Category Archives: Food and Drink

A Vegan from the Midwest?

Never ever EVER would I have thought that I would have any reaction to veganism that didn’t involve scoffing and feelings of shock, disgust and disdain. I’m from Minnesota – meat was always the centerpiece of dinner, our rival NFL team wears blocks of cheese on their heads, when I was sick my dad would tell me that I was not drinking enough “moo juice”, and fishing is basically the state sport. Not necessarily a breeding ground for veganism. But then came Forks Over Knives…

Forks Over Knives is a documentary that explores the harm that animal proteins can do to our body. The movie centers around two doctors who are advocating plant-based diets – Dr. Campbell and Dr. Esselstyn (both grew up on dairy farms). Dr. Campbell while in the Philippines discovered that the wealthier populations that could afford to eat meat were much more likely to get liver cancer. This lead him to continue to explore the connection between animal proteins and cancer, conducting an extremely comprehensive study of China. Dr. Esselstyn, while looking into breast cancer, found that places in the world that consumed little or no animal-based proteins had incredibly low rates of cancer. Both doctors came to the conclusion that a plant-based diet can not only prevent cancer and other health issues, but can also REVERSE damage already done. This documentary is ridiculously interesting.

I don’t see myself going completely vegan anytime soon, but I think the documentary was very compelling and I have made small adjustments. Instead of Greek yogurt for breakfast I have a grapefruit and whole grain toast with peanut butter. My lunch is almost always some sort of salad that is a random mix of veggies. I’ve switched to almond milk and Ryan and I have seriously amped up the amount of vegetables for dinner. The main concern that we both had as people who like to exercise is can you get enough protein?

Plants have protein too

Plants have plenty of protein – beans, quinoa, spinach, etc. You can find other ways to get it. If you’re interested, here’s one of my favorite recipes that we’ve been having for dinner. I made it up so not really sure what to call it – let’s go with Awesome Bowl. Feel free to omit or add vegetables to suit your tastes.


  • Garlic cloves, minced (we use 2 large ones, but we like lots of garlic)
  • Habanero pepper, finely chopped (we use about 1/8 of the pepper in the dish, Ryan adds more to his because he is nuts) (optional but really gives it a nice flavor)
  • 1/2 shallot, finely chopped (optional)
  • 1/4 of an onion, finely chopped (optional)
  • 1/2 package of baby portobello mushrooms, diced
  • 1 orange bell pepper, diced
  • 1 can of organic black beans (less sodium in the organic)
  • 1 cup of quinoa
  • 2 cups vegetable stock (optional – can substitute with water)
  • 2 zucchinis, diced
  • 1 summer squash, diced
  • 2 tomatoes, diced
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • 3 or 4 cups of spinach leaves
  • Olive oil
  • Sea salt, pepper, whatever seasonings you like


  • To start, put the black beans in a small pot on low. Periodically mash them to give them a more creamy consistency.
  • Start quinoa. I use a rice cooker and use the vegetable stock to cook it in. You could also cook it on the stove – see package instructions for this option.
  • In a large pot, heat some olive oil. Add the garlic, shallots and onions. Saute until translucent.
  • Add mushrooms. Let cook 3-5 minutes.
  • Add zucchini and summer squash. Add salt, pepper and whatever seasoning you like (I use Penzey’s Mural of Spices and thyme). Stir and let cook 5 minutes.
  • Add orange bell pepper. Stir and put top on. Let cook 5 minutes.
  • Add some tomatoes and hold some until the end
  • When the quinoa is finished cooking and the zucchini and summer squash are soft, add spinach leaves to the pot and mix in until spinach becomes wilted. Add remainder of tomatoes.
  • Add quinoa to pot and mix.
  • Add black beans to pot and mix.
  • Serve in a bowl with avocado on the top.



Posted by on March 4, 2012 in Food and Drink


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Should I Take an All-Inclusive Vacation? – 5 Things to Consider

All-inclusive.  Some people swear by all-inclusive and love it for its hassle-free ease.  Others abhor it because it’s not “real travel” and allows people to vacation without really escaping their comfort zone.  What’s really up with all-inclusive vacations and when (if ever) should you take one?  Here are five things to consider in making your decision on all-inclusive vacations.

1.  What is your purpose in traveling – Culture? Relaxation? Adventure? Exploration? Escape?

The biggest factor in deciding whether or not to take an all-inclusive vacation is deciding on what kind of vacation you really want to take.  Be honest and don’t let other people’s opinions influence you.  If you want to discover new foods and culture, to really explore and get to know a place, then perhaps pass on all-inclusive this time around.

However, if you want nothing more than to escape and relax, then all-inclusive is a very good option.  How many times do people return home and say, “I need a vacation from my vacation”?  (Which really, who ever feels sorry for that person? Boo hoo, you are worn out from your awesome travel to destination x) Anyways, with all-inclusive packages, this will not be the case.  Your “stressful” decisions will likely consist of: do we go to the beach first or go to the swim-up bar first?  Very horrible indeed.

Our Morning View - Not Bad Eh?

Not having a schedule or anywhere to be was very nice.  Because you are on vacation with the goal of relaxing, you don’t feel as though you are missing out on “cultural destination A” or “museum B” when you opt to take a leisurely breakfast followed by a mid-morning nap on the beach.

For example, one day Ryan and I found ourselves at the swim up bar drinking el capitain con dieta at 9AM.  By lunch, we had polished off a bottle to ourselves.  Completely acceptable.  Would we do these things on a backpacking trip in Peru?  Likely not.

Still, you might want to do some adventuring and exploring.  On our trip, we took out kayaks that were available at our beach and took a day excursion to Tulum and Xel-ha.  At Tulum, we toured the Mayan ruins.

© Heather Freitag 2011

For more detail on our Tulum experience, you can check out my earlier post here.  Xel-ha is like an amusement park but built into a natural lagoon and focused on the water.  You can snorkel, float down in tubes, cliff jump, zip line, bike, see the cenotes, etc.  For additional fees you can swim with dolphins or manatees, walk on the bottom of the ocean and snuba.  More on this at a later date.  Point is, you can find a way to work excursions into your all-inclusive vacation.

2. Food

All-inclusive means all of your food and beverages are included, which is nice because there is no need to carry cash.  Our mini-fridge had a constant stash – especially nice to have the water to bring about.  If you are hungry or thirsty, you can go to one of the restaurants at almost any hour of the day.  Don’t like what you ordered?  Order something else.  At the same time, it means that you are likely to take in all of your meals at the resort instead of venturing out to find restaurants or street vendors.

On the negative side, and not unsurprisingly, the food at all-inclusive resorts is usually mediocre.  Yeah, it’s good or maybe okay, but certainly not anything to rave about.  Our resort tried to liven things up with multiple restaurants:  the buffet, an American sports bar, a Japanese restaurant, an Italian restaurant, a Mexican restaurant, a coffee bar and some snack places.  Still, for the most part, it was just so-so.  The one thing I will say for our resort…breakfast was just what I wanted.  Every morning I had a made-to-order egg white omelet packed with veggies, smoked salmon, fresh baguette, fresh pineapple, a yogurt, fresh grapefruit juice and coffee.  Breakfast was by far the best meal.

Nevertheless, if you consider yourself a foodie and want nothing less than absolutely delicious, authentic local cuisine prepared by the friendly and informative unlikely chef who shares their life story with you while the two of you sit outside at the small, but charming neighborhood hole-in-the-wall, then all-inclusive will leave you sorely disappointed.

3. Becoming a Local

Many people travel with the intent of learning about another culture:  language, customs, food, daily routines, etc. and trying to “become a local”.  It’s a fantastic aspect of travel and honestly if this is truly your goal, you can work it into any type of trip – at least in some respect.  Usually people don’t think of becoming immersed in a new country when they think of all-inclusive.  Rightly so.  But, you can still make efforts.  I spoke as much Spanish as I could with the resort employees and I actually learned a lot and was getting to be decent at basic things.  When we ventured out, Ryan chatted with all of our drivers, who were all very eager to tell us about Mexico.  Still, this is obviously a far cry from the immersion you can experience during other types of travel.  Really, it’s more of a mild exposure than an immersion.

4. Kids

Let me start this by saying I do not have kids, but I hope to have them one day.  That being said, I used to think that there was nothing more annoying than a bratty child acting like a hooligan without any supervision, or worse – with a shoddy “parent” just standing idly by while their kid acts like a hellion.  Then I realized, it’s soooo much worse when you are on vacation and trying to relax.

When I took an all-inclusive trip in college I didn’t see many children.  I went to the Dominican Republic and, with it’s relative instability compared to other tropical destinations, it’s probably not a family favorite.  Or, perhaps the lack of children was because I was in college and chose the cheapest resort imaginable.  Whatever the case, I guess the downside of being able to afford a fairly nice place is that families think it will be nice too.  There were more kids than I would have liked on my last vacation.

This simple fact alone could have been okay had the parents been in control.  They were NOT.  Kids were jumping off of the swim-up bar stools into the pool, splashing the bartender and getting pool water in everyone’s drinks; wrestling and throwing each other in the pool; coughing all over the food at the buffet; a band of 9 year old heathens were running amok in the coffee bar unsupervised at 10:30PM trying to order cappuccinos.  The very astute barista made them evaporated milk with flavoring.  Again, I blame the parents more than I blame the kids; but regardless, they were annoying and I certainly could have done without seeing any of them.

Of course, I’m not the first person to think it would be nice to be on vacation without any little kids screaming or running around like banshees.  Thus the birth of adults-only resorts.  The drawback is that these types of resorts are almost always much more expensive for the luxury of being child-free.  So, if you are thinking of all-inclusive try to gauge the family-friendliness of your resort or at least keep in mind that your moments of relaxation and bliss may be dotted with interruptions from incredibly annoying, miniature holy terrors.

5. Vacation Preparation

Planning a vacation can be a big undertaking.  There are a lot of pieces to travel and so many options!  Personally, I like researching and planning on the front end of a trip and also leaving room to be spontaneous and flexible while I am traveling; but, for many people this is very overwhelming and can be a deterrent.  If this is you, all-inclusive is a fantastic option.  Once you choose your destination, find a resort and pick your travel dates, your decision-making responsibilities are over.  This takes the stress out of planning for many people and leaves them time to just be excited about their upcoming trip.  You could also use a travel agent, but they can be expensive.

Another big part of preparing to travel is saving up money.  If you don’t want to go the hostel route, all-inclusives are pretty great as far as their value.  Most packages are bundled with airfare on many travel websites.  For the Caribbean and Mexico I would recommend using Cheap Caribbean.  I booked my last vacation through them and was very, very happy with it.

Room at Ocean Coral and Turquesa

Obviously, the descriptions above may not apply to every all-inclusive resort, but I think each point is a good thing to think about if you are considering an all-inclusive vacation.  Overall, I would say the biggest difference with all-inclusive vacations is that it really is all about relaxing – an all-inclusive vacation will likely be the least stressful vacation you will ever go on. 

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Posted by on September 8, 2011 in Food and Drink, Travel


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Three Perils of Mountain Biking and Tips for Avoiding Them

After keeping you all in suspense, I’m sorry to report that mountain biking was uneventful and that I was awesome at it…or, something like that.  Honestly, although I had some concerns about trying mountain biking, I truly thought I was going to be really good at it.  I’m athletic and have good biking endurance from commuting and riding my road bike.  I was slightly off in my confidence and assesment of skills – just slightly…

The drive up to Raystown was per usual:  me as dj, a stop at Burger King for lunch, and meandering through a mix of quaint and sketchy little towns.

The always classy Breezewood Motel

By the time we made it up to the Susquehannock Campground (the primitive sites, instead of where we usually stay at Seven Points) on Friday, we decided just to set up camp, make dinner and hang around by the fire – no riding just yet.  So I joyfully sat watching the fire lick up the logs, sipping on my oh-so-tasty Avery IPA (hoppy, delicious craftbrew in a CAN), blissfully ignorant of things to come.  

Saturday morning, we swung over to Rothrock Outfitters to pick up my women’s specific bike. 

The folks at Rothrock are super chill and very friendly.  They tightened up my bike, gave me an extra tube, I signed a waiver and I became the proud renter of a Scott Contessa 50.  I will say, I highly recommend using these guys.  They also have kayaks for rent, camping gear, and even Ruff Wear equipment for your adventure dogs!  Plus, their shop is pretty cool and is just 15-20 minutes from the campground in Huntingdon, which is worth checking out itself.  

Back at camp, it was time to set sail on my maiden voyage.  My initial concern with mountain biking was the tree roots and rocks on the trail.  Ryan assured me that you don’t really notice them and you just kind of pop over them.  I was skeptical.  But, after riding on the road by our campsite to make sure my seat was adjusted properly, Ryan had me “off-road” through our campsite.  I quickly saw that rocks and roots were of no concern and I was now feeling unstoppable with my one major concern now pushed aside.  Silly…

Peril #1 – Speed

As I very quickly learned, so many mountain bikers like the trails at Raystown because of their “flow”.  I just thought this meant the trails were smooth.  Basically, it means that the trails are built in such a way so that you can build speed and momentum and rarely pedal.  To me this meant I was stuck in a maze of rocket boosters propelling me toward trees and off of cliffs at warp speeds.  Perhaps a slight exaggeration, but let me explain my fear of speed…

I got my first big girl bike for my 5th birthday.  I had picked it out and was super excited.  But, once I got the bike, I was terrified to ride it.  Without the safety of my training wheels there were too many unknowns.  How was I supposed to balance the bike, steer and pedal all at the same time?  Wasn’t I bound to crash and get hurt?  I would not get on the thing – how could my parents even buy me such a unsafe gift?  Finally, my mom gave me a deadline.  If I did not ride the bike by then, she would sell it to another little girl that would.  So I pouted for a week, waited until the last day, got on the bike, started crying as my dad jogged along side of me and just like in a movie, tipped over as soon as I noticed he was gone.  I was like this with lots of “daring” acts – rollerblading, water slides, cliff jumping, etc.  Not exactly Evel Knievel.  

So, back to the mountain biking…the first trail we were on was ok, but was enough to get me a little nervous.  I felt much more out of control then I would have liked.  Then we went onto the hydroloop.  This loop was complete with a lakeview.  Lovely for those who aren’t worried about falling off the trail and tumbling down into the lake, but for me it just increased my anxiety.  I was on my brakes practically the entire time trying my best not to pick up any speed whatsoever.  At this point, I learned that using the rear brake caused my bike to fish tail a little bit.  Usually this wouldn’t be that problematic, but at my slow speed fish tailing combined with roots and rocks made for a little bit of a challenge.  So, I started using my front brake…(a hint of foreshadowing here).

Then we hit the doe trail – my favorite!  It was flat and mellow and everything I thought mountain biking was going to be.  I pedaled and was in control of my own speed.  It was a nice bike ride through the woods and it was awesome!  The trail was punctuated with a couple little rock gardens that I actually was able to navigate and was really beginning to like this. 

The doe trail connected to another and we wound our way to a nice scenic overlook, where we stopped to take in the view, take a little break, and snap a photo!  This was just like hiking, but faster!  I could get into this.

At the overlook

Then came berry trail…

The berry trail had overgrown thorny bushes that snagged at your skin and pulled and scratched as you rode past.  I have many little scraps from these and I couldn’t help but think that this was the dumbest thing ever and nobody could think this trail is fun.  It just got worse…a set of rollers.  These rollers were downhill and I was going way to fast for my own liking.  I couldn’t stay completely on the brakes so I had to pump them.  Then it got to a point where I couldn’t really control my speed at all and I caught air off of one of the hills. I panicked, slammed on my brake (the front one) and caused the bike to buck me off into the thorny berry bushes.  This leads to mountain biking lesson #1 – do not slam on your front brake because you will get bucked off.

Scratches from falling in the bushes

Unfortunately for me, I’m a slow learner and I bucked myself two more times after this.  On one such occassion, I landed against a log.  I have a lovely bruise on my back to remind me of why you should not ever jam on the front brake.

Peril #2 – Feet Positioning

For a little while, we hit some parts of the trail that “suck” – climbs.  I liked these parts.  Although they are a lot of work, I was in control of my speed and direction.  During some of the climbs, I would get a little squirrely and the bike would start zig-zagging up the hill.  Ryan gave me mountain biking lesson #2 – keep your eyes three feet ahead of you and your bike will track straight.  Genius trick that worked like a charm!  These parts I did fairly well on. 

As we kept riding I was feeling more and more confident.  Then came mountain biking lesson #3 – keep your pedals level with one another.  Even when I ride my road bike, I usually ride with one foot down and one up when I’m coasting.  I took this same stance to mountain biking.  Well, what happens when you do that on mountain biking trails is you catch your pedal and/or foot on the ground, a rock, a root, etc.  Lucky for me I only hit the pedal and it just startled me.  You can really, really hurt yourself doing this so DON’T.

Ryan ripping around showing me how it's done - level pedals!

In addition to keeping your feet level when you can, you should also keep your feet on the pedals.  Seems pretty obvious, but trust me, it isn’t always your natural inclination or the will of whatever physics is going on.  I was not using clip pedals for very obvious reasons, so I had flat pedals and tennis shoes on.  On a few occassions my foot slipped off of the pedals.  Most of the time it was just an annoyance, but once it caused me to slip off the bike.  Luckily, it was just on a climb.

Beyond the things out of your control, there is also fear.  My fear came into play during the banked turns, or berms.  While experienced people will say they are fun and easy and your bike will naturally go around them, I say that they are horrific.  I rode through two or three and was convinced I was going to wipeout, so I took my feet off to brace myself or to try to cushion my landing or whatever was going through my mind…I don’t know.  Well, Ryan informed me that if I kept doing that and did fall or catch my foot on a root or rock, then I would break my ankle or leg.  So, do not do this either.  Keep your feet on the pedals and level.

Feeling good despite 3 falls (feet still not level...)

Peril #3 – Shit Happens

After three falls and a handful of close calls, I was still a little shaky on this activity.  Just when my confidence was getting up, I would fall again or almost fall.  Then toward the end, I decided to go for it.  The last set of rollers were pretty level, instead of downhill, and the turn at the end seemed gradual and easy to make.  So, for only the fourth or fifth time all day, I completely let off of the breaks and rode through the entire section.  I was gaining speed, pedaling right off the jumps, and genuinely having fun and loosening my death grip on my handlebars.  Then, before I knew what happened, I had wrecked HARD and was lying face down half on the trail, half not.  WTF?!?

After Ryan helped pick me and my bike up, he showed me where the trail washed out and why I had wrecked.  I took only the tiniest bit of solace in the fact that there were tread marks from where other bikers had clearly done the same thing.  Still, I was in too much pain to really care that much.  This lesson I call shit happens.  There is not much in way of tips for avoiding this.  Everyone wrecks at some point.  It may be something you did, or it might be a fluke thing in the trail, or an animal stepped in your path or whatever.  Unfortunately, my wreck had some very mean consequences…

I scrapped the hell out of my elbow, which continues to throb even as I type this.

War wound

Different shot of my arm

Then, I must have hit my thigh on my bike or something because I have a scrape across it which is surrounded by a bruise bigger than my hand.  It hurts to walk or touch – you’d be surprised how much you touch your thigh or rest things in your lap.  It sucks.

Giant bruise on my leg

I also managed to smash the area right below my lower abdomen.  I have a nice cut there as well, and what cut would be complete without a bruise?  Don’t worry, fist sized bruise there as well. This one really hurts.  No movement without it hurting.

Overall, I still enjoyed my time mountain biking and had I only ridden on the beginner’s trails, I would have been fine.  Also, if you aren’t pre-disposed to be a speed-fearing spaz, you won’t buck yourself off.  Really, I should have only wrecked the last time.  Still, even just that one time, well…especially that last time, was a tough fall and I am definitely still feeling it.  If you do go, which I would still encourage most people to do, keep in mind the following tips:

  • Start on beginner’s trails and work your way up
  • Try not to let fear get the best of you and don’t over think things
  • Do NOT slam on your front brake or you will get bucked off your bike
  • Keep your feet on your pedals and level whenever possible
  • Look three feet or so ahead of you to keep your bike tracking straight

The night was spent nursing my wounds with some cold beers, delicious burgers, Ibuprofen and ice.  There was no way I was riding in the morning, so Ryan went out on his own and I cleaned up camp.  After returning my rental bike, Ryan and I explored Huntingdon a little bit.  We were going to go to Boxer’s Cafe, which is supposed to be awesome, but it was closed on Sundays.  We’ll have to get it next time.  

We drove around a bit, passed Puff convenience store (specializing in cigarettes) and then decided on pizza!

We had some tasty mozzarella sticks before moving on to a truly delicious white pizza with garlic, cheese and tomatoes courtesy of the Original Italian Pizza.

Great pizza... and cheap beer to go!

It was certainly a much better choice then the strangely named restaurant at the campground marina, which has mediocre food and bad service.  However, hilarious slogan of “what would life be without memories”.

With bellies full of pizza, we decided to rent kayaks and paddle around the lake for awhile. A safe and gentle activity for my sore and recovering body.

Until next time…

Mountain biking/mother nature – 1, Heather – 0


Posted by on July 11, 2011 in Camping, Cycling, Food and Drink, Travel


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World is Ending!!! Might as well go out with a wine-tasting

Two months ago, my friends and I had a little wine-tasting adventure (as blogged about by Sheridan at Barkless Vegetables) to some vineyards in Northern Virginia.  As wines go, Virginia does an ok job of turning out some decent wines, but is certainly not ready to be crowned the wine capitol of the world.  However, wine-tasting with friends is always fun and these places are nearby. 

The best of the 3 places we went to was Tarara.

Tarara’s wines were better tasting than those from the neighboring vineyards; however, their tasting fee is higher and their pricing is much higher (undeservedly so).  Are the wines good – yes.  But, they aren’t as good as Tarara thinks they are.  Still, I didn’t want to go home empty handed so I bought a bottle of their 2006 Cabernet Franc.  Because it was such a nice day, we all split a bottle of their Meritage, got some snacks and relaxed on their terrace.


Later that week, Ryan and I opened up our bottle for dinner and it was HORRIBLE.  It wasn’t simply a case of I did a lot of wine-tasting and chose a not-so-great bottle in my buzzed state of mind.  It was truly undrinkable and we poured it down the drain.  I emailed the folks at Tarara about the bottle and they were very accomodating.  We were offered replacement bottles and a complimentary tasting.  So, this last weekend Ryan and I made our way over to Tarara to cash in. 

Of course, we picked the worst weekend ever.  Tarara’s tasting room was closed and they were having a complimentary outdoor tasting with a “vineyard tour”.  While this was nice, our tasting was supposed to include additional wines that were not available because the tasting room was closed.  Again, Tarara was great about this and threw in more free bottles of wine to make up for it.  We figured we were already there, so we hopped on the wagon for a tour. 

As the tractor pulled us through the rows of vines, I assumed we would be given some sort of speech about the history of the vineyard or the types of grapes and their growing habits or something.  Radio silence.  However, I was with Ryan who makes friends with everyone, so he struck up a conversation with the woman manning the tour and she told us a little about the history. 

Apparently, the owners were searching for some land to start a vineyard when they happened upon the land that is currently Tarara.  There had been heavy rain in the preceding days and one of the lower fields was flooded.  Looming behind the flooded plain was Sugar Loaf Mountain (which Ryan had already identified as soon as we pulled into the driveway).  According to the story, the owners thought of Noah and his arc landing at Mount Ararat.  The bought the land and named the vineyard Tarara, or Ararat spelt backwards.  Sticking with this trend some of their wines bear the name Nevaeh, or heaven spelt backwards.  As it turns out, we made a very fitting choice for how to spend our time on the day of the Rapture.   

The outdoor tasting was a nice change from doing more traditional indoor tastings.  The tents were set up right next to the vines and it was much more beautiful than being stuck inside.  Plus, it was sunny and nice to be outdoors!

Overall, I had a good time at this tasting (despite the de-railing of our original plan) and at the last tasting I was at.  Plus, the staff was really great about the bottle incident and seemed truly genuine in their desire to make up for the quality lapse.  My only complaint still is that the wines are a little pricey for what they are.  Still, if you live in the area and feel like going for a tasting its near by and fairly good wine.  They also have an outdoor concert series for the summer.


Posted by on May 23, 2011 in Food and Drink


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Picasso & Cafe Con Leche

“Painting is just another way of keeping a diary”

            ~Pablo Picasso

Picasso had paintings, I have this blog!  I’m sure my blog is just as relevant and game-changing 😉  Anyways, last weekend I had the opportunity to see the Picasso exhibit at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond.


The collection is a rare traveling exhibit from the Musee National Picasso in Paris and is comprised of many pieces that Picasso kept until his death, at which time his family donated them to the museum created in his name.  It is unique in its size and in that it spans throughout his life and various styles and mediums.  I’m not a huge Picasso fan, but I felt like I couldn’t pass this opportunity up!  If you have a chance to see this exhibit before it leaves (last day is May 15th), I would recommend it; but, word of warning – the wait line was a little ridiculous, especially considering you get timed tickets.

Still, the collection was really interesting and had two of my favorite Picasso pieces – Two Women Running on the Beach – and a painting of Marie-Therese, one of his mistresses who hung herself after his death.

A portrait of Marie-Therese entitled Reading

Ryan also found something that he really dug – a bull head formed out of an old bike seat and handlebars.  After making our way through the exhibit, we popped in to see some of the Greek and Roman art, a Faberge collection, some Japanese woodblock prints and Ice Man, a sculpture of the ancient natural mummy found in the Alps (Ryan called this out from across the museum – impressive!).

While in Richmond, we also took the time to explore some of the vintage shops along Cary Street.  I do wish we would have had more time, because I know I would have spent hours exploring!  Ryan looked quite fetching in this top hat:

Hitched My Bonecrusher up so I Can Look for Some New Tweed

Hahahaha.  Why nobody rocks a top hat anymore is beyond me.  Ryan’s gonna bring it back.

We also had the awesome experience of Kuba Kuba while in Richmond.

This place is the best – tiny, intimate restaurant, good-natured singing waiter and absolutely yummy food.  Ryan and I shared the black bean soup to start and then it was time to get serious.

Ryan had the Cubano

My GIANT Bowl of Paella - Clams, Mussels, Shrimp & Chorizo

You can only kind of see in the photos, but plantains come with both dishes.  Mmmmmm – the best plantains I have ever had.  The one small downside to Kuba Kuba was no mojitos – they don’t have liqour; however, Ryan did have a refreshingly tart limeade.

Shelves of Cuban Espresso for Sale

Despite the fact that the buttons on my dress were literally popping open if I breathed out too deeply, we got two iced cafe con leches to go.  BEST DECISION EVER.  Cafe con leche starts off with a strong coffee, sometimes even espresso, and then adds condensed milk and sugar into a delicious little cup of coffee.  I have had cafe con leche once before and really liked it, but iced brought it to a whole new level.  Unreal.

As we walked through town sipping our delicious beverages, we were window shopping the houses, which are beautiful and old – in a good way.  Some of them even had the old coal chute doors.

Old coal chute

We also came across this awesome vintage, two-seater moped.  I would love to scoot around on this thing!

Vintage Moped with Double Seats

Overall, Ryan and I both really liked Richmond. The shops are very cool and interesting, the museum was great and the city is very walkable.  Definitely a city worth visiting, even if just for Kuba Kuba.


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Exploring the Everyday in Life and Love

I’ll be the first to admit that when it comes to travel I am more inclined to think international, to think big, to think unique and different.  Given travel choices, I will always choose the international trip.  I do still enjoy exploring around the U.S., but for some reason not with quite the same zeal.  Still, it’s important to remember that even in your own city, there is always something to do, somewhere new to go, a new restaurant to try, etc.  I’m proud to say that this weekend, I did just that.

On Saturday, Ryan and I went to the Capitals game for his birthday.  Despite the fact that we lost, we had an awesome time – how can you not at a hockey game, yeah?

Afterward, we decided to try out a Cuban/Mexican/El Salvadorean restaurant we’ve passed a few times.  Ryan has Cuban family and is always wanting to find a place to get a real cafe con leche, not a literal translation of coffee with milk on the side.  

As we popped off the metro at Eastern Market, I spotted Hill’s Kitchen, a local kitchen supply store that also offers cooking classes.  I first heard of it when I was looking for a place to pick up some Uncle Brutha’s hot sauce – a locally made, all-natural hot sauce that I wanted to get for Ryan for Christams.  Ryan LOVES hot sauce more than anyone I know and we have gone through literally dozens of bottles of tabasco, tapito, chalula, etc.  With his other gifts, I decided not to get him the sauce, but we decided to stop in and pick some up!  It was right up front and we opted for the hottest sauce –  No. 10 – “A unique blend of four of the most flavorful chilies, (Habanero, Red and Green Jalapeño and Serrano) with garlic, resulting in one amazingly zesty, flavor enhancing combination.”  It does not disappoint and neither does Hill’s Kitchen.  Since we were already there we started looking at knives, aprons, a giant-sized french press, tea infusers, a pretty array of bamboo vessels and utensils and cookie cutters in the shapes of our homestates – Minnesota and Oregon.  We left with just the sauce, but definitely would have been very happy to have spent much, much more.

Hot sauce in hand (well, inside my giant satchel of a purse), we traipsed over to Mi Vecindad.  Upon opening the door you are engulfed in color – something I quite like.  The decor is simple, but nice.  The staff was very attentive (perhaps because we were there a little early for most dinner patrons – around 4:30 or perhaps as a genuine demonstration of their ethos).  The chips were freshly baked with just the right amount of crisp and the salsa was tasty.  In lieu of our traditional margaritas, we opted for a pitcher of mojitos, in order to gauge the Cuban authenticy.  The mojitios were served with a stick of sugar cane – a definite plus – and of course mint leaves; however, it was a little too syrupy.  Still, much better than most mojitos that are out there.  Ryan ordered a dish of saffron rice, shrimp, chorizo and chicken while I went for the Ropa Vieja – “old clothes” – which is one of my favorite dishes from Cubano’s in Maryland.  For dessert, we were hoping to have guava and cream cheese, but to no avail.  Our water did come out with a yummy cake though.  Overall, I still much prefer Cubano’s but Mi Vecindad was very good and I’m sure we will find ourselves wandering back there soon.

Bellies full, we decided that we may as well continuing our day of exploration with a local bar that we had been meaning to saddle up to.  As some of you may know, The Irish Channel in Chinatown is not only where we had our first date, but also became our favorite watering hole in DC.  One of the bartenders there, who has moved out west now :(, always told us that we should go to Trusty’s.  A neighborhood bar actually located near us (right off the Potomac Ave metro stop), Trusty’s was awesome.  Empty, vintage looking oil cans for lampshades and mason jars for glasses, Trusty’s was just our type of place.  The bartenders were exactly what we were expecting with a recommendation from the Channel – friendly, attentive and fast.  Once planted, we didn’t move until a four or five pitchers later.  Sadly, we never thought to venture upstairs which features an old school bus as a bar and an outdoor patio.  Guess we are now forced to go back…   

To round out our fantastic weekend, Ryan and I celebrated his birthday yesterday with massages followed by Alsacian wine and sushi from Asian Spice – don’t underestimate this place.  It is really good.  For dessert, the carrot cake I made for the Valentine’s Day baby – Ryan!

Since it was Valentine’s Day, I’ll take a second to be mushy.  To me, love is very similar to this local exploration.  When you find someone you truly connect with, the everyday is still exciting and fun.  It’s easy to feel in love while in Paris or Greece, or lazily lounging on the beach in Tahiti.  What makes for lasting, real love is when you find that same happiness in the everyday.


Posted by on February 15, 2011 in Food and Drink, Life


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Cheese or Steel: Battle for Gridiron Glory

Despite the fact that I probably watched a whopping three football games all season, and that I have no alliance to either team, I’m still excited about the Superbowl.  I guess that’s the magic of the Superbowl – everyone enjoys it regardless of whether your team is fighting for eternal glory or if you have no clue what a touchdown is or how many points it will earn you.

This year, I have to say I am on the side of the Packers.  Being from Minnesota people automatically assume that I would hope the Packers go down in flaming disgrace; however, I really don’t like the Steelers – they don’t fit my idea of sport victors, that is, what inspirational sports movies teach us.  The good, the moral, the underdogs should win-they deserve to win.  Perhaps the Packers don’t fit this either, but they seem more in line than the Steelers.  Plus, Wisconsin cheese curds are delicious, so…winner.  Deep fried or fresh…just doesn’t matter.  If you’ve never had them, you’re seriously, seriously missing out.

Regardless of the teams, here are the 5 best things about the Superbowl:

5. Beer drinking on a Sunday seems normal to everyone.

4. Of course, the commercials.  Bud Light almost always comes up with something good, but the real winners come from unexpected places…like this one from Sprint.

3. Getting together with friends.  Sure it happens often enough, but another reason to come together with friends is always nice.

2. FOOD! And this year, Sheridan from Barkless Vegetables is cooking up some pulled pork tacos for us meat-leaving folk…super excited!

1. Football season is over and we can look forward to baseball season!!!


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