Curiouser & Curiouser

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The High Octane, High Stakes, High Fructose Challenge March 30, 2009

9171cc6a93a865e3_3441970That’s right amigos (and ga’s)! It’s on….  When high fructose corn syrup emerged as the new trans-fat of nutritional villains, I looked into the dangers of this sweetener to see exactly what the claims were. Turns out that while the corn industry is making a serious PR push to say that their product is EXACTLY the same as sugar (the studies backing these claims were paid for by Pepsi and the American Beverage Association among others with a stake in the findings), other studies have found that HFCS can slow the decrease of appetite after consumption (leading one to eat more) and causes triglycerides to increase, an indicator of risk for cardiovascular disease. Clearly, while this stuff may not be deadly, HFSC poses a threat, and I decided to strike it entirely from my diet.

It was then that I discovered how invasive this additive is; HFCS has slithered its way into nearly unavoidable ubiquity.

So I’m throwing down the gauntlet. Starting this morning, I’m scouring labels and making more cuts than the auto industry. I plan to unearth just how prevelant HFCS has become in our diets, but also how we CAN keep it to a bare minimum. We’ve been told for quite some time now that the key to a healthy diet is cutting out processed foods (consequently the precise place you’ll find the highest content of HFCS). I see this as a step in the right direction – challenging as it may be. Feel free to share your substitutions, or surprising places you’ve found the culprit.

More updates on this soon…. and the continuation of The Miami Story (with photos!).

~a

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Childhood…. Revisited March 27, 2009

Filed under: happiness,life — curiouserx2 @ 2:04 pm
Tags: , , , ,

Falls under the category of Stop the Presses, Oh My Effing G:

My hands-down favorite childhood story (more than 20 years later) has been made into a film. And thirty second of trailer tells me I’ve already fallen head-over for it. Serious badassery coming to theaters October, 2009. Who’s comin’ with me?!?!

~a

P.S. Love the choice of Arcade Fire for the background music!

 

The Great Escape (Part II) March 26, 2009

Filed under: humor,life,thoughts,travel — curiouserx2 @ 6:24 pm
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

2664_522965046976_28501299_31559649_1494503_n

But first…

A Brief Anthropological Study of Miami’s Natives:

While I’m sure there some who hold your standard 9-5 office gigs, a vast portion of the Miami population appears to either A) Not work at all, B) Work in a club so they spend the day sleeping and/or taking long lunches and/or hanging out on the beach, or C) Do”work” that allows them to “work” while sleeping and/or taking long lunches and/or hanging out on the beach.

Even “9-5” translates differently here, to something like, “10-ish to 6-ish, with a few hours of lunch for good measure.”  And by GOD do I think they’re on to something. It made coming back to work that much sadder….

But back to our story…. J’s brother had a Miami day of work to do on Friday, so J and I were left to our own devices – not a problem when there’s a beach a block away and your surrounded by a yet-unexplored city. So we lathered up with SPF 327 (I did, anyway – J ended up with some bizarre burn streakage which we’ll go ahead and blame on the spray sunscreen he was using. The only reason I was spared this fate was the spray stuff smelled straight up like man, so I stuck with my hardcore girly lotion instead) and headed out into the morning sun to check out the beach first. We’d been viewing it from afar off the balcony, and it was high time we got our feet wet (literally).

This first beach was a little narrow and crowded for comfort, spotted with Portuguese Man o’ Wars, and the water, while refreshing, was littered with seaweed. Still, we relaxed there for an hour or so before leaving to seek sustenance and adventure. We were, however, determined to discover the perfect stretch of beach at some point. After the most horrible sushi ever (Iron Sushi, people – fast food sushi with R&B blasting out onto the sidewalk? Never a good idea. NEVER.), we cut our losses and decided, lack of car be damned, we were going to walk to South Beach.

(J’s Bro, that morning: “You can’t WALK to South Beach!!”)

(Oh Yeah?)

Ahem.... South Beach.

Ahem.... South Beach.

Turns out, you CAN walk the 45 blocks to South Beach, but it’s best to do so on the beach. We made the mistake of starting out along Collins Avenue and were almost killed (multiple times) by really nice cars. The beach walk, however, was spectacular – around 47th, a boardwalk begins that takes you along the backside of hotels and condos and the occasional restaurant. Even so, when we finally reached South Beach, we were a little drained. Probably too drained to attempt Ocean Avenue, packed as it was with Spring Breakers in all their scantily clad, mentally impaired glory.

2664_522965007056_28501299_31559641_5439039_n

Once again, however, we were undeterred. When we finally pushed through the foray (the hostesses at restaurants here actually approach YOU and try to sell you on their menu, in some cases displaying trays of food outside the front door. How many ways can we say tacky?), we came out at the 1st – the end of the line. Rounding the corner to get back on Collins, J and I found ourselves in a part of town still largely under construction. Compared to Ocean Avenue, we’d landed in a ghost town of empty condos and storefronts. We stopped under a tree for a moment, soaking in the salty air and sudden silence.

J looked into my eyes…

Pulled me in for a kiss…

And as our lips touched…

BLAM!!!

An SUV whipped around the corner and someone nailed us with a Super Soaker.

I took the hit right in the back of the head, and J got nailed in the face.There was a moment of “What the hell just happened” confusion before we both busted out laughing. I supposed we’d asked for it. Caught red handed by the PDA Police.

Completely worn down, we stopped at a little French bistro called Cafe des Artes. Nothing special, but the food was great and much needed. Our spot on the patio looking out onto Collins was perfect for people watching (and what a show the Spring Break crowd puts on). This is where the infamous motorbike gang pulled in to the gas station across the street and not one, but TWO riders didn’t so much crash as tip over, slo-mo style. While motorbikes seem to be one of the more popular rental vehicles on South Beach, the Go Cars (little electric vehicles that share the road with regular cars) were ubiquitous as well. My favorite: the mini Escalade, complete with bumpin’ stereo.

French cuisine meets Art Deco.... Yeah, don't ask.

French cuisine meets Art Deco.... Yeah, don't ask.

Feeling somewhat restored after dinner, we decided to hoof it at least part of the way home to save cab fare. When we arrived back at the apartment, J’s brother was incredulous that we’d walked. Anywhere. At all. Apparently he underestimates the power of five months of incapacitating Ohio winter. We didn’t care where we were going, as long as we were outside and stretching the limbs.

The path that saved our feet, skin and possibly lives. (Although I feel it's my duty to not that while there were no aggressive drivers here, you did have to fend off hords of feral cats, always in danger of being... um.... licked to death??)

The path that saved our feet, skin and possibly lives. (Although I feel it's my duty to not that while there were no aggressive drivers here, you did have to fend off hords of feral cats, always in danger of being... um.... licked to death??)

That said, we were exhausted. Therefore, the perfect end to the evening was to hit up Aventura’s IMAX theater to see Watchmen on the big big screen. To all the naysayers: I read the graphic novel, and I thought the movie was impeccably handled. Not an easy task.

Back at the apartment, my eyelids were busting it just to stay afloat. As I was crawling into the fold-out, J noticed his wallet was missing. He’d left it in the theater. Worried? Yes. Though probably not enough. Not enough to stay conscious, anyhow. We left a message at the now closed theater; anything else would have to wait until morning.

(To be continued….)

 

The Great Escape (Part I)

2664_522964882306_28501299_31559617_3455071_nTwo days back home and already I’m itching to get back to the land of sun, sand and Spring Breakers renting motor bikes they’re completely incapable of driving (true story, but whether it had to do with alcohol consumption or plain idiocy is for you to decided). That’s right, Miami Beach sunk its sunny little talons into me and won’t let go, even now, as I sit, back in my office in downtown Columbus, Ohio, trying to get it through my head that just because the sun’s out here, it doesn’t mean I don’t need three layers and a parka, scarf and mittens when I walk out the door. Ah… home, sweet home.

Fortunately, in just 6 days I was able to tuck away enough Floridian memories to keep me warm for the next month or so when our city will (god willing) finally thaw out. Without further ado, my friends, I give you….

The Great Escape : Miami, Florida (Part 1)

Bleary-eyed, we set out into the dark, chilly morning. Temperatures in Ohio had dropped overnight into the 30’s again, so we rode in winter coats and flip-flops to the airport with J’s roommate, a true gentleman and badass for getting up so early, at the wheel. No problems at the airport, a breeze getting on the plane, everything on time. The problems arose (and let’s face it, I knew they would), when the jet revved its engines for takeoff. It had been a few years since I’d flown, and not because I never get the opportunity, but because I refuse, I REFUSE, to fly if I don’t have to. Airplanes instill in me a claustrophobic, terrifying sense of impending doom. Every time we take off or land, I fully expect that we will crash and my brief flame of a life will extinguish before I can say, “WTF?” Every time, you’ll find white, knuckled, teeth clenched, eyes misting up in resigned anticipation. But – to my surprise and great relief, we landed effortlessly every time. (Seriously? No ice on the wings? No loss of cabin pressure mid-flight? Not even a GD bird sucked into the engine!?!?! Come on… YOU’RE MAKING ME LOOK STUPID!!)

😉

Moving along, J’s brother (who shall be referred to as R furthermore), picked us up and drove us into Miami Beach, to his apartment (our accommodations for the duration). Serendipitously, J’s father, who lives in London right now, was in town on business and was going to be able to meet us up for a long lunch before catching his red-eye back to England. He and R had chosen the relatively new Smith & Wollensky (my review on Yelp), situated at the most southern point of Miami Beach. A bit on the hoity side, the maitre d’ raised an eyebrow when we said we had a reservation and that we’d like to sit outside. “We don’t take reservations for the patio, and it is currently full,” was his explanation. Hmph. With little choice, we accepted the indoor table for the time being, waiting for J’s dad to arrive to decide whether to stay or jet for another, more al fresco friendly location.

EPIC Fail... encounterd on our way into S&W

EPIC Fail... encounterd on our way into S&W

It wasn’t a long wait, and when J’s dad arrived (I would call him R Squared, but that takes too much space, so we’ll stick with J’s Dad), he simply said, “Let me see what I can do.” I should clarify that while he holds a good position in finance, J’s dad is not the noisy, weight-throwing type of businessman. He’s relatively soft-spoken, but highly effective. Apparently. Because the next thing we know, he’s coming back around the corner, waving us over to follow him, and the maitre d’, out to the patio. Score 1 for us.

We still had to wait one drink’s time at the outdoor bar (no sacrifice there, I was just happy to be free of the A/C). Turns out it was “Wine Week” at S&W. Apparently this simply involves various wine reps continuously trying to pour you a new taste of wine until either your table is so littered with glasses that you’re forced to abandon ship, or you’re so sloshed you can’t climb the stairs to leave and your drunken logic tells you your next best option is obviously to chuck your clothes, dive into the harbor and swim home. Which ever comes first. That’s 2 for 2.

At any rate, this meant people were lounging even longer than Maimians typically lounge, but we were finally granted a table adjacent to the water. And completely open to the afternoon sun. A fantastic breeze kept us cool, but I was the only one with the forethought (read: freakishly obsessive need) to put on sunscreen before leaving the apartment, and we weren’t drunk enough yet to find sunburn hilarious. Instead, we made buddy buddy with our server, Richard, and stared frequently at the ladies at the shady table next to us in an attempt to intimidate them into leaving (Richard came through with the assist, bringing them the check before they’d even asked for it; apparently they’d been there since the restaurant opened at 11 am). And, voila! Finally they tottered off, and we slid on over. Although, I did notice that the manager was FURIOUS. It seemed he had promised an arriving group the next patio table (the shady one) and now they would have to settle for our overly bright reject. Furious managers = priceless (and hilarious). And…. hat trick!

The Reject Table.... if you can believe it.

The Reject Table.... if you can believe it.

After what J’s dad terms a “3L” (Long, Liquid Lunch) by the sea, it was finally time for his car to pick him up for the airport. So we parted ways (he’ll be returning, along with J’s mom and sis, to the states at the end of the summer, so we can get into more trouble soon), and the evening was ours. On our way home, we took a spin through South Beach, making a quick stop at Segafredo on Lincoln Rd. Part coffee shop, part club and mostly patio, this was one of my favorite spots we encountered on the trip. Lounging fountain-side in high-character furniture under large umbrellas, drinking mojitos and my favorite brandof Italian espresso = priceless.

Swanky swank (What you don't know is that I'm on 3 hours of sleep and using the couch to hold me up)

Swanky swank (What you don't know is that I'm on 3 hours of sleep and using the couch to hold me up)

After begrudgingly removing ourselves from our cozy chairs, we decided it best to head home and take it easy after the long day of travel. That, and we were pretty well tanked at the hour most people start drinking, so there was little choice but to call it a night. Put in a movie, crashed hard before it was over. Which was probably for the best, as we still had 5 days of adventure ahead of us.

(To be continued…)

~a

 

And… We’re Back. March 20, 2009

Filed under: humor,travel — curiouserx2 @ 6:47 pm
Tags: , ,

Yes we made it back from vacation in one piece (mostly), and I’ll be sure to regale you with tales as soon as J finishes up the photos. In the meantime, I can’t get this blasted song out of my head, and it was hands down the theme song of the entire trip. So, to tide you over until the next post, I give you….

(Beware this is NOT the censored version…. ear muffs!)

 

Girl’s Best Friend (and Worst Enemy) March 8, 2009

Filed under: Gabe,humor,life,pets,thoughts — curiouserx2 @ 2:54 am
Tags: , , , ,

sickgabe

For the past couple of months – ok, let’s be honest, for the past year and a half since Gabe bounded into my mom’s car (and somehow into my life), our relationship has been a fairly constant struggle. The struggle goes like this: we get past one bad habit, he comes up with a new one. For example – we recently managed to make our bed off limits to him. We’d made the mistake of letting this little alpha jack russell burrow under the covers each night, when, the more we’ve read, dogs like this should not be allowed to sleep in the best spot in the house. That’s our place. So we got him his own bed, and, after a few nights (and some swift shoves off the end of our bed), he decided his new spot wasn’t so bad. Problem solved, right?

Wrong.

Now he has decided that in his less comfortable spot, he has trouble sleeping through the night and so is much more apt to wake up three or four times each night pretending he desperately needs to do his business, when, in fact, he needs no such thing.

I teach him to walk next to or behind me, he learns to get into the kitchen trash can. At the beginning of last week, he plucked two containers of leftover Indian food and a slice of birthday cake from the trash and devoured it all without any of us (there were 4 people in the house) hearing a thing. The only evidence was the remnant empty styrofoam. And that was some spicy food. Which explains why he spent the entire night expelling it – one way or another.

We found Gabe when he was already nearly a year old, and it’s hard to say what the first year of his life was like (although, a safe bet would have something to do with a double wide, several monster children and a couple of parents who thought Jacks were just adorable).What we do know is that he’s terrified of the wind (I opened the windows today to let the oddly warm air in and later found him smashed into one corner of the kitchen, trembling uncontrollably), he loves his rope more than anything in the world (yes, I think even me), he’s horribly antisocial (we’re getting better with people, dogs are still pretty rough) and he has the indefatigable energy of a ten-year-old boy afflicted with both ADHD and a crack addiction.

But he’s really effing cute when he’s asleep. (Which is about 5% of the time).

Seriously, though, as frustrating and even maddening as it can be to try to raise this little guy right, the moments of triumph remind me that I’m doing the best thing anyone could do (or did do) for Gabe.  Today on our walk, I stopped and said nothing. He stopped and sat down next to me. We’d worked on this ALL week. Of course, he never did it again without prompting, but that one little win made it all worth it. I’m serious, I think I almost cried outside of Byrne’s Pub. We have SO much work to do still, but when I read about how Jack Russels are one of the top breeds returned to shelters and pounds because their owners felt they were in over their heads (ie, “Wow. He was so cute as a puppy. We didn’t know he’d be so much work.”), and that, as “problem dogs” they are rarely re-adopted and therefore eventually put to sleep, there’s no question in my mind that the work isn’t “worth it.”

Lately I’ve been kind of hooked on Post Secret (http://postsecret.blogspot.com), and I caught one at work the other afternoon that grabbed my heart and squeezed so unexpectedly that I was momentarily breathless (I swear to god I’m not as emotional as this post would indicate): “I’ve heard once you die, every dog you ever knew or loved comes running toward you to say, ‘Hi.’ That though makes me incredibly happy.”

Yep. Just let it soak in…..

You’re crying, too, now, aren’t you? My work here is finished. I guess my entire point is just that Gabe is showing me that I’m capable of a kind of responsibility and love I wasn’t sure I had in me. And it has been (and will continue to be) so effing HARD. And so be it.

~a

dog21

 

Bienvenido a Miami! March 5, 2009

Filed under: humor,music,travel — curiouserx2 @ 8:20 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,

12-miamiYou know you’re a part of something pretty special when, in the midst of learning four-part harmonies, you find yourself discussing the proper pronunciation of “bachanal.”

As we start delving in headlong this week, the “Reefer Madness” score is proving itself to be challenging, entertaining and ingeniously constructed. It helps that the cast is a talented, hardworking bunch who don’t take themselves too seriously. But can I be the first to admit there is nothing funny about high C’s?? Especially when you’re not a true soprano?

Also coming up: Sping Break. I’ll preface this by mentioning that I haven’t had a proper “Spring Break” vaction (ie, the variety where you go somewhere warm and sunny and spend a week being adventurous and hedonistic) since, hmm… since I was 18 (though I’m not going to lie, living in Austin sometimes felt like one long, extended Spring Break). 10 YEARS, people. That’s no laughing matter. So when I’m jetsetting to Miami a week from today, don’t hate me because I’m vacationing 😉 I earned this one.

But, ideally, I’ll be back with plenty to relate in the way of anecdotes and vacation tips and the meaning of life. (Or at least a good story about seeing the face of the Virgin Mary on an empanada??)

~a