Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Spring Cleaning for Zohan

We cleaned out Zohan's tank and have him a bigger water bowl.  He seemed to have some trouble shedding in this dry Arizona weather, so now he should be able to soak if the mood strikes.

Week 4, belated

Sorry for the delay of game, friends.  I got a little busy this weekend.

The week itself was rather plain, just work and workouts.  On Friday, we went to my friend, Jen's, house for a game night.  Another friend from Chorus, Meredith, came, too.  We played a spy game (sorry, I can't remember the name!), where two people were secretly spies and had to "fail" the missions while not being discovered.  Sort of like the old camp game "Mafia".  We then played "Cards Against Humanity", possibly my new favorite game (small-pox blankets, anyone?).  I was in the lead for a while, but Jacob pulled ahead.  We proved that we are all terrible people.  We ended the night with a very complex Zombie game.  We all died.  It was great fun!

On Saturday, after work, I met with a different Scottsdale Chorus member to talk about our internal newsletter, of which I am now the "assistant editor".  Basically, I've been teaching myself HTML and using it to see if we might now make our newsletter through our members-only website as opposed to using a separate publishing program.  It's been fun!  But now, Matt wants me to learn how to program Android... any one have knowledge about a good place to start?!

Sunday, I did a mini-workout and the rewarded myself with more hagelslaag!  Matt had to work a few hours while there was a webinar, but afterwards, we went to the home of one of his coworkers to watch THE ROYAL RUMBLE!  I'd never seen this event before,  but I am sure glad I did this time!  It's a WWE wrestling match with 30 players, with a new opponent entering every 90 seconds!  It was very dramatic and full of all the terrible acting you expect.  Our friends had made a drinking game for the event where each of us "took" one of the first four wrestlers that entered.  If that wrestler was eliminated - drink.  Then you get the next wrester to enter.  If you're wrestler eliminated someone - give two drinks.  There were also drinks for matching costumes, patriotic costumes, ridiculous modes of entry, and other typical-wrestling concepts.  We all got very happy.

Anyway, another week - no big plans that I know of!  I am just super excited and looking forward to our trip to El Salvador in just over a week!  Thanks for reading.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Week 3: Go Broncos?

Hello, my dear friends and family and future self!

Well, let's rip off the band-aid and start with the bad news.  The 49ers lost the NFC Championship.  There were some bad calls against us and some bad choices made in throwing, and we are sad to see this fun Futbol Americano season come to an end for our team.  Matt and I are crying into our Fernet and Cokes (well, no actual tears, wouldn't want to spoil our drinks.)  Anyway, I owe a fellow chorus member a bottle of wine for a bet we made, so I'll be bringing her that on Tuesday.  All that's left to say is: Go Broncos! (Or, more realistically, bring on the Commercials!)

My favorite commercial from last year was the Taco Bell one with the cover of "Tonight" in spanish with the old people... you know... "Esta noche, somos jovenes!  Vamos a poner el mundo en fuego!"  I am expecting some good ones this year, too.

Anyway, this week wasn't particularly exciting.  Matt worked hard, as expected.  One morning there were some problems in the New York office and he was up and out of the apartment before I was even awake.  Nothing terribly exciting for me at work - just lots of kiddos (and lots of germs!).  As someone who as a knack for getting sick, I've realized that I actually have gotten sick LESS this year than any other in my life!  I attribute this to a couple different things: 1) eating healthier (mostly) and working out more have left me stronger and better fit to deal with germs, 2) Arizona's dryness has kept me less snivelly, or "snottering" as my dad would say, so there has been less feeling of sickness and 3) I have been pretty obsessive about purelling my hands between students, especially before eating, and also wiping down the piano and bench and door with clorox wipes.  I know it sounds crazy, but I have seen kids sneeze into their hands, refuse a tissue, then continue playing the keys and then touch the door.  I feel a little OCD following that up with the purell and clorox, but I don't know what kinds of germs these kids have!!

It's exciting times for my chorus, we have several performances coming up and I am working hard to learn all the non-competition music in time!  I think I'm on track to learn it all in time, but it's a little nerve-wracking!  It's a lot of pressure to get it all down and checked off in under two months, including the choreography!  I am continuing to read and learn about arranging for barbershop and am finding it interesting and fun.  I loved taking music theory and working on arrangements in college, so this is a great way for me to continue to expand my knowledge and have fun making new music!  I am also working on singing more in quartets, hoping to be a better singer and performer.

On Friday, I made my challah in the Colombian style of a braided cheese bread.  It was delicious, but the recipe was a little different from other breads I've done.  Instead of "proofing" the yeast, I mixed it right in with the dry ingredients.  It still rose nicely, but I think there may have been a problem with the baking times or temperatures because despite baking it twice as long as instructed, it was still a little "raw" feeling inside.  It didn't stop us from eating the whole thing.  I think next week I will try using the other challah dough and just adding cheese.  Matt also got to leave "early" on Friday, at 5 PM - otherwise known as normal time! - and he chivalrously offered to make dinner.  I arrived home to the delightful smell of carne asada grilling and tortillas warming.

Saturday was definitely one-upped on the dinner menu, though!  We went for dinner at my cousin's house and man, can the man cook!  We had grilled steak and salmon and excellently mixed drinks!  I offered to bring dessert, and since this is a cousin on my Dutch side, I wanted to do something with Trader Joe's Speculoos cookie butter.  I make simple cookied and tried to trick my cous' into thinking the cookied were homemade Speculaas.  But he wasn't fooled!  Anyway, I was glad to introduce him to the delightful TJ's spread!  Anyway, he definitely beat me to the dutch-punch, because my cousin Dan had gone all out at an Asian import store that had all sorts of Dutch goodies!  There was Hagelslag (chocolate sprinkles), pepermunt (delightful peppermint candies), speculaas cookied (dutch spice cookies shaped like windmills), poffertjes (small tiny pancakes) mix, bischuit (biscuits for the sprinkles),  stroopwafels (syrup-waffle cookies), and some Indonesian shrimp crackers.  It was like Christmas in January!  The cookies both got opened that night and were easily finished by Matt and I this morning.  I also enjoyed some bischuit with hagelslag and butter.  The only thing missing was kumenekaas (dutch farmers cheese with cumin seeds - so good!).  Make fun of the deliciousness if you will, but no one dislikes these amazing foods once they try them!  When I was in high school, my dad used to make me "boterham met hagelslag en kaas" (a buttered bread sandwich with sprinkles and cheese").  I was made fun of the seemingly ridiculous combination, until it was tasted.  By 9th grade my dad had to make me two sandwiches for school - one for myself and one for the other kids to eat!  It is THAT good!

Today was fun - we slept in then went for a hike with my friend Janna.  There are some trails near our apartment that I've been wanting to check out and today was a perfect day.  The Lost Dog Wash trailhead was only a 10 minute drive away (less than that really), and we did a shorter loop of 2.4 miles.  There are plenty of other trails, so now that we know where it is, I hope we can go check out some of the other trails.  We took a little dip in the hot tub post-hike, which was also pleasant.  Anyway, after that it was some errands before the game.

Only two and a half weeks until our trip to El Salvador and we are as excited as ever!!  See you all later and thanks for reading!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Go Niners!

49ers beat the Carolina Panthers 23-10! We watched the game at Majerle's Sports Bar in old town with our friend Rochelle, her cousins and friends - all SF fans!!  Super fun!  Next week: Beat the Hawks!  (Sorry Em and all you Seattle-types.)  (not actually sorry)

End of Week 2

Hello, again, people of the internets!

While this week didn't involve any world trekking, it was a week of day-to-day level excitements here at Shapiro Adventures.  You know, just two normal people (well, sort of normal) doing everyday-type things.  After two weeks of winter break, I went back to work teaching piano lessons to the kiddos.  Most of the kids didn't practice much over break, so there is a lot of review going on.  Matt has been working hard over at LearnVest, often working until 9 PM as January is a high volume month for them.  I guess a lot of people make New Year's Resolutions to get "financially fearless".  I'm sure it doesn't hurt that the CEO just published a book ("Financially Fearless" by Alexa von Tobel) that is currently on the New York Times bestseller list, #5, under the "Advice and How To" section.   Rehearsals for my chorus, the Scottsdale Chorus, also started up rehearsal again this week.  I was very happy to get back to singing!  I have a lot of new-to-me music and choreography to learn before our performances in February and March.  I'm also switching parts from Baritone to Lead, so I am excited for that big change!
Erin sings a country song!

Since last weeks Karaoke adventure spawned a conversation with another new Chorus friend, Erin, we decided to hit up Ernie's again for some more great singing!  Erin is really into country, so she sang a bunch of songs I was not really familiar with, but sounded great doing it!  I did a bunch of bad pop songs, including "Party in the USA" and "Oops...I did it again!", but I also ended on a classier note, singing "Walkin' in Memphis", one of my all-time favorites.

Matt also made some wonderful Amazon purchases - these are the everyday-level excitements I was talking about.  He got himself a cover for his new kindle, a chromecast, and a pancake batter dispenser.  The dispenser is pretty sweet.  I actually wanted it to assist with cupcake making, but we did make pancakes in a breakfast-for-dinner last night and it was a big success!  It does leak a little (as many reviews said it would), but the leaking sort of goes into the handle, so it was still pretty neat.  I made mini-chocolate chip and blueberry pancakes.  The mini-chips went through no problem, but some berries got a little stuck, but once mashed from above, came out ok.  Overall, I am pretty happy with that purchase.  The Chromecast is pretty amazing.  It basically plays to our TV anything from a chrome browser on a computer as well videos from certain apps on our phones (Netflix, YouTube, HBOGo, etc.).  It's nice to be able to watch on the bigger screen and also to be able to share with the other person what we're watching!  

On Thursday, we checked out a new restaurant in Old Town Scottsdale called "Citizen Public House".  It's a gastropub type place and the menu was really cool and we liked it a lot.  My friend, Janna, and I had the "Persian" cocktail made with gin and cucumber juice.  We Share the Mac & Cheese appetizer, SO GOOD, and the lamb burger.  We asked for it to be rare but in hindsight it was a little too raw!  Luckily, no one got sick - not that I was really worried.  Matt had the meatloaf and it was "yummy!"  I've decided that we should try to eat at a new restaurant at least every other week.  We've lived in Arizona for over half a year now and still don't know that many places, so I want to start exploring!!

And finally, there was some actually-huge-and-really-exciting news in my family this week!  My step-brother and sister-in-law gave birth to their first child, a daughter named Sadie!  She is so precious and I am so excited to meet her the next time I'm in Los Angeles.  There are definitely not enough photos of her, yet, but I am sure that there will be a million and one floating around soon.  Anyway, I am so happy that mommy and baby are healthy and starting a wonderful new life together!

Welp, that's all for today.  Now, it's time to hit the showers and watch the 49er's beat the Panthers in the play-offs.  Peace!

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Winter Break!

Hello dear readers (if there are any readers!),

I suppose this is my first "real" post of the year!  I should think that we are all recovered from any New Year's Eve partying - we certainly took it easy, so there wasn't much to recover!

New Year's Day was pleasant.  Matt and I went up to his parents' house for brunch and watched the Rose Parade and some football.  Early in the afternoon, we got an e-mail from a former coworker of Matt's who had an extra pair of tickets to the Fiesta

Bowl!  Even though we didn't have a particular connection to either school playing (Baylor and Central Florida), we still thought it would be fun to go see a Bowl Game and to visit the University of Phoenix stadium, since neither of us has been there since we moved to Arizona.  Since Matt's coworker was rooting for Baylor, we did, too!  It wasn't very hard to feel an affinity for Baylor - the mascot is a bear and the opponent was a stuck up warrior... sound familiar?  (The UCLA mascot is the Bruin Bear and that other team also has a silly warrior mascot!)  And since Tostidos sponsors the game, we ate TONS of free chips and salsa!  And our seats were excellent - 11th row from the field!

Matt has been back at work, even on Saturday, working really hard.  The company is having a big sales push through the end of the month, so I probably won't get to see much of his handsome face this week.  Thursday I went out to Karaoke with Jennifer, a friend from my chorus, and had tons of fun!  The place was pretty empty, so we got to sing several songs.  I sang "Son of a Preacher Man" (my classic), "Man!  I Feel Like a Woman" (because, I mean, why not?), "Written In the Stars" as a duet with Jen (she even remembered the harmonies!), and "I Have Nothing" by Whitney Houston (because what is Karaoke without the immortal Whitney?).  Jen sang some Adele, "Life is a Highway", and one other song that I can no longer recall!!

Friday I made some challah (sorry no photos!) and I even made an extra, so I put that one in the freezer to eat next Friday.  I have never frozen bread before, so I hope it tastes good in a week!  I wrapped in up in two layers of saran and another of foil, under the advisement of wiser bakers than myself.   Yesterday, I got together for some singing while Matt took a day to read and relax after work.  Today has been mostly about errands and getting ready to go back to "real life" tomorrow.  I had back to work and should probably start exercising again!  I twisted my knee skiing in Seattle, so I've been trying to take it easy.  I did some yoga this week, but I'm gonna try for an easy run tomorrow and see what happens.

Anyway, I know it's not too exciting, but it was winter break after all!  I hope everyone else has enjoyed their time off (if you had it!) and has a good time getting back to work.  I'll write more, soon!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

New Year's Resolution: Bring Back the Blog!

Hello Blog-o-sphere and Happy New Year!

While 2013 may not have been quite as "exciting" as our year (and a few months) of travel was, it was still an interesting year. Last October, as we commemorated the 2 years that have passed since we first embarked on Shapiro Adventures, I decided to re-read our entire travel blog. I so enjoyed reliving the memories, that I have decided to take up blogging again. It is my resolution to try to write at least once a week, maybe more, so in a year I can remind myself of the wonderful things I've done and thoughts I've thunk during the year. (Even if I'm the only one who ever reads them - in which case: Happy New Year 2015 Future-Me!)

So to kick off the New Year of Adventuring, I'd like to recap 2013: This time last year, we were celebrating the New Year in Rio de Janeiro!
 Shortly thereafter we returned the good ol' USA, but adventures continued!
 We took a road trip that went from the Bay area (to see friends), LA (friends and family), Arizona (family), Texas (friends and family), New Orleans for Mardi Gras (and a family visit), Memphis (more fun family), and back through Dallas, Texas for a reptile show!

Matt got a job with LearnVest and we soon moved to Scottsdale, AZ so he could open their call center. (And subsequently, had to cut his long, luscious locks!)

We celebrated Matt's 29th here in Scottsdale, our 3rd Anniversary on the Salt River, and my birthday by moving into a new apartment! (and now that we've lived here for 4 months, it's ALMOST entirely unpacked!)

We had some fun adventures, which included me going on "The Price is Right" with my brother Jeremy (we did win some bikes and a coffee machine, which Jeremy swears is the best he's ever owned!), going on a hot air balloon (and Jeremy skydived out the side!), getting in shape and looking great for Halloween (I went as a Vulcan science officer), and going to Seattle for a Cousin's reunion! I also joined the wonderful Scottsdale Chorus and competed on the international stage in Hawaii, where we won second place!

Now that I reminisce over the past year, I wish I had been better at documenting the good times we had. I hope that this post will indeed launch me into a wonderful new year, where I can write about, and remember, all the great things yet to come. And indeed, there are some great things to look forward to: Matt and I will be vacationing in El Salvador in February, there are regional chorus competitions in May, we are attending two weddings, and that's all just in the first half of the year!

So, stay tuned as the NEW Shapiro Adventures launches in 2014!