Sunday, February 27, 2011

Girl Trip 2011- Isla Mujeres-Part 2: Beaches and Mango Poo Poo

Is there anything better, really, than waking up in Isla on your first day of vacation? The sunlight streams through the windows and you roll over and smile a wicked little smile. Then you lazily rise, stretch and go look out the window for proof that you aren't dreaming. We all slept relatively late, our bodies recovering from a stressful albiet victorious day of travel and we meandered downstairs to breakfast. Chucho came by and picked up his keyboard and although I don't think I've ever seen him when he's not smiling, his smile was extra big that morning. He brought me one of his new cds, "Jesus Campuzano - Live" which was recorded last summer during his tour of Europe, which I jealously followed on facebook. He is a fantastic musician and plays all over the island as well. Check out his music here http://jesus-music.bandcamp.com/ and you can also download songs or complete albums. I have all of his albums because I'm cool like that. :) His music is original, funky and fun and if you have ever seen him play live, you can just see the joy in his face. Breakfast was delicious, as always at Casa Sirena. Sitting outdoors in the beautiful garden is a treat in itself, but add to that fresh juice, a beautiful plate of fruit, hot coffee and an amazing Mexican breakfast. A beautiful painting of Casa Sirena by Jess Zimmerman Our plan for the day was sheer genius: Get in some beach time, meet up with friends for happy hour, eat as much good food as possible and take our travel clothes to be laundered. (Steve's dryer was on the blink, normally his staff will do laundry for a minimal charge). The perfect panacea. "Really?!?" My room Beach time topped the list, so we high tailed it to Playa Norte and plopped our happy little selves down near Buho's. They have built a humongous palapa over the seating area of the restaurant and taken out one of the big bars and it looks really different! The palapa makes a nice addition for the sunburned beachgoer or if it rains, it would be a good respite. A big palm tree grows in the palapa area. I wonder what they are going to do when it gets tall enough to hit the roof? Angela bought a round of Pina Coladas and we were all deliriously happy. We lounged around until late afternoon when we got hungry again and then we headed over to Qubano to see Vivian. I couldn't sworn I took pics of our lunch, but I guess I was just too excited. :) We all shared a serving of Vivian's famous Hungarian Potatoes and some of her delicious Vegetarian Pate and then we shared a couple of sandwiches. Laura and I split the Vegetarian sandwich and Angela and Pam shared a Cuban. It was great to see Vivian and the girls just loved her. Pam picking up on a much younger man Later that evening, we met up with Tim and JoAnne, with whom I've been internet friends for years and years, but had never actually met in person. We've missed each other by a day or two on the island before and JoAnne was going to come into NYC to meet up with us last year, but had a broken foot. Well, the stars finally aligned and we got to meet. Needless to say....a good time was had by all. I had picked up a bottle of Mango Rum at the airport and we had given Steve a bottle of Havana Club for his birthday. Tim and JoAnne had brought a canister of alcohol infused Chocolate whipped cream. What to do, what to do?? Invent a new cocktail for the occasion!!! We sampled a few concoctions, but ultimately this was our fave: 3 parts Mango Rum (we used Cruzan brand) 1 part Havana Club Rum Combine and shake with ice in a cocktail shaker Pour into shot glasses Top off with a dollop of Chocolate Alcohol infused Whipped Cream Delicioso! Due to the appearance of the drink, we were calling it a 'Mango Poo Poo', however Pam came up with 'Midnight Mango', which sounds a tad more appetizing. Anyway, they were delightful and it was a really fun happy hour. Paul was awesome! Dinner was at Ballyhoo, as I was craving some of their tacos. I love to sit out on the dock and the food is fabulous. Steve joined us and we had a blast. Then it was off to dreamland. A fantastic first day that set a relaxed and happy tone for the entire trip. Supermodels tearing up the Ballyhoo runway. Girl Trip is often the height of ridiculousness

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Girl Trip 2011 - Isla Mujeres- Part 1: Pirate Girls Escape from Siberia

Angela, Laura and I woke up at my house at 3:30 AM, determined to get to paradise that day despite the forecast of a brutal Winter storm that was rapidly approaching. I had glowered at the sky and waved my arms at it while standing on my front porch the night before in an attempt to stall the storm, so I figured I'd either bought us a little time, or at least confused the neighbors. Pam had flown in the previous night and stayed at a hotel near the airport, so she was going to meet up with us there. Our flight was scheduled for 8:15 AM. 'Ting, ting, ting', said the sleet against the windows at about 4:30, so we threw our bags in the car and took off. Thankfully, Angela is a professional school bus/limo driver and she was driving, as the roads became more and more treacherous as we went. I-635 was like an ice skating rink and the lines for the lanes were not visible. I huddled in the back seat amongst luggage, posting my last will and testament on facebook. It took us a little over an hour, but we made it, only to find that Remote North Parking was closed (they couldn't run the shuttle busses out there, we found out), so we were given a coupon to park at the terminal for the same price as remote parking. About the time we saw that our terminal exit was closed, as well, I got a text saying that our flight had been cancelled. Oh, well...our plan was still to get to the American Airlines counter, find Pam and come up with Plan B. We parked at Terminal E and had to take a Terminal Link bus to Terminal D. We stepped out of the car and BOOM, my brain froze. Cold weather and me? Not so much. I just totally freeze up, both literally and figuratively and I was only wearing a jean jacket because who wants to show up in Mexico and lug around a big coat? You know those survival shows with the guy who shows you how to live in the wilderness or Arctic tundra and survive by drinking your own pee and curling up inside the cadaver of a freshly killed deer like a sleeping bag for heat? Yeah...I'd just freeze up and die as little ice tears trickled down my face. My only thought was 'Get inside the freakin' building!!!', as I grabbed my carry on, my rolling bag and the big cardboard box that contained a new keyboard for Chucho. We got inside and found a couple of guys who pointed us toward the bus. Yep, you guessed it, we had to go outside and wait for the bus. Finally, it showed up and as we boarded, lo and behold, sitting in the back of the bus as pretty as you please was Miss Pam! Yay! At least we were all together and if we had to huddle for warmth, the more bodies the better. It took the bus 45 minutes to get to the terminal next door due to traffic and road conditions! My feet were frozen by now, as I was wearing little ballet flats. Smart? Not always. Cutely dressed? You betcha. Arrived, checked in, changed our flight to the 11:45 flight (it was about 7:00 AM at this point and I knew where the $4 mimosas were. We had a bagel(first bad carb I'd had in a long time, I licked it for a while prior to devouring it) and then moved on for Mimosas and I presented Pam with her Pirate Princess Tiara. Then we shopped for bit and made our way to our gate. At about 10:30 they announced 'Well, folks...we have a plane for you here, but it's frozen. So, we're going to fly one in from Guatamala for you, so please hang tight." In hindsight, this has as much credence as the tooth fairy, but we wanted to believe so badly that we went with it. About a half hour later? Flight Cancelled. Da plane! Da Plane! At this point, people were directed to stand in line at a counter and 'try to get on the 2:45 flight' and it was kind of a mad rush to get there/get in line. But when we did, there was no one to help us, so we just stood there in line. Angela looked over at the next counter and recognized the American Airlines employee who had checked us in earlier that morning and had been very nice and personable and went over to talk to her. She was over there a long time while the AA employee tapped on the keyboard and finally Angela waved us over. 'I've got y'all booked on the 4:45 flight and stand by on the 2:45', said the wonderful AA employee! Score! We didn't know if these flights were going to get out, but it was the best we could do. One of the girls asked 'What if one of us gets standby and the others don't?'. They decided that if that happened, that they would send me on first and I could arrange transfers, etc. 'That will never happen', I thought. When they finished boarding that flight and started calling standbys it was like 'The Price is Right'. We all stood around looking anxious and waiting to be called to come on down! Finally....'Jana Epperson'. I walked over to the gate attendant and she said 'Okay, this is the last seat. Are you okay with leaving your party?' (The girls were yelling, 'Go! Go!'). I glanced back at them and then back to the AA employee. 'Sure', I replied. 'You understand that there is just one seat left?' she reiterated. 'Yes', I said, 'I don't care if it's the jumpseat, as long as I get out of this frozen hell'. 'Well', she smiled broadly, 'It's First Class!'. I didn't tell the girls until right before I ran down the jetway. I held up my ticket and yelled 'FIRST CLASS' and ran. Super evil laugh. PIRATE! Ahhh...First Class. A blanket, wine, free headphones, leg room, warm nuts. This was a pleasant surprise especially since we had to sit on the tarmac for almost an hour waiting to take off. A coach passenger wandered up to speak with my seat mate. "I believe you got my seat', he joked, 'lucky guy. AND you get to sit next to a pretty girl.' Ha ha...totally outed him as a First Class poser, just like myself. Luckily he was pretty quiet and it was a totally pleasant flight. The food was even good. Sunset from the flight The four people in the first four seats of First Class were AA employees. I don't pretend to know how the airline system works, especially with it being such a messed up day, and for all I know these people had to be off the clock, or whatever. But I couldn't help but wish that my girls were sitting up there. We arrived in Cancun, luggage made it (even the keyboard, which I was worried about since it wasn't mine), line for immigration was very short, 10 minute wait in customs, out the door and into the van. I arrived on the island at about 8:30. Dock on Cancun side at night Ferry Steve greeted me with a big hug and a 'Poor Baby, you've been through so much', which is just what I needed. I stashed my luggage in room 3 and made my way up to the roof where I found Jeff and Gail and a much, much, much needed margarita. Jeff and Gail stayed and visited for a while. We met them on our last Isla Girl trip and they are a lot of fun. Then they headed out in search of dinner and Steve and I stayed to drink more margaritas and wait for the girls because we're martyrs like that. It was actually very nice to have Steve to myself for a while. I just love that guy. About 10:30, we heard the doorbell ring and ran to the edge of the roof to look over. There they were and with huge 'we made it' smiles!! After their celebratory margarita, we left Steve and wandered over to Miguel's for a late supper. Drop your stuff and GO!!! Pirate Flags at Miguels...he was ready for us. We feasted on Coconut Shrimp, fresh guacamole, fajitas and Pomegranate Margaritas and then headed back to Casa Sirena for a good night's sleep. It was a beautiful night, warm and quiet and we had made it! And....exhale. **Many of the pics you'll see used in this series of blogs are courtesy of Angela Baldwin. Thanks, Ang!!!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Things I Learned From Charlie's Angels

Once upon a time, there were three little girls who went to the Police Academy... As a female product of a 70s childhood, I wanted to be one of Charlie's Angels when I grew up (yes, I know I've told you that I wanted to be the Bain de Soleil lady, but that was later. For the record I also wanted to be Barbie and Iris Love). I had the Farrah 'do (I think that was mandated by law in suburban Tulsa, OK circa 1977-79) and I had the green bikini that looked just like Jaclyn's white one. Oh, yes...I had it all. I recently watched an old episode of Charlie's Angels and it was fantastic in it's ghastly campiness. It made me quite nostalgic for my childhood, especially since the Angels went undercover on a cruise on this episode, which kind of made it a cross between Charlie's Angels AND the Love Boat and if you could have thrown in some little guy yelling 'Da Plane, Da Plane!', too, well let's just say I would've been in heaven. And I realized as I watched that there were an abundance of lessons I learned from Charlies Angels. Maybe because this show hails from an era of after-school-specials or maybe because I'd had a glass of wine, I'm not sure. Let me recap. 1) A swift Karate chop to a bad guy works every time. I don't know how and I've never done it, but I'm pretty sure that I could or at least that I'd like to, given the chance. 2) If you're the smart one (Sabrina), you don't get to wear the low cut, super sexy outfits. And you are stuck forever with that 'smart' label and it doesn't matter if Farrah leaves the show and they bring in that scrawny little Cheryl Ladd, you STILL don't get bumped up to sexy stuff. Sad. Turtleneck? Why can't she wear the cool off the shoulder number like Jaclyn? And look at the pic at the top. A bikini....short shorts....and covered head to toe in wth...riding johdpurs?! Left to right: Covered up like a nun, hot, sexy. And finally...the same fabric, but Kate's dress is cut up to her chin. 3) There are basically four kinds of guys. a) the bad ones who want to kidnap you. b) the polite ones who refer to you as 'Miss' and are usually a step beneath you socially like a waiter or a cabin boy. c) The ones who call, but never show up and d) Bosley. 4) We all have to be whores sometimes. Of course, the Angels had to go undercover as whores, well not really whores because this was prime time tv in the 70s, so more like sexy magician's assistants or a cocktail waitress, anything in a skimpy costume. I had to dress up once in a Lieutenant Uhura Star Trek dress for a convention (it was a space themed convention!! Seriously, I'm NO trekkie. Give me a little credit) and every day I dress up in pretty clothes and go do things that I don't necessarily enjoy and I get paid for it. Anyway...the lesson is just roll your eyes and roll with it. 5) When you're really in serious trouble, just hang tight and your girlfriends will come to the rescue. If you can kind of halfway collapse in a seductive, helpless posture all the better. 6) Above all, stay glossed and perfectly feathered at all times. Especially when halfway collapsed. I have noticed that jumpsuits are back in style and I saw some luscious 70s wooden platform heels at Target last week. I bet I could pull out my curling iron and do a feathered do and then KARATE CHOP!!! Didn't see that coming, did you? See? It works.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Valentines Day Dinner Menu

I prepared an early Valentines Day dinner last night for Mr. Wonderful because a) it was Saturday and I have more time to cook and b) the kids were gone. He lit a fire in the fireplace and I arranged pillows and blankets around the fireplace and served dinner there accompanied by a good bottle of red wine. It was relaxing, romantic and lots of fun. Course #1 Mexican Shrimp Cocktail Recipe from Ixchel's Kitchen (I cut the recipe in half and still had extra) 2 pounds cooked Shrimp, peeled and deveined 1 Tbsp crushed Garlic 1/2 C finely chopped yellow Onion (I used Green Onions because I had 'em on hand) 1/4 C chopped fresh Cilantro 1 1/2 C Clamato Juice 1/2 C Ketchup 1/2 C fresh Lime Juice 1 tsp hot Pepper Sauce (or to taste) 1/4 c prepared Horseradish sauce Salt - to taste 1 Avocado - peeled, pitted and chopped Lime I also added a little diced yellow and orange bell peppers because I had them on hand and they added some nice color. Combine all ingredients, adding avocado last. Season with salt to taste. Cover and refrigerate for 2-3 hours. Serve in margarita or martini glasses. Garnish with Lime wedge. Course #2 Shaved Asparagus Salad Wash a bunch of asparagus and snap off the tough ends. Lay each piece down on a cutting board and shave into thin strips, using a vegetable peeler. This is the hardest part. Toss with a little Olive Oil, Lemon Juice, Sea Salt and Pepper. Garnish with grated Parmesan or Romano cheese (no, not that crap in the green can, REAL cheese) and a handful of Pine Nuts. Course #3 Bacon wrapped Filet and Baked Potato Grilled on the 'Foreman', yeah....Baby. ;) Course #4 Flourless Chocolate Cake and White Chocolate dipped Strawberries Flourless Chocolate Cake This is amazing, rich and dense and oh,so chocolatey good! 4 (1 ounce) squares Semisweet Chocolate, chopped roughly 1/2 C Butter 3/4 C White Sugar 1/2 C Cocoa Powder 3 Eggs, beaten 1 t Vanilla extract Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Grease an 8" round cake pan with butter and then dust with Cocoa powder. In the top of a double boiler, melt Chocolate and Butter. Remove from heat and stir in Sugar, Cocoa, Eggs and Vanilla. Pour into prepared pan. Bake for 30 minutes. Easy peasy and you don't even have to dirty up the mixer. Serve with Whipped Cream (no Cool Whip, REAL Whipped Cream, it's not that difficult) Happy Valentines Day!!!

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Some of these entries are vintage travel reports and have been restored from a lost blog. I hope you enjoy them.