Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Destination Mexico

I have always loved airports. The weird way that time is suspended. The only time in my life when I feel fully capable of relaxing is on a plane or waiting for one. There is no reason to check texts or email, there is nothing to be done except sit tight for a few hours. Sometimes, even, you can't leave your seat or turn on any electronic devices for a good twenty to thirty minutes. It's blissful.

Aboard a flight is the one time I don't feel the need to be self-improving. I'm all about self-improvement: saving money, saving time, having healthier habits and thought processes, etc. etc. etc ad nauseum.

Right now, we're sitting in an airport lounge awaiting our flight from Dallas to Cancun having spent the last three days in New Mexico. Which was lovely. I have spent all of my adult life living on the east coast of the US, and things like deserts and mountains and coyotes (which are incredibly wee, bee-tee-dubs) are delightfully exotic. Native American accents sound vaguely Midwestern to my Yankee eardrums, and everything comes with either red or green chiles. There is no option for no chiles- that would be silly. Your choices are: red, green, or starve.

I like green.

In the past year since my boyfriend moved overseas and we began an Xtreme Long Distance Relationship spanning 7,500 miles, I have spent more time in airports than I have in my entire life. It seems like our lives are on some weird new calendar where we spend 2-3 months living day to day with jobs and microwave lunches and late meetings and laundry and gym bags; apart from one another, and then weeks at a time measuring layovers, time changes, boarding times, checked baggage, missed connections, and currency exchanges. From a distance, it feels surreal. From my standpoint, it just feels like part of my "new normal". The wanderlust part of me is ecstatic. The controlling part of me is stressed and exhausted. But this is life, for now.

We have two more hours before we can board our flight to Mexico for a 5 day vacation. As always, I fret about the suitcases making it to our final destination, that the shuttle will be there to pick us up at the airport, and that our reservation hasn't been lost. I worry about new climates and drinking the water and transferring currency. I check work emails and fret about the cats back at home. Once I get to the destination, Ill relax. And in the air, too. Because there's nothing you can do about any of it once you're buckled in - captain's orders - and on your way. Just read your book, wonder if anyone ever buys anything from Sky Mall magazine, and look at the ground below. That is your sphere of living at these moments. So small, so manageable.

Not that I'm complaining about any of it. It's just the way things are for us, right now.

Friday, March 22, 2013


Fist pump! White-girl holler! We're going on Spring Break, bitcheessss!

The Gentleman is in town, and we have already had sushi, Indian, and our favorite martinis. Tomorrow, we leave for the Land of Enchantment, New Mexico. I have never been to New Mexico, and pretty much everything I know about it comes from watching Breaking Bad and reading Tiger Eyes. I imagine lots of canyons, nuclear warfare, turquoise jewelry, and meth. The Gentleman assures me that it also has excellent (and spicy!) food, beautiful scenery, lots of Native American culture, and that the meth and nuclear activity is not usually something viewed by tourists. I believe him because he grew up in Albuquerque and might know what he is talking about.

We are spending a few days with his family and then heading to Cancun for the remainder of the week. I have much book reading and podcast listening to catch up on, and after this nasty and bitterly cold winter, I can think of nothing better than parking myself on the beach for a week. I'm hoping we'll get in some good snorkeling too. Despite the fact that I have a very real and overwhelming fear of open water, I do love snorkeling. I just can't think too much about it. 

And, mostly, I am happy to spend time with my lovely boyfriend who would probably take a shark bite for me and refills my drinks without me even having to ask (sometimes). 

When I return, there shall be photos and stories to share. And probably some radiating sunburn.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

My Friends Are Awesome

Legs is not the only one sprouting creative all over the web these days. It seems several of my friends are doing some pretty amazing things - from cooking to fashion to devotion to gratitude. I proud of all of them for taking these leaps, and highly recommend that you check them out:

Meet Kat, my former yoga/weight training instructor at my old gym, fellow bartender, and amazing writer friend. I find myself confessing lots of things to her and wanting to hug her all the time. She's my white Oprah. Right now, she's launched a 21-day Gratitude Project, which is pretty impressive. I always forget to be grateful for things. Unless it's yoga pants. I'm usually pretty grateful for those.

Meet Katie, a friend of mine from Girl Scouts/middle school/high school/college (we've known each other for a little while) that lives here in Baltimore and with whom I have recently reconnected. She is always awesomely dressed. She was sporting very fetching accessories during the St. Patrick's Day 5k last Sunday - the only runner in Kate Spade earrings, I'd wager. She's also hilarious. Her "I Love It, Now What?!" posts are excellent tips for wearing super fashionable items.

Meet Sweet Potato and Spice, another lass that I came up with in Annapolis and recently reconnected with here in Baltimore. She's really smart and does things that involve science for a living, but she's also apparently pretty wicked in the kitchen. Pumpkin black bean burgers sound good to me!

Great job, girls, way to keep blogging alive!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

A Most Excellent Dinner

First off, you guys all need to go and check out my Book Club girl Legs's blog here. For years, we have all been entertained by Legs's emails which veer so far off-subject that you can't help but read, intrigued and amused. YOU SHOULD START A BLOG, I think we all said. Or we would have, if we could stop laughing. Either way, she did, and it's awesome. 

And now onto the good stuff:

My friend, The Kid, made a pretty awesome dinner last night.

It was a bit of a surreal experience, because The Kid is now currently living in the house owned by his older brother, my bestest Wingman Lee who decided to get married to (the awesome) Hot Curry and move off to the (not quite so awesome? Jury's still out?) city of Salt Lake a year and a half ago. Also now residing in this house, where I spent many a reckless evening drinking vodka and complaining about my life, is my own dear brother. He and The Kid have actually made a lovely home in Lee's absence, and it was quite clean despite what you'd expect from two boys.

I say surreal, because it's always odd to walk into someone's house when they no longer live there, and see all the similarities and differences. The couch is in the same position, but it's not the same couch. The enlarged framed Boardwalk Monopoly card is still on the wall, but now it's opposite an epic picture of a crashing wave that The Kid "found in the shed out back." It's the same house, but it's different.

Anyway, before I get too sentimental, let me go back to the food. The Kid is a freaking fantastic cook, and I'd heard rumors of this fact from my brother who was amazed that cooking involved more than "heating things up." But my pal Emily and I had yet to witness this for ourselves, and so The Kid invited us over last night for one of his delicious meals. And hot damn, did he deliver. 

The Kid made us chicken parmesan. Seems pretty simple, right? I guess, but SOMEHOW IT TASTED MAGICAL. I have no idea how this happened. I was drinking wine the whole time, however, and babbling on about politics so I may have  missed some steps. 

Step one: pour wine. Into plastic glasses. Because we're classy.
The first step to being an excellent cook - get some tattoos. Then de-fat chicken breasts. Mohawk optional but preferred.
Step two: arrange radishes prettily next to panko bread crumbs, prepare dipping procedure. Make sure wine is handy.

Throw that shit in a pan, and brown it for the amount of time it takes Emily to find a parking space, come in, and pour herself a glass of wine. That's a metric measurement.

Stick them in the oven with some magic sauce and some mozzarella cheese on top and bake for the amount of time it takes for all three of us to catch up on gossip and make big plans for the future and drink more wine. Again - metric measurement.

Pull that 'ish out of the oven, cut in  half to test. The Kid says that the proper time to cook chick en and bacon is "until you think it needs just one more minute - that means it's done." Totes brill.

The Kid made us basil panna cotta with strawberries for dessert (NBD, RIGHT?!). Shown here with classy wine glass to prove that The Kid only purchases multi-use materials.

Long story short, it was an incredible dinner, and I had some incredible chicken parm leftovers for lunch today. You know something is good when you can microwave the hell out of it in your crappy work microwave, and it's still so delicious that you  have to stop answering emails at your desk to sit and enjoy the zen moment of cheese, breaded chicken, and marinara. Awesome.

In other news - The Gentleman arrives next week, and we are taking off for his hometown of Albuquerque, New Mexico, and from there on to Cancun for 6 days where I can be found lying on the beach reading Ann Patchett and drinking tropical things. Buh-bye.

Also - The Gentleman's family procured us tickets to go to the rodeo in NM. I. Cannot. Wait. Pictures to follow.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Beverages - Prague and Berlin

It's snaining out.

Basically, it means we've all gotten a day off of work (at least those of us in the government/education/nonprofit sectors, and everyone who works for Yahoo! because they can't work from home) for the fact that it's cold, windy, and spewing some sort of snow-rain combination from the sky. The National Weather Service keeps promising that the snow will begin in full force over the next couple of hours, and that we're guaranteed 4-8 inches (heh heh), but I have my doubts.

Nonetheless, I am embracing my day off in true "snow day" style - yoga pants and my old University of South Florida sweatshirt, cinnamon gingerbread coffee, and a mimosa. (Duh.) My plans for the day include finishing up this blog, and then going back to "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks" (which I CANNOT PUT DOWN) and perhaps some more episodes of Downton Abbey later on, although I can't say that I'm particularly pleased with the current plot line. I'm still catching up on Season 3, and I feel like I've spent the last couple of episodes transitioning from sobs of despair to tears of joy and back again. 

So, it seems like the perfect day to listen to some Stan Getz, drink mimosas, daydream about the fact that in less than 3 weeks I'll be in Cancun, and reminisce about all the delicious things we drank in Prague and Berlin.

Now THAT is an Irish Coffee. Strong, barely sweetened, with lots of real whipped cream on top. And full of caffeine! So that you can stay up late and drink more drinks!
So, let me be clear and say that neither my boyfriend nor I particularly LOVES absinthe. I am not a fan of liquorice to begin with, and a very strong alcoholic beverage that smacks of anise and liquorice is not my cup of hallucinogens. Which brings me to another point: despite popular opinion, no where in the world still sells wormwood-laced absinthe. This is not the Green Fairy of legends - it's just a super strong, gasoline-smelling, thick liqueur that people order for the sheer thrill of ordering absinthe. But it's making a comeback in America. Absinthe was big in Philly when we were there a couple of years ago; I remember it being a key ingredient in a lot of cocktails at various bars. And that we enjoyed as well, because when mixed with the right ingredients, absinthe can really pull a cocktail together.

That all having been said, there's a pomp and circumstance with straight absinthe that almost makes it worth the taste, and for this alone The Gentleman and I tend to order it whenever we see it on a specialty bar menu, just to compare presentations. So, naturally, our first night in Prague when we saw absinthe on the menu, we ordered it. 

At this particular Czech establishment (Staropramen Brewery in Praha 1), it came with its own pitcher of sugar water. Normally, there is some sort of sugar-cube/fire/dripping water process, but this one just came straight up with sugar water on the side. All absinthe is meant to be drank with sugar and water, but this was the first time we'd had to do all of the work ourselves. It was exhausting.

Because we were there a few days after Christmas, all of the Christmas markets were still up and running. Wooden stalls selling sausages, beers, mulled wine, and trinkets line pedestrian areas. And you can buy alcoholic beverages and walk around on a cold winter's eve with warmth in your hands. I AM STILL NOT OVER THIS.

Warm honey mead at a stall at one of the Christmas Markets. It basically tastes like warm, alcoholic honey. It was a bit sweet, but I could totally see adding this to some hot tea for a delightful toddy.

After we sampled the absinthe at Staropramen, I ordered an apple liqueur. It tasted like apple-infused gasoline and warmed me right up. 

One night, without any real plans in mind, we stumbled luckily across the Prague Beer Museum.  Here, you can order flights of beer selected from their impressive (and detailed) menu. Each beer is outlined with its own history, tasting notes, notes on the brewer, and interesting facts about the brewing culture at the time the recipe was originally brewed. We sampled about 14 flights of beer. No, not really. But kind of. Maybe.

Damn, Prague has good beer. And it's not stingy, either. Competing with Germany for Largest Stein:

I mean, it's basically the size of my head. And that beer drank like a meal. I think I finished about half of it and gave the rest to The Gentleman who drank that in addition to his own Giant Stein O' Beer. Because he is badass.
 Because we were in Prague for New Years Eve, we'd booked tickets for a Jazz Cruise. Don't be fooled - it's not nearly as swank as it sounds, but it WAS fun. It was definitely Czech-down-homey, complete with a "welcome drink" (a shot of schnappes) and jazz that definitely sounded more "OOMPAH" than "BA DA DAAA". I think the tickets were like $75 each, and included champagne, welcome drink, and a buffet dinner. The rest of the drinks we had to pay for, and while they weren't the cheapest drinks we'd had in Prague (where a Giant Stein O' Beer will cost you about $4), they were certainly cheaper than anything you'd find stateside or in the rest of Europe. I think a bottle of champagne was about $20, and individual glasses of wine/beer were about $7. 

We shared a table (because you have to share tables on this cruise) with a young British couple who got engaged that night. We celebrated their engagement with champagne and shots (Jeger for the boys, Sambuca for the girls). At midnight, everyone went up onto the roof of the boat for the fireworks that exploded up and down the river. It was a perfectly beautiful way to ring in 2013. 

The first round.

Later that evening....

I mentioned there was a vineyard next to the Prague Castle.I should also mention that the wine served there is....young. Very, very young wine. The kind that makes you suck in your cheeks. And possibly your eyes might water a bit. Just tell yourself it's the breathtaking scenery. 

A typical order in a typical Czech restaurant of: a dark beer and a white wine, please. Someone in this picture is getting gypped. 

I have no idea why, but there is some obsession in Prague with cannabis-flavored everything. Teas, beers, energy drinks...I can't imagine why you'd want to flavor a perfectly good beverage with the taste of my college roommate's breath.  

One night, we went out to "Europe's Only 360-degree Rotating Bar" at the Fusion Hotel. I had expected some sort of giant tower/rotating floor situation, but it turns out that the room stays still and the bar ITSELF moves. It was still pretty awesome, and they played good music and had a nice crowd. They also have side rooms with Playstations and couches. My God, I love Prague.

Drinks at 360 - this was some kind of whiskey strawberry concoction that looks a lot fruitier than it tasted.

We stayed at the Boscolo Hotel in Prague, and I fell in love with the bar in the lobby. 

I WANT THIS. Glass rack at lobby bar, Boscolo Hotel.

To Go-sie mulled wine at a Christmas Market. At 8:30am. IF THEY'RE SELLING, I'M BUYING.

There were also Christmas Markets still set up in Berlin when we arrived on January 2. SELLING MULLED WINE AND BEER AND SAUSAGES. Hooray!

Drinks at the rotating bar at the top of the Berliner Fernsehturm. Mine was some sort of cranberry-bourbon-spritzer thing that was deeeelisshus.

For a hotel bar, Catwalk at the Marriott in Berlin was gorgeous and had an excellent cocktail menu. We wound up there on our last night, because it was cold and raining and we had to get up at 7am to catch our respective flights back to Baltimore and the United Arab Emirates. After a week of traipsing around Eastern Europe, it was lovely to kick back in an up-scale bar twelve floors below our room and just enjoy cocktails and pretty scenery.
A grand "cheers" to end our week-long trip to Prague and Berlin for New Years, 2013. More adventures to come!

And so, I wrap up our holiday trip. Just in time to prep for heading out to New Mexico and Mexico in a couple of weeks when The Gentleman comes home for leave! Hooray vacation!