Chicago Has Food (and Lots of It!)

So, a couple of weeks ago we went to Chicago.  The marathon was obviously the whole point, but seeing as how neither Aaron or I had ever been there, we decided make a vacation out of it and do some exploring.

Vacations include testing out the regional flavor.

For Chicago, this means deep dish pizza and loaded hot dogs.

Don’t mind if I do!

In the days before the race Aaron was really keeping to a gluten free diet, but after the race, when stomach issues wouldn’t ruin mile splits, his inner garbage disposal came out and the Chicago style gorging began.

I will say this though.  Chicago is lacking in the local microbrew department.  We did find PBR at every restaurant (like, even the really snazzy ones) but since we can get that here for 75 cents on college night, we refrained.  Even though 75 cent PBR was the first drink Aaron bought for me before asking me out.  Big spender even bought a round for the whole table. Ah, memories.

Also to be noted that in addition to the 38,000 + people in town for the marathon (and their loved ones), a big football game between Miami and Notre Dame was held on Saturday, so the city was PACKED with runners and football fans.

Amy and Aaron’s Adventures in Chicago Eating

I forget the name of the restaurant where we got these martinis, but it was some sort of chop house a few blocks from our hotel.  It was an “Amy” type of place as evidenced by the the photos of my best friends on the bathroom wall.  They had a cool martini menu.  I’m usually a dirty martini type of girl, but who can resist a martini with chocolate swirls?

An added bonus was witnessing a lady trying to get a very drunk man she met at the bar to ask her out. I mean, he couldn’t figure even out how to spell Julie in his phone. How romantic.

On Saturday we stopped by The Berghoff which was down the street from our hotel.  Turns out it was a German themed microbrewery and the building has been there since the late 1800’s.  The beers were actually pretty good, and the Reuben sandwich was perfect.   

So happy to be at Berghoff’s!

Our carb loading on Saturday took us to Elephant Castle, another pub across from our hotel.  I wish Albuquerque had more pubby type places because I enjoy a good black and tan surrounded by British memorabilia.  It proved to be a great “pre-race” choice because of their special marathon menu.

We ran into a very drunk man who said as long as he stopped drinking by 10, he’d be ok for the marathon the next morning.  I wonder how that worked out for him.

The official beer sponsor of the marathon was Goose Island which is a Chicago microbrewery and it seems like the pride and joy of Chicago beer.  Aside from PBR.  Apparently they have a tasting room in Chicago that we didn’t get to.  The 312 Wheat Ale was pretty good as was the Matilda.  Aaron tried out the Bourbon County Stout at a restaurant which was AMAZING.

Our post marathon dinner on Sunday was at the infamous Lou Malnati’s (sounds suspiciously like Illuminati…I kept thinking we were in a Dan Brown novel).  Thanks Allison for this suggestion! This place did not disappoint (and with an hour long wait, we weren’t the only ones vying for some pizza goodness).   Fantastic deep dish pizza, and some great people watching.

A bunch of former frat boys in town for the Notre Dame game (who still were acting like idiotic 21 year olds despite being about 30) kept trying to pick up a pair of British marathon runners. Very unsuccessfully.  Made me a bit embarrassed to be American. Luckily the pizza made me happy again.  And seriously, even though it was good…I still prefer thin crust. Sorry. 

Monday evening we stopped by Paddy Long’s (I think it was in the area by Wrigley Field).  This was the bacon and beer bar.  They had an ok beer selection, but the bacon board was heavenly.  It was also the first place we went to that wasn’t crawling with people.

This place was also really cool because if felt “local.” So many of the other places we went to were overridden with tourists.  I felt like a Chicagoan! On Monday for lunch we headed to Portillo’s (thanks Hyedi for that suggestion) for their famous hot dogs and chocolate cake.  The place was a bit overwhelming and set up kind of like a food court (it took us a few minutes to figure out where to stand in line), but there were a lot of fun pieces of Chicago memorabilia.  And it was CHEAP. And tasty.

Aaron, staring dreamily at the hot dogs.

Monday night, on the recommendation of our Paddy Long’s bartender who understood our plight to find good beer that wasn’t IPA (way harder than it sounds), we headed to Clark Street Ale House.  I think Dominick, may have also recommended it, but I can’t find evidence of that conversation.

The beer selection was big, but most of the stuff we found was stuff we could buy in Albuquerque. The place was really empty too.  Apparently people in Chicago are too responsible to go out partying on a Monday night? We still made friends though. 

These dudes were like, “take a picture of us!”  I would kind of be surprised if homeboy actually knew what Livestrong was.  The other guy actually had a job similar to Aaron’s  and had lived in a similar part of Phoenix (and he was relatively sober), so they were able to talk for a bit.

“Seriously?” Or, “Bitch, please.”

NOT PICTURED: We had a post marathon breakfast at Lou Mitchell’s which was a cute mid-century diner.  I was seriously too sick to enjoy the meal (or take pictures), but it was a really cute place that has apparently been in a lot of movies that I’ve never seen.

IPO was the hotel restaurant.  REALLY trendy interior but the food was TOO trendy.  Oh, and pork belly is just pure fat. I didn’t realize that.  I was hoping for a bacon sandwich.  BLECH. The hotel (The W City Center) also had a really swanky bar/lobby, but it was pricey.

Chicago isn’t a cheap place to eat/drink.  We were really surprised every time we got the bill.  But people watching was better here than it has been anywhere else we’ve gone.  And I did love the feel of being in places that had been there since the turn of the century.

Thank you, Chicago, for feeding these very hungry and thirsty runners!

The W Lobby/Bar.  They had giant lamps.

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Shout Outs and Friday Rest Day Randoms

Sending Fast Thoughts To:

1) Hyedi is running the Gary Bjorkland Half Marathon!

2) Carly is competing in her first Tri this weekend!

3) Anna Catherine is running a 10 miler this weekend…her longest race yet!

4) Lauren, my friend since 6th grade who kicks my butt at every local race, is running her first marathon, Grandma’s Marathon, this weekend.  If anyone can qualify on her first try, it’s this girl!

Good luck to you ladies, and anyone else racing this weekend! 

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REST DAY! Woo hoo! Let the Randomness ensue!

Last night we spent a few hours in Amy and Aaron Heaven.

Our Natural History Museum hosts occasional “Margarita and a Movie Nights” with the movie portion being shown on an IMAX (or DynaMax as our museum calls it) screen.  At this moment in time, the IMAX theater at the museum is the only one in Albuquerque, so seeing something on the BIG big screen is pretty exciting around these parts. To me, anyway.

{I’m pointing to the ticket that says Margarita and a Movie so you know I’m not lying to you}

Before the movie, they get you all liquored up with a mini margarita! Then you proceed to theater to watch the movie.  (Also, since Friday night booze consumption is off limits to prevent miserable Saturday morning long runs, I figure a margarita on Thursday (the day before our designated rest day) is an acceptable substitute).

Yesterday the movie was BACK TO THE FUTURE.

We are crazy about Back to the Future.  On our first date, we realized we both had an unnatural love of that movie, could both probably quote the entire script, and would both gladly purchase a DeLorean if the opportunity arose.  After our first date dinner we headed over to Aaron’s apartment to watch it. And now we’re married. Back to the Future = Love.

So we have margaritas (+1 point), IMAX screen (+1 point), T-Rex sightings (+2 points), and BACK TO THE FUTURE (+10000 points).  It was a fabulous event!

Before the movie, we stopped by to visit Friend Peter at his newest restaurant endeavor, Q Burger downtown.  If you’re in Albuquerque, you should check this place out! The burgers are yummy and are made of local grass-fed beef, all the produce is local and seasonal, and the bread is baked here in town. The sweet potato tots are to die for, they have local brews on tap along with local wines AND THE ATMOSPHERE IS AMAZING! And I’m not just saying this because he’s our friend.  Completely Amy approved.

{Please ignore the red meat and bacon in this picture}

{Aaron’s gluten free version.  There is a turkey burger somewhere in there}

In other news, I wouldn’t be a true Disney diehard if I didn’t mention that CARS LAND opens at Disneyland’s California Adventure today and I am pretty much having a panic attack because I’m not there. In addition to Cars Land there are also some other park perk ups like the addition to mountain climbers on the Matterhorn and a new “Buena Vista Street” in California Adventure.  Ever since I ventured into the magical world of Disneyland on my 5th birthday, I have been obsessed.

{Everyone wears Minnie Mouse ears to their wedding, right?}

I introduced Aaron to Disneyland on his 27th birthday 3 years ago, but we haven’t been back since.  I think now is the perfect time to plan a vacation.

{Riding the Carousel in 2009.  I’m jealous of  younger Amy’s hair.}

Lululemon just announced that the headliner for the post Sea Wheeze Half Marathon in Vancouver is going to be FUN.  (The Sea Wheeze is the Lululemon sponsored race). This only makes me about 10,000 times more sad that I’m not going to be there.  Dear RnR Arizona, can you please secure Fun. as your concert headliner? Nate IS from Phoenix.

Also, HAPPY FATHER’S DAY! I have a pretty cool dad as you can tell by the picture below! Thanks Dad, for: all your support, help with math homework (even though engineers make algebra 10X more complicated than it needs to be), making sure my taxes were always filed on time, fixing car problems, and financing things like college, my wedding, and that 90’s Nike wind suit that I just HAD to have (truly tragic).

And Happy Father’s Day to all you other dad’s out there! Happy Weekend to everyone else!

General St. Patrick’s Day Themed Musings

Tomorrow is one of my favorite holidays!

No expectations, no fancy costumes, no presents to buy.  Just green beer, corned beef and cabbage, and general revelries. And maybe some kissing and/or pinching if you are so lucky!

I’m actually not in any way Irish.  But tomorrow, it won’t matter because I will be celebrating with the best of them (at least a little bit)!

I have been beyond busy this past week (and I’m actually feeling super exhausted), so all I can do is come up with St.Patrick’s Day thoughts in little, tiny increments. That, and March Madness is going on.

General St. Patrick’s Day Musings:

1) I met my husband on St. Patrick’s Day in 2008.  We were sitting next to each other at the fire pit at a party and talked for a couple of hours.  He didn’t end up asking me out for a couple of months (which is a good thing since he was dating someone else at the time), but I pretty much decided I was going to marry him that night.  And hey, here we are!

2) I am really bad at drinking Irish car bombs.  I can’t gulp down fast enough, and by the time I get to the bottom of the beer, my Bailey’s has curdled.  Curdled Bailey’s and beer is pretty awful to slurp down.

3) I had no idea that Shamrock Shuffles/St. Patrick’s Day races were so big.  It seems like everyone I follow is doing one in different cities all over the country.  I will personally be running my 10-miler this weekend!

4) My 10-miler race is the morning AFTER St. Patrick’s Day.  Not cool, race people.  Combine that with soreness so bad that it hurts to turn my steering wheel from a kick-boxing class I randomly decided to take on Wednesday (idiot Amy did a man push-up with every burpee and there were about 10,000 of them) and feeling blah in about 10 different ways AND windy/rainy weather conditions after a week of perfect 70’s… I’m thinking that this race will not be my finest hour. 

5) On that note…I was icing my calves this morning, and apparently my Capri pants weren’t quite long enough to completely cover my skin, and now I have a big, red ice-pack burn.  It isn’t too bad (no blisters or anything), but it looks really ugly and kind of feels like a minor sunburn.  This is not a running injury I anticipated getting.  Ice Pack Fail.

6) My mom is making Giuseppe a kilt.  Giuseppe IS Scottish, and I totally understand that Scotland is an entirely different country than Ireland, but I feel like this is his holiday anyway and I need to help him celebrate accordingly.  Kilts are also pretty Scottish (though I guess people in Ireland do wear them according to Wikipedia), but I’m hoping people will think he’s so cute in his little kilt that they won’t judge me too much for mixing stuff up. 

7) I LOVE corned beef.  The color is pretty disgusting, and I think it is probably not something that people should eat if they want to avoid clogged arteries.  But oh my goodness does it taste good!

Ok.  Brain is done musing.  I hope that you have a fantastic St. Patrick’s Day (well, first, I hope Saint Mary’s wins their game tonight against Purdue)!  And GOOD LUCK if you are running a race this weekend (hopefully your race organizers were nice and scheduled it for Saturday).  I look forward to lots of green race pictures in days to come!

May the sun shine, all day long,
everything go right, and nothing wrong.
May those you love bring love back to you,
and may all the wishes you wish come true!

-Irish Proverb

Runner Identity Crisis and National Margarita Day

In recent months, I’ve started referring to myself as a “runner.”  I don’t know at what point I decided I was cool enough to identify with the likes of Flo Jo and Kara Goucher.  But I’m not completely convinced that they would welcome me into the club.

I do run.  I’ve spent lots of money on running shoes and running gear. I’ve competed in races, and I’ve finished faster than 90% of people at these races.  Most of my blog/twitter friends are runners and I usually understand what they’re talking about.

But I have yet to run a marathon.  My race times still aren’t quite up to par with the times of “real” runners. I also had no clue what Balega socks were until a couple of days ago. 

And running does not seem to be a priority in my life.

Examples:

I, along with a bunch of other people recently commented on a forum that we love running at sunset.  Who knows why I said that.  Those sunset runs really are lovely.  But I truthfully would rather be lounging on the beach watching that sunset than running through it. Really, I’d rather be doing anything else at sunset than running.

And running is considered to be a stress reliever. Most “runners” clear their minds by going for hard long runs after work.

Yesterday, I had a long, stressful day.  I came home and found a spectacular margarita waiting for me (my husband is seriously amazing).  I have never been more excited to see a margarita in my life.  Running was THE FARTHEST thing from my mind.  In fact, I didn’t run at all yesterday and I had no good reason not to except for wanting to enjoy my margarita while watching Jeopardy. This isn’t what runner people do.

Don’t get me wrong.  I love running.  I love racing and getting faster. I love talking ad nauseam about running. I love reading running related articles.  And I dream about all the races I want to do. And I hate myself the day after not working out.

But at the end of the day, running isn’t what motivates me. 

Apparently, margaritas motivate me more. 

On that note…TODAY IS NATIONAL MARGARITA DAY! So, if you missed National Drink Wine Day on Saturday, now is your chance to celebrate a worthy holiday.

Tomorrow is National Chili Day, in case you are wondering.

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Yesterday I had to say goodbye to one of my favorite pairs of shoes.  My puppy has destroyed exactly two things in his lifetime.  A book about surviving in the wilderness (maybe he was trying to learn something?) and this one shoe.  Both were destroyed out of revenge for not including him in our weekend adventures.   

{Me? But I’m so cute!}

The shoes were starting to show their age (6 years of pretty consistent wear), so maybe this was his way of telling me that wearing ratty shoes isn’t so cute. But still, I felt like I was saying goodbye to friends as I placed them in the trashcan… at the last possible second before the garbage man pulled up.

{What they are SUPPOSED to look like}

I think I see another margarita in my future. Annnnddd…I may not run again…. (watching Rio!).

But at least I’ll feel guilty about it tomorrow…

Training Tuesday and a “Taper”

The half marathon is less than 2 weeks away, so our taper officially began on Sunday.

But I suppose in order to have a taper, you would actually have to have a training program going beforehand.  We did not.  But I was ready to attempt redemption last week.

And then Wednesday morning I woke up with a sore throat.  I drank  Emergen-C, I drank tea, I took the day off from training, and I slept. By golly I was going to fight this thing.

Instead, I woke up Thursday with a full-blown cold.  Sneezing, itchy eyes, coughing, muscle aches, lingering sore throat. THANKS, running gods.

Aaron was sick. I was sick. I wanted to be taken care of, but I was the better off between us, so I ended up having to do the care-taking and the Chinese Food run (what is it about being sick that makes it impossible to stick to healthy food?). 

After 3 days off from exercise, we finally felt well enough to get in 4 miles in on Saturday.  Aside from wheezing and coughing up stuff I didn’t know my body could produce, it was a perfect, warm run in almost 60 degrees weather.  I forgot how absolutely glorious it feels to be outside and not freezing and miserable. SUCCESS!

But then both of us woke up on Sunday feeling worse.  We weren’t able to do our 2 hour-long run. Instead, we literally stayed in bed/on the couch all day watching football and wallowing in each other’s misery.

Yesterday, I did sprint intervals which felt great, but really, that was one of the only quality workouts I’ve done in a while.  At least I have officially lost the weight I gained over the holidays!

I’m planning to push it a little more this week than I would during a normal taper just to gain back some of the fitness we’ve lost over the last several weeks.  I think right now I will focus on just meeting my Duke City time of 1:45:38 and not stress too much about getting in at 1:40, because I have not trained myself into it.

However, looking around the blogosphere and talking to other people I know running the race, the holidays have been a major setback for most people.  I haven’t heard a lot of people saying they are going into this taper week feeling confident. So, maybe I will still end up finishing in the top 10% just because no one else will be running really fast either? One can only hope. 

Even though the illness was a major bummer, I’m thankful that it wasn’t worse or longer.  Today is 7th  day since the cursed cold began, and even yesterday I was pretty much cured.  Usually my colds last almost 2 weeks.  I credit this to our extreme dedication to Emergen-c.

And hot toddies.

I’ve heard people swear that hot toddies cure colds.  I have never had one before (because quite frankly they sound disgusting) but we were desperate. So we drank up. And turns out they aren’t the worst thing I’ve ever drank. It took Aaron a few tries to perfect the recipe:

HOT TODDY RECIPE (makes one cold-busting, not so terrible tasting drink)

1) 1 ounce whiskey (we used Knob Creek)

2) 1 teaspoon honey

3) 1 tablespoon lemon juice (the juice from 1 wedge)

4) pinch of mulling spices (or cloves)

5) 2/3 cup boiling water

So, now we’re mostly healthy and back on track to at least finish out our training and hopefully not have the world’s most pitiful showing at the race.  If only they had pills for quick-fix running improvement like they do for weight loss, then we’d be set!

Not Really Ready for Fall

I’m not sure when the world decided it was ready for fall, but all of the sudden, reminders of its impending arrival are everywhere.  Pinterest is filled with fall decoration/outfits inspiration, Spirit the Halloween Superstore is getting ready to open down the street, kids are back in classes or heading back to college, and suddenly the shelves are full of Oktoberfest beer. 

This makes me sad.

Didn’t we just start summer?  It feels like I looked forward to sunshine and warmness for months and it is almost already over again. 

This weekend I attempted to ignore the end of summer as much as possible.  It definitely helped that we got invited to hang out at a swimming pool on Saturday.

We gave Giuseppe a bath (which he was NOT happy about) in order to make him presentable.

We packed our beach towels and sunscreen (which unfortunately Lobster Aaron didn’t take advantage of until it was too late).

We got our mojito kit together.

We slowly introduced Giuseppe to the pool.

We cautiously tested the waters, and turns out, Giuseppe can swim! I don’t think he really enjoys being a water baby though (in the pool or the bathtub), but I think he could probably survive in an emergency situation if needed.

Ok, so I don’t know what the heck the big deal is about “planking,” but Aaron decided to get in on the craze…even though I think we’re too late because apparently planking is passe and “flagging” is the new cool thing to do.  Who comes up with this stuff? And what the heck is flagging?

So, after Aaron planked the slide, someone came up with the brilliant idea to have 3 men plank on it while someone else slid down under them (only 2 men fit).  Yeah…I don’t know.  But, everything went as planned,  friend Robin made it down safely, and I got some great pictures of the process!  Notice how I didn’t volunteer to be the one to go down the slide.

I will say that Sunday’s 7.06  mile run wasn’t the easiest after pool party food/mojitos/sunburn (another reminder why eating healthy makes running easier).  But splashing in the pool was a fun way to spend an end-of-summer weekend. 

Luckily, even if the world is anticipating the arrival of Starbucks pumpkin lattes, Albuquerque will hopefully still have warm temperatures into early October.  So with that happy thought, I will face the week and I shall glare at any reminder that summer is coming to an end.

I Wish Every Day Could Be A Summer Weekend

Another great weekend is coming to an end.  We’ve had some absolutely wonderful weekends this summer.  The weather has actually been (dangerously) full of sunshine (great for being outside, not so great for the city’s water supply)  and it seems like there is a never-ending supply of new places popping up around town, and we’ve been trying to get to as many of them as we can in between our regular weekend chores and our long training runs.

Take me to the car wash, baby!

My poor car gets washed about once a year which makes it quite embarrassing to drive around.  Apparently, though, not embarrassing enough for me to do anything about it I guess.  I’d rather spend money on almost anything else than a car wash, and the thought of doing it myself brings up bad memories of high school car wash fundraisers and having to wash dirty, dirty cars for dirty old men who liked the thought of scantily clad teenagers washing their car.  Aaron on the other hand tends to keep his car in much more pristine condition.  Probably doesn’t hurt that he has a much nicer car than I do and drives his around much more than I drive mine.  Because we’ve had about 2 days worth of rain since last summer, we decided it was safe to wash both cars, and I even helped…even though it doesn’t look like I did more than take pictures of Aaron.

Around Town

We probably hang out around Nob Hill every weekend.  We do a lot of our shopping there, and the restaurant/bar selection is great.  This weekend we also took a quick stroll around Downtown.   I try not to hang out in Downtown Albuquerque as much as possible.  There isn’t much there except office buildings and a bunch of bars that we don’t like with crowds that we don’t like.  But there are a few neat little corners of Downtown (The Kimo Theater, Chama River Microbrew, and Gold Street Cafe), and the area is in the middle of what is looking like a fantastic urban renewal.  We even stumbled upon the 2nd location of the cafe that inspired Giuseppe’s name! (The other one is of course in Nob Hill).

One of the new restaurants we tried out was The Slice Parlor in Nob Hill.  We walked by it last weekend during Summerfest, and thought we’d give it a try.  The pizza is New York style (thin crust, big slices), and they have the typical pizza toppings and three different sauces to choose from (tomato, white, pesto).  The food and atmosphere were good, but what Aaron enjoyed the most was the bathroom decor!

All That Jazz

I have been stalking Jazzbah since friend Peter (owner of BRGR downtown) mentioned that a new, upscale jazz bar was opening on Gold.  As the weirdo who listens to more Frank, Nat, and Ella than Katy, Bruno, or Ke$ha, I was quite excited to imagine an entire establishment dedicated to Amy music.  After “liking” their Facebook page I found out about their soft opening this weekend, and would stop at nothing to make sure we got there.

I knew I was in the right place when I saw a huge picture of Frank hanging on the wall, and comfy looking couches surrounding the tables.  In between sets of live music (last night there was a piano player and a bassist), my beloved crooners played in the background.  The menu was surprisingly CHEAP.  The entrees are smaller than the average heaping portions you find most places, but my shrimp entree was $8, so I’m not going to complain.  I think the steak was the most expensive thing on the menu at $16.

The cocktail menu is quite impressive, and our speciality cocktails actually ended up costing more than our entrees.  But our drinks were pretty and tasty, and from what I can tell on the Facebook page, the bartender is kind of a big deal.

 

Jazzbah was great.  Upscale atmosphere, good food at a reasonable price, fancy drinks, classic background music, live music, and couches to relax on while taking it all in.

I really hope that this place not only makes it, but does well enough to not lower their standards.  Albuquerque is in desperate need of places like this that offer an alternative to the usual late night bar scene where you don’t feel overdressed actually wearing a dress or button up shirt and where the music doesn’t involve lyrics so vulgar that you hope your parents (or kids) never hear them.  Jazzbah is having their grand opening tomorrow, and I’m guessing once they get the typical new business kinks worked out (for example our berry flambe dessert didn’t quite flambe because the alcohol wasn’t quite flammable enough), they will find a loyal client base.  I hope to be among them!

And so, there we are.  Another wonderful summer weekend comes to an end as the Lavenders enjoy mojitos (except Giuseppe who is enjoying his frog toy).

Wishing for Brasil 2014

source: noholidaynolife.com

Even though I don’t really have much interest in sports, I will follow two things: college basketball (well, my college team anyway, and usually only if they are winning, which they sometimes do, though sometimes not… but it’s a sore subject and I don’t want to talk about it), and World Cup Soccer.  Last summer during the Men’s World Cup in South Africa, I was unemployed so I watched about 95% of all the games for the entire tournament, and kind of became obsessed with Landon Donovan and Wayne Rooney ( who, like Hugh Grant, likes to hang out with prostitutes).

I will admit that the only game I watched this summer for the Women’s World Cup was the final game on Sunday, and chances are I wouldn’t have watched it had the U.S. not been involved (though, muchos congratulations to Japan).  And I probably will not remember Abby Wambach or Hope Solo in 12 years the way I remember Brandy Chastain and Mia Hamm.  But watching the game on Sunday renewed my excitement for the next (Men’s) World Cup…Brazil 2014!

Last summer, in the height of the excitement, Aaron and I decided that we must watch the World Cup in person in 2014.  Not only would we get to see one of the world’s biggest sporting events live, but we would also be in…BRAZIL!  We’d be alternating between soccer and drinking caipirinhas at Ipanema Beach.

Brazil is AMAZING.  I can actually say this with authority because I spent a month there during my senior year of college in 2007.  Me along with 11 classmates escaped the freezing cold of January to enjoy the Brazilian Summer.  The Brazilians treated us like family, and despite a language barrier, we never felt like foreigners.  The beaches and food are great, and that big Jesus statue (Christo de Redentor) is actually quite breathtaking.  Plus, the currency exchange rate means you get things for about half price.

Copacabana Beach, 2007

Christo de Redentor, 2007

The country is also obsessed with soccer.  While I’ve seen some rowdy (American) football fans, and Lord help any Boston Red Socks fan who try to pick a fight with my Yankee loving husband, Brazilian futbol fans are in a whole different league of dedicated.  We went just months after the 2006 Cup where Brazil didn’t win the tournament for the first time since 1994, and the country was still in mourning.  We went to a season opener game, and the chants of the fans shook the stadium.

Brazilian Soccer Game

Brazilian Soccer Fans

My feet in legendary soccer star Pele's feet

I don’t know if this Soccer/Brazilian adventure will actually happen, but I can keep this as a happy dream in my heart for the next three years.  Brazil isn’t exactly the cheapest place to fly to, and I can imagine that hotel costs will be jacked up pretty darn high for the festivities.  And, I don’t really know how the tickets to the games work, but I’ve heard that there is some sort of a lottery system so we might be watching Wayne and Landon duke it out in the finals (HA!)….or we might be watching some game between some countries that we care nothing about at the very beginning of the tournament.  But even then, I think being there and being part of a worldwide celebration would be worth getting whatever tickets we end up with.

So, here’s to dreaming about futbol, Landon, Wayne, and RIO in 2014.

Welcome to Rio!

Wine, History, Friends, Family and No Fireworks Whatsoever

Northern New Mexico Landscape

Well, the glorious 3-day weekend is officially over and dead,  and (thankfully) the work week is already half way done, but I’m just now downloading pictures and sitting down at the computer to think about it.   Because we were off in Jamaica for Memorial Day weekend, this is really the first 3 days that we’ve had at home since February, so we had a nice relaxing weekend.

We started off on Saturday by heading up to Santa Fe.  Because our puppy is still too little to be left alone for long periods of time, we left Giuseppe with his new friend Romeo (and I use the term “friend” rather loosely since apparently they had half an hour of friend time and about 5 of unfriend time).  Romeo is the new dog recently adopted by my parents and sisters.  He is a Peka-tzu  and he isn’t used to such white furball bundles of energy.  I think Giuseppe’s playful attitude may have been too much for poor Romeo to handle as evidenced by his mid-play asthma attack.  Giuseppe is having another Romeo playdate tomorrow which will hopefully go better.

While Giuseppe was hanging out with my family, Aaron and I drove up to the Santa Fe Wine Festival.  We almost always go to the Labor Day New Mexico Wine Festival but we don’t usually make it out to this one because it is smaller and in a big dirt area, not to mention that Santa Fe wine people tend to be a bit pretentious (think Fraiser, but more hippy).   

Aaron purchasing a bottle that will soon break through the bottom of the bag and shatter...

Aaron and I take our wine festivals pretty seriously. We normally take notes and hold up the tasting line to talk to the staff about their selections, and then we buy a lot of bottles.

 

The festival was held at Ranchos de las Golandrinas which is a “living history” museum showcasing everyday life on the 1800’s New Mexican frontier. American Girl Josephina’s world is actually based on this museum. Neither Aaron nor I have been since elementary school, so we took a walk around. The docents weren’t out, so we didn’t really learn anything, but the old buildings are always fun to look at.

 

Of course 4th of July was on Monday. Because fireworks and extreme drought conditions don’t mix and similarly because fireworks and timid baby puppies don’t mix, we didn’t partake in the usually festivities, but we did take a cue from our Jamaican vacation and drink some “American flag” drinks (equal parts daiquiri and pina colada mix, dark rum to top it off, and a splash of blue Curacao).

 

As is the case after any 3 day weekend, returning back to work yesterday was slightly painful, especially because I will be going crazy until next Thursday when the job fair I am organizing is over. But, I did get one last “weekend moment” last night when I got to hang out with friend Ariela and her husband James. Ariela and I were friends in high school, but she has since moved to Portland and only comes back home on occasion. Always nice to see old friends and to see that they are happy and doing well.

But Why Is the Rum Gone? A Guide to Jamaican Drinks

Through all the vampires, ninjas and zombies, I have remained a devoted Pirate Person.  I know  in real life pirates were (and still are) very bad, violent people, but from my first ride on Pirates of the Caribbean at age 5, Disney has convinced me that being a pirate might be a pretty cool lifestyle.

One of the ways I got to live out my Pirate life was of course to fly to the Caribbean and drink rum.  Jamaica has no shortage of rum or rum drinks.  Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate’s life for me! Plus, the house wine was Beringer, so switching to rum was kind of a necessity.

RUM BY THE BOTTLE

Sandals carried El Dorado rum.  It was served at the bars, it was the bottle in our in-room stocked bar, and it was given away as prizes for all sorts of contests.  I even won my own bottle! I won’t tell you what I had to do to win it.  What happens in Jamaica stays in Jamaica.

El Dorado tastes like cheap rum.  Luckily we were clued in by another guest and started asking for the “top shelf” version….El Dorado 12 Year Rum which was waaaay better.  Because Sandals is all-inclusive, you pay the same for the cheap stuff as you do for the top shelf stuff, so why not get the better of the two?

We did our Rum shopping at the duty-free stores at the Montego Bay airport.  It was cheaper there than at the resort shop, plus you don’t have to pay that pesky UNREASONABLY HIGH Jamaican sales tax rate of 17.5%.

You can get rum that is more of a souvenir than drinkable:

You can get really expensive fancy rum:

Or you can spring for some Appleton’s like we did.  Appleton’s is probably the most iconic Jamaican rum, and is actually available at our corner liquor store (which we didn’t realize until we came back).  But it is tasty, and cheaper to buy in Jamaica than here.

NOTE: You are only allowed to bring back 1 litre of alcohol per person back into the US.  I suggest if you win a bottle of the cheap stuff, pass it off to some appreciative resort guest who doesn’t have the fully stocked bar, and then buy 2 bottles of something better.  ALSO: Once you get back in the country, you will have to go through security again if you have another flight, so if you do buy duty-free at the airport, remember to stash your bottle in your checked luggage that you get back at customs.

RUM DRINKS:

Going to a tropical location and not getting a fruity cocktail seems rather counterintuitive.  Sure they have about 500 calories each and will rapidly cause you to lose your bikini abs by the end of your vacation, but nothing says “vacation” quite like a colorful drink topped with an umbrella or pineapple slice.

We obviously weren’t thinking about much of anything including watching the bartenders make our drinks so we could steal their secrets and make our own at home, but here’s what we’ve come up with.

Miami Vice:

This was by far my favorite of all the drinks we tried.  We figured out that it was strawberry daiquiri and pina colada topped off with dark rum.  The day after we got back from our trip, we immediately bought the supplies and made our own.  The transition back to reality is a tough one.

 

American Flag:

As far as we can tell, it is a Miami Vice with Blue Curacao mixed in.  Curacao makes everything cooler.

Jamaican Hummingbird:

This was my first drink at the resort, and apparently it is a Sandal’s specialty.  It is like a smoothie with rum.  I liked it, but I don’t think I had another.

 

Purple Rain

I don’t know what this is, but it was recommended to us by a New Yorker.  It was also disguising unless you like the taste of cough syrup.  I drank half and then let the nice man take it away.

 

Sex on the Boat:

This was the specialty cocktail of our catamaran cruise.  It tasted a lot like Sex on the Beach but it apparently is a lot smoother.  The Rum Runner seemed to be similar in taste.

 

Margaritaville Rum Smoothie Thing

First off, I will say that if our catamaran cruise didn’t stop at Margaritaville I would NOT have gone.  I did not go all the way to Jamaica to go to Margaritaville.  That being said, jumping on a giant trampoline in the middle of the bay was pretty cool.  Anyway, I don’t remember what this was called, but the rum is Appleton’s, and the drink was tasty.  Unfortunately we paid $37 for 2 of them.  You best be giving me the souvenir glass for that price.  Yikes.

Steel Bottom

I did not try this, but the guys seemed to give it high marks.  It is a glass of Red Stripe with a shot of rum.  Sounds yummy.  NOT.

Jamaican Coffee

Like Irish coffee, but with rum cream instead of Irish cream.  Rum cream is also good on the rocks.  Or drizzled over the buffet dessert selections.

Red Stripe

This is not a rum drink.  And it isn’t exactly exotic seeing as how you can probably pick it up at your local 7-11.  It is also not the world’s best beer.  It is the Budweiser of Jamaica.  But for some reason, in Jamaica, it tastes AMAZING.  They also have the lite version for those girls (and guys) wanting a break from the 500 calorie rum drinks.

By tomorrow I will hopefully have come to the full realization that the blue Caribbean will not be outside my window when I wake up.  I will conclude my Jamaica series with a look at Montego Bay the city, or at least what we saw of it on our brief adventure outside the resort gates.  And then I will revert to talking nonstop about my new puppy, Giuseppe who we will get on Friday!