A Very Pumpkin Weekend

In case you missed it, this weekend was Halloween weekend!

We celebrated with a complete pumpkin overload and watching by our favorite Halloween movies (aka movies that are not scary like Hocus Pocus, Casper, and Charlie Brown and the Great Pumpkin).

Saturday morning we had pumpkin waffles with homemade pumpkin spice lattes.

Sunday afternoon we took a break from all the orange and went to see The Blue Man Group perform.  For the most part, it was a pretty impressive show that included a rock concert, a nightclub, a variety show, and some good old fashioned paint splashing percussion.  Works of art were created.

Sunday evening we carved our pumpkins while watching Monster House (another Halloween classic).  Aaron pulled out the jigsaw (somewhere in this house exists actual pumpkin carving tools, but power tools are more fun).  I printed off a template and spent too many hours carving multiple tiny holes into a pirate.

Aaron's Masterpiece

My Finished product


Giuseppe sadly did not win the Pet-a-Palooza contest (thanks for voting!), but he still enjoyed himself today as a moo cow.  And by enjoyed I mean he tried to get that costume off anyway he could. I thought I would take him to the office to show him off and he proceeded to pee on my office carpet in front of the CEO.  I don’t think he will be going back to work with me for a while. At least it was in my office and not in the middle of the hallway or something…

Now we are sitting here with a bowl full of candy and underappreciated jack-o-lanterns because we live in a make-shift retirement community where kids don’t exist.  At least I have an excuse to eat lots of chocolate for the next few days (or next 1 day…). 

Tomorrow I feel that it will be socially acceptable to sing Christmas songs and watch Christmas movies. Tonight, I will watch Hocus Pocus on the Family Channel for the 2nd time this year while I eat another Reese’s.


What I’m Loving Wednesday, October 19

What I’m Loving Wednesday Link-Up with Jamie at This Kind of Love.

1. It Happened on Fifth Avenue: I was flipping through channels at 5 a.m. yesterday and found this on TCM.  I couldn’t stop watching.  It was filmed in 1947 and has charm, glamour, and all of the elements of a perfect Black and White film. 

2. William Sonoma Pumpkin Spice Latte kit: My mom gave me this as a present last week.  Now I can have a Pumpkin Spice Latte any time I want!

4. Illy Coffee: I’ve never bought it because I knew I would love it, but it is too expensive to purchase regularly  Well, it came with the PSL kit, and of course I love it. 

3. Nike Women’s Marathon Tiffany Necklace: I just found out yesterday that the Nike Women’s Marathon in San Francisco gives out Tiffany necklaces (handed out by firefighters no less!) to all the finishers. Even though it is a competitive lottery process to get in, I AM DETERMINED!

Spunky Runner via The Eyes Have It

5. Boardwalk Empire: I have a strange fascination with the mafia.  Boardwalk Empire gives a great insight into how the great mob wars of the 20’s/30’s/40’s started out. 

6. By this time next week…I will have run my first Half Marathon!: Right now, this is all I can think about.  In just a few days I will know how fast I can run a half marathon!  (And then the REAL panic starts).

2 Days until the weekend!

My Unofficial Guide to the Albquerque Balloon Fiesta

Starting tomorrow, Albuquerque will be home to a weeklong celebration of breakfast burritos, hot chocolate, tourists, and BALLOONS! In other words, the 40th Annual Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta kicks off this weekend!

The Balloon Fiesta  is something that I am excited to brag about on behalf of my hometown and I’ve hardly ever missed a year on the field. Even when I was in college way over in Northern California, I still found my way back home for it.

Circa 1986

With all those years of experience,  I’ve learned a few secrets along the way.  Of course, you can check out  the official website for some good information.  Here’s what they left out

1) Starbucks is not a vendor.  You’ll have to get it ahead of time (every year I have about 15 desperate people ask me where I got mine.  I have to break the news to them that I imported).  The closest one to the park is at Paseo del Norte and San Pedro, just east of I-25.  (See map below: X is Starbucks, A is Balloon Fiesta Park).

2) 4:30 am is a good time to start heading out to the park.  The big rush starts at about 5:00 am, so you’ll encounter less traffic.  Also, avoid taking the Alameda exit.  Tramway (the next exit North) moves faster. The nice police officers will redirect you back around toward the park.  You’ll also get a better parking spot if you head out early.

3) I’m always surprised to see people in shorts and t-shirts.  Albuquerque is pretty nippy at 5:00 am.  A jacket, a scarf, something to cover your ears, something to cover your hands, and closed-toed walking shoes are your best bet.  This week is set to be pretty warm, so dress in layers so you can take off all the winter clothes once the sun comes up.

4) The pottys are all Port-a style.  If you are like me and would rather do just about anything else than use a port-a-potty, I suggest drinking that Starbucks slowly. 

5) There are two lines for purchasing tickets.  The MUCH longer line is for people who are paying with credit card.  The MUCH shorter line is for people with exact change in cash.  Admission is $6 per adult over 12 (children under 12 are free).  Parking is an additional $10. CASH ONLY!

6) This is the most photographed event in the world.  Don’t forget your camera!

7) Come hungry.  You’ll have burritos, cinnamon rolls, and all sorts of goodies to choose from.  Our favorite burritos came from Pedro’s.

Enjoy! (And if you are visiting Albuquerque, WELCOME!)

A Celebration of NOT Being Housebound

I semi-ignored all chatter of Hurricane Irene until Friday (Hurricane during Hurricane season in the Bahamas? Novel!) when I finally realized that the entire East Coast was going to be obliterated.  And then I couldn’t stop watching.  I don’t know what it is about natural disasters that drives my interest so much (maybe because THANKFULLY I have never been in one aside from some small earthquakes), but we had CNN on from Friday evening until Sunday morning, watching the storm as it made its way up the coast and waiting for mass chaos to ensue.

Even Giuseppe watched the coverage. 

In a moment of gratitude over not being one of the 65 million people affected by the storm, we thought we’d celebrate because unlike the masses stranded without transportation and under evacuation orders and curfew restrictions, we had complete freedom to be outside and just out of the house in general.

Actually, before making it out, we decided to try some Polish chocolate that one of Aaron’s clients brought from Poland.  Not as impressed with the candy, but I love packaging in foreign languages.  It makes the contents a little more of a surprise. You never know what kind of crazy things Polish people might put into chocolate.

After a somewhat unsatisfying chocolate experience, we decided that it was about time for Giuseppe  to visit the Nob Hill cafe that inspired his name,  Cafe Giuseppe. Plus, I had run out of coffee and desperately needed a coffee fix.

Sunday, after watching CNN try desperately to convince the nation that Irene really was that bad (not to say that flooding and any damage isn’t bad, it just wasn’t mass chaos), and after enduring an 8 mile run in the hot sunshine, we decided to take a quick trip up to the top of the Sandia Mountains for a hike.

It was nice to finally see some greenery and plant life after a summer with no rain.  The Sandia Crest is in a different climate zone, so it actually gets moisture more often than we do in the city.

Aaron packed us a picnic lunch complete with sandwiches, chips, cookies, and sangria for us to enjoy overlooking the city from over 10,000 feet above sea level.

Once we made our way back home (in time to watch Lady Gaga have an identity crisis on the VMA’s of course), we got our own little bit of hurricane weather with a downpour of a thunderstorm to usher us (fittingly) into the week.

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.


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.


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!

The Time Change Hangover: Surviving the Day After

The Soundtrack of My Life: Monday, Monday by the Mammas and the Pappas

Waking up on most Monday mornings isn’t the most awesome part of life, but I am usually ready to take on the week after a cup of coffee and some Matt, Meredith, Ann, and Al .  Because Aaron wakes up at 4:30am every weekday,  getting up  for him is bloody awful any morning no matter what day it is.

However, today was the Monday after the Spring Forward time change.  Even the promise of extended afternoon sunshine wasn’t enough to get the Lavenders through the Monday blues.  (Couple that with reading about people in Japan coping with the death of loved ones while also starving with no relief in sight, and I wasn’t too interested in facing the world this morning*).

I know it is just one stupid, measly hour.  Really, it shouldn’t make THAT a big difference.  Even interstate travel from one time zone to the next doesn’t seem to make too much of an impact.  But the time change? That throws us for a loop and leaves us disorientated for at least 2 days, even when we gain an hour in the morning.   

Maybe it’s going to bed before it feels right.  Maybe it’s the waking up every hour worried that the alarm is still on daylight savings time.  Or maybe it’s waking up when my body KNOWS it is an hour too early. In any case, sleep was restless, and waking up was not fun.

Two days ago, this was 4:41 am.

Today is Maximum Caffeine Monday (a term coined by one of my old co-workers).

Even Aaron, who doesn’t drink coffee except for rare occasions, knew he would need some this morning for his 5:15 am commute.  I made him reminders in case he was too sleepy to remember.


Made cooler by Retro Camera

I’m kind of a coffee junkie anyway, so I have a caffeine corner with all the necessary tools to keep myself hyped up on legal stimulants. 

Cup 1 was enough to actually make it so that I wasn’t literally sleep walking.  Cup 2 helped my eyes open.

Aaron took his coffee to go.  Since he doesn’t drink coffee in the first place, his first cup got him through the entire day.  I got cups 3 and 4 at the office (you know you are working at a good place when the office coffee stash is as good as what you would buy for yourself!)

We both managed to make it through the day, and we are now enjoying the evening daylight.  In just a few more hours, we will get to wake up too early all over again.

Sweet Dreams!

– A&A

*On a side note, please consider donating to the Japan relief effort.  I’ve seen several ways to go about it, but the American Red Cross is definitely a good starting point. (http://www.redcross.org/)