Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Belize


Belize Zoo
I just returned from a holiday in Belize and I have to say that the country is nothing short of magical.  I am still trying to decide if I loved it because of the interesting and friendly people I met from different parts of the U.S., the beauty of the oceans, reefs and endless variety of fish, the delicious food or the enchanting natives who always had smiles on their faces.  Normally sleeping in tents and sharing bathrooms with strangers would not be a desirable way to spend my time.  Yet, on this trip, it was a minor inconvenience that was worth it for the unforgettable experience.

Belize Zoo
Glover's Atoll Island
Sleeping Tent
Fly Fishing Paradise
Gearing up for Snorkeling

Happiness



Saturday, December 14, 2013

Taiwan


Lantern in Alishan
I went on a little trip...to Taiwan with a brief stop in Hong Kong.  This was my first trip to Asia and I am so glad I went.  Taiwan is an enchanting place with lovely people that is seriously underrated by the Western world.  I would not have traveled there myself had it not been for being invited to a friend's wedding in Chiayi.  Not only was I able to experience the culture and people in a wedding setting, I was also able to travel around the country easily with their incredible high speed rail and metro system.
Headed to the Wedding Ceremony
Chiayi Night Market
Note: I do not speak a word of Chinese and I was able to move around the country with a Rough Guide book with relative ease.  I did not have cell phone access unless I was in a hotel or train station where free WiFi was available.  If I could do it all again, I would have spent some time learning some basic Chinese words and phrases.  The one term I learned quickly and used a lot was, "Xièxiè" which means "thank you".  Kind of sounds like "shea she", although I would recommend listening to a native saying it to get the idea. 
Taroko Gorge
One of the undisputed highlights of the trip was a visit to Taroko Gorge.  This is a lush, green mountain range that stretches into the clouds with crystal clear blue water running through the gorge.  I stayed in Hualien which is about an hour away from the Gorge by bus and was a lot less crowded and busy than Chiayi and Taipei.  There is a high speed rail stop at Hualien from Taipei and the hotel and food prices in this little town were excellent.  Think $80 a night for a nice room that is a quick walk from the train station and an abundance of turkey rice for $2.  If you have not had turkey rice, a Taiwan speciality, and you love rice as much as I do, this dish is a real treat.    
Taroko Gorge
Taroko Gorge
Dragon on Top of Alishan Shoujhen Temple
Maokong Gondola Ride in Taipei
Tea and Waffles in Maokong
Finally, one of the things I learned on this trip is that people in Taiwan take their tea seriously.  There is ritual to how the tea is brewed, the quality and temperature of the water, the tea leaves and the pot it is brewed in and the pot from which the tea is poured.  Of course, once one tastes improperly brewed tea, the attention to detail does not seem outlandish since tea is somewhat of a delicate beverage that can be easily mangled.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Autumn in Atlanta, GA

I was out in Atlanta, GA this past weekend and was ready to move there as I headed back to Chicago.  The weather was beautiful, housing affordable, people nice and amazing parks to run and play in year around.
Ever gone to a Hibachi grill?  This was a first for me.  Lots of fun for both kids and adults.
My brother introduced me to Turducken.
We stayed at The Social Goat complete with turkeys, goats and chickens in the back yard.  My kiddo loved it.
Lovely Grant Park. I could get used to this.
What?  I have to go back to cold and rainy Chicago? Nooooooo!!


Monday, July 29, 2013

Aspen, Basalt, a Half Marathon and Consignment Shops

  
Have you ever gone from sea level to 9,000 feet in less than 24 hours and run a half marathon?  I            know, that's a dare on par with betting someone they can't eat a whole jalapeño.  This was not a dare.  I did this on my own accord because I am training for the marathon and needed to get my long weekend run in while on vacation.  I had planned this trip in advance of signing on for the marathon and there just happened to be a half marathon in Aspen at the time I planned to travel there.  Lucky me.


So, here's a rundown of what to expect on a very hilly course (hills at the end of the race...extra awesome), in the hot sun at 9,000 feet after coming from sea level with less than 24 hours to acclimatize; cramping, flaming knee and thigh pain, wanting to cry in the middle of a race and utter and complete exhaustion.  This was the first half I have ever had to walk at several points but somehow I managed to beat my Chicago Women's Half time which I ran about a month ago.  I started out strong but the hills at the end killed me.  The race organizers said that this was a mostly downhill course.  Bastards lied.


Anyway, so I lived and the remainder of the vacation was excellent.  As you can see from the pics, Colorado is never short on breath-taking scenery and fun things to do.  This was my first paddle boarding stint and I loved being much closer to the water and scenery than I would be in a boat.


One last tip on the Aspen and Basalt areas; skip the high end shops and head to the consignment shops.  God bless rich people throwing out gorgeous clothing after wearing it once and sometimes not wearing it at all.  At one consignment shop I saw a Versace dress with the Saks tag still on showing a price of $1,335.  The consignment shop price was $250.  I ended up getting a jacket, skirt and a top for just under $100.  These items, with their gorgeous cut, fabric and design fit me like a glove.  Hooray.         
  

Monday, July 1, 2013

Strawberries and Cream

Continuing on with Wimbledon traditions, today we have Strawberries and Cream.  The British take this simple dessert very seriously and at Wimbledon, it is as much of a tradition as the tennis whites the players are required to wear.  They pick the strawberries the day before and they arrive at the stadium at 5:30 a.m to be inspected and hulled.  The buttercream used is a double cream with at least 48 percent butter fat.  Apparently, this became a tradition in 1877 when the first Wimbledon event was held.  Both the tournament and the strawberries signaled the arrival of summer as this time of year used to be the only time strawberries were available in the U.K.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Friday Cocktail - Pimm's Cup for Wimbledon

Traditional Pimm's Cup
I am probably the only American who is from Chicago who is doing a post about our British friends across the pond as we head into the Fourth of July and on the heels of a Blackhawks Stanley Cup victory.  Guess what, I just mentioned both, so we can now get our English drink on to celebrate Wimbledon.

So, if you are going to Wimbledon, or if like me you are wishing you were at Wimbledon, you will want to mix up a Pimm's Cup and break out the cucumber sandwiches and strawberries and cream.  England's food can be hit or miss but there are a few things they do really well such as tea, scones, clotted cream and a Pimm's Cup.  Although, be warned, this is a drink that will knock you out if you are not careful. It is refreshing, tastes of summer fruit and icy cold.  Before you know it, you've downed a few of these and don't know your own name.    

Pimm's Cup
Yield: 1 Tall Cocktail

Ingredients:
2 oz. Pimm's No. 1
4 oz. sparkling/carbonated lemonade (you can also use 7-Up, Ginger Ale or lemon-lime soda)
Mint sprigs, cucumber slices, orange slices and sliced strawberries

1.  Add lots of ice to a tall, chilled glass
2.  Add the soda and Pimm's and stir
3.  Garnish with orange, strawberries, mint and cucumbers 

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Roasted Cauliflower, Chickpeas with Mustard and Parsley, Title IX and a Half Marathon

If you happen to get into the head of a runner, you will most likely find one of two if not both things; they love to eat or there is something eating at them, be it a demanding or stressful job, trying to come to terms with a difficult childhood, trying to comes to terms with their own child, a divorce or something of that life altering variety that necessitates many hours pounding the pavement.  There is almost nothing that I have not been able to balance in my head during a run and it has proven more therapeutic, much less expensive and far more healthy than therapy, food or shopping.  Bonus; according to the New York Times, running is also an excellent appetite suppressant.
My Mom and Me
This past Sunday, I ran in a Women's Half Marathon and it was a hot and humid slog.  I have run in half-marathons before but this one was particularly important because it was the anniversary of the passage of Title IX, the 1972 law that allowed women to participate in high school and college sports.
I remember asking my Mom once when I was much younger, what sports she did when she was in school.  She said, "Girls didn't participate in sports when I was your age."  I was dumbfounded.  When you think about how far we have come from that being the norm or from the fact that Kathrine Switzer was nearly tackled (see above) while running the Boston Marathon in 1967 by an official screaming at her to get out of his race, makes me thankful for the women who made it possible for me to run in races let alone an entire race dedicated to women.  Pretty incredible.