a couple favorite dishes

Probably the best thing I made and ate last year was this white truffle risotto (recipe from the French Laundry cookbook). It's a simple dish and it really is good. I got the white truffles from Market Hall. Folding in whipped cream, the white wine, the amount of butter, the small amount of Parmigiano-Reggiano, and onions versus shallots, surprised me when I was making it. I think I made risotto correctly for the first time — I used fewer ingredients and paid more attention to actual cooking with some toasting and a lot of absorbing and stirring that needs to happen to maintain the integrity of the rice.

The second decadent thing we ate recently was this Hokkaido snow beef from Chateau Uenae. "Hokkaido Snow Beef. Located in the Hokkaido Prefecture, about an hour outside of Sapporo is Chateau Uenae. Cattle is raised in sub zero temperatures in the pristine Hokkaido countryside."

It's an A5 BMS 11 wagyu that's over the top. The superlatives of rich, fatty, melt in your mouth I heard about are all pretty true. The fat coats your tongue but it's a delicious fat. I got these 4 ounce steaks from A-Five Meats which is close to our office near the Bay Bridge in San Francisco. This is supposed to be a "holy grail" type of steak and it is good and I would certainly buy and make it again.

my cookware recommendations

pots and pans – Mafter Bourgeat

Go with Mafter Bourgeat and get one of their black steel pans (the 11 7/8" one) and get the remainder from their stainless steel collection: the 9-1/2" and 11" fry pans, the 1-3/4 quart and 4 quart sauce pans, the 7-1/2 quart stock pot, and optionally the 4 quart saute pan. Altogether, these should run you about $500-$600.

There's a small detail with these Mafter pots and pans that's not in most cookware. The handles are attached in a way where the rivets don't go through so the interior is clean. These pots were also recommended in the French Laundry cookbook way back when and that's how I first heard about this brand.

Also:

light switch upgrade

I'm nearing the end of the home improvement projects. I still need to install a beadboard chair rail and repaint the breakfast nook. I also have to paint, move some cabinets, and maybe install cork flooring in the laundry room. And that's pretty much it.

The extra credit "smart" home projects started when I installed a Nest thermostat (many years ago now), then I replaced all the incandescent bulbs to led which actually saved a lot of money, and then I most recently installed a Toto washlet. The next project is to upgrade the light switches to a Lutron Caseta system. I have about 6 or 7 light switches to replace and I've already got a couple floor lamps and table lamps hooked up. The Apple Homekit integration is quite nice, turn on/off/dim any lights in the house via my iPhone or laptop.

Let's hope I don't electrocute myself.

landscape lighting

Turns out landscape lighting isn't too hard to install. I needed to buy a transformer, a timer, some lighting cable, waterproof lighting wire connectors, and then the lights themselves — FX Luminaire SP (Standard Premium).

A little bit of research and speaking with the helpful sales manager at The Urban Farmer Store put me in the right direction.

I'm probably going to install some uplights at some point to highlight a couple of trees. It's not a bad do it yourself project and I probably saved a thousand dollars or so doing it on my own.

Wiseman knives

Been looking for a nice pocketknife. These ones are made by Gene Wiseman. Didn't really need much more than a sharp blade, a bottle opener, and a flat edge screwdriver for the occasional tightening of that random screw. And I need all the wise I can get.

revisiting washlets

I lukewarmly wanted a washlet after trying to use one in Tokyo 10 years ago (?). I figured out how to use it but getting one wasn't top of mind. Recently I was able to use another washlet in a hotel in Suwon from Novita (a South Korean brand) and I was reminded that these washlets are actually really nice. Like mind-blowing nice and they've gotten way better since the last time I used one.

So I went and bought a Toto washlet (search the web for a good price) and installed it (was very easy to do). This Toto washlet has a remote control, an automatic open and close toilet seat cover and seat, front and back wash with varying degrees of spray control, a booty dryer, a deodorizer, a night light, and a heated seat. All very sanitary and Apple engineers would be proud (in fact I think you should get a washlet instead of upgrading to an iPhone 11/Pro).

The other reason I was compelled to get one was because a house two doors down in our Bushrod neighborhood sold for $1MM dollars. It's a very nice craftsman style house but not exactly a mini mansion or on beach front property and *NO* washlets. I'm embarrassed to think our house is worth $1MM. BUT if you walk into our bathroom and enjoy the Toto washlet, you will walk out feeling like a million bucks. Guaranteed.

Anyway, I recommend this one -> Novita BH 90 or any of the Toto branded ones.

Cercis canadensis 'Forest Pansy' aka Eastern Redbud

This is my third try at growing a Cercis canadensis 'Forest Pansy' also known as the Eastern Redbud also known as the Judas tree. The story goes, this is the tree that Judas chose to hang himself. Fun!

It has really pretty pink buds when flowering. Then the leaves go from a glossy, deep red heart shaped leaf to a large matte red to eventually a matte green leaf. It's a slow grower though so I'm giving it a lot of worm compost to hopefully super charge its growth (maxes out at 20ft tall/25ft wide)

Here's a better set of images of the tree. Third time is hopefully the charm (since I've killed two redbuds and a manzanita in the same spot) and maybe this tree finally grows and delivers some shade. I amended the soil properly this time around removing and replacing a lot of the clay with better soil. Turns out it's hard to grow plants in clay soil.

I'm watching it a lot more closely and hopefully it'll grow strong like our neighbor's tree (although unfair advantage since he's a professional landscaper).

Sometimes you've just got to keep trying.

Ironman St. George 2020

I signed up for Ironman St. George May 2020. This will be my third St. George and ninth overall, I previously did the inaugural one in 2010 and again in 2011. Looks like IM St. George will also be the North American championship race and will rotate every three years as the designated NA championship race with other events.

I do have to say that St George in 2011 wasn't the best experience. I hit the "why am I doing this?" and "is this it?" walls pretty hard. I wasn't getting any faster, I wasn't competing (just participating), and it felt like a big waste of time and money.

So why sign up again? Being healthy and fit aren't exactly wastes of time and money. Being healthy is probably a good thing. These races are actually pretty fun and I'm locked in with this distance. I just can't get up for shorter distances, I prefer endurance vs. speed. And I miss it. Training is like active meditation for me, and the discipline and consistency it requires helps me with other parts of life that require discipline and consistency.

Anyway, wish me luck. IM St. George is no joke.