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.