Thursday, February 27, 2014

Budapest

I’ve been playing around with my Christmas trip pictures for awhile.  I’m not terribly happy with the way they came out.  Again, I fought with my camera most of the trip (I think it might be time for a new one), but I saw some beautiful places.  I was bound to get a few good ones.

An hour delay out of LAX caused a domino effect in traveling to Budapest.  We lost an entire day and night, which was disappointing because it’s a beautiful city, albeit a bit milky the one day I had there.Dec2013 009

Matthias Church in the Castle District on the Buda side of the Danube river.  While Gothic in style, this 11th Century church was largely rebuilt by Frigyes Schulek in the late 1800s.  While I’m not sure how I feel about his diamond patterned roof, it was fascinating.  It’s a very different look.  
Dec2013 016The Hungarian Parliament Building on the Pest side of the river, also in the Gothic Style, is massive.  Because of its size,  I wasn’t able to stand far enough back without falling in the river.  This photo is from the Buda side. 

Since we were there over the holidays the Christmas markets were still open until Christmas day.  I’d have to say that, even though it’s not the most well-known, it was my favorite of the markets I visited.  A lot of local homemade wares were on sale. 

Dec2013 058I regret not coming home with one of these gorgeous bean pots.  Dec2013 041Dec2013 055Dec2013 049Dec2013 059Dec2013 053I’d go back to Budapest in a minute/  There’s so much more to see, especially after missing out on an entire day of exploring.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

A Pot Full of Money

Colorado was the first state in the nation to allow retail marijuana shops.  As of January 1, you can go into a store in Denver, Pueblo, Aspen, and 29 other cities and leave with up to an ounce of marijuana in hand.  January’s sales tax revenue are trickling in for these cities and it seems as if the passing of this law is living up to the intended outcome. 

Now I am not, and have never been, a drug user – I’ve never even smoked a cigarette – and I have no desire to be one, so I have no horse in the race on this one.  But I do have to say, looking at those sales tax revenues…Holy Cow!  With pot going for upwards of $400 an ounce, these cities are raking it in.  After just one month of sales, Colorado is predicting almost $100 million in additional 2014 tax money being brought in due to legalization – all earmarked for public health, substance abuse programs, and schools. 

Since I’m a liberal I try not to complain too much about taxes because we all benefit greatly (in some way or another) from them.  But I do REALLY like the idea of something that is not a necessity being heavily taxed as opposed to things we need regularly.  If you want to use it, you can but you’re going to pay for it.  The amount of sales tax added to the pot in Colorado is comparable to California’s sales tax on EVERYTHING. 

The state of Washington has also legalized recreational pot use, and the law will go into effect later this year.  Other states are watching how this all goes down, and it even looked like it would come to a vote here in California later this year (but now it seems like it is off the table due to solving logistical issues in a such short amount of time).  With the sales tax potential as well as keeping pot users out of overcrowded jails, I hope that we can move forward on this eventually. 

Sunday, February 23, 2014

No Apologies

31029496b2416c2933b4226f5824a449This week newsman Brian Williams snubbed Arsenio Hall while doing a story about late-night television shows. The Tonight Show has had a changing of the guards of sorts with Jimmy Fallon replacing Jay Leno.  It’s been a big story in the entertainment biz for the last few weeks, and Williams’ story failed to mention Hall’s show while giving an overview of the current Late Night Shows.  Regardless of the reason (as many have been speculated on), Williams’ apology and Hall’s acceptance of it kind of diffused the situation rather than ruffling a ton of feathers.  It was reported on the news, and that was that…done. They both behaved like civilized adults, rather than what we usually see in the news these days.

I’ve been thinking about apologies recently.  Why are they so hard for people?  There seems to be this idea that saying sorry or admitting to be in the wrong is a sign of weakness.  Where really, the denying or finger pointing that happens so often instead is taking the easy way out. 

It’s funny that with most kids, denying wrong doing is kind of a knee-jerk reaction.  “I didn’t do it,” is heard in schools around the world.  But, you can expect that from a child, as a child is still learning how to be a civilized human being.  What is really telling is how many more parents these days blame the school/teacher when they are notified of their child’s wrong doing.  Kids make mistakes, that’s normal, why then is it so hard for a parent to accept when that happens.  In my short career, the blaming of everyone except the child/parent has become more prevalent.  The apple doesn’t fall far in most cases.

Bad drivers can’t even take responsibility for their actions.  I can’t tell you how many times I have seen someone driving poorly almost crash into another car, and would have if the other driver hadn’t used his/her horn.  Rather than give an apologetic wave acknowledging fault or even just drive away ignoring it, what does the bad driver do?  Gives the finger or shows some other aggressive action.  I bet this inability to admit being wrong is single handedly increasing the road-rage incidents in this country.  I know a time or two I have wished I was driving a tank and could crash into the idiot who has almost run into me and then flipped me off after I used my horn.   

On a grander scale we have all these scandals in our governments and in our churches – people who are doing bad things.  I continue to wonder why these institutions continue to deny and sweep under the rug these scandals.  Their credibility would go a lot farther if they’d just apologize.  The Catholic Church may finally be moving in that direction with the current Pope, but my goodness – the years and years of denial has just made them look like idiots. 

Over the last couple of weeks the teachers in my district have been in an uproar over a new compensation package being offered by the district.  I know people hate to hear about teachers wanting a raise since we get “summers off” and make too much money already, but in our defense we haven’t had an increase in salary in 10 years and the previous 3 years have voluntarily taken furlough days to help keep the jobs of teachers with less experience.  The cost of living has increased tremendously in the last 10 years and our pay has decreased.  So it is time.  To be perfectly honest, the increase being offered is abysmal – cents more a day.  Sure, it’s probably better than nothing, but the amount is almost insulting.  And the district doesn’t seem to understand why the teachers are not happy with it.  Now we are not going on strike or anything over it, but there is some concern over the fact that as a whole the teachers in my district are VERY hardworking and a lot are starting to feel taken advantage of – we’re going to do the job well regardless of the money because that’s who we are.  In the meantime, the district can not fathom why we are not happy about the increase because they worked very hard to get us even anything with the state of California’s budget crisis.  And throughout these few weeks, the only thing I keep thinking is why can’t the powers that be just admit that the amount is truly inadequate of what we deserve, apologize, and say that they would offer more if it were available.  I know it wouldn’t work on everyone, but I think it would go a long way for most…It would make me feel better about it anyway. 

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Monday, February 17, 2014

I Cooked Chinese!

Although I do like eating Asian food, I’ve never been very successful in cooking it myself.  Between ingredients that are expensive but used few and far between and not having the proper equipment my attempts at Asian food have been limited and usually unsuccessful. 

A couple of weeks ago one of the food blogs on my blog roll, The Skinny Fork, posted a modified version of Char Siu.  Char siu is a barbequed pork dish that I have had several times while dining out at Chinese restaurants, but cooking it myself was never a thought in my mind.  The Skinny Fork’s pictures looked delish, and as I read her recipe I thought, “I think I could make this!”.  I had all unique ingredients in my cupboard except for the Chinese 5 Spice. 

Initially when I went shopping for what I did need, I regretted my decision to make it for company.  The Chinese 5 Spice alone was about $7.00 which irritates me so – even if I cooked with it all the time I wouldn’t get through the whole bottle before it went bad.  I threw it in my basket since my shopping list was based on serving this pork for dinner.  But how thrilled was I when I moseyed down the international aisle and found the 5 Spice for half the price. 

This char siu couldn’t have been easier.  I whipped up the marinade quickly and let the pork sit in it for a few hours. 

Snow Day 001 Snow Day 002

The roasting of this dish was what I was most worried about.  I don’t have a roasting pan.  I’ve threatened to buy one on numerous occasions, but they’re so big.  Whenever I go looking for one I wonder where the heck I’m going to put it for the 362 days a year I won’t use it.  I did the same thing this past weekend so up until the minute I was ready to start roasting I didn’t really know how I would go about it.  The Skinny Fork modified the roasting pan bit with a metal rack, but I didn’t even have one of those.  So an hour before my guests arrived I was praying that my makeshift “roasting pan” of rolled foil, disposal loaf pans (with holes cut out), and Pyrex dishes would work.  I so wish I had a picture of my contraption because it was truly horrifying unbelievable.  However, I was so worried the pork loin was going to roll off into the water, I didn’t remember to take a shot of it.  Next time!

Anyhow, it worked!  The pork came out beautifully.  I left it to rest for a bit.  Always a bit worried about cutting into meat that I’ve cooked, I breathed a sigh of relief.  It was perfect – tender, juicy, and had the traditional char siu flavor.Snow Day 006 Snow Day 009 We enjoyed the meal with roasted broccoli and rice – one even went back for seconds. 

After all was said and done, there was still quite a bit left over.  That was fine as I’m always happy to have leftovers for school lunches.  Unfortunately, the reheated pork wasn’t so good – what meat is really!  But I had a huge bag of it, so decided to go Koji style and make char siu tacos with a broccoli slaw and ginger/garlic salsa. 

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I chopped up some ginger, garlic, scallions,  and cilantro, in my mini-chopper.  Then added some rice wine vinegar and Sriracha hot sauce.  After warming the tortillas, I layered the broccoli slaw, the pork and then the salsa.  I topped it with some extra cilantro and a squeeze of lime. 

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  YUM!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Funny Valentine

It’s that time of year…again.  Valentine’s Day!  As a semi-pro (meaning some of my friends BUY them from me) greeting card maker, I’ve made my share of Valentine’s Day cards.  They’re very pretty, if I do say so myself, but while browsing Pinterest I found a whole different kind of V-day card; Cards that made me laugh.  These are some of my favorites (pictures include links to the artist of each card).

il_570xN_501027741_iu7a il_570xN_557197181_6g72 il_570xN_539156946_1fg1 il_570xN_394350312_e4cu il_570xN_546198158_ru4x il_570xN_554608301_381oI like this one best I think. 

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  And a few that are more risquΓ©…

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These are WAY better than froo froo. I’d much prefer to receive one of these, and I may have to rethink my own card making designs for this holiday.  

Happy Valentine’s Day!

On a side complaining note, it was about 90 degrees today.  At dismissal with kids knee deep in Valentine’s paraphernalia it was so hot their candy was melting.  While we waited in the sun for the parents to come, one of the teachers said, “Valentine’s Day is my favorite summer holiday!”  And there was no place to stand in the the shade since none of the trees have their leaves…because it’s February!!!!!  I came home with a sunburn.  Ugh!  So more importantly, happy 4-day President’s-Day-Weekend!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Out of the Mouths of Babes - Starbucks!

"G" joined our class when we returned from Winter Break about a month ago. He's very sweet, very bright, and I really enjoy talking with him. However, G can be a bit naughty at times. I'm sure a lot of it stems from being new and still testing the waters in his new room. Each morning, he and I have a little motivational chat to start the day. This morning was no exception. We talked on the walk from the playground to the room. I reminded him that yesterday was a good day, and he verbalized the positive behaviors he exhibited.
Me: I've seen you make strong choices, so I know you can do it.
G: I don't know about today though.
Me: Oh? Why not?
G: I might be feeling a little hyper today. That vanilla bean coffee I had from Starbucks hasn't worn off yet.
Me: I don't think Starbuck's coffee is made for 2nd graders. (I have to be honest that I was so taken back, I can't remember my exact words, but it was something like that.)
G: I know, but it's so good.

You're preaching to the choir "G"!

It also took every fiber of my being not to go wring the neck of the parent who went to Starbucks and bought her 7-year-old a FREAKING COFFEE!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Some Olympic Thoughts

After being plagued by one negative story after another, I’m relieved that the 2014 Winter Olympics got off to a relatively good start on Friday. 

First there was the Russian anti-gay laws that sparked controversy.  I can’t even imagine the kind of fear and sadness the athletes felt after that news broke.  The media was all over it, rightly so, but I was a bit worried that it would be the bigger story over the Games, the athletes, themselves. So far so good though, even after two IOC officials asked world leaders to be respectful of the Games’ diverse participants.  This Canadian commercial was released the night before the games started, poking fun at Russia’s silly laws.  It makes me giggle… 

Shortly after the anti-gay concern, there were threats made against the families of the Olympic athletes.  Some turned out to be a hoax, but again, I would imagine that would rattle an athlete or two.  Sochi has piled on the security (like they do at all the Games).

Unfinished sleeping quarters, yellow water, stray dogs, and surveillance has led the news in the last few days.  One athlete almost fell down the elevator shaft of an unfinished elevator and another had to break out of the bathroom – my favorite story thus far.  Whatever the logistical problems have been Sochi isn’t the first Olympic Games that have had them. 

As with most of our media coverage, we are hounded with negative stories (even minute details), but this year’s pre-Olympic coverage seemed to find the negative much more than the norm.  I wonder if the Games being in Russia and the underlying tone of distaste for Putin comes into play with the media coverage.  Interestingly enough, since the games started yesterday the problems seem to have been pushed aside for more favorable Games’ news…like the actual events and athletes.  Imagine that!

As I’ve mentioned in the past, the television coverage irritates me when the Games are across the world.  The time difference makes watching anything before the results are announced on the news difficult.  The color commentary they show also heavily outweighs the actual events shown.  I just want to watch them compete already.  I’ve been watching the coverage for about two hours now and have only seen two snowboarders go and two ice dancer couples go – waiting for the US couple to go so I can get to bed. 

I am loving the graphics/logos at this years Games.  The prints, patterns, the colors!  Wow!  They’ve taken traditional Russian designs and put a modern spin on them. 

Are you watching?

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Signs You Are An Only Child

About a month ago, China relaxed their “One Child” law.  This was mainly because the country was worried about future labor shortage.  I’ve also heard limited spousal candidates and waning elderly care played some part in the decision as well.   Now, families are allowed to have a second child if one of the parents is an only child.  Regardless of your thoughts on this policy, it did alleviate some of the overpopulation concerns, but it has led to difference concerns.  The majority of families here have multiple children and the only child is an oddity to some.  In China, there is a whole generation or two of only children and the oddity is someone with siblings. 

There have been tons of studies done on birth order and family sizes and there are pros and cons of each. As an only child myself, I loved it and hated it.   While there were activities (horses) I got to do and places I got to go because it was just me, I spent most of my life feeling smothered and asserting my independence – pretty typical only child characteristics.

This video cracks me up.  It is so true.  There are even “signs” I hadn’t thought of before that hit close to home. 

I do have to add one to the “What people say to only children” list.  For as far back as I can remember I have been asked, “Why didn’t your parents have other children?  Were you just too hard to handle?”  Yep!!!

And speaking of videos.  This commercial first aired Sunday night during the Super Bowl.  Since I didn’t watch the slaughter the game, I missed it.  I caught it tonight…ahhhhhhhh!

My teeth hurt it’s so sweet.  The Budweiser Clydesdales are always beautiful and then they add wiggly puppies.  Come on!!!

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Saturday 9 - I Gotta Feeling

Happy Saturday AND happy February! Although it's hard to believe that we're one month down in 2014 isn't it?!?!
1) What would make tonight a good, good night? Friday night without anything I HAVE to do. Friday nights are the best day of the whole week.
2) In the song, he sings that he's got money and wants to "spend it up." How much cash is in your wallet right now? I have exactly $1.00 in my wallet. It never has cash in it, the credit card gets a work out though.


3) The lyrics include "mazel tov," which means good luck or congratulations. What other Hebrew/Yiddish phrases do you know? tchatchke, schlep, oy vey, mishegas, chutzpah, and my favorite is altakaka. My home-away-from-home family when I was in college is Jewish and therefore I was the token goy in the family.


4) The colorfully named Black Eyed Peas include Fergie (born Stacey Ferguson) and will.i.am (William Adams) and Taboo (Jaime Gomez). If you could choose a stage name, what would it be? I wouldn't go on stage so no need for a stage name.


5) This song was crazy popular in Canada, debuting at #2 on the charts. Have you ever visited our neighbor to the north? In college, we used to drive just over the border into a little town in Quebec to buy alcohol because the drinking age was 18. A few years back the last stop of an Alaskan cruise I took was Rupert Island which is off the coast of B.C. We were supposed to make the required foreign stop on Vancouver Island, but for whatever reason we didn't and visited this tiny one instead. I've not ever been to any of the big cities in Canada though. 

6) When's the last time you laughed really hard? Today! Most days I have one or more occasions to laugh though - fun and/or funny is important!

7) Who received the last text you sent? My friend/work husband Jason
8) Which sounds like more fun -- skiing or skating? Well, it's NOT skiing! I never learned to ski as a kid so when, as an adult, I was put into a skiing lesson with all sorts of enthusiasm I was sorely disappointed that I HATED every minute it of it. To make a long story short, my day hour of skiing ended with a snowboard instructor crashing into me while I snowplowed down the mountain. I toppled head over teakettle, and when I finally stopped I stood up, took off my skis, and walked down the rest of the way. That was the end of me skiing. I wouldn't pick skating as the most fun thing to do either, but my answer is definitely NOT skiing.
9) Thinking of sports, are you looking forward to The Super Bowl? I'm not really a pro football fan. I don't mind going to football parties, but I do mind the party being on a Sunday. It's too hard to get up and go to the work after a party so I've stopped going. If they made it Super Bowl Saturday I'd totally be there!