Saturday, June 22, 2013

Nutty Finalist

This year was Kern County's first Nut Festival. Since Kern County grows a lot of different nuts. In particular: walnuts, almonds and pistachios. The festival was held down at the Kern County Museum in Bakersfield in the middle of the pioneer town set up at the museum. And various booths were set up around the roads and parks in the area.

I was able to go for free, since I was one of the finalists in the Nutty Food recipe contest. You were required to use one of the Kern County nuts in your recipe. There were two categories one for desserts and one for entrées. My entry was for an entrée, Pumpkin Gnocchi with Walnut Gorgonzola Sauce. One of the first things I learned after I entered was that not that many people know what gnocchi are.

Just in case you, gentle reader, are one of these that don't, but are too polite to ask, I'll tell you that gnocchi are a kind of Italian dumpling made, usually with potato, flour and egg. Mine were just made with pumpkin instead of potato. Most people seem to use a silent “g” in the “gn” though I've head at least one pronunciation that gets both letters in.

So I entered the contest and sent them a picture of the stuff. And I was selected as a finalist. It was a bit of a surprise, but most people submitted desserts so the entrée category wasn't quite as crowded. And the next thing I know is that I'm waiting until two Fridays before the festival to take my dish down to Urner's to be on the KBFX morning news show with most of the other finalists. And of course they had technical issues, so we call got just a few moments of screen time. And to anyone who can track down the footage somewhere on the Internet you will discover that I didn't faint or in any other way embarrass myself. (Hooray!)

Yep, I was a Nutty Finalist.
So then I just had to wait until the day of the Nut Festival (June 15th) and do it again for the official Judges. The only problem I had, was, well two problems, getting my dish there and finishing it at just the right time so it would be its best, and as a related issue, not being killed by the Bakersfield heat.
Well they did have a demonstration kitchen for us to use and using two burners on the electric stove, I got the dish done and sat out for the judges to look at with just a couple minutes to spare. Then the judging was delayed while something was waited for and my gnocchi didn't take well to the delay. Oh well. Next year if I do it again I'll pick a less fragile dish.

So, did I win? No, thanks for reminding me. But the dessert category was won by Charlie from Tehachapi (sorry, my memory has failed me for her last name) for her Triple Nut Baklava, which I was able to try, and I do have to say it was very good.

 As for the heat in Bakersfield, I did survive, but it was a very close call. I was very glad to get back up to Tehachapi. Though I did bring back the apron they gave to all the finalists. So now I can proudly proclaim that “I'm a Nutty Finalist.”

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Day at the Beach

In preparation for a long trip coming up, we decided that it would be good to take Moonpi out for a day trip. Now this we faced with some trepidation since he doesn't deal well with riding in the car. In fact, except for really short excursions, a trip in the car usually led to barfing.

So a visit to the local branch of the Google University research library provided a possible way to help him out. Dramamine. Just like people. So we picked up a box of generics, checked dosages for his weight, and gave him a tiny test dose. And he ran around like nothing was different. So no adverse reaction. Though without driving around there was no way to be sure if it was helping.

So the next day we loaded up the car, gave Moonpi a full dose and headed to Ventura Harbor. As far as we knew Moonpi had never been to the beach, though there are several months of his life before he came to live with us that we don't really know much about. And he won't talk about it. But it seems unlikely that he'd gone to the beach before.

And the trip out was fine. Moonpi would certainly have rather been in the front seat, but didn't have trouble with the ride. Even the twists and turns of the mountain roads, not even the stop and go traffic when we left the freeways. He seemed to be getting a bit uncomfortable just before we reached the harbor, but not too bad.

And he seemed to have fun at the harbor. He wasn't terribly impressed with the ocean. (Or maybe he was impressed terribly with it.) But he's never much cared for getting wet. Even trying to avoid sidewalks where the sprinklers were running we we go out for strolls. So even my wading out into the waves and trying to coax him in failed completely. He sat on the beach and stared at me like I was crazy. Since the tide was coming in and a wave or two soaked my shorts, he might not have been far wrong.

But after we left the beach and wandered about the harbor, he enjoyed smelling the new smells, urinating on new things, smiling at new people, and having a few french fries at the burger joint. By the time we got back to the car he was tired and hot and just kept looking for shade to lay in. After a nice drink of water and a little push he was back in the car and we were homeward bound.

The trip back was tougher on him. But he found a way to lay his head on the armrest between the front seats and coped the best he could. Even though there was no barfing, he wasn't happy on the way back, so it seems that he'll need another dose of Dramamine after about six hours. Which is reasonable, that's what the box indicates for people.

And very shortly after getting home, Moonpi was up and bouncing around wanting to play. Me? I was worn out and trying hard not to fall asleep in front of the TV.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Wild Kingdom

I have some weird adventures with wildlife at times. A few years back I was back for a visit in Oklahoma and my brother dropped me off late at our parents house. I come in and my mother is shouting at me to get in the living room. I go in and turn on the light to see that she had been sleeping on the sofa and one of the dogs had brought in a small opossum. Well, I stomped my foot and it fell over (playing possum). I picked it up and took it outside.

A couple years later, when I was back for another visit, my nephew came out of the laundry room shouting about a snake. Not believing it I went and took a look. Yep, a 3 to 4 foot long black rat snake. In the laundry room. I had him bring me a coat hanger and I bent it to make an improvised snake hook and took it out front.

Zippy the front yard snake. (Western Yellow-bellied Racer).
Well just this week at my house, the local snake was waiting for me on my front mat. We'd had sightings of this snake for the past few years. (Actually I'm assuming it is the same snake, though haven't any way to be sure.) Well, being a Racer, this snake moves very fast so has been named "Zippy". We try to encourage him since he probably likes to eat lots of the things we don't like to have around. (Though he doesn't seem to eat any of the garden gnomes that are infesting my yard.)

A sack of small bunny.
Then this morning I came out of the bathroom to see a small brown shape run across the bedroom. Small, leaves out Moonpi. Brown, leaves out Bill (the Cat). Then I see the cat chase the shape under the bed. And I realize the ferocious feline has brought in a young rabbit. I make a call to get back up and after removing both Moonpi and Bill from the bedroom, the rabbit round up began. You can surely imagine a more dramatic or comedic version.  (And I think I will.) Since it took only a few minutes to guide the bewildered bunny into a paper bag. It didn't seem to be in bad shape, just drooled on a little. And after a few pictures it was released into the field behind the house.

So there you have it. My own wild kingdom adventures. Now I just need to find a sponsor. Oh and a camera man. Maybe I can get myself on Animal Planet. Or maybe not.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

'Tis the Season

This post will also be found in Tehachapi's The Loop Newspaper.

Being a displaced Okie I've tended to be fairly aware of the weather back in Oklahoma lately. Of course about half the people in Tehachapi seem to have relatives back in Oklahoma, so I just have a little less separation that most. Back when I last lived in Oklahoma, tornado season, started in March and lasted until June, but this year the season started late (May) and will probably run late (?).

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Nutty Food

In just a couple weeks (June 15th) the Kern County Nut Festival takes place. And I'm nervous about it. Oh, not from any real concern about someone questioning my sanity, which the festival is not about, but about the fact that my recipe for pumpkin gnocchi with walnut sauce was selected as a finalist in the nutty foods contest.

Pumpkin Gnocchi with Walnut Sauce
The idea was that you had to use one of the Kern County grown nuts (walnuts, almonds, or pistachios) in a dish. And I used as inspiration some gnocchi I'd bought at Trader Joe's or at least I think I bought them there, and a walnut apple Gorgonzola pizza I had many years ago. Anyway, it turned out good and I submitted it to the contest. And it was selected as a finalist in the entree category, so I'm going to be getting four tickets to the festival.

But I'm not really too nervous about that. Turning in food to judges isn't that hard. You take it in, hand it over then wander about a bit. No, what has me nervous is on Friday (June 7th) I'm supposed to go to Urner's with the other finalists and be featured on the KBFX morning news program (7-9am). For some reason this has me nervous. Probably since I'm more a sit in the back kind of guy. Oh well, It's almost pumpkin gnocchi making time...

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Scotty's Castle

Scotty's Castle
A May 22nd in Death Valley there was a small fire (small in California fire terms) near Scotty's Castle. Power was cut off and tours cancelled until May 30th. But the historic building is again open to the public and last I heard the June organ concert is still going to happen. And there were still seats available, though as I understand it the concert is almost always sold out. (Check out info here.)

Scotty's Castle Organ Room
I've never gone to the concert though. I'm typically too busy in June, and besides it sounds hot. I have heard the organ when I was on the tour a few years back (when these pictures were taken). But just last fall I was dragged out to Scotty's Castle for my Birthday kidnapping. But that time we took the underground tour. While not as beautiful as the rooms that fill the building above ground, the below ground sections of the Castle are filled with things that were able to help keep the inhabitants comfortable. They had plenty of water due to the spring there at the Castle and using water power generated their own electricity and using air circulation and more of the water had basically a swamp cooler the size of a room or two.

After the underground tour I wrote a mystery novel mostly set at Scotty's Castle in the 1930s. I'm in the process of editing the book, though it's slow going with all the other projects, with actual deadlines, that I've been working on. But I will get that novel edited this summer and move on in the process to try to get it published. And like so many mysteries my "detectives" already have a couple more adventures awaiting them. I just need to make the time to tell them.