Thursday, April 2, 2015

Hello there old Friend

Me in front of the worlds largest reclining Buddha

OK, so it's been more than a year but for some reason I feel like writing again. Let's see what comes out eh?

What's new, let's see... I just got back from Thailand last week! What a great trip, it was kinda a 30th birthday present to myself (11 months after the fact). But hey I'm still 30 so it still counts. I've always wanted to take a warm winter vacation so that's exactly what I did.

I flew to Bangkok via Moscow, yes is Russia, and no there was no issue. Actually, I thought Aeroflot was really a decent airline, it was much better than any US airline, that's for sure although US airlines are not hard to beat. Sure there were direct flights from Amsterdam but going via Moscow was cheaper and I thought it would be a bit of an adventure. Not that I really got to see the country or anything but I did have a Russia beer and some kind of cheese bread pocket thing at the airport. The Russian travel videos that they had on the plane also kinda make me want to go to St. Petersburg. Maybe next year.

Bangkok was amazing! Wow, so much going on, so warm, delicious food, genuinely kind people, and so much more. The city was always bustling with people and no matter where in the city you were you could always smell many many different kinds of street food... delicious. I ate on the street or at local "restaurants" and I use that term loosely, most of the time. I think I may have eaten at an inside place with a proper menu maybe twice during my whole trip, but that was the whole point, experience Thailand for what it really is, not the Disneyland Europeanized version of it for all the white folks.

I took a food tour that brought us though local neighborhoods where we went to 5 different restaurants and tasted 10 different foods, not to mention the stuff that we could not resist buying along the street as we were walking from place to place. New favorite things mango sticky rice and spicy papaya salad. There just happened to be a food blogger on my tour and you can ready about the whole experience with pictures here.

I explored much of the city and then before I new it, it was time to hop a plane to Phuket for some time at the beach. I stayed in an area called Pantong Beach and as expected it was quite touristy. Luckily not everywhere though, it was still quite easy to find local food places and markets. The beach was great and the water incredibly warm, maybe the warmest I've ever been in. On my last night there, I actually watched the sun set while I was in the water. The colors were amazing and it was still oh so warm, try doing that in the North Sea without freezing to death.

Also I got a lot of massages there. You could get 1 hour for less than €10. Pretty amazing. As a matter of fact, everything was amazingly cheap, meals would cost me only about €2 - €3. On my last day I was trying to spend money on whatever I could just to get rid of it.

Lastly, after getting back I had a huge fever and headache on Saturday. Didn't thing too much about it especially since it was pretty much gone on Sunday. But then Monday it was back in full force and I had to leave work after only being there an hour. Later I did have some mild itching and joint discomfort (I would not say pain though). Judging by the fact that I did get bitten my a mosquito in Phuket, I'm pretty sure I got Dengue Fever! Not 100% sure though since the second stage was so mild. Woo hoo, my first tropical disease! ha. The good news is if I did in fact have Dengue fever, I will be immune from it for the rest of my life, the bad news? There are 4 different kinds and I can still get the other 3 and being that I already had one (maybe...) then the second time I get it could be much worse. Was it worth it? Yes for sure! Will this stop me from going to the tropics again? No way!

Recommendation for you: Go to Thailand.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

My Meem

I've been waiting a while to write this because I didn't know exactly what I wanted to say and then I realized that I don't think I will ever be able to express exactly how I feel in words but I'm going to give it a try anyway.  The picture you see above is a circa 1940's picture of my grandma Esther Grande who we sadly passed away not too long ago.  I'm write this post as a tribute to her.

Esther was born on May 9th 1921 the small town of Grove City, Pennsylvania two 2 Italian immigrant parents.  She went to school and eventually became a beautician because that's what one of her older sisters did and according to her mother, that is what she should do as well even though she was totally against it.
Later she moved to Pittsburgh and began to work there eventually meeting my grandfather and moving to his town of Trafford, Pennsylvania.

One of the great things about my grandma was that she was not your average 1950's woman, she worked both inside the house doing hair as well as outside the house at other jobs.  When her, my grandfather, uncle, and mother lived in an apartment, she was the one that decided it was time for a change.  So even though my grandfather was perfectly happy with apartment living, she took it upon herself to buy property and build a house!  Wow, talk about ballsy for the 1950's! :-)

Eventually my brother and I came around and that is when she changed her life once again.  She devoted many many days not only watching my brother and I, but really making sure we had a great time each and every day we were with her, and with two parents working full-time, that was a lot!  The three of us, my grandma, brother, and I, would do just about everything together.  Go out to eat (our favorite was always Ponderosa!), play Rummy-O, watch movies, going to the mall, etc.  There were lots of times where we would also get special surprises like getting to ride the bus to Turtle Creek for lunch, and if we were really lucky a trip to Downtown or Oakland for the day.

When we were board, she even came up with great ideas to entertain us, and you know what?  We really did enjoy doing these crazy things.  One was to go to the park and find "lucky stones" as she would call them (smooth round stones).  My brother and I would get tons of them trying to outdo each other and then when we were done with that she would say, okay now let's take them home and wash them to see who can make them shine the best!  haha.  She even baked with us and taught us to crochet ropes.  "Whoever makes the longest rope wins!" We would be busy for hours with that.  I still blame her to this day every time people ask me why I like to shop and bake.

As we got older, there was no longer a need for her to watch us every day but that did not stop her from making special surprise visits from time to time.  I can remember lots of days when we would be walking home from middle school and there would be her car at the end of the school path and she would say "come on, I'm taking you kids out to eat."  She never missed an event, baseball, basketball, recitals, graduations, she was at every single one and one of the proudest people in the room.

In her later years she was still pretty amazing.  I would sometimes tease my parents saying "Meem does way more than you guys!"  She went dancing almost weekly well into her 80s, won at bingo and slot machines like no other (I swear she had to have rigged it somehow to be as lucky as she was), and enjoyed life to the fullest.

At the age of 92 she peacefully passed away at her assisted living community call Nature Park Commons.  While it was a shock to all of us since she was not really sick and still in great spirits, it was her time and she was ready for it.

What wonderful memories I have with her that I will cherish for a lifetime.  She was one of the closest people to me that I ever had.  Sometimes I still even think: "I'm gonna call Meem" and then sadly remember that I can't.  But, life is finite and everyone has their time.  I am just really glad that I got to spend so many wonderful years with her.

I love you Meem!!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

I'm a Runner!

Ever since I can remember I've always wanted to be a runner, not so much a competition runner, but just someone who is able to run.  I've always wanted to run outside or on a treadmill or whatever.  No matter how many times I would try I always would stop well before even running for 10 minutes.  Not because I was tired or did not have the endurance...I can do the elliptical or cycle for a very long time without issue.  No, the problem was always with my left ankle, it would just start hurting.

Well, today I was watching "I used to be Fat"and this kid that weighed 273 was complaining about the same thing.  He went to the doctor who told him everything was fine and that kid started to run.  So even though I was not planning on going to the gym today it motivated me to get up and go and try to run again.

This time instead of trying to go easy, I set it for 30 minutes, started at 8.0 and shortly after moved to 9.0 switching to 10.0 every so often.  I could not believe it, my ankles of course started to hurt but I pushed through it and ran for the whole 30 minutes!  Wow, I could not and still don't believe it, I only wish I would have started pushing myself more on that earlier.

I'm a runner!

Monday, March 18, 2013

A Streak of Bad Luck

While I can be thankful that it does not happen often to me, I must say that it really sucks when it does...I am having a streak of bad luck at the moment.

It started out with the hot water tank busting and then getting ants.  While I'm not sure, I think the ants may be linked to the water because not long after the water issue was solved the ants started to come through the cracks between the wall and the floor right where the water was.  I spent some time trying to get rid of them.  It was stressful because nothing really seemed to be working.  Then I bought the bait traps and those seem to be doing a better job although they are not all got yet, better but not solved.  So I still have in the back of my mind that I'm going to walk into a house full of ants like I did before using the bait.

Then somewhere around this time I get a ticket in the mail for going through a red light (€227).  I still think it was not my fault but more the guy in front of me who slammed their brakes in the intersection with me behind if he would have kept going there would not have been a problem...looks like I get to pay for that, great.

Then my car breaks on the way to work and have to spend almost €300 on getting it fixed.  About 2 weeks later, it breaks on the way to work again!!  I knew it was something different this time just by the way it was behaving.  I took it to the garage today with an appointment at 9:00.  I did not get a call all day which I thought was a good thing (usually it is) but when I got there I saw that my car was not outside and I thought (oh no).  Told them that I was there for the Peugeot 206 and they told me that it was not done yet, they still had no idea what was wrong.  He showed me a whole list of things that they checked and the things they still needed to check.  So the car is still there and I'm just hoping that they find it tomorrow and that whatever it is is not going to be too expensive but I feel like if they had all day today to find it and did not then it is not looking good.

I need some good things to start happening again.  I don't like all this bad stuff coming in a row like this.  Maybe this will be the end for a while, I really hope so because bad things are supposed to happen in clumps right?  Well I think this is enough for now!  I'm still really worried about the car.  I hate cars.  I wish I could just get rid of the stupid thing...

Friday, March 8, 2013

Car Fun

As you all know, I'm not a huge fan of having to drive to work everyday.  Well, over the past week it was interesting to say the least.

Last week a couple times I heard the belt whining but then it stopped so I though okay, good it's not a problem.  Well, last Thursday I was driving to work and then the battery light came on.  I totally forgot about the belt and was thinking o man, my alternator is bad.  I continued driving to work since that is where the normal garage is that I go to anyways and a car is still drivable with no alternator.  The whole way there was really no issues so I was like maybe the light will just go out.  Well, then I had to make a sharp turn and noticed that my power steering was gone too :-(  Crap, I guess I have to make an appointment.

I called the garage and they could not take me until Monday.  O well, I thought.  Then I remembered about the belt noises so I went out to check.  It was indeed the belt, shredded to pieces!

On Monday I was hoping that my car would start so I could drive it the 2 blocks or so to the garage.  It almost started but did not make it.  Kris was nice enough to jump it for me.  I got the the exit of the parking lot and it stalled, right in the way of people trying to get in an out and right in the middle of the bike path!  Of course people on bike and in cars were going around me with mean confused looks on their faces.  Finally one lady got out of her car and she steered my car while I pushed it into the bike path.

My appointment was in 15 minutes at the garage so I walked over and told them I was going to be late because I was going to have call a tow truck.  The guy said he would just come and help.  He brought a battery and jumped it again.  The car started but then stopped just as I was going to put it in reverse.  So the guy had a cable and connected his van to my car and pulled me to the garage!  That was interesting.  I had to steer my car while it was off and make sure to brake with the handbrake so I did not run into the guy who was towing me!

The car is fixed now after a few new parts.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Hot Water Heater EXPLOSION!!!

Hot water heater that is built into a closet in my bedroom
Cover taken off after explosion

Last night I was peacefully sleeping at about 2:30 in the morning.  Then all of a sudden I hear BOOOOOOOOMMMMMMM!!!!!!  Then it sounded like heavy rain.  I though wow, it must really be storming.  I was half awake and really wasn't sure what was happening.  Then I thought, I'm not sure if that is rain.  I walked out of my room and looked out the window to the was NOT raining.  I was like WFT?!?!  Then I thought well maybe something is leaking from upstairs but did not seam to be the case.  Then I walked back into my bedroom and stepped into a big warm puddle of water.  Then it hit me...Oh My God, the hot water heater exploded!  None of the electric was working in the entire place because all the water all over the plug tripped the breaker...good thing otherwise I would have been toast stepping into the puddle.

I was frantically running around the house trying to find a shutoff valve.  I could not find one anywhere.  I gave up and called the landlord who luckily lives next door.  No one answered the first 2 times.  They did give a cell phone number but I could not find paper or pens in the dark to write it down.  Finally I called the 3rd time and someone answered.  He made it over and also was not sure where the shutoff was.  After trying a few different places he found it and the rushing water noise finally stopped.  By this time water was all over my bedroom, living room and kitchen.  It was a good thing I just mopped that evening because nothing was on the floor.

We spent the next two hours or so cleaning up water.  It was not a fun thing to do in the middle of the night but it had to be done.  When we were done we had to figure out how to empty the tank itself because there was not drainage valve.  You can't see it too good in the picture but the top is supposed to be flat but it was ballooned out and touching the shelf above it.  Once we got that all sorted out we agreed that he would come back tomorrow to figure everything out.

When I returned home for work I found out that they no longer make the kind a hot water heater that I have and for the one kind that they do it has to be serviced every year (which would not work in the little space that this one is in.)  So it looks like for right now, he is going to connect my plumbing to the hot water from upstairs tomorrow.  At least that way I can have hot water ASAP and then we will see after that.

Wow, what a night!

Sunday, January 27, 2013


Last night I had a samppot-off at my place.  There was a great battle between Som and Joyce and much trash talking that led up to the actual event.  Little did I know that I would not be getting two traditional stamppots but actually two very different ones.  This made the judging difficult.

 First, Joyce made one with sweat potatoes and chorizo and some other things, it was very good and quite an interesting combination of ingredients.  Never would have thought of sweat potato with chorizo but it went together well.

Second, Som made a somewhat more traditional one but it was still different as well.  His used regular potatoes but also in it was cashews and wasabi!  The wasabi was a nice touch for sure.

Judging for Andi, Patricia, and I was difficult, but Joyce ended up winning buy only one vote.  Congrats Joyce.

I figured I would make desert since I was getting two free dinners so I tried chocolate pie for the first time.  It turned out really well!  I still can't figure out how do get meringue not to get a layer of water underneath after cooking, but I was able to get most of it off once it cooled.  When I make this pie next time I will definitely use a more traditional crust made with butter.  This one called for oil and milk...never head of making a crust that way, it was good but could have been better.  Filling was amazing.  Here is what I made:

Was a great night, I need to have people over more often.