Monday, March 31, 2008

San Diego

It has been a while since I have been out to San Diego. Ernestos cousin Mauricio (or Wicho) was getting married. We decided to take advantage and stay for a long weekend. The trip started off great with an unexpected seat in first class.....on a friday afternoon? It was my lucky day. I enjoyed the long flight with a nice lunch and made jewelry, (here is your necklace Fred-Smokey Quartz, retails for $98).....this sparked a conversation with the guy sitting next to me. His daughter also makes jewelry. I told him about the website Etsy and how my neice Kelli sells her jewelry there. We covered so many topics and by the end of the flight I could've hugged him. I have to say, this does happen to me quite a bit...Im a plane talker. I will have the most interesting conversations with people I just met, of course you know I can open up to anyone... Turns out Joe is a blog-ass too and used to have an Indian Guru....I cant wait to tune in to his memoirs, as he calls them. (make sure you send me your link Joe) Darn it! I should have taken his picture...
I did snap this pic right by the airport.....OOOOOOOh San Diego.
Ernesto had left for San Diego Thursday after work so when I arrived on friday at 430p, he and Jerry picked me up and we headed straight to Pepe and Veronica's place. They have a beautiful view from their deck overlooking a golf course. It is the perfect house for entertaining!
Everyone came over there and played pool, swam in the pool and ate dinner. Tavo and Erin brought over little baby Cruz.....only 10 days old, so tiny and cute! Saturday was the wedding and since it was at 2pm we didnt go to the beach as we usually do. We relaxed with coffee and hung out..I was trying to finish a ruby necklace to wear with my dress, but didnt get it done:( I did have a new pair of earrings on though and sold them that night!)

Mauricio and his new bride Maria looked beautiful! The wedding was great. It was in a church in Carmel Valley. You can see the view behind the alter is awesome.
There were 2 hours to kill until the reception so we went with Ernestos brother, Tavo to a place called Brigentines for a drink and some apps. It was overlooking the Del Mar racetrack and was right by the beach. We pulled down one street to look at the water. We asked a random guy to take this pic and he did a really nice job, Its a framer! I love the huge agaves and all the cactus and flowers that were blooming. When we arrived to the reception the mariachis were already playing. Ernesto's dad was right up there with them singing. His voice is so amazing. I took a very short video, which I posted on youtube We were seated at table 18 along with Nester's siblings and there spouses. The colors were so vibrant...oranges and reds....of course like every wedding I go to, I wish I could have another one. It would be so fun to pick everything out again... Here I am with the other in law sisters.
Yes, I pulled a Barbie. I wore 2 different dresses that day. Did you notice? We always tease my sister in law Barbie, because for 10 years, at every wedding she will bring a dress to change into for the reception. I didnt know that the wedding was during the day, so I just didnt want to wear my black dress at 2pm. I went to Ross in the morning and bought the cream dress for the church. I kind of liked that Barb..I may start doing that regularly too!
Here we are with the bride and groom.
Maria is Italian and of course the groom is an Espinoza. Both sets of parents speak only very broken English, It was so cute when they each made a toast to the new couple. Here Ernesto is with his cute parents.
Amazingly, we were home by 1am. Luckily, it was not in Mexico or we wouldve been waiting at the border for hours. It was at the Hilton and I think they had to stop the music at midnight.

On Sunday, Ernestos padres planned a big carne asada. It started at 1am with menudo when we got home from the wedding. It is a tradition that you have menudo after a wedding... or maybe it is just after any late night out. It is said to be a cure for a hangover. You wouldnt think that it is that good, being how it is made with cow (or maybe pig?) stomach lining cut into bite size pieces. Netos dad spent the whole morning Saturday chopping it. Doesnt look apetizing at all, does it? Once you add hominy and cook in a delicious red chili broth for hours it starts smelling great! When you serve it in the bowl you top it with fresh cilantro, onions, lime and pureed chilis. DE-LISH!! I had 2 bowls after the wedding and 2 for breakfast.

Family started to arrive at 10 am and it was non-stop for the whole day. I was eating non-stop as well. How can you stop when there is salsa, ceviche and tacos in front of you? It was so beautiful outside so we were in and out of the house, relaxing in the sun....They all know how I love birdies, so when they saw this pretty yellow one on the fence they called me over. He didn't even seem that scared, just sat there singing. beep-beepErnesto and I planted this cactus about almost 8 years ago. We did a lot of planting on one visit and this cactus was only about 1 foot look!Finally at 11pm, after a few games of Pass the Ace and 2 BOTTLES of tequila, everyone was gone. Too bad the Menudo was gone too, I have a feeling some of the guys could've used a cure. It was such a long day, but so much fun! I am so lucky to have such great in-laws!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Spice Market

I read the review for this new restaurant in my Daily Candy (btw, you must sign up for this newsletter. It will give you the latest and greatest in regards to food, fashion, lifestyle, arts & culture in a daily email-it's awesome!)
Spice Market is the latest addition to Jean-Georges line of restaurants. He is a world renowned chef and has almost 20 restaurants around the world. Finally one in Atlanta. The idea for Spice Market is that he has designed all his dishes from his favorite street foods in Asia. Of course as soon as I read that on Daily Candy I forwarded it to my fellow foodies, Neto, Smita and Frankster. They all responded LET'S GO and since it was the opening night, I called to reserve a table. First impressions are everything, and if you have ever walked into a W hotel, you know that the first impression is never an issue. It is always the place to be-HOT HOT HOT! The restaurant had a great atmosphere, and our server Kristen, was so knowledgable and fun. The red plates were a great touch (shaped like big leaves) a matter of fact the whole restaurant was filled with little touches. This is what really makes you feel like you are getting your $$$ worth. Its not just spectacular food, but the whole package. We knew we would order several things and share, that is really what we always do....and with a menu like this it is a must so we can taste as many things as possible. We ordered drinks-they are known for their signature cocktails (just like Delta:) Frank and Smita tried the ginger margarita-it was so refreshing! Neto ordered his new favorite, a dirty martini, and me, (my always favorite) a Malbec red wine....shoot I didnt write down the name....I'll have to look it up online, it was one of the best I have tried! We ordered 4 appetizers, and as the food started coming out and I had to take pictures (blog-ass) it was so pretty!
This is the Ginger Friend Rice.....with an egg on top. Tuna Sashimi- one of my favorites....if it is on the menu- I order it! It was on a bed of avacado!
Pork Vindaloo-Incredible Indian, spicy as HELL!
The Shanghai Noodles were tasty. I really did have this off the street when I went to Shanghai-
We ordered 3 entrees to share and LUCKILY there was a slight mix up and the Salt & Pepper Catfish didnt come out. We were so glad, because at that point we were stuffed. They kept apologizing and we kept, really, its ok. To make up for the inconvenience (that wasn't at all) they sent out 4 desserts, compliments of the chef. Our plan was to have one more drink down at the bar, but the desserts put us over the edge.
As we were leaving we strolled throught the crowded bar. Frank took this shot of us in front of the patio (filled with white chairs tables and umbrellas) This is a garenteed hot spot any night of the week.....less than one mile from my house...... and THIS... is why Im a city girl!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter!
I flew to Ohio for the weekend, surprisingly the flights were open. I did miss one flight while IN the airport. I did that on purpose for my family's amusement. Bill constantly teases me about one time that I missed my flight to Ohio because I was in a store reading magazines(right beside my gate). When I got to the gate they already closed the door. This time I was in the crown room and cut it a little too close. There was a flight one hour later, so it wasn't a big deal. I had to call Bill and tell him what happened....he made it a big deal.
Mom and Kelli were hard at work making the Wellman bread (This recipe has been past down through generations, ultimately from what is now Hungry. It is only made for Easter and Xmas) so I worked on jewelry and drank coffee.....I love just hanging out with my family. Nester and Smita flew in later that night. Their flight was delayed and they didnt get in until 11pm. So Dad and I pulled up in his new van......We made this sign before we left. He has been wanting to get one made because he is always making "runs" to the airport. This sign made Ernesto and Smita bust up laughing when they saw it...and we were too.

He is always going on and on about other clients and appointments he has with this shuttle service, how there is a premium price for holiday service and how the tips aren't very good.
On Saturday everyone had their own agenda, Ernesto, Bill and Barbie were shopping for fish taco ingredients (which were repeatedly requested) Smita came with me to a bead store...I was making some beautiful earrings, but ran out of wire. It must have been fate.....because I have been meaning to visit my cousin at his bakery for a while, and on the way to the bead store we had to pull over because we were lost. I called my dad for directions and he said "oh you are near Jims Bakery" I looked up at the sign and we were right in his parking lot. So of course we stopped in. Jim and his partner Lonnie opened Hazel Artisan Bakery a couple years ago. I was very impressed, all of the food was so beautiful....and then we tasted it. It couldn't have been any better. First we had capuccinos with biscotti.....I had almond anise (my favorite) and Smita tried the pistaccio.

They were so busy (always a sign of good food) so we went to the bead store and came back for lunch. We ordered the brie, prosciutto and fig jam baguette and the vegetable soup. DELISH! Jim gave us a little tour of the back. Smita and I wished we had such a great kitchen to cook in. When we got back to my parents it was time to color easter eggs. I love this. My family has so much fun with it too. We like to write funny things on the eggs. This was Smita's first time coloring eggs and she had a great time. She even wrote one of the funniest eggs. It said "Pauls Shuttle" - my dad cried laughing when he saw it. She made me a turqoiuse egg that said blog ass...Not sure what she meant by that? She fits in really well.....

Of course after the fish tacos (which were soooooo good, thanks Neto) we had to get in at least one game of Pass the Ace, and since there were 14 of us, the pot was $40. Not bad!
When Peggy got stranded at our house in Atlanta a few weeks ago, Smita and I promised that we would give a mini class of what we had learned so far in our bellydance class. We brought our jingle belts home and I dug up my long silk skirt that my mom made for me over 10 years ago when I took a class at Ohio State. We were showing everyone the most important move....the SHIMMIE. Here, SchaffNer gives it a shake....the video is even funnier!
We all went to church Sunday morning. The priest was a guy that my dad when to high school with. It was actually the best mass that I can remember. They had a guy singing who also was playing the piano, the keyboard and had a harmonica strapped to his neck, playing songs that I knew. (Brrrian you would've loved it) The priest is a jovial guy and you could tell he really loves what he is doing. His sermon was sincere and thoughtful. I felt good when I left. Smita enjoyed it too.

We had a smooth trip home. Paul's Shuttle dropped us off one hour before the flight and we arrived ATL at 6p. Ernesto and I walked to the grocery store then watched our last episode of Losty Lost! We are finally caught up! Needless to say we were back to the gym Monday morning....whew!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Big Announcement....BIG!!

Well, I officially can blog it now. I have accepted a one year volunteer position with Habitat for Humanity at ther Latin American Headquarters in San Jose Costa Rica starting this June. I had been waiting for approval from Delta, and now that is done. I had no idea it would happen so quickly. I only sent my application to them in January, just before the closing on our house. I had two interviews and was offered the position a few days later. I am so excited! Living in a Spanish speaking country is something that I have wanted to do for 10 YEARS...I know Ernesto must have been so tired of me talking about it. Finally I had to take charge!
After participating in the Habitat build in India, I had the idea of volunteering. When I looked at the website I found quite a few jobs. This job seemed perfect for me. It will be to develop the Global Village Sending Program in Latin America and the Caribbean. (this program is already going on in the US and Europe, so there is a model already in place) It is an office job.....and darn it, I might have to travel around Latin America and the Caribbean to do it. Ok, Twist my arm.
Costa Rica is a small country in Central America. Nicaragua is to the north and Panama is to the south. You can see on the map below that San Jose is smack dab in the middle of the country. No its not right on the beach, but you will still want to come visit, because it is only a few hours drive to either coast. Not to mention there are over 200 volcanoes (5 active), lots of waterfalls, national parks, rainforests and beautiful beaches. There are over 800 species of birds, which I cant wait to explore. (if anyone wants to buy me binoculars for a going away present, that would be so thoughtful!) I have been there 2x. Once, I rented a car in Costa Rica over 10 years ago with a couple friends and we explored the country for 10 days, its really not that big. Come on! Delta has 2 daily flights !!
We also fly to Liberia, in the northwest. There is a great place to stay called Hacienda Pinilla, which was my second time visiting. I rode horses on the beach and rented bikes, it was awesome! A family from Atlanta owns it.

Yes, of course...Costa Rica, it is meant to be. You know Ernesto and I were going on our honeymoon to Costa Rica....until we stayed in the business lounge too long and missed the flight.(we ended up walking down concourse E in ATL looking for the next plane leaving for a cool destination.....Puerto Vallarta was really nice.) Fortunately we didn't have anything booked, so no big deal! No plans for your honeymoon, you ask? Welcome to the world of the Espinozas.

Anyway excited about moving, we decided we better take a trip to San Jose and actually check out the city to see what neighborhoods we like and might want to live. Smita said she would like to go too. The flight left Friday night at 7pm so we left work right at 5. While we were sitting there waiting for our names to be cleared for the flight, we thought we better book a hotel, right? I was looking at defferenct hotels all day online, but couldnt decide which one. I pulled out my Lonely Planet and took the "Authors Pick" for a top end hotel. We called the Hotel Grano de Oro and they had a room with double bed and cot for $130. It was a risk, I wasnt even sure where it was located. It was dark when our taxi pulled up to the hotel. It was so inviting with the soft lighting and fountains. A very good first impression.We all said ooooohhh ahhhhh. It's a 100-year-old mansion whose rooms are filled with antiques and contemporary furniture. Once we saw it in the morning, we were even happier with our random selection of hotel.Colorful plants and flowers everywhere. Actually the whole city was colorful. Never ending warm weather and tropical plants? Ill take it!!The lobby was so chic and I loved the wall of bamboo hanging from the ceiling.We had windows that open out to the patio. With the 2 hours time difference, we woke up early. Smita and I rolled out of bed (you can tell by looking at my hair) and went straight to the patio for caffine. It was a perfect setting with all the tropical plants, stained glass and a fountain.
We were out the door by 10am and didnt know exactly where we were going. While walking down the street the "freshly squeezed orange juice man" was waiting for us. I love it! Im going to get to know him well over the next year.We had the names of a few neighborhoods to check out and a map. One is called Sabana Sur and it is right on the edge of a HUGE park. We walked through it and loved all the activity....bikers, runners, baseball, tennis. There is a small lake and tons of trees. Smita snapped this shot of us walking.
Then I stopped to practice my bellydancing stance (just started a class...more to come on that)
We had a rest as Ernesto looked at the map. There were grande eucalyptus trees all over the park. The bark was peeling and revealed beautiful green and orange trunks. I took this picture especially for my bosses who tease me sometimes that I am a "tree hugger"? WHAT?I dont know why? I DON'T dress like a hippy. Just because I am liberal and have an open mind and im leaving my job to volunteer does NOT make me a tree hugger! Today I was though ......but just for a minute!
Besides just getting to know the layout of San Jose, we also wanted had to see if we were going to be ok with the grocery store selection. We love to cook (and eat) a variety of foods. Were we going to have to bring our whole spice collection with us? If you have ever followed a new recipe and had to buy several spices, you know that this is what drives up the cost, but once you have a spice collection, it is very cheap to cook. Anyhoo, I am happy to say that Auto Mercado has everything that we could want. Here, a pic of the spice isle...they even have turmeric and curry powder! We are going to be just fine!

Saturday night we went out to a place called El Pueblo. It is like the old buckhead here in Atlanta. A bunch of restaurants and bars/dance clubs all in one area so you can walk in between. We ate at a wonderful seafood place called......?? We ordered several different ceviches (I still think ernestos is the best) and such. Problem was, we were there way too early as it doesnt get hopping til midnight. We checked everything out but it wasnt too exciting yet, so we left.

On Sunday morning we only had a few hours to explore since our fligth left at 1pm. We decided to get a taxi to drive us around. Sebastian was really cool and help ernesto by showing him where we were on the map. The neighborhood we wanted to see is called Escazu, it was recommended to me be a few people and after seeing it, I know why. It is an upscale suburb (but really only 10 minutes from the center-so I dont really consider that a suburb) with gorgeous streets and it sits higher up on the mountains, so the views are unbelievable. I would like to live in this white high rise here........The higher we climbed, the better it got, here Ernesto looks out over all of San Jose.
I had to take a piture of this agave plant that was as tall as me.
At the end of the road there was a stream with really clear water coming from the top of the mountain. Sebastian told us it is a 3 hour hike to the top (see the cross?) It was Semana Santa (holy week) and while driving around we ran into this parade on the street heading to a church. There were drums going and lots of good people watching so we parked and got out to watch.
Although a quick trip, I think we got a good "taste" of the city. Only pleasent surprises for me, its exactly as I expected....pure Latin America....just what I've always wanted!


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