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Panama Bound

February 28th, 2010 No comments

In two days my lady love and I embark on another instance of our created definition of life well lived, namely travel abroad.  This time it’s to Panama.

How did we pick Panama?  Turns out this time we let the airline gods do the dirty work for us.  We knew a quick trip to Central America was a great way to get cheap access to warm weather and tasty produce as we seek to ride out the last few weeks of winder, so we put fare watches on a couple of candidates: Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, and even Guatemala for old time’s sake.  Panama asserted itself as the winner when the price dropped eighty bucks on day two of the watch to a cool $420 per person.

Our preparation level is delightfully shaky.  Though we have picked up a copy of Frommer’s (we heard tell of the Lonely Planet coverage of the canal’d country to be rather weak), we remain unclear as to where we’ll go or what we’ll do.  Our efforts to plan as much have been deferred by an apparent technical failure that prevents us from booking online a flight to Bocas del Toro, a set of islands that promise pristine beach.

I like to think I could fix the problem in about 10 minutes with access to the server, but with my Spanish now being 2-months rusty I think I’ll not try to offer my assistance.  We’ll instead just figure it out when we get there.  Stay tuned!

Categories: Travels Tags:

In Search of the 5 Gems of Denver

February 12th, 2010 No comments

Even though I thought it a shamefully telling trait of being a nerd back then, I don’t mind telling you now that I was totally a Nintendo kid during my years of growing up.  Because of it, I’m left even now with a few indelible concepts & cliches borrowed from all the video games I used to play, and it’s still fun for me to fit them to my every day life.

One such cliche is the quest to find “X shiny objects” necessary to open the magic door/access the hidden realm/lift the curse/etc., usual as a prerequisite to finding and killing the ultimate bad guy and winning the game.  Zelda had its 8 pieces of the TriForce, the first Final Fantasy had its 4 orbs, Sonic had its 6 chaos emeralds, etc. etc.

So I’ve made up that, as a way to frame my task of getting settled into and acquainted with my new town, I’m on a quest for the 5 Gems of Denver, and by that I mean 5 of a very specific kind of thing:  I’m out to find no fewer than 5 features of Denver, be they places, events, venues, restaurants, parks, cultural institutions and so on, that constitute distinct reasons to fall in love with this particular town.  They have to be recurring in nature: something that can become a more-or-less regular staple of my happy lifestyle here.  They don’t have to be universally unique, something that makes me say “wow, cool–there’s nothing like that in St. Louis that I know of” is sufficient to meet the uniqueness criteria.

So far I’ve found one of the Gems of Denver, which I mentioned before, Core Power Yoga.  I love it, it boasts a community and following like nothing in St. Louis, and it remains a regular facet of my typical week.  That leaves four more, and by the time I finish this quest I will have much to brag on about my new home.

The imminent bike season should make it much easier and faster to do so, but I wouldn’t mind to cheat a little with some help and hints.  If you have some ideas of where the Gems of Denver are to be found, by all means share.  When I’ve found my 5 I’ll post the what and why of the whole collection.

Categories: Uncategorized Tags:

Keeping up with Hummus Afficionados

February 1st, 2010 1 comment

Last night Tracy and I took a walk through the neighborhood and to the Whole Foods half  a mile away: just an excuse to stretch our legs.  Already flush with groceries, we decided we’d pop in and get just one item as a momento of our trip.  But what to get?

While in Chicago I had a most excellent hummus provided by my host Tom.  So I called him: “Tom, boobie, I’m at the Whole Foods playing Millionaire, the question is which hummus should I get and I’m calling you in as my life line.” I said emphatically into my cellphone whilst wandering the aisles.  To my delight he replied just as emphatically “Sabra’s, baby, it’s gotta be Sabra’s.  If they don’t have Sabra’s, you need to go shake whoever’s in charge and ask what the heck’s wrong with them and their obviously two-bit operation.”

There’s no Sabra’s on this shelf.  What now, boss?  Aside from the shaking part, I mean?  “Get the good stuff.  Spend the extra 50 cents and get the good stuff.  I’ve used dish detergents that are 4 bucks apart and there’s no perceivable difference between the two: not the case with hummus.  50 cents gets you into a whole new realm of hummus.  Get the good stuff.”

Right on then, the $3.39 hummus it is.

After a few more tips from Tom on how to be a big hummus serving stud (get mini pitas and cut ’em into chips and oven bake ’til warm, squeeze fresh lemon on the chips, with a scissors cut little ends off of fresh dill over the whole thing), it was time to check out.  “Did you find everything ok?” is a common expression of check out clerks.  It’s so often delivered as rote that I will usually unconsciously reply “Yep” to, regardless of how I actually fared while wandering the aisles.

This time though, to Donovan the checkout clerk I had presence of mind enough to reply with a more thoughtful “Actually no, I’m told I should get Sabra’s hummus and that any self-respecting place should carry it, but I couldn’t find it.”  It was then that Heather, the groovy night manager who was hanging at the end our our lane ready to bag our paltry three items (hummus, mini pitas and a lemons: Tom ma’ man, you would do well on commission), chimed in to school me on the brands of hummus that her store proudly stocks.  “You’re looking for a great hummus?  Come with me, we can exchange that one out for you.”

Now that’s some good customer service: we wandered back to the sad, Sabra’s-deprived shelves and she pointed me to her favorite choice for a really creamy hummus (Wild Thyme Natural’s).  THEN we wandered to another part of the store with the more specialty items, where they stock their most expensive brand, Yummy’s Choice.  “Here you go, we’ll exchange your original one for the Wild Thyme, and I’ll sample this one out to you so you can give it a try.”  Sweet, bonus hummus!  Score one for speaking up and believing that they actually care when they ask you if you found everthing ok!

And the hummus treat itself?  Turns out the Wild Thyme tasted significantly better than the Yummy’s Choice (too much tahini!), and Tom was right: warmed pita chips are made most excellent with a few drops of fresh squeezed lemon juice.

Categories: Eating Well Tags: ,