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!