January 27, 2012

The Blues...

After loads of research and several trips to my local paint store I have finally decided on a wall color for the guest room make over.

Before revealing the color I have a confession to make. People I LABORED over this decision! It was ridiculous. I actually found myself lying awake at night weighing the finalists in my mind. Too light, too dark, too nursery-like? I discovered something about myself during this time. I hate to say the words aloud but I'm afraid it's true...those people with OCD aren't that much different from me. You notice I'm not saying that I personally am OCD, I'm just merely saying that I understand how one could have those tendencies. Especially when it comes time to choose a paint color. There. I've said it. There will be no need to speak of this subject again!

In the end it came down to two colors...

Benjamin Moore's Glass Slipper

Benjamin Moore's Palladian Blue

Ladies and Gentleman, without further adieu, I present to you the winner of the guest bedroom paint decision...

Glass Slipper!

Don't you just love It? I love it. Actually I love them both - very much - but for a bedroom I decided Glass Slipper was the best choice. It has a grayish tone that I find very relaxing. One description I read said "the color of a washed out sky after a storm". Sounds perfect to me. I want the room to feel fresh and clean.

Now I am in the waiting mode. Waiting to hear back from the painter with his bid and schedule. Waiting for the folks who are taking the dresser and night stands to come and haul them away. Waiting for the painting to be done so I can have the carpet cleaned. Waiting...waiting...waiting.

In the meantime, I think I'll ponder on the perfect space to use the Palladian Blue!

January 23, 2012

This Madness Must End...

Something strong has come over me. A deep, nagging need.

It consumes my thoughts.

I lie awake at night and think about it.

I long for the day the dream becomes a reality.

What is it you ask?

It is the need to purge. The need to remove all the junk from my life.

The need to get organized.

This news could surprise those of you who have been inside our home. You see, on the surface our home appears to pretty much have it together. It's neat. It's clean. Clutter drives me crazy; therefore you will rarely see it here.

And there my friends is the key phrase - you will rarely see it.

Yes, we have clutter but it is hidden clutter. In other words, there are certain spaces in our home that should you attempt to enter you would immediately hear me shriek, "don't open that door"!

I think this may be the point where I am supposed to stand up and say "hello, my name is Kim and I'm an closet clutterer".

We have a hidden secret. We refer to it as Bryan's room; however, in its current state Bryan couldn't get in there to do anything if his life depended on it. Thank goodness he has his own lovely home where he can comfortably lay his head at night!

Yes, there is a bed in there. Somewhere. Buried beneath anything and everything that I simply don't know what to do with. The only time we open the door to this room is to quickly toss in a piece of luggage, the Christmas wrapping paper or some other random object that doesn't have an assigned seat in another part of the house.

This past Friday I began the daunting task of cleaning the room. I was ready. I was set. I was singing a little song that sounded like something out of a Dr Seuss poem -

I've made up my mind.
This crap has to go.
I'll donate, I'll trash it, I'll give to a friend.
I'll store it, I"ll sale it, this madness must end!

I was off to a good start (or completely off my rocker!).

I thought surely I could finish the clean-up phase by the end of the weekend. It's now Monday, mid-day, and it's still not finished. I decided a few minutes ago that I was to the point where I had to either

1) find a therapist or

2) blog about it!

So here I am.

I have great plans for the room. Once the clean-up phase is complete there should be nothing left but the existing bed and book shelf. From there the room will be painted a calming shade of robin's egg blue. I plan to add a small dresser, new white blinds and accessories. It will be a place people can actually sleep. A room where I actually leave the door open!

Okay, I believe I can once again face the challenge. It's back to the room for me! I thank you lovely readers for allowing me to confess my clutter problem to you. Hopefully in the next few weeks I will be able to share photos with you of the new and improved "Bryan's" room.

Until next time...I'm running along...I'm singing a song -

I've made up my mind.
This crap has to go.
I'll donate, I'll trash it, I'll give to a friend.
I'll store it, I"ll sale it, this madness must end!

January 19, 2012

Someone help me!

With the start of a new year as incentive, the Señor and I decided to make an attempt at healthier eating. With the help of www.loseit.com we are journaling our food which in turn tracks the number of calories we consume each day. The application is very user friendly, is free and allows the user to establish a profile which based on age and weight determines the number of calories the user should eat in order to experience weight loss. The application also allows you to track your daily exercise and; of course, your weight. Seems so simple, right?

I'm going to be honest. I do great during the week. Not so great on the weekends. Breakfasts are easy. Lunch? I do okay. I might even have an afternoon snack.

Control calorie intake at week day breakfasts, week day lunches and week day snacks - check.

Control calorie intake at week day dinners and weekend meals - let's just call those a work in progress!

Oh, dinner! I try. I really do. I read cookbooks. I research the Internet. I put a lot of thought in to finding meals that are pleasing and don't taste like cardboard. Some of them turn out okay. Some of them not so much. A couple have gone straight to the garbage.

It would be different if the Señor and I didn't enjoy good food but the fact of the matter is we do. We love to cook, we love to eat and we love restaurants. Thus the challenge. Finding tasty dinner options that don't leave us feeling as if we are being punished merely for eating.

So lovely readers, will you help me? Do you have any yummy low-cal recipes or meal ideas you are willing to share? I'll go ahead and share a couple with you that I like - www.eatingwell.com and www.cookinglight.com. If you are not familiar with them you should check them out. They, in my humble opinion, have some nice low-cal recipes.

So, come on. Work with me people. Send me some low-cal love!

January 16, 2012

The debate goes on...

What is it about men and the toilet?

Seriously, what is it?

Is it so difficult to lower the lid?

Up or down? That is the question.

I feel quiet certain this dilemma dates back centuries to King Minos of Crete who, according to history, was the proud owner of the very first water closet.

Or perhaps it started a few 100 years later when the Godson of Queen Elizabeth the First invented and built a flush toilet for her.

Odds are the King preferred the lid up. Even greater odds say the Queen preferred the lid down.

And here we are in the year 2012 and the debate goes on.

Up versus down?

Male versus female?

He believes the lid goes up. She believes the lid goes down.

Beyond a doubt this subject has sent many a female into fits of rage. In fact, I personally know of one mild mannered Mrs who upon discovering her husband had once again left the toilet lid up slammed the lid shut so hard she actually broke it.

Rumor has it the incident also caused a few choice four letter words to pass her lips but as I did not personally witness the incident I cannot state it as a fact.

In her defense I believe any female who has made that dark, stumbling, 2:00 AM journey to the toilet only to experience the icy-cold baptism of her own derriere can relate to her rage.

It's a rage that could possible hold up as a valid defense in a court of law.

And the debate goes on.

It's a debate that has played out in our house.

A subject that has been discussed amongst our family and friends.

And it's always the same.

It's the boys against the girls.

Yes, it's a gender thing.

And if you doubt it just ask our grand daughter who, after discovering her Papa had left the toilet seat up, shook her finger while reprimanding him in her most stern two and a half year old voice and said "no Papa".

January 5, 2012

The city of New Orleans...

Looking back over the last quarter of 2011 I realize I spent a few fabulous October days in New Orleans and never shared them with you. I couldn't imagine why but then I remembered I had come home with a nasty ear infection. I actually acquired it while sitting in a bar watching game 6 of the World Series between our beloved Texas Rangers and the St Louis Cardinals. The company that night was amongst some of the best, the game a real nail-biter and I had to leave and go back to the hotel around the 4th inning because my ear ached so dang bad. Perhaps I should have known then that karma was not on our side as our Rangers suffered a heartbreaking defeat that night and went on to lose game 7 and thus were not crowned the 2011 World Series Champions. And, no, I'm not bitter - no sir-ee.

Despite the earache I did my best to make the best of my time in the Crescent City. And what do I consider to be the best use of time - why, I ate of course! New Orleans is a gastronomical wonderland and I take full advantage of its offerings whenever I have the opportunity to be there.

As with most of my trips to New Orleans I managed to finagle a ticket on the tag-a-long express. In other words, The Señor was going on business and I batted my big blue eyes and begged until he agreed to let me accompany him. Okay, it wasn't quiet that dramatic. He knows how much I love NOLA and invited me along without my even having to ask (well, maybe I asked but I didn't have to beg!).

At the last minute our travel plans got a little convoluted. The Señor was delayed and unable to make our originally scheduled flight. I was on a non-refundable ticket. Long story short - I arrived in NOLA, alone, several hours before he did. So what's a girl to do on a random Wednesday morning, alone, in the spectacular city of New Orleans? Why, shop and eat of course.

I wandered Jackson Square, stopped off at St Louis Cathedral for some quiet time, strolled the streets of the French Quarter and enjoyed a long, leisurely lunch at John Besh' Restaurant August. I took advantage of the Prix Fixe Menu and although the meal was lovely I believe I enjoyed the room, staff and that one single glass of champagne most of all.

Following lunch I headed to the hotel. You see, I arrived in NOLA mid-morning, much too early for check in. The cab driver dropped me off at Jackson Square - sans bags I might add - as The Señor had our luggage and would be checking it on his flight. I must admit it felt sort of odd what landing in a city thats not your own - alone, no car, no luggage and no where to lay your head until that illusive 3:00 PM check-in. So come 3:00 PM I made my way over to the Iberville Suites, checked in to our room, hung the Do Not Disturb sign, donned the complementary bath robe and proceeded to nap until The Señor arrived some time later. Yes, it was certainly my kind of afternoon.

That evening we caught up with some great friends for a cocktail at the world famous Carousel Bar at the Hotel Montleone. Afterwards we took what turned out to be one scenic, not to mention entertaining, cab ride to Pascal's Manale Restaurant.

This was my first visit to Pascale's Manale and it was absolutely everything I had been led to believe it was. There were six of us and let's just say we had a feast! We started out with two appetizers - the Stuffed Eggplant (a combination of eggplant, shrimp, crabmeat, ham and seasonings) and the Combination Pan Roast (shrimp and crabmeat chopped with a decadent blend of green onions, parsley and seasonings with whole oysters). These are the restaurants descriptions and do not even begin to explain what the dishes really are. I believe the Stuffed Eggplant should read something along the line of "the closest thing you'll get to heaven on a plate" but, of course, that's just my opinion.

As an entree I chose the dish the restaurant is famous for - The Original Pascale's Barbecue Shrimp. This dish is over the top spicy, tangy, messy and finger-licking-good. Sop it all up with some good 'ole New Orlean's French bread and you have yourself one amazing meal.

For the life of me I can't remember what the others ordered that night. Flashbacks of the Stuffed Eggplant, Barbecued shrimp and French bread have left me in such a stupor that I can hardly think of anything else.

The following day I decided to check out Cochon Butcher. I had read all kinds of great things about this little sandwich shop and wanted to see what all the buzz was about. The articles mentioned the lines could be long at lunch so I arrived just at 11:00 and was able to walk right up to the counter. The shop is is small and has the obligatory butcher counter along with a sandwich counter and four high-top tables with chairs. There is also a counter built along one wall where diners can pull-up a chair. All in all I would guess the place could hold 20 diners. By 11:15 there were at least 20 patrons lined up and waiting to place their order. A big shout out to those Yelp subscribers who warned me about the lines!

The menu is small in size but packed with unique and yummy choices. They also offer daily specials that are not a normal part of the menu. I went with the Pork Pelly Sandwich and a side of cucumber salad. The combination of pork, mint, cucumber and alioli was totally unique. To this day when I think of it my mouth will water. I am now an official member of the Cochon Butcher fan club.

Okay, at this point my ear was really starting to bother me but I was determined not to let it ruin my trip. So, I hopped in a cab and headed down to Magazine Street and checked out a few shops. About now the ear was really starting to annoy me so I stood at a bus stop for what seemed like forever in hopes of a quick ride back to the Quarter. Seeing no bus; nor cabs, I decided to take a short walk over to the garden district and take the St Charles Trolley back up. I'm so glad I made this choice as not only did I see some awfully cool houses along the way but I also got to experience the loveliness of St Charles Street. Of course, I've seen it several times but each time is special and full of new sites. As it was the week before Halloween the lawns of the glorious mansions were decked out in their best Halloween wares and were quiet the site to behold.

By the time I stepped off the trolley my ear decided to let me know it meant business. I ducked in to a Walgreen's, bought some decongestant and headed to the hotel. To bed I went for the remainder of the afternoon.

Okay, folks - Thursday night, October 27th - game 6 of the World Series. The group gathers at Storyville in the French Quarter. The crowd is a nice mixture of us (Ranger fans) and them (Cardinal fans). There is fun banter. There is cheering. There are ooh's. There are aah's. There is an unhappy, middle-aged woman with an earache. Unhappily she makes her exit - leaving her husband and friends to cheer on her team to victory. Back at the hotel she watches as her Texas Rangers suffer the greatest loss in their history. Her husband; heartbroken and not to mention ticked-off, joins her back at the hotel. Game 7 lurks in the not so distant future!

Friday morning the Señor and I took a short trip to the world famous Gourmet Butcher Block and stocked up on andouille, stuffed chickens and shrimp dressing. Then we met our dear friend Angie at Sun Ray Grill for wonderful conversation and a little lunch.

We left the lovely Angie with a hug and a kiss and headed back to the city. Along the way we stopped off for additional decongestant and a new box of Posh Puffs. The Señor then promptly deposited me back at the hotel where I heavily medicated myself and napped for several hours. The Señor took one for the team by leaving me to sleep in silence. Yes, it was tough but he hit the streets of the French Quarter - wandering from one establishment to the other, partaking of cocktails and listening to live music. It was quite the sacrifice but he was willing to do it for little 'ole me!

That night we had an early dinner at K-Paul's. A meal at K-Paul's is always special. I love the room with its exposed brick and fun recipe-inspired art. By this point I had admitted to myself that I was truly sick so I wanted something light to eat. I went with the Roasted Pear, Pecan and Bleu Cheese salad and Fried Green Tomatoes. The Señor had the Blackened Louisiana Drum and Spinach salad. We both came away happy. I went straight to bed and The Señor sadly watched our Texas Rangers lose game 7 of the 2011 World Series.

Saturday morning - "going home day" - I'm never a fan of going home day and today was no different as I was scared to death what might happen when I placed my ear drum in a pressurized airplane cabin.

Being true to myself I decided I should have one last amazing meal just in case I should die from a ruptured ear drum. Besides, The Señor had not experienced Cochon Butcher and how could I keep such a glorious culinary find from him? Simply put, I couldn't.

We got there right at 11:00. There were already a couple of folks in line. He ordered the Cubano sandwich and a side of Hot Boudin. I, true to form, had another Pork Belly sandwich and another side of cucumber salad. And it was good.

While there we purchased more andouille and a couple of other items as I recall. And it too was good.

The Señor's impression of Cochon Butcher is the same as mine. It's a perfect little sandwich shop, with the perfect little butcher counter, who offers the perfect little wine list and some perfect sounding cocktails. The only thing that could make it more perfect is if it were ours.

Back at Louis Armstrong International Airport I said a little prayer and loaded up on Benadryl before boarding the plane. Thankfully the flight was uneventful. According to the doctor I was one lucky girl. Of course, I already knew that. I had just spent four fabulous days in the city of New Orleans.

January 4, 2012

El Camaleon...

While staying at the Fairmont Mayakoba The Señor and I spent a couple of half-days enjoying the Fairmont's golf course, the El Camaleon. The course was designed by Greg Norman and is home to Mexico's only PGA event. If the idea of attending this year's tournament appeals to you (I know it does me) mark your calendar for February 23rd through 26th. I wish I could say I would see you there but, unfortunately, it won't be happening this year!

The course is spectacular and was designed similar to the Mayakoba in that Norman took full advantage of the indigenous landscape by incorporating the land's limestone canals, jungle, mangroves, cenotes and; of course, beautiful oceanfront.

I should go ahead and admit in the spirit of honesty that I am not a golfer. I would love to be a golfer but I simply am not. If you ever saw me swing a golf a club you would understand why. I am however a golf-cart driver. I enjoy driving the cart. So, The Señor golfs, I drive and we in turn spend quality time together on the golf course.

A word about El Camaleon's golf carts. They are top of the line and equipped with GPS. This feature is extremely handy for the golfer as not only does said golfer receive yardage and hazard information from the system it also records each players score and will email score to said golfer should he wish to receive it. Yes, that is all fabulous if you are a golfer. However, what if you are merely a golf cart driver? Well, maybe not quiet so handy. Along with providing yardage information the GPS system tracks the location of the cart at all times. Should the cart perhaps travel in to an area the course hoo-ha's believe a cart should perhaps not travel then the #*#* cart shuts down and forces the driver to back out of said area. To add insult to injury the cart beeps incessantly much like a garbage truck until it is once again moving in the forward direction. I will just go ahead and tell you, this driver did not find that feature to be the least bit charming.

Here are a few shots of the course. If you're wondering why there aren't more it could possibly have something to do with that incessant beeping and the effect repetitive sound has on my nervous system.

The Clubhouse...

The Senor, preparing to conquer the game...

Not sure what I was shooting here - perhaps the pretty green grass!

He must have been asking for my expert caddying advice!

An empty cenote on the course...

And a second shot...

Oh, and I have got to tell you about this guy! He lives in some rocks on the side of the fairway. Just hangs out in the rocks over there and enjoys the sunshine. You have probably heard said that animals don't use the bathroom where they have to sleep. Well, let's just say that this guy was working on proving the point. Yes, he sauntered over on to that beautiful grass from his sunbathing area and we'll just say "used it" and sauntered back. I guess I have a sick sense of humor because I found this to be quiet amusing!

This shot is from a green that overlooks the ocean. The structure is one of the resort restaurants.

Serious concentration...

If only you could see those lovely water birds I was admiring...

A better shot of the restaurant from the green. Look closely and you can see a sliver of ocean to the left.

That's our very own casita in the background! Well, at least it was while we were guests of the resort!

And again...

Service at El Camaleon was top-notch from the moment we stepped on to the property until their representative delivered us back to the beautiful Mayakoba entrance. The El Camaleon staff were friendly, professional and attentive. I liked the check-in folks, I liked the pro-shop staff, I liked the service cart girls. I even liked the attendant who came and showed me the way when I took that one wrong turn that landed me in what their main hoo-ha's apparently considered to be a "non-cart" area. My favorite staff member of all though was the cart boy who upon my returning the cart handed me my very own ice-cold, cucumber-scented hand towel. After all, all I did was drive the cart!

January 3, 2012

The Señor Turns 50 Continued...

Okay, so where were we when last left off? Ahh, yes. The Señor and I were hopping into a Tulum cab and heading to the Fairmont Mayacoba. Well, first of all let me say that the cabs of Tulum have much to be desired. Riding in a Tulum cab is much like riding in a tuna can - and a generic tuna can at that! I was very relieved when after an hour of swerving and swaying we pulled up safely and without incident to the beautiful gated entrance of the Fairmont Mayacoba. The cab driver briefly spoke with the security guard who verified The Señor and the Mrs were scheduled for arrival, the gates opened and we were suddenly driving through roads of lush and perfectly manicured jungle. The driver of our tuna can pulled in to the lobby entrance and I bailed out as if I were arriving at a life boat! We were immediately welcomed by a handsome gentleman who greeted us by name, offered us each a scented, ice cold hand towel and a fruity welcome drink from a silver tray. Oh my, it were as if we had just landed on fantasy island!

The lobby of the resort is breathtakingly beautiful. It is completely open air and is decorated in calming neutral colors and beautiful, exotic floral arrangements. We checked in and immediately settled in to the big comfy chairs for a cocktail. I was so excited when I realized the resort was also fully decked out in her Christmas attire - there were beautiful Christmas trees placed throughout the resort with this being the grandest of them all.

This tree was the view from the lovely verandah where The Señor and I enjoyed refreshing beverages such as Mojitos, the occasional Corona and even a champagne cocktail. Very chi-chi indeed!

We stayed in a Deluxe Casita. It was situated right on one of the relaxing lagoons that run through the property. We were able to sit on the patio and enjoy the beautiful fish and birds who live in the wildlife paradise that is the property.

Here are a few shots of the room. You will notice that the bathroom comes first because 1) I adore a good bathroom and 2) I loved this particular bathroom!

Notice the glass wall and the window behind the tub and shower? They look out to an absolutely fabulous enclosed atrium area. Garden lights are strategically placed in the atrium and make it an absolutely wonderful addition to the room. I don't think I let a day go by that I didn't take advantage of a soak in that tub. We also slept with the atrium lights on which gave the feeling of being outside all night long.

Here is the view to our room from the yummy bathroom! I wish I had taken pictures of the closet area. There was a hallway between in the bedroom and bathroom with large closets on each side. Yes, his and hers closets come in handy when vacationing. Ha!!!!!!

The room also had a lovely desk area in case you might need to do a little work (not!) or possibly have a Words With Friends addiction!

The patio was fabulous and looked right out to one of the golf greens. The fish swam right up to the water's edge when you stood at the rail. Apparently they were accustomed to being fed even though the resort does ask that you not feed them in order to maintain the eco-systems of the resort.

Speaking of eco-systems - there are actually five within the property - mangroves, tropical forest, lagoons, water canals and coastal dunes. The resort offers tours of the property on water taxis such as this one.

The tour takes about an hour and is a great way to see the entire property and a few of its residents (take a look!)...

Yes, not only is the resort home to beautiful water birds, fish and turtles - it is also home to the crocodile. And he, along with all the other wildlife who reside on the property live in a protected area. No alligator shoes in the future of those guys!

One thing I haven't mentioned is that the resort is huge! So huge in fact that they offer transportation via golf cart shuttles 24 hours a day. This is one of the cute little huts designated as a drop off/pick up station on the property. Of course, being Christmas, each hut had its very own Christmas tree!

Another lovely addition to the lobby bar is that all food and beverages are delivered on, you guessed it, their own silver tray! Yes, this was a first for The Señor and I and we found it quiet comical knowing where we came from and all!

The property has several pools but we didn't really spend much time at them as the weather wasn't really conducive to pool time and we spent two days on the property golf course, The El Camaleon. The El Camaleon is gorgeous and I will share some pictures of it with you the next time we get together.

These pool pictures don't do the main pool area justice as it is actually huge. There are several pool areas linked together with small water-ways. There are also lots of lounge chair areas. Some are under private pergola areas and some are out in the open. Fabulous pool area really!

The resort is home to several restaurants. The La Laguna Grill and Bar offers a wonderful breakfast buffet each morning; as well as, lunch and dinner.

We had dinner one night at Las Brisas (the properties AAA Four Diamond Restaurant) and one night at El Puerto Restaurant (their steak and seafood restaurant). We enjoyed both meals although we agreed they didn't fall in to the Hartwood or Posada Margherita categories of "something to write home about"!

Of course, we had to go in to Playa del Carmen one afternoon and visit our old "home away from home"! For this journey we requested a cab from the lovely folks at the Fairmont and from that request we found a true treasure - Alberto. Alberto might just be the greatest cab driver ever. No joke! Not only is his cab a brand-new SUV but he speaks very good English and is Johnny-on-the-spot when you call him for transportation! He dropped us off in Playa and we asked him if we could call him directly for pick up when we were ready to return to the resort. He said of course and asked how long we thought it would be because he was on his way to the gym to work out and wanted to make sure he would be available when we called. Okay, I found that funny! When we called several hours later to arrange pick-up he answered the phone by greeting The Señor by name. I found that funny too! Anyway, our rides with Alberto were calm, comfortable, clean and did not include one scary tuna-can moment. As it turns out Alberto is now our official Playa del Carmen cab driver. He delivered us safely to the airport on going-home day, we have his card and plan to contact him in the future for all our Playa del Carmen cab needs.

Here's a couple of obligatory Playa pics just to prove we were there. For those of you familiar with Playa, yes that is the Carboncita's chips and salsa platter and it was just a yummy as ever.

Stay tuned dear readers...tomorrow we golf!