just tossed in what looked like "enough."

I pitted and coarsely chopped around a ten kalamata olives. Because they're so salty I didn't use too many.

And to create the cheese crust I finely grated 2-3 oz of the Asiago Cheese. Next time I will stick with using the Pecorino Romano on top as it seems to have a better melting consistency.

After the pasta boiled I turned off the heat, drained the pasta in a colander, put the hot pot back on the burner and poured the bottle of Rao's sauce into the same pot to heat it up a bit adding in the capers and olives... I then mixed all of the other ingredients together then stirred all of it together and put it in the casserole dish.

Here is the pasta ready to pop into the oven. It looked and smelled so good!

And done after 20 minutes!

On a scale of 1 to 10 I'd give this try a soft 7. I think I overcooked the cheese crust just a bit, probably 17 minutes in the oven would have been best. And the mozzarella was a needed ingredient for my desired outcome Below I'll list not how I made this batch but how I will make it the next time. Hindsight is golden and I know I will be able to perfect this dish in the very near future.

1 lb of pasta (Rigatoni or Penne recommended)
1 jar of pasta sauce (Rao's, Safeway's "O" organics and Tyler Florence's Custom Sauces are my favorites)
1 1/2 TBS Capers (add more or less to taste)
12 Kalamata Olives - coarsley chopped (add more or less to taste)
3 oz Pecorino Romano Cheese (finely grated into powder)
5 oz Asiago Cheese (coarsely grated)
5 oz Fresh Mozzarella Cheese (cut into small cubes)
1 egg yolk
1 TBS Parsley (fresh or bottled)
1/4 tsp of ground black pepper
Nutmeg (fresh or bottled)

With Anchovies
If I made this dish with anchovies I would use no more than 3-4 fillets, and would saute them with the olives and capes in some olive oil then add in the pasta sauce to the saute pan to warm it. I'd also possibly leave out some of the olives to balance the saltiness of the anchovies.

  1. Boil pasta 2/3 of the standard cooking time. Turn off burner, remove from heat and drain in a colander.
  2. Preheat oven to bake at 425º
  3. Place the now empty pasta pot back on the warm burner and add the jar of sauce, capers and olives to warm them. If you do this immediately after dumping the pasta the pot will be plenty hot. Add the pasta in and stir to mix and get the sauce down into the tubes. (Replace this step with the "WIth Anchovies" step described above if using anchovies)
  4. In a separate large bowl mix the asiago cheese, mozzarella cheese, parsley and a pinch of nutmeg together with the egg yolk to bind them together.
  5. Pour the heated pot of sauce, pasta, capers and olives into the bowl of cheeses and mix together.
  6. Pour into a casserole dish and sprinkle the grated pecorino romano cheese across the top to form the cheese crust.
  7. Bake for approximately 15-20 minutes until the cheese crust is melted and browned but dont' overcook or the crust will become tough.

If you're freezing the leftovers do so as soon as possible. The longer the dish sits out the more moisture from the sauce is absorbed into the pasta. I had what might be a kind of brilliant idea and will try it this time. I made 7 containers of individual sized portions of the pasta and put them in the freezer overnight. Then I used a second jar of the same sauce and poured some into each container and put them back in the freezer. This way when I reheat a portion the moisture that did absorb into the pasta will be replaced with the new sauce I topped off with. I think it will be better this way. I'll let you know how they turned out in a future post.