Sunday, December 04, 2011

Shehechiyanu Moment

I got my first speeding ticket last week. I've always driven a little fast and was honestly surprised that I got pulled over. I'm not sure what took them so long. I haven't looked at the ticket since I got it, though I probably should since I probably have to pay it. I would have to go to court in Joliet to fight it and that's just too far away.

I'm pretty sure that whoever created the prayer that you say upon having a new experience was not thinking of this....

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Sweet and Salty

Having dinner across from a 4-year old last night who evidently likes a sweet and salty combination. The sweet - a donut from Krispy Kreme. The salty - black olive juice.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Been There, Done That

I figured out at some point that I tend to try new things, figure out I can do them (or can't) and then be done with them. Mainly cooking kinds of things these days.

  • Last year I made a lot of ice cream and I haven't made any since.

  • This summer I made some crackers. They were pretty good, and they're easy enough that I could make them pretty frequently, but since I know I can, I don't feel the need to.

  • I also made a bunch of pickles this summer. Most of them were okay. I haven't broken into the pickled skapes yet...

  • Over the last two weeks, I decided to make truffles. They are probably an experiment not yet complete, but they're also hard to screw up, so I think that might be getting checked off the list now too.

  • Today, it's pumpkin seeds, though I haven't yet decided what to do with the pumpkin.

  • Many years ago it was riding a motorcycle. That was fun, until I didn't pass the test, which I'm okay with. I feel that if there is ever a situation in which I must ride a motorcycle, I'll remember enough to get away (because its gotta be like riding a bike, right?!)

If you've got suggestions for the next things to try, let me know....

Monday, September 12, 2011

Boot Camp

Sometime last spring, but maybe even late winter, I stopped going to Boot Camp at my local YMCA. I just sort of fell out the habit. I think I was traveling alot and then had a few meetings those nights, or maybe it was raining, and I just didn't go. I still made it to the gym - I just didn't make it to Boot Camp.

Until last Thursday night. I went back to Boot Camp, walked out alive (but barely), and have been sore ever since. And then I went again tonight. The Monday and Thursday classes are different enough that I'm pretty sure I'll be sore until the next class, and this time in all different places.

There is nothing to love about Boot Camp. He makes us run, which I do not like to do. He makes us do push-ups, which I do not like to do. He makes us sweat. And then sweat more. Like it or not, I sweat. And then sweat more. There are short water breaks where we are allowed to slake, but not quench, our thirst.

It is horrible and awesome at the same time. Because I can run. And I can do push-ups. And I sweat all the time, so the fact that I'm sweating more isn't actually so special. And it's a good sore, in a sick sort of way.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

People Watching

Stacy and Clinton would have a field day at the McCarran Airport here in Las Vegas. I wold not be overstating if I said that very, very few people are dressed appropriately here. Yes, I realize that my understanding of appropriate may not be everyone's (though I can't understand why not).

There are also many women wearing pants so tight I'm not sure how they'll actually be able to sit down on their flights. There are also more sequins than you generally expect to see at an airport not worn by 6 year old girls. The men are just as bad - but mainly in the zhlubby direction. Big cargo shorts, polo shirts and flip flops. Nothing that fits well.

There are too many women who have colored streaks in their hair - blue, pink, green... in other words, not something they got at their local salon. And each of these women is well north of 20 years old, and probably north of 40. It's just not right.

Having nothing to do with fashion, it is clear that many people here enjoyed at least some of their time in Las Vegas at a buffet, or perhaps several. To be clear, these do not seem to be the same people who are wearing skin tight clothes, which I appreciate....

Shockingly (and not having to do with fashion), I have seen a few of those 36" cups (and their longer straws).

Friday, June 10, 2011

Louie Anderson

is a funny man. He looks older than you think he'll be, and that could be because he is older than he was in anything in reruns on tv. He's a big man, sort of like the Stay-Puffed marshmallow man, only dressed in black. He played in a relatively small theater and an all-ages audience. Most of his act was funny, and parts of it were very, very funny. Meaning they should have supplied either tissues or Depends.

As we were standing in line to enter the theater, the man in front of us was reading a book. He was leaning against a slot machine and I was standing right behind him, next to a woman dumping her dollars in and smoking like it was her good luck charm. There were a good six feet between the man and the front of the line. I asked if he could move forward and he said he wanted to lean against the slot machine for support as he read. Maybe I should clarify - he was resting his elbow on the machine so he could hold his book up. My impression was that he was leaning there for comfort, not physical necessity. So I politely asked him if I could stand in front of him to get out of the direct exhalation path of the woman at the slot machine. He gave me a dirty look and then I just moved up and told him he could have his place back in line when they opened the doors. And then of course my two friends came and joined me in line and then his wife arrived. An abundance of dirty looks wafted our direction and it did cross my mind to go ahead of them into the theater. Alas, we did not.

Though not about Louie Anderson, there was one other phenomenon I've noticed here in Las Vegas. On television and on billboards all over town, I've never seen more ads for bail bondsmen, attorneys who can help you beat bankruptcy, DUIs, and debt reduction services. Contrast this to the boutiques in City Center and you can easily understand the economic extremes of our country.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

More on Vegas

It's easy to write about the consumer excesses here. Much harder is writing about places like the Valley of Fire and Red Rock Canyon.

The Valley of Fire is a state park just north of Las Vegas and just west of Lake Mead. The rocks are a serious shade of red and the shapes they've taken on from wind and water erosion are surreal. We did one short hike off the main road to something called Mouse's Hole (or something like that). It had been a hide out (presumably for someone named 'Mouse') and a place where water collects during the rare rains. It was only supposed to be a 1/2 mile hike round trip so we figured it would be pretty easy. We hadn't counted on it being 100 degrees and a mostly sand trail.

The actual water hole was anti-climatic. The most exciting part was a yellow snake having a swim. There were two guys already there watching the snake and who told us where to look. They thought the snake was 4-5 feet long. I told them that guys always overstate size and that it looked to be about 2.5 feet to me. Thankfully, I did not get pushed into the hole.

Along the way, we saw petroglyphs, chuckwallas (a kind of lizard) and some other kind of lizard. (Isn't it impressive enough that we know how to identify chuckwallas? We can't learn about all of them!)

Yesterday we went to Red Rock Canyon. I was on a hunt for big horned sheep but all we saw were a few chipmunks (which I, of course, renamed "little big horned sheep") and the rustling of some larger animal behind a tree. One of the remarkable things was the drop in temperature between the start of the trail and the end (of our little hike). It must have cooled down 20 degrees, which gave us a really comfortable hike until it started raining. I'm not sure if it rains there often, but there was a lot of greenery and most of the cacti were flowering.

Back on the consumer end of things, we explored the Aria hotel and casino this morning. The first thing you notice is that they must have a very high-end air filtration system. It barely smells smoky. The second thing you notice is that it's really beautiful. They've paid attention to the smallest details on the floors, walls and the ceilings. They even have art in the bathrooms - and in the individual stalls. You have to have a room key to get into the pool area but they let us walk around - it looked like the kind of place they use for movie sets. We also learned that to rent a cabana for the day was as much as our hotel is for the whole week. And all the plants and flowers we saw there were real. We were clearly out of our league.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Las Vegas...

The only word I can think to describe Las Vegas is 'profane'. It's a city of obscene excess. Of lights, food, noise, people. And natural beauty. The mountains surrounding the city are spectacular, as if to remind everyone that gambling and showgirls and timeshare presentations are not why they should really be visiting the city.

In every venue we've seen so far, people are normal looking. They aren't all (necessarily) beautiful or skinny or white. They appear (and sound) to be from all over the world. The only generalization that seems to hold is that older women smoking cigarettes seem to be over-represented at the slot machines.

Perhaps because it's so warm, people (the ones who aren't necessarily beautiful, skinny or white) have a lot of exposed skin, which means their tattoos are also exposed. I'm sure I've said this before, but again, I don't think I've ever seen as many tattoos. Full sleeves, up the neck, down the legs, around the torso.... And it's not just one small tattoo that you can see while they're at the pool. It's multiple tattoos whose places seem randomly chosen, and it's really not a pretty site.

There's a gimmick here I just don't get. There are people walking around with drinks in containers that are 36 inches long. They look like long thermometers with even longer straws. I've seen a few places that sell them and they cost about $36 for the drink and souvenir cup. What would possess someone to buy one of these. It's not like it will fit in your carryon!

We're staying in a place that has a Tahitian theme. It's a decent place with a bedroom, a bathroom that's too big and a living room/kitchenette. Yes, the couch is essentially in the kitchen. I hate that it only has one window (in the bedroom) that doesn't even open. It's fine for the week but for that last reason alone, I wouldn't stay in this type of room again. There are silk and plastic flowers and plants everywhere. I'm sure it has to do with the fact that water to support the real flowers and plants isn't naturally found here in the desert. My two cents - pick a different theme.

We walked into the Luxor yesterday. It's a huge pyramid shaped hotel. (If you're a fan of The Amazing Race, you saw them rappel down the side a few seasons ago.) Between the 2nd floor and the top of the pyramid it's an open atrium with rings of hotel rooms going all the way up the to the top. So I had to wonder, where are the elevators. It turns out - they don't have elevators. They have inclinators. What's an inclinator? It's an elevator that goes in a diagonal line up the corner of the pyramid. It's very Willy Wonka.

Wherever you look, there seem to be Oxygen Bars. I just don't get it.

Lastly, it's not actually as easy to find a decent place to eat as you would think it would be. Yes, there are buffets, but how much can you actually eat. And there are the famous restaurants, but they're pretty expensive. And there are casual and fast food places that are the same everywhere. Tonight we drove around longer than I'll publicly admit looking for something that was simple, not crazy expensive and not a chain we could find somewhere else. We found a deli-pizzaria (appropriately called Deli-ria) that fit the bill. It was run by an Iraqi who lived in Michigan the last 14 years and just moved to Las Vegas a year ago. Though there were prices for the sandwiches and salads on the menu, I asked for something that wasn't listed. Four bucks later I had a plate full of food - (tuna, tabouli and stuffed grape leaves for those who are curious).

What I do really like about Las Vegas is that you can literally just drive out of town into nowhere. All of the sudden, the street drops down to two lanes with a great view of mountains and nothing else. I'm not sure how far you have to be from the city of Chicago for that to happen.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

What Would John Quinones Do?

There's a show on television that I don't think I've ever seen outside of their promos called "What Would You Do?" hosted by John Quinones. It stages scenes and finds out how ordinary people react (or don't). Sort of like Candid Camera but not funny. We're in St. Louis and specifically waited until we crossed from Illinois to refill our gas tank. Gas in Chicago is about $4/gallon and here in St. Louis things are about $3.65. So yesterday afternoon (well after crossing the border on Thursday night), we stopped to get gas. The price on the big sign out front said $3.65. Ronnie started pumping the gas and a few minutes in, asked me to get out of the car and look at the screen on the pump. With 7 gallons or so in, it read just under $19. That didn't seem right. And then he pointed down and showed me that the gas was ringing up at $2.65. I turned around and walked into the shop to let them know that they were losing a lot of money. I said to the woman behind the counter (quietly because I didn't want to incur too much wrath from the other customers!) that the gas that we'd expected to pay $3.65 for rang up at $2.65. She asked if we'd bought a car wash. I said no, repeated my first statement and left. Before I even got back out to the car, the pumps were changed. While I'd been inside, Ronnie found out it hadn't just been our pump. I imagine that many people just put in a credit card, filled their tank and didn't really think about the lower than expected number. And I would guess that others had noticed and not said anything (and probably called their friends and family). We didn't stop filling our tank when we realized the error and we didn't offer to pay the difference. We also didn't consider not telling the station. What would you have done? What would John Quinones have done?

Monday, March 14, 2011

Things I've Thought About Blogging About But Haven't Had Time For...

Finding a Dentist through Yelp
Why Salsa is a Good Addition to Other Foods
Surprisingly - Good Kosher Pizza isn't an Oxymoron
More on the Lazyman Triathlon

Monday, February 28, 2011


So I flew back from Mexico this morning and boy are my arms tired!

The culture at an all-inclusive resort is an interesting one. I would assume that it varies from place to place, but that the basics are always there.

First, there are no straws. You can always tell someone who has been to a place like this before because they have a straw. And that straw is usually in a 64oz (or larger) thermal container in which they keep their frozen beverage cold. They may as well have just had an IV bag. I saw bartenders pouring an entire blender’s worth of drinks into one container (that was not about to be shared!). And, since Mimi Rozmaryn wasn’t around, I couldn’t exactly borrow a straw….

Second, if you want a good chair, you wake up early and save one. The prime spots, whether on the beach, near the pool, in the shade are taken by 6:30am, at the latest. One morning I went downstairs at 5:30am. The sun was just starting to rise and the world was quiet. And then, at 5:45am, just as the sun was up, people came scurrying out like roaches with towels, books, and bags to save their places. And then they went back in to sleep for a few more hours until they were ready to face the day. It was fascinating.

When we first checked in, we were directed to the concierge desk who told us how to navigate the property – using the towel card, making dinner reservations, etc. He introduced himself, asked our names, and then asked us (me and my sister-in-law) if we were married. I thought to myself, “Wow, for a predominantly Catholic country, what a progressive question to be asking us!” I was about to answer ‘no’, when Lori said, “Yes”, paused, and then added, “but not to each other.” We tried to explain our reactions to Jorge but I’m not sure he thought it was as interesting/funny as we did.

Our resort had an enormous number of staff people. It’s not possible that they were all named Jorge, Jesus and Roberto. But by looking at their nametags, those were the only three possibilities. I figure that either they are all relatives, named after the same ancestors, or their real names are things like Jason and Spencer and they were trying to seem more authentic. Or maybe the label maker was lazy.

When you go to a place where there’s nothing to do, it’s easy to spend time speculating about things like this. I actually thought it would be hard to do nothing for four days, and for the first few hours, it was. And then, it got really, really easy.

I imagine that there are inappropriately dressed people at nearly every beach or pool in the world. In the case of our resort, this generally had nothing to do with the size of the person or their swimwear, (though there were a few people who looked like they belonged at the hotel pools in Tiberius, if you know what I mean). Mostly this had to do with people not dressing for their body type or age. Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t think any 50 year-old woman should be wearing a bikini she bought in the Juniors department, even if it fits. Yes, I am judgemental. That should come as no surprise to anyone who actually knows me.

When so many people have so much skin showing, you do see a lot of tattoos. I was surprised by the number of skulls, grim reapers and other death-related things there were. And these didn’t look like “memorial” tattoos for friends or family. I also saw a man sporting a huge alien head on the back of his leg.

We saw a nice wedding on the beach with more bridesmaids and groomsmen than I’ve ever seen. All schvitzing away in the sun. I think what people don’t think about when they plan their destination wedding is that there may be kayakers, parasailers, and the tattooed, inappropriately dressed people all nearby and inevitably in their pictures. Oh well.

I was told numerous times not to drink the water in Mexico. But if you don’t drink the water, you can’t drink the coffee, and since this was a vacation, coffee was non-negotiable. The other non-negotiable were blender drinks, mainly because it was crazy hot outside. It took a day, but we learned how to order. First, you watch the bar tender make something that looks good (really, they all look good) and ask, “What is that?” He says something you either understand (Coco Loco, Mango Tango) or something you don’t. Either way, you say, “I’ll take one of those.” Mainly it allowed us to try things we never would have known to ask for, and I still never found out what the blue thing was called….

I got some sun but not too much. I do have slight ‘owl eyes” from wearing my sunglasses. The good news was that I remembered to bring sun glasses. I also read a few books – including one called “Still Life” by Melissa Milgrom which was all about taxidermy. Seriously. And it was good. (Thanks, Rachel Gurshman!) Helene Moses lent me “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” by Barbara Kingsolver and came home and signed up for a CSA. She also gave me “The Agony and the Ecstasy” almost a year ago but I didn’t quite get to that one yet.

There are no pictures of me or sister-in-law in Mexico. It’s always safer that way. I did not learn Spanish, parasail, or get my hair braided. I did nothing.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Saved Three Lives Before 11am - You?

I went to a blood drive yesterday and was told that each pint of blood can save three lives. I'm not really sure how that works, but if saving one life is good, saving three has to be "gooder", right?

It was actually an interesting experience. They had a bloodmobile, like the bookmobiles of long ago, only smaller. How could a bookmobile get any smaller? I don't know, but if you see the LifeSource Blood Mobile tooling around, you'll know. And how they cram two offices, one confessional, four blood letting stations and a snack bar into such a small space, I still don't understand. And there's a choreography that goes with it all.

I was the third person in that morning, and the first two were still waiting to start the process. The waiting room consisted of the stairs on the inside of the entrance. There are three stairs. First, you head into the confessional (there were two doors, one for the nurse, one for the donor, but what you couldn't see from the outside was the table in between them for the confidential screening interview). Having never been in a Catholic confessional, I confess to being somewhat disappointed that there was a nurse inside and not a priest, mainly because that would have been interesting.

Then, you head into one of the offices to get your blood pressure taken, pulse counted and iron checked. The office includes a seat next to a tiny desk, and a stool under the desk for the nurse. There is no room to even take my coat off, much less a place to put it, which is a problem since they need my arm to take my vital signs. I had a pulse and so they moved me to the blood letting table.

The nurse tells me (and I hear her tell others after me) that I can turn away if I don't want to watch the needle enter my arm. It doesn't bother me, but it strikes me as odd that someone wouldn't automatically know that they could close their eyes or look at the wall for a minute. Three times in the next 90 seconds she asks me if I'm okay. I assure her that I'm not going to faint.

15 minutes later, I've saved three lives and head to the snack room, which is really just the front seat of the bloodmobile. And because this drive was taking place in the parking lot of Whole Foods, there are only healthy snacks. After giving blood a person needs chips and oreos, not raisins and apple juice. Next time I'll hit the blood drive at YMCA!