Sunday, May 16, 2010

soak up the sun...and there's no place like home

Okay, you got me - as just about every picture of me will show, I'm not a big fan of the sun.

However, I am a pretty big fan of My Sunshine - my sister.  So, for her, I packed myself and my husband up and shipped us out to sunny Arizona to spend some time with her and see her graduate.

In my last post before we left, I stated three goals:
1. to take my camera - done
2. to remember to use my camera - did better than I've done in the past
3. to take pictures of my food, heedless of other people's opinions of me - more or less failed, but it was more because I just wanted to eat and enjoy my food rather than being self-conscious of strangers' impressions of me.  I also didn't think Mister would appreciate me taking pictures of our food every time we ate, especially in the morning.

Without further ado, then, here are the fruits of my labor - a picture-story, if you will.  Let's start from the beginning.

The last meal I made before we left was Punjabi Peppers and Tofu from La Dolce Vegan.  I made this for two reasons: I love it and there are never leftovers, so I figured it was a safe bet for the night before we left for a week.  Fell a little short there, so I will check on the status of the one serving of leftovers tomorrow.

After dinner, Mister and I went about our Packing Dance.  Due to Mister's frequent travel up until a couple of years ago, Angst is quick to recognize the activities that commonly culminate in Mister leaving.  He can also recognize when Mommy is also engaged in that dangerous activity.  He copes by hiding in the space between my computer table and the HVAC unit.

Our travel survival kit.  Plenty of tasty and quality food bits in case all we found in the Dallas airport was a steakhouse.  Also, in addition to charging for all checked luggage (resulting in me carrying around a very heavy carry-on), American Airlines feels completely justified in removing the free peanuts and replacing them with $6 bags of granola that they generously make available for purchase on the flight.  If you don't want to fork over $3.50 for a chocolate chip cookie, you can always stuff your purse with $.99 Clif products.  The Larabar was the splurge (at a hefty $1.29).

So, after much pressure applied to the eardrums and a really rocky landing, we did arrive in Tucson, located our spiffy Nissan Versa (not so much spiffy as it was a jumpy little bugger), and proceeded to the hotel.  After relaxing for a minute or many, we made plans for dinner with my sister at Blue Willow that evening.  I had a delightful stir-fry over brown rice.  All the food was beautiful and very tasty, but I somehow neglected to take pictures!

The next day we wandered around on 4th Avenue, which was full of tattoo parlors, coffeeshops, bars, vintage/thrift stores, head/smoke shops, and miscellaneous other stuff.  At a fair trade store, I found some gorgeous decorated glasses, but realized the difficulty in getting them home so they stayed at the store.  In another store, I tried on a fabulous [and very tight form-fitting] Betty Page-style dress, but ultimately realized that I don't like people looking at my body like that, so it also stayed in the store.  Here are a couple of highlights, though:

They had these all over the place - they are very creative places to lock up your bike and they are made from old bike parts.  This little guy and his friend were my favorite, and I like how you can see the mouthless face on the wall behind him.  I don't know what was going on there but she looks pretty even without a mouth.

This was the exquisite doorway to a defunct spa just off the beaten path.  The padlocked doors were made of ornately scrolled wrought iron or possibly brass and surrounded by those gorgeous lapis tiles.  I informed Mister that the reason I was taking a picture was so we would remember to include such a doorway in our future home.

Later that evening, we met up with Sister and about 8 of her closest friends at a nice outdoor cafe at Hotel Congress.  I couldn't quite gauge the level of surliness our bartender was exhibiting until Mister ordered a Pepsi and the bartender remarked that he only had "cola-syrup beverage" with a barely discernible twinkle in his eye.  After a couple of drinks, Sister, one of her closer friends, Mister, and I went to Lovin' Spoonfuls for dinner.  We had a ball ordering - Mister got Country Fried Chicken with Mashed Potatoes and Gravy while I got the Pepper Steak.  It was all fun and tasty and again, I failed to get a picture.

The following morning, Mister and I returned for breakfast.  The Mediterranean Scramble was just what I hoped it would be - chunks of tofu, lightly browned and sauteed with halved kalamata olives, sundried tomatoes, and soy bacon.  Mister had a breakfast burrito and seemed quite pleased.  Their coffee was amazing and fair trade, as well as shade grown.  We wandered along 4th Ave again, then returned to the hotel to freshen up for dinner.

My parents had arrived during the day, so we met up with Mom, Dad, Sister, and Sweetheart at a glamorous [and booked!] hotspot Downtown - Cafe Poca Cosa.  The woman in charge was such a charmer and remained completely cool amidst the chaos of three large parties arriving for their reservations at once.  My original intention was to get a margarita, but the list was extensive to the point of being overwhelming and my father wanted me to select a bottle of wine for the table.  When I saw my favorite Rosemount Estates Shiraz, I had to be a good daughter and defer to Dad...

As you can see, I've been a bad influence on him.  The minute the food arrived, he whipped out his fancy picture-taking cellphone and started taking pictures of the food!  Not to be outdone, I decided that if he could take flash pictures of the food (subtle, Dad), I could capture a couple of images as well.

I ordered the only vegetarian offering on their very meat-centric menu.  It was a phenomenal restaurant, but I really don't think it's necessary to have 3 chicken entrees, 2 beef entrees, 2 pork entrees, 2 fish entrees, and 1 vegetarian entree.  Regardless, my Pastel de Elote con Marron Amarillo was extraordinary.  It was essentially a corn cake smothered in a roasted yellow pepper sauce, accompanied by cantaloupe, watermelon, sesame seed-adorned cucumber slices, and a mixed greens salad with jicama and slice of red bell pepper.

Mister, being a bit snobby or perhaps taking a cue from his father during our Christmas Eve dining adventures, ordered the "off menu choice" of very fancy Chile Rellenos (stuffed pepper) accompanied by a slice of pineapple, about a cup of cubed carrots, and a mixed greens salad with jicama.

After we ate, drank, and made merry, Mister and I strolled around Downtown for a little while before getting utterly and completely lost [in the car] trying to find our way back to the hotel.  We retired early since we would need to check out before leaving for graduation in the morning.

There's my dear sister, being 'hooded' to symbolize her being awarded her Masters of Public Health.  Good job, little sis!  We stuck around for a picture (or 500) after the ceremony before heading off to the airport.

A few final pictures that I can't really tie in but I think are cool:

palm trees!

This was actually pretty neat - it's a picture of a little green plant sprouting from inside a chunk of 180,000,000 year old petrified wood.  There's something magical about that.

Speaking of magic, we did manage to make it home in one piece, even if our heads feel like there's cotton in them and I probably won't hear right until Monday.  I even managed to put together a menu, because heaven forbid I take these last two days to relax!  You know I missed cooking, though, so I was happy to dive into some old favorite cookbooks and find recipes I haven't made yet - I only have one previously-made dinner in here, but I can't even guess how long it's been since I made it.

1. Snobby Joes from Veganomicon

2. Chile Cornmeal-Crusted Tofu from Veganomicon with Garlicky Kale with Tahini Dressing from Vegan With A Vengeance.

3. Chickpea Broccoli Casserole from Vegan With A Vengeance  (okay, you got me, this is the repeat)

4. Braised Cauliflower with Three-Seed Sauce from VwaV - this was actually in the Side Dishes section, but I realized that with the help of some rice and the addition of chickpeas, this could be a great meal in itself!

5. Quick Green Veggie Soup with Couscous from Vegan Express.  Yes, I will push my luck with soup until the minute Mister informs me it is not soup weather.
6. Thai Steamed Green Garden with Coconut-Peanut Sauce from Vegan Express.

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