31 May 2009

NOLA iv | Beignets & Ghosts

A sign of clothing comfort: I woke up still wearing my dress. It was wrinkled. We hit Bourbon Street after the reception and I think I suggested pizza. Too bad the smell made me want to be sick. I truly lament this, because the pizza was delicious. I wanted to eat it. But as soon as I ate it, I wanted to un-eat it. My dear friends Abby & Elizabeth began escorting me home. Jesse was there too, wearing two pairs of silly glasses and some sort of mask. Abby was my main guide, which is ridiculous because she's at least 4 inches shorter than I am. She rolled us into a car, and rolled her ankle in the process. Once we got to the hotel room, Abby, Elizabeth & I went to bed. Jesse went back out on the town. You'll have to ask him what he saw.

Abby was the first to leave Saturday, and Tab & Mike came to our room to say goodbye. Whatever the reason, it's great to have the bride & groom come to you the day after the wedding. I just wish I were in better form.

The itinerary for that day included beignets at Cafe du Monde. I did not know what a beignet was before I went, but it's a "must have" for anyone visiting New Orleans. This implied something amazing and I admit I was disappointed. First, an admission: I was hungover, and I wanted greasy breakfast food. I thought the cafe had options and that I'd be able to get a breakfast in addition to my phenomenal beignet. Not so much.

Cafe du Monde is one of two rackets I found in New Orleans. It's a goldmine. First of all, the only things on the menus are beignets (which must be creole for "funnel cake"), and beverages (the iced coffee was a real treat). The beignets were delicious - not too greasy, not too crispy, very absorbent. But I had a hard time figuring out how fried dough covered in sugar could be not good. I didn't see anything unique in them - nothing to make the beignets a "must have." But it was "mission accomplished" for the tourism department - the place was packed. The beignets are $1.82. The coffee is $1.82. The orange juice was $1.82. The seating is in a covered patio, with chairs, tables, and a floor that are all easily cleaned with a pressure hose. The staff was clearly working for tips, so I assume no one makes much more than minimum wage. The overhead on a place that serves tens of thousands of fried dough pieces on a covered patio cannot be that high. Goldmine. It was an experience though and I'm glad I had it.

We did eventually get a real breakfast at Cafe Fleur de Lis, across the street from our hotel. We had ambitous plans after that. We were going to ride a trolley and pass through other neighborhoods. Jesse was going to have a muffaletta at Serio's Deli, where Iron Chef Bobby Flay lost a throwdown. We were going to take a tour of haunted houses in the French Quarter. But we fell asleep, Serio's is closed on weekends, and the ghosts were too tired to come out for our cameras.



Jesse did get his muffaletta. The woman at the front desk recommended Franks. Jesse was not disappointed. Afterward, we met more than 30 wedding guests for a haunted house tour. I was the only one who brought a coupon. It landed everyone in the party $2 off admission. I was pleased with myself. I was also pleased with the tour, even though there were some serious drawbacks, which brings me to the second racket: Reverend Zombie's Haunted History Tours.

Here's what I learned: Louisiana was the place for anyone forced into slavery. There were laws that said slaves could only work 12 hours a day, and that they had to have one day off every week. Slaves in Louisiana had to be educated, reading and writing in English, French, and Spanish. The daughters of slaves and masters were totally privileged, because their skin made them sexy. They could be sold into contracts (for the price of a house and other items) and get more privileges than the white wives who were incapable of doing anything about their husbands wanting some (not too) dark meat.

That all came from the first stop on the tour. It contradicted most of the following stories, which involved places haunted by disfigured, emaciated, or mutilated slaves. I wanted to call the guide on these contradictions, but we were a large group and I did not want to prolong the tour. But I didn't have a bad time. I like good stories and she did give us some. Although Wikipedia did prove the juiciest story (the one about Delphine) wasn't heard of before 1998, when it appeared in a book published by a ghost tour company. Sigh. Reverend Zombie charged $20 an adult for these tours. We saw several throughout the night. The overhead of walking large groups through nice neighborhoods may even be less than that of frying dough and adding sugar.

I had a fabulous time in New Orleans, although I admit I did not get a good feel of Bourbon Street. I didn't go into any bars, where I'm told there was a lot of fun was to be had. And I don't remember Bourbon Street the night after the reception. What I saw during the day made me think of a poor man's Vegas. I left thinking I didn't like it, but also that I didn't have time to give it a real chance. I've decided to return.

30 May 2009

NOLA iii | The Wedding

One of the most awesome things about Jesse and me is that neither of us take a long time to get ready. I take more time than he does, because I clean (and moisturize) as I go. Neither of us have complex hair, wear make up, or sport accessories. It occurs to me we must be aesthetically boring to the casual observer. But when it comes to getting ready to go out, nobody does it better. We took our time getting ready for the wedding. I even chose to sport a few bracelets. Still we were ready with more than a half hour to spare.


Jesse in his suit.
We got it at a really good price at H&M.

It's not tailored or anything, but I like the way it looked.


Me in my dress. This is a rarity, although I did wear one for my birthday. I now own two dresses. This picture is from the courtyard at the W French Quarter.


We saw the bride and bridesmaids as we left. Tab was in good spirits, which was great. I rarely get to see brides this close to the big moment. I assumed they were generally hysterical - either with relief or with apprehension. But Tab was just Tab. And that made me happy.

The venue was three blocks away at Latrobe's, and yet we still managed to not find it on our first try. We weren't far off course and got to see more historic buildings along the extra block we took. Being as dressed as we were, we surely looked to be the historical types. Latrobe's was brilliant. I'd say it was built to host weddings. It had a good mix of strength (exposed building materials) and warmth (soft
colors). The staff was mostly attentive and the food was delicious.

I don't have any decent pictures of the actual ceremony and I blame Jesse. I followed his seating suggestion, which put us too far back. Also the lighting was as soft as candlelight, which sent my camera into panic mode. Trust me when I say it was lovely. The cake was also lovely and was one of my favorite parts. Later I learned most of it was cardboard. Before then though I took a lot of pictures of it.


Jesse & I at the wedding.

The reception was nothing short of grand. Jesse and I were seated with people we knew, so there were no awkward seating moments. We had plenty of wine, and were seated nearest to the bar in the event we needed more. And we had Jesse -- who it turns out we needed to keep us all safe. Julie and I were having a lovely conversation about something or other when Jesse (seated on my other side) jumped to his feet. I looked at him and saw he was looking at the bread basket placed in front of me. It was on fire. Turns out the waiter moved one candle away from the basket, but not the other. Julie and I never noticed and the napkin caught fire. Jesse put out, the offending basket was removed, and our next batch had a smoky flavor.

Ashes on the table after the great bread basket fire of '09

Our seats near the bar turned out to be perfect for a wedding surprise for the newlyweds. A friend of theirs brought in an amazing street performer who sang for them. I don't remember his name and I only remember a few of the words he sang. But his voice made me feel love, and I cried. It was beautiful. I hope (if you're ever in New Orleans) you see him and have the opportunity to listen to him.




After that were speeches from Maid of Honor Abby and Best Man Stephen. Then we danced, and we drank. It's been a long time since I was with Tab & Abby and while both had divided attention, it was fantastic for us to be together again. It was even more fantastic that it was to celebrate Tab & Mike's wedding. In a word: happiness.

28 May 2009

NOLA ii | The French Quarter

We spent the morning of Mike & Tab's wedding walking through the French Quarter. The woman at the front desk gave us a lot of options for a small amount of time and we took advantage of them. First on our agenda: a walk Jackson Square. I enjoy places where the streets are the sights. The streets in the French Quarter are narrow. Cars seem out of place and I think people who dare to drive there know it. The area is defined by the buildings, their balconies, and the flowers thereupon. It's easy to imagine the French Quarter as its own small town. And we didn't have time to see anything else, so for us, it was.

Jackson Square pops up right in the middle of that cozy town. It was renamed for Andrew Jackson sometime after the Battle of New Orleans in 1814. There's a garden surrounded by an iron fence. It has a lot of open space (typical of squares you could say) and benches set in ideal locations for people watching. It's all very southern, with trees and other shade providers along the edges. There's also the Saint Louis Cathedral, the oldest Catholic cathedral in continual use in the United States. It's domineering, and clearly says "the Church is here. The Church is watching." It was less than comforting, considering the debauchery planned.

The Cabildo, where the Spanish leaders met when they ran Louisiana.


Around the corner, past the Tabasco store, and to the river we went. Honestly, it didn't look that mighty but I was not fooled. We sat there and I think I tried to absorb it all: where we were, the history my spot had seen, and the fact that we were almost on a real vacation. Still, I kept thinking "a few years ago, this was all underwater."

When Bourbon Street was Spanish, it was "Calle Bourbon."
There are signs like this on a lot of the streets in the French Quarter.


We walked along Decatur and to the French Market. There were lots of shops selling lots of different types of hot sauce and other condiments. Condiments are apparently a big deal there. We walked through the market and compared fruit prices. We found the Margaritaville and shook our heads. We walked through some residential streets and then turned to walk along Bourbon Street. It was my first sign I would not like what was to come. There was neon. There were bars. The pace was faster. But the buildings looked the same. It was too gimmicky for me and I dreaded thinking about what it was like at night.

And then we were back at the hotel, and it was just about time to watch Tab & Mike get married.

27 May 2009

NOLA i | Arrival

Jesse and I have officially been to the Big Easy. We went to New Orleans two weeks ago for a wedding. It was the first time I remember traveling for a wedding (Heather & Nick got married in Vegas) and the first time Jesse had been to a wedding with me. We planned the trip five or six months ago, back when Jesse had a job and when I first found flights for $300. Circumstances changed, but tickets were purchased and away we went.

The wedding was on a Friday evening. We arrived early that morning, ready to see the French Quarter. We only had two full days, so we decided against rushing to a lot of places. I admit the majority of what I know about New Orleans comes from Hurricane Katrina. I didn't know much aside from Mardi Gras before then and I haven't heard much positive since. So I was excited to see the city and love it, to find the charm and the history, and to make new memories with friends. And I'm pleased to report most of that happened.

We passed the Superdome on the way to the hotel and I almost didn't recognize it. It's whole, and looks certainly sturdy enough to withstand strong winds. The weather was pleasant and the area around the dome was clean. Still, I kept thinking there were people inside, or that there was no electricity, or that it was falling apart. Clearly I'm a victim of my own trade.

We stayed at the same hotel as the bridal party, (W French Quarter) and I highly recommend it. It's tucked along a quaint street and opens into a modern complex. I liked the layout, the colors, and the window that actually opened to the outside. If I do go back to New Orleans, I'd stay there in a heartbeat - assuming I could afford it.

First stop on our journey: the bride's room. Tab had hair and make up going before 9AM. The stylist was there with his own chair. The schedule was up and the bridesmaids were waiting. There was a 27 page itinerary, mimosas, bagels and muffins.

Jesse and I greeted the party then went to our room. I think the estrogen was starting to make him woozy. There was no real break from that though (we stayed in a room with three other girls), and he had to cope. We checked in with our roommates and while they slept off the rehearsal dinner, Jesse and I hit the quarter.


21 May 2009

The Avatar Saved The World. Who Will Save The Avatar?

I love cartoons. I always have. Cartoons are art worth imitating. There's usually a lesson. No one stays angry. No one stays hurt. There are laughs and pretty colors. My love of cartoons has kept me watching Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network, Toon Disney, and The Family Channel years after most people would have moved to more adult (or teen) channels. It helps me forget the things I hear and work and gives me a strong connection to my brother Ty. I've seen bad cartoons come and good ones go. One of my absolute favorites is Avatar, The Last Airbender. It was a series that had an end and now it's going to be a live-action movie. I was disappointed when I heard that - I would have preferred a cartoon movie. Today I learned more. And now I'm angry.



The series is drawn like anime. It's about a world divided into four nations based on the four elements. Each nation or tribe has members who can control (bend) their respective elements. The whole design of the show has an Asian / Native American feel. There are two Water Tribes. There is the Fire Nation. Each nation uses martial arts to conduct its bending. The people are diverse. The main character (Aang the Avatar) is supposed to be Asian - although he appears white after having been frozen for 100 years. His cohorts are brown, from a water tribe. Ready for the outrage? Here it is:

Let's ignore Dev Patel (global sweetheart) as Prince Zuko (driven / ruthless exile) for a moment to look at the original Katara and Sokka. They're clearly brown. The actors playing them clearly are not. This is not okay. I don't even know if I can explain it without a rant, but I will try.

There's no reason to make the brown people white. I'm outraged on two fronts. Firstly, My media classes taught me about this mainstream racism and my nostrils flare when I see it. Secondly, as a fan, white actors are not true to the story. It's bad enough it's not going to be a cartoon. Changing the look of characters makes a different movie altogether.

No. The ethnicity of the characters is not integral to the story. It's never mentioned and is never an issue. Theoretically they could have all been white, but they weren't. The cultures, the bending, the clothing all have what I would call Asian / Native American influences. The people behind a successful series designed the heroes that best fit within the world they imagined. It's not up to Paramount to change that. I mean it apparently is since it's been done, but it's not right and now I'm going to have to boycott a movie about which I was started to get excited. Paramount is using the classically Disney "white is good, dark is bad" perception that makes me unable to watch "The Little Mermaid." Overweight dark skinned villain? No thanks. I prefer my villains to be blond. Only I can't seem to think of any - from any kids' movie. Ever.

I mean really. If Mufasa and Scar were brothers, why was Scar so much darker?

Disney has grown. We're about to see our first black heroine. Yes, her love interest is a frog, and no I have not seen the coloring of her villain, but it's a significant step.

Now Paramount is regressing. Anime fans and Asians are angry. Boycotts are being organized, and I will be buying a t-shirt. I guess I'm an "Avatar Purist." I'm also against racism. The kids from "The Chronicles of Narnia" are white, and that's how they were written. I would not expect Superman to be black. I don't want Spiderman to be Mexican. Minorities have so few superheroes. It's just rude to take away three who have a loyal fan base. It's disappointing, and I'm sending tweets to a Paramount producer (@LeDoctor) and I'm hoping to effect change. I'll keep you updated.

All this Avatar talk has reminded me how much I love the show. I'm off to find at least the series finale - which was better than awesome.

19 May 2009

Support

I told my parents about the Marathon, and decided to share the response, since I was still smiling hours later.

 

My mom was impressed and asked me when she had to have her donation to me. She's going to tell all of her friends and have them support me as well. She's excited, which is exciting.

 

 

"A half? Why aren't you running the whole thing?"  - My dad.

 

 

I used to think my dad was never satisfied. I used to think nothing I did was good enough, and that he would forever be comparing me to the imaginary, dress-wearing daughter in his head. But yesterday I saw it differently. My father believes me to be supremely capable. He sees no reason for me to not to be able to run 26.2 miles if I can run 13.1. He said he'd double his donation if I did the whole thing. I told him I'd send half back to him. If anybody else can do it, and if I want to do some of it, then my dad believes I should do all of it.

 

He also thinks structured training is silly, and that I should just get ready on my own. So his mental capacity is questionable.

 

 

17 May 2009

There's Always A Story

We're leaving New Orleans today, and while we're at the gate with plenty of time before boarding, it hasn't been entirely awesome. We were the last to leave our room at the W French Quarter and that was fine. We ate at Cafe Fleur de Lis across the street and that was fine, although my cheddar hash browns had too much pepper. We got a taxi right away and had a smooth ride to the airport. Jesse printed his boarding pass, I opened my mobile pass, and only one of us got through security.

The woman recognized my mobile boarding pass and told me she did not have the capability to accept it. I was disappointed, but maybe I should have been angry. Delta (with full knowledge of my travel plans) allowed me to check in and display my boarding pass via my phone. I saw nothing either on their site, in my email, or at the airport telling me mobile boarding passes are not accepted. I think someone really should mention that to a tech-savvy, environmentally friendly passenger such as myself. It's an oversight. But I was able to print my boarding pass quickly and skip the line for my second trip. I could see my gate and wasn't worried. And then I got stopped for a bag check.

I had a full sized container of baby powder in my bag. It's muggy in New Orleans and I brought it to keep us fresh. Yes, I own a travel sized bottle, but it's in a box within a box in a storage unit in Vegas. And I've seen no point in replacing it. So, while powders are not *not allowed, they can prompt extra attention. That's my lesson to you.

My bag was swabbed. The swab was tested. I was deemed a non-threat, and sent onto my oversold flight. If I didn't have a connection, I would have taken those 400 Delta Dollars. No matter what happens, I'll still always want to travel.
~ Danie D.
Courtesy of my Verizon PinkBerry

15 May 2009

River Front

We're here. New Orleans - well the French Quarter at least - is quaint. I wish I were wearing shorts, instead of jeans. And I wish we had some sleep. But I'm excited to see what's ahead.
~ Danie D.
Courtesy of my Verizon PinkBerry

Flying Delta ii

Our first flight was smooth, although it seemed short. I woke up sometime near the end with a ridiculous pain in my tail bone. I wanted to scream, or at least get a butt rub. But that would have been obscene. We're on our second flight now, and should be in New Orleans in about an hour and a half. Originally, I wanted to get there and nap right away. But we're at the time I usually wake up for work. So I feel like I don't need to sleep anymore. That's what's my dad would call "crap," and as soon as I see a bed, my body will remember that.
~ Danie D.
Courtesy of my Verizon PinkBerry

14 May 2009

Flying Delta

We're on a plane heading to a wedding in New Orleans. We're flying Delta and I think it's the first time I've ever done so. I'm up way later than my bed time and I look forward to falling asleep. But I have things to share.
First impressions:

- This is the largest plane I've been on for a domestic flight. It's a Boeing 767-300
- The seats are more spacious (wider) than on other planes I've been on recently.
- I didn't realize Delta had private TVs. I'm not sure why that is.

The picture above is of the dryer I used in the restroom. It was awesome. It was a Dyson. That man is the epitome of innovation.

~ Danie D.
Courtesy of my Verizon PinkBerry

Continental, Please Clarify

Dear Continental Airlines:

Please release a statement, change a policy, and implement some rules. Please call CNN, create a twitter account, and start a grassroots PR campaign. Please, please, PLEASE Continental, tell me you train and test your pilots. Assure me you also train and test the pilots of the carriers you use. Tell me you do more than look at paper applications. Do not let my impression be shaped by the NTSB investigation of Flight 3407. Yes, the flight was operated by Colgan Air, but I see your logo in the video of the wreckage. So, dear Continental, I put it on you to fix this growing image problem you seem to be ignoring.

I really like your airline. I recently told the world all the things I enjoy, and why (despite the abundance of discount carriers) I think your flights are worth the money. My parents were impressed and told their friends. But all the quinoa, vegan cookies, and solid customer service in the world does not compensate for a pilot who may not be trained. Marvin Renslow failed three pilot proficiency tests, yet the FAA let him keep trying. He failed several "check rides," yet Colgan let him keep flying. He improved and did pass nine other inspections and tests a year or so before dying in that crash. But he didn't know how to use the emergency system on the plane he was flying. He was a slow learner and I have to say there are instances when allowances can not be made. A pilot with a learning disability and a co-pilot who knows she can't handle icy weather should not be flying together - especially not into Buffalo. Who thought that was a good idea? The onus falls on you Continental. It may not seem fair, but you should know it's all about perception.
"I hate U.S. Airways but Sully was obviously prepared." - Kate.
My good friend Kate also prefers Continental. She also has to take commuter connection flights when she visits her family. She is not okay with the idea that a poor pilot could be flying her plane. I am not okay with it either. Yes, flying is safe. And true, no one cares when planes land around the world without incident every few seconds. But inexperience can literally kill. When people pay to fly Continental Airlines, they pay you to get them safely to their destinations. They pay you to control everything they can't. That means plane maintenance, cabin pressure, luggage, and pilot capability. If I book Continental, Continental is responsible. I'm sure your contract with Colgan says differently, but again, it's the perception. Kate is scared other inexperienced pilots have made their way into your ranks. I'm nervous myself. I need you, Continental, to tell me it's okay, and to show me why.

It's not fair to single out your airline. The individuals at FAA and Colgan who allowed a "can do" attitude to overshadow "can't do" evidence have plenty to regret. And there are probably poor pilots at every airline. It's for the FAA to change. The agency needs a little discretion. Wanting to be a pilot should not be enough. Colgan says Renslow only disclosed one failure, not three. Colgan's HR department should learn not to take applicants at their word. My job called my references and I'm not responsible for any lives. For you though, it all goes back to that picture of the wreckage. Everything is burned. Nothing is identifiable. And there leans a tail fin emblazoned with your logo. I am asking you to restore my perception. Kate means a lot to me. Please and thank you.

12 May 2009

I Can And I Will

Six months from now, I will look underneath my belt and see "Nike Women's Marathon."

Mariana suggested we run it and after dismissing it entirely, I agreed. We'll be part of the Team in Training running to benefit The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. I don't have any specific connection to Leukemia and Lymphona (and would prefer to run for Multiple Sclerosis) but a cause is a cause and they're going to train me to be a distance runner. In exchange, I'll be a fundraiser. I'm less than thrilled about asking people for money, but I'll do it. Each of us has a fundraising goal, and we have to pay the difference if we don't meet it. So get your wallets ready.

I started telling people and they started telling people. That (by the way) is the easiest way to not back out of doing something. I'm excited to do this. I fully believe I can do it. I admit I'm not ready to do it just yet, but I am ready to train for it. I want to finish, and be changed in the process. I want to learn to run well. I want to have supervision, a network of support, and a deadline. The Team in Training will be my class, and the marathon will be our final. The training program (from what I've been told) is exactly what I want. I'm not good at teaching myself new things. I accept too many of my own excuses. But I am dependable, and knowing I'm expected to show up to training and run 13.1 miles for my donors is what it will take for me to get the job done. So most of the chips are in place for a successful showing. Most. But not all.

There is a cloud looming over my training. His name is Jesse, and he's usually my loudest cheerleader. He doesn't think I should do it, which I can understand. But he doesn't think I can do it, and that really bothers me. Let's start with Jesse's points.

  • I'm not a runner.
  • I'm not built like a runner.
  • I've never been a runner.
  • I've never been an athlete.
  • I'm top heavy.
  • That much running could damage my joints.
  • Running is boring.
  • Running is hard.
  • I'm going to chafe.
  • I'm going to get blisters.
  • He'll have to take care of me.
Those are all valid excuses, and surmountable problems. None of those excuses is reason enough to not try. What's worse is Jesse is usually very good at ignoring obstacles. I'm usually predicting Doomsday and he's usually finding the silver lining for every cloud. Now he's bringing the clouds, and I'm just going to let it rain.

Whenever we talk about it, other people join my excitement while Jesse stays quiet. He acts as if I'm going to run the race tomorrow, without any training at all, yet alone training designed for beginners. He acts as if I haven't been running on the treadmill and building stamina. He's acting as if I don't know I need training. He's acting as if I'm being foolish.

I don't expect him to say "I'll support you," but he hasn't even said "I'll help you." I told him it was clear he was against me, and he offered to never discuss it again - which I think further proves my point. I started to question myself. Maybe I can't do it. Is there something he knows about me that I don't know about myself? And then I laughed a little. Jesse knows me well, but I'm the chief Danieologist. I'm the only expert there is on me and I know I can do this. I don't know why Jesse is choosing to not support me. Trying to determine that put me in a bad mood. He's still in denial about his feelings. He has said very little (and nothing positive) about me running this race. I do recall I supported him when he said "I think I'm going to quit my job and go to Thailand for six weeks." I remember defending his decision to everyone we knew, while he was off enjoying the beaches and whiskey buckets. I didn't wane when people told me he deserted me, that I shouldn't have "allowed" it, and that he was likely just going to take advantage of the whores.

Bottom line: I've encouraged him to do all sorts of things because I knew they would make me happy. And now, when I have a far fetched (yet reasonable) aspiration he comes to me with "you're not built like a runner."

Really Jesse?

Come October, I'll be able to throw this in his face for the rest of our lives.

11 May 2009

Beggars Are Choosers

I was invited to a conference Wednesday to hear the keynote address. It was an opportunity for (a) free lunch and (b) free information. I had no reason not to go, and I should have no reason to complain. But the luncheon showed me I'm a beggar, and that beggars are choosers, I don't know from where this sense of entitlement comes, but it's there. And I don't feel any shame about it.


Let me to be specific in explaining my sense of entitlement. It's not superficial - although I admit I scoffed at the boxed lunches. They were filled with delicious food and packaged in compostable materials, so they were green. I may have acted as if I deserved full wait-staff benefits with my free lunch, but I was more than fine without it. My frown over my lunch (which really was delicious) was merely a reaction to something not being what I expected. This is not about food. It's about one speaker, and how she should have done better.


She was speaking to 4,000 people who were ready to be inspired. She's a big name, a decided success, and someone with an agenda to promote. She was someone whose advice I wanted to hear, and she was disappointing. Her speech was not too long, but it had more wordy anecdotes than concise points or action items. I listened for messages within the stories. I tried to piece together themes to tie them all together. I waited for a catchphrase to summarize it all. And when she was done I realized I'd rather talk to her mother, who seems to have had some truly awesome adventures.


I was a girl at a free lunch, unhappy with the free message coming from the subject of an international success story. I asked myself what gave me the right. And I didn't have a solid answer. She should have given me her best (I'm certain she didn't) because she had my attention. I was giving her my time, even after I finished eating. Maybe it's the recession. "Time" is the most abundant capital these days, and it's become just as important as money. Maybe I just didn't like the speaker personally, because she was on one side of the aisle, speaking to people on the other side, and trying to downplay her agenda by being non-specific. Perhaps I sensed something fake about her. I listened to one more speaker who was better than decent and left. I could not get the taste of the first speaker out of my mouth and I didn't like the way I was feeling.


One the way home, I saw a homeless guy selling newspapers. As I passed, he said he wanted to buy something to eat. I told him I had food, because there was a protein cookie and dried prunes in my conference bag.


"No miss, I want to buy my own food. I'm tired of leftovers."
"It's not leftovers. it's packaged food I just got."
"Okay. Not the prunes though."


I'm not the only choosy beggar out there.

09 May 2009

Danie & The Frozen Peach(es)

If desperate times call for desperate measures, then exciting ventures call for exciting treats. Jesse and I were invited to have dinner with Mariana and Ajit at their apartment. We're just about neighbors, and even though Mariana has been inviting us for months, we finally agreed on a day in May. Since she was making dinner, I volunteered to make dessert. I like desserts, and I like making them. I decided to make peach cobbler -- Mostly because (while discussing dessert) we happened upon Guy Fieri make hs Cin-ful Peach Cobbler on The Food Network. I remembered how much I enjoyed it when I had it at Tex Wasabi's when Chris was visiting and decided to do my best to replicate it.


The recipe isn't difficult, but there are a lot of ingredients. I printed it and casually made sure I had everything I needed, but kept forgetting peaches. The recipe (I thought) called for 3lbs of peaches, so I bought three, 1lb bags of them. But when the time came, and I really looked at the recipe, I needed 10 cups of peaches, which makes three pounds once prepared. The three pounds I had only amounted to six cups. So right away I had to make some changes.


I decided to to halve the whole thing. It works for pancake batter, so why not for peach cobbler? I used five cups of peaches, switched to a smaller pan and started my preheating. Unfortunately for me, most of the measurements were in 1/4 cup increments. It's not easy to halve quarters - unless I am the only person to consistently not buy a 1/8 measuring cup. I had to judge by sight and I think I did a good job. I followed the rest of the instructions properly, combining the sugars, flour, nutmeg and cinnamon, then adding it to the peaches.


I added lemon juice and a cornstarch surry (cornstarch & water) and the filling was done. All that was left was to halve the topping. I once again did my best "by sight halving" for the cranberries, slivered almonds, nutmeg, cinnamon, and salt.


I then added oats, brown sugar, white sugar, and flour. The final steps were to add butter, mix by hand, and crumble the mix onto the filling. I did my mixing, and realized something was very wrong.

My topic was not a "crumble." It was more like a paste. It was not appetizing and even though I had never made cobbler before, I knew it wasn't right. I went back over the recipe and found the error. I had halved everything except the butter. I don't know why I was thinking for the final part of my creation, but I clearly wasn't. Instead of starting over, I decided to double my halved recipe. That meant a lot more time measuring by sight and making sure things weren't doubled more than once. That last part was the hardest of the whole ordeal.



The reworked crumble was a lot better. Once I added it to the filling, I noticed cranberries and almonds made it look a lot more appealing. I baked and re-baked according to the recipe and (just as predicted) the cobbler bubbled when it was done. I think this was the most complex dessert I made and I really enjoyed the process. I would have liked it more if I didn't have to halve, then double some parts. But even that was a lesson; I either need a wider variety of measuring cups or more peaches.




I took the extra topping and baked it as cookies. There was nothing to hold them together, so it was more like a clumped cereal than a cookie. Still, it was delicious and gave me a lot of hope for the cobbler.

The cobbler was delicious. It was rich and flavorful, rather than just sweet. I think I either needed more lemon juice or less of the syrup that came with the peaches. The peaches were soggier than I wanted and I think there was too much moisture surrounding them. I'm pleased with it, and Mariana and Ajit were too. Success.

08 May 2009

Temptation

I've done really well with not using my credit cards this year. A large part of my success comes from my credit cards being in a bag of ice. But a hiccup has appeared in my perfect plan. One of the companies behind one of my frozen cards sent me another card. This one is supposed to have some sort of deeper security measures. I didn't think about the implications when I first learned the new card was coming. But once it came, and those activation instructions were staring me in the face, I didn't know what to do. I thought of just shredding it and putting the entire unpleasantness behind me. But what if they send me another card? What if they call, I tell them I'm not using cards this year, and they cancel my account. I'd lose that available credit and my credit score would take a hit because of my debt to income ratio.

It should be noted, I dislike knowing that at 27 years old, but I watch a lot of CNN.

Logic tells me to activate the card and freeze it right away. But logic does not have to buy a dress for a wedding. Logic does not need a summer wardrobe and logic is not tired of being responsible and going without. Logic should mind its business.

I know I could allow myself credit with the intention of using it responsibly, but I can't say I haven't tried that before. I'm not going to use the card. I'm too committed to following the rules. And the credit card rules are clear. Still, it was nice to dream for a few minutes.

07 May 2009

Superfood: Quinoa

I don't want to accept it. I don't even want to think it. But I fear San Francisco is getting its claws in me. My brother told me my nephew loves apple sauce. This was mostly to make me gag, because I've been anti-apple since before I could talk. But after reading my brother's message (and asking my parents to stop the apple-licious madness), my next thought was "there's probably a lot of sugar in that apple sauce." And there you have it; proof I've acclimated to the bay area. That night, we had quinoa for dinner.

I can't say I don't know what's happening. This has been a long time coming. I gave Jesse a subscription to Bon Apettit for Christmas. Before that, he had been subscribing to Men's Health. Lately he's been watching a lot of the Food Network. I've been researching foods that are liver (gallbladder) friendly. We basically pushed ourselves to superfoods. We have found too many benefits to eating "raw" foods, or trying new things, like the goji berry.This might have happened if we were still in Vegas, but I doubt it. There are so many ingredients available here - and so many places touting their raw food menus - we can hardly be blamed. So quinoa it is.



Quinoa is like a grain, but also high in protein. It looks like sand when it's dry and fish eggs once it's prepared. We made it as a rice substitute with peas and tilapia. There was nothing fancy about the meal. We wanted to find out how it works in our simple living. Jesse said it tasted like a hay bale, but I don't think so. I think it taste like brown rice, only better. It could have used some flavoring (maybe some lemon squeezed on top) but it was otherwise fine. We will be adding it to other foods, and occasionally using it to replace a meat or a grain. Decision: quinoa is a good find.

I'm off to ship some organic, sugar-free, apple sauce to my nephew.