Saturday, December 7, 2013

Tilex v Diet Pepsi

I tend to be slightly crunchy, I like things organic and natural, but I also like things effective and convenient.  This leads me to waffle back and forth between making cleaners at home and browsing Home Depot for whatever is labeled "industrial strength".  It confuses my poor boyfriend to no end, which leads to  him deep-frying donuts which leads to me being ultra-hippy for a few days, renewing the whole cycle.

Long story short, I read an article (on lifehacker, maybe ...) about how you can totally use Coke to clean your bathroom.  The Texan in me realized that when they said Coke, they meant any soft drink that came in a can and/or bottle.  This was totally awesome news, since I stopped drinking coke a year ago (lowercase c for the Texan definition) I have a bunch of old cans in my beer fridge.  I keep trying to pawn them off on my coke drinking friends, and they're all like "uh ... I think this is old, and bad and the sugar has separated" and I'm all like "it's a can full of chemicals, how can you tell? Shut up and drink it".  That doesn't go over well.

The news that I can clean things with old, potentially bad coke now means that I can kill two birds with one stone.  I get a clean bathroom, get rid of old coke and make more room for beer, which using my logic is way better for you than coke.  I guess that's three birds, so even better.

I tried cleaning my tub with Diet Pepsi.  Spoiler alert, it totally didn't work.  It made the bathroom smell like coke, so if your definition of "clean" means "smells different than normal", then I guess you're good.  But all the soap residue was still there, and I think the scrubbing did more than the coke did.

I ended up spraying the whole tub down with Tilex Mold and Mildew which worked like a champ, like usual.

I still have Dr. Pepper and Pepsi Max which I'm going to try on a toilet to see if perhaps those work any better.  Maybe it didn't work because it wasn't the full fledged coke with all the calories and corn syrup?

Either way, I'm not sure this will pan out.  I'll keep you updated with more trials.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Happy Birthday, Dave!

It was my friend Dave's birthday this Saturday, and despite feeling like I'd been run over by a truck, I went and had a good time.  Dave's birthday thing is to choose a restaurant, and then we all go out and eat there.  Simple!

We went to 8407 Kitchen bar in Silver Spring, MD.  This is actually my go-to place in Silver Spring because 1) I know where it is and 2) more importantly, it's really good so why go any where else?

It's got all the things that lure me in
1) a good cocktail program
2) the word "charcuterie" on the menu
3) cheese board
4) good scotch menu for dessert.

and this isn't on my list usually, but I like it about 8407: their portions are reasonable so I don't leave hating myself.

Despite #1, I didn't get any cocktails both because I wasn't feeling awesome and because THEY HAD MUSCADET ON THE MENU!!! I've been looking for that wine forever.  It's light and crisp and just a bit sweet, it went perfect with my squid ink tagliatelle and shrimp.

Because we're us, we ordered a metric crapton of appetizers and shared them around:

* deviled eggs - this was my order.  Nice, classic deviled eggs but served with crispy pork rinds and pickled beets.  Not sure the pork rinds were necessary, but who doesn't love them.

* trotter tots - easily my favorite.  The were creamy and porky and crisp around the edges. Heck yes!

* calamari - was the classic fried, breaded calamari.  What was most interesting was the sauce they served it with, wasn't the usual marinara but tasted like a Cuban Aji sauce with cilantro and jalapenos.  It was delicious and a bit spicy, but might have overwhelmed the squid a little.

* grilled liver pate - everyone else thought this was too salty, but I liked it.  I like salt and grew up eating liverwurst, so that could be part of it.  Overall a good classic pate.

* cheese plate - unfortunately I couldn't hear what cheeses were on it, but there was a blue, I think a camembert and a cheddar.  The camembert and blue were easily my favorites, but that's pretty normal for me.  Everyone LOVED the honey that came along with the cheese, I didn't try it and have no idea why.

* Rabbit rillette - for me, this was overpowered by the liver pate that I had right afterwords.  It was good, but was blown away by the much stronger taste I of pate.  Wish I had slowed down and had the rillette with my muscadet.

I'm surprised I didn't get the oysters, and surprised I didn't get scotch for desert.  Instead I got a chocolate peanut butter concoction that looked like a giant Reeses' peanut butter cup.  It had peanut butter chunks instead, so it wasn't as consistently peanut buttery as I would have liked.  I'm not a sweet dessert person, so please don't take my word on this one.  The thing that I thought was most interesting was the scoop of curried vanilla ice cream that came on top. I'm going to have to make that at home, wish it had been more curried, but I'm a curry sucker and honestly if they had done that it could have overpowered the rest of the dessert.

All in all, my Silver Spring go-to still holds! Will return and eat more another day!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Thanks Hannah!

You ever have one of those days where you're pretty sure you have strep throat so you spend all day at home on the couch, and if it doesn't involve lozenges and/or the internet, you're not doing it?

That was my day today, and it just took a really unexpected turn.

There I was, dicking around on the internet, trying to watch funny videos to pass the time between lozenges.

I started on Mental Floss (see previous post), because their videos are hilarious and I learn things. Double whammy! From there I went on to My Drunk Kitchen, because that's also one of my go-tos for quality You Tube humor.  I love drinking, and I love food, so it's pretty much a perfect combination.

And that's when it took a left.

It's not that I ever thought poorly of Hannah Hart, I've loved her videos, and it's not that I ever thought her dumb, not even remotely. I've always found her adorable and hilarious (I love puns too!).   It's just that I never thought about her beyond her My Drunk Kitchen videos.

That's really unfair.  I learned this by stumbling upon this:

Dang, Hannah.  Thanks for making me realize again that all humans are so deep and complex and *personal*.  It's one of those lessons that yoga is supposed to teach me but that I somehow have to learn time and time again.  Everyone is on their own journey.

Back in high school I was friends with all of the weirdos.  We were all super straight-laced kids who got really good grades and were involved in extra curricular activities like orchestra, band and theatre.  We were essentially a huge group of nerds who bonded through our mutual outcastness and became the first unconditionally supportive group of people I'd ever been around.  You'd think our parents would have been thrilled with the friend group we'd all chosen, but no.

Needless to say, a lot of my friends ended up coming out as gay.  I'd like to say this didn't bother me the first time it happened but due to my religious upbringing, it really did.  I got over it by the time high school ended, but I also got over a lot of religion as well, which is it's own story.

It's so nice to see the Internet coming together now and then.  I think we get too blindsided by hateful comments and slurs people call us on XBox.  The Internet can really be a force for good, it can really be a powerful message for life and hope.  It gets better.  No matter what closet you're stuck in, there is a group of people out there who support you and love you.  When young, people can now find like-minded people on the Internet when 20 years ago we all thought we were so alone.  We don't have to wait until adulthood to learn that we're OK and that this too shall pass.

Thanks Hannah, for taking my sick day and showing me again the beauty and patience and love this world has to offer.

sick at home

The best part of having the flu is sitting on the couch watching Mental Floss videos all day

Yup, these will eat up an afternoon, no problem!

Kit .. Bar???

Last Wednesday I went to get a haircut.  This sounds like a totally normal, boring event, and I assure you it is.  Because I'm a crazy person I drive 1.5 hours to get my hair cut.  It's because the salon is near where I used to live and I really like my stylist and it gives me pre-allocated time to listen to audiobooks.

Totally nuts or not, It ensures that I have some me-time every 4-8 weeks.

Given the fact that I gave up on going to several pumpkin beer festivals, this shows that I was looking particularly rough and really needed to get my hair fixed.

After doing so, I was quite hungry and slipped into the Stone's Cove Kitbar.  I had only been there once before, and I kinda liked it so I wanted to go back.

This place has a really interesting concept.  In the middle of the restaurant is the kitchen, and surrounding it are all of the seats.  A lot of it is bar seating (which I love), with little table-like peninsulas sticking off for larger parties.  When you sit and eat, you don't have one waiter, you just have the team of people working in the middle and any of them can get you something.  This seemed strange at first, but I totally love it.  I love being able to watch people prepare the food, to see everyone bustling around.  It's like dinner and show if you're a person who loves the service industry like I do.

As it turns out, Wednesdays are half-price wine night.  I said I didn't really want to sit down and drink an entire bottle of wine, but they said they could wrap up whatever I didn't finish.  Game on! I ended up getting a really great bottle for like $15.  Since I was in a white mood (I was hoping they had Muscadet, but they did not ... nowhere does, it's my curse), I ended up getting a bottle of Ricardo Santos' Semillon (I posted a picture on twitter that night).

It was a bit sweeter than I was expecting, so I counteracted that by ordering some spicy fish tacos.  I was expecting them to be salsa-spicy but instead they were more spice-rub spicy.  Not what I had planned, but it turned out perfect!  They serve their fish tacos on this interesting wavy plate to hold up all three tacos.  This is awesome because you can eat half of a taco and put it down without the whole thing becoming a disaster.

I want to go back and eat more.  They had these interesting cones that contained avocado and some form of seafood (lobster or tuna, I think).  Maybe next time I'll bring the boyfriend, leave him to get a few drinks and return later with nicer hair and we can split a bunch of appetizers.

The waiter said they were opening up several other locations, but unfortunately none of them are closer to me.  The whole place is cozy, with stone and wood decor.  It would fit perfectly in Denver.  If there was one closer I'd eat there all the time.

Competition in Annapolis

I love Annapolis and spend a *lot* of time down there.  I eventually want to move there and have these idyllic ideas in my head about how I'll ride my bike into downtown and pick up wine and cheese and pedal home.  It'll be amazing.  I'll have a porch.

Unfortunately that dream is several years away so I have to drive down to Annapolis hang out, have a blast, eat amazing food an then drive home.  I'll take what I can get.

One of my usual defaults in Annapolis is The Metropolitan.  It's a great little place, good beer selection and it's in the farm-to-table vein that I love so much.  In fact, during winter sailing season I'll stop by the Metropolitan most Sundays for a pre-race brunch.

The other weekend my friend Andrew wanted to celebrate his billionth second alive and since he lives in Annapolis we decided to eat down there.  I campaigned hard for the Metropolitan, but I was overruled.

We ended up going to Level, a small plates style restaurant just down the street.  Honestly, even though I felt like I was cheating on the Metropolitan, I was really excited to go.  I love small plates because it allows me to sample a TON of different foods, and I love places with a good cocktail program.

I also love eating dinner with my friends but because they're super into food also, we usually end up ordering what seems like the entire menu and sharing everything.

I browsed around on their website to see generally what I was going to get.  I had no idea except that I wanted a negroni as my first cocktail.  Their website is useful to get a general feel for the place, and I think there are several menu items that are standard.  The rest is fair game for changing due to seasons, farm availability, etc.  To me, this is a very good thing.

When we got there, the negroni was no longer on their menu, but I asked and they made one for me anyhow.  I know that it's a full bar and good bartenders can make me anything and I don't *have* to stick to their pre-described cocktail list, but the fact that they were instantly like "yeah, we can make you one of those" earned points in my book.

I've come to the realization that I need to start taking notes on what we order, but I didn't so here's a rough list of everything we got.

* Tuna tartar - This was amazing.  It wasn't ground into a paste like you'll see with a lot of tartars.  Instead it was more like large chunks of tuna sashimi.  Easily one of my favorite things I ate all night.  And it was SPICY, way more so than I was expecting, but I love spice.  My friend Brian, who is from Iowa was sweating bullets.  He agreed that it was delicious.

* Veal sweetbreads - These were on special and I can't turn down sweatbreads, that's what I ordered.  Nice, moist and juicy and lightly breaded.  All around fantastic.  I could have eaten a way larger plate.

* Tomato bisque and grilled cheese - These were also one of my favorites.  The tomato bisque was amazing! It was rich and creamy but still with a strong tomato taste, but not too acidic.  I wish I had ordered this and not Andrew so I would have been justified in wolfing down way more of it.

* Chorizo dip - who doesn't love chorizo and cheese?

* two flatbreads, Margherita and some sausage variety that I've forgotten the specifics on - I love their use of fresh mozzarella.  They should note on their menu that these flatbreads are not "small plates", and two people could easily split one for an entire meal.  Great dough, great cheese, so I didn't mind having too much of these.

* grilled calamari - I love how this was actual grilled squid, not the breaded and deep fried variety you find everywhere.  So great, nice and chewy (in a good way).

* bison and bacon sliders - great sliders.  I think my problem is that I only got half a slider.  It was good, but I think the person with the other half stole all my bacon.

* korean duck tacos - Also completely fantastic, I could have eaten a giant pile of these

* cuban pork spring rolls - Delicious, great dipping sauce

* scallops - always a favorite

I know we got more, but that's all I can remember so I'm assuming those were the best things we ate and therefore the best list to talk about.

Apparently Level has a special on Monday night where if you get a bottle of wine you can get a flatbread for $2.  This sounds like a great plan that the boyfriend and I will have to enact one of these weeks.

All in all, it was a great dinner, the service was fantastic and I'll definitely be back again soon!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Finally a good breakfast!!!

I completely hate the Baltimore Inner Harbor. Hate. It.

The only redeeming thing over there is the National Aquarium.  The rest of the place is covered in touristy shops, chain restaurants and not a single good bar (with the obvious exception of the Pratt Street Alehouse).

Now, if you know of a good place I've just walked by a hundred times, I'd love to hear it.  I'm always willing to be convinced otherwise.

That being said, for beer-related events, the boyfriend and I often get a hotel downtown so we can stay there without worrying about getting home.  Some people think this is a bit excessive, but a hotel is way cheaper than a DUI and it provides a convenient base of operations and gives us a good excuse to go out to dinner and brunch in Baltimore.

Dinner usually isn't the problem, with the combination of Harbor East, Fells Point and Little Italy, we can square dinner away pretty easily.  Breakfast/brunch is always the problem.

Everyone always sings the praise of Miss Shirley's, and I'd love to eat there eventually.  The problem is that the wait is always over half an hour and they don't take reservations.  This kinda rules it out for us.  We usually want to get a good breakfast and head home and get on with our day.  And we're usually too hungry to wait that long for good.

We've tried a bunch of other place's in the Inner Harbor and they're all seriously meh.  Good views of the water, but seriously mediocre food.

There's Teavolve over in Harbor East, which is SUPER GOOD.  I'd eat there all the time, except I already eat there all the time and I'm ready for a change. Not a permanent change, but maybe a place to alternate between.

Today we discovered a new breakfast location that's been open since Feb.  It's called The Saturday Morning Cafe.  It's got really good food as well.  Not as upscale as Teavolve, but way closer to the Inner Harbor and a little more Baltimore-ey.  It's a small place so we ate at the counter.  The boyfriend and I both got shrimp and grits, which comes with bacon and cheese on top.  Yum!  My shrimp were prefectly cooked.  They also have a seafood omelet which looked quite good.  A lot of their offerings were on the heavier side: chicken and waffles or french toast.  The one downside is that they don't have cocktails so I had to go without my weekend bloody mary. It's definitely a great option for good, quick breakfast downtown.

My favorite bar in San Antonio

My friend Paul was kind enough to take me to my favorite bar in San Antonio.

The Esquire is a really odd (in a good way) place that looks like it just stepped out of the Wild West, serves amazing cocktails and craft beer and has the longest bar in Texas!

I've been there a few times, usually with Paul, who doesn't drink much, or with co-workers on business trips.  I really want to get a hotel in downtown San Antonio and go there with the boyfriend so we can sample more than one drink.

Every time I go back to Texas, I'm pleasantly surprised by the state of craft beer.  When I lived there Shiner Bock was about as craft as it got (or that I was aware of), but a lot of breweries have been opening up and making really great beers.

During my last visit to The Esquire I had an Oatmeal Pale Ale by Ranger Creek Brewing and Distilling.  I thought it was a really interesting beer, but not as Oatmealey as I had expected.  Paul thought it was too hoppy, but he's not a big Pale Ale fan to begin with.

I really want to eat a meal at the Esquire too, their menu looks like an interesting mix of local/sustainable/organic, bar food and Tex-Mex.  Totally right up my alley.

The one thing I don't like about the place are the bathrooms, they freak me out.  The ceilings are really tall, it's really dark in there and the mirrors are old (or look old) and are highly patina-ed.  I keep expecting to turn around and see the girl from The Ring looking back at me.  Paul says the men's room isn't as bad but he could be trying to either get me to convince him to go into the women's room or get me to go into the men's room for comparison purposes.

Next time I'm there, I'm ordering a cocktail that comes in a copper cup, devouring an organic burger and going next door to pee.

Are you Mofongo?

While I was in San Antonio, unfortunately I wasn't able to eat at all of the places I wanted to.  Tried a few new places, but had entirely average meals not worth writing about.

However, there was one stand-out meal at a place called La Marginal Puerto Rican and Latin Cuisine.  My friend Paul had been talking about a dish called mofongo.  When he mentioned that you could get it filled with seafood, I was suddenly game.

La Marginal isn't a place I would have found on my own.  It's in a strip mall, but a Kwik Wash.  It's a total hole in the wall, which usually means it'll have amazing ethnic food.  Paul has no idea how he found it either, but was pretty sure it was recommended by a friend.

Since it sounded so interesting I ordered the mofongo.  It's is unlike anything I've really seen before.  You can get either yucca or plantain (I got plantain) pounded until smooth, almost like grits or mashed potatoes.  It's served in a bowl and either pork, shrimp or assorted seafood is piled on top.  It comes with an orange cajun-ish spicy sauce that I poured on with reckless abandon.  It was really fantastic, the plantain was crispy around the edges where it had cooked in the bowl.  Paul wasn't a fan of the fake crab they included, but I thought it provided a nice texture and flavor.  I don't generally mind fake crab.  In total it had mussels, shrimp, fake crab and flaky white fish.  Really really good and new and different!

They also had fantastic mojitos.  They took a while to come out, but I think that's because they were muddling the ever living heck out of that mint.  It tasted far mintier than I thought it would have, judging on the amount of visible mint leaves.  I don't mind waiting for a super quality product! Their secret to a their mojito was adding a splash of Sprite.  When Paul told me that I was severely skeptical, but it turned out to make a great drink.

All in all, La Marginal was a fantastic place that I'd absolutely return to again.

Blood in the Water

Bad things don't happen in my family.  We're a group of the most spoiled, coddled people you'll ever meet.  Everyone (except me) has nice cars, is building or lives in beautiful enormous houses.  Everyone is well educated, has good jobs.  We all are happy, have beautiful families and amazing Christmas cards.  Nobody gets seriously ill and nobody dies unless they are old.

Most of the time this completely pisses me off, not because I wish ill on my family or begrudge anyone their happiness, but because it makes people (my mother in particular) so completely out of touch with reality and the rest of the world.  I'm also the only Democrat and I sometimes wonder if the two are related.

Why would anyone want government subsidized healthcare? My mother will wonder.  I'll respond with the fact that many people are kicked off their healthcare plans due or cannot afford insurance or a multitude of other reasons that leave them ill provided for in the healthcare arena.  I'll show that most other western countries have some sort of government-provided healthcare and that America is not the leader in healthcare we think we are.

Well, why don't people just get better jobs that give them insurance?  Yes, mother, it's just that easy.  People just aren't getting better jobs because they'd rather whine about things.  Why didn't they just think of that.

My most favorite comment that people make frequently is "Sandra, when are you going to buy a real house?".   This one throws me into fits of fury like nothing else.  I have a house, it's a townhouse.  The roof over my head is real, the floor under my feet is real and my monthly mortgage is most definitely real.  However, it's attached to another house, so I guess to my family, it's a fake house.  They even call it an apartment sometimes, I don't know if they're trying to piss me off or really don't know the difference.

My internal monologue replies with "look, you fuckers, I live on the East Coast.  My shitty tiny townhouse cost 300,000.  Also, there are two of us in my family, the boyfriend and I don't need more space.  WE DON'T HAVE THAT MANY CATS!!!".  

I usually end up responding either that we don't want a bigger house or that we can't afford one.  This is met with either looks of confusion or pity.  Both make me angrier for different reasons.

So it's always interesting when something "bad" does actually happen.  The last "bad" thing that happened was that my youngest brother didn't get into medical school right away and had to get a Master's degree in something else and THEN go to medical school.  The horrors.

This time the "bad" thing is divorce.  My cousin's to be exact.  This isn't to say that divorce is a great thing, but rather that it's not the end of the world.  It sucks, but like most things, time will pass, wounds will heal and life will move on.

We all started noticing things a few months ago.  Facebook makes things entirely too obvious.  When the boyfriend and I were in Dallas a few months ago my mother and sister-in-law immediately brought it up. "Have you noticed that she went on vacation with her friends?Have you noticed that she hasn't mentioned him? Have you noticed there are fewer pictures of them together?".  I had noticed the exact same things and had come to the exact same conclusion, but at that moment I suddenly felt guilty.  I responded "oh please, people go on vacations with their girlfriends all the time, it doesn't mean anything".  Who were we to sit there and gossip?

As someone who has had long-term relationships shatter (not marriages, but with my point of view on marriage, it might have well been the same thing), it sucks.  There's a whole slew of emotions that are involved, anger, hurt, embarrassment.  I wouldn't want my family to be eating affordable french food at a La Madeline's gossiping about me.  Now I know they probably did, and I just don't want to do that to other people.

Last week it finally came out that my cousin and his wife were getting divorced, ending their three-year marriage.  Granted, I've only heard things from my cousin's point of view and his wife is the one who filed, but it sounds like divorce was a pretty good option.  They both sounded miserable.

To my family, this is the worst thing ever.  My mother sent me a text message saying I had to call her IMMEDIATELY.  She couldn't wait to tell me the bad news, which is kinda messed up.  It's like they're all so upset for him, but all so gleeful to spread the bad news.  I really don't understand it.

I know a LOT of divorced people.  Most of them are totally great people, divorce is something that happened to them, it doesn't define who they are.  Maybe it's this that leads me to treat divorce as something that happens sometimes, not some earth-shattering scandal.

When my mom asked me what I thought, I replied that it sounded like divorce was a good solution to their problem.  What I should have said was that I'm sorry that my cousin's failed marriage was the blood in the water, that I was sorry we were all feating upon my cousin's potential unhappiness.

I say potential unhappiness because I haven't talked to my cousin, we're not close.  For him to call me about this would be incredibly strange.  For all I know, he's relieved to be getting divorced.  He's not even 30 years old, he has his entire life ahead of him.  He's getting a second chance, and a way out of what seems to be a very hostile and volatile situation.

I guess my answer wasn't what my mom wanted.  She asked me what the boyfriend thought.  Being the only other divorced person in the family, I guess he's the resident expert.  He totally doesn't care. He's met my cousin like two times.  My mom reiterated that the boyfriend's opinion matters to her.

Who are we to have opinions on someone else's divorce?

I'll be sad for my cousin, if that's what he wants.  I'll be happy for him if he wants that instead.  Until he lets me know if he wants either emotion, I'll continue to treat it like I have been, a fact.  This is happening.  It's neither good nor bad, it's just an event taking place.

We've all been explicitly instructed to not tell the Grandmother.  Based on how the text was worded, I know it was one of those messages my mother sent to everyone.

We are such assholes.  Can we please stop feating on what's perceived to be someone else's misfortune?

Also, someone's got to tell Grandmother.  She's old, but she'll start noticing a missing wife.

I'm not really sure the moral of this story, but I for one am going to try to stop gossiping.  It's really assholeish.

Things overheard in airports

Due to the fact that I travel a lot for work and fun, I spend a TON of time in airports.  Two great quotes from my last trip to San Antonio.  These were either overheard in Baltimore, San Antonio or Chicago.

* "Emily wore her wiener dog pajamas for a year and a half straight.  We told her that if she wanted to have any more kids, she'd probably need to find something else to wear once in a while".

My response to this: holy shit, I want wiener dog pajamas!!!!

* "Look at those luggage carts, I totally went on a rampage in one those in GTA 5 the other day".

I guess my household isn't the only one inundated with GTA these days.  Also, are luggage carts good or bad for a rampage??

I'm back!!

I can't believe it's been so long since I've last posted.  Life has been a whirlwind as usual, so I have a lot to tell you guys about! Trip to San Antonio, several beer festivals, etc.  Please stay posted for a ton of new updates!!

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Trying to be a good friend

Warning: this post is a little sad, but it's something that's been kicking around in my head for a while and I had to get it out.

Let me start off by saying that I'm really glad that people are starting to talk more about depression, that the stigma is slowly being removed and people are opening up dialogue.  Dialogue is always incredibly important.

Depression is something that has affected my life greatly.  I don't personally suffer from it, I almost have the inverse problem where I can turn into a juggernaut-tank and don't know when to stop.  Even if tank-mode isn't particularly healthy I'd pick it over depression every time.  However, a LOT of my friends suffer from it.

My best friend in highschool had it and I still vividly remember the end of our senior year when she was going through a particularly bad spell and I was too young, too stupid, too naive, too inexperienced to ask her what the hell was going on.  I sat by in silence as the person I loved more than anything continued to isolate herself and demonstrate some incredibly strange (to me) behavior.  I felt like I was losing her and I was too scared to lose her more so I said nothing, asked nothing.

A man I loved was diagnosed with depression.  Without the depression we'd likely be married with kids by now.  Instead I haven't talked to him in years.  I had to end that relationship, I felt like I was being pulled down by an anchor.  I kept waking up next to this stranger I hated where a man I had loved since I was a teenager used to be.  Ending that relationship was the hardest thing I've ever had to do, but I felt I had no other choice.  It was either ending it or lose myself.  End it or be dragged down as well.  I feel that I made the right choice but still feel guilty of not being stronger, more supportive, more unconditionally loving.

It's hard to watch friends you love struggle with daily life, struggle with what seem to be minor things that happen to everyone.  Not suffering from it myself, I attempt to intellectually understand it.  They're depressed,  that's why they're acting this way.  But I don't, in my heart, honestly understand it.  I have compassion but not comprehension.

There have been a lot (or seemed to me a lot) of articles coming out lately about depression.  Maybe my friends just have a sampling bias on what they post on Facebook, but it seems to be a theme.  This is a good theme.  Like I said above, dialogue is a good thing, understanding the disease is a good thing, removing the stigma and helping people function and cope are really good things.

Examples of these articles are:
The 10 Stupidest things you can say to a depressed person
Comics that capture the frustration of depression

Most of these are focused on the stupid/unhelpful/ridiculous things people say to those who have depression.  Having been that person SO MANY times, my reaction is "ok, I get it, I'm stupid and unhelpful".  I know depression isn't simple, I know there's not just a "be happy" switch you can throw and fix it all.

I'm sorry for saying stupid shit that doesn't help at all.

But if I'm sitting on a couch watching someone I love struggle to get through day after day, it breaks my heart and I want nothing else in the world but to be able to fix it for them.  Logically, I know I can't, I know it's the disease, but I want so badly to help, to cheer them up, to get them back to the amazing person I know they are.  In that scenario, stupid crap will come out of my mouth.  Not because I honestly think that going outside more will really help, but because my feeble brain completely cannot come up with anything better.

I'm sorry my lame attempts to help actually make things worse and more frustrating.  Making things worse is the last thing I ever wanted to do.  I also don't want to get up and leave and avoid my depressed friends because I have no idea what to do.  I want to keep trying, keep maintaining relationships with them.

What would be really nice would be a link after these articles to "10 super helpful things you can do".  I'd really love some suggestions.

Friday, October 4, 2013

The sherry saga continues...

I've learned two things in my sherry quest:

1. Finos.  Yes, I was right, that's the type I like.
2. Serve slightly chilled.

The boyfriend was kind enough to buy me a bottle of Osborne Pale Dry Fino Sherry.

I was going to pour myself a glass and then I noticed a small "serve chilled" note on the front.  I popped it into the fridge and made dinner.

Maybe the serving chilled makes all the difference.  This bottle was fantastic, slightly sweet in a delightful refreshing way, but not too cloying or raisiny.  The bottle is now empty, which absolutely says something.  I almost wish I had some left so I could do a test of chilled vs room temperature to see which I preferred and if it makes that big of a difference.  I have another bottle of sherry that I'm not a huge fan of, so I'm going to try chilling it and see what happens.

I drank this one with steak tacos.  Probably not the recommended pairing but I like to live on the edge.  It was quite good.  The sweet crispness of the sherry cut through the spiciness of the tacos and provided another layer of flavor to my meal.  Heck yes.  I would absolutely buy this bottle again.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Consigning is awesome!!

I'm always amazed at the amount of crap people have in their houses, myself completely included in that.  I'm kinda the anti-hoarder, I really hate clutter and love when everything has a place.  Full disclaimer, sometimes things don't always make it back to their home immediately, but everything has a place to go.  Clutter gets to me so much that sometimes if the house needs a bit of tidying, the boyfriend will find a Hoarders marathon and watching it will bother me so much I'll get up and clean something (he helps too, he just finds this funny).

During all of the rounds of The Great Shacking Up, we gave away so much stuff to charity.  It seems that between both of us we must have given away an entire household's worth of stuff.  A household with two kitchens.  We had SO MUCH kitchen stuff.  

We still have so much stuff to get rid of though, closets are full and boxes still aren't unpacked.  I really don't know where it all came from.  Neither of us shops a lot, so I think either gnomes bring things into our house in the middle of the night or stuff breeds more stuff while in closets.  

I've been trying to get rid of old clothes using an app called Poshmark, which was really fun.  However, I ended up doing way more buying than selling and my stuff wasn't selling that quickly.  I blame my horrible photography skills for that.  This left me with piles of "inventory" squirreled away throughout the house, which kinda defeated the purpose. 

Yesterday I discovered the joys of consignment.  You just drop a box off and they sell it and give you a check! It's fabulous!  My quest today is to find a consignment store that takes old prom / bridesmaid dresses.  I'm going to have so much room in my closets, this is going to be amazing!

My favorite stores that I've found so far in the Maryland suburbia areas are:

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Really, Congress??

I am an American and my government has shut itself down.  I'm completely flabbergasted and appalled, but sad to say, not shocked.

There are really two facets to my thoughts here.  The first is that I was always taught to respect authority.  Taught that the people in charge are smart and good and know what to do.  I'm starting to suspect I have been horribly mislead.

How can these people not do their jobs? It's not like needing a budget snuck up on them, it's a regularly scheduled event.  I can't just not to my job, not only because I'd get fired but also because I AM AN ADULT.  Sometimes I do things that are difficult and upsetting because they need to be done.

The Affordable Care Act has already been signed into law, it's a done thing.  Stop throwing a hissy fit, put on your big boy pants and freaking fund it.  Seriously.

(As a total side note, I don't really understand why people are so upset over the Act.  I'm more than willing to pay a bit more in taxes so my friends (and everyone else in this country) without insurance can get some.  Also, people without insurance still go to the emergency room, which we end up paying for anyhow.  I'd rather pay for preventative care.  Might it take a bit of time before we figure the whole system out? Sure.  But it's worth it.  I had a friend a few months ago who jacked up her knee falling and couldn't go see a doctor because she had no insurance.  This is a girl with a MS in Architecture, not one of those uneducated lazy schlubs the Republicans keep inventing and blaming things on.  I'm all for the greater good.  Anyhow, I digress)

I fell asleep last night on the couch while watching C-Span 2.  Listening to the Congressmen made me want to drink.  They all sound like either blithering idiots or whiny children.  These are really the best and the brightest we can find to run our country?  I think something has gone really wrong with our political system.  Have all the good people been driven out and been replaced by idiots bent on only securing their own re-election and pandering to party lines? Do those people care about the greater good?

The second facet is related to federal employees and tangentially the greater good.  I'm starting to think that Congress views the people who work day in and day out as people who belong to the aforementioned "uneducated lazy schlub" class.  Heck, I'll tack an "entitled" on to that.  Federal wages have been frozen for years, so there's no cost of living increase.  Not that it was an amazing increase to begin with.  "5% more! Wow, I'm buying a mansion!" said nobody ever.  Now all federal workers are at home, not being paid.  These are THOUSANDS of Americans who suddenly don't have a paycheck to rely on for an undetermined amount of time.  While Congress is still receiving their paychecks.  What assholes.

Do they not realize what they're doing to their Federal employees? Do they not care?  Is Congress stuck in its own Ivory Tower such that they don't realize they're actively screwing over everyone who works for  them?

It's incredibly disheartening.  We're Americans, we're better than this.   Or rather, we should be better than this.

Sunday, September 29, 2013


There are a few times when the boyfriend and I just don't see eye-to-eye.  I know, shocking, right? Disagreement in a relationship? Totally a new thing.

Long story short, the boyfriend used to be Mormon.  He converted in college but has long since "left" the church.  By left I mean stopped attending and has come to the conclusion that he doesn't hold those beliefs anymore.  It's not like he sent them a letter or made a big deal out of it.

While I'm not a fan of organized religion in general, I try and have a "live and let live" policy to life.  You can believe whatever you'd like, and as long as you don't try and force me to do the same or get the government to legislate based on your belief system, we're cool.  I might even engage in some debateful conversation if it's done in a spirit of learning (not conversion) and you don't mind me recommending some Christopher Hitchens books.

However, something that totally goes against my policy of "live and let live" is the practice of knocking on people's doors on the weekend and attempting to gain access to their house in order to talk to them about religion.

The southerner in me finds showing up uninvited INCREDIBLY rude and the Texan in me hates uninvited people on my property.

We've been living under the Mormon siege for a few months now.  Prior to the Great Shacking Up, the boyfriend lived in a third floor condo with an interior door.  That means in order to get to his front door, you had to gain entry into the condo building itself.  My personal theory is this prevented many Mormon visits.  But now they've found him.

It started out by them leaving cookies and notes "We heart the <boyfriend's last name> family!!".  I found this note in the trash where the boyfriend had tossed it.  I'm still debating if he honestly thought nothing of it or attempted to hide it because he knew it would freak me out.  It totally freaked me out because #1, it's massively creepy and #2 shows a terrible lack of research on their part.  Housing records are public and the house is in my name.  We are not the "boyfriend's last name-family".  When we refer to our household, we hyphenate.

Since then they've left us more notes and visited twice (that I know of).  The first time I answered the door and they asked me if I was "Sister Boyfriend's-last-name".  Nope.  Wrong on at least two counts there.  Now I'm pretty sure they think I'm the boyfriend's ex-wife, which annoys me on new and interesting levels.

I kept telling them that we weren't interested and to please have a nice day while slowly closing the door.  They tried the brilliant tactic of "if you just let us in, we can take you off our list".  Nope, nice try kid.  Get off my lawn.

It's my theory that they think I'm some crazy harpy and if only they could talk to the boyfriend alone then they could save him and they keep coming back in an attempt to do so.  The boyfriend thinks that they keep coming by because that's what they do.  If he's right this means I'm going to try extra hard to earn crazy harpy status.  If anyone is up to the challenge, it's me.  Except for today.

They stopped by again today and I refused to answer the door, I was enjoying my day off while watching The Colbert Report and eating caprese salad in my bathrobe.  No way was I going to deal with Mormon teenagers trying to get into my house to talk to me about religion.  I was way too tired to attempt to earn crazy harpy status, which is pretty damn tired.

Strange fact that I'm still researching - they signed their note "The Elders", now the people who knocked on my door were clearly teenagers.  Since when are kids "elders"? This makes zero sense to me.  Also, people should not send children to deal with grouchy me.

How do I get this to stop?  How do they think it's OK to keep knocking on my door interrupting my weekend?

This really is starting to annoy the crap out of me.  They boyfriend thinks I'm nuts for getting so alternately creeped out and annoyed.  I think he's nuts for just assuming that Mormons are going to constantly visit us and that he's OK with this.

Baldwin's Station

While planning to go to the beer festival, my friend Dave decided to try and find a place for us to go eat dinner afterwords.  Dave and I have similar taste in food, so I have to admit that that much mocking ensued.  What did he hope to find in the middle of nowhere, Maryland? I heard they just got an Olive Garden.

Allegedly, he found a good Mexican restaurant in Westminster, MD.  Being from Texas originally, I have a blanket aversion to Mexican food this far north, especially in areas that aren't known for having wide ethnic diversity.  I abruptly vetoed this suggestion.

We ended up going to a place in Sykesville, MD called Baldwin's Station.  I've driven by this place a ton of times on my way to visit friends, but I'd never stopped to eat there.  It was surprisingly good.  It wasn't crazy gourmet, or particularly innovative, but it was on the nicer side of casual and the food was solid.

For an appetizer, I had what I think they called a scallop bisque.  It was OK, but it wasn't a bisque, wasn't creamy at all.  Not 100% sure I like scallops in a soup.  My favorite part about scallops is the nice crust they get while being seared and their sweet, delicate flavor.  All of this gets lost in a soup and the scallops just become a bite of mush.

My main course was much better.  I had beef shortribs served over mushroom risotto and grilled squash.  The squash seemed like a bit of an afterthought, just placed on the side and not really incorporated into the dish.  It could have been any vegetable/side: asparagus, mushrooms, an artichoke.
The shortribs were cooked perfectly, and would have fallen off the bone had they still been on the bone.  The bones were nicely arranged on the side of the plate, I guess to show me that they were once attached to the meat ... or something.  But, the meat was delicious and covered in a tasty glaze.  The risotto provided a nice texture and flavor contrast to the richness of the meat.

They had a shockingly good scotch menu, so I had a glass of Oban for dessert.  Dave had Talisker, which I actually liked more than my Oban.  The Oban was a bit too smoky and didn't go well with the rich, almost fatty taste I had left in my mouth from the beef.

All in all, it was a solid restaurant in an unexpected location.  I know this review sounds incredibly picky, but my meal was good and I cleaned my plate.  For having zero expectations of having a good meal last night, I was really pleasantly surprised.  

Beer Fest Wrap-Up

The Maryland Microbrewery Festival was a total blast.  Aside from a few GPS-related incidents (navigating somewhere totally incorrect, slight off-roading in a vehicle really not designed for that), it was a well-organized event with delicious beer held on a day with beautiful weather.

Unfortunately I had zero cell signal, so I'm going back through today and logging everything I drank.

I drank:

* Hampden on Rye by Union
* Saison Pecore (with Kefir Lime leaves) by Brewer's Art
* Riot Rye by Monocacy Brewing
* Kolsch by Brewers Alley
* Boomerang by Ellicott Mills Brewing
* Saison by Johansson Dining House
* Milk Stout by Ruhlman Brewing

I was most excited to finally try beers by Ruhlman and Johansson breweries, those are much smaller farm-based breweries here in Maryland so you pretty much have to go out to the brewery to find their stuff.  All in all, Maryland has some really great breweries for a state that isn't that large.  You'll see that the largest, most popular breweries are missing from my list, but that was really intentional.  I wanted to use this beer fest to try things that I couldn't find everywhere. This isn't anything against Flying Dog or DuClaw, but I can happily sample their beers at most local restaurants or on my couch with a six-pack I picked up from the store down the street.

My favorites were the Saison Pecore by Brewer's Art, the Riot Rye by Monocacy, the Kolsch by Brewer's Alley and the Milk Stout by Rhulman.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Beer Fest Day!!!

I can't believe it's already been a week since I last posted.  This past week has both flown by and been entirely grueling.  Lots of passing out on the couch happened.

Today will be different, today the boyfriend, some friends and I are spending the day at the The Maryland Microbrewery Festival.

I totally messed up and made a bunch of herbed chicken salad and caprese salad to bring with us before reading on their website that coolers aren't allowed.  Oh well, at least I got a head start on this week's lunches.

Keep posted here and follow me on Twitter (@CinnamonWinter) to see how the fest goes!!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Ol' San' Antone'

Just booked plane tickets to San Antonio for a few days in October.  The boyfriend is going on this fantastic-sounding bachelor party / brewery crawl of the East Coast.  To assuage my jealousy (*I* want to go to breweries too!!!) I'm going to go spend some time with my old friend Paul and see my college stomping grounds.

San Antonio has improved *so* much since I lived there.  I don't know if that's because the city itself has discovered good beer and food, or if it's always been there and I was just too broke / ignorant to find it before.

I'm looking for suggestions on where to go, I always seem to go back to the same places whenever I'm there.  These places are great, so I'm perfectly happy in my rut, but I'd also love to break out and see/eat/drink new things.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

All the veggies!

The boyfriend and I are happy members of the CSA at Gorman Farm.  This means that towards the end of every summer, our fridge is packed completely full of produce and I go on a canning / freezing rampage.

I don't know why, but this brings me a ridiculous level of glee.  I feel like I'm in Little House on the Prairie and I'm stocking up for winter.  However, it's not as if we're not members of a winter CSA (sooo many parsnips) too, and have relatively well stocked grocery stores all around us, but whatever.  I like stocking up.  Maybe we'll have another insane snowstorm like we did in 2010 and everyone will be grateful for my OCD insanity.

I do kind of wish that we'd have a bunch of house guests soon though, I can always get rid of a bunch of random things when there are too many people in my tiny house.  That also brings me glee; feeding people and using stuff up.  Maybe it's the OCD, but I love the cycle of using up and restocking.

At the moment I probably have about 12 pounds of tomatoes.  I canned six pints yesterday and then gave up.  I hate how tomatoes have to process for 85 minutes, my entire day is eaten up by canning tomatoes.  I still have a ton left, but I've moved on to pickling beets and peppers, I can get through those pretty quickly.

I just have to keep telling the boyfriend that a messy kitchen is a sign of a happy house.  I'm really lucky that GTA 5 just came out, it's possible that he barely notices the insanity.

Friday, September 20, 2013

The quest continues....

When I'm visiting family, my mother likes to put the boyfriend and me in charge of drinks.  It's her sweet attempt to include our interests and it usually goes horribly wrong.  We usually pick up some really interesting looking local craft beer that we've never had before or a bottle of wine that's usually a less common variety that I'm obsessed with.  (For example, we picked up a six-pack of really good IPA from Deep Ellum Brewing Co.).  This doesn't go over well and we're met with comments like "No Bud Light?" or "Why didn't you get Dos Equis? That's a fancy beer.".  

Despite all that, we continue to pick up "strange" beers that nobody else drinks.  Maybe we think one day we can expand their knowledge of beer.  That or we just want good stuff around for us to drink.  

After an arduous quest, we found a decently big liquor store along the side of the highway and I decided on a whim to continue my sherry quest.  I was looking around and the store manager (I think) offered to help me.  When I asked if he could show me his sherry selection, he responded with "cooking sherry?".  I should have been deterred by this, but instead replied "nope, the good stuff".  He had two bottles of non-cooking sherry, both by Sandeman.  I went with the Amontillado. 

It had a nice oaky character, maybe a bit of figs or raisins, which I liked.  The problem was it was still way too sweet and cloying.  I had a glass, it was OK, but I wasn't excited for another.   

Everyone else hated it.  I didn't hate it, but it's not what I'm looking for.  I think I need to stick to Finos or Manzanillos.  The quest continues.  

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Is this real??

This cannot be real.

No way.

The Common Table

The boyfriend and I spent the weekend in Dallas, Texas celebrating my Dad's 60th birthday.  As is usual with my family, it was largely awkward and In and Out Burger was the best food I had, until we escaped "to get to the airport early" and found The Common Table.

We were just looking for a place more our style with some good beer and appetizers.  The Common Table was exactly what we needed.  The food wasn't gourmet amazing, but I was really OK with that, I didn't want a big fancy meal covered in truffles and foie gras, I wanted comfort food and that's exactly what I got.

The place itself is super cute from the outside, with a great outdoor dining area.  If I'd lived in Texas more recently and could handle the heat I'd gladly have eaten out there underneath the bright red umbrellas standing out so nicely against the painted black building.

The employees were really nice (they let me charge my dying phone in the staff area) and very passionate and knowledgeable about beer.  Sports were on, but it didn't annoy me and it wasn't overpowering the whole restaurant.  It seemed like if you wanted to watch the game, you could, and if you wanted to just sit and have a beer, that's cool too.

It was a total refuge.

I wasn't sure which beer to get until I saw they had a local beers flight.  I had no idea Texas, and the Dallas area in specific, had so many good breweries.  Next time I'm back, I'm definitely going to visit some of them.  I had:
* The Temptress by Lakewood Brewing
* Texas Pils by Community Brewing
* Velvet Hammer by Peticolas
* The Chosen One Coconut Ale by 903 Brewers (it tasted like a Samoa Girl Scout Cookie!!)

They were all fantastic. The coconut ale might have been my favorite, but I've been on a big coconut in beer kick for a while.

They also had a rare bottles list, which had Alaskan's Smoked Porter.  I'm really shocked we didn't get it, but I guess we didn't want to have too much beer before our flight .... or something was horribly wrong with us.

For food we had an appetizer called "The Three Little Pigs" which had sausage, bacon and chorizo each in a pastry with maple syrup dipping sauce.  Yum!  The chorizo one was a bit soggy, but it's hard to do much with chorizo without having grease go everywhere, so I'm going to forgive them on that one.  The sausage pastry had a serrano pepper in it, which gave it a nice kick without burning my face off and was easily my favorite of the three.

We then split a grilled cheese sandwich.  They great thing about their grilled cheese is that it has pork loin in the middle, also delicious.  We asked to split the sandwich since neither of us was super hungry so when I saw them heading to the table with two plates I thought they had screwed up.  Nope, they were super nice and put the sandwich on two plates and gave each a heaping mound of thin, crispy fries.  Sorry for not giving you the benefit of the doubt The Common Table!!!

All in all it was great, it was the perfect place to have found.  If I lived in Dallas I could easily see this place becoming one of my default places to go.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Why didn't I do this sooner?

I really wish I had started this blog sooner, I have so many great events this year I could have written about, to include

* Top Chef cruise
* Indy 500 (with an Indy Beer Bus tour)
* Great British Beer Festival in London
* National Homebrewers' Conference in Philly

and several other great meals and drinking occasions my friends and I have had.  I'll probably make retroactive posts to summarize some of those events.  They probably won't be as good as the posts I would have made if I'd written them sooner, but I'll take what I can get right now.

Just got back from a quick trip to Texas, so please keep an eye out for a quick review of the one good restaurant we found there (we weren't really looking, and my family has terrible taste in restaurants).

Thursday, September 12, 2013

I have a twitter??

I also never thought I'd be on twitter, totally didn't see the point to that one.  But seeing as how I'd like to have this blog become something people read some day, I thought the ability to reach out to others might be a good thing.

I was so wrong about twitter all this time, it's totally fun.  Please follow me @CinnamonWinter!!

Another summer winds down

After last night, I think I only have three sailing races left in this season.  That went by incredibly fast!

We did really well last night, no major snafus.  Race committee did, however, stop the race early, which was crazy since it was barely 7:00, still light out, and we had a ton of wind.  It did work in our favor though, since we were doing well and hadn't had enough time for massive screwups.

I'm debating not doing frostbite races this year.  They're fun and I love getting more experience, but they eat an entire day out of my weekend for months on end.  As busy as I am, I really need that day.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013


Such a fun homebrew club meeting last night!!  There were some really quality beers there, especially the last coffee bourbon stout.  Delicious!

Les White gave us a tasting session designed to help us learn how to pick up "off" flavors in beer.  He offers a beer judge certification course and I'm considering taking it in the spring.  If nothing else, it'll help train my palate and make me a better, more informed beer drinker.  The boyfriend took it a few years ago and it looks like a TON of work.  I wish they offered it in the winter when I won't be sailing quite as much.

When I reminded the boyfriend that Les would be giving a tasting session last night he replied, "tasting beer with Les, we do that all the time!!".  "No, we drink beer with Les all the time, this will be a guided session, with learning."

When I have more time, I'll post a write-up on the entire session, it was quite interesting.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

goal ... units?

Who has two thumbs and really hates football season?

This lady.

My knowledge of sports extends to the fact that I know I can watch hockey live an enjoy it, that I got to go to a rugby game in England once and that was totally awesome and that I like Indy car racing now that the boyfriend bought me a track scanner and I know there's strategy involved (as opposed to "go faster and you win!" which is what I always thought).

It's completely possible that football is the same way, that there's strategy involved that is jut completely unknown to me.  It's also completely possible that this dislike of football is some holdover, some vestige remaining from my emo teenage years.

"Go to the football game? No, my friends and I are going to watch Evangelion and write really bad poetry".

I'm a Cowboys "fan" in that I lived in Dallas once and now that I live in Maryland being a Cowboys fan seems to annoy people and I find that hilarious.  The problem is, even that level of fandom leaves me vulnerable to people talking at me about things like "downs" and "kickers" as my eyes slowly glaze over and I look for an exit I can hurriedly run towards.

Maybe this year my strategy will be to constantly chug coffee so I always really need to pee.  It's a good a strategy as any.

I guess we all have our thing

The boyfriend is currently freaking out over Breaking Bad, a show I was never really able to get into.  It wasn't the violence that got me, which is what everyone assumes.  It was that after the first three episodes I couldn't really identify with any of the characters and I honestly didn't care what happened next.

Last night the boyfriend was all riled up over the show (we watch everything on DVR since we're rarely home, I have no idea when the show actually airs).  While he was talking about gun battles and voice mail messages, my ever so supportive and loving response was "Dude, I have to be up in like 6 hours, so I'm gonna turn off the light, that cool?".

Then I remembered I was once an X-Files fan, and when this:

Changed to this:

I completely lost my shit.

I've also gotten sucked into Lost and Battlestar Galactica, both which had really disappointing endings, so maybe I'm just jealous that he picked a show that actually knew what it was doing and could end itself with dignity.  

Monday, September 9, 2013

Apps I love

This week's app I love is Untappd

It's great for me to track the beers I've had, to make a beer wishlist and to see what friends are drinking.  To make matters worse (better?) you can earn badges.  My OCD loves this, it's like a variable rewards schedule for drinking! Friend me on it.  I'm Sandra25!

My bungalow

It's my mission to turn my house into the warmest, most comfortable and inviting home/speakeasy/yoga studio ever.

What nobody warns you when you buy a house is that everything will take about a million times longer than you estimate it should.  That being said, five years into owning a house, this place is finally starting to shape up.  I think part of it is that I finally have enough money to buy furniture that isn't from Ikea.  Or that I've learned things that don't at all work (why did I paint my small living room UPS truck brown!??!).

We're now in the final round of the Great Shacking Up.  This means that the boyfriend's place is now rented out, he lives here full-time and all of his things are now out of storage and delivered straight to our basement. Yes, the house is covered in boxes again, but they're happy boxes that bring joy to our lives.  At least the cats really like them.

The unpacking will undoubtedly take a while, as we give truckloads more stuff away to charity and find homes for everything.  The really happy upside of this is that our stuff blends together nicely, all of our furniture matches and we now have a lifetime supply of books on food/brewing/cocktails, etc etc.  And that's not counting all the technology-related books we have, which is impressive.  We are huge nerds.

Our cooking / brewing / drinking library might be a little nuts.

To celebrate, or just cause, we finally hung Winston.  We got Winston a few weeks ago at The Great British Beer Festival.  He's pretty much the best bottle opener ever.  I think he needs something else hanging around him, but I'm not too sure what yet.

We christened him by opening a Pumking by Southern Tier Brewing Co.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

In other news ....

To be completely random - does anyone have a clue what this is???

I saw it at the Yotel in NYC.  It's easily as tall as I am and the horns stretch out pretty far.

I have no clue what it is, nor does anyone I know.  Help?

Some days, I just give up

I'm incredibly jealous of all those bloggers who seem to have it together.  The ones who take amazing pictures of delicious looking food that they made while wearing vintage dresses and perfect hair.

I mean, I can make delicious food but the similarities end there.  I'm a terrible photographer, all of my pictures turn out blurry, and most have a thumb in front of the lens.  It's like I'm constantly taking pictures of Sasquatch.

And while I can make pretty good food, I'll usually do it in yoga pants that may or may not have cat hair on them (usually erring on the side of may), and the kitchen will look like the prom scene from Carrie when I'm done (especially if I'm making pasta sauce).

I'm terrible at crafts, I can't make crap.  I'm trying though, I really am.  I bought those adorable chalkboard stickers for all the jars in my kitchen and attempted to have decent handwriting.

So, that's a start.  (And yes, I have more mustard seed than any one person really needs.... it was for sale in bulk on the internet).  I was considering buying the paint and painting it on myself, but who was I kidding.  Stickers are far more my speed.

Because of all this, I'm having a Pinterest debate with myself.  I kinda want to sign up so I can get ideas.  But I kinda don't want to sign up because I'll just feel more useless than I already do.

At least it's something the boyfriend and I have in common.  He hates working with his hands with a fiery passion I can't quite understand.  I thought he was going to leave me the one time I made him hang blinds in the laundry room.

I really want to have a garden, but I've tried several times and everything repeatedly died.  Probably because I went on vacation and forgot all about it, or because my schedule is so irregular that sometimes things just don't get watered.

At least all humans and kittens in the house are clean and well-fed.  We have clothes and lunches for the week and I guess that's as good as things are going to get today.

Please excuse me while I watch this video over and over.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Thanks, Philadelphia

I was in Philadelphia a few months ago for the National Homebrewers' Conference.  Not knowing what to expect, I fully expected a couple of guys who were up to no good making trouble in my neighborhood. Little did I know, Philly is a fantastic city full of great bars and restaurants and we had a fantastic time eating and drinking our way around the city.

We went to a lovely little tapas place called Jamonera.

I wasn't going to drink there, since we had some homebrewing parties to attend later that night.  However, that plan was ruined when I saw they offered flights of sherry.  "Sherry?" I thought, "I don't know anything about sherry."  The extent of my sherry knowledge is that my mother drinks the cooking sherry when my grandmother (her mother-in-law) is in town.

I'm never one to pass up a learning opportunity about food or drink so I was compelled to order a flight.  It was amazing, everything I had was far from the rich, syrupy, cloying ingredient I was expecting.  I wish I had written down what I had.  I swear the waitress did that for me, but I can't for the life of me find the note.  I think I'll likely be on a quest for a while trying to find those beverages. 

The first attempt was a bottle of Fino from Jerez by Lustau en Rama.

Apparently it's bottled straight from the cask without any finishing, filtering, etc.  It's quite good, but not quite what I was looking for as it's a bit sweeter than I usually prefer.  It's probably the sweetest sherry I like, and I'll probably keep it stocked as I continue my quest for drier sherries.  It's great by itself and pairs nicely with most foods I've tried it with, although I do think spicy food would overpower it.  Not a bad first try!! 

Ah, the redneck boondocks

Most times, I love where I live.  It has a great small town vibe to it and sometimes it feels like you've stepped back into the past. They still carry your groceries out to your car for you, businesses are locally owned mom-and-pop type places where they recognize you if you shop there frequently, there's a giant neon pig outside of a bakery (that one is a bit odd, but I still like it).

However, I yearn for just one upscale wine/cheese/meat store within reasonable driving distance.  I stopped by the local liquor store hoping to pick up some Muscadet, or some Chenin Blanc or good sherry if all else failed.  I've been reading about Muscadet in Food and Wine magazine, and I *really* want to have a tasting at my house.  Everyone knows it's best to have a pre-tasting before the tasting to ensure you don't serve any "bad" wines.

Sigh.  Total failure.  If I wanted a crapton of Chardonay, Muscato or Pino Grigio, I was in luck.  Anything more exotic than that, forget it.  Even all the sherries were incredibly cheap and that fact scared me away.

There's a something under construction a few blocks away, they tore out an old gas station that used to be an incredibly small church (it was cute, even had an old-timey steeple!).   I so want that to be something local, artesianal, I'd shop there all the time.  Heck, I'd get mega excited about a Trader Joe's.

The boyfriend jokes that they're building a dog pound or a place for people to drop off toxic chemicals or a used tire store.  I just hope he's joking and doesn't know something I don't.

I blame the Puritans ... or the Victorians, still debating which

In a sudden Saturday-related influx of free time, I found myself watching videos on the internet, like ya do.  At some point in the past week (two weeks? It's been a blur) my office was all "Miley Cyrus, blah blah blah" and "ass, blah blah blah".  Because I run around like a crazy person all day at work, I didn't pay much attention.  Since I have nothing to do but clean my house and procrastinate today, I found myself looking up the video.

I found it here

The video is titled "Watch Miley Cyrus' Childhood-Ruining VMAs Performance". Whose childhood? I somehow doubt someone else's performance would ruin my childhood. And I *think* Miley Cyrus is about 20 something, so her childhood is also over. Did she dance so poorly that she traveled back through time and ruined her own childhood?

I just don't get it.

It's really not that bad.

It's the Music Video Awards.  On MTV.  Now I haven't watched MTV in a long time and I'm pretty much completely out of their demographic, but I used to watch it back in the 90's when it was super wholesome and only encouraged rampant ass-shaking on Spring Break.  You know, in moderation.  Anyone who was surprised about ass-shaking on MTV has just come out of a really long coma.  

Second, she was dancing around to Blurred Lines, a song that comes with an x-rated music video.  

I hate this song.  Not because it's misogynistic, or because I don't like Robin Thicke's singing, but because it contains this lyric: "You wanna hug me? ... What rhymes with hug me".  Am I so old that there's a new slang word for bone that rhymes with hug and I don't know it??? Or does Robin Thicke NOT KNOW WHAT RHYME MEANS????  

Third, I'm pretty sure that everyone who is currently getting the vapors over this has had the same conversation about Madonna, Lady Gaga, Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, etc. etc.  Remember that time Elvis wiggled his hips and it made all the girls want to have sex???? 


Seriously people, get over it.  We were all 20 once and found ourselves newly sexual beings awash in hormones.  "But she was so slutty, and on TV too!!"  Whatever.  I don't see the big deal about being slutty vs not being slutty.  It's an arbitrary distinction.  I have two rules about sex 1) wear a condom and 2) don't be a jackass.  Can we all stop stigmatizing sexual behavior? There's nothing wrong with it, we all come from a long line of sex-having people.  Sex isn't wrong, or dirty.  It's awesome, and when done with someone with whom you share mutual respect, it's super fun as well.  If some girl wants to grind on some guy dressed as Beetlejuice on national TV, go for it.  If you don't want to watch, don't watch.  

For the record, I wasn't a fan of the performance.  Not because I was offended, but because that was seriously weak ass-shaking.  Twerking has been around for a while now (20 years?) and professional dancers can do some seriously amazing things with their butts.  Can Miley jiggle one cheek at a time? Can she jiggle while doing the splits?  If you're going to call something twerking, please actually twerk and leave me amazed at the skill level involved.  Please read up on Big Freedia

Someone, I forget who, asked me if I had a daughter, would I let her do that on TV.  My answer was absolutely no, we have standards in this family.  If my daughter is going on TV to shake her ass, that better be ass Cirque du Soleil.  She better do things her mother can't do.  

Also, it worked.  We just had a Miley Cyrus conversation, which before this ass-related incident, would never have happened.  

Neil Gaiman makes me regret my atheism

Neil Gaiman makes me regret my atheism, or alternatively titled, Holy Crap, Neil Gaiman, what psychological vein did you tap into???

I just finished The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman and it did something to me, something I can't quite explain or understand.  It was like he knew of some psychological artery and tapped right into it, pumping the story right into every hope, dream, fear and insecurity borne from a childhood of nerdy isolation that I didn't realize I was still carrying around with me decades later. 

It wasn't that scary, but it was TERRIFYING.  It made my heart pound like almost nothing has in recent memory.  It wasn't that skin-crawling, creeped-out feeling from horror movies, it was a visceral horror that was all-consuming at the time but that I don't understand days later.  There was nothing fundamentally scary about it, or maybe I have it backwards, maybe it WAS fundamentally scary and I don't recognize that because it's FUNDAMENTAL. 

When I was in college, I used to watch crime scene forensics shows because they fascinated me. Then when it came time for 9:00 pm orchestra rehearsal, I'd make a friend walk me across the dark campus to ensure that if I got serial killed, at least I'd have company.  

That was scary.  This book wasn't scary, this book was terrifying.  It embodied all of the terror in being alone, powerless, abused and ignored.  When reading, I was that child, had always been and maybe perhaps still was. 

How can something that in hindsight was so unrealistic, such an obvious fantasy story have caused a physical reaction like it did?  Crap, man, I don't know.

When I was a teenager, I so desperately wanted Avalon to be true.  If there were other worlds, other dimensions full of fairies and magic, then I could be from there and that would explain why I was so alone and awkward in this world.  I could belong to another place, one far less mundane, where people didn't care about popularity and being well-dressed and social awkwardness, there were far more pressing problems like magic and dragons and vampire space robots to fight off.  It would be possible for me to to become far greater, far more wise and immortal than any parent or teacher or adult I had ever met and that would show them!

And then I grew up.  Or thought I did.  I realized/admitted that things like this just don't exist.  They just don't and there's no scientific proof and never will be.  There is no magic, there are no other worlds just through the mist.  There's no higher power and things like souls and heaven and hell are also untrue, no matter how many times my mother uses those words in sentences.  I put my trust and belief in things that are provable and factual.  I read Dawkins and Hitchens ravenously.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane made me almost regret all of that.  I found myself again wishing, hoping so completely that the fantasy were all true.  If I could find a place, so peaceful with the immortal maiden, mother and crone, then I could transcend all of the worries of my life.  Careers and the question of having children or not would all fade away when compared to the power of being able to magically repel ancient creatures from long forgotten places and to repair the fabric of the universe with the force of my spirit. 

Having the book, and thus myself, leave all of that left me sobbing and confused.  How could such a normal ending be so sad, so heart-wrenching and give me such a sense of loss?

This book messed me up for DAYS.  I can't recommend it enough, although I do recommend reading it alone so nobody can see what it does to you. 

I recently had lunch with a friend of mine from high school.  She said the book did the same thing to her, and was beautifully equally unable to articulate it quite right.  I just nodded, kept saying "no, I totally get it" and ordered another round of mimosas.  

I think my next read will be on stock-trading algorithms, just to provide a counterbalance and to prove that the fantasy I just lived through was all really just a dream.
I have a blog? This turn of rather mundane events is something I never saw myself doing, never much saw the point to it.  But now I'm here, on a lazy Saturday, staring down a blinking cursor and thinking this might be much harder than I had thought.  I've been kicking around this idea for quite some time, but actually doing it seems almost surreal, because seriously, I have a blog?

Thanks, tequila in my coffee, for getting me into this. 

I think (or rather, am slowly realizing) that this trepidation stems from what I so desperately think I want from this whole process.  I'll start a blog, will become famous, will quit my job that gives me high blood pressure and will be paid to eat, drink, write and be merry!!  The original idea for this blog was to be a restaurant review site, to dip my toe into that arena because wouldn't it be great to be a restaurant critic?  A blog has to have a point, a unifying theme, it has to be about something, right?  The more I thought, and the more I wrote in my head, I realized I am not that organized and I have more to say (ramble about?).  I don't want to have to not write about books, about yoga, about mustard I just made.  Do I still in my imagination and crazy dreams want to be the bastard combination of The Bloggess and Anthony Bourdain and shit let's just throw a dash of Amanda Palmer in there for fun, hell yes.  Do I honestly think a blog will get me there? Probably not, not without more luck than any one person has and a decent amount of bribery (who would I bribe? I have no idea, I'm just assuming there's somebody).  Will I most likely continue my job as a computer programmer and happily go about my 30-something life with zero changes and slowly post less and less? Absolutely.

Instead of fame and fortune and a contract with Food and Wine magazine, I'll aim for becoming a better writer and maybe having a small outlet for the words that bounce around in my head.  Maybe I will review a restaurant now and then, for giggles.  

Not that I'd turn down Food and Wine magazine if they came knocking .... or Conde Nast Traveler.  They're all welcome to call.