Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Cat Who Tried to Break Free

We have a series of murder mystery novels featuring a detective and his Siamese cats (who are the real sleuths). Each of the nearly 30 books in the series begins with the words "The Cat Who..." but sadly, the author passed on the middle of this year so there will be no more Cat Who mysteries. I think I would have liked to read the last of the series, which was canceled by the publisher called, The Cat Who Smelled Smoke.

Perhaps I can write a short story about the cat who tried to break free.

Havi enjoying the fresh air flowing in through the cracked window.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Sunday Ride

Ever since we moved to Reno, I have not ridden my bike. The last time I rode, it was October when John and I visited Reno together and brought our bicycles along to pedal around the neighborhoods.

He has ridden several times since we relocated but me...well, I had not felt like it. But today was just too nice to stay indoors and I didn't want another sunny day to slip by again as the other nice days had. Besides, I can always work around the house during the evenings, right?

So I put on my gear and went out for a spin...on my own because John was already outside riding with a friend. It felt so good to get some fresh, crisp air in my lungs and to feel the cool air brush across my face. Why did I put off cycling in the outdoors for so long? What was I afraid of?
To get to the main road, my ride was downhill from where we live and soon after I turned on to Lakeside Drive was a good incline up to Audrey Harris Park. While I was prepared for the hill mentally, physically I struggled from the loss of fitness and higher elevation. But all the gasping and wheezing was worth the effort for the view up at the top. I have seen the panorama a couple times before but only from the seat of a car.
Lakeside Drive and Audrey Harris Park
View from Audrey Harris Park
By the way, the Caughlin Fire that raged through our neighborhood last weekend has since shaved off everything that grew on this hillside after this photo was taken.

The remainder of my ride was peaceful and beautiful. On back country roads, horses and goats grazed the land of properties that sat on large acreages and the trees still displayed their magnificent fall colors. Yet, the highlight of my joy was when I crossed paths with John and his riding partner on Virginia Street. I was lost and pulled into a small shopping center to look at my location on GPS when I saw my sweetie riding by. I caught up with him and his friend and rode with them until we reached our street and turned off for home.

I am glad I finally went for a bike ride. It was lovely and I also had a wonderful, long holiday weekend with John, Havi, and Elgy. Time to return to the office tomorrow.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Gobbled 'Til We Hobbled

Since John caught my cold a few days ago, we bowed out of a dinner invitation, unsure as to whether he would feel better in time or not. Of course, neither of us felt like cooking on top of unpacking endless boxes from our move so we took up a reservation at Cactus Creek Prime Steakhouse for our Thanksgiving Dinner. The cozy, sit-down restaurant in the north part of Reno had great reviews of their prime rib but we were there for our Turkey Day dinner. There were two dishes on the holiday menu so we tried each one.

John started with the Cactus Creek house salad (the Tequila Lime house dressing was fabulous!). Followed by a hearty helping of slow roasted free range turkey, giblet gravy, Granny Smith apple and sweet Italian sausage dressing, whipped Yukon Gold potatoes, citrus candied yams, Chef's fresh winter vegetables, and cranberry sauce.

I chose the fire roasted artichoke bisque, prosciutto, chives and creme fraiche. The main course was a breast of Chicken Oscar...butter sauteed breast of chicken topped with fresh asparagus, mounds of Dungeness crab and bearnise sauce, with a side of fingerling potatoes and roasted squash.

The caramel apple pie and pumpkin pie, each with a scoop of ice cream and a cup of coffee was a perfect end to our dinner. It was a lot of food...and the best part was no cooking and no mess to cleanup! Grateful for our day, we counted our blessings. We sure do have a lot to be thankful for.
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Sunday, November 20, 2011

Peanut Noodle Salad Recipe

First night back home, we made this easy Peanut Noodle Salad. The recipe is from the Food Network.
One quick note: the recipe calls for rice vermicelli and not wheat vermicelli (this salad would not taste the same with that substitution). We added cucumber to the salad and rice vinegar to the dressing to make it taste better...and a side of SPAM.
Peanut Noodle Salad

  • 8 ounces rice vermicelli noodles
  • 6 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
  • 3 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 small red bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup sliced scallions
  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped fresh basil
  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped fresh mint
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/3 cup salted roasted peanuts, roughly chopped

Put the noodles in a large bowl and cover with boiling water. Let the noodles soak until tender, about 10 minutes; drain and rinse under cold water until cool. Transfer to a serving bowl. Whisk the lime juice, soy sauce, peanut butter, brown sugar and vegetable oil in a medium bowl until smooth. Pour the dressing over the noodles. Add the bell pepper, scallions, basil, cilantro and mint and toss to combine. Season with salt and sprinkle with the peanuts.

Visiting Reno, Part 2

A couple weeks later, John and I returned to Reno. Partly for leisure and partly to scope out homes we would consider living in. It was a long drive but we left early in the morning. When we arrived, we looked at a few rentals and got a sense of the areas we liked and didn't like. By evening we were pretty tired so we took a walk down to the Truckee Meadows River and ate dinner at a nearby pub. The food was pretty good and the night scene lively with locals and college students.
The next day we went to a shopping center to pick up a few items. I packed poorly and needed some walking shoes and casual clothes so I could be comfortable during the remainder of our trip. Then we met up with a friend who took us to our favorite new sandwich place called SUP. After that we drove around some more...I can't tell you how many homes we saw but we were exhausted by the end of our day. Happy Hour at Rapscallion was welcomed and offered us a chance to unwind.

What better way to get to know the city than spend some time doing what we like to do, cycling? So we rode our bikes around along Manzanita Lane to McCarren Boulevard (THAT was a hill) and all around...Skyline and to downtown for coffee. Then went to lunch at the Stove Top (another new favorite place) and enjoyed our meal outside on the private patio. After that we shopped at Scheels, a big outdoor sporting goods store (there is a great cafe inside) and then had dinner (Vietnamese food!). Our last day of stay was wonderful.

Instead of driving back home via the boring I-15, we took a scenic route through Carson City, Mammoth, and Bishop home to Las Vegas. If you can sit through the slideshow, you'll see some fantastic views we saw along the way. Aspen trees displaying their best colors of the fall season!

After we returned home, the weeks that followed was a whirlwind. Things moved so fast, I can hardly remember the events but well...we ended up back in Reno several weeks later. This time to stay for awhile...

My First Visit to Reno, NV

John lived in Reno many years ago and although we had talked about visiting "The Biggest Little City in the World", we never had the chance to do so together before life took me down that path. A second interview with the University gave me the opportunity for a first glimpse at the city in northern Nevada...and look around I did. From the campus and downtown to the surrounding neighborhoods and Lake Tahoe. It opened up my eyes to the possibility of a change in climate.


Havi's first look at the snow fall this morning. The big flakes peaked her curiosity.
Unfortunately the snow didn't stick around but I'm not worried. I'm sure there's more snow days to come. :)

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Simple Life

Back at home, John is taking a hot shower after he swepted, mopped, vacuumed, and wiped down the house inside and out, and the cars. There were lots of dust and debris blown around by the strong winds. We were allowed back home just after noon today. Boy were we  relieved and grateful that the house was still standing and the smoke smell was not as bad as we thought it would be.
I'm sitting on the couch folding laundry and watching a documentary called, "Life in a Day" condensed from many videos taken by people around the world as life happened on July 24, 2010.Where was I and what went on in my life that day? I can't recall. As for Elgy, I would guess she was napping just like she's doing here on my lap. Both she and Havi are thrilled to be home as are we and we can resume a normal weekend again. Cheers to a lovely Saturday!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Holy Smokes

Thank you to our friends, family, and co-workers for your thoughts, concern, and kindness in opening up your home to us. We are safe, doing fine and in good spirits. Our girls are resting and are also with us. We moved to Vegas for an adventure and things are going well but we never expected things to be ‘smokin’!

Just after 3 a.m. this morning, John asked me if I was awake.  I was and responded ‘yes’.  He heard the sirens of police vehicles and fire engines nearby. The noise went on for a long time so got up to investigate.  Seeing that the electricity was out, he turned on his cell phone to set the alarm so I wouldn’t oversleep and miss work (I was out sick yesterday). He mentioned the smell of smoke in the air and asked if I could smell the same. I couldn’t at first but after I came back from using the restroom, I could smell wood burning. Even through my congestion the odor was quite strong. But since the commotion didn’t appear to be in our immediate neighborhood, we rested our heads on our pillows to get some sleep.

Then the phone rang. It was our landlord calling to warn us that the fire was very close to our neighborhood and we should pack up our stuff in case we need to leave home. After peeking out of our windows to see the glow of a huge fire not too far away, we took his advice and collected our critical items and packed our cars. Havi and Elgy were placed in to the hamster cage, ready to go. Then we huddled in the dark of our living room and waited thinking perhaps the fire would be under control before we would need to leave.

From the patio we could see the glow of the flames across the way on the golf course light up the otherwise dark sky.

The fire silhouetted the homes right across the street from ours. It was still dark so it felt like we were in a dream as we decided to walk down to the end of our street and assess the seriousness of the fire (at the time we read the news online, the fire had spanned over 400 acres).

The police officer by the vehicle blocking the road encouraged us to evacuate. The flames raged through the canyon and the strong winds surely didn’t help the situation or help the firefighters.

Watching the homes burn along the ridge burn before our eyes gave me goose bumps.  I was reminded of a call from my father in the middle of the night when he helplessly watched our family’s first home engulfed in flames. “Gone.” He said. “Everything is all gone”. The strong winds facilitated the gutting of my parents’ home the same way this fire, named the Caughlin Fire (f/k/a the Pine Haven Fire), shredded the homes and fields in front of us. Some of the embers flew in to the yards of our neighborhood but quickly distinguished when the wind gust blew again.

Still we did not leave yet, the fire appeared to be under control. By dawn, the blaze seemed less threatening as if it died down…so we let the cats out of their cage and went in search of breakfast in one car. We didn’t get very far before we encountered streets blocked off by fire trucks or police vehicles and we realized we may not be able to go home after our meal so we better bring our cats with us. The police vehicles had already blocked off the street leading to our neighborhood but we told the officers we needed to retrieve our cats from our home and they let us through.

That’s when things took a turn for the worst. The howling wind started blowing harder, there were fire trucks down our street, uniformed men with gas masks banging doors and windows instructing residents to evacuate including this officer walking down our block.

by David B. Parker/RGJ
Inside our house Havi was wandering around, curious about the buzz in her surroundings so she was easy to pick up and put in the carrier. Elgy, on the other hand, was NO WHERE in sight and I suspected that she was underneath the master bed. Well that’s where she was but she wouldn’t come to me after I called to her. She has a tendency to run away and hide when she’s scared (no doubt sensing the urgency in my voice). John came to help me and we chased her from bedroom to living room—and it wasn’t easy in a candle lit house filled with smoke from the big fire.

Outside ashes fell from the sky, the wind pushed me around as I loaded the car with the last of our stuff. We didn't pack our cars with much…our cats, their food and litter, important paperwork, computers and external hard-drives, and two bags of clothes to change in to and our bikes.
The Reno Gazette Journal was outside our house, taking photos as we got in our cars.
southwest-reno-fire-john John getting in car
by David B. Parker/RGJ
The scariest part for me was when I couldn’t get a hold of Elgy so we can leave the house. Fear crept in to my heart and tears welled up in my eyes, not only from the smoke, but from the thought of having to leave her behind if I can’t get to her. I was so relieved to driving down the street, following John with the girls in tow. All around, the air was cloudy…like a fog, except it was smoke. Our street is one-way but we couldn’t exit at the end so we had to go the opposite direction. As we left, firefighters were hosing the flames all along Ridgeview Drive.
southwest-reno-fire-daly Daly leaving house
David B. Parker/RGJ
After that we ate breakfast at the Big Bear Diner so we can discuss our next steps. Then we hunkered down in a coffee shop, the owner was kind enough to let us house the girls in the back office while we stayed warm, out of the gusty winds and veil of smoke, and watched the news.

Even though our friends and co-workers opened up their homes to us, we didn’t want to be a burden (especially with me recovering from the cold) and so we settled in a hotel with our cats for the night. It felt so good to have a hot shower, I could smell the smoke rise up with the steam off my body. Even after soaping up and a shampoo, I still cannot get rid of the odor that has filled my nostrils since this morning.

We waited to hear if our house and the possessions within was the next loss. We waited to hear when we would be able to return but there was no timeline yet. The fire grew from damaging hundreds of acres to 2,000 acres. In the end, about 25 homes were destroyed (this is a Google Map of the homes: http://www.rgj.com/article/20111118/NEWS/111118012/Google-map-affected-fire-areas). The cause is unknown at this time and so far, only one fatality (an elderly man suffered a cardiac arrest during evacuation).

I hope our home is there when we return (hopefully tomorrow), even if it smells like smoke…as do our cats but their baths can wait. They’ve had enough excitement for today.

As for John and I...we've been up since 3 a.m. and are finally resting on our hotel bed. At one point this afternoon, the thought of having nothing but what we could fit in our cars, having to start from scratch for simple things choked us up. Now, as I'm sitting here saying goodnight to you all...Havi is passed out on the table (she hasn't stirred since she fell into her slumber and she's usually a light sleeper), John is on the bed next to me laughing at some comedy on t.v. and Elgy is nestled between us...I honestly mean it from the bottom of heart when I say that I have...all I need...what's truly important is right here with me. And I cannot be happier knowing this.

Reno Gazette Journal:http://www.rgj.com/article/20111118/NEWS/311180001/Caughlin-Fire-has-destroyed-20-homes-nearly-all-Washoe-schools-closed-new-evacuation-center-Galena-High?odyssey=mod|mostview
NBC News: http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-201_162-57327823/wildfire-tears-through-reno-10000-evacuated/
KTVN News: http://www.ktvn.com/story/16072251/caughlin-fire-grows-to-2000-acres

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

World Outside My Window

It may be cold this time of the year but at least it is sunny. The sun's rays shining through the window help in keeping me warm. This is my first week at work and so far so good. As eager as I am to get stuff done, I must wait until I get access to all of the accounts and applications I need to get the job done. For now I will acquaint myself with the world outside my window and the pretty campus.
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Friday, November 04, 2011

Fall Season

Down our street the trees display their fabulous colors...

...and on the golf course behind our house.
Cool evenings call for hot food so we made our way to Bangkok Cuisine for dinner.

If you can look past the dirty and worn carpet on the floor (it would be better to pull it off and replace with hardwood flooring), the food is not bad. We tried the papaya salad (it came with sticky rice and strips of beef jerky), hot and sour shrimp soup, and duck curry (which was great).

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Surroundings and Sup

Not too far from where we live is the neighborhood where John went riding on his bike to take a break from the stresses of moving. There's a lot of great places to ride, especially nearby. I hope to get a chance to ride my bike this weekend.

We've been eating out a lot so we try to stick to wholesome choices for our meals. One of our favorite places is Süp Restaurant (they serve soups, salads, and sandwiches). Pictured here is a fresh crab and shrimp salad and homemade chicken tortilla soup.

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Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Temporary Home

Our home may not be ready yet but we have each other. Life out of a suitcase has been hard on us, especially Havi and Elgy. To our surprise, they have adjusted to the transition well despite roaming from hotel to hotel. We will be at our temporary stay for a while before moving to our long term residence.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Here We Are

Eight hours in the car with Havi meowing the entire way in the hamster cage we purchased to transport our girls (so she and Elgy can have plenty of room instead of being cramped in a cat carrier) we made it to our new home.

The rental is in a lovely neighborhood overlooking a golf course in the back yard...has vaulted ceilings, lots of windows, and plenty of space (much more than our home in Vegas) but it was not yet ready for us to move in to.

So we packed up the girls and secured a hotel room for tonight. The movers will arrive tomorrow to deliver our stuff so I hope things go smoothly with the home and we can get settled in. If not, it will be another night for our family to cozy up in a room for the evening.

Yesterday: moving truck loaded with our household items.
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