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October, 2009:

Best kid-friendly Halloween decor

My mom is down for a visit this week, so I was excited that she would be able to see some of the Dia de los Muertos action here in Mexico. We had a successful trip down to Coyoacan today in search of ofrendas (pics to come!), but I first wanted to quickly share this gem of a Halloween decoration that we came across on Wednesday down at Mercado Jamaica (which reaffirmed its place in my mind as “the best market in Mexico City”).

This TOTALLY won't give your kids nightmares-- a wiry/styrofoam spider eating a fake bloody rat. Brilliant!

This TOTALLY won't give your kids nightmares-- a wiry/styrofoam spider eating a fake bloody rat. Brilliant!

To be clear, this was secondary to a piece of Halloween paraphernalia that we did NOT manage to get a photo of: a fake furry, rubber, bloody, slightly-mashed-up rat glued inside a dustpan. As I was gesturing vigorously towards that item, trying to convince my mom that we should buy it, the salesman jumped into our conversation– explaining in Spanish how the funniest thing ever is to put a little water in the dustpan & throw it at someone, so they think you’ve just thrown dead rat blood on them. Ha!

This week’s Mexico City lesson learned: nothing is funnier than throwing fake rat blood on a friend.

I may have to go back tomorrow…

Missed business opportunities…

While in Madrid, I discovered that the niche tall-people shop I was planning to open in Mexico City already exists.

Looks like my Spanish-language tall clothing store has already been done...

Looks like I'm too late for my Spanish-language tall clothing store...

 I wonder if the Spanish folks behind the tall clothing at Masaltos.com (roughly translated: Taller.com) have considered getting into the business of larger showers that you can actually move in.

This shower was so small that if you drop the soap, just let it go, cause man, it's gone.

This shower was so small that if you drop the soap, just let it go, cause man, it's gone.

 Back to the new business idea drawing board, folks…. 😉

Breaking my radio silence after a trip to Europe!

This restaurant promo in Madrid brought me fond memories of two of my favorite homes-- 1) it's named Nebraska, a concept obviously recognized worldwide as an elite and glamorous, and 2) there is a photo of a scary-looking piece of meat, very Mexico-esque.

This restaurant promo in Madrid brought me fond memories of two of my favorite homes-- 1) it's named Nebraska, a concept obviously recognized worldwide as elite and glamorous, and 2) there is a photo of a scary-looking piece of meat, very Mexico-esque.

Crap! I think this is a new land-speed-record for Length of Time I’ve Gone Without a Riveting Blog Post! I am sure many of you have been sobbing into your chilaquiles as you have rigorously checked this page each morning only to be rewarded with OLD POSTS YOU’VE ALREADY READ (or didn’t care about in the first place). :) Luckily, I have a partially valid excuse, although I sense it being unlikely to stir sympathy…

In Madrid, we stopped at "Meson del Champignones" upon recommendation of John's coworker, and it was a wild success. I was initially skeptical of the mushrooms, but funnily enough, anything cooked in enough butter with some serrano ham on top is pretty tasty.

In Madrid, we stopped at "Meson del Champignones" upon recommendation of John's coworker, and it was a wild success. I was initially skeptical of the mushrooms, but funnily enough, anything cooked in enough butter with some serrano ham on top is pretty tasty.

We just returned from a 2-week trip to Europe, prompted by the occasion of a good friend’s wedding in Scotland. So as to maximize the value from the cost of a flight to Europe, we decided to first spend a week in Spain under the guise of “Now we can speak the language there!” As my classmates might have said during elementary school, “Shyeah, right!” Not so fast. We still aren’t sure what threw off the Madrileños more– the fact that two tall German/Swedish-looking people were speaking Spanish at all, or the fact that the Spanish they were speaking was Mexico-twinged. Let’s just say- we experienced a lot of cringing Spanish faces, but in the end, still managed to execute food/drink orders effectively.

Credit goes to friends Lesley & Heera for the dual recommendations of sandwich mixtos and Museo del Jamon. These luscious little puppies were merely 1 Euro a pop; I could have eaten seven.

Credit goes to friends Lesley & Heera for the dual recommendations of sandwich mixtos and Museo del Jamon. These luscious little puppies were merely 1 Euro a pop; I could have eaten seven.

Spain was lovely– we quickly adjusted to its late-nite dining scheme, which we interpreted as +/- 6 hours each evening spent wandering from bar to bar, drinking wine/beer/sherry/cider while nibbling from wee piles of magical serrano ham/marinated olives/manchego cheese/crusty bread. While that may not sound like a heathy diet, we found it almost impossible to overeat to the level we are used to while dining out in Mexico (though that may have been due more to the constant, painful euro-to-dollar calculations going on in our heads…). 😉

OK, so our hotel in Sevilla had a small kitchenette stocked with this MASSIVE roll of paper towels that looked just like TP. This photo of John pretending to run into the bathroom with the biggest roll of toilet paper known to man was hilarious, but also foreshadowed the food poisoning I would get 2 days later in Toledo from eating a tasty venison sandwich. Then for the next week, this picture felt all too real...

OK, so our hotel in Sevilla had a small kitchenette stocked with this MASSIVE roll of paper towels that looked just like TP. This photo of John pretending to run into the bathroom with the biggest roll of toilet paper known to man was hilarious, but also foreshadowed the food poisoning I would get 2 days later in Toledo from eating a tasty venison sandwich. Then for the next week, this picture felt all too real...

A shot of the sweet bridge leading into the walled city of Toledo

A shot of the sweet bridge leading into the walled city of Toledo

We zipped via high-speed train from Madrid to Sevilla, Toledo & back and were well entertained by all 3 cities. Toledo was especially fascinating to John (military buff) as a walled city on a river that was never taken by force. Then it was off to Glasgow for a night of reminiscing in our favorite neighborhood where we spent a week before our own wedding a mere 17 months ago.

Here I am with Emily, the blushing bride, and a hearty pint of lager.

Here I am with Emily, the blushing bride, and a hearty pint of lager.

The next day, John skillfully maneuvered our rental Prius along the left side of the road to the lovely Balbirnie House in Glenrothes for the wedding of the beautiful Emily & dapper Richard. This was followed by a clay piegon shoot in the countryside the next afternoon, where I started off in a burst of glory (first time shooter, 6 of 6, folks!) and then quickly flamed out under pressure. Many evil pigeons came away unscathed under my watch.

Here I am with Emma while we're stopped for lunch at Torr Head along the Antrim coast in Northern Ireland

Here I am with Emma while we're stopped for lunch at Torr Head along the Antrim coast in Northern Ireland

We were continually horrified to see swill like Coors Light and Budweiser being sold alongside the likes of Guinness on Guinness's home turf

We were continually horrified to see swill like Coors Light and Budweiser being sold alongside the likes of Guinness on Guinness's home turf

One of the murals in Belfast painted during The Troubles-- the gun is said to follow you wherever you go in this housing comlex.

One of the murals in Belfast painted during The Troubles-- the gun is said to follow you wherever you go in this housing comlex.

One more night in Glasgow and we were off to Dublin (after getting screwed for £30 being forced to check our carefully-packed carry-on suitcases on Aer Lingus). Friend Emma kindly picked us up at the airport & whisked us off to Newgrange, a fascinating passage tomb built several hundred years before the pyramids in Egypt. Then we did a 2-day tour of Northern Ireland– beautiful scenery & FASCINATING/crazy history. I think everyone’s at least heard of the IRA & the violent history in Belfast/Derry/environs, but to see the on-the-ground impact of “The Troubles” still today was really enlightening. The up-to-25-feet-high “Peace Lines” running between the Catholic/Protestant neighborhoods in Belfast are a constant reminder.

In Derry, we saw the subtly-marked Protestant neighborhood...

In Derry, we saw the subtly-marked Protestant neighborhood...

Derry was our last stop in Northern Ireland, which still uses the pound, before returning to Ireland, which uses the euro. Here we are at Peader O'Donnell's in Derry, excitedly finding enough small change to buy us one more round of beers.

Derry was our last stop in Northern Ireland, which still uses the pound, before returning to Ireland, which uses the euro. Here we are at Peader O'Donnell's in Derry, excitedly finding enough small change to buy us one more round of beers.

Just as we were prepared to leave for the nite due to insufficient funds for 3 pints, Emma befriended local pal "Chris" who promptly bought us all another pint. He also forced John & I to do a whisky shot in a glass the size of a coffee mug while Emma was in the loo. I can neither confirm nor deny hearing Emma & Chris exchange "I love yous" when Chris finally decided to depart for the evening.

Just as we were prepared to leave for the nite due to insufficient funds for 3 pints, Emma befriended local pal "Chris" who promptly bought us all another pint. He also forced John & I to do a whisky shot in a glass the size of a coffee mug while Emma was in the loo. I can neither confirm nor deny hearing Emma & Chris exchange "I love yous" when Chris finally decided to depart for the evening.

Emma narrowly beats me to finish her Guinness at the Gravity Bar atop the Guinness brewery.

Emma narrowly beats me to finish her Guinness at the Gravity Bar atop the Guinness brewery.

Of course, we wrapped things up in Dublin with the obligatory Guinness brewery tour. Verdict? Good, but even better when your friend’s friend’s brother works there & you don’t have to pay €15 euros to get in. 😉 (Thanks again Alan!!)

Obligatory Guinness logo photo: check.

Obligatory Guinness logo photo: check.

Here we are out in Dublin with Emma's BFF Tricia on the left. A random girl kindly agreed to take our pic, but that resulted in her chest-hair-heavy pal joining us for the kodak-moment...

Here we are out in Dublin with Emma's BFF Tricia on the left. A random girl kindly agreed to take our pic, but that resulted in her chest-hair-heavy pal joining us for the kodak-moment...

Anyway, I’ll now fall back on my traditional “in a frenzy of preparation for MBA classes + final exam this weekend” excuse, and promise to try & kick things back into high-Mexico-gear shortly!! Thanks to all for your patience, and will try to add a few more photo highlights shortly!

The celebratory Perro de Gelatina of the GRE…

The last week has a been a festival of algebra & geometry action for my dear husband John, who’s been studying up a storm in preparation for the GRE exam. For anyone unfamiliar, the GRE is a ~2.5 hour exam whose successful completion is a requirement for most graduate schools in the US. (This with the exception of biz schools– MBA candidates have their own version of hell that I went through last year known as the GMAT.)

John’s looking to start a master’s degree either next fall or the subsquent spring when we return to the Washington DC area, so he kicked off the application process by signing up to take the GRE here in Mexico City this past Tuesday, Sept 29. I was a strong advocate of the “study for two weeks & see how it goes” approach, which I employed on the GMAT. I recommend this tactic for the following people/reasons:

  • Who: you’re pretty good at standardized tests, a skill beaten into you many moons ago
  • Who: you used to be good at math, and hopes are high it will come back to you quickly
  • Who: you read a lot of drivel online or in (gasp) actual books, which has driven your vocabularly up above average
  • Why: even if you plan to study for 3 months in advance, you really won’t do anything prior to 2 weeks before the test anyway
  • Why: if you only study for 2 weeks, it gives you a great excuse if you totally shit the bed the day of the test….
    • You can just tell all your family/friends “Well, due to the pressures of my [INSERT NAME HERE OF SUPER IMPORTANT JOB THAT WORLD CANNOT LIVE WITHOUT], I was only able to study for two weeks so I simply had insufficient time to fill my brain with absolute drivel that I will never use again after this exam.”

John went with the more-advanced “study for about 9 days” strategy, thinking himself ready to go after having purchased a Princeton Review GRE study guide when we were back in the States earlier this month. Little did he know that the Princeton Review’s primary math review strategy was not so much focused on “learn the math”, but rather the time-honored “Guess and check” approach. Seriously. Here’s a great example from the book:

3[3a + (5a + 7a)] – (5a + 7a) =

  • 9a
  • 12a
  • 15a
  • 33a
  • 47a

Princeton Review recommends you pick a random number, substitute it for a, get a result, and then guess-n-check, plugging that same number into all 5 of the answers until you get a result that matches. Which, P.S., will take WAY longer than just simplifying that equation. The book states “Plugging-in is foolproof. Algebra isn’t.” Thanks, geniuses.  (Full disclosure: both my parents are math teachers, so I may be biased against stupid approaches that don’t actually require you to use the algebra that you’re being tested on in the first place.)

After such a helpful math tutorial, you can imagine the tension that mounted after he downloaded some extra math sample tests from the wittily-named 800Score.com website 3 days before the test, which turned out to be “hard as sh*t”. We managed to rationalize that since they are selling tutoring services, it is in their best interest to make you feel dumb as rocks so you buy more crap from them. Not happening, 800Score.com; we see through your lies.

As it turned out, John did a stellar job on the verbal & math sections, now only awaiting word of his score on the 2 essays from the written section. His two scores were both above average for the programs into which he’ll be applying, meaning he has no need to retake this pesky test. Yipee!!

All of this is a round-about way of sharing that I felt he deserved a proper celebratory dinner when he got home Tuesday night. I resurrected a few avocados into a small batch of guacamole, and set out a handful of smoked almonds that I’d whipped up in our stovetop-smoker that morning. Upon his arrival, I plopped him down on the couch with those + a gin and tonic to watch his favorite scene from Flight of the Conchords, which contains best-song-ever, “The Most Beautiful Girl in the Room“. (it merits a watch, people; click on the link)

As I listened to him happily singing along, a bag of fresh green beans emerged from hiding in our crisper and were blanched & dotted generously with butter. I had broken out the smoker again that afternoon to make a Smoked Tomatillo sauce, which turned out to be amazing, so I cooked up some chile-lime-marinated chicken & a few pieces of salmon to serve as vehicles for the salsa. A few slices of tasty green-olive bread from stellar bakery Da Silva, and we were good to go.

EXCEPT FOR… the crowning glory, the piéce de résistance, if you will. I picked up this little number on an afternoon trip w/friend Lesley as part of her effort to identify the top bakery and/or concha roll in Mexico City (see results here). While she was tracking down conchas, I was instantly struck by the beauty of a white dog formed out of coconut-flavored gelatin. A dalmatian, to be specifc. Genius!

As we finished up dinner, I snuck off to the kitchen to retrieve the Perro de Gelatina. Needless to say, John was appropriately impressed with his reward dessert. I felt it truly conveyed the message of “Nice job on your GRE”, as only a dog made out of jello can. In fact, when John made the dog jiggle (v. lifelike) with his fork, you could almost hear it barking “Ronradurations!” (dog for congratulations).

John proudly displays the celebratory Perro de Gelatina

John proudly displays the celebratory Perro de Gelatina

We found the Perro de Gelatina to be a tasty, light dessert. That is, until he tried to run away. Dogs will be dogs.

I'm probably getting my ass kicked for posting this one, but I couldn't resist. Again, you can almost hear the dog crying out for help...

I'm probably getting my ass kicked for posting this one, but I couldn't resist. Again, you can almost hear the dog crying out for help...

In interest of marital harmony, here’s a completely unrelated photo where I look like a jackass in front of a tugboat in San Francisco:

See, the boat is called Hercules, and I am making a Herculean pose of strength. Get it? Right, not funny, I know.

See, the boat is called Hercules, and I am making a Herculean pose of strength. Get it? Right, not funny, I know.

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