July 13, 2011

Two years from today

So it’s someone special’s birthday today and as I wrote a birthday letter I got to thinking about being ok with where you are in life right this moment. I’m 25. Whenever I say that here people say, “jovencita!” or, “you’re still so young!” That puts things into perspective a little bit because I really don’t like having to say I’m another year older and really haven’t paid much attention to my birthday the last few years. But, that’s not the point. The point is that when I was in 9th grade, I knew EVERYTHING. I was so sure of myself and my plans and how you had to act that I bet you can just imagine what it was like to deal with me. In my English class, we were assigned a “research” paper but it was more like a “use MLA format to write about your dream life in 10 years from now” paper. I was 15 and this is some of what my 9th-grade self expected of the today Isabel:

1. Go to NYU and study music/music business to become a music supervisor

2. Study abroad in Australia

3. Meet the love of my life in Australia, Winston.

4. Get a great job as a music supervisor in Charlottesville, Virginia, where I become good friends with Dave Matthews.

5. Marry Winston (with green eyes) and have beautiful babies that our pal Dave Matthews’ twin daughters babysit.

So as you can see, I’ve pretty much failed according to the very demanding Isabel from 2001. She would be very disappointed that I studied abroad in Chile and not Australia and would never forgive me for not even applying to NYU. There is also no green-eyed Winston in my life and I’m not friends with Dave Matthews. See? Total failure.

All joking aside, when I think back to what I expected of myself even 4 years ago, I can’t say I’ve come through to make 2007 Isabel happy with it either. Isabel from 2007 was pretty sure she’d be married and working on her MA in Spanish Literature in the U.S. by now. I’m sure there were times when she also secretly hoped for a little baby by this time, too. But none of that has happened. I totally changed my mind about careers and I’m still living in Chile, and no longer in a relationship so the wedding is out. I suppose the baby’s not technically impossible this year but NO!!

This isn’t disappointing to think about even though it might seem like it. I’m Ok not being where I expected to be and I think almost no one is where they expected to be (except in the case of a very select few who just have their shit together, like my friend S. who is amazingly composed and together and brilliant and just knows what she wants all the time and then gets it).

I’m now working in an industry totally unrelated to what I studied and I have no idea where I’ll be living 6 months from now.  In a lot of ways, I feel like my future is just as uncertain as it was when I was a freshman in high school dreaming up my ideal life and I love that. I guess I always assumed that after college, everything was decided and set in stone and, frankly, boring. I was struggling with feeling too old to “start over” before but now that I realize your life doesn’t instantly become predictable the minute you get a “real” job and settle down a little and that excites me. I know I’m not starting over right now, but I am building on a lot that I’ve worked on the past few years and I feel comfortable and happy that life has brought me here even though I don’t know what the next “here” will be.

So I’m going to try to make a more realistic list for the near future. Let’s say two years from now on July 13, 2013. This is where I hope I am:

1. Working a creative job that I love in the food & wine industry that allows me a more flexible schedule while also paying the bills.

2. Living in a new city, hopefully in the U.S., and close to a lot of people I love (Anyone who’s talked to me recently knows I’m dreaming of Philadelphia but I don’t want to limit myself too much).

3. Finished biking across Ireland with my dad like we’ve been hoping to do for a while now.

4. Out of credit card debt and saving a good chunk of money every month.

5. OK, let’s face it, obviously I hope I’m either married to, dating or about to meet the man of my dreams 🙂

6. Comfortable with where I am, reconnected with my friends and family I haven’t seen much since living in Chile but also still connected to Chile.

It’s a tall order but at least not like my first one.

What do you want for yourself in two years from today?

June 24, 2011

Back to School

I’m now a student again after three years out of school. I was very excited to start studying again, especially because it’s a very interesting topic (wine!), and am still very happy to be studying… BUT it is hard!

I had forgotten how easily frustrated I get in a class taught in Spanish. When someone coughs or rustles papers or whispers to their friend, I hear that instead of what the teacher is saying. My hearing becomes hypersensitive and I end up panicking about missing a word or two.

The other night I was sitting in a very interesting (3-hour) history class where many times, the teacher would mention someone’s name or a process or something that wasn’t in our notes or reading and that I didn’t quite hear correctly. Instead of asking him to repeat each and every one, I started jotting them all down (as best I could). Today, I have to browse through the terms and names to look them up and make sure I understand them. I have a whopping 25 so far!

Because I always start off classes super nerdy, I’m writing definitions in Spanish and English. And since I’m taking Excel classes from my friend, I’m organizing them in a cool chart. But I’m well aware that I won’t be able to keep up with this  and I’ll have to deal with having gaps in my notes.

It is something that really bothers me because my class notes are typically too detailed (have gotten bonus points on many a tests thanks to my notes) and now I’ve got to put in a lot of extra work just to get them sort of where I’d like them to be.

Regardless of how comfortable I am with my Spanish or the fact that I’ve now lived in Chile for 4 years, it it definitely slows me down a little bit. My notes are suffering because my Spanish vocabulary (or rather, my agriculture vocab in Spanish) isn’t where it needs to be.

Luckily, I’m really interested in this course and everything I’m learning is something I’ll need to know for work so I get that it’s important to understand.  I don’t mind studying more or correcting my notes later on.

Additionally, I’m grateful to have several awesome classmates to compare notes with. It’s a great mix because we all have gaps (and strengths) in different areas.. some know a lot about gastronomy and the service industry but very little about wine and others are really good with the science-y stuff or the agricultural stuff but not so much with cooking methods. I’m not quite sure what I’m really good at yet except for commenting on restaurants that make a good _______ and wineries that are doing ____________ now but it feels like we’re all contributing something different to what is shaping up to be a great experience.

June 24, 2011

Being sick and seafood stew

Being sick all week, swamped at work and studying means zero energy for anything. Anything, that is, except for satisfying my sudden craving for paila marina (typically hate it) on Wednesday afternoon after not having an appetite for anything.

Much like the rest of Santiago, I got my first winter cold just in time for the winter solstice and had strong cravings for seafood stew. The only other time I’ve had this in Chile I swear there were drugs in it because it totally knocked me out (fell asleep for a second ON the dance floor) after I ate it.

Yesterday, I got to work in the kitchen with what I had (a bag of frozen seafood, shrimp and crab meat, celery, green onions, carrots, orange bell pepper, white wine, butter, olive oil, salt and cayenne pepper) and came out with a yummy concoction that satisfied my craving and I’m assuming made me feel better. I don’t think I’ll want to eat this anytime soon but since I was the one making I avoided that sandy texture that I really don’t like about a lot of seafood dishes in Chile and hey, I think I’m a pretty darn good cook so it was pretty tasty.

I have about 5 drafted posts to get to this weekend, particularly about the great mix of my sommelier course classmates but that will have to wait for when I’m not surrounded by empty teacups and dirty tissues (lovely image, huh?).

In the meantime, this is what made me happy yesterday. This and Don Draper in the 3rd season of Mad Men (don’t give anything away!), of course:






June 11, 2011

Group Post – Bad Translation Fun: Menus

As part of a group post initiative sparked by Cachando Chile’s post Bad Translation Fun: Menus I started racking my brain trying to remember some funny Spanish-English translations I’ve seen. Unfortunately I couldn’t remember the funny ones so I decided to browse Santiago restaurant menus online. I tried to think of pretty well-known places that a lot of tourists go to.

The restaurant Como Agua Para Chocolate immediately came to mind because it’s featured in many Santiago guidebooks and it’s in a very popular, touristy neighborhood. Sidenote: I wouldn’t recommend it (feel free to ask me to elaborate but that’s not the point of this post.)

I was not disappointed by their English Menu. This is what I found:

(all pictures from http://www.comoaguaparachocolate.cl/)

Most of the ingredients that are translated aren’t so bad (except that Reineta in Spanish is not Reineta in English). What is so funny to me is that everything is a surprise or magical. If nothing else, it’s a creative way to avoid listing the ingredients and hey, I’d try cream of mushrooms soup with magical secrets but I might worry about hallucinating for a few hours afterwards. And I have no idea what the “carpet of snow” (they mean blanket of snow) might be but at least I know it’s an oyster dish!

I don’t mean to single out this restaurant but it does underline a bigger issue (not just with restaurants) of people copy/pasting large amounts of texts into google translate and calling it a day. It’s more frustrating when someone asks you to edit a text that’s been google translated because it’s so much easier to just look at the original text than figure out what back to the poor (lomo a lo pobre) was originally.


Other posts on this topic:

Eileen at Bearshapedsphere

Terri at Found in Chile

Leigh at Crooked Compass

Judy at It’s Over

June 9, 2011

Long-winded directions for my five-minute dinner recipe

For someone who finds so much pleasure in cooking, I certainly haven’t been doing a lot of it lately. Seriously, if I see another slice of turkey meat or greek yogurt container, I may lose my mind (after I eat them both for dinner, of course).

One consequence of a 10-hour work day followed by a necessary gym workout is getting home pretty tired and having to choose the most important chore before the hard-earned tv vegging hour(s). A lot of the time my “chore” will be taking a shower but hey, that’s me.

I have had zero energy and even less inspiration for cooking a nice meal lately. When I was an entrepreneur freelance English teacher and translator, I had plenty of free time to plan out and execute delicious meals. Ok, so maybe I had too  much time since I would happily soak beans, go to the market, make beef stock and then get to work on actually cooking a meal on any day of the week. But the point is that I was cooking pretty nice meals at least 5 times a week.

Now, almost a year into my first “office” job, I’m still having a difficult time adjusting to the schedule and the back problems and the office lighting and the waking up early, etc. To be clear – I love my job. And to clarify even more – I hate working in an office. It’s one of those things I’ll just have to get used to, though. And so is accepting that you don’t earn vegging-in-front-of-the-tv hours like I’ve always believed…much like I’ve also always thought you can pick and choose nightly chores (won’t skip cleaning McNulty’s litter box ever again).

But this week (and last) I’ve passed on the meal-making. Instead, I’ve started shoving  every vegetable I should have cooked with my nice meal between two slices of whole grain bread and cooking it in my panini maker while I defrost frozen spinach in hot water. Then, I dump the lump of spinach in a mug with a packet of squash soup and add recently boiled water. I add some cayenne to, well, everything and that’s dinner. Again and again and again and again.

My sandwich typically has bean sprouts, spinach, tomato, cabbage, hearts of palm, flaxseed, turkey and a piece of cheese in it. A crazy but actually kind of tasty sandwich that I now can’t even think of eating because I’m so sick of it. I’ve also exhausted my other option of a yogurt, passion fruit, berries, flaxseed and vanilla whey protein smoothie so I better get motivated and start cooking again.

I figured I’d pull out a nice bottle of wine to start so I picked a delicious cool-climate Syrah I’ve been saving and will serve it with an Italian/Cuban pot roast recipe (I combined two recipes, took some stuff out and then added some more) – it is so freaking good I licked every last bit of sauce on the tupperware lid when it was all gone the first time I made it.

After that, I’ll have to stick to less time-consuming recipes that I can cook in less than, ohh, 4 1/2 hours but I’m looking forward to my meal tonight, that’s for sure. Bye-bye panini maker and powdered soups!

June 7, 2011

How my immersion blender changed my life

I had been meaning to buy an immersion blender like this for a long, long time. I love making soups, sauces and smoothies (not to mention the non-rhyming hummus, eggplant dips and peruvian hot sauces), but the umpteenth time I  burned myself when my tomato sauce splattered out from under the cheap lid on my sorry excuse for a blender was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Well, that combined with the fact that my friend was selling her almost brand new immersion blender at a great price.

A month later and I am one happy gal in the kitchen. I’m almost always happy in the kitchen but I’m much happier knowing I can whip my blender out and use it anywhere. Seriously, I use it in plastic bowls, glass cups, pots, pans, wherever!

picture from cooking.com

Picture from cooking.com

And I am so much more willing to make fresh soups and smoothies even when I’m crunched for time, especially since I know  there will be no splattering and the consequential changing of shirts because the first one is all stained.

This morning, for example, I had less than 15 minutes to make coffee, eat breakfast and feed my cat so I threw yogurt, frozen berries, frozen passion fruit pulp, flax seed, spinach (yes, spinach) and a dash of milk into a mug, pulled out  my blender and was happily sipping away in under two minutes. Seriously, this thing is amazing! It makes me feel like I can throw stuff in a pot to cook for a little bit and then stick this little guy in there and then I’m all set. And since soups are my specialty, this purchase was a must.

So watch out if you don’t like puree of, well, ANYTHING because I am armed and ready to immerse.

Next up on my list, fresh artichoke soup (yes, that means hand-scraping individual leaf meat of several artichokes). But since artichokes are pretty much my all-time favorite food ever, I’ll go through a lot to eat them in something delicious.

May 31, 2011

If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is

“I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, ‘If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.'”

Kurt Vonnegut, A Man Without A Country  

I love Kurt Vonnegut. He wrote one of my all-time favorite books, Slaughterhouse Five and I take it with me almost any time I travel, if only to read the first ten pages again and again while I’m waiting in line or sitting on a bus.  but I love Kurt Vonnegut more for being Kurt Vonnegut than for being a writer. For a man with such deeply cynical views of the world, he was a terribly sentimental guy. He thought the world was going to shit yet he still enjoyed and savored every moment with his grandchildren and the thrill of walking through New York City with a stamped envelope to take to the post office. Unfortunately, I  share Mr. Vonnegut’s cynicism but I also think I value my relationships and moments with the people I love and I really think that that way of thinking – appreciating good moments for what they are even if you have to change your perception of “good” to do it – is the key to dealing with general anxieties and pessimism.

As someone who suffers from gut-wrenching nostalgia for anytime before 2005, my idea of happiness has changed completely from when I was a “kid”. I was so happy so often when I was younger that I took it for granted and I’ve had a really difficult time accepting that happiness changes throughout your life. At least in my case, it will never be the same as the times when I was too happy to take notice.

But I’m slowly learning to take these small, happy moments and appreciate them for everything that they are. Yes, I’m cynical and worried about the way things are but I’m also extremely grateful for having a lot of people I love in my life and will try to savor those happy moments that do come along.

My post-2004 life has had many of these moments. One in particular that stands out is when I was visiting my friend in New York City. We had tried to go to a movie but it was sold out so we were walking around trying to figure out what to do when I bumped into a childhood friend from Virginia I hadn’t seen in years. We ended up going to a restaurant with his boyfriend, a few friends and him and having the best time drinking wine and hanging out with their friends.  Rarely does a mix like that, so random and spontaneous, work and I remember that my friend and I walked out of there giddy about having had such an unexpectedly nice time.

It’s those moments I’m holding on to now and that make me think – in all sincerity –  “if this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.”

May 30, 2011

Sucker for cute baby videos in goods times and in bad

This is a new blog for me. In the past I’ve been a pretty bad blogger because I didn’t tell people I had one and I didn’t update it often. I figured paying for a domain name and starting something new would motivate me to be better at it than this so here goes…


I’ll start off short and sweet with this little cutie pie who has single-handedly (not at all but it’d be nice) cheered me up as I deal with a break up (just short of 4 years….moved halfway across the world for us…I don’t want to get into it here because he’s a wonderful guy and we’re both heartbroken and I want to respect it. But yeah, it’s a BIG deal).

How could I mess this blog up with something as adorable as that for a first post?

I won’t make ofHeartandMind about my relationship ending but I definitely have to blame it give it credit for sparking the blog change (spending even more money I shouldn’t have spent on buying a domain in addition to the boots, pair of flats, pair of flats number two, scarf, jeans and big cocktails I’ve already bought post-relationship to try to make myself feel better, rather).

So, tomorrow I will post and it won’t be about that and it won’t feature adorable, dancing babies, either.

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