Mom’s Filipino paella, inspired by our recent trip to Spain. I approve of the whole mom being retired thing. She calls us up all the time now and is all, “I’m making [insert delicious thing here]. Do you want some?” Hell yes, I want to eat that. Mani better hurry the hell home before all the paella’s in mah belly.
The weather outside has been frightful. The only things I’ve cooked since landing in the US have been soup-y, stew-y, casserole-y things. Enter last night’s baked ziti in all its ooey gooey, soul-warming wonder. Its partner in crime was a side of Ina Garten’s roasted brussels sprouts. Color me in love. We downed the entire baking dish of sprouts before the ziti even hit the table. Hide your brussels sprouts if I ever come over for dinner.
First time roasting brussels sprouts was a win. I try to cook with a new ingredient or have a go at a new recipe at least once a week. It’s adventure right in your own kitchen. Sometimes you royally eff shit up and make a huge mess (*ahem* like that time I blended a wooden spoon into my bolognese sauce). Other times, you find an ingredient you want to be more than just friends with. Any way you spin it, you’re expanding your cooking repertoire and palate at the same time.
Also, we played more tennis last night. Mani has been hitting more shots that I can’t return and winning more games (that I don’t let him win *wink wink*). The student is beginning to surpass or at least match his teacher. I have mixed feelings about this. He is my husband and all, and I am happy that he is improving his skillz, but mama NEVER loses!
It’s going to be a fun but bizzy weekend:
- Tonight: taco party tonight as a ‘thank you’ to our friend, Mike, for watering our plants while we were away.
- Friday: work holiday party with a fancy buffet spread at a hotel and with our security guard as the DJ (lolz). I’m excited for Mani to finally meet all the crazy characters at my job.
- Saturday: taking our friend, Chris, out to a British pub for dinner and then heading over to a jazz bar as a ‘thank you’ for dog-sitting Tofu while we were gone.
- Sunday: hanging out with our friend, Jesse, who’s in town from Austin to compete in a roller derby match. I finally get to go to a derby match for the first time…and to see Uncle Jesse (that’s his derby alias) in skates!
When you have a healthy breakfast ready to go and then a judge comes bearing food from the taquería and then you’re somehow eating tamales instead.
Roasted brussels sprouts for the first time tonight. Obsessed. Why didn’t I do this sooner? And why didn’t I buy 8 more containers of these things at the store?!
35 minutes of tennis, 350 calories. I’ll take it. HOA holiday party time. I basically worked out to drink champagne tonight.
She told me my student loan payments would go up 100+% next year because of my recent raise. She made me cry and cry and cry last night. I called another rep today to double-check my financial fate, and it turns out the previous rep was WRONG. Now I want to cry even more for having been told the wrong information.
LAW SCHOOL, STUDENT LOANS, STUDENT LOAN SERVICERS AND THEIR REPS—YOU ARE ALL THE WORST! CURSES TO ALL OF YOU!!!
/this has been post.
My fave on the December cover of Vogue. UGH. She’s so stunningly perfect, it’s painful.
Mediterranean Cruise Highlights
- 5 countries in 11 days is most definitely NOT enough time to see some of the most beautiful and historic places on the planet! Then again, it was kind of sweet waking up in the morning on a boat to the realization that, “Hey, I’m in a completely different country today than I was yesterday.”
- Rick Steves warned against snapping overpriced photos with dudes dressed up as gladiators outside the Colosseum. But when we saw said gladiators in person in their man togas, we totally needed pictures with them. These wound up being my favorite photos of the trip.
- Seeing Antoni Gaudi’s work up close and personal, particularly La Sagrada Família, was mind-blowing. He is the mad scientist of architecture. It was my second time in Barcelona, and like before, it left me wanting more.
- You won’t see any gyms or fitness stores on the streets of Europe, because Europeans have discovered the secret to staying slim and healthy: don’t eat processed shit and walk/bike everywhere. I’m a thin girl by American standards, but 1 of me = 2 European girls. :-/
- Rome is the most romantic city in the world. If you love someone, you will love them even more after strolling hand-in-hand with them on the cobbled streets of Rome. It occurred to me that we visited the eastern seat of the Roman Empire last year (Istanbul, Turkey) and this year visited the western seat. The two cities are eerily similar. I heard echoes of Istanbul walking the streets of Rome at night. I could feel layer upon sedimented layer of history beneath my feet. There are major key and minor key cities, and the two former capitols of the Roman Empire are definitely in the minor key.
- European fashion aesthetic was inspiring. I could have spent hours people-watching and outfit-gawking. The streets of Italy, France, Monaco and Spain might as well have been right out of the pages of The Sartorialist. Age was not a factor, either. In fact, people 50+ were the sharpest dressed, even if they were making a simple trip to the corner store. My own outfits were getting checked out, because you can be sure I came correct with my fashion choices. *brushes shoulders off* I promised myself on the plane ride home that I would put more effort into my appearance and never dress like a sloppy American again. Even to the corner store.
- Family Time. The best thing about the trip was getting to spend loads of time with our families. There was a lot of drinking, gambling, stories, Uno and laughter. Some of Mani’s family live in various parts of Italy, and we met them up in Rome for Thanksgiving dinner. We walked to the Trevi Fountain from our hotel and stumbled into a restaurant for spaghetti and clams.
- Keeping basic phrases in 5 languages straight was muy difícil! I was getting my wires crossed left and right: "Buongiorno, madame! …err, or is it signora? Crap!" I am still in awe that most Europeans can speak at least one language in addition to their own. Seeing the Europeans on the cruise easily navigate from French to Spanish to Italian to English, I felt ashamed. The American mentality that English is the be all, end all is arrogant. New goal is to learn the language of the country we travel to every year.
- James Bond Fail. Being a big James Bond fanboy, Mani was super excited to play a round of poker at the casino in Monte Carlo. He got dressed up all dapper and paid the entry fee for the card room. As he approached the poker table, he saw that every man sitting around the table came dressed in a full-on suit and tie or tuxedo, with a Rolex around his wrist. He was mortified. The men silently looked up from their game at Mani, so he pretended that he was merely observing, passed by the other other card tables for good measure and walked right out of the room. LOLOL. Poor baby.
- The food consumed during the trip deserves its own dedicated blog post, but suffice to say that we ate our effing brains out.
- Traveling always makes me acutely aware of how privileged we are in America. Chatting up the cruise staff was easy because 60% of them were Filipino; they warmed up to me and my family instantly. Cruise companies keep their fares so low by taking advantage of a low-paid, overworked staff, primarily from the third world. Staff members are paid $1500/month, work 10-hour days and have only 1 day off every 9 months. Staffers will likely never see the world from a cruiser’s perspective.
- Cruising ain’t our steez. We cruised Norwegian, and in spite of their whole freestyle cruising motto, cruising CANNOT be done freestyle. You’re always on a schedule, and I don’t go on vacation to be on nobody’s schedule but my own. You’re on shore for only 8 hours—what the hell do you have time to see and genuinely appreciate in Florence or Naples or Barcelona in 8 hours??? You have to be up at the ass crack of dawn if you bought an excursion. And even if you see the port city on your own, you’re always checking your watch to make sure you don’t miss the boat. We like to wander and linger when we travel, and there was no time for any of that. Plus, the boat was jam-packed with people. It was hard to find any privacy other than your cramped cabin. Also, they nickel-and-dime you for everything. $6 bottle of water, $20 “professional” photos. Really? We did spend 3 extra days in Rome after the cruise, so that was a welcome change of pace. But yeah, this was our first and last cruise.
- On the plane ride home, we were already planning our trip for next year. We calculated our frequent flyer miles, whipped out Lufthansa’s in-flight magazine and turned to the world map. Some people buy season tickets or Prada shoes with their disposable income; we are addicted to travel. Travel changes you in ways no material thing or formal education can. We’re learning Spanish next year and backpacking through South America for 2-3 weeks. Peru-Bolivia-Argentina, probably? Preliminary research says we can get by on $25/day. And with the possibility of free tickets via United credit card churning for miles? Yes and yes.
When your mom “likes” every photo in your new Facebook album.