Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Trashy Mexican Food in Waltham

If life in SoCal taught me anything, it's that nothing cures a bad mood quite as well as smothering it in trashy Mexican food. Thus, in an attempt to increase the rate at which I cheered up after recent badness, I finally checked out the trashy Mexican restaurant about a mile from my apartment: Taqueria Mexico. Because I wasn't up to driving (what with back pain and the accompanying pain meds... and because I often don't feel like leaving my apartment...) I decided to have it delivered, which meant a $25 minimum order... A good opportunity to try several things, but also enough food for several meals... I started out with a carnitas burrito, since this is the item that won me over at Santeria Domingo Taqueria Oaxaca in Portland:
(Really informative picture, huh?) This one features beans, lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, and sour cream along with your choice of meat. I thought the carnitas were really good, but I'm not used to lettuce in my burritos. I liked it in terms of flavor, and may order it again (since it's a full meal for $5), but it's definitely different than the burritos I consider to be my favorites... Another item that I ordered based on a good experience at a Portland joint (this one from Ole Frijole) was the carne asadad torta:
This is pretty much the exact same filling as a burrito (beans, lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, and sour cream plus your meat) except put on bread rather than in a tortilla. I wasn't particularly impressed with the carne asada, and found this overall to be sort of bland and disappointing. Ah, well. Because I'm so in love with the shrimp quesadilla at sweet, sweet Super Cucas in Santa Barbara, which features griled zucchini among other delicious ingreidents, I decided to try the "quesadilla especial," filled with corn, zucchini, red peppers, and chipotle sauce:
This was actully pretty good, even if it couldn't hold a candle to the mind-blowing Super Cucas offering. (It's probably not really fair to compare food from a place in tiny-suburb Waltham to that from my favorite place in Southern California, though.) I thought this was good, though, and would probably check it out again. Finally (Dude, I know. It takes a lot of ordering to get up to $25...), I ordered the "Fiesta Plate" just to get a chance to finish off with a random assorment of things:
On the bottom right and left you have your chorizo quesadilla, while at the top (thoroughly smothered) you have your chicken enchilada (the smothered thing at the very top) and barbecue flauta (below it). Everything on this plate was pretty tasty. I liked the chicken enchilada a lot (even though I never tend to order enchiladas) and the flauta was slightly burnt but quite tasty in spite of that. I liked how the quesadillas (which had no cheese inside, just chorizo) highlighted the tortillas and chorizo... In summary: WAY better than the other trashy Mexican restaurant in Waltham that I tried, if not anything to be super-excited about. It will definitely work in a pinch when I desperately need trashy Mexican food and can't be bothered to travel particularly far to find it. Plus, there were some strong points in this order, so hopefully as I continue to explore the menu over time I'll figure out the perfect way to spend $25 there...

Bonus Bunnies...

I know we're not due for the fortnightly bunnies post yet, but I'm stranded in my guest room as workmen destroy my kitchen (as is necessary in order to repair the water damage) and I've got some bunny pictures and videos sitting here... Plus, a little extra cuteness never hurts, right? I don't have any Rico-is-a-fatty pictures to accompany this tidbit, but one of the workmen asked me today if Rico is pregnant. Ha! If I didn't know he was just a morbidly obsese (male) bunny, that would probably be my first guess, too. He is on a diet, but these things take time... Here he is doing a bit of nomming while in his spot where he goes to show me how totally awesome he is:

Not to be outdone, here's Pedro nomming in the hawk-proof food cave (HPFC):

Note how he nudges Rico out of his way at the end. He's getting pretty good at standing up for himself against the much more aggressive Rico. Here he is just after the above video ended, when he has fully pushed Rico out of the "good" lounging spot and is settled in for some good laziness:
Here he is getting hay all over him as he gets serious about nomming:
And, finally, just randomly being chillin' in the HPFC (where he is almost every time I come into the kitchen these days):
They have been surprisingly un-freaked-out by the strange men destroying my kitchen today. Funny that power tools and large strange loud men are less frightening than grilled chicken...

Monday, July 27, 2009

Strike One.

(Apologies for the use of terminology from such a stupid sport...)
One more quick update (and the last medical thing I'll be posting about until my next surgery, since that's not what I want this space to be about): News today was not good. For whatever reason, the lead in my spine did not end up positioned such that it can provide symmetric pain relief. The short term solution is to wait for things to heal and hope that the lead (magically) shifts a bit closer to the right location as it scars into place. The long term solution involves a more invasive surgery with bigger, better cyborg parts, using what we've learned from the position of the current lead to make sure we get things right. Apparently this is just the way these things go sometimes... The trial stimulator worked so well that I maybe had my hopes a little too high, which leads to being pretty frustrated now that it feels like this whole fiasco was for nothing. In summary: right now I'm right where I was before Thursday, except that I now have a large soon-to-be-scar on my back and can no longer go through metal detectors. On that note, I will leave you with this "crying bunny," who always makes me smile when I'm feeling blue:

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Not So Fast...

I try not to talk about this stuff here, but I figured I should post a small update for those of you who are using my blog to follow the Emmo Becomes Part-Cyborg saga... When I posted on Thursday after surgery about being pain-free, things may have been somewhat blurred by a combination of optimism and pain meds. Apparently it was a mistake for me to take the "cautiously" out of my "cautiously optimistic." Even by Friday morning (when I had to do a lot of standing while watching T clean up the giant mess from the broken pipe) I could see that my cyborg parts weren't working the way that they should. I've actually gone ahead and turned them off today, because they're not helping at all and the tingling isn't worth putting up with if you're not getting the associated pain relief. I'm going in to see my surgeon tomorrow, and hopefully it will just be a matter of reprogramming things, but I'm not convinced that's all it will take... In the meantime I'm just trying not to get too angry and frustrated...
I've got book-reading and espresso on the schedule, and will go ahead and blast my "Bad Mood" playlist (Candlebox, Pearl Jam, Zeppelin, and The Black Keys) later today if I still have some residual frustration that needs dissipating... In summary: "Arg."

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Perfect Timing

So, following my surgery on Thursday I went to bed fairly early (having had a very long day with the waking-up-crazy-early-to-go-to-the-hospital and the people-cutting-me-open and whatnot). At around 2am I thought I heard somebody at my door. It took me a while to get out of bed because of my back having recently been cut open, but when I did get up I saw that there was water streaming out of the light fixture in the bathroom and also down the bathroom wall into the bathtub. I assumed that the upstairs neighbors had overflowed their bathtub and that it had been them at my door trying to let me know. I put out a couple big bowls and a few towels and returned to bed. About an hour later I woke up to find that the water was still coming down and I could swear it sounded like it was flowing in the wall between my bathroom and my kitchen... In hindsight this is when I should have known that something was horribly wrong, but I was very very tired and perhaps slightly impaired by my pain meds, so I just emptied the bowls and went back to bed... until an hour later when I woke up and could STILL hear the water dripping. I got up and saw that things had slowed somewhat in the bathroom... but my kitchen was completely flooded and there was water streaming out of the light fixture there (and being flung in all directions by the ceiling fan). This was Rico and Pedro's first experience with "rain," by the way, and they definitely decided that they do not care for such things... (Picture below is a random internet picture, not my ceiling...)
Still working on the assumption that water coming through my ceiling meant there must be a lot of standing water on my upstairs neighbor's floor, I went up to ask them what the hell was going on... Except when I knocked they were still in bed, and their floor was perfectly dry. They came down with me and as we walked past the door to their side of the basement I could hear running water. I opened the door and water was rushing into their basement, with probably 6 inches of standing water already there. (My basement, miraculously, stayed completely dry throughout this ordeal.) So, yeah... Apparently not so much an overflowing bathtub as a ruptured pipe somewhere in the wall above my bathroom. Ah, the joys of living in a 100-year-old house...
We got the water turned off and eventually the rain in my kitchen slowed to a drizzle and then stopped completely, but now I was left with a fairly epic mess while I was under orders basically to not do anything (no bending or twisting, no raising my arms above my head, no picking up anything heavier than 5 pounds, no dishes or laundry or house-cleaning). I was feeling fairly overwhelmed (and indignantly asking the universe "What? You couldn't have done this 2 days ago?!?"), when I remembered that my friend, T, when driving me home after surgery, had told me that I should call him any time of day if I needed anything at all... I felt like a complete ass calling at 4am, but these were desperate times. True to his word, T was happy to come over and rescue me.
T proceeded to spend the next 3 hours (THREE HOURS!!!) helping me get all the water up off my kitchen carpet (I have a little seemingly-crappy steam cleaner that did a pretty amazing job getting the bulk of the water up) and then cleaning pretty much every exposed surface in the kitchen and bathroom. (The water coming through my 100-year-old ceiling was pretty nasty, and the fan had sent it flying everywhere...) When he left at 7am you would never have known that the place was a bit of a disaster area before he arrived. I really don't know what I would have done without him (other than maybe curling up in a fetal position and crying...). Now that I've been on the receiving end of such extraordinary kindness and know first-hand how amazing it feels, I know that I'll try to be as awesome as T next time I get a call from a friend in need... And, on that sappy note, I'm off to take some more pain meds and be thoroughly lazy.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Greetings, Humans...

So, for reasons that I don't necessarily want to get into the details of here (those of you who know me know the reasons, or can e-mail me if you don't), I left my house fully human this morning, but returned from the hospital part cyborg. It's kind of a trip. I had the world's most awesome anesthesiologist for my surgery. While I was waiting for the doctor to come by she was like "So... Do you wanna get stoned? It's legal, you know... and I've got all these drugs..." and just before surgery she was like "Let's get you stoned out of your mind, OK?" She also gave me something that she said was for caffeine headaches, since we'd discussed our mutual love of espresso... She cracked me up, and apparently did a great job because I don't remember much of anything between that moment and the recovery room (just a couple minutes of being woken up to make sure my cyborg parts were being put in the right places). Anyway, I am now officially part cyborg... which apparently involves having a tingly ass but also involves having a chance at pain-free ankles for pretty much the first time in 12 years.
I've got all these post-surgery restrictions that mean no cooking, cleaning, or crawling into bunny cages for a couple weeks. Thus, I've been hard at work the last couple weekends to stock my freezer with lunches and dinners:
(That's Indian Chicken with Spinach, Cauliflower, Chicken, Potato, and Pea Curry, and Moroccan Chicken and Couscous Soup. There's a second layer behind the visible layer, too... Last night I went out to stock up on rabbit food, too, so now the entire bottom half of my fridge is filled with veggies chopped to Pedro-nommable sizes:
My plan with the bunnies was to place their food outside of the cage so I wouldn't have to crawl in to put it in the usual spot next to the water bottle.
The problem with this plan was that they are very secure eating in their nice safe cage, but extremely uneasy about eating (serious eating, that is... not just snacks) out in the open. They left a big ol' pile of greens there this morning when they decided the stress was just too much to take... Thus, with 15 minutes to spare before heading out to the hospital, I constructed a structure such that they would know they were safe from hawks while nomming.
This worked really well (especially after I added a rear entrance on the left at Pedro's request), and there was not a single speck of food left in the new nomming area when I got home. I'm off to take some more pain meds and relax. It's been sort of a crazy day, and everything (and the long-term implications of everything) are still sinking in. More later...

Monday, July 20, 2009

A Random Aside...

One of the blogs I check in with on a daily basis is Sociological Images, and I'm always amazed at the way toys are marketed to girls these days. (See here for a few examples with toys you wouldn't have thought were particularly gender-specific to begin with.) You will hardly ever see an ad that doesn't involve an excessive amount of pink or girls who tend to be too dolled up to have any real fun. That's why the ad below (from 1981, discussed here) makes me so happy.
I loved playing with LEGOs as a kid, and I know a lot of other now-adult women did, too. They didn't have to make us special pink LEGOs or give us a kit to build a LEGO purse. We just loved them because it was fun to build things - whatever things we could imagine... (I will admit to putting flowers and trees on my fighter ships so that my LEGO people would be extra-happy while fighting wars against my brother's civilization, and I suppose that was pretty "girly" of me, but it seemed like a practical necessity to my little-kid brain at the time...) Anyway, I don't think you really see ads like this anymore, and it's a shame because seeing this little tomboy so proud of her random LEGO creation totally warms my heart...

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Fortnightly Bunnies

After a decrease in bunny-centric posting due to travel and whatnot, they're back (in epic proportions)... and I'm pretty sure they need therapy. Rico has some serious anger management issues, while Pedro plays the role of battered partner in their relationship and is starting to suffer from some serious paranoia... This all started with a trip to the vet, which involved 30 minutes in the car each way plus a bit of torture while they were there. They did not enjoy this. Here they are in their carrier in my car:
The good news is that Rico's eye (which had previously had some major issues requiring me to give him a shot once a week) is looking great. The bad news is that both bunnies have molar spurs, which means I need to bring them back in about a month so they can get knocked out and have their teeth fixed... and then repeat that every 6 - 9 months. Luckily for them, I love them enough that I'm willing to pay for this not-particularly-cheap service to keep them in good health, contrary to (facetious?) suggestions from a certain brother of mine... The other bad news (which I already knew about) is that Rico is a very fat little bunny.
Look at the size of that belly! Yeesh... I usually hide his fat belly behind Pedro when I post pictures, like in this one (in which it is apparent that Pedro could stand to drop a little weight as well):
and he doesn't look too fat when he's hopping around (he's hopped behind the air conditioner here so that he could pout more effectively when he was mad at me):
but he is indeed a fat bunny. Fat and angry.
As with the last time I (attempted to) put him on a diet, Rico is rather enraged by this situation. He bit me (not hard enough to break the skin, just hard enough to really hurt) twice this week when he felt like I wasn't delivering his morning cranberries with enough haste or in large enough quantities. He has also resumed his attacks on poor little Pedro, who didn't want to leave the cage for a full week after the vet visit.
Pedro would just hop over to the door, then get nervous and run back to hide in the corner. It was breaking my damn heart, and I think it was largely due to the fact that Rico, supposedly his best friend, was bullying him so much. This morning, for whatever reason, Pedro was back to his old dorky self, even coming out just to say "hi" to me with a nudge to the ankle while I was making my morning espresso (despite the fact that Rico had recently attacked him). Here he is lounging behind Rico's fat belly in the tunnel when they were both out and about:
Here's Pedro nomming on some hay, being all sweet and adorable:
As long as I'm going crazy with the pictures, I took a shot of something Pedro does that cracks me up, related to his love of shoving things around with his nose. Whenever the food dish is empty, Pedro cannot tolerate having it take up valuable space in the cage, so he flips it on its side and shoves it behind the water bottle for storage until the next time I put food in it:
He does this every single day, and it totally kills me... Let me say, again, since I've been mean to him this post, that even though Rico is very very fat and very very mean, I really do love the little guy. Pedro breaks my heart with how nervous he gets sometimes, and he definitely brings out a nurturing side of me, but Rico is my buddy and I love watching his mood swings (except the bullying part) and seeing his clever little brain work to try and get more treats. He's awesome... even if he is fat and angry. Finally, here's another nomming video, this one highlighting the trials and tribulations of being a toothless bunny, especially if your human failed to tear your greens into small enough pieces for you to get them into your mouth with your little bunny tongue... (Sorry, Pedro...)

After I finished documenting his cute little struggles, rest assured that I got him some more appropriately-sized pieces on which he could nom with great success.

Friday, July 10, 2009

A New Kind of Awesomeness

Times have been pretty hectic for the last week+, so I'm just now getting a chance to post about the awesomeness of the Thursday before last (that would be July 2), when Priya was kind enough to cook us an amazing Indian feast (with a tremendous amount of prep help from Stanley and Alicia). After searching the markets of Portland for the right ingredients (or a close enough approximation) on Wednesday, Priya, Stanley, and Alicia spent the better part of the afternoon hacking, peeling, and chopping an assortment of vegetables. Priya began work on a few dishes that day, then spent the entirety of Thursday in the kitchen, slaving away for us. (I actually stayed completely out of the kitchen during pretty much this entire trip, mainly trying to avoid being in the way...) When dinner time rolled around on Thursday, we cleared out the living room, laid out banana leaves for our group of 10, and watched as Priya dished up her amazing creations.
The initial food layout looked like this:
After we finished our lentils (the yellow stuff on the rice), we were allowed to have the final curry added to our "plates":
...and the final configuration of the "plate" looked something like this:
Everything was absolutely fantastic, and really different than Indian food I'd had previously. My favorite was probably what we've been referring to as "the cabbage thing," with "the squash thing" running a close second... Being Americans, we were fairly uncomfortable with Priya serving us throughout the meal rather than sitting down to enjoy her food with us. Once we talked her into joining us and worked out a self-serve refill policy, I couldn't help that notice that almost every single bowl ended up with Mr. Max Power:
Priya has cooked a meal like this for her friends and family (including Stanley and Alicia) in Dubai, and I thought it was pretty amazing that she would put in all this work for us people (most of whom were at least relative strangers) during her vacation. She's the best.
As long as I'm catching up on Portland happenings from last week, I'll briefly add that we took Priya out to experience her first karaoke bar on Friday night, followed by a trip to Portland City Grill for a view of the city at night (above). Saturday afternoon featured a fun and delicious ping-pong-tournament/BBQ hosted by Max and Midge. Lamely, I had to take off early to wake up at 4am for an early flight back to Boston, sadly missing out on the late-night shenanigans that I'm sure ensued... Oh, and, apropos of nothing, below is the totally kick-ass chicken sandwich I made for myself as a pre-karaoke dinner (which I show you just because it is so pretty, not because it's super-exciting). I do love me a good sandwich.
This work week has been hectic, as I'm still recovering from the jet-lag, head-cold, and sleep-deprivation that vacation brought with it, but I'm looking forward to one of the most uneventful weekends in history in order to help me recover... If all goes as planned, I will have absolutely nothing interesting to report.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Maybe I'm Not Broken After All... (Updated 7/3)

Wednesday started with about 6 hours of tennis-watching. Even if things didn't go my way thanks to stupid Andy Roddick not choking down the stretch, it was nice to not be at work on a day when such awesome tennis was being played... For lunch I met up with Maggie for another trip to Kennedy School. It was another beautiful day out on the restaurant's patio:and I decided to mix things up by ordering the Ahi Steak Sandwich featuring "wasabi mayonnaise":For the fourth straight time at a restaurant on this trip, I was... disappointed. The Ahi was actually cooked perfectly, but the wasabi mayonnaise was non-existent and when I asked for a bit more, I was brought a slightly green mayonnaise that tasted... like mayonnaise. I realize the average American restaurant-goer doesn't like spicy food, but you should be able to taste some wasabi if the word appears in the menu description of the item... I make a pretty awesome version of this at home, which was maybe also part of my problem (since I knew my version is better and cheaper), but it still made me sort of cranky. This streak of disappointing experiences was starting to make me worry that I was becoming too much of a food snob to go to lower-end restaurants anymore. I didn't want to think that this was the case, but damned if I wasn't finding myself constantly disappointed when I ventured out to eat...

For dinner we had been pondering trashy Mexican food, but Stanley suggested that we go for a sit-down meal at Chez José instead. We used to grab lunch there from time in high school, and it had been probably about 15 years since I'd eaten there, but my brother (quite the connoisseur of the chimichanga) said that they make the best chimichanga in town, and I was game to check it out... The chimichanga is indeed pretty impressive-looking:
and the margaritas are pretty darn tasty as well:
I went with a combo meal of Chile Relleno (one of my favorite foods on the planet) and a prawn taco:
The relleno was good (not quite as awesome as the version my mom makes, but a vast improvement over the last one I tried in Waltham), and the prawn taco was ridiculously delicious. As I ate my meal, I realized that I was thoroughly enjoying it, without any annoying disappointment creeping in to ruin the experience. So, maybe I wasn't broken after all... Maybe I just needed some good (semi-)trashy Mexican food to get back on track...7/3 UPDATE: For lunch before our insane Indian Feast on Thursday, Stanley and I ran over to Santeria Domingo Taqueria Oaxaca for a quick bite of trashy Mexican food. As you can see if you stare really hard at the picture above, this fine establishment is located across the street from Ole Frijole, of which I am also a fan, but which featured a very long line when we arrived, thus sending us across the street.
We were a little dubious, judging simply from the complete absence of customers (especially in comparison to the long lines across the street), but we gave it a go. Stanley went with a pair of soft tacos (chicken and steak), which he said were quite good:
I went with a carnitas burrito (carnitas being the item I like to use to judge trashy Mexican restaurants), and it was the bomb. Made with a really nice flour tortilla, the filling was about 90% perfectly seasoned, super-moist carnitas with a little pico de gallo and a bit of guac. Awesome.
This is my new favorite trashy Mexican restaurant within one mile of my parents house is now Santeria Domingo Taqueria Oaxaca. If only I had a few more days to explore the menu before heading back to Boston...

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Kennedy School, Wine Tasting, and Corndogs...

A few more days of vacation under my belt, and I've managed to squeeze in a few more of the requisite activities (even if one didn't quite work out, as I'll whine about below). After an extended-family function on Sunday, Alicia and I headed over to Kennedy School for dinner. The service was pretty atrocious, but the beer was great and the food (my standard order of the Captain Neon Burger) was pretty damned tasty, too. The weather here has been absolutely gorgeous, so it was nice to get to sit out on the patio and enjoy it.
Monday was mostly spent lounging out on the patio with my book, making up a double-batch of Scorching Chile Chicken (one just a little scorching, the other scorching enough to make even Alicia's friend, Priya, from India have to fan her mouth...), and spending some quality time with the family (also out on the patio). On Tuesday we headed down south for a bit of wine tasting. Have I mentioned that the weather is gorgeous here? It really really is...
(A hat-tip to Stanley for taking the last two of those photos...) After a couple wineries, we stopped for lunch at The Dundee Bistro. Stanley, Alicia, and Priya all ordered pizzas, including one with blue cheese, grapes, and bechemel:one with potatoes, portabellas, and bechemel:
and a Pizza Margerita:I went with Alder-Smoked Salmon and Dungeness Crab Melt, served on a Ciabatta roll:The pizzas received good reviews, particularly the portabella/potato version, but my sandwich was a bit disappointing. That the smokiness of the salmon overpowered the crab meat shouldn't have surprised me, but I was surprised that they used relatively crappy cheese given that it was a high-end-ish restaurant and Oregon is pretty good cheese-making country... Wine tasting was a lot of fun, though, particularly since it was Priya's first time trying wines other than port. In the evening we headed down to Yur's for what we hoped would be an evening of video bowling and mini corndogs. The mini-corndogs and stiff gin & tonics were just as I remembered them:but, tragically, Stanley and Alicia were apparently single-handedly keeping Siler Strike Bowling profitable, and it had been replaced with a stupid golfing game after they moved to Dubai. Today I'm off to have lunch with Maggie, then Stanley and I are planning on intruducing Priya to the joys of trashy Mexican food come dinner time...