Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Japan, quickly

Before I pass out from all the delicious sake:

1. Perhaps even better than a hotel room robe is a hotel room kimono, especially if it's green with a dark purple tie.

2. The guide books to Tokyo are all wrong. They should just say this: Look, you will get lost. Take the subway to such and such neighborhood and just walk around. We won't bother suggesting any particular restaurants because you will never ever find them. Nor will any cabbie, so don't bother going that route because you will just embarrass him and frustrate you.

3. I have seen signs for no smoking while walking and no putting on make-up on the train. These are smart people, the Japanese.

4. Restaurants tend not to give out napkins with dinner, although they do give you a heated, warmed towel, which they do not collect. So, I guess you are to keep this on the table and wipe your fingers on it if they get sticky. Laps remain unprotected, however.

5. At the izakaya bar we happened onto after dinner this evening, they offered various grilled things. For less than $2 you could get a couple bites of the following, grilled: onion with cheese, tomatoes with cheese, Kyoto pepper, wheat gluten, rice ball, leek. We tried all those and they were all delicious. I love a bar that offers interesting snacks, especially in inexpensive, small portions.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Notes from Penang, Malaysia

I arrived in Penang on a Friday evening and checked into my $35/night hotel (the Sunway). The hotel gave me a free map, which gives a very vague idea of the layout of the downtown. It seemed only the main streets were listed. The street my hotel was located on was not listed. The concierge aka server in the dining area circled a spot on the map and said the hotel was roughly located in that spot.

With my sense of direction being as bad as it is, I was a bit trepidatious about setting off on a walk just before dark, armed only with a mediocre map. But on a 48 hour trip, one does not hang out in the hotel room.

Not too far from my hotel I happened upon a temple of some sort. A big sign said WELCOME over the door, so I wandered in. A man in a turban sitting by the door said, "go in, go in!" A couple of women told me to go ahead and go upstairs. The motherly one of the group showed me where to find a loaner scarf and where to leave my shoes. I went and had a look. Honestly, there was not much to see and I felt strange being trusted to be in their worship area all by myself.

Back downstairs, the motherly woman said they were going to a festival and asked if I'd like to come. I said, "thank you, no," and headed back in the direction of my hotel on foot. A few minutes later, a car slowed beside me and beeped. It was the 3 women. "Are you coming?" the one said. What the hell, I thought. An adventure.

They took me to another temple, where they were celebrating the birthday of the prophet Guru. Shoes off, head scarf borrowed from the communal pile, upstairs to pray. I held back, but she beckoned me over. An old woman sat on the floor, doling out small portions of some sort of sweet, mushy grain. I ate the portion offered me. A man on a dais was reading from a holy book. The four of us women retreated to the back of the room where we sat on the floor and ate the snack.

Back on the first floor, they insisted I join them for a vegetarian Indian meal. It was nothing special, but I felt compelled to eat it all. My appetite was then ruined for other Penang delicacies. But I rallied and went to the Red Garden hawker center after taking my leave of the Sikhs.

One of the Sikh women ate soupy lentils with her fingers and then used a spoon to eat custard. I think custard would have made for easier finger food. There were no napkins, only sinks.

On Saturday I took a taxi to Penang Hill. It seemed extravagent to take taxis everywhere, but they were cheap according to US standards: $14 for a 35 min. taxi ride. There are two funiculars to reach the summit of the hill. Each one goes halfway. There are several cars with one bench per car. Everyone else squishes in and stands. It's a little excrutiating, but I think the walk back down would have been even more so. It takes nearly a half hour to reach the summit.

I was extremely disappointed to discover that the capopy walk is indefinitely closed for repairs. I was really looking forward to that. To make up for it, I wandered off of the well-marked paths, but did not see anything particularly interesting.

After Penang Hill, I went to Kek Lok Si, a large Chinese Buddhist temple complex, also containing a small funicular to reach the top level housing the 50-foot Buddha. I think this was the highlight of my trip. The temple was so striking.

I felt I had to see the beach. A drive-by would have been more than sufficient. Instead I spent 2 hours on the dirty beach, waiting for the night market to open at 7pm. Turned out the night market sells mostly the same stuff they sell in Chinatown in NYC.

Sunday a.m. was a bit of a wash. I failed to budget my time appropriately to explore more of the downtown, but did see the so-called floating mosque and the snake temple (underwhelming as well) and had one more delicious meal from a hawker market. Due to a lack of clear communication, I got a taxi at 10am to take me to those 2 places and arrive at the airport at 3pm. I should have realized I was leaving waaaay too much time for this excursion and wandered around the downtown before getting a taxi. Oh well. Lesson learned. The driver suggested taking me to the Pinang Peranakan Mansion museum, which was not a bad choice. And I still did quite a bit with my half day.

Note to self: when buying a can of iced tea in Asia, first check that it doesn't contain aloe bits. YUCK.

Penang photos here.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

In which I talk about something completely different

You may get a pair of chopsticks or you may get a fork and spoon with your meal, but I have yet to get a knife with a meal.

Food is cut with the spoon. Presumably nothing is so tough that it needs to be sawed. And if it is uncuttable, you stab the entire piece with the fork and bite off of it, perhaps holding the spoon underneath it, in case it falls. Imagine doing this with a chicken wing.

I thought in Asia people picked up their bowls of noodles and slurped them into their mouths. It is possible that that is the case, but when it comes to a lunch dish that consists of a plate of noodles topped with slices of pork, it is not to slurped. I *think* you are supposed to pick up the noodles with your chopsticks and place them in the soup spoon and then put this in your mouth.

Or, I'm doing it all wrong and there will soon be another international incident.

I suspect that people have their work manners on when I'm dining with them at lunchtime. It was mentioned when I was taken for fish head curry that if my colleagues were not worried about getting messy, they'd be picking at the bones with their hands. I have to hope that they use their hands *sometimes.* I really can't imagine eating a whole chili crab speared on a fork.

For about $2.15, I can get a big cup of freshly juiced juice. I'm a novice at this juice thing. I never get it at home since it's so expensive. I've been wanting a juicer, though. It seems that not all fruits are good mixes. Today I got pineapple and kiwi. It tasted good, but it kept separating.

I thought I was going to be getting bubble tea every day, but juice it is.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

In which the bumbling American makes a faux pas

I knew about the business card culture in Asia. Rather, I thought I knew about the business card culture in Asia. I knew about how you are supposed to hand over your card using both hands, print facing the recipient. When you receive the card, you are to look it over and then carefully put it in your breast pocket. I'm not sure where it's appropriate for women to put them.

What I did NOT know is that in Asia, business cards are handed out like relief supplies after a flood (said one of my Asian colleagues). My colleagues in the Singapore office said they go through boxes and boxes of cards every year.

I have barely made a dent in my own box of cards, which I received nearly five years ago. I carry around maybe 10 cards at most at any given time and those 10 cards tend to remain in my wallet for months at a time. As a web editor I don't encounter too many people with whom I exchange cards.

Last night, some colleagues invited me along to some industry parties. I should preface this by also adding that last week when I arrived, the office manager asked if I needed her to order me any cards. At the time I thought that a strange question and I replied that no, I was good. (I had many in my wallet. Ten or twelve even!)

So, I go to these two parties and my colleagues are exchanging cards with contacts left and right and they introduce me as a person working on the web and these people are handing me their cards and I am saying: "Thank you, but I'm not actually in the industry. Please keep your card to give to someone else so that you don't run out of them." Neither of the people I'm with (both Singapore natives) is telling me this is the wrong thing to say, I might add.

Apparently what is even worse than refusing a proferred card is implying that you are too good to take the person's card.

The Singapore office found my actions extremely amusing and they laughed heartily at me. I protested that they ought to have warned me! This made them laugh even harder. If they weren't being so welcoming in every other regard, I would have to hold a grudge.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Chinatown, etc.

There is absolutely no tipping in Singapore, except maybe to round up to the next dollar when taking a taxi. It makes it easier to pay, but it feels so wrong to me.

Men in Singapore must serve in the military for 2 years when they turn 18. So, they don't begin university until they are 20 or 21. For the next 10 years, every year they have to go for yearly service, which can last from 1-14 days. They find out when they must report at least 6 months in advance so they can arrange for it with their jobs. The government pays their companies for their time. Women don't have to do any of this, but they can join the military and serve as officers if they so choose. I wonder if this means that women begin university 2 years before men do.

I'm not really minding living out of a hotel room. It's kind of nice having a maid! Although the price I pay is that every day I move the comfy chair by the desk (where the ethernet cable is) and every day the maid moves it back.

The malls are jam packed on Friday and Saturday nights. Good thing I decided to eat dinner early last night. The wait to get in to the sushi place was only about 15 minutes at 6pm. I was seated at the sushi counter, which is partly why going out for sushi alone is not at all awkward. The sushi chefs kept smiling at me and making small talk. Unfortunately, I couldn't hear them very well so I just smiled and nodded a lot. God knows what I agreed to.

I have been trying various iced desserts, of course. It seems that when I see a flavored soft serve listed on a menu, it's not the soft serve itself that is flavored, but rather a syrup that is poured over a vanilla one. I have had the sesame one and a hojiki (I think that's what it was) one, which was a Japanese tea. Both were really good. I might get the soft serve in a cup in the future, though, because I wind up having to lick off all the syrup.

I finally saw some black people today: fellow tourists in Chinatown. Chinatown was not as exciting as I remember it being on my last trip here with my former company. I think maybe the reason I went to Chinatown so often on that trip is because that office was right on the border of Chinatown.

I will have to go back to Chinatown near the end of my stay, however, to go to Dr. Fish Spa. I don't want the fish to eat off my pedicure, but I definitely want to give them a tasty meal of my dead feet skin.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Another post about food -- surprise, surprise!

Now I think I understand why there are grocery stores in the malls. People don't do much cooking here so they probably don't need to buy a lot of food at a time. And why should they since there are good restaurants all over the place, especially in the malls?

Alcohol is pretty expensive because of the taxes, presumably. I bought a bottle of Australian Pinot Noir for $25 US dollars and it tastes like crap.

There's a bubble tea shop right across from the office. How ingenious is this? You can ask for the tea to be 25%, 50%, 75% or 100% sweet. They also offer small or large pearls.

The Singaporean preference is to drink black tea with sweetened condensed milk. It is surprisingly tasty. The office goes through so much of the stuff that they just leave it out on the counter. The kitchen at the office also has stocked cans of oolong tea which is nice and strong and not sweet. Some of the other offerings, like chrysanthamum tea, I have not yet tried.

The ladies' bathroom at the office contains one stall that is a hole in the floor. I don't know why this surprised me, but it did.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Eating way too much

First impressions of Singapore:

Despite the heat and humidity, many locals are wearing jackets and tights. I'm not sure if it's an attempt to keep the sun off or if they are impervious to the heat.

There are Japanese products at the drug store advertising their skin whitening properties, including a cleanser (cleans off pigment?) and a 45 SPF face lotion (that not only protects but also whitens?).

On Kevin Utter's recommendation, I tried the chicken rice, which is indeed truly delicious. A hunk of ginger was hiding inside the rice.

While sitting in the Suntec mall, I saw a little girl with a bob and then another, longer layer of hair underneath. It was basically a rat tail, the width of her neck. Another kid, barely old enough to walk, was in flip flops. She flopped several times. Malls are EVERYWHERE. They stay open late, there are nice restaurants inside them and they are huge.

Two malls I've been in have a Carrefour inside. This surprised me at first, but today at work I found out that people don't cook much here, so I suppose they just pick up odds and ends at the grocery stores while out window shopping at the mall.

Unfortunately, the Carrefour I went into yesterday reeked of dourian. I really do not understand how people can eat a fruit that smells so horrible.

When I checked in, I found out that the breakfast buffet was included in my room rate. It is a combo of western and eastern. I had: fresh fruit, European style yogurt, pork bun, chicken bun, hash brown, bacon, cheese, whole grain bread, roasted tomatoes, mini veggie spring roll. I was so excited that I was going to have this selection for breakfast every day. And then I came back to my room this evening to a letter stating the hotel regretfully informs me that my room rate does not include the breakfast buffet. So sad. Probably for the best, though. I did find a small fruit bowl in my room this evening as well. I guess I will be having an apple for breakfast tomorrow, not a full spread. Sigh...

I should really not complain. The food has been delicious and plentiful. And I can see why people don't cook much. There are good and cheap options everywhere I turn. A colleague took me for dim sum at lunch today. There is dim sum within a short walking distance from the office! That pretty much made my day.

I took myself out for a sushi dinner tonight. I think the norm here might be to fill out a slip of paper selecting what pieces of sushi one wants. I do not understand why that's not the norm at home. I often make a list of what we want and then read it to the waitress. At our regular sushi place, I get teased for writing it down. Are people expected to remember??

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Beijing airport is lovely

(That's a lie.)

In fact, it's a rather confusing airport. But it's much less confusing to me now that I have spent 8 hours there. It's probably a good thing I did have 8 hours to sort out my new connection (after missing the original one) since figuring that out was more than slightly complicated.

1. Could not go through customs because did not have visa.
2. By the time got special dispensation to go through customs, bags were no longer on carousel. Baggage office by carousel had no info. Sent us to find Continental desk.
3. Air China desk said we would maybe, maybe not get on the 11:30 pm flight to Singapore, but to come back at 10pm to see. It was then 4pm.
4. "What do we do if we have to wait until tomorrow?" we asked. "You can sleep on the benches if you don't have any money to get a hotel room," the Air China employee said. How generous. However, it was not the money issue, but the visa issue. We could not leave the airport.
5. Finally located baggage at Oversize Baggage Dropoff counter.
6. Sought out Continental office to find out if there were any other flights we could take. Finding the office was perhaps the trickiest of all since it was located behind a door marked EXIT.
7. Were told that we could actually leave the airport and stay in a hotel if need be, as long as we were going to be in China for less than 24 hours. Much relieved.

In the end, we got on the flight and I'm here in Singapore and the sun just came up and my room is on the 19th floor. My view includes two churches.

I don't know how I would have stayed awake in Beijing if it weren't for my new friend, a 64-year-old man from Easton, PA, who was also trying to get to Singapore.

My room includes not only the Gideon Bible but also The Teaching of Buddha. Thankfully I'm nosy because I just found the hair dryer in the desk drawer.

The Beijing airport has numerous stations for filling water bottles. Many employees had water bottles or bottles of tea.

The green tea I got on the Air China flight was amazing.

My seatmate on the plane poured his fruit cup into the coffee cup that came with his tray and drank it like fruit soup.

After 36 hours of traveling, my hair looks as good as it does on most days. However, the customs folk in China still asked me to take off my glasses and smile while they squinted at me. Finally, the one agent said, "It's her."

My hotel room is quite spacious. There is a fridge and a kettle and even a scale. But there are no shelves in the bathroom.

I may get a pedicure today. I really don't like getting my toenails clipped, but I will just clip them in advance and request they not do it. My feet look frightful, so it must be done.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The end of a great trip

I think about how wonderful it would be to live in a city where everyone bikes. Groups of adults bike together and it seems perfectly normal whereas at home the oldest group of people on bikes would be under age 16. And they would probably be considered a menace. Then again, part of the allure has been the perfect early fall weather. I would prefer not to solely rely on a bike for transportation if it were 40 degrees and raining.

Today we went to Christiania, which is a hippie commune on a small man-made island. At one time the residents has seceeded from Denmark. Now they are supposedly moving towards rejoining Denmark, but it is still an enclave where outsiders are welcome to visit. One can view their art and buy their beer and hash and hang out, but no photos are allowed at all, which of course drove me nuts.  

The craft beer loving folk in Copenhagen is a small community. We keep running into the same people. I love that. I also love that both times we've gone to Olbaren (which translates to beer bar) people have been so friendly. 

In case it is not apparent from all I've written from here thus far, Copenhagen is a GREAT beer town. The best part? I don't think most people in the US realize that, so our fellows are not flocking here. 

But I assure you, if you come here for beer, you will not be disappointed. Just save up plenty because it's every bit as expensive as you've been led to believe.

Many places serve dinner prix fixe only  and the prix tends to be around $40 for an entree only. A local subway ride costs $4. A cup of tea costs $5. A delicious consomm√© that Jeff ordered was $20. Anyway, you get the picture.  

I'm so glad we came on this trip. When I was on my way here I was almost apologetic about why we were coming. And now I feel guilty about that. Copenhagen is great and I'm even a little teary-eyed about departing.   

Oh and ps: Tivoli really is just an amusement park. We have those at home.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Eating, drinking, biking aka day 3 in Copenhagen

It turns out that all the bikes we thought were not locked up actually have little locks that stick a bar through the spokes on the back wheel. When we went to retrieve the bikes we had rented from our hotel we could not figure out where to insert the key until we were shown. A woman, a fellow guest, from South Africa was in the dark about it as well.

She said she was on her own for the day while her husband went to a conference, so we invited her along with us to get smorsbord I think they call it here. I'm unclear on whether it's the same as smorgesbord because here it means simply small open-face sandwiches. 

Jeff got the herring and I got a selection of three: chicken with crispy Parma ham, herring, and roast beef. All were exquisite. We also shared a big bottle of local beer. The menu did not specify the types of beer sold because, the waiter said, it depends on what they brew and send over. The beer was brown and a little sweet and apparently is it's own style. 

I have only seen two people wearing biking gear. Everyone else is on a city bike, wearing heels, trousers, skirts, etc.

Our hotel did not have enough helmets for everyone and they did not seem too concerned about it. 

The bikes have higher handlebars and a cover over the chain -- perfect for city riding. The bike lanes are fairly pervasive, but not completely. There are even turn lanes for bikes. I am not certain where bikers are supposed to go when the bike lane turns into a car turn lane and the bikers wish to continue straight.

Last night we went to a brewpub for dinner where all the food is made with beer. We then went to a local pub where we arrived at 11:30. The place seemed pretty dead and we expected it would be closing soon. The bartender was incredibly knowledgable and told us all about the Danish beer selections. Anything similar to Belgians he frowned upon, though. He said in Belgium he only drinks Lambics (and yes he's had Lambic and chocolate stout and he likes it). 

We mentioned that we were on our personal beer tour of the city. He said, "hold on, then. I'm going to call a preeminent Danish brewer and a guest brewer from Vermont." He was on the phone briefly and then said, "okay, they said they'd be here in 35 seconds."

At 2 am, long after Jacob had shut he door to any new entrants, the group that had magically appeared at Olbaren started drifting homeward. Shaun, the guest brewer from Vermont, is starting his own brewery in March, which will be called Hill Farmstead Brewery. He doesn't like Belgian beers either though. 

He and Jacob were quite fond of a 2.5% smoky sailor's beer, which Jacob insisted I drink one of (on the house) before I was allowed to order another beer. It started growing on me but the smoky burps later on were horrible. I wanted to try a large bottle of Mickeller Beer Geek Breakfast, which is made with weasel shit coffee, Jacob told me. I said I would need to split it with someone, though. Jacob said he would be happy to. I don't know how trustworthy my palate was by then but i remember it being an excellent and full-bodied beer.

Tonight we will hit a few more places, including plan b, where Jacob says he'll be working. Oh crap... we researched all the bars but no restaurants. Now we must find somewhere to eat before tonight's pubcrawl.    

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Copenhagen day 2

I'm not sure if I have mentioned quite how expensive it is here. It is really expensive. Local beers are $10-12.

Our hotel key is made of balsawood instead of plastic.

When people go into restaurants, schools, bars, etc. they leave their bikes and baby carriages leaning against the outside wall, mainly unlocked.

Maybe 5% of adults wear bike helmets. About 75% of kids wear them when riding with adults.

Three-wheeled bikes with a box in the front seems to be an ideal method of carting around several small children plus groceries.

I'm guessing that because it's a good bit cooler in the shade, this is why on the same day I have seen women wearing shorts and sandals and another wearing a jacket and gloves.

Most everyone is nicely dressed, except for the old dude wearing leggings and a crop top with his belly hanging out.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The weather is gorgeous, at least

In Copenhagen, the baby carriages are all old style: gigantic cribs on gigantic wheels. One baby I saw was wedged in using what looked like those removable dividers that came with my Crumpler camera bag (although these dividers were slightly larger). Another baby I saw was sitting up on his knees, leaning over the far end of the stroller, peering down at the street in front of him. As he passed me by quickly I did notice a harness on his back, but I didn't grasp quite how he was strapped in securely.

As nice as everyone seems to be here, some jerk out there has my wallet and spent $400 of my money right here in Copenhagen. Luckily Wachovia is crediting the funds back to me. But it did put a bit of a damper on my day today. I arrived at noon and spent until nearly 4 trying to straighten this all out. It didn't help matters that I had gotten myself to the hotel when I realized it was gone and then had no way to go retrace my route to the airport to ask at various lost & founds. One of the hotel workers very kindly loaned me his train ticket, but my search turned up no leads. And then the call to Wachovia confirmed that my wallet was definitely not going to turn up. Must not forget to tip Lars for his generosity.

After all the cards were cancelled I found a credit card that I had for some reason put in a different place than in my wallet. But it was too late. It was already cancelled.

I got a bit weepy when I called Jeff to tell him the bad news, but I am now realizing that it's really not that big of a deal. I'll have to replace my driver's license, of course, but the cancelled cards will come to me in the mail soon enough. And Jeff will be here in an hour or so with money.

The hotel has a lovely spread of free fruit on the check-in counter and a woman was giving away samples of Wasa crackers, which she offered me both times I walked by and which I did not refuse. So, I have not starved.

Amsterdam, briefly

In the Amsterdam airport I have seen: 2 cheese shops, a wall of meat, 2 flower/bulbs shops, a ride-on mop, a casino, a one-legged woman and a woman in a wheel chair, sticking her legs straight out in front of her.  

I ate a $10 panini for 2 a.m.sies (or whatever mealtime it is now here, breakfast I guess), which was admittedly delicious but damn. Ten dollars. 

The airport is rather large. It took me a half hour to walk to my gate, not that I minded. But I did not notice any other way to get around besides on feet.

I got zero sleep on the plane so I'm not sure what fumes I'm running on right now but by the time I reach Copenhagen at noon I fear I will be crashing. 

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

First world problems

Usually packing for trips does not stump me, but packing for a month in Singapore followed by a week in Japan in late November has me lying awake at night and making lengthy to-do lists on my iPhone while lying awake.

I've always been partial to keeping lists for packing, but this is extreme, especially since I don't leave for 6 weeks. Ahhhhh! Six weeks is so soon! How will I get it all figured out before then?

The deal is: I'll be in Singapore (where it's hot) for 4 weeks working. And then I'll be in Japan for one week for vacation (where it's supposed to be pretty much like it is here in November). If I were packing for only one climate I think I would be a lot less stressed out about this. Especially since I'll be working, I'll need multiple pairs of shoes and that sort of thing. Not the way I normally pack.

And then there is the whole toiletry situation. Do I buy shampoos and whatnot there? What about toothpaste? Lotion? What am I very particular about that I must have brands I know? (face cream, curl encourager, band aids, stuff for my time of the month) For the stuff that I do bring, how will I know that I'm bringing enough?

See, this is what keeps me up at night.

Then there is the audio situation. I will certainly miss listening to Pandora and NPR. I can still stream NPR on my laptop, I presume. I have all my CDs on my ipod, but to play it, I will need to bring portable speakers. That seems a little unnecessary, though. My work laptop has none of my music on it and I don't want to spend hours and hours putting music on it, really. So that is a dilemma to still be worked out. I want to take 30 Day Shred, but my laptop's CD-ROM is detachable and I don't intend to take it. I am seriously considering recording myself announcing what exercises to do. This is how bad it has gotten.

Then I need The Perfect Bag for everyday use. I think this bag will be a satchel type bag. It will be cute, but functional. It will have some pockets inside and out. It will fit my laptop if need be, in its own sleeve, so a built-in pocket is not necessary. It will fit my camera and all of the usual junk that I carry around in my purse on a daily basis, including a water bottle. It will be comfortable to carry and it will not be too large. Every time I look at eBags I think I have settled on a different one.

Too blah?
Too young? The reviews say mostly 10-year-olds use this bag.
Maybe?

It goes on and on. Even now one of those I am listing here is one I had not noticed before. Too much choice!

And I haven't even gotten to the suitcase situation yet. The one I tend to use is good for a week's vacation. Ten days requires reeeeally careful packing and a lot of rewearing and washing of things in sinks. This one suitcase is not going to hack it. Traveling with two suitcases seems like tourist failure to me, but most tourists don't travel for five weeks, so I guess I get a pass this once. I hope.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Auction for beerituality

If you're my Facebook friend, you've already seen my posts about this, but just in case you didn't, here is the info again.

Jeff and his friend Lou are making a movie called Beerituality. To raise some money for the movie, a bunch of our wonderful friends donated handmade items that we're selling on eBay.

The auctions for many of the items end on Thursday night. So, please take a look at the items that are listed here on eBay and bid if you see something you like.

Thanks for your support if you have already bid!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Exhausted and wide awake

Since I got home from Seattle I've been having trouble sleeping. I guess it's jetlag, but does jetlag cause a person to wake up a lot during the night and consequently be really tired the next day and then not able to sleep that night either?
 
Part of the problem is that Jeff has started snoring recently. His response when I tell him to please roll over or whatever is "I wasn't snoring." Thankfully the new iPhone software comes with a great little voice recorder. I emailed a recording of his snores to him. He had no response. 

So my choices are sleeping pills, the sleep-inducing app, ear plugs, waiting until I'm so exhausted I pass out. I find that ear plugs hurt so those would not be a good option. If you have any other suggestions, please let me know.  

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Vancouver, an overview

Big City Cupcakes on Howe St. has made my second morning in a row. Yesterday we shared a chocolate cupcake with strawberry buttercream frosting. OH MY GOD. Today I had chocolate cheesecake with a blob of cheesecake creaminess inside and tart buttercream frosting on the top. OH MY GOD.

I call bullshit on the Vancouver Starbucks. If you are not clear on which sort of iced tea I want, please ask. I have never been automatically given sweetened tea before and I do not buy your story that it comes sweet unless you specify. 

Longboat Chocolate Porter (Phillips Brewing, Victoria, BC) is the absolutely perfect combination of beer and chocolate and can currently be found at The Alibi Room. Although I suspect they change up the taps fairly often. It's the only bar we found in Vancouver that has a whole page of local beers on tap. Most of the others only had the current three or so available from one brewer. 

Why in the world do we not have Japanese tapas in New York?? At Hapa Izakaya we had more wild salmon sashimi. OH MY GOD. And we got the B.C. sashimori selection which included the salmon, prawns and scallop sashimi. I have never eaten such a delicious scallop. We ARE ruined for sushi, I'm afraid. 

The toppings for the hot dogs (including veggie dogs) at Japadog included bonito flakes, wasabi mayo, radish, soy sauce, teriyaki sauce. I'm not saying those sorts of toppings were not tasty. They would just take some getting used to on a hot dog. 

There are gorgeous mountain views all around Vancouver and various little beaches around downtown. We saw an amazing sunset from one of the beaches last night at 10 p.m.

Anyway, back to the food. A roll we saw at two sushi places (and ate at one) that I have never seen at home and which is super delicious is the magma roll. The magma is a black sesame sauce drizzled on top of a regular roll. I don't remember what was inside. It might have been a California roll or something like that. The sauce is what stood out.

West coast Amtrak vs. East coast Amtrak
On the west coast one must line up an hour before departure time to get a seat assignment, even if you have already purchased your tickets online. If you arrive 20 mins. before the train departs you will still get a seat but the line will be long and your view will not be as scenic.  

The plus side is that people traveling together will be pretty much guaranteed seats together and there is no frantic searching for available seats. 

Available to eat on the west coast Amtrak: shrimp dumplings and wild Alaskan salmon. Everything else is pretty much the same. 

One surprising twist on the wine vs. beer issue is that the three types of microbrews available on the train are pictured and described. The wines are described as merely Merlot, Cabarnet and Sauvignon Blanc. When I asked the cafe employee what kind of wine he had he repeated back the three types listed on the board. As it turns out, the Cabernet is from Hahn Estates in CA and for $12 a split is a pretty good deal and rather tasty.                   

Friday, April 17, 2009

Twitter vs. Facebook

I finally figured it out. I may be the last one, but I am a little slow, so bear with me.

Facebook allows for cross-posting your tweets to FB, but it's pointless. If I follow you on FB, I don't need to see the same posts on Twitter and vice versa.

What I have come to realize is that Twitter and FB updates have their own unique purposes.

FB friends are people I know in real life (for the most part), so those updates can be more personal.

On Twitter I am followed by many people I've never met. They could (presumably) not care less about what I'm eating for dinner, how much I love my new shoes, etc. (Of course, it is debatable as to whether my FB friends care either, but that is a different story.)

After the election I stopped using Twitter for a while because of all the duplicate posts. I loved watching the debates with Twitter, but after that, my interest waned considerably.

Now I have it figured out. Twitter is useful to me for one thing only: discussions about toics of common interest. Topics may include news, conferences, movies, beers, restaurants, brands, etc.

Twitter is a public forum. If I tweet about the Beer Wars movie, people from around the country are going to soon search on "beerwars", see my comments and those by everyone else tweeting about the movie. It's a shared experience like nothing else I can think of. And, actually, it's pretty fabulous. I'm all fired up about Twitter again.

And now I'm going to unfollow all of my Twitter friends who cross-post to FB. It's nothing personal, guys. If you decide to separate the two, please post a message on FB so that I can start following you again.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

No, not yoga for dogs

Thanks for all the feedback about the yoga and pilates classes. Maybe I was jumping the gun a tad by thinking I should buy a year-long membership after taking only one class. (Actually, I was only going to buy a 3-month membership. Much more reasonable.)

I went to a beginner yoga class last night and then I bought two 10-packs, one for yoga and one for pilates.

I cannot adequately describe how beneficial this yoga class was for me. I felt relaxed and appreciated and safe and content. Is that how yoga usually goes? I've only done it maybe 2 or 3 times in my life and it was always in a big class with very little personal attention.

This class only had three students. The instructor (who is the same person who teaches the pilates classes) showed us (me, really) variations on every pose. With almost every pose she walked around to check that each of us had more or less the correct form.

She said the yoga classes never get much bigger than a few people. I find that surprising, but maybe it's because there are other yoga studios all around.

I kind of want to go every day, but I'm going to wait until next Monday to go back. Maybe I'm just a little bit too excited about taking these classes.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Philly beer week, I love you, and a question

Philly beer week was fabulous. Next year we will definitely try to talk as many friends as possible into going with us. The saddest part was that we had to miss the vast majority of the events taking place in Philly during the work week.

As soon as we arrived, we went straight to a tasting lunch with Stone and Dogfish Head beers to drink and brewers in attendance. How often does the CEO of Stone Brewing sit at your table, with just you and your husband, to chat about beer and such? I will tell you: not very often.

After lunch, I'm a little embarressed to admit, we took a nap.

The only other official event we attended was the jazz happy hour at TIME restaurant. There was nothing that made it seem like an event, unless the place is normally empty on a Saturday night (unlikely). And the kids we saw playing New Orleans-style jazz on the street were way more fun than the jazz being played at the restaurant.

We went to Zot for dinner, a Belgian restaurant we noticed in the old town the last time we were visiting. There was no official event going on, but we wanted to check it out. They serve mussels with 50-some varities of sauces and they have a fabulous selection of beers. The end of beer week coincides with foie gras week, so I made the questionable decision to have two of the foie gras appetizers for my meal. It was, I believe, due to this divinely delicious but incredibly heavy meal that I was barely able to move after dinner and we had to forego any more beer week activities for the evening.

For brunch on Sunday we went to one of our new faves, the Belgian Cafe. The eggs Benedict on a Belgian waffle was truly inspired.

And now, a question.

Last night I went to a pilates class at a tiny studio in Jersey City. I have been searching for just such a class in just such an environment for years. They also offer yoga and various other classes. I was pretty sure going into last night's class that unless there was something really horrible about it, I would be joining this ... what do you call it exactly? Hold on, that's not the real question.

The more you pay for at once, the less you pay per class. The pilates classes are $12 each and the yoga are $18. If I buy a 10 pack of each, I pay $10 and $15 per class, respectively. So, if I take one of each per week, that's $25. Or, I could pay $99 for an unlimited monthly membership. OR, I could pay $269 and get 3 months of unlimited. (Or I could pay $719 for a year of unlimited, but that seems really crazy at this juncture.) This seems a little nuts, taking one class, and then handing over $269, but it's not that unreasonable, is it? Hold on, that's not the actual question either.

It's not that I can't afford this. I totally can. It's just that gyms don't typically cost $88 a month and only include classes. Although, to be fair, Maximum Motion does include a few classes per week that involve weight use. But the other thing is that I don't like gyms and so if I join one, I'm unlikely to ever go to it. If I work out, I run. But I would really like to be able to do pilates and yoga and maybe another class now and then. Is it ridiculous to pay that much for a few classes per week? (That's the real question.) I should note that because of the studio being small, everyone gets personal attention and is on a first-name basis. The instructor told me that yoga on Thursdays usually only has 2-3 people in attendance.

My mind is pretty much made up. I'm just curious what others think.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Eau de Penn Station

There is a hallway in Penn Station that has always smelled like cheap lemon yogurt. I don't hate lemon yogurt (although it's not my first choice). But smelling it down there is so disgusting that I breathe through my mouth when I walk by. Of course, I am often compelled to take a quick whiff to check that it still smells like lemon yogurt. (It still does, as of an hour ago.)

I used to think the smell came from the ice cream stand that was on that hallway. But the ice cream stand is long since gone and now there is an Auntie Annie's there. There is no reason for a pretzel stand to smell like lemon yogurt.

This weekend is the end of Philly beer week. There is so much going on that we are having to make difficult decisions about which events to attend. Do we go to the 3-hour seated prix fixe lunch (with beers from Dogfish Head and Stone) or do we go to the pay-as-you-go session with River Horse (one of my fave brewers) and classic Philly foods, such as fried Tastykakes? We finally chose the seated lunch. It's only $35, too.

There is a jazz happy hour (with Moinette Brune, Saison DuPont, and Scaldis Belgian Strong) and a special Sam Adams release party (for Double Bock, Imperial White and Imperial Stout with matched chocolate and cheese) and a beer brunch on Sunday...

We are going to be so full of beer by Sunday afternoon we are going to swear it off. For at LEAST a week. (Now Jeff is telling me he already has those Sam Adams beers, so maybe we don't need to attend that one.)

Thursday, March 5, 2009

You can say you knew me when

Apparently, I have a thing for foods that are more than one thing. Not foods that satisfy more than one food category (such as pretzels covered in chocolate -- that is WRONG). I mean foods that are two things at once, such as the amazing Flip Sides Townhouse crackers, which are a cheesy cracker on one side and a pretzel on the other side. Pure genius. Pure delicious, as well.

Another example of this brilliant food combining technique would be Tweeterz, which are candy-coated Twizzler nibs. Why stop with just delicious Twizzler nibs when you an make them even more delicious by giving them a candy coating? You don't need to answer that. I already know the answer.

The new exercise sensation that is soon going to be sweeping the nation was invented by me. This is how you do it. You put on some good dancing music. I went with a new wave station that I created on Pandora. And then you start dancing. While you are dancing you think up the next thing you are going to do, such as: lifting some weights, or doing some crunches, or some stretches, or some stretches AND some weight lifting, or some jumping or some running in place or some jumping jacks, or some pushups. Then you stop dancing and do one of those other moves for 15 reps or a minute or a song or whatever you like and then you start dancing again until you have decided on your next move.

I'd better patent this right away. I need to figure out a name first, though. Craigercize? Crexercise? Aeorcraige? Craigobics?

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Invention

I made the following dish for lunch. I call it: What's in the fridge that can be combined?

I was going to broil the eggplant, but I stupidly put it in 2 pans instead of the broiler pan that came with the oven and they would not both fit in the broiler. In the future I would definitely broil the eggplant and do the tomatoes, separately, in the oven.

I brushed the eggplant slices with a lemon olive oil we got at the Fancy Food show and which we had not yet used. I am definitely a fan of this for veggies. I have some asparagus that is begging to be roasted with this oil now.

When I flipped the 'plants, I added the sliced cherry tomatoes, which had been tossed with the olive oil, s&p. I sprinkled the 'plants with cumin and jalapeno powder and s&p.

I cut into triangles 4 corn tortillas, sprayed them with Pam, sprinkled salt on them, and put them in the oven, too. Setting off the fire alarm when they got crispy was not part of the plan.

When the tomatoes were bubbly and the eggplants were browned, I put 4 rounds on each plate, topped them with tomatoes and sprinkled on some grated sharp cheddar. Chips on the side.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Not stuck

For what it is, I really do love our little apartment. I love the wall of closets, drawers and cubbies. I love the non-working fireplace. I love the heavy pocket doors. I love our pass-thru. I love our tiny bedroom and rather large bathroom. I love our eat-in kitchen. I love the shared backyard. I love the molding above the light fixture in the living room. I love the crown molding in the living room. I love the 2 greens we painted the living room and bedroom. I love our old man wing chairs. I love that we have space to have guests sit at the table. I love the big windows that let in lots of light. I love that our neighbors are easy-going and we share duties.

I love that parking is not very hard. I love that we can take different routes to and from the PATH train. I love walking by the little gallery on Coles every day. I love that the homeless people in front of the deli say hi cheefully to us. I love keeping track of buildings going up. I love the variety of restaurants.

Everything else, I hate. No, but overall, it's good. Sure, there's no way in hell we could sell our place now and get anything near what we paid for it. But it's not as if I hate it here. Far from it.