Saturday, July 31, 2010

"I know it was you, Fredo. You broke my heart. You broke my heart."

Our last on day in Squaw Valley brought us a new adventure. We took a boat tour in the morning. Then we drove back to the Nevada side of the lake to do a little bit of gambling. I actually walked out of the casino with more money than I came in with. anyone who knows me, knows that is a freaking miracle. Then we had a dinner at a lakeside restaurant. When we came back we went and had an extra little snack at the local pizza place. I have several lake videos today. They pretty much suck ass becuase the wind was blowing too hard. But they show some nice lake video. The best part was that we actually rode past the Godfather house!!! OMG, now I am a total geek because that was so exciting to me. I LOVE the first two Godfather movies. They are on my 10 ten best movie list. Now Godfather 3 sucked harder than my videos, so it is not included. They should have stopped at 2.

Anyhow, I have to say the whole trip was strange and wonderful and funky. The Wanderlust Festival is not really our cup of tea but we totally enjoyed it more than we thought. I have never been around such wonderfully weird people and it was sort of cool. It was such a treat to be able to come to this area and festival and experience a whole new vibe. It certainly wasn't Sylva, NC! I have to once again thank iVillage for the chance to win such a great trip. We had a blast. And now it's on to another adventure in NYC. I am sure it won't be as magical as this one but it should be good nonethless.

Enjoy my videos and seeing the Godfather house!!! WOO

Thursday, July 29, 2010

We made it!!

Okay although our asses had to get up at 3 am and be in Asheville by 5 am, our trip went pretty well. We flew from Asheville to Charlotte. From Charlotte to Phoenix then from Phoenix to Reno. We rented a car and drove to Squaw Valley. It is gorgeous here. We are staying at The Villages of Squaw Valley. What is nice is that it is like a little village. It has restaurants, shops and other places to hang. They also have a Starbucks and you all know I love my Starbucks! WOO! The weather is perfect. Cool and breezy and sunny. Tomorrow we hit up the festival and then on Saturday maybe a boat trip on Lake Tahoe. We actually have nothing really planned but we are going with the flow as you do in Cali! Here is the traditional hotel room video. Enjoy!

California Here I Come, right back where I started from

I am actually originally from California, born and raised in the City of Angeles. But we aren't moving to California, we are just going for a couple of days.

We are headed off to Squaw Valley that is very near Lake Tahoe for the Wanderlust Festival. It's sort of a yoga/music/hippie dippy type of thing. Why are we going you ask. Well, some of you know I am a sweepstakes fiend and sometimes I get lucky. I got lucky.

I won the trip from iVillage on Twitter. All I had to do was follow them and then retweet the tweet they posted. I swear I only did it once and won!! That's very lucky because I know people were tweeting a billion times a day. So I guess it was meant to be.

We are leaving tomorrow and come back Sunday. It was a last minute thing but, luckily, we were able to take the time off work. I have never been to Lake Tahoe although I lived in CA for over 25 years. I heard it is spectacular up there. So I am excited.

The bad thing is that we will have lots of tomatoes we won't be eating. The good thing is our house/cat sitter will be able to pick them and have her own tomato feast and at least they won't go to waste!!

But keep a lookout on the blog because I will be posting my usual vacation vlogs. And then maybe I can get some nice video of the area. I am hoping we get the opportunity to drive around Lake Tahoe and maybe get a little gambling in while we are there!!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Wordless Wednesday ~ Scout

This picture was actually taken a few years when we lived in Santa Fe. Sorry, it's not very good but it is one of my favorite pictures. I found it the other day and thought I would post it. Our kitties are Florida kitties. The poor devils have been dragged all over the country and that included New Mexico where it actually got cold. Our laundry room was next to the Master bedroom so you could transfer the clothes to the room and then fold. Well, I was doing that, came back and saw Scoutie all curled up in the dryer. I bet she was chilly and found a warm spot.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Yabba Dabba Do, Pebbles!

I have been meaning to write this post since I got back from Costa Rica. It involves a child's heartbreak. The child in question is me.

When we were little, we went to Costa Rica about once a year to visit the family. Sometimes we would go with both our parents and sometimes just with our mom. I loved going because when you are little it is so cool to travel. Well, it's cool to travel when you are old too but I digress.

I remember airline travel was a huge deal way back when. I am talking 35+ year folks. Yes, I am that old but you all know that already. Anyway, I always remember we flew Pan Am Airlines. Our mom would dress us in our Sunday best to get on the plane. She and her friends would also get dressed to the nines and have their hair done up for the big day. I remember it was always so exciting to fly. I also remember that if our dad wasn't flying with us, he could go into the terminal and wait until we left.

Back then, the planes actually had room unlike nowadays when people can barely fit in the seats. Yes, I am talking to you Kevin Smith. The flight attendants were always so young and pretty and many times I remember thinking that I wanted to be one when I grew up.

It was like heaven being on the plane. We brought books and crayons and toys to entertain ourselves. I remember traveling with my god brother, Eddie. He was a lot of fun and he was like a little brother to me. We would sit and play for hours. The pilots always walked around and you could always go up to the cockpit as well. And they always gave us wings! I remember loving the airline food. I didn't care how it tasted. I loved it because it was served on a tray in little different compartments. The food was always exciting because it was always something my mom never cooked at home, so it was a real treat regardless of the taste.

I am not sure if we ever flew direct to Costa Rica but I do remember stopping in Mexico City a few times. Luckily, I have the old family photo album to back up my faulty memories. I remember loving Mexico City because while Los Angeles is huge, it is also spread out. Mexico City is huge and compact and since we would only stay in the city, it seemed so big to me. It also had colonial buildings unlike LA. And it was so much bigger than downtown San Jose, Costa Rica. (yeah, yeah this whole paragraph is just an excuse to post pictures of us in Mexico City, sue me)

I also remember we would arrive at the Juan Santamaria Airport in Costa Rica and the whole damn family would be there. It was always weird because you would walk out and there would grandparents (on dad's side), uncles, aunts and our million cousins (from both sides) all dressed up just to greet us. It was always a hug and kiss fest until we were whisked into cars taking us back into town.

Usually we stayed with our cousins, Juan Jose and Flora. I loved staying with them because they had a fancy modern house that we loved to play in. They had exotic furniture from China. And Flora was one of the world's best cooks. She made the most fabulous feasts and I loved it. They also spoiled us. We were the little American Princesses and we got almost anything we wanted. I say almost because my mom would give us the hairy eyeball if we got out of control.

Flora and Juan Jose had 3 kids: Johnny, Henry and Yvette. They were a few years older than us so that meant we were taunted and picked on all the time by Henry and Johnny. They would play practical jokes. They would call us gringas and make fun us. They would mock our American accents. I would always go rat them out but I don't think they ever got in trouble for it. One thing I do remember vividly is that they once brought us communion wafers. Well, what was left over when you punch out communion wafers. That was cool. Being raised Catholic, that is probably blasphemous but it was cool taking pieces of the wafer and having them melt on your tongue.

Yvette on the other hand, was always nice to us. And she generally put up with us taking over her room and bugging her constantly. We also liked sliding down the wood stairs they had. We would also sneak under the stairs where they had a little pond area because we had never seen anything like that in a house. I also remember that sometimes our cousin Henry would sit under the stairs to look up women's dresses. He was mischievous that way.

I loved sneaking into Juan Jose's office to look at the pictures he had under glass on his desk. My favorite thing was hanging out in the kitchen with Flora. It seemed she was always in there making some sort of delcious and tasty meal. And there were always people coming in and out of their house. For breakfast and lunch, it was not unusual to have at least 10 people eating in the kitchen and then have a second shift come in as well. It seemed to me that they fed everyone in the neighborhood.

About now you are thinking what the heck does this have to do with a child's heartbreak and the Flintstones, Carolyn? Well this is the reason. When we were in Costa Rica this May, we talked about all this crazy stuff. Yvette and Henry live right next door to my mom and we see them every time we visit. So we started remembering the days when we were little. While some memories are good there are times when the usual false accusations and slanderous words are directed at me. It's always something about me being a bully, being spoiled and being a little devil girl from hell, but I try not to listen to those lies. Because I know I was the model, perfect child.

Anyhow, I remembered that one year Yvette had gifted me her Pebbles doll. Yes, Pebbles from the Flintstones. I remember that doll. I loved that doll. She was so damn cute. She had a little bone in her ponytail. I dragged that doll everywhere and I loved her.

Anyway, while reminiscing some people, I won't name names (Yvette, Henry, Tom, my sister, my mom), said they never remembered said doll and that I was probably mistaken or lying. I said I was pretty damn sure that Yvette had given me that doll and I wasn't making it up. Yvette played dumb and acted like I was crazy. The rest of them, told me to get over it and move on. Well, I moved on 35 years ago but while I forgive, I never forget.

I remember that I left the doll in Costa Rica and I am not sure why. Maybe it didn't fit in our luggage or I was fooled into leaving her there. It didn't matter because when I went back the next year, there was no Pebbles. I was heartbroken because for a whole year I thought about my darling Pebbles doll only to be crushed when I returned to Costa Rica and she was gone. She was gone forever.

What happened? I have no idea and no one else knows either except I suspect that Yvette either hid it, gave it to some other child or is just an Indian giver. Whatever! Anyway, I knew I had a picture in our photo album of me and my Pebbles doll as proof. And here it is, you naysayers. So I write this post with a tear in my eye and a pain in my heart for my Pebbles doll. I am sure there will be denials and more attacks on my character but the proof is in the photo!

She existed!! And because I have my very own blog, I can write a post about it and then post old embarrassing pictures of the culprits on my blog. HA! Revenge is sweet, my friends, revenge is sweet.

I dedicate this post to my Pebbles Doll, wherever she may be now. **Wipes tears away from eyes**

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Random Willy-Nillyness Cooking Presents: Putting up tomatoes

This weekend has me all crazy. Tom is away so that means I have to do all the crappy things he usually does like change the litter, take out trash, water the garden and pick more veggies. Blah!

To top it off, I also have to do work work since we are under a deadline and need to have some stuff done before Monday. So I said I would work on it this weekend. That's how dedicated I am. Then I have to clean the house, HA! The DIRECTV guy is coming out to fix our satellite and I have the usual nonsense to do like laundry and blogging.

Then I had 3 baskets of tomatoes to deal with. So what to do, what to do. Multi-task, of course. So between blogging about what I have to do, I am doing what I am blogging about. That includes putting up tomatoes for the winter.

I did this last year but back then, I had tons of time. But although it is work intensive, there is nothing like pulling out a Ziploc bag from the freezer when it's snowing and making fresh pasta sauce. YUMMY!

Last year, I searched for an easy way to do it since I was clueless. I went to one of my favorite food websites: Southern Plate. The method they had was the best I found. All you do is get your tomatoes, put them in simmering water until the skin pops and then take them out. Let them cool, take off the skin and then cut them into tiny pieces, place in a Ziploc freezer bag and that's it! It cannot get any easier than that unless, of course, someone else did it for me. But fat chance!

I am also making some spaghetti sauce. The reason this is Random Willy-Nilly Cooking is that I am just doing it without a recipe and just winging it! My cooking style is random and willy-nilly and always has been. I cannot follow a recipe to save my life. I have made food from recipes but somehow I always add a little of this and a pinch of that and can never completely follow instructions. Tom, of course, would say I never follow instructions or directions in anything and not just cooking but that's how he rolls.

I am actually a pretty good cook. I mainly learned from my mom and grandmother. I would watch them in the kitchen when I was a little girl and picked up pointers. I also learned by watching my great aunts and cousin Flora in Costa Rica. My other mentor is the Food Network. I could watch it all day and have picked up tons of pointers.

I cook by taste. I think I inherited that from my mother's side of the family. Although I would watch my mom and grandmother use recipes, I also watched them make them better by adding stuff here and there. In between the cooking, they always let me taste the food. I think that's how I probably developed my palate. I would always suggest another pinch of that and a smidgen of this. That's how I do it. It is hard for me to recreate one of my dishes. Anything I make will always come out a little differently every time I cook it.

So I can't tell you how I made my Spaghetti Sauce today except to say that I chopped some garlic, onions and green peppers and let them saute in olive oil. Then I added the tomatoes and fresh basil from the garden and let it cook. I added a pinch of ground black pepper, a pinch or 4 of salt, garlic powder, onion powder and a few other spices. Then I let it cook down until it was absolutely delicious.

I also cooked my favorite thing in the world today: Olla de carne. This is a traditional Costa Rican dish. It is basically a soup/stew made with meat and veggies. I opted out of the veggies this time and decided just to make the soup with oxtails, onions, garlic and fresh cilantro. I added salt, pepper and a few other spices. I make this anytime Tom is out of town because he refuses to eat oxtail although it is probably one of the best cuts of meat you can possibly eat. But I understand, oxtail is an acquired taste like tripe or pigs feet. But I love them all. Unfortunately, I have no potatoes in the house because I love potatoes in my olla de carne. But I have to make do with what I have since I have to sit here waiting for the DIRECTV guy who is hours late already and can't leave the house to get some. BOO! Anyhow, you serve the olla de carne with rice and a side of tortillas and it is HEAVEN!!

Olla de Carne is my ultimate comfort food. I love it and it always takes me back to when I was a little girl. Mi abuelita, Gilda, would always make it on special occasions. And when we went to Costa Rica my other abuelita, Anita, and my cousin, Flora, used to make it for us as well. You actually serve everything separately and then the diners start building their meal. Ever since I was a little girl, I only liked my olla de carne with rice, potatoes and meat. I never liked all the other stuff in it because I felt it detracted from the soup itself. But I am picky that way. It can be made so many different ways so you don't really need a recipe just a few choice ingredients and you have the most fantastic meal ever!

The house is smelling amazing as I write this. Smells of basil, garlic, onion and tomatoes are filling the rooms. The smell of the oxtail is all over as well. I was able to put up 2 gallons of tomatoes and one gallon and one quart of spaghetti sauce today! YAY! Dinner is waiting so I am out of here!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Wordless Wednesday ~ Afternoons at our House

Yesterday, I had to go out in the afternoon and pick tomatoes. I looked around and realized that late afternoon is definitely the best time in the world and especially at our house. It was beautiful.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Houston, we have tomatoes!

Oh happy day! Our tomatoes are in! They are a little demented but they are delish! We should have a ton more this week and thus begins the putting up of tomatoes for the winter.

The squash is almost over. It almost looks like the wild dogs that run loose in our neighborhood have run over our squash pants. I vex those dogs. Yes, the same dogs that stole a package off our porch and dragged it through the neighborhood. Then I was humiliated when our neighbor brought the package back to the house all ripped up. In the package, a bra I had ordered. Freaking dogs are the bane of my existence.

Anyway, we have peppers, cucumbers and tomatoes left. We also have tomatillos. I am going to make a sauce this week and hopefully make some enchiladas. I can't wait until the melons are ready. YAY!!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Monday, July 12, 2010

Fried Green Tomatoes

The other day while I was in the garden, I noticed a baby green tomato had fallen off the plant. I picked it up and brought it in the house. I had no idea what to do with it. Yesterday when I was looking at the garden there are tons of green tomatoes with one or two just starting to get ripe. So I decided that I would try and make Fried Green Tomatoes.

I had never ever heard of Fried Green Tomatoes until the movie came out. When I saw it, I thought wow it's weird people would eat green tomatoes. But the movie left me with the idea that I needed to eat fried green tomatoes. The first time I ever tried them was about 7 years ago when I was in Charleston, SC at some training. I was there about a week and it included the weekend. Tom drove up and stayed with me. That weekend we went on a Plantation Tour and then we stopped at this tiny little diner in the middle of nowhere to have lunch.

I was in hog heaven because they had all the Southern food I love. Fried Chicken, collard greens, mashed potatoes, biscuits and they had fried green tomatoes. So I ordered some. I wasn't sure what to expect but what I got was a bite of deliciousness I had never tasted. The batter was light but tasty. When I bit into the fried green tomato, it was tart and the taste surprising. The tomato was not raw but it was still firm. The whole experience was fantastic because it was a flavor profile I had never had. I was hooked.

Now anytime I see fried green tomatoes on the menu, I order them. Here in Sylva I had them at the Spring Street Cafe. They were served with a ranch dressing. When I went to Asheville, I visited the Early Girl Cafe and they had them in a salad with bacon. They were delcious!

I have tried to make them once before but it didn't turn out so great. I used flour and it just wasn't the right thing. Of course, I should have looked for a recipe but I am willy-nilly when I cook so I just started cooking without thinking. The batter cooked but the tomato was cut too thick and stayed raw.

This time since I was going to grocery store, I decided to try something instead of flour. I realize I should have used cornmeal but I saw cracker meal instead and grabbed that. I figured it was something different.

I started cooking and had the Food Network on in the background and, my favorite, Guy Fieri, was on cooking some fried fair food. I stopped for a second to watch and he was saying to coat the sausage first with the flour and then dip it into the batter. I usually dip whatever in the batter first then the dry stuff. So I decided to follow his advice with my green tomatoes.

I took the cracker meal and added pepper, salt, seasoned salt, garlic powder, onion powder and a pinch of paprika. I can't tell you how much because it was all willy-nilly measuring. I mixed it all up. I took the tomato dipped it into the cracker meal, then an egg wash and then the cracker meal again and started frying. I have to say that I would give my right arm to have a proper fryer because using a frying pan is just not the best thing.

I fried them all up and they came out beautiful. I decided to serve them up with some blue cheese dressing I found in the frig. I have to say that of all the fried green tomatoes I have ever had in my life, these were the absolute best. Yes, better than any I have tasted at any restaurant. I usually don't say that about my cooking but damn these were good. Even Tom liked them and he doesn't eat fried green tomatoes.

I might have to pick a few more green tomatoes next week and try again. Who knew I would learn to make the such delicious fried green tomatoes.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Guess What? More Squash!

Tom is back! Yay! And although I picked veggies this week, there was still a boatload left. Because I hate being outdoors and flying insects, I can't really get into the garden to get the veggies underneath the plants because I might get stung.

Just last week I got attacked by a rabid bumblebee running amok. I was picking a green pepper and it came right at me. Luckily, I ducked and it just grazed my hair. I freaked out because it could have gotten stuck in my hair. It was a good thing I had gotten it cut last week.

Anyway, I hate bumblebees, bees and basically any bug that flies so I didn't pick all the veggies. There are some that are probably past their prime but oh well. All I know is that some of our friends are going to have fresh veggies this coming week.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Could this be a sign?

So I come home from work. There was tons of mail and a few packages outside. I grabbed all my stuff and dragged everything in. Usually I dump it on the desk in the front hall but that was jammed packed full of stuff so I headed to the kitchen to dump it on the counter.

We have little counter space and what was left had, guess what? Yes, squash. Damn squash. Anyhow, I think I better go dump this crap on the dining room table because that for once is clear. I walk into the dining room and place everything on the table. Now our dining room has a perfect view to the front porch, our front yard and the river. It's one of my favorite places.

So I look out and am taking in the view when out of the corner of my eye, I spot something on one of the chairs. So I am all WTH? I look out the glass doors and notice a dead bird right on the chair. Holy Moley!

It sort of freaked me out because it is just laying there as if someone came and put it there. My first thought is the horse head from The Godfather. I mean it is creepy finding dead things. I keep looking out and, of course, my second thought is where is the camera. I had to document the freaky event.

Now if the bird was in the house, I would have been more freaked out. Birds mean death to me. I have no idea why but it probably has to do with the superstitions I grew up hearing. Whether they are true or not, all I know is dead birds can't be a good thing, that's for sure.

Most likely it isn't some random Mafioso leaving me a warning. And hopefully, it isn't a sign from the universe of impending doom. I think what happened was Tweety was flying across the river enjoying a beautiful WNC day and WHAM! flew right into our glass porch doors. It happened last year as well.

Now my predicament is what to do with the bird. Since Tom is not here to just sweep it off the chair onto the porch and into the yard all willy-nilly, I have to decide what to do. I don't want to touch it. I might have to pull a Tom and sweep it off down the stairs. I guess I can leave it there until Tom gets back tomorrow. Who knows.

R.I.P Tweety!