Just Wandering

Today Scott and I are on our own, Jerry has to work. We have no car so we wander around checking things out withinin walking distance. We are looking for a nearby beach. We find a beautiful little marina, we find a little park. Remember I still have a lot of weakness in my legs so we can’t walk too far. The sky is looking ominous. We better head back, never find the beach.

We head back to the Metro and play some penny slots at the casino. I was playing with a $10 voucher the hotel gave me. At one point I was up $16! Then I quickly lost it all. I don’t think I’m cut out for gambling! It’s lunch time now so we head back to the Metro. We found our friend Linda there. She talks us into trying the croquetas, delicious little ham filled pastries(not really a pastry) more of a doughy fried treat. I have mofongo de pollo with mushroom sauce, it is like mashed plantains and cassava stuffed with chicken, very good indeed. Scott had the can can pork, this is a huge pork chop, the fat is left on and cooked to a crispy deliciousness! This food is very good but I am surprised that with all the abundant vegetation here, the cuisine is not bursting full of fresh tropical fruits and vegetables. Linda orders spaghetti, what!? Why would you order spaghetti in Puerto Rico? Interestingly enough Linda travels quite a bit and explains how she likes to order spaghetti in different places because you can get it just about anywhere and it always has a local twist and flavor to it. Turns out she was right, her spaghetti came with a light brown sauce and it had potatoes in it. More like a stew on pasta than the traditional Spaghetti and meatballs I grew up with. In the future I might have to try this. As for now I enjoy finding Puerto Rican foods that I am unfamiliar with.

We are still pretty tired so we spend the rest of the day hanging out by the pool, swimming and relaxing. The next few days are jam packed with adventure. So we better rest up!

Finally!

More waiting! Our flight keeps getting delayed. The 10:30pm flight turns into an almost midnight flight. If that would have happened this morning we wouldn’t have missed our first plane! There’s nothing we can do but wait. We board the plane and off we go!

We started Wednesday, it is now Thursday. It’s almost 3:00 am when we finally get to our hotel. We have been awake for almost 24 hours. I am beyond tired. The hotel is beautiful, clean, comfortable, a Hyatt House Hotel in San Juan. I notice lots of tropical vegetation and hear the little Ko-Kee frogs singing as we walk to the hotel, they sound like birds. I hit the bed and pass out. When we finally wake up we realize…we are finally here, we are in Puerto Rico! I am still really tired. We go hang out by the pool for a while. I do a little swimming, it feels good. I decide to try and swim every day while I am here to try and help work out the pain that I have been dealing with in my shoulder. I think it’s a damaged nerve. I dry off and soak up a little sun for awhile, it feels so comforting. Nothing to do but pamper myself!

We take a little walk and soak in some of the Puerto Rican flavor. Everyone is so friendly and eager to offer directions or advice. I am amazed that almost everyone here speaks english easily and fluently. They can switch back and forth from spanish to english effortlessly. We head to the Metro and have some amazing local cuisine. I had the Montuno Cubano, which has diced pork which is boiled then fried and sautéed in onions, a tamale, congri rice, and casava. Scott had a wonderful dish, Lomillo A Caballo,  beef steak and eggs. It was delicious and there was so much, we took some home for later.

Late afternoon we drove to La Torre, a cool little town, where we got to watch some filming of the movie that Jerry has been working on. A colorful patchwork of little buildings and restaurants lined the streets. All the sights and sounds were intoxicating. Pigs on spits, pallets for firewood, fried foods, hanging coconuts and plantains. Stray dogs, cats, and wandering chickens everywhere! We went to the Waterfront restaurant to pick up some food for the actors, it was on the Loiza boardwalk. The ocean was beautiful!

We had dinner with the filming crew. The caterers were set up in the middle of a field under a tent. The food was delicious. I was still kinda full from our late lunch, so I ate light. Scott had what he thought was a pile of mashed potatoes, turns out it was mashed plantains and they were delicious, way better than potatoes! We met some interesting people and had some good conversations. As night fell we started to get bitten by no see ums, it was time to go. We were still pretty tired.

Today was a day to relax, unwind, and depressurize from the last few weeks. I am amazed, we are finally here, in Puerto Rico!

Easter Enjoyment

I am definitely getting better. Some days I feel like I’m back to my old self. Some days, when I do too much, I get all achy and crappy feeling again but generally I am making progress. We had a wonderful Easter. I cooked Friday and Saturday. I made Greek Easter bread and potato salad, and baked beans, and ambrosia, and we had a Honey Baked ham, deviled eggs, green bean casserole, and spiced apples. Not to mention a little spring cleaning and shopping. Too much food for sure. I am grateful to be able to have so much, we will be eating leftovers for days! Every year we say we will cut down on the menu but everyone seems to have their favorites so we can never narrow it down. The guys pitched in to help and I was thoroughly enjoying myself. I couldn’t have done this a few weeks ago! I was on my feet a lot. My thighs still get tingly and burn if I stand up too long and I did. So the next day I knew I would have to take it easy. But thats alright I’m just happy to be able to be cooking again.

Good friends and good conversation. At this time in my life one of the things I find myself enjoying the most is getting together with good friends and sharing a meal. It brings me such joy to be able to connect with others and share a laugh or two. When I was not feeling well I couldn’t participate in the kitchen (or anything else for that matter) as much as I would have liked but Easter (a time of renewal and new beginnings) gave me the opportunity to get back in the kitchen and start kicking butt! Feeding people great food is very rewarding. Eating is such a basic human need. I guess this is why almost every celebration is based around food.

I have really come to realize how important the people in my life are to me. I have so much fun with them. I absolutely love adventurous eaters, nothing crazy but people that are willing to try new things. I have so much fun introducing someone to a new delicious food. It’s crazy to me that some people are so set in their ways, they never want to try anything new, thats no fun! I am learning, more and more, that it really is the people that come into your life that make it interesting. Even if just for a brief encounter you may be enlightened or inspired by new thoughts and perceptions. In this crazy, rushed world we live in take the time, put down your phone and interact with someone. You just might be amazed!  Even just a genuine,” Hello, how are you?” can make all the difference in the world to someone. Thank goodness that through all my chemotherapy and treatments my tastes are still the same, yea! I am ready for new foods, new friends, and new adventures! To be able to actually participate in life again is such a blessing!

Synchronicities

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My Muse

Part of my blogging was supposed to be a journal of sorts to capture the grand journeys and adventures of my life. A funny thing I have noticed is that I am inspired to write about the little things, the day to day things, the mundane. The interesting little moments of my life. Maybe they are less intimidating or maybe it is the little things that matter most,  I’m not sure? But I do believe that my travels are amazing and I am so grateful for the opportunities that I have been given. Travel has enriched my life so much and in ways I’m sure I don’t fully understand yet. If you ever have the opportunity to travel, please take it! It has a way of making you appreciate the little everyday things even more!

Last summer when we where in LA, Scott and I took a little walk from the Santa Monica pier to Venice  Beach. We were just strolling along people watching and taking in the views and atmosphere of this interesting place. Pacific Ocean to our right with its balmy sea breezes and sandy beaches and shops and vendors to our left with all kinds of cool and interesting items to entice. I bought a really cool backpack and an awesome hat oh, and a great little sketchbook too!

Food trucks everywhere! People everywhere! Walking, running, eating, biking, sitting, napping, swimming, so much activity! There is every kind of food imaginable there. You wouldn’t have to eat at the same place twice in a year, maybe longer, if you didn’t want to! We have a very limited number of good restaurants where we live and frequent the same few time and time again, not so many choices.

As we approached Venice Beach we got to walk on the very spot they filmed the opening scene for Threes Company, while singing the song of course! We met an amazing artist and she told us how they welcome artists at the beach, they don’t even charge them a fee to set up and sell their wares? This is amazing to me! She gets to sit on the beach everyday painting and selling her art! She told me if I come back, to bring some art with me and she will make space for me! Wow, where I am from it costs more to show your art than you could ever hope to make by selling it! Even though I only spoke to her for a few minutes she touched my life. I bought a painting from her that day and it inspires me every day and has taken my art career in a whole new direction! It is interesting how these synchronicities happen, I hope to see her again one day so I can thank her in person!

 

It’s All Good

IMG_0719Wow the beginning of the year, always a whirlwind of activity! There always seems to be so much going on, not to mention all the birthdays and out of town visitors we have at this time of the year. We just got through Christmas and New Years and the energy is high to get the new year kicked off right. So, you just started eating clean, your feeling so much better, fresh fruits and veggies in the fridge yea! Then the birthday cakes and the hot chocolate come, oh just a little won’t hurt! Have a bonfire on these wonderful cool crisp evenings, just one smore! Company comes, decadent food is prepared (you know you want to show off your cooking skills!) it seems like all we are doing is eating!!!I don’t know about you, but I like to eat cozy warming foods when its cold out, a salad just doesn’t seem to have the same appeal to me when it’s 30 degrees outside. The crazy food dance begins! Eat this, not that! Organic, GMO, local, free range, the list goes on and on! You can have a little, no you should NEVER eat that! Every year the information about food and healthy eating gets more and more confusing! Or should I say tiring?

It seems like a distant dream…sitting by a cozy fire with a cup of hot chocolate still in your jammies curled up with the dogs, a good book, and no guilty conscience….YEAH RIGHT! So much to do, often seems overwhelming. Not to mention the crazy weather we have here in Florida, one day its 80 degrees and the next day it is freezing. Cover the plants, uncover the plants, whoops forgot one…it froze! Blanket the horses it’s gonna be cold, uncover the horses their sweating in their blankets! It can be cold enough that you don’t want to go outside but, you still can. I think I have just realized this could be a downside of living in Florida, we never have a down time, a time to hibernate. I think nature wants us to slow down in the winter to reflect, relax, and renew. The earth does, the animals do, everything is asleep but me! I find that I rarely find the time to read a good book, and I love a good read. Note to self…make the time!

I know it is all just silly…I do it to myself! This month I have started a new artist support group at my studio, which had to be cleaned out and whacked into shape, I am experimenting with new forms of art and trying to meet a show deadline. Just started a new batch of Kombucha. I have reconnected with some old friends. Had some inspiring conversations and I am trying to meditate for 20 minutes a day. There are times to be still and times to get a move on! It’s all good!

Is it just me or…

Ok I certainly don’t want to rain on anybodies parade and I’m sure this has probably been someone’s best Christmas ever but for me I’m not so sure.

Now mind you my daughter is all grown up, I don’t have any children in my life right now. Christmas with children is always magical. I know Christmas is a wonderful celebration, a special time of year. But for some reason this year seemed flat. I’m not sure why? Maybe it’s the advertising and commercialism of the whole thing that seemed to start way back in October. By the time Christmas finally got here maybe we were sick of it. Maybe I got hit with the grinch stick, I don’t know? I tried to get into it, I tried to look forward to it. I usually enjoy the season, cozying up and drinking hot chocolate, sitting outside on a brisk night by the fire. But this year in Florida it has been 85 degrees, wearing tank tops and flip flops doesn’t put me in the caroling mood.

We did have family and friends come to visit and plenty of delicious lovingly prepared food. But for some reason I couldn’t help feel that it was all a lot of extra work. Maybe my mind was elsewhere, on things I had to put on hold for the holiday. Maybe it was the fact that we tried to not buy into all the hype. We are all grown ups and pretty much get the things we want and need. Every year  we rack our brains and fight the crowds to try to get everyone something thoughtful and unique. We run around spending money we don’t have on things we don’t need! Enough! We wanted to get back to the spirit of the holiday to enjoy each other’s company and share a nice meal.  It was nice not having the extra pressure of the perfect gift, but not everyone was on board. That made for some uncomfortable moments! Not to mention my 88 year old father trying to start up inappropriate conversations, that’s one way to quiet down a room, total silence! Lol But I guess that’s part of the getting together with family thing! As for not spending a bunch of money you don’t have at the holidays, that nice meal along with all the extras of feeding family and friends for days cost at least $500!  Not to mention days of shopping, cleaning, and preparation! I did pare it back as much as I could. Don’t get me wrong I did enjoy the cooking and baking we had a lot of laughs, the time in the kitchen was fun. We made some amazing breakfasts, and shared some delicious new foods with everyone, persimmons grown from my tree, a wonderful new bacon we found, eggs from our free range chickens, and turning people on to a fruitcake they could love! Scott made an entire turkey with all the fixins one day, Jerry and I made sauce and meatballs and lasagna, our traditional Christmas dinner. I also baked my famous fruitcakes and some blondies.

All things considered, I guess it was good. Even though we tried to cut back and make the holiday less stressful there always seems to be that rush, a flurry of craziness at the holidays. Maybe that’s what it’s all about? Maybe I will get it right next year. 🙂

Eat California!

Ok when you are out of town you want to experience the flavor of the area, right? One of the last things I want to do when I’m away is cook. And since my blog is kinda foodcentric I would like to share some of the interesting places we went to eat while we were in LA.

First, Jerry took us to Bru’s Wiffle a waffle joint right in the heart of downtown Santa Monica that serves all kinds of interesting waffles, burgers, salads and more. Everything is made from scratch and the portions are huge so bring your appetite! We had chicken and waffles, Bru’s favorite breakfast and a breakfast burrito all VERY good and an amazing drink called the Sunrise, which was a combination of fresh squeezed orange, grapefruit, and carrot juice with a hint of ginger. A wonderful way to start the day. We would definitely go back!

Sprinkles

Sprinkles

Next we took a little trip to CBS Studios and watched the taping of The Late Late Show with James Cordon, so much fun! Then we ended up at The Grove and went to The Cheesecake Factory for dinner, everything was great, absolutely  delicious!  Of course, I had to have some cheesecake, you can’t go to the Cheesecake Factory and not have cheesecake, right? I ordered the turtle cheesecake, it was worth all the extra calories! And while at The Grove we had to pick up a few cupcakes for later at the iconic Sprinkles. We ordered the green tea, the chocolate coconut, the s’more, and chia cupcakes.  I must admit, they were all wonderful but my favorite had to be the chia cupcake, of course you know I am addicted to chia!!!

Norms

Norms

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The next morning we were heading to Fox Studios for Jerry to give us a tour, so we stopped at Norms for breakfast, a down home diner kinda feel. Speaking of diners, we went to Mel’s Diner, one night, after strolling on the Hollywood walk of fame, it seemed fitting! It felt like we were transported back in time! I am not a huge burger fan but I ordered the sliders and the one made with the grass fed beef was amazing!

Pho So 1

Pho So 1

Ok I had heard of Pho, a Vietnamese comfort food, on TV and it was one of my goals to find some out here on the west coast. I have never had it, and all I knew was that it was some kind of noodle soup. Now Jerry and Scott are not quite as adventurous as I am when it comes to trying new foods, so I kinda had to put my foot down! They are pushovers when it comes to me, so I got my way and we went to Pho So 1. It was everything I had hoped for, fresh, delicious, and comforting.  The guys even had to admit they enjoyed it and would eat it again. Yummy, I wish I had some right now! Then off to the La Brea Tar Pits for the rest of the afternoon!

So the next day Scott and I were on our own, Jerry had to work. We went out to find some adventure. We spoke to Elizabeth at the Brentwood Inn, she was awesome! Hooked us up with Uber and suggested a few things we could do. She also told us about a wonderful little restaurant, her husband owned, called Cha Cha Chicken. So we took Uber to the Santa Monica Pier and walked to Venice Beach. Met some amazing artists, bought some cool art, and spent some time people watching. As we were heading back, we were not sure where we were and we were getting mighty hungry! On a whim, we decided to turn and head down this random street, and to our surprise there it was…Cha Cha Chicken! A colorful beach shack with an island flare and wonderful Caribbean food! They are famous for their coconut chicken, yum! They have sandwiches, wraps, salads, and more. I loved the plantains and the watermelon Aqua fresca was so refreshing!

The next day we started off at an elegant boulangerie cafe called La Pain Quotidien. I absolutely loved it! Fresh bakery smells and wonderful atmosphere. They create their menu around seasonal, organic ingredients, which is right up my ally! The food was delicious, felt like I was in Brussels! We ended the day at the Hollywood Bowl with the LA philharmonic orchestra playing the Bugs Bunny symphony! What an amazing evening!

The next day we spent boogie boarding at the Santa Monica beach and strolling down Rodeo Drive. By the evening we were ready for some stick to your ribs kinda food and Scott suggested  BBQ. What? Do they even do BBQ in California? Well despite much joking we found one named Holy Cow and holy cow it was good!

One last place I want to mention is Barneys Gourmet Hamburgers in Brentwood not your typical burger joint. If you are in the mood for a really good burger and truffle french fries, go! You won’t be disappointed!

Barneys

Barneys

California here we come!

Beverly Hills Hotel

Beverly Hills Hotel

Last week we headed out to California! It was the first time for all of us. Well Jerry has been there since April, Scott and I where flying out to meet him. We flew SouthWest it was a long flight. We had a 3 hour layover in San Antonio and by the time we got there all the little airport shops were closing. Seems like they should stay opened when people are coming and going, what to do for three hours??? We made it! When we got off the plane we almost didn’t recognize Jerry, he had lost quite a bit of weight and had grown out his beard! I saw him first and even though I pointed him out Scott didn’t see him! We had made a pact to try and lose some weight and get in shape, it was working! So happy to see him!

The weather in LA was amazing! We had just come from hot humid Florida. Florida in August is almost unbearable, I like the heat but…I don’t like opening my door at 6:30 in the morning and getting a wet slap of humidity first thing! At this time of the year everything is struggling, even the plants, horses are sweaty, bugs are bad, there is a never ending load of laundry to do because you have to change out of your damp clothes so often! So it was quite a nice surprise to step out into 70 degrees with a light breeze and NO humidity! Ahh heaven.

Santa Monica Pier

Santa Monica Pier

We were going to be in LA for ten days and what a ten days it turned out to be! We were staying at a cute little inn in Brentwood. The first day we ventured out to a place for breakfast called Bru’s Wiffle a Waffle House and we had chicken and waffles, delish! Jerry was our tour guide and showed us all around. We walked on Santa Monica beach, went to the pier, took a quick dip in the Pacific, went to the Pallisades. Tried to get our bearings. Growing up on the east coast it’s funny when you are in California because you feel like your always going in the wrong direction, the ocean is now to the west! I am a fan of interesting architecture and LA will not disappoint. You can tell it must be an architects dream to work in California. I don’t think there are two houses the same in any neighborhood. I loved the uniqueness of each place. Lots and lots of plants and interesting trees I am not familiar with. We got to tour a celebrities house and imagine how the rich and famous live. It was beautiful. So much fun, so much to see!

One of the most striking things to us was all the people. Now we are not from a big city, but there were people everywhere! And the traffic, omg the traffic! And parking…forget about it! To be continued…

Tie dye

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Celebrations…celebrations are rituals we perform. They are important.  I think holidays are a  way of stopping and marking time, to remember, to reconnect, to reach out. I once worked for someone that didn’t want to observe holidays, it was strange to me. In the United States we are such a melting pot which is great on one hand because you can adopt all kinds of traditions from varying cultures. But on the other hand, our traditions are watered down with so many other influences, it’s hard to remember it’s not just another sales event. I like a reason to stop and do things maybe a little out of the ordinary. Almost all celebrations are centered around food, and one thing is for sure, that gives me reason to go over the top with cooking and baking!

This past weekend was no different. Jerry and Scott are back and so began a wild frenzy of shopping and prepping, cleaning and cooking. After a delicious breakfast of fresh picked blueberries and peaches, blueberry pancakes, eggs and sausages.  We started cooking at 9am we smoked ribs three ways, smoked a pork butt too. We grilled corn and made cole slaw and baked beans and fruit salad and banana cream pie.

It was a crazy strange group of friends and family, with all the regular drama and issues people bring together, I imagine it would look like a tie dyed shirt from afar. Energy and excitement, pain and despair, sickness and health, love and hate, old and new. The human condition, in a microcosm of a group all brought together to hopefully enjoy lovingly prepared food in our humble backyard! A reason to celebrate.

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Waffle!

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Ok let me just say I am a very health conscious eater. I always try to eat fresh produce and cook with the healthiest, freshest ingredients I can find. Actually my preferred style of cooking is produce based and healthy. I shop local and love the farm to table and slow food movements. I even grow a lot of my own! I am a cook and I hate going out and paying high prices for something that I can make better myself. I fancy myself as a bit of a foodie, I really enjoy healthy deliciuosly prepared food. Even as a child I almost never ate any fast food. Sure I am human and every so often I crave a little junk food, but for the most part, it is not my thing.

So, and I don’t blame them, my friends think I am crazy when I tell them I love a good breakfast at The Waffle House. Now I know it’s not health food and I know it’s loaded with carbs and high in fat but I really do enjoy eating there sometimes. They do offer some lighter options on the menu. I enjoy a good breakfast but I am not always in the mood to get up and start cooking, and breakfast meals seem to require lots of pans and mess. Unless I have a lot of time on my hands I usually just make something quick. So breakfast is my favorite meal to eat out. My friends say ” oh I can’t believe YOU eat there “and they call it the awful house. But honestly the one near my house is always very clean and you know the food is being cooked right in front of you. You can watch them prepare your meal just for you, nothing heated up in the microwave or left over from last night! Since I have worked in the restaurant industry I enjoy watching how efficiently the staff operates, it is like a little assembly line!  I love a good omlete and hash browns. The atmosphere is always upbeat and friendly, always a warm greeting when you walk in the door, also an interesting place to people watch, and the prices aren’t bad either.

Apparently, I’m not alone there are 2100 locations in 25 states in the United States. Most of the locations are in the southeast where the chain remains a cultural icon. The first one opened on Labor Day weekend in 1955 in Georgia. The “Yellow Sign” soon became a familiar landmark. The juke box plays a variety of Waffle House songs, how many restaurants do you know that have songs written about them? They are open 24 hours a day 365 days a year which inspired urban myths such as “Waffle House doors have no locks.” A unique American phenomenon started as just an idea between two guys to serve “GOOD FOOD FAST.” And just a fun fact, since 1955 they have served over 2,501,866,574 eggs so I certainly can’t be the only one that likes a good Waffle House breakfast!

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