Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Who knew food from a parking lot could be this good?

If you live on the Eastside of Tucson, I've got an idea for you if you're looking to branch (ha!) out a bit. Have you tried the food trucks at Civano nursery?

Everyday, I drive past the entrance for the Civano nursery and ponder the big flashy sign advertising food trucks. Finally, after months, I remembered the sign once I got home and looked into it. Every Thursday through Sunday, a variety of food trucks park in front of the nursery, enticing the patrons perusing the plants.

Well, if you are an Eastsider, you'll also know that there aren't a lot of good places to eat on this side of town. Yes, if you look hard enough, there are satisfactory places, but nothing I'm ever honestly thrilled to go. So, I was itching with excitement that there may be great food hidden in basically my backyard.

Last Saturday, I told Dan we were having a lunch date, hijacked him in my car, and surprised him with a food truck lunch. Food trucks, plural, because two pop up on Saturdays. We made two courses of it with lunch from Jami's Bitchen Kitchen and dessert from Pin-Up Pastries. Dan dined on cajun chicken tacos and I munched on a multi-grain wrap. Note: the parking lot is severely lacking in seating so we took it to go and actually ate at our dining room table for a change (woot! Sofa eating for the win!)

For dessert, we had salted caramel whoopie pies. No, not had. Savored. Inhaled. Worshiped. Why has no one ever told me about the glory that are whoopie pies?!!? I feel like it was the day my life truly started. Angels sang in my mouth. You may think I'm over-hyping them, but it was like I was licking a Pinterest pic. It tasted like how I wished dessert had tasted my whole life. Maybe it's because I live in an Olive Garden/Cheesecake Factory world where nothing is actually ever freshly made, but this one little whoopie pie changed my view on food.

I may have ruined dessert forever for myself.

If you'd like to ruin your view of dessert, you can find Pin-Up Pastries here, Jami's Bitchen Kitchen here, and more info on the food trucks here.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

June is Testing My Sanity: Six Flags

For our little vacation this year, we went to Six Flags Magic Mountain! I hadn't been there since I was 14 and Dan was jonesing for some roller coasters. We originally were planning to go in late August, once everyone was back in school so things would be less crowded, but Dan's best friend Jim and his girlfriend Abby wanted to go as well. Since they have a little one going into second grade (I think, I can't ever remember these things, sorry Abby!), we shifted things up a bit. And since June is apparently insane for everyone this year, only one weekend worked. So, we booked our hotels, planned our route, and off we went!

A nine hour drive later, this is what we saw! A blurry Six Flags sign!

Side note: we bought tickets for two days, but by the end of it, if you have a weekday to visit the park, you can adequately go on basically every ride a couple of times in a day and a half. If you want to go on the insanely popular rides a TON, maybe two days would be a better idea.

Something you should know about me: I can be very easily peer pressured into going on roller coasters. I don't really enjoy them, but I go on them. I feel like I'm having an anxiety attack the whole time and will most likely have my eyes closed for 90% of it, but somehow I end up on every ride. I was a good sport the first day, but the second day, I was more than happy to sit on a bench, people watch, and read books on my phone while they went on some of the more ridiculous rides.

Besides, when did roller coasters becomes a one-up contest? It has to be the tallest, the fastest, the most dimensional for it to be good? Some of the best ones are the simplest ones. Take that to the bank, roller coaster engineers!

I went on every roller coaster except Tatsu. It was too crowded the first day and by the second day, I knew better. How did I know better? I went on X2. If you haven't heard about X2, it's the ride Satan designed. Imagine a regular roller coaster, but the first drop is completely vertical. 90 degrees straight at the ground. Maybe you're brave and it doesn't sound so bad, but it gets worse. It doesn't have normal roller coaster cars. The cars rotate. And not willy-nilly rotate due to gravity. No, they are programmed to rotate to make things as scary as possible. Just watch.

After the ride was over, I told Dan that he better run because I was going to punch him in the crotch. That boy was very lucky I was restrained. I've learned that I don't mind being upside-down momentarily, like in loops on normal roller coasters, but I HATE being held upside-down. And vertical freefalls. Stupid X2.

Of course Dan loved it so he went on it a total of three times. Boys. We went on the carousel instead.

Pretty Abby on her white horse
And then, we bought the greatest thing ever: funnel cake covered in ice cream! Specifically, it was a regular funnel cake, topped with chocolate syrup, then soft-serve vanilla ice cream, surrounded by whipped cream, and another layer of chocolate syrup. Dear lord it was good. Good thing we walked an estimated ten miles each day around the park.

Don't worry, we shared it. The boys caught up with us near the end and Dan inhaled the last quarter of it.

It wouldn't be one of my trips if I didn't have a celebrity sighting, right? Well, this one is random and involves Dan almost getting beat up by bodyguards. OK, so we were standing in line for Batman, one of Dan's favorite rides. We were next in line, but it seemed like they were having some technical problems because the queue gates kept opening and closing on the previous train. Our train arrived and, at the same time, a bunch of park officially came onto the platform through the back door. I just stood there, watching them, but apparently Dan didn't notice them shooing people away from the gates because the gates opened and he bolted for the car to strap himself in. I tried to call him back, but he couldn't hear me. Immediately, park officials were all over Dan, telling him to go back in line. Poor guy was so confused.

Then, through the back door, a bunch of skinny teenage guys walk onto the platform. After a couple of seconds and some analysis of some bad hair, I realized it was the new it band One Direction. Dan, Jimmy, and Abby had no idea who they were, which was odd given that they are Abby's ringtone. My pictures aren't that great because of the poor lighting on the platform and the amount of security, but trust me, that's One Direction strapping themselves in. My sister pointed out that, since we were on the next train, we were on the roller coaster at the same time as One Direction. That's got to count for something, right? Not something remotely important, but something, right?

One Direction is in there somewhere
See the bad hair? Maybe the roller coaster wind helped...
Afterward, in a move that makes complete sense in my head, I pretended to be Superman in front of the Batman ride. And to clear up any awkward questions, no, my boobs aren't that massive. It's a floppy shirt that was catching an unfortunate breeze.

Also, did anyone else know that Six Flags had parades? While the others were on a ride, I was walking to a shop and almost got run over by a small parade. I asked the clerk in the shop about it and she didn't even know that there was a parade.

The tail end of the parade, which was also the front of the parade, too.
It was a really fun, really exhausting little vacation. I was sunburned in weird ways. I spent a lot of time with some people that I need to make more of an effort with, I went on a lot of rides I didn't think I would have the guts to try. It was great, but Dan and I definitely agree that our next vacation will involve a lot of sitting, looking at pretty views, and being waited on hand and foot.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

June is Testing My Sanity: The Vet

I know I've already probably gotten a couple of eye rolls by the title, but here me out. This girl's such a drama queen. She thinks everything is a much bigger deal than it is. That's the problem, though. I'm not that girl anymore. I'm not the girl who enjoys the drama and, fortunately, as I've gotten older, I've started to actively avoid it. So, the fact that I let myself get into such a drama mine-field is really beyond me.

Let's go back to the beginning. When we adopted Sam, we knew he needed some booster shots in the upcoming weeks. Since he is our first "real" pet (Sorry Turtle, but you're just so low maintenance!), we didn't have a vet yet and I began looking for recommendations of a good vet. My sister likes her vet, but it's on the other side of town and I wanted a closer vet in case of emergency and just because I didn't want to be on the verge of tears for 40 minutes while Sam cries in his cat carrier on the drive. My mom gave me her vet's info, but she hasn't had to use them in years and didn't remember the vet being outstanding enough to be worth a recommendation.

With options running out, I put an open call out on facebook for recommendations and my manager recommended a vet fairly close to my house. I did some google reviews of this vet and realized they would probably be the best option for me. They were close to my house, my parents had actually used them when we were kids, and they basically had a 5/5 review on google.

So what was stopping me from pulling the trigger if they're the bee's knees? My ex-boyfriends' mom works there.

I know, I know. Mountains out of mole hills, but hear me out. I dated her son for five years. Five long years. And in that entire time, she never warmed up to me. I don't mean in the "she was overprotective of her son" sort of way. I mean the "she screamed at her son because my car battery accidentally died in her parking spot" kind of way. The kind of way where even though her mouth is smiling, her eyes are shooting daggers. Their house was a very unhealthy environment and I think she could always sense my discomfort.

As crappy as her son treated me all those years, I always thought deep in the back of my mind that he may have had the chance to be a good person if his mom hadn't screwed with him. Screwed with his view of relationships. There were so many mind games in that house that I really shouldn't have been surprised that my ex turned out to be a controlling loon. And who knows how he told her things ended between us? I hadn't seen her since the break-up and it was ugly, to put it very, very mildly.

And now, I had a tough decision. Should I pick a great, convenient vet with the potential for a very ugly run-in or keep looking? I could avoid drama like a grown-up or suck up a potential yelling-at for the health of my cat like a grown-up. Let me just say, being a grown-up SUCKS!

I did the right thing and called the vet to make an appointment. I figured, what's the worst that can happen? She'll yell at me? If she yelled at me at her work, it would just make her look bad. I was concerned for a minute that my cat may not get the best treatment because of her disdain for me, but if that seemed like a real possibility, I'd just have to have a word with the vet.

In spite of my calm strategy, I sat and worried and ran through all the possible scenarios in the three days before my appointment. However, the day of the appointment, my worries shifted. It's hard to be concerned with anything else when your poor, little kitten is basically distraught in a cat carrier because he doesn't understand what's going on. I just wanted to get everything over as quickly as possible, drama or not.

And guess what? Absolutely no drama. She wasn't there. I don't know if it just wasn't her day to work or if she doesn't work there anymore (although she was in the staff pictures on the office's website), but I didn't see her. And I absolutely LOVED the vet. She was awesome and, if didn't out the place of employment of my ex's mom, I'd give her a glowing review and recommendation on here.

Once we were in the exam room, Sam was remarkably behaved. The vet said she'd rarely seen a kitten as well behaved as Sam, which was a shock to me given how ornery he is most of the time. Poor little kitten did need three shots and mite treatments in both ears. Apparently the mites were so big, you could see them with your bare eye, the biggest the vet had ever seen.

He also got a big bag of medicated treats to help him overcome his constant cold. He's been sniffly the entire time we've had him. At first, we were told kittens sneeze a lot because they get into all the things we fail to dust and, if you've seen how well I clean, it made a lot of sense. Then, after a week of being sneezed on, we thought it might just be a cold and he would be getting over it soon. So once he was sneezing for three weeks, even the vet was concerned. The theory at this point is that it might be a virus that he'll never completely shake from his system, but it should only show symptoms with stress. With the treats and him becoming more comfortable in his new home, it should get better.

And it has. Look how quickly he bounced back after his vet visit! (Between the slow shutter on my phone's camera and a very quick cat, none of these are that great, but they are the best I have! Video one day, I swear!)

What do you mean? Your shorts aren't a chew toy?
Wait! Is there something to play with over there?
No new toy? Well, my foot will have to do.
He still has his sneezy moments, but it's definitely getting better.

I'm still nervous because I'm not out of the drama woods yet. Sam's still got a couple of vet appointments in the upcoming months, but after that, minus an emergency, he won't need to go back to the vet and I can put all this worrying behind me. I could still have to deal with her, but one visit down, right?

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

June is Testing My Sanity: Anchorage

In a series I started last week, I'm just trying to desperately keep my head above water this month. The biggest curveball thrown at me so far? How about a last minute trip to Alaska for my first solo business trip? Yeah, good times...

So, about two days before I was supposed to leave for Chicago, a problem with a robot in Alaska was brought to my attention. While I really wanted to go to Alaska to fix it, I knew better than to volunteer. Sometimes these trips get postponed for months and end up at the worst time of year. I have a coworker who volunteered to go to Norway in March and didn't end up going until a wintery November. However, after some conference calls, since someone from Tucson was already flying up on Wednesday, June 6th to work on a separate issue, we only needed to send one additional person, but it would have to be in the same window. And being the low man on the totem pole, it fell to me.

In case you aren't following the dates, this meant I would return from Chicago on Monday and then fly up to Alaska on Wednesday. It was going to be a rough week.

I booked my last minute tickets, worried about my first solo business trip basically the whole time I was in Chicago, and sent some emails to the other person being sent up so we could meet at the airport so I wouldn't need to rent my own car. Due to the last minute booking, I couldn't get on any of the same flights, so it made sense just to book similar flights and wait in the airport.

Anyway, the flight up there was very smooth. No delays, a couple of hummus sandwiches in a couple of airports, and no problems finding the other Tucsonan who I had never met before. I was even really excited because on one of my flights, I was actually in Zone 1. I'm never in Zone 1! I'm always the last one to board the plane, it seems. It was a nice change and I was so happy I even took a picture!

Yes, I get excited about the little things
Random fact: if you want to meet some colorful people, take the flight from Portland to Anchorage. I was seated next to a couple in their 40's and a chihuahua who were running away to Alaska from Georgia to be together. Yeah, the chihuahua was the most well-behaved out of the three.

We stayed in the Hilton Anchorage, which is basically the tallest building downtown and overlooks the bay and the rail yard. I took this picture from my room (sorry it's blurry, the window was really dirty for some reason) when I arrived, which was 10:30PM. I don't think it got dark the entire time I was there. It was weird but it worked out pretty well for reasons I'll get to in a minute...

The pretty sunset that seemed to go one all night from my 11th floor window
I don't know why hotels always give me the room by the elevator, but at least because it was during the week and there were only a handful of rooms on each floor, it wasn't so much of a problem this time.

Random fact: Anchorage summer is about the equivalent of Tucson winter. The highs were in the fifties and it was definitely nippy. But it was nice to have an excuse to break out my winter jacket and wear my boots without getting sweaty shins.

After a fairly good night's sleep, we were off to the job site. It was weird being the one in charge. I realized I need to be more organized when I'm the only one who knows what to do. There were a few too many times where mistakes were made just because parts were set in the incorrect places while we were working. In spite of all of that, three hours later, my work was done. This made me incredibly excited because I had plans to take a site-seeing trolley around Anchorage to do a bit of touring before heading out the next day. All I needed to do was wait for the other guy to finish fixing the separate problem he was sent up to fix and I could be on with my day. I'd even have time for some lunch before my tour. I was going to have a great afternoon...

Yeah, seven hours later and they still were not done. I hadn't had lunch, had no way of getting back to the hotel, and had missed any shot at the trolley tour. I was trying to be helpful with fixing the problem, but it wasn't my area at all, so there wasn't much I could do. Eventually, they took pity on and called someone who lived in Anchorage and he drove me back to my hotel.

I still had time to grab some dinner and walk around because luckily, it was still light out at would be for a while, but it was quickly getting chillier and my week was beginning to weigh on my energy levels. I headed to a restaurant I'd read about near the hotel, The Glacier Brewhouse, to be promptly told it would be a hour and forty minute wait for a table. Ugh, with the limited time I already had, it just wasn't worth it. However, I had been smart and gotten some reviews from the locals so I found another restaurant and sat down for a big dinner.

As the Grail Knight says, "You chose...poorly"
Word of advice: do not eat at the Snowgoose Restaurant if you visit Anchorage. The food was ok, at best, and the service was horrible. It's one of those places I would expect to see on a show about restaurant makeovers. Since I hadn't had lunch and had a corporate credit card, I was ready for a great, big dinner, but this place was a poor choice. They were out of the cheese curds I had been drooling on the menu over, the cheesy fries barely had any cheese, the salad looked like it was out of a bag, and my cobbler was obviously just microwaved. It really wasn't worth it.

After "dinner", I walked around downtown, but I sadly didn't get to see much. It's an easy downtown to navigate, but most of the stores had closed up for the night and I didn't want to walk too far from the hotel and start running into the highway. 

A lot of the buildings were really interesting and I learned some facts about Anchorage's history, but it definitely wasn't enough of a visit. It was a whirlwind three days and hopefully I'll get the chance to really see Alaska someday.

That week had to be one of the most intense travel weeks I've ever had. Eight flights, four days of travel, and five hours of timezone difference really took their toll on me. It could have been worse, but I hope I don't have to travel so extremely any time soon.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

June is Testing My Sanity: Chicago

I feel like it's been forever since I've written, and it's because it has been. Geez, this month is trying to kill me. I swear, the second I feel like there is a moment to breathe, the universe throws something else at me.

Anyway, let's start at the beginning (well, almost the beginning): June 2nd.

I've had a business trip to Chicago on the radar for months now. It was first brought up on my business trip to England back in December, but with budgets and schedules, it wasn't really on the radar for a good long time. Then, it popped up in mid-April, to be promptly rescheduled for mid-May. Since the weekend they picked (they always pick weekends because they don't want the robots to be down during the high volume times during the work week, so I almost always work on Sundays) didn't work for anyone involved, it was finally rescheduled for the first weekend in June.

The tickets were booked so my manager and I would fly out Saturday, June 2nd, work at the site on the 3rd, and fly back on the fourth. Simple enough. So, Friday evening, when I was packing, my manager called me to tell me the airline had called. They had switched his flight, had they switched mine as well? Apparently I had given the airline my work number so I had no clue. I just needed to call my work phone and get the info.

Snap to twenty minutes later and I've somehow managed to get myself locked out of my work voicemail and have no flight info. Snap to fifteen minutes later and I'm yelling at my cell phone because the American Airlines hotline is the most frustrating thing ever. I finally got to a real person who confirmed that I was also on the new flight. The direct Tucson to Chicago, which left an hour and a half later and got in an hour earlier. Yay! I could sleep in and pack in the morning.

Anyway, after a good night's sleep, running the husband through his chore list while I was gone, and packing, I was off to the airport! Made it through security with no problems. Just sitting at the gate, waiting for my manager to show. I just watched the minutes tick away as he failed to appear. So many situations were running through my head as I try to evaluate if I could do the job by myself if I had to. Finally, ten minutes before boarding, he appears.

Turns out, it didn't really matter because our flight was delayed by ten minutes. By twenty minutes. By thirty minutes. By five hours. FIVE HOURS! Apparently, there was a broken part (we found out later it really wasn't necessary to the plane functioning, it's just nice to have) and they couldn't repair it so they had to fly it in from Los Angeles. With the five hour delay, we would get into Chicago after midnight. If we had been on our original flights, we would arrive in Chicago before our delayed flight was leaving. Originally, they told us the plane may be able to leave in three and half hours so we didn't have a large enough window to go home and come back. We just toughed it out in the airport.

Do you know how hard it is to entertain yourself in the Tucson airport for five hours? It's a tiny little airport with basically one restaurant and virtually no real shopping. On the plus side, I finally tracked these down!

Isn't my mom talented? That's colored pencil!
My mom's art! It's been in the airport for almost twenty years, but they move them around and I hadn't found them in a while. Bam! Near the baggage claim for the B gates! (Click here for a better look at more of my mom's awesome work!)

Anyway (I'm really starting to ramble, aren't I?), we eventually got on the fixed plane, flew to Chicago, picked up the rental car, drove loopy tired through the dark to the hotel, and I finally got to crash at about 12:45 AM early Sunday morning. I'd say after a day like that, it was a good night's sleep, but I hate whoever decided to put me in the room across from the elevators. And whoever designed the black out curtains to be secretly hidden deep in the immobile decorative ones. Fortunately, we had a 9 AM start time, so there was plenty of time for kind-of sleep and a big breakfast since we'd missed dinner.

With a very easy repair job, we were lucky to be done in under two and a half hours, which meant we had the afternoon to explore Chicago! We hopped in the rental car and made a bee-line for the Museum of Science and Industry. While it's more of a children's museum, it was still fun.

The exterior of the Museum of Science and Industry
Inside the museum
Get it? Because I'm actually an engineer...
Inside the museum, I found this machine that I had never seen before. It makes souvenirs of molded plastic right before your eyes. Since I make molded parts all the time, I thought this was awesome and unique and made a little plastic train for Dan as a souvenir.

Yeah, I was so disappointed when it turned out these machines were everywhere. They were all over the museum and when I gave the train to Dan, he said something along the lines of they had these machines back in Texas. He hasn't lived in Texas for over a decade. Womp womp...

Anyway, my favorite part of the museum was the U-505. It's the only German submarine in the US. It was actually captured in WWII and, after the war, saved by the museum as the government planned on scrapping it. Unfortunately, we were too late to take a tour inside the submarine, but it was still incredibly impressive. It really made me want to learn more about the role submarines played in WWII.

Isn't this submarine awesome!?!
After skipping lunch (I didn't get to eat much in Chicago apparently), we were ready for a big dinner and chose the Navy Pier.

While it did seem like a pretty standard tourist attraction, we did have a good dinner and some very pretty views.

The lovely view from the restaurant
Since it was such a long day, we made an early night of it and I got to watch some girly movies in the hotel room without torturing Dan (cough "The Time Traveller's Wife" cough) and a good night's sleep once I was told about the location of the blackout curtains. With a quick direct flight home, I got to spent the afternoon working from home and catching up with my kitten.

I'll try to do a better job at documenting all the craziness this month is throwing at me, but I'm already behind the ball. I've gone and returned from a second, more stressful trip. I've got a minefield of a situation this very afternoon I've got to negotiate. Another trip in the pipes. A major home renovation. Houseguests. Hosting a birthday party for a 28 year old friend who's never had a birthday party before.

Yeah, this is going to be a long month...