Posts filed under ‘Travelholic’

Improvisation; Travelling, Cooking, Dancing..

Improvisation is a wonderful word.  In Dictionary.com, its defined as 1) to compose and perform or deliver without previous preparation; extemporize.  2) to compose, play, recite, or sing (verse, music, etc.) on the spur of the moment. 3) to make, provide, or arrange from whatever materials are readily available.

One needs to be flexible, quick thinking, and adaptable in order to achieve that.  These are the qualities I love as they also show strength; to deal with all situations, to react accordingly to circumstances and to go with how the wind and water flows.  Life is not that hard when you apply it to all aspects as there are always options.  Be spontaneous and life will always be exciting because you’ll never know what’s going to happen next. 

When it comes to travelling, I generally have a rough plan in terms of direction, transportation and accommodation.  As a lone female traveller, I am responsible for my own safety.  However, I’m always open to detours and road blocks which makes up the thrills of travelling because you dont know where it’ll lead you. 

When I was in Beijing China alone in 2008, I met 2 hostelmates; an Englishman who arrived just a day before and a Dutchman who had been travelling for years.  I wanted to travel to somewhere for 3 days and thought that it would be nice to have company.  Hence I mentioned it to the Dutchman and we spoked about travelling to Harbin to experience the harsh winter and to see the famous ice sculptures.  In our heads, it was a great idea but we were uncertain about travelling together since we only met a day ago.  Eventually, we asked the Englishman to join us and he agreed the next day.  All of us postponed our original travel plans and it all turned out to be a fantastic experience.  

Our only plan was to get to Harbin to see the sights and ice sculptures but in the end we went even travelled further to ski for 2 days!  That was my first ski experience! 

It was so amazing that we got along very well (we are all born in the year of the horse coincidentally!) and we were sad when we returned to Beijing and spoke about meeting at some point in our travels down south.  We stayed in touch and to date, the Englishman now lives and works in Beijing and the Dutchman is a proud father in Holland. 

 

Cooking on the road has its challenges; lack of necessary crockery, kitchen necessities (stove and oven) and appliances.  My ultimate goal is to try to eat healthily (minus too much cheese, oil, sugar and salt)  and to cut cost, hence I had to find ways to improvise with the limited resources.  Couscous (just add hot water) with broccoli and carrots (steamed) tastes great with Japanese rice seasoning, cooking soft and hard boiled eggs using the coffee maker, etc.  I also had plan how to make use of the only 2 plastic containers to prepare and eventually to serve the food in.  That can be quite tricky but I had a lot fun working around it.

I didnt really receive much formal training in Salsa dancing.  My best friend taught me the basic 1-2-3, 5-6-7-8 and that was it.  The rest, I owe it to all the guys I’ve danced with and a lot through observing others.  With my ‘unorthodox’ training, I did have to improvise along the way whenever I missed the hand or step or auto-piloted some moves (a big NO NO for ladies because we are supposed to follow).  I appreciated when guys improvised their moves to go with what I was doing at that time, get me back into place with them and continue the lead.  This shows their versatility and graciousness.  Occasionally, they too discover some new moves along the way.  Ultimately, social dancing is a form of relaxation and enjoyment so there’s no need to get all too technical and strict about it!

In short, IMPROVISATION is great and if you train yourself to do that, life will have less obstacles because you will always find a way out or around and thus make it a lot more fun and enjoyable!

February 16, 2011 at 8:35 pm Leave a comment

Salsa in Cincinnati Ohio

Just before I arrived into Cincinnati Ohio, I launched into the once again tedious task of searching for a venue with salsa dancing somewhere near downtown.  After searching for 15 minutes, salsapower.com is the only one that gave me some kind of information but I’m wary that it may be outdated.

There’s Monday Salsa at Mad Frog which is a little too far away for me to travel alone from downtown and there’s Havana Martini Club in downtown which I later found out that they’ve turned into a not too exciting looking Penguin Piano Club of sorts. 

A week went and a bartender at the theatre mentioned he saw some salsa dancing long time ago at a Mexican restaurant just down the road.  Hopeful, I surfed the web again to investigate further and chanced upon midwestlatino.com.  I think their updates were more reliable because there were information about a Salsathon event  on Saturday which I can’t attend because I’m working!!! 😦 

The website is packed with information and personally, I think it’s too cramped up!  It’s similar to loads of salsa websites online where everything is cluttered together.  I think they need to space the information out a little, organise by colour, change of fonts and spacing of everything, basically better organisation so that it’ll be little more soothing to the eye. 

Nevertheless, I did find out that aside from Mad Frogs on Mondays, there’s Bartini on Wednesday!  I can’t believe that I missed last Wednesday because Bartini is right beside the theatre where I’m working!  OMG.  What a waste!

Bartini is a nice looking venue.  Surprisingly, the bar area is relatively quiet as the salsa tunes were very well contained in the dance floor section.  It’s a nice size dance floor with 2 bars and a lot of sitting area.  I think the dance floor could use a bit more light.  Not that I want loads of swirling multi-coloured LEDs and moving lights waving crazily above us, just a bit of dull orange light will be good so that we can see our partner’s face. 

Interestingly, I did see quite a few good-looking men (6 foot 1, muscular with dark looks) who can dance.  It seems like a rare sight for some reason.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get around to ask them to dance and they didn’t too.  I wonder why because I can see that they were interested to dance with me (btw, did i say i’ve been dancing for 7 years?  So I think I’m quite an average good dancer.).  I guess my hesitation had to do with not wanting to look like I’m trying to hit off with them.  It’s weird that I was conscious because its normal that I ask men to dance and I do it all the time!!

 We are heading to Chicago next week… the search continues…

 

January 29, 2011 at 8:49 pm Leave a comment

Learning made easy

With internet, learning anything is so easy now!  We just need to remind ourselves to search it online and reference with a few other websites with similar topic then summarize and arrive into the best solution and methods.  THANK YOU! 🙂

Example, a sudden craving to make Eggs Benedict crept up this morning and since I don’t really know how to poach an egg and make Hollandaise sauce, I searched online for YouTube videos, spend 3-4 mins watching the 2 videos and discovered how EASY it is to make them!  Coming from Asia, we dont really make sauces like that so it seemed like a daunting task at first but it turned out otherwise!  Hahaha… much like how I go around telling my non-Asian friends how easy it is to make Chinese food. 

As a kid, most of the information came from parents, friends, relatives and school-teachers and textbooks.  I was an inquisitive child and often didn’t get my questions answered and it didn’t really hit me to go look things up in the library (Ok.  I’m a little slow in that area…durr… or maybe I was just plain lazy.  Hahaha…).

Hence, now that we have the world of information at our finger tips, I need to constantly remind myself that I’m in control of my own learning.  Learning is a continuous process in every aspect of our life.  We learn how to grow up, to be a teenager, to be an adult then maybe a parent, a grandparent and eventually learn how to deal with our own death.  To me, this is the beauty of life…

January 24, 2011 at 7:41 pm Leave a comment

The Pat Down

We were in Tulsa airport on early Monday morning for our flight to Louisville via Dallas and a bus drive after to Cincinnati (its supposed to be cheaper for the company if we do it this way… loonng travel day!)  At security in Tulsa airport, everyone had to go through a body scanner and not the usual metal detectors scanner.  When asked, the airport staff said that its similar to a cellphone transmission.

Whatever it is, I dont really like the idea of going through scanners that emits some kind of waves into/through my body.  Unfortunately, due to the nature of our work, we had to face the scanners almost every Monday as we travel from city to city.  Its quite irritating but going through the scanners also means you dont have to stand in queues for long time (Imagine everyone wants a Pat Down… ), and its less invasive. 

Since the airport was not that busy and the staff looked friendly, I requested for The Pat Down.  I’ve never been searched that way before so am curious. 

I had to walk through the metal detector and was asked to stand on a little mat with 2 foot prints on it.  The lady officer asked me if I understand that she will be touching areas around my inner thighs and my breasts and I said yes.  She was all serious but kept her volume low as she explained further.  I appreciate that.  It would have been traumatising if she went,”I GOING TO TOUCH YOUR INNER THIGHS AREA AND BREASTS!” 

It was a detailed and systematic search; arms and hands shoulders and collar, inner waist bands, inner thighs, legs, foot (poor officer, a little yuky if socks stinks) and front chest area and sliding the hands on the breasts and under.  I didnt feel violated in anyway maybe because I had double pants and double tops on (for the cold weather) and so I was protected from feeling the touch of a stranger.  Hmm… maybe that’s the way to go, just wear more clothing and definitely no skirts on travel days.  I wonder how they will reach the inner thighs if the girl is wearing a long dress or skirt?  At the end of it, the officer used a special paper to clean the rubber gloves she had on and put it into a machine to test if there’s any traces of bomb chemicals. 

The pat down did make me feel more self conscious as I wondered what the hundreds others were thinking when I was getting the “special” attention; implants? special devices? secrets? suspect??  I’m wonder if this whole special scanning machines deal is really necessary or is it just another business opportunity?

January 20, 2011 at 4:46 pm Leave a comment

Learn from those who’ve been there done that…

I came across an article in an airline magazine today about help from senior volunteers who gives an advice or 2 to anyone who writes in to them.  Its called the Elder Wisdom Circle.  I think this is a really cool idea because it gives the older folks a chance to share their experiences with the younger ones (no age limit) and to make their time more well spent because they are helping someone else who needs a listening ear or a word of advice.  

Questions are asked via email, hence there’ll be no embarrasement or awkwardness… just pure simple answers based on what was asked with no other considerations, etc.  The only obstacle will be that the older folks will have to learn how to use the computer which I believe is quite a daunting task to many…

January 18, 2011 at 4:49 am Leave a comment

Just One step…

Food that are easy to keep, dont require much cooking and fills up a hungry stomach quickly!  Bear in mind that there’s not much in terms of nutritional value since they are instant and contains preservatives, etc.  Moderation is the key!

One Step:  JUST ADD HOT WATER

1)  Instant noodles:  Let the noodles sit in the hot water for 3 mins and you have a meal! 

The ones that come in a bowl or cup is more convenient.  If you already have a plastic container as like my starter kit, buy those in the packets because they are cheaper and more environmental friendly. 

I don’t really like the taste and texture of the commonly found brand Ramen in the US.  Go for Nissin or any other Thai/Chinese/Japanese/Korean brand.  Definitely yummier!  Trust me, I grow up eating instant noodles for a bit.

2)  Flavoured Couscous:  Add hot water and let it sit for 5minutes.  Fluff with a fork. 

The seasonings are included and they taste wonderful; Parmesan cheese, Mediterranean curry, Herbs, etc.  Yummy and low in fat content.

3)  Instant Miso soup mix:  Add hot water and done!  Much like making tea. 

For those of you who are accustomed to drinking clear soup, I find that these help loads especially as a complement to another dish.  The soup makes the quick fix meal a little more complete.

4)  Eggs:  Cook them with hot water  and WA LA!  A good source of protein.

Add soya sauce or any sauce you have!  The good thing about eggs is, you can boil them in advance, put them in the fridge and eat when you want to.  I recommend eating them within 3 days after cooking though. 

 

One Step:  JUST MIX THEM UP

1.)  Fruit and Nuts:  Cut and mix them up into a fruit bowl!  Healthy and full of natural sweetness and protein!

2.)   Tuna Sandwich:  I think this is pretty straight forward.  Bread + tuna sandwich. 

Whenever I go to a KFC or McDonalds or any eatery, if they give free ketchup and mustard or Mayo, I’ll always keep them if I didn’t use them.  Drain the water from the canned tuna and mix it up with any of the sauces that you have to add that extra taste to your tuna sandwich which may have cost you $6 if you buy them in a café.

3.)  Egg Sandwich:  With the remaining bread, you can boil some eggs, mix with mayo or any sauces that you have and make a sandwich!  Add salt and pepper for taste if you don’t have any other condiments.

I’ve learnt to improvise along the way with whatever ingredients I have and I believe you will discover more quick recipes based on your own culture and what’s readily available to you!  Have fun!

January 16, 2011 at 4:54 am Leave a comment

Introducing… World Famous…

Who validates them? 

During a roadtrip a few months ago, I kept bumping into signboards with the World Famous tag on them.  I wonder, World Famous because everyone in the world agrees that its the best or most beautiful or most yummy OR because its common knowledge to the world?  If its self acclaimed, would it tarnish its own reputation if its not that great?

I hereby encourage those of you to comment if you’ve been there:

1.)  Grits a Ya YA in Fish House Pensacola Florida – I didnt try the grits but the other dishes we ordered (Gumbo, blackened fish and grilled fish) were great!

 2.)  Pralines in Savannah Georgia… they were closed when we were there…

3) World famous Love acts in New Orleans – Ok.. dont get too excited because we decided to give this a miss. All that red light was sending warning signals in our head… 

4) Muffeletta @ Franks in new Orleans – Its a subway like sandwich. We were recommended by a friend to go to Central Grocery (2 doors away) for one and they didnt put on the world famous tag though it seems like they were busier than this one…

5) World Famous Psyche reading in New Orleans.

6) Another world famous Pralines but now in New Orleans.

7) Tattoo shop in New Orleans.

8.) Hurricane drink in a pack in New Orleans.

Last but not least…

9) World Famous Vietnamese bread in New Orleans….

So what do you think?

January 15, 2011 at 5:25 am Leave a comment

Proof on Main, 21C Museum and Hotel

Went to this funky looking bar for a drink when we were in Louisville KY a few weeks ago… a nice change from the usual irish pubs and pubs!  Hahaha…  Psychedelic seal head and arty abstract horse heads hung on the walls with big red penguins at random corners of the whole establishment. It has a nice expensive feel to it (well the prices of the drinks tells it all!) and its part of a Museum and Hotel all in the same building.  Even the efficient waitress who attended to us looked really interesting; long dreads, black tight vest with a black flare above-the-ankle length big skirt and a fascinating accent and voice.  I couldnt stop giving her all my attention whenever she came to us. 

The museum houses interesting looking collections from photographs to paintings to sculptures and video projections.  The hotel lobby which is the entrance to the museum is nicely decorated with the art pieces as well.  You’ll probably not know that it’s a hotel when you walk in.  I was particularly interested in a video projection on the wall at the lift lobby.  Random letters falling from the top and land on your head, shoulders, arms, well basically on you.  You can try flick it move it up and down and that will keep you occupied while waiting for the lift!

January 12, 2011 at 10:24 pm Leave a comment

Raleigh North Carolina – City of Oaks

Didnt really know what to expect in Raleigh North Carolina except that It’ll be cold. Having spent 2 weeks in nice warm Fort Lauderdale, the thought of extreme cold is definitely not very inviting.

When we got into downtown Raleigh, its seems like there wont be much going on but after a little recce session, we found restaurants and pubs that are open till midnight or 2am on a weekday. That’s interesting… hmmm…

To our pleasant surprise, Raleigh downtown did have some interesting restaurants, bars and little eateries:

 

The Remedy Diner

This simple laid back little eatery has a reasonable selection of vegetarian and vegan dishes.  We enjoyed the smoked gouda grits, mock beef and spinach soup and mock buffalo chicken wings (YUMMY!) with Journey playing in the background!!  We like it so much that we went back there again and had the mock buffalo wings again J!  Definitely made me feel a few pounds lighter even after the meal!

Delicious Mock Lunch!

The menu includes some simple meat dishes for the carnivorous who are there with their herbivorous friends.. 😛  I also noticed that the diner did have an interesting selection of special alcoholic cocktail concoctions with interesting names.  I didn’t have any because drinking just before work somehow doesn’t seem like a good idea.

The Big Easy

This is where I had my GUMBO fix. Its not too bad for the price but I still crave the first one I’ve ever had in my life in Gumbo Cafe in Galveston Texas… That was intense and satisfying… Mmmmmm… Ok, back to Raleigh.

We ordered a Caesar salad, Seafood Gumbo and a Cheese and Spinach Ravioli.  Other items on the menu that were calling out to us includes the She-crab soup, Salmon salad, Jimbalaya and many more Cajun choices… YUMMMMmmmmmiiiiii!

The interior décor is a little skewed towards the “beaten up” look meaning rough wall surfaces often you can see the red brick part of the walls, beams and metal structures.  I noticed similar look in a few other establishments as well.  It looks great and maybe the establishments managed to save on interior renovation and probably not much cleaning is required?

The Raleigh Times Bar

The beaten up look in this resturant-bar establishment goes in tune with the black and white and sepia photos and prints on the walls and glass windows. Soft orange lighting combined with wooden furniture makes the place really cosy.

Food’s definitely great and at very affordable prices. I had a Heavy Seas Hanger Steak which is a mushroom risotto with hanger steak marinated in chocolate stout ( OooOoOoooo) and bok choy (ahhh… how i missed bokchoy)! Had to go back for the Pork Enchilada and had a taste of the Buffalo wings, artichoke dip (heavenly creamy and cheesy – SINFUL!) and nachos with pork bits!

Slims

This dive bar is a great place to hang out for a chat with the bartender or just to be on your own drinking, playing pool or computer games.  My colleagues and I went there almost every other night!  The entertainment is all tucked away on the second level.

I find it entertaining to watch the casual laid back bartender multitasked between clearing empty bottles and replenishing drinks, chatting with each customer for a few minutes at each time and leaving them to show some attention to the rest. She accomplishes that with such a casual flair that it’s actually quite impressive!

After speaking to some locals, they said that Raleigh has changed quite a bit over the last few years.  They even demolished the old convention center and rebuild it in another spot so that the road is cleared and now we can see the North Carolina State Capital building all the way from Raleigh Memorial Auditorium.  Overall, I did had a nice time in Raleigh NC!

January 11, 2011 at 3:19 pm Leave a comment

TASK Louisville: Find them, Try them and Share them…

Before getting into another city, I’ll try to read about it in Wikipedia, find out where the grocery stores, salsa clubs and any interesting sights are, relative to the location of our hotel.  From Wikipedia, I found a list of dishes that are unique to Louisville and I did managed to try 2 out of 17…

HOT BROWN – A layered dish of bread, bacon, and turkey, topped  with a Mornay sauce.

 “I ate this in Bluegrass Brewing Company place and actually felt really sinful eating it.  There was a lot of melted cheese… enough to make a cup of soup.”

DERBY PIE – Chocolate and pecan pie named for the Kentucky Derby.

“This sounds and looks really yummy in the pictures during my research.  I managed to have one in The Old Spaghetti Factory which I don’t think is authentic enough but it will do for now.” 

These are the rest on the list in Wikipedia… I’ll definitely keep a lookout for them in other cities.

ALE-8-ONE – A ginger-flavored soft drink bottled in Winchester.

BURGOO – A thick stew made from vegetables and mutton, or lamb, or other game meats.

MINT JULEP – Potable that is made with bourbon and crushed mint and is the ‘official’ drink of the Kentucky Derby

GOETTA – A Northern Kentucky delicacy composed primarily of ground meat, steel-cut oats and seasoned with bay leaves, rosemary, salt, pepper and thyme.

HENRY BAIN SAUCE – A potent sauce for serving with game.

BRAINS & EGGS – Known mostly as an English dish; this was served in Frankfort restaurants until BSE scares.

MOCK TURTLE SOUP – Welsh and English settlers brought this recipe with them when they settled in Clay County.  “Chinese and Asians has mock food too but usually a turtle soup is cooked with a real little turtle!” 

FROG LEGS – Often breaded and deep-fried.  “I thought that frog legs is an Asian thing!”

BENEDICTINE – A greenish cucumber and cream cheese spread made popular by Louisville’s Benedict’s restaurant.

STACK CAKE – An Appalachian layered cake with apple preserves spread between each layer.

JOHNNY CAKE – A corruption of “Shawnee” cake this is a flat corn bread cooked by direct heat.

BOURBON BALLS – Crushed cookies mixed with chocolate and bourbon, then coated in powdered sugar, first produced in Frankfort during Prohibition.

BEER CHEESE – Cheese dip made with beer, Cheddar cheese, and spices.

MODJESKAS – Gooey caramel candy with a marshmallow center. Named for a 19th century Polish actress that once visited Louisville.

SPOONBREAD – A sweet, moist cornmeal-based dish.

January 10, 2011 at 8:34 am Leave a comment

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