Sunday, May 31, 2009

Productive Weekend

The past few weeks have been great. We went to Mexico and then Tom had this past week off so he was able to do a lot of stuff that I couldn't or wouldn't do around the house. I will do a lot of stuff but I don't do windows. Luckily, Tom does so he did all the windows and mowed the grass and other little things.

I had to weed the garden which was overrun by weeds during the week we were in Mexico. God I hate weeds. But now it's perfect. We also went and bought some new plants because some of our seedlings had died. We got some new mature tomato plants. We got some new herbs to plant in containers. I have already used my fresh cilantro when I made guacamole. And tonight I am making lemon spaghetti with fresh basil!!!

My cucumbers didn't survive so I bought a few more. I also saw some cabbage and thought that might be a good thing to have for the summer.

Our corn is doing really well and our radishes are out of control. I have carrots and onions coming in. I also have like 3 lettuce plants coming up although I planted a lot more. I think I need to go get some big mature lettuce plants and put those into the ground. And I have my first pea pod coming out!!!

I think Tom is actually really surprised that I am taking ownership of my garden. I think he thought I would flake out and he would have to do all the work. He has helped a lot especially with the tilling but I am doing a lot. I am pretty surprised that I like it so much. I cannot wait until I actually see the fruits or vegetables of my labor. It's really cool.

Another little treat we had this weekend was Japanese food. Yesterday we took a long drive out to Asheville and went to our favorite Japanese restaurant there, Wasabi. I had Udon noodle soup, some gyoza and some California rolls. I am a fiend for California Rolls now and I have no idea why. Tom had a selection of sushi like tuna, salmon and eel. UGH! I can eat California Rolls but I still can't stomach raw fish.

So here are a few picture of my garden. I am so excited about it!!!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

We Had A Visitor

Our friend Tim came to visit on Thursday. Tim is an old friend from Florida. Tim works as the Set Designer/Technical Director at the Caldwell Theatre Company in Boca Raton. Tom used to be the General Manager and Lighting Designer there for years and that's how they met.

Tim was in Iowa visiting family and was driving back to Florida and decided to pop in. We are glad he came because he is a good friend and enjoy his company. We didn’t do that much because he was here only for night but Tom took him on a tour of the University and then we went to dinner. We drove him by our favorite potters, Riverwood Pottery, where he met our friends Karen and Zan and bought one of their pots. Then we went to dinner at our favorite Sylva restaurant, yes, the Mexican one, El Pacifico. YUMMO! Then we came back to the house and hung out.

Tim is super cool and the perfect house guest. When we lived in Florida, he always came over for Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner. One night we had a birthday dinner for him when he turned 50. It was great. I grilled steaks and we had crabs but while having dinner, things went pear shaped.

Here is a lesson everyone should learn. Never ever try to open a crab leg with a very sharp Ginsu knife. We only had two lobster/crab crackers so I decided to use the knife. Tom was outside turning off the grill and me and Tim started eating. Like a dopey girl, I grabbed the knife and shoved it into the crab leg and it cut the shell then proceeded to slice my left index finger. It didn’t hurt at all even though the cut almost went down to the bone. It didn’t even hurt when I calmly got up and went to the kitchen faucet to wash it off. While I was washing it off, Tom came in and looked at it and said we are going to the ER. I was like why? I said get me a bandaid and some rubbing alcohol (my answer to everything) and I am fine. Tom grabbed some paper towels and started wrapping my finger that started bleeding profusely. At that point, I agreed to go to the ER. Luckily for me the hospital was a block away and it was pretty empty. The finger wasn’t really hurting when they pulled off the paper towels and looked at it. It only hurt when the doc took a huge ass needle and injected drugs into it. OMG I almost died. That’s when I started crying. But then in a minute or so no pain. I got about 3 or 4 stitches and was sent on my way. OW.

We had left Tim at the house alone. The poor guy had to eat his birthday dinner by himself while we were at the hospital for almost 2 hours. But when we got home he had picked up the table and washed the dishes. Now that’s a good house guest. But it was a lousy way to spend his birthday all because I was a dopey girl. DUH! As you can tell, I am very accident prone. Tom always tries to keep the knives from me now. But we did get more lobster cracker, just in case.

So remember if you have a birthday party for a friend don't use a knife to cut the crab leg.

Monday, May 25, 2009

We're Baaaaaack!!! (part 2)

Isn't this more info than you wanted?

The next day we got up early and ordered room service for breakfast because we wanted to go visit the Tulum Ruins. Room service was wicked slow and we got a late start. Luckily, the ruins were just a few minutes away and they were easy to find. It was a wickedly hot day though.

The ruins were interesting but to get there we had to park and walk a mile or more. (of course, Tom will just say I am whining but it was far) Once we got there, we had to walk more and y'all know how much I LOVE to walk. UGH! I was pooped by the time we reached the entrance. Luckily, I wasn't the only one. We met these two girls who were equally as hot and tired and I could have been their mom so I felt better. We had to walk more to get to the site itself but once we got up to the site, it was fabulous. It's located right next to the beach so the views were great but the heat was unbearable. Even with shorts, sunglasses and my giant old lady hat, I was burning up. So was Tom. We walked around, took pictures and almost died. We took lots of shade and water breaks.

We got some good pictures and it was a nice side trip. It's amazing to think how old these structures are and the history behind them. I am glad we got to see it. Afterwards, we stopped to look at souvenirs and picked up some really cute puppets for our housesitter's kids. I actually wanted to keep them myself but Tom said NO! We also got Melody a ceramic gecko and it was darling. I saw this awesome ceramic skull and had to have it. Isn't it cool? Then I saw this Devil/Demon puppet and HAD to have it as well. I love him! I bargained with the guy and I think I got a good price but I hate haggling and it really didn't matter because I was going to pay any amount to have him in my house. He also has a name, Gilberto. I figured it fits him so I will keep it. Gilberto matches all my other ghoulish stuff. While at the little shop area, I also had a great treat: fresh coconut milk! Yummo. There is nothing like drinking coconut milk from the coconut.

We then went back to the hotel to sit by the pool. Thank goodness because the heat was terrible and I was afraid I would get heat stroke again. Luckily, I didn't but I am pretty sure Tom did because he woke up all clammy and sweaty one day but was fine the next day.

The rest of the week went without incident. Well, one day we were hanging out by the pool relaxing when this family comes over to where we were. Now there were 768787 open beach chairs but they chose 2 right next to us, which made no sense. And we were fine until the kid starts hacking up a lung and that's when we looked at each other grabbed our stuff and hit the road. Hello, swine flu! So we just moseyed along elsewhere. Luckily, we escaped from the infested child.

We also got the opportunity to go to the spa. I got a facial and Tom got a massage. I love freaking facials. There is nothing better. Plus, besides the facial, I got a mini neck massage and she rubbed my head. I love to have my head rubbed! It always reminds me of when I was little and my mom would read to me and rub my head. It really is fabulous.

We really didn't do much else. Tom got to play a lot of beach volleyball, which he loves. I actually read 3 books and tons of magazines. For the most part, we loved our trip and it was nice to have a vacation without family and somewhere where I didn't have to do a thing. We always seem to take vacations where I end up cooking. Now I don't mind but sometimes, it's nice to have someone else clean and cook.
I would totally recommend the Dreams Tulum Resort to anyone. It was well kept and clean and the people were great. Our only thought was that if the place had been filled to capacity, it would have been a totally different experience. I think we lucked out being able to go when this whole flu thing hit and people didn't travel. There were a lot of empty rooms and we shuddered to think how it would have been even if it was half full. So I think overall we really went at a wonderful time.

It was sad to leave but at a certain point, you just want to go home and we were ready on Thursday. Friday we just hung out and packed and enjoyed the sun and pool. The flight back was fine until we reached the Atlanta airport and more RWN ensued. It was horrible. Firstly, we arrived earlier than we should have, which is great but it wasn't because the gate wasn't ready and we had to sit in the plane for about an hour waiting to get off. GRRRR Once we were off, we were sent to Customs which went fine until we got our luggage. We were leaving the terminal and then decide to stop Tom and not me. So he had to go into another room and they went through our luggage. After that we had to get inspected once again. Yes, the whole shoes off thing and through the security line again. WTF! Then they took our luggage from us and threw it on a conveyor belt and we had to get on the shuttle and go down to baggage claim. By this time it was almost an hour and half of this crap. So we get to the baggage claim and had to wait some more for the luggage. Finally we got it and had to get a shuttle to the hotel we had stayed at to pick up our car. Luckily, the guy from the La Quinta shuttle took us although we were at a Marriott. Thank you! But then Tom had to drive another 2.5-3 hours to get home.

But we made it. It was nice to be home although the cats ignore us for hours because I think they get mad that we leave them. I saw my tomatoes and fear they might be die and we had tons of mail to go through. Whew!

But overall it was a fabulous trip and I am glad we got to go. But I am glad I am back!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

We're Baaaaaaaaack!!!! (Part one)

Well we were back on Saturday but we needed a day to unpack and try to get back to real life. We had a wonderful time in Cancun. The Dreams Tulum Resort is wonderful. It was the first time we actually went to an all-inclusive resort and it was actually quite nice because you don't have to worry about paying for anything so it makes it much easier.

We had left to Atlanta last Saturday to spend the night. We found it's cheaper to fly out of Atlanta or Charlotte than Asheville. Plus, we found a direct flight from Atlanta to Mexico and that is so much better. So, we drove to Atlanta on Saturday and spent the night at the Airport Marriott. Sunday morning we caught the shuttle to the airport and everything went well. At the gate though before we got onto the plane there was some scary drama queen on her phone crying and making a scene. UGH, I hate people who make their personal business everyone's business. And it so happened she was flying with a couple who had two kids. I think because both of us dislike children, we always get stuck on a freaking plane with kids. I swear we have some scary airplane kid karma because if there is a kid onboard our flight, they will get seated right around us. So as we took our comfy Exit row seats these frightening people sat in front of us. So we had the drama queen and out of control children right in front of us. UGH!

Okay, don't get me wrong. I like kids if they are well behaved but these weren't. Part of the problem was the parents had brought NOTHING to entertain them. I have a lot of friends with kids and I see that they know to bring stuff for kids because they get bored and tired and hungry. These people didn't have anything for these kids. So, of course, they ran wild, cried and just made everyone's life miserable. At one point I turned to Tom and saw the guy in the aisle next to him was feeling the same way we were. And I have no idea WTF was wrong with these people but the next thing we see is they start changing the baby on the seat of the plane with no blanket or pad. Gross! They did this twice and we were all appalled. So the flight was okay. Luckily, we could listen to music and at one point I not only gave one of the kids "the Look" but the dad and the drama queen as well. I felt better being a bitch.

But anyway, besides the nonsense we made it in one piece. Once we got off the flight the Random Willy-Nillyness (RWN) began. We get off to go through customs and then we are stopped to fill out a form saying we aren't sick with the swine flu. The problem is they do this before the baggage claim which is downstairs. Other problem is that the forms are in Spanish. Well, no problem for me because I read Spanish but a big problem for the numerous gringos on the flight. I start filling out the form telling Tom what to write and all of a sudden I have an audience. So I had to translate the form for everyone. Luckily, because I knew Spanish we were finished before anyone else. So we get downstairs to get our bags and then before we are allowed to leave, they have a medical station where they need to take our temperature etc. So the doctor asks where is your form. I say the guy upstairs took it and she says nope we need it. So we had to fill out the form again but these were in English. OY! RWN at its finest!

I won't be mean and say it's Mexico because this RWN happens everywhere even in the States, as witnessed when we arrived back to the Atlanta airport - story later. Anyway we filled out another form, passed the medical exam and were on our way to the rental car place. Of course, getting the car took an hour or so because more RWN ensued. I hadn't seen so much RWN since my days in Santa Fe. To make a long story short, we finally got a car and an upgrade at that and were on our way to the Dreams Tulum resort. The ride was about 2 hours from Cancun but it's a straight shot down the same road. I have to say that the ride isn't pretty and there is a lot of RWN in terms of the speed limit but the signage is excellent so it is impossible to get lost.

Once at the resort, we were met with little fresh wash cloths to cool ourselves and everyone was very nice. We were welcomed and everyone at the front desk was very nice. We had gotten a room with a garden view but once we were there Tom decided to upgrade to a room closer to the pool and restaurant areas because our original room was far away from the common areas. They told us we could upgrade (probably because they had little or no guests) but we had to wait about an hour because the rooms were not ready at that time. So in the meantime, they held our luggage and we went to find some food! As you see from these pictures, the resort is quite large. We went to find a restaurant and found one right on the beach with a great view. Lunch was interesting. I got a steak sandwich and it was delish. Tom ordered a club sandwich and it was sort of demented. Usually a club is three layers with bacon, ham, cheese and other stuff. Tom was served three pieces of bread with a slice of cheese and some random ham and then like 2 tiny chicken pieces. It was ridiculous. So when Tom said something, the guy says he would fix it and then camed back with chicken pieces for Tom to put on the bread. It was strange. That didn't bode well because we got nervous the rest of the food would be just as weird.

Once we were done, we went back and they had actually upgraded us to an ocean view Junior suite and that was fantastic!! We were so glad. The room was lovely on the third floor with a view of the pool and the ocean from the balcony. That picture is from the balcony of the room. The picture doesn't do the view justice because the ocean was beautiful and clear and you can't see the gardens below our balcony either. The gardens extended to the main building and then beyond to the other areas of the hotel as well.

When we finally got to our room, we were greeted with slippers and robes and a full refrigerator. The bathroom was large with a jacuzzi bath that we never used. We also had a desk area and the room was beautiful and clean and roomy and we loved it. Ahh the vacation had begun. After unpacking and changing into our swimsuits, we hit the beach. Now I hadn't been in the ocean since my accident. Well, that's not true because I actually had gone into the ocean on our last trip to Costa Rica in December but there were NO waves on the beach we went to so I was okay just sitting in the water. But there were waves here. Now they weren't huge waves but that day because it was already late, they were getting bigger as time went on. I got in and was fine for a little while but once the waves got bigger, I sort of freaked out because I flashed back to the pummeling I took. So I had to get out. I never went back in the ocean for the whole trip. I stayed by the pools and I was totally fine with that.

After beach/pool time we went to dinner at the Italian restaurant. They had several restaurants but there were only a few open certain days. We found out that their resort was only about 25% full from what it should had been. A lot of rooms were empty and although there were people there, it was never crowded in the restaurants. So I think they probably decided not to have everything open. All and all our first day there was fantastic. After dinner, we came back to the room to be treated to turn down service and a bottle of wine and fruit. I loved that!!

Now the food there was good, not great but not horrible either. We had a few weird incidents. Besides the demented Club Sandwich, one night I ordered stuffed chicken at the Italian restaurant and it was raw. I sent it back. But they were very nice about it. They also had the World Cafe which was a buffet style place but we don't do buffets really except we did have breakfast there every day. They had a Mexican, French, Asian and a steakhouse place as well. Again the majority of the food was good and I loved that the portions were smaller than usual so you could have an appetizer, entree and dessert and we took full advantage of it! The service was excellent everywhere. Everyone was friendly and professional. I was very impressed.

The second day of our stay we awoke to the smell of fire. We looked out the window and it was hazy and you could tell there was a fire somewhere close. We went to breakfast and then realized we were in the Twilight Zone when I asked at least 3 employees (in Spanish no less)where the fire was and they totally denied it. They were like What fire? I was like hello!! Can't you smell it? It wasn't until I went to the front desk to get internets access that I got a straight answer. There were 2 fires going on close by. Luckily, by afternoon they were under control and we were able to enjoy the pool until a huge storm came and we went inside to nap and hang out. It was very relaxing.

Part 2 tomorrow - these pictures are on the balcony of the room

Friday, May 15, 2009

We're Outta Here

We will be on vacation for the next week so I will not be updating the blog. We are off to Mexico. Yeah, yeah, we know, swine flu. But we had booked this before the brouhaha hit and we couldn't change it. Plus, the resort we are going to is really cool. So we are taking our chances and going to Mexico. Hopefully, we won't get sick but then again if we do I will have some stuff to blog.

But when we get back, I will have lots of stories and hopefully lots of pictures to share. Poor Tom really needs a break. He has been non-stop since January so I am hoping this all goes well and he relaxes. Of course, every time we go on vacation he doesn't really relax. He wants to do this and that while I would lay in a chair all day reading and drinking margaritas. But every once in while he makes me stop relaxing and we have to go do stuff.

The good thing is that we will be close to the Tulum Ruins. Now I have seen ruins before. When we were younger we drove from Los Angeles to Costa Rica. We had stopped at some ruins in Mexico on our way. This was eons ago and I just remember climbing up a billion stairs. Luckily we have pictures. So I know one day I will be dragged from the bed or hammock to go climb billions of steps. And as you know, I am totally out of shape and hate physical exercise. But there is no way we wouldn't go because it's sort of cool to see these historical sites. But hopefully that will be our only excursion from the resort because my idea of a vacation is doing nothing.

I will miss my kitty babies and I am hoping that my garden survives. We have a housesitter so at least the house is taken care of and the kitties have company although they are so anti-social.

So I am sure my tens of readers will be in withdrawal until I come back. LOL So have a great week and wish us well and hope we don't get sick. I have packed enough Purell to last a lifetime!!
Have a great week!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Can you fall in love with a Mat? GelPro Mat Review

Okay, I didn't want to use this blog to do reviews but I think my story on why I am reviewing the GelPro Mat fits more here on my personal blog than my other blog.

I learned of the GelPro Mats last year while surfing the internets. I stumbled on a blog that was giving one away. I read the description and instantly I knew I wanted and needed one of these. Never heard of a GelPro Mat? Here is the description paraphrased from the site: GelPro Mats are gel filled anti-fatigue mats made especially to help people who love to cook to have something to relieve pain when standing on hard floors for long periods of time. They also help people who might have arthritis, foot pain, plantar fascitis, and diabetes. So you see because the are filled with gel, they help cushion the body and help relieve pain.

Some of you know I have lower back pain like nobody's business so I knew I had to have one. Now I can write up all the info they have on their site, but I won't because I am trying to give an honest review of my experience with this mat. You can visit the GelPro Mat site and get more of the technical details and you should because if you suffer from any of these things, you might want to look into purchasing a GelPro Mat.

Well back to my story, I entered the giveaway and lost. BOO! But I still wanted one so I decided to contact the company and see if they would let me review one and they said yes. They were kind enough to send me a Medium Basketweave mat in Coquina to review. When you go to their site, you will see they have tons of sizes and colors and textures to choose from.

Now you are probably wondering why I wanted this so badly, well the reason is because about 6 years ago I actually broke, well fractured, my back and fractured my tail bone in a freak accident. We were on vacation in Costa Rica and we had gone to our favorite beach. On our first day there, we got up and walked to the beach and jumped in. It was a beautiful sunny day and the ocean was calm as it always is there. There were a few waves but nothing bad. Tom had waded out a few feet deeper than me and we were talking. At one point, I turned to look at the beach waiting for my sister and dad to come in. When I turned around, I saw it. A huge wave coming down on us. I yelled to Tom and he ducked under the wave. I tried to do the same but because I was closer to the shore, I was unable to dive under all the way and the wave caught me, picked me up and then proceeded to slam me down butt first onto the bottom of the ocean. Let me tell you that was the worse feeling I ever had. Besides the initial slam which hurt like hell, I was underwater the whole time. The first thing that popped into my head was OMG am I paralyzed. I popped my head up and proceeded to stand up and I could. I started limping back to the shore in extreme pain. It was horrible.

To make a long story longer, as I usually do, I made it to our room and Tom got me some ice but the pain continued. I have to admit that I was very lucky that I wasn't paralyzed or worse. My sister, Tom and my dad had to go to the next town over and get a doctor since my pain was getting worse as the day went on. When the doctor came he poked and prodded me but declared that although I might have a broken back, it wasn't serious because I could still walk and feel my legs. That was a huge relief. We had to stay a few more days at the beach and then back to San Jose to my mom's house and the whole time I was in extreme pain and discomfort. We finally flew home and the first thing I did was go to the doctor. I got an MRI and discovered that I had in fact fractured a vertebrae and my tailbone. After weeks of intensive physical therapy, I was still in pain. Luckily, at the time, my sister was dating a doctor who not only was a Western medical doctor but also a practitioner of Chinese Medicine. I flew to L.A. for treatments and he healed me. After one treatment, I was able to do things I had not done since the accident. I will blog about what he did on another post at another time because it is a great story so keep an eye out.

But although I was almost back to normal after his treatments, years later I still have some discomfort. I cannot stand or walk for really long periods of time. When I do so, I have pain and my back gets sore. Just this Thanksgiving, I threw my back out in Ohio while we were visiting Tom's family. It wasn't pretty and it hurt like hell. I ended up at one of those walk-in emergency clinics the day after Thanksgiving getting a morphine shot and some excellent painkillers and muscle relaxants. So you see, I still have to be very careful when it comes to my back.

And as you all know, I love to cook but sometimes when I am cooking, my back gives out and I have to leave the stove and sit down to alleviate the pain. A few weeks ago, I decided to make risotto for the first time. And I have to tell you that it was painful. You literally have to stand at the stove for about 25-30 minutes adding liquid to the rice and stirring. And standing on a hard tile floor for that long without being able to leave the risotto was not fun. Although it came out delish for being my first time making risotto, my back paid for it. Thus, the GelPro Mat.

I received my mat the other day and can I tell you, I LOVE it. Can you love an inanimate object? Well, I do. It is soft and cushy and so comfortable. Because it cushions the body when standing, the stress is off the back. I have had it for about a week now and it has really made a difference when I am cooking. I love it so much, I keep hinting to Tom that we need one for the sink. And I actually think I would love a long one for the vanity area of our bathroom. I wish my birthday was coming up soon because I would tell Tom to buy me one of these. Now word of warning, they aren't cheap. They run from $99 on up. But boy, I am willing to spend the money to get another one for the sink. They are worth the price.

I asked Tom if he could see us tiling the whole kitchen, in fact, the whole house in GelPro Mats. Of course, he was a Debbie Downer and said no. But he has mentioned he really likes the mat as well and I catch him standing on it every so often. I now find myself walking into the kitchen and stepping on it every chance I get. I even found our cat, Shawn, on it the other day enjoying the gel and the comfort. I shooed her away because that mat is mine. This is going on my Christmas list for sure. These would make a fabulous gift!! (hint, hint Tom)

The mat has really made my cooking experience so much better. While I knew this was a good product from reviews I read, I needed to experience it myself. And now that I have, I highly recommend one of these if you have the same lower back issues I have. I decided to put it to the test by making risotto again the other day and boy it was a breeze. The mat allowed me to stand up for the whole 30 minutes without feeling the pain. Plus, the risotto came out so delish. I will blog about that another day because I have issues with Jaime Oliver and his willy-nilly cookbook I got the recipe from.

The mat looks really good in the kitchen. I would definitely consider getting the same color for the mat Tom is going to buy me (hint, hint) for the sink area. Plus, it's super easy to clean. I just took a Clorox wipe and cleaned it off. Easy peasey. My friend, Lindsay, asked if it attracted hair or dust and I have not seen any evidence of that.

I like reviewing products and find that most are always good and I never have reviewed a really sucky product and let's hope I never have to. But I can honestly say that this product is probably the best item I have ever reviewed. I wish I would have known about it before especially after the accident. I have been living in discomfort for so long when I didn't have to. And now I can't imagine living without it.

So I want to thank the GelPro Mat company for allowing me to try this product. Go check out their GelPro Mat. You might just want one for yourself. Or if you want to be really nice , you could send me one for a gift.

Sunday, May 10, 2009


Just a short post to wish all my mom readers a great Mother's Day. Of course, I believe like Valentine's this is just another day where the corporations can squeeze money out of people and make them spend tons of money celebrating someone who should be celebrated all the time. But that's just me.

The sun is out today but it will be gone by afternoon and we are getting more rain. But we are doing some gardening this morning while we can. Our heirloom tomatoes are finally going in!! We need to get them in before next weekend because we are going on vacation. We are off on vacation to a beautiful resort in . . . Mexico. Yes, Mexico, the epicenter of swine flu. Tom booked before the mania caught hold. So maybe I might be blogging about swine flu in the near future. Ay dios mio!

Everyone enjoy their day. I like to think of this day as a day to celebrate not only my mom, Jeannette, but the other two very influential women in my life: my grandma Gilda and my big sister Yvonne (she will kill me for saying older because she is trying to convince herself I am older - hee). I will think of them today and remember that I am so lucky to have had these 3 women in my life.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

The Sun Will come Out Tomorrow (part 2)

Well the sun did come out for maybe 30 minutes and then it rained again. That was yesterday. Today started out hopeful as I awoke to sunshine and then it went away. A huge storm just came through again. I am getting weary as my friend Kirsten would say.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow

Or maybe not. It's been pouring down rain here for about 5 days. It's been really crazy. The other day I awoke to a huge thunderstorm. It wasn't pretty especially since it seemed that lightning almost struck the mini car out in the driveway. I had to shut everything down and hope we wouldn't lose power. I like the rain but it's getting old. Of course, this is funny coming from Elvira who absolutely loves gloomy and dark days and really doesn't like the sun but I really am hoping the sun will out. And no, that's not me having a bad hair, it's Annie from the movie Annie.

Okay, I know we do need the rain. And I am not complaining about the grey days because I do like them. I find them to be so comforting. Grey days say to me that I can stay inside and do whatever I need to do whether it be cleaning or cooking or just surfing the net. I like the gloom. On the other hand, sunny days imply that maybe my lazy ass should be doing something outside. And you know how I feel about doing stuff outside.

The problem is I can't go out and tend the garden and it needs some weeding. The good thing is the rain meant I didn't have to go out and water the garden. But now I am worried those little tiny babies will will drown because it has rained that much. And because there has been no sun, it might not be good for them.

So I am hopeful that the sun might come out today and, if not today, maybe tomorrow. We'll see. In the meantime, I was forced to clean the house so I guess that's a good thing.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009


We were watching Diners, Drive-ins and Dives last night and I realized that today was going to be Cinco de Mayo and that maybe I should cook up a tasty Mexican meal for us. Now if you have never ever watched Diners, Drive-in and Dives on the Food Network, you should. We are huge Guy Fieri fans. Even Tom likes watching his show. I think it's probably because Guy is a little crazy and totally cracks us up. Plus, he finds the best places to eat. Last night , he actually highlighted a Santa Fe restaurant and the other day I saw an episode where he had gone to eat at one of our favorite restaurants when we lived in Santa Fe: Harry's Roadhouse. It also got me to thinking how wonderful Santa Fe was for food. They had all types of great restaurants from fine dining to dives. It wasn't hard to find a good meal there.

I worked in downtown Santa Fe so often lunch was a great meal from one of the many great restaurants there. Even the fajita cart and hot dog stands that popped up on the plaza during summer were fabulous. Me and my friend Kathryn would celebrate summer by having a hot dog the first day the vendor showed up and then we would always have one to mark the end of summer. There was a French bakery shop off the plaza and one day we decided that we would try all the desserts they had before I moved to North Carolina. We almost succeeded but ran out of time especially when I got really sick and was out of commision for a few weeks. Some of the best New Mexican food was found at The Shed in downtown. For my going away party, my co-workers got tacos from this tiny dive called EL Parasol. OMG the best damn tacos I had ever tasted.

But again I digress. I am supposed to be talking about Cinco de Mayo. Now in this sense, I am a gringa when it comes to Cinco de Mayo. I celebrate it because it is celebrated here in the U.S. and it is just another excuse to stuff my face with Mexican food! And anytime I can stuff my face with Mexican food is a good day.

In reality Cinco de Mayo is actually a regional holiday celebrated in the state of Puebla in Mexico. And no I am not a brainiac, I am sort of paraphrasing Wikipedia. It commemorates the Mexican's army ass kicking of the French. Those poor French. They always seem to get their butt kicked. And I hope I don't offend any French person out there because I actually like the French myself. But what people don't know (I actually knew this because one of my majors was Latin American Studies) is that the real Independence Day is September 16. But hell, somehow someone picked Cinco de Mayo and now we get to live la vida loca on this day.

Well, I had planned a meal of enchiladas or something like that but then while watching Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, we saw this Santa Fe restaurant making pupusas. Pupusas (the name cracks me up) are actually from El Salvador. They are sort of like two big thick corn meal tortillas with yummy stuff inside like beans, meat, cheese etc. They are fantastic!! Anyhow, Tom sees this and says "I want pupusas tomorrow." And I am WTH because pupusas aren't Mexican food. But he says he wants that. Well I check out the recipe and I think I can make them with a little help from the Food Network database of recipes. I have to go get the ingredients and figure it all out but last week I made green chile corn cakes and they were pretty damn good so I might be able to fake a pupusa. Tom has never had them so what will he know, right? If they suck, he wont know. Well does read my blog now so he will be reading this but probably not until tomorrow.

So there you have it, I am a Tica (nickname for Costa Ricans) making El Salvadoran food on Cinco de Mayo. How weird is that? If all turns out well, I will post a picture of my pupusas and update you if the dinner was a bust or not.


Well dinner was actually quite good. I realized I need a tortilla press though because I think I made mine a little thick. But I served them with tomatillo salsa and guacamole and Tom liked them. The filling was wonderful. I used flank steak and cooked it with garlic, onions and spices and it actually turned out a little like ropa vieja (a traditional Cuban dish). I think I might make these again.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Oh what a difference a week makes!

Wow, NC has exploded into a sea of green!! Just a few weeks ago I took the first picture from the porch of our house. Today I took the same view and look how much greener and fuller it is. I have to say that I am not an outdoor type of gal. Growing up in L.A. you get used to the concrete and smog and really don't think about it. Living in Florida you get used to everything being green all the time so you don't eve notice if it's greener. In New Mexico, everything was brown all the time. Okay, that's not fair, there were times when it got greener but never like this.

When my mom and sister were here last week, I lamented that there were still areas that were brown and deadish looking but the green was coming out. For my sister, it was all beautiful because she lives in L.A. She loved it here. My mom is used to the green because she lives in Costa Rica and it is quite beautiful there all the time. So last week, I noticed some green peeking out from the brown but this week it just blew up.

I noticed this on Thursday morning when I got up and went into the kitchen to get my coffee. We have big windows in the kitchen that look out to the side of the house with a view of the river and the neighbors yard. So I got up and went to check on my babies (seedlings) and looked out the window and was shocked at how beautiful it is. It was one of those rare moments you have of complete awe. I looked out and the view was breathtaking. It was sunny and clear and you could see the river winding into the green hills.

I was surprised how fast it got so green and loved it. In Santa Fe, you got the 4 seasons but somehow it never was that dramatic. Here in NC you definitely get the four seasons and the full experience of watching the flowers peeking our from the ground in spring after a long winter. Summer is warm and green and the bees and birds are out and people are out. The other day while driving with Tom we noticed how many more people were out. There are fishermen out on the river everyday. And I am sure that as months go by, we will start seeing the neighbors out more and people out enjoying the warmer weather.

We lucked out moving here in May last year because we were also here for the most spectacular Fall. Since we are surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains, there is not one place in town that you don't see them. So when September came, the change began and by October the hills looked like they were on fire. It was amazing.

Today is rainy and gloomy and even then it still looks amazing here. I realized that I am very lucky to be able to live in such a wondrous place.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Of Hurricanes and Fried Chicken

On Wednesday I made one of our favorite meals: fried chicken and pasta salad. This is actually our Hurricane Meal. It became our hurricane meal when we lived in Florida. Now if you live in Florida there is a period of time (June through November) where you have to be prepared for hurricanes.

I moved to Miami in 1990 to start school at the University of Miami. I had been there almost 2 years when Hurricane Andrew hit. I had been in Costa Rica the weeks beforehand and had no idea what was going on. I returned on a Saturday only to find that this huge monster storm was going to hit us. I am a California girl so I had no knowledge of hurricanes and what they could do. I knew earthquakes and fire but that's about it. So that night I remember going to the Walgreen's and stocking up on supplies because I didn't have anything in the house. The next morning on Sunday, I went out to the grocery store and got more supplies. I aways remember how beautiful that day was. It was clear and sunny and who would have thought Andrew was on its way to cause havoc in Miami.

I didn't know Tom then but he was also in Miami working at the University. He was renting a a house from a fellow professor where the epicenter of the hurricane hit. While my story was interesting, trees almost falling on the house and crushing my neighbor, being trapped in my studio apartment until the neighbor sawed me out, having to get up and hammer my landlady's door shut while she held it and the wind blew, Tom's story is even better. Suffice it to say, the roof flew off and the house fell down around him while he huddled in the bathtub with the cat. I think we both had an experience we will never forget.

So when we finally got together, we were always aware of the havoc hurricanes can cause. We found ourselves buying more supplies during summer. We always watched the news when they announced another wave coming off of the coast of Africa, etc. Luckily, when we lived in Coral Gables in his little Old Spanish house, we never had a hurricane. It wasn't until we moved to Boynton Beach where we had to live through 2 more hurricanes before we moved to Santa Fe.

Now hurricanes are bad but at least they warn you days ahead unlike those tricky earthquakes that hit usually in the middle of the night and scare the crap out you. And you can sort of judge whether or not you have to leave the house from the information you get from the news. We determined that if the hurricane was a Category 3 or less, we would stay. You can survive a 4 if your house is in good shape and you board up or shutter but it's tricky. A Category 4 or 5 is probably something to avoid. But when you live in Florida, trying to outrun that big hurricane can be a problem. There is only one way to go and when the rest of the state is doing the same thing, you can get in trouble. I had friends stuck in traffic for hours trying to get out of town.

So we usually stayed. Now there were times when we boarded up and stockpiled and the hurricane fizzled but that was okay because it's better to be safe than sorry. But the last year we were in Florida, we had Jeanne and Francis hit within weeks of each other and it wasn't pretty.

Our house in Boynton Beach was a ranch style and while we were probably no more than 2 miles from the beach, we had the intercoastal blocking us and we were pretty much inland. When Francis (I think ) was coming our way Tom boarded up all the windows and I stockpiled our stuff. We had sliding glass doors out to the screened patio and then out to the pool. Tom had to board those and it was a pain. By the time he was done, the whole house was dark. I loved it. It was like being in my own little cave but Tom and the cats didn't at all.

Well I had all my supplies ready and we had everything set for the hurricane. We had our batteries and flashlights, our canned food and water, lighter fluid and grill etc. The only thing I had forgotten hours before the hurricane hit was our dinner. I didn't plan for the dinner that night. DOH! So I had to think of something quickly. It had to be something that would keep if we lost power. So I dug around the refrigerator and found some chicken. So I remembered that fried chicken usually keeps for a few days and it is something you can eat cold. Then I rooted around the pantry and decided that pasta salad is something that can also be eaten cold. So thus, the Hurricane Meal was created.

Well, that night we had a great dinner, washed the dishes and hunkered in our guest bedroom. It's better to spend a hurricane in a room with no windows but we didn't have that. But the guest bedroom had small windows that would be safe because they were sheltered from the wind. Plus it had a large closet that we could jump into if it got really bad. We also figured that if the tree in front of the house fell toward the house the room was far back enough that we would be safe. Now Tom and Shawn slept through the whole hurricane while me and Scout watched TV and stayed awake almost all night. Hurricanes can get really scary especially when you hear the trees falling around your house.

The next day, we awoke to a complete disaster in the backyard. We found furniture in the pool, trees all over the back and front yards and our power gone. Our power was taken out by the neighbors tree that took out the power for our whole side of the street. Our neighbors across the street actually still had their power. In the ensuing days we cleaned up and had a huge pile of trash in front of the house. I am not kidding it was like 4 ft by 8 ft. After 3 days of no air conditioning and no electricity, although our neighbor Floyd ran an electrical cord from his generator to our house, we had enough. We ended up leaving the cats at the house because they were fine with no AC. And we went to sleep at the theatre where Tom worked. It wasn't too bad because the dressing room had beds and they had a shower and a laundry room there.

Let me tell you there is nothing like a shower after being sweaty and dirty and with no electricity for days. So we would sleep there. Tom was already at work so that was good for him. I had to drive out to my job and on the way there and back home I would stop by the house and feed the cats. We lost all our food and refrigerator stuff but that's what happens. Luckily the house survived and it wasn't worse.

It took 11 days to get our power back. We went home and Tom took down the boards and a week later another hurricane hit. So again it was back to boarding up the house and stockpiling. I made the Hurricane Meal again and survived another hurricane. Luckily, we didn't lose our power this time and all was well. But living through hurricanes teaches you lessons and you always have to be preapred for anything because we all saw during Katrina that the government can only do so much. Now I am sure it would have been handled differently if Bush wasn't in charge but that is a whole other rant I won't get into right now.

So I wanted to share some more food memories with my readers. But forever and ever everytime I make fried chicken and pasta salad, it will be known as the Hurricane Meal. But I guess it's a good meal for any natural disaster.
Here is a picture for your viewing pleasure. Let me tell you, I make a mean fried chicken. I wish I had a real fryer though because it would be easier. But it was damn tasty!!!