Saturday, November 18, 2017

C'mon, Try It...Mikey Likes It!

When traveling, I'm of the "when in Rome..." mentality concerning food. I generally try to avoid bugs and eyeballs, but I'm pretty open to asking a waiter to recommend something local and then going along with the suggestion. And yes, occasionally I get surprised due to a "lost in translation" moment.

For example, our Cuban waiter recommended an appetizer of six fish medallions with scallions and tomatoes on a bed of lettuce. Sounds delightful, right? Well, I'm thinking he may have used an incorrect translation for "medallions" and he actually meant "bodies." However, we picked the meat off the bones and, when I closed my eyes, it tasted pretty good. I just had to cover up the carcasses when I was finished.

Next up...seafood soup with octopus. I'm thinking calamari because squid-octopus, same thing, right? Kinda like the fried rings you get as an appetizer at Gordon Biersch happy hour. Wrong again. These were the scary Jules Verne octopus tentacles with suction cups. (I have a lingering childhood fear of suction-cup-tentacles-of-death because of that movie.) So, while I was eating one, I was picturing the other.
But, once again, closed my eyes, and it was great. So apparently, if I don't have to see it, I'm good with it. I guess this is similar to my mom's theory that if she didn't tell me what was in it, I would like it without question. Although, I'm pretty sure I would've figured it out at some point. I'm also pretty sure it won't stop me from trying more weird stuff in future adventures.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Havana, ooh na-na

While preparing for our Excellent Cuban Adventure, I realized that I know very little about the country that was practically my next door neighbor while growing up. I am familiar with the basics, of course: rum, mojitos, cigars, music, baseball, Hemingway. Here's what I learned.....

Fun facts:
  • Blowing your nose in public is considered to be extremely rude.
  • Government vehicles in Cuba must stop to pick up hitchhikers.
  • Voting in Cuba is mandatory.
  • Until 2008, Cubans were not allowed to buy cell phones or computers.
  • There are two different currencies - one for tourists and the other for Cubans.
  • Fidel had a thing for John Lennon (he thought they were both, okaaayyy) and had a bronze statue put up in a park. The glasses have been stolen so many times that now there's a guard standing by.
  • Cuba is sometimes called El Cocodrilo, which is Spanish for alligator, because the island looks like a gator from an aerial more ways than one!
  • Bacardi rum originated in Cuba, but when Fidel took over they decided to consciously uncouple and moved their headquarters to Puerto Rico.
  • Havana Club is now the official rum of Cuba and it's sold everywhere but the U.S. Bacardi makes a competing product with the same name and it's sold only in the U.S. Ah, the rum wars!
  • The Cuba Libre cocktail is called that everywhere except in Cuba. There it's called Mentirita, which means "little lie", which is probably because you were lied to about how much of a hangover you'd have the next day. I will not test this theory.
  • Supposedly Havana is the birthplace of the Mojito cocktail.
  • Cuban citizens can only legally own cars made and bought before 1959. After that, nope. The government seized all the cars and still owns them to this day. 
  • Until 2011, there was an import ban on cars in Cuba, so lots of the cars on the road are '50s classics.
  • Cuba is to cigars as Napa is to wine.
  • The rollers in the cigar factories have a quota, but many of them sneak some out and roll them at home to sell them on the streets. Bootleg cigars.
  • It takes nearly two years for a cigar to move from nursery to rolling factory. No wonder they aren't cheap!
  • Ernest Hemingway lived in Cuba at Finca Vigia, which means "Lookout Farm", for 20ish years.
  • He wrote seven novels, including For Whom the Bell Tolls and The Old Man and the Sea, while there. BTW, having to read TOMATS in 9th grade was pure torture, so thanks for nothing, Papa.
  • His favorite bars in Havana were La Floridita and La Bodeguita del Medio. I will definitely check out both. Ya know, for the sake of literature.
  • Cuba gained independence from U.S. military rule in 1902, and became the "Republic of Cuba." Of course we still stuck our nose in their business strongly influenced them for the next 57 years until Fidel Castro led a rebel army of communist revolutionaries to victory.
  • In 1960, the U.S. armed and trained a group of Cuban refugees to overthrow the Castro regime, which was known as the Bay of Pigs invasion. The invasion happened in April 1961 and failed after 3 days, which made Fidel a BMOC in Cuba.
  • Fidel asked his bestie, Nikita Khrushchev, if he would plant some nuclear missiles on the island to deter another invasion, and of course he jumped at the chance.
  • JFK found out about their plan and then it became a whole bunch of "which boy has the biggest toy" drama. Except toys=nuclear weapons/blockades, so kinda a big deal. And who says history doesn't repeat itself?
  • Eventually everyone calmed down and came to an agreement that the weapons would be dismantled in exchange for the U.S. minding its own damn business agreeing not to invade Cuba ever again. And we all lived happily ever after.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

The More You Know

Today as I was sitting in traffic (which is basically the preface for every conversation I have), I was pondering the fact that I don't know how to do a lot of things. I'm not talking things like cooking, because, well, that ship has sailed. I'm not even talking about hard things, like car maintenance or flying an airplane or speaking German. I'm talking about seemingly normal things that most people can do. The reason this existential crisis popped into my head out of the blue is because, once again, I realized that I don't know how to save my radio stations in the car and it is just so aggravating. I have never known how - no matter how many times I've looked it up on however many cars I've owned, it's one of those things that just doesn't stick. So that got me to thinking about others.

Another common thing I've never mastered is lacing sneakers. Whenever I put in new laces, I have to keep one shoe laced so I can copy it on the other shoe and then switch. If I have 2 blank shoes, nope. Another one that causes me great angst, given my English teacher background, is that I can't spell the words "occurring" or "occasionally" without looking them up. Every. Single. Time. If I don't have access to a dictionary, I will use another word. Also, when I pronounce the word "gesture" in my head, I say it with a hard G, so when I say it out loud, I really have to concentrate to say it correctly with the soft G.

Then I started to think about the things I used to know that have been dumbed-down out of me. For example, I used to know how to change a tire, but then I discovered AAA, which meant no more broken nails for this girl. Now I can't even put air in a tire, it's been that long. I also used to know how to read a city map, but then came along portable GPS. These days, I couldn't tell you how to get from my home to my office and back if I didn't have the navigator on. If I'm in a strange city with no signal or a dead battery, uh oh, cue instant hysteria.

So, I guess my burning question of the day is, does everyone have these seemingly-normal-but-personally-unattainable things? Is it normal? Am I normal? What is the meaning of life? Oh a little bit carried away for a minute there.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Madam Foreperson, has the jury reached a verdict?

Yay, Jury Duty! I know most people say, "Ugh, Jury Duty", but not me. At least not me last week. I was super happy about it on so many levels, the first of which being that I didn't have to go to work. The next, and most obvious reason is because I watch a LOT of Law and Order, so I know exactly how the court system works. It's practically the same as going to law school. In fact, I was really looking forward to bursting out with an "I object" or "Sidebar, Your Honor".....yeahhhhh, but it doesn't work like that. In fact, now I know why "Ugh, Jury Duty" is the more common thought process.

First of all, it might have been the L-O-N-G-E-S-T day EVER. I know, I know, everyone warned me. But the thing is, I couldn't wait to be able to sit around with nothing to do. I'd read a little, catch up on some writing, play mindless games on my phone. It sounded glorious. In theory. In reality, I got there at 7:30, which is exactly 2 hours before I start my normal work day, so after an hour, my body clock was saying, "okay, time for your standup meeting, which is super boring, but at least you get to chit-chat with people" and the real clock in the room was saying, "settle down, it's barely 8:30 and we haven't even started calling names yet." Then, at 9, they gave us a 45 minute break! And we hadn't done anything yet! Sometimes, in these types of situations, the voice in my head (relax, it's just mine) starts to chant things that I really want to come true at that moment. For example, when someone boring is talking to me at work, I chant "pleasestoptalkingpleasestoptalkingpleasestoptalking" in my head and even though it doesn't work, it makes me less likely to commit a crime. Obviously, my chants of "pleasefortheloveofallthingsholycanwegetthisshowontheroad" were not working. By the time they let us break for lunch at 11:30, I thought we had been there for a week already. And speaking of lunch, an hour and 45 minutes? Good grief, who needs that long to eat in the middle of the day? I was pretty sure I'd leave that building and find out that 2018 started without me.

Finally, around 2ish, just as they were about to let us go and just as I was starting to plan my free afternoon, they called one last list of names. And guess what? The show finally got on the road. A very slooooowwwww, long, and boring road. And then, just like that, after a mere two hours of questioning, I officially became Juror #8.

The first thing the judge said to us when we herded into the courtroom was that this experience would not be like Law and Order. I really thought "I object" would spontaneously blurt out of my mouth at that very moment. He went on to say that if anyone did half of what my dear Benson and Stabler crew did, they'd actually be on the other side of the court experience. Lalalalala I'm not listening to you, blasphemer! Just you wait and see.....this is going to be an adventure worthy of Dick Wolf. Stay tuned!

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Color Me Dirty

If you're not familiar with Color Runs, you need to find one in your city and sign up RIGHT NOW. It's so much fun and such a great excuse to get filthy dirty with wild abandon, plus you usually get a medal, which is my #1 motivation when it comes to exercise. Here's how it works...

It's basically a 5K race, but there are stops along the route with color stations where they throw out colored chalk and we become engulfed in a blizzard of neon. Word of warning: Stop laughing and close your mouth! I say this every year, but still manage to enjoy a few swallows of tasty dust and end up with pink and green teeth.
Nov 2017 June 2016
The first one we did was at night, so in between the color stations they had black-light stations so we could dance around like teenagers at a rave. We totally fit right in with all the cool kids. 
Feb 2016
June 2016
The past couple of years we've done the ones during the day and instead of having black-light rave stations, they have a giant mosh pit at the end. And because we never get dirty enough on the course, we always dance around in the pit for another hour or so. With unicorns, of course. Not only do they continue to bombard us with enough chalk to supply a 1980s school district, but they throw out individual packets so we can dump it on ourselves. And we do - by the bucket-load. Remember what it was like to be a kid and totally romp around in the mud or sand and get filthy dirty for no reason? That's exactly what this feels like.
Nov 2017June 2016
But, wait, how do you get home without getting all that mess in your car? Ya know, it's not like we can just hop on our bikes and pedal home...we have fancy sports cars and mini-vans that we pedal home nowadays. Simple - you get a blow-job (and no, I did not make up that description or even think of it by myself, but it's so perfect that I'm stealing it). There are people with leaf blowers to blow you clean, which is actually quite hilarious because it really works.
June 2016
I definitely recommend stripping down the minute you get home and walking straight into the shower. This is one of those times when that wash-rinse-repeat thing needs to be repeated several thousand times. Then, bundle up your clothes and wash them immediately - it really does all wash out, believe it or not. However, even with all that, you may find color in the oddest places for the next few days. Do not be alarmed.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Hack My Life

Remember when Life Hacks first became a thing and some of them were kinda cool? For example, using binder clips to hold together loose cords - that makes sense and I do it all the time and it's quite helpful. I use binder clips for almost everything, including hair barrettes in a pinch, so I am a bit biased. Also, I totally get this sock/toe trick. Back in the day when I wore pantyhose to work, if I got a run in the middle of the day, I would use a marker to paint my leg so it would blend in. (Because, no, ladies did not go pantyhose-less back in the day - why yes, I am old.)

However, the more hacks/tips/tricks I see these days, the more I wonder how some people function on a daily basis. No, that is not to say that I am above pulling some pretty dumb stunts (e.g., painting carpet - a story for another day) and thinking they were great ideas at the time, but I draw the line at suggesting these ideas to anyone else. Or even admitting to most of them. But seriously, most of the "advice" I discover lately does not fall under the category of "brilliant new tips that will make your life SO much easier" as much as it does "common sense for anyone not born yesterday".

For example, tie a bright ribbon on your suitcase so you can quickly identify it on the baggage carousel. Yup. Or, paint your keys with nail polish (or markers, etc.) to tell them apart. Um, duh.
Up until today I would have said that this next one is my favorite "tip" of all time:
When showering, you have to actually wash your feet because the excess soap that runs down your body won't get them clean.
I kid you not, someone actually had to put this concept into words. It still makes me laugh every morning when I'm showering and washing my tootsies and thinking, whew, I'm glad someone told me to do this! Who knew?!

However, today I discovered the BEST. MOST RIDICULOUS. HACK. EVER. and I'm not sure anything will ever top it. I have no words, so I'll let the picture speak for itself.

Why?! Just, why?!

Friday, October 27, 2017

Foodie Friday: Halloween Fingers

With the holidays upon us, I feel compelled to share a Halloween cooking story of yore. Martha Stewart-inspired, of course.

One October night, Carrie ITC and I were either watching a Martha Stewart show or reading her magazine or surfing the interwebs or something and came across this:

Naturally, we decided that we needed to make it AT THAT VERY MOMENT. We studied the recipe and discovered that Martha wanted us to make the sugar cookies from scratch, like go out and harvest the sugar cane at the Bay of Bengal (look it up; it's a thing), whip, puree, sift, roll - all those cooking things. Ain't nobody got time for that! We decided to sub in the pre-made Pillsbury sugar cookie dough, which may or may not have been a perfectly logical substitution. You be the judge:

Since I'm older and wiser now, I'm going to attempt something a little easier this time, while still keeping with the fingers theme. Thank you, Annabel Karmel at Parenting magazine for providing us with a Martha Stewart for Dummies version.

Dead Man's Finger Sandwiches

  • Thin sliced white bread, crusts removed
  • Peanut butter
  • Almonds
  • Strawberry Jam
  1. Gently flatten the slices of bread with a rolling pin to make them more pliable.
  2. Spread with a little peanut butter.
  3. Roll up the sandwiches and make three indentations with a blunt knife to form the finger joints.
  4. Trim the ends of the fingers into a 'V' shape and stick an almond on to each tip (with a little peanut butter as "glue") to form the nails.
  5. Add a blob of strawberry jam over the end of the finger for the blood.
Voilà! Finger-lickin' good PB&Js!

One of the commenters on the Parenting site suggested using thin wafer chicken and cranberry jelly, which sounds good, too. Actually, you could probably roll up lots of different things inside (chopped up hot dogs?) and add a blob of red anything (ketchup?) and get the same effect. But hurry! There's a short window on bloody finger food - no one wants to see this on the Thanksgiving table!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Pro-cras-tin-aaayyy-ay-tion.....Is Makin' Me Late

Since it's my first week back at work, I don't want to break away from my finely-honed habits right away. Today I will be playing the role of The Panicker, The Sidetracker, and obviously The Social Sharer. I'm pretty sure I'll be The Perpetuator in another couple of hours. That is all.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Foodie Friday: The Best Broccoli of Your Life

I haven't always been a fan of green. As in vegetables. However, as I get older and fatter, I've been strongly encouraged mandated to check my 'tude about a healthy lifestyle. You know those doctors - they go to school for a million years, learn all about health stuff, and think they can tell you what to do. Now I eat veggies for dinner several times a week, which gets a little humdrum. After all, I'm new at this and there's only so much I know how to do. So of course a recipe named "The Best Broccoli of Your Life" excited much as I can get excited about broccoli, that is. Thank you, Amateur Gourmet and Barefoot Contessa.

4-5 lbs of broccoli, cut into large florets (Note: Dry them thoroughly!)
6 1/2 T Olive oil
1 1/2 t Kosher salt
1/2 t Fresh ground pepper
4 Garlic cloves (peeled and sliced)
1 Lemon
3 T Toasted pine nuts (optional)
1/3 c Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 T Julienned fresh basil (optional)

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Place the broccoli on a cookie sheet. Toss with 5 T olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic cloves. Roast in the oven 20 to 25 minutes, until “crisp-tender and the tips of some of the florets are browned.” When it’s done, take it out of the oven and zest a lemon over it; then squeeze the lemon juice on top. Add 1 1/2 T more olive oil, pine nuts, Parmesan cheese, and basil. Eat your veggies, kids!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Words on Wednesday

Heighth is not a word.

That was going to be the basis of today's WoW lesson and I was prepared to rant on and on about how it absolutely drives me crazy to hear people say, "the heighth of the building" when they should be saying, "the height of the building". However, in my compulsive need to research everything, lo and behold, guess what I found out? You guessed it - I was wr...wrrr...wrrrrr...wrong.  

Heighth is a colloquial variant of height, even though no dictionaries list it as a living word. According to my source, its use is a common peeve among people who consider themselves careful users of English the Grammar Police. Ya think? I have to tell you, it grates on my last nerve, especially when I hear newscasters and sports commentators using it. But then I found this... 
  • From JD Salinger's Catcher in the Rye: "I can usually get them on account of my heighth." 
  • From Charles Dickens' Great Expectations: “Pip, I wish you ever well and ever prospering to a greater and a greater heighth.” 
  • From John Milton's Paradise Lost: "This essence to incarnate and imbrute that to the highth of Deity aspired." 
Seriously?! Okay, so they get a pass because they're old and it really was a word up until about the 19th century. However, we are now in the 21st century and it's time to evolve! If I hear heighth, I'd better hear thou and doth right along with it; ya know, just so there's no mixed-century-colloquialism going on. As for me, I'm going to stand by my crazy and cringe, but I'll change my proclamation:

Heighth is not a word you should use as standard English.

Monday, September 9, 2013

The DMB Cult

Remember how I was a Deadhead for Andre Agassi? Well, The Husband is like that with the Dave Matthews Band. So we go to a lot of DMB concerts. A lot. Sometimes several nights in a row. Yeahhhh, I don't get the multiple-night thing. It's a bit much for me, so he goes with other cult members sometimes. He thinks that someday he's going to convince me into camping at this place called the Gorge Amphitheatre somewhere near the Columbia River in Washington out in the middle of nowhere for a multi-night thing. I think it's sweet that he has such faith in something that WILL. NEVER. HAPPEN.

This was a cult weekend so The Husband went to the concert in San Diego Friday night and then we went to Irvine together with our DMB-virgin friend on Saturday. Then, just because occasionally I am a good wife, we had a DMB night at home. That's actually my favorite because we spread out the DMB blanket on the living room floor, wear DMB t-shirts, have a picnic basket dinner with snacks and wine, and then watch hours of DMB videos. Now, I say this is my favorite even though I hate watching music videos, but Dave is sexy so I suffer through it. Plus, I'm in my living room. With wine. Here's a little taste of the cult be the judge:

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Karma May Be A B****, But Football Karma Is Much Worse

Remember this? I should know better! Shame, shame on me. See, my whole football mantra is to cheer on SEC teams first, Florida teams next, and most importantly, cheer FOR someone, not AGAINST someone else. I've always found the Gator Haters to be so silly and they're usually people who have never even attended the college they rabidly cheer on, which seems kinda weird to me. We are a proud nation, though, and that probably annoys people. It's true, we Gators love any and all things UF, win or lose. We weren't that great back in my day (the late 70s/early 80s), but we were still loud and proud, sticking together in all kinds of weather. But I digress. The bottom line is, I broke the rules and cheered against an SEC team just out of pettiness, and now look - the Gators lost to an unranked Miami team. Are you kidding me?!
The only bright side is that it wasn't an SEC team, so if we can use the bye week to shape up, I have no doubt that we'll be on our way to a winning season and maybe near the top of the SEC. And if not, hey - been there, done that. It's still GREAT...TO BE...A FLORIDA GATOR!

Friday, September 6, 2013

Foodie Friday: Bacon Explosion

This pretty much sums up how I feel about today's recipe...

...and I'm not even ashamed to admit that I am one-with-dogs in regard to bacon. I actually posted a link to this recipe many moons ago, when I first discovered it at (I think) Computer Colonics when she discovered it from BBQ Addicts. Regardless of its origins, I'll happily repeat myself in claiming that this creation transcends all bacon love. Here goes...

Bacon Explosion

2 pounds thick cut bacon
2 pounds Italian sausage
1 jar of barbeque sauce
1 jar of barbeque seasoning

First, create a 5×5 bacon weave. Make sure the bacon weave is tight and square, and then add some barbecue seasoning on top. Next, take two pounds of Italian sausage and layer it directly on top of the weave. Be sure to press the sausage to the outer edges of the bacon creating a patty that is the same thickness all the way across. Fry the remaining bacon slices, crumble or chop into bite size pieces, and place on top of the sausage layer. Drizzle barbeque sauce all over the top of the bacon pieces and then sprinkle with more barbeque seasoning.

Here's the hard part: Very carefully separate the front edge of the sausage layer from the bacon weave and begin rolling backwards. Roll all layers EXCEPT the bacon weave and keep the sausage as tight as possible. Once the sausage is fully rolled up, pinch together the seams and ends to seal in all of the bacon deliciousness. It should look like this:

Kinda hard, but a little easier: Roll the sausage forward, completely wrapping it in the bacon weave. Make sure the seam is on the bottom so everything stays sealed inside. Now it should look like this:

Sprinkle more barbeque seasoning on the outside and then put it in the smoker. I have no idea what a smoker is, so you're on your own here. Cook at 225 degrees in a constant cloud of hickory smoke until it gets to an internal temp of 165 degrees. Supposedly this will take 1 hour for each inch of thickness, but it depends on that smoker thingee and the fire and how often you peek. Again, no clue. Just use a meat thermometer and you'll be fine, I'm sure (says the person who doesn't cook). After it's fully cooked, add more barbeque sauce for a glaze by using a basting brush to coat the entire surface. Slice and serve!

Since I "borrowed" this recipe from BBQ Addicts, of course I'm going to plug their sauces and seasonings. Oh, and btw, you can buy one fully cooked, so you just have to heat 'n eat (my favorite kind of food), plus they have different versions with jalapeños and cheese. Now my big question is, do I pre-call 911 or skip the wait and just eat it in the ER waiting room?

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Words on Wednesday

I have no lesson plan for today's WoW edition, but I do have a funny to share. Apparently I have a Grammar Po-Po rep, so people tend to share these things with me. Not sure if that's a good thing, but it makes me smile.

Who, me?!