Monday, August 30, 2010

Stormy weather

I don't want to tempt fate, but I've completed my hurricane preparations. That doesn't mean that I'll be happy if one hits, but I can't really think of more to do. The number one thing you need in a hurricane, I'm told? Cash. The ATM's won't work, of course, and neither will the credit card readers. So if you need water or gas, cash will be your friend.

Thus, I've stashed a bit of cash. (Go ahead, burglars, you'll never guess where I hid it.) I bought two collapsible water containers and if a storm threatens I'll fill them up. I've purchased emergency cat rations (otherwise known as dry cat food), since the frozen cat food could thaw and decay. I've squirreled away food for me too: I wanted stuff I wouldn't have to heat up and that would last as long as possible, so when the power goes out I'll be eating vegetarian soup and whole wheat matzoh (good until 2013!). The landlord says he'll take care of the windows, and if we have to evacuate but can't get up Interstate 95, the cat and I have reservations at a pet-friendly evacuation center.

I wonder what I've forgotten...

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Be my guest

I recently attended a pig roast in Ohio, hosted by my parents. Don't ask me why a vegetarian spends hundreds of dollars and hours of travel time to watch people eat pork; it can't be rationally explained. All I can say is that I enjoy seeing all of the guests, although this is tempered by watching my husband eat a meal composed entirely of pork (including the eyeball).

My parents moved into a new, larger home a few years ago, which has provided the space for two offices as well as two guest rooms. I have thus discovered that my mother has a knack for provisioning guest rooms. She makes sure that each room has a nightstand with a lamp and alarm clock, which provides a level of comfort above and beyond the overhead light. Towels are laid out and there's an empty dresser for your stuff. This year she also set out a few books that might make interesting bedtime reading and I loved that. I have an aunt in Georgia who always puts fresh flowers and snacks in her guest rooms. I appreciate all the thought these people making their guests comfortable, and I can't wait until I have a home big enough to provide the same courtesies.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Keys

I'd rate Key West an excellent weekend getaway. We spent last weekend there and I was pleasantly surprised at how much we enjoyed it, even though I don't fall into any of the targeted demographics: gay, party animal, or beach bum. I prefer to vacation in big cities for long vacations, but I can appreciate a beach town for a few days.

We left early Saturday morning. Although it seems like Miami is as far south as you can get on the mainland of the US, it still takes an hour or so to really get to the bottom. Then you join the queue of cars headed south, because there's just one road that connects the 40 or so islands that are car-accessible. This road happens to be U.S. Route 1, which is the easternmost north-south highway in the US. It ran through my old home of College Park, as well, so it's nice to see it again. Route 1 is mostly two lane, running across islands and long bridges, until it ends (or begins, depending on your point of view).

Once we arrived, we had lunch. I had done research before I left, as always behooves a vegetarian foodie, so we ate well. Sadly, the picture on the left was my plate when I was done with my meal. I hate wasting food, so that picture was taken with great sadness. I don't quite understand how European restaurants (yes, I'm talking to you, Amsterdam) manage to serve small servings at steep prices and American restaurants manage to serve heaping servings at cheap prices. Wait, I worked as a waitress long enough to know where the savings are coming from...

Next, we were off to a butterfly house. My favorite type of butterfly was the one you see in the upper lefthand corner: the black and white one. It fits with my aesthetic, although it seems a bit unfair to expect butterflies to be monochromatic.
Andrew's pick for animal of the day was probably these quail. They were running around on the floor inside the butterfly house. I honestly didn't know that the U.S. had ground-dwelling birds; I would have thought that the native predators would have prevented there survival.

I also added to my new collection of tropical fruit pictures - bananas! I didn't know that such a large, striking bloom was involved. We photographed this one in the garden at Ernest Hemingway's house.

Friday, August 06, 2010

More from exotic Miami

Today I'll continue my report on the less-familiar aspects of Miami. As soon as I moved here I thought that Miami felt quite different than the other (numerous) places I've lived in the U.S. It can take quite a bit of thought, though, to pin down exactly what feels different, but here's a start:

1. All the windows have decorative grilles over them. I live in what is called a "transitioning" neighborhood, which means we have well-appointed houses and fancy art galleries quite near to convenience stores that accept food stamps. So I did wonder if the grilles were for safety. They are, but from hurricanes rather than people. They're made so that you can slip wood in between the grille and the window during hurricanes, which looks like a lot less work than boarding up your windows.
2. The summer is "off-season." Sure, summer is still the hottest part of the year. But the growing season actually takes place from October-April, when it's not so hot. And since all the tourists visit in the winter, summer is the time to snag deals at restaurants and hotels.
3. Miami has a reputation for a strong focus on bodily beauty. This does appear to be true. I especially enjoy the weekly plastic surgery advice column in the paper.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Exploring Florida

A few weeks ago I decided I needed to start exploring Florida beyond its beaches. Since it is the height of summer, many of the tourist attractions, such as the Everglades, are out. I have heard horror stories of the heat, humidity, and mosquitoes in the Everglades this time of year and I have no desire to confirm them. Sad to say, there was a reason so many swamps in Florida were drained, and while I'm happy that swamps still exist, I'll be waiting until cooler weather to go visit them.
The first stop on our day trip was for the purpose of fortifying ourselves with frozen custard. The verdict: not bad, but not amazing. In the past I done all of my local food research using Chowhound, but the southern Florida section of said website is rather new and this limits my ability to locate really terrific food.
The primary goal of our trip was to visit a historic lighthouse a few hours north of Miami. In one of the gardens there I saw something I had never before seen: pineapples. I knew they grew low to the ground but somehow I never imagine that the immature versions would be such tiny, perfect versions of the full-size pineapple. Each of the fruits pictured here are about four inches long. They seem so exotic to me.
Here is the Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse. It's not very tall, but since Florida is very flat we had a good view from the top. Our guide had lots of historical tidbits to feed us. The one that stuck with me, perhaps because it was so sad, was the fact that at one point in the nineteenth century, all the Native American tribes indigenous to the area were wiped out, either due to disease, war, or deportation. The tribes that are now in Florida originally came from Georgia and Alabama.
This weekend we're going to Key West, which I expect to offer less in the way of history and more in the way of fruity cocktails.