Tuesday, December 15, 2009


A couple times a year I like to forget that I am 33 years old and the ol' metabolism isn't as fast as it used to be. It's that time of year again. Dinner yesterday was crunchy peanut butter and strawberry jam sandwich with Cheetos on the side. For dessert I had brownies and washed them all down with a tall glass of soda. Tonight, while sipping tea, my hubby and I shared a glass of milk for Oreo dunking purposes. Each moist cookie falling into my mouth and ravishing my taste buds. Suddenly, my mind is tempted to drown in the depths of guilt. Oh the calories! Oh the diet to come! My eyes do a double take and I realize that I used low fat peanut butter, real strawberry spread and weight watchers wheat bread a whooping total of 250 calories. The Cheetos were of the baked variety, my OCD self served the exact serving added a 150 calories. The brownies were made with applesauce and egg beaters which makes the treat a reasonable less 100 calories with diet coke. For splurging, not too shabby. The Crystal Light tea and reduced fat Oreos with half a cup of 1% organic milk shared, well, there is nothing to worry about. My bike ride tomorrow will take care of the rest!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Fist Shaking at the Veterans!

On my foggy drive this morning, I listened to NPR and sipped on a cold low-fat Starbucks frappaccino (which are delicious) and followed my usual signs towards the maze of the Veterans Expressway. Now, a glorious 7 1/2 years of this gaunt you would image that there would be some routine involved. Some sort of passivity in my driving because it is too familiar. The dangers of nodding off or putting on a glimmer of chapstick may be tempting, but on this drive I dare not. One slight glance away from the road may lead to total mass destruction of self and others.

The whirlwind of the Veterans takes the driver through an adventure of shifting through sudden turns, abnormal veering to the right and the very next day it veers to the left at the same location, the speed limit changes 45 to 60 to 50 all within a quarter of mile. Today the roller coaster called commuting on the Veterans took me to a whole new world. Look out Aladdin, because my exit onto this roadway placed me in an alternate universe. The new ailment shifts all traffic from its normal I-275 entrance to the right. Now your previous trek can be viewed. You can view others changing in your old lanes, merging on your old road and exiting on your old exit. In the meantime, I cautiously followed the new path before me. Pulling a Robert Frost, the path less taken (not because of some sort of poetic tribute but rather it's brand new) directed me to the Memorial Highway exit. An exit that forces at least two additional street lights. An exit that prevents the short cut from Independence Highway. An exit that is so unfamiliar that is shakes one to the core, and dangerously adds the temptation of a 7-11. The coffee and morning treats this could provide! Oh no! The pounds I will gain! Damn you DOT!

And so I followed my proverbial yellow brick road towards the wizard of my employment. Shaking my fist at the Veterans, wondering Why God? Why?!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Cooking Cubans Thankgiving!

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. You sit with people that you love and eat together. You don't have to exchange gifts or hide eggs. There is no danger of blowing a hand off because of drunken fireworks or a need for pink and red hearts candies. Thanksgiving is just the one day that you are thankful. Thankful for all of the amazing people in your life. The ones that are there everyday, the ones that have slipped away and the ones who are no longer with you. The day to be thankful for the sacrifices that were made on your behalf and the opportunities that you have been given. It's a lovely day.

Thanksgiving is an American holiday. It didn't dawn on me until last week during class that my classmates in Mexico, Canada, Dominican Republic and India weren't celebrating the day. My family is a bunch of Cubans and we Cubanify the fixings for the holiday as well. The turkey is basted in mojo. The stuffing is meat based on bread based. Matter of fact, there is no bread-like product in the stuffing and sometimes we use pork meat to make it, because that is what real red blooded Cubans would do. No vegetables really and espresso for dessert. We add the spices of our heritage and I am thankful that we do. Some years we have thrown in the black beans and rice and fried plantains too because it tastes good. Every year, we swing by the Rohrs to see the other family and enjoy big hugs and warm smiles. This year Heather and Jeff joined us at the grandparents for our meal and it was so wonderful to have my whole family a part of the day. We are blessed people.

This year I was in charge of desserts! Not only did I feel like an grown up but it was fun to wow. I made a very moist Pumpkin Cream Bundt Cake, Cranberry Pear Pie, Pumpkin Pie, Apple Pie and sugar cookies shaped as Turkeys for the kids. Though, there were some tasty treats, I also learned some important lessons. The next day, instead of fighting the Black Friday madness, I wanted to make a turkey and have some leftovers. So we recreated Thanksgiving with all the fixings for my folks and us. I made a bruschetta appetizer. Turkey made by me, mashed potatoes, yams, green bean casserole, corn, rolls and of course new pies! This time sugar free banana cream and my mom's sugar free pumpkin pie. Two full days of thankfulness and full bellies.

Later on I decided to make my own Christmas wreath! I have several crocheted projects that I am working on, those will soon be posted.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Best Place to Raise Your Family: I <3 St. Pete!

Every so often there is a breaking news story to inspire young couples to move to what seems like strange choice cities in order to put down roots and raise their future unborn children. With the glimmer of the holidays not far from reach, I saw one of these headlines pop-up on my Yahoo! written interestingly by Business Week, America's Best Place to Raise Your Kids.

I always wonder if they have visited the great city of St. Petersburg, Florida. In my opinion, the BEST city to raise your child, to put down roots, to celebrate holidays with family and friends and not have to shovel snow! Not only does St. Pete provide you with beautiful beaches within minutes, but a small town feel with the benefits of a larger city. The St. Petersburg Downtown area has many locally owned restaurants with daily fresh seafood or the best Sunday brunch or a plethora of other delicious choices! The new budding areas like Gulfport or a lovely picnic at ol' school Boyd Hill fill of fun sunshiny afternoons any time of the year.

In just a few weeks, Straub Park will become a winter wonderland with Santa in the Park, First Night events to start off 2010 right, and shortly after American Stage at the Park! There is the creepy but oddly intriguing Christmas Lighthouse to visit every year! AND the really super cool Fresh Market new store on 4th (I can ride my bike to it!)

You can always enjoy the Dali or take your unborn kids to Great Explorations! A Saturday morning stroll through the market or a Sunday afternoons with friends watching awful football, it's a great place to live!

Born, raised, educated and re-rooted: I love St. Pete!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

People Suck

On Monday afternoon while my dad stood on a metal chair with a flat head screw driver, I continously hit the garage door opener. The reason was to get the door back on the track not to play peek-a-boo with Doraida, though that would have been slightly more entertaining. My dad managed to get it dislodged from the frame and it bending back in the right direction. It was time. Time for a new garage door that is. El and I called the number on our opener and Precision folks and sold us a fine door, to be installed without our hassle (infamous words) on Wednesday.

The ol' timer (the installer that is good at working with homes that are old apparently) came out on Wednesday and gave us a list of things that needed to be moved and changed and insisted on that we must have been notified to do so, which we weren't. So El rescheduled for Friday. The thing is that between work and school there was no time to get it all moved, so we called our superheroes: the Ortegas.

My folks came out this morning to move all the junk out of the way. In this process my mom was going to mow the backyard. A neighborly fellow walking by offered to help. My mom at first said no, but he insisted that it wouldn't be any trouble. My mom offered him 10 dollars and the deal was made. The tall, white, blond hair blue eyed clean cut man mowed our backyard, because are super neighbors had mowed our front yard yesterday. Well once this super nice fellow was finished, my mom paid him the 10 bucks and supposedly off he was likely waving goodbye and skipping....

Skipping AROUND THE BLOCK to COME in through the front gate and STEAL ELIOT'S BIKE!! Once my parents realized it the felt awful! My dad felt awful! My mom felt even more awful! Eliot's bikeless skinny-self felt not that terrific either!

MEAN MEAN Bike Thief! MEAN MEAN! I know that the universe will make sure things are right! And Mr. American Bike Stealer know that if you across my path I will kick you hard, in the shin! And then in the head. You have made some lovely people feel really shitty!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

U2:360 Tour was Out of this World!

Before we got married which was almost 7 months ago now, Eliot heard that U2 was coming in concert. Instead of waiting for the sale day, he joined the fan club and bought tickets. He called his sister, she did the same. He called his BFF, he did the same. Tickets were purchased and secured. They arrived and we placed them in the top drawer of the dresser, not with the underwear but the drawer right next to it. The last 7 months as many of you know, has been long. We have certainly missed many events. We had baseball tickets that went unused, weddings that we missed, and trips that we canceled. The last 3 weeks Eliot has progressively felt better. He has been eating well and has gained some weight back. It has been a long haul and we aren't completely in the clear. Due to our hopefulness, and faith in God, we decided that it was worth venturing to the concert.

Some tactical planning had to be done. Since there were 70,000 people in the greater Tampa Bay area were at the Raymond James Buccaneer Stadium last night to see the world's greatest rock band: U2. BKay borrowed a wheelchair to help Eliot conserve energy from the parking lot to our section 206. This was a great help and though, he wasn't particularly thrilled about riding around, he was happy that we made him do it. His parents had decided on contingency plans if suddenly he didn't feel well but there was no need to activate them. So many folks we know were at the show, the Klinks came by and hung out through Muse, texting with the Koshys, the Broadways, and the Sistrunks.

The show was hands down the greatest show on earth and this does include Barnum and Bailey. It was spectacular! Every song was perfect! The showmanship led by Bono had every person in the crowd at the edge of their seats. The lights, the stage that looked like it was going to walk away at the end, the slinky video screen expanding, spinning, and shrinking, marching people with masks, running laps! There was no end to the willingness to amaze the audience. It was one of those concerts that even though the cougar in front of us was giving her boyfriend a perpetual ass massage (squeeze, pat, rub, squeeze, pat, rub) you could shake your head and ignore it just because you were in the presence of real greatness.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Puzzler

Eliot has been feeling better which is wonderful. He is still not 100% but certainly better. Since he is at home and watched every single thing on television at least twice he has tap into an old favorite of his: puzzle making. When we moved in together along with Eliot came an extensive game collection which was much to my delight because I too had accumulated many board games through the years. Together our board games take an entire set of shelves in the garage. You read correctly: board games. Not video games or computer games but real ol' school family game night games. We are talking Monopoly, Scrabble, Taboo, Life, Dominoes, Trivia Pursuit...and on it goes. (Excitingly we added Boogle to this last week!)

The board games were not it, there was also an entire box on puzzles. Specifically Hometown Collection ones..actually these are really the only ones he will do. Over the weekend, he had run out. He had actually gone through the entire box of puzzles. Once he's put one together he really has no interest in putting it together again. I went to Target and the only one of this brand they had left he had already completed in less than 24 hours this past week, so I opted for getting some others; some that are more of a challenge. Bigger ones! Crazier designs! Photographs rather than folk art paintings! He wasn't as excited. And out of the four I picked up, I have to go return two. Sigh.

Even though he is a pill about his puzzles, I enjoy every piece we put together, together. I have memories of being a little girl and my parents and I hovering over puzzles on the dinner table for hours that turned into days. The week or so before Eliot and I got married we actually bought the HomeTown Wedding and put it together. My coffee table and is now that old dining room table.

Can you guess which towns these are suppose to be?

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Painting with a Twist

BKay and I decided to spice things up! Do something a little different. Find our inner VanGogh, hence we found ourselves at the new place on central called Painting with a Twist. The concept hails from Louisiana. There are corporate artists that design paintings that are easy to teach the novice painter. The local establishment selects specific images for certain times and dates and the future artist selects their day based on this. A local art teacher is hired, they provide the canvas, the paints, the easel and the smock and off you embark into the creative unknown. So BKay and I set sail Friday night towards Abstract Daisy.

The instructor takes you step by step through the process of painting. First you begin with sketching they image onto your canvas with a pencil which can be very tedious. Then you begin with one color filling the areas in. We started with blue. You could select the shade of the color...if you wanted a little lighter you would add some white as a foundation. Each new color we would paint in the areas of the canvas that correlated. We learn some different brush stroke techniques along the way. By the end of the class, we were mixing our own colors and putting them wherever we wanted regardless of our teachers' guidance.

BKay and I had taken a bottle of Jersey's finest to sip on during our 3 1/2 hour art class and enjoyed every drop of this fruity beverage. The last part of the class is adding in the the black outline to each of the painted designs. To me this was the best part because you could really see your image come alive on the canvas. With a steady hand and immense amounts of patience it took some time. But well worth it.

The owners of the shop were there taking pictures which they emailed to us. They invited us to check out there facebook and monthly calendars for future painting fun. They told us about their private parties and their SOS class (which is when you can bring in your painting if something awful has happened like you are a crappy painter, they will help you fix it. They were super nice folks and it really was an adventurous night (later is when we went to Three Birds Tavern.) BKay and I felt like accomplished artisans and enjoyed brainstorming over where our paintings were going to be hung in each of our homes: look out Picasso! VanGohn! Monet!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The 'Burg Restaurant Reviews

This weekend was filled with many new experiences. This blog is dedicated to the eating portion but there will be a couple more to come that will chronicle the other events. I am behind with my local eatery reviews. I like to eat, therefore I cook. I like to eat, therefore I eat out. Both philosophies apply nicely here. So from Hungry Girl to Out in the 'Burg Girl....

Though everything is in a bowl, most of us ate off of square white plates. My friend Pancho used to say everything looks prettier on a white plate and he's right. The food looked amazing. Our after church brunch crew decided to head there based on a recommendation from BKay. Admittedly the server was a little slow to start, a little absent minded about coffee refills and returning credit cards, but we befriend Brian nonetheless. We each had a different item and all of us raved! Each bite got better, the coffee was delicious which is unusual for your average restaurant. I had the Benedict Bowl with Braised Beef (pictured above). The beef was so tender it kept falling off my folk. The hollandaise sauce was rich and spot on. Easily 5 gold stars! Brunchtastic!

Three Birds Tavern
From the Cockney Rebel to Limey's to now Three Birds Tavern it feels as if the food has been on a slow downward spiral. If you are interested in a good beer with a comfortable outdoor atmosphere this is still a nice place to go. If you are going to snack on anything go somewhere else. Friday night after our painting extravaganza we went to grand opening of this reappropriated establishment, and though I like the new logo I woke up in the middle of the night with stomach pains that felt like food poisoning and so did BKay. And though, it is completely possible we both had some random indigestion, it is also possible the soggy zucchini sticks, the overcooked sliders, and greased soaked fries were the culprit. Everything was under seasoned and grease tasting. This is one of my favorite places to have a drink and hang out with friends and I am more than a little disappointed by the new menu. From English fare eat at Moon under Water. For a drink and comfort hang at Three Bird.

Only my second time at this Thai restaurant downtown. The Phad Thai on my first visit was too sweet, on my second visit I stuck to the sushi, which I enjoyed much more. The construction of the rolls was a little loose and on that particular note there are better sushi places in town, but the taste was spot on. The others had mixed reviews. Chadd has a very cool Volcano Prawn dish that was served theatrically in a clay pot and arrived 10 minutes after the rest of the tables' food, but he reported that it was divine. Tre thought here Phad King was way too salty and proceeded to drink many glasses of water in response. It's hit or miss I think. The service is good and the restaurant itself is located in perfect downtown corner. Ratachada is a try again. Both times the company was the best part of the evening.

The CupCake Spot
The one gourmet cupcake place in town. Their hours are insane for anyone that might want a cupcake after 5 o'clock or before 10:30 in the morning. I am not sure how small businesses of this type make it with these slim choices but that being clearly stated I can effervesce about the yummy cupcakes. The website lists the menu. El and I wanted to taste test a couple before sharing them with the birthday girl. The first one, which I think is still my favorite is named The Elvis, a banana cake with peanut butter frosting and rich chocolate kiss on top. El loved the Butterscotch. The birthday girl which must remove all frosting to remain her dairy-free self ate the Lemon cupcake and said it was great. Chadd enjoyed the chocolate with coconut the best, but since they took home the extras he was lucky enough to sample the red velvet as well. Nothing but good things to say except for my s'mores disappointment. A chocolate cake with marshmallow frosting which is crusted with graham crackers did not meet expectations. It tasted like your average chocolate cake. Since I don't really like cake and cupcakes tend to have slightly more moisture this missed the mark for me. My advice is go on a Saturday morning as soon as it opens so you have every cupcake flavor to your disposal by the end of the day, you will have no options.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Cooking some more...

The cooking continues. I have made more interesting and delicious things than I can recall in this quick blog entry at the moment. The greatest thing is the food processor that we got for our wedding. It really is amazing. Who knew what life could bring with such basic technology. I have made some great things. The ones featured here below are pesto pizza, gazpacho, and tri-brunch treats: cinnamon rolls, banana muffins and breakfast cookie.

The tri-brunch are all recipes from the Hungry Girl cookbook. The recipes were easy to follow and really allow for an indulging breakfast buffet without the awful caloric guilt. This particular brunch was post church a couple of Sunday mornings ago. The Newmans, Brig and I went to Allendale UMC and then walked across the parking lot to enjoy the feast that I worked on most of the previous day.

In addition to the baked goods, I made scrambled eggs, bacon, vegetarian sausage, chorizo and toast which was all served with tasty coffee and juice. It was a lovely brunch. We discussed the morning sermon and chatted about the week to come.

The Pesto Pizza was really good, I must say. It was my first pesto. I made a pesto crusted mahi-mahi which was also delicious (so good that I took a picture halfway through eating it and decided it was a little too gross to post) and a pesto pasta. The pizza was by far my favorite and as most things I make I just threw it together to the ultimate cook goodness.

Honestly, I have made much better gazpacho. The coloring of this one looks like a gazpacho I used to have every summer on the beach in Cadiz. My last summer in Spain, Shelli and I ate at this one place a lot. We seemed to order several of the same items that we were addicted too: grilled peppers, salads with and without tuna (she was preggers, no mercury for her) and gazpacho. The other tapas we varied a bit. I was so excited when my gazpacho turned out this orangey colored because it took me back to a place and time that was so enriching and delightful, but instead it took me back to my heavy garlic hand. There was something a bit off early on in the taste and I feared over salting, so I compensated with a bit more garlic and that was the end of that. Every damn Spanish (or from any other culture--trying to be equal) vampire would have fallen flat dead at the slightest of taste tests.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Ugly Food Day

Yesterday I continued with my culinary adventures. I woke up with a real hankering for scones. Hungry Girl has a recipe that I have used before which is pretty good and of course you have the benefit of not loading up the calories. The only little thing is that it calls for vanilla soy milk and I didn't have that on hand. I substituted with regular milk and a dash of vanilla. Not sure that was the greatest plan. I suppose that taste is what ultimately matters, they did taste good, but boy were they the ugliest scones I have ever seen. I actually thought they were a little soft but the critics (aka BKay, Doraida and Rolando) disagreed.

Abuela's salad was my next mission. My grandma makes the simplest tastiest potato salad. It is just potatoes and hard boiled eggs. The trick to this salad is to be sure to properly salt it. I prefer to eat it warm but it can be eaten cold as well. It is super easy. I steamed up one large potato, the kind you'd use for a loaded bake potato, and boiled 4 eggs. Add salt to both pots of water. Add salt to the potato. Once everything is cooked, diced and mixed together, salt one more time. The yellowish look of the whole thing doesn't scream yum, but eat up!

The last of the taco meat I used to make spaghetti and meat sauce, then used to the sauce to make a pizza. Pizza with fresh mushrooms and onions, layered with mozerella. This too got rave reviews! It was simple! The impromtu game night attendents enjoyed the treats. Tre and I maintained our Taboo title. Us against the world!

My crafty sense kicked in and I have been crocheting. I am making a nifty scarf. In these moments I wish I lived in Alaska to use these more often. I also made a bolster pillow that matches the ottoman that I recovered a while ago. Tomorrow marks the return to school. The end of summer! The day teachers all over come out of the summer hibernation and excitedly teach the young minds of the future. If we teach them well they will lead the way.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Lawn

One of our summer projects was to get the house tented because the bug guy found the very evil dry wood termite. Last week we evacuated. In the process of killing the lawn the pesticide and suffocation also killed all the plant life in the surrounding area. The grass had not been cut in three weeks and I don't think I have ever weeded since I moved in almost 2 years ago.

I woke up in the wee hours of the afternoon (I still have 5 glorious days of summer left) and ran to Home Depot to get the cowboy: Round up that is. Real weed killer. The deadliest in the west. By the time I return my real cowboys were already mowing my lawn: My parents that is. The real lawn people. My mom mowed the front while I sprayed the endless amounts of weeds and my dad trimmed large bushes that were browned. Then I mowed the back, my dad fixed a latch and my mom did laundry. Then I pulled weeds, my mom raked and my dad sawed a tree in half with the neighbor. After that, I hedge cut more weeds growing out of the fence, my mom too branches to the garbage and my dad sat and had some water because it's crazy ass hot in Florida! My folks took off, but I was out there from 12:00-4:30.

Each time I would come inside to cool off. I would ask Eliot how people do this. Why do people do this? He replied that most people don't do it at high noon and the hottest part of the day in August in Florida. I was stunned? You mean people get up EARLY to do this? That is just madness. There is usually something that I don't like about yard work. It's the work part. If I had a bit more money I would not beneath hiring a gardener. I would call him Javier and gaze at him as he trimmed the roses, except the only Javier I have ever known pulled a fistful of hair out of my head when I was 6 and pushed me into an ant pile which I am allergic too. My eyes are crying themselves out of my head and my legs are swelling. Both are competing to see which can get bigger and redder when my mom comes running. After her was Javier's dad with a bottle of whiskey which my mom decides is the perfect thing to pour all over my legs. Oh and I don't have rose bushes either.

It was rewarding to look at the yard at the end of the day. It looked good. It felt good to be sweaty. It felt good to be tired from actual manual labor. There is still plenty to do. Weeds to keep pulling and new things to plant and watch grow. I will do some more tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Summer Nights...dwindling way...

I'm officially done with my first semester of my second graduate degree and though, I am thrilled to be on the road to becoming a counselor, I must stop to wonder, what was I thinking? With one week left of summer, and many unfinished summer projects I wonder if I will have the time to finish them all. The truth is a resounding no. Instead I have plunged into a couple of my favorite passions reading and cooking. I went to the grocer a few days ago for the first time since well...May? (Life has been a little nutty.) And have been cooking and reading and watching random TV and sleeping. I love sleeping too.

Anywho, so the cooking has been the most fun. One of my favorite things to do is to make one thing and use it to make several others. First, I made a fresh tomato salsa, with 3 different types of heirloom tomatoes: red, orange and green. I whisked together vinegar, salt, evoo, lime juice, and sriacha (Asian hot sauce.) Diced some onions and tossed it all together. I must say it was delightful. I snacked on it and then used it for some tasty tacos that evening. The next day, I made a Mexican pizza for lunch using all the same ingredients. Tomorrow my plan is to use it to make huevos rancheros.

Since I have gained some cool kitchen gear from the wedding I find the magic of appliances wonderful. I made chocolate chocolate chocolate cookies, made a dozen and froze the rest of the dough in order not to indulge completely. Warm cookies and milk hit the spot tonight. I also made homemade blueberry pancakes. Breakfast was yummy and also froze a bunch to save for Eliot's snacking and breakfast on crazy school mornings. You can pop them in the microwave and have a good morning with no fuss.

My last foodie treat was linguine with zucchini and chickpeas. I saw the recipe in Real Simple (I borrowed the picture from there too.) and though I like to take inspiration from recipes but I usually don't make them. I don't like following directions, or I'm impatient or I am a cooking artisan, any way you play it, this recipe looked good and simple. A rinsed can of chickpeas (always wash canned beans to get the salty preservatives off), cut fresh zucchini, garlic sauteed in olive oil, salt and red pepper flakes (I eat these on everything lately). While working on the mix cook up your pasta of choice, I used angel hair. Once the zucchini looks soft and the pasta is ready-just mix and add Parmesan cheese. I wish I had fresh cheese because the taste is so much better but I am not that cool. It was good and it was enough for 4 healthy servings. Still have a bit in the frig.

I am catching up on my nonacademic reading. Finished Friday Night Knitting Club and ordered the sequel (which I didn't know existed until my friend Michele told me thanks!), picked up Julie and Julia (which I am loving, thanks CD!) and finished up Trees Grow in Brooklyn which was great as well. I am on a roll!

Tomorrow another new food adventure awaits and more joyful reading...but better yet I might do some of that gardening I was talking about, go for a bike ride and hopefully see my little kiddies E's in the afternoon! Eliot is on the mend it seems. Keep those prayers coming and soon he will make his debut on the blog too.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Adventures in Massachusetts

The past two weeks I have been in Dartmouth, MA at the University of Massachusetts beginning a Masters degree in Counseling and School Psychology. The program is primarily online but interestingly we do have weekly class meetings where we are all online together and discuss. These two weeks are intense course load that help us learn the interpersonal techniques that go into counseling. My cohort here at Dartmouth will take every single class with me through the entire two year program.We are a group of 12 women and 1 man. We are quite diverse in our experiences and backgrounds. We have been immersed in the culture of counseling and have certainly created a bond. Today is our last full day together (and by full I mean we have 3 classes today so our educational day begun at 8:30AM and will continue through 8:30PM) and we will not be together as a group again until graduation.

In the middle of the two weeks our weekend was free. I had a couple of wonderful options to visit folks in the area. I opted to take a little road trip to see my Godson and his whole family. I hadn't seen him in 3 years and when you are 5 a lot happens between 2 and 5. I hadn't met his sister and of course I love my Kevin and Alison. So off to Lewisburg, PA I went. A little jaunt from where I was but I loved every minute of the drive there and back. The Hilgerts are great hosts. We saw the town, enjoyed in local treats, went to Mass and enjoyed being together.

My drive back was a disaster. It was close to nine and half hours from an original six. It is worth noting that even though it took so long I never developed road rage or had the car-claustrophobia and I got to chat with folks on the way. First near the Jersey border, there was a car on fire. I mean in flames. I mean you could see the massive black thick clouds floating into the clear blue skies at the foothills of the Appalachian mountains. Stopped the ride for about 30 minutes. Then I was in traffic for almost two hours in New York waiting to cross the GW bridge. I didn't realize that traveling north there was a toll of $8. Luckily the tollbooth person was kind enough to let me go through without any penalty. Once I arrived to Connecticut, I dashed to the restroom and returned to I-95 to wait in more traffic. As I sat there, I could see in my rear view mirror that there was a car flying towards me down the road. The driver was not being attentive and did hit me. Then I moved forward and hit the guy in front of me. Everyone was fine. We stopped on the side of the road and everything was a-okay. I made it back and hit the books.

On Tuesday, I found another old friend. Jeffro resides in Maine and we met in Needham, MA to have dinner. Though it was not our intention to go there it was so wonderful to see him and to catch up. We didn't even miss a beat. Since Jeff owns the town (his last name is Needham) we played with Trout (his pup) and shared calzones. It was lovely.

Tomorrow I leave to return to the FLA.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Cruising the Atlantic: 3 Glorious Days!

BKay and I ventured out last weekend to another one of our amazing adventures. We planned the trip early in January since Eliot was headed to Vegas to have "Big Fun" with his guy friends as a last bachelor hurrah. Of course in the middle of final wedding preparations long with the many bashes, it only made sense to go as beginning of summer fiesta!

Mid-morning on Friday, BKay and I set off to the Port of Miami to hop the Carnival Imagination and sail the great blue sea towards glorious Nassau. We arrived with perfect timing onto our ship found our roomy quarters and were amazed at the amount of space we had considering that everyone had told us that ship rooms were tiny. We attempted to get the lay of the land by the "It's a Small World" ship crew keep ushering us back to our rooms to get our personal floatation devices and meet for the safety seminar on the Lido deck. Following orders we did just that. We hunkered down in some comfy chairs under cover since rain was eminent and waited. Lucky we are lazy because the Florida skies opened up and we watched the heart of an enormous thunder storm hover the Carnival that was the safety session. Every lifeguard regulation I ever knew was zipping through my head as the waters rose on deck and over 300 people avoided getting hit my giant lightening. I kept telling myself that it must be safe. It just must be.

Safety instructions mumbled over, skies bright blue again we were on the ocean, and wishing for a drink. Quickly we understood the glory of being on a cruise ship. Our wish was their command. A fine gentleman holding a fruity something or other by the name of "Fun Ship" with the appropriate umbrella hanging out of it came by. And there it began. A weekend of abundance. No need to move food, drink, and entertainment always seems to come your way. One Fun Ship led to another which led us to our first dinner with cruise mates.

Cruises will assign seats and we had hit the Imagination jackpot! The table mates were of the very best caliber. We enjoyed hours of great food and great conversation. Later on headed together to a stand-up comedy show and salsa dancing until 4 AM. The next morning we rose and indulged in a hearty breakfast at the shore of the Bahamas.

The islands are small and perfect for one full day of exploration. BKay and I saw the sites. Colonial state buildings, Straw market, sampled tasty conch fritters and toured the Pirate museum. Arg Matey, it was a mighty treat. We took a ferry to Paradise Island and wondered the world of Atlantis. The many twists and turns of the acreage exposed beautiful aquatic animals, glorious beach shores and extravagant shopping.

At the end of our day, we found a cozy spot on the serenity deck (adults only) and rested before another evening of fun. Another eventful meal and this night a cheesy show and roulette table entertained us. By morning, we watched the Imagination disembark from shore. Sunning, eating, massages…a true day of leisure; an art auction, nap, Captains dinner, karaoke, another comic, dancing and more dancing. Cruises are amazing! The morning met up with the Miami shore where the required stop by the bakery and tasty breakfast fueled us to a nice drive home!

Bon Voyage!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Summer Gardening Summer Projects

Summer is here. Therefore all the ways to use my time effectively have made into a nice organized to-do list. I will refer to this list each day in hopes of not spending an entire summer sleeping until noon and watching entirely too many hours of Nick at Nite which will surely eat way my brain cells. I can also feel fulfilled in my daily endeavors and remain an active part of normal society. That's the goal.

There are some simple but time consuming items on the list such as beginning a new masters program (which I am, a Masters of Counseling and School Psychology through UMASS), actually get physical therapy for my knee (since a wedding and a vomiting husband has really taken up some of my time. This also involves finding exercises that will not negatively impact my knee, so my cleats are still hung.) and finally getting our house/yard in some sort of respectable order. We have discovered that we have termites. After two different opinions, these tiny wood eating monsters need to be suffocated in a tent filled of poison. The process will take two days and we will need to evacuate. We are still waiting to schedule this exciting event.

The other pest issues is located outside. Before our wedding we started to notice black moths with red torsos and white markings surrounding our house. We dismissed it, because to be frank we were too busy to deal with it, plus we were pretending that our home was protected by these lovely flying creatures. In the meantime, these distant cousins of the beautiful butterfly ate our bushes down to the bone. They have found a nice home only on these bushes (thankfully) These funky caterpillars line the stems. Today I finally sprayed Sven on them and trimmed down the bushes. I figure I will do this again tomorrow and see if the bush will survive at the moment, until we have to tent and everything dies. Homeowner ship rocks!

We are still working on getting Eliot at 100%. Thank you to all for the love, support and prayers. Keep 'em coming a little longer. I will blog more on this later. :)

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Mexico: Day 5, 6 and 7

Beach. Eat. Shop. Beach. This sums up pretty much days 5 and 7.

Day 6 on the other hand was a great adventure. We went in the wee hours of the morning on a tour bus down to visit Tulum and then Xel-Ha. Tulum is an ancient Mayan ruins site with a significant temple of some sort. It was interesting. We took pictures. I got to tell you, Eliot loves this stuff. As many of you know we went to Machu Picchu which was the whole Incan scene last summer and prior to that we both have done our share. Matter of fact, Eliot has been to Belize and saw Te-Cal which is another Mayan location. Being a religion teacher you may think that I would have a specific desire in the ancient pantheon of gods but in truth, it's cool for about 10 minutes and then it's hot as hell and all I want to do is find a shady area and a cocktail.

Our afternoon, was spent in Xel-Ha which a natural water park. There are so many cool things to say about this place. First off, everything is included. Food, lockers, drinks, alcohol, ice cream, towels, snorkel gear...the list goes on. So there is no worrying about anything. Of course the super cool part is being able to snorkel in fresh water...well snorkel at all. I had never been. I know I am a Florida but it's really never come up. To be honest, most Floridan natives, enjoy the beach in limited amounts as long as there are activities...a walk, a frisbee, a smoothie...we aren't really much for sitting in the heat and getting burnt. In the Westcoast I suppose the snorkeling thing has never really come up. I love it!

It was so neat. I could have done it for days. Xel-Ha also had hammocks to nap in which Eliot did. There was also Cenotes to explore, tropical parrots, jungle, and caves. We totally when snorkel-spulunking. It was awesome. Eliot has promised a trip to a coral reef very soon so I can experience even cooler more colorful fish.

In truth there was a moment, that there was a school of fish and several others all coming at us, or so it seemed and it was fairly intimidating. Imagine giant fish with funny headgear at your windows. I mean it's a little invading. For me there is a dual reaction of absolute awe and a "Oops, uh sorry! Take the gumps to school, don't mind me."

I could tell you about my nemesis on our tour. A pretentious American woman whom if I was a fighting lady I would have smacked at some point. Particularly on our way home when we were taken home in a van separate from the rest of the group because our hotels were had fewer people. Evil lady after several snippy comments during the day, couldn't help but distract Victor the driver by telling him how she had an awful day and that she didn't really think the Mayans had any truth to their practices. Seriously. Sigh. Victor was distracted while driving 5 MPH on the interstate trying to recommend books to Evil lady. But instead of harping on her, I will move on.

Today we got up headed to the beach and were laying under our cabana for about four hours. There was a rainstorm so we moved under the bar and then went back out. We got back to our hotel and showered, napped. We went out for a last bit of shopping and dinner. The Gaurkee's head home early in the morning!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Mexico: Day 4

Ah the Spa. We woke up and had breakfast which oddly I have done every day on this honeymoon. Breakfast is amazing with tons of choices and really the best cafe con leche on Playa. Our hotel owes a chunk of beach with complimentary cabanas for it's visitors so we walked down to the Caribbean shoreline and enjoyed a gorgeous morning at the beach beign waiting on by Pancho.

In the afternoon our Spa day officially began. Spa Itza is a part of the Hotel La Tortuga. Apparently, Eliot had read somewhere that it used to be called Itza Spa but they got tired of all the American giggles, so they made a little change. It still makes me giggle. Our first appointment was for a Sauna, Steam and Herbal bath. We were excorted to the lockrooms to slip into a thin white sheet and robe and then taken to the roof. When we arrived at the roof there was a tiny little hut, much like an igloo, with a even tinier wooden door. They openned it for us and asked us to crawl in. The tiny hut had steaming black rock. Within 10 minutes I had had enough of the steam clean effect and switched over to the Sauna. It was a traditional Sauna with rocks which was not any more successful to me than the hut. You combine an already tropical climate with a person that is from a tropical climate and whose entire bloodline comes from a tropical climate, you can't imagine that a tiny hot box is going to be the highlight.

Shortly after we were taken to our bath. The room was decorated with candlelight and beautiful flowers that were floating in our bath and placed all over the room. We slipped in and relaxed. Our escort took turns giving us head and neck massages. It was lovely. Once we were finished we retreated to our room and took a nice long nap.

Afterwards, we returned to Spa Itza and were greeted by our earlier escort for our Maya Clay treatment. Once again we were asked to remove all our clothing and wear only the light robe provided. Once we arrived to our treatment location there were too twin beds that had simple white towels on them. Eliot and I were instructed to put on the tiny foe-paper underware that only covered what the leaves did for Adam and Eve. We were to lay in our beds head to head. Our treatment specialists entered and it began.

The soothing music was in play and the ladies first began to exflolitate our entire bodies with a concoction that was in a small ceramic bowl. Every inch of us was lathered and then thin foam flipflops placed on our feet and we were lead to the showers. We rinsed phase one.

Once again we were placed on the beds but this time there was no white towel but instead it was yellow plastic seran wrap. Phase two was the Mayan Clay. From toes to hairline we were covered in Mayan Clay. Warm tea bags were placed on my eyes as the process was being completed. Then, like giant burritos the layers of wrappings began. First the yellow seran wrap. Second a canvas weight cloth. Third a leather something or other. (Note I can't move since I was clayed up and I can't see through tea bags, so this is all based on what it felt like.) Finally some sort of straps were placed on top to make the perfect burrito. She whispers in my ear to let me know that she will return shortly. The lights are dimmed and the exit stage right.

Instantly I start laughing. The absurdity of being wrapped up like a burrito in a Mexican Spa. Eliot is over there meditating or something. I believe that this response is...I'm relaxing. I can't really relax. I am naked with a paper thong and wrapped up so tight, plus I can't see a thing. Our Mayan Clay rubber returns and slowly opens us up. It is now that I understand. It is magical. We are bought once again to the showers to rinse. Now we through our paper skivvies and our skin is softer than a baby's bottom. We ahve been restored.

Phase three begins. We are cleansed, softened and now mint lotioned from head to toe. The slight tingly feeling of the lotion is an amazing feeling. Even now, the day after, my skin is still unprescendently soft.

After our Mayan Clay wrap, the pampering continued with his and her pedicures. Not only was this recommended by our very own Tracy but we did feel it was a perfect treat for us considering our love our feet. Eliot had never had one before so that was even better.

I have been thinking about this feet thing. Why feet? Well, feet help you travel from one point to another. Feet always force you to take things one step at a time. To enjoy the journey. Feet hold you up on days that even when your heart or mind can't seem to. So our feet together just makes us remember that we walking together, side by side, in tiny little huts or lathered up in strange clay, together we venture on the journey.