Sunday, December 30, 2012

I'll Fly Away...

My Badge of Honor
There are interesting things about flying as a long time Road Warrior. I have flown 2.7 million miles on American Airlines and a little under 300,000 on United and then probably another couple of hundred thousand on other airlines. So, I am a 3 million miler and yet the more I fly, the more I wonder why I would want to continue?

I have some amazing stories that include 13 missed approaches, a bomb scare re-direct to my hometown of Albuquerque (San Francisco to Dallas flight), a clear air turbulence drop that resulted in two broken legs for a flight attendant, an in-flight fire in the bathroom (electrical short that produced mostly smoke), an emergency landing in Phoenix due to a landing gear malfunction, sitting on a flight next to a survivor of an Eastern Airlines flight at Boston Logan many years prior, sitting next to Mel Brooks and his now late wife Anne Bancroft (Mrs. Robinson), and the most interesting, an entire law enforcement SWAT team awaiting my arrival in Houston after a flight attendant on my flight from LA thought that I looked like a child murderer whose composite drawing had been distributed to all the airlines before we left LA.

Look, I know full well that flying is safer than every single trip I take to and from the airport. That said, I have been accustomed to my interesting stories coming in intervals separated by numerous segments. Heck, in 2005 I made 155 flights with nary a problem other than some pesky delays (understated for sure). It should be noted that as a 16 year old private pilot I once overshot a runway and wrecked a perfectly nice Cessna 172 (no injuries except for a bruised ego). The latter has nothing to do with commercial air travel, but is nonetheless an interesting flying story involving me.

And now, over 3 million miles in, my last 3 flights in a row have included interesting landings. They were all in jumbos, a 777, the new 787 and recently a 767. The last two were made in very strong cross-winds and the 777 landing was in perfect summer weather; okay, if you call making an approach with the temps near 100 degrees as perfect!

I am not trying to dissuade people from flying and I certainly do not intend to stop (next flight is on January 13). I am just sitting here reflecting on my travels and wondering why I have had 3 straight flights with dramatic endings?

I suppose I should take the advice of Robin Williams in the film "The World According to Garp" (a somewhat different but related context). "I will take it (the next flight) because I have been pre-disastered!"

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Monday, December 17, 2012

Christmas cookie ninja: frosted sugar cookies

This year, our kitchen (aka: moi) didn't churn out the usual 60-plus dozen cookies - there just wasn't enough time. Making fewer Christmas cookies means careful editing. An opportunity!

For me, the rolled sugar cookie best encapsulates Christmas cheer. You can decorate however you want: super simple or funky fancy. I like vibrant frosting colors and fun sprinkles, personally. It gives the cookies a certain allure, and almost guarantees they'll disappear ahead of other types of cookies.
Use a toothpick to move around and swirl the frosting
What you need:
  •     1 1/2 cups butter, softened
  •     2 cups white or cane sugar
  •     4 eggs
  •     1 tsp vanilla extract
  •     5 cups all-purpose flour
  •     2 tsp baking powder
  •     1 tsp salt

To make:

In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Stir in the flour, baking powder, and salt. Cover, and chill dough for at least one hour (or overnight).

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Roll out dough on floured surface 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick. Cut into shapes with any cookie cutter. Place cookies 1 inch apart on cookie sheets lined with parchment paper (my preference) or silicone pad.

Bake 6 to 8 minutes in preheated oven. Underbake vs. overbake so the bottom and edges aren't too browned. Cool completely before frosting.

  •     1 cup confectioners sugar
  •     2 tsp milk (plus more to thin out frosting)
  •     2 tsp light corn syrup
  •     1/4 tsp almond extract

Mix ingredients together until very smooth, adding a bit more milk as desired to thin it. This batch will be enough for at least half of the cookies. I divide it into four or five little containers to color each, and leave one white. This frosting dries quickly, so I usually just do two batches and mix up new colors.

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Thursday, December 13, 2012

A tasty tailgate for a cause

We all migrated indoors..
Tailgater is not a portmanteau to typically describe us, though we are Texans fans. Greg impulsively bought tickets to the first 'Monday Mayhem' tailgate event in the parking lot of Triniti to enjoy the Texans game action against the Pats and 'gin up' on BBQ. This was also a charity event, with proceeds benefiting St. Jude children's hospital and OKRA. Greg is a generous guy, so maybe it was the charity angle that drew him in. Or maybe it was nostalgia, since I moved here from Boston. Or, most likely, it was the promise of BBQ and beer. 

Brandon, a recent import from Trinidad and chef at Triniti
We loved the lineup of participating restaurants: Anvil, Benjy's, Branch Water Tavern, Killen's, Roost, Soma Sushi, Sparrow, Triniti and Underbelly. Plus, we had the benefit of sampling from our favorite local/regional breweries including Karbach, Southern Star, No Label and St. Arnold.

Mind you, this was a Texas tailgate. So, it was rather ... meaty. I ate more smoky goodness in a few hours than I generally eat in a few months. A lot of months. I noticed that Greg didn't complain, but finally surrendered to the gods of carnivorous carnage and said 'no more.'

What worked so well for me were the deep flavors as the parry and fresh crunchy vegetables as the riposte, and the preponderance of pickling. What didn't work well was the 40-something temperature (I'm a wimp now that I live in the south!).

Here are a few highlights:
Benjy's sandwich with picked veg and pickled egg
With Kevin Naderi, Roost's chief everything & owner
Roost's foie gras 'jell-o shot'

Monica Pope's crazy great tacos
Pork cheek, crunchy veggies and hibachi corn from Soma
If Triniti decides to do this kind of event again, I'd recommend outdoor heaters if it's cold, some kind of seating to watch the game or a way to inform attendees that they should bring their own tailgate chairs (there were like 20 seats they grabbed from the front patio), and basic handouts from the participating restaurants to describe what they're serving and maybe an incentive to get us into their restaurants (we frequent most of them anyway but this type of event is a great marketing vehicle).  

Best part of the evening: eating all that wonderful food offset the pain of losing the game. 
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Monday, December 10, 2012

Taking the long way home

Well, I talked him into it again. Fifth year in a row. Either I'm an extraordinarily persuasive person, or Greg is extraordinarily loving. (I suspect it's the latter.)

It's the dreaded 1,800 mile road trip from Houston to upstate New York. My hometown of New Hartford is set to the east of Syracuse in a semi-rural part of the state with rolling hills and snowy winters. Greg handles this trip with grace and aplomb, as you'll see in a post he did last year called 'King of the Road.' 

I had declared that this time we'd just fly up for a short visit, but little Cowboy Jack's kidney disease has inevitably progressed, and we're pretty certain this will be the last time my Dad has the opportunity to cuddle with the dog, and slip bits of food into Jack's waiting mouth when he thinks we're not watching.

Seems like a quick trip to me. I sleep through 97% of it.
So, you do the crazy long drive. For family. For snow. For tradition. For wings at Cavallo's. For love. 

Now, I must get back to some deadlines. And the list for Greg to reassure him that the drive won't be too unbearable....

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Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Local and international fun in Houston

When you live in an international city, it's fun to seek out the world without traveling more than a few miles from home. Recently we experienced some great outings:

Danny Nguyen 5 year anniversary celebration - over-the-top fashions and great vibe (Greg got me a little fashion giftie) ...

... followed by late night Tex-Mex which hit the spot even if it wasn't the healthiest decision (no pic available - we hoovered it up)...

... a very fun holiday party complete with singing (Greg and I decided that our lip-synching was an early Christmas gift to everyone there) ...

... and a really nice lunch and visit with our friend Howard, in town for just a few hours, at The Pass and Provisions. It's a world-class restaurant and it's about a five-minute walk from our house!

People often ask how we know about stuff that's going on - it's easy:
- Find and follow local businesses and clubs on Facebook and Twitter
- Sign up for newsletters from your fave boutiques, galleries and cultural sources
- Become a member of a place you like
- Chat up people at events and ask them about upcoming happenings
- Get involved in a club that focuses on an activity you like 
- If you live in a college town, find out about lectures, exhibits and concerts (endowments are a good thing since they make many international things possible)

Happy hunting!

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