Flavors Of Your City

As many of you have figured out, I have a love of languages and travel. Growing up a military brat cultivated these passions….my mom being an amazing cook simply added to my love. Along the way she taught me how to indulge my love of Filipino cuisine by teaching me how to make things like Filipino eggrolls, chicken adobo and pancit. (And no, I don’t consider myself a foodie)

Pancit made by yours truly!

Pancit made by yours truly!

After we returned stateside from our 4 year stint in the Philippines we settled in the Chicagoland area where I finished my education. When you mention food to most people from Chicago, the first thing you hear about is pizza…specifically deep dish pizza. Although I’m a pizza snob, that’s not what I crave when I think Chicago. For me, it’s a specific place…Portillo’s.

Portillo's Drive Thru

Portillo’s Drive Thru

Now most people want Chicago style hotdogs when they stop in…but for me it’s always been one particular thing… A nice, wet Italian Beef with mozzarella.

Italian Beef from my last trip

Italian Beef from my last trip

After living in the Chicagoland area for nearly 20 years (the longest I’d ever lived anywhere…prior to that the record was 4 years), I moved to Florida. Although most of the people living in Florida are transplants, technically it’s a part of the south. As I was once told by a friend, “the only thing further south than Florida is Mexico”.

For a girl who doesn’t like tea except when she’s ill, moving to the land of Grits and Sweet tea was very different. People were drinking the stuff everywhere…and I learned to adapt, though I’ve never loved the stuff. I’d still much rather have coffee. But one day, sitting in Cracker Barrel I found myself sending a text message to a friend of mine (a good ol’ boy from Louisiana who’d moved to Tennessee).

Me: I’ve got a question for you.
Him: What’s that, darlin’?
Me: Does me liking grits mean I’m turning southern?
Him: Absolutely!

In case you’re wondering, I like my grits with butter, salt and pepper….sometimes with a fried egg on top.

Then there was my time in El Paso. Although I like seasoning in my food, I’ve never been a big pepper person. Salsa was something you ate with tortilla chips. As for margaritas? Hate tequila…have never been a fan. So why is it that since I’ve been back I love pretty much anything with jalapenos? Or that when I went to breakfast with a friend at Perkins last week I was completely bummed that although they had salsa, I knew it would not be spicy enough to fit the bill…

As for margaritas…I won’t be having them anywhere but in El Paso, but I actually found one I loved after a little pushing from my friends out there.

Margarita courtesy of Carlos and Mickeys in El Paso

Margarita courtesy of Carlos and Mickeys in El Paso

What I’ve learned is that I love exploring and experimenting with different, awesome foods (and drinks). Every region of the world has their favorites/specialties… So tell me…if I were to visit you, what foods (or drinks) are a must not miss? Is there a favorite restaurant?

In April I’m headed back to the Bahamas… I can’t wait to visit The Poop Deck…Awesome Conch Fritters!

Complimentary Insults?

Have you ever been on the receiving end of something that sounded like an insult only to realize that it was meant as a compliment? A gal pal and I were talking about that today.

Remember the guy I talked about last week? Well, the story didn’t completely end there. Here’s how our “I’m married” conversation went:

Him: It’s too bad I met you now that you’re getting ready to leave!
Me: Aww, you’re sweet.
Him: So would you like to hang out before you go? I’d like to take you to dinner or buy you a drink or something.
Me: It’s nice of you to ask, but I’m married.
Him: Like newly married or MARRIED married?
Me: Like married to my best friend married.
Him: It figures. All the good ones are. You’re just so pretty and have a big ass. I like the way you look

For two seconds I was all…did he really just tell me I have a big ass? How rude! Then I realized he likes the J-Lo booty types…and he meant it as a compliment. Fortunately I was able to process it before I responded with “Thanks!”

Then I started thinking to other compliments that could be misread as insults that I’ve either heard in songs or seen on tv shows and movies, etc.

“Girl, you’re so thick…You fill out that outfit so well!”

“You’ve got some big lips! Mmmm!”

“Look at those muscles…You look like you could do some damage to a man.”

You get my drift… For whatever reason, I’m finding this whole line of “compliments” to be hilarious. What “compliments” have you been given that could be misrepresented as insults?

Now I have to hit the treadmill…LMAO!

Sun Setting On El Paso

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Today is a milestone in a couple of ways. First, this is my 101st post…which means my last one was officially my 100th. Where has the time gone?

Also, I thought it was appropriate to post a picture of an El Paso sunset over the mountains as the sun is setting on my last night in this beautiful city. I leave early tomorrow morning.

Tonight the gang is taking me to my first Mexican restaurant in this lovely town. We are having my going away party at Carlos And Mickey’s. I’ve been told they have live music and awesome Margaritas.

This has been a wonderful adventure. I’ve made some wonderful friends along the way. I’m gonna miss this place and hope to come back to visit sometime.

Thanks for keeping me company through my adventures!

My question tonight? Where was the most beautiful sunset you remember seeing? Tell me all about it…

My Christmas Miracle Came!

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My Christmas miracle has arrived! I got the call today…I’ll be headed back home to be with my family this Monday morning. My time in El Paso is coming to an end.

As my time is coming to an end, I reflect. I’ve learned that here every fast food restaurant has jalapeños available & salsa packets upon request. It is also used in just about every meal imaginable…and Salsa is always offered for your eggs.

Today, for the first time I had food from a place called Chicos. They had these tacos with shredded cheese that you eat in this thin tomato soup like concoction. It wasn’t bad.

My favorite place to eat since coming here, though? Cattle Baron Their food was fantastic! I really enjoyed their Prime Rib…and their salad bar was quite impressive.

I stayed at the Marriott near the airport. They have an amazing Oriental Chicken Salad with a mandarin orange salad dressing. The people in their Concierge lounge are amazing, as are the folks down at their restaurant for breakfast. I’ve made some buddies & I’ll miss our little chats. They have been so warm and welcoming.

I’ve come to love these mountains…and will be sad to see them fade away in the distance…but will be so happy to be with my family and friends again. I’ve missed them!

Plus, this time of year brings out the goofy in my buddies, so I can’t wait to see what hijinx ensue this year… Take a look at some of these from Christmases past…

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This is my best friend in her festive silliness….

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This is my buddy, Nick…about to do his rendition of “The Lollipop King” for our entertainment.

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And this is my mom & sis…who are always at the ready to lend their voices for any random carrolling spree that may break out.

As the song goes…”I’ll Be Home For Christmas”.

Anyone else have any news that has helped to make “your days be merry and bright”? Or if you’re struggling with this holiday season…feel free to share that, too!

Planes, Trains and Automobiles

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This is the gorgeous view from directly outside my hotel. See what I mean about gorgeous mountains? El Paso is beautiful. So far everyone has been amazing. They’ve been kind, welcoming and generally just bone deep nice!

Tonight, I’m chillaxing by my hotel bar with a glass of Malbec and feeling inspired. Last night was my first good, full night of sleep since I arrived. It wasn’t overly crazy so I had the opportunity to relax and catch up on some of my favorite passions. I’m enjoying Sophie Oak’s Siren Unleashed and read some of the amazing people whose blogs I follow. In fact, Crazy Train To Tinky Town wrote a really cool blog about airports and people watching. It inspired me.

I’ve spent a lot of my life in or around airports. This trip would be no different. In fact, I’m about two or three miles from the airport right now. As fun as people watching in an airport can be, I’ve found that the people you meet on the plane can be even more intriguing.

So my question…do you remember your most interesting travel seat mate? Tell me about them…and what made them so memorable. If you don’t have a memorable seat mate, maybe share your most intriguing conversation that happened during travel…

My cousin says I’m a magnet for “interesting”. Over the years I’ve come to realize that it’s not that I’m a magnet…it’s that I interact! I talk. I listen. And then I’m constantly entertained…which always translates to storytelling.

I’ll start with the most interesting interaction I had in an airport. A few years ago, hubby and I were heading to Dallas for a Cowboy game. In fact, now that I’m thinking about it…it was our honeymoon! Usually we catch a flight from our nearby airport, but this time we headed out of Tampa. As we sat in the airport, John Gruden came walking up. Apparently, he was also going to be on our flight. He was working for ESPN at the time and doing the show. I spotted him, then pointed him out to hubby. He walked up and shook Mr Gruden’s hand and told him how much we enjoyed him. The guy was very cool. In fact, he found us when we landed at DFW and told us to find him at the event and ask questions. He was absolutely great. He treated us like new friends. We loved it.

My most interesting “on the plane” interaction? The June I graduated from high school, my biological grandfather died. I knew the news was not going to be good when my cousin called at 6am. No one calls that late in my family in less there is an emergency.

I was going to be flying alone to Michigan… I was 18, so it wasn’t a huge deal. When I boarded, I noticed an elderly couple toward the front of the plane, but otherwise it was just me. Seated by a window on the center of the aircraft, I was just settling in when a group of tall, large, strong men walked onto the plane. As they took their seats, I noticed I was surrounded. Two of the giants (I’m only 5’3″…and back then was only 105 lbs) were sitting behind me, two in front & 2 more across the aisle, plus the rest of the guys on the plane. The guy in front of me was the sociable sort and turned around.

Kneeling on his seat in my direction our conversation went something like this:

Him: Hi there!
Me: (tilting my head to make better eye contact) Hello…
Him: How are you?
Me: Fine.
Him: Are you from Detroit?
Me: Nope. Going to Michigan for a family emergency.
Him: I’m sorry. (Pauses) Soooo…. How old are you?
Me: (Realized he was hitting on me and checking my status as jail bait…Rob Lowe had just recently gotten busted) I turn 19 tomorrow.
Him: Really? Got any proof?
Me: My military brat ID.
Him: Can I see?
Me: Sure.
Him: (smiles down at me) Happy birthday! (Turns to his other buddies) Hey guys…can you believe she’s 18?

I laughed. He had just waved the “go” flag for himself and his friends. I was also right…I was on a flight with a college football team. Suddenly I found myself under a microscope as they all peered over the chairs at me and said hello. I laughed. Then the guy continued:

Him: So, how long are you going to be in town?
Me: A few days.
Him: You should give me your number. I’ll take you out and show you the city.
Me: (laughing and a bit coy…and not nearly as naive as he thought) My mama told me not to give my number to strangers.
Him: I introduced myself. We’re not strangers anymore.
Me: Why don’t you give me YOUR number. If I want you, I’ll call you.

After a bit of playful debate, he gave me his number. As we got of the plane, he and five of his friends insisted on escorting me “safely” to my family. The look on my relatives’ faces were priceless! Their eyes were huge as the boys all said goodbye, each stooping down to give me a hug.

I never did call the guy back…but is it any wonder why I so enjoy ménage stories? Does this not help to explain my interest with the Mile High Club?

Your turn!

Long Nights And The Superficial Psyche

I have been burning my candle at both ends lately. Tonight is my first night back to my hotel room at a reasonable hour. It has been an insanely busy few days. We were going to open Thanksgiving night, but there was too much prep work to be done. My work day for Black Friday went from 7pm on Thanksgiving till about 10:45 am. I returned back to work at 6pm to close. We left the store around 10:30 or so & got back to the hotel around midnight after a stop to Walmart.

Tonight we left around 7pm & went to dinner. We sat at the bar where we talked sports and life and love with our very cool bartender. While discussing relationships he’d mentioned the value of being humble. For the benefit of being thankful for what you have without putting on airs or false pretenses.

His story? A couple of years ago he went to a bar in a bigger city with some friends. There was a beautiful woman sitting at the bar, so he thought he’d say hello. He walked up to her & here’s what happened.

Bartender: Hi there!
Girl: (looks over haughtily) Make and model of your car?
Bartender: (looks at her in disbelief, then sarcasm) 1978 Pinto
Girl…turns away.

Really? How utterly pretentious and superficial! Unreal. All she cared about was money. She deserved the lying response he concocted after her disrespect. It may explain why he told me he was glad to have found an amazing person… Don’t get me wrong. There is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting financial security or maybe an equal partner, but any number of things… But not like that! No wonder he said he wasn’t interested in “rookie camp”.

So tell me, folks, have you ever refused talking to someone based on something superficial? If so, tell, tell! When meeting someone new, what things have intrigued you enough to give a stranger a chance in the past? What things have you heard people verbally or theoretically snoop into at bars or clubs or restaurants that could be found offensive by the recipient? What things do you think are important to a relationship?

The area is beautiful out here! When I drive the freeway, I can’t believe that just looking across has me looking at Mexico. I am really enjoying those mountains! I promise, pictures will eventually be posted.

I do miss having time to write…I need to make tome to do what I love. If I’m mildly incoherent, please excuse me. I’m worn out!

Good Night!

Passion Energizes and Why I’m Thankful

Last night I planned on getting into my hotel room and writing a quick blog before crashing face first into my bed. Planned. Well, we all know what they say about the best laid plans… (Silly side note…why is it that all the best lays are reserved for plans?) What actually happened? After a workday that started around 10am, I left the store around 11:40 pm. I immediately changed into comfy clothes…aka Pj’s…and flipped my iPad open. I woke up at around 7 am, hand dangling over my king sized bed…tablet still open, relaxing on the floor. It had fallen out of my hands! Keep in mind, I baby my electronic with as much love as I show my doggies…who I’m missing (along with the hubs). That should give you an idea of how utterly exhausted I was.

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That’s my baby pup sleeping!

The thing is, I should feel exhausted. Drained! But I don’t. Instead, I’m exhilarated! I’m on a new adventure. I’m using some of the most powerful leadership tools in my arsenal…and I’m loving every minute of it. Things have certainly not been easy. We had our final inspection yesterday. We passed. We called our entire staff in to help us clean and organize. They all showed up…initially uncertain, but there. But enthusiasm is catching…so I shared mine. In under five minutes everyone was talking, cleaning, folding and organizing new merchandise and the place was filled with smiles and laughter. I was able to set expectations, give tips and pointers, begin the initial process of building a team. There is nothing quite so energizing as being able to start learning your staff…their strengths and weaknesses, then teaching them how to use them in a way that guarantees their success. We will be grand opening a Cowboys merchandise store in El Paso on Thanksgiving night/Black Friday!

I’m not going to lie…I wound up steamrolling the guy who is supposed to be the manager running this place. If he’s smart, he’s learning a few things about leadership, setting the tone, expectations and how to motivate, energize and train. If he’s smart. My only concern is that I enable my very good friend who has entrusted me with her brand new store…to get off on the right foot. It is my job to ensure her success. And they can either get with the program or get out of my way! 🙂

Today I am thankful for the beautiful mountain view outside my hotel room window…(will take some pics and post when I have time) El Paso is gorgeous and the people have been welcoming. I’m thankful for you guys…because your warm acceptance, kind words and crazy humor have really been a huge source of enjoyment these last few months. I’m thankful for my handsome, loving man who supports everything I do, including a nearly month long trip to be here, using another of my passions. I’m thankful for the gifts and talents God has given me. I’m thankful for my family’s unwavering love and belief. The beautiful friends (and cyber friends) that I’ve accumulated. I’m also thankful for the songs in my heart and the smiles on my face.

I’m also thankful for all the many firsts I’ve experienced this year that have enabled me to be exactly where I am today. Yes, that includes first time being fired. 🙂

What about you guys? What are your biggest strengths? What are you passionate about? What are you thankful for?

And here’s a little writer humor for ya’ll…

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Muses And A Comedy Of Travel Snafus

After a crazy day of travel that started way too early on less than three hours of sleep, I’m finally settled in to my new digs.

Many of you are writers or artists of some sort, so you’ll understand. Yesterday my inspiration bug bit. My problem? My house was still in shambles from our dinner party the night before and I was catching an 8 am flight the following morning.

Here’s the thing about priorities… My to do list should have been as follows:
1. Pack for my 3+ week trip
2. Clean up my messy kitchen and dining area (so hubby won’t have to)
3. Write…if there’s time.

What actually happened? I followed my muse, of course, causing #1 and #3 to flip in priority order. Since I was on a roll and wanted to finish my WIP…..that’s what I did. During my breaks I loaded the dishwasher and started to pack. I finished packing around midnight. Finished my WIP at about 2:30 am. My alarm was set for 5:30 (saved time by showering at midnight).

At 5:45 my friend picked me up for the airport. I kissed hubby and the dogs goodbye and was on my way.

I should have known today would not go smoothly when I waited more than 10 minutes for the curbside check in guy to finish with the only couple in front of me only to check in at the counter instead. At the auto check-in the lady told us TSA was busy and had an hour long wait. I was almost through the line when the couple who’d been checking in curbside finally got there. Good thing I didn’t wait. Right?

Our flight left on time, and even arrived in DFW when it was supposed to. The problem? There was still another plane at the gate. We sat on the Tarmac for over 30 minutes. My actual arrival time was 9:51am. My connecting flight began boarding at 10:10 with a scheduled departure time of 10:40. By the time I made it off the plane it was already 10:36. I did what any seasoned traveller would do. Stop at the gate and talk to the lady at the counter in an attempt to get them to hold the flight for a few extra minutes.

As The woman and I talked the gate told her I had 10 minutes. She’d already mentioned the next flight, but they’d told her to have me rush to catch the shuttle and try to get my flight. I was in D concourse and my flight was in c. Gamely I rushed to the new gate, huffing and puffing through my poor sinus infected body, bogged down with luggage and expecting to die of what might become my first asthma attack. I got there 5 minutes after the flight took off. Of course!

Next, they rescheduled me for a later flight…leaving in a little more than an hour. Sweet! Except it was all the way back where I started. In D concourse. At least this time I didn’t have to kill myself. The time gave me a chance to grab a bite of the worst seasoned orange chicken and fried rice I’ve ever had…and to take my meds.

Finally I got on my flight to El Paso at 12:45. I was thrilled! This time everything went off without a hitch. Well, till I got my voice mail saying the rental car place was giving my friend a hard time about me getting the car on her credit card. No worries, though, the hotel has shuttles to and from the airport. With Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte in hand I was ready to conquer anything. Good thing because I didn’t see my luggage on the carousel! Fortunately, when I walked into the baggage claim office, my bag was already there…waiting for me.

So here are a couple of pictures of my new home for the next few weeks…

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What about you guys? Have you experienced Murphy’s law while traveling? Tell me the story… What do you do when your muse and priorities collide?