Saturday, December 26, 2009

White Christmas

We've made it through our first New England Christmas and are still alive. I realized a funny thing about Christmas this year...when you strip it down, it is just another day. It could be yesterday, today, or tomorrow. It's not about being the 25th of December. Instead, Christmas is about what you do on that day to make it special. Hopefully, your holiday was spent with the ones you love. The presents are just an added bonus.

This year, we decided to stay in Boston for my first Christmas away from my parents. I honestly didn't think it was going to be as difficult as it was. The week before, I began to dread even the thought of the holiday. We had no tree, no parents, no presents, no lights, no decorations, no money, and no time to really do anything. It was definitely not shaping up to be my favorite holiday of the year.

However, after many tears, I decided to fight back. I went to Trader Joe's to find myself a Charlie Brown tree and instead received a free wreath. Nothing in LA is ever free. I think someone was reminding me of the Boston spirit. As I walked around the store, free gift in hand, I began to find the Christmas spirit. It isn't about receiving, but rather giving this time of year. I realized I had missed the hustle & bustle of Christmas shopping. There is a definite rush of being with the crowds and seeing all of the Christmas decor. I must say I got caught up a bit, bought some champagne & yummy treats, and headed home to hang my wreath.

Christmas day, if you forget about the Christmas part, turned out to be a great day. Had this been any other Saturday, I would even say it was a great day. If I'm allowed to complain, I would say there was just something missing from it all. I think it was being around the family, and yes, opening presents. That sense of unity and love and warmth the day usually holds.

As difficult as it was, I am happy we made the choice to tough it out. We found out what it is like to spend a holiday together, with friends. And in the future, there are some traditions we created this year, that I would like to keep- like the Christmas Eve White Castle burgers and Christmas afternoon nap. And the peace. There wasn't the usual arguing or fighting that comes along with my family holidays. Instead we spent the morning with a great friend eating breakfast and drinking champagne. We went to the Commons to walk in the snow and see the Christmas tree. And we finished the night at a Cuban feast among friends.

Like I said, a really great day. The only thing that made it better was the snowy walk home. We had our first white Christmas.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Julia Child

I am jumping on the Julia Child bandwagon. I am fully aware how trendy this is at the moment and would normally be completed turned off. However, after spending the past 3 weeks reading "My Life in France", I have completely fallen in love with her. First, I must point out that on average lately I've been going through about a book a week. So, for her one book to take me three weeks, definitely speaks volumes. I did not want to let her go. I felt like I made a little Julia Child friend that fit inside my bag and went wherever I went. If I needed to hear her voice on the T, I would simply pull out the book and start where I had left off. Her adventures through France, Norway, Germany, and Boston were so well depicted. Her voice came through as if she were sitting next to me telling me the stories herself.

I found the book so inspiring and discouraging at the same time. To start, this woman made some of the most incredible meals ever known to man. And she seemed to do them with ease. She never expressed sincere fear in putting together a great feast. Instead, she buckled down and spent days working with the finest products in France. I, on the otherhand, am frightened to cook for anyone other than Mario. Julia says you should never say sorry. If something doesn't work out, it is what it is. You just do your best to fix the problem, accept it this once, and don't make the same mistake again. That is much simplier said than done. However, I am trying to take this attitude lately, and find it somewhat soothing.

She is so passionate though about her work. Julia spent years putting together a single cookbook-- testing and retesting each of the recipes until each was perfect. I am disappointed to say I do not have this drive. I really enjoy cooking. However, lately it has become more of a hassle than a pleasure. I miss the immediate satisfaction of going out to eat and having the food prepared for you. Lately, I do not enjoy trying to figure out what to make each evening or what to make of the items in our fridge. Granted, Julia had nothing else to do. She had the government's money, freetime while her husband worked, and no television. I suppose if put into those circumstances I too could become excited about cooking again. Plus, it didn't hurt that she was in France among some of the best produce available.

All in all, I would say this is one of the best books I have read. If I owned it, instead of rented from the library, it would be tucked away among the greats like "Eat, Prey, Love" and "The Alchemist". I really urge you to read it, but be sure to give yourself enough time to get through the whole book. I am sure you will savor each page as I did and never want it to end.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


It is funny about family. In my life, there are so many people I am related to by blood that I wish I didn't know and so many people I'm not related to that feel like family. It is funny how that works out. For Thanksgiving, two of my "family" drove up to spend the holiday with us. I have known Sarah & Lari now for about 7 years and seeing them was exactly what I needed. We spent the whole day talking and laughing and talking and laughing some more. It felt so good to be with people that knew who I am and don't need explanation of my every thought and movement. Instead, we understand each other without saying a thing. It was exactly what I needed.

On that same note, my parents came out about a month ago. I have put off writing about their trip because, as good as it was, it only made me ache for them more. It is not that I had forgotten anything about them. It just made me miss them even more to have them close. Its like eating chocolate after years of dieting. It only makes you want it more. Or something like that.

We had an amazing time (that's for you Jim) walking around Boston and seeing all of the sites. I must say the highlight of the trip was being at the Cheers bar with them, having drinks and laughing. I don't even remember what we were talking about. I just remember feeling at home with both of them by my side.

At first, I was afraid for my parents to see how modest our life has become. I didn't want them to worry. But then I realized, it really is what it is. And at the end of the day, we are not hurting or wanting for anything major. We simply aren't as extravagant as we once were. If anything, I'm sure this pleased them more than caused worry.

With the holidays upon us, I'm beginning to realize how hard it is going to be without my parents. This will be my first Christmas without them. Can you believe that??? I'm 29 years old, and only now experiencing my first Christmas without my parents. I guess that makes me pretty pathetic. Either way, I'm going to miss them terribly.

For as long as I can remember, I woke up every Christmas morning VERY early, grabbed all of our stockings, and climbed into my parents' bed. We would open everything together, one at a time. These are my best memories of the holiday. For, after we got out of bed, all of the drama would ensue, and the day would lose all meaning. But for that hour of the 3 of us in bed, it was wondeful. That is what I am going to miss.

In honor of them, I'm attaching photos of my parents' trip. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

missing LA

No, I would not say that I'm homesick. I would definitely say that I'm not ready to move back. However, every day, there are certain little things about LA that I miss. So, I thought I would make a list for fun...

* Seeing my friends in person-- phone calls are wonderful. but there is nothing like being able to see and touch someone.
* happy hour- discounted drinks and good times with friends.
* networking events. I didn't realize how much I enjoyed them until they are gone--- free drinks at amazing locations in LA, while strumming up new business.
* in line with the last one- having connections. We don't know anyone or anything here.
* Walking down Hillhurst in Los Feliz. I can still see exactly how all of the shops and restaurants are lined up.
* Del Taco & Carl's Jr.
* authentic tacos & good mexican food
* Spaghetti factory- specifically the Mizithra cheese
* knowing what the weather is going to be like from day to day-- while the guessing game here is fun, I miss the consistency of it.
* having a full wine fridge. and just good wine in general.
* palm trees
* wearing high heels & professional clothing.
* pilates
* the front yard pool parties

Sunday, November 15, 2009


I am so conflicted about blogging. I'm not sure I've written about this before, but it is something that has been on my mind for awhile. Perhaps, it is the reason that I have not blogged as much as I would like. So, here is my questions--- how truthful can/should one be in a blog??? I have a couple of blogs I read regularly and appreciate the painful truth in their writing. My heart goes out to each one of them.

There is so much I need to say...want to say...could reportabout day-to-day life. Yet, I don't. I don't know if I want people to know my struggles and challenges. I have a hard enough dealing with the truth of life. How appropriate is it to put the truth out there and have others deal with it? And once I've put those challenges out there, and now someone else is dealing with them or acknowledging them, is it okay to move on? It always helps me to talk about things in order to move on. So, if I put something out there, is it okay that I am then ready to move past it? Sometimes it feels as though I've taken my burden and handed it off to someone else. That is never my intention. I never want anyone else to endure the emotional roller coasters. I've spent majority of my life trying to help people so that they don't have to suffer at all.

This brings up another important question....does anyone even read this blog? If not, this is all a moot point. I am simply writing to the internet void and not affecting a soul. If that is the case, the blog can become a means to communicate and work my way through things. But how does one know? Is there anyone out there? Does anyone read this? Or have I lost you all completely? I suppose that would be a good place to start. Once I know if and who reads this, I can then figure out how much I want you all to know.

I just don't know how honest I'm ready to be....especially with the ones we've left back home. When you make a decision to make a big change, whatever it may be, it is hard to admit it is not always easy. There are a lot of challenges, every step of the way. I know I need the help of my loved ones to get through it all. But I'm not ready for them to know. I'd rather they think we are doing amazing. That everything is simply fantastic....because in so many ways it is. It just isn't easy. I don't regret one aspect of the decision. I was just foolish to think the move would be a smooth transition.

I don't really know where I'm going with this. I guess I just needed to let it all out and apologize for not being more raw. I just don't know if I'm ready. But perhaps it is what I need.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

when everything else goes away...

More and more lately I've become aware of how soothing the kitchen really is. All of the day's troubles just wash away. That's not to say that the kitchen is not stressful. As my parents will tell you, I can become really stressed when trying to get a meal on the table. When they were here a few weeks ago, we got into a bit of a tiff over getting "Thanksgiving dinner" out and hot. No one was ready to eat, there was no room to put the food, and it was getting cold very quick due to our freezing weather.

Anyhow, I'm just saying the kitchen can make a lot of stress disappear. I had forgotten this. My classes lately have consisted of learning about terroirs, fermenting in steel versus oak, and how to speak French. All very stressful, to say the least. But we were let loose in a kitchen once again and it felt soooo good.

I know some of you wonder what it is like to be in culinary school. Is it really like what you see on tv??? Surprisingly, it kind of is, just a lot less screaming. Today, we had to complete production for both today and tomorrow. Because of Thanksgiving, we are squeezing two days into each one day in order to be able to cover the same amount of material. This just means a lot more work and moving a lot quicker.

We start class every day at 7:00am sharp! If you show up at 7:01am, you are late and will be docked points. I do my best to get there by 6:45am every day. Lately, its been closer to 7:50am though. That leaves me just enough time to get out of my layers of a coat, scarf, beanie, and sometimes gloves. I have to put on my uniform, take out my books, grab a stool, and organize my area in that 10 minutes. At 7:00am, we step out into the hallway for brigade. Here, the chef instructor checks to make sure we have every piece of the uniform needed- from neckerchief to sharpie to thermometer to nametag. The chef instructor is also making sure our uniform is pressed, shoes are shined, nails are cut, girls' hair is completely hidden under the hat, and men are freshly shaven. Its write this out, it sounds so foreign and strange. Yet, this is what I have gone through every day for the past 4 months. Funny...what can become normal in such a small amount of time.

Anyhow, once we have passed the test, we go back inside for lecture. This may include powerpoint and/or a demo of some sort. Today, our chef instructor awed us with his knife skills. I have never seen anyone cut like this. It was amazing. At one point, I wanted to pack up my stuff and go home, as to not be embarrassed when my turn came. He can even turn a potato into a 7-sided dradle-like shape behind his back. I'm sure that does not sound anywhere near as impressive as it is. Let's just say, I've barely mastered creating the shape and can only do it when under extreme pressure. This chef can do it with his eyes closed...literally. AMAZING!!!

Anyhow, we got a short break and than a little past 8:00am we got to it. We had until 11:15am to make the following:
*lemon parsley vinaigrette
*balsamic vinaigrette
*tomato vinaigrette
*Caesar salad (dressing, croutons and all-- made from scratch)
*roasted pepper salad

After we completed each dressing, he had to okay it before we could move on to the next. At 11:15am, we had to have the two salads plated and ready for his critique. I know the list may not seem very long. But you also have to keep in mind we have to wash our dishes prior to starting the next item. We do not have five of everything. Just one whisk, usually one bowl, one chef's knife, one set of measuring spoons, etc. So, everything must be cleaned before moving on. It is pretty insane, and I'm sure amusing to watch. On top of that, everything we cut must be a certain size. For example, the roasted peppers all had to be in 1/2" slices. Prior to coming to culinary school, I didn't even know what 1/2" looked like. Now its something I must create without any thought.

At one point today, I took a step back to take it all in. All I could do was laugh. We had about 25 people with their heads down, chopping quickly, and mumbling recipes to themselves to make sure nothing was forgotten. It was hilarious sight. We all looking like fools speaking jibberish while waving knifes around.

It is pretty incredible when you break it down. So, I thought I would share. Just give you all a little piece of my day-to-day. I hope it helps you imagine things a little better. Or at least give you a reason to smile. Little Chef Soto has made it through one more day without cutting her finger off.

That means it is a good day.

Friday, September 25, 2009

fall is here

Oh my God, it is beautiful today! Fall is officially here. The sun is still shining, but there is that crisp breeze that can only mean fall. The trees are starting to change colors, and everyone is pulling out their sweaters. So, fall is here, right??? The most telling signal for me though, is that it feels like someone has pushed the restart button. Fall to me always feels like the starting point of the year. Not New Years. This is the time that everyone goes back to school...where new adventures await them.

In school there was always the question of who will the girls have a crush on this year? Who will become best friends? What will be every one's new favorite subject? At Patina, the Opera and Phil started their new seasons. The fall was full of Galas and the biggest parties. Fall always brought the question of what will the holidays bring? How much money will we make? Will we meet our goal for the year? Fall is the beginning of every cycle.

Now that I'm back in school and working part time jobs, fall brings a whole new beginning. My school schedule is divided into three week classes. So, every few weeks, things change. That hasn't meant a whole lot up until now. Oddly enough, with the onset of fall, the class changes are starting to feel real. Monday I start baking. I start something completely new and foreign, just like the beginning of every school year. I'm so afraid I will burn the kitchen down. Okay, not the whole kitchen, but at least everything I put into the oven. What if the bread doesn't rise? I've managed to ruin boxed brownies. How is making it from scratch going to go any better? I have learned at this school, there is no guarantee of anything. At least it is a new beginning. I have three weeks to figure out the rest.

Work is another story. This past month has been a struggle just to get through. I've been training at two jobs and working an inconsistent schedule. All I want is some constant. I want to know what each day is bringing and where I'll be going for that day. Fortunately, both jobs offered me more hours. Unfortunately, I was faced with making a decision....the one thing I'm horrible at. But I did it and am really hoping I made the right one. Next week I begin working 35 hours a week. I'm up for the challenge. I only hope that there is time to sleep somewhere between 35 hours of work and 25 hours of school. It will be like being at Patina again. Good thing I can't afford to have a social life. I have to use the energy and rebirth of fall to get me through it and into my rhythm.

I know I'm making it sound awful. It really isn't. I still love Boston and have not regretted moving for an instant. We are simply in a transitional phase and are working to have all the pieces fall together. I trust that one day we will be making money again and living the high life. We will be able to enjoy the city and all of its pleasures. Until then, we will stick to eating dinners at home and drinking Pabst. At least I'm getting lots of practice cooking.

So, here's to fall and all of the exciting adventures you will bring. I have hopes and wishes for you. Please bring the New England beauty and array of colors. That, above all else, will make it all worthwhile.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

photos for bianca

Next weekend, our good friends Bianca & Jaime are getting married. These two are high school sweethearts. Until meeting them, I didn't believe that could still happen. In my experience, your high school love is just a starting point. He/she becomes the person to teach you how to love and how to understand the different levels of love later in life. For Bianca & Jaime, they found the true thing the first time around. I adore this and have so much respect for them.

Unfortunately, we are not able to attend the wedding. Due to financial challenges and having just found our jobs, we can't make the trek back to sunny California. I know it is going to be beautiful and cannot wait to see photos. Bianca- just know we are sending our love from across the country.
In honor of you, I am posting photos. I forget that not everyone wants to subscribe the demon Facebook, and therefore has not seen our Boston life. Here are some of my favorites, in no particular order. I'll try to do better at posting in both locations.

Monday, September 7, 2009

developing a palate

I have so much to write about. This has been by far one of the most amazing weekends of my life. But...I want to relish this moment a bit more before dissecting it with words. So, for now, I will share the adventures of my palate.

I am not sure whether my current situation is due to having more time for myself, living on the East Coast, or that I am officially getting older. Either way, I am being forced to expand my palate. This is an odd concept to me. I have learned to love the finest foods and wines and developed a great sense of taste. As a child, my mother and I would play a game every time we went to a restaurant. After one bite, we had to name every ingredient the chef used. I remember doing this as far back as the age of 6 and loved it. Of course, with the time, the catalog of known spices, herbs, and flavors continued to expand and the game actually became harder. Yet, a sense of taste was developed and thus became the core of my knowledge of life. Only now I find myself completely lost. It turns out I know nothing about coffee, tea, and chocolate. Thus far these are items I did not have time to give any thought. The funny thing is these are the three best sellers at my job. So, I must learn them well and FAST.

Coffee has simply been a hot morning stimulate that I added hazelnut flavoring to and went on my way. That is if I even took the time to make it myself. Usually I wasted money and calories at Coffeebean to get me through the day. Don't get me wrong. I have had a great cup of coffee. My mother's cannot be beat. But it is something of which I have never understood the intricacies. Now, I depend on coffee to get me through the day. 5am is not my friend. And when I get up, I want something that tastes good. Thus, my first quest began. It turns out beans from Guatemala taste completely different from those from Mexico. Thanks to Kirstin and her wonderful Starbucks job, I am able to further my quest and soon become a full-fledged coffee ordering Bostonian.

Apparently chocolate is just as diverse. Did you know there are beans grown in many countries worldwide? And each one has a different flavor? Do you know what percentage constitutes a dark versus milk chocolate? And this said percentage is up to debate amongst chocolate connoisseurs. I had and still have no idea. I truly think we sell over 100 different types of chocolate in the store and each is completely foreign to me. Again, I have had great chocolate from Switzerland, Peru, and France. But the chocolate world goes so much deeper than that. There are at least 5 different dark chocolate bars with chilies in the store and probably 20 with some sort of orange. Each has a different texture, density, flavor, and breakdown. I need to know these differences and discover a good way to describe it to someone as clueless as I currently am.

Lastly we come to tea. To me, tea is just lightly flavored water. I have never understood how people could throw parties centering around flavored water (no offense friend). I have tried many times to make a good cup of tea...usually when I am coming down with a cold. However, every time, I am so disappointed. The leaves themselves smell amazing. Such great combinations of flavors and aromatics. But add a little water and you just get water..with a slight hint of that great smell. I don't get it. Why does tea have to be such a tease?!

I know to some of you reading this, my confusion may seem silly. How could I not know about chocolate, coffee, and tea? These are the staples in so many lives. I, however, could not have been bothered. I was too busy chasing the savory side of life. I ate at fine restaurants and dissected some of the best dishes in Los Angeles. I challenged my palate with different types of wines- sparkling, reds, whites and roses. There was no time to spend on hot liquids that usually tasted like crap or chocolate that usually tasted like wax. I was too busy working and planning everyone else's extravagant lives.

So now, like so many other aspects of my life, I need to figure out what it is that I like. I must return to the basics and develop a foundation so that I may one day have an extravagant life of my own.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

things I love about Boston

after the day I had today, I decided to put together a list of the things I love about Boston. hopefully by the time I'm done, I'll feel better.

* riding the t- specifically the red line
* looking into Boston and seeing all of the sailboats
* the Commons
* the way the breeze feels and blows through the trees
* turning the corner every morning and seeing Leonard on his smoking break
* children playing in the public fountains
* the duck tours
* bricks
* that I can walk everywhere and anywhere
* all of the history
* walking along the river and pretending I'm in Europe
* putting on my uniform every morning
* the way people light up when you say good morning... as if no one has ever said it to him/her before
* getting lost and finding something new
* my office/study room that is full of color and postcards
* that my friends are on their way to school as I'm getting out of class. works out perfectly
* the North End
* my wine & specialty market in Beacon Hill
* that you can store food outdoors in the winter
* that it is a city

Sunday, August 16, 2009

I've had a lot of people complaining that we don't update the blog enough. Truth of the matter is I don't really know what to say. Everything, every day is a new experience. Most of it is truly boring though. I don't know what should and shouldn't be written about. So, I go on day after day, not writing anything at all. :( Any feedback would be greatly appreciated. Let me know what you want to know. :)

Tomorrow I start Culinary Skills 2. It will be my 3rd class in school. I'm excited, but I don't think as much as my fellow classmates. It will be so nice getting to cook again. But really scary too. I mean, we didn't really do anything in the last cooking class. So, this is the time we will probably be divided according to skill level. We'll get to find out where everyone lies and what he/she can and cannot do. To be honest, I'm not totally confident where I'll end up. I LOVE cooking. It calms my soul. And when I'm relaxed, I cook quite well. But the key is, I have to be relaxed. Because of this, I think only Mario and my parents have actually been able to enjoy my hidden talent. When it comes to cooking for friends, or now chefs, I get really freaked out. I forget everything I know and drop the ball in one way or another (like burning a pizza box). So, I'm not really looking forward to tomorrow, now that I think about it.

This fear is not something new. When I was a kid, my mom tried to enroll me in a magnet school. She was so excited and really thought it would be good for my future. By the time we got to the school for my interview, I had forgotten my name. I kept telling everyone it was my babysitter's name, Kathy. Really???? How does someone forget her name??? I guess I'm just that special.

I'll keep you posted. Keep your fingers crossed for me.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

random stuff

We've been here a month. Can you believe it??? A whole month. It feels longer. Not in a bad way. I just feel like we've been here for quite awhile. In honor of our one month anniversary, I thought I would post about some of my favorite moments in Beantown. It will be all the things we should have blogged about while we were wrapping up the road trip stories.

#1- Fourth of July- We didn't really end up doing anything during the day. We had planned on going on a boat all day. However, there were storm warnings, so that got cancelled. I was dying to see what this new patriotic city would do on the nation's holiday. But instead, we lounged and unpacked. Yuck! I did put my foot down and declared we were going to watch the fireworks. Fourth of July is not anything if not the best time of the year for fireworks. Usually, we would be at the Hollywood Bowl enjoying the show. I was not going to miss out just because we didn't have anywhere to go. So, at around 7:00pm, we headed toward the river. We figured we would follow the people and see where we ended up. Only the fireworks out here don't start until 10pm. YIKES! So, back home we went to wait it out. Even though it ended up begin a little bit of an adventure, we found wonderful seats in a park right along the water on the Cambridge side. We had Boston as a backdrop while fireworks lit up the sky. Perfect way to spend the night.

#2- Eslie's Birthday- My first friend's name is Eslie. We met in class one day and decided we needed to go dancing after the first week to celebrate making it that far. I was very excited to find another person that likes to dance and go out in this new city. Anyhow- that following Monday was her birthday. So, I went online to find a bar near school. We figured we'd go out right after class and grab a quick drink to celebrate. In looking online, the closest place seemed to be at MIT. I thought, why not, it is probably a cheap college bar. Exactly what we need in the middle of the afternoon. :) Well, the bar turned out to actually be inside an old MIT classroom... or meeting place... or something. We actually had to go into a building full of classrooms to get to the bar. And it was only for MIT students. Ooopppss. Luckily they took some pity on us and let us in. The whole time, we felt like a bunch of kids hiding our beers in case one of the professors caught us. I don't think I'll be in charge of picking the next place.

#3- Patriot Place- This is by far one of my favorite memories so far. In doing a little research, Mario discovered the Patriots' training camp was actually open to the public. It just so happened to fall during the week I had no school. So, we packed a lunch and drove about an hour to Foxborough. It was a beautiful day, and we were both so excited. We managed to find great seats in the grass looking down on both practive fields. Bill Bellichick and Tom Brady were both through strutting their stuff. It was sooooo cool to be so close to all of them. That is until the sky opened up and starting raining like crazy. It was coming down so hard. I had packed a small umbrella, just in case, thinking we would never need it. Ha! We could have used three more. The funny thing is all of the locals started running, like a little rain was going to hurt them. HA! They just weren't true fans. There we sat, soaked to the bone, watching football, and realizing we were really on the East Coast. This would never happen in CA.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Culinary School

I'm sorry everyone! It seems as though I've lost my "he said". His interest tapered off towards the end of the road trip. I hope you don't mind, but I'd like to keep the blog going. Up until this week, school has been absolutely incredible. That's not to say it hasn't been difficult. Culinary Skills I, our first class, seemed virtually impossible until it was over. We had 15 days to learn how to make stocks, figure out our mother sauces (bechamel, veloute, tomato, hollandaise, & espagnole), identify about 50 spices & herbs, and perfect our knife cuts. Even saying it all sounds like a lot. It was an insane amount of information in such a small amount of time. Literally my schedule consisted of waking up at 5am, walking to school, going to class, getting home, studying, making dinner, studying more, and going to bed. There wasn't time for anything else.

But as I mentioned, it was absolutely incredible. A portion of the final exam was to identify 100 herbs, spices, and kitchen equipment. I studying for about 4 hours on just the herbs & spices alone. Look at dried basil, oregano, thyme, & parsley next to each other. Pretty similar, huh? Look at cayenne, chili powder, & paprika. Even closer. I really didn't think I could do it. So, to walk out of that portion of the exam with a 100% was like walking on air. An indescribable feeling.

Another portion of the test was to complete 9 knife cuts in 45 minutes. That's 5 minutes per cut. That's 5 minutes to make a carrot into 1/16"x1/16"x1/16" perfect squares. Before this class, I don't even think I knew what an 1/16 of an inch looked like. For some reason, I started cutting everything into 1/4" pieces. I don't know what was going on. Thank goodness I figured that out pretty quickly. I'm just really glad I'm not the guy that cut the onion in the wrong direction.

It is truly amazing to be doing something that makes me so happy. I still have no idea what I'm going to do with it at the end of the day. But I trust that will all fall into place. Right now, I just have to enjoy every moment and cook absolutely everything I can.


Well we finally made it. Its been a few weeks since we got here, so I don't even know where to begin. I guess with the beginning. We got the keys to the place and unpacked the car without any problems. The apartment was just as we remembered and I don't think either of us could be more excited to be in a home! The road trip was amazing. Definitely one of the most incredible things I've ever done. However, there is something to be said for not staying in a motel every night. The beds were hard, the sheets sucked, and it just isn't the same as being in a home.

The second day here, I went to school to finish my paperwork and pick up my uniform. Lucky for me, it was pouring. I was set on walking despite the weather. I needed to figure out the route and how bad it was going to be. Getting there wasn't a problem. Getting home, on the other hand was awful! I didn't realize I was getting 5 complete sets of the uniform, plus shoes! My admin rep handed me a very large paper bag full to the brim. I figured, it can't be that bad in the rain. It was sort of thick paper and I planned on walking very fast. HA! By the time I was halfway home, the bag was in pieces. Luckily a very nice clothing store gave me a plastic bag to get the rest of the way.

As I rounded the corner of our street, I saw my car being towed out of the driveway. At this point, I was running. Turns out we had been instructed to park in the wrong spot. The owner had us towed. NICE! Luckily I did catch the truck before he got completely out of the driveway, so it was only a $40 drop fee. Only I didn't have any cash on me and Mario had my car keys. He was at a coffee shop a few blocks away using their wi-fi. He ran home (literally) and we found our way to an ATM.

Definitely an exciting way to start out this new adventure. I'll write more about school soon! Don't want to put it all in one blog.

Connecticut---- Sarah & Lari!!!

A long time ago, I worked with a wonderful woman named Sarah. She kept me sane during some crazy times and taught that if you can't beat them, join them. Her house soon became a great escape for me. She and Lari created a safe haven right near the beach- full of great dinners, intellectual conversations, and amazing times. A few years ago, Sarah and Lari moved to Newtown, Connecticut. I've been trying to make my way to their house for awhile now, and was finally successful.

After Ohio, we decided to drive what was supposed to be 7 hours to Connecticut. We just had to go through Pennsylvania & New York. No big deal! However, everywhere we turned, there was construction on the road. We ended up being in the car for almost 12 hours that day. We didn't get to their house until around midnight and were definitely ready to kill someone. To make matters worse, Sarah had to leave for work at 4am the next morning. We did some very brief catching up and then all passed out.

The next day, we planned to drive on to Boston. However, it just seemed too soon. Lari's son & daughter-in-law were leaving for LA that day. So, as Lari drove them to the airport, Mario and I enjoyed one of the only days that felt like vacation. Sarah and Lari had once again created an amazing vibe in their home. They manage to create this space where everything disappears. You know that feeling you have when you truly go on vacation and leave everything behind? That's what their house feels like every day. Its phenomenal. If they could box that up and sell it, they'd be millionaires!!!

Anyhow, we went to the cute neighborhood market to pick stuff up for dinner. I couldn't get over how fresh the seafood was and how cute the town was. We then returned to sit on their deck in the sunshine, drink a beer, and work on the blog. Their house is right off of a lake. It felt like being at an adult summer camp. So much nature and green and wildlife and sunshine!!!
Dinner turned out okay. Not great. Just okay. Unfortunately, Sarah had some drama with Diane Keaton in the city, so she didn't make it back in time. It was still good to spend some time with Lari and just see how the two of them live life. I will be back there many times during our East Coast life.


Connecticut was fun and green. It was really good to see Sarah & Lari- good people. The best part was making the bed the second morning. Des found a HUGE spider on the pillow. I've never seen her move so fast. The spider was the size of a silver dollar pancake. It was HUGE! We realized that while it was great being in the wilderness, you have to deal with the bugs too. That's okay. Definitely didn't change our great time.

I'm anxious to get to Boston and be done with the road. Had a great trip, but can't wait for our stuff to arrive and be able to sleep in our bed.

The backyard
Looking back at the house
Our morning surprise...

The lake behind their house

The beautiful river running through town
-this is shot from the deck of a coffee shop

Friday, July 10, 2009


Before we start writing anymore about our adventures, we do want to apologize for the delay. I don't know if any of you out there are reading or have given up on us completely. We are very sorry it has taken us so long to get back into this. Unfortunately, we have not had any internet until yesterday. I promise we'll get it up and running and will get you all caught up very soon!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Ohio- Canton & Independence

Ohio all in all was pretty crappy. I now have a better understanding of the term "fly-over state". I'm glad I went, but would be happy never returning. The Hall of Fame was nice. A little bit disappointing though. It wasn't as "hall of fame-ish" as I had imagined. It was old and small. It was cool to be able to go though.
Ohio was definitely an adventure. Canton, Ohio especially... In reading our AAA guide, it appeared that majority of the restaurants were in Downtown Canton. It also appeared to be a pretty small city. So, we pulled right into the downtown area and into the first motel we saw. BIG MISTAKE... When checking in, I asked the guy if it was a non-smoking room. His response, "I can't tell you what you can and can't do in your room. But I can't give you an ashtray." OOOKKK. That should have been the first sign to turn around. But no, we paid for our room thinking it will be an adventure. The room smelled like overused air freshener. So much so, that I couldn't breathe. We opened the door to let it air out, but this just gave the nosey other vagabond tenants an opportunity to check us and our stuff out. After dinner, we decided to find another place. When I went to check out, the same guy was out front, but now with friends. I'm pretty certain they were all high and definitely saw booze. Even better, it appeared the only girl there was open for sale. Yeah, we found the classy joint in town.

After a good night's rest at the local Knights Inn, we made our way to the Football Hall of Fame. This museum opened in the late 60's and has not been updated since. Well, that's not necessarily true. There was an area under construction. Perhaps they are making it more up to do date. Either way, we got a free to ticket to return as an apology for the closed section. Sweet! The hall of fame itself was cool. A little football overload for me. But cool to see the history and really cool to see Superbowl rings.

We spent the next night in Independence, Ohio, and decided to splurge on a La Quinta Inn. I have a new appreciation for their beds. Well, for any sheets thicker than a sheet of paper and a bed not as hard as a rock. I do not, however, have a new appreciation for Ohio. I feel I've learned a lot on this trip. I had mis-judged the South. I have neglected our beautiful country while traveling through Europe. I have not however, mis-judged the "middle", have a new understanding of "the fly-over states", and have no desire to return.

Such a deceiving sign...

The original football & helmet

Hall of Fame

Johnny Unitas

Tom Brady

Professional Football Hall of Fame

Indianapolis- Go Colts!!!

When we first put together the road trip, Indianapolis was automatically added to the list. Last Christmas, my mom bought my dad a personalized brick at the new stadium. Since he hasn't had a chance to visit, it was my job to find the brick and make sure it really existed. Even though I have to be a Patriots fan, I mean with the boyfriend and new city and all, I am definitely a Colts girl. The only time it becomes a problem is when the two teams play each other.

The new stadium is beautiful. Unfortunately it was closed for the day, so we didn't get to see the field. I kept hoping Peyton would walk by. Unfortunately no sightings. The brick wasn't too hard to find. They have the sidewalk divided up into different football terms (touchdown, field goal, etc). We just had to find the right area and there it was.

While there, we saw a listing for Purdue University. I thought it would be cool to take a photo on campus for my girl Randel. However, we got confused. Turns out it was just a branch of the school and the really campus is in West Lafayette. Oh well. Guess we'll just have to plan a trip to meet up there for a football game soon.

We went to the stadium. It was nice. Then we left. Don't really have much to say about Indiana, as we did not spend a lot of time here. On to the football hall of fame!

The new beautiful Lucas Oil Stadium

Jim's brick!!!

Go Colts!

Downtown Indianapolis

Louisville, Kentucky


After yet another long drive (I know, it's getting old), we finally made it to Louisville. Because of the credit card incident back in Santa Fe, Des asked the CC company to send a replacement card out to Louisville, to a friends house. As Des says, it was not a big stop on our way originally, but because of this we had to make it a major stopping point on the trip, and it turned out to be a really good thing. The card was mailed to my mom's boss' mom's house (try to follow that one!) and that's where we headed to pick it up. The ladys name is Frances and she is one of the main reasons that Kentucky was such a cool place on our tour.

We got there around 8 PM and she made us our first home made dinner on the road trip so far, and even put us up for the night (talk about southern hospitality!). The next day, she took us to this really cool breakfast place and afterwards she drove us around town to show us some cool houses and the venue where her daughter got married. Louisville would definitely not have been the same without her, and if you're reading this, thank you so much for everything Frances!

After we said goodbye to Frances, we headed to the Louisville Slugger Museum (we're in Louisville, how can we not?) and Des bought a specially engraved bat for her dad for fathers day. Once we left the museum, it was off to Churchhill Downs (again, how can you not when you're in Kentucky?) to go watch some horse racing. It was a lot of fun, but unfortunately we could not stay long as we still had to drive to Indianapolis and start heading towards Ohio.

A Patriots fan in Colt's country, this should be interesting.....

We finally made it to Kentucky. After losing my credit card in Santa Fe, we decided to have a new one shipped to a Mario's mom's friend in Louisville. It wasn't really a major stopping point for us before that. However, we knew the card would be safe until we could get there and pick it up. This little twist of fate happened to be one of the best parts of our trip for me. It was in the great city of Louisville that we got to meet Frances- our angel. She made us our first home cooked meal in weeks, she gave us a place to rest, and she became our personal tourguide of the city. I think it is because of Frances that Louisville has gained a place in my heart.

Because we stopped in Nashville, we didn't actually get to Frances' until around 8. very excited for our first home-cooked meal in awhile. We had hot dogs, salad, coleslaw, potato salad, watermelon, and berry ice cream. YUMMMMYYYY!!! After dinner, we walked around her neighborhood enjoying the nice weather and fireflies. It was so great to be in a safe residential neighborhood. The houses had so much Southern character!

The next day we went out to breakfast and took a tour of town. Frances took us to Lynn's Paradise Cafe. That place was crazy. So much color and personality. I guess there is an ugly lamp contest every year at the Kentucky State Fair. There are the most random lamps scattered around the restaurant, along with a huge map to mark where you came from. Really fun! Turns out it was even featured on Throwdown with Bobby Flay.

From here, Frances drove us around to show us a little bit of her history and what the city is known for. We went to the most beautiful cemetary. I guess people actually hang out there on the weekends and take their kids to feed the ducks. Its like their version of a park with a pond. Nevermind the huge headstones scattered around. We also saw where Frances' daughter was married. It is a huge estate in the middle of the Presbyterian Seminary. So beautiful!! If we ever moved here, this is where I'd want to work. It would be a pleasure walking through the rose gardens every day selling the venue to couples in love.

Eventually we had to leave Frances to head to the Slugger Museum. We happened to leave for our road trip right before my dad's birthday and father's day. I thought there would be nothing better to send home than his own personalized bat. They were pretty cool. I hope he hangs it up in his sports room.

Last but not least, we had to go to Churchhill Downs before heading out. My good friend Randel had told me all about going to the Derby and drinking mint juleps. It sounded like so much fun. We had planned to just visit the museum and be on our way. However, when we pulled into the parking lot, the attendant offered us box seats in the shade for $5 each. It seemed too good to pass up. Neither of us had ever been to the horse races, so we decided to check it out. I had soooo much fun. I'm not really a big gambler. So, we didn't do much betting. But it was really fun to drink mint juleps with a big hat on and cheer on the horses. I would definitely go back.

Lynn's Paradise Cafe- coolest breakfast stop in Louisville

Garden Court- amazing wedding venue

View at the Cemetary

Louisville Slugger Museum

Babe Ruth's Plaque on the Slugger Walk of Fame

Churchhill Downs

Mint Julep!!!

Tennessee- Nashville

Our time in Nashville was much too short. We stopped on our way to Kentucky just to make sure we saw it. I'm so glad we did. Granted, Nashville was nothing like I expected. I thought it would be more like Texas, and again people would walk around in boots and cowboy hats with guitars. I thought the Grand Ole Opry was something we could walk by in the middle of the city- not its own amusement park. So, I was very surprised that it was actually a very clean regular city. I was also surprised to see so much Greek influence in the architecture. Very beautiful buildings. My favorite part was the speakers built into various fixtures on the street that play music for people's enjoyment as they walk by. I really do want to go back. Right before we left, we stumbled upon Printer's Alley. The history of this place dates back to the 1800's. Just about every famous musician has played here. Again, definitely need to come back.

Can't really say much about Nashville because our time in the city was really short. We were there for literally about an hour, which is just enough time to look at the city capitol building, go get some lunch and drive back out. I must say though, the weather is starting to be not as hot as before, so progress is being made that way. The really cool thing about Nashville, and of course it would be something I like, is that the football stadium is spitting distance from downtown. It would probably be a 10-15 min. walk to go see the game. How cool is that!

Anywho, off to Louisville, more to come.

State Capitol

Government Building- isn't it beautiful

Printer's Alley- this place looks like alot of fun...must come back...

Inside Printer's Alley