Saturday, January 26, 2013

Alternative snow food

We don't understand snow here in Raleigh.  We really don't.  If the weather forecast says the skies very possibly might just drop some flakes on us, we panic, close the schools, and flock to the grocery stores as if they were about to close and soon we would have to return to the ways of our ancestors and hunt and forage on our own.  Amazingly enough, the vast majority of us buy the same few items:  water, milk, eggs, and bread.  Those items disappear from the shelves as if flying away on their own. 

I, however, pursue a different path. 

On the way home from work yesterday, driving slowly and carefully on the ice- and snow-dusted roads, my path took me by our neighborhood grocery store, a Harris Teeter.  I diverted into it, grabbed a basket, located and secured my targets, and stood in the checkout line. 

"Shopping for staples, eh?" the young woman at the register said.  She rolled her eyes dramatically, confident in her wit.

"I already have staples," I said, "but I don't have these.  Would you rather be stuck in my house with all of this--" I gestured to my acquisitions "--or in any of theirs--"  I pointed at the other registers, where people were buying various combinations of water, milk, eggs, and bread "--making French toast?"

The woman nodded.  "Yours."

Right she was, for my purchases consisted of some macaroni and cheese, for no reason other than that of late I've developed an unexplainable and unforgivable craving for squeeze-the-cheese Velveeta Mac and cheese, a prepared concoction at least as far from actual cheese as I am from Neanderthal Man, and seven containers of frozen deliciousness in the forms of ice cream, gelato, and sorbet. 

I know how to hunker down in snow. 

Friday, January 25, 2013

Walk the Earth

" Caine, from Kung Fu."

That was the key phrase in the Pulp Fiction clip I put in yesterday's blog entry about living for six weeks out of one small suitcase. 

The reason I'll be traveling for six weeks is that I've chosen to devote the bulk of my seven-week sabbatical to traveling in Europe.  (I'm spending the first week doing community service here in Raleigh.) 

"Sabbatical?" you may well ask. "What sabbatical?"

One of the cool things that my company, Principled Technologies, does is offer to all full-time employees a seven-week, paid sabbatical each seven years.  The time is completely away from work; no one expects you even to be reachable.  You are free to do whatever you want with the time.  That said, if you will give at least one week to doing something to help make the world a better place, the company will either pay up to five grand of your expenses to go where that work is or donate the money to the charity involved.  At PT, we really want all employees to help make the world better.

After I do my week of work, I'm going to get on a plane to a European city I've yet to choose.  I'm picking it in advance only because I have to do so to get an affordable plane ticket.  Over the following six weeks, until I fly home from that same city, I'm going to do whatever I feel like doing.  I have no schedule, no reservations, no plan, and only a rough idea of some places I think I'm likely to visit.  When I wake up each morning, I'll decide whether to stay where I am or move on. 

I've always wanted to do something like this, and now I have the chance.  I intend to take full advantage of it.

To keep myself as mobile as possible, I'll be restricting what I carry to that small suitcase and a backpack.  For the first trip in my life, I won't be carrying physical books with me; instead, I'll buy a bunch of ebooks and have some sort of reading device.  If I buy things, I'll ship them home.  I'm not going, though, to shop; I'm going to live.  Just live, live somewhere different, live very differently. 

It should be an interesting time indeed.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Living for six weeks out of one small suitcase

Later this year, I'll be on the road for six straight weeks in Europe.  (I'll explain more later about why and what I'll be doing, but that's another post.)  I will mostly be casual, but I'll also need to dress up for fine restaurants.  I want to fit all my clothes, shoes, and toiletries in one standard 22-inch carry-on suitcase.  I'll do laundry as necessary, but ideally I won't have to do it more than weekly.

Anyone got any tips to help me?  I'm trying to figure out the combinations of shoes and clothes that will fit in this small space.  I'm willing to buy new things to make this work, but I don't want to lug around more than that.

If you have any great ideas, please comment or email me via the Contact page on my site. 


For the curious, here's a movie scene hint to what I'll be doing.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Your Holden moment

Because every now and then, seeing the world's cutest dog just has to be good for you.

Go ahead, click on the photo; you can handle the big image.

If you were with him, though, you might not be able to cope with this look without giving him whatever he wanted. 

A song that makes me ache

I love this song (though this recording of it is terrible), have loved it since I first heard it, but it makes my heart ache.  Warren Zevon recorded it when he knew he was dying.  I miss his music.  I miss Mom.  I miss Ed.  I miss so many we have lost.

For all of them, this song. 

For all of them, I did, I do, and I will.

Monday, January 21, 2013

On the road again: Cayman Cookout, day 5

The beach outside the Ritz-Carlton on Grand Cayman truly is even more beautiful than it appears here.

Click on the picture to see a larger image.

I am sure prettier beaches must exist somewhere, but I've yet to see one.  That's why I got up earlier than absolutely necessary so I could catch up on work and then head to the beach for a last swim and lunch.  I wouldn't mind it all if we had a few clients in Grand Cayman, but alas, we do not.

Most of the rest of the day went to moving myself and my luggage from a room with this view back to my house.  The flights were good, both arrived early, and I have no room for complaints.

I am now, though, rather tired and still behind, so I'm heading offline to work and eventually to grab some sleep.  I hope to hear the ocean in my dreams.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

On the road again: Cayman Cookout, day 4

Today's first event began at the sane hour of noon, so I was able to sleep late--a blissful treat--work, and still arrive on time.

This was the view from my balcony as I headed out.

 As always, click on an image to see a larger version.

The champagne and cook-off brunch lasted over two and a half hours, during which time the audience grazed from around twenty different food stations.  Made-to-order omelets, cheeses of many sorts, caviar and fresh-made blinis, custom-grilled mini steaks, a huge raw bar, a long table of pastries--whatever you might want, a local chef and his team would serve it to you.  Meanwhile, on stage two local chef teams, a lead and a sous chef, competed to produce the best locally sourced dish for the panel of four judges: Ritz-Carlton VP of corporate culinary, Rainer Zinngrebe and the three amigo celebrity chefs, Ripert, Bourdain, and Andrés.  Spike Mendelsohn acted as the emcee.  The food was tasty, the show fun, and all in all it was a pleasant time.

Immediately after it ended, a small artisan market opened around the hotel's second, smaller pool.  I browsed it but bought nothing.

I spent the next few hours of free time mostly working, with a little reading and some ocean-gazing thrown in when I couldn't stand to work any longer.

As evening washed slowly over the island, this was the view from my balcony.

Evening brought the last Cayman Cookout event, the Gala Dinner. We filled Blue by Eric Ripert and then enjoyed a long dinner in which the guest celebrity chefs each prepared a course.  (Bourdain was the sole exception; he sat at the table with the chef's spouses.)  So, we enjoyed food from Ripert, Andrés, Bartolotta, Humm, Kinch, MacKay, Mendelsohn, and Yard.

Sorry the menu is tough to read; this was the best shot I could get given the available light.  The meal itself was excellent, a genuine treat and a fine ending to the 2013 Cayman Cookout.

Tomorrow, I will fly home in the late afternoon.  With luck, I'll get in a final dip in the ocean before I leave.

I wish I could afford the time (and cost, which is not inconsiderable) to come here every year.  It is a lovely retreat from winter.  


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