Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Balsamic Vinegar & Popcorn

WARNING: If you are not into adventurous, daring, and random food concoctions, please do not read on. You will probably find this pretty disgusting... But, if not, please read on...

So, anyways, one of my favorite afternoon snack foods is popcorn. I've tried a lot of different microwave popcorn's. My favorite for the past two years or so is the mini natural bags of popcorn from Walgreens. For $3, you can purchase two boxes that each have six personal-sized bags. At 45 calories a bag and 40-cents each they are a pretty amazing afternoon snack!

But popcorn alone can get boring... so I've found some ways to "spice" it up. Here are some of the crazy concoctions I've come up with...

- Back in 7th grade, my friend Priscilla and I loved to make our own popcorn concoctions. I think our best ever was Milky Way bars melted over popcorn. When done right, this was delicious. However, you have to be really careful because often times the Milky Ways will start to burn and then this is NOT delicious...

- A few years ago, I decided to combine my love for hot sauce with my love for popcorn. I would pour hot sauce over my little bag of popcorn (anywhere from a little to a ton depending on my mood), mix it up, and enjoy. This combo is a little weird unless you really love hot sauce but my similarly-hot-sauce-obsessed-roommates really caught on too.

- When I was looking for something a little bit more sweet to finish my day, I'd pour a little cinnamon over my popped popcorn. Strangely, some cinnamon's are much better than others. Sweeter one's definitely taste better over the popcorn and the balance is important... too much cinnamon is really not nearly as good.

- Next, I decided to try a little chai powder mix over my popcorn. This is yummy too and even has a little tiny caffeine kick. I tend to stick to the cinnamon more often but this is great to mix it up sometimes too.

- Then, I decided it was time to try some more salty mixes. Basically, I think I just entered a salt craving era but I wanted to stick with my healthy-ish popcorn treat. We had some Kimlan soy sauce packets in our office kitchen and I found out through experimentation that 1 and 1/2 soy sauce packets over my Walgreens mini bag was perfect. You need to make sure to shake the popcorn bag up as you add the soy sauce over so the soy sauce spreads evenly. Otherwise, you end up with some very soggy popcorn. I'd also recommend eating this mix fairly quickly so that none of the kernals can get soggy.

- When we ran out of soy sauce packets, I tried fancy balsamic vinegar. This combo is also delicous. I usually have my popcorn around 5 pm and start craving my balsamic popcorn around 3 pm. If fancy ice cream shops can make balsamic ice cream, balsamic popcorn can't be that weird, can it?!

Does anyone else come up with crazy popcorn ideas or is this just me? I'm also curious to try banana slices over popcorn and maybe avocado slices too. Please let me know your thoughts on any of these popcorn concoctions if you've ever tried them. I'd love any other recommendations too!

Monday, May 18, 2009

A Great Weekend in Mendocino

The weekend of April 18th, 2009, Jeff, Ruggles, and I headed up to Mendocino for an adventurous mini-vacation.

I know that this post will not be the same without photos but I hope to add them in during the near future. Below are the highlights. I've included some of the reviews of spots I already wrote for Yelp to hopefully help this post be more useful when you are planning your own little Mendocino vacation! (which I would highly recommend you do as soon as possible!)

Thursday we excitedly headed up North after work. We were so eager to reach the Seafoam Lodge that we only stopped once for a mocha each at Starbucks. Then we were back on the road and in Mendocino by about 9:25 PM.

We checked into the adorable Seafoam Lodge, Ruggles met some doggy friends who were also staying there, we picked out a few movies to borrow from the office and dropped our stuff in our room. Here's what I wrote about Seafoam:

The Seafoam Lodge gets five-stars from me for the best value stay that I've had EVER. Here's the quick run-down...

Doggie heaven + king-sized bed + mini fridge + sliding glass door onto huge lawn where Ruggles could play + hot tub in a gazebo + muffins & oj delivered every morning + a huge (free) selection of movies, dvds, and games to borrow + quiet (other than us...) + conveniently just 3 miles from downtown Mendocino FOR THREE NIGHTS = $287.50 (third night was free!)

The great experience = PRICELESS!

We headed to the local grocery store that is open until 10 PM (luckily!) to pick out a dinner of sushi for me and a sandwich for Jeff. I can almost guarentee that you will take several trips to the Harvest Market during your stay in Mendocino as there are few other grocery options. Here are my thoughts:

Harvest Market at Mendosa's doesn't have much grocery competition in the area. As far as I know, this is THE place to go for groceries in Mendocino. Some of our best finds here included:

- Bob's Red Wine: actually called that with a picture of Bob on the bottle; so good for $4.50 per bottle!
- a variety of yummy asian seaweed crackers
- Blood orange sparkling juice (like very fancy Martinelli's!) on sale for $2.99
- box of avocado sushi

Then, it was back to the Seafoam for an evening of games, playing with Ruggles, wine, and then sleep. I smiled as I fell asleep at the peaceful Seafoam Lodge not too, too far from home...

Friday morning, we were psyched to wake up to our basket of muffins and oj while our co-workers were all hard at work. My first vacation day of the year was definitely fabulous! On the way to Fort Bragg, we discovered a mini golf course and were the only golfers at 11 AM. I also won a cute stuffed bear at the challenging arcade "claw" game.

Then, we headed to Fort Bragg to do some more exploring. Some of the highlights of our Fort Bragg explorations included an amazing lunch at North Coast Brewing Company, great bargain shopping, and a little coffee date. The waffle fries at North Coast Brewing Company were SO yummy!

Three words: Garlic waffle fries!

I think we were really hungry by the time we came to North Coast Brewing for lunch and the food was so satisfying and delicious!

We started with the four-sampler of beers which were yummy and a great value especially for the pricier beers. Our waitress brought out a laminated placemat with all of the beer logos on it and placed our selections on their images so we knew which we were trying. She also brought us a couple extra complimentary samples near the end of our lunch!

The food was a little pricey for bar food but really hit the spot. I enjoyed a veggie burger with the special waffle fries and doused it in the Mendocino Mustard mustard seed beer mustard on our table. I think I used about 1/2 of the $6 bottle we were provided with... Jeff had the southwest burger with avocado, etc on it and really enjoyed it though he wished he'd also upgraded his fries to the garlic-waffle ones. The regular fries were not nearly as good...

For great food and beer in Fort Bragg, check out North Coast Brewing!

P.S. Beer tours of the brewery (located across the street) are only once per week at noon on Saturday...

Then, it was back to our hotel for a hot tub soak with Ruggles spectating and off to dinner at the AMAZING La Petite Rev. We really loved it and, how could you not, with this meal?!

Dinner at La Petite Rive was definitely one of the top meals of my life. I'm so happy that I'd picked out this restaurant through Yelp before I headed up to Mendocino for the weekend. La Petite Rive was about a mile from our not-as-fancy hotel (the Seafoam Lodge). Each night, they do two seating's at 5:30 PM and 8:30 PM. We stopped by the restaurant at about 5:45 PM on Friday night and were lucky enough to get a spot at that night's 8:30 PM seating.

When we arrived for our dinner date, we immediately noticed that this restaurant was absolutely adorable. The ocean views were awesome and there were about 10 little tables. One waitress took all of the orders and the staff functioned as a great team.

First, we chose yummy beers served in great glasses from the drinks menu while many others consumed wine. Then, the waitress assured us that an entree each would be plenty of food. I chose the sole and Jeff chose the duck dish. Everyone's meal started with a little appetizer served alongside a small serving of amazing wine. Next, we enjoyed our fresh bread and delicious salad with ginger dressing followed by yummy, creamy tomato soup. It was a great experience to know that our neighboring tables were enjoying the same delicious dishes at the same time. Everyone seemed so happy devouring the deliciousness...

By the time for the main course (after our little lime sorbet pallet cleanser), we were pretty full. My fish was good but Jeff's duck was out-of-this-world amazing. We both laughed hysterically as I attacked his duck from across the table. I don't think we've ever laughed so hard and loved a meal so much. The price was right too at just about $100 total for the two of us!

We tried to go back again on Saturday night but they were all booked... we'll be there on our next trip though!

I promise that I rarely write this many 5 star reviews but the Mendocino area is really incredible! Back at the Seafoam Lodge, we enjoyed lots more wine and many, many more laughs....

Saturday morning, we threw the ball for Ruggles lots through our sliding glass door, ate our muffins, drank our oj, and headed off to see the beach and lighthouse. When in Mendo, I would definitely recommend scoping out the lighthouse!

The lighthouse is a great sight to see and the views of the ocean surrounding it are amazing. The parking lot is large and about a very nice 1/2 mile walk from the lighthouse. I like that this parking situation encourages everyone to go for a nice walk! There are also educational trivia questions along the trail for educating everyone about gray whales, etc.

If you walk down in front of the lighthouse on the rocks, you can view lots of cute critters in tide pools. Also, we were the only ones touring the lighthouse keeper's house and it was a neat little historic site to see. They have nice bathrooms too which is always good if you bring your kids along!

Then, we headed to downtown Mendocino for some shopping, snacks, and relaxation.

There's half of our amazing trip and I will post the second half and photos soon! To Be Continued...

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Hate/Love Relationships

I can think of a list of several things/situations that I sometimes love and sometimes hate. This list will be super random but I've actually given it a lot of thought... I'd love to hear if anyone else might have similar things on a similar list or things that would be on their own Hate/Love list. I will start with those that I tend to hate the most and move up towards those that I hate a bit less. Here it goes...

- HANGOVERS: sometimes I wake up swearing that I will never drink again. And then I go through much of the day still vowing that I will never drink again. My head throbs, my stomach hurts, I'm tired, and I can't think straight... However, once I start to feel a little bit better, I decide that, if I can make it through this pain, I can make it through anything. And then, I start to feel strong and slowly like myself again. In order to compensate for the shame I felt earlier for causing my body such pain and being irresponsible, I often work harder than usual and accomplish more than usual. I start to feel proud and capable again. And, sometimes, the pain feels like it was all worth it. Maybe I will have another drink sometime...

- STREET PARKING IN SAN FRANCISCO: street parking in most parts of San Francisco can often be insane. One can drive around in circles for what feels like hours, spend all their money feeding a meter, or try to squeeze into a spot where one's car just doesn't fit... However, when you find a spot it can feel truly amazing. You have beat all odds and succeeded! However, if you are me, you will worry about your car as you're falling asleep. You'll worry that you might have a parking ticket in the morning even if you know you did nothing wrong. Then, you'll walk up to your car in the morning with your fingers crossed that you won't have a ticket. You might have one for an unmarked street cleaning, wheels mis-turned, a curb that did not look red at night, etc. But, if you show up to your car and there is not a ticket, your heart will skip a beat with joy!

- RUNNING: some days running is easy and other days it is so hard. Often times, it seems like a fluke as to when the hard days and when the easy days are... On the tough days, I feel out of shape and incapable. On the easier days, I often feel like I must not be working hard enough. However, I still get runners high sometimes. And other times, I forget that I'm running and just get into the "flow" of moving and placing one foot ahead of the other. So much of running seems mental which I both love and hate...

- WASABI, JALAPENOS, & OTHER SPICY FOODS: these foods can "hurt so good!" Sushi is not the same without wasabi. Soy sauce is not nearly as fabulous of a dip without some wasabi mixed in. I think the excitement factor is part of the pleasure... everytime I have sushi, I scortch my mouth at least once with too much wasabi. But, if I don't, I wasn't trying hard enough to achieve the perfect spiciness. Jalapenos and other insanely spicy foods are the same way... I love the challenge and the excitement though the burn can be a bit painful! P.S. I love hearing from my chef roommate that spicy foods are almost always great for you even if they "hurt" a little...

To Be Continued...

Monday, May 4, 2009


This morning at Starbucks, I met an adorable 26-month-old little boy. He was drinking an organic chocolate milk (in the juice-box type container) and wandering around Starbucks being social. We started talking about the chocolate milk, the cow on the packaging, the milk that comes from cows, his rain boots, etc... And then, he got really excited. He started to enthusiastically tell me about the tractors outside in the parking lot and his face lit up. He pointed outside as if he wanted to take me to see them. I would have loved to go on a tractor tour with him but would have been late for work...

I said goodbye a few times as I walked out the door and we both waved. He came up and pressed his face almost against the glass of the door, waved his hand, and loudly chanted, "bye, bye!" I could hear him when I was a couple feet from the door, then as I approached my car, and, even when I was about 75 feet away, I could still hear him and see him smiling and waving.

He made my morning and day!