Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Plaza Azteca

I'm suddenly full of this bubbling righteousness that makes me want to post.

So I kind of noticed I haven't done a restaurant review in like, seven or eight months. I promise I've eaten out in that time, okay? I just keep forgetting to write about it because usually eating out is followed promptly with a lazy food-induced coma. And comatose people? Not very good bloggers.

Plaza Azteca recently opened up in Manchester (CT, not UK) and it has inhabited what used to be a Macaroni Grill. It's a Mexican restaurant and although it does not in the slightest bit compare to my beloved Sarapes. But it's a heck of a lot more attractive looking since Sarapes is a prime example of hole-in-the-wall. You wouldn't be embarassed of bring a date to P.A. because it's big, spacious, and re-designed to look Southwestern-like with dark wood type decor and Santa Fe paint color. It's also pretty cheap. Even eating dinner there, most menu items are $10 or less. I do however recommend reading the full description of your menu item because a ground beef burrito contains nothing except ground beef. No cheese. No beans. No tomatoes. To me a burrito is a combination of tons of stuff, not just piles of ground beef, but that complaint aside I think it's a good place when a bunch of friends want to go out. And if you really really enjoy ground beef I guess it's a total win. Trevor got very upset at the server who refused to sub out ground beef for carne asada and then continued repeating the term "carne asada" as though it was something he never heard of before. Mind you, our server was obviously a native Spanish speaker from his very clear Spanish accent, so his confusion was all the more baffling.

It's cheap, the menu is not intimidating (think tacos, burritos, fajitas, enchiladas) and you'll leave full. I went with Kim and Lex once and both of them left happy. Considering their combined allergies, pregnancy restriction, dislike for seafood and general aversion to spicy things it can often be a difficult decision where to go out to eat so that all of us can be appeased. And I'm so over eating plain pizza, so I'm super psyched we can all eat Mexican food together and have everyone be moderately happy.

I've been torturing myself with home-pickled-jalapenos. It's so painfully spicy I physically break out in waves of sweat. Which of course is a sign of good food, right? I'm sure you're thinking this is an unnatural attraction to pain, but I'm lucky enough to be married to a guy who might like torturing his taste buds even more than I do. Usually I don't like pickled things but lately I've found it a nice alternative to allowing 99cents/lb jalapenos to rot in my fridge because I cannot humanly eat even one pound of the stuff before something inevitably starts growing fuzz. You can't say I'm not resourceful. But I kind of have to be; have you seen my fridge? I always over-purchase perishables. One day I'll learn that two people cannot reasonably consume 3lbs of cherries or 3 dozen eggs.

You want to pickle stuff too? I pickle like my mom does, like most Viet people do. No spices. No dill. No peppercorns. No celery seeds. Just white vinegar plus water plus a touch of sugar. DONE. It might seem a little unconventional, but that's everything you need to keep the rot at bay, and it's mighty tasty.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

So I went anyway

Okay, okay, okay...

I know I've already previously complained about these tupperware-like parties. I know it, but I still went to another one. None too surprisingly Kim invited me because she might be the only person I know who's moderately interested in these things, and since I'm lonely I figure it's a good excuse to not drown in sad anti-social feelings. This time? Pampered Chef. Which is slightly over priced cookware and cooking accessories.

I'm not saying it's bad stuff, in fact it seems quite nice. I just happen to not need anything because I already got gifted or have already bought everything I felt was important to have for a kitchen. And if I'm going to spend money on myself on product that pretty much never goes on sale, I'd much rather just save my pennies up and get some Le Creuset. But pretty much everything else goes on sale. If you wait it out you can usually even get a small discount on the coveted Kitchenaid Stand Mixer on those ever-frequent Macy's one day sales.

But thankfully I had some company on the ride to and fro the 203 because Alexis came along with me. It's not a far drive but it's long enough that it can be a little lonely and thankfully you can always count on Lex to be chatty.

Funny enough she didn't know I kept a blog. (Hi Lex!) I don't popularize it, but if you happen to have found your way here, chances are you were invited to my wedding and noticed the link on our invites and then bounced around that wedding site that Trevor never updates. Hungry for more information you found your way here. Because what I lack in technical finesse, I make up for in more frequent updates.

Why do I keep one? This was meant to be my own personal, not readily known blog where I kept my recipes and thoughts about food and eating. It still is my favorite place to babble on about my love of pistachio macarons and fois gros and fish sauce and lengua tacos. But ever since we got engaged I have meandered my way and it became a diary of my wedding planning experience, frustrations and general DIY thoughts. But if you think that you can come here and really learn something new, you'd be mistaken. I don't tend to talk about things until well after they're done and I don't tend to talk about deep, emotional or personal happenings. It's really very light and breezy info with a touch of self deprecation.

What is it now? Well, I'm not so sure; I know that time has passed and I'm a little different and my focus is different. I've thought of quitting a number of times. I do believe it's nice for family to have a centralized place to check in on me and notice that "hey I'm alive" and know that I'm not living in a box. But do I feel kind of dirty and gross about the lurkers? The non-family, non-friend folks who just want to peep in on my life and judge me? A little. But then I think "what the heck is there to judge?" I live a pretty good life. How does the saying go?

"Living well is the best revenge."

I guess since this is the first time I've mentioned lurkers, I might as well just say "geez, your time could definitely be better used elsewhere." Because I am not interesting and I never claimed to be. But if you're a beloved friend, or begrudgingly share a bloodline with me, then I guess you're stuck dealing with it. (Ha! I trapped you!) And even though it's boring, it's strangely captivating, huh? What crazy thing will this girl say next? Something about puking her guts out? (No wonder she's so thin. She makes me sick.) Something about fish sauce? Obsession with mineral makeup and french face cream? Oh the options...they are dizzying.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Bracelet Story

So, my exciting life of reading depressing material that makes me think I might die aside...how are things going? Eh, I can't complain.

Trevor put in an offer on a 2nd house. It's already under contract so unfortunately we're still awaiting some kind of notification if the first offer went through. Not to be super boring because house talk can get really dry, but the hope is to have a 2nd house under our belt sometime this year. Trevor will rant endlessly about his house plan, so I will refrain from talking about it because I've already heard the same story a dozen times. Summary? We buy a bunch of houses and those houses float the cost of our real-life house that we love.

Work? I'm still working. I don't talk about work because as we've all learned from dooce, you don't mix work and play unless you wanna get fired. However in very general terms I'll say that sometimes I have great days, and sometimes I have bad ones. I'd say I had a lot more bad than good in recent memory, but in the last week or so I feel reinvigorated and reaffirmed that I am not an awful employee person. If you can't tell I take it pretty personally if my work is not at the level I'd like it to be. Lame...I know.

I was just thinking I forgot to tell the bracelet story.

Rewind to the women's weekend at the Cape. I am done emptying the contents of my unhappy stomach and have replaced it with waffles with blueberries and syrup. (Hey, what comes out must eventually be replaced or I go INSANE. I am awful without food. I am the grumpiest grumpster ever.) So anyway, as I'm eating Liza and the aunts are digging through these boxes from The Farm of GrandMarie's belongings; more specifically they're digging around in her jewelery and picking out who gets what. Moms got first pick and then it tricked down to us kiddies (Susan, Candice and myself) and it was actually a lot of fun. I know it might sound really morbid to dig through an old woman's former belongings, but since I never KNEW her the way they did it was nice to kind of get a piece of who she was from looking at her belongings. Clearly from their prospectives it was best that Marie's belongings go to people who loved her and for whom it would be meaningful, even if it was just costume jewelery. So a few tears welled up in people's eyes and stories were told of how they remembered her wearing a particular bracelet or a particular necklace. It was sweet.

Personally? I don't own a single thing of my maternal grandmother's. I know that must seem awful but I don't take it too personally. She had like 30 dozen grandchildren and I am at the bottom of the totem pole because I don't even live in the same country and I'm like the 5th youngest. I think that things of value definitely went to her own children anyhow. But that Susan and Candice got to have things of their grandmother? That's pretty cool. I guess Marie had her mother's bracelet (Trevor's great grandmother), which listed her grandchildren's names. Included in the bracelet were Liza, Christine and Deborah. It was an amazing bracelet because it was HUGE. It was totally full of names of grandchildren. It was incredibly awkward if you were to wear it, but clearly it was built with so much love. All the boy names had boy shaped profile tags, all the girl names had girl shaped profile tags.

Along with this, there was Marie's own bracelet. I guess at some point it was gifted to her and it was a silver charm bracelet with her four grandchildren engraved on four separate heart tags. Susan, Trevor, Candice and Devin. Somehow it got to us because neither of the moms claimed it, and Aunt Deborah said although it was nice that she wouldn't likely wear it now that she's retired and no longer going to the office everyday. The girls went back and forth about it and came up with a few ideas about splitting up the charms or adding new ones. But after no one explicitly claimed it, I asked if I could have it. And no one said otherwise so I got to keep it.

I guess it's kind of silly because I never really knew Marie, but I think it's so wonderful to have something that was hers. I figure one day, if I should have children of my own in the future that I can show it to them and tell them it was their great-grandmother's. I can tell them I wish I knew her better, but I hold a piece of her with me. And hopefully they appreciate it as much as I do.

I wore it to work this week and I don't know if that's what made my work week so much better, but it really was. I felt like I had a spring in my step. I also tinkled as I walked because the little hearts hit one another so I didn't wear it everyday just in case I was that obnoxious person you could hear from a mile away.

Oh, and before I forget, after hashing out who received what of the various jewelery boxes, we celebrated our fun by putting everything on.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Cape Weekends

The Cape.

Usually we spend our summer weekends (the ones not occupied with house type chores, weddings, showers and general obligations) at the Cape. It's helpful that my MIL has a cottage there and we can usually claim some time there if it's not booked with renters. Not including this weekend (which was wrought with many loads of laundry, vacuuming, cleaning dishes, sweeping floors...etc.) I spent the two previous weekends at the Cape. I just keep putting off writing about it.

July 4th weekend, they tried to re-invigorate the Triathalon. I guess Devin and Chris did it one year (like 6 years ago?) and they wanted to get it going again. This year it doubled it's numbers of participants because Trevor and Tyler joined in. Alex bowed out in the final hour but I'm sure by next year the boys will all be heckling him into doing it. I was asked if I wanted to do it but my participation would have been an embarassment. I don't swim well, I don't know how to ride a bike and I'm woefully out of shape. My general lameness is laughable. But I'm thin and everyone assumes I'm fit. Oh, how wrong they all are.

Tyler came in first due to a few complications. I'm still proud of Trevor for participating. It's better than what I did; which was nothing at all. I stood around talking to Alli and Maggie and their friend Alisha...while wearing a tube top. That tube top didn't look amazing and fashionable all by itself, don't you know?

What I like about the 4th at the Cape (not the traffic, not the overwhelming mass of bodies) is being able to see everyone I don't see all at once. Alex, Maggie, Chris, Ali, Devin, Liza, Dino, Tyler, Radfords, Harris's, Uncle Richard, Aunt Peggy...etc. A few of whom I hadn't seen since my wedding...last August. Geez. Time sure does fly when you're off living in an entirely different state, like 2 hours away from everyone else.

The next weekend I repeated the experience and went to the Cape again, but for the first time ever I didn't go with Trevor. It was kind of weird. Like, it was a girl get together of my mother in law, her sisters, and her sister's daughters so clearly Trevor was not allowed. But it's odd not spending my free time with him. It's almost as though I like the guy or something.

Joking aside, it was great seeing the girls because I never see them, well except for funerals and weddings. Candice and Susan are my age (ish) and it was nice laughing with them and generally being dumb and silly. It was also nice being around girls. I did however have an incident with some stomach ailment (probably due to some clams) and spent a good amount of my time curled around the toilet contemplating if I had yet emptied out my stomach in full or if I should try and push out some more bile. It turned out I needed a nap and when I awoke I was fresh as a daisy. In the meantime however I apparently gave everyone a good heart attack that I might possibly need medical intervention. Thankfully I was just fine, but I felt mighty guilty about making everyone worry. Not like I intentionally decided to empty my guts out but my mother brainwashed me well. I feel guilty about pretty much everything.

But upchuck reflex aside, I had a good time. It takes a lot more than a little stomach mishap to sour an entire weekend. If that was the case, half of my college career would have been a serious downer. It really was fun though. It's nice to be around family that acts like a family. Not like my family was bad, but being an only child I missed out on a lot of that sibling dynamic since...ugh, I was by myself. No younger sibling to torture into my will. I think I came out okay, but you always wonder what could have been. ie: If I had a sister would I have ended up a different person? More patient? Louder? More argumentative? The world will never know. But I think it's cute seeing siblings together and I think it's it's fun seeing the dynamic between people and the family members they spent most of their childhood years in the company of.

Candice is next on the bride list. She just got engaged and I can't wait to see what comes of the thoughts swirling around regarding this wedding. Backyard? Farm? Cape? Cape backyard? But really, whatever makes her happy is fine. Even if we all sit around in the backyard in our flip flops, that's great. No one is any more or less married because they opted for an intimate meaningful moment for their wedding.

I don't know if we'll continue this trend another year. Hopefully yes. I think it's nice to get together at the Cape and enjoy the sunshine together. Maybe next time we'll break out the nailpolish and engage in some fabulous manicures.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Babies on the brain

I haven't been posting a lot. I guess the root of it is that there's not a lot that I want to vent about. And what's the point of posting if there's nothing exciting to report on? Not a lot.

Kim's baby creating is going pretty well. I'm not really right up in her face about it because wedding planning and baby creating are hot button items. People tend to feel it's their right to tell you how to do it and get upset at you when you tell them to take their advice and shove it.

Now, I totally understand that it comes from a good place. I'm not one myself, but I can see where one mom would feel it's helpful to spread her wisdom to a new mom. Where I think it gets out of hand is when you start acting like you know more than the new mom does. Maybe you DO know more, but maybe this is an educated, well rounded new mom who's already thought long and hard about her options, read a lot of books, talked to her doctor and made an informed decision about how she'd like to proceed with ABC. So when you barge in and say how ABC is so dangerous and how she should really just do DEF instead because it's so much better for the baby. Maybe it is, but at the end of the day, it's not your kid and if ABC makes her feel better, let her do ABC. Whatever.

Oh, and she's having a boy. She called me yesterday after her ultrasound to exclaim the news. It's exciting but I'd be lying to you if I said I wanted her to have a boy. I'm sure it'll be fine when he pops out from the womb and you get to see the squiggly little fellow but from a purely selfish auntie perspective little girl clothes, gifts and toys are much more abundant than little boy things. Plus Trevor is not-so-secretively upset that she wants to name her kid the name he wanted to name our kid (Tyler). I say whatever she wants because I was starting to sour on the name anyway and I know two girls in my high school graduating class who already named their kids that same name and although we're not friends in that technical, "talking-to-one-another sense", their kids are going to be peers with my kids one day and I'm spiteful enough to not want share that. And two people at work? Guess what their kids' names are? Same. I guess I never noticed before because I wasn't even thinking about having kids. Now that I'm noticing it's EVERYWHERE.

Not to sound sour; I'm happy to accept whatever name Kim and Vinnie want to bestow to their firstborn. I'm just observing a trend that this particular moniker has wormed it's way into a lot of folks I know. They could name their kid "Lettuce" for all I care. Anyone can name their kid anything and I would never argue with them about it. I'm pretty chill because, hey, I know a ton of Vietnamese guys named Dung. You learn to live with whatever you get saddled with...trust me. I can only assume you picked the name because it was something you truly loved to hell with the folks who can't appreciate the work you put in.

It's funny because every generation has names that are super popular. In my awesome 80's youth Jessica, Jennifer, Michael, Matthew ruled the roost. You couldn't go into any class without there being at least 10 Jennifers and 80 Michaels. Now that my generation is spawning the newest generation of Jennifers and Michaels are actually Aidans and Isabellas. I can't tell you how many kids named Aidan (or some variation thereof in spelling) I know exist in my small world of acquaintanceship. It's funny how we all swarm to be different ("I would NEVER name my child Joseph, that's so boring.") but then ultimately end up all acting like sheep and attracting ourselves to the same names anyway. The act of actively rebelling only to end up being a conformist. Ironic.

I'm not saying I know of a cure to this particular issue. I'm just observing it exists. I guess if anything it solidifies the fact you should just name your kid what you wanna name it regardless of how you think other people will perceive it. We'll all end up looking unoriginal and uninspired anyway.

In spite of this I've made Trevor promise that if we pick another boys name we love, he has to never utter it to another person if he actually wants to keep it. Because I don't personally aim to start procreating right away and in the meantime I know other people are planning on it and I would be heartbroken to have to begin the process of arguing with each other about names again. We cannot agree to save our lives though, so it might take years before we come up with something we mutually don't hate. I mildly want something exotic to harken to my ethnic background, but I can't commit to anything that really sounds like "it." I think when you know it's the right...anything (name, car...toaster), it tends to hit you like a ton of bricks. At least that's how it works for me.

Apparently even my mother-in-law had her name stolen, but in a much more malicious way. Well, technically she had her 2nd son Devin's name stolen but she was mighty upset about it anyway. She was talking to another mom who had said she was going to name her son, I dunno, Jason. Liza said she was going to name her son Devin, and then surprise surprise, the lady had her son first and she named him Devin despite saying the other name. People surprise you with the sneakiness. Liza's the one who told me not to share my baby names, upon penalty of being heartbroken and stressed out. Because the last thing you need when you're 9 months pregnant, bloated, grumpy and mildly insane is to worry about picking a brand new name.

I'm among the youngest of my family's generation of cousins anyway so I'm already stuck with slim pickings. The majority of my cousins are like 10 years older than me so they've already had prime pickings from the baby name pot for their children. So once I finally have a kid I'm going to have to employ some serious creative thinking (LaFawndah?) to pick one they haven't already swooped in on. You name it, chances are one of my cousins has already either renamed themselves with it or given it to their offspring because I have a gajillion cousins. That tends to happen when both of your parents are among the youngest of families with greater than 9 siblings. GREATER than NINE siblings on each side of that family tree. And then all of them eventually reproduce and it just gets exponentially out of control. I think I might possibly be related to half of Vietnam.

Thankfully Trevor's particular generation has yet to spawn. I think Susan will likely be the first though because she actually wants children and seems to like them. Me? I like 'em just fine from a distance but I've never changed a diaper in my life. It's not that I'm grossed out by them; I have quite an unusual tolerance for "gross" things. A combination of working in a nursing home in my teen years and being friends with someone who likes to pick up dead creatures and allow them to putrify in her backyard so she can harvest their bones for art projects once all their flesh falls off. I'm not easily grossed out and a little spit up and poop certainly isn't going to throw me into a tizzy. I just think it's a big commitment of time, money, effort and love. Seeing Kim go through this stirs a lot of emotions in me, part of me wants to do it too and have a tiny little person to love, and then the much louder and much more authoritative voice in my head says "are you f*ing kidding? Kids change everything. You can't even poop in peace without being scared your baby is crying it's head off."

If you want to have your heart ripped out of your chest cavity, you can read along with me at:
http://thespohrsaremultiplying.com/
It's a family blog that this particular family started when they found out they were expecting and it goes all the way until the untimely passing of their 18month little girl from complications that originally stemed from her premature birth. You just want to cry, and then oooh over how adorable this sweet girl was. And then cry again. And then there's:

http://www.mattlogelin.com/
He lost his wife when she had complications from giving birth to their firstborn. I ran into this one first actually, but his verse style of writing isn't one I can read all the time because I get unfocused. (Me plus poetry? = Enemies) But he's grown to get a lot of publicity from his site and his story and getting through being a single dad with a newborn.

I should probably stop reading sites that involve people dying because it's totally a downer and "geez, no wonder you don't want a kid now. You think you're either going to die or the kid's going to die...awesome." That can't be terribly helpful to my general mindset.