Le sigh

I haven’t been very bloggie myself lately, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been following *other* blogs.

One of my favorite bloggers I’ve been following is Lee over at Fit Foodie Finds – she inspires me to eat well and exercise!

My newest Internet blog obsession has been personal style blogs, specifically for petite people such as myself. I’ve long noticed that plenty of clothes just don’t seem to be “built” for those of my stature, even the small or extra-small sizes: the straps are too long, the darts are too low, the V-necks are too deep. The clothes don’t need to be smaller, they just need to fit better. These blogs have lit the fire under me to attempt alterations so my clothes will fit better – I’ve already shortened the straps on one shell and have a couple others on my to-do list! A couple of my new favorite style blogs are Extra Petite and My Dressy Ways.

In other news, I got a deal off Tippr for a discount off a box of organic produce from Pacific Coast Harvest. The good news? They deliver it to my door! Time will tell if I’ll actually USE all this produce… we’ll see.

#60: Go on another mini-vacation with my brother

Last weekend I got the opportunity to drive down to Portland with my brother, Richard, to watch the Colorado Rapids play the Portland Timbers. The original plan was for Richard to fly into Portland and I would drive down and join him but we decided that was silly since he could fly into Seattle and join me on the drive! Saturday morning we met up with a friend of his from college and then hit the road south. We arrived in Portland with enough time to roam around downtown for a bit and gather with the rest of the Rapids fans at a tailgating event and then a pub near the stadium.

The Rapids boasted an excellent contingency of fans considering they had to fly two and a half hours to get to the game, and their energy made the match a lot of fun. My only concern was the setting off of smoke bombs near the end of the game, one of which exploded into the back of my legs - it felt like getting snapped by a giant rubber band. My jeans still reek of smoke too, even after a round in the wash! Maybe the Rapids owe me a new pair of pants. :)

We stayed at Mark's parents house outside of Portland and spent Sunday relaxing before we had to drive back to Seattle. Then Richard got to hang out with me until Thursday, when I had to take him back to the airport. Richard, it was so much fun getting to spend time with you!

From our first mini-vacation together in Toronto, July 2008.

#26 Double Feature: Roasted Lamb with Burnt Onions and Punjabi Red Beans

I know what you're thinking. Mark and burnt onions? Can it be??

Oh it can. And yes, burnt is a word.

In case you haven't made burnt onions before, the process goes like this: slice up a bunch of onions, throw them in a skillet, and cook them down until they look like tiny brown matchsticks. The apartment probably reeked like onion for hours. Then I added them to the lamb I'd been marinating in a yogurt/spices mixture, transferred the whole concoction to a baking dish and left it in the oven for two hours. It smelled like lamb heaven when Mark came home (my apologies to the lamb).

Meanwhile, I'd soaked dry red beans overnight which TOTALLY reminded me of those grow-a-date or grow-a-pet toys that you can get for a dollar. Anyone? No? I know I grew one of those at one point but I can't remember what it was! *Edit: I do remember what it was! It was a grow-a-groom and I got it at a friend's bridal shower! Anyways.* After the beans had expanded, I simmered them as instructed. I was not instructed to drain the beans but I think I should have, since I ended up with more of a chili consistency instead of a drier dish like I expected (although there was no picture accompanying the recipe, so maybe it was supposed to be like chili). Chili was fine with me though - I'm still lunching on it!

Roasted Lamb with Burnt Onions
Substitutions/omissions: None
Mistakes: Due to time constraints, I only marinated the lamb for an hour instead of the recommended four hours. Still tasted great to me!
Repeat: Yes but I'd serve rice with it this time. It only occurred to me as I was serving it that rice really should have accompanied. Brown basmati!

Punjabi Red Beans
Substitutions/omissions: I don't think I made any subs... but it was almost a week ago so I might not remember.
Mistakes: I did everything as written, so none!
Repeat: Yes - next time I'll try draining the beans and see what happens.

Nighttime Parades

My favorite shots from the processions after the sun went down...

Too bad I never got any pictures of the roving generators!


Rather than post a TON of pictures of alfombras on here, I'm posting a slideshow so you can scroll through at your leisure. The majority of these were made with colored sawdust and some creative stencil work. Good Friday is a big day for alfombras so lots of people stay up through Thursday night to finish their alfombras, which is why some of these pictures were taken in the dark.

Daytime parades

None of these pictures really show how many people were at these events but I heard someone in the crowd compare it to the streets of Vegas on New Year's, which I can confirm since we were there in 2007 (SO fun, everyone should do it). 

Here are a couple more shots of Semana Santa floats during the daytime.

The participants had changed to black robes since the float depicted
Jesus after the crucifixion.

Mark and I tried to get onto that upper level but we weren't allowed...
I'm not sure how those people got up there!

Return to Antigua

Our original plan was to travel to El Salvador after Lago de Atitlan, but the more we talked with fellow travelers the more we discovered that everyone and their mom was heading back to Antigua for Semana Santa. After debating what we should do, we decided to head back to Antigua as well since it would be our only chance to participate in a world celebration and a unique cultural experience. So the Tuesday before Easter, we packed our bags and left the lake for the four-plus hour ride to Antigua. I had the misfortune to pick up some sort of stomach bug in San Pedro which made the ride uncomfortable to say the least, although there were some sicker people than I on the ride (our caravan of two vans pulled over about four times so sick people could get out). I'd never been so glad to arrive at our destination! Mainly because the majority of the roads down the mountains looked like this:

Windy beyond belief.
We stayed in Antigua until Saturday - we would have left Friday but couldn't get a ride out of town because of the festivities. Since we came back so early in the week, we had no trouble getting a reservation at the hotel we'd stayed at previously. The days that followed were filled with religious parades and the creation of alfombras, or carpets, made of colored sawdust or greenery and flowers. Antigua residents made the alfombras in the streets so the processions would walk over them. Each procession was similar: the men would carry a float with a depiction of Jesus, and the women would follow with a float with a depiction of Mary. Most processions were several hours long, as they'd pass from one side of the city to another and frequently pause to change out the carriers of the heavy floats.

This float (probably an 80-person float, 40 on each side) was one of
the larger ones. The nighttime processionals were always followed
by generators on wheels.
A typical display of the Virgin Mary.
Early Friday.
This procession passed in front of our hotel so we were able to watch
from the rooftop.
This picture doesn't do the size of this float justice but they had a lot
of trouble rounding the street corner!

Leg 3: Antigua to Lago de Atitlan

A week into the trip, we took a bus from Antigua, Guatemala, to Lago de Atitlan, a beautiful lake ringed by mountains and volcanoes. We got a slammin' deal on our hotel room, which was just off the lake with a great view, for about $10 a night. There are multiple small towns you can travel to around the lake but we stayed in San Pedro, which was probably the most touristy of the bunch. This was one of my favorite legs of the trip - nothing to do but stare at the lake, read books and watch soccer games!

More pictures after the jump:

Early Semana Santa

The first sign of Holy Week (besides the purple banners everywhere) was a children's parade that took place on the streets of Antigua. Kids dressed up in the traditional purple robes and swung incense in front of their parade floats. And can I just say that if I never smell incense again, I will be a happy, happy woman.

Kids carried these floats down the streets - the base was wooden and the
display was made of paper mache or some other light material.

Volcan Pacaya continued

Near the top of the volcano, you could lay sticks across this entrance and the vapors were so hot they caused the sticks to catch fire! After a demonstration, everyone backed slowly away from the ledge. Some groups brought marshmallows and roasted them but our guide wasn't that prepared.

We could enter a cave at one point, which was like being in a dry sauna - the walls were hot to the touch and some rocks on the ground were too hot to touch. I could only stay in there for a few minutes before the heat drove me out. 

You can see the cave entry. And of course some stray dogs.

Volcan Pacaya

One Antigua morning we woke up early to join a group to hike Volcan Pacaya, an active volcano about an hour and a half away. Pacaya's last eruption was exactly one year ago today, covering the surrounding areas in ash. We experienced no such excitement when we were there, though we could see smoke coming from the crater. We'd heard from others that you could hike all the way to the crater and peer into the lava (if you dare) or at least take some pictures standing next to active lava flows, but the upper hike to the crater wasn't allowed by the time we got there and the lava flows had stopped since the last eruption. The hike was still fun though and our guide was entertaining - he had a pet name for our group (the Pumas) and spoke limited English save for phrases like "OK Pumas! Let's go Pumas! We're running DOWN, lean back Pumas! Lean back!!" Then he'd take off down the gravelly path, dividing our group into the downhill runners or the I-prefer-not-to-break-my-leg people.

This one followed us up.
Stray dogs were everywhere. They'd figured out that hikers eat their lunch at the top of the volcano so they'd attach themselves to the first troop heading up and then stay at the top until the end of the day, waiting for scraps.

We got to hike over sharp lava fields, which made me worry how my hiking shoes would hold up - these are some rocks you definitely wouldn't want to fall on.

A volcanic specimen.