Friday, December 30, 2011

Couch Surfing

Hey There:

More than once when I tell someone I have a "couch surfer" at my place, they think it's someone taking advantage of friends and family. But far from it, is a website where people from around the world meet, travel and find a place to stay.

Lately I haven't done much traveling, so I've been hosting. One thing about San Diego is that it's a very popular destination, I get at least three requests per week. Of course, you don't have to accept all requests, only the ones that are OK with your schedule.

The concept itself is a bit scary, after all I am inviting perfect strangers to sleep in my apartment. They would be there at a time when I am most vulnerable, yet I can honestly say I've felt perfectly safe with all my couch surfers. I do take basic precautions, like accepting only those with references and verified identities.

My first surfer was a girl from Netherlands, then I had a lady from UK now living in Atlanta, a girl from Canada (she's vegan and showed me great recipe for kale salad), a guy from Canada on a journey from Los Angeles to Chile - I think right now he's in Costa Rica - and several others. Each surfer has been a delight and I get to know a lot about their countries.

In some cases I've been a tour guide and in others I just been a place for them to sleep and relax. My place is very quiet and since most of them have been traveling for months, staying at hostels or wherever they can find a couch, they appreciate some peace and quiet.

In a way I feel like I've been traveling through my guests, they bring so many cultures and experiences right to my doorstep. And I'm still in touch with some of them via e-mail, so this really is a great way to meet new friends while bragging about my beautiful city!

There's quite a big community of hosts in San Diego, there's a weekly event called Tipsy Tuesday where you can mingle with locals and couch surfers. I've been to these events twice, the first time I saw an ex-coworker and the second time I got to meet Kaboom @thecrazymagnet in person after months of tweeting with him.

In 2012 I plan to go on a trip to England / Scotland / Ireland, I already have places to stay, but just in case I'll have my couch surfing peeps ready to offer me couch, especially in Dublin!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

San Diego Wine & Food Festival

Hey There:

Last weekend I was part of two events of the 8th Annual San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival, a weeklong wine & culinary classic. This year it was held from November 16th to the 20th in several venues throughout San Diego.

The first event I went to was at Macy's School of Cooking located at Macy's Home Center in Mission Valley mall. This event was very interesting called "Super Chefs All Stars Presented by Alaska Seafood.
"The Challenge: Two former and one current Top Chef participants have collaborated to prepare a mouth-watering wine paired tasting menu exclusively for you. They each have 20 minutes to teach you the techniques to prepare their recipes at home, and then wow your taste buds with a sampling of the dish prepared during the class."
It was great to see the chefs in action, including Chef Brian Malarkey, former contestant in Top Chef. As we waited for his delicious salmon dish to be ready there was some Top Chef trivia, prizes and of course we got to eat and drink wine. We sampled Anglim Grenache Blanc Red Cedar Vineyard, Paso Robles 2008 and Anglim Grenache Vista Creek Vineyard, Paso Robles 2008 both provided by Anglim Winery.

At the Macy's School of Cooking

Watching the Chefs in Action

Salmon "Pizza" Tomato/Basil Pesto/Goat Cheese
prepared by Executive Chef Brian Malarkey

Alaskan Milk Poached Black Cod, Dukkah Tomato Broth, Squid Spaetzle,
Rapini, Ricotta Salata Cheese and Toasted Hazelnut
prepared by Executive Chef Kenneth Gilbert

Cured Alaskan Salmon, Beet Salad, Tahini Cream
prepared by Chef Eli Kirshtein
The second event was the Reserve and Release Tasting at the San Diego Air & Space Museum
"From the art deco walls of San Diego's famous Air & Space Museum to the jumping jazz of the 30's and 40's and vintage aircraft at every turn, this year's Reserve & New Release Tasting event transports you to a gilded age where premium libations flow and legendary winemakers step into the spotlight."
This event was very fun with most of the museum open and full of exhibitors with wines, vodkas, tequilas, beer, cider, port, more wine, cocktails, and don't forget the food, chocolates, breads, soup, oysters, sushi, desserts and wine. I think I don't need to explain more about the event...just check out the pics:

I feel in love with San Pellegrino Aranciata

A little bit of everything...who can resist??

Sangrita shots with a lime foam on top, tasted great!


Stella Artois was present with very good cheeses

The Vya exhibitor preparing my cocktail

The cocktail was very good, the recipe is in the bottom of this post

About to try Wild Hibiscus, Flowers in Syrup

These Sadie Rose breads are amazing, they're sold at grocery stores
mostly in San Diego North County
Thank you @DarleneEats for the tickets and be sure to get check her blog My Burning Kitchen for all the foodies out there. These are the links of some of the exhibitors I sampled:

Joyce Vineyards in Carmel Valley, CA

Sangrita Mix: The perfect pairing for your tequila (soooo good!)

Combine in a shaker with ice:
2 oz Dry Vya
1 oz Sweet Vya
Shake well and serve - either on the rocks in a bucket glass or strained and straight up in a martini glass.
Garnish with a twist of orange.

Chuao Chocolatier (amazing truffles!! Especially recommend Firecracker Truffle)

Wild Hibiscus Flowers in Syrup

SanPellegrino Aranciata (sparkling water with a taste of orange, I loved it!)

And many, many more!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Happy Freaking Birthday to Me!

Hey There:

It's that time of year birthday is a few days away and as tradition, I'm slowly jumping into the dark mood I get each year.

Don't know when it started but when I come near my b-day I'm not happy because it's my day, I don't feel grateful to be blessed with a good life, good friends and family, I don't look forward to the next year. NO, I obsess over everything I haven't accomplished, I compare myself to people who became millionaires by age 21, or 31, or 35, doesn't matter...I ain't me!

For the longest time I thought it was only me until I read a non-fiction book from my favorite author Marian Keyes, where she mentions she's the same. So there might not be too many of us out there, but I'm not the only one who wants to strangle the first person to say "Happy Birthday" to me.

This year I planned throw a House-Warming/Birthday party, but I cancelled it two weeks ago. First of all I know my apartment wouldn't be ready to...the unpacking has been a nightmare! And second, I don't want to be among people.

A friend of mine said I should have had the party anyway, since it's easier to hide in a crowd. What he said does have some logic, except when it's supposed to be "Your Day" and any frown is met with people trying to force you to be happy. Which really, it's awesome that I have friends that care for me, but I just want them to shut the hell up! In this's not them, it's me.

Birthday #37 - No Pics exist

That year my b-day fell on a Saturday. And that day I was forced by my Mom to attend a cousin's wedding and I don't even like this cousin, but I went...I had Mom said so.....yeah, I know I'm an adult that has lived outside the parental home for over a decade....but my Mom said so.

That day I had a trim and hairstyle done to look nice, and the girl did a horrible job! She didn't trim my hair, she chopped it with I'm assuming were rusted scissors since it took me almost 6 months to outgrow that haircut.

All pictures I took that day, I looked awful! There were all erased, have tons of pics of my friends and family at the after-party we had. But none of me, I was not a happy b-day girl.

Birthday #38 - Vegas, Baby!

For the first time in my adult life I decided to forgo the obligatory celebration with my loved ones, instead I took my sister and we went to Las Vegas for the weekend since my b-day would be on Sunday.

It was great, it wasn't a crazy drunken weekend or anything like that. Just me and my sis, spending time together, having fun and avoiding any mention of the "b" word.

On Sunday as she drove back I received phone calls, answered friends e-mails and Facebook posts, but was feeling very happy to not be physically around any of was an awesome B-Day!

Vegas = Elvis...and Austin Powers, I guess

Didn't get drunk, at least not that I remember

Those were just fun people

Birthday #39

This year, though the b-day falls on a Monday, I still feel obliged to do something over the weekend. On Friday a girl friend and I are going to a metal concert, I plan to dress up nicely, might even use my red corset.

Saturday I plan to get drunk with a Russian friend, just because I haven't gotten drunk, not even once, this whole year.

Sunday, hopefully I'm too hungover to even care it's the eve of the b-day.

And on Monday I only have planned to go to lunch with a girlfriend and spend the rest of the day in bed with my cats answering Facebook well wishes and the ocassional phone call.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Day of the Dead in San Diego

Hey There:

After Halloween, we have el Dia de los Muertos or Day of the Dead. I'll be lazy here and just copy and past what's written on Wikipedia click on the link to read more about it:

"Day of the Dead (SpanishDía de Muertos) is a Mexican holiday celebrated throughout Mexico and around the world in many cultures. The holiday focuses on gatherings of family and friends to pray for and remember friends and family members who have died. It is particularly celebrated in Mexico, where it attains the quality of a National Holiday, and all banks are closed. The celebration takes place on November 1–2, in connection with theCatholic holidays of All Saints' Day (November 1) and All Souls' Day (November 2). Traditions connected with the holiday include building private altars honoring the deceased using sugar skullsmarigolds, and the favorite foods and beverages of the departed and visiting graves with these as gifts."
Now for my part, on November 1st I went to Chicano Park for their celebration, which was very subdued, a big altar at the statue of Emiliano Zapata and several smaller ones at the center kiosk. What I liked about it was a an old lady telling stories to people around her, signing and giving prayers. I gave several of the names of my own relatives for the prayers.

I went to Old Town on November 2nd and it was way different, about 40 altars inside the restaurants, stores and museums. Lots of people walking around with their faces painted as Day of the Dead skulls and some dressed in Victorian style dress. In one of the museums a lady agreed to let me record her explanation of the celebration.

In this video, you'll get to hear the explanation and signing, as well as the altars and part of a candlelight procession which started at the Whaley House and ended in el Camposanto

Now this video was totally by chance, I had no idea they had tours, as I was walking by The Cosmopolitan Hotel I noticed a group going into a tour and I got in it! The tour is about 15 minutes and this clip is longer than what I normally add, but the ghost stories are very cool!

And this is a clip of the Ghost Adventures mentioned at the Tour:

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Minus 30 lbs and counting

Hey There:

Over the past five months or so, I've been going to a nutritionist in Tijuana. This was a guy recommended to me by two people who don't know each other, but even after the recommendations it took me months before I decided to go. I just wanted to lose weight on my own, I mean everyone who watches The Biggest Loser or any of those shows knows you need to eat well and exercise. No magic formula or shortcuts about it.

But in spite of my "eating well" and exercising I went up to 215 lbs and that was it! I had to go, I know a lot of people who know me personally will be surprised at how much I weighed because I'm blessed with a body that can hide that much weight. I mean I didn't look skinny, but I still had a waistline with a bit of a tummy and looked proportionate with a big butt and big boobs. And I know how to dress myself to hide imperfection. This picture is me with a weight over 200 lbs.

As I said, don't look skinny, but don't look morbidly obese (me thinks), I looked like a gal with meat on her bones. But no matter how I put it to myself, the scale didn't lie and worse of all, it didn't go down. So finally I went to the Doctor and even though part of the treatment consists of an appetite suppressant and an injection to boost fat burning, I have done a lot of sacrifices and it's been hard work to loose all that weight.

Among the sacrifices? I stopped drinking alcohol for the first three months, not a drop, even though I've been to events with "Free Bar". Especially hard was the summer months were everyone was with a nice cold one and getting drunk. More than once I had inner thoughts like "Gee, this guy/gal is a sloppy drunk! How come I never noticed it before??....Oh wait, I was just as drunk as he/she was!"

I don't have a set diet or calorie intake, I just follow guidelines on food intake and once in a while let myself eat some junk food. The way I see it eventually I'll be out there without appetite supressants or a Doctor checking me once a week, I might as well learn to eat bad food moderately. The only thing I refuse to give up is my daily can of Coca-Cola....I just need it!

Exercise also changed from doing mostly weights to doing mostly cardio with only upper body strength training. So far I'm amazed how much more cardio I can tolerate and for now I'll stay on the treadmill, elliptical and stairmaster.

Now the thing that has kept even more motivated is the way guys have been reacting. See, my bubbly flirty self hasn't changed. I still consider myself Hot no matter the size, but apparently size does matter, since now guys who have known me for months are now suddenly flirting or inviting me out. So, of course, that flatters the ego and keeps me going!

Still, with the 30 lbs loss I'm still not even on my half-way point, I'm only at 185 and my Doctor wants me to be at 140 - 150 lbs in order to be at the right amount for my height and build....that means I have to continue for 65 - 75 lbs, which seems insane to me. Not sure if I'll go all the way, but for now I know I still have to keep on, this morning I tried on some of my old skirts and I can finally zip them up, but they're still a little too tight.

All I focus on is my 2 lbs a week, I don't think of the total and of course, I do feed on male admiration since I can't feed on tortillas, quesadillas, pizza or beer. Here's a pic of how I look now!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

San Diego Tour Guide (Final Day)

Hey There:

So today was the final day of my NY friend's visit to San Diego, since he wakes up at 5:30 in the morning (NY time is 3 hours ahead) he has made it into a habit to walk to Panchita's Bakery (located on C Street in Golden Hill), get his coffee and his Mexican bread. I've lived in several areas in San Diego and always check out the Mexican bakeries, this is one of the few that gets it just right, especially the hot chocolate and the specialty breads like the Rosca de Reyes and Pan de Muerto.

What and where? Watch a football game at Shakespeare's Pub & Grill

Why? First of all, it's always a treat to watch the Brits cheering and singing for their teams and second, this would be a good game, it was Manchester United vs Liverpool. The game started at 4:45 AM (Yes! 4:45 in the morning!) I couldn't get up early enough to get there before it started, but I woke up at 5 AM, we got there by 5:30 and it was so packed that we had to sit in the patio where they put another TV. At my "slight" coercion my friend had bought a ManU t-shirt with Chicharito on it....he's a good friend! And the cool thing is that Chicharito scored the only goal of the match! Man oh Man, I can't wait for the World Cup! OK, OK, gotta focus...back to my tale.

My friend was impressed and even if he didn't understand the game too much, he liked the atmosphere, he got to see the sun rise (I didn't even notice) and by 6 AM the bar opened and he had a Guinness for breakfast!

Several flat screen TVs to watch games


Everyone glued to the screens

What and where? One last stroll at the Harbor

Why? Close to the airport and we had an hour to kill before I had to leave him there, so we had one more stroll and he bought a few more souvenirs.

My NY Friend

By the end of the trip my friend took over a thousand pictures and had the time of his life. Now in his case, everything centered in seeing more Mexican culture, exercising and not loosing his NY time schedule. Which meant more day activities and not a lot of night life. I normally cater the things to do depending on my visitor, if he had wanted to experience the night life, I know of places to go for every night of the week!

Once he left I was extremely tired and spent the rest of the day in bed, but his trip was very fun for me as well. I got to see everything in the eyes of someone who was fascinated by everything and as always I feel so lucky to live in San Diego!

Friday, October 28, 2011

San Diego Tour Guide (Day 7)

Hey There:

Today is a Friday, the last full day of my friend's vacation. I didn't plan anything for this day so we could have a chance to do whatever he wanted.

What and where? San Diego Zoo!

Why? It's THE San Diego Zoo! Even the characters in Magadascar wanted to go there. I have a member pass so I go very often and really, and seriously, almost every time I go I see something new, those guys are amazing when it comes to re-distributing and using all available space. Now, as a member I normally take advantage of all the buses, the skyfari, not to mention the escalators. Why? Because the place is full of freaking hills, very steep ones, which are fun to go down until you realize you eventually have to go back up.

Granted because of my reluctance to walk I sometimes miss some exhibits like the gorilla and tiger one. But this time, my friend Tom and I walked to every single exhibit.....holy crap! Now I remember why I stopped walking all over the place. I was exhausted, but got to see everything.

Money saving tip: If you're a San Diego resident, you might as well take a look at the annual memberships since a single adult ticket costs $40, I remember it used to be more affordable.

Condors, endangered, but getting a second chance thanks to the Zoo's efforts

Elephants getting their pedicure

They remind me of my cats

The polar bears will always give you great pics

According to the tour information, the plant collection at the Zoo is worth
more money than the animal collection.

These giant turtles love to be petted, I've done it a few times
Love these turtles!

What and where? Lunch at Mitsuwa Marketplace

Why? So far my friend hadn't had any sushi, but instead of taking him to one of many awesome Japanese restaurants we have in San Diego, I took him to a Japanese grocery store. That place is so cool, it's a grocery store coupled with with other smaller stores, like a library, a food court, a dishware store and many others. Of course, all the items are Japanese, but there's enough English around the store so you know where to find things. Very cool store and the only one I ever buy packaged sushi from, it tastes very good and it's inexpensive.

Money saving tip: At 7 PM they mark down all the sushi that's left by 50%, maybe you won't find your favorite ones, but you will get lots of sushi!

Mitsuwa Marketplace

My favorite Sushi

Sushi Parfait

What and where? Stroll on Ocean Beach

Why? This area is just awesome, very laid back, and I mean very laid back, lots of drunks at all hours of the day and night, artists, great stores, with a pier where lots of people fish from, a very cool Hostel that's always full of life with people singing on their porch and a dog park nearby. Not to mention all the bars and restaurants, great place to go!

Another reason we went there was to see the flourescent waves, which I believe it's a seasonal thing and somebody explained why it happens, but don't remember now (and am too lazy to Google it right now) but it looks amazing. When the waves crash, the white froth has a yellow fluorescent look, never seen it before.

Pic taken from the Hostel website, looks very cool and always full of people

This is from Cafe Bella inside a Quickstop...the food was very good!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

San Diego Tour Guide (Day 6)

Hey There:

Today is Thursday and the first morning I didn't have to pack so we headed out of the city to....Julian!

What and where? Shop, eat and stroll through Julian, CA

Why? It's a great place for a day trip, get out of the city, go through the mountains and a long winding road until you reach a town created back in the gold mining days. In Julian you can actually experience the seasons with the trees changing color in fall, with snow in winter and warm summers. It's also well known for it's pies which you can find in several grocery stores in San Diego.

I've been there several times, and one of the shops I always go to is Julian's Cider Mill where I always buy apple boysenberry cider, sesame sticks and whatever else that looks tempting.

Money saving tip: I've eaten in several places and for the most part the prices seem steep and the food is OK, nothing great. So far the place I've found the best deal for lunch is at Apple Alley Bakery where you can get soup/salad, half sandwich, a bag of chips, a pickle and a slice of pie for $10, you pay extra if you want the pie a la mode and the drink is not included. But it's still a good deal and even though it doesn't look like much, the food is very hearty and you leave very satisfied.

As for the shops, a lot of them have tourist prices, I can understand it for handmade or antique items, but some things cost way too much. But on this trip I discovered Pistols and Petticoats, located on a second floor. In this shop you "Go back in time to the old west in this unique gift store. You'll find items from the parlor to the boudoir reminiscent of old saloon days"...and it's true, the items are so cool, very western, kinda metal, sexy and cheap!!! What made me drool was they're selection of carnival masks, with the cheapest at $2, which was a beautiful mask that only covered the eyes, to the most expensive one at $30 which was a full face mask with lots of peacock feathers. Too bad I couldn't take pics inside the shop, but I did take pics of what I bought. This time I was lucky I only took cash, so I was limited in my time, I'll be sure to get there with my card!

This is what I bought at Pistols and Petticoats

What and where? Shopping and Gambling at Viejas Casino

Why? The outlet part of Viejas looks so great, with a Native American theme, just walking around it is great, but even if you don't want to you'll end up shopping. I've found great deals, I always like to stop at Anna's Linens can't beat the prices. Click here to check out the stores.

But if you want a bit of gambling then go inside the casino, which looks like any other casino, lots of red, lots of lights, slot machines, blackjack tables and of course, the buffet. We both played on the slot machines but lost very quickly (I only put in $7).

Money saving tip: none....go crazy!

What and where? Coffee at Lestat's on Adams Avenue in Normal Heights

Why? One of the few coffee shops open 24 hours, with the walls full of art and all the "interesting" people (to put it mildly), always a great place to people watch and if you're a creative person, you can meet writers, painters, gamers, computer geeks and just plain weird people. When I go I can sometimes write uninterrupted for hours or get nothing done because I'm talking to people until 4 in the morning. Never a dull moment!

You can see a glimpse of my favorite chair