Viewing blog entries in category: Random Cultural Things

  • realitybites
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    scumbag, No1uno and Violeta like this.
  • realitybites
    IMG_0214[1].jpg Outside of Cucina Cucina Modern Italian in downtown Phoenix on 8/10/16.

    Dinner with son; my entree Salmone Affumicato:

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  • realitybites
    Update made on June 24 at bottom of post...

    I work in Flagstaff on Thursdays. It is about an hour's drive from home. Fortunately I get paid to drive and a nice gas reimbursement. I also get a meal reimbursement—up to $14.00 for lunch. Since I never eat lunch, I use it to purchase an early dinner instead—before I head home. I could do the sit-down thing, but frankly, I just want to get back to the Verde Valley ASAP. So I have been indulging in—or rather, slumming it—on fast food.

    I pretty much eat healthy foods all week. I don't drink alcohol—except when I get with my son every few months. I never eat cake or pie or drink soda. And until just recently, I never ate fast food—ever. Seriously, before the last two months, I had never eaten at Wendy's or Sonic. Still haven't eaten at Taco Hell, Carl's JR, Jack in the Box, or Five Guys... and many more places. And the most I ever tried had been a Whopper at B.K. and a triple cheeseburger (orgasmic) at McDonald's. I was a fast food teetotaler of sorts by modern western standards. That all has changed.

    I don't plan on adopting a fast food diet on a regular basis, mind you. But I do plan to experiment with the wide variety of offerings out there—particularly on Thursdays.

    I plan to rate what I try on taste and value.

    Let's start here:

    When McDonald's was running a special on triple cheeseburgers, I splurged—thrice. For $.99, I got a triple greasefest of meaty, cheesy, picklely, ketchupness—I added three ketchup packets to each of the burgers.
    Boy were they yummy. Taste: 10/10. Value: 10/10.

    McDonald's French Fries, med, regular menu price. Value: 3/10. Taste when piping hot: 8/10. When room temperature? Inedible.

    McDonald's Big Mac, regular menu price. Not very good. Bland. Not a fan of the special sauce. Needed to add four ketchup packets to make it palatable. Value: 1/10. Taste: 1/10.

    Pizza Hut Pan Pizza, 5 toppings: anchovies, sausage, mushrooms, black olives and green pepper. With coupon, pizza was $8.99. Taste: 10+/10 when fresh from the oven. Value: 9/10 with coupon.

    Wendy's small Frosty,
    chocolate, vanilla, regular menu price $.99. Taste: 8/10. Value: 10/10. This is one of my fave fast food finds so far. Love the ease and portability of it for my drive home. Refreshing and filling. A little on the sweet side. Chocolate variety could be more choclately. But a great deal for the price.

    To be continued...

    Update June 24...

    I believe my fast food Thursdays has run its course. Yesterday I had a cheeseburger from Wendy's. It was cold, the bun was dry, and it was tasteless. After dining on top notch food a few weeks ago in Phoenix, I have come to the conclusion that fast food is called junk food for a reason. This experiment is officially on hiatus.
  • realitybites
    UPDATE 3/27/16 at bottom of post...

    Mexico on my mind. One week from today, David and I are driving to Rocky Point Mexico for a five-day-weekend. I can't wait. It will be my first real vacation in over a year. I rented a beautiful house right on the beach. We plan to party, dance, collect shells, and eat very well.

    Here is where we are staying... Casa del Mar Casista

    A little mood music...





    I'll post pics when I return.

    UPDATE: 3/27/16

    I'm back. Mexico was awesome in all ways: the casita , the Sea of Cortez, the company, the culture, the locals, the jumbo shrimp, the $1 tequila shots at Tekila Bar. We are already planning to go back in October for a week. My mom will join us this time.

    I feel refreshed and nourished. So happy we went. Memories to last a lifetime.

    Here are a few pics:


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  • realitybites
    I love my job but I took today off because it is my birthday and I want to treat myself to a nice present. I have an appointment at 1:00 PM to have my passport renewed. Got my photos yesterday so I am good to go. My tentative plan is to go to England this coming August. I'd like to visit Cornwall, the Cotswolds, London, Manchester and York. If time permits, I would also love to go to Paris and Barcelona. Dream a little dream with me.

    *Update 11/7/15: Passport came in the mail yesterday. Boy was that quick. Yippee!!!
  • realitybites
    Phoenix was a trip—back—to my twenty-one-year-old self. Sunday, early evening, David, his girlfriend Hannah, and I are having drinks and starters at Chili's. I had won a gift card and thought I'd take us all out. A beer in, David asks, " Would you be down for a party? It's Gustavo's birthday and the guys (skater pals) are having a party for him." I could just picture it: anti-social stonerheads sitting around playing video games on a large screen TV. Not my idea of a fun night out. David reassured me it wouldn't be anything like that. OK, I decide; I'm down with it.

    We pull up to a modest three bedroom house, festively outlined in holiday lights. Hmm. There are about forty bods littering the generous front lawn the lawn—some sitting, some standing. Most with beers in hand. A d.j. stands behind a mixing table. The tunes aren't too shabby. A giant plastic liquor bottle filled with goodies is strung from a long closeline about six or so feet off the ground—let's call it a piñata. No couch or game console is in sight. I crack open a Heineken and begin to take in the scene. I'm down.

    David quickly introduces me to all his close friends—birthday boy included. Three of them shake my hand and say, "David is my best friend." I remember having a group of friends where I too was the center of focus. It can be taxing at times to play leader and always be on. But there are rewards to be found—believe me. Power to influence being one of them. Anyhow, everyone is warm; I feel fuzzy and welcome.

    Three beers later, I look up to see about eight folks standing on the low hanging, flat rooftop. I spy David. I want up. I ascend the ladder as David grabs my hand, pulling me atop. Let the party begin. And it does. Looking down, I see a young gal standing next to the piñata—blindfolded, stick in hand. (Only girls were allowed to partake in bringing the beast down.) Swing. Whack! Swing. Miss. Swing. Whack! Major fail. Next contestant walks up to replace the giddy, dizzy gal. She too flakes out. I'm observing all this thinking, "I can take that puppy out—no problem." I told David, "I want to try. I know I could do much better." "OK," he enthusiastically replies. Next thing I know I am on the ground—geared up with stick in hand. I ask a young gentlemen nearby where its weak spot was. He graciously informs me, "The neck." Cool beans; I visualize my plan of attack. Blindfolded, I swing. Wham! Then again. And again. I could hear the spectators roar. Fully energized, I swing harder. "You're going down sucker," I mumble under my breath! And it does go down. I'm on it like a starving dog on a meaty bone. Whack! Whack! Crack. Whack! Crack. It bursts open; it's overkill. I lift my blindfold to behold fifty or so tiny one-shot bottles of liquor spewed across the ground below me. The mob cheers and hollers and comes in for the feast. I'm wild with pride and adrenaline.

    Less than an hour later, David comes up to me and says, "Gustavo just told me you made his night when you knocked down that piñata." Big smiles from me. Not only have I made the birthday boy's night but I also make my son proud to have such a cool and fun mom.

    It's like riding a bike. You never forget how to party—once a party girl. It just takes a few brews to get started. When is the next party? I'm game.
  • realitybites
    It seems like forever since I last blogged. Work is so mentally stimulating that all I want to do when I get home is plant myself in front of the TV and watch mindless shows like Project Runway and Face Off. But as we all know all work and no play... will lead to burnout or even insanity. We don't need any of that. And so, I am taking a three day vacation. Booked my hotel several weeks ago. Staying at the same place my parents stayed when they came to Phoenix last. It was so magical I just had to repeat the experience.

    Of course I chose Phoenix because my son David lives there. I am actually warming up to the city a bit. Despite the traffic and enormity of it, it has its charms. One being it's easy to get lost in the crowd. Not so in my small town where chances are on any given day I will run into at least one person I know while out running errands. Also Phoenix has some fabulous restaurants. We may have to go to Pappadeaux again for some of their Blue Point oysters on the half shell.

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    What else will I be doing? Relaxing. It will be a low-tech weekend. No computer. Just my tablet. I plan on hanging out by the pool and drinking some beers. I'm even bringing a Robin Cook paperback—yes, paperback. The Kindle will stay at home as will Katie and my tomato plants. No responsibilities for three days. Can't wait.
  • realitybites
    Tucson/Puerto Pensaco, Mexico trip August 13-17.


    Tampa FL trip October 14-20.

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    Woo-hoo. Can't wait.
  • realitybites
    Symbols can be powerful—evoking strong emotions to rise to the surface from some deep, out of view space. I have been subjected to three Confederate flags this last week—all were flying from long wooden poles alongside the US flag—attached to the beds of four wheel drive trucks, validating at least one stereotype perfectly. OK. This is Arizona. I am not in the South. The West should not feel any affiliation or loyalty to the Confederacy. What exactly are these fools embracing and expressing by showcasing this powerful symbol?

    The first one I saw last week shocked me. The second had me rolling my eyes and feeling contempt and pity for the owner of the truck. But by the third exposure/assault on my intelligence, morality and humanity, I reacted viscerally. As the owner drove past me I showcased a symbol as well. Can you guess what? Short, sweet, powerful, effective:


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    Think the message was received loud and clear: "Ignorant racists fuck the hell off!"?
  • realitybites
    I am not superstitious and I certainly think Karma is bunk. But something makes me hesitate shouting at the top of my lungs, "life is good," out of fear that I will jinx myself—that the hubris police will come cracking down and put me back in my miserable place. Maybe I am simply not used to success. It feels different. I feel vulnerable. Could I lose it all in a moment's notice?

    I should feel I deserve this chance at greatness. Haven't I suffered enough? I don't want to be a victim anymore. I honestly believe as long as you take on that role you will be limited. You can't be a winner and a loser at the same time. Attitude is everything. Letting go of grudges and past hurts is essential. What was, is no longer so. Move the fuck on.

    For the first time in a very long time I have financial security, nice clothes, a great apartment, a car that is paid for, serenity, a great relationship with my mother and son, and a future. I really will be going to England soon. And to Spain—a foodie's paradise.

    If I go to England, who will I go with? Where will I stay? For how long? What cities will I visit? In the end will I be better off for going or just a little lighter on the cash?

    I want to call my sister. I want her to be proud of my accomplishments. But I am not sure the news would be received well. Instead of being happy for me, I gather she may feel a hint of competitiveness and envy. It shouldn't be that way. I really wish it wasn't.

    And so, there it is, I am happy, thriving, intellectually stimulated and fulfilled, busy, and can't wait to go back to work on Monday. I really love what I do now—for the first time, really. I think I found my calling—for now at least.

    Success is the only revenge I seek.
  • realitybites
    I need a break. Wow, has it been a taxing and intense last six weeks. My training ended last Friday. I have been set free to sink or swim. Yesterday was Crazy with a capital C. Five appointments! Fortunately all were pleasant and patient—while I got my footing. Everyone has been telling me it takes years to learn this job and they still don't know everything. I think that is reassuring. I still haven't decided.

    I will still be traveling to Flagstaff on Thursdays to meet with clients there. But after Friday's staff meeting I will no longer be traveling to Prescott Valley—except for the monthly meetings.

    I can't wait until this upcoming three day weekend. I'm driving down to Phoenix Saturday and will stay until Monday afternoon. Can't wait to see my son and his girlfriend Hannah. They just got a place together last month—a two bedroom. So I will be able to crash at their place. David hinted that they have a surprise planned for me. Sunday I am going to test drive a MINI Cooper. Haven't decided which model yet.

    I'll be back in Phoenix for the July 4th weekend. My parents are flying out for five days. They reserved a gorgeous two bedroom suite for the three of us—plus Katie. We're going to swim and eat and play cards and just do what loving families do when they spend quality time together. Can't wait until my parents meet Hannah. They are going to love her as much as I do.
  • realitybites
    I'm a survivor. I have survived two major medical illnesses. Why have I arrived on the other side whereas others with similar illnesses have lost the battle or are continuing to fight for their lives—daily, hourly? Why me? Why not me?

    When I got spinal cancer at age 16, I could have felt pity for myself. Instead I decided not to be a victim but rather a warrior. I was going to live, dammit. Thirty years later, I remain cancer free. I have a few scars—battle wounds—but I am walking and breathing and still occupying space on this planet.

    Nineteen years ago I was thrown another curve ball. I fell into a deep, dark and hellish depression which hijacked my life and held me hostage for more than fifteen years. Today I am depression free—miraculously. I feel happier and more hopeful than ever. Why did I make it through to the other side when so many linger in purgatory—or worse still—succumb to death?

    Is it just a roll of the dice—who gets sick and who survives? Who, what, decides who thrives and who dies? It would be simple to say nature deals the blow, but then, we, become responsible for the fight—we will ourselves to live and live well—or at least well enough. But I think it is more complex than that. There are things like chemicals and other mysterious factors that come into play—things outside of our control.

    Should I feel guilty for getting sick in the first place? Should I feel guilty for surviving? Probably not. But sometimes I do—to both. Sometimes I take responsibility when there is simply, unequivocally, none to be taken. It was not my doing, it was chance or luck—bad and good.

    I'm sorry Gia. I am sorry Jeff. I a sorry Tibby. I am sorry you lost, are losing. I'm sorry I am happy and living. I wish things were different. But these things are out of my control. My guilt is irrational—I know—but it persists none the less.
  • realitybites
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    Have a V-8 spritzer! In a very large glass with lots of ice, mix a 12 ounce can of V-8 Low Sodium with a 12 ounce can of seltzer. Drink with straw. :) Have one at lunch and one mid-afternoon. Will keep you full, hydrated, and satisfied until dinner at 6:00 pm.
  • realitybites
    I am in training up in Flagstaff for the next two weeks. I opted to commute back and forth rather than campout in Flag. Needless to say after yesterday's fourteen-hour-day, I am a zombie.

    Now, I know you know I am not big on fast food—certainly not greasy, salt-laden stuff. I am so inexperienced at the whole drive through window thing that I actually hit the curb pulling up to the takeout window. Could have something to do with exhaustion as well. Anyhow, I am not familiar with any fast food joint's menu—least of all McDonald's. So while waiting for the order taker's prompt I scrolled over the list of grub on offer. I quickly found what I wanted. A two buck triple cheeseburger, three ketchups and two mustards, and an ice water. Cheapskate. I didn't even pull over to doctor the burger. I just wanted to taste it and to get started on my journey back home. Yes, I ate in my car—while driving, no less. Isn't that how it's done? I did have to take in the whole experience, after all.

    Wow, is all I'll say. I'll let this guy tell it like it is. He does not exaggerate. This burger is unbelievably delicious.

    [video=youtube_share;N-VwRfw4Wqg]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N-VwRfw4Wqg[/video]

    If you are going to splurge, this is the thing to splurge on.
  • realitybites
    Last Sunday I planted two new tomato plants. This season I decided to place them below the porch--up on crates--rather than on the porch.


    Meet Ben. He is a Better Boy hybrid.

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    This is Bud. He is a Big Beef hybrid.


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    I will update this post soon. And keep you abreast of their progress.

    3/27: Both Ben and Bud are 13" and look very strong and healthy.

    4/3:
    Bud has taken off. He now stands 18". Ben is trailing behind at 14".

    4/11: Bud stands 21". Ben is at 17".

    4/19: Bud ~ 25". Ben ~ 21".

    4/22: Both Ben and Bud are blossoming!

    4/25: Bud is 36" ~ on left. Ben is 26" ~ on right.

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    5/3:
    Both plants have tiny green tomatoes!

    Buds first tomato:

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