Monday, February 22, 2010

H20pe for Haiti

I have to admit, since Thatdad's death, I have become extremely self centered. I used to consider myself pretty empathetic, but now I have a hard time mustering up even an ounce of sympathy for others. People close to me have also suffered - physically, emotionally, economically, and I can't even feel sorry for them. I'm very me me me centered. But I'm trying to improve. Selfishness isn't an attractive quality. And when we are confronted with the suffering of millions, it's difficult to remain apathetic.

Last month, I was contacted by Jeanne, Val, and Giz of BloggerAid- Changing the Face of Famine about a fundraiser for the victims of the Haitian earthquake. H2Ope for Haiti was devised as a way to raise funds to supply water to Haiti, after an account of a volunteer informed of the acute need for water.

These women have created an online raffle to raise funds for Concern Worldwide's relief effort in Haiti. They chose Concern Worldwide because of its long track record and quick response after the quake to provide clean drinking water and water purification tablets. This non-governmental international humanitarian organisation works around the world to reduce suffering and work towards the ultimate elimination of extreme poverty in the world's poorest countries. Concern International has been working in Haiti since 1994 and had over 100 staff members on the ground when the earthquake struck. Despite losing several team members in the tragedy, they have been quick to act with distribution of supplies.

Concern Worldwide estimates that its initial response to the emergency will last at least six months. The money raised by this raffle will be paid directly into Concern Worldwide's account by Justgiving and will be used exclusively for the Haiti relief effort.

The raffle prizes range from personally autographed cookbooks to parcels of French baking goodies to original art - there is something for everyone. Unless stated otherwise, all prizes are available for worldwide shipping and tickets cost £6.50 (roughly $10) each. (Because these kind souls running it are Canadian)

You have until midnight on Sunday 28 February to bid on the raffle prizes. Just click on THIS LINK to begin!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Good Eats in the Desert

Well we certainly are skipping all over the calendar here, aren't we? Now that Valentine's Day is over, I can fill you in on the meat and potatoes of our Palm Desert trip - the food and the shopping.

Thatmom has always loved family breakfasts where we gather round the table and spend the entire time laughing. What can I say? I have a funny family and we delight in cracking each other up. I knew I had to find a great breakfast place for us. I'd heard Norma's was THE place to go for breakfast. A little piece of LA in the desert.

Norma's is housed in The Parker - which is completely hidden in Palm Springs. Thatboy fell in love with the decor and is dying to go back and stay there.

Even Thatmom was a fan of the modern, eclectic design.

The trick with Norma's is to make reservations if you want to sit outside. And you want to sit outside. That's where the cool people sit. I know the people out there were cool, because the guys next to us literally TOOK OFF THEIR SHOES at the table. We didn't have reservations, but we were just so gosh darn cute, they sat us outside anyway. Thatbrother claims it's probably due to UDubb classing us up a bit. He's probably right. We kept our shoes on.

Our waitress stopped by to introduce herself and drop off gigantic french presses of coffee at our table. She also brought us all samples of their smoothie of the day - blueberry...something. Because it was in a shot glass, Thatmom shot hers while we all sipped ours. At which point she mentioned she'd never actually done a shot before. This will be important later.

Thatbrother ordered the Nova Smoked Salmon Ring. You can tell this is his meal, because HELLO THATBROTHER'S FINGER! It was lox and eggs topped with creme freche and caviar. He thought it could have used some onion, but otherwise was very pleased.

UDubb and Thatmom both ordered make your own egg white omelets. The potatoes they came with were so good, they were passed around the table so everyone could enjoy them.

Thatboy didn't quite understand we were having breakfast, so he ordered dessert. The PB&C Waffle 'Wich - Peanut Butter and Chocolate that is. You all remember that Thatboy doesn't like peanut butter and chocolate right? I'm going to remind him of this breakfast next time he makes that claim. It was DELICIOUS, but he couldn't even begin to think about finishing it.

I had the Huevos Rancheros (raise your hand if you're surprised). It was totally different than any huevos rancheros I've ever had. Instead of being served over a tortilla, it was served over a bean and cheese quesadilla - which made it very easy to share.

And because we're big on fruit, we ordered a fruit plate for the entire table to share. Served in a watermelon ring!

After breakfast we headed to the outlets. My favorite part of Palm Springs. We were there for 6 1/2 hours. I love Thatmom and UDubb and their incredible endurance. And the boys were such good sports! They found ways of entertaining themselves.

We ended up with a disgusting number of bags in the car, single handedly reviving the economy! My best buys include $30 Columbia snow pants for skiing, patent leather ballet flats, Kate Spade sunglasses (which will be revealed later), and this ADORABLE little purse.

After all that shopping we had worked up quite the appetite. So we headed to dinner. Since we didn't get pizza at Matchbox last time we came up, we decided to try again this time. Thatmom wasn't all in at first, but after we ordered a round of shots for the table all of a sudden this became one of the best pizzas she's ever had. (Told you that shot thing would come back to haunt you)

Thatbrother ordered a beer sampler, picking 6 different beers from the menu. I have know idea what he got, except the St. Bernardus ABT 12 I was telling you about. Technically he's the discoverer. Good thing he shares.

Thatboy ordered a Manhattan. It's his new going out drink.

I ordered the Now and Later - which tasted just like candy.

We decided to order some pizzas and salads for the table to share. We're good sharers. We had the chopped salad, which was good, but would have been better without the pasta in it.

The apple and pear salad was a huge hit. Thatbrother especially liked the cinnamon apple chips.

Thatboy spotted heirloom tomatoes on the menu and we had to order them. I was happy because it came with mozzarella. And tomatoes and mozzarella are even better than peanut butter and chocolate.

We had the sausage and onion pizza. It should surprise no one that Thatbrother added mushrooms on to it. He even tried to add mushrooms on to his lox and eggs and we talked him out of it.

We also got the prosciutto white - with garlic, ricotta, kalamata olives, and of course, prosciutto. Perfectly salty.

And then came the most embarrassing part of the evening. We headed over to Yogurt on Tap. Thatboy made himself a 2lb yogurt sundae. He was so proud of himself. I was less proud. I was even less proud when we stopped off at the supermarket to pick up some water and a group of people pointed at us and said "Look! There's the guy with the 2lb yogurt!" I wanted to crawl into a hole.

Then came sleep, glorious sleep and the race I already told you about. And then we were starving. Beyond belief starving. I told you this post was going to be all about food! So we headed to Armando's for some Mexican since Thatbrother was jonesing for a burrito. And that's where I came across this beauty.

She's a cadillac margarita. Thatboy, UDubb, and I each had one. And there is very little I remember about lunch after that drink. I remember lots of laughing. And then all of a sudden I realized we were all done eating, and I hadn't taken a single picture of the food!

Thatmom had the cheese quesadilla. Which is one of my favorite lunches.

UDubb had three different tacos. I don't know what they were. I doubt she remembers. I do know that we liked the fact they were all individually wrapped. Drunk people like things like that.

Thatbrother had a fajita burrito. Look how blurry my drunk picture is!

Thatboy had a taco and an enchilada. I don't remember them being so great. But apparently the beans were great, cause they're all gone in this picture.

I had the carnitas burrito. It was really good. Even Thatboy thought so, so I know it wasn't just me.

After lunch we were all so ummm...not fit to be we did some more shopping. I got some of my favorite tees from GAP because there was a sale. So it was a pretty successful trip for all involved. We ate, we shopped, and we laughed. We're a pretty good group if you ask me!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Do not adjust your monitors

It's not you, it's me. This post is going to be filled to the brim with awful awful awful pictures. See, Thatboy and I went to Mardi Gras last night. The tickets said "ABSOLUTELY NO CAMERAS OF ANY KIND." The signs said "NO PHOTOGRAPHIC EQUIPMENT." So I was a good girl and left my camera at home. I've been sent back to my car before for trying to bring a camera in somewhere and my car wasn't parked anywhere near last night's festivities. But apparently this "no camera" thing was one of those not real rules that everyone but me seemed to know about. Since I saw not just point and shoots, but full on DSLRs all night. And here I was with only my little phone camera. I'm not a phone tech kind of girl. I use my phone for making phone calls. It doesn't have any bells and whistles. So it should be no surprise that these pictures Just turn your head to the side and squint as you read this. Or get really really drunk.

San Diego has what has been dubbed as "The biggest celebration west of the Mississipi" when it comes to Mardi Gras - bands, djs, performers, girls, and beads beads beads beads beads. We were supposed to go last year, but last year's Mardi Gras ended up being the day of Thatdad's funeral, and a giant party was the last thing on our minds. We decided to try again this year.

We started out the evening with a true Mardi Gras dinner. Sushi. (hmmmm something seems wrong there) But it had been forever since I've gone to one of my favorite sushi outposts, although I prefer Sushi Deli 2 to the downtown Sushi Deli 1. But beggars can't be choosers. We ordered a couple of rolls, with my pick being the all out winner. Good way to start the night.

After dinner we headed down to where all the action was. The plan was to walk around and see the sights, watch the 7:30pm parade, and be home and in bed at a reasonable hour. That SO didn't happen. Thatboy was having such a good time, he didn't want to leave! We stayed far too late and got home hours past our bedtime. What kept us so entertained you may ask?

Well it was Mardi Gras. Which meant there were scantily clad women everywhere

And giant crazy stilt figures.

The 7:30 parade was so much fun, Thatboy decided he wanted to stay for the 10:00 parade too! Both parades started out with San Diego's very own roller derby team!

And of course, every Mardi Gras has got to have a King and Queen.

Uncle Sam showed up for the fun.

As did Santas........

And this float was one of Thatboy's favorites as some of the float girls showed a little more than we were expecting.

Our Grand Marshalls were Craig Robinson and Clark Duke of Hot Tub Time Machine. Which looks like an awful movie. But we're fans of The Office so it was fun to see Darryl.

In addition to the parade, each street was blocked off with different "themes." The Candy Factory had a female dj spinning with loads of bubbles and go go dancers.

E Street was home of the Dance-Off. Since it's not a secret Thatboy and I are fans of "America's Best Dance Crew" it should be no surprise that we really enjoyed watching these talented dancers battle.

We spent forever in "Market Street Cirque" watching Zirk Ubu. See that swirly thing in the middle? That's a hula hoop. That's been lit on fire. That is spinning around the body of the performer.

This guy climbed on top of 5 chairs before juggling flaming batons and putting them out in his mouth or pants.

Not to be outdone, the "mystic" did his own flame eating, blowing, and sword swallowing. Bet he's a ton of fun at parties.

And there were aerialists - which is by far my favorite acrobatic/gymnastic performance type. If I could go back in time, this would probably be the career path I would choose. That's assuming I could go back in time and make myself less of a fraidy cat.

We had a fabulous time at Mardi Gras last night, but seriously, this little girl needs more sleep and less partying!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Working Backwards

Hoo boy do I have a lot to share with you! But it's going to be totally out of order because I'm already DAYS late on a Valentine's Day post, and frankly the later it gets the weirder it's going to be when I start going off on hearts and flowers. So let's start with some Valentine's Day celebrationing and then we'll go from there. Sound good?


Sharing the Love
If you know me, you know that I don't limit my Valentining to Thatboy. We sent out Valentines to our friends and family - and little gifties to Thatniece and Thatnephew. We got presents to give to Thatmom, Thatbrother, and UDubb since we'd be spending the actual holiday with them. And of course, appropriate treats were brought in to share with out coworkers.

Take a little trip, Take a little trip, Take a little trip with me
Thatmom told us last month that she really wanted to send Thatboy and I away for Valentine's Day. As I've mentioned before, we've been spending a lot of time with Thatmom on the weekends over the past year, and she wanted us to have some quality time to ourselves. Thatboy told her he'd gladly accept her offer, as long as she came along with us. There was no way we were leaving her alone on Valentine's Day weekend - not only because of the holiday itself, but because last year, this was the last weekend she had with Thatdad. And we knew it was going to be a hard one for her. She fought with us about joining, assuring us she was going to treat it like just another day, but we were stubborn. Eventually she agreed. Soon Thatbrother and UDubb were roped into the weekend getaway and on Friday night we all found ourselves heading out to Palm Desert.

Thatfamily has multiple timeshares in Palm Desert, which means anytime we want to get away for a weekend, we head East. Our ownership meant we got a great deal on the brand new (opening weekend) Westin Desert Willow Villas. Brand new everything! We were the first to sleep on the heavenly beds, the first to use the oversize towels, the first to turn on the double showerheads, and the first to take advantage of the jacuzzi tubs.

But getting there on a Friday night was quite the ordeal. Our quick little trip took almost 3 times longer than we were expecting! Thatboy was trying to arrive as quickly as possible so he could watch the Olympics opening ceremony. Luckily we were able to get there in time for him to tune in. We stopped at the first place off the exit so he wouldn't miss a minute while we ate.

Thatboy's "Fire Chief" - a 1/2 lb burger topped with swiss, pastrami, and thousand island dressing. He said it was good, but he could feel his arteries clogging as he ate it.

I made my own burger - topping it with blue cheese and bacon. And can I just sing the praises of beer battered fries for a moment? Heaven. Of course, neither of us was able to finish. I couldn't even get through half of my burger!

Race to Love? Love to Race?
I really wanted to do a race this month, now that I'm back running like it was my job. All the "good" or fun sounding races in San Diego however were on Valentine's Day weekend. Which wasn't going to work with our plans. So I decided to check and see what Palm Spring had to offer. Which is how I stumbled upon the Palm Spring's half marathon and 5k. I'm not quite up to a half marathon yet, but a 5k I can almost do in my sleep. As I can attest to my many morning runs when I'm not quite up yet. I emailed UDubb to see if she wanted to join me, and she was in. Then she made the mistake of telling Thatbrother about the special "Sweethearts division" of the half marathon. This allowed couples to run the half as a relay. One person does the first 5ish miles, the second does 3ish miles, and they run the last 4ish miles together. UDubb was beyond surprised when Thatbrother said he wanted to do it. She made him go on a 5 mile run with her, and then waited a couple days to make sure he was serious before signing up.

The plan was for UDubb to run the first section of the relay. Thatboy would meet up with her at the switchoff and run the second section. Then he'd loop around and pick her up so they could do the last part together. The halfers got a headstart on the 5kers so we were all there to cheer UDubb on.

15-20 minutes later, the 5kers got our start!

And even though I started so much later than the halfers, I finished before even one of them crossed the finish. Because I am so very fast. Or because they were running A LOT more than I was. Toe-may-to, Toe-mah-to. You can see the half marathoners clock to the right of me. Because it had only been 47 minutes since they started, we figured we had a wait ahead of us and we headed out to mile 11 to cheer on Thatbrother and UDubb. At mile 11 they were looking great. And strong. Thatmom had been worried about Thatbrother who is NOT a runner, but he looked pretty good. We'd find out why later.

We headed back to the finish to watch them cross. How cute are they holding hands? It was Thatbrother's idea. UDubb wasn't interested. I can tell you one of the reasons was probably because Thatbrother had MISSED THE SWITCHOFF POINT. When she arrived and he was no where to be found, UDubb just kept going. The joined up again at the point where she was supposed to join him after his section. Thatbrother looked so much better than we expected because he'd only run a little over 4ish miles. UDubb had run THE WHOLE THING. And yet - they still came in second overall for all the "mixed" relay teams (a man and a woman). Somehow they didn't get put into the Sweetheart division, but they would have come in third if they had been.

Nothing says "I love you" like blood.
The first Valentine's Day Thatboy and I spent together we were both in college. We decided to skirt convention and go and see Hannibal. So when I saw that The Wolfman was opening Valentine's Day weekend, I thought it would be an appropriate homage to go see it. With Anthony Hopkins in it, we were expecting it to be phenomenal. Plus we'd both seen the original. Let me just say - Benicio Del Toro is no Lon Chaney. The story has been revamped a little, making the female lead the fiancee of Del Toro's brother. Which bothered me a little. Because really, if anything ever happened to Thatboy, I don't think I'd be lusting after TBIL. Seriously. Men are not interchangeable just because they're brothers. Think about how well that worked out for Catherine of Aragon. I also had a hard time buying into Benicio Del Toro as the romantic lead. Whether it was because of his wooden acting, stilted lines, or the nearly 20 year age difference between he and Emily Blunt. In that sense, the movie was a disappointment. The creepiness factor was fun though, and I liked the fact that they didn't over use technology. I love cheese in classic horror and the costumes weren't all CGI and technical.

Table for Two

There are a lot of thoughts on eating out on Valentine's Day. Frankly - Thatboy and I have never run into the stereotypical issues complained about, but I do my research in advance. I check for prix fixe menus that charge astronomical prices, I make reservations in January, we don't go places where you go to "see and be seen." But it is an excuse to eat out, and we take advantage. Thatboy wanted to start out with some drinks, so we began our evening bellying up to the bar at The Falls. This is where we discovered their signature "Smokin' Martinis."

No really, those things were better than a witch's cauldron! When I asked the bartender what drink it was, he was very blase. "That's one of our martinis. They all do that." When I commented that he didn't seem nearly as excited as I was, he cracked a smile.

So of course we got a couple rounds, purely for science to discover if different alcohols had different smoking properties.

After our drinks, we stumbled our way over to our dinner reservations at Pomme Frite. Where of course, we started with some more alcohol.

I found a new favorite beer while in the desert - St. Bernardus Abt 12. It's a brown ale, but really smooth and fruity. LOVE it. Thatboy had the Piraat Ale. I didn't sample it or ask how it was, because I was afraid that would open me up to having him ask for some of mine.

I began with a French Onion Soup, which was the highlight of my meal. So cheesy they served it with scissors to cut through the deliciousness. I didn't want to share this either, but I did.

This bowl of darkness is Thatboy's Split Pea Soup. Not nearly as good as my soup. I was actually kind of surprised he ordered it, but who am I to argue with him?

I had the coq au vin, which was nothing to write home about. Probably a bad choice on my part since this is a recipe I make at home - and I make a mean coq au vin, so it's hard for restaurants to live up to my standards. The chicken was perfectly cooked, but the au vin sauce wasn't as flavorful as I would have liked.

Thatboy went with the house specialty - mussels. The only food I'm allergic to. That I know of. He had his mussels in a saffron broth. He was in heaven. I kept hearing proclamations of "I can't believe how many there are!" and "This one was SO sweet!" They were apparently perfect.

And of course, with a name like Pomme Frite you can better believe we ended up with pomme frites accompanying our meals. Thatboy thought they might have been the best french fries he's had. Served with a trio of dipping sauces - ketchup, something spicy, and one that look enough like mayo that I steered clear. But they were perfect for soaking up my chicken juices and his saffron broth.

Happy Belated Valentine's Day my loves! Hug those close to you, and don't forget to tell them how much you appreciate them.