Things I’m Loving, Right Now

In order to restore balance to the blogosphere, here is the list of things I am crazy about right now. You can see the list of stuff I am SO over – here.

  1.  ICE CREAM – I must have missed good ice cream more than I realized because I can’t stop eating it. Yes they have ice cream in Prague. But truth be told, most of it is pretty shitty. America is the land of outlandish, yet delicious ice cream flavors. If Ben & Jerry still owned and operated their business, I would write them a big Thank You card. Their flavors are amazing. I have had Red Velvet Cake ice cream, Creme Brulee ice cream, Boston Cream Pie ice cream, and even ice cream with chocolate covered potato chip balls. The Texas owned and operated Blue Bell Ice Cream is pretty good as well, and I have tried a few other brands I have enjoyed, but nothing even comes close to B&J’s. I only allow myself only one pint a week (shared with my fella) so that I don’t become like one of the natives. The last thing I need is to be confused with a Texan.
  2. 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami I am a member of The Cult of Murakami. I have read all of his books and I have enjoyed each and every last one of them. His latest (and longest) novel is just as badass. I can’t put it down. I read it on my lunch breaks and before going to sleep. I read on the weekend and I read during the kids nap time. This book is close to 1000 pages and I already know I am going to miss it when it ends. It’s the story of an assassin, a world with two moons, a ghost writer and of course a mysterious young girl. Fans of Murakami will love this, and folks new to him will see what all the fuss is about. He didn’t win the Pulitzer for literature this year, but he was nominated.
  3. BakingMy Dr. Pepper CupcakesEach week when Friday rolls around I begin to think about which type of treat I will make over the weekend. It has become sort of an obsession with me. So far I have baked Chocolate Dr. Pepper Cupcakes, Snikerdoodles, Peanut Butter Chocolate – Peanut Butter Chip cookies, Peanut Butter Cookies, and Chocolate Chip Cookies. The next item to tackle will be lasagna. I’m giving my sweet tooth a break this week.
  4. SPELLTOWER – Spelltower is a word finding game. I first played it on my boyfriend’s iphone. I played it for about four consecutive hours, and then bought it for my MAC. If you like word searches, then this game is for you. You compete only against your own high score, so there is no real way to “win” or so my boyfriend keeps telling me. I feel like if I bust my high score then I win. I like winning.
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Positively Texas

My blog gets both criticized and praised equally for being a tad on the “negative” side. Maybe not negative per se, but I do like to point out obvious flaws or total lameness when I see it. I don’t think there is anything wrong with humorously attacking a presidential hopeful for their outdated or bigoted views, or calling out folks when they act a fool. Those are just a couple of examples, but it’s what I do. And most folks seem to like it or lump it. I figure by exploiting the negative junk the positive stuff rises to the surface. Like a Cheerio in milk.

That being said, I don’t think I have given Texas a fair shake. In fact, due to my upbringing and conditioning in California, I think I hated Texas before I even got here. And my friends didn’t help the situation. The news that I was leaving Prague for The Lone Star State was not met with overwhelming support or cries of “Good for You!”. Instead what I got was disdain. A few of my American friends said things like, “Really? Why?”, or “Seriously? Well, if that’s what you want…” accompanied by eye rolling. Gee thanks. Starting over in a new place sight unseen isn’t very easy, but it is even harder when people are constantly and consistently telling you how much you will hate it when you get there.

So, in an effort to be positive and to not let the haters get me down (’cause we all know that haters gonna hate) here is a list of a few things I actually like in Texas.

  1. The Food

    Hubbell & Hudson burger and sweet potato fries

    I think after six years in the Czech Republic I had forgotten what good tastes like. Well, I was reminded pretty quick when I had a hamburger that was cooked properly, ice cream that was think, creamy and delicious, and of course some mexican food that was actually prepared by Mexican people with real mexican ingredients. Sure the hamburgers at Whataburger & Sonic gave me the urge to purge pretty much instantaneously, but it’s my fault for eating fast food in the first place.

  2. Cool shit to do – Did you know that there is a bowling alley here in Austin that hosts Sing-A-Longs every Tuesday? Did you also know that tonight is a Buffy Musical Sing-A-Long?! I know! And that is just the beginning. There is a cool movie theater (somewhat like the now defunct Parkway Speakeasy) that hosts cool movie nights with themes and dressing up, and regular movies but you can get good food and beer while watching. Check it out! 
  3. The People – With the exception of a few dickheads, most of the folks I have met here have been really nice. Even the homeless lady that bummed a smoke off me the other day was super polite and asked how I was handling the heat. Our realtor was a super chill surfer dude who spent time in Guatemala teaching kids to kayak, and I have even had more than one pleasant encounter with checkers at grocery stores – something that rarely happened to me in Praha.
  4. The Museums – My favorite museums  in the world are located in London and NYC. Duh. Of course they are. Prague was lame for museums, and I really didn’t have high hopes as far as Texas was concerned. Boy was I wrong! The Houston Museum District is pretty bad ass. There are a ton of museums and galleries that you can see… and see for FREE on Thursdays! I went to the Fine Art museum & The Menil Collection and I had a great time. I forgot how nice it is to walk around a museum, look at some good art, make fun of the not good art and then head to the taco truck for some food.

So, how was that? Pretty good huh? Yeah, Texas is fucking hot and humid and miserable at times, and the bugs here are assholes but that doesn’t have to be the cumulation of my experience here. And I have winter to look forward to! A snowless winter that doesn’t last 7 months might be just what the doctor ordered.

 

Farmer’s Market

I woke up early this morning eager to get to the Farmer’s Market. Locally grown fruits and veggies, and a few hippy vendors makes Alicia a happy girl. There are some farmer’s market’s in Prague, but none of them held a candle to the ones I went to in Oakland. And since Texas is the land of “Really Big Thing’s Just For The Sake Of Being Big”, I had high hopes for the markets in Texas.

The closest one was the Grogan’s Mill Farmers Market. It was in a parking lot in a swanky, up-scale neighborhood. The market was smaller than I has hoped, but after talking to one of the vendors we found that it was because of all the storms in Houston this week. Many farms were flooded out and had no yield this week. The nice man who sold us the most amazing goat cheeses said that the bread vendor that is usually next to him just didn’t show because he figured it would be a low traffic day.

What was there was great. We walked away with a huge watermelon, a bucket full of perfect peaches, tomato-basil, and garlic-herb goat cheeses, three of the most glorious tamales I have ever eaten and a bottle of pinot grigio. (The wine came from the grocery store that shares the parking lot.)

All in all I had a great time. The food is delicious, and for the first time in a long time I was able to have a conversation with the people who were responsible for my food. The young dude who sold us our watermelon actually picked it himself. He told us so.

5 Ways to Save Money

I have a feeling that no matter how rich you become, you still have the desire to save money. It’s just a feeling because I have never been rich. In fact, I have never even been in line to get into the ball park of being rich. But, I have been super poor all of my life. I have received unemployment and I have spent the last six years living and working in Prague which means I have absolutely no money. If you work in Prague, it isn’t money you are after.  And who’s gonna know better than a broke chick about saving money?

  1. Don’t Have Kids – Duh. This one is a no brainer. kids are cute and funny and all that, but one thing they ain’t is cheap. And don’t tell me your fucking Labradoodle is your “baby”. It isn’t. Last time I checked you didn’t need to save money to send Sparky to college only to have him drink away his freshman year, then get a part-time job flipping burgers while living in your basement for the next ten years. All the while eating YOUR food and driving your car. Yeah, your pet doesn’t count as a child. 
  2. Don’t Drive – I’m a big fan of not driving. I don’t like it. I’d much rather take public transit or walk. Or ride a bike. Or roller skate. Or carpool. Riding a bike saves you money on gas, insurance, maintenance and time at the stupid DMV… and it helps you look hotter. 
  3. Cook  I know, it’s crazy. With all of those fine restaurants out there that offer so much tasty food, why would you want to cook? Because most of that food isn’t actually good, or good for you, or even very affordable. If you are eating at The Olive Garden, Chili’s, Applebee’s, The Cheesecake Factory, Panera or TGI Friday’s then you are eating crap food plain and simple. Not to mention you are probably eating about 2000 calories every time you sit down no matter what you order. Now, wouldn’t it be better if you went to the store and found good ingredients and cooked them yourself? You’d know what was going in your body and you’d save a bundle. You also wouldn’t have to put up with hearing depressed waiters forced to smile while singing “Happy Birthday” two dozen times while you ingest your Awesome Blossom, Hickory Burger and cheesecake.
  4. Lose the Cable T.V. – How much does cable cost these days? No, really I have no idea, but whatever it is  – it’s too much. With the internet out there, you can watch whatever show, movie or video you want online. It makes having cable T.V. the biggest waste of money I can think of. I say take your cable T.V. money and put it towards something cool and useful. Better yet, get a library card (which is FREE and gives you access to BOOKS and DVDs and other neat things) and then put that cable money towards something awesome like a veggie garden or a treehouse or beer. 
  5. Buy Generic– Living in Europe has taught me that “name brands” are just another way for you to participate in keeping up with the Joneses. Honestly. take a look at anything from toilet paper to aspirin and compare the ingredients and I bet you will find that they are the same. Why would you spend an extra $3 dollars on grape juice just because it say’s Welches on it? Oh, because you have been conditioned by the good people at Welches Marketing to think that Welches Grape Juice is some wholesome, good for you product that is better than the others because you recognize the name. Well, I got news for you. It’s exactly the same as the 28 other grape juices in the juice section. It costs more because you are gullible and you bought into the pretty picture they showed you. Buy the cheaper, lesser known brand of whatever it is – you’ll save money. Promise. Store brands cost about 27% less than their Big Brand counter parts. Price gaps have less to do with what goes into the package than with the research, development, and marketing costs that help build a household name.Read more: http://moneyland.time.com/2009/09/02/the-store-brand-taste-test-challenge-theyre-as-good-as-big-name-brands/#ixzz1yhkmY3a7

Soda Ban?

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg recently decided to ban super-sized sugary sodas. A decision that has left a lot of people angry. Personally I think his heart is in the right place, but the idea is absurd. Banning a certain size of just ONE of the many culprits in America’s race to an obesity induced heart attack is akin to banning lighters and keeping cigarettes. It’s just silly. Why attack sodas? Why not attack Doritos or french fries or mayonnaise? Or better yet…

Why not go to the source – High fructose Corn syrup. We need to treat HFC like we treat tobacco and tobacco products. Tax the shit of them and raise prices. People sometimes need a little help chosing things that are good for them – obviously. I’m not saying take away the choice to be a sick looking fat ass who eats in their car and serves food “nuggets” to their kids. Nope, not saying that at all. I am saying make the choice to be healthy and active more cost-effective than not.

For years the HFC people have had their money-grubbing paws in every aisle of the store – from sodas to chips to juice – you will find it in everything. It’s cheap and it keeps prices low for foods that use it. And foods that use it are inherently unhealthy. So why not turn the tables? Why not start paying MORE for the crap and less for the good stuff?

If Bloomberg wanted to really make a difference he would find a way to subsidise Farmer’s Markets or lower the cost of bottled water. He would start going in to public schools and removing the vending machines that sell crap and replace them with food that is good for you.  Higher prices reduce consumption, so government wisely taxes products it disfavors, such as tobacco. Anyone who watches Mad Men knows that tobacco wasn’t always the bad guy. But as America grew wiser public opinion changed.

We can make HFC the new tobacco. We can choose not to buy products that use it. We can choose to stop eating fast, fatty foods and replace them with healthy, fresh fruits and veggies. I stopped buying soda and went to flavored water. From there I went to fizzy water with lime. Now soda is a treat for me when I go out to eat. and don’t feel like drinking. Heck, I don’t really drink alcohol any more.

So let’s make a deal America – let’s chose to eat only foods that are HFC free and see how awesome we feel. Let’s choose to be active for at least 30 minutes every day rather than watch T.V. Let’s make people who drink those disgusting, huge sodas feel like assholes – you know, the way America ganged up on smokers once smoking became uncool. I know we can do it America! I have faith in you.

A Life without Mexican

I am a California girl, born and raised. There are a couple of stereotypes that come to mind when people hear that, and a few of them are true of me. I am blond. I like the ocean. I am tan. But there are some things about being a native Californian that don’t just come to mind. For example, all Southern Californian’s are experts in smog levels, UV protection in sunscreen and determining ETA allowing for traffic. We are also all aficionados of Mexican food.  Mexican food is by far my favorite cuisine. I love the fancy stuff almost as much as I love Taco truck. I adore the smells, the colors and the pure zazz that is Mexican food.

And yet I choose to live in a country that houses little to zero GOOD Mexican food. The problem being that there are little to no actual Mexican people here in the land of spires. I often wonder why I like it here so much seeing as how it is about as different from So Cal as you can get: freezing winters full of snow, land locked, spice free and devoid of Mexican food that actually tastes like Mexican food.

There are a few places here in Prague that serve Mexican food – but most of them wouldn’t know a chimichanga from a quesadilla. My friends and I often hit up the happy hour at the very popular Banditos Restaurant. The food and beer come cheap, but we are under no illusions that we are actually eating Mexican food. Last time I checked taco’s didn’t have ground beef as a filling. It is the “American Fast Food” version of Mexican. It’s fine, but it ain’t Mexican. There is also Cantina, but that is across the river so it might as well actually be in Mexico.

By far the best Mexican food I have found here is Las Adelitas. I went there for the first time a few weeks ago and was shocked when I walked through the doors and smelled actual re-fried beans. The song playing was one I remembered from my time living south of the border, and the nice man who took my order was Mexican. The place is run by some folks that hail from Mexico. And I was sold. The food passed the Alicia test.

People often ask me if I miss living in the US – and my answer is always the same: No. Sure I miss things like Target and shrimp burritos, but that is by no means a good reason for me to move back to the land of plenty of everything. Sure, it sucks that Prague cuisine isn’t the best in the world and that Czechs idea of spice is salt, but I am still happy to be here. I appreciate everything in my life a little more now – especially a good burrito.