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Monthly Archives: June 2013

Florida 2013- Day 3

Sat. June 15, 2013:

After breakfast, Marianne, Camilla and I headed out to Dunkin’ Donuts. Alas, we barely made it to the end of the street before we got distracted by a garage sale. It was terrible, I couldn’t buy anything lest I have to mail it to myself or God forbid check my luggage. It was unbelievably hot; Camilla and I took to hiding in the garage by the fan “looking” at antiques for sale. There was a giant alarm clock (the old kind with two bells on top) twice the size of a regular one, as in too big to fit in my luggage. Marianne headed back to her house with all her purchases, meanwhile Camilla and I set out to Dunkin’ Donuts. Nothing was going to stop me from having my coffee fix.

We stopped at Publix (grocery store) so I could also get my Swiss Miss fix. I had pre-planned my packing so I would have room for it. I was also curious to see if they had Fudgey The Whale ice cream cakes in stock, as we would be needing one later in the week for our every-birthday-graduation-special occasion-we-have-missed-in-3 years celebration. They did not have any, but they had fudge-covered coconut Oreos alas I feared they would not survive the trek back to the house. While walking down the juice aisle a guy mentioned to us that it was too hot outside for walking. What gave us away?! Was it our flushed faces? The sweat dripping down our backs? The fact that we were desperately searching for refreshment in the juice aisle? As per my usual routine, we stopped at 7-Elevens so that I could check if any new candy had come out since March, sadly nothing new. And no sign of peanut butter Reese Cups either.

June 15, 2013- P&S (2)

After all the detours we FINALLY made it to Dunkin’ Donuts. My coffee was accompanied by a free donut thanks to a survey at the bottom of my receipt from the previous day. I made the mistake of getting the star-shaped (as in easy to cut into 5 pieces) Father’s Day donut. It was a mistake because it has chocolate on top, not conducive with walking in Florida at high noon. As we walked back we had to cross over the canal where we saw 10 or so turtles lounging in the sun. They appeared to have been there for a while; a few of them had algae growing on their backs. There was what appeared to be a mother bird feeding her baby, sitting underneath her. However when we got closer we realized it was two full grown birds and one had just wedged its way underneath the other (a double-decker bird of sorts) to get at the good stalks of grass in the most awkward pose. We found a hermit crab shell the size of my palm too.

June 15, 2013- P&S (3)

Right as we got to the house, everyone was heading for the car. Turns out we’d been gone for a while and they were going to drive over and pick us up. Marianne and I headed over to Kinko’s while Camilla and Ela were at the library (Lucy had stayed behind). We had wanted to get t-shirt transfers printed but apparently no one uses inkjet printers anymore and we were out of luck. We spent the afternoon chilling at the library, basking in the air conditioned comfort. Writing in my notebook at the library, it felt so scholarly. Adding to that feeling was that we needed to research some clubs to go to in South Beach Miami, as that was the plan for the evening.

We stopped at Wal-Mart to get lunch supplies, alas no signs of Fudgey the Whale. I was starting to get worried; thankfully there were two Carvel locations nearby. After lunch I had a nice relaxing afternoon: I fell asleep on the couch reading. I woke up and had some more coffee. I grabbed the white jug from the fridge and poured what I thought was milk… only it was orange. Turns out I was still groggy, as I had poured orange juice in my coffee. Worse still, I completely forgot about it! About 20 minutes later when my coffee had cooled a bit (instant coffee=boiling hot) I took a sip and thought it tasted kind of like someone had been dunking IKEA cookies in it (orange ginger snaps). It took a few sips before I remembered what had happened.

I had the most delicious epic Eggo for my post-nap snack. I piled it with: peanut butter, almond butter and cranberry preserves. The Eggo wasn’t enough; I was still voraciously hungry so we took to making a pizza. At this point we had about an hour before we planned to leave- and we still had no idea which club we were going to. I had made the unfortunate mistake of getting ready too quickly and was now stuck sitting around waiting. I ended up falling asleep on the couch again.

We finally managed to get our butts close to out the door when we had to stop for mandatory picture taking. It turned silly really quickly. We had decided on Treehouse Club as it was recommended by Marianne’s friend and we trusted her more than the internet. We got there and it wasn’t open yet, we were told that it opened at 11:30pm. We had about 45 minutes of time to kill. We went to the fancy restaurant next door to use the bathrooms, glanced at the menu and left. We wandered around a nearby Walgreens, where I found some earmuffs for sale. There is nothing you need more in Florida than big fuzzy earmuffs to keep your ears warm. In the end we stood outside of Walgreens eating Pringles, super classy. A cabby yelled “hot asses” at us as we walked back. When we got there we found out it wasn’t open, even though the internet said it would be. We asked the valets at the restaurant next door where the nearest club was. They pointed down the street to a club, Mokai, which we had passed about 4 times now. We shrugged and decided to go for it, even though we had seen people trying to weasel their way in before and everyone was way more fancily dressed than us. The owner wouldn’t let us in at first because two of us were wearing flats. After much wheedling and excuse making we finally got in. The place was empty and creepy, it was ritzy meets skanky. There was no dance floor, just booths with bottle service and the drinks started around the $18 mark, with a shot of vodka coming in at $20. We left by the back entrance so as to avoid the owner. I joked about walking by the front again and pretending not to know him, but no one was game. They wanted to dance.

The next club on our list was Buck-15 and it was only about a 20 minute walk. We almost missed it as it was on a small side street. We arrived promptly at midnight, like Cinderella but with two shoes and no pumpkin. There was no cover, so already I liked the place. We went in and it was just a shitty little hole in the wall with rafters above the dance floor. It was about the size of a living room… and it was awesome, and also very hipster but I could live with that. There was no one in the bar; we had the place to ourselves. Alas the DJ was spinning 90s R&B so it was a little awkward to say the least. Eventually some overdressed girls came in, but they just stood around the bar, so not fun. The dance floor was ours and we took to it. We broke out all the best dance moves: the pterodactyl, the shopping for cans, the microwave, and the octopus. As the night wore on people actually started arriving, the music changed to more current stuff (with the occasional 80s-90s songs). At one point Journey came on and the club turned into a karaoke lounge with everyone belting it out. The music got louder and the songs got better, hitting an all-time high with a song from the Spice Girls. There was a stripper pole by the DJ booth and everyone stopped dancing to cheer on the guy in jeans who went up there. He gets bonus points for trying to dance while still holding his drink.

The low-hanging rafters were fun. So many people tried doing pull-ups. It was hilarious to watch the girls try and just hang there, it’s not easy mind you, but I at least pulled myself half way up. The rafters also served as a great place to keep our drinks. That is until a creepy guy started inching his way over and kept his drink right beside ours, acting all shifty. I stared him down and we abandoned our drinks. He migrated to the other side of the club and just stood there, watching us dance.  Every time we tried to leave another good song would come on and we would “stay for just this one last song.” This went on for a few hours. We finally gave up and headed out around 3:30am. My feet were killing me and I ended up walking back barefoot.

Being the only other sober person other than the designated driver (Marianne) I automatically got shotgun in the car. I did not want to be back there, it was giddy and loud and I felt old. Some classic lines from the backseat that night:

“Whose feet smell?”
“Not mine, they smell like angels!”

“I’m going to drunk text [insert name]”
“Ohh, I’m going to drunk text [insert cat’s name]”

They were planning out drunk texts, smelling feet and dropping granola bars. Marianne and I laughed that they wouldn’t remember any of it and we could paint them a wonderful story the next morning. Things went from loud and giddy to silent. They had all fallen asleep. As we drove back there were a few psychos speeding down the interstate going at least twice as fast as us and it was 4am! I finally climbed into bed somewhere around 5am. The sleep did not last too long as I awoke to find a cat nose-to-nose with me, staring at me upside down. I was on an air mattress on the floor and he was standing behind me.

 
 

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Florida 2013- Day 2

Fri. June 14, 2013:

The boil water alert was still on. Apparently traces of E .coli were found in the water and so we had to boil it. Even something as simple as brushing your teeth became a hassle as you had to make sure you used boil/bottled water. This being our first full day on vacation (i.e.: the vacation munchies had yet to surface) I was game for going running. Turns out running in Florida, even at 8 in the morning, is a less than stellar idea. Marianne and I ended up walking most of the route, turning our run into a (much cooler) nature walk. We saw so much nature, at times too much nature for me to handle. I did fine not know that there are spiders in Florida the size of my palm; I could have lived the rest of my life not knowing of these nightmare-inspired creatures with their giant webs. Thankfully they hang out higher up in the treetops, away from human faces that are liable to wreck the webs and lead to spider-stomping. Not helping matter were some vultures sitting high atop in the trees, it was as if they were just waiting for me to collapse from heat exhaustion.

As we walked we could hear the peacocks off in the distance (they run wild in the park we passed through) making a huge ruckus. There was a trail along the paved path for people on horseback- just about the worst place for a turtle to bask in the sun, yet there we saw one. We approached it slowly so as to gently scare it towards the canal. The stereotype about turtles being slow is a lie. This little guy was hoofing it towards the canal. For the grand finale he slid down the bank and splashed into the canal water with an epic *plop* that made my day. As we continued we saw more vultures, this time however there were about 10 of them circling an area: a turtle smooshed by a horse, an exhausted runner? We’ll never know, it was too hot to go investigate.

Passing by Flamingo Gardens we saw two red parrots, a male and female. For some reason they flew towards the Gardens, where the peacocks were being obnoxiously loud. Marianne mentioned that there was a parrot display at Flamingo Gardens that had free admission, alas we were there too early yet we were outside too late. At this point, as we headed back, it was unbearably hot. I would like to point out that is was barely 10am and it felt like high noon at the peak of summer.

There is nothing like working up a sweat and nearly getting heat exhaustion to motivate one to go lounge by the beach. We made lunch and packed it up for eating on the beach. My sandwich was epic: almond butter, peanut butter and cranberry preserves. As per my caffeine addiction, we stopped at Dunkin’ Donuts so I could fill up. Happily, they had a new donut: key lime, I was overjoyed, even more so when Marianne informed me that key lime pie is the official pie (dessert?) of the state of Florida! It was delicious, how can it not be? Lime= good, donut= good, crumbly bits on top= good. Something I had (apparently) forgotten to mention when petitioning for a Dunkin’ Donuts pit-stop was that the reason I was so in love with the place was solely for the drip coffee with a flavour shot, and to a lesser extent the donuts (doesn’t beat Tim Hortons). Everyone else had ordered fancy espresso based beverages and then walked away surprised that the flavour was subpar.

Dania Beach was pristine and just gorgeous with a blue sky and nothing but sunshine. I dipped my legs to cool off after setting up the umbrellas and chairs. We were serious beachgoers (as apparently everyone is in Florida) with two giant umbrellas secured in place providing the necessary shade and a cooler for our waters and sandwiches. There is nothing worse than a warm bottle of water in 30+ degree weather.

June 14, 2013- Florida P&S (4)- Dania Beach

While dipping my legs, I found a coconut that had washed up on shore. I found a giant rock, lifted it over my head and threw it down. With comic timing, it bounced off the coconut and landed beside, barely missing my foot. Turns out the coconut was soggy, so I instead adopted him and he sat by our umbrellas, helping keep one of the towels down.

June 14, 2013- Florida P&S (11)

I tried to lie on my towel in the sun, listening to podcasts but this proved to be a difficult endeavour as the sun was trying to bake me. Even with a hat over my face, I could not take the heat. I retreated to the shade where after a while… it got cold! Shocker! I tried to go back to my towel, but the wind had picked up and was blowing sand all over me, so I took one of the chairs out into the sun, a nice compromise. I was half asleep in my chair (watching pelicans and the Coast Guard fly by put me to sleep) when everyone returned from the ocean. They were shouting and half took off running down the beach. I turned to look and what do you know, the umbrella I thought was more secure (and thus had been paying less attention to) had been blown away. The wind had drastically changed direction. Thankfully the wind was nice enough to not blow any sand onto our lunch.

The wind was so strong the birds could not fly, they were stuck hovering in once place, trying so desperately to fly against it, both sad and funny. A storm appeared on the horizon soon after lunch, but it went out across the ocean and then back to land further north. It had completely bypassed us it seemed. Except it looped back around and came straight for us, threatening not just rain but also lightning. We packed up and left.

On our way back we stopped at Jaxson’s Ice Cream Parlour for a little treat. Little is an understatement. The smallest size ice cream scoop, the kid’s size, was 1/4lb. I love ice cream, but that seemed a bit much to me. Camilla and Lucy saw the economic value in sharing a banana split and thus the Great Debate began. They were almost at the window and wondering if they should rehearse- and they forgot their order. Everyone else ordered and they went last. I was nearly in tears, laughing at the size of their banana split when it was handed over. It was enormous, easily too much for 3-4 people. Their flavour choice was not that great: strawberry (tasted too much like bubblegum), pina colada and caramel. Clearly I was the winner with a giant scoop of rocky road. Not only was it made freshly in-house, it had real marshmallows in it. Where else can you get that? Bonus points for including a plastic drip tray to hold my cone in. No sooner had I walked away from the ordering window, my ice cream was already half melted. The whole thing was a messy, sticky affair. While we ate we laughed about the epic salad Lucy had at the cottage, proving she has a propensity to order too-large dishes.

June 14, 2013- Florida P&S (25)

As we drove, our ride was interrupted by a one-car train, but it was so cute you could not get mad at it. We made another pit stop, this time at the humane society. It was heartbreaking to see all those animals. We got to pet the tiniest little kitten I have ever seen, it kept meowing and it took all my self-will not to adopt it and take it with me in my carry-on luggage. While there we found a cat with my name, as well as two that looked like our cat back home: Mruczka.

It felt so good to shower when we got back; there was a whole layer of sand mixed with sunscreen stuck to me. Turns out I had not put enough sunscreen on my belly, as it was red and sunburned. We got some aloe from the garden. It felt cold and slimy on my belly, but it also provided relief. I was torn.

Kazik (one of the cats) had caught a lizard outside on the patio and was batting it around. He would periodically pick it up by its head and carry it in his mouth. He would chase it, bat it, and carry it around- but not eat it. He had just eaten his dinner and was not hungry, so Ela and I taught him not to play with his food by setting the lizard (remarkably unscathed) free.

June 14, 2013- Florida P&S (33)

We had another super-Polish supper, with zapiekanki (grilled cheese with mushrooms) for the main course. For dessert we had the greatest idea ever. You see, Nutella is not exactly healthy, bearing more than just a hint of cocoa. We fixed the health factor by spreading it on strawberries. It has now become a staple in our diet. The day ended on a high note, while playing Bohnanza we found out that the boil water alert had been lifted. Our area had been unaffected by the e.coli!

 

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Florida 2013- Day 1

Thurs. June 13, 2013:

Booking an 8am flight seemed like such a great idea at the time. As far as I saw it, my sisters and I would arrive in Florida (state 27 for those of you keeping count) at 11am with plenty of time to enjoy a full day of fun.  About a day before did it dawn on me how early we would be waking up at.

We got a ride to Kipling subway where we were supposed to catch the bus to the airport. Small problem: the subway station itself was not open yet. The only way you could get to the bus platform was by being on a bus. What else could we do? We snuck in by walking up the driveway where the buses enter the subway station.

At Pearson I finally managed to get to the Tim Horton’s I had always seen through the glass but could never access. However I had assumed I would not be able to get to it, so I had gotten coffee before we checked in. I was not about to break my not-using-the-airplane-bathroom streak over a not-so-great cup of coffee.

June 13, 2013- Florida P&S (1)

On the flight I tried watching Full Metal Jacket (the yelling sergeant got on my nerves) and Identity Thief but lost interest in both really quickly. I resorted to reading and having the location map on in the background. The map provided me with more entertainment than it should have. I giggled when I saw that our plane was heading straight for a place called Hazard, or at the idea of there really being a place called Cat Island.

My first view of Florida was an empty flat plain of nothing (which I was later told was the Everglades- my bad). I had hoped to see Cuba from the plane as we turned towards Ft. Lauderdale (the map made it seem so close) alas all I saw was lightening off in the distance- more than mildly disconcerting. As soon as we stepped off the plane we could feel the hot muggy air, the humidity just clung to you. I was overjoyed when I saw a Dunkin’ Donuts, I thought for sure I would be without on this trip. My joy turned to sorrow when I saw that there was a boil water alert out for the county and thus no coffee was being served. My heart sank- but only for a moment- as we wandered through baggage claim, unsure of where to meet our friends, Marianne ran up behind us with a hug attack (Ela had to stay with the car).

As we left the airport a green parrot flew by and landed on a sign behind which storm clouds loomed. No sooner were we on the highway did the sky tear open and rain start pouring. Apparently June is the rainy season in Florida- which explains why the tickets were so cheap. We passed a billboard: Your wife is hot, better get your AC fixed– hilarious. We settled in and sat down to our first meal together in almost three years, of course we had super-duper spaghetti (a staple in our diet).

June 13, 2013- Florida P&S (4)

We watched movies until the rain stopped (thankfully rainy season in Florida means it rains for about an hour or two then clears up). We walked to the back of their neighbourhood to an abandoned housing development called Camelot Estates. I was instantly entranced and ventured off on my own with my photographer’s hat on. It was great, there was one giant model home that had been built and all around it there was open land and the foundations of one house and a project development office. We tried all the doors, alas they were locked. There was an ibis sitting (rather uncomfortably it seemed) on a fence by the canal. We saw a heron by the lake but he got scared of us and flew away which is just as well, I got to photograph him in flight.

June 13, 2013- Florida z (83)

Walking back we met their neighbour who guessed that my sister and I were from out of the country. Marianne and Ela asked if maybe their dad had mentioned to her that we’d be over, trying to figure out how she knew. She claimed to be psychic, one of us (I will not name names) scoffed and she looked at us with a straight face and assured us she was really a psychic. We mused about what actually gave us away (how uncomfortable we were in the heat? Our accents? Our paleness?).

June 13, 2013- Florida z (2)

It was hot and muggy, we were sticky and gross. It was time to head out to the pool for a cool down. It was nice and relaxing to sit by the pool and read. A lizard came up beside my chair and stuck his throat-skin-flap out. When I tried to take a picture he ran behind the chair where he proceeded to eat bugs. After a while of reading I actually got cold. That’s right, sitting on the deck in Florida at 7 in the evening- I GOT COLD. I actually had goose bumps.

June 13, 2013- Florida P&S (24)

We wrapped up the day with a very Polish kolacja (evening supper) of potato latkes and pickled herring. I know it sounds gross, but it was delicious. I won’t even go into the details of our potato latke toppings (Nutella, maple syrup or cranberry preserves) but the cranberries won.

 
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Posted by on June 21, 2013 in The Roving Reporter, Travel

 

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Apple Streusel Muffins

What to do when you have a pile of apples and eggs that will soon go bad, seeing as you are leaving for Florida? Apple streusel muffins from the magazine Fitness to the rescue! Bonus: I finally used up the last little bit of chopped pecans I had left over from the turtle cookies I made a long, long time ago.

And yet again, as is becoming the norm it seems, I did not have all the ingredients. It seems I not only lacked buttermilk, but also something called apple pie spice. I could only assume it was mostly made of cinnamon, but I threw in some nutmeg just in case.

Project 28- Fitness magazine apple streusel muffins (7)

This was my kind of recipe, it mentions that the dough will in fact be lumpy and that is perfectly fine. Owing to the healthiness of the recipe (i.e.: no butter) the batter was not as tasty as I would have hoped- I was worried. Turns out I worried for nothing. The muffins are delicious. However the crumble on top is flawed. I thought it was an odd way to make a crumble (as I had always been taught to mix sugar, butter and flour) of just butter and pecans. The butter just melted into the muffin and the pecans sat on top- and then comically fell off as you ate a muffin.

I did get to use some handy tips, finally giving my Resources board on Pinterest a use. First off, I was not sure if the eggs were even still good, as they were past the expiration date. I had heard that eggs last forever but I was not about to crack one open and risk the stink. The internet saved me here by telling me to place it in a glass of cold water. The egg promptly sank- and so did my heart for I had mixed up the tip and assumed it was a bad egg. I double-checked before tossing it only to find out I was wrong, the egg sank and was therefore good. Close call. The recipe was still a-go! Until I reached for the brown sugar which had formed into a rock hard lump. Back to the internet! I followed the directions that seemed least likely to burn down my house (a plastic bag in the microwave?!) and would not take 2 days (who can wait that long for muffins?): placing it in the oven for 5 minutes on 250F. Worked like a charm. Thanks internet!

Project 28- Fitness magazine apple streusel muffins (2)

 

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Slow Cooker Pork Chops

My stash of frozen cooked chicken breasts was starting to run low and I just so happened to have 2 pork chops in the freezer and a day off. This could only mean one thing: slow cooker pork chops.

Project 27- slow cooker pork chops  (2)

As per usual, I had the idea before I had the ingredients so I would have to improvise. I swear I had a box of chicken broth cubes and it just got lost in the move. I had to resort to using Lipton Cup of Soup and just picking out as many of the noodles as I could- not an easy task. At least I now understand the importance of having a sieve in the kitchen. Up next: I had no poultry seasoning (had not even heard of it until today actually) so instead I used Old Bay seasoning, it has the word seasoning in it so it would seem to be close enough. Lacking basil, I added a sun-dried tomato seasoning I figured probably had basil in it (upon reading the label it did not). I lacked garlic both in powdered and real form and had to simply go without, hoping that maybe the chicken soup or Old Bay had some trace of garlic in it.

Project 27- slow cooker pork chops  (4)

Even with my copious substitutions the house smells great so I have my fingers crossed the pork chops will be tasty. Or at least edible.

Project 27- slow cooker pork chops  (5)

Success! They are delicious and due to the slow cooking: succulent. I would still like to retry the recipe with the proper ingredients however.

Project 27- slow cooker pork chops  (8)

 

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