Saturday, December 18, 2010

Lost In Translation

Today is turning out to be a good day. Number 1: It is raining! Finally! I love rain. Number 2: My friend E sent me snowflakes yesterday and I decorated the apartment with them. In the package was also a mix of spices that I have simmering on the stove and they smell better than any candle. Number 3: I finally got my package from Jo-Ann Fabrics. I ordered it on Cyber Monday! I am getting a little cleaning done and in general I am having a low-key day by myself.

I needed a good day after a string of a few that leaned towards the melancholy. I don’t have very many “BAD” days now, but there are still a few where I feel slightly lonely and a little crummy about this whole lack-of-job and therefore lack-of-money thing. I kept thinking back to the Sophia Coppola movie: Lost in Translation. For those of you unfamiliar with the movie, here is the storyline that I copied from IMDB:

Bob Harris is an American film actor, far past his prime. He visits Tokyo to appear in commercials, and he meets Charlotte, the young wife of a visiting photographer. Bored and weary, Bob and Charlotte make ideal if improbable traveling companions. Charlotte is looking for "her place in life," and Bob is tolerating a mediocre stateside marriage. Both separately and together, they live the experience of the American in Tokyo. Bob and Charlotte suffer both confusion and hilarity due to the cultural and language differences between themselves and the Japanese. As the relationship between Bob and Charlotte deepens, they come to the realization that their visits to Japan, and one another, must soon end. Or must they?

Sometimes I feel like Charlotte here in Miami. (Not the whole part of the movie where her husband pays little attention to her… J is a wonderful husband.) She spends her days in the hotel room listening to CDs, staring out the window, or sometimes walking around Tokyo and Kyoto. At least she has beautiful, free, things to go see like the temples. Here everything costs an arm and a leg. J and I looked up the price to the local botanical garden: $25 EACH! In Madison, it is FREE and they have a beautiful Thai pagoda. In Milwaukee, they cost no more than $7 each for residents. Plus, I don’t feel very safe here, so I’d rather not venture out on my own. I can relate to Charlotte and Bob’s feelings of confusion regarding cultural norms. There is definitely the Latina culture down here, but also the Miami culture where money speaks and those without it are silenced and are shoved into the demeaning service industry.

Here are some of my favorite quotes from Lost in Translation (I feel like Bob in the first one, and Charlotte in the second):

Bob: Can you keep a secret? I'm trying to organize a prison break. I'm looking for, like, an accomplice. We have to first get out of this bar, then the hotel, then the city, and then the country. Are you in or you out?
Charlotte: I'm in. I'll go pack my stuff.
Bob: I hope that you've had enough to drink. It's going to take courage.
Charlotte: I just don't know what I'm supposed to be.
Bob: You'll figure that out. The more you know who you are, and what you want, the less you let things upset you.

Yesterday was a great example of being “lost in translation.” I had to go take care of some business and it brought J and me to Little Havana. It was like being in a different country.  People spoke to us first in Spanish and then slightly broken English, which led to a conversation that was hard to understand on both ends. (I’m becoming increasingly aware of my Noooorthern accent.) After leaving Little Havana, we went for lunch. We headed towards our apartment and decided to stop at the Miracle Mile (think an expensive Brady Street or State Street with valets and more than ten high-end bridal boutiques). Finding parking was a headache and impossible on a Friday afternoon (did you know that no one in Miami works on a Friday afternoon?) and we decided to settle for Pollo Tropical instead. I regret that.

We walked in and once again we were the only white folks. I don’t have an issue with that. I’m getting very used to it, it is just that I know that communication is going to be tricky and that is the part I dread. I try to come off nice and sweet to the people working behind the counter, but they look at me like I’m some jerk because I must be mocking them. No one in Miami is nice like people in Wisconsin can be genuinely nice to one another. When there are white people behind the counter at these places, chances are they are transplants from New York, New Jersey, or the Carolinas and they are more likely to smile back at you. So, after ordering our food with some difficulty, and navigating my way to a table in this jam-packed dirty, little, joint, I had time to people-watch.

People-watching is one of the only consolations to living in this crazy city. There were tiny little old ladies, business men, police men, middle-aged women, and teenagers eating. The most interesting people were these two guys who were wearing wife-beater tank tops, rosaries, and had tattoos of semi-automatic rifles on their arms. One was bald on his head, but he had a very hairy back and arms. I did my best not to gawk while they daintily ate the HUGE spread of chicken, rice, and beans in front of them. When they walked out, the Miami version of the Jersey Shore guys walked in. These four men were more groomed than I was, with bulging, too-tan muscles, fancy t-shirts, and even fancier pants. Yes, fancy pants. I distrust men who wear rhinestones on their strategically distressed jeans. After J finished his chicken, I made him leave because I was ready to go home and relax. But Fridays are always grocery shopping days and that’s not the most relaxing thing either.

So, today is my day to relax. I’m listening to my Pandora (The Sound of Settling, by Death Cab for Cutie), I chatted with my mom and one of my old college friends on the phone, I got two of my small wedding pictures framed and decorative twigs in my vase (since the Jo-Ann’s package finally came), I dusted some blinds and will have to do more, and soon I’ll be considering what to make my handsome husband when he comes home from a long day at the office doing research. You have to be able to enjoy the little things that make you happy… (even if it is silently laughing at grown men wearing sparkly, fancy-pants.)

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Cheese Grater Incident

J and I have been going about our usual business. He has been busier recently with finals and research. Every week goes the same: Friday night we go grocery shopping, Saturday J watches sports and I try to ignore them, Sunday we end up doing a crazy amount of housework and he does homework, Monday I begin the job search again and J goes back to campus all day-every day. I like Friday nights and Saturdays the best because we spend the most time together.

Except this Friday. This Friday stunk. I started to grate cheese for a home-made pizza. I got a cup or so done before I did a nice little number on the knuckle on my thumb. The shock set in immediately and I shouted to J, “Band-Aid! Band-Aid!” But he didn’t take me seriously at first because I was doing a little jig at the time… it was a nervous jig and I was holding my thumb and when I let go I left a nice little trail of blood. It is not that the sight of blood bothers me. It is just when my blood leaves my body in large quantities does it bother me. I usually faint when I have blood tests done. So I knew the feeling that was coming- my face was losing color, the back of my neck was sweaty, and my knees were giving in. Luckily I didn’t faint. I just cried. And J just watched because he wasn’t sure where the Band-Aids were and he wasn’t sure what to do. He eventually handed me some cotton swabs which I promptly bled through. Long story short, my thumb still hurts pretty bad. Typing is tolerable but holding a pen is quite painful. Inconvenient. This morning I called my parents because J wasn’t being very sympathetic. :) Hey mister- that pizza was dinner for you! Upon their suggestion I got myself to a pharmacy for proper first-aid items. $11 later I cannot tell if it is working.

This is almost as bad as the time when I stuck my hand on the stove burner to prove it wasn’t on when it was. I had a nice spiral burn the next day. Or the time when I accidentally kicked the paper cutter that was on the floor with the blade open… but those are stories for another day.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Homework! Oh, Homework!

In middle school Language Arts we were asked to recite a poem by memory. I chose “Homework! Oh, Homework!” by Jack Prelutsky. I still remember it word for word to this day (more than the poem “Who Goes with Fergus?” by Yeats that I had to memorize for a college English course, it just wasn’t as catchy…). In case you aren’t familiar with the artistry that is children’s poetry, I’ll copy and paste it below:

Homework! Oh, Homework!
by Jack Prelutsky

Homework! Oh, homework!
I hate you! You stink!
I wish I could wash you
away in the sink.
If only a bomb
would explode you to bits.
Homework! Oh, homework!
You're giving me fits.
I'd rather take baths
with a man-eating shark,
or wrestle a lion
alone in the dark,
eat spinach and liver,
pet ten porcupines,
than tackle the homework
my teacher assigns.
Homework! Oh, homework!
You're last on my list.
I simply can't see
why you even exist.
If you just disappeared
it would tickle me pink.
Homework! Oh, homework!
I hate you! You stink!

Anyways, there is a point to this post regarding childhood disdain towards homework. It is this: WHY AM I STILL DOING HOMEWORK?!?

Okay, so I am not doing “traditional” homework, but I feel like everyday there is a task, chore, or item to attend to that sucks as much as doing homework did for the last 18 years. Trying to sort out loan business, having to organize paperwork that piles up, getting the mildew off of the shower walls, doing the dishes three times a day, remembering birthdays, trying to compile recipes, and forwarding e-mails from my soon to be extinct student account (I saved almost all of the e-mails I sent and received for the last three years of college). I should know that life is full of boring, tedious chores and I should just get over it. I guess I’ll be working until I’m dead, if I’m not striving for two college degrees while working three jobs, I’ll be plugging away at little items like grocery shopping and paying the bills.

The only researching that I am enjoying is puppy researching. I am just struggling with being impatient for said future puppy. Here’s hoping I land a job soon so we can take a step towards this happy goal!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Autumn Update

It has been quite awhile since I posted. There have been times where I have thought, “Maybe I should write about that for my blog.” But then I realize that I don’t really feel like it, and I don’t. Looking back on those few instances, they weren’t really funny situations, so I’m glad I didn’t waste the time. Not much has happened in the last 20 days. I am still diligent about my job search. I still keep the apartment clean. I finally got a desk for the office, but I only organized half of it. I let my laundry pile up again (that old foe!). I haven’t been trying new recipes because, let’s face it, it can be time consuming and ingredients can get expensive and sometimes you don’t want to start cooking dinner at 4:30. I tried one of my grandmother’s recipes: Porkchops and Peas, but there was an incident with the gravy. I didn’t know it could turn black and molten hot and bubbly. J has helped with cooking too which is nice because he makes some good food and he can make rice, which I am not good at.

The weather has agreed with me lately. The temperature took a dip after some slight rain and it is a bit chilly. I am wearing layers! LAYERS! I love layers. The funny thing about our apartment is there is absolutely no insulation, so even when our windows are shut, it can still get quite cold at night. We broke out the down blankets and I couldn’t be happier. I love to feel “snuggly-warm” rather than “disgustingly-sweaty and hot”. I got to wear jeans on November 1st! I noted the date because I had been waiting for it. It was still a bit too warm, but I was excited to wear them. We went to dinner this week at a Spanish (as in SPAIN) restaurant and the weather was so beautiful- not a cloud in the sky, a slight breeze, I was wearing jeans and a long sleeved shirt and sneakers and it was the first time I felt comfortable here. Then we walked in the bustling restaurant and I realized that it will take some time getting used to only understanding tiny bits of what people say. I could understand, but that would require having to ask them to speak veeerrryyy slloowwwllyy and they don’t have time for that. (E- it was the restaurant you and I had went to, our waiter wasn’t there, but I got the sandwich and it was so yummy!)

Other than job searching, tedious cleaning, and running day to day errands with J, I’ve occupied my time with getting free samples online. My friend is very savvy with coupons, sales, various deals, and household items that can be used for multiple purposes. (Did you know that you can take wax paper and rub your metal shower curtain hanger so that the hooks slide over it with ease? I never knew… But it works like a charm.) Anyways, she has a website: with all sorts of ideas and deals. She had written a post about getting free stuff and at first I was like, “Eeeh.” But then I tried it and free samples started pouring in. It is exciting to me for two reasons: J and I have to be tight with our money, so if I can get us free samples of shampoo/conditioner, toothpaste, or food I feel a mini victory. “I am still contributing in the most miniscule of ways!” Also, I just love getting stuff in the mail.

The same friend also alerted me to a month of free Netflix. I had resisted while in college thinking, “I don’t really have the time, it would be a distraction.” But after I graduated I gave it more and more thought. So I took the free month as an opportunity and started watching movies, documentaries, and television shows. I watched all three seasons of Arrested Development online and I found myself laughing out loud. I needed those chuckles some days. I’ve watched a couple of foreign films. I’ve watched documentaries on artist Andy Goldsworthy (I’ve seen it once before, but I am obsessed with him) and the font Helvetica (I’d bet you didn’t know that many people are vested in font or how political it is). I get the True Blood discs in the mail. I love it! Sometimes I get scared, but I am a scaredy-cat when it comes to anything popping out on the screen, including vampires. My only qualm with getting one disc at a time is that the discs cannot come fast enough when you are engaged in a gripping television show.

After I get a job, we will probably downgrade the cable. I might upgrade the Netflix subscription then. J and I have also been seriously considering adding to the family by… NO NOT THAT… by getting a puppy. We’ve both wanted one for over a year and I’ve been aching for one since I graduated. Right now, the only thing in our way is finances- puppies and their well-being are not cheap. We made the sad decision that a French Bulldog is out of the question for the next five years. Not only are the dogs themselves expensive, but they are susceptible to various health issues and to raise one in Miami would be negligent (they do not do well in heat). It was a tough decision, but we had to be realistic with the financial considerations. However, we don’t think we can hold off having a puppy for five years. So, we’ve been making meticulous charts about other breeds considering cost, grooming, breed personality, and –of course- cuteness. We are hoping to be puppy-parents soon after the New Year, but we will see. I need a job and we need to be sure that we can pay for food, rent, and pay down some of my loans before we commit to a puppy. I shouldn’t get my hopes up, but I always do.

In the meantime, I am going to keep scouring for those jobs and keep scouring the kitchen and bathroom counters. I’m sorry I don’t post that much, hopefully interesting and funny things will pick up for me once I land that job!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Household Chore Horror Story

I haven’t written in awhile mostly because there hasn’t been anything to post, really. We are still plugging along: J with school and me with looking for work. I’ve still been cooking and other than successfully baking a pumpkin pie (I wanted to practice before Thanksgiving) and totally mucking up my grandma’s recipe for gravy, there haven’t been any kitchen adventures. The practice is helping. I’m learning to preheat the oven before starting with the food. I am also learning to streamline some tasks to make my culinary life easier. Lately I have been bored with Food Network or Cooking Channel. I’m more interested in “stories” as my grandpa called them. (He pretty much only watched PBS informational programs, including cooking shows.)

As I look for work, I realize that every day I DO work. Not only is looking for work a job, but keeping a home in a Becca-worthy condition is a job too. So, I guess I am a “home-maker” or “housewife” (gag me). I NEVER thought I’d be a housewife, but then again, I never thought I’d be unemployed for so long. Now, please don’t get me wrong… to be a home-maker is a ton of work and I completely support any woman or man who would like to take on that role. Its valid work and its worthy work, I just never thought it would be my role. This is our biggest apartment. It is also the first time that my “roommate” (or husband) is completely engrossed in school/work more than 75% of the time. We still split chores like we did in the “old days”, but I take on the majority of them considering that I do not have a place to be or projects to turn in… I also know that I am a smidge of a clean freak. Oh, okay, I’m a complete raging clean freak. There are things I’ve learned to let go: no longer do I hunt dust bunnies under the bed on a weekly basis and six out of ten times I will let our dishes air dry instead of drying them by hand and putting them away immediately. But I still dust and sweep every other day. The kitchen counter and stove gets Windex-ed twice a day. And towels are always folded and hung up nicely. (Among other things.)

Still, I do not consider myself to be “domestic.” While I may channel Martha or Rachel Ray from time to time, I don’t carve pumpkins or bother to decorate my food beyond sprinkling it with a bit of Kosher salt. On Sundays I tend to be my “homiest.” Perhaps that is because J is so engrossed in school or sports (gag me again) that I try to occupy my time with small tasks that I let build up during the week. And thus, I come to the real point of this post: I HATE LAUNDRY.
Now, I have always hated laundry. I hold off doing it until I run out of under-things. I have been trying to do it once a week so it doesn’t pile up to the point of becoming a stinky sock monster. But ever since we have moved to Miami, I hate laundry so much more. Now I’m exposed to the elements. I actually miss the creepy basement that resembled a psycho killer’s lair at my old apartment. And I really, really miss the two years that I had laundry capabilities IN my apartment. I haven’t done my laundry in the rain recently. But now I am contending with wildlife problems and fear that the people in the condo behind our apartment building can see all of my… well… dirty laundry.

I guess it is the wildlife that bugs me the most. That damn cat is still hanging around. I feel bad for it. But I’m pretty sure saw it go into our neighbor’s house once, so I don’t think it is a stray. Also, it is too too friendly to be a stray. It constantly wants to touch you, which, I do not like being touched by mangy things, so I have to shoo it away. It doesn’t respond to a firm “NO” or “GO AWAY” so I usually have to wave my laundry basket at it, or a dirty towel. J once had to fend it off with our recycling. I also suspect the cat is sick. Right outside of our “laundry closet” is a pile of cat puke. Now, being the owner of two cats, I know what cat puke looks like. Our fat cat inhales her food so fast she doesn’t chew and sometimes it just comes back up. And our old cat is senile and does nothing but clean herself, so we have hairballs galore. The puke has food in it, and it is so old it’s actually hairy. Not like cat-hairy, like mold-hairy. I shuddered when I saw that.

When I left the apartment to do the laundry I had a huge basket of clothes, my detergent, and I was opening our kitchen door to walk the flight of stairs down to the closet and that cat was sleeping right there. I could have stepped on it. Or worse, it could have bolted into the house to give our cats and us who knows what: ringworm, mites, worse… Here I am, in broad daylight, talking like a crazy person to this cat, “Go away!,” and trying to side step puke while loading my laundry. Then, it gets worse. How much worse could a three hour ordeal of two loads of laundry that makes me $8 poorer get? I saw… the bodies.

BLECH. So, remember when I told you about those lizards that dart all over the place. (I still jump when I see them move out of the corner of my eye!) Well, one darted under the door and somewhere in the laundry closet (probably under the washer) when I started my first load. “Ugh, whatever,” I thought. I had to contend with the cat who wanted to rub my leg. But, the next time I went down to switch loads, I saw this crusty little thing on the door frame. It was the outline of a lizard body. I bent closer to look at it and sure enough- some lizard had been smooshed between the door and the frame and there it was- crispy little fingers, eyeballs, and tail- all intact. Just below that body was a fresher one. Its skull had fallen out at some point and was lying in the corner. All of this, just above a pile of furry puke and just as I was about to stand up, something smacked me on my behind and I screamed.

It was just the other door (the laundry closet has French doors- it’s a “classy” laundry closet). I was foolish enough to think it was the cat that pushed the door on me, but it was the wind. That cat magically appeared on the other side of me and I had to shoo it back again. “Doing the laundry is going to give me a heart attack… or fleas,” I said to myself amid a stream of PG-13 rated curse words. I hoped I was putting on a good show for the guy sitting on his balcony at the condo. I stomped back up to the apartment, ranted at J about how inconsiderate it is to neighbors to have an outdoor cat that is too friendly (what if I was deathly allergic?) and by the end of my rant I had placed us in the hospital with nasty cat-borne illnesses and our cats at the vet with more illnesses with our bills piling to the ceiling, and then I sat down to blog about how much I hate laundry. The only problem is, I still have a load to dry and both to fold and it means two more trips out THERE. Sigh.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

For someone who doesn’t like the heat, I’m in the kitchen a lot!

First of all: Happy Birthday to my Auntie R! I love you and I miss you.

Yesterday I felt like crud. I developed one of those horrible migraines that made me sick to my stomach. My body also has a nasty habit of carrying all of my stress in my neck and shoulders. On Friday I had my back up against the wall with a rubber band ball between me and the plaster trying to work the knots out. The method was unsuccessful and I ended up snapping rubber bands. Not good. J came home to a living room rearranged because I couldn’t turn my neck or lean my back against the arm rest to watch television, so I had to be sitting forward in front of the TV. (The way we have our living room set up has the TV on a stand that is perpendicular to the couch with the TV at an angle.) My neck and back feel a bit better today, but that migraine had me down for the count. I slept badly and ended up staying in bed till noon today. Oops.

This weekend has been pretty chill. Last weekend J and I went with one of his grad school buddies to a place called “Shake Shack” on South Beach (aka SoBe). Finally! A decent burger! It was more expensive than Kopp’s back home, but it was well worth the $4. I decided to finish my meal with custard. They actually had it and I had to contain my squeals of delight because J’s new friend doesn’t know me and I don’t want to embarrass my husband. I walked up to the counter, waited my turn, practically bounced in place while I ordered my vanilla custard, and waited for it to be handed to me. “Well?” You are probably wondering, “was it good?” Sigh. No. It had ice chunks in it. I don’t know if it was the batch or if it was the recipe itself, but I ate my custard with silent disappointment.

Since my back and shoulders had been bothering me almost all of this past week, I haven’t been cooking as much. I did bake some sugar cookies on Monday and frosted them with vanilla icing and sprinkles, but they were slightly burnt and just so-so. Baking desserts eludes me. It must be the need for precise order and measurements. Cooking is so much more forgiving. I also dislike my oven and stove. In Madison we had a gas stove and I could control the temperature much better. Here things tend to burn even on the medium-high setting, and I have to turn things around in my oven so one side doesn’t get scorched.

Yesterday, before I got sick, I decided to make turkey meatloaf for dinner. I added cut up string cheese to the recipe because that is what Mom did for me when I was younger. Despite the fact that I slightly burnt the onions, it turned out pretty darn good. See- cooking is forgiving- Worchester sauce and ketchup cover many offenses (like big, dark sunglasses the day after a night of debauchery). And, like lasagna, I think meatloaf is best the second time around. J prefers to microwave, I prefer to fry up in a pan with a little bit of olive oil. While making the meatloaf I cracked one too many eggs (I like cracking eggs! What can I say?) so I decided to make another batch of Becca’s Failed Fudge Brownies. I used more fudge this time, so they are even gooey-ier than last time. Personally I like my brownies that way.

We have been trying to use up that dang Failed Fudge. For lunch yesterday, J treated me to breakfast foods- my favorite. Turkey bacon and an epic omelet with cheese, mushrooms, onions, and green peppers… He makes turkey bacon so much better than I can. And he surprised me with a dessert. Dessert for lunch is a treat! He made banana hot fudge sundaes by melting up some of that fudge we have sitting in the freezer. We still have over a third left!

Today I had a slow start- as I mentioned before with me rolling out of bed at noon. I watched some episodes of Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives that we had DVR’ed. I love that show, but it makes me ravenous. So, after watching three or so episodes, fast forwarding through the commercials (love that!), I decided I would give baking another try. But this time, it would be bread, not dessert (since brownies are the only thing I can do). I had a “No Knead Bread” recipe from the Cooking Channel. The first try with yeast didn’t go so well. I called J into the kitchen and we sniffed it and we stirred it and he Googled what yeast was supposed to look like… We tried again. It turned out that I didn’t mix it properly. I had to add the sugar and the yeast first and then add the water. Oookay. That is why I did terribly in chemistry. Luckily I have a scientist for a husband.

The yeast worked the second time around. I made two loaves of bread. One was “savory” with steak spice ground on top and one was “sweet” with brown sugar sprinkled in top. The bread actually turned out and J enthusiastically approved. The one problem was that both loaves kind of stuck to the bottom and I had to use my knowledge of physics to get them out with a lever-like tool (aka an awesome Pampered Chef spatula thing). I ended up massacring the ends of the savory loaf. They were stuck in there. I probably should buy a can of Pam instead of using butter to grease my baking sheets and dishes.

Tonight for dinner I am planning on a grown-up pizza with fresh mozzarella, shallots, and mushrooms. It should be fairly straight forward. I also have to work on wedding Thank You notes, hanging the rest of our wall décor, picking out pictures for our wedding album, and doing two loads of laundry (ugh, hate that!). For someone who isn’t working, I sure have a big to-do list. And for someone who doesn’t like the heat, I am in the kitchen a lot.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Welcome to the Jungle

Oh, hello there. Is it fall? I had no idea. You see, where I am, it is sweltering. Now, I should be fair, it is getting slightly better, but still, I cannot step several feet out of the door of my apartment into the hallway without getting a sickly sheen of sweat on my forehead. Yuck. I despise sweating, but –lucky me- I sweat more than the average person, let alone female person. It is decidedly not attractive. It’s a shame, really. I have this closet (organized by color like the rainbow, all hanging on white hangers) full of cute clothes.

I have cute cardigans and tops from Anthropologie and sweaters and bejeweled t-shirts from J-Crew. (I could wear the t-shirts, but I don’t want to sweat in them.) In Wisconsin, I lived by the Fashion Code of the Layer. Camisole or tank top? Check. Adorable adorned t-shirt or top? Check. Cardigan? Check. I never went a day without a cardigan from September to May. Now I spend most of my days in pajamas or other pajama-like items, because, what’s the point? I’m just going to sweat in it while sitting on my couch anyways. A good friend of mine’s mom once asked, “Did you just get up? Or have you given up?,” upon seeing her in PJs in the middle of the day. That story still makes me laugh, but don’t worry- I haven’t given up on life. I’ve just given up on staying dry and smelling sweet. (Reading back on that line makes me gag and crinkle my nose. I’m not quite that bad.)

I also have NO clue what to do with my hair. I can only braid it so many ways. And I braid it because that CONTAINS the wild beast on top of my head. It’s starting to give me a headache. I have to wear headbands to keep the frizz down, and I have to tie it up all tight, and the sheer weight of it doesn’t help either. Thank goodness my hair isn’t that thick. Adding to the dilemma: I can’t cut it short. If I do, I will have a head that is shaped like a triangle. No good. My curls don’t even do pretty curl-like things here. They just go all wonky.
Sometimes I feel like I live in a jungle! With all of the heat and humidity and random rain storms…

And my downstairs neighbors have birds. Not nice little song birds. Squawking, horrible, pterodactyl sounding creatures that like to make noises at seven in the morning, one in the afternoon, and eleven at night... Anytime one of their owners leaves, they screech. Anytime one of their owners comes back, they screech. Anytime anyone comes near or walks past our building… you get the picture. So, they add the soundtrack to my jungle-like life.

And there are the little lizards! They dart to and fro really quickly, which bothers me because I am worried that I will 1) step on them and harm/kill them [I don’t even squash bugs, I capture them in a cup and sent them free] or 2) they will shoot up my leg and into my shorts. J and I found one in the apartment building today. We were bringing in groceries and there it was, on our neighbor’s door. He tried to catch it, but it darted between the door and the floor. (Side note, all of the doors here have like a good half inch of space between the door and the floor. What a waste of energy!) So then the little lizard darted back out and J was able to coral it out the front door. There are some around without their tails or with them, like, half hanging off. Eeeehh.

I wonder if the cat from next door makes meals out of them? The cat- at least I think it is from next door- has no qualms with marching straight up to you and opening its mouth to yowl for food. He has an ear that is bent backwards and smooshed to his head. If I didn’t have two of my own yowling cats, I wouldn’t be so hard-hearted about it, but my mom told me about a lady she worked with who got Cat-Scratch Fever for realz and now I walk brusquely away from that mangy little thing. (I thought I would be avoiding alligators and large snakes, not mini-lizards and the neighborhood tabby…)

Also, I have been avoiding doing my (mostly PJ) laundry. Our laundry machines are outside, shoved into this little closet in the back of our building. J once found a cockroach in our machine in Madison, so I am super nervous to find one of those lizards all crusty and bent in my newly dried clothes. And laundry is so expensive ($2 to wash, $2 to dry) that I would be angry if I had to wash it again because I found a carcass in my clothes. The last time I did laundry the skies decided to open up and flood me, complete with lightning. I had to cover up all my clothes with a garbage bag… and it was two loads, in the dark. And flashlights attract moths. (Sigh. I have at least two loads to do…)

I laugh about all of these bizarre things in my life, because if I don’t laugh, I will cry… And a girl who is sitting in PJs, sweaty, with snot running down her nose is not a pretty sight.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

My Two Loves: Books and (of course) Food

This past weekend J and I did the most we had ever done here, which could have all been one day if we were back home, but we’ve become slow and old. On Friday night I asked him to go to Books and Books with me. It’s a local bookstore, a small chain with a couple of locations (including one at an airport). It seemed pretty cool, but there wasn’t really a place to sit unless you bought food/drinks, which is a bit discouraging. (At least, this if from what I can tell, I felt a bit out of place and walked around cautiously.) For being a small location, they have a great selection of books. The building is very cute and the atmosphere is interesting. There were a lot of older people. J and I live in an older neighborhood and even the people “our age” here are closer to 30-35. There were some musicians playing outside in a courtyard for people at tables.

There wasn’t actually a lot of book-browsing going on, now that I think of it. The children’s section is pretty small, but it has some good books. Books and Books attracts a lot of authors and there were many illustrations by famous authors and artists. I enjoyed looking at those more than anything else at the store. J showed me an empty spot on the wall and he said, “Look, they are reserving a spot for you.” Oh, how I wish. I saw a book I now love: The Duchess of Whimsy. The illustrations are beautiful, the story is so sweet, and it even has grilled cheese in it! I wish I had written the book.

On Saturday we decided to try out the Farmer’s Market. I know Madison has a wonderful, organized market, and I didn’t have too high of expectations. But the Coconut Grove Farmer’s Market was… Well, we aren’t going back. I felt a little nervous in the neighborhood. There are some gorgeous parts of Coconut Grove, and there are some dangerous parts. I had a feeling we were closer to that latter and I wanted to leave as soon as I got there. The market was on an empty lot in a neighborhood off of a busy street. Unlike the Madison market with many vendors, it was one big, almost corporate, vendor. That turned me off. They had a lot of produce, but very few customers. There were, maybe, five other vendors selling house plants, tea, used clothes, and food? Not sure. We walked around for five minutes, looked at some weird produce, and left. Oh, the things I would have done for spicy cheesy bread, fall air, and milling Madisionians at that moment!

We then headed to Sam’s Club. Not much to report other than it was way busier than the ones at home and I don’t want to go back. J told me that I shouldn’t even think of going to Wal-Mart down here… I never really did back in Wisconsin, but it was a cheaper option than Target in some regards, so I would make an occasional stop. I think all Wal-Marts are busy, but the fear in J’s eyes told me he wasn’t going to go again. He had two words to say and “cluster” was the start of them. I’ll take his word for it, if it is anything like traffic here, or like Sam’s Club, you can count me out. The grocery stores here are bad enough.

We wanted to do something to celebrate J turning 24. We had gone to a wonderful, fancy restaurant for my birthday and he wanted to keep it simple. We went to this place called OneBurger. Their headquarters are in Asia. I’m sure the burgers are fine to Miami standards. They have a good selection of “gourmet” burgers. The spicy fries were yummy as were the shakes, but we bit into the burgers and just looked at each other. We’ve grown up on greasy, diner, Midwestern burger goodness from joints like Oscars, Kopp’s, The Nite Owl, and even Culver’s. I don’t want dry burger. We made a pact to try out Shake Shake on South Beach this weekend. It claims to be NYC style food and I saw it on Unique Eats (Cooking Channel). Their first location is in Madison Square Garden and people line up for an hour to get those burgers… so it’s gotta be good, right? AND they have custard shakes which leads me to believe that they may actually serve FROZEN CUSTARD. Drool.

On J’s actual birthday I gave him the gift of food and silence. His work load has picked up and this week he had a presentation and a final exam, so I thought the best thing I could do would be to make sure he is full and that he can get work done at home. He liked the pork tenderloin that I had made so much that he requested that (and we had another one because Winn-Dixie had a buy one get one deal). So I made the marinated pork tenderloin, sautéed mushrooms, spinach salad with tomato and fresh mozzarella, a fresh veggie platter with cucumbers, red peppers, and carrots, and for desert we had brownies and ice cream. I decided to get creative with the brownies. I still have a pan of my failed fudge, so I put some goopy chunks of that in the brownie batter. It worked out perfectly. The brownies were the perfect warm, gooey, chocolaty goodness that paired well with the French Vanilla ice cream. Way better than cake and ice cream. I still have over half of a pan of failed fudge, so I will have to do it again. I took pictures and wanted to post them online, but something between my camera and computer is not working. My computer’s camera stopped working too, so I think it’s slowly dying. I intend to get the pictures up eventually.

This week has been pretty slow with jobs. I find new websites to apply to and then realize that I’ve already applied to the job! Oh well. I am confident that something will happen soon. In the meantime, I’ve been reading. I just finished The Cookbook Collector. It’s less about food than you think it is. It’s about books, business, philosophy, the late ‘90s, and then food. I liked it. I got another cheap book for my Kindle (love, love, love that thing) and I’ll be busy with that one too. In the meantime, I’ll keep chipping away at this whole employment thing.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Dinner for One

I spend most of my days alone, even on the weekends. J has obligations that take up the entire business day and sometimes 12 hour days on the weekend. I am a person who enjoys my own space, but I must admit, it is even a bit much for me. For my entire adult life (up to age 23, I know it’s not much…) I have been busy. Not just busy- exceedingly busy. For most of my college career I’ve worked three jobs. Three jobs and two majors. And I’ve always had dinner dates, movies to go to, and errands to run with friends. And now going to Target is a make-up and hair-do worthy event. The only person I really talk to is J, seeing as a lot of the cashiers prefer to ignore your existence as they hate their jobs. So 90% of my time, my voice is taking a rest. And even when J is here, he is doing homework, so it takes more of a rest.

I’ve chatted with a few friends and family members on the phone, but honestly, there has been nothing to report. Every day is pretty much the same, unless I go to Winn-Dixie or Target. (Whoo-hoo, let me grab my mascara!) Yesterday I had painstakingly measured olive oil, lemon juice, minced fresh garlic, and chopped fresh herbs for a marinade. I was going to try Ina Garten’s Herb Marinated Pork Tenderloin. J then informed me that he would be gone from 6:30 am today until after 11:00 pm. Ugh. My pork tenderloin was marinating for nothing! (Side note- this blog has been about food a lot lately, but cooking is, like, the biggest event in my day, so when I get a job you will hear about more than my kitchen…)

I was in rare form this morning. Very grouchy. Thank goodness my voice is taking a rest because if anyone was around they probably would have heard too much of it. I opened my e-mail to receive my first rejection for a job as a Temporary Front Desk Assistant. Double ugh. I consoled myself by watching stupid programming on MTV (ever seen Viva La Bam?- Don’t). And to top it off it was a slow day for job postings. I didn’t bother making myself stuff for breakfast or lunch. Slice of cheese? Yes. Some Planters nuts? Sure. Spoonful of frosting? Why not. Dinner time rolled around and I was pouting. J would not be home and I would eat some more random stuff from my fridge that did not go well together in my tummy.

But no! Who says I can’t make myself a good meal? After all, I did most of the work yesterday. I ripped my roots out of the couch and made my pork tenderloin- first seared and then baked. I rendered the fat from the pan that I had seared it in and cooked some green beans to go with my real meal. I let the tenderloin sit for ten minutes while I cleaned up the dishes and then I plated my dinner for one. I even sat at the table with OJ in a wine glass- I am very classy like that. The dinner was delicious, if I may say so myself. I was glad that I didn’t let the dinner slip me by, and I felt bad for J for missing it. He can have the leftovers though. And if this whole finding a job thing doesn’t work, I can stick a sign outside that will say, “Need Work- Will Cook.”


I would like to take a brief moment to thank my friends and family who read this silly, little thing. I am glad that some of you are enjoying my Miami experience, even if I am not (so far). It warms my heart, but then again, that could also be this unbearable heat… Anyways, I love you and miss you all.

Monday, September 13, 2010

I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream

... For ice cream! REAL ICE CREAM. Please? Ice cream is ridonkulously expensive down here. And there are very few brands to choose from. Of course there are the pints of Hagen Daz and Ben and Jerry's (for $4 a pop). But the only recognizable brand is Edy's and the variety of flavors is pitiful and they are $4.50. I am glad I stopped at that Culver's in Indiana on the way down, that is going to be my last experience of Midwestern dairy goodness for a long time.

Friday, September 10, 2010

My New, Gastronomic, Hobby

I left my apartment for the first time in a couple of days this afternoon. I was conversing with a friend via text and she asked, “Why?” when I told her of my voluntary excursion into the heat and humidity. “For Panko bread crumbs,” I typed back. She didn’t respond for awhile.

Every day I wake up, stumble to my laptop, wait- get a Diet coke, stumble to my laptop, and peruse the job websites I’ve come to know so well. If there is something, I apply, if not, I finish my Diet Coke watching either Food Network or the Cooking Channel (my new love). Jobs are posted intermittently throughout the day. Some I am over qualified for, some I am nowhere near qualified for, and some… well, it has only been three weeks of job searching.

Therefore, when I am not applying to jobs, I am trying to be moderately productive (although that has been sliding recently). I have picked up my colored pencils and doodled a bit. I have finished two books. I have cleaned the apartment and re-organized my bedroom closet. I have done two loads of laundry. And I have cooked and baked. I tend to lose interest in cleaning when J comes home and it gets all messy again. And I lose interest in art when I am feeling a lack of inspiration in these apartment walls. But cooking, I HAVE to eat, so I may as well eat something decent, right? And with shows on amazing food DVR’ed I can’t just eat Pop-Tarts and be satiated.

So I’ve dug up recipes I ripped out of magazines years ago and I’ve been researching on the internet. And I will suffer in the heat of my kitchen to attempt to produce interested eats. I forayed into the world of fudge. The taste is there, but the consistency is… well… I like to eat fudge that is soft and slightly chewy (like Tremblay’s), but the stuff I produced is ridiculous. I made it on Monday and it’s been sitting in the freezer and it is still like slow-moving lava. After J and I somehow manage to eat that pan-full, I will try again… I’ve also made this really good Apricot Oatmeal Bar that I saw on Giada at Home. It has a walnut, oatmeal, brown sugar, butter crust with an apricot jam and dried apricot filling. J and I ate that up rather quickly and I plan on making more tomorrow.

As for meals, J and I have made various pastas and salads with fresh mozzarella, baked tilapia, and calzones. Tonight I am making crispy chicken cutlets (hence the Panko bread crumbs). In the future there will be herb marinated pork tenderloin, homemade fish and chips, and perhaps some scallop panchetta pasta (if the prices are not astronomical). So while I am feeling slightly down and out about not being able to produce a job, I can count on cooking a meal to get that satisfaction of producing SOMETHING worthwhile. And if any of these dishes sound good, I can send you the recipe, or you can just come visit me in Miami.

(PLEASE come visit me…. I’m rather bored and I can’t cook all day!)

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Adventure at Aventura Mall

I came to the realization the other day that I have nothing to wear if I get an interview. Have I received a request for an interview? No. But a girl can hope. I should clarify something: I DO have things to wear to interviews. They are just… Wisconsin-y things. I have a nice wool skirt and cute brown wooden wedge heels… A nice magenta sheath dress in a thick material and a grey cotton turtle neck dress… Some of these are my favorite things to wear. They say, “Fall in Wisconsin.” They definitely don’t say, “Still Rather Very Hot in Miami.”

The several times that I have been at Starbucks surfing the internet and looking for jobs I’ve filled my idle moments with anthropological observations regarding the Miami female. She is well dressed. Her “business casual” looks like a Wisconsin girl’s “dinner date.” During the last couple of trips to Starbucks I was sporting my Keens Black Flats, a foot-friendly, hippie-chic shoe. The Miami female wears 4 inch heels in cherry red, leopard print, and patent black. Those not wearing expensive heels are wearing expensive gladiator sandals. All toes are pedicured. All fingers are manicured. 9 out of 10 women have their long hair blown out. Meanwhile, I’m still trying to get used to wearing non-athletic shorts and my hair is barely tamed with a pony-tail holder. To say that we are worlds apart is an understatement. I have never felt so “granola” in my life. Although, in Madison, “granola” is the usual and I fit right in. And, I was also fairly certain that I was the most comfortably dressed female in the joint.

Thus, my desire for a pair of black high heels began. J graciously accompanied me to the Aventura Mall. What a kind and loving husband! The Aventura Mall intimidated me. Miami has its share of wealthy folks and this must be the mall that they shop at: Nordstrom’s, Bloomingdale’s, Macy’s, Calvin Klien, Coach, Herve Leger (think dresses around, oh, $1000)… You get the picture. I actually had a nervous smile. I am not a nervous smiler, but I couldn’t help myself. I also didn’t really allow myself to touch anything. The only stores that J and I went into were ones that we had back home: JC Penny’s, Macy’s, Aldo, and Sears. It was Sears where I met my new shoes. Priced at $35 with a reasonable heel I took them for a spin and declared them mine. With the money left over from my budget, J insisted I look at swimsuits.

Now, you must know, the last time I purchased a swimsuit was in 2005 and it was about a thirty minute transaction total. I recently donated said swimsuit because it “no longer agreed with me.” (To put it nicely.) I grudgingly bought a one piece (black, to match my heels, juuusstt kidddddinngg) with a cover up. J’s new college friend might be having a Labor Day shindig at South Beach and J wanted me to be prepared. As he and my interior decorator (aka college buddy) know, I spent the last trip to the beach cranky and in the shade. He did not want a repeat. At least it was on uber sale: $12. Huzzah, now I have a swimsuit (this is said with the most sarcastic voice).

The actual shopping was not the “adventure” at the Aventura Mall. It was first, the extreme example of American materialism at its finest (and most expensive). Second, it was the ginormous burger I ate in the Food Court (again, the American dream lives on). But third, and best, were the dogs. Dogs? Yes. DOGS. J and I were walking into a store and we heard yapping. Immediately we thought, “Ooooh. Someone snuck a dog in and now they will get caught!” We walked on towards an escalator. (PS, what is the proper term for an escalator going down? A descentalator? Anyways…) A woman got on the down-escalator in front of us with an stroller. I thought nothing of it. I mildly registered that she looked frazzled.

As I was enjoying the ride, J gave me a funny look that signaled, “Hey. Look at that lady.” So, I did. She was older than I had realized her to be. Perhaps this child’s grandmother? And I took a peek at the child. The white, furry child? She had her DOG in a STROLLER. I kid you not. J and I looked at each other with wide eyes and after our ride to the ground floor we said, “They must allow dogs in this mall.” And we shook our heads and giggled at the silliness of it all. I saw three more dogs in bags. One when I went to Target. TARGET. That particular woman had a real baby in a stroller with her too. Seriously? You don’t have your hands full enough with a real baby that you bring your King Charles spaniel with you in the diaper bag too?

And that, my friends, is some insight into the Miami female, a very big mall, and folks and their little dogs. (My high school English teacher would have killed me for the conclusion of this blog post…)

Thursday, September 2, 2010

"Everything Happens for a Reason"

Everything happens for a reason.  And wouldn’t you know it- while I plopped down to write my first post about life in Miami, “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)” by Green Day started playing on my Pandora account.  Signs from the universe abound!  For those of you unfamiliar with the song, I’ll post some of the lyrics here:
“Another turning point, a fork stuck in the road
Time grabs you by the wrist, directs you where to go
So make the best of this test, and don't ask why
It's not a question, but a lesson learned in time

It's something unpredictable, but in the end it's right.
I hope you had the time of your life.”
Okay, back to everything happening for a reason and how I find myself here.  In Florida.  In Miami, no less.  My husband (So weird to say that!  We just got hitched!) is a meteorologist.  And if he would, one day, like to be a gainfully employed meteorologist, he must get a Masters Degree.  As you know, the economy isn’t the best right now, so when the going gets tough, the tough get going to graduate school.  Personally, I think that’s a good plan, but it makes finding funding tricky.  My husband, J (I am going to keep his anonymity and this is how he appears in my cell phone because it is easier to search a single letter in my contact book…), applied to many, many schools: Hawaii, Washington, Utah, Colorado, Madison,  and Albany.  (Note: Miami is not on that list…)  A professor at Utah saw his application and encouraged him to apply to a school in Florida.  I said, “Nuh-uh.”  Well, I said more than, “Nuh-uh,”
 but you get the picture.  Anyways, J applied, and promptly got into the school with funding and tuition, a pretty sweet deal. 
I was really banking on the other schools, but as decision time drew near, schools accepted him without the much needed funding.  In the end, he accepted the position at the Miami school and shortly afterwards heard from Albany and Hawaii that he was accepted with money…
And that brings us to the present: two pasty Midwestern kids sweating in Miami.  Everything happens for a reason and I suppose the blog title Milwaukee_Madison_Albany just doesn’t have the same ring to it.  And had we gone to Hawaii we would be living in a tent on the beach because we wouldn’t be able to afford anything else and I wouldn’t have internet and there would be no blog to entertain you with.  See?  Everything happens for a reason.  (Grumble, grumble.)
Now, you, dear not-yet-existing reader, may be wondering why I started this blog.  To sum it up:
1.       To keep me sane,
2.       So my parents know I am still alive,
3.       So I can tell my parents, in one fell swoop, all my stories about Floridian-life without having to repeat myself,
4.       … right now that’s all I’ve got.
J and I got married on August 20th.  On the night of August 21st we jammed as much stuff in our cars as we could.  At the butt-crack of dawn on August 22nd we left for Miami.  J drove with his dad, and our two “lovely” cats, in one car and made it to our new apartment in record time.  I drove down in the “party car” with a dear college friend.  We stopped at a Culver’s, we designated Chattanooga as our half-way point, got a great meal in the quaint downtown, and stayed in a nice hotel where we enjoyed full night’s sleep.  We got into the apartment at 11:30 on the 23rd.  I spent my birthday, the 24th, at Ikea.  While it’s not the most exciting way to spend your 23rd birthday, there are worse things that could have happened.  Needless to say, it’s been a whirlwind (especially considering we just moved out of our Madison apartment on the 15th of August!).
The first week in the apartment was spent with my college buddy (can girls be called “college buddies”?) putting Ikea furniture together, returning it when it didn’t work, hammer things into walls, moving the things we hammered into the walls when it didn’t look right, and driving around town trying not to get run over by Hummers and Land Rovers.  (When moving to a new place, I highly suggest bringing a design-y friend who can help you match pillow colors and will talk to you about furniture height and how the eye is drawn into the room.  If you would like, I can give you my friend’s contact info and she’ll help you design your new space and assemble your new furniture for a fee.)
I’m still trying to adjust to life in Miami.  I’m still trying to find a JOB in Miami.  I’m sure that both will take me some time.  However, I hope to be entertaining you with stories regarding the following:
1.       Driving, Drivers, and their Cars
2.       The Heat (not the basketball team)
3.       The Cost of Living
4.       The People I’ve Met (not that many)
5.       My Neighbors Birds/Other Floridian Flora and Fauna
In the meantime, I am off to hunt for jobs.  Wish me luck!